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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

'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
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