Bishop McManus will celebrate Mass for the Protection of Religious Freedom at 7 p.m. June 21 in St. Paul Cathedral to mark the beginning of the Fortnight for Freedom observance in the Worcester Diocese.
In the Cenacle, in the cathedral lower level after Mass, Marie Hilliard, director of bioethics and publicity policy at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia will speak on “Witness to Freedom: Addressing the Threats to Our Religious Liberty.”
She holds graduate degrees in maternal-child health nursing, religious studies, canon law, and higher education administration, and has an extensive professional background in medical ethics, public policy and advocacy.
She is the former director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference, has been recognized for her outstanding contributions in nursing, and has published extensively. She has served on numerous boards of national organizations, including the ethics committee of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability, the USCCB’s National Advisory Council, and serves as a resource for the U.S. bishops on the implementation of the ethical and religious directives for Catholic Health Care Services.
The theme for this fifth annual Fortnight for Freedom, which runs from June 21 to July 4, is Witness to Freedom. According to a press release from the Fortnight for Freedom national organization, the theme emphasizes “the many saintly witnesses to religious freedom, both past and present, who inspire us by their profound witness to the truth of the Gospel…
“During this time, our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power, including St. Thomas More & St. John Fisher (June 22), St. John the Baptist (June 24), Saints Peter & Paul (June 29), and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome (June 30).”
The Fortnight for Freedom was first initiated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty in 2012, in response to the government’s Health and Human Services mandate forcing employers, even Catholic employers and private business owners of good conscience, to provide abortifacient drugs, contraception, and sterilization in their employees’ health plans or face exorbitant fines, according to the press release.
“For the Catholic Church, our many ministries of education, healthcare, and charitable works continue to be at stake. Many people of all faiths have spoken out strongly against this violation of conscience rights. Currently 105 cases with over 300 plaintiffs have been filed against the mandate,” the press release stated.