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Msgr. Lavalley's special devotion

A few days before Msgr. Richard G. Lavalley was ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Burlington in 1964, his spiritual director and confessor went to his seminary room and gave him a five-by-seven-inch picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. He told the Rutland native he hoped on the day of his ordination he would consecrate his priesthood to Our Lady under this title.
 
He did.
 
And his devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help continues.
 
Now pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Winooski, he begins each day standing in his room in front of an icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help; he recites a special prayer, asking for her help to do his priestly work.
 
The icon depicts Jesus as a child, in the arms of his mother, with one small hand in her hand. Symbolically Msgr. Lavalley places his hand between theirs.
 
The Byzantine icon is believed to have its origin in the 13th-15th Century.
 
Above the mother and child are the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, hovering in the upper corners. They hold the instruments of the Passion: St. Michael holds the spear, the wine-soaked sponge and the crown of thorns. St. Gabriel holds the cross and the nails.
 
The Child Jesus is depicted as contemplating the vision of His future Passion: Frightened by the vision, he had run to his mother for consolation, not stopping to fasten his sandal. “She is His perpetual help,” Msgr. Lavalley said, explaining, “Whatever God has in store for us – sometimes laughter sometimes tears, sometimes Good Friday, sometimes Easter Sunday – it is God’s will. Our Lady stands with you.”
 
He continued, “If we give ourselves to Our Lady, she will be there” at all the events of life.
 
Msgr. Lavalley attended Christ the King School in Rutland where his first-grade teacher, the late Sister Bridget Moroney, a Sister of St. Joseph, had a profound influence on his life and became a lifelong friend. He sent her a dozen red roses each Christmas until she died to thank her for a wonderful first grade.
 
The Lavalley family moved to Burlington when he was beginning sixth grade, a decision that troubled him because he wanted to attend Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland for high school. Little did he know, that after his ordination he would spend 18 years at the school.
 
Instead of MSJ, he graduated from Cathedral High School in 1955 then attended seminary in Arkansas and Pennsylvania. He began his priestly ministry at St. Peter Church in Rutland and years later served as pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in Northfield. A former vocations director for the Diocese of Burlington, he has served as a teacher at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, was a teacher and the principal at Mount St. Joseph Academy and was a chaplain at Norwich University in Northfield and chaplain to the Sisters of Mercy in Burlington.
 
Now 80 and the oldest pastor in the diocese, Msgr. Lavalley often preaches about Our Lady and relates his appreciation of the Annunciation. “She gives us the key to holiness. It’s one word: Yes,” he said. “Every time we say ‘yes’ to God, we are imitating Our Lady. Every time we say ‘yes’ to God, Jesus happens again in us.”
 
After the Annunciation, the angel left Mary, and “she let God be in charge; she had trust in Him,” he said.
 
People are called to be saints, he emphasized, and Our Lady can help by interceding through her prayer. “We do not worship her. We worship only God. We honor her; we honor the saints.”
 
As he looks to the future, Msgr. Lavalley keeps Our Lady close. “I don’t want to retire. I love what I do,” he said. “We desperately need priests…and that’s what I am, a priest.”
 
He loves being a priest because of the sacramental life of the Church and because of his community. “I love the people. I love this parish,” he said. “And for the most part, they love me. I know that, and I feel that.”
 
So, he said, “If Our Lady gives me some time, (I) will use it…for just being a parish priest.”
 

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
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