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Cori Fugere Urban

Cori Fugere Urban

Cori Urban is a longtime writer for the communications efforts of the Diocese of Burlington and former editor of The Vermont Catholic Tribune.

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Sister DellaSanta named new Rice principal

Sister of Mercy Laura DellaSanta has moved her office  — but not far —  from the office of the superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Burlington on Joy Drive in South Burlington to the office of the principal at Rice Memorial High School on Proctor Avenue.

After two years as the chief administrator of Catholic education in Vermont — first as interim superintendent then as superintendent — she accepted the principal’s job after the resignation of Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois who has returned to parish ministry.

“I want to join everyone to continue the mission of Catholic education at Rice in a joyful community and in a Christ-centered environment with excellent academics and service to others,” she said. “I want to continue the tradition of high standards in a prayerful, caring community and to bring the school to the next level for our students of today to influence tomorrow.”

A former teacher and principal of Mater Christi School in Burlington, she was a first- and fourth-grade teacher in Milton for 13 years before entering the Sisters of Mercy in 1984. She also served as president of Walsingham Academy in Williamsburg, Va., and principal of St. Joseph Regional School in Keene, N.H.

Sister DellaSanta brings to her new role a love of education — particularly Catholic education — and a respect for the community of faith.  She has been successful with key components like academics, enrollment, finance and fundraising, and she has leadership experience.

“I know the nuances, the challenges and the alternatives to challenges [to Catholic education] and how to celebrate our success and develop long-range plans,” she said.

As principal, she will work to address financial challenges, build future leadership, keep facilities updated, provide an excellent education and continue to improve teacher salaries. Such challenges will be met with prayer and teamwork. “We all work together,” she said of the faculty, staff, pastors, parents, students and coaches.

Rice currently has about 440 students in grades nine through 12.

A Barre native, Sister DellaSanta graduated from Lyndon State College with a bachelor’s degree in education; she earned a master’s degree in education from St. Michael’s College in Colchester.

Asked why she made the change from superintendent to principal, she said she was asked to consider the principal’s job and felt she had the right gifts, experience and understanding of Rice and the greater Burlington community to bring to the school at this time.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.
  • Published in Schools

Principal appointed in Barre

During her first year as principal of St. Monica-St. Michael School in Barre, Brenda S. Buzzell intends to support student learning, increase enrollment and promote continued community involvement.

The school was formed by the merger of St. Monica School in Barre and St. Michael School in Montpelier.

The two schools and the former Marian High School in Barre “have been pillars in these two communities for almost 100 years,” said the fourth-generation parishioner of St. Monica Church in Barre. “Many people in Central Vermont have fond memories of attending these schools that produced strong community leaders and solid community members.”

 Today St. Monica-St. Michael School — offering preschool through grade eight — continues to offer a quality educational alternative to public schools with a mission to empower students with spiritual, intellectual and physical growth.

A Barre native, Buzzell attended St. Monica School and Marian High School and graduated from Spaulding High School in Barre. A Vermont licensed educator, she earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from Union Institute and University and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Vermont; she has more than 30 years of teaching experience in both public and private schools.

She is board chair of the Barre Town Middle and Elementary School, a member of the Barre Supervisory Union Board and is active with Vermont state organizations and committees to promote quality early care and education.

She comes to the St. Monica-St. Michael principal job from The Stern Center for Language and Learning where she spent 11 years as the Building Blocks For Literacy coordinator, instructor and master trainer. 

As a national presenter and master trainer, she traveled extensively throughout the United States bringing this research-based, research-proven early literacy program that teaches developmentally appropriate practices to childcare providers and preschool teachers. 

Buzzell co-authored the online Building Blocks For Literacy course, presented webinars and developed the undergraduate and graduate courses.

She brings to the principal’s job knowledge of educational research and best practices and her experience of teaching children in public and private schools as well as teaching adults to understand language and literacy development. 

“My school board experience has given me knowledge of best practice, policy development and financial responsibility,” she said.

Declining enrollment — a challenge shared with many public and private schools — is an area she will address as principal. “I am hoping to encourage families to register their children, knowing that we offer strong foundational skills in academics,” she said.

Buzzell’s appointment was effective July 1; she replaces Denise Maurice.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.
  • Published in Schools

Sacred Heart of Jesus in Troy hosts event fostering fellowship

“The Holy Spirit inspires those with open and docile hearts to respond to a need,” says Phil Lawson, director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington. “And how beautiful it is, when those individuals say ‘yes!’”

That beauty was manifested in Troy for the second consecutive year as a group of laypersons spearheaded a Family Retreat Day at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church.

“The best evangelization is always ‘person-to-person.’ As a popular saying goes, ‘disciples make disciples,’” Lawson said.

Disciples certainly are making disciples in this Canadian border community — and beyond. More than 200 people attended from as far away as Colorado, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

“This is a home-grown example of the role the laity can take in putting faith into action,” said Daniel McAvinney, one of the event organizers. “We sustain ourselves in faith… This whole day was a comprehensive encouragement of the faithful.”

Angie Chaput of St. Vincent de Paul Church in North Troy attended the family retreat and found it to be a work of evangelization “exactly as God would want.”

The day was “powerful,” she said.

“Because of the scarcity of priests, it’s important for us [lay persons] to spread the Gospel,” said attendee Margaret Huempfner of Aurora, Colo. “We need to start reaching out in a sacrificial way.”

Sacred Heart of Jesus parishioner and family retreat coordinator Theresa McAvinney said it is necessary “to think outside the box in order to fill the spiritual needs” of communities. “Because our pool of volunteers is shrinking, as are the congregations, some of us have begun to pool our personnel resources,” she said. 

For instance, with the Encountering Jesus Youth Formation program, there are no parish boundaries; any youth from any parish can join. “Bringing spiritual offerings to the people instead of having our people go far and wide [to find them] has also begun to enliven the faith of our parishioners,” she said.

The daylong family retreat — for persons of all ages, for families, for couples and for individuals — included Mass, the sacrament of reconciliation, eucharistic adoration, music, games and crafts for children, music and fellowship.

Father Jon Schnobrich, director of vocations for the Diocese of Burlington, attended the retreat. “It speaks to the hunger, the longing…for the truth and joy of our faith,” he said. 


‘There is a hunger for God and the need for Catholic Christians to build a community of love within their families, their neighborhoods and their own local parishes.’ 

— Theresa McAvinney



For Mrs. McAvinney, the primary reason for the retreat was the salvation of souls. “There is a hunger for God and the need for Catholic Christians to build a community of love within their families, their neighborhoods and their own local parishes,” she said. 

People lead busy lives, but they can find a way to dedicate one full day to God and family to attend the retreat, she added: “The palpable experience of the presence of God at our retreat last year left a yearning for more in the hearts of many who attended and the request that we do it again.”

Michael Rocco of Amherst, N.H., called the family retreat “spiritually reviving.”

The need for Catholic Christian community never ends. “Those who are seeking true spiritual nourishment look forward to the opportunity to gather with fellow Catholics to celebrate our faith. God is attractive,” Mrs. McAvinney said.

Many of this year’s retreatants were new; some came because of the recommendation of last year’s participants, and others came because what was offered was appealing to them. 

Mrs. McAvinney made an effort to invite people personally, especially those she knew might have been struggling and needed to experience the love of God through the Christian community. 

“Like St. Pope John Paul II, calling for a ‘New Evangelization’ and both Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis building on that call, the Church helps shepherd her children to meet the needs of the modern world,” Lawson said. “How beautiful it is when the Church issues the clarion call for a New Evangelization amidst the joy of the Gospel, and men and women rise up to answer the challenge. This is what the saints did throughout history. And this is our opportunity to play the part the Lord has ordained for us today. What a privilege and what a responsibility!”

The Office of Evangelization and Catechesis exists to help form what Pope Francis has called “missionary disciples” able to spread the joy of the Gospel in their communities. “In this case, we are proud to support and encourage the amazing work being done by those in Troy,” Lawson said. 

 The New Evangelization is rooted in using new “means, methods and ardor” to bring the Gospel of Christ to the modern world, he continued. “There is tremendous room and opportunity for creativity here. It begins by the faithful asking the question, ‘What are the needs in our community?’ and ‘Where is the Lord leading us?’ The means and methods will vary according to the place and the local circumstances, the ardor with which it is accomplished as well as the end goal, bringing the joy of the Gospel to our communities, are universal.”   

He is confident the Lord will lead the faithful to what they need to do, and he looks forward to partnering with the parishes in those efforts.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus community has embraced this evangelical mission. “Is it a lot of work, you bet,” Mrs. McAvinney said. “But ‘it is in giving that we receive.’”

She said if the Holy Spirit inspires people to evangelize, “we need only say ‘yes,’ and He sends all that we need; it is accomplished because those of us who are working together are faithful to Christian stewardship of time, talent and treasure.”

Father Schnobrich said that as the Church continues to promote the building of Christ-centered community, people experience the beauty of the Catholic faith through educational/evangelizing events like the family retreat. 

“We have the greatest gift in the universe — salvation through Jesus Christ. We have the fullness of truth in our Catholic Church,” Mrs. McAvinney said. “We have the answers for a broken world in the Holy Eucharist. We have everything we need to bring others to this Light. We must, as lay faithful, embrace the evangelical mission of the Church to bring Christ to others that they might be saved.”

For more information, contact the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis at 802-658-6110 ext. 1453.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer. 
  • Published in Parish

‘Let’s Talk’: starting the new evangelization conversation

Phil Lawson, director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington, will present a series of August workshops throughout Vermont on evangelization.

Asked to define evangelization, he said “it is simply the sharing of Jesus Christ with those around us.”  

“Let’s Talk about the New Evangelization” is the title of the workshops open to all but especially beneficial to parish staff, volunteers, parish committee members, directors of religious education, priests, pastors and interested lay people.

Topics will include: What is the New Evangelization? Why is the Church calling for it? and How does it apply to Vermont?

The free diocesan workshops are being offered to provide history and insight into what this new evangelization is and to equip the faithful with tools and ideas to enrich their parishes and communities.

Each workshop will include the “what, why, who and how” of evangelization.   The goal is to begin the conversation among Catholics with regard to evangelization in Vermont. Participants also will spend some time in prayer and brainstorming as they look to move forward.

 Father Julian Asucan, administrator of Our Lady of Grace and Holy Cross churches in Colchester, said he agreed to host the event because it is an opportunity for parishioners and others to learn more about their faith.

But evangelization is a particularly pertinent topic currently because “at this time of challenges” in the Diocese of Burlington and in the Church in general “lots of young people are lukewarm in their faith especially in attending church regularly.”

He welcomes parishioners of other area parishes to attend the evangelization program at Holy Cross Church.

Every follower of Christ is told to go out and share the joy and mercy they have received.  “The Church has always sought to spread the Good News. This is our particular calling and opportunity in Vermont,” Lawson said. “One look at the statistics tells a striking tale, as in 2003, an average of roughly 44,000 Catholics attended Mass each weekend. By 2013, that number had dropped to 24,000.” The numbers for yearly baptisms, first Communions, Confirmations and marriages have all followed a similar pattern. 

“Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus. The people of God is a people of disciples because we receive the faith and a missionary people because we pass on the faith,” he said. 

 “We have to go to where the people are! That’s what Pope Francis is calling for, right?” Lawson commented. “In addition, the Church sees the parish as the center for its evangelization efforts…If we’re going to assist with that, we need to go to the parishes themselves.”

After the conversations, “we see where the Lord is directing our efforts and the next stage in the adventure of Christian life, discipleship and mission begins,” Lawson said. “While Christ is the center of all our efforts and lives, the concrete efforts will vary from parish to parish.”

The goal is for each parish to have this conversation and prayerfully move forward in deeper lives of faith and intentional outreach in their communities. 

“Think about when a couple gets engaged. They can’t help but share their joy with everyone around them,” Lawson said. “In a similar way, our relationship with Jesus should change our life and be visible in how we conduct our lives. And much like the newly engaged couple, we should be happy to share our joy with others and invite them into it.” 

 For more information about the free workshops, call 802-658-6110 or go to www.vermontcatholic.org/ne/img/TheNewEvang_Poster_1.pdf

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.
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