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Loretto Home residents' portraits

Artist Louise Kenney is shining a light on the uniqueness and dignity of each resident of Loretto Home in Rutland, creating one pastel portrait a week to give to them.
 
Cindy Johnson of Christ the King Parish in Rutland was the first to be drawn when Kenney began the project on March 8, Johnson’s 62nd birthday. “It’s something you’re going to remember,” she said of the experience being interviewed by the artist and having her photo taken.
 
“It’s something you’re always going to have,” she added of the portrait, which clues the viewer into Johnson’s enjoyment in calling bingo on Sundays at the elder care home administered by Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. (A basket of bingo balls is seen in the bottom right corner of the portrait.)
 
After meeting with the resident, learning about him/her and taking photographs, Kenney returns to her studio and spends about 10 hours on each portrait before returning to Loretto Home the next week to deliver it and begin another.
 
“Every Wednesday people wait for Louise to see the portrait” for that week, said resident Thomas Munukka.
 
In his portrait he is wearing a shirt with a deer emblem, a nod to his interest in hunting. His children liked the portrait so much, they got two copies so one could have the original and the other two could have the copies. “I loved it, and the kids liked it better,” he said with a smile.
 
Resident Norma Patterson was pleased to have a portrait of herself, “which is very rare,” she said. An award she received from the Paramount Theater can be seen in the background.
 
“And it will probably be the last” portrait done of her, she added.
 
As much as the residents enjoy the portraits, they also like to visit with Kenney, and they feel honored.
 
There are about 43 residents at Loretto Home; Kenney has done portraits for about two dozen.
 
“You see a twinkle in their eye when they get their picture, and it gives them something to look forward to,” said Maryese White, activities director.
 
Her predecessor had been looking for someone to do portraits of the residents, so when Kenny – a retired speech-language pathologist -- had “divine inspiration” to embark on the project and contacted her, it was a go.
 
She specializes in pastel portraiture. “I find it is so rewarding to produce a painting that not only captures a physical likeness but portrays the essence and personality of my subject,” she notes on her website.
 
Frames for the portraits are courtesy of a friend of Kenney who wanted to support the endeavor, and a volunteer provides high quality digital prints of the photographs from which Kenney works.
 
Kenney – a wife, mother of two and grandmother of one – was not formally trained but has taken workshops and classes.
 
She called the Loretto Home project “extremely rewarding” because of the smiles she sees when residents receive their portrait.
 
“I was really surprised how it looked like me!” Manukka enthused.
 
For more information, go to louisekenneyportraitart.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Catholic college graduations

Vermont’s two Catholic colleges conducted commencement ceremonies this month.
 
Seventy students received degrees at the College of St. Joseph’s 58th commencement ceremony May 13.
 
St. Michael’s College in Colchester marked its 110th commencement on May 14 in the Ross Sports Center; it included 456 undergraduates and 30 graduate degree recipients.
 
“It’s never about you,” said Gen. Joseph Dunford ’77, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told the St. Michael’s College Class of 2017 that moral courage and a commitment to serving others are essential qualities for “leaders of consequence.”
 
The nation’s highest-ranking military figure, Dunford told graduates that being a leader means doing the right thing even when it’s unpopular, and that “the greatest call is to serve.”
 
“What I’ve learned in 40 years is that extraordinary leaders are actually ordinary men and women who make a commitment to excellence” and dig down deep, he said, adding that the world will need the new graduates’ leadership given that “from a security perspective alone, the challenges we face are as complex as any we’ve faced since World War II,” while the pace of change is unprecedented. As St. Michael’s graduates, he told the class, “you are uniquely equipped” to meet those challenges.
 
Dunford called upon the graduates to “go forth to be leaders of consequence.”
 
At the College of St. Joseph, former Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas spoke of some of Vermont’s greatest challenges and how graduates can help to confront them, including the state’s declining population and its effects.
 
“So, here’s my pitch: We need each of you to be a part of our state’s future. We need you to live and work here, to make Vermont your home,” Douglas said. “To use your education to find meaningful work and perhaps create additional jobs. We need you to raise your families here and to contribute to your community and state.”
 
Douglas, the commencement speaker, also discussed his views on the decline of civil discourse and how graduates can best use their voices in discussions with others whose opinions with which they may not agree.
 
“I urge each of you to listen to different voices, to respect others when they speak and to weigh objectively the arguments they put forth. You may not be persuaded. You may become more confident in your own views,” Douglas said. “But, in a democracy, we can’t delegitimize the thoughts of others. We must allow them to be expressed. As many have said through the years, the remedy for speech you don’t like is more speech.”
 
  • Published in Schools

Solar projects update

Last year St. Peter Church in Rutland was the first parish in the Diocese of Burlington to install solar panels to generate electricity. Then came St. Peter Church in Vergennes, where the solar panel system went online Jan. 10.
 
“Caring for the land and our atmosphere were vital to the health of our animals and in turn to us as a family,” said Father Yvon Royer, pastor o the Vergennes church, who grew up on a farm in Newport Center. “Anything that we can do to either not pollute the land, water or air goes a long way in maintaining the health of what God has given to us.”
 
The parish had been getting four Green Mountain Power Corp. electric bills: one each for the church, rectory, parish center and thrift shop. The annual total electric bill was about $5,300.
 
Utilizing the sun to help create the electricity used at St. Peter’s will help reduce those costs. “By the spring our solar panels will be creating enough electricity to take care of all of our electric needs here at St. Peter’s,” Father Royer said.
 
The solar project at St. Peter’s in Rutland was part of ongoing parish efforts – that included weatherization of the rectory and installation of energy-saving LED light bulbs -- to conserve both energy and funds and is “in line” with Pope Francis’ call to care for “our common home,” the Earth, said Order of Friars Minor, Capuchin Father Thomas Houle, pastor.
           
The panels produce electricity for the friary, saving about $220 to $260 a month, depending on the time of year.
 
But not only do the solar panels bring a financial benefit, they provide clean energy. “We are protecting the Earth around us,” Father Houle said.
 
He will continue to advocate for reducing carbon footprints by following in the footsteps of the founder of his Franciscan community, St. Francis of Assisi, “who saw all of creation as a gift from God and became the patron saint of ecology as he attempted to show us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society and interior peace.”
           
Father Houle is also pastor of St. Alphonsus Ligouri Church in Pittsford where solar panels to provide electricity for the church, rectory and parish hall are to be installed as soon as weather permits, he said. “There should be considerable savings,” he said.
 
Father Houle encourages other parishes to investigate the possibility of using solar energy, especially when grants are available.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________
This article was originally published in the 2017 spring issue of Vermont Catholic Magazine.
 
 

Pour Le Merite awards

The principal of Mount St. Joseph Academy and the interim president of The College of St. Joseph – both in Rutland – were honored with “Pour Le Merite” awards during the college’s Founders’ Day Award Ceremony March 29.
 
MSJ’s Sarah Fortier and CSJ’s Lawrence Jensen were recognized for their outstanding care, support and leadership in the community.
 
“This is a huge honor,” said Fortier, a graduate of both schools and of Christ the King elementary school in Rutland, who considers it her vocation to be a Catholic high school principal in the Diocese of Burlington. “Our students and staff truly care about the community and know and practice Christ’s teachings,” she said in remarks at the award ceremony. “I thank God every day for calling me to be the principal at MSJ.”
 
Fortier was named principal in 2014; she had served as dean of students and as a history instructor.
 
Fortier is an active member of the Rutland community, serving as advisor for Project Help, a Christmas project at MSJ, which provides dinner and presents for 100 local families in need. She has participated in several walks and runs, including the Walk for Alzheimer’s, the Walk to Prevent Child Abuse and others in honor of her son, Jack.
 
Fortier earned a master of education degree from The College of St. Joseph and a bachelor’s degree from Quinnipiac University.
 
Jensen said it is a “privilege and pleasure” to be interim president of the college, and he reaffirmed his commitment to the values of the Sisters of St. Joseph who founded both the college and MSJ: hospitality, love of neighbor without distinction, reconciliation and unity of all people with God, one another and all creation.
 
“Pour Le Merite” is French for “one who is deserving.”
 
The Sisters of St. Joseph were founded in France.
 
During the ceremony, Rutland Mayor David Allaire read a proclamation from the City of Rutland making March 27-31 College of St. Joseph Recognition Week in Rutland.
 
“This is a time of celebration and solemn remembrance of those who have given so much in the past” to bring the college to where it is today, Jensen said of the event.
 
He has dedicated years to The College of St. Joseph as both a member and chair of the Board of Trustees before becoming interim president in 2016.

A retired healthcare executive and well known community leader, Jensen has chaired and served on several boards in the Rutland region including the James Bowse Health Trust and the Rutland City Police Commission, Vermont Public Radio, Killington Music Festival, Rutland Mental Health and Rutland Regional Medical Center.
 
During his career, he served as vice president for corporate development and Rutland Health Foundation major gifts officer at Rutland Regional Medical Center. He was also vice president and controller for Killington Resort.
 
Jensen holds a master of business administration degree from The University of Vermont and a bachelor’s degree from The State University of New York at Geneseo.
 
Another award given at the ceremony, the Mother Teresa Student Award, went to David Wallant, a junior from East Bridgewater, Mass.

 
  • Published in Schools

Obituary: Sister of St. Joseph Judith A. Levins

Sister Judith A. Levins (Mary Patrick), 79, of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield, Mass., died in the Daughters of the Heart of Mary Healthcare Unit in Holyoke, Mass., on Feb. 16.
 
A native of Rutland, she was the daughter of the late P. Barrett and Jean (McKay) Levins.
 
She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rutland in 1955 from Christ the King Parish, Rutland, and became a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield when the two congregations merged in 2001. She was a graduate of Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland and earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of St. Joseph in Rutland and a master’s in theology from the University of Notre Dame. She also studied at Divine Word Institute in London, Ontario.
 
Sister Levins ministered in Rutland as a teacher at St. Peter School, Mount St. Joseph Academy and the College of St. Joseph; she served as campus minister at the college. She ministered at St. Francis de Sales Parish, Bennington, in religious education and served her congregation in several positions: novice director, 1974-78; vice president, 1978-81; and president, 1988-94. She also served at St. Peter Parish in Rutland as pastoral associate.
 
In 2007 she was the recipient of the Valiant Woman Award given by Church Women United of Rutland.
 
In addition to her sisters in community, she is survived by several nieces, nephews and cousins and their families and by her sister-in-law, Alberta Levins. She was predeceased by her siblings Mary Catherine McKay, William Andrew Levins, Patrick Barrett Levins Jr., Joan Riebold, T. Douglas Levins and Michael Joseph Levins.
 
The wake will take place at St. Peter Church on Convent Avenue in Rutland at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23, followed by the Liturgy of Christian Burial at 11. Burial in Calvary Cemetery, Rutland, will take place in the spring.
 
Memorial contributions may be made to the Sisters of St. Joseph, Sisters of St. Joseph Administrative Offices, 577 Carew St., Springfield, MA 01104.
 
 
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Clean, safe water is a 'luxury'

There is a flood of concern about water today.
 
That concern is related to the environment, to human rights, to politics, to security.
 
Think of the water crisis in Flint, Mich., where cost-cutting measures led to tainted drinking water that contained lead and other toxins.
 
Many water delivery systems throughout the United States use lead pipes, and lead breaks down over time, especially when exposed to corrosive water.
 
According to the American Water Works Association, there are 6 million lead lines in American water systems today.
 
And according to the Centers for Disease Control, at least 2.5 percent of children in the United States have elevated levels of lead in their blood, a direct result of drinking contaminated water.
 
Water privatization – when private corporations buy or operate public water utilities – is often suggested as a solution to municipal budget problems and aging water systems. This often backfires, leaving communities with higher rates, worse service and job losses, notes foodandwaterwatch.org.
 
Some consider water scarcity a major threat to national security.
 
But government and private agencies are helping to make clean water more accessible. According to the World Heath Organization, in 2015, 91 percent of the world’s population had access to an improved drinking-water source, compared to 76 percent in 1990; 2.6 billion people had gained access to an improved drinking-water source.
 
Contaminated water and poor sanitation are linked to transmission of diseases such including cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio.
 
“It’s a human right to have access to clean, safe water,” emphasized Carolyn Crowley Meub, executive director of the Rutland-based Pure Water for the World, adding that provisions must be made to pay for the infrastructure. “In developing countries [those who] go in and build a system need funds for [future] maintenance and repairs. You need the money to keep the infrastructure going.”
 
Pure Water for the World is a non-profit organization with a mission to improve the health and livelihood of children and families, living in underserved communities in Central America and the Caribbean, by providing effective tools and education to establish sustainable safe water, hygiene and sanitation solutions.
 
It receives support from a variety of sources including Catholic parishes, schools and religious.
 
But water issues revolve around more than potability; for some, water is non-accessible or it is non-existent.
 
Imagine if everyone in France spent every working hour collecting water. The United Nations estimates that Sub-Saharan Africa alone loses 40 billion hours per year collecting water. That's the same as an entire year of labor in all of France. That's time that children could be spending in school and parents could be conducting income-generating activities.
 
In 2015, 319 million people in sub-Saharan Africa did not have access to an improved, reliable drinking water source.
 
Father Romanus Igweonu, pastor of St. Bridget and St. Stanislaus Kostka churches in West Rutland and St. Dominic Church in Proctor, grew up in eastern Nigeria where he experienced what he called three categories of water users: those in rural areas, suburban areas and cities.
 
He recalled growing up in a rural area in the 1970s and 1980s, riding his bicycle over rough terrain for 15 miles to get 20 liters of drinking water in jerry cans for his family of seven. Though the water was potable, his father – a teacher – insisted the family set an example and boil and filter the water before drinking it to prevent diseases like Guinea worm.
 
At other times, Father Igweonu walked about three miles to fetch water in pottery jars from a pond. The water had to be purified and filtered and was used for cooking and bathing.
 
But fetching the water was not a chore; it was recreation. “We chatted and walked together with other families,” he recalled. It was a way to build community.
 
The family moved to a suburban area when he was in high school. The government had built dams to create ponds as a water source. The distance to walk for that water was about a mile, and it had to be boiled.
 
When the pond dried in the dry season, people dug holes to reach the water about five feet below the surface. “When you dug it, it became your spot,” Father Igweonu said.
 
If that water source dried up, the nearest spring was about 15 miles away, and there people had to stand in line to get their water, an endeavor that could take a whole day.
 
It was a “noble trip” to get drinking water for the family during water scarcity, he said.
 
Later The United Nations International Children's Fund built a bore hole so people could access water with a hand pump, water that did not have to be boiled. But there was not enough water: Father Igweonu likened it to all of West Rutland having one water source. And sometimes people were impatient and tried to cut in line or fought while waiting in line.
 
When he lived in an urban area, water was available in homes, but the water delivery was unreliable because the electricity needed to power it was unreliable; some people kept a bucket of water for use during a power outage.
 
As a priest in Nigeria, he had to have someone get his water so he could be available for his priestly work in a parish with 12 churches. “Here [in the United States] it is easy to get water. It is a luxury for me.”
 
But he cautioned that the developed world must have a plan so that water resources are sustainable.
 
“Clean drinking water, safe hygiene practices and proper sanitation are essential to thriving communities. They are prerequisites to human health and wellbeing and play a fundamental role in economic stability,” Meub said. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution to every community’s water problems. Instead, we partner with communities, working together to develop customized, sustainable solutions that meet their needs and eliminate waterborne illnesses.”
 
It’s easy to take water for granted and get “cranky” if water doesn’t come out of the faucet as it should, she said.
 
She encourages vigilance about water practices even in Vermont.  “Just because we have it now doesn’t mean we always will.”
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Syrian refugee update

With the sounds of Syrian refugee children in the background, Cheryl Hooker of St. Peter Parish in Rutland took a phone call at her home to talk about Rutland Welcomes’ refugee resettlement plans in light of news that 100 Syrian refugees may not be coming to the city after all.
 
Rutland City Mayor Christopher Louras has said an executive order expected from President Donald Trump would halt plans to resettle the refugees. 
 
The order also says that the secretaries of state and homeland security “as appropriate” shall cease the processing and admittance of refugees from Syria until the president determines otherwise.
 
“It’s disconcerting right now because of what is going in in Washington,” said Hooker, a volunteer with Rutland Welcomes, a volunteer network of several hundred people that has been working with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program. “Rutland may not be a resettlement area because of scaling down the number of refugees being allowed in” to the United States.
 
A Syrian family of five is staying with her and her husband, George, another volunteer with Rutland Welcomes. A second family is staying with another host family.
 
“These may be the only two families that come,” Cheryl Hooker said. “It’s really disappointing. We were looking to do the right thing and help people.”
 
Staff from the resettlement program is helping the two refugee families find permanent housing.
 
Students from Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland collected towels for the 100 Syrian refugees expected in Rutland, and a collection at St. Peter Church provided funds to purchase 30 irons for the families.
 
“This is an opportunity for us as Christian, as Catholics, to be accepting,” Hooker said before the first refugees arrived earlier this month. “It’s the right thing to do. There but for the grace of God go any one of us.”
  • Published in Diocesan

Diversity at Mount St. Joseph Academy

Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland was once a Catholic high school with a homogenous student body: local Catholics.
 
Although Catholics are still in the majority, Buddhists, Muslims, Protestants and those who have no religious affiliation are making MSJ their school of choice. They come not only from Rutland but from throughout Rutland county and from as far away as New York City, Haiti, China, Korea and Honduras.
 
“These kids are very accepting of each other,” said Principal Sarah Fortier.
 
There is a growing multi-cultural community at the high school, which this year enrolls 85 students.
 
They all take the same required Catholic religion classes, are schooled in Catholic morality and attend Mass. “It’s neat to see the Catholic religion spread,” Fortier said. “They respect it, and we respect their religion…. We are all different but accepting of each other.”
 
Fortier likes the diversity. Students of different religious affiliations and those from outside Rutland County “bring a different flavor” to the school environment, she said. “They teach others about their culture. It’s fun.”
 
She speaks about the diversity with enthusiasm because she finds it enriching not just for herself but also for the community.
 
Cedric Lyonel Andre, a senior from Haiti, likes attending school at MSJ. “I find the people here very welcoming,” he said. “I feel there is no one I can’t interact with or talk to.”
 
A young man of color, he said students at the school are motivated to be themselves and accepted for who they are. “It matters how you treat people and if you respect yourself and other people.”
 
Sophomore Fatima Hussnane, a Muslim born in the United States, agreed that the school is a welcoming place. “I’m not afraid to talk to people, even juniors and seniors,” she said.
 
In previous schools she had to deal with other students’ comments like “Your Dad is a terrorist” or “How many hand grenades do you have in your bag?”
 
At MSJ, “it’s a relief” because no one makes such comments, she said. “It’s human nature to spot the differences in people…but at MSJ there is a certain standard that is not necessarily spoken, but the aura the school is giving off is you know what you should and shouldn’t do.”
 
“We all assimilate with each other,” she added.
 
Senior Jenna Eaton said students like Fatima help others learn about different religions so they can appreciate one another’s faith. “At MSJ, we talk about and embrace the differences.”
 
  • Published in Schools
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