by Diana Olson, Asst. Director of Development
There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every affair under the heavens
….a time to be silent, and a time to speak
Ecc 3:1, 7
On Friday, March 23rd, in the midst of pouring rain, an estimated 2,500 people emerged upon the Federal Plaza in Chicago to Stand-Up for Religious Freedom. Young and old, they came on foot, in strollers and with walkers. Catholics, Jews, Anglicans, Lutherans, and many other Christian lay people and religious, joined in union with 58,000 others nationwide. From Maine to Hawaii they prayed and stood in witness of our strong belief in religious freedom and our right to freedom of conscience.
Sr. Andrew, Sr. Mary Paschal and I went to represent the Little Sisters of the Poor. As we left St. Joseph’s Home, the Little Sisters and Residents who were unable to make the trip, held a day-long rosary rally in prayerful support. Not knowing what to expect, we journeyed on the train and through a deluge of rain on the Chicago streets to our destination. We encountered many others on their way to the rally. Though we had never met, a smile and a nod solidified our companionship and resolve to persist on.
Working for the Little Sisters for almost three years, I know them to quietly care for the elderly, mostly hidden from the public’s eye. But, they have been compelled to speak out. In their Statement of the Little Sisters of the Poor on the HHS Mandate, they explain, “We are not prone to making statements on politics or public policy. But at this moment in our country’s history we cannot refrain from speaking out regarding the Department of Health and Human Services rule for “preventative services,” and the “compromise” announced by President Obama regarding religious liberty. .. We Little Sisters of the Poor stand with the Catholic Bishops of the United States, and leaders of many other religious communities, in strongly objecting to this mandate.”
Immediately, I felt something very special as we entered Federal Plaza. Upon seeing the Little Sisters, crowds of people began to approach and surround them. It was an unusual place for the Little Sisters to be the center of attention. But, it was clear that their presence brought a sense of hope and commitment to those people they encountered.
On this busy downtown intercession, in between the prayers and encouragement to stand up for religious freedom from the rally speakers, honks of support rang from the passing cars. Familiar faces started to materialize in the crowd. A couple of CNA’s from St. Joseph’s Home had also made the trip downtown, plus several of our regular chapel attendees. We also met many new people, some who had traveled hours to be a part of this important event. One large group of young people paraded from many blocks away holding a giant rosary made of helium balloons with LIFE written on each balloon.
We brought 100 copies of the Statement of the Little Sisters of the Poor on the HHS Mandate and Euthanasia Violates Human Dignity Rather Than Upholds It, a brochure written by Sr. Marie-Antoinette de la Trinité, former Mother General of the Little Sisters of the Poor. We could have brought many more. The people we talked to were eager to listen and learn more about the Little Sister’s great respect for life.
As the rally ended, even though the rain continued, many people, including us, were reluctant to leave. With our new friends, we had formed a bond, a solidarity of commitment, standing up for our Faith and for the values that were the foundation of our great country.
I was very proud to stand with the Little Sisters and all those who braved the elements to come to Federal Plaza in Chicago and with all those all over our country. Now is our time to speak, to pray and to stand up for our faith and our First Amendment right of religious liberty.