Celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl exhorted the faithful to be “vigilant” in protecting their God-given religious liberty, invoking the faith of the first U.S. Catholics. As with the first Catholic settlers, the Holy Spirit is still at work today, the cardinal stated in his June 28th homily. “Even today in the context of a secular world, the quiet, soft and gentle voice of the Spirit has not been stilled,” he said. “It continues to speak to human hearts. Not by bread alone do we live.” To commemorate the Catholic history of the archdiocese, Cardinal Wuerl said Mass at two historic Catholic sites in Maryland, once a haven of religious freedom in the British colonies. He celebrated Mass at a reconstructed brick chapel on the site of the original 1667 Jesuit church in St. Mary’s City, as well as on St. Clement’s Island, the place of the first Mass in the U.S., celebrated on the Feast of the Annunciation in 1635. “All of us, as spiritual descendants of those intrepid women and men, can rejoice and take pride in their vision and courage,” the cardinal said of the first Catholic settlers. He pointed to current threats to religious liberty as a continuation of the obstacles facing early Catholics. He noted the closing of the St. Mary’s City chapel in 1704 as an example. “Over the centuries since that decision to lock the Brick Chapel, our struggle for liberty, the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution, we have all recognized the importance of religious faith in a free and democratic society,” he said. Today’s struggle against secularism is a reminder for Catholics to be “vigilant,” he added, citing the bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom as a call to action. The fortnight, which runs June 21-July 4, is a time of prayer, education and action to promote and defend religious liberty at home and abroad. This is the third year that the U.S. bishops have held the event. “This Fortnight also tells us of the need to be vigilant in protection of religious liberty,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “From the beginning of our nation the founders recognized our equality and liberty, and that those rights were bestowed on us not by the king or by the founders themselves or by any man, but by God.”
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