Matthew Dugandzic, whose birthday is today, is a New York native and volunteer with Catholic Voices USA. He talks about how and why this Fortnight for Freedom that culminates in Independence Day is significant.
What does the Fortnight mean to you?
To me, the Fortnight is an exciting opportunity for us to stand up as Catholics and claim our constitutional right to religious freedom. In fact, even before the idea of the Fortnight was proposed, I thought that the HHS Mandate was a blessing in disguise. Right after it promulgated, the American bishops quickly united in strong, vocal, open disapproval. They set a wonderful example for us lay Catholics to follow. They made it clear how important religious freedom was to them, and the Fortnight is the culmination of all of their activity during the past several months. Never before have I seen such solidarity among American Catholics. I hope that the Fortnight continues to foster the growth in Catholic spirit that was sparked in opposition to the HHS Mandate.
What are you doing to make these days different?
I have been trying to reach the public through blog posts and letters to the editor of my local newspaper in order to help non-Catholics understand why we see the HHS mandate as an attack on our religious liberty. Furthermore, I am trying to make it clear that this is an issue that all Americans should be concerned about. The Bill of Rights was penned in order to prevent the federal government from encroaching on the basic rights of the citizens of the United States. If enforced, the HHS mandate would set a dangerous legal precedent by not recognizing the importance of religious liberty.
What about religious liberty and protecting it resonates with you?
During these past few weeks, but especially during these first few days of the Fortnight, the history of the United States has been resonating with me. I feel like I am participating in something that will go down in the history books. How could it not? Many of the first colonies that went on to form this country were founded by refugees seeking religious freedom from tyrannical regimes. Here we are, trying to reunite our country with the very spirit on which it was founded. This couldn’t be more American!
What do you wish everyone would appreciate about this moment in our history?
Well, obviously, I wish that people would appreciate the freedom what we cherish as Americans. I hope that people appreciate it so much that they will join us in our fight for religious freedom. However, I have to say that I wish for something else even more. I wish everyone would appreciate not only how much our ancestors appreciated their religious freedom, but why the appreciated it. They appreciated religious freedom because it allowed them to freely seek the deepest source of meaning and purpose in life: God. I hope that this Fortnight reminds people of the importance of religion in our lives.
Well, all of my female Catholic friends say “no.” I think that they would be the first ones to know about it if the Church were waging a war on them.
What’s your reaction to what the bishops have been saying and doing?
They’ve been doing a great job! They’re really getting their voices out there in way that will effectively reach modern audiences. I’ve seen bishops making YouTube videos, writing blog entries, and appearing on television. Their arguments are great, they speak well, and you can feel their genuine concern in everything that they do. I especially appreciate how much they are trying to involve the laity in what they are doing by encouraging prayer and catechesis at the local level.
What made you step up to be a Catholic Voice?
It has happened to me more than once that somebody approached me after a Bible study or a youth group and said, “I’m glad that you’ve been in this group too; I’ve learned a lot from you.” Taking these comments to heart and recognizing the Church’s dire need of public representatives, I decided that I wanted to build a career that would give me the opportunity to help people understand the philosophy of the Church and the beauty of its teachings. With this at the back of my mind for quite some time, the opportunity to join Catholic Voices appeared quite suddenly and unexpectedly. As soon as the opportunity presented itself, I instantly realized that this was something that I had to do.
What do you wish everyone could know about your Church and why?
I wish everyone could know about the Church’s view of the human person. If you read the philosophy of some of the Church’s great leaders like Blessed John Paul II, you will find that they are full of joie de vivre. The Church is a Mother who cares deeply for her children. Her high regard for humanity is at the basis of her moral teaching. Every one of her precepts and every promulgated encyclical is born out of love for each and every human person. Perhaps if more people realized that there is an entire institution dedicated to promoting the welfare of mankind, then they would be more keen to listen.