Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares prays the rosary during the Diocese of Phoenix’s annual Independence Day Mass and Rosary for America at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Phoenix Saturday, July 3, 2021. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)

PHOENIX — About 500 people gathered on the eve of the nation’s 245th birthday to pray for America and her future as a republic under God during the annual Independence Day Mass and Rosary for America at St. Thomas the Apostle Church Saturday, July 3.

The date also happened to be the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, the parish’s patron saint.

Speakers noted both the godly principles upon which the nation was founded and her continued moral decline.

Members of the congregation, many dressed in red, white and blue, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to the procession, “America the Beautiful” as the recessional hymn, and “God Bless America,” following the rosary.

Participants, who were with one another for this event in person for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak 16 months ago, were called upon by celebrant, Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares, to persevere for the sake of the Gospel and the country.

In his homily, Bishop Nevares cited the courage and commitment of those who established the nation, formally declaring independence from the King of England in 1776, as well as many who followed in working to keep America a free and independent country with laws and governance “based on respect of the individual, and the premise that all people were created equally by God.”

“My brothers and sisters, I am struck at how a handful of men who loved the United States of America were able to risk their livelihood and their very lives to pursue a dream of a new life where the citizens were given their inalienable rights by God of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”.

The auxiliary bishop said that God continued to use men and women to promote these ideals, and urged his audience to do likewise, He called on Catholics to write elected representatives in support of Christian morals and values, and to vote to elect city, county, state, and national leaders who will protect and defend the Constitution.

Catholics and Christians must not be timid about this, he said.

“You and I are also called to be saints, to not be mediocre, to not go along with the crowd, to not be worried about ridicule, to stand up and speak the truth, whether convenient or inconvenient, whether popular or unpopular, so that we may continue to promote our Catholic faith throughout the generations, as those who have gone before us have handed down their faith to us.”

“My brothers and sisters,” he continued, “we are citizens of this great nation, and we are citizens of heaven. May we continue to respond generously to both these responsibilities, so our nation and our Church continue to grow, mature and bear much fruit.”

Rosaries are held by worshippers as they pray the Rosary for America during the Diocese of Phoenix’s annual Independence Day Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Phoenix Saturday, July 3, 2021. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)

His remarks were echoed by Mass co-organizer Manny Yrique.

A parishioner of St. Theresa Parish in Phoenix and a Cursillista, Yrique explained how Cursillo participants are challenged to change their world for the better. To do so, he said, one must become “a living face of Jesus Christ” to all one encounters.

The five-decade Rosary for America that followed included prayers for the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, the military and first responders. The Mass and rosary were like refreshing, cold water on a hot day to worshippers, who were limited to a virtual rite in 2020.

“It was just magnificent to be able to pray for all the states, the different branches of government, so we in fact are honoring the Blessed Mother and Jesus (and) all the desires and wishes they have for our nation, and to have all us here, together, praying was just such a beautiful tribute,” smiled Francie Lloyd, a parishioner of St. Thomas the Apostle.