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Bishop Kenneth Angell remembered at funeral for his forgiveness, humor, kindness

BURLINGTON--It is difficult to name one moment that defines a person’s life, but if Msgr. Richard Lavalley had to choose one to describe the life of the late Burlington Bishop Kenneth A. Angell, it would be the moment he stood on the steps of St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington and forgave the terrorists who killed his brother and sister-in-law on Sept. 11, 2001.
“On those steps I heard the greatest homily I’ve ever heard in my life,” he said. Bishop Angell stood there, crosier in hand, and when asked how he felt about the terrorists who took the lives of his family members he said, “I am Christian. I am told to forgive so I do."

"And he did,” Msgr. Lavalley said in his homily at the Mass of Christian Burial for Bishop Angell Oct. 11 in that very same church.

A friend of Bishop Angell, Msgr. Lavalley is pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church in Winooski.
Bishop Angell, eighth Bishop of the Diocese of Burlington, died on Oct. 4 at the age of 86.
He has been remembered for his sense of humor, his kindness, his respect for life and his charity.
His wake took place in the co-cathedral on the day of the funeral and the day before, and scores of the faithful prayed next to the open casket.
Fourth Degree members of the Knights of Columbus from throughout the Diocese of Burlington provided an honor guard, with the changing of the guard every 12 minutes during the wake.
Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne, the celebrant of the Mass of Christian Burial, read a letter from the apostolic nuncio, Bishop Christophe Pierre, noting that Pope Francis was saddened to learn of the death of Bishop Angell and recalled with gratitude his years of service to the Diocese of Burlington.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap., metropolitan archbishop of Boston, along with eight bishops, priests, deacons, religious, friends, members of other faith communities, Catholic school children and others attended the 90-minute Mass.
The cardinal offered a light-hearted recollection of Bishop Angell, saying that when regional bishops had gone to Rome for an ad limina visit with Pope John Paul II, everyone was nervous and wondering what to say: “Ken Angell was the ice breaker” and soon had the pope “in peals of laughter.”
Karen Brendli of Brewster, N.Y., said before the funeral that many of her fondest memories of her uncle, the bishop, centered around Christmas. “Every year Uncle Ken would go to the prison in Rhode Island (where he was auxiliary bishop before coming to Burlington). He said it was an emotional time for him.”
The children in the family loved seeing him. “He always told stories with characters and voices that entertained the kids.”
Members of the Angell Family accompanied the casket to the front door of the church as bishops, priests and deacons – vested in white – stood under a bright blue sky at the bottom of the stairs singing Salve Regina.
Burial will be at a later date in the family plot in Rhode Island.
Click on the slideshow below to view more photos from the wake and Mass.

For more about the funeral and the life of Bishop Angell, see the upcoming commemorative publication from Vermont Catholic.

  • Published in Diocesan

Bishop celebrates Mass in Northfield for homeschool families

NORTHFIELD—Homeschooling mother Fiona Lugo drove for an hour and 45 minutes Sept. 21 so she and her sons could attend a homeschool Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church celebrated by their bishop.
“I want faith to be an integral part of their classroom, and an opportunity like this greatly enriches their homeschooling experience,” said the parishioner of All Saints Church in Richford.
Her sons, James, 14, and John, 11, had been at a Mass with the bishop once before, but for James, it was a special occasion to have lunch with him after in the church hall. “Road trip, skip school and the Mass” were the three things John liked that day.
Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne reflected on Jesus as a physician of souls during his homily and encouraged the students, their parents and the other members of the congregation to reflect on how they become spiritually healthy or maintain spiritual health. For some that might mean letting go of anger or something sinful; for others it might mean adding works of charity or prayer to their lives.
“Thanks be to God we do have this physician of souls,” he said.
Theresa Quizon brought her 5-year-old son, Ethan, to the homeschool Mass. “It’s not often there is a statewide homeschool Mass, and it’s an honor to have the bishop here,” said the parishioner of Ascension Church in Georgia who drove for an hour and 15 minutes to Northfield.
She homeschools her son in kindergarten, and she appreciates opportunities for homeschool families to get together and build community, especially a faith community. “You don’t feel so isolated when you meet other people in the same state of life and with the same vocation. This was a wonderful event to bring us all together,” she said.
Bishop Coyne sat with the families at a large table in the church hall, eating the lunch he packed that included an egg salad sandwich. He answered the children’s questions – like “When is your birthday?” – and spoke with parents about social justice activities in parishes.
Mallory O’Brien of St. John the Evangelist Church in Northfield attended with her three children; the oldest is in first grade. It’s important for her that her children be familiar with the bishop because “he follows in the way of the apostles” and is “responsible to guide the local church.”
For her, being part of the community and of the parish is important too.
“It was wonderful to get together with homeschool families from around the state,” commented Phil Lawson, director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington. “Pope Francis likes to use the word ‘accompany.’ Events like today’s Mass and picnic, bring us together from around the state, strengthen our faith and help us as a community to accompany each other in our journey toward our heavenly home. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!”
  • Published in Diocesan

350th anniversary of first Mass in Vermont celebrated at St. Anne's Shrine

The wind was blowing and white caps on Lake Champlain were racing toward shore as scores of worshippers gathered under the shelter of the outdoor chapel at St. Anne’s Shrine in Isle LaMotte Sept. 11 for a Mass commemorating the 350th anniversary of the celebration of the first Mass in Vermont on that same island.
Just across the road from the chapel, not far from the beach, a sign acknowledges the importance of the site in Vermont history: “Site of French Fort Sainte Anne Vermont’s oldest settlement.”
On that shore was the site of the fort, built in 1666 by Captain Pierre LaMotte for defense against the Mohawks. The Jesuits celebrated the first Mass and erected the first chapel in Vermont on the site.
From that day to today, the celebration of the Eucharist “has been part of our lives in this great state” of Vermont, Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne said at the opening of the Mass.
He acknowledged also the significance of the date on which he was the main celebrant of the Mass: Sept. 11. He asked members of the congregation to remember victims of all war and terrorism as the nation remembered and mourned the terror attacks on the United States 15 years earlier.
The Mass was a special votive Mass for peace.
Jesuit Father Michael Knox, director of Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ontario, has said that the foundation of Fort Sainte Anne at Isle LaMotte occurred during a moment of the history of the Jesuits in Nouvelle-France that could be declared a proverbial renaissance for the mission:  “Inspired by the still- recent deaths of St. Jean de Brébeuf and his companions, welcoming an ever- increasing number of French to the region and set to ever-expand their apostolic efforts among the Iroquois people, it is no surprise that one of the Fathers would accompany Pierre de St. Paul, Sieur de la Motte, in its establishment.”
During his homily at the special Mass, Father Knox said the French explorers who brought Jesuit missionaries with them as they landed on the island saw not only new land but new hope, a new source of prosperity and a new opportunity to live out the Gospel message.
The French built the fort to “protect their vision,” said Father Knox, a lecturer at Regis College, University of Toronto, who wrote his doctoral thesis on “The Rhetoric of Martyrdom in the Jesuit Relations, 1632-1650.”
That first Mass, he said, was an acknowledgement of God’s presence in all things and everywhere.
“Today we share in the same Mass that was said here 350 years ago,” Father Knox said. “We now share in an event they shared in then, and we share their hopes.”
Today’s St. Anne’s Shrine is a place where visitors can walk on sacred ground amidst images of Jesus and the saints, a place to be renewed by the Eucharist and in the sacrament of Reconciliation, he continued. “What a gift it was 350 years ago to have Christ come to us in this holy place.”
Anniversaries are reminders of history, and “we should pause to reflect from where we have come and to where we have arrived,” commented Edmundite Father Brian J. Cummings, the shrine’s spiritual director. “The shrine is one of the most important religious and historical sites in Vermont, and it is good for our Catholic community to remind ourselves of the role faith played in the settlement of our country.”
Sitting in her red Ford Fiesta parked just off the road next to the pews was Leona LaPiere of Chazy, N.Y. The 83-year-old has problems with her legs and finds it easier to sit in her car and listen to the outdoor Mass. A lifelong Catholic, she emphasized the importance of the Mass and said the celebration of the 350th anniversary of the first Mass in Vermont was “beautiful.”
Nancy and David Dulude of St. Albans and Isle LaMotte also attended. The thought of Mass being said in the state for 350 years is humbling, she said, adding that the French had the vision to bring their faith to New France and to Vermont where the site of the first Mass is now “a place of love and peace” in the midst of a troubled world.
The shrine, she said, is a “treasure and a legacy too, and we need to take care of it to pass it on and have younger folks feel vested in it and pass it on for another 350 years.”
Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic content editor and staff writer.
  • Published in Diocesan

‘Prayer: The Faith Prayed’ Catechetical Sunday, Sept. 18

Each year in the month of September, the Catholic Church  in the United States celebrates Catechetical Sunday, a day on which we commission the various teachers and catechists who will be serving in our parishes. The work of these professionals and volunteers is so important in fostering the life of faith in our diocese, especially as we encounter a culture that is more and more non-religious, even atheistic in its foundation.

This year’s theme, “Prayer: The Faith Prayed” is one that touches the very roots of faith in Jesus Christ, that communion that we know in Him through our communal and individual prayer. Through prayer and the sacraments, we build up that relationship with Jesus that helps us to “know Him, to love Him and to serve Him.”  Many of us desire to add more prayer to our lives because we sense it to be the deep well that quenches our thirst for God. Yet, in our busy lives we often set aside prayer as something we will get to “later in the day” but then, sadly, never do.  And that’s a shame. Because once we do take the time to really pray and listen, we, like the prophet Elijah, are able to hear the voice of God as a whisper passing by the door of our souls and we are consoled and strengthened.

‘Once we do take the time to really pray and listen, we, like the prophet Elijah, are able to hear the voice of God as a whisper passing by the door of our souls.’

I recently returned to one of my favorite books on prayer, Emilie Griffin’s “Clinging: The Experience of Prayer.” I don’t know how many times I’ve read it, but it never fails to draw me in, especially with the words of the first few sentences:

“There is a moment between intending to pray and actually praying that is as dark and silent as any moment in our lives. It is the split second between thinking about prayer and really praying…. It seems, then, that the greatest obstacle to prayer is the simple matter of beginning, the simple exercise of the will, the starting, the acting, the doing.”*

 Heavenly Father, please help me to pray.

Yours in Christ,

The Most Reverend Christopher J. Coyne            

Bishop of Burlington

*Griffin, Emilie.  “Clinging: The Experience of Prayer.” 1983: McCracken Press, N.Y.

Digital Culture and the Missionary Activity of the Church

Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne was in Atlanta in June to speak at the Diocesan Information Systems Conference (DISC) and he said the missionary work of the Church is in American culture.

In this presentation, Bishop Coyne explored how digital culture is both an object of evangelization — “Digital culture itself needs to be evangelized, needs to be changed by the message of Jesus Christ” — and a vehicle for evangelization — “Digital culture can in so many dynamic and creative ways be a means of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ and evangelizing people.”

The missionary work of the Church is no longer “out there,” he said. “It’s right here in our own culture…We are now missionaries.”

Many countries and many places in the First World or West that were Christian are no longer so, he pointed out. For example, in the last major census in France, 50 percent of the people self-identified as Catholic. “That may sound like a pretty good number — 50 percent — not bad. But when you begin to mine what that means, of that 50 percent less than 10 percent had anything to do with the Church let alone attend Mass. Even more, of the 50 percent who self-identified as Catholic, 19 percent said they didn’t believe in God.”

And while there has been an increase in the total number of Roman Catholics in the United States, most of the growth numbers have been within the Hispanic community. “We have lost many members of the faith within the older enclaves of Catholicism,” the bishop said.

Using digital media, he noted, one must understand it is morally neutral. “It is a means to an end, a way by which information is conveyed. It is neither good nor bad. What makes it good or bad is what we do with it.”

Bishop Coyne encourages people engaged digitally to “always do onto others as you would have them do onto you.”

He also suggested in work and play people sow the seeds of righteousness, goodness and Christ: “Be someone who scatters seeds of goodness on the road. Lift up the good examples of humanity and charity and grace. And, if you can, engage in some form of active ministry to others: feeding, housing, counseling, visiting, praying with and for, whatever it may be.”

For more than 30 years DISC has assisted the Church in maximizing investment in information systems. 

Membership in the Diocesan Information Systems Conference is open to all Catholic arch/dioceses and related entities. The membership roster includes people from computer services, financial services, communications and chanceries.

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

In Defense of a Good Vacation

It seems the summer has just begun and already we are saying “hello” to August and the later return to school and fall registrations for sports and other activities.  I don’t know about you, but I could stand a bit more summer time in my life. Things seem to slow down, there are less meetings to attend, and my desk seems to get a lot cleaner.  Stuff that I’ve put in the “get-to-later” pile is finally gotten to.  And then there are those vacation days... .

Do you know that in a recent report, 41 percent of American workers let paid vacation days go to waste? Now although I have many faults, that kind of waste is not one of them.  Those who work with me at the chancery will tell you that I’m always pushing them to make sure they take their days off.  I know that some bosses may not be so “enlightened.” I also know there are many reasons that folks give for not using all their vacation days, and I’m not about to debate what is a good reason or a bad one. But I also know that when one gets to the end of life, no one looks back and says, “I wish I had spent more time at work.”  When someone offers us an opportunity for rest and relaxation, I think we should take it.

This is good not only for the body, but also for the soul. This is not new ground for us Christians. St. Augustine in his treatise on music opined that, “… it becomes a wise man sometimes to relax the high pressure of his attention to work.” St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa offered this advice regarding the need for relaxation: “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 fixed amount of labor, so too is it with his soul, whose power is also finite and equal to a fixed amount of work.” Good advice from the sainted doctor. 

It is not simply enough for us to
go out and rest the body.
It is also important for us to
refresh the soul.


Notice that Aquinas is pointing us toward the unity of body and soul in refreshing and renewing ourselves. It is not simply enough for us to go out and rest the body. It is also important for us to refresh the soul. I always encourage people, as I do myself, to make time during my vacation for spiritual refreshment: prayer, meditation, a quiet walk and the reading of Scripture or a good spiritual book. It is amazing how easy it is to schedule these kinds of things into your vacation plans once you set your mind to it. And it is also amazing what good things come from it as well. 

So perhaps you’ve already had your vacation or moved into that headlong rush into a busy fall, and my advice might be a bit late for this year. But there are always the vacations to come and the long weekends ahead.  With a little thought and a little planning, they can serve to renew us body and soul to be bearers of the good news of Christ. Just remember to use those all those vacation days.

Yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend Christopher J. Coyne
Bishop of Burlington

Joint statement on violence in our land

We write as two of Vermont’s faith leaders whose hearts are aching in response to the recent acts of violence filling news reports and social media networks this week.

We are grieved by the tragic deaths of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota killed by police officers earlier this week and the deadly assault in Dallas last evening in which five Dallas police officers were killed and seven others wounded. Certainly, our hearts and prayers go out to those killed and injured in these violent incidents and to their families and the communities most directly involved.

We value the hard work and faithful commitment of those entrusted with public safety in communities throughout Vermont and beyond. Those who serve the public in dangerous situations are to be commended for their service. Violence directed against police officers in the line of duty has no place in our society.

At the same time, we deplore the sin of racism that so often manifests itself in acts of prejudice, discrimination and violence toward people of color in our country. This too has no place in our society. The disproportionate number of young black men incarcerated in our prisons, the often unevenly enforced laws that contribute to that reality and the all-too-numerous acts of verbal and physical violence directed toward persons of color disturb us greatly.

Respecting the dignity of every human being and understanding that we are part of one human family are foundational tenets of faith for us, and we lament the varied ways in which so many people fail to embrace those basic values and beliefs. Expressions of hatred and violence are too common in our world today, and the results are always damaging.

Clearly, there is investigative work to do in regard to these most recent events, and it is our hope that justice is swift, full and fair with respect to each. As Christians, we know that prayer is essential, and so we call upon our respective communities of faith and all people throughout Vermont to offer prayers this weekend for all who have died violent deaths this week, their families, friends and the communities where they live. Pray for an end to violence and for the courage to love without prejudice.

Prayer must also move us to action, and so we invite you to join with us in taking concrete action that might renew our covenant to honor and respect one another as members of one human family. We invite you to take steps that work to build a culture of peace to replace the culture of violence that has us firmly in its grasp. We are deeply concerned and yet ever hopeful.

Bishop Christopher Coyne, Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington
Bishop Thomas Ely, Episcopal Diocese of Vermont

Our #10 celebrates first year anniversary as Bishop of Burlington, looks to future

When Bishop Christopher J. Coyne became bishop of the Vermontwide Diocese of Burlington nearly one year ago, he set out to be a positive, faithful presence both within the Catholic and wider civic communities.

To that end, he has visited all 10 deaneries and met with 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. From the middle of February to the end of November, he put more than 15,000 miles on his black Jeep Grand Cherokee.

"I have tried to reach out to not only the Catholic community but also to men and women of goodwill throughout the state," he said during a Dec. 1 interview at his chancery office in South Burlington. "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."

His first 11 months as 10th bishop of Burlington have been recorded on his blog, Facebook, Twitter and other media accounts. During this time through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops he has coordinated media relations for Pope Francis' first-ever visit to the United States, promoted the establishment of the first virtual Vermont Catholic high school and maintained lines of communication with all people.

"I'm trying to be a person of good faith, goodwill and good news," he said.

He's also a good sport, throwing out the first pitch at a Vermont Lake Monsters baseball game.

But one of his funniest memories is of going to Troy on Good Friday to celebrate the 3 p.m. liturgy because his schedule had listed "Sacred Heart Parish."

"They were not sure why I was there but were glad to have me," he said. "I couldn't figure out why I was scheduled for Troy instead of the cathedral. Finally, it occurred to me that it was an old event from Indiana (where he had served as an auxiliary bishop) where I was supposed to celebrate the 3 p.m. service at Sacred Heart Parish in Jeffersonville, Ind. I thought I had cleared my calendar of all Indiana events when I came to Vermont, but I missed that one."

Bishop Coyne was installed as the shepherd of Vermont Catholics during a packed – and televised – Mass Jan. 29 at St. Joseph Co- Cathedral in Burlington.

In his homily, he addressed decreasing church attendance, saying, "Now more than ever, our community needs to hear the call of the good news, proclaimed to a culture that seems to hear so many other voices." He addressed the challenge faced in Vermont and elsewhere of declining membership and a cultural trend away from a revealed religion to a personal spirituality at best or no belief at worst.

By visiting parishes throughout the state, Bishop Coyne has seen declining church attendance and witnessed the effects of both lapsed Catholics and changing demographics. "It's not simply a matter of a lack of priests oftentimes it's a lack of Catholics" that has created the need for parish reconfigurations such as those that have taken place during the past several years, he said.

He has celebrated Masses for hundreds of people and for tens of people, prompting the question of sustainability over the years for some Catholic parishes with declining populations. "We have priests, and we have enough priests to take care of our Catholic community, but our priests need to be assigned to places where people can be found," he said.

To foster more vocations from within the Diocese of Burlington the diocesan director of vocations will be full time rather than part time as of July 1 with the help of an assistant vocation director and the reestablishment of a vocation board.

With nine current seminarians and at least five more serious candidates, he is hopeful for an increase in vocations to the priesthood.

In addition, when a call was issued in October to parishes, Catholic agencies and Catholic schools for the names of young men and women who might be possible candidates for priesthood or religious life, more than 600 names were submitted. "There is a lot of possibility of vocations within this state," he said; those individuals were invited to a vocations awareness program.

Asked about Pope Francis and his influence on his first year as bishop of Burlington, Bishop Coyne said not only does he owe him respect and obedience as the supreme pontiff, 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" and the Church is better known as the Church for the marginalized, the needy and the struggling, he said. "The arms of the Church are very wide."

The pope has visited prisons, met with the poor and shown kindness to the needy. "He challenges me all the time," Bishop Coyne said.

In calling for a special Year of Mercy – which began Dec. 8 – Pope Francis is emphasizing God's great mercy. "With God's mercy, there are no ifs, ands or buts," the bishop said. "We human beings want to put restrictions on God's mercy" and say it is available only if certain conditions are met.

"God's mercy is a very abundant mercy. It's a wide mercy that calls each of us to His love," he said, stressing that everyone needs that mercy and must be an instrument of it for others, moving out of the selves and their churches to be instruments of mercy to others. "Mercy means I see a need and I act out of compassion to help."

Considering the Syrian refugee situation, the bishop said he hopes to address it "in a substantive way in the very near future," and in the meantime encouraged Vermont Catholics to support the work of Catholic Relief Services and the local work of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program and to pray.

Bishop Coyne expressed gratitude for the multitude of ways Vermont parishes and Catholic schools and social service agencies reach out in their communities and beyond. "Our Catholic community is invested in good works," he said, giving as examples the efforts of the two Vermont Catholic high schools that are involved in such activities as providing food for the needy at holiday times and Vermont Catholic Charities Inc., the work of which includes providing emergency assistance and supporting programs that feed and shelter the poor.

During the chancery interview, Bishop Coyne spoke of his support for life issues including an end to abortion and opposition to physician-assisted suicide. But because both are legal, he said the efforts of the Church "should be to make sure that people don't get so desperate that they have to" access them.

He wants the Church to seek to enact just laws to protect all human life and also to "create and maintain" housing for elderly, sick and needy persons so they don't ever feel alone and "do everything we can" to help women and families "not have to make the unfortunate choice for abortion."

As he looks to the future, the bishop sees an essential good work in which he wants members of the Catholic community to be of assistance: the fight against heroin addiction. He hopes they will commit themselves 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 of residence.

They can help educate others about the epidemic, listen with compassion to those affected by it, make appropriate referrals, support groups working with addicts, lessen the shame of the addiction and educate people about the signs of addiction and drug dealing.

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."
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