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Getting organized for love

By Sister Constance Veit
I began the new year with 8,000 college students at the Student Leadership Summit of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. It was an inspiring event that enabled us Little Sisters to engage with hundreds of enthusiastic young people on fire for their Catholic faith.
As exciting as the whole event was, the most moving moment for me was completely
unexpected. During Eucharistic adoration, Jesus Christ present in the monstrance started moving through the crowd, carried by a team of bishops and priests. An entourage of altar servers led the procession with candles and incense.
What caught my eye was one of the white robed altar servers walking backwards, swinging a thurible from which billowed sweetly scented smoke, his attention firmly fixed on Christ in the Eucharist. The only thing that kept him from stumbling into the crowd of young people was a second altar server who kept his hand firmly planted on the first man’s shoulder to direct his every move.
It was a highly choreographed and striking scene — this entourage of clergy and altar servers walking together in perfect unity, leading one another, supporting one another’s efforts to carry Christ. I was profoundly struck by this “holy teamwork,” which must have required significant practice and single-minded focus.
This Eucharistic procession was a fitting metaphor for the ideals of solidarity and union of hearts and minds in continuing our Lord’s mission on Earth. Imagine the wonderful things we could do for Jesus if each Catholic apostolate, religious community or lay movement were this well ordered and united around a common purpose.
In his encyclical on love, Pope Benedict XVI said, “As a community, the Church must practice love. Love thus needs to be organized if it is to be an ordered service to the community.”
As we head into Lent, we first celebrate the World Day of the Sick on Feb. 11. Just as the procession I witnessed at the Student Leadership Summit kept Our Eucharistic Lord at the center as it moved through the crowd of young people — a veritable field hospital of souls — Catholic health care is called to place the human person at the center of all its activities, projects and goals.
In his message for this year’s World Day of the Sick Pope Francis wrote, “Wise organization and charity demand that the sick person be respected in his or her dignity and constantly kept at the center of the therapeutic process.”
Our Holy Father continued, “Jesus bestowed upon the Church His healing power. … The Church’s mission is a response to Jesus’ gift, for she knows that she must bring to the sick the Lord’s own gaze, full of tenderness and compassion. Health care ministry will always be a necessary and fundamental task to be carried out with renewed enthusiasm by all, from parish communities to the largest healthcare institutions.”
Pope Francis recognized the invaluable contribution of families: “The care given within families is an extraordinary witness of love for the human person; it needs to be fittingly acknowledged and supported by suitable policies.”
He also speaks of healthcare as a shared ministry: “Doctors and nurses, priests, consecrated men and women, volunteers, families and all those who care for the sick, take part in this ecclesial mission. It is a shared responsibility that enriches the value of the daily service given by each.”
As we observe the World Day of the Sick and then begin our Lenten practices of prayer, penance and almsgiving, let’s resolve to keep Jesus Christ and the human person at the center of our spiritual efforts and works of mercy.
And let’s endeavor to give the world a striking witness of the unity of Christ’s disciples. May the world be able to say of us, “The believers are of one heart and mind … sharing everything they have” (Acts 4:32).
May our united efforts to serve the poor, the sick and the most vulnerable
among us lead others to believe in the power of God’s love at work in the world.
— Sister Constance Veit is director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.

To everything there is a season

There is a story of a pastor who decided to hire a gardener for the poorly kept parish grounds. Year round the gardener worked diligently, mulching, preparing the soil, weeding, planting, pruning and nurturing the plants with great attention, until one day the pastor strolled into the flowering garden with a neighboring priest, anxious to show off the magnificent new creation.
Gesturing to the many different plants and flowers, the pastor said, “I praise God for all of His handiwork!” 
With clippers in hand, the gardener stepped out from behind a bush and chastised the pastor saying, “Don’t you go giving all the credit to God. Just remember what this place looked like before I got here and God had it all to himself!” 
Attention is a sacred gift. “The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself,” wrote Henry Miller.
When we give this kind of attention to others, it becomes a gift of love, one that nourishes and nurtures and helps bring a person into full bloom. When we have this kind of love, our world holds all the beauty of a tended garden. When we don’t, life can become a cold, dreary night.
There was a time when I felt like my world had become an eternal winter, and I couldn’t see beyond the moment in time when my father died unexpectedly, leaving me alone to care for my mother, who was a hospice patient.
But time goes on. Today, it doesn’t seem possible that my father has been gone almost 22 years. Still, each year, as Valentine’s Day approaches, I am reminded of the last Valentine’s Day we spent together, him unconscious in a hospital bed, me in tears hoping that he could at least sense how much I loved him. He died the next day.
When I returned home that night and curled up in my dad’s much-loved recliner, I recalled the words of Paul Gallico, the author of “The Snow Goose,” one of my favorite books as a child: “When two people loved each other, they worked together always, two against the world, a little company. Joy was shared, trouble split. You had an ally, somewhere, who was helping.”
This was my relationship with my dad. Gallico’s words spoke to me, not only of what is ours when we are loved, when there is someone in our life who gives us the sacred gift of attention but what we don’t have when that someone is gone, no matter what the reason. It is the aloneness of grief, the dark night of loss, the realization that you are now a company of one.
A year later, I lost my mom.
When we suffer losses such as these, we often look for reasons why. But, in all honesty, no reason could console us or take away the terrible hurt and emptiness we feel. We may cling to our faith in these inconsolable times, but even faith doesn’t erase the pain.
I have found that the only way through it all is to consider grief a season of life, a season of loss that ebbs and flows and forever changes who we are. We never learn about it in school, but life will teach us and Scripture can guide us:
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance. …”
The writer of Ecclesiastes understood there is divine wisdom in all of God’s creation, and that we must embrace that wisdom in our own lives as well. The garden in winter is not dead, just dormant, having prepared for this season during the autumn. When the time and conditions are right, new life will spring forth from roots and seeds hidden from our sight.
-- Mary Morrell
--This article was originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.

Christ, bless this house: Praying as a family for the Feast of the Epiphany

In the Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (the Joy of Love), Pope Francis reminds us that “a family’s living space could turn into a domestic church, a setting for the Eucharist, the presence of Christ seated at its table.” The Holy Father goes on to remind us of the Lord’s promise: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me (Rev. 3:20). As we open our calendars to another year, we turn toward the Lord in thanksgiving for our many blessings and ask for God’s grace to be upon our families and our homes … our little domestic churches.
One beautiful way to consecrate our homes to the Lord is pray together the traditional house blessing ceremony on Epiphany (Jan. 6) while “chalking the door” with the numerals of the coming year separated by the letters C, M, and B. The letters, which are for the Latin Christus Mansionem Benedicat (Christ bless this house) also represent the first initials of the wise men: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. The + signs represent the cross. This year, the blessing would be: 20+C+M+B+18.
This ancient blessing is an invitation for the Lord who is knocking at our doors, to be a guest in our home each day while we ask God to bless our comings and goings, our conversations, our work and play, as well as our joys and sorrows.
The tradition of marking the doorway of a home is rooted in the Old Testament. God commands the Israelites, “Hear O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.  Take to heart these words which I command you today … write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6, 9).  
As we seek to offer our whole hearts to the Lord this year, let God’s blessing be upon us that we may be nourished and strengthened within our homes. Then, just as the wise men poured out their gifts before the Lord on his humble manger bed, may the love and faith of our families be poured out to the world around us, in desperate need of the Savior’s love. 
Join a Vermont family asking the Lord’s blessing on their home in the first of a monthly video series to celebrate the Diocesan Year of the Family at vermontcatholic.org/vcm. Then, download the accompanying activity sheet to pray the Epiphany Home Blessing with your family!
Ann Gonyaw, her husband and three children are members of Mater Dei Parish in Newport, where Ann serves as the Director of Catholic Formation.

This article was first published in the January 6-12 issue of The Inland See bulletin.

Obituary: Sister Alice Durand, RHSJ

Sister Alice Durand, a Religious Hospitaller of St. Joseph, died Dec. 30 at Our Lady of Providence Residential Care Facility in Winooski. 

She was born in Coventry on Feb 4, 1920, the daughter of Joseph A. and Alouisia (Marcotte) Durand. They predeceased her along with her brother, Armand, and three sisters Cecile, Jeannette Lepus and Theresa Garceau. Besides her sisters in religion, she is survived by several nieces, nephews and grand nephews and nieces. 

Sister Durand received her basic education in Manchester, New Hampshire, and entered the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph at the Fanny Allen convent in Colchester in 1940. She fulfilled several community assignments at St. Joseph's Home for the Aged, Fanny Allen Hospital and the Bishop deGoesbriand Hospital until 1968 at which time she was assigned as director of housekeeping at the Fanny Allen Hospital until 1982. 

Conscious of the importance of environmental services, and in preparation for the opening of the new hospital in 1968, she pursued ongoing education/training from the Executive Housekeepers Association and received credentials as executive housekeeper.

At the time of her retirement from this position in 1982, she upheld and promoted high standards of cleanliness resulting in the Fanny Allen Hospital being recognized as one of the cleanest hospitals in the country.

On Feb. 4, 2004, Sister Durand along with 10 other Sisters from the Fanny Allen convent, moved to Our Lady Providence, a residential care facility, joining the Sisters of Providence, the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa, as well as lay men and women. 

Visiting hours for family, friends and colleagues will be on Jan. 2 from 2 to 4 p.m. with a Prayer Service at 7 p.m. and on Jan. 3 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Our Lady of Providence residence. A Mass of the Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Interment will be in the spring. 
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