OTTAWA—While many parishes are observing a Fortnight for Religious Freedom, Catholics in Ottawa have committed to praying for religious freedom until the November elections.
Ottawa SS. Peter & Paul parishioners began gathering for weekly Eucharistic Holy Hours in early May. The Holy Hours are 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Mondays in the church.
Parishioners pray for the repeal of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that is to require employers to provide coverage for contraception and abortifacients in their health care plans.
“I think we have to do something in our country,” says Ed Smidebush, organizer. “I just feel that we are going the wrong direction.”
Mr. Smidebush says he and SS. Peter & Paul Deacon Jim Rump wanted to organize a prayer effort after reading Bishop Leonard P. Blair’s call to action against the HHS mandate in January. They proposed the idea to their Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) group.
“We were so glad to see the bishops of this country stand up and say, ‘We’re not going to do this,’ ” Mr. Smidebush says. “We decided as a group we were going to try to do something, and of course, the first thing is to pray.”
The parish’s four CRHP groups are each responsible for planning one Holy Hour a month.
The format changes each week and may include Scripture reading, a rosary, Divine Mercy chaplet or litany for religious freedom in addition to time for silent prayer.
Each Holy Hour begins with a prayer to St. Michael the Archangel and a Memorare prayer. Bishop Blair’s call to action is also read, and the services conclude with benediction.
The Holy Hours are advertised in parish bulletins throughout Putnam County. Organizers estimate 150 to 300 people participate each week, and the number is growing.
“People are realizing we’ve got to make a stand,” Deacon Rump says.
Mr. Smidebush says he is concerned that if the HHS mandate is not repealed, it could lead to the additional loss of religious freedom.
“We’re hoping (the Holy Hours) will grow and that we’ll have some effect on what’s going to happen in our country because we certainly need to do something,” he says.
Precious Blood Father Matt Jozefiak, pastor of SS. Peter & Paul, says he has been pleased with the Holy Hours and would like to continue them even if the HHS mandate is reversed. In addition to praying for religious freedom, parishioners are invited to write personal intentions and put them in a box that is placed in front of the altar during the Holy Hours.