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'Mill Girls' historical performance

A 14-member student cast at St. Michael’s College started work on Labor Day, which felt appropriate, for a new original play with music about the lives of 19th-century girls who worked the mills of New England towns like Lowell, Mass., and Winooski.
 
That rehearsal launched preparations still under way for performances on Nov. 2, 3, 4, 10 and 11 at 7 p.m. in the McCarthy Arts Center Theater. All performances are free and open to the public.
 
Created and directed by St. Michael’s theater professor, Peter Harrigan, the show “Mill Girls” features an ambitious musical score by the well-established Burlington-area talent Tom Cleary, who long has been involved with St. Michael’s Playhouse productions and other local projects. Cleary will lead a small band for performances, including his wife, vocalist and teacher Amber DeLaurentis, St. Michael’s Fine Arts Professor Bill Ellis on guitar and Stan Baker on cello.
 
“Mill Girls” as a concept for this year’s history-charged and socially conscious “Mainstage” production at the college arose as Harrigan, now in his 27th year of teaching, looked for new ways both to challenge himself as a director and teacher and to model different artistic approaches for students, he said.
 
The resulting production has been a semester-long teaching tool across multiple disciplines on the Colchester campus. For example, at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 19, in the McCarthy Recital Hall will be an “Academic Panel” discussing the issues presented by the play; Harrigan tapped a History Department colleague’s earlier research and knowledge as he wrote the play; and the student cast will present an abridged version of the play for Winooski school children based on lesson plans from colleagues in the college’s Education Department.
 
Harrigan said that in creating “Mill Girls,” he took the approach of creating a “collage” from primary sources, as he had observed and admired in earlier productions that he directed, including  “The Laramie Project,” “Mad Forest” and “Execution of Justice.” In each case, the authors used non-theatrical materials – newspaper articles, court transcripts, interviews, journal entries, to name a few – to examine historical incidents and create a script for a play, he said.
 
“When I directed these plays, I found that undergraduate actors were able to make a deeper connection to the emotional lives of the characters and the troubling incidents depicted in the plays, because it all ‘actually happened.’ With a theatrical collage project in mind, I searched for a story from the past that would speak to student performers, and audience members, in the present,” Harrigan said.
 
The fabric of history
 
He didn’t have to look very far since the Champlain Mill and the other industrial structures from the 19th century are still part of the local architectural landscape. But the stories of the original uses of the buildings and the people who labored within them are perhaps less known, he said. “As I began research on the American Woolen Company, I talked to my colleague in the History Department, Professor Susan Ouellette, about resources,” Harrigan said, “and she unveiled a sort of hidden history – the stories of young women who worked in the mills of Winooski – and many other towns, most notably Lowell, Massachusetts: how they contributed to the world but also challenged it – advocating for themselves and others.”
 
He explained how in the early 19th century, as industrialization slowly took hold in America, manufacturers found there were not enough workers to fill their mills and factories. Francis Cabot Lowell of Massachusetts wanted to erase the horror stories associated with mills in England and establish wholesome settings where farmers would allow their daughters to work. He pictured new brick factories built along rivers – to harness the power of the water, surrounded by rooming houses, supervised by the strictest of matrons and widows alongside churches, libraries and lecture halls designed to fill the young women’s leisure hours with appropriate educational and spiritual pursuits. Lowell died prematurely, but a town named for him was built in 1826, giving thousands of young women a new option for advancement in life. “Mill Girls,” through a play with music, tells their stories, in their own words.
 
Lowell was a sort of utopia in its early years, Harrigan said, but as mill-barons’ thirst for profits began to outweigh their concern for the young women’s welfare, a shift occurred. Although they were used to working long hours – sometimes 13 or more per day – the mill girls operating one machine were asked to take on two or three, and later as many as five. This made the work conditions much more challenging and even dangerous. Industrialists later decreased wages and increased the rents in the required, company-owned housing. Using the knowledge they had acquired through classes and lectures and the community bond created in their boarding houses, the young women began to push back, forming some of the earliest labor organizations in the United States. As the movement for the abolition of slavery grew, the mill girls discovered their connection to this great American sin: These underpaid young women in the North were processing the cotton picked by enslaved Africans in the South. The female operatives of Lowell and other New England cities joined with John Greenleaf Whittier and other abolitionists to advocate for justice and freedom for all.
 
 
Through the Oct. 19 “Academic Panel,” Harrigan hopes to maximize the learning potential of this unique production. Professor Susan Ouellette will share some of her extensive research on 19th-century working women in Winooski, Lowell and elsewhere; Miriam Block, director of the Heritage Winooski Mill Museum (and also a student in the college’s Graduate Education program), will talk about the museum and its mission; Harrigan will describe his process of assembling and adapting the play from primary source material; and Professor John Devlin will lead a tour of the partially completed "Mill Girls" set that he designed and talk about how his research is reflected in his scenic design.
 
This event is also sponsored by the St. Michael’s College Humanities Center.
 
Another related event  “Mill Girls at the Mill,” will be Thursday, Nov. 9, when student performers will present an abridged version of the play at the historic Champlain Mill for students from the Winooski Middle and St. Francis Xavier schools. St. Michael’s education majors, led by Professors Valerie Bang-Jensen and Jonathan Silverman, will present lesson plans and activities to explain and enrich the experience.
 
  • Published in Diocesan

'Miracle of the Sun'

(EWTN) – Friday, Oct. 13, marks the 100th anniversary of the capstone of the Fatima apparitions: the Miracle of the Sun, where the sun appeared to hurtle towards the earth. Even the secular newspapers of the time reported on the phenomenon – although they never would have credited it to Our Lady of Fatima.
 
Hear Our Lady’s words and watch a recreation of this miracle in the seventh episode of the EWTN series “The Message of Fatima.” It airs at 8:30 p.m. ET, Friday, Oct. 13, and 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 14.
 
Another way to celebrate the anniversary is to tune in to EWTN’s many Fatima specials. For a complete listing of dozens of Fatima-related movies, documentaries, and news shows, please go to ewtn.com/fatima/programming.asp. Some of these programs will be streamed live on Facebook, facebook.com/ewtnonline, so be sure to “like” our page to watch.
 
Among the devotional highlights will be:
 
Our Lady of Fatima: International Rosary and Candlelight Procession: Live from Fatima, Portugal. Airs 4:30 p.m. ET, Thursday, Oct. 12.
 
Holy Mass in Honor of Our Lady of Fatima: From the Shrine in Portugal. Airs 5 a.m. ET and noon ET, Friday, Oct. 13.
 
Worldwide Children’s Holy Hour, Candlelight Procession, and Consecration of the United States of America: Live from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Airs 7 p.m. ET, Friday, Oct. 13.
 
Among the special movies, documentaries and news shows will be:
 
Vaticano: Examine the event that shaped history; explore the city of Fatima, relive the canonization of Jacinta and Francisco Marto, and much more. Airs 11 p.m. ET, Thursday, Oct. 12.
 
Fatima and the Popes: An historical look at the connection between the Fatima apparitions and the Popes. Airs 10:30 a.m. ET, Friday, Oct. 13.
 
Fatima - A Message of Hope: A documentary examining the prophetic revelations and the great miracle of Fatima, with insights from leading experts and family members of the three shepherd children. Airs 5 p.m. ET, Friday, Oct. 13.
Queen of Heaven: The Consecration – My Immaculate Heart will Triumph: A look at how Our Lady of Fatima's prophecies about World War II and the rise of the Soviet Union came to pass. Airs 6:30 p.m. ET, Friday, Oct. 13.
 
EWTN Global Catholic Network, in its 36th year, is the largest religious media network in the world. EWTN’s 11 TV channels are broadcast in multiple languages 24 hours a day, seven days a week to over 268 million television households in more than 145 countries and territories. EWTN platforms also include radio services transmitted through SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 domestic and international AM & FM radio affiliates; a worldwide shortwave radio service; the largest Catholic website in the U.S.; electronic and print news services, including Catholic News Agency, “The National Catholic Register” newspaper, and several global news wire services; as well as EWTN Publishing, its book publishing division.
 
 
  • Published in World

Sisters of Mercy jubilarians

The Sisters of Mercy – Northeast Community celebrated jubilees for five sisters in Vermont who, collectively, have provided nearly 350 years of service to the Green Mountain State.
 
A special liturgy at the Mount St. Mary Convent chapel in Burlington honored the jubilarian sisters on Sept. 24. After Mass, a celebratory luncheon took place at the convent for Sisters of Mercy and Mercy Associates.
 
Vermont’s jubilarian have brought the works of Mercy to schools and parishes, hospitals, nursing homes, social service agencies and food pantries throughout the state.
 
Today, they work, volunteer, pray for people in need and advocate for social justice. Their advocacy work includes participating in rallies and vigils, working for change on behalf of women, the climate and immigrants, and seeking an end to racism and violence.
 
The Vermont Sisters of Mercy marking jubilees are:
 
75th jubilarians
Sister Germaine Compagna, 94, is the founder of a hospitality ministry at Mount St. Mary Convent, which serves women who have family members in treatment at the University of Vermont Medical Center. She also serves in prayer ministry.
 
 
Sister Jane Frances Matte, 95, is a former teacher who brought Communion to people at the medical center and a local nursing home. She now serves in prayer ministry.
 
70th jubilarian
Sister Gertrude Myrick worked as an administrator at the former Trinity College in Burlington; she also served in community leadership and as community archivist. She now volunteers and serves in prayer ministry.
 
60th jubilarians
Sister Jean Marie LaFreniere taught at Mater Christi School for 32 years and now serves in prayer ministry.
 
Sister Lucille MacDonald oversees the needs of the Vermont sisters as local coordinator. She ministered in rural Maine for 34 years, serving those who are homeless and struggling by providing emergency shelters, services and housing.
 
 
In memoriam
The Sisters of Mercy in Vermont remembered Sister Claire Boissy, a 60th jubilarian, who died on Aug. 4. She served at the Institute for Spiritual Development and taught at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington.
  
The religious community extends its gratitude to the jubilarians for their dedicated service as Sisters of Mercy. They are part of a larger jubilarian celebration in the Northeast Community, where 91 sisters with more than 5,900 total years of service are being recognized in a yearlong celebration.
 
About the Sisters of Mercy
 
In Vermont, the Sisters of Mercy sponsor Mater Christi School and Mercy Connections in Burlington and Mercy Farm in Benson. Sisters in the state have long been active in education and social justice.
 
The Sisters of Mercy—an international community of Roman Catholic women—dedicate their lives to God through vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and service.  For more than 180 years, motivated by the Gospel of Jesus and inspired by the spirit of their founder, Catherine McAuley, the Sisters of Mercy have responded to the continually changing needs of the times.
 
Through prayer and service, the sisters address the causes and effects of violence, racism, degradation of Earth and injustice to women and immigrants. The sisters sponsor and serve in more than 200 organizations that work with those in need in the United States, Central and South America, Jamaica, Guam and the Philippines.

Visit the jubilarian website (sistersofmercy.org/northeast/northeast-2017-jubilarians)
to see profiles of these sisters and write a congratulatory message.



 
 

'The port from which one sails'

“Then David said to his son, Solomon, ‘Be firm and steadfast. Go to work without fear or discouragement, for the Lord, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or abandon you before you have completed all the work for the service of the house of the Lord.’”  1 Chr 28:20
 

When my second son began preschool, an experience relished by his five brothers, his reaction was less than enthusiastic. As we approached the brightly painted door that led to his classroom, I felt myself being pulled backward by the pressure of his tiny hand tugging on mine.
 
Looking down I saw the big brown eyes welling up with tears, a look of fear crossing his flushed face. A kindly, gray-haired woman came out and wrapped her arm around his shoulder, ushering him in to join the other children. As he turned to look at me with wide doe-eyes I was sure the lump in my throat would choke me. I waited for the inevitable with baited breath.
 
“MOMEEE!” came the blood-curdling scream. It wasn’t so much the word as the
impassioned, gut-wrenching way in which it was delivered that pierced my heart as I tore myself away, leaving him there in the obviously adequate care of his teacher.
 
New beginnings were not his cup of tea.
 
And so it is for many of us, even as adults. New beginnings, while often exciting and challenging, also signify endings. With each new beginning we are called to give up the security and comfort of old ways to move forward into the unknown. Even routine, boring or painful daily experiences may be difficult to relinquish because they have become an anchor holding us in place.
 
Famed author and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis uses a familiar analogy to explain the need for change: “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”
 
During a conversation with a young man who wished to follow Jesus, but only after the young man had returned home to say good-bye to his family, Jesus explains the importance of letting go of the past: “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
 
Jesus was not saying, as it may seem, that the past is something to be forgotten or ignored, but rather, that when the time comes for a decision to be made for the future, the past must take its place as the port from which one sails.
 
To continue to look back may prevent us from making what one Bible commentary refers to as an “instant decision of purpose” – the kind we must make when God calls us to something new and, often, something frightening.
 
There are, of course, times when change is not just a matter of decision. It is thrust upon us without warning and without our input. We lose a job, a home or a loved one, and our world comes undone. There is an enormous change that may seem, understandably, insurmountable.
 
For many people, the most difficult change is one from which none of us can escape – aging. With every new ache or pain, illness or medication we are reminded that,
physically, we are not the same person we used to be.
 
How do we deal with changes that threaten our peace of mind and heart? This first step is acknowledging that change is the way of life. We cannot escape it, but we can learn from it.
 
In truth, the most difficult and painful of changes offer the most opportunity for transformation, giving rise to resiliency, flexibility, patience, wisdom and a growing courage.
 
Those of us who become caretakers of an aging, sick or dying loved one, are just one example of this, often discovering a strength we did not know we had.
 
Life is changed and so are we, hopefully for the better.
 
I have found that in moving through the ebb and flow of our lives, we discover that our security is not found in the comfort of the status-quo, but rather in our own strength.
 
For me, courage and strength come from my faith in God.
 
And, by the way, my second son who was terrified of preschool, became a teacher.
 
Mary Regina Morrell is a freelance writer, editor, syndicated columnist, blogger and religion consultant at Wellspring Communications. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Twitter @mreginam6
 

 
 
 
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