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Cable ministry of Deacon Blicharz

Even though he was granted “senior deacon” status about three years ago because of debilitating spinal stenosis that makes walking difficult, Deacon John F. Blicharz continues his role of service to the Church through his cable television program.
His 30-minute monthly program, “Sharing Thoughts,” is recorded in the kitchen of his tidy Bellows Falls home, a two-foot crucifix from the former Sacred Heart Church visible behind him.
The program is “about our faith in general,” he said, and topics have included the Knights of Columbus, World Youth Day, the Holy Land, prayer, purgatory and the right to life.
Aired on Fact TV Channel 8 in Bellows Falls, the cable access program can be seen four times a week. Its purpose, Deacon Blicharz said, is “to spread the word of God and to show forth our faith.”
Deacon Blicharz – of Polish descent -- grew up “across the river” in North Walpole, N.H., but was a parishioner of Sacred Heart Church in Bellows Falls – a Polish parish -- until it closed in 2004. A graduate of the former Bellows Falls High School, he attended St. Mary’s College in Orchard Lake, Mich., affiliated with Sts. Cyril and Methodius Seminary there. He studied at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore for two years before returning to the Bellows Falls area.
He and his wife, Jane A., have been married since 1972 and have two adult children, Stephanie and Timothy – both graduates of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. -- who now live in the Boston area.
Deacon Blicharz, 70, is a retired office worker for James Oil in Bellows Falls.
Burlington Bishop John A. Marshall ordained him to the permanent diaconate in 1982, and he served both in the Diocese of Burlington and in the Diocese of Manchester, N.H, in a church just about a mile from his home on the other side of the Connecticut River.
He said he was called to the permanent diaconate because of his love for the Church and because though the Lord did not call him to the priesthood, he could still serve the people of God. “I’ve always been involved in the Church,” said the former longtime high school religious education teacher.
When Father Lance Harlow – now rector of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph Co-Cathedral parishes in Burlington – was pastor of St. Charles Church in Bellows Falls, he asked Deacon Blicharz to be on his cable program, “Curious about Catholicism.”
The deacon was on the program three times, discussing the permanent diaconate in Vermont and Sacred Heart Church.
“My family was deeply rooted and involved in Sacred Heart Parish,” he said proudly.
Now a parishioner of St. Charles Church, Deacon Blicharz is committed to uplifting the Church, particularly through his cable program. “Faith is fragile, like an eggshell,” he said. “Unless you’re really grounded in it, you could lose it very quickly.”
So when Father Harlow asked him to take over the cable program in 2011, he agreed. “It was a good way to show the faith by continuing the show,” the deacon said.
Lamenting that the country has become more godless, Deacon Blicharz said he hopes through the program “people get a better grasp of who Jesus Christ is, Our Lord and savior.”
Describing himself as a “people person,” Deacon Blicharz said the program has uplifted him because being unable to serve as a deacon on a regular basis because of his leg problems “broke my heart.”
But he emphasizes that the program is not about him. “It’s about Jesus Christ using me to put forth what needs to be said to the people about our faith.”
Topics for future programs include Our Lady of Fatima, prison ministry and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein).

Bishop Coyne ordains 2 deacons

Two men were ordained to the diaconate Feb. 11 at the Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel on the campus of St. Michael’s College in Colchester: one to the permanent diaconate for the Diocese of Burlington and one to the transitional diaconate as he prepares for priestly ordination as a member of the Society of St. Edmund, the order that founded the college.
Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne ordained Philip J. Lawson to the permanent diaconate and Edmundite Brother Michael R. Carter to the transitional diaconate.
“Today, in this church, two roads are about to diverge: one road moving forward into the transitional diaconate, the witness of celibacy, and -- all things being equal -– ordination to the priesthood as a member of the Edmundite religious order, and the other road leading into the permanent diaconate, a continuing witness to the sacrament of marriage and the gift of family,” Bishop Coyne said in his homily after reading from “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.
“With their ordination to the diaconate, they will move now on different but parallel roads in service to the Church,” he said. “It is important to note that their ministry of service is not separate from the road of our common baptism in Christ but is a continuation.”
The bishop said the two men -- one married and a father, one a celibate religious – are “walking two glorious but divergent parallel paths in service to God’s Church.”
Thirty permanent deacons currently serve in Vermont.
According to Deacon Peter Gummere of Corpus Christi Parish in St. Johnsbury, Lyndonville and Danville, director of the Permanent Diaconate Program for the Diocese of Burlington, deacons provide the diocese with about 20,000 hours per year of actual ministry.
The deacon is called to minister in three specific areas: Ministry of the Word includes proclamation of the Gospel at Mass and preaching; ministry of sacrament includes assisting at the altar, distribution of the Eucharist, baptism and witnessing the sacrament of matrimony and presiding at funerals and graveside committal services; ministry of charity varies but may include serving at prisons, nursing homes, hospitals, hospices, soup kitchens, food shelves, homeless shelters and crisis pregnancy support centers.
During the special 11 a.m. Mass attended by numerous priests and deacons as well as a congregation full of religious and laity, the candidates for the diaconate lay prostrate in the sanctuary during the Litany of Supplication to the saints and martyrs in heaven to intercede for them and the pilgrim Church on Earth, asking God to pour forth His grace and mercy.
Then, through the laying on of hands by the bishop and the Prayer of Ordination, the gift of the Holy Spirit for the diaconal office was conferred on the candidates.
They were then vested in a stole and dalmatic, signs of the office of deacon.
The newly ordained knelt before the bishop who handed on to them the Book of the Gospels and then welcomed them by the Sign of Peace.
“This ordination is an exciting one,” Deacon Gummere said before the celebration. “Phil Lawson is exceptionally well qualified to serve as a deacon; he has already had a significant favorable impact on the diocese. Although I have not met Brother Michael Carter, I have heard some very positive reports about him. And I am happy to see the Edmundite community growing. I have a deep appreciation for them as a St. Mike's alumnus.”
Deacon Lawson, director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington, studied for the diaconate in the Diocese of LaCrosse, Wis., and the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., and was in formation -- both formal and informal -- for about six years.
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wis., he earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and a master of theological studies degree from Ave Maria University.
He has worked as a religious education director and youth minister, pastoral associate and coordinator of Young Adult Ministry, Discipleship and RCIA Formation.
Six years ago he met with his spiritual director to ask about deepening his prayer life. “Unexpectedly, he asked me if I had ever considered the diaconate. I hadn’t,” said Deacon Lawson, who is married to Patty Lawson and the father of five children ages one to 10. “That conversation opened a door that, in spite of my own hesitation, was reinforced many times over. And in spite of my fears, this call and journey has been an incredible blessing for both me and my family.”
He said he approached his ordination to the permanent diaconate with “a mixture of trepidation, wonder, excitement, amazement and peace.”
As a deacon he will assist at the parish to which he belongs, St. Luke Parish in Fairfax. He will continue to help at Joseph’s House in Burlington and assist at diocesan events. “Ultimately, I’ll go wherever Bishop Coyne asks me to be of service,” he said.
“Ordination in the Diocese of Burlington means that I now belong to the diocese and I am grateful for that! I am grateful for all the many wonderful people I have been blessed to meet here,” he said, adding his particular thanks for the kind reception and counsel he has received from priests and deacons.
The last ordination to the permanent diaconate in Vermont was in 2012.
“These are exciting times for the diaconate community in Vermont and for the Church in Vermont,” Deacon Gummere said. “The people of Vermont have a desperate need for Jesus Christ.”
The beginning of classes for the next permanent diaconate program is planned for September.
Deacon Carter has been working at St. Michael's College as an Edmundite Campus Minister and as a lecturer in the Religious Studies Department.
Born in Burlington, the son of Richard M. Carter and Kathleen M. Carter of Burlington attended Christ the King School there through eighth grade then Burlington High School. A member of the St. Michael's College Class of 2012, he earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies with a minor in political science. He received a Master of Divinity degree from Boston College in 2016 and worked in the clinical pastoral education program at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.
“I feel incredibly humbled and emotional,” he said about his ordination to the transitional diaconate. “This has been my desire since I was very young. … I look forward with excited anticipation (and a little nervousness and fear) toward my future.”
When he encountered the Society of St. Edmund during his undergraduate studies at St. Michael's College, the notion of community life was instantly attractive to him, and the sense of camaraderie and humor that the Edmundites shared with one another “was infectious,” he said. “This sensibility, balanced with their commitment to education and working with marginalized people was a model of priesthood that I felt an instinctive attachment to.”
He mentioned specifically the late Edmundite Father Michael Cronogue who was a mentor and guide.
Deacon Carter will continue to serve as a campus minister and teacher at St. Michael's College, at least until the end of this semester. His future assignments “will be according to the will of the Edmundite community,” he said.
He is scheduled to be ordained a priest on Sept. 16 at St. Michael's College.
  • Published in Diocesan

Bishop to ordain 2 deacons

Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne will ordain one man to the permanent diaconate and one to the transitional diaconate at a special Mass Feb. 11 at 11 a.m. at St. Michael’s College in Colchester.
Phil Lawson, director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington, will be ordained a permanent deacon, and Edmundite Brother Michael Carter will be ordained to the transitional diaconate. The latter works as an Edmundite Campus Minister and teaches in the Religious Studies Department at St. Michael’s College.
Brother Carter said he is excited that men are being ordained to the permanent diaconate in the Diocese of Burlington. “Revitalization of this ancient ministry can only be a positive thing for the Church,” he said.
The last ordination of permanent deacons here was several years ago.
Lawson trained in the Diocese of LaCrosse, Wis., and the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis.; he has been in formation -- both formal and informal -- for about six years.
He approaches his ordination with “a mixture of trepidation, wonder, excitement, amazement and peace.”
He will be assisting at his home parish, St. Luke in Fairfax and continue to help at the Joseph House ministry in Burlington.
Lawson said it will be a privilege to be ordained with Brother Carter and to share in such a joyous day for both the Edmundites and the Diocese of Burlington.
Brother Carter’s future assignments will be according to the will of the Edmundite community; after the ordination he will continue his work at the college, at least until the end of this semester. He is scheduled to be ordained a priest on Sept. 16 at St. Michael's College.
The faithful of the Diocese of Burlington are invited to the ordination Mass.
  • Published in Diocesan
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