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Church communities united in Christ

Parishioners of churches joined by the ministry of one priest are making their way toward greater unity by collaborating on outreach projects.
In Essex, for example, members of Holy Family/St. Lawrence and St. Pius X parishes came together as the Essex Catholic Community to help their neighbors — both parishioners and non parishioners — through Serve Our Neighbor Day.
The project, begun by Holy Family/St. Lawrence parishioners, takes place in the fall and spring to help people with chores like small home repairs, window washing, raking and gutter cleaning. Most recently about 125 volunteers spent a day on 24 projects.
“An event like this brings us all together,” said John McMahon, a project coordinator who is also the Holy Family/St. Lawrence faith formation director.
Teams for the projects are made up of members from the difference churches so parishioners get to know one another. “It’s a lovely expression and breaks down barriers,” he said. “It’s part of the process of bring the churches together … mobilizing the parishes to joyfully serve people in need.”
It can be challenging to bring two distinct parish communities together, each having its own identity and traditions.
“When I arrived at my two parishes they had their own distinct way of putting God’s call to us ‘to love thy neighbor’ into practice,” noted Father Yvon Royer, pastor of St. Peter Church in Vergennes and St. Ambrose Church in Bristol. Though much of that distinctiveness remains, the parishes do offer free community meals once a month, open to both communities. “We are feeding on average 275 people per month between the two of them,” Father Royer said.
Edmundite Father Charles Ranges is pastor of the three Essex churches, two in Essex Junction and one in Essex Center. “Essex is really one community and all of the students go to the same high school,” he said. “The churches are close together and people attend all three of the churches.”
The parishioners served on “Serve Our Neighbor Day” are generally elderly and unable to do this work themselves. The day begins and ends with prayer and reflection and the work is done in the name of Jesus. 
“The work has been enhanced by joining forces and is advertised as an event of the Essex Catholic Community,” Father Ranges said.
Other activities on which the Essex Catholic parishes work together are “Essex Eats out,” a monthly community dinner, collecting food for Heavenly Pantry in Essex Junction and the Essex Jericho Underhill Food Shelf. 
And as they prepared for Christmas, all three churches had "giving trees" and baskets with food that was given to needy families. "The attempt is to have a unified message at all churches so we are united in our charitable activities,” the pastor said. “Bringing the good works of both parishes together is a ‘work in progress,’ but I know that we are going in the right direction since when united we can accomplish more.”
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Brother Carter to be ordained Edmundite priest

Edmundite Brother Michael R. Carter will be ordained to the priesthood on Saturday, Sept. 16, at the Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel on the campus of St. Michael’s College in Colchester.
Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne will ordain him during the 11 a.m. Mass.
Born in Burlington, the son of Richard M. Carter and Kathleen M. Carter of Burlington attended Christ the King School there through eighth grade then Burlington High School. A member of the St. Michael's College Class of 2012, he earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies with a minor in political science. He received a Master of Divinity degree from Boston College in 2016.
His current assignment as a transitional deacon is as an assistant to his Edmundite brother, Father Charles Ranges, pastor in Essex Junction and Essex Center. Brother Carter also teaches at St. Michael's College and assists in Edmundite Campus Ministry. He will continue in these roles after his ordination.
“I would also ask any and every person that is concerned about the state of the Church to seriously think about the men in their lives that they think may have a vocation (or might make a good priest) and mention it to them,” he said. “Be it for the Diocese, the Society of St. Edmund or elsewhere, actual talking and contact with people, and setting an example is what makes vocations appear real. Prayers are wonderful and beautiful, but prayer without action is robbing yourself of the most effective way that God works in the world.”
The Society of St. Edmund invites the faithful of the Diocese of Burlington and beyond to attend Brother Carter’s ordination.
The last ordination for the Society of St. Edmund was in 2014, when Father Lino Oropeza was ordained at St. Michael's College.

  • Published in Diocesan

Essex parishes continue 'green' efforts

Holy Family-St. Lawrence Parish in Essex Junction is continuing its efforts to care for the Earth, shedding light on the possibilities churches have to save money and to reduce their energy consumption.
Parking lot lights at Holy Family Church and St. Lawrence Church were converted to LED lights.
The new bulbs require 14 watts of power to operate; the old ones took at least 100 watts. By implementing this change St. Lawrence Church will reduce the cost to light the parking lot by 85; Holy Family will reduce its cost by 67 percent.
“These were very simple changes to make. Both projects were completed in less than a half day of time,” commented David Robideau, a Parish Council member. “It's important to realize that big savings to energy usage can happen without spending a lot of time. LED lights bulbs are extremely efficient, and there is a conversion kit available that will modify existing light fixtures to LED to meet most applications.”
The parish worked to make church buildings more energy efficient and has implemented "Green Kitchen Guidelines" for all parish groups and outside organizations renting the parish hall as well as recycling and composting programs.
“We are constantly working on becoming more energy efficient,” said Edmundite Father Charles Ranges, pastor. “Besides protecting our environment, it just makes sense and is saving us money.  We need to be good stewards of the financial resources that come our way and, of course, we need to be good to ‘Mother Earth.’”
He said the parish’s buildings are generally energy efficient, but there is always room for improvement.  “With the improvement on our buildings, our gas and electricity bills are lower,” he noted.
St. Pius X Church in Essex Center, also under the pastoral care of Father Ranges, is becoming energy efficient. “The parking lot lights are LED. The church building will soon become undergo an energy audit. In our parish hall, we have stopped using disposable coffee cups, glasses and dishes,” he said. “St. Pius is onboard our move to become environmental friendly.”
“Everyone has a responsibility to be good stewards for the natural resources that God has provided,” Robideau said.
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Greening a parish center

Three women from Holy Family-St. Lawrence Parish in Essex Junction are on a mission to make their parish center a fully "green" operation that composts, recycles and reduces its waste to near-zero levels.

Audrey Dawson, a senior at Essex High School; her grandmother, Joyce Dawson; and Lindsey Sullivan, an engineer at Global Foundries, represent three generations of women deeply committed to environmental stewardship as an essential part of the Christian call.

Green kitchen guidelines

The trio recently implemented "Green Kitchen Guidelines" that all parish groups and outside organizations renting the upstairs parish hall will need to comply with beginning this month.

Styrofoam, cheap to purchase and effective at keeping beverages hot, will no longer be allowed in the facility. Those hosting events will be asked to utilize the ceramic dishware and utensils provided and clean them in the nochemical, water-saving dishwashers on site. Or, they will need to purchase their own paper and plastic products that meet compostable and recyclable standards. The overarching goal is to reduce the stream of solid waste going into the landfill and to raise the consciousness of parishioners around environmental issues.

"We have been entrusted by God to protect the planet we live on," said Sullivan, 32, a recycler since kindergarten. "Millennials have been taught by their teachers since very young that landfills are an important resource."

The Holy Family-St. Lawrence parish center, an airy, timber; frame structure with a fireplace and sweeping views of Essex Junction, opened in 2014. The previous building was hit by lightening and burned to the ground in 2011. The Parish Council decided to outfit the new hall with an industrial-grade kitchen that could be used for parish activities and also serve as a kind of outreach to the larger community.

Parishioner Mike Dowling books events at the hall and said the facility is in "constant motion," utilized by the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Daughters, Essex Eats Out, the Diocese of Burlington and local schools and non-profit organizations hosting workshops.

Some 500 people are serviced through the kitchen per month, he pointed out, enough volume to make waste production a concern.

Dowling joined both Dawson women and Sullivan on a tour of the kitchen to determine where newly purchased sorter bins for compost, recycled materials and waste will be situated. The Green Kitchen Committee, as they refer to themselves, has ordered bins that slip into a caddy on wheels to make transporting byproducts to an outer shed an easy exercise. A grant through the Chittenden Solid Waste District will offset half the cost of the bins.

The elder Dawson shared with the committee that some pushback has come her way from people that want to continue buying paper products at discount stores. But those items include wax-coated paper plates and plastic silverware, which cannot be recycled or composted and will end up in the waste stream.

"There's been some initial resistance," explained Joyce Dawson, a 38-year parishioner, "which is why we have to make participation as easy as possible with a communication plan that educates people and creates buy-in."

The committee plans a "Green Grand Opening" event for parishioners and interested community members on Sunday, March 19, after the 11 a.m. Mass, to learn about the new Green Kitchen protocols, as well as to enjoy some Earth Day-themed refreshments.

"Laudato Si'" study group

The Green Kitchen initiative was born after 25 parishioners engaged in a study of Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si': On Care for Our Common Home."

Faith formation director John McMahon, had heard interest expressed by parishioners about the pope's publication, released in 2015. That October, McMahon facilitated a study group to delve into the six chapters, one week at a time.

McMahon described the study group, which also drew participants from the Essex Catholic Community's third parish, St. Pius X in Essex Center, as a balance of people with both conservative and liberal politics.

Dawson and her granddaughter Audrey, 17, both walked into the first session not knowing the other was planning to attend.

Through spirited dialogue and communal prayer, the group explored the pope's invitation to become "protectors of God's handiwork" as "not an optional or secondary aspect of our Christian experience."

"I felt the way the encyclical was written was a call to action," said Audrey, who participated in World Youth Day 2013 in Brazil and witnessed the detrimental impacts of air and water pollution on poor families living in slums. "Seeing how interconnected environmental and economic issues were for these people piqued my interest to do something in my own church community."

At the conclusion of the "Laudato Si'" study group, McMahon said, there was enough interest to continue meeting to consider a project that would represent the parish's good-faith effort to do its fair share.

Greening parish events

Essex Eats Out, a weekly community dinner for residents sponsored by five local churches was ramping up. Holy Family Parish Hall was hosting the event on the second Friday of the month, serving healthy dinners to 140-170 people per seating.

"Working on the meal teams and seeing all the waste generated was eye-opening," McMahon recalled. "The scale of these dinners and the parish center going into full operational mode, frankly, made us get more serious about creating an overall green initiative."

Meanwhile, Sullivan was dreaming up a new strategy for the parish's twice-annual Serve Our Neighbor Day. The prayer and service event that sends 150 parishioners of all ages into the local community to rake lawns and clean gutters for the elderly and sick of Essex Junction was generating four 35-gallon bags of garbage at its concluding picnic.

Sullivan was aiming to decrease waste creation to near-zero levels. "If you want to reduce the amount of trash you generate then you have to reduce the amount of trash you buy in the first place," she advised. That meant no longer purchasing individual packs of chips and drinks and buying food in bulk at Costco with minimal, recyclable packaging.

At the Serve Our Neighbor Day event last October, Sullivan removed the trash bins from view as a way to "interrupt the behavior" of volunteers. She sat herself beside the sorter bins and helped folks discern where to put what.

"A couple of people grouched about having to sort their trash," Sullivan recalled. "But through a 10-second interaction with each person to explain the process, we had 100-percent compliance." Once the food service was set up, there was zero-waste created. The initial food preparation phase resulted in only one-half of a 35-gallon bag headed to the landfill.

Edmundite Father Charles Ranges, pastor, has been an advocate of environmental stewardship and energy-efficiency efforts (see sidebar) in the parish from the get-go. "My pastoral philosophy is to get the people of God to have a sense of ownership for their faith community, the programs and buildings and to encourage them to stay involved," he said.

Father Ranges recently approved a separate weekly pickup for compost by the parish's hauling company. He includes Sunday Prayers of the Faithful that connect to the diocese's Year of Creation and writes occasionally about ecological justice themes in his weekly letter from the pastor.

"The beauty of the earth is a reflection of the goodness of God," he said. "Taking care of our natural environment and the planet we live on is Christ-like."

Making church buildings sustainable for future generations

Years before the Green Kitchen initiative, Dave Robideau and the parish finance council were working methodically to increase the energy-efficiency of all church buildings on the Holy Family/St. Lawrence Parish campuses in Essex Junction.

Robideau, an engineer at IBM for 35 years, recalled attending Sunday morning Mass at Holy Family Church in 2009 and struggling to hear then-Burlington Bishop Salvatore R. Matano's voice over the clanging pipes, the boiler working hard to heat the cavernous space.

Robideau knew the time had come for a new heating system.

The following year, he organized an energy assessment of Holy Family Church to establish baseline measurements. The steam furnace heating the 120-year-old church was in need of constant repair, costing the parish thousands of dollars per year, and technicians to fix an increasingly antiquated boiler system were harder to find.

With the blessings of their pastor, Edmundite Father Charles Ranges and the finance council, and input from several contractors, Robideau embarked on a project to have the church air-sealed and insulated as well as have a high-tech radiator system installed that preserved architectural aesthetics. The retrofit was offset by incentives from Vermont Gas, resulting in a more affordable price tag of $25,000.

Robideau called the project one of his most rewarding. "We essentially brought a church constructed in 1893 up to modern energy standards," he said. Air leakage numbers for Holy Family Church were cut in half, and the gas bill was cut by 66 percent to $2,500 per year.

"Part of our responsibility as good stewards is to reduce the cost of ownership on our buildings with the longer-term goal of reducing their footprint and expense for future generations," he said.

Likewise, an energy audit at St. Lawrence Church revealed opportunities to save on both electricity and natural gas usage. The initial work focused on projects that required minimal investment with the highest immediate payback.

By replacing sanctuary light bulbs with LEDs, installing wireless thermostats, eliminating a compressor that drove the heating controls for the boiler and turning off parking lot lights after 10 p.m., the church achieved a $600-$800 savings per year.

"The moral of the story is that there are numerous low-tech solutions that almost all parishes can take advantage of right away," Robideau said. "An essential way of giving back to the Church is to help it spend its limited resources as wisely as possible."

How to host a zero-waste event

It's very satisfying to host an event and generate NO garbage. It's also easier than it sounds.

Here are some ideas to help achieve that goal:

• Reduce garbage generated at the source. Purchase as many foods and raw materials in recyclable or compostable packaging as possible. This could also mean buying in bulk instead of individual packages.

• Use plates/silverware that you wash, dry and reuse.

• You cannot recycle paper or plastic plates/dishes with food stuck to them; if you don't want to rinse off food scraps, then go with compostable plates like Chinet.

• Leftover foods, plates (i.e. paper, cardboard), utensils (i.e. bamboo) and almost everything left behind after a meal is compostable. Napkins and paper towels often make up the bulk of compost even if you use recyclable items or durables. Any amount of compost you decide to collect contributes to less trash production.

• Eliminate all use of Styrofoam containers.

• Identify a Green Leader or Green Team or someone who is in charge of making sure everything gets thrown in the right bin at your event.

• Hide the trash can.

If you'd like a comprehensive copy of the Holy Family-St. Lawrence Green Kitchen Guidelines,

email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

By Marybeth Christie Redmond

  • Published in Parish

Essex faithful provide healthy meals, fine company, that strengthen community bonds

The word "hunger" most often brings to mind a need for food, but many people hunger for something other than a meal: They hunger for companionship, community and connections.

When Essex clergy and community leaders got together to discuss how best to address those hungers, they came up with Essex Eats Out, a program that provides healthy, free meals in a warm, safe and inclusive atmosphere. With the support of a grant from Heart and Soul, Essex Eats Out began in 2014.

Edmundite Father Charles Ranges, pastor of Holy Family/St. Lawrence Parish in Essex Junction and St. Pius X Parish in Essex Center, was one of the founding clergy members. "People come because they like the food and they like the company," he said. "It's great food, great conversation, great people who make you feel at home."

And, he added, "It's a great ecumenical effort."

The meals take place on Fridays from 5:30-7 p.m. On the first Friday the meal is at First Congregational Church; on the second Friday at Holy Family/St. Lawrence Parish Hall and on the third Friday at St. James Episcopal Church. On the fourth Friday the meal takes place at Essex Methodist Church, and on the fifth Friday at St. Pius X Church.

Father Ranges attends the meals at the churches he serves, and he greets people, begins the meal with a blessing and spends time visiting with guests.

"It's an opportunity to spread the good news," Ranges said.

On Dec. 11 the meal at Holy Family Church featured ham, rum-raisin sauce, mashed potatoes, succotash, roll and dessert.

Church members provide and serve the food when the meal is at their church; some food is purchased with donated funds.

The meals are open to everyone; some people are socially isolated and enjoy the company of others, some are "nutritionally deprived," and some are poor, Father Ranges explained. "It's serving a real need in the area . . . . People are coming out for it."

Rides can be arranged for those who do not have transportation.

"It's a great ecumenical ministry that reaches out into the community to offer a free meal to people who need it in any way," said Monica Morano, a parishioner of Holy Family/St. Lawrence Parish and a volunteer with Essex Eats Out since it began. "It's not meant to just feed people who are hungry."

She noted that it's a way for elderly parents to eat out with their children, for seniors who would otherwise be alone to share a meal with others, for families who want to dine out together without a large expense. And of course it is for people who are homeless or "on the edge for food."

"I get a lot of joy" being a part of Essex Eats Out, she said. "I love working with other churches and being part of a ministry that reaches out to other people."

According to Jennifer Knowles of St. James Episcopal Church in Essex Junction, the Essex Eats Out administrative assistant, on average there are 100 guests at each dinner.

"The program has been highly successful and continues to grow," she said. "More community members, civic and school groups have stepped up to volunteer as well as church members" who set up, serve and clean up.

John McMahon of Holy Family/St. Lawrence Parish is a co-coordinator with Morano for the parish, which provides when it is their parish's turn.

Volunteer chef Michael Kiessling does the menu planning and initial preparation for the St. Lawrence/Holy Family meals.

"This is one way I can volunteer my time to the community, for the lonely and needy amongst us," McMahon said. "It's an incredibly important social justice work to be doing with a wonderful tie-in to the parish."

He recalled one meal attended by four "clearly homeless" people. They thanked the volunteers for the meal and left with some leftovers.

"I can assure you of the need for these meals for the lonely or those on the streets," McMahon said. "They really need this meal."

Essex Eats Out provides a model that other communities could use to meet the needs of those in the community who are not only in need of food, but community connections, Knowles said.

For more information, go to www.essexeatsout.org.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer

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