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Prayer bracelets for Vermont Air Guard

Holly Spear-Nichols began a project to enlist prayers for deployed members of the Vermont Air National guard, and the project has taken off beyond her expectations.
A member of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Winooski and Benedictine Oblate at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Monastery in Westfield, Spear-Nichols took seriously the request of her pastor, Msgr. Richard Lavalley, to pray for the service men and women who were deployed in December.
She and a friend went to Burlington International Airport in the wee hours of the morning Dec. 8 – the Feast of the Immaculate Conception -- and stood at a fence parallel to the runway and watched 15 F-16s take off into the night, deployed to the U.S. Central Command region, which covers North Africa and the Middle East to Southeast Asia. “To see that and to feel the vibration” of the engines made her “heart go out” to the Guard members and their families.
For days after, they were in the forefront of her mind. “They all needed to be blanketed in prayer,” she said.
And then came her inspiration: Have plastic bracelets made to remind people to pray for these people.
The green bracelets come in adult and children sizes and have these words in yellow: Please pray for the deployed 158th Fighting Wing, VTANG.”
Spear-Nichols thought she’d purchase 50 to 75 to distribute to “prayer warriors,” friends and family, but by mid January she had ordered 3,000. “It has taken off like fire,” she said of the project she is funding herself, but not releasing how much she has spent. “The way this took off, definitely the Holy Spirit is involved.”
On the first weekend of January she went to the Air National Guard headquarters in South Burlington to distribute bracelets, and she has fulfilled requests for them from St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, the American Legion post in Colchester, a local surgeon’s office and numerous Catholic parishes.

Every member of Winooski’s St. Francis Xavier School community received a bracelet at a recent school assembly.
“This project is a perfect fit for our school,” explained Principal Eric Becker. “The chair of our school board, Brian Senecal, is a chief master sergeant in the Air Guard and is currently deployed. Brian and his comrades and all their families are in our prayers already. We were delighted to have a visual sign of those prayers to share with everyone.”
The distribution of the bracelets to all the students from pre-school through grade eight and their teachers followed a weekly school Mass during which the St. Francis Xavier pastor, Msgr. Richard Lavalley, prayed for the safe return of all the deployed Guard members.
Spear-Nichols is the daughter of the late Brigadier General Richard B. Spear who was a commander of the Vermont Air National Guard. “What better way to honor him than to pray for the Guard he loved,” she commented.
She grew up in Burlington, graduated from Rice in 1972 and earned an associate’s degree in medical/secretarial studies from Champlain College in Burlington then an associate’s in medical technology from the University of Vermont in Burlington. The retired mother of two and grandmother of two worked as a medical technologist.
Always deeply spiritual, Spear-Nichols grew up attending St. Joseph Parish in Burlington. “I’m always about trying to serve others in prayer,” she said. “That’s the focus of a contemplative way of life.”
Her prayers for the Vermont Air National Guard include Liturgy of the Hours prayers, the rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet and spontaneous prayer. “Anytime I see or feel my bracelet, I pray,” she said.
“Anytime you can mention how much God loves us and the power of prayer, it’s a way of building up the Kingdom of God and unites us as a family,” she said. “Prayer is very, very powerful.”
For more information, write to Holly Spear-Nichols at PO Box 9428, South Burlington, VT 05407-9428.
  • Published in Diocesan

New principal begins at St. Francis Xavier School

Eric Becker, former assistant principal of St. Francis Xavier School in Winooski, is now principal.

His appointment became effective at the end of the last school year.

In addition to his teaching and administrative duties, Becker was instrumental in managing the school’s ongoing technology and facilities improvements. He worked with former Principal Jesse Gaudette since his arrival in 2005 at St. Francis Xavier and was closely involved in the management and operation of the school.

He plans to continue the tradition of excellence for which St. Francis Xavier School has been known.  “We will also continue to work on a way to build on the new addition and modify the education we provide students to reflect the updates to the building. We will strive to balance Catholic tradition with modern educational trends,” he said.

 “As the pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish and the chair of the St. Francis Xavier School Board, we are both extremely pleased that we have such a talented and committed
educator and administrator to carry on after Mr. Gaudette’s departure,” wrote Msgr. Richard Lavalley and Brian Senecal in a January letter to the school community.

Becker is originally from New Jersey; he came to Vermont to attend Castleton State College where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Practice in Physical Education (elementary and secondary teachers certification) and bachelor’s degree in Social Science (sociology and health).

He began his teaching career in the Addison Rutland Supervisory Union, teaching at Benson Village School and Orwell Village School.  

He became a teacher at St. Francis Xavier School in 2006.  He has served the school as the full-time gym teacher, the after-school director, a part-time computer teacher, assistant principal, a health teacher, a sixth-grade math teacher and a technology coordinator. “I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the members of this wonderful school community in all of those roles,” he said.

He said his strengths as principal include an ability to establish relationships with parents and students. “I am willing to do whatever it takes to bring a smile to a student’s face but also enjoy having daily interaction with families so they feel just as much a part of their children’s education as I do,” he said.

Becker lives in Georgia with his wife, Miranda, a high school English teacher.  

“Teaching at St. Francis allows me to live my faith and to be more than a teacher,” he said. “I enjoy the small group sizes and the opportunity to get to know each student and their families. I also greatly appreciate how my faith can be part to of my daily teaching life.”
  • Published in Schools
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