Barbara Samuells, president of Catholics for Freedom of Religion and a parishioner at St. Matthew’s, Dix Hills, shares her experience at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

What an incredible experience!

The World Meeting of Families attracted 17,500 Catholics: families, clergy, parish and diocesan ministers to Philadelphia for four days of prayer, learning, and fellowship.

The excitement and goodwill were infectious as crowds of smiling Catholics moved around the massive Pennsylvania Convention Center from one speaker’s venue to another or from daily Mass to the Exhibit Hall. All through these four days in September the World Meeting of Families was a joyous and exuberant celebration of our common beliefs and values. Catholics from all over the U.S. and the world came as friends who shared a faith and the deepest of convictions. Even before the blessings of the Pope’s arrival, the WMOF was a resounding success. Could it ever happen again?

Only a few years from now, Christian gatherings like the WMOF may be fined, regulated and even labeled as hateful and divisive in the very country which modeled religious liberty for the world.

Barbara Samuells, left, with Johnette Benkovic, founder Woman of Grace at World Meeting of Families.

Barbara Samuells, left, with Johnette Benkovic, founder Woman of Grace at World Meeting of Families.

Each year cultural erosion, judicial activism and court opinions have diminished our religious liberty. People of faith, especially Christians, are fair game for ridicule, disrespect and deliberate, dangerous misrepresentation of the Bible and Christian beliefs.

Each day the media amplifies the vilification and destruction of Americans exercising their right of conscience.

This nation was founded to protect the natural rights of each individual to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our founders specifically protected freedom of religion as the first freedom. The other four freedoms included in the first amendment are inseparable from religious freedom.

Our government of, by and for the people is directed to protect our right to such a World Meeting of Families. The first amendment protects the free and public exercise of faith. It guarantees the right to speak publicly about our church, the Gospel and our faith. It guards our freedom to write about our beliefs and the teachings of the church. It protects our right to assemble with other believers for prayer, learning and evangelization. It guarantees the right to petition our government for a redress of grievance such as those resulting from the HHS mandate and the use of our tax dollars to fund abortions. All five of these first amendment rights protect free exercise of faith for all.

Before Pope Francis arrived in Philadelphia, he had already reminded us of the need to preserve America’s religious freedom. In his closing words, spoken at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, Pope Francis made clear our responsibility to preserve religious liberty:
“May this country and each of you be renewed in gratitude for the many blessings and freedoms that you enjoy. And
may you defend these rights, especially your religious freedom, for it has been given to you by God Himself.”
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In addition to Samuells, other members of the CFFR team at the World Meeting of Families were, Ann Podina, Rosalie Bonavise and Tina Murgolo, St. Matthews, Dix Hills; Ginny Daly,Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Point Lookout; Irene Honan, St. Ignatius, Martyr, Long Beach; Pat Flynn, St.Therese of Lisieux, Montauk; Pat O’Hara and Pete O’Hara, SS. Philip and James, St. James; Roni Groth, St. James, Setauket; and Rosemarie Brady, SS. Cyril and Methodius, Deer Park.