Fortnight for Freedom

| June 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

Local events include prayer, education and advocacy for religious liberty

CNS photo / Mike Crupi, Catholic Courier

CNS photo / Mike Crupi, Catholic Courier

A theatrical production about the early life of St. John Paul II will serve to inform and entertain as part of the third annual Fortnight for Freedom events hosted locally.

“Lolek,” written and performed by Jeremy Stanbary of Epiphany Studios in Minneapolis, is featured in the July 2 Virtue in the Face of Religious Intolerance event sponsored by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ Office of Marriage, Family and Life.

The play begins at 7 p.m. at De La Salle High School in Minneapolis. Registration is required for the free event; visit

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops designates the Fortnight for Freedom — this year from June 21 to July 4 — as a time for dioceses and parishes to raise awareness for domestic and international religious freedom.

The timeline coincides with the Church’s liturgical calendar celebrating a series of martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power. They include St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, St. John the Baptist, Sts. Peter and Paul and the first martyrs of the Church of Rome.

This year’s theme — “Freedom to Serve” — emphasizes the link between religious liberty and serving the poor and vulnerable in accord with human dignity and the Church’s teaching.

Drawing parallels

“Lolek,” referencing the childhood nickname of St. John Paul II, takes audiences through the former pontiff’s young adulthood under the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II, a time when both Jews and Catholics were targeted.

Seeing the Nazis and then communists in his homeland infringe on people’s rights and compromise their dignity motived St. John Paul II as pope to change the global climate and inspire people to rise up by peaceful, but powerful, means to obtain their freedom as individuals, Stanbary said.

“His legacy is tremendous in that regard,” he said. “History will repeat itself, so we need to learn from those lessons.”

Act 1 of the two-act play has the future pope reflecting on his childhood years of joyful freedom that are essentially gone, and on his parents and various influences while having to endure harsh living conditions under the Nazi totalitarian regime.

“It’s fascinating to see all he went through and God’s hand in shaping him while he’s trying to live a life of faith,” Stanbary said.

The second act delves into the young St. John Paul II receiving his education “underground,” the cultural resistance he faced, and his discernment of God’s call.

“It’s a great example for all of us,” Stanbary said. “We can trust that God has a plan for us and is working that out through our faith.”

The play, which runs approximately 90 minutes, ends with St. John Paul II’s ordination to the priesthood.

Although “Lolek” is a one-man show, Stanbary incorporates additional characters via recorded voice-overs. For visual references, photos from St. John Paul II’s early life are projected onto a screen that serves as the main backdrop.

“We find that adult audiences and adolescent audiences tend to be engaged and informed,” he said. “It’s meant to draw us into [St. John Paul II’s] life and spirituality and foster reflection. But it’s definitely a play for all ages.”

Stanbary’s production of “Lolek” is available for local bookings. For more information, visit or

Inspiration for the faithful

Timothy Drake, the New Evangelization coordinator for the Holdingford Area Catholic Community in the St. Cloud diocese, will begin the evening addressing how Catholics can respond to threats against religious liberty: among them, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate that most employers — including Catholic hospitals, schools and charities — provide insurance coverage for contraceptives, sterilization and some abortion-inducing drugs.

“I think we can sometimes get caught up in our lives and go to church on Sundays and not realize that our faith in the public sphere is under attack,” said Drake, who wrote about the issue extensively when he worked for the National Catholic Register newspaper.

Drake will point to modern saints as examples of the kinds of virtues Catholics can live out when their faith is being challenged.

“I’m hoping [to give] listeners something to think about and pray about,” Drake said. “The appropriate response is one of living out our faith publicly and standing up for it peacefully.”

The archdiocese also will host a Mass for religious liberty with Archbishop John Nienstedt at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 28, at the Cathedral of St. Paul.

More local Fortnight for Freedom events and resources

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