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Good Samaritans

The members of this group at The Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Morrisville could be called Good Samaritans, or even Good SAMs.
That’s because they do the work of the Social Action Ministry — known as SAM — and assist those in need, even outside the parish community.
“We all have Christ in our hearts, and when we help others … it’s really Christ working through us. We are His hands and feet,” commented Mary Elfer, parish ministries coordinator. “It’s Christ within us that connect us to one another.”
Throughout the Catholic Church in Vermont, parishioners are reaching out to their neighbors in need through social outreach programs like SAM.
“Their faith drives them to do it,” commented Deacon Tom Cooney, a member of the ministry.
In Lamoille County, SAM connects people in need with necessary services, helps to support a community breakfast, provides emergency financial assistance, distributes Thanksgiving baskets, provides hot meals in winter to residents of low-income senior housing, donates to two local food shelves and collaborates with the Morrisville Rotary on an annual coat giveaway (for which the ministry purchases a dozen new children’s coats).
Most recipients are not Catholic, Elfer said, noting that the ministry is a mission of the parish; parishioners generously donate to it. “It’s important to see Christ in each other and the suffering Christ in those who suffer and to align ourselves with Christ through that suffering.”
She mentioned one man who received three phone cards through SAM, gifts Elfer was told will give him a new lease on life.
“Our hearts are raised up in helping each other,” she said.
Ramona Audet, a member of the Social Action Ministry, commented, “It makes you feel so good when you help somebody. People are so thankful.”
Pam Kozikowski, a parishioner of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Williston, said that parish is involved in a variety of outreach work including a ministry to senior citizens, support of the local food shelf, a winter coat drive, participation in Operation Christmas Child, support of Kurn Hattin Homes for Children in Westminster, Christmas gifts for clients of Howard Center in Burlington and support of Joseph’s House in Burlington. “It’s important for the community to know that we care and that we’re there for them,” she said. “We try to reach out to people so they know [the parish] is a warm, safe place to go and if they have been away from the Church for a while this is where they want to come back to.”
The goal of these outreach ministries, Kozikowski said, is “to spread joy, love and warmth.”
Connie Cooney, a member of SAM, said persons engaged in such work are living out the Gospel. “Jesus told us to love one another, and when you love one another, you take care of one another. And this is what we do.”

Originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
  • Published in Parish

Every day is Earth Day at Bishop Marshall School

Earth Day 2017 will be observed throughout the world on April 22, but for the students, faculty and staff at The Bishop John A. Marshall School in Morrisville, every school day is Earth Day.
That’s because they have taken seriously their responsibility to care for the Earth and have, over the past couple of years, significantly increased their reduce, reuse and recycle efforts and added composting to their mix of care-of-the-Earth endeavors.
Two years ago Bishop Marshall School conducted its first trash audit. “We safely sorted and weighed the cafeteria and kitchen trash as well as trash from three classrooms, separating food scraps, trash, compost items and recyclables. As you can imagine, this task was not fun, but it was necessary,” commented Heather Gentle, food services director.
Only 1 percent of what was thrown away was recycled; nothing was composted.
“It was time for a new plan for the 2015-16 school year,” Gentle said. So with the help of the fifth-grade class, the school joined the Teens Reaching Youth Team through the 4-H Teen and Leadership Program and the Lamoille Regional Solid
Waste Management District.
Now all classrooms have compost and recycle bins and smaller trash baskets, and students are instructed in separating waste into compost, recycle and trash; older students help younger ones sort in the lunchroom.
The fourth and fifth graders take turns collecting the classroom compost bins and empty them into the main compost. They then rinse them and return them to classrooms.
Fifth grader Augustine Wright, 10, said it can be unpleasant to scrape food out of the compost bin with his gloved hand, but he does it “because I’m helping the environment.”
The school no longer provides straws because they are a single use item that remains in the landfill and no longer sells plastic water bottles, thanks to a donation of two water fountains that fill reusable water bottles. Cafeteria trays are disposable and compostable.
All of these efforts would not be successful without “the complete cooperation of teachers and students,” said Carrie Wilson, head of school for the 137-student prekindergarten through grade eight school.
No audit has been done this year, but she said the school is “in a position” to rent only one of its two dumpsters for trash. “I want to give the project two years to be sure we have sustainable results.”
She said the new ways of disposing of waste are easy to implement; it just takes “retraining your brain” to sort rather than dump everything in the rubbish. “We’re trying to instill [in students] that habit of mindfulness.”
“This is something we want to be part of to help the environment be healthier,” said Maddy Ziminsky, 13, a seventh grader. “Sometimes we teach our parents and can influence them to make good decisions” about composting and recycling.
As part of their religion and technology classes, seventh and eighth graders will be creating an Earth Day video to show what the school has done to promote care of the Earth and to serve as a guide for others. It will be available on the school website and at vermontcatholic.org.
“We are charged to be good stewards of the environment,” Wilson said. “We want to send our children into the world with a strong faith foundation to be good citizens and to take care of the world.”
Earth Day, celebrated in more than 193 countries, is observed annually on April 22 to demonstrate and promote environmental awareness and call for the protection of the Earth. 

This story was published originally in the spring issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
  • Published in Schools
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