Log in
    

Thoughts on Vacations, Virtue and 'Playfulness'

I will soon be heading off for a summer vacation. Those of you who follow me on Facebook have seen my posts over the years from Pine Point, Maine, complete with photos of sun and rain, surf and turf, and long walks at the water’s edge. I’m fortunate enough to be able to spend time with a large number of family and friends, to relax and recharge. I always make sure I use all of my vacation days. After all, that’s what they’re there for. And believe it or not, I even think I am being a bit virtuous in this.
 
“What?” you might say, “Taking a vacation is virtuous? Surely, the bishop jests.” Not at all. I am sitting-on-a-beach-chair-reading-a-good-book-drinking-a-frosty-beer serious and I offer the encouragement of the saints themselves for your consideration.
 
St. Augustine in his treatise “On music” wrote, “I pray thee, spare thyself at times: for it becomes a wise man sometimes to relax the high pressure of his attention to work." 
 
St. Thomas Aquinas draws upon the writing of Aristotle and even promotes relaxation as virtuous, “Just as man needs bodily rest for the body's refreshment, because he cannot always be at work - since his power is finite and equal to a certain fixed amount of labor - so too is it with his soul, whose power is also finite and equal to a fixed amount of work.” The remedy St. Thomas offers is the virtue of eutrapelia, the virtue of “playfulness” or “fun,” intended to refresh the person in both body and soul.  Now, Thomas does place some guidelines on this: the “play” must not be immoral or “wicked,” it must be in moderation, and it is intended toward a good end, namely to renew and refresh. But, it really is intended to be fun and playful as well.
 
So, here is my encouragement: Even if you can’t get away to the coast of Maine or the lakeshore or any place at all for a vacation right now, make sure you try and grab some downtime to relax and refresh body and soul and practice the virtue of eutrapelia, so as to be refreshed to go out and take care of all the other duties of life and faith. A good balance between work and play is good for the soul. 
 

Bishops comment on opioid crisis

By Matt Hadro
 
(CNA/EWTN News)--Amidst a growing epidemic of drug overdose and opioid addiction, Catholic bishops have been speaking out on the need for prayer and solidarity with those suffering from addiction.
 
“The closer you get to the Catholic Church, the closer you get to the wounds of Christ,” Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas said during a June 14 press conference at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ recent meeting in Indianapolis.
 
“And it’s important for us to recognize that we accompany many people who are wounded,” he added. “It’s the very essence of the Church to reach out to those who are wounded.”
 
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared that opioid abuse is an “epidemic” in the United States. Every day, 91 Americans die of an opioid-related overdose. The drugs include those used in prescription painkillers like oxycodone, codeine, and morphine, but also heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.
 
Overdoses have also become the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50. Opioids are involved in over 60 percent of overdoses nationwide, the CDC noted, and opioid-related overdoses quadrupled between 1999 and 2015.
 
Many Americans have reported first using prescription drugs before they used heroin, and rates of “past month” and “past year” heroin use, as well as heroin addiction, went up among 18-25 year-olds from 2002-2013, the CDC found, as heroin has become more widely available and purer.
 
Heroin-related deaths have more than tripled between 2010 and 2015, driven in part by an increase in synthetic opioids like fentanyl being added to heroin and cocaine to increase the potency of the drugs, the CDC reported.
 
At the U.S. bishops’ annual spring meeting in Indianapolis, held June 14-15, several bishops addressed the rising opioid crisis and discussed what the Church is doing to help those addicted to opioids, and their families. “The problem is becoming just so massive,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.
 
In Vermont, parishes are trying to reach out to victims on the local level but are making sure to reach the families of victims as well, Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne explained at the June 14 press conference.
 
“Oftentimes we are kind of limited in what we can do on a state level,” he acknowledged. “But at our parishes and in our agencies in our parishes we can continue to reach out to addicted families,” he noted, stressing, “not just those who are in recovery, but also their families.”
 
This also involves finding foster parents for children of addicted parents, particularly those whose parents have overdosed and those who suffer from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.
 
Ultimately, Catholics must “recognize that it’s not just the addicts; it’s the whole family that suffers,” he continued.
 
Catholic Charities in the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese is “already on to this question,” Cardinal DiNardo noted, and is providing “the kinds of charity and help and counseling for them and their families that Catholic Charities by its professional expertise brings.”
 
On June 29, Bishop Edward Malesic of Greensburg, Penn., published a pastoral letter on the opioid crisis. In his diocese in Western Pennsylvania, more than 300 opioid-related deaths had ravaged the communities in the previous year.
 
In his “Pastoral Letter on the Drug Abuse Crisis from Death and Despair to Life and Hope,” Bishop Malesic affirmed that in response to the crisis, “we can either sink down into despair or rise up in hope.”
 
“This is a plague that has come into the homes and families of every city, town, and even the rural areas of our diocese,” he acknowledged. Yet Catholics must choose hope, he added.
 
“Hope is the certain belief that God will provide what we need to overcome the struggles we are now facing. If we are not guided by hope, we will give up before the battle is won. We must have hope!” he insisted.
 
And Catholics must give hope to those mired in the despair of addiction, he said. “We accompany them with courageous faith. We offer them the comforting presence and power of Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Jesus will provide.”
 
Bishop Malesic exhorted priests, religious, and deacons to “reach out” in Christ’s name to those suffering from drug addiction, and “let them know that they are not alone.”
 
“With the power of prayer, we can lift up our needs and the needs of those who are addicted to a loving God who is concerned for all of us,” he said. “We know that prayer, this heartfelt and intimate communication with God, can make a dramatic difference in the life of someone coping with an addiction crisis.”
 
The bishop also announced initiatives the diocese was taking to respond to the crisis, including educational initiatives at the parish level and developing family recovery groups.
 
Last March, Massachusetts bishops also issued a statement in response to the state’s rising drug-overdose crisis, after the rate of overdose deaths had reached record levels there.
 
“We encourage our sisters and brothers who are suffering addiction or the addiction of loved ones to turn to their faith community for support, counsel and compassion, and we pray that those most affected will receive the physical, emotional and spiritual help that they need,” the commonwealth’s bishops stated.
 
  • Published in Nation

Father Sanderson's ordination

Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne ordained the Vermont Catholic community’s newest priest at a special Mass June 17 at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington.

The newly ordained Father Joseph J. Sanderson has been assigned to serve as parochial vicar at Christ the King-St. Anthony Parish in Burlington.
           
“The call to be a Christian is a call to a life of self-emptying sacrifice, which is deepened even further in the priestly ministry when through ordination one is configured even more deeply into the person of Christ as the great High Priest,” Bishop Coyne said during the ordination Mass.
 
Born in Middlebury in 1990, Father Sanderson is the eldest of the three children of Jennifer and John Sanderson. He grew up in Orwell and attended Fair Haven Union High School, Our Lady of Providence Seminary, Providence College and St. John's Seminary in Boston.
 
“I chose to be a priest for the Diocese of Burlington because Vermont has always been and will always be my home,” Father Sanderson said. “It will be a great honor, privilege and joy for me to serve the people of this great State of Vermont, to labor for souls in this little corner of our Lord's vineyard.”
 
Read more in an upcoming issue of The Inland See.
 
 

Bishop's Mother's Day message

I won’t be going to visit my mother today for Mother’s Day; she still lives in the family home in a suburb of Boston, and I will be on a parish visitation in Vermont. My brothers and sisters along with her grandchildren will spend time with her for Mother’s Day, and I’ll make sure she gets flowers and her regular Sunday phone call from me.

And I will go to see her next weekend.

Most women of her generation stayed at home and raised their family. She had seven children, and at one point we were all under the age of 11. She somehow managed to take care of us, handing us off to my father when he was free from work and other chores. There were a lot of other large, two-parent families in my neighborhood; we had lots of friends and lots of adult eyes keeping track of all of us.

Mother’s Day usually meant handmade cards and some flowers but not too much else – it was too expensive for all nine of us to have brunch or dinner at a restaurant.

If the weather was nice enough, it was Dad at the grill.

Such was Mother’s Day then.

Things are different now, not so much in the love and care that mothers give their children but more in the circumstances and culture of the family. There are a lot more “blended” families (children of divorced and remarried parents), more unmarried parents with children, more mothers who work a job or two outside the home, more grandparents raising their grandchildren and more single parents – mainly women. These new realities often lead to unintended difficulties and outcomes for children and parents. Even though most are doing the best they can, personal and familial circumstances are often difficult.

Such is Mothers’ Day now.

Though times have changed, what remains the same is a mother's enduring connection with her children. And as women take on not necessarily more responsibilities -- just different ones -- they continue to be mothers, a role that they alone can hold, a role worth celebrating.

So as I offer a prayer in thanksgiving for the gift that my mother has been to me and my family, I offer a prayer of intercession for all our mothers, grandmothers and surrogates that in this time and culture, they may love their children with a mother’s heart and receive the help and support that they need from all of us.

Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.
 

Catholic Schools Care for Creation

In response to Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne's call for a Year of Creation focused on Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home," Catholic schools in Vermont immediately sprang to action planning a statewide day of creation education, action and prayer. On April 12, each Catholic school participated in Catholic Schools Care for Creation Day. Initiatives included immediate tasks and long-term projects.
 
Responding to the call to care for creation is part of the Catholic schools’ mission “to instill faith values in students and to create a desire to make a positive difference in the world.” Some schools began the day of service with Mass or another form of prayer. Others read and reflected upon quotes from “Laudato Si’” throughout the day. It was important for students to understand that this day wasn’t just in service to the world, but to their neighbors and to God as well.
 
“Care for creation is a matter of social justice because the ones who are most affected by pollution and climate change are the poor of the world,” Bishop Coyne said. “I hope many Catholics will take advantage of the opportunities being offered throughout the diocese to celebrate this Year of Creation.”
 
Vermont Catholic schools emphatically embraced the opportunity to spend some extra time beholding God’s creation and ensuring that it remains bountiful for generations to come.
 
Read about each school’s Care for Creation Day projects below. For more about the Year of Creation: vermontcatholic.org/yearofcreation.
 
Students at St. Monica-St. Michael School in Barre learned about reusing and recycling materials with an eco-fashion show, where students designed and modeled clothing creations made from materials found in recycle bins. As part of an ongoing project, students planted seeds in recyclable containers that will later be transferred to the school garden. Once in the earth, the seedlings will grow into food that sustains bodies. Students and their families share in the cultivation, growth, harvest and consumption.
 
Students at The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales in Bennington used old newspapers to create biodegradable flower vases. The potted plants will be gifted to elderly individuals in the area and can be placed directly into the ground.
 
Everyone who attends St. Michael School in Brattleboro was encouraged to use sustainable transportation on April 12. Many walked, biked or carpooled to school. Members of the school community worked together on waste reduction strategies that could be implemented, with specific grades focusing on recycling and compost efficiency. Other grades focused on area beautification with litter pick-up and gardening. Others created an awareness and education bulletin board for visitors and as a reminder for everyone at the school.
 
Each classroom at The Bishop John A. Marshall School in Morrisville has prominent recycle and compost bins with a smaller trash bin alongside them. The school no longer provides single-use plastic straws or water bottles. There are water-bottle filling stations for reusable water bottles. Lunch trays are biodegradable. All of this is part of the school’s ongoing sustainability efforts.
 
Students at Christ the King School in Rutland led a prayer service designed to help people understand how they can contribute to ecological justice. Throughout the year, students will work with Marble Valley Grows to plant a garden and participate in tastings to promote the Farm to School programs. They will also learn about and begin a composting program for the lunch room.
 
Students at Christ the King School in Burlington and Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland spent their mornings cleaning up local parks and beautifying creation for area residents to enjoy.
 
Good Shepherd Catholic School in St. Johnsbury recently received a grant that allows them to begin construction on an outdoor nature classroom. After “greening up” the local area on April 12, students and staff gathered in the gym to plant seeds. Later in the spring, flower seedlings will be donated to the local eldercare home and vegetable seedlings to the community garden. Some of each will be reserved to plant in the outdoor nature classroom upon its completion.
 
Students at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington helped to return the local ecosystem to balance by removing invasive species from a trail on school grounds and cultivating the land for new growth. Money collected from a dress-down day on the April 12 was donated to Pure Water for the World, a Rutland-based non-profit dedicated to sustainable, safe water solutions.
 
At St. Francis Xavier School in Winooski, students learned about the impact of separating food waste and began implementing a compost program in their cafeteria and classrooms.
 
  • Published in Schools

Bishop to convene diocesan synod

Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne has announced plans to convene the first diocesan synod in Vermont since 1962.

Its purpose is to establish a pastoral plan for the immediate future of the Catholic Church in Vermont and to establish particular laws and policies to do so. This will be at least a yearlong project and is “a serious undertaking by the Church,” he said. “It is not a simple convening of meetings.”

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington serves a population of 118,000 Catholics.

There are 65 active priests (45 diocesan and 20 religious order or ex tern) and 43 permanent deacons ministering in 73 parishes and 23 missions. The diocese includes 14 Catholic schools (including St. Therese Digital Academy) and a catechetical system with an estimated 4,700 students. Through Vermont Catholic Charities’ social services and homes for the aged, the Diocese of Burlington assisted more than 6,000 Vermonters last year.

The bishop will serve as the convener and presider of the synod, and membership will contain both ex-officio members of the clergy and laity as well as representatives of religious communities, lay fraternities and at-large representation such as young people, parents and minority communities.

Before the sessions of the synod are convened – the bishop hopes that will be next spring -- all of the members of the Catholic community will be invited to participate in a preparation process in which they will be asked to pray, to listen, to learn and to discern what the future pastoral plan for spreading the “good news” of the Church in Vermont should be. This will take place on the parish level, the deanery (regional) level and the diocesan level. It will include personal meetings but could also make use of new digital and social media means of communication.

After this work of preparation is completed, the bishop will convene the synod to meet in the necessary sessions to complete the work of discernment and planning and to then enact the policies, laws and directives to carry out that plan in the Vermont Church. “I will seek input from all. I will listen to all. And I will discern with you all,” he said.
 

Easter message from Bishop Coyne

"Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" (John 20:15)

Early in the morning of the third day after Jesus was crucified and died, his disciples had returned to the tomb where he had been laid to finish the burial rites, cleansing and anointing his body. When they arrived, they found the tomb empty and Jesus’ body missing. Distraught, they began their search but they found they were not alone. In John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene meets two angels, quickly turns away and sees a man standing in the garden, someone she does not recognize at first — Jesus. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” He then speaks her name, “Mary.” Now she knows who he is and she rushes and embraces him. Suddenly her grief, her loss, her fear is lost in amazement as she meets her Lord and friend, Jesus, standing alive once more.

How often in our lives when we face moments of grief, of loss, and of confusion do we find ourselves just as adrift as the early disciples on that Easter morning? When a loved one dies, we can wander through the burial rites, feeling numb or overwhelmed, doing what needs to be done as we lay them to rest. But, we can also stand in the hope of the resurrection, occasioned by the truth of the empty tomb, as a person of faith. And there is the rub — a person of faith. For if we are going to seek Jesus in our moments of need and truly possess the hope of salvation, we need to know Jesus as our friend and brother, true God and true man. My encouragement to all of us on this Easter morning is that we all seek to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this life so that we may know Him perfectly in the next. It is a call to mission:

"It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.

It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal" (St. John Paul II).
 

Chrism Mass

The April 11 Chrism Mass at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington was rich in tradition as priests and parishioners from the statewide Diocese of Burlington gathered to celebrate the priesthood of Jesus Christ and watch Bishop Christopher J. Coyne bless oils that will be used throughout the year in the sacramental life of the diocese.

During the Chrism Mass, the bishop blessed the oils that symbolize the link of the parishes with the bishop in sacramental ministry. The Mass was a sign of the unity of the local Church in Vermont.
 
The oils blessed were the Oil of the Sick, Oil of Catechumens and the Chrism Oil. To prepare the Chrism Oil, Bishop Coyne mixed in balsam, the perfume that gives it a rich aroma.
 
Scores of priests from every region of the diocese attended the special morning Mass, after which they or their representatives received oils to bring to their churches.
 
The Mass also was an opportunity for the bishop to announce major news: the convening of a Diocesan Pastoral Synod, the first since 1962. Its purpose is to establish a pastoral plan for the immediate future of the Church in Vermont and to establish particular laws and policies to do so. This will be at least a yearlong project and is “a serious undertaking by the Church,” he said. “It is not a simple convening of meetings.”
 
The bishop will serve as the convener and presider, and membership of the synod will contain both ex-officio members of the clergy and laity as well as representatives of religious communities, lay fraternities and at-large representation such as young people, parents and minority communities.
 
Before the sessions of the synod are convened all of the members of the Catholic community will be invited to participate in a preparation process in which they will be asked to pray, to listen, to learn and to discern what the future pastoral plan for spreading the “good news” of the Church in Vermont should be. This will take place on the parish level, the deanery level and the diocesan level. It will include personal meetings but could also make use of new digital and social media means of communication.
 
After this work of preparation is completed, the bishop will convene the synod to meet in the necessary sessions to complete the work of discernment and planning and to then enact the policies, laws and directives to carry out that plan in the Vermont Church. “I will seek input from all. I will listen to all. And I will discern with you all,” he said.
 
After the Chrism Mass, Jack Lyons, a senior at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, commented on its meaningfulness: “It’s always cool to come together as a diocese, but it’s also cool to know…the oils will be used to do good all over the state” as they are used “to serve the people of God through the sacraments.”
 
Subscribe to this RSS feed
Bishop's Fund Annual Appeal