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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.
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This article was originally published in the 2017 spring issue of Vermont Catholic Magazine.
 
 

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

Vergennes parish to go solar

VERGENNES—Father Yvon Royer, pastor of St. Peter Church, had been wondering if the parish could go solar, and after he read an article in Vermont Catholic magazine about the first parish solar project in the Diocese of Burlington – at St. Peter Parish in Rutland – he decided to look into it seriously. It helped that at about the same time earlier this year Bristol Electronics in Bristol sent an advertisement about its solar business.
 
His question soon was answered: Yes, the Vergennes parish could go solar.
 
Now plans call for a solar array to be installed on the parish hall center in November.
 
“God was looking over us,” said Father Royer, who is also pastor of St. Ambrose Church in Bristol.
 
The parish currently gets four Green Mountain Power Corp. electric bills: one each for the church, rectory, parish center and thrift shop. The annual total electric bill is about $5,300.
 
None of the buildings use electric heat.
 
The cost of the solar project will be $73,145; $20,000 of that will come from a grant from Green Mountain Power and the rest from parish savings.
 
Father Royer estimates it will take 10 years for the parish to recoup the money by not having to pay the monthly electric bills. But because the solar array is guaranteed for 25 years, “we’ll get 15 years’ worth of free electricity.”
 
It is possible some of the savings will be used for youth ministry and evangelization programs, Father Royer said.
 
The project has been approved by the parish council and finance council, the buildings and grounds committee and the Diocese of Burlington. Approval for an 87-panel system is pending from the Vermont Public Service Board, the pastor said. That is a larger size than normal and thus needs special approval.
 
The smallest system the parish would get would be 60 panels.
 
“This is a green initiative. People are really supportive of green projects,” Father Royer said. “I’m happy we are able to do it.”
 
  • Published in Parish

Emma Kalamarides seeks to create a community to support growth and education of next generation of Catholics

BRISTOL--Emma Kalamarides went to college planning to become an elementary school teacher.
 
But things changed at St. Michael’s College in Colchester where this year she earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies with minors in education and psychology.
 
Though she was raised Catholic, the second of five siblings found her interest in her faith growing during college. She was involved in campus ministry, served as a retreat leader, participated in peer ministry, was an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and joined in service activities.
 
She interned in the faith formation program at Holy Family/St. Lawrence Parish in Essex Junction and helped at St. Pius X Parish in Essex Center. “I liked what they were doing” to pass on the faith to the next generation, she said. “That sparked the fire.”
 
During her senior year of college, Kalamarides took an internship at St. Peter Church in Vergennes and St. Ambrose Church in Bristol, and that turned into her first job out of college: She is the youth minister and faith formation director for the two parishes.
 
Her mission is to create a community to support the growth and education of the next generation of Catholics through fellowship, study, service and practical applications.
 
Kalamarides, 21, grew up in Simsbury, Conn., a 2012 Simsbury High School graduate. Her father is a business executive and her mother is a stay-at-home mom.
 
Involved in religious education and youth group in high school, she hopes the youth she now works with will see through her that the Church cares about them and that there is a community for them in the parishes.
 
To do that, she seeks to build relationships with the students, including youth group members from Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Middlebury. She meets with a seventh- and eighth-grade group once a month and a high school group twice a month. There is time to play games and to discuss serious topics related to faith.
 
Five to 10 youth usually attend each meeting.
 
“I don’t want them to always feel they are in a class,” Kalamarides said. “I want them to build relationships with other youth, the adults who are involved and me.”
 
She hopes the youth will see that “being Catholic is cool,” not outdated.
 
With a deep love for her faith, Kalamarides hopes to build up the community to serve others and is planning service projects like helping at a food shelf and making blankets for a local shelter.
 
She’s also planning a fund raiser for the youth ministry: A Flamingo Flocking. For $15 supporters can have the youth group set up a flock of 24 plastic pink flamingos in the yard of someone in the area of the three parishes.
 
A knitter who often prays the rosary and enjoys Bible journaling and being outdoors, Kalamarides said that after her own confirmation, she took on her faith as her own: “It’s the guiding light of my life.”
 
For more information, go to www.saspministry.wordpress.com.
 
  • Published in Parish

Recognition for solar energy leadership

When State Rep. Herb Russell (D-Rutland) learned that St. Peter Parish was the first parish in the Diocese of Burlington to install money-saving solar panels to generate electricity, he said he "felt it was only correct to acknowledge and highlight something very positive."

That's why he introduced a resolution congratulating St. Peter Parish on its solar energy leadership.

An Episcopalian, Russell said the Catholic church is "a very integral part of the district" he represents, Rutland House District 5-3. "There is a richness of culture in the parish and so much history."

The solar project 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.

With a $20,000 grant from Green Mountain Power and a $6,000 contribution from Rutlandbased Same Sun of Vermont Inc. – which installed the panels – the parish only needed to contribute $20,000 for the $46,000 project.

As of mid-May, St. Peter's had raised more than $17,000 – cash in hand – for the project.

Among the components of the parish's solar array are 30 315-watt panels and a ground mount with six ballasts weighing a total of 48,000 pounds. Located between the former parish school and the rectory, the array is surrounded by a four-foot chain-link fence for safety.

The virtually maintenance-free system is expected to produce 12,255-kilowatt hours of clean energy per year. This will offset 183.825 tons of carbon in its lifecycle, expected to be at least 30 years.

The solar array "is certainly going to help the church," Russell said. "For them to take this great 'leap of faith,' so to speak, over the use of solar energy makes total sense."

Russell went to Rutland May 9 to present Father Houle the official resolution with a gold seal on it and signed by Shapleigh Smith Jr., speaker of the House; Phil Scott, president of the Senate; and William M. MaGill, clerk of the House of Representatives.

The resolution Russell offered "resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives that the General Assembly congratulates St. Peter Roman Catholic Parish in Rutland on its solar energy leadership."

Said Father Houle: "I am so proud, and honored, and so thankful to all who were instrumental in having all of this accomplished. I was very stunned and surprised to receive such a congratulatory resolution, never expecting, or thinking, that it would reach that level."

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 encourages other parishes to investigate the possibility of using solar energy, especially when grants are available.

A recent month's parish electric bill would have been $201.28, for the rectory, but the earnings from solar totaled $273.18; the parish earned a credit of $71.90, "and we paid nothing for the rectory portion of this month's electric bill," he said. "We are seeing our rate of return, and savings already, as had been projected, in just one month's time!"

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

  • Published in Parish
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