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Fortnight assembly to link faith, service and religious liberty

Lauren Bopp, a member of St. Peter Parish in Omaha, doesn’t take religious freedom for granted.

She said she becomes concerned when government officials use the words "freedom of worship" instead of "freedom of religion," altering what that freedom means by their choice of words.

Freedom of worship might allow her to pray inside St. Peter Church but not necessarily allow her to live her faith in other ways, like when she goes door to door "seeking out the lost and forgotten" as a Legion of Mary member, Bopp said.

Bopp – president of the Our Lady of the Rosary Curia of the Archdiocese, a Legion of Mary governing board – is one of three speakers at the third-annual Fortnight for Freedom Assembly, 7-9:15 p.m. June 26 at St. Gerald Church in Omaha, addressing how sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry and visiting the sick and imprisoned – corporal works of mercy – depend on vigilantly maintaining religious freedom.

U.S. bishops are encouraging prayers, Masses and special events during the national June 21-July 4 Fortnight. Archbishop George J. Lucas will lead the assembly in Omaha as he has the past two years.

And as in past years, the rally will include hymns, a rosary, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction and a homily by the archbishop.

The focus will be "Freedom to Serve," emphasizing the link between religious liberty and service to the poor and vulnerable, said Bill Beckman, director of the archdiocese’s Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, which is organizing the rally.

Other speakers include Richard Vondenkamp, a member of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Omaha who has been involved in jail and prison ministry in Douglas and Sarpy counties for 23 years, and Mary Crosby, a member of St. James Parish in Omaha and executive director of Bethlehem House in Omaha, which provides support for pregnant women. Crosby also is a local coordinator of 40 Days for Life, a pro-life campaign of prayer, fasting and vigil outside abortion clinics.

The religious freedom prayer rallies were triggered by attempts around the country to redefine marriage and a national health-care mandate requiring most insurance plans to include coverage for contraception, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization procedures. Numerous groups have filed lawsuits over the mandate, and the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling by late June on two cases.

Catholics such as Bopp, Vonderkamp and Crosby should be able to continue to live their faith outside church walls when they serve the poor and vulnerable, Beckman said.

"A big part of our faith is when we go out, when we do things for others," he said. "It’s faith alive in the public square."