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Annual Marriage Mass

Forty-four couples, celebrating 1,836 years of marriage, gathered Feb. 5 at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington for a special Mass celebrated by Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne.
Sponsored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter in Vermont and the Diocese of Burlington’s Office of Marriage and Family Life, the Mass uplifted the Sacrament of Marriage.
“Marital love makes present to the world God Himself since God is love,” Bishop Coyne said in his homily.
Punctuated with humorous anecdotes of marriage and family life, the homily emphasized qualities of marriage like faithfulness, forgiveness, patience and the creation of families.
“Marriage is certainly a way in which light breaks into the world,” the bishop said. “Marriage is not a silo that stands separate from the rest of life and the rest of culture and the rest of creation. It stands in the midst of all of creation and is that salt that gives a particular flavor of God to the world. It is intended to illuminate and strengthen the rest of creation.”
Phil Lawson, director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington, commented after the Mass, "The joy of the family is the joy of the Church as Pope Francis reminds us. I always look forward to this annual event as it is a witness to the joy-filled hope of what is possible in Christian marriage. Thank you to all of these couples for being such beautiful witnesses."
Couples from throughout the diocese celebrating significant anniversaries were invited to the Mass and were recognized by Bishop Coyne.
  • Published in Diocesan

Bishop to ordain 2 deacons

Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne will ordain one man to the permanent diaconate and one to the transitional diaconate at a special Mass Feb. 11 at 11 a.m. at St. Michael’s College in Colchester.
Phil Lawson, director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington, will be ordained a permanent deacon, and Edmundite Brother Michael Carter will be ordained to the transitional diaconate. The latter works as an Edmundite Campus Minister and teaches in the Religious Studies Department at St. Michael’s College.
Brother Carter said he is excited that men are being ordained to the permanent diaconate in the Diocese of Burlington. “Revitalization of this ancient ministry can only be a positive thing for the Church,” he said.
The last ordination of permanent deacons here was several years ago.
Lawson trained in the Diocese of LaCrosse, Wis., and the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis.; he has been in formation -- both formal and informal -- for about six years.
He approaches his ordination with “a mixture of trepidation, wonder, excitement, amazement and peace.”
He will be assisting at his home parish, St. Luke in Fairfax and continue to help at the Joseph House ministry in Burlington.
Lawson said it will be a privilege to be ordained with Brother Carter and to share in such a joyous day for both the Edmundites and the Diocese of Burlington.
Brother Carter’s future assignments will be according to the will of the Edmundite community; after the ordination he will continue his work at the college, at least until the end of this semester. He is scheduled to be ordained a priest on Sept. 16 at St. Michael's College.
The faithful of the Diocese of Burlington are invited to the ordination Mass.
  • Published in Diocesan

A candle and prayers for legislators

A white candle burns in a red lamp just inside the front door of St. Augustine Church in Montpelier, a reminder to all who pass to pray for state legislators.
“One of the highest forms of charity is praying for people,” commented Phil Lawson, director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington, who attended the 8 a.m. Mass in the Capital City church Jan. 3 at which the candle was lit for the legislative session that began the following day. “As people of faith, we can pray for our government leaders in their important responsibilities.”
Such a candle has been burning at St. Augustine’s during legislative sessions for more than a dozen years.
Msgr. Peter Routhier, pastor of St. Augustine Parish, invited members of the congregation at the Mass to gather near the candle as he lit it and acknowledge their desire to pray for government officials so they will enact laws that protect life and promote “the common good.”
Next to the candle hangs a reminder of the candle’s purpose: “As you pass this lamp, offer a prayer for our state legislature. We, the parishioners of St. Augustine, who share this city with the men and women who gather here from across our beloved state to serve in the legislature, keep this candle burning while the state legislature is in session, as a sign of our ongoing prayer that the Holy Spirit may guide them in wisdom, knowledge, counsel, understanding, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord.”
St. Paul encouraged Christians to pray for the Roman leaders “regardless of politics,” Lawson said. “We pray in the Our Father: ‘…Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’”
He said the prayers for the lawmakers can help to “build bridges and make them aware we are here to pray for them and that they are always welcome here” and to affirm the dignity of their work.
In the prayers before the lighting of the candle, Msgr. Routhier prayed that legislators would execute laws with justice and mercy and seek to restrain crime, vice and immorality. “Let the light of your divine wisdom direct the deliberations,” he continued, “and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government.”
After the Mass, St. Augustine parishioners Bill and Maureen Moore agreed that having the candle at the door as churchgoers go in and out is a good reminder to prayer for the legislators. “Most of the time people are screaming and yelling at them,” Mr. Moore said. “It’s good to pray for the wellbeing of everybody and … the needs of people.”
The legislators “need prayers too,” his wife said.
The week after the legislative opening, Lawson plans to coordinate the distribution of flyers to the more than 180 members of the legislature with a picture of the candle, indicating the prayers being said for them and their intentions.  The legislators will be invited to a Mass for them and their intentions on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 8 a.m.  A light reception will follow.

‘Let’s Talk’: starting the new evangelization conversation

Phil Lawson, director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington, will present a series of August workshops throughout Vermont on evangelization.

Asked to define evangelization, he said “it is simply the sharing of Jesus Christ with those around us.”  

“Let’s Talk about the New Evangelization” is the title of the workshops open to all but especially beneficial to parish staff, volunteers, parish committee members, directors of religious education, priests, pastors and interested lay people.

Topics will include: What is the New Evangelization? Why is the Church calling for it? and How does it apply to Vermont?

The free diocesan workshops are being offered to provide history and insight into what this new evangelization is and to equip the faithful with tools and ideas to enrich their parishes and communities.

Each workshop will include the “what, why, who and how” of evangelization.   The goal is to begin the conversation among Catholics with regard to evangelization in Vermont. Participants also will spend some time in prayer and brainstorming as they look to move forward.

 Father Julian Asucan, administrator of Our Lady of Grace and Holy Cross churches in Colchester, said he agreed to host the event because it is an opportunity for parishioners and others to learn more about their faith.

But evangelization is a particularly pertinent topic currently because “at this time of challenges” in the Diocese of Burlington and in the Church in general “lots of young people are lukewarm in their faith especially in attending church regularly.”

He welcomes parishioners of other area parishes to attend the evangelization program at Holy Cross Church.

Every follower of Christ is told to go out and share the joy and mercy they have received.  “The Church has always sought to spread the Good News. This is our particular calling and opportunity in Vermont,” Lawson said. “One look at the statistics tells a striking tale, as in 2003, an average of roughly 44,000 Catholics attended Mass each weekend. By 2013, that number had dropped to 24,000.” The numbers for yearly baptisms, first Communions, Confirmations and marriages have all followed a similar pattern. 

“Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus. The people of God is a people of disciples because we receive the faith and a missionary people because we pass on the faith,” he said. 

 “We have to go to where the people are! That’s what Pope Francis is calling for, right?” Lawson commented. “In addition, the Church sees the parish as the center for its evangelization efforts…If we’re going to assist with that, we need to go to the parishes themselves.”

After the conversations, “we see where the Lord is directing our efforts and the next stage in the adventure of Christian life, discipleship and mission begins,” Lawson said. “While Christ is the center of all our efforts and lives, the concrete efforts will vary from parish to parish.”

The goal is for each parish to have this conversation and prayerfully move forward in deeper lives of faith and intentional outreach in their communities. 

“Think about when a couple gets engaged. They can’t help but share their joy with everyone around them,” Lawson said. “In a similar way, our relationship with Jesus should change our life and be visible in how we conduct our lives. And much like the newly engaged couple, we should be happy to share our joy with others and invite them into it.” 

 For more information about the free workshops, call 802-658-6110 or go to www.vermontcatholic.org/ne/img/TheNewEvang_Poster_1.pdf

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

Evangelizing People of All Ages

New Diocesan directors seek to bring people to God through youth activities, catechesis

Two of the offices of the Diocese of Burlington that receive funding from the annual Bishop's Fund are the apostolates of Youth and Young Adult Ministry and of Evangelization and Catechesis.

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Bishop's Fund Annual Appeal