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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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Walk-Ins Welcome

North Bennington clinic cares for community body and soul

Bea Talbot brought a Crock-Pot filled with American chop suey; Sherry Monte provided the sliced bread, and Lorraine Breen contributed a plate of brownies.

They are members of the Social Concerns Committee at St. John the Baptist Church in North Bennington, and they provided the meal for people who came to the free clinic, a program of Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services, Inc., at First Baptist Church.

The clinic at the Bennington church is open from 6-9 p.m. on Thursdays; walk-ins are seen as time permits, but appointments are encouraged. The clinic also has appointment hours on Monday mornings.

While volunteer doctors and nurses see patients and volunteers help clients enroll in health insurance plans, simple meals are provided in the reception area; St. John the Baptist parishioners provide the food once every other month, and Talbot gets there early to set up the meal, enough for about 10 people.

She likes to make it simple: soup, chili or her favorite, American chop suey. "People come here to be seen [by the doctors and nurses], and often they don't eat. Some don't even see a doctor" but need the meal, said Talbot who also volunteers as a greeter at the clinic once a month.

When the free clinic opened in 2009, people brought in food for the staff. That celebratory spirit of bringing food continued in the second week; a mother waiting to see a doctor asked if her children could have some of the salad because they had not eaten.

And so began the free meal at the free clinic.

Some of those who partake of the free meal have expressed surprise that it is available; often they comment on how tasty it is.

St. John the Baptist parishioners have been involved in the meal for seven years. Other individuals and faith communities provide meals too.

Because the clinic serves people of low or moderate income, food is an important issue there, said Sue Andrews, executive director of Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services. "We try to nurture a close working relationship with local faith communities by involving them in social justice issues," she said.

In addition to the medical services, the agency provides food and fuel assistance, a food pantry and health insurance navigation services.

It's all part of what Andrews calls "radical hospitality."

Deacon David O'Brien, a member of the St. John the Baptist Social Concerns Committee, helped connect the parishes to the work of Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services. "This meal is one of the things that goes on day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, year-to-year" within the interfaith community, he said.

"The beauty of it for me is the interfaith group is looking at the needs of the community," said Sherry Monte, chair of the social concerns committee. "We are all working together and responding to the needs of the community."

In addition, working together enables members of different houses of worship to understand other faiths and to grow together in mutual respect as a community.

Lorraine Breen, a member of the social concerns committee, said she wanted to get involved in community service when she retired as an administrative assistant. She appreciates the work of the committee to help the homeless, feed the hungry and help with housing.

"There are people in need, and as much as we can work together and help them, that's our goal," Monte said. "Our job is to respond to the needs of the community. That's what Christ asks us to do."

Andrews said the faith communities "engender the opportunity for people to volunteer and be part of the community" and to help their neighbors in need.

Supporting the programs of the Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services "is part of who we are," Deacon O'Brien said.

"Our job as a social concerns committee is to keep our [church] community focused on the needs out there," Monte said, "and to respond the way that Christ asked us. That's what drives us."

To schedule an appointment at the free clinic, call (802) 447-3700.

For more information on Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services, go online to www.benningtoncares.org.

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

  • Published in Parish

Strengthening faith with personal reflection, interaction with others

Bonnie Day, Vermont Lay Director of Cursillo, says it would probably take a book to catalogue and discuss the benefits she has received from the movement of the Church, which makes it possible for people to live what is fundamental to being a Christian, helps them to fulfill their personal vocation and promotes the creation of groups of Christians who change their environments by living the Gospel.

But to synopsize the benefits she has received, Day said the sense of community is paramount along with the ongoing support and encouragement of others on the same Christian journey.

She and others involved in Cursillo talk about faith, the liturgy, evangelization and how to be a better Christian.

"Cursillo provides a method of routine reflection to help me be a better Christian and Catholic," she said. "It is a method that asks, 'What aids have contributed to my spiritual growth this week (or day)? When was I most aware of Jesus during this period of reflection? What have I studied, watched, heard or read during this period that has increased my knowledge of my Church and Jesus? What have I done to bring Jesus Christ to others?'"

Cursillo is a ministry of the Roman Catholic Church. It was founded in Majorca, Spain, by a group of laymen in 1944 while they were refining a technique to train pilgrimage leaders. A layman, Eduardo Bonnín, participated in the early years of the "short courses" in Majorca and helped develop the Cursillos to the point that it became an active renewal movement in the Church. In 1957, the movement had spread to North America, when the first American Cursillo took place in Waco, Texas.

A Cursillo weekend is a short, intense course in Christianity; a three-day experience of living in a Christian community; a unique, communal and deeply spiritual experience that is built on talks, activities, group dynamics and liturgy; and a chance to strengthen one's relationship with Jesus Christ.

Candidates must be Catholic, in communion with the Church and receiving the sacraments or able to do so. They must be able to understand the message and willing to commit themselves to it.

If married, the spouse must agree to attend, or must agree for his/her spouse to attend, and both need to meet with an active Cursillo member to understand the movement. Candidates are sponsored by someone who has attended a Cursillo.

The mission of the Vermont Cursillo movement is to live the method and strategy of the Cursillo Movement so that each man and woman can be enlightened and Christianized to go forth and transform their environments in the light of the Gospel and the glory of the risen Christ.

Asked how she lives this mission, Day responded: "The Cursillo Movement has a phrase 'Bloom where you are planted.' I am planted within the Diocese of Burlington, in the parish of St. Ignatius [of Loyola in] Lowell. My activities tend to be focused in that area and at work. I contribute routinely to various charities, such as the Bishop's Fund, the parish annual appeal, weekly collections at Mass and various religious charities. I volunteer for parish council and finance council when my help is needed. I pray and offer my Communion and Masses for my own conversion and that of my family. I pray for and offer my Communion and Masses for the needs of my neighbors and members of the Cursillo movements throughout the world."

She made her Cursillo in 2010 in Killington. Cursillo helps to better bring Jesus Christ to my ministry and my neighbor. "Cursillo has taught me that the best way to do this is through friendship. We are to make a friend, to be a friend and to bring that friend to Christ," said the wife and mother of four grown children. "Cursillo teaches us to look at our environments and the people in them, and then ask the question, 'What would a friend do in this situation?' Would a friend be an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, a driver to provide transportation, or any of a myriad of other things a Christian friend can feel called upon to perform for a friend?"

Father Dwight Baker, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in Northfield and St. Edward Church in Williamstown, has been spiritual director of Vermont Cursillo for the past year. He attends the monthly state meetings and gives spiritual guidance to the movement in Vermont.

"Cursillo is a wonderful spiritual movement within our Catholic faith that enriches and enhances one's personal relationship with Jesus Christ," he said. "When one has made their Cursillo weekend it helps bring a vibrancy to their faith, and the Cursillista [Cursillo participant] focuses on piety, study and action. This lends itself toward being more involved in one's local parish as well as bringing others to Christ."

Day, who works at Vermont Commercial Warehouse as financial operations manager/office manager, meets with her small Ultreya (post Cursillo) group to discuss her prayer life and her spiritual life. "We also talk about how that relationship with my neighbor can develop into a more Christian response," she said. "We share ideas on how can I help a neighbor who is dying, or in financial need or one who is in spiritual need. We also discuss events that have occurred that may be Jesus trying to talk to me or to open my heart to some direction or condition."

Such small groups help participants support one another in living out the faith and encourages them to invite others to make Cursillo, Father Baker said.

"This movement is, fundamentally and deeply, a lay movement," Day said.

Vermont Cursillo Weekends take place about every other year. In the past there have been as many as two sets of weekends in a year, but as the base membership has grown older there have been fewer younger members.

Usually about 15-30 people attend each weekend. Teams are usually comprised of five to eight laypersons and two ordained or vowed religious persons.

Asked what has kept Cursillo alive in Vermont, Day responded simply, "God's will."

The next Cursillo Weekend for Men will take place at St. Anne's Shrine in Isle LaMotte July 28-31; the next Cursillo Weekend for Women take place there Aug. 4-7.

For more information, visit www.vtcursillo.org.

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

Family time is precious to Thomas Van Dzura

How much does Thomas F. Van Dzura love his three children?

So much that the die-hard New York Jets fan became a runner like his sons and wife; not just any runner, but a runner who is willing to run a "princess half marathon" at Walt Disney World after just a year on what his wife calls "the couch to 5K plan."

But more importantly, Van Dzura shows his love for his children by putting them and their mother–his wife, Brenda–first, and with her by supporting them in all their endeavors, by offering unconditional love and passing on to them the Catholic faith.

"My faith is very important to me," said the chief financial officer for the Society of St. Edmund and principles of accounting instructor at St. Michael's College in Colchester.

He enjoys "the best of both worlds" being a father and working for the Edmundites and the college they founded.

A 1989 graduate of St. Michael's, Van Dzura met his future wife there when he was a senior; they married in 1993. He worked in accounting positions in New Hampshire and in Montpelier before becoming controller for the Edmundites in 2000 and CFO in 2007.

As a student, faith was "part of the fabric" of the New Jersey native's life. "It wasn't just going to Mass and receiving the sacraments. My faith helped determine what I wanted to do in life," he said. "I can't imagine going through life absent that faith. It is a source of strength and motivation."

Van Dzura considers being a husband, father, advisor to the Society of St. Edmund and teacher all as his vocations; he is thankful he can live them.

His family time is precious to him, and he acknowledges he felt somewhat le_ out when his wife and sons ran together. Though their events were fun for him to watch, he wanted to participate with them; so last year he decided this year would be his first half marathon. "I knew how much running meant to them. I thought they'd be thrilled and excited for me to become part of it."

And they were.

His son, Darren, a member of the Essex High School Class of 2016, learned from his father the importance of fun. "Enjoy what you do and never be afraid to try something new," he said.

"I was inspired by them and wanted to be part of that" sport, Van Dzura said.

In fact, his sons often inspire him. "I wish I were more like them as an adolescent: comfortable in their own skin and believing everyone they encounter has something meaningful to contribute," he explained. "They are not always worried about what other people think as long as they are doing the right thing and setting a good example."

He described them as "very giving, very unselfish and very compassionate."

The best things he has done for his sons are to love and support them unconditionally, help them make good choices and mentor them.

The oldest of four children–he has three younger sisters–Van Dzura learned from his father how to be patient and forgiving. (John "Jack" Van Dzura died in 2006.) He also learned from him how to discipline his children in a loving way and to show them affection. "Not a day goes by that at least one of the boys doesn't say 'I love you Dad,'" he said.

His son, Joseph, an Essex High School sophomore, hopes to emulate his compassion, kindness and patience.

Van Dzura's maternal grandfather, Frank Smith of New Jersey, is another of his important role models. When Van Dzura was in college, "Grandpa Smith" used to send him notes, sometimes with a little cash for an ice cream. He'd always include "Knowledge is power" in his missive. Now he does that for Kyle.

Smith is a man of strong faith, attends daily Mass and puts his wife and daughters before him.

Emulating him, Van Dzura puts his wife, his sons, his faith and his relationship with God and Jesus first.

One of the greatest compliments he ever received came from his grandfather who told him if he had had a son, he would want him to be just like Van Dzura.

Other important influences in his life are members of the Society of St. Edmund who model "unselfish service to others" and "evangelize by reaching out through things like education," he said.

Van Dzura would have given serious thought to the possibility of becoming an Edmundite if he had not met and fallen in love with Brenda.

A resident of Essex Junction, Van Dzura, 48, is a member of St. Pius X Church in Essex Center and a former chair of the parish Finance Council. He enjoys reading–mostly biographies, business and sports–and spending time with his family.

Darren enjoys time with his father going to movies and taking family trips. "What's great about my dad is that no matter what we are doing we find a way to enjoy it," he said.

"Tom puts his children and their interests before his own," his wife said. "I often see parents pushing their children towards the parent's interests. Not the case with Tom. He has always encouraged our boys to 'be themselves' and to do what makes them happy."

In fact, son Kyle, a rising junior at Providence College, said the most important lesson he learned from his father is to "always be true to myself."

"My dad will always go out of his way to make sure that I am happy, even if that means putting me ahead of himself," he continued. "What really makes my dad a great dad, though, is that he follows his own path. He knows what it takes to be a great dad and proves that every day. Just by being himself, he is the best dad a kid could ask for."

Van Dzura has been a member of the high school band boosters and a Cub Scout leader, and he has chaperoned the boys' cross-country team. "He helps out in whatever way he can, all to be supportive of his children," Mrs. Van Dzura said. "The boys know they can come to him about anything. He has a goofy sense of humor, which all the boys have inherited."

Van Dzura–who with his wife has presented a talk on marriage for a Leap retreat for young people at St. Anne's Shrine in Isle LaMotte–always thanks God in prayer for the blessing of his wife and children; he prays for their health and happiness and for the health and well being of all his family, friends and members of the Society of St. Edmund. He also prays for those who are suffering and those who are lonely, isolated, sad and lacking faith.

"He shows me what it means to be selfless, to be thankful for what you have and to thank God for all of the blessings in our lives," Kyle said.

As he looks ahead, Van Dzura wants to focus on continuing to be a good husband and father, continuing to communicate with this family, continuing to be self aware and continuing to be patient.

He'll also continue his running efforts: This Father's Day he will be in Worcester, Mass., running a half marathon with his wife and one son while the other two sons are working at Camp Fatima, a Catholic camp in New Hampshire where all of his sons work.

"I take every day as a blessing," he said. "I savor it. I don't wish it to go by fast."

Article and photo by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.

  • Published in Parish

Encountering Jesus

Sixteen-year-old Nick Markush of St. Vincent de Paul Church in North Troy has made his confirmation. But unlike many people who equate confirmation with graduation from religious education, he is continuing to learn about his faith as part of Encountering Jesus, a youth group for those in seventh grade through college.

"You can't get enough learning," Nick said. "If you come here, you definitely learn something."

But it's not the traditional classroom religious education.

As many as 21 participants meet year-round, weekly for about two hours; on three Wednesdays a month they meet at the home of their group leader, Theresa McAvinney, for prayer, Scripture study, catechetical instruction and social time.

Topics covered include sacraments, vocations, liturgy, morality, the Ten Commandments and pro-life issues.

"We're getting the kids where they are at. That is precisely how Jesus taught," she said.

At least two unrelated chaperones attend the gatherings.

"The two most important books are the Bible and the Catechism" of the Catholic Church, said McAvinney, the new director of religious education at Sacred Heart Church in Troy.

On the third Friday of each month the youth participate in adoration and benediction at Sacred Heart Church then have social time in the parish hall.

McAvinney currently works with students from that parish as well as from the parishes of St. Vincent de Paul, St. Ignatius of Loyola in Lowell and St. Paul in Barton.

"Encountering Jesus has no boundaries," she said. "Any teenager who loves their faith and wants to be active in their faith is welcome."

Sometimes participants bring friends.

"This is filling a need," McAvinney said.

In addition to their weekly commitment to Encountering Jesus, members participate in a variety of activities like youth rallies, retreats, the annual Rally for Life in Montpelier, Pro-life Lobby Day and the year of Mercy Jubilee for Young Adults in Burlington.

McAvinney keeps parishioners informed of what the youth are doing through bulletin announcements.

"I always try to see with Jesus' eyes," she said. "Jesus loves them and wants them to know Him."

For her, Encountering Jesus–a program she said she was inspired by the Holy Spirit to develop and begin last year–is "not religious education in an academic mode but it is a lifestyle."

The goals of the program include helping youth develop a better understanding of who Jesus is, to love Him more deeply and to want to serve others and the Church for love of Him. It also seeks to inspire youth with a true love of the Church that will encourage them to be active disciples for life and to develop a sense of ministry.

The program is an opportunity for youth to gather in trust and faith that will enable them to grow a life of prayer devotion and worship within the heart of the Church.

It also helps to strengthen the evangelical spirit given to all the baptized to bring the God News of Jesus to all people and to help youth see ways to accomplish this in their daily lives.

Father Timothy Naples, pastor of Most Holy Trinity Parish that includes St. Paul Church in Barton, praised the program. "I see it combining two essential elements for growing in the faith in a spectacular way," he said, noting the family atmosphere of the gatherings and the "heartfelt study and dialogue about the scriptures and the faith."

Aulani Morris, 17, of St. Paul Church in Barton, continues her religious education with Encountering Jesus even though she has been confirmed. "I've always wanted to be involved with the Church. I love being a Catholic, and this is kind of like a second family," she said.

Other participants like the small-group atmosphere and sharing with teens who have the same faith; some even mentioned wishing the group met for more than two hours.

"They seem to be very comfortable with the group and are always ready to go . . . with no complaints," commented Sara LeBlanc, one of the mothers.

Another mother, Maria Morris, said her children are "always bubbling over with enthusiasm about their faith" when they return home from an Encountering Jesus event. "Their faith is alive and growing."

Nick said participating in the group is helping him become a stronger Catholic: "It'll make me a better Catholic when I am an adult."

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

  • Published in Parish
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