The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops once again sponsors “Religious Freedom Week” this year, June 22-29, 2022, with the theme “Life and Dignity for All,” and the encouragement to “Pray. Reflect. Act.”

As Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton, I invite all the clergy, religious and faithful to join Catholics and people of all faiths throughout our nation to gratefully celebrate the religious freedoms we enjoy in the United States of America as we publicly live out our faith in service to the common good. 

This annual, weeklong event begins June 22 on the feast of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, two extraordinary Catholic public servants who lived in 15th-16th century England. More was a lay Catholic statesman and philosopher, recognized for his faith and unparalleled brilliance and wisdom, who courageously served in the Court of King Henry VIII. His life and service were the subject of the popular play and movie, “A Man for All Seasons.” Fisher was a priest and bishop as well as a prestigious and learned university academic, the personal tutor of King Henry VIII as a boy. Although they both loyally served the King of England, they always made it clear that they were “the King’s good servant but God’s first.”

In the face of King Henry VIII’s decision to divorce and remarry, contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church, both More and Fisher publicly opposed Henry VIII’s plans and refused to sign an oath of supremacy declaring him the supreme head of the Church in England. Their ultimate loyalty only to Christ and his kingdom cost them their lives. They were executed in 1535 bearing witness to the truth that no king or government can make a claim on any person’s soul. They willingly died for the freedom of the Church in society and for freedom of conscience. Hence, they have become the sainted patrons of this annual Catholic observance of religious freedom.

We Catholics in the United States of America ask for the intercession of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher this week, that we may be good citizens and servants to our country but God’s servants first.

Of course, we are encouraged to pray for any and all intentions related to “life and dignity for all” in our own country and elsewhere in the world. The USCCB has assigned the following special intentions for our consideration for each day of “Religious Freedom Week”:

June 22: “Walking with Moms in Need.” Seeking to build a culture of life and dignity for all, especially women and children, we pray that local churches and communities will have the vision and freedom to walk with moms in need.

June 23: “Church Vandalism.” We pray that the desecration and vandalism of our sacred places and properties, especially churches, will cease and hearts might be converted to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

June 24: “Adoption and Foster Care.” We pray that mothers and fathers and families of faith will continue to have the freedom to serve in the life-affirming ministry of adoption and foster care.
June 25: “Taxpayer Funding for Abortion.” We pray that all civic leaders and lawmakers will promote the life and dignity of all, born and unborn.

June 26: “Religious Freedom in China and throughout the world.” We pray that the life and dignity of all people will be promoted and respected everywhere in the world, especially China.

June 27: “Pregnancy Resource Centers.” We pray that women facing unplanned pregnancies may continue to have access to support and compassionate care in centers and other places from people eager to help them choose life.

June 28: “Heath Care Workers.” We pray that governments will respect the consciences of all people who care for the unborn, the sick and the vulnerable.

June 29: “Free Speech.” That Catholics and Christians will have the courage to proclaim the Gospel of “Life and Dignity for All” with kindness and clarity, even I the face of adversity and opposition.

St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, pray for us! Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us!