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Remembrance Wall

Holy Cross Father Robert Wiseman knows that funerals are “a golden opportunity to do some ministry, and we don’t want to miss it.”
 
That’s why he has taken the suggestion of Rita Dee, a parishioner of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Church in Bennington where he is parish administrator, to establish a “Remembrance Wall” on which persons who have had a church funeral are being memorialized for a year.
 
St. John the Baptist Parish in North Bennington, where Father Wiseman is also administrator, has a similar Remembrance Wall.
 
The first black walnut cross was placed on a wall near the vigil lights at Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Church in December, and since then at least three more have been added to the space beneath a stained glass window of Jesus after His resurrection and next to a statue of St. Anthony of Padua.
 
The name and date of death of the person being remembered is engraved on a brass plate on the center of each four-by-six-inch cross made by parishioner John Fahey.
 
Family members of the deceased hang the cross on the wall at the end of the Mass of Christian Burial.
 
“It’s a way to connect to people with our faith,” Father Wiseman said. “Often we see people at a funeral and never see them again. This [Remembrance Wall] is a way to connect with people to come in and see their family member’s name on the wall.”
 
Dee brought the idea to Father Wiseman after experiencing a similar wall at Immaculate Conception Church in Glenville, New York, at her father’s funeral. “It was very consoling, taking the cross and putting it on the wall for everyone to see” and to keep her loved one in people’s memory, she said.
 
So far there have been only a handful of church funerals between the Bennington and North Bennington Catholic churches since the Remembrance Walls were begun, and Father Wiseman said reaction has been positive. “The crosses are beautiful, and the ritual of having the family put the cross on the wall is a plus too.”
 
The Remembrance Wall is a way for the parish to give honor to the person who has died, while the church funeral in general is a “chance for us to stop and look at what is important in life” and for people to console one another, Father Wiseman said. “It is an opportunity to embrace people who have lost a loved one and to let them know the Church is here to help them deal with the reality of death that has come into their life.”
 
Church “funerals are a chance to focus on your relationship with Christ and reignite people’s faith,” Dee added.
 
There were 23 church funerals at Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Church in the 2017 calendar year.
 
In is 40 years of priesthood, Father Wiseman has never before seen a Remembrance Wall, and he encourages people to look at the crosses on the walls: “They are a real, physical presence of people’s lives.”
 
Plans call for a remembrance book to be added to a shelf near the crosses, which will remain in the church until the first anniversary of the person’s death when the cross will be given to the family at a weekend Mass near the anniversary date.
 
 
  • Published in Parish

Totus Tuus 2017

Troy Norman, a seminarian for the Diocese of Burlington, is spending part of his summer break from his own studies -- teaching.
 
A team leader and teacher in the Totus Tuus program, he is, he said, “helping children give themselves to Jesus through Mary” and sharing his experience of the faith with them as a role model.
 
Two teams of two seminarians and two young women each are conducting five Totus Tuus programs for elementary and middle school students and a separate one for high schoolers.
 
In Bennington, 62 children participated along with about a dozen high schoolers.
 
Totus Tuus was St. John Paul II's apostolic motto. It is a Latin phrase meaning "totally yours" and expressed his personal consecration to Mary.
 
Totus Tuus is a Catholic youth program dedicated to sharing the Gospel and promoting the Catholic faith through catechesis, evangelization, Christian witness and Eucharistic worship. The goal of Totus Tuus is to help young people grow in their understanding of, and strengthen their faith in, Jesus Christ. The program strives to bring faith to life by creating a balance between knowledge of the meaning of the sacraments and an authentic sacramental life.
 
According to Holy Cross Father Robert Wiseman, administrator of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Parish in Bennington and St. John the Baptist Parish in North Bennington, the program provides a consistency in vacation religious education throughout the statewide Diocese.
 
Though some parishes have their own Vacation Bible School programs, Totus Tuus offers the same program with a strong catechetical basis throughout the Diocese with trained staff members.
 
Vermont is the only site in New England where it is currently offered.
 
Father Dwight Baker, director of the Catholic Center at the University of Vermont in Burlington and chaplain for Totus Tuus, said the program is a “great blend of learning and fun.”
 
Classes are geared to each grade level, and each year the theme is different mysteries of the rosary; this year it is the Joyful Mysteries. Participants also learn about salvation history.
 
“The young people [on the team] are on fire for their faith, and the children see they are living an authentic life in their faith,” Father Baker said. “They are people [the children] look up to.”
 
Participants in the Bennington Totus Tuus – one of the largest in the Diocese – came from Bennington, North Bennington, Manchester and Arlington and from North Adams and Williamstown, Mass.
 
Jessica O’Connell, one of the coordinators, sent her son, Ambrose, 5, to Tutus Tuus at the Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Parish Center. “It’s an opportunity for him to be with a group of his peers and be exposed to the older leaders who are encouraging him in his faith,” she said.
 
The other coordinator, Tammy Buckley, said she hoped the Totus Tuus experience would have an effect on the wider community too, bringing persons to Jesus through the words and actions of the participants. “It’s really all about love,” she said.
 
Father Wiseman said Totus Tuus also is an opportunity for him to meet parents “and engage is some pastoral ministry.”
 
In addition, he said it is good for parishioners to see youth activities in the parish; he planned to show a video of Totus Tuus during upcoming weekend Masses.
 
Kayla E. King, 14, a volunteer helper from Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Parish, said she helped the children “stay focused” on their lessons and have fun. “It’s important so they can grow in their faith,” she said.
 
Totus Tuus is funded in part by The Bishop’s Annual Appeal/the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.
 
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