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Statement of the Most Reverend Christopher J. Coyne on the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida

I didn’t watch the Evening News last night. I couldn’t. The news alerts during the day had already informed me that another mass shooting at another school had occurred early in the day in Parkland, Florida. As of this morning, 17 are dead, numerous others are wounded. I didn’t need to see this tragedy unfold one more time, in one more place, as one more instance of the “latest” of mass shootings. I’ve seen it before.
 
There is so much to grieve over here: grief for the victims and their families, grief for the students and staff who were terrorized and traumatized, grief for the awful burdens of the first responders, grief for another town, another place, that will never be the same. 
 
But to this litany of tears, I also add a particular grief over the phrase the “latest of mass shootings.”  We have passed the point where these horrific acts of domestic terror are unexpected. The shootings in Parkland are just one more incident, the “latest,” of what is no longer outside of the normal, but is the new normal. The mayor of Parkland, Fla., echoed this in her own words when she said in response to the shooting, “something like this can happen anywhere.” 
 
But it shouldn’t.
 
Yet it can and yes it will happen again until we, each of us, has the will to say, “This must stop. It is not normal. It is a cancer on our society that needs to be excised. This must stop."
 
We Catholics are a people of peace, a people of good news, a people of hope. But we are also a people of action. I ask each of my Catholic brothers and sisters to not only pray for the victims of the Parkland shooting and their families, but to pray for our country and to call or write or email our government leaders and say, “This must stop. What are you going to do about it?” I am.
 
  • Published in Diocesan

People of prayer, people of action

When Vermont Catholics are asked to assist persons who have been affected by natural disasters like hurricanes and flooding, they respond with generosity.
 
Recent collections for victims of Hurricane Harvey raised nearly $212,000; for those reeling in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Vermont Catholics donated more than 95,000.
 
Sandy relief efforts here in 2012 raised just under $15,000; Irene fundraising in 2011 was nearly $154,000, which stayed in hard-hit Vermont.
 
Nearly $400,000 was collected for victims of Hurricane Katrina over the course of one year from September 2005 to October 2006.
 
Earlier this year Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne requested all 73 parishes throughout the statewide Diocese take up a collection and respond generously to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Collections continued for natural disasters that followed. 
 
"Along with all of the other generous people of the state of Vermont, the Catholic community is ready to stand in solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters whose lives have been so devastated by these natural disasters. We are not just people of prayer. We are people of action,” he said.
 
All donations for humanitarian and recovery efforts were distributed by Catholic Charities USA to areas in greatest need.
 
About $7,500 was collected for this year’s relief efforts at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Williston and Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Richmond, where Father Daniel Jordan is pastor. “People were very generous, especially with the beginning of school” and related expenses at about the same time the collections were taken, he said. “It tends to be a fairly hard time for a lot of people.”
 
He was gratified that people gave as much as they could to help their neighbors in hard-hit areas. “This is neighbor helping neighbor beyond the borders of a parish or state. ... It is helping our brothers and sisters in Christ, all made in the image and likeness of God,” he said. “Our faith calls us to respond to all those in need. Even though we are a small diocese, the Vermont Catholic community is very generous.”
 
--Cori Fugere Urban
 
A Shining Beacon of Hope
A Prayer After a Hurricane
 
Mary, Star of the Sea,
We ask your intercession for our brothers and sisters,
who have weathered too many storms and
borne too many hardships.
Be near them in their time of trouble.
Comfort all whose homes have been washed away.
Console all who have lost loved ones.
Fill those who wait in fear and uncertainty with your peace.
We pray for a spirit of perseverance,
Especially for those who have emerged from the storm as
caretakers and victims;
Be a shining beacon of hope as they begin the journey of
recovery.
And stand us firm beside them in solidarity.
We ask this in the name of Jesus, your Son.
Amen.
--From Catholic Relief Services


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

Share the Journey

A prayer, a share on social media, a voice of support in a letter to the editor — supporting migrants can take many forms. Pope Francis hopes Catholics will act during the next two years to encounter people on the move.
 
Share the Journey is an initiative of Caritas Internationalis, the global network of Catholic charitable agencies.
 
It urges Catholics to grow in understanding of migrants who have fled poverty, hunger, violence, persecution and the effects of climate change in their homelands.
 
In the United States, the Church’s leading organizations have developed a series of activities that families, parishes, schools and individuals can undertake during the Share the Journey campaign the pope opened in September at the Vatican.
 
U.S. partners in the effort are the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and its Migration and Refugee Services, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA.
The effort will give Catholics the opportunity to learn and explore Catholic social teaching, said Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of U.S. operations for CRS.
 
“Catholic social teaching has clear messages of caring for strangers, the importance of hearing their stories and understanding their needs,” she said. Much of the effort will be focused on sharing stories about migrants, said Kristin Witte, coordinator of domestic Catholic educational engagement at CRS.
 
“The hope is that through the stories that are presented, the images presented, that people will be moved from their place of comfort to a place of encounter.
That’s what the Church is calling us to. That’s what the pope is calling us to,” she said.
 
There also is an advocacy component to Share the Journey, Rosenhauer said, giving U.S. Catholics the opportunity to take what they learn about migrants and approach federal policymakers to better allocate international assistance to address the factors that cause people to flee.
 
On the Share the Journey launch day, Sept. 27, 2017, Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne participated in the #ShareJourney social media campaign, posting a picture with arms outstretched in front of the Bishop Brady Center in South Burlington. The caption read: “Reaching out is the first step in loving neighbors fleeing war, persecution and poverty.”
 
Later, Elias Bakhash, from Aleppo, Syria, spoke to students at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington and to a group at the University of Vermont Catholic Center about his experience as a Syrian refugee.
 
Michael Hagan, coordinator of religious education and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington, encourages persons of all ages to read the stories on the Share the Journey website. “Remembering that these are people created in the image of God, not just names and faces on television, will help convert our hearts and spur us to prayer and action,” he said.
 
For more information and resources, visit sharejourney.org.
 
Cori Fugere Urban contributed to this story.
Originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine. 
 
  • Published in World

Christmas message from Bishop Coyne

Whatever your relationship with the Church may be, I invite you to consider how the moment of the Incarnation – God becoming man in Jesus Christ – has graced all of creation with the saving power of God. Throughout the course of the Church’s history, great saints and poets have authored heartfelt praise to the mystery of the Incarnation in which they tried to capture what it meant that God, the Supreme Creator of all that is, became one like us. Writing in the fourth century, St. Gregory Nazianzen came close to offering a perfect blend of the poetic and the theological when he wrote:
 
“The very Son of God, older than the ages, the invisible, the incomprehensible, the incorporeal, the beginning of beginning, the light of light, the fountain of life and immortality, the image of the archetype, the immovable seal, the perfect likeness, the definition and word of the Father: He it is who comes … to take to himself all that is human, except for sin. … He who makes rich is made poor; He takes on the poverty of my flesh, that I may gain the riches of His divinity. He who is full is made empty; He is emptied for a brief space of His glory, that I may share in His fullness.”
 
But, while St. Gregory’s words may transport us into the Mystery of the Divine Majesty of God made manifest, the greeting of the angels to the shepherds that we hear proclaimed in the Gospel of Luke lead us deeply into Christ’s humanity:

"Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: You will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."
 
In this Christmas celebration, we recall the mystery of Christ, true God and true man, and offer thanksgiving that “God so loved the world, that He gave us His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life.” Every time we celebrate the Mass we encounter the same Christ present among us in the Church gathered, in the Word proclaimed and in the Sacrament of the Eucharist — and what a Christmas gift that is!
 
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne’s statement on the death of Cardinal Law

"As a bishop of the Province of Boston, I join Cardinal Seán O’Malley and the Archdiocese of Boston in prayer upon the passing of Cardinal Bernard Law, and with them I entrust his soul to God’s unending mercy.
 
 “The world at large will rightly have much to say at Cardinal Law’s passing from this life. Like each of us, the measure of his days had its fair share of light and shadows. While I knew him to be a man of faith, a kind man and a good friend, I respect that some will feel otherwise, and so I especially ask them to join me in prayer and work for the healing and renewal of our Church.
 
“May Cardinal Law rest in peace. And in these days when, as Christians, we celebrate the Child who restored God’s goodness to our broken humanity, may we all recommit ourselves to making Christ’s Church a worthy, welcoming home for all, especially those most vulnerable and in need.” 
 
  • Published in Nation

Christmas Mass schedules

“Christmas is a special time of year for family and friends to gather together," says Bishop Christopher Coyne, tenth bishop of Burlington. "The Catholic Church invites you to join us to celebrate the birth of the new born King, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our doors are open to all seeking a greater relationship with God."

Below download a list of Mass times sorted by town and parish name throughout Vermont. If your local church is not listed, please contact the parish office.
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Year of the Family: The Joy of Love

Following a successful Year of Creation in the Diocese of Burlington, 2018 will be celebrated throughout the Catholic Church in Vermont as the Year of the Family with a particular focus on Pope Francis’ 256-page apostolic exhortation on the family, “Amoris Laetitia,” (“The Joy of Love”).
 
“Like last year’s Year of Creation, this Year of the Family offers us a year to ponder the Church’s teaching on the family and embrace it ourselves,” Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne said in announcing the special celebration.
 
Among the components of this special year will be a new diocesan Pre-Cana program, a World Marriage Day anniversary Mass, a Catholic men’s conference and diocesan women’s retreat, the annual Family Mass at St. Anne’s Shrine and other diocesan-wide and parish activities that are still developing.
 
“The purpose of the Year of the Family is to explore, reflect upon and implement the message of Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia,’” explained Stephanie Clary, manager of mission outreach and communication for the Diocese.

The 2017 year-long focus on “Laudato Si’” and 2018’s year-long focus on “Amoris Laetitia” aim to assist the faithful in understanding these global documents at the local level and supporting Vermont parishes with resources and ideas for furthering these Vatican messages in Vermont communities.
 
“While certain events during the Year on the Family will focus on specific family situations (for example, Pre-Cana prepares a man and woman to start a new family together as husband and wife, and the annual Family Mass at St. Anne’s Shrine brings together multi-generational families of many forms for a celebratory day of joy), the overall focus of the Year of the Family is the joy and love that are experienced by being attentive to the important relationships in our lives and serving as an example of that love — God’s love — for those we encounter,” she said.
 
“No matter into what model our families fit — or don’t fit — they can serve as examples of joy and love in the world if they strive to be domestic churches committed to God’s will.”
 
Pope Francis writes of how “the Lord’s presence dwells in real and concrete families, with all their daily troubles and struggles, joys and hopes” and “every family … can become a light in the darkness of the world.”
 
Emulating what Pope John Paul II did in writing “Familiaris Consortio” in 1994, Pope Francis seeks to highlight the challenges that families face today and proposes ways for the Church to proactively respond in a new way: “Nowadays, pastoral care for families has to be fundamentally missionary, going out to where people are,” commented Deacon Phil Lawson, executive director of evangelization, catechesis, divine worship, marriage and family and respect life.
 
The husband and father of six hopes his family exhibits love and joy. “The world needs more of both of these. As Pope Francis states in ‘Amoris Laetitia:’ The strength of the family ‘lies in its capacity to love and to teach how to love’ and later on he refers to a ‘joy-filled witness.’ If my family and all our families can be agents of love and joy, we will have served our Lord’s mission well in the world,” he said. Michael Hagan, coordinator of religious education and catechesis for the Diocese, emphasized that that the Church truly is a community. “It is easy to make the faith strictly personal and forget that we are deeply connected with the other members of the Church as members of the Body of Christ,” he said.
 
“If we want to help and support families within our Church that are going through hard times, we will first have to take seriously the truth that we are deeply, spiritually connected to them.” He noted that Pope John Paul II many times made the point that the future of humanity is closely linked to that of the family.
 
“The claim, then, is that the world depends on the success of the family,” Hagan said. But how could the family hold so much significance? “The family reflects the Trinitarian community of persons, the family is the community in which God chose to become man, the family is where we first experience love, share ideas, form relationships, and the family is where we hone our skills to enter into society at large,” he continued. As persons seek to do God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven,” it is clear that the family is a gift from God to be both celebrated and protected, he said.
 
“The Church needs families!” enthused Josh Perry, director of worship for the Diocese of Burlington. “In so much as families hold the presence of Christ, the Church — which we know to be the Body of Christ — is strengthened by the presence of families. Throughout the document, the Church is referred to as a ‘family of families.’ The Church needs you!”
 
At the same time, the Church recognizes the many difficulties families face today. For some, Christ’s presence in the family can seem completely absent. “The Church tirelessly works to strengthen and support families through its accompaniment in pastoral ministry and its celebration of the sacraments,” Perry emphasized.
 
In keeping with the themes of joy and mercy, Pope Francis wrote, “It is my hope that, in reading this text, all will feel called to love and cherish family life.”
 
Ways parishes and families can celebrate the Year of the Family:
• Offer special blessings at Mass to families, anniversary couples, children, engaged couples, pregnant women and those celebrating birthdays.
• Get “Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers” published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for special occasions at home.
• Gather the family and invite the parish priest to bless the home.
• Attend Mass as a family.
 • Pray together as a family.
• Sponsor a parish family fun day that begins with Mass or adoration.
• Pray the rosary on a family car trip.
• Share the faith on social media.
• Begin an intergenerational faith formation program.
• Invite persons who might otherwise be  alone to share a holiday meal or a Sunday  dinner with your family.
• Reach out to an estranged family member.
• Read “Amoris Laetitia” and discuss it  as a parish family.
 
Topics to explore during the Year of the Family:
• Reconciliation with a family member who has been hurtful
• How the loss of a family member affects family dynamics
• How to support a family member struggling with doubt about faith • Living in a model of family you never anticipated (single parent, widow, step family)
• The role of faith in your family
• How to help a broken family heal
• Nurturing good physical, emotional and spiritual health within your family

“The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church... the Christian proclamation on the family is good news indeed.”
— “Amoris Laetitia”

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

Warming shelter at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral

St. Joseph Co-Cathedral Parish in Burlington is believed to be the first parish in the Diocese of Burlington to make space available for an overnight warming shelter.
 
The parish is working with Spectrum Youth and Family Services in Burlington to provide space for 10 cots for homeless young persons from Nov. 6 until the end of March. The space in the parish hall is open from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. seven days a week.
 
“Each of us is committed to serving the homeless population during the cold Vermont winters, and I am hoping that our first year in partnership will help to save the lives of young adults who would otherwise find themselves in jeopardy,” said Father Lance Harlow, rector of the co-cathedral and Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception parishes.
 
According to Mark Redmond, Spectrum’s executive director, the agency had 25 beds available to this young population of homeless persons, but that became insufficient to meet the needs. “We had a wait list, which is terrible,” he said, because that meant some youth had no place to get shelter.
 
It was his idea to approach the Catholic Church for help, an idea he said Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne met with a “green light” and referral to Father Harlow.
 
The co-cathedral space is being used for 17- to 22-year-old homeless persons who can access dinners at other sites and then sleep at the co-cathedral hall. Snacks and a light morning breakfast are provided there, but shower and laundry facilities are accessed at a nearby drop-in center.
 
“The beauty of it is we’ve got everything nearby, except the beds. The parish hall [has] that,” Redmond said.
 
Two Spectrum staff members are on duty until 1 a.m. at the parish hall, and one staff member stays awake there from 1 to 8 a.m.
 
“Those overnight hours will have a minimum impact on the church's schedule, and if there is a conflict with evening Masses, Spectrum personnel will come in at a later time,” Father Harlow said.
 
“I am happy to be able to collaborate with Mark Redmond at Spectrum and his staff who are doing excellent work with this [young homeless] population,” Father Harlow said. “It is very much a cooperative ministry. The church has the space and Spectrum has the personnel.”
 
Asked what the collaboration says about the bishop, rector and co-cathedral parishioners, Redmond responded, “It says they’re awesome.”
 
Many of the young persons the shelter will serve have lived in poverty or numerous foster care homes. “Most have lived chaotic lives,” are behind in their education, lack job skills and have low self-esteem, Redmond said.
 
Spectrum offers a variety of programs to help them improve their lives.
 
“I see great potential in each one of them,” said Redmond, a parishioner of Holy Family/St. Lawrence Parish in Essex Junction.
 
“The Catholic Church is doing the right thing here,” he said. “It is in line with the corporal works of mercy” to shelter the homeless and feed the hungry.

This story was originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
  • Published in Parish
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