Log in

Bishop Coyne's statement on the recent elections

It has been over a week now since the recent national, state, and municipal elections, a week which has allowed me, and I hope you, an opportunity for prayer and reflection on the outcomes. Out of this, I now write to the Catholic community of the Diocese of Burlington words of encouragement and challenge.

First, allow me to commend the citizens and candidates of the state of Vermont for the positive manner in which the state and local campaigns and elections were carried out. While there was some negative campaigning at times, the general overall tenor of the campaigns was respectful and civil.

However, as we all know, such was not the case nationally. This past presidential election was brutal, nasty, and angry. It has left our country divided and a lot less civil. Last Wednesday morning, I found myself thinking, “What just happened? How did we ever get to this point as fellow citizens of this great country?” Please know that I am not talking about the results of the election. I found both candidates to be an appalling choice. I am talking about the process and its aftermath.

We are now faced with a president entering office with a high “unfavorable” rating. This would have been the case for either candidate. Consider this statistic: 61% of those who voted for Mr. Trump did so because they didn’t like Mrs. Clinton while 61% of those who voted for Mrs. Clinton did so because they didn’t like Mr. Trump. That has never happened before. How does one govern and lead with that kind of a handicap going into office? And what does that do to our national psyche and our trust in government? There is more division, more anger, and more angst in our country then ever before.

That was where I found myself early last Wednesday. But later in the day I found a place of encouragement and solace in the first reading of the Mass of the day – Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica – in a vision of the prophet Ezekiel. An angel has brought Ezekiel to the temple in Jerusalem where he stands and sees water flowing from the gates of the temple, in all directions, bringing life, healing, and freshness to whatever the waters touch. This vision has been seen within the Church’s tradition as a vision of the Church herself from which the waters of baptism and the gift of salvation flow to all of creation.

I thought of how necessary this vision is now, both communally and personally. We as a Church, the Catholic community in Vermont, need to see ourselves as baptized people who seek to bring life and healing to all of creation. I thought of how I need to see myself as someone who brings “good news” to everyone I meet. I thought of the words from a well-known song, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me” and how that needs to be my mantra.

Can we be a people who bring peace, not anger? Can we be a people who stand up for what is right while lifting up what is good? Can we be a people who talk “policies” and not “persons?” Can we be the salt, the leaven, the seeds of goodness in our culture? Can we be “living water” that flows out in words and gestures of healing and charity?

Yes, if we do so united in our faith, supporting each other in prayer and worship, and with the grace of God.

God bless America.

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne

[Statement originally published on Bishop Coyne's blog, Nov. 16, 2016: http://bishopcoyne.org/statement-on-the-recent-elections/.]
  • Published in Diocesan

Bishop Coyne's Statement on the Upcoming General Election

I write to you, my brothers and sisters, with words of encouragement as your bishop and fellow citizen of this great country.
My first encouragement is that each of us who can vote in this November’s election do so. Do not abdicate your right to vote. It is a privilege and a duty. I give thanks to God that my family and I live in the United States of America as free citizens who can exercise the right to vote without coercion or concern that our government or any agency would work to thwart either my right to vote or the intention of my vote.  With that in mind, we must exercise that right to vote and have our voices heard. This is especially true here in Vermont where many are standing for local and state offices, positions that often have a greater impact on our day to day lives than national offices.
Secondly, I ask that as people of faith we not leave that faith in Jesus Christ and in his Church at the door of the voting booth but allow that faith to inform the choices we make in that booth.  I encourage you to spend some time in prayer prior to voting, asking the Holy Spirit to infuse you with her guidance in making choices that are in keeping with our faith and the common good of all.  This is especially true in making choices that, as Cardinal Dolan of New York recently wrote, promote the dignity of the human person, as something “to be defended and promoted as a first priority, a dignity not dependent upon race, green card, stock portfolio, age, or health; [and] the sacredness of human life, from the instant of conception to the holy moment of natural passing, to be defended vigorously rather than diluted and then discarded.”
My final encouragement is to be people of “Good News,” doing and saying only the good things that men and women need to hear, things that will lift them up. There is already too much anger, vitriol, and incivility in our culture today. We do not need to add to it but instead apply a cure: kindness, charity, and mutual respect for each other as brothers and sisters created in the image of God.
May God bless America.

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne

[For those who are interested in further instruction and guidance from the Church on these matters, I direct you to the US Bishops’ teaching on “Faithful Citizenship” at www.faithfulcitizenship.org]
  • 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.


The Most Reverend Christopher J. Coyne, Bishop of Burlington, hereby makes the following appointments:


The Reverend Lance W. Harlow is appointed rector of The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph Co-Cathedral Parishes, Burlington, Vermont (effective July 6, 2016).


The Reverend Michael E. Augustinowitz is appointed pastor of Our Lady of the Snows Parish, Woodstock, and Our Lady of the Mountain Mission, Killington, Vermont (effective July 6, 2016).

The Reverend Justin J. Baker is hereby appointed as pastor of St. Michael Parish, Brattleboro, Vermont (effective August 1, 2016).

The Reverend Monsignor Bernard W. Bourgeois is hereby appointed as pastor of Christ the King Parish, Rutland, Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Rutland and St. Patrick Parish, Wallingford, Vermont (effective August 1, 2016).

The Reverend Charles R. Danielson is appointed pastor of St. Anthony Parish, White River Junction, and St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Windsor, Vermont (effective July 6, 2016).

The Reverend James C. Dodson is hereby appointed as pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Northfield, and St. Edward Parish, Williamstown, Vermont (effective August 1, 2016).

The Reverend Daniel J. Jordan is appointed pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Williston, and Holy Rosary Parish, Richmond, Vermont (effective July 6, 2016).

The Reverend Thomas L. Mosher is appointed pastor of Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, Ludlow, and Holy Name of Mary Parish, Proctorsville, Vermont (effective July 6, 2016).

The Reverend Monsignor Peter A. Routhier, is appointed pastor of St. Augustine Parish, Montpelier, and North American Martyrs Parish, Marshfield, Vermont (effective July 6, 2016).


The Reverend Romanus Igweonu is appointed administrator of St. Dominic Parish, Proctor, while remaining Administrator of St. Bridget Parish and St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, West Rutland (effective July 6, 2016).

The Reverend Christopher Micale is appointed administrator of St. Thomas Parish, Underhill Center, and St. Mary of the Assumption Parish, Cambridge, Vermont (effective July 6, 2016).

The Reverend Lourduraja Simeone, H.G.N. is appointed administrator of St. Raphael Parish in Poultney and St. Anne Parish in Middletown Springs, Vermont (effective July 6, 2016).


The Reverend Curtis A. Miller is appointed parochial vicar of Corpus Christi Parish, St. Johnsbury, Vermont (effective July 1, 2016).

The Reverend Matthew J. Rensch is appointed temporary parochial vicar of St. Monica Parish, Barre, Vermont (effective July 1, 2016).

The Reverend Hermogenes Sargado, S.D.V. is appointed Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Seven Dolor Parish, Fair Haven, St. John the Baptist Parish, Castleton, St. Paul Parish, Orwell, and St. Frances Cabrini Mission, West Pawlet, Vermont (effective June 1, 2016).


The Reverend Luke P. Austin, J.D., J.C.L. is hereby appointed as Judicial Vicar of the Diocese of Burlington, while remaining pastor of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary – St. Louis Parish, Swanton, Vermont (effective July 6, 2016).


The Reverend Dwight H. Baker is hereby appointed as chaplain and Director of The Catholic Center at the University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont (effective August 1, 2016).


The Reverend Jon Schnobrich, director of vocations for the Diocese of Burlington, will take up residence at Christ the King Rectory, Burlington, Vermont (effective August 1, 2016).


The Reverend Benedict Kiely is hereby granted a leave to pursue further studies (effective July 6, 2016).

Ordained to the Priesthood and Transitional Diaconate

Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne ordained two men to the priesthood and one to the transitional diaconate at a special Mass June 18 at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington.

The celebration was part of the diocesan commemoration of the Year of Mercy and its Jubilee for Priests and Seminarians.

During the more-than-2-hour Mass, the bishop ordained Fathers Curtis Miller and Matthew Rensch and Deacon Joseph Sanderson.

"These three men – Joseph as a transitional deacon and Curtis and Matthew as priests – have been chosen by God through his holy Church to go forth, appointed and anointed through the sacrament of Holy Orders to spread the Good News that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and the bearer of salvation to [the] entirety of creation," the bishop said in his homily. "You are called forth from the community to serve that same community and the wider Church as servants of the Church. What an honor and what a responsibility."

He told the men that they were taking on an awesome responsibility and he encouraged them and the members of the congregation that filled the co-cathedral: "In all Christian vocations – marriage, the single life, parenthood, widowhood, consecrated and religious life – if we do not place ourselves in God's hands and rely on his mercy and love, we shall fail. But when we do [fail], he shall lift us up on eagle's wings."

Bishop Coyne emphasized that all things are possible with God. "When we rely on God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – when we say 'it is not about me' but about him and his people, then our lives – but most especially the life of deacon or priest – are built on a solid foundation," he said. "This foundation is built of the bricks of daily prayer, especially intercessory prayer for the needs of others, the Liturgy of the Hours, the reading of Scripture and the celebration of the sacraments, the font and summit of which is the Eucharist, all of this being centered on Christ, relying on him who alone is our rock and our fortress."

The Rite of Ordination included a Litany of Supplication in which the Church invokes the intercession of the saints and martyrs in heaven to intercede for the candidates and the entire pilgrim Church on earth, asking for God to pour forth his grace and mercy. During the litany, the candidates lay prostrate at the foot of the steps in front of the altar.

The bishop then placed his hands on the head of each candidate. Through this Laying on of Hands by the bishop and the prayer of ordination, the gift of the Holy Spirit for the diaconal office was conferred on Deacon Sanderson and the gift of the Holy Spirit for the priestly office was conferred on Fathers Miller and Rensch.

Deacon Sanderson received the diaconal stole and dalmatic, signs of the office of deacon, and Fathers Miller and Rensch received the stole and chasuble, signs of the office of the ministerial priesthood.

In the Handing on of the Book of the Gospels, Deacon Sanderson knelt in front of the bishop who prayed, "Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach."

The bishop anointed the new priests' hands with sacred chrism and later placed in their hands the bread and wine – on a paten and in a chalice, respectively – pointing to their duty of presiding at the Celebration of the Eucharist and of following Christ crucified.

Father Miller was born in St. Johnsbury, the son of Edward and Judy Miller.

"We're ecstatic," Mr. Miller said, adding that his son will be a "great priest because he's a great person."

Father Miller's first priestly assignment will be as parochial vicar of Corpus Christi Parish in St. Johnsbury, Lyndonville and Danville.

When he was young, the family moved to Colchester where he grew up and attended public schools and Our Lady of Grace Church.

He heard the call to priesthood when he was in high school on a retreat with the opportunity to spend time with the Lord in prayer, especially in Eucharistic adoration. He said yes to the call because he believes it is what God is asking him to do and trusts that God is leading him on the path on which he can best serve God and the Church and be truly fulfilled.

Father Rensch was born in Binghamton, N.Y., the son of William and Margaret Rensch.

"This is the proudest day in my life," Mrs. Rensch said before the Mass. "It's so joyful. I'm so grateful."

The Rensch family moved to Vermont when he was five; his home parish is Immaculate Heart of Mary in Williston.

His call to priesthood was influenced by the close relationship of his family to their parish and the former pastor, Father Donald Ravey, and attending daily Mass. "Another key moment was reading C.S. Lewis' 'Mere Christianity' in high school; he was a true witness of Christ to me," Father Rensch has said. "Then in college the witness of the professors and the continued spiritual life helped to clarify the call."

He has been appointed temporary parochial vicar of St. Monica Parish in Barre.

Deacon Sanderson, born in Middlebury, is the son of John and Jennifer Sanderson of Conversion of St. Paul Church in Orwell.

"I feel blessed," Mrs. Sanderson said after the ordination, adding that she thinks what her son is doing in becoming a priest is "beautiful."

Pope Francis inspires Deacon Sanderson to get out of his comfort zone and to seek out those who are suffering, lost or estranged from Christ and his Church in any way. "I look to the example of the pope and pray for the courage to take up this task," he said.

This summer he will be assigned to parish work in Swanton and Highgate Center.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban Vermont Catholic staff writer.

Subscribe to this RSS feed
Bishop's Fund Annual Appeal