Fortnight for Freedom

Posted on June 16, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, June 21, 2015, 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the USA. Image of the Immaculate Conception by Murillo, 1660.
What is a fortnight? It is simply another term for “two weeks.” It is a word more frequently used in England than in the United States, perhaps because of our shorter attention spans.

In 2012, the bishops of the United States established the Fortnight for Freedom in reaction to the HHS mandate requiring those who provide health insurance to their employees to include coverage for sterilization and birth control, including abortifacient devices. The narrowly defined religious exemption would mean that many religious institutions would be required to comply with the mandate or otherwise face steep penalties. Beginning on June 21 and ending on July 4, the two-week period provides an opportunity for prayer and education on the most basic of human rights, the right of religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

This year’s Fortnight for Freedom begins this Sunday, June 21, with the theme, “The Freedom to Bear Witness”. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offers many helpful ways for us to participate and witness to the role faith should play not only in the lives of individuals but in our civic engagements.

The issue of religious freedom is increasingly taking center stage in American politics. The controversy surrounding Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act this past winter as well as the rancor that is sure to result from Governor Rick Snyder’s effort to pass similar legislation in Michigan highlight how emotional the debate has become.

The dysfunction in our political discourse that makes issues of race so difficult to talk openly about has now poisoned our national dialogue on issues of religion and morality. People of faith and conscience are called “bigots” and “haters,” pushing bakers and photographers onto the front lines in the current culture wars. The effect of the name-calling, as well as the fines and loss of employment for those who seek to live in accordance with their conscience, is chilling. I can’t help but wonder myself what might happen to me if one of my clients were to read this article and somehow take offense to it. However, the debate over how to balance the right of people to live as they choose with the rights of others to practice their faith will not be advanced if either side stays silent or allows one side to bully the other into submission.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus rebukes his disciples for their lack of faith. He expected them to remain strong and confident despite the storm that threatened to batter their boat. Jesus demands the same faith and courage from us as we strive to live the Gospel despite the increasing climate of intolerance in our society. This year’s Fortnight for Freedom is an opportunity for us to renew our commitment to the civic discourse and serve the common good by insisting that the rights of all persons, no matter their faith or values, be respected.

Douglas Sousa, STL


O God our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
or the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be “one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty, © USCCB, Washington, DC. All rights reserved.

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Mass: “The Heart of the Matter”

Posted on June 16, 2015 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Celebrate MassThe Archdiocese of Milwaukee released a powerful video that follows the story of two friends, one an Atheist, who are drawn into the joy and beauty of the Catholic Mass and the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. Their story stands as a great testimony to the need for evangelization in our everyday lives and how everything can be changed in a single encounter with the Lord of Lords.

Click here to watch the video

God is God Wherever We Are

Posted on June 10, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

GermanyCities and countries may differ, but God is God wherever you are in the world. Last weekend we celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi – and I need to be conscious that the Body of Christ comes in all shapes and sizes, across all nations and ‘encounter’ is close if I but dare to see it. Dunkin’ Donuts and the golden arches of McDonald’s may be the same, but each person has unique gifts to offer.

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Seeds of the Kingdom

Posted on June 9, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, June 14, 2015, 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 14If you read any of the accounts about American Pharoah last weekend, and the way he secured a place in sports history by winning the Triple Crown, you might have thought his triumph was inevitable.

But the man who helped raise him wasn’t so sure.

Tom VanMeter, owner of Stockplace Farm in Kentucky, remembers it this way:

He says at the time of American Pharoah’s birth [three years ago], the colt was just “another nice big brown horse.” “It’s like saying that Michael Jordan was going to be a great basketball player when he was in kindergarten,” VanMeter said. “You just don’t know.”

You just don’t know when something small might defy all expectations. It’s that way with horses. As this Sunday’s Gospel suggests, it’s that way with mustard seeds—and with the kingdom of God.

In Mark’s Gospel this Sunday, we hear Jesus compare the kingdom of God to a mustard seed. It “is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth,” he told his followers. “But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants.”

An ancient writer, Pliny the Elder, once described the mustard seed this way: “With its pungent taste and fiery effect, mustard is extremely beneficial for the health. It grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: but on the other hand, when it has once been sown, it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once.”

That may not be what many of us think the kingdom of God to be like—pungent, fiery, hard to control. But there’s also something wonderful and exciting about that description. Jesus described a kingdom that started small, but grew to a point where no one could contain it, and even the birds could build their homes in it. It is a place of great, limitless possibility—one that welcomes all.

And isn’t that the sort of place we’d like to call home?

As we slip back into ordinary time this weekend, and move further from the fire and fervor of the Easter season, it’s good to remember that sometimes what seems ordinary is, in fact, extraordinary. We need to remain alert to possibilities of grace—or even, perhaps, small miracles. They are the seeds of the kingdom. Who knows what wonders await?

More importantly: if the seeds of the kingdom are here, how can we help it grow?

Listening to the Gospel this Sunday, let us pray that we can help make God’s kingdom flourish here on earth—spreading the good news with our lives—and making that kingdom a welcoming place for everyone.

Dcn. Greg Kandra


Heavenly Father,

Pour forth your Holy Spirit to inspire me with these words from Holy Scripture.

Stir in my soul the desire to renew my faith and deepen my relationship with your Son, our Lord
Jesus Christ so that I might truly believe in and live the Good News.

Open my heart to hear the Gospel and grant me the confidence to proclaim the Good News
to others.

Pour out your Spirit, so that I might be strengthened to go forth and witness to the Gospel in my
everyday life through my words and actions.

In moments of hesitation, remind me:
If not me, then who will proclaim the Gospel?
If not now, then when will the Gospel be proclaimed?
If not the truth of the Gospel, then what shall I proclaim?

God, our Father, I pray that through the Holy Spirit I might hear the call of the New
Evangelization to deepen my faith, grow in confidence to proclaim the Gospel and boldly
witness to the saving grace of your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity
of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
New Evangelization Prayer © USCCB.

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Building a Vibrant Parish in North Dakota

Posted on June 9, 2015 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

IMG_1972Each year, LPi conducts dozens of Building a Vibrant Parish seminars across the country to help local parishes engage their members and strengthen the Church. Today our team is at Spirit of Life Catholic Church in Mandan, ND sharing our experiences, tools, and strategies to help build a more vibrant parish.

Click here to see when we’ll be in your area or contact us if your church is interested in hosting one of these free seminars.

Everyday Stewardship / Feast of Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (Corpus Christi)

Posted on June 5, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

Eucharist“While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God,’” (Mark 14: 22-25).

If you take the time to gaze upon your God in the simplest of forms, and begin to reflect on what has actually taken place with bread and wine becoming the presence of the Divine, then you can begin to understand true humility, sacrifice, and love.

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A Fresh Look at Parish Communication

Posted on June 5, 2015 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Prince of Peace Cover RedesignThe church bulletin is certainly the oldest and most common channel of communication used by parishes. How it is used and what is included as content varies greatly from place to place. But too often, it is seen as little less than a handout containing dates, times, and advertisements for programs. The potential of many a bulletin is left completely untapped.

You could create a dozen different ways of communicating in your parish, but the bulletin is the only way to communicate to all Mass attendees and visitors. Even as the digital world expands, that paper bulletin is gold in terms of evangelization value, because you get it right into their physical hands. Imagine the Catholic who has returned after years away, the young adult who showed up for the first time not sure whether church is even relevant in her life, and the young family that is church shopping and had a difficult time just getting all the children out the door, all at your church on a Sunday morning. What is contained in that bulletin you place in their hands that might make all of the difference? Does the ink tell of only news, or does it clearly celebrate the good news?

To read more from Communicating Kerygma, A Fresh Look at Parish Communication by Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS, Director of Parish Community & Engagement at LPi, click here.