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Modern-day Santa

St. Paul School in Barton gets $60,000 gift in honor of its 120th anniversary

A “modern-day Santa” made a stop at St. Paul School in Barton Dec. 14, but he didn’t deliver a big bag of toys to the 78 children in pre-kindergarten through grade eight.
Rather, he gave their school a big check: $60,000.
“I’ve been fortunate, and I give back to people who need it,” said developer and philanthropist Antonio Pomerleau after giving an oversized presentation check to St. Paul’s Principal Joanne Beloin and Father Timothy Naples, pastor of Most Holy Trinity Parish that includes St. Paul Church in Barton.
Pomerleau was like a “modern-day Santa,” Beloin said. He “exuded a love of children,” she added, gesturing to make a connection to a picture of a happy Jesus with children. “His roots are here, and he is very tenderhearted about what Catholic education means to his family.”
Pomerleau’s brother and sister attended St. Paul School; the family moved to Newport in 1927 where he attended the former Sacred Heart School.
Now a parishioner of Christ the King Church in Burlington, the 99-year-old businessman made his donation as part of the school’s celebration of its 120th anniversary.
Earlier this year, a campaign began to raise $120 from each of 120 donors, and when Pomerleau learned of the fundraiser – which accepts donations of all amounts -- he pledged to match what was raised.
As of mid December, St. Paul’s had received about 90 of the specific $120 gifts.
Funds raised from the anniversary campaign will be used for the school’s endowment, scholarships, facilities, an outside play space, general programs and technology upgrades.
“The school thrives because of all the gifts we receive in time, talent, money and prayers,” Father Naples said, noting that Pomerleau’s donation was “notably the largest.”
Because of his challenge, “more people have decided happily to donate gifts of varying amounts” from $1.50 to $20,000,” he noted, expressing gratitude for every contribution to the continuing campaign.
“I’m edified and happy to see this position [Pomerleau] has as a donor where he gives out of generosity and gratitude, and he is conscious as a Catholic of the Lord’s goodness which enables him to do that and other people to do the work that he contributes to,” Father Naples said. “He uses his riches to serve the Kingdom of God.”
During his 30-minute visit to the school, Pomerleau greeted students in the cafeteria, listened to a song they sang for him, presented the check and posed for photographs.
He told the children to be diligent and never give up. He was not from a wealthy family and had to work hard; now he is able to contribute to various charities so he does. “I’ve had a lot of success in my life and just passed it on. You can’t take it with you,” he said after the presentation.
Pomerleau was pleased with the school. “I had no idea Barton had a [Catholic] school half as good as that,” he enthused. He was impressed with the children’s polite behavior, the cleanliness of the school and the kind way the children are treated.
Beloin said enrollment is growing at the school, which has 78 students – up 10 from last year. The next graduating class – with 15 members – will be the largest in recent history.
Teachers have a combined total of 250 years of teaching experience; she described them as knowledgeable, experienced, wise and loving. “They want to be here,” she said. “Great things are happening here.”
The principal – who acknowledged all the contributions the parish makes to the school -- hopes the momentum the 120th anniversary campaign has created will continue to ensure quality education in this rural area of Vermont.
Donations can be sent to St. Paul School, 54 Eastern Ave, Barton, VT 05822.
  • Published in Schools

Pastors recognize, appreciate, all who 'build up the Church' via lay ministries

Years ago there were six priests serving Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Putney and its West River Missions – geographically one of the largest parishes in the Diocese of Burlington. Today, Edmundite Father Fred McLachlan is the sole priest there. "I couldn't do it alone," he said, referring to the lay people involved in parish ministries.

Lay ministry is essential to the Church, especially with the shortage of priests. "Many, many lay people are involved in various ministries, and that enables me to do more of the priestly work. So together, the parish works," Father McLachlan said.

The situation is virtually the same in every Vermont parish: Lay people work in their parish – and beyond by visiting the sick and imprisoned, teaching, ministering to youth and assist with administrative tasks – to allow their priest to focus on his sacramental, liturgical and counseling work.

Their involvement is not solely a response to needs; it is part of their baptismal call.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "Lay Christians are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, they have the right and duty, individually or grouped in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth."

It also states that for lay people, evangelization "acquires a specific property and peculiar efficacy because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world."

Explained Father Timothy Naples, pastor of Most Holy Trinity Parish in Barton, Orleans and Irasburg: "We need more of (lay ministry) because not only are there things that lay people can do which don't require an ordained priest . . . there are may forms of community outreach and parish building that lay people can be more effective in than the priests. They have more freedom and opportunity to build personal relationships . . . and can have more quality time" with people.

The laity, the catechism states, can be called to cooperate with their pastors in the service of the ecclesial community "for the sake of its growth and life." This can be done through different ministries according to the grace and charisms that God has given them.

Daniel Daigler of Our Lady of Mercy Church in Putney is an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and brings the Blessed Sacrament to parishioners who are sick, in nursing homes or at home but unable to attend Mass. A former Cursillo lay director, he said it is his responsibility as a Catholic to "assist people in our community and help bring Christ into their lives."

He also is motivated by the fact that extraordinary ministers of holy Communion regularly bring the sacrament to his 88-year-old mother in New York, and his service is a way to show his appreciation to them.

"With the clergy shortage so severe, there is an awfully large load on our priests," he said. "They have to do the administrative part and also administer the sacraments," often – as in the case with his pastor – for the people of more than one church.

Priests' time is needed for sacramental ministry, and in many areas – like the Northeast Kingdom – that ministry is increasing as the geographic area for which the priest is responsible is increasing, thus making it more necessary for lay persons to do more non-sacramental ministry such as visiting the sick and imprisoned, overseeing emergency assistance, running soup kitchens and doing charitable works.

Robert Biegen of St. Peter Church in Vergennes is involved in prison ministry, a leader of a weekly Bible study/prayer group, a member of the Knights of Columbus, an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and involved in pro-life ministry. "We are all part of a royal priesthood, and that includes the lay people," he said. "It's important we have ordained priests, but it's very, very important that the lay people get involved and exercise their faith," he said. "If I don't exercise my faith, is my faith really alive?"

Father Yvon Royer, pastor of St. Peter Church in Vergennes and St. Ambrose Church in Bristol, believes the Holy Spirit is working in the parish, and the lay people multiply it.

"They feel the call as well and take real leadership in the parish" in areas like pro-life ministries, prayer group and Cursillo. "They see their role as putting God's call into action to evangelize and show God's love for life," he said, emphasizing the importance of prayer: "We are called to pray, and they take that call very seriously. It helps them focus and do God's will not their own will."

Father Michael Augustinowitz is pastor of St. Augustine Church in Montpelier and North American Martyrs Church in Marshfield. Without laypersons involved in the various ministries of the parish, "most things wouldn't get done," he said. "For me to do all those things? They would never happen."

The lay people and deacons of the parish allow him to focus on the sacramental ministry and to offer counseling. "I can actually be a priest and concentrate on what I was ordained for: preaching, teaching and celebrating the sacraments."

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer

EDITOR'S NOTE: Bishop Christopher Coyne will conduct a Holy Year of Mercy Vesper Service on Jan. 17 at St. Joseph Co- Cathedral at 3 p.m., recognizing the essential role of Lay Ministry in every parish throughout the Diocese of Burlington.


Father Naples' blog engages, evangelizes

The Diocese of Burlington has a bishop who is known as "the blogging bishop," and Most Holy Trinity Parish in Barton, Orleans and Irasburg has its own blogging pastor.

Father Timothy Naples likes to write – especially about Scripture – and he has another outlet for his words: his blog.

"I write," he said simply, explaining his desire to blog.

Located on Blogspot, the blog includes the pastor's Holy Thursday homily, 10 reasons to have a marriage blessed by the Catholic Church and a 9,300-word post about Jesus' parables that he had published also as a booklet. "The tradition of the Church is we have the Scriptures which are divinely inspired, and the Church's job is to interpret them, and the job of the priest is to explain them to the people," Father Naples said.

A self-described "slight introvert," he said he is more at ease speaking publically after thinking and writing about his topic.

So although blogging helps him articulate his thoughts, the blog is more in depth for readers "than the sound bite community you have on most social media," said the priest, who also has a Facebook page.

Father Naples does not blog regularly, but he uses that space to place something with a theological or spiritual interest "when I don't want it to get lost in Facebook archives," he said. "Facebook and Twitter are short posts. The blog allows more substantive pieces and archives in a way that is easy to access for anyone on the Internet."

In a broad sense, blogs can be tools for evangelization, he said: "In contrast to other social media, they have more of a potential for interpersonal connection and getting to know the blogger and readers of the blog through writing. It's much closer to being pen pals than texting or exchanging tweets."

But he laments that as the youngest pastor in Vermont – and one who knows how to blog – he has few young people locally with whom to communicate via the blog. "I want to keep working with it and slowly develop in my ability to connect others with the Gospel through it," he said.

Father Naples hopes to expand his blog to continue to teach Scripture and the devotional life of the faith.

As he sat at the dining room table of the St. Paul rectory in Barton, Father Naples – wearing a green vest from Mount St. Joseph Academy (in Rutland where he once taught) – posed a question for himself: What can I do as a priest to encourage a better understanding of this particular [blog] media for evangelization and spirituality for the Catholic community in Vermont?

His answer: Try to build readership of his blog among the young people he meets; use it to reach those he cannot reach in person who might be inclined to make an online connection with a Catholic writer; and retain the catechetical aspect of his writing.

"One of the most important things I can do is explain the faith for the readers so that if they are not practicing Catholics something might open them up to the faith more," he said. "And if they are practicing Catholics, I help equip them to fulfill their vocation in the world, which is what a priest is to do."

To read Father Naples' blog, go to trinityparishinbarton.blogspot.com.

Article and photos by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.

  • Published in Parish

Mystery list found in Orleans tabernacle

When Father Timothy Naples sent the tabernacle from St. Theresa Church in Orleans to be refurbished, he was surprised to learn a list of names had been tucked inside its lining. He thought they were the names of people who had given the tabernacle to the church in 1952.

They weren't; he had come upon a mystery.

Upon further research, he learned that it was, in fact, a list of people who had contributed to the 1952 renovation of a Massachusetts convent and its chapel before the Second Vatican Council had even convened.

He learned that the cylindrical tabernacle with a medallion of the Blessed Trinity had been in the convent of the Sisters of St. Anne in Turners Falls, Mass., which closed in 1968.

"It's such a happy surprise to learn this sacred item still finds use for our Catholic neighbors in Vermont. No doubt, many good Sisters of St. Anne spent hours in prayer before this tabernacle; hopefully this worshipping community will remember them in their prayers," said Mark E. Dupont, secretary for communications for the Diocese of Springfield, Mass., which includes Turners Falls. Unlike today when there are strict guidelines for dispersing furnishings, many years ago there were not measures in place to keep track of these sacred items, which would sometimes disappear and be lost forever. "So it's consoling to know this tabernacle found a proper and fitting home," he said.

Now fully restored and back at "home" in Orleans, the tabernacle was the centerpiece of a May 22–Feast of the Most Holy Trinity–evening prayer service at which Father Naples, pastor, reinstalled the refurbished tabernacle in the center of the back wall of the sanctuary beneath a crucifix.

He explained the symbol on the front of the tabernacle: the three interlocking circles represent the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the three eternal persons of one true God.

Among those in attendance was Louise Boucher Croll of Longmeadow, Mass., whose father, maternal grandparents, maternal great grandmother and other relatives had contributed to the renovation of the Turners Falls convent and thus named on the list.

"It was an opportune moment for God to speak to me about faith," she said. "We pray for increased faith. This [experience] transcended time. It was like I could touch the faith of my forebears."

Many of Croll's French-Canadian forebears were listed–including a grand aunt who was stationed at the convent when it closed–but when Croll realized her Irish great grandmother was listed among them, she was astounded. "She had contributed, and she was a widow and didn't have much money and no connection to the Sisters of St. Anne," she said. "The whole message for me was about faith. It spoke to me about all of their Catholic faith. Their faith was very palpable to me."

The placement of the names in the tabernacle may have been an imitation of what St. John Vianney did in France. In 1814 he had erected a large statue of Mary Immaculate on the pediment of his church. He had a vermeil heart made and suspended from the neck of the miraculous Virgin. In it he placed the names of all the parishioners of Ars, written on a white silk ribbon.

Asked why the names were placed in the tabernacle at St. Anne's Convent, Sister of St. Anne Paulette Gardner, director of communications for the religious order, replied, "That seems to be the $64,000 question, question, and I have yet to find anyone who ever experienced the placement of names in the tabernacle."

Research and numerous interviews for this story failed to turn up a solid explanation.

According to Sister Agnes Marie Hanks, archivist for the Sisters of St. Anne in Marlborough, Mass., placing names of benefactors in a tabernacle is "not a generalized custom with us."

It seems that the names of those who restored the Turners Falls convent were put into the tabernacle lining in 1952 as a way of dedicating them and their generosity to the Lord, Father Naples surmised.

St. Anne's School opened in 1896; the sisters lived in the school building for a few years before the purchase of a nearby building for a convent. "On the first morning at the new convent, the sisters had to return to the school to get what was needed for breakfast as those items had been left behind in the moving," Sister Hanks remarked. 

She said the tabernacle would not have been in the school unless there were a chapel there, but there is no documentation there was.

So the tabernacle has been traced back to the convent.

A 1952 newspaper clipping about the convent renovation includes a photo of the tabernacle beneath a cross in the center of the altar; lilies were placed on either side of it.

After the convent closed, its furnishings–including the tabernacle–were dispersed. In the 1980s Father Albert Baltz, then pastor of St. Theresa Church, traded that church's tabernacle with a Massachusetts-born priest who had acquired the convent tabernacle.

For the last three years Father Naples had suggested to the parish council that the tabernacle should be refurbished. "It was apparent up close that most of the old finish had worn off. But it didn't look that bad from a distance," he said.

When the church was vandalized in December, the tabernacle was not damaged but was flipped upside down onto the main altar. Father Naples removed it and the Blessed Sacrament from the church when the building was cleaned, but once it was ready for use again, he decided to substitute another tabernacle and have the other refurbished.

A tabernacle of similar size had been in the St. Paul's School chapel, so he used that one, placing a smaller one that he had on hand into the school chapel.

It cost $2,400 to refinish the "St. Anne's" tabernacle, to replace all the interior linings and to fix minor dents; the Trinity Parish Ladies Guild covered the cost.

Chris Poginy, a native of St. Theresa Parish and Most Holy Trinity Parish member, cried when he went into the church after the vandalism. "It was pretty upsetting, but now everything is back to normal," he said.

"It feels like there is some closure" after the vandalism, said Kristin Poginy of Most Holy Trinity Parish.

Pauline Sanville of Most Holy Trinity Parish said the story of the tabernacle's refurbishing did not begin well because of the vandalism, "but it ended up we are blessed; that's the Lord's way."

Parishioner Marielle Bonin said St. Theresa's would not be a church without the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, kept in the tabernacle. "Every parish has a nice tabernacle," but she was interested to hear the provenance of the one at her church.

She had not recognized any of the names on the list of benefactors when she first saw it, so she was pleased to know how it got to her church.

The original list of names was replaced in the tabernacle when it was refurbished; Father Naples made copies of it available at the prayer service.

Paul Bathalon of St. Thomas Church in Underhill Center, made a drawing of the Holy Trinity symbol on the front of the tabernacle, and Father Naples is using it as a logo for the parish: Most Holy Trinity, which includes St. Theresa Church as well as St. Paul Church in Barton and St. John Vianney Church in Irasburg.

As he reflected on the mysteries presented when the tabernacle at St. Theresa's was refurbished, Father Naples said, "It honestly makes me long to spread Eucharistic devotion."

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

  • Published in Parish
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