Text and photos by Gregory A. Shemitz

More than 150 people gathered at St. John the Baptist High School, West Islip, on Saturday, June 30, to express their support for ongoing efforts to defend the religious liberties of Catholics and people of all faiths here in the United States and around the world.

The annual rally, co-sponsored by the Diocese of Rockville Centre and Catholics for Freedom of Religion, was held in observance of Religious Freedom Week, the U.S. Catholic Church’s national education campaign on religious liberty. Initiated by the U.S. bishops in 2012 and formerly known as the Fortnight for Freedom, this year’s observance ran from June 22 to June 29.

The event at St. John the Baptist opened with the recitation of the rosary and was followed by presentations focusing on the theme of this year’s Religious Freedom Week: “Serving Others in God’s Love.”

Msgr. James Vlaun, president and CEO of Telecare, served as master of ceremonies at the rally. Speakers included Barbara Samuells, president and founding member of Catholics for Freedom of Religion; Father Eric Fasano, co-chancellor of the diocese; Sister Constance Veit, communications director of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and St. John the Baptist student Anna Rich. Recorded remarks by Bishop John Barres of Rockville Centre and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York were projected on the auditorium’s movie screen.

Telecare will air highlights of the rally during a special one-hour program July 4, beginning at 9 p.m.

Additional information and resources can be found at the Catholics for Freedom of Religion Web site: catholicsforfreedomofreligion.org.