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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.
 

Spirit of Holy Cross Award

Mary Flood has an attitude.
 
That’s what her pastor at Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Church in Bennington said before he awarded her a prestigious Spirit of Holy Cross Award Jan. 29.
 
“She has a can-do attitude, and she exemplifies The Beatitudes clearly,” Holy Cross Father Robert Wiseman explained.
 
The award is meant to acknowledge those who best represent the character of the Congregation of Holy Cross in its parishes, educational institutions and mission outreaches.
 
Of the 11 recipients from throughout the country, Flood was the only one recognized for her parish ministries.
 
The order serves in 27 parishes.
 
The awards were announced on the Solemnity of Our Lady of Sorrows in September and awarded in recipients’ local communities in January. At that time, they received a proclamation of gratitude signed by Holy Cross Father Thomas J. O'Hara, provincial superior, on behalf of the entire Congregation of Holy Cross, United States Province of Priests and Brothers.
 
The award is given annually to lay collaborators who faithfully serve the province in the United States and abroad. The Spirit of Holy Cross Award acknowledges the critical importance lay collaborators play in living out the vision and mission of Holy Cross founder Blessed Basil Moreau to make God known, loved and served through education, parish and mission settings.
 
Flood is the first member of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Parish to receive this award.
 
Other honorees include a couple who donated the new organ in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, which serves as the mother church of the Congregation of Holy Cross in the United States; the administrator at Moreau Seminary in Indiana, the major seminary for the congregation in the United States; the union steward for facility workers at Stonehill College in North Easton, Mass.; and a long-time associate of Andre House in Phoenix, Ariz.
 
Flood, 85, is chair of the Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales parish life committee, chair of the fundraising committee, chair of the art and environment committee, a member of the social concerns committee, a member of the worship and spirituality committee and an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.
 
Her relationship with the Holy Cross congregation dates to 1952. She and her husband, Tom, and six children lived in Montreal. There at Holy Cross Parish her activities included serving as president of the Catholic Women’s League and chair of fund raising.
 
The family moved to Bennington in 1982 and joined Sacred Heart Parish where she served as part-time parish secretary, coordinator of religious education and chair of the parish council.
 
“In 1995 St. Francis and Sacred Heart parish communities merged during a very
challenging time,” Father Wiseman said. “As religious education coordinator she was responsible to combine the two religious education program totaling 350 young people. Her excellent people skills made the task appear easy.”
 
In his letter nominating her for the Spirit of Holy Cross Award, he wrote, “Over the past 64 years she has worked with 32 Holy Cross priests and brothers. For that reason only she deserves an award.”
 
“I told him I am a no-fuss, no-muss girl. I don’t do awards. He ignored me,” Flood said with a smile and a twinkle in her eye.
 
Turning serious, she added, “I am very appreciative. I’m not a one-woman show. My volunteers help, and it is all done with love and joy.”
 
“She’s got a talent for recognizing other people’s talents,” said Gwen Hannan, a member of the parish life and art and environment committees.
 
“She brings everything to life,” said parish bookkeeper Jo-Anne Prouty. “She has an uplifting attitude.”
 
Flood described her own attitude as three-fold: one of strong faith, straightforward and with a good sense of humor.
 
But after the Sunday readings, which included The Beatitudes, it seemed Father Wiseman’s assessment of her attitude of exemplifying The Beatitudes clearly is most appropriate: Mary Flood has an attitude of Beatitudes.
 
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