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Year of Mercy to conclude with special Mass at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral

The door will close on the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy on Sunday, and the impact of the celebrations in the Diocese of Burlington has been “wide.”
A closing Mass will take place at 3 p.m. at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington.
Pope Francis called for the extraordinary jubilee to be celebrated from Dec. 8, 2015, to Nov. 20, 2016.
As an "extraordinary jubilee" it was set apart from the ordinary cycle of jubilees, or holy years, which are called every 25 years in the Catholic Church. A holy year outside of the normal cycle emphasizes a particular event or theme.
The pope called for the jubilee because, he said, “It is the favourable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.”
Father Lance Harlow, rector of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph Co-Cathedral parishes in Burlington and chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Year of Mercy, said the monthly celebrations have had a “wide” impact.
“Not only did we have the major monthly jubilee celebrations drawing large crowds, but there were also various parish, school and individual pilgrimages to St. Joseph Co-Cathedral throughout the year,” he said. “People of all ages passed through the holy door to gain the plenary indulgence, and hundreds of confessions were heard. The success of the jubilee can only be attributed to the work of God.”
The Diocese of Burlington followed the program Pope Francis established for the universal Church to recognize different aspects of ecclesial life. Ministries that are operative in the diocese were emphasized including the ordained ministry, lay ministry, families, Catholic education and the healing of the sick.
The September Jubilee for Catechists and School Teachers was a celebration of instructors of the Catholic faith coming together to give thanks for the ministry of Catholic education in this diocese. “We are all responsible for faith formation of our children, young adults and one another,” said Sister of Mercy Laura DellaSanta, principal of Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington.
Stephen Giroux, creative director for Third Generation Media and Design was the videographer for all of the monthly events and edited all of the videos and interviews.
“I had the opportunity to see God’s mercy from a very unique perspective: Being behind the camera and capturing each of the jubilees on video has allowed me to really listen -- especially in the post-production process -- and to understand more deeply my role as a member of our Catholic community,” he said.
He considers himself fortunate to have had parents who taught him about being a merciful person as they practiced the corporal and spiritual works of mercy in their everyday lives and passed those values to each of their children. “For that reason I think that I was very impressed and inspired by the Jubilee for Families” at St. Anne’s Shrine in Isle LaMotte, Giroux said. He has many fond memories of annual family pilgrimages there for the Feast of St. Anne. “It’s been a wonderful opportunity to renew my Catholic roots,” he said.
The February Jubilee for Religious and Consecrated Life was special to Sister DellaSanta because it focused on their ministry in the diocese past, present and future. “It was a time to reflect on our ministries today vs. our ministries of yesterday and how we have partnered with the laity to pass on our community missions to be carried on by future generations,” she said. “It was also such a special celebration with our brothers and sisters from the many religious communities to come together as one, along with the lay groups and their members that also share in Catholic ministries in our diocese.”
Two of the most meaningful celebrations for Father Harlow were the Jubilee for Families in July and the Jubilee for the Sick in October at the co-cathedral.
“The presence of so many families gathered at the historic St. Anne’s Shrine, the site of the first Catholic Masses in Vermont, represented a powerful continuity of faith between those French Catholic explorers of the 17th Century and their spiritual descendants of the 21st Century,” he said.
At the Jubilee for the Sick more than 450 people came to the co-cathedral in search of God’s grace and healing. “Many people reported to me afterwards how they felt physically and spiritually changed by the healing prayers,” Father Harlow said. “Their experience is a diagnostic indication that we need to do much more healing work in our parishes.”
He praised The Year of Mercy Committee comprised of priests, a religious sister, lay men and lay women. “While most participants saw the finished celebration, there were hours of work done behind the scenes and in the weeks leading up to each of the monthly events,” he said.
A corps of volunteers included ushers, musicians and parking attendants, and Father Harlow was especially grateful to Msgr. Peter Routhier, former rector of the Burlington cathedrals and now pastor of St. Augustine Church in Montpelier, who supervised the majority of the events including the construction of the “porta sancta,” the holy door.
“The jubilee events helped to bring the diocese together as a bigger family/community, and for that reason I feel that it was very successful,” Giroux said.
As the Year of Mercy came to a conclusion, Father Harlow hoped that parishioners would remember that God’s mercy is experienced personally through the sacrament of reconciliation, the Eucharist and the works of mercy performed by the faithful in every corner of the diocese. “I am very proud of the members of my committee, the co-operation of the parish priests and the faithful participation of all of those who came to experience, in a concrete manner, the mercy of God which endures forever,” he said.
  • Published in Diocesan

Teachers, catechists honored at Year of Mercy celebration

BURLINGTON—More than 100 teachers and catechists attended the Jubilee for Catechists and School Teachers at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral on Sept. 18 to honor, bless and celebrate Catholic educators and their selfless call to teach young people about the love and mercy of God.
“I have been very moved by this Year of Mercy in our diocese,” said Sister of Mercy Laura DellaSanta, principal of Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington. She appreciates how the people of the Diocese of Burlington come together for the special monthly events that recognize, affirm and pray for people involved in various ministries. “It unites us and strengthens us.”
Among those in attendance at the celebration for educators were Catholic school teachers and administrators, parish religious educators, directors of religious education, home schooling parents and students.
Following the celebration at the co-cathedral, attendees enjoyed refreshments and displays shared by various schools and parishes that represented aspects of their curriculum dedicated to passing on the Catholic faith.

For more information about the Jubilee for Catechists & School Teachers click here.
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Consecrated life to be celebrated at Jubilee

The convent chapel of the Sisters of Mercy motherhouse on Mansfield Avenue in Burlington is magnificent. It captures the late Victorian imagination of imposing scale and architecture with its dark wood and high ceiling. The stained glass windows depicting various saints serenely filters the morning and evening light that cascades over the sisters at prayer and at Mass. One can only imagine that if these chapel walls could talk, they would tell the fascinating and inspiring history of over a century of spiritual and corporal works of mercy performed by generations of sisters who have knelt before the Lord. In that chapel they draw from him strength, a strength to go out on mission and refreshment upon their return.

In 1872, Bishop Louis de Goesbriand invited four sisters to St. Johnsbury and then to Burlington to teach at Catholic schools. A decade later, the sisters moved into the Mount St. Mary Convent on Mansfield Avenue where they continued their teaching and visiting the poor and sick. As the spiritual, educational and corporal needs of the fledgling diocese increased, so did the sisters' response.

"We take a fourth vow," explained Mercy Sister Laura Della Santa. "In addition to the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, the Sisters of Mercy promise 'service to the poor, the sick and the uneducated and those in need.'" During the 19th century, as Vermont villages swelled with new immigrants, the sisters found themselves establishing convents and schools across the state.

Venerable Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland, used to instruct the sisters: "Read the signs of the times and administer to that." Sister Laura emphasized that the works of mercy never become obsolete. The signs of the times may vary in terms of specifics, but caring for the sick, the hungry, the homeless, the uneducated, and burying the dead will continue to present ministerial opportunities not only for religious and consecrated life, but for all Catholics.

During this Year of Mercy, Sister Laura hopes that graces from the Jubilee will touch the hearts of women to join their community. The key word is "community." Religious life is community life. "Here the older sisters are as much a part of our life as the younger, active sisters," Sister Laura explained as we waited to visit two of the older Sisters of Mercy. Sister Alma Levesque joined the Sisters of Mercy as soon as she graduated from Windsor High School. She is now in her mid-90s. She has performed works of mercy in Catholic schools throughout most of the state of Vermont in her long career. Down the hall from Sister Levesque is Sister Clare Naramore who is over 100 years old. Sister Clare recounted with a radiant smile how she had taken on a "new mission" of mercy when she was in her 60s – she went to China! There she spent 11 years until she was recalled under obedience at the age of 73 to retire. Both sisters gather daily to pray the rosary and attend the conventual Mass. They've never stopped being faithful to their vocations as Sisters of Mercy.

Additionally Sister Laura Della Santa speaks of the incredible partnership with the men and women actively engaged in a formal relationship with the Sisters of Mercy serving in ministry and as lay Mercy Associates. "Associates live out their commitments in independent lifestyles, answering the call to mercy within the context of their daily lives," she said.

The Judeo-Christian message of mercy is just as relevant today as it has always been. In every era God raises up men and women devoted to mercy like those stained-glass saints depicted in the Victorian chapel on Mansfield Avenue. May this Jubilee Year of Mercy inspire a new generation of religious women to go out on "new missions" in search of the poor, the sick and the uneducated and may they find their strength and refreshment in the Lord, whose "mercy endures forever." (Ps 136)

Plan to prayerfully celebrate all those who have served God and his people by attending the diocesan Year of Mercy prayer service at 3:00 p.m. on Feb. 21 at St. Joseph-Co-Cathedral in Burlington. All are invited and encouraged to attend.

Father Lance W. Harlow, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Williston and Our Lady of the Rosary in Richmond, is the diocesan chair of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Year of Faith. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • Published in Diocesan
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