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Catholic Schools Care for Creation

In response to Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne's call for a Year of Creation focused on Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home," Catholic schools in Vermont immediately sprang to action planning a statewide day of creation education, action and prayer. On April 12, each Catholic school participated in Catholic Schools Care for Creation Day. Initiatives included immediate tasks and long-term projects.
 
Responding to the call to care for creation is part of the Catholic schools’ mission “to instill faith values in students and to create a desire to make a positive difference in the world.” Some schools began the day of service with Mass or another form of prayer. Others read and reflected upon quotes from “Laudato Si’” throughout the day. It was important for students to understand that this day wasn’t just in service to the world, but to their neighbors and to God as well.
 
“Care for creation is a matter of social justice because the ones who are most affected by pollution and climate change are the poor of the world,” Bishop Coyne said. “I hope many Catholics will take advantage of the opportunities being offered throughout the diocese to celebrate this Year of Creation.”
 
Vermont Catholic schools emphatically embraced the opportunity to spend some extra time beholding God’s creation and ensuring that it remains bountiful for generations to come.
 
Read about each school’s Care for Creation Day projects below. For more about the Year of Creation: vermontcatholic.org/yearofcreation.
 
Students at St. Monica-St. Michael School in Barre learned about reusing and recycling materials with an eco-fashion show, where students designed and modeled clothing creations made from materials found in recycle bins. As part of an ongoing project, students planted seeds in recyclable containers that will later be transferred to the school garden. Once in the earth, the seedlings will grow into food that sustains bodies. Students and their families share in the cultivation, growth, harvest and consumption.
 
Students at The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales in Bennington used old newspapers to create biodegradable flower vases. The potted plants will be gifted to elderly individuals in the area and can be placed directly into the ground.
 
Everyone who attends St. Michael School in Brattleboro was encouraged to use sustainable transportation on April 12. Many walked, biked or carpooled to school. Members of the school community worked together on waste reduction strategies that could be implemented, with specific grades focusing on recycling and compost efficiency. Other grades focused on area beautification with litter pick-up and gardening. Others created an awareness and education bulletin board for visitors and as a reminder for everyone at the school.
 
Each classroom at The Bishop John A. Marshall School in Morrisville has prominent recycle and compost bins with a smaller trash bin alongside them. The school no longer provides single-use plastic straws or water bottles. There are water-bottle filling stations for reusable water bottles. Lunch trays are biodegradable. All of this is part of the school’s ongoing sustainability efforts.
 
Students at Christ the King School in Rutland led a prayer service designed to help people understand how they can contribute to ecological justice. Throughout the year, students will work with Marble Valley Grows to plant a garden and participate in tastings to promote the Farm to School programs. They will also learn about and begin a composting program for the lunch room.
 
Students at Christ the King School in Burlington and Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland spent their mornings cleaning up local parks and beautifying creation for area residents to enjoy.
 
Good Shepherd Catholic School in St. Johnsbury recently received a grant that allows them to begin construction on an outdoor nature classroom. After “greening up” the local area on April 12, students and staff gathered in the gym to plant seeds. Later in the spring, flower seedlings will be donated to the local eldercare home and vegetable seedlings to the community garden. Some of each will be reserved to plant in the outdoor nature classroom upon its completion.
 
Students at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington helped to return the local ecosystem to balance by removing invasive species from a trail on school grounds and cultivating the land for new growth. Money collected from a dress-down day on the April 12 was donated to Pure Water for the World, a Rutland-based non-profit dedicated to sustainable, safe water solutions.
 
At St. Francis Xavier School in Winooski, students learned about the impact of separating food waste and began implementing a compost program in their cafeteria and classrooms.
 

Reduce, reuse, recycle, compost

Nineteen kindergarten and first-grade students from St. Michael’s School in Brattleboro donned green construction hats as they learned a lesson in the three R’s – not reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmatic – but reducing, reusing and recycling.
 
During an April 12 visit to the Windham Solid Waste Management District in Brattleboro they saw how recycled materials are sorted and bundled for sale and how compost is made.
 
It was part of the school’s observance of the Diocese of Burlington’s Year of Creation, and the children understood the importance of caring for what Pope Francis calls “our common home,” the Earth.
 
“Not reducing, reusing and recycling is bad for the Earth,” said Jackson Ferreira, 7, a first grader.
 
“The Earth is our home, and we should respect it because God gave it to us,” added classmate Kalyn Curtiss, 7.
 
Before taking a tour of the facility, the children and their chaperones listened to a presentation by Kristen Benoit, program coordinator for the management district. “Everyone makes trash, but we can make the trash smaller by making smarter decisions,” she said.
 
Reducing consumption, reusing items, recycling recyclables and composting food waste and other compostables are all smarter decisions.
 
Benoit said every Vermonter produces about four and a half pounds of trash a day; that equals 1,640 soccer balls per year per person. “Our job here is to help make it less,” she commented.
 
Seventy-five percent of all trash is recyclable; recycling 2,000 pounds of paper saves 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water and 380 barrels of oil, she noted.
 
Paper, for example, can be recycled to make tissue paper, bathroom tissue and egg cartons. Soda cans can be recycled to make more soda cans, and milk jugs can be turned into carpet backing.
 
As for compost, Benoit said 30 percent of household trash is generally food and yard waste – items that could be composted “to make really good dirt for your plants.”
 
Putting food into landfills is not only unnecessary, it creates harmful methane gas.
 
Liz Martin, the kindergarten and first-grade teacher at St. Michael’s School, said during Lent the children made a special “sacrifice” to take better care of the Earth God has given them. “We’re going to try to do that for the entire year, not just Lent,” she added.
 

'Fashion Show of Ga-Baaa-Ge'

Twelve-year-old Danny Kiniry had a wardrobe malfunction before the St. Monica-St. Michael School “Fashion Show of Ga-Baaa-Ge,” an event that was supposed to sound fancy even though models were wearing outfits created from recycled materials.
 
The sixth grader’s stovepipe hat lost its bubble-wrap top, but he made do with the microwave dinner dish and recycled paper bottom that sufficed for a fedora. The hat complemented his bubble wrap suit jacket with straw fasteners, recycled construction paper satchel and yogurt-cup headphones.
 
He showed off the outfit as he walked down the “runway” lined with white plastic gallon jug “lights” and green sparkle toile cloth.
 
Classmates Cole Young and Alex Keane, both 12, helped created the recycled fashion statement.
 
“This was fun. You get to show off all the stuff you made,” Danny said.
 
But it was more than fun.
 
The fashion show was part of the Barre Catholic school’s celebration of the Year of Creation in the Diocese of Burlington.
 
“This is a way to show we care for the Earth,” said Mariah, 12, a seventh grader who declined to give her last name. She modeled a prom dress made of newspaper fans by her friend, Autumn Lewis, 13, another seventh grader.
 
“It came out pretty good,” Mariah said. “It was cool to watch her work on it. She’s very artistic.”
 
Autumn too reflected on the meaning of the fashion show highlighting creations made of recycled goods: “God wants us to take care of everything He created.”
 
Added Mariah, “The Earth a gift to us so we have to take care of it.”
 
Spanish teacher Edda Concessi coordinated the event for the students in preschool through grade eight. “Pope Francis asks, ‘What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?’ His answer? ‘It’s up to us.’”
 
She said at St. Monica-St. Michael School caring for the environment is a moral obligation and therefore part of the children’s education.
 
All of the children participated in the fashion show either by modeling fashions made of recyclables, designing the fashions or describing the fashions to the audience of students and family members in the school gym.
 
The fashion show included children wearing hats made of coffee filters and fruit cups and dresses and skirts made of newspapers and bedecked as princesses, pirates, knights, superheroes, a rapper and animals.
 
Other materials included cardboard, plastic grocery bags, bottle caps, fabric, old jeans and paper towel rolls.
 
St. Monica-St. Michael Principal Brenda Buzzell said the fashion show project was a way to show children how to look at what they discard in a different way. “We’re not just telling them to reuse, they are experiencing reuse.”
 
And in the Year of Creation, that is a particularly important lesson. “It’s really our job to leave the Earth better than we found it,” she said. “God gave us the Earth, and by taking care of it and making it better, we are honoring Him. It’s all about taking care of our gifts from God.”
 
 
 
 
 
 

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.
 

Pour Le Merite awards

The principal of Mount St. Joseph Academy and the interim president of The College of St. Joseph – both in Rutland – were honored with “Pour Le Merite” awards during the college’s Founders’ Day Award Ceremony March 29.
 
MSJ’s Sarah Fortier and CSJ’s Lawrence Jensen were recognized for their outstanding care, support and leadership in the community.
 
“This is a huge honor,” said Fortier, a graduate of both schools and of Christ the King elementary school in Rutland, who considers it her vocation to be a Catholic high school principal in the Diocese of Burlington. “Our students and staff truly care about the community and know and practice Christ’s teachings,” she said in remarks at the award ceremony. “I thank God every day for calling me to be the principal at MSJ.”
 
Fortier was named principal in 2014; she had served as dean of students and as a history instructor.
 
Fortier is an active member of the Rutland community, serving as advisor for Project Help, a Christmas project at MSJ, which provides dinner and presents for 100 local families in need. She has participated in several walks and runs, including the Walk for Alzheimer’s, the Walk to Prevent Child Abuse and others in honor of her son, Jack.
 
Fortier earned a master of education degree from The College of St. Joseph and a bachelor’s degree from Quinnipiac University.
 
Jensen said it is a “privilege and pleasure” to be interim president of the college, and he reaffirmed his commitment to the values of the Sisters of St. Joseph who founded both the college and MSJ: hospitality, love of neighbor without distinction, reconciliation and unity of all people with God, one another and all creation.
 
“Pour Le Merite” is French for “one who is deserving.”
 
The Sisters of St. Joseph were founded in France.
 
During the ceremony, Rutland Mayor David Allaire read a proclamation from the City of Rutland making March 27-31 College of St. Joseph Recognition Week in Rutland.
 
“This is a time of celebration and solemn remembrance of those who have given so much in the past” to bring the college to where it is today, Jensen said of the event.
 
He has dedicated years to The College of St. Joseph as both a member and chair of the Board of Trustees before becoming interim president in 2016.

A retired healthcare executive and well known community leader, Jensen has chaired and served on several boards in the Rutland region including the James Bowse Health Trust and the Rutland City Police Commission, Vermont Public Radio, Killington Music Festival, Rutland Mental Health and Rutland Regional Medical Center.
 
During his career, he served as vice president for corporate development and Rutland Health Foundation major gifts officer at Rutland Regional Medical Center. He was also vice president and controller for Killington Resort.
 
Jensen holds a master of business administration degree from The University of Vermont and a bachelor’s degree from The State University of New York at Geneseo.
 
Another award given at the ceremony, the Mother Teresa Student Award, went to David Wallant, a junior from East Bridgewater, Mass.

 

Ukulele lessons

Uke-otta hear this: Children at The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales in Bennington learning to play ukuleles.
 
Free ukes.
 
Thanks to a win in a contest sponsored by Kala, a popular brand of ukuleles, the school got 45 of the instruments at no cost at the beginning of the current school year.
 
The ukulele, sometimes abbreviated to uke, is a member of the lute family of string instruments.
 
“I enjoy the ukulele; it makes a beautiful sound,” fourth grader Isabella Thurber, 9, said after a March music class during which the students worked on their ukulele skills.
 
March is Music in Schools Month.
 
“Whenever you can put an instrument in the hands of a child, it’s exciting,” enthused Principal David Estes.
 
Ken Pallman, father of fourth grader Kaelene, is a drummer who took up the uke about three years ago; he likes it so much he has 17 in his collection – including two Kalas. “It’s more fun than the recorder,” a common musical instrument for entry-level school band members, he said. “It sounds like a happy instrument. You can’t be sad and play a uke. It’s a blast.”
 
He entered a Facebook contest and encouraged others to participate, and the result was a prize of 45 ukes for the Catholic school.
 
Students in grades four and five are learning to play the ukulele during their weekly 45-minute music classes, and this is the first time the school has provided instruments. (Third graders learn to play the recorder, and like students who play in a school band, their families must provide their instruments.)
 
“We’ve never done the ukulele; we’ve done the recorder. Ukuleles are more fun,” said Ryan Maroney, 10, a fourth grader.
 
Classmate Vincent Mattison, 10, called out his enthusiasm for “Hey, Ho! Shalom” when his music teacher, Stephanie Paul, asked students to play it. “It’s slow, and you don’t have to change chords,” he said.
 
He likes the instrument because, he said, “once you learn it, you can play the guitar.”
 
The ukulele has four strings; the guitar six or 12.
 
Kaelene Pallman, 10, already is learning to play the guitar, which she said helps her with the uke. “This is easier because I know how to do the fingering” of the chords, she said.
 
Ken Pallman, inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame as a drummer in 2014, said there has been a “huge upswing” in interest in ukuleles over the past half dozen years. “I think it’s because it is an instrument anybody can pick up and at least noodle on and get somewhat proficient,” he said, adding that ukulele groups are forming throughout the country.
 
There is even one in Bennington that people of all ages attend.
 
The instrument is popular, Paul said, because it is easily grasped. “You can start to feel you’ve mastered the ukulele pretty easily, and it’s a lifetime instrument you can play.”
 
Taking ukulele lessons at school gives Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales students “an opportunity if they are not so inclined to do something musical,” Pallman said. “Music is a wonderful thing.”
 
He said students who learn to read music increase their math proficiency because musical notes are based on math.
 
“You have to know your numbers” to learn music, said fourth grader Zoey Zazzaro, 10. “You have to get your timing right.”
 
When Paul was a child she had difficulty with long division, and in the fifth grade began playing the saxophone. Within a year and a half she was in advanced math class. “It’s getting that part of the brain turned on” that affects both music and math skills, she said.
 
She called it a “blessing” to give the children the hands-on experience of the ukulele. “They can see their progress and hopefully use this experience to be confident as they try out other instruments in their lives.”
 
Some of the ukulele players will accompany the school chorus during a performance of “Over the Rainbow” in the spring concert.
 

Students research water quality

Sarah Eustis and Katie Garret, students at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, are doing research to determine the health of two local streams and their impact on Lake Champlain.
 
It is more than research; it’s a way for them to put their faith in action.
 
“God created us as the caretakers of the rest of creation, so it’s our duty to protect the environment and protect other species,” Katie said.
 
The Research on Adaptation to Climate Change program in which they are participating is funded by the National Science Foundation through The Vermont Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, a program designed to fulfill the foundation’s mandate to promote scientific progress nationwide and to get students involved in research.
 
Rice has participated in the program for eight of its nine years.
 
Sarah and Katie began the project in June. It entails collecting water samples from Potash Brook and Bartlett Brook in South Burlington and sending them to St. Michael’s College for analysis regarding levels of phosphorous, suspended sediments and nitrogen. This helps determine the health of Lake Champlain, into which both streams flow.
 
The teens also collected insects from the bottom of the streams, as they are indicators of the quality of the water.
 
“Both streams are urban-impacted so we expect to find bugs that are tolerant of pollution,” said Sharon Boardman, a Rice science teacher who is working with the students on the project.
 
A third component of the students’ project is an experiment: Sarah and Katie made leaf packs – one with faux foliage, one with maple leaves and one with witch hazel leaves – to collect bugs to see if they have feeding preferences. They were analyzing those packs in January in the school lab.
 
The two students are scheduled to make a presentation at a symposium with other Vermont Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research participants in March.
 
“My main motivation is to get kids involved in doing field research…like they would do in college studying biology or ecology,” Boardman said. “Also, this gives them a chance to do original research.”
 
Sarah is considering studying environmental science in college; Katie might pursue a degree in classics.
 
Sarah sees that the project she and Katie have undertaken is contributing to care of the Earth. “We are learning that when the environment is not good we can come up with ways to fix it” like ensuring there is no construction close to the edge of streams to prevent erosion and the addition of sediment to the stream, she said.
 
Both students studied Advance Placement Biology with Boardman as juniors and are enjoying the stream project, which is an independent project and garners them no school credit.
 
The project included a week-long training last summer at St. Michael’s College in Colchester.
 
“It’s important to think of the long-term health of the environment in Vermont,” Katie said. “Polluted streams will end up killing off wildlife.”
 
Boardman wants to instill in her students the attitude of caring for the Earth that Pope Francis espouses in “Laudato Si’,” his encyclical on the topic. “We’re called to be stewards of the Earth, and by studying ecology and understanding how ecosystems work, students become better stewards of their planet.”


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Originally published in the 2017 spring issue of Vermont Catholic Magazine.
 

Good Shepherd basketball coach's success

Two hundred wins as The Good Shepherd Catholic School boys’ middle school basketball coach: It’s a milestone Daniel Hughes deserved to reach, said Dimitri Fischer, a seventh grader on his team. “He’s giving up his time to help the team,” he elaborated. “It shows Good Shepherd is a small school but we can win.”
 
And under the guidance of Hughes – in his 11th year coaching at the St. Johnsbury Catholic school team – Good Shepherd had logged 203 wins and only 62 losses as of Feb. 27.
 
The coach’s 200th win came Feb. 1 with a win over Concord School, 48-30.
 
Player Colby Garey-Wright had told the coach the night before the milestone game that it would be a special day: Colby’s birthday and the coach’s 200th win. The seventh grader celebrated his birthday sinking 25 points into the winning effort.
 
Before each game Hughes and his players pray the Hail Mary. “We pray…so nobody gets hurt and we play a good game,” Colby said. “It’s special. The whole team does it.”
 
There are 10 members of the seventh- and eighth-grade team this season; they play local middle school teams in the northern Vermont and New Hampshire area as well as St. Francis Xavier School in Winooski.
 
“Before every game we say the Hail Mary enthusiastically as a team,” Hughes said. “We pray to play the best we can. … I don’t think they’d feel comfortable taking the court without saying the Hail Mary first.”
 
Principal Lynn Cartularo called Hughes “a great example of faith.” The school has an all-female faculty and staff, so he is a good male role model. He shows his players the importance of prayer, and “they know God is their guide,” she said.
 
Hughes, a parishioner of Corpus Christi Parish who attends St. John the Evangelist Church in St. Johnsbury, served on the parish council there. He is president/owner of Celtic Marketing Food Brokers, located across the street from the church.
 
He and his wife, Mary, a teacher at Good Shepherd School and the boys’ basketball team scorebook keeper, have three children and one grandchild.
 
Hughes played basketball in junior and senior high school in Peru, N.Y., but at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., played rugby while earning a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing. He graduated in 1979.
 
When his son, Brendan, was a sixth grader at Good Shepherd Catholic School, he volunteered his father to help with the basketball team. Hughes laughed when he recalled that as the assistant coach, he and the head coach had one practice together with the team before the coach told Hughes he had to be away on business for six weeks. When he came back, the team had “become my team at that point,” Hughes said.
 
Through the years, he has had several assistant coaches, including Brendan when he was in high school.
 
Many of Hughes’ former players return to support the Good Shepherd team and their former coach. Current and past players signed his 200th-win basketball – about 30 signatures.
 
“I was only going to coach for a year,” Hughes said. “But I got attached to the kids. It’s very rewarding. They all come with different abilities. For some, this is the highlight of their basketball career in seventh and eighth grade. They don’t play in high school. For others, they’ve done very, very well in high school.”
 
Hughes began this season with 193 wins.  But it’s not about winning. “It has always been about the kids,” he said. “We talk a lot about being a team and not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. They grasp that concept.”
 
Before each game he tells his players to play hard, play smart as a team and have fun. “You gotta have fun,” he said with a smile.
 
And he is clear about priorities: “The first priority is God,” he emphasized. Second is family, third is schoolwork and fourth is basketball. …Video games are not in the top four.”
 
Eighth grader Carter Gingue said not only has he learned about the game of basketball from Hughes but about teamwork and leadership.
 
“The word is out. Good Shepherd is a [basketball] force to be reckoned with,” Cartularo said. Hughes “is a local celebrity in the basketball world, and he’s a blessing for us.”
 

Energy efficiency at Mount St. Joseph Academy

Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland is becoming more energy efficient, and that effort has gotten a boost from two bequests.
 
The bequests from alumni total more than $200,000.
 
“MSJ is looking to become more energy efficient. We have zeroed in on improving our heat efficiency by purchasing temperature controls, in particular for our gym,” explained Principal Sarah Fortier.
 
In addition, new doors for the gym that will not allow heat to escape will be purchased and heat loss because of large windows will be addressed.
 
The school will have an energy audit to help determine other areas of concern.
 
Mount St. Joseph Academy has been focused on energy efficiency for the past year.
 
“I am focused on preserving energy because how we treat our environment now will affect the children of the future,” said Fortier, who has been principal since 2014.
 
She mentioned a quote displayed in the school that states, "We did not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We borrowed it from our children."
 
“I don't think a truer statement could be made. We need to make these changes so that the future is preserved environmentally for the generations to come,” she commented.
 
She said it is time for the school to make environmentally friendly changes. “There is no need to waste fuel for example. Fuel is a natural resource. As Catholics we believe in preserving the environment. Making changes to the building that will help do just that is not only providing a positive example to our students but it is also practicing our Catholic faith,” she said.
 
Through the energy-saving measures, the school has been “substantially cutting down on fuel costs,” Fortier said. “It is about more than saving money. It is about practicing our Catholic ideals. We are called to take care of the Earth. Making changes to the building that help us to do this shows that we care about the future.”
 
 

'MOVE' at St. Michael's College

Students at St. Michael’s College in Colchester are moving in all directions to help others.
 
Through the MOVE (Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts) program, they engage in service and justice work in four main areas: working with children and youth, hands-on programs, working to build community and service trips.
 
Working with children includes four formal mentor programs where college students are paired with local youth. Hands-on programs deal with local non-profits to work for animal justice, environmental justice and hunger and homelessness awareness.
 
The programs in working to build community involve spending time with adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, senior citizens, migrant farm workers and others to focus on a service of presence.
 
The service trips are mostly one-week opportunities for students to experience service at sites throughout the country and world. These trips offer students opportunities to engage in service, justice and reflection outside of Vermont. The justice issues identified on the trips parallel the justice work present in local partners.
 
“MOVE exists to expand the concept of community service to embrace social justice and emphasize our connectedness to the world as defined by Catholic social teaching,” explained Lara Scott, associate director of Edmundite Campus Ministry for community services who directs MOVE. “Through our experiences of service, reflection and dialogue, we are compelled to respond through compassionate action, education and advocacy.”
 
Currently there are 62 student leaders to plan and implement MOVE’s 18 weekly local programs and 13 service trips. Nearly 600 students participate in service annually.
 
By graduation, nearly 70 percent of St. Michael’s students participate in MOVE in some way.
 
“We have an amazing opportunity to intersect service, justice and spirituality in MOVE, and our students benefit tremendously from the opportunity to explore all three areas and make meaning of them for their lives,” Scott said. “We have a strong focus on both reflection and leadership development so our students gain skills in collaboration, facilitation, relationship building, meaning making, and the like, from participating once, returning regularly to our programs and/or taking on a formal student leadership role within MOVE.”
 
Students build relationships with peers, get connected in the larger community, are part of meeting needs in the community and therefore are part of social change. “Students find community and sense of belonging, they are able to put faith into action, and they explore their own faith in new and different ways through MOVE,” Scott continued. “MOVE benefits students because we remind students that we are all connected, that we all matter and that each one of us can individually make change.”
 
This all is done in light of the Catholic faith and with Catholic social teaching at the foundation, and MOVE is guided and driven by the Edmundite tradition of hospitality and presence of service.
 
Daniel Ramos, a senior accounting major, is highly engaged in service as a core team leader for the Habitat for Humanity chapter at St. Michael’s. He participates in the extended service programs, Best Buddies, Penguin Plunge and helps plan Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
 
He said working with MOVE has been one of the best experiences he has had: “Working as a leader for Habitat for Humanity, I've learned how to handle responsibilities of leading and organizing trips. I've learned what my role is when supporting causes I believe in. The genuine care and love that I see from the other core team leaders and from the people who work in the MOVE office has had a large influence on the person I've become today.”
 
Volunteering is part of who he is. “The more I've worked with MOVE the more the reason why I volunteer has evolved. After each year has passed I've gained a deeper understanding and appreciation for what MOVE accomplishes,” said Ramos, of Trumbull, Conn. “I volunteer to be a part of the positive change that MOVE brings. By organizing, leading and participating in trips through MOVE, I've been able to bring a positive change to peoples' lives.”
 
The community benefits by having “thoughtful, caring, justice-minded individuals present in their organizations and with those who use their services,” Scott said. “We are regularly present in the local, national and global community working to make change, be present with and serve where needed.” 
 
In 1990, the late Edmundite Father Michael Cronogue founded the Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts.
 
It is based on the mission of St. Michael’s College to contribute to the development of human culture and enhancement of the human person in light of the Catholic faith.
 
Service to the poor is part of the heritage and practice of the Society of St. Edmund, the founders of the college.
 
MOVE has been integral to the college career of Erin Buckley, a senior majoring in environmental science with a peace and justice minor from Haddam, Conn. “It has been an opportunity to grow as an individual and as a leader and also reach our to our local community,” she said.
 
Compassion and patience are key in her faith and in her service work.
 
Through the MOVE program she has felt a growing desire to serve others and recognize the dignity of each human being. “My experiences in service have taught me to provide space for people and ecosystems that are often silenced to speak and to be heard. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by such loving and challenging individuals,” she said.
 
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55°F

South Burlington

Mostly Cloudy

Humidity: 89%

Wind: 7 mph

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