Contact: Ellen Kane, Executive Director of Development
Office of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington
55 Joy Drive,
Burlington, VT 05403
Bishop Coyne Reflects On First Year as the 10th Bishop of Burlington
Burlington, VT – On January 29th, Bishop Christopher Coyne celebrated his first year anniversary as Bishop of Burlington. When Bishop Coyne became 10th bishop of the Vermont-wide Diocese of Burlington, he set out to be a positive, faithful presence both within the Catholic and wider civic communities.
Over the past year, Bishop Coyne has put more than 15,000 miles on his black Jeep Grand Cherokee traveling around the state of Vermont listening to the concerns and hopes of the religious and civic community, including priests, religious, parishioners, interfaith and ecumenical leaders, the governor, the mayor of Burlington, the president of St. Michael’s College in Colchester, persons involved with social service agencies and Catholic school students and teachers. He was even on hand to help throw out the first pitch at a Vermont Lake Monsters game.
“I have reached out to not only the Catholic community but also to men and women of goodwill throughout the state,” says Bishop Coyne. “I have tried to establish that the Catholic community has a positive place within the larger community of the state and that we are not a marginalized people but we are in fact a people of goodwill who want to work with other people of goodwill to foster the common good of all.”
Asked about Pope Francis and his influence on his first year as bishop of Burlington, Bishop Coyne said he respects the way Pope Francis has changed the conversation between the Church and the culture of the world.
“Now more and more we are being defined by what we are for rather than by what we are against,” the bishop said. “We had allowed ourselves to be defined as a church that’s against gay people, a church that’s against women, a church that is against freedom of expression – all those things of the culture war. But Pope Francis has turned that around to a Church for the marginalized, the needy and the struggling.”
Pope Francis is calling for a special Year of Mercy – which began December 8, 2015 – and is emphasizing God’s great mercy. Bishop Coyne is also celebrating a Jubilee Year of Mercy across the Diocese which started with the opening of the Holy Door at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Burlington on December 13, 2015.
“We human beings want to put restrictions on God’s mercy,” says Bishop Coyne. “With God’s mercy, there are no ifs, ands or buts. Mercy means I see a need and I act out of compassion to help.”
Bishop Coyne is grateful for the multiple ways Vermont Catholic schools, parishes and social services agencies reach out in their communities and beyond to provide for the needy, including parish and school food and clothing drives and Vermont Catholic Charities’ emergency assistance program.
As he looks to the future, the Bishop sees an essential good work in which he wants members of the Catholic community to assist: the fight against heroin addiction. He hopes to work with the wider community to “stamp out the scourge of heroin addiction” that takes a toll on people of all ages, ethnicities, social classes and places.
Bishop Coyne is energized by the hiring of new diocesan staff including a director of youth and young adult ministry, director of evangelization and catechesis, executive director of development and coordinator of pro-life ministries. “We’re getting the team in place to minister and spread the good news throughout Vermont,” he said. “I’m happy with where we’re going.”
The Bishop’s first year in Vermont has been recorded on his blog, Facebook, Twitter and other social media which you can connect to via his website: http://bishopcoyne.org/.
Founded in 1853 with the appointment of Louis De Goesbriand as the first Bishop of Burlington, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington serves a population of 118,000 Catholics. There are 47 active priests, 49 permanent deacons, and 95 sisters ministering in 76 parishes and 35 missions. The diocese includes 12 elementary schools, two high schools, and a catechetical system with an estimated 1,100 lay teachers instructing almost 12,800 students. With its special centers for social services and homes for the aged, the Diocese of Burlington assisted more than 10,000 Vermonters last year.