Religious freedom ‘critical to who we are’

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Those who gathered at the chapel of the Little Sisters of the Poor for a Mass celebrating religious freedom, July 3, heard that freedom is what holds people together.

The Mass celebrated by Father Patrick Dolan at the chapel, on Audubon Plaza Drive, was the last event in honor of Religious Freedom Week — sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and observed June 22-29.

Father Dolan said to the congregation that freedom of religion is “part of the freedoms that are critical to who we are as a nation.”

“Those freedoms are the base of what holds us together, not race, not age, not nationality, not wealth, nor anything else,” said Father Dolan. “Freedom is the very essence of who we are as a people and that binds us together.”
Father Dolan noted that those freedoms also include the freedom of worship and the freedom to express one’s faith in “real tangible ways” through caring for one another or standing up for particular beliefs.

The Little Sisters of the Poor took a stand, said Father Dolan. That’s the reason the religious freedom Mass is celebrated in their chapel, he noted. “They put their necks on the line to be able to stand for something that is part of that belief of freedom of religion.”

The Little Sisters of the Poor challenged the federal contraception mandate, a part of the Affordable Care Act, which required that cost-free coverage for contraceptives and some drugs that can cause abortions be included in employer health plans.

Every person of faith is called to take a stand and that notion extends back to the founding of the country, said Father Dolan. One of the questions central to the founding of this nation was “what is God’s will and purpose for us?” he said.

The founding fathers “constantly mentioned God as the founding principle and purpose of everything we do in today’s world. God is the source and center.

When you take that out, everything else falls into emptiness,” said Father Dolan. “You have to have something that supports it that’s eternal.”
With the freedom to worship comes a certain responsibility, Father Dolan noted. “Our worship is not just fancy nice little ceremonies and beautiful hymns that doesn’t get into the messiness of today’s world,” he said. Freedom of worship also means the faith, he said. The good done for others isn’t done as “nice social work.”

“It’s faith that is living,” he said. It’s the type of faith displayed by the founding fathers.

“They didn’t impose any style of faith, because they came from different denominations, but they all had deep, true, real faith despite differences in policies and style,” said Father Dolan.

In closing, Father Dolan prayed, “May the Lord bless you in your beliefs and may he assist you in doing the good things that make those beliefs concrete.”

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