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Cori Fugere Urban

Cori Fugere Urban

Cori Urban is a longtime writer for the communications efforts of the Diocese of Burlington and former editor of The Vermont Catholic Tribune.

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Serving Up Mercy: Edmundite priest volunteers, affirms need for Ronald McDonald House charities

It wasn’t long before Edmundite Father Michael Cronogue began volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House in Burlington that the reprehensible happened: Vandals burned, decapitated and cut off the feet of the iconic Ronald McDonald figure that sat on a wooden bench outside the home-away-from-home for sick children and their families.

Soon afterward, another life-sized, red-headed clown in yellow, red and white clothing with big red shoes was sitting in the yard at the corner of South Winooski and Pearl streets, thanks to the generosity of a former McDonald’s restaurant owner in St. Louis. The figure is now under the watchful lens of a security camera provided by Ronald McDonald House supporters.

And so it was in March that Father Cronogue — just a month into his volunteer service at the house — offered a special prayer at the dedication of the new Ronald McDonald statue.

He was invited to volunteer at the house after a Catholic family suffered the loss of their parents.

A member of the Edmundite Campus Ministry team at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Father Cronogue — a tall, gentle man — accepted the invitation not only as a way to serve the spiritual and practical needs of those who are staying at the house but as a way to connect with people outside the college community.

“Part of our Catholic tradition is to give back, especially to those on the margin,” he said. “Here I see a sense of mission, to provide a home for children and their families while the children are being taken care of” at the medical center.

The Ronald McDonald House opened in Burlington in 1984 in the former parsonage of the First Congregational Church of Burlington next door. The house offers accommodations for up to 50 guests; 80 percent of the families that stay there have a pre-term baby in the nearby University of Vermont Medical Center. It serves about 400 families a year.

The house is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist families who are staying there — welcoming them, answering questions about laundry, making sure they have the basics they need during their stay, answering the telephone and the like.

There are three full-time and one part-time employees and about 200 volunteers.

Father Cronogue sees his role as being available to the guests and making sure the house is safe.

“When he is here, he brings his sense of spirituality and draws people together,” said Kristine Bickford, executive director of the house. “He listens. He is non-judgmental…. He exudes warmth and kindness.”

He volunteers about three hours a week — usually in the evenings when families are returning from long days at the hospital. He’s there to talk if they want, but he does not proselytize.

Father Cronogue, a former superior general of the Society of St. Edmund who also serves at St. Anne’s Shrine in Isle LaMotte, is believed to be the first priest to volunteer regularly at the house. “I feel I can help,” he said.

“Every family is in a vulnerable state here,” said Deanna Cameron, volunteer and guest relations manager.

Father Cronogue says what he brings to Ronald McDonald House is an understanding of confidentiality and protection for children and vulnerable adults.

He would like to draw more Catholics and St. Michael’s College students into volunteering at the house.

Being there “puts a perspective on life,” he added. “You see the dignity of life.”

Anyone who is interested in volunteering may call Cameron at 802-862-4943.

For more information about Ronald McDonald House, go to rmhcvt.org.

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

Bullying prevention: fostering an inclusive environment

Physical confrontation, depression, timidity, withdrawal from peers, lack of dedication to academics, lack of verbal participation, extreme change in personality, mood or grades/connection with school or friends. Torn clothing, unexplained bruises, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping.

These are all signs a child could be being bullied.

Bullying disrupts students emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually and can cause them to question their self worth and to withdraw from society. 

Bullying is the selective and intentional aggressive behaviors that are repeated over time, in one or more episodes. And though the aggressor says he or she is “just kidding,” the bullied child may not see it that way and feel powerless to stop or address the behavior to get it to stop.

“As of present, there is no strong research on bullying being more prevalent than in recent years,” said Sheila Conroy, the clinician with Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. in Middlebury. “There is no national longitudinal data as of yet. However, we do know that because of social media (cyber bullying) and children being left to their own internal resources (as a result of one parent or both parents working) bullying has become a serious problem in our communities and schools.”

A child who is bullied should begin by saying “stop” to the action and communicating with a friend or adult that he or she is uncomfortable/anxious about the interaction.

“They need to be able to say ‘no’ and be supported by peers and adults helping them to build these skills,” explained Christopher Montville, adjunct professor and school counseling program field placement supervisor at The College of St. Joseph in Rutland. “Also, they need to be given the chance to practice the right way to address the issue.”

For the past few years, the college has hosted Montville’s week-long intensive summer course addressing current trends and prevention programs on bullying in the 21st century targeted to parents and educators. “It has been an important layer to help increase (bullying) prevention and education in regional schools and communities with key stakeholders in the lives of our area youth,” he said.    

Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland has a zero-tolerance policy for bullying. Teachers are available to speak to any students who feels that they are being bullied. “We also foster an inclusive environment where we are all members of a community, a family,” said Principal Sarah Fortier. “Because of this we keep bullying to a minimum. Everyone takes care of everyone else and looks out for everyone else. That is the difference when one is in a small Catholic school.”

She continued, “Jesus taught us to be accepting of each other. He taught us to treat each other as we want to be treated and to treat our neighbors with kindness and compassion. Bullying is the complete opposite of all of those teachings. It is hurting our neighbors and mistreating them rather than taking care of those around us.”

Bullying behavior is often a result of social control or a way to manipulate peers/others. “Also, it is a learned behavior modeled by adults and peers they interact with and, unfortunately, the context for their understanding on how to interact relationally,” Montville said. 

Various resources are available from PACER Institute and NetSmartz.org.

The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales in Bennington is using Bully Prevention in Positive Behavior Support, designed to blend school-wide positive behavior support with intervention support. Designed specifically for schools, it uses a 3-step response to address problem behavior that could be considered bullying. 

“A key piece to the program is that it also gives bystanders the necessary skills they need to respond when they see inappropriate bullying behavior,” said Principal David Estes.

This will be implemented beginning with this new school year. “The instruction modules within the program itself are succinct, but hopefully the long-lasting effect it will have will have an impact throughout the entire school year and for years to come,” he said of the program that will be used in all grades. 

“It is never too early or too late to start,” he said, noting the importance of helping children and adults understand and become aware that everyone needs to take responsibility for stopping behaviors that they do not like and to use appropriate responses when they see it happening.

 “The world is changing, probably faster than we could have ever thought,” he added. “Given that, we have to be sure our students are prepared to face these difficult situations and address them in light of what we believe to be just and fair as followers of Jesus.”

Conroy concurred: “An approach teachers need to continuously encourage…is self-respect and respect for others which follows the teachings of Christ.”

It’s important to realize that bullying in previous generations sometimes would end at the conclusion of school or recess and not carry over to home or weekend. But “cyber bullying is 24/7 as it can be online, in the Cloud or on their phone/tablet,” Montville pointed out.

Cyber bullying is one reason parents need to monitor their children’s social media use, Conroy added, defining bullying as aggressive behavior that is intentional and involves as imbalance of power or strength. “The power can be physical strength and/or size, usually the boys’ way of bullying, or isolation from the group and ridicule, usually the girls’ way of bullying,” she explained.

If parents suspect their child is being bullied, Fortier encourages them to talk to their child, find out what is happening. “Parents could be in touch with the school administration about this and intervene,” she said. Create a proactive partnership between the school and family.

Montville suggests approaching the topic with one’s child with questions like:  “I’ve heard a lot about bullying in the news. Is that going on at your school?” “I’m worried about you. Are there any kids at school who may be picking on you or bullying you?” “Are there any kids at school who tease you in a mean way?” or “Are there any kids at school who leave you out or exclude you on purpose?”

Communication and collaboration are key. Talk with your child’s teacher and principal. “Start a dialogue or partnership with the school by calling or setting up an appointment to talk with their teacher(s). Teachers are likely in the best position to understand the relationships between your child and other peers in their school,” Montville said.

 “Bullying is damaging. It needs to be stopped as soon as possible,” Fortier said.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban,
Vermont Catholic content editor/staff writer.
  • Published in Schools

Chains for Charity: Teen craftsman shares profits with needy

Kyle Holt is a 16-year-old with many interests and abilities: blacksmithing, hunting, welding, woodworking, growing shitake mushrooms. He also sews, felts and makes jewelry.

A parishioner of All Saints Church in Richford, Kyle has made a commitment to share a portion of his jewelry sales with charity.

“It’s a good thing to do,” he said of helping others, noting the importance of charity in the life of the Catholic Church and the example of generosity he has received from his mother, Brenda, and his maternal grandparents, Cedric and Theresa Snider.

Kyle said his grandfather — a Knight of Columbus -— is his role model; someday he too might be a Knight. 

In fact, it’s his grandfather who helps him with many of his projects. “He’s a jack of all trades and master of none but oftentimes better than master of one,” Kyle said with a smile.

“Pépère” (the French word for granddad) helped Kyle make his own spot welder with a microwave transformer to assist with some of his jewelry projects that include rings, necklaces and earrings.

A junior at Richford Junior/Senior High School where his favorite classes are math and science, Kyle attended this summer’s Family Retreat at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Troy where he sold some cross necklaces he had made out of small metal circles. Part of his proceeds went to the religious goods ministry there.

Kyle has had odd jobs stacking wood, sweeping and removing rocks, and he has an interest in Medieval history and Old Testament history. “I like the stories, and the morals are good,” he said of the Bible stories.

Kyle attended the Governor’s Institute, a recent weeklong summer program at the University of Vermont where he learned about circuitry, computer coding, power converters and transformers. He’d like to be an engineer, perhaps a mechanical or chemical engineer.

For now, he said he’d like to  continue jewelry making and share his profits with charities where he sees a need.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban,
Vermont Catholic content editor/staff writer.
  • Published in Parish

Being a ‘good’ sport Teaching life skills through athletics

As a teacher, a coach and a father, Brian Buczek wants to help children discover different possibilities for success.

And for him, success does not always mean winning; sometimes success is learning a lesson or accomplishing a goal.

Buczek is in his second year as physical education teacher and athletic director at The Bishop John A. Marshall School in Morrisville, and he brings to the position a wealth of athletic experience, particularly in soccer.    

Born in Sharon Springs, N.Y., he began playing soccer in third grade; it was a sport that came easily to him. He played soccer, baseball and basketball in high school and soccer at Paul Smith’s College in Paul Smiths, N.Y. -— where he earned an associate’s degree in 1993 in hospitality management — and at Johnson (Vermont) State College where he has nearly completed a bachelor’s degree in physical education.

He has coached on the collegiate level at Johnson State College and at Middlebury (Vermont) College, and as the boys’ varsity head coach at Stowe High School he led the team to three state Division III championships.

In addition, Buczek coached for eight seasons in Olympic Development Program soccer and also coached for seven seasons in Chittenden County club soccer with Far Post and Nordic Spirit.

This year he is focusing on the Bishop Marshall School soccer program, serving as head coach for the grades seven and eight co-ed team and training all age groups.

“Brian and his family joined the BJAMS community last August, bringing with them energy, enthusiasm and ideas of how to enhance and expand our offerings,” said Head of School Carrie Wilson. 

As athletic director and three-season coach (fall soccer, basketball and spring soccer), he has developed a physical education curriculum that highlights sportsmanship, goal setting, fitness, nutrition and wellness for students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

“He has a positive approach to all he does and works hard to encourage and develop both the emerging and seasoned athlete. His sense of humor, stories and positive outlook make him a pleasure to work with,” Wilson said.

“Every child wants to be challenged, and it’s not just through the physical aspect of the game,” Buczek said. “They also want to be challenged to understand the mental tools needed to get better,” like staying focused and concentrating on what is important. “When you watch the negative antics in professional sports…that is not how to play on the amateur level,” Buczek said.

He works with his players to stay focused on what is important in a game, to work as a team, to problem solve and to continue to advance to the goal — all important life lessons too.

“It’s easy to let kids be mad; it’s hard to find out why they are frustrated or mad and help them to the next step, which is problem solving,” he said.

He sees winning as not only the end result, but individual accomplishments as well. “And if I can help them identify what makes them successful, then I won,” he added. 

A former food and beverage director at a Stowe resort, he and his college sweetheart, Samantha, have been married for 13 years and have two children: Ivan, 11, and Ava, 9. The children — both soccer players — attend Bishop Marshall School.

Through soccer, he hopes his children will have fun, be competitive in a positive way, learn to solve problems, be examples of good sportsmanship and “play hard because effort shadows everything.”

He and his wife — who is an event manager at a Stowe resort and a soccer player — own Vermont United Soccer Academy in Morrisville. And he is a partner for Paddle North, a paddle board business on Lake Elmore in Elmore.

A Morrisville resident, Buczek enjoys attending Mass at Blessed Sacrament Church in Stowe and the weekly school Mass. He said he “lost his way” of practicing his faith when he was a busy, successful restaurant owner in Wells, N.Y., but he has embarked on what he calls a “rejourney of faith.”

Asked what he wants his children to experience from their Catholic faith, Buczek said he wants them to be good, caring and compassionate individuals who make an effort to help others. He wants them to pray, to thank God for their blessings and to understand that God can put even adversity into perspective.

Adopted by an “amazing family,” Buczek said he always felt God was watching over him. “So do I thank God for how lucky I am? 100 percent!” he said.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban,
Vermont Catholic content editor/staff writer.
  • Published in Schools
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