Log in
    

21 pro-life ideas for building a culture of life

“Be Not Afraid” is the theme for Respect Life Month, an annual event observed by the Catholic Church throughout the United States to shine a light on the importance of defending and protecting the dignity of all human life, made in the image and likeness of God.
 
The culture of life will grow as long as we are willing to play our part. While not
everyone is called to full time prolife ministry or advocacy, we are all called to help build the culture of life within our families and communities—to walk with those who are vulnerable or hurting; to speak up on behalf of the innocent; to bear witness to the truth about abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide and other key pro-life issues.
 
Below are ideas for individuals or parishes to do, organized according to the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops’ Four Arms of Pro-Life Ministry. What is God calling you to do? During this Respect Life Month choose one of these activities and be not afraid to show that you are pro-life.
 
For more information on any of these ideas, call the Respect Life Office 658-6110 ext. 1176 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
 
Prayer and worship
1. Pray. Pray for the unborn, the elderly, those who hold public office, for prisoners and their families, for conversion of sinners, for refugees, for those suffering loss from natural disasters, for the culture of life to grow.
2. Organize a virtual pro-life prayer group.
3. Join Nine Days for Life.
4. Take part in 40 Days for Life or Life Chain.
5.  Begin a Cenacle of Life at your parish.
6. Fast from something you like as a sacrifice for a pro-life intention each day in October and encourage others to do so.
 
Public Education
7. Become informed about all life issues: abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia, hunger and the poor, capital punishment, embryonic stem cell research, etc. Begin here and here.
8. Purchase (or download and print) pro-life pamphlets, booklets, etc. for the parish bookrack in your church.
9. Get permission to distribute USCCB-materials and pro-life articles in pews at your parish.
10. Decorate a bulletin board in the parish hall or religious education area with pro-life messages.
11. Bring pro-life speakers to your parish group or religious education class. Check out the Respect Life Speakers Bureau for ideas.
12. Donate pro-life education materials to school health offices and libraries.
13. Sponsor a pro-life movie night for your parish teens.
Pastoral Care
14. Collect maternity and baby clothes to give to pregnant women in need. Have a “baby shower” to raise funds and donations to assist Birthright or other pregnancy care centers.
15. Encourage anyone who has had an abortion to seek help from Project Rachel.
16. Donate food to your local food shelf.
17. Donate clothing or baked goods to homeless shelters in your community.
18. Become a trained Hospice volunteer.
19. Visit your local nursing home—ask how you can help offer companionship to residents.
 
Public Policy
20. Become informed about pro-life issues and legislation at the state and national level; stay updated by joining the Respect Life Roman Catholic Diocese Facebook Group.
21. Attend the Annual March for Life events in Montpelier and Washington, D.C.
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Worship and social justice

By Steven R. Marchand
 
It has been said that one of most striking characteristics of modernity is the fragmentation of the once-cohesive social fabric that held together political, moral and social communities. Concretely, this view of life results in many either-or ultimatums where a truly Christian view would suggest a both-and response.
 
In Catholicism, we hold many paradoxes together -- such as grace and nature, faith and reason, scripture and tradition, body and soul -- in such a way that each element remains in place in tandem with the other. True Christian teaching keeps us from veering into any kind of extremism.
 
Unfortunately, there crept into the minds of many in the Church in the mid and late 20th century a kind of dualism that pitted the worthy celebration of the liturgy against service to the poor and social activism. If one used resources to beautify the liturgy one was accused of stealing from the poor, and conversely, those laity, priests and religious who sought out the poor and marginalized were accused of abandoning prayer and the worship of God.
 
In reality, however, these two missions of the Church -- worship of God and service in the world -- are two sides of the same coin. It is impossible for the Christian community to worship God at Mass, hear the message of the Gospel and ignore those in need around them.
 
In the Old Testament, the connection between worship and justice is clear. In the Book of Amos we read, “Even though you offer me your burnt offering and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts I will not look upon. Take away from the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:22-24).
 
In the New Testament, St. Paul warns both who would seek to put worship and justice over the other in 1 Corinthians 10-11. He begins by pointing out that it is hypocritical for the community that celebrates the Mass to do so while the poor go hungry. He follows that by stressing the importance of eliminating abuses at the Lord’s Supper and participating in the Eucharist only worthily.
 
In fact, both the worship of God and service to the disadvantaged are aspects of justice and charity. We all have a duty to pray and worship God according to the mind of the Church, to offer to God only the best of what we have in our churches (like music and sacred art) as a matter of rendering to God what is due.
 
These worthy services are for the edification of the whole Christian people, the rich and poor alike. The virtue of religion helps us to grow in our relationship with God through our attention and participation in the liturgy. Our participation in the Eucharist ties us into the redeeming sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for our salvation.
As the Second Vatican Council reminded us, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the power and life of the Church. The King of Kings deserves all the glory we can render Him as He is made present again on our altars.
 
And serving the Lord at the altar should be part of a seamless life of Christian charity. The spiritual treasure we receive at Mass should inspire and inflame our hearts with charity in service to our neighbor. Indeed, the Christian’s motive for social service and justice is that Christ himself is served when we serve those in need.
 
There is no contradiction then between service at the altar of the Cross and the altar of world, for Christ died that we all might have life and have it to the full.
 
As Catholics, we are all obliged to attend Mass with a pure heart and with great praise. At the end of every Mass, we are equally challenged to bring the
Good News and the love that we have first received from Christ into the world.
 
Let us worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness and remember that we serve the same Christ in both our worship and our service.
 
--Steven R. Marchand, a seminarian for the Diocese of Burlington, is scheduled to be ordained to the transitional diaconate by Bishop James F. Checchio, bishop of Metuchen, on Sept. 28 in Rome at the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican at the Altar of the Chair.
 

Originally published in Vermont Catholic magazine, Fall 2017.
 

Pastoral plan

Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne is convening a Diocesan Synod to establish a pastoral plan for the immediate future of the Catholic Church in Vermont.
 
Work was done on the last pastoral plan for the statewide Diocese from 2003 through 2006. It was promulgated by then-Burlington Bishop Salvatore R. Matano “as a way of trying to address the reduction of the number of priests available to minister to the people of Vermont,” explained Msgr. John McDermott, vicar general for the Diocese of Burlington.
 
In addition, it attempted to address the demographic changes that had occurred and are occurring in Vermont, among them aging population, reduction in births and population shifts.
 
“An element of the synodal process will be to examine the present and future ministerial needs in Vermont,” Msgr. McDermott said. “It may be that the Diocese will need to make more pastoral changes to parishes in order to best serve the people of God.  At this time, there is no way of projecting what these changes might be. We will have to see how the synod process proceeds.”
 
Dioceses throughout the United States are engaged in pastoral planning processes to deal with similar issues as those facing the Diocese of Burlington.
 
For example, in the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, Mont., the three major priorities that surfaced at the Leadership Summit for pastoral planning were parish life and liturgy, evangelization and discipleship and vocations to the priesthood. In the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisc., areas of pastoral concern were identified as evangelization; youth, young adult  and family; leadership; education; Eucharist; and the dignity of human life.
 
In the Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyo., pastoral concerns include liturgy and sacraments, catechesis, New Evangelization/youth, family life and vocations and stewardship. The pastoral plan concerns for the Archdiocese of Atlanta fall into four broad categories: Knowing Our Faith, Living Our Faith, Sharing Our Faith and Evolution of Our Parishes.
 
As the Diocese of Burlington prepares its pastoral plan, Msgr. McDermott said, “Our hope is to engage parishioners in the conversation to determine how best to strengthen Church life in Vermont.”

--------------
This story was original published in the Fall 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic Magazine.
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Synod update

Preparations are underway for the first Diocesan Synod in the Diocese of Burlington in more than a half century.
 
Bishop Christopher J. Coyne is convening the synod to establish a pastoral plan for the immediate future of the Catholic Church in Vermont and to establish particular laws and policies to do so. This will be at least a yearlong project and is “a serious undertaking by the Church,” he said. “It is not a simple convening of meetings.”
 
Father Brian O’Donnell is the executive secretary for the synod, and he explained that a diocesan synod is an extraordinary gathering for the purpose of advising the diocesan bishop in his role as legislator for the diocese, especially when the bishop wants advice about major policies that affect the whole diocese.
 
“In my travels around Vermont over the past two and half years, when I ask people ‘What are some of the concerns you have?’ the top two are almost always, ‘What is going to happen to our small parishes?’ and ‘What can we do to keep young people and families in the Church?’ Both of these are serious topics that will obviously be discussed in the upcoming preparations for and convening of next year’s Diocesan Synod,” Bishop Coyne noted.
 
The procedures for the synod are governed by a 1997 Instruction from the Holy See.  According to that instruction, there is a Preparatory Commission that has the primary responsibility for planning the synod, under the leadership of the diocesan bishop. 
 
The commission already has met and includes priests, deacons, religious, diocesan staff and lay members from the Diocesan Pastoral Council.
 
“The process of preparatory consultation will begin at the parish level, probably beginning in October, and continue at the deanery or regional level thereafter,” Father O’Donnell said.
 
The number of delegates is limited because all delegates are expected to express their views during the synod sessions. “All Vermont Catholics will be invited to participate in the synod process by taking part in the consultative sessions at the parish level during the preparatory period,” he said.
 
The bishop will set the agenda and decide the number of synod sessions. Currently Bishop Coyne is considering having three one-day sessions.
 
“It's clear that the Church in Vermont is facing significant challenges with smaller numbers of active Catholics, smaller numbers of priests and a surrounding culture that is increasingly unfriendly to faith,” he continued. “This raises big questions about how, in the face of these challenges, the Church can most effectively evangelize and carry out her primary divine mission of the salvation of souls.”
 
Topics for the synod will “likely involve some dimensions of pastoral planning with possible changes to the distribution of clergy and the configuration of parishes so that our primary focus is on the salvation of souls rather than the maintenance of buildings,” Father O’Donnell said.
 
After the work of preparation is completed, the bishop will convene the synod to meet in the necessary sessions to complete the work of discernment and planning and to then enact the policies, laws and directives to carry out that plan in the Vermont Church. “I will seek input from all. I will listen to all. And I will discern with you all,” he said.


--------------
This story was original published in the Fall 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic Magazine.
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Seminarian Steven Marchand

Steven R. Marchand considers his call to the priesthood a “complete gift of God.”
 
Throughout his life, the seminarian for the Diocese of Burlington felt God's guiding hand and gratuitous grace.
 
The son of Russell and Linda Marchand of Our Lady of Grace Church in Colchester grew up in a faithful and prayerful Catholic family and received a love for Jesus Christ and the Church from his parents. “Over time, that faith matured, and I made it my own, and it was then that I heard that call to give my life to God as His priest,” he said.
 
Though he has not had any great conversion experience or grand epiphanies, he has trusted along the path of priestly formation that if it were indeed God's will, He would provide the grace necessary to see it come to fruition. “If we respond to God with generous, sincere and prayerful hearts and heed holy and good counsel, God will see to the rest,” Marchand said. “I am humbled and grateful for the precious gift of my vocation and only hope that I will be found worthy to respond to it.”
 
He is scheduled to be ordained to the transitional diaconate on Sept. 28 at the Altar of the Chair of St Peter's Basilica in Rome. This is the final step before ordination to the priesthood.
 
Homeschooled through elementary and high schools, Marchand earned bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and music at Providence College while attending Our Lady of Providence College Seminary. He has completed his third year of theology studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
 
He will be stationed at St. John Vianney Parish in South Burlington for the summer.
 
Born in 1991 in Burlington and raised in Milton, Marchand was inspired to enter the seminary by the example of great saints such as John Vianney and Francis de Sales. “Holy priests I have known … been a great aid in persevering to ordination,” he said, adding that the writing of Venerable Fulton Sheen on the priesthood also has been a great modern inspiration.
 
Marchand has a deep interest in music, especially sacred music, and he seriously considered attending conservatory and becoming a choral conductor and composer. He also has a keen interest in cooking and briefly considered a career as a chef.
 
As he anticipates his upcoming ordination to the transitional diaconate, Marchand is humbled and grateful to approach the culmination of seven years of prayer and study. “I pray God I am worthy to receive this gift. I am filled with joy to surrender my life to God and promise Him my prayer, obedience, celibacy and fidelity,” he said.
 
----------
Originally published in the July 1, 2017, issue of The Inland Sea.

Coordinator of religious education and catechesis

Michael J. Hagan became coordinator of religious education and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington in June, and he will be working to strengthen religious education within the Church by working with directors of religious education in Vermont parishes.
 
“Catechesis is important because our faith is not something that anyone can immediately -- or once-and-for-all – grasp,” he said. “Being a Christian is a lifelong process of unfolding the mystery of our faith, which is exactly what catechesis (the teaching of our faith) helps us to do. This journey is just as important, if not more so, for adults as it is for children.”
 
He plans to introduce more catechetical programs that include the whole family, both children and parents. “How that applies specifically, however, will depend on each parish and its particular strengths,” he said, adding that he will continue to offer catechists educational opportunities throughout Vermont.
 
One of his goals is to better understand how Vermont parishes function and then use that knowledge to be a strong support to assist and encourage them in their individual religious education goals. “The only way to truly achieve this is to pick up the phone, get in the car and build relationships with DREs around the state,” he said.
 
Hagan, 26, was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Grove City College and a master’s in theology from Villanova University.
 
He worked as a theology teacher and campus minister at a Catholic high school in Toledo, Ohio.
 
“In my experience as a high school teacher, I quickly discovered that books alone don't cut it. Outside of the classroom, students naturally consume information digitally, whether it be YouTube videos, online articles or apps on their phones,” he said. “Just as Jesus used familiar objects to make His parables relatable, we need to make technology a part of our religious education curriculum. This will help our students to be engaged in our material. Books are certainly important, but it is best to weave in the latest technology when possible.”
 
Hagan is married and now a resident of South Burlington and a parishioner at Christ the King/St. Anthony Parish in Burlington.
 

Vermont Catholic staff earns press awards

The staff of Vermont Catholic earned four awards – including a coveted “Magazine of the Year” award – from the Catholic Press Association of the United States & Canada at its annual Catholic Media Conference June 21-23 in Quebec City.
 
In the “Magazine/Newsletter Of The Year” Diocesan Magazine category, Vermont Catholic staff took third place.
 
“My congratulations to the staff of Vermont Catholic magazine for being honored by the Catholic Press Association. These awards only confirm what I and the readers of Vermont Catholic already know: that the staff of the magazine are creative, faith-filled and hardworking people,” commented Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne.
 
Graphic designer Monica Koskiniemi garnered first place in the “Best Layout of an Article or Column” category for diocesan magazines for her print layout of "Sharing the Love," and Stephanie Clary, assistant editor and mission outreach and communication manager, placed second for her article “The Cry of the Earth, The Cry of the Poor” in the “Best Reporting of Social Justice Issues: Care for God’s Creation” category.
 
The staff earned a third-place award for “Best Redesign.”
 
“You are only as good as your team, and Vermont Catholic magazine is blessed with a very talented team,” said Vermont Catholic editor Ellen Kane. “Even though we are a small team of four, wearing many different hats at the Diocese, it is our strong commitment to the mission of the Catholic Church and spreading the Good News to households throughout Vermont that keeps us focused on producing a high quality magazine that connects Catholics around our common faith.”
 
The magazine’s quarterly format – introduced with the December 2016 issue -- allows the staff to take a “deeper dive into different aspects of our faith and share the rich diversity of Catholic life from every corner of the statewide Diocese of Burlington,” she added. “We are delighted that the redesign of the magazine was received so positively on the national level.”
 
In the “Magazine/Newsletter of the Year” category, judges said: “The scope of this magazine is demonstrated by its totally different cover treatment, all centered around people. They illustrate the diversity of subjects of Catholic life in Vermont from the mother with child to the family so happily posed to the young man working on a farm while on retreat. Stories are interesting and well-written.”
 
In the “Best Redesign” category, judges remarked: “The redesign results in a much more energetic and lively magazine. Feature articles are well designed and layouts are creative. Type is used to enhance the lively energetic feel. Biggest success is the redesign of the cover and the art. Logo is stronger and makes a better visual statement. Art is much larger, clearly focused and draws the reader into the magazine.”
 
Koskiniemi earned top honors for “Best Layout of an Article or Column: Diocesan Magazine” judges said, because of “great graphics, great layout, great use of type and contrast.” They continued, “The eye moves around the page and the reader is able to quickly get the sense of the story and the intensity of the project. There is also a great sense of energy.”
 
Clary’s entry in the “Best Reporting of Social Justice Issues: Care for God’s Creation” earned second place because it distilled the insights of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, "Laudato Si’: On Care For Our Common Home." into a concise explanation of ecological justice as part of the Christian mission. “The article emphasizes that the poor are particularly harmed by climate change and that those who are privileged have a special responsibility to address its effects,” the judges wrote.
 
The Catholic Press Association has been uniting and serving the Catholic press for more than 100 years. It has nearly 250 publication members and 500 individual members. Member print publications reach 10 million households plus countless others through members’ websites and social media outlets.
 
Vermont Catholic and its predecessor, the biweekly Vermont Catholic Tribune, have won numerous CPA awards throughout the years.
 
 

Father Sanderson's ordination

Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne ordained the Vermont Catholic community’s newest priest at a special Mass June 17 at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington.

The newly ordained Father Joseph J. Sanderson has been assigned to serve as parochial vicar at Christ the King-St. Anthony Parish in Burlington.
           
“The call to be a Christian is a call to a life of self-emptying sacrifice, which is deepened even further in the priestly ministry when through ordination one is configured even more deeply into the person of Christ as the great High Priest,” Bishop Coyne said during the ordination Mass.
 
Born in Middlebury in 1990, Father Sanderson is the eldest of the three children of Jennifer and John Sanderson. He grew up in Orwell and attended Fair Haven Union High School, Our Lady of Providence Seminary, Providence College and St. John's Seminary in Boston.
 
“I chose to be a priest for the Diocese of Burlington because Vermont has always been and will always be my home,” Father Sanderson said. “It will be a great honor, privilege and joy for me to serve the people of this great State of Vermont, to labor for souls in this little corner of our Lord's vineyard.”
 
Read more in an upcoming issue of The Inland See.
 
 
Subscribe to this RSS feed
Bishop's Fund Annual Appeal