In tandem with Fortnight for Freedom, a week of national campaigning for religious freedom, a Round Lake priest is again undertaking a 168-mile pilgrimage to a shrine in Champion, Wis.
Rev. Timothy O'Malley, pastor of St. Joseph Parish, chose to make his second trip to the Our Lady of Good Help Shrine on Thursday to add to the events that dioceses and parishes across the country are hosting from June 21 to July 4.
The campaign is in response to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that employers provide health insurance, including birth control and sometimes abortion services. O'Malley said their main disagreement is with an exemption that is limited to churches, excluding other church-based institutions.
"One in three people enjoy the help, directly or indirectly, of Catholic charities," O'Malley said. "We spend a lot of time and energy taking care of people who are not Catholic ... and we would be required to provide insurance that we believe runs counter to our goals."
O'Malley is also walking for another cause -- a new sign for his church. Congregants have raised $3,000 for construction of the sign, which will be placed on Cedar Lake Road.
"The church is over a mile in from the road, so you really have to look to see it," O'Malley said. "Parishioners have been asking for a sign for the last five years I've been here, so it seems like a good time to comply with their request."
O'Malley, joined by almost a dozen others who are mostly parishioners, left Immaculate Conception Church in Waukegan at 8 a.m. Thursday and will walk 8 to 10 hours, or about 25 miles, per day. He said they expect to reach the shrine by June 27.
The walkers will stay overnight at a variety of preselected parishes. Other parishioners will meet them at the shrine and drive them home.
"I hope we're able to encourage other people to do this. Last year when we did it, before we even finished, people were saying they wanted to come back again this year," O'Malley said. "It's a way to push ourselves ... (and) realize that we need not only physical strength but spiritual strength."
Though the walk is its main tribute, the St. Joseph Parish will also host Masses and other holy hours in keeping with Fortnight for Freedom.