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Rice students serve in Derby Line

These students from Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington could have spent the first week of their summer vacation catching up on sleep, working, spending time with family and friends or going to the beach, but they chose to travel to the Canadian border town of Derby Line to assist with a vacation Bible school for children and visit residents of an elder care home.
 
“They chose to spend this time helping others…and entered into it with a spirit of love,” commented Father Scott Gratton, head chaplain at Rice and one of the chaperones.
 
In addition to helping at the Mater Dei Parish vacation Bible school at St. Edward Church and visiting residents of Michaud Manor, the high school students shared morning and night prayer and attended daily Mass during their June 12-16 service trip.
 
About 30 children age 3 to 11 and 10 parish middle and high school student helpers -- part of the Mater Dei Young Apostles youth group -- participated in the afternoon classes at which the Rice students served as volunteers and mentors as well as acting in skits about virtues, preparing snacks, cleaning/setting up crafts and leading games.
 
“It’s important for the younger children to see such vibrant teens,” said Steve Gonyaw, co-director of the Vacation Bible School with his wife, Ann, who added, “The Rice students make the parish youth (helpers) feel part of a bigger team.”
 
At Michaud Manor – one of the elder care homes run by Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. – the Rice students visited with residents, played games, helped garden and played music. Resident Tom Day liked playing catch with a plastic ball in the lobby and said the teens were all “nice guys, nice girls.”
 
Resident Georgette Routhier liked having the students visit, saying it was a good change in the routine to have a visit from such pleasant young people.
 
“It was wonderful” having them visit each of the five days of their service trip, said Michaud Manor Administrator Anne Steinberg. “It’s been good social interaction. They all had fun. It was uplifting for everybody.”
 
Ann Gonyaw praised the Rice students for their enthusiasm and their willingness to participate in the Masses.
 
“It’s fun to watch the kids be so excited about religious things,” said Rice rising senior Jordan Finkelstein. “And it’s cool to learn about the lives of the” elders at Michaud Manor.
 
Richard McClintock, a rising senior at Rice from St. Catherine of Siena Church in Shelburne, appreciated the children’s energy: “It brings my energy up.”
 
Molly Altadonna, a rising senior at Rice from St. Pius X Church in Essex Center, said, “It’s fun to be excited with the kids about their faith.”
 
Eight-year-old Ben Thompson of Mater Dei Parish liked having the Rice students at the vacation Bible school. “They are very nice, and all of them like me,” he said. “And they all like God.”
 
Elisabetta Anelli, Rice campus minister, said the service trip to Derby Line – for which some students received community service credit – was an opportunity for them to put others before themselves and make a sacrifice to serve others. “Their presence is meaningful in both places” they served, she added.
 
“We want to show them energetic, engaged people who are passionate about the faith at our age,” said Leo Capone, a rising sophomore from St. Patrick Church in Fairfield.
 
 
  • Published in Schools

Care regardless of ability to pay

Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. provides quality care in its four eldercare residences regardless of a resident’s ability to pay.
 
In 2015, 77 percent of the residents received Medicaid.
 
“Our mission is to provide residents with a safe, caring and homelike environment where they can enjoy a pleasant living experience rooted in Christian dignity,” said Mary Beth Pinard, executive director of Vermont Catholic Charities. “For private pay residents, if they convert to Medicaid, they can stay with us and in their same room.  This isn’t the case every facility. Some facilities require residents to move once they have moved from private pay to Medicaid.”
 
Michaud Memorial Manor in Derby Line has 33 beds; Loretto Home and St. Joseph Kervick Residence in Rutland have a total of 107 beds including Loretto Home’s special care unit for residents assessed with higher physical and/or cognitive limitations. St. Joseph’s Residential Care Home in Burlington has 41 beds.
 
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington provides rent-free use the four residential care homes totaling $1.35 million annually because “our social mission is to care for the sick, the poor, the elderly regardless of their ability to pay,” pointed out Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne. “As Catholics, we are all called to put our faith into action and follow in the footsteps of Jesus.”
 
According to Jeanne Schmelzenbach, administrator of Loretto Home and St. Joseph Kervick Residence, 83 percent of the residents cannot afford the private pay rate and are subsidized by Catholic Charities. “This number has been increasing steadily over the past several years.” It was about 75 percent in 2014.
 
“We pride ourselves on providing exceptional resident care to all residents regardless of their ability to pay,” said Mary Belanger, administrator of St. Joseph’s Residential Care Home. “All our residents are provided the care and services that they need to thrive.”
 
The homes’ commitment to the dignity of all people comes from the Gospel, Catholic Charities and founders of the homes.
 
“Our commitment comes from the belief that we as a Catholic institution, give back to the residents in need with an open heart,” Belanger added.
 
“Our goal is to provide a homelike environment where everyone can enjoy a pleasant living experience and receive the assistance they need,” Schmelzenbach said.
 
The residential care homes provide personal care, general supervision, medication management and nursing overview to persons unable to live wholly independently but are not in need of the level of care provided in nursing homes.
 
According to Anne Steinberg, administrator of Michaud Memorial Manor, because of Vermont Catholic Charities dedication to serving those in need, the home is fortunate to be able to care for an unusually high number of Medicaid recipients – about 70 percent at Michaud. “The rate of reimbursement that Medicaid provides is relatively low, making it pretty cost prohibitive for most homes to accept a large percentage of Medicaid residents,” she said. “I feel very blessed to work for an organization that recognizes the importance of opening our doors to all those in need, regardless of payer source.”
 
“The Medicaid reimbursement helps us care for residents with higher care needs without needing to transfer them to a nursing home,” Belanger said, adding that the reimbursement helps but it is not enough to care for all the people in need in the community.
 
The Catholic Charities-run homes are fully licensed by the Vermont Division of Licensing and Protection as Level III Residential Care Homes. 
 
Medicaid provides about one third of the actual cost of caring for a resident.
 
“Catholic Charities and fiscal management of the homes enable us to support this underserved segment of our population,” Schmelzenbach said.
 

Pre-school connects love of God with teachers, parents, students

While some children napped in a dimly lit classroom at St. Edward's Preschool, others, across the hall, drew and practiced printing their ABC's.

Theresa Forbes, the director as well as a teacher, listened to the boys and girls recite the letters after they had traced them with a marker on a preprinted sheet.

There are 23 children ages three to five enrolled at the school, and eight elementary-age children are enrolled for pre-school and/or after-school care. Not all are there everyday.

They are under the care of two full-time and two part-time teachers; the teacher-student ratio is usually 1:7.

"I pride myself on hiring dedicated teachers that model and demonstrate respect and love of self and others," Forbes said. "They model the Lord's 'Golden Rule' to love one another, and the Lord gets the credit for their personal talents."

Vocationist Father Patrick I. Nwachukwu, administrator of Mater Dei Parish, which includes St. Edward Church in Derby Line, said his hope for the school is that children will "be good Catholics and good Christians, solid in faith and morals."

He also wants them to be good citizens "who can be responsible and trustworthy" with bright futures and promising careers.

The children spend the morning separated by age groups: 3 and 4 and 4 and 5. They are combined for the afternoon, after some have had a nap.

Amy Frizzell Sherlaw of Derby has sent her children to St. Edward's Preschool since it opened; she has four children, and three of them have gone or are currently enrolled at St Edward's. The youngest is two and will go when he is old enough.

A member of Plymouth Congregational Church in East Charleston, she attended a Catholic college and taught at a Catholic school. "The quality of education that you receive at a Catholic school is second to none," she said. "I wanted my children to attend preschool in a safe, welcoming, learning environment. I wanted to be sure that they would be respected and valued. I wanted them to learn academically but also socially. We found such a place at St. Edward's Preschool. It offered all of these things and is close to my home. St. Edward's was the right fit for my family."

St. Edward's Preschool is a licensed preschool program that operates under the guidelines/requirements of the State of Vermont. The curriculum corresponds with the state standards, and the child-assessment system used is Teaching Strategies Gold.

By using this combination of educational objectives and developmental domains, teachers can enhance/encourage proper developmental growth that fits each child's learning style.

Their education focuses on areas that include social-emotional growth, language development, cognitive skills, literacy, math, science, technology and social studies.

"The local schools have said we have done well preparing them for kindergarten," Forbes said.

"My children are well prepared for kindergarten both academically and socially," Sherlaw said. "When they left preschool they could identify their numbers and letters. They could match numeral to quantity and knew the sounds each letter makes. They built lasting friendships and were well prepared" for kindergarten.

St. Edward's Preschool opened in the St. Edward Parish Hall in 2007; Forbes and then-pastor Father Yvon Royer founded it after Sacred Heart School in Newport closed. Forbes had been a pre-school teacher there. "Parents wanted a private, full-day program," she said.

"The Lord has a plan and purpose for each one of us. I always pray that He places children and families in our program that He knows need our teachers' faith and love not just our educational skills," said Forbes, a parishioner of Mater Dei Parish St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Newport. "In a world with much pain, sorrow and demands, we all need the Lord's guidance, prayers and mercy."

Jesus' love for everyone is emphasized at St. Edward's, where children are taught to love and accept everyone. "They are all shining stars and all special," she said of her students. "They are all God's children."

"Our program may only be a small part of our students' lives, but through encouragement, respect, hope and love we become a significant part of the Lord's plan," she said. "As director, I look at our priests and sisters as spiritual leaders. When we work together with our teachers and parents, we can make the connection of the word of God and love of Christ."

Melissa Scherer of Newport has one child in the preschool. "The education students receive is extraordinary," she said. "They not only receive standards-based education but Christian values as well."

Sister of Mercy Laura Della Santa, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Burlington, said it is important to have a Catholic preschool in as many areas of the state as possible. "It plants the seeds of faith, love and knowledge of Jesus that we hope the children will continue to develop," she said.

For more information about St. Edward's Preschool, call (802) 873-4570.
  • Published in Diocesan

'Beloved Date Night' series brings couples together, strengthens marriages

Peter and Claire Curtice agree that marriage fluctuates among phases of romance, disillusionment and joy, lasting from about 10 minutes to years before moving into one of the other phases.

Though in a joy phase, the parishioners of Mater Dei Parish in the Northeast Kingdom are attending the Beloved Date Night series at St. Edward the Confessor Church in Derby Line.

The 12-part series takes place six times a year for two years, and during the third session, they spoke about their marriage, saying that even after 43 years, they still work on it. "It's a lifelong process," Mrs. Curtice said. "We change as people."

Date Night gives them a chance to focus on themselves as a couple, said the parents of three and grandparents of eight. "It helps us make the choice to put each other and our relationship first," she added.

There are 14 couples – of different ages and backgrounds – that attend. Preceded by the 6 p.m. parish Saturday Mass, Date Night continues with a potluck candlelight dinner at 7 and then a Beloved DVD presentation and discussion about the joys and challenges of married life.

The Beloved program helps couples discover the meaning of their marriage, how their marriage fits into an eternal story, the truth about the bonds and commitment of love, God's plan for true spiritual and physical intimacy, how to communicate and resolve conflict, the importance of healing and forgiveness and tools for protecting their marriage.

It explores Scripture, tradition and Church teaching to bring God's plan for their marriage alive.

Steve and Ann Gonyaw facilitate Beloved Date Night for their parish; she is also the director of the family faith formation program. Because the Church offers various programs for marriage preparation and few for married couples, she saw the need for the Beloved program. "We need to provide support for marriage, to strengthen them [because there are so many] life challenges," she said. "There is a need to refresh, revitalize" marriage.

The parents of two who have been married for 15 years, the Gonyaws appreciate the perspectives on married life offered by couples married for many years and a few years all in the Catholic environment of the parish program.

Topics this year are marriage through salvation history, the importance of marriage, the meaning of sacrificial love, total gift of self, the sacramental bond and challenges marriages face.

The second year's topics will focus on practical conflict resolution and communication to build deeper unity and protect the bond of marriage.

Cheryl and Andre Lefebvre have been married for 38 years and have three children and four grandchildren. "We're all on the same page" about marriage at the Date Nights, she said. "Our marriages are important to us."

Dr. Chuma Ezenwa and his wife, Chinelo, had been thinking about participating in a marriage program when they heard about Beloved Date Night. "It was providential," he said with a smile.

Married for eight years with four children, he described today's world as one that "kind of takes oxygen away from marriage," so the program is "a way to get fresh air" and re-energizes, reinvigorates and refreshes marriages.

And the church setting helps couples stay focused on the marital relationship as a sacrament, Mrs. Ezenwa said.

Nathan and Regina St. George agreed. Married for four years with one child and one on the way, they are new to the parish but enjoy getting to know other couples and sharing the same faith values and focus on family and spouse. "We have a greater appreciation of marriage and married life" thanks to Beloved Date Night, Mrs. St. George said.

After viewing a DVD that emphasized that marriage is meant to mirror God's love and that individual marriages are part of God's plan for salvation, the couples engaged in small group discussion and then spread throughout the parish center to talk privately, spouse to spouse.

"Our society has lost the concept of (marriage) being a permanent choice," Mr. Curtice lamented during a group discussion. That's why the grace of the sacrament of matrimony is so important.

Mr. Gonyaw said marriage is "so big and wonderful and hard, and it is a total commitment. You can't do it without grace."
  • Published in Diocesan

Senior couple shares their happiness in marriage, life at Michaud Manor

Rose and Alec Quarmby met when they were both 20 while they were in the British Army in World War II; she was a cook, and he was an infantryman who took part in D-Day.

It was at a Saturday night dance that they met. "I liked the way he danced," Rose said. "He was quite a dancer."

Though the Tango was her favorite, she also liked the fox trot and waltz, but most of all she liked dancing with Alec.

They were married in a bombed out church on Nov. 30, 1946. They emigrated to the United States in 1952 to live in Norwalk, Conn., near Rose's sister, Enid, who had married an American.

Alec worked for the Board of Education as a maintenance engineer.

The parents of a son and a daughter and the adopted parents of a son, they moved to California in the mid 1970s and were foster parents to hundreds of children in need. Sometimes they had as many as six children at a time. "I think I fell in love with all of them," Rose said.

She and Alec have three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, and their love for children continues.

The couple moved to Vermont in the mid 1980s to be near their family, first living in Barre then in Barton and then Derby.

They moved a year ago to Michaud Memorial Manor in Derby Line, one of the Level III Care homes run by the Diocese of Burlington. There they share a room and enjoy the camaraderie they have found with staff and other residents. "They are very kind to us," Rose said.

Both 90, she attends Bible study; he likes to read. Together they join in activities like attending children's shows at the home and luncheon outings, and despite a "gummy leg," she still dances with her husband when the opportunity arises.

"Mom and Dad have always been independent," said their son, Donovan, of Derby. But when they began "showing signs of slowing down," the family found Michaud Manor and its "awesome" level of care.

"I can sleep at night" knowing [my] parents are safe and happy in their home, he said. "I'm so happy we found this place."

He credits Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. for "setting the model for how to run a facility like this and how to administer patient care."

About 30 residents live at Michaud Manor. There is a resident priest, Father Charles Davignon, a senior priest of the Diocese of Burlington, who lives there and celebrates Masses in the chapel.

Asked the reason for their long marriage, Rose said she and her husband like the same things: people and dancing. Plus, he has a terrific sense of humor.

"And she has an infectious laugh," he said of his wife.

"You can't want your own way all the time," she continued. "You have to take care of each other."

"She keeps me on the straight and narrow," he said with a twinkle in his eye. But, turning serious, he credited the success of their marriage to working together and discussing things before taking action.

"She's a very nice, understanding person. She has helped me a lot in my life. She is a good wife and a good mother," he concluded.

Rose believes in the importance of prayer and in helping others. "I learned from God that we should help people instead of just thinking about ourselves," she said. "It's a good feeling if you can help" others.

She enjoys helping others when she can at Michaud Manor, and she appreciates how she and her husband are treated there. "They make you feel wanted," she said, stretching out her arm and adding, "Look, I'm getting goose pimples" talking about the fine care. "People here are kindness itself."
  • Published in Diocesan
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