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Recognizing the feast of ashes, boredom and dull moments

“Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy.”
—Pope Francis

 
Many people have morning rituals. Mine include stretching, prayer, a good cup of tea and catching up with on-line news I missed during the night. As might be expected from a person of varied interests — and a grandmother — I am often distracted by other interesting tidbits, like the recent story, ‘The scary truth about what’s hurting our kids.”
 
As a grandparent, I just had to read it. It was worth the time and underscored the damage social media and an obsession with mobile devices causes to children’s mental health.
 
The article notes that, among other things, children suffer from an absence of dull moments and are being deprived of the important fundamentals of a healthy childhood, including opportunities for boredom.
 
As most wise grandparents will share, boredom is a nurturer for children, giving them a much-needed absence of stimulation, a blessed silence, moments when they can hear the whirring of their own minds in creative endeavors, an opportunity for them to hear the whisperings of God instead of the noise of everything else.
 
Children, like adults, need time to think.
 
When my husband was a child, before the advent of taking “time out” in some specially designated place in the house after a childish transgression, my mother-in- law, Muriel, wise as she was, doled out the punishment of pulling weeds. No sitting in the corner for my husband or his siblings. They could reflect on their wrong doings and make themselves useful at the same time.
 
I often wondered if Muriel took her cue from Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, whom she greatly admired, and who once said, “We can think of Lent as a time to eradicate evil or cultivate virtue, a time to pull up weeds or to plant good seeds. Which is better is clear, for the Christian ideal is always positive rather than negative.”
 
Muriel, who was no shrinking violet, would no doubt have reminded Bishop Sheen that you can’t plant the good seeds until you pull the weeds.
 
For today’s adults, who are continually lulled into a spiritual malaise by the white noise of a world where the absence of anything is considered deprivation, a time of emptiness devoid of worldly distractions is a feast for the spiritual life.
 
And so we come to the wisdom of Ash Wednesday and the days of Lent, time set aside in the liturgical year to focus interiorly on our relationship with God, and subsequently, our relationship with others. It is a time to strengthen both, realizing that our relationship with God is meaningless if some good for the other does not flow from it.
 
Too often, it seems we approach Lent with a serious solemnity, brought about by our sense of suffering through sacrifice. I am guilty of it, as much as at other times I am guilty of having no feelings about Lent whatsoever. I simply go through the motions, wear ashes and purple and convince myself that I am doing Lent because I am making sacrifices.
 
I have actually learned to do Lent better by watching my grandchildren in those rare dull moments when they are not distracted by toys or technology, when they have been sent outside because they are bored and are soon excitedly gathering stones and pine cones, examining bugs or catching toads and crickets, pulling apart fallen seed packets and planting seeds with great expectations that they will return in a few days to find new seedlings growing. And at the end of their unexpected adventure they run to you and say, “Look what I found!”
 
That is how I wish to approach Lent, when making sacrifice is a time of discovery, and when an examination of conscience leading to change is an experience of joy.
I want to keep in mind the thoughts of Thomas Merton who wrote, “Even the darkest moments of the liturgy are filled with joy, and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten fast, is a day of happiness, a Christian feast.”
 
— Mary Morrell
 

CRS Rice Bowl

As Pope Francis asks us to “Share the Journey” with migrants and refugees aground the world, Catholic Relief Services’ Rice Bowl offers Catholics in the United States a way to encounter Lent, to encounter the causes of migration and displacement and to learn about the challenges faced by families around the world in their Dioceses, parishes and homes.
 
CRS Rice Bowl, the agency’s flagship Lenten program now in its fifth decade, will begin once again on Ash Wednesday — Feb. 14 — giving Catholics throughout the country an opportunity to encounter the stories of people in need throughout the world.
 
“From CRS’ work in more than 100 countries, we know that people do not want to leave their homes, that they do so because they feel they have no other choice,” said Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of church engagement. “Lenten sacrifices contributed through CRS Rice Bowl help give them that choice by providing sustenance and livelihoods in communities around the world.”
 
Begun as an ecumenical effort in the diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1975, CRS Rice Bowl soon spread across the country as it called on Catholics to perform a simple act of Lenten sacrifice: substitute a low-cost meatless meal for more expensive dining once a week during Lent and put the money saved in a cardboard rice bowl.
 
That concept remains at the heart of the program even as it has expanded to include broader Lenten faith enrichment through a wide variety of resources available for the millions of Catholics who participate. These include prayer resources, a daily Lenten calendar, weekly stories of hope that introduce families from around the world and recipes from various countries for meatless meals that can be enjoyed on Fridays during Lent.
 
Funds collected in the rice bowls, which are turned in at the end of Lent, are distributed both throughout the world and in local communities to combat hunger; 75 percent of every donation goes to CRS programming in targeted countries worldwide while 25 percent remains in the Diocese from which the donation came, supporting initiatives that help alleviate poverty.
 
But the goal is to go beyond collecting money and spur discussions — both in churches and around family dinner tables — about the meaning of Lent and the daily reality that people living in poverty face.
 
“We see CRS Rice Bowl as much more than a fund-raising opportunity,” said Rosenhauer. “It is an opportunity for Catholics in America to encounter what Lent means, what poverty means, what resilience means, what hope means.”
 
“We want families to participate together so they can experience the joyous feeling of solidarity that comes from generosity and sacrifice,” she said. “We know from years of experience that CRS Rice Bowl can be life-changing.”
 
As part of CRS Rice Bowl, speakers from throughout the world will travel across the United States telling their stories of how CRS Rice Bowl-supported programs are changing lives. For Thomas Awiapo, a feeding program in his village in Ghana funded by CRS Rice Bowl brought him as a hungry young orphan to school for food. He stayed for an education, eventually a master’s degree in the United States, returning to Ghana for a career with CRS there. Cassandra Bassainthe, who left Haiti as a young child, will talk about why she returned to her home country to help the poor and vulnerable. Micter Chaola of Malawi and Jacques Kabore of Burkina Faso will share their experiences working in agriculture in their respective countries.
 
“CRS Rice Bowl does far more than feed people,” said Rosenhauer. “It also helps develop agriculture so that families and communities can support themselves. As we heed the request of Pope Francis and ‘Share the Journey,’ we know that the best way you can help a migrant is to make sure that she doesn’t have to leave home in the first place. That’s what CRS Rice Bowl can help accomplish.”
 
To learn more about CRS Rice Bowl, go to crsricebowl.org.
 
 
 
  • Published in Nation

Christ the King School Cabaret and Auction

The 25th annual Christ the King School Cabaret and Auction will take place April 6 and 7 at 6 p.m. at the school in Burlington. 
 
In 1993 Aida Cadrecha began Dinner Theater as an opportunity to celebrate students’ talents and raise money for the school. Each year it got bigger and bigger, and Dinner Theater officially became Cabaret when the popularity of the event and demand for tickets no longer allowed for any space for a sit down meal. 
 
Twenty-five years later, Cadrecha is still the “Queen of Cabaret,” despite having officially retired as Christ the King librarian last year.
 
“Cabaret is one of those wonderful community events that has an almost magical quality to it,” said Principal Angela Pohlen. “It’s a tradition that every family who has gone through the school in the last 25 years can share, and it bonds us. Everyone has a favorite memory of Cabaret, and it has withstood the test of time because of its value to the community.”
 
This year more than 1,000 parents, family members and friends are expected to attend the two-night event with entertainment provided by pre-school through eighth-grade students. The theme will be “Motown” and each class has a chance to present a choreographed dance and show off their talent. Individual students also have a chance to step into the limelight and share their talents. 
 
Cabaret is an opportunity for students to share something they work on outside of school, such as gymnastics, violin, piano or singing.   
 
Last year’s cabaret and auction raised more than $30,000 to support the students, programs and mission of the Catholic school.
 
The auction of fun, useful and creative items advances the mission of the school as proceeds from the donated prizes will directly benefit the children at Christ the King School. Past proceeds have funded such things as improvements to the technology lab and makerspace and new books for the library.
 
All donations will be exhibited on the nights of the auction, and all donors will be listed in the program for both nights. 
 
Any donations can be sent to: Christ the King School, 136 Locust Street, Burlington, VT 05401. For donations to be picked up, contact Jon Hughes, advancement director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 802-862-6696.
 
Tickets for the cabaret and auction will go on sale through the school’s front office in March.
 
Call the office at 862-6696 for more information or visit www.cksvt.org
 
 
 
 
  • Published in Schools

New president named for St. Michael's College

Dr. Lorraine Sterritt, a national leader in higher education with experience at some of America’s finest institutions, has been named the 17th president of St. Michael's College.

Sterritt will be the first woman to hold the position in the college’s history. She currently serves as president of Salem Academy and College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The Presidential Search Committee announced its selection Jan. 26 to the St. Michael’s community. Dr. Sterritt will assume her duties as president in July 2018.

On Tuesday Jan. 30, there will be a community introduction and press conference with her.

“The committee is thrilled to have Dr. Sterritt, a scholar and experienced administrator, coming to lead the college at such a crucial time in our history,” said Mary-Kate McKenna ’80, Presidential Search Committee chair and chair of the St. Michael's College Board of Trustees.

Sterritt holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in French from Queen’s University Belfast and a master’s degree and a doctorate in French from Princeton University. Prior to assuming the position at Salem, she served as dean for administration at Harvard College and as a member of the faculty of arts and sciences. Prior to Harvard, she held positions as associate dean and associate vice provost and was a member of the faculty at Stanford University. Previously she had held positions at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard and Princeton University.

“Dr. Sterritt possesses a deep love of the liberal arts and a clear vision for the future of higher education,” McKenna said. “She was the unanimous choice of the Board of Trustees, and we all look forward to working with Dr. Sterritt in the years ahead. We are at a pivotal time in higher education and Dr. Sterritt is the visionary president we need to lead St. Michael’s College boldly into the future.”

Edmundite Father Stephen Hornat, ’72, superior general of the Society of Saint Edmund and search committee member, said it is no surprise to him that out of the 65 applicants to apply, Sterritt would rise to the top of the list. “We are fortunate to attract someone of her caliber. Her graciousness and warmth mesh well with our Edmundite tradition of hospitality,” he said. “She will make a great president and will have the prayers and support of the Edmundite and larger St. Michael’s community.”

Current St. Michael's College President John J. Neuhauser said, “St. Michael's is a special place and Dr. Lorraine Sterritt is a wonderful choice to lead the college at this time.” Neuhauser said Sterritt brings “an intelligence and depth of understanding of the importance of a liberating education to our nation, and she couples this with a genuine concern for all members of the college community, students, alumni, staff and faculty. Years from now we will only grow in appreciation for the fine work of the search committee.”

Sterritt expressed her enthusiasm to join the community of St. Michael's College. “I am very excited and deeply honored to assume the presidency of St. Michael’s College,” she said. “The people with whom I met in the interview process impressed me with their dedication to learning and service to humanity grounded in Edmundite ideals. Their devotion to the welfare of humanity and to care for the environment is exemplary.”

Sterritt added that she and her husband, Bert Lain, “are thrilled to be joining the St. Michael's community.”
 
 
 
  • Published in Diocesan
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