St. Sebastian parishioners commemorate U.S. bishops' 'Fortnight for Freedom' with prayer for their Church, country

DEARBORN HEIGHTS — “Michigan,” the reader proclaimed.

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus,” the response came back.

Thanking God for the blessings of freedom — and asking Him to preserve that freedom for future generations — parishioners at St. Sebastian Parish in Dearborn Heights stood in their church, praying a rosary on behalf of their nation.

The July 4 “Patriotic Rosary” involved invoking each state in the union as a Hail Mary was prayed, with 50 Hail Marys for 50 states, and readings from some of America's key founders at the end of each decade.

The service was part of St. Sebastian’s “Fortnight for Freedom” observance, a 14-day celebration sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a rallying point for Catholics to speak on issues of religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

A banner and flags are displayed in the sanctuary at St. Sebastian.
A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is seen inside the sanctuary.

The commemoration lasts from June 22, the feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, to July 4, Independence Day, and also includes the feast of St. John the Baptist on June 24 and the feast of SS. Peter and Paul on June 29.

Parishioners at St. Sebastian are using the two-week period as a time of prayer and thanksgiving for the liberties afforded to all Americans, said Mary Ann Lazich, a St. Sebastian parishioner who organized the rosary.

“July 4 is not only a day for Americans, but as Catholics, we can commemorate the importance of religious freedom,” Lazich said. “There is a different theme every year this year’s theme is 'Strength in Hope.'”

The “Fortnight for Freedom” was born out of the U.S. bishops' objection in 2011 to elements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that required employers to provide health insurance coverage for procedures contrary to the faith and force Catholic-run health care intuitions to violate their conscience when providing care to patients. 

Lazich said the idea behind the “patriotic rosary” was to help Catholics pray for their fellow citizens.

A man prays a “patriotic rosary” at St. Sebastian.
Parishioners pray a prayer for the United States of America at St. Sebastian Parish in Dearborn Heights.

After the “patriotic rosary,” parishioners sang “America the Beautiful,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “God Bless America,” accompanied by the chimes of the church bells.

“When you are praying the rosary and you say the name of the state, you think of your friends and family in that state when you are praying that particular Hail Mary,” Lazich said.

After the “patriotic rosary,” parishioners sang “America the Beautiful,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “God Bless America,” accompanied by the chimes of the church bells.

Participants then went back inside the church to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet to Mary as Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the United States, for the health and protection of the nation and its leaders.

“It's nothing dramatic, but it shows how important it is for us as Catholic to pray for our people and to pray for our nation,” Lazich said. “To be born in this nation is a great gift. And with all that is going on, with all the division and tension we see in our country, people might not realize this. 

“But as Catholics, this is what God wants from us. He asked all of us to pray for our country, to be here for our fellow patriots. To pray for the leadership of our country that we may all prosper.”