Eighty leaders of various groups from among the 5,700 registered families in the parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Brentwood met to formulate a plan of action to oppose the sweeping Health and Human Services mandate that violates not only their Catholic conscience but the rights of all Americans to religious freedom.
During the Feb. 21 meeting to outline IHM's Town Hall Action Response, there was unanimous agreement on the need to act. While any governmental mandate to disobey the Church's position on contraceptives and abortion would be sufficient to cause an uprising among the Catholic faithful, as would an infringement on religious freedom in American, the recent HHS ruling is indeed that double threat.
Included in IHM's plan of action:
• Develop public relations effort to the secular media.
• Communicate with Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton.
• Be professional in our signs, banners, writings and speaking.
• Increase parish education, especially with our youth.
• Expand the parish newsletter and website.
• Establish prayer and adoration vigils focused on religious liberty.
• Participate in public protest.
• Participate in the March 23 protest in Sacramento and San Francisco.
• Organize a united front among all Brentwood churches.
• Develop a petition drive among all churches, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and Jewish.
• Have IHM's parish council prepare a letter to every Catholic council in the diocese about our efforts, asking them to take action as well.
• Ask various organizations within our parish family to write their sister and brother organizations — Knights of Columbus, Italian Catholic Federation, Cursillo, Guadalampanos.
• Have the parish council tell the bishop and the Catholic Conference of Bishops we support them and endorse a more out-front approach.
• Request Bishop Cordileone pen a comprehensive letter to the diocese on proper Catholic voting.
As the various leaders of Catholic groups such as the Knights of Columbus, Italian Catholic Federation, Cursillo, Hispanic Guadalampanos and Fil Am community were discussing various action steps, the atmosphere of seriousness and commitment to the purpose brought to mind the determination of historic Americans to promote and defend the freedoms for which so many Americans have already made great sacrifices.
Anyone walking among the sub-groups of eight to 10 attendees would have overheard repeated comments along two main themes: First, that while Catholic consciences were at stake, the biggest issue was religious freedom for all our countrymen, and second, that this is one of those occasions in life when one cannot simply sit on the sidelines and do nothing.
Outsiders might have been surprised at the depth of emotion and level of commitment apparent at that meeting, even to the point of remarking, "I didn't know that many Catholic lay people were so concerned," for indeed, those leaders represented a small fraction of the parish membership. But even among those who might at times fail to fully live up to their vows or principles can be stirred to action when their beliefs and freedoms are challenged.
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