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Rice students serve in Derby Line

These students from Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington could have spent the first week of their summer vacation catching up on sleep, working, spending time with family and friends or going to the beach, but they chose to travel to the Canadian border town of Derby Line to assist with a vacation Bible school for children and visit residents of an elder care home.
 
“They chose to spend this time helping others…and entered into it with a spirit of love,” commented Father Scott Gratton, head chaplain at Rice and one of the chaperones.
 
In addition to helping at the Mater Dei Parish vacation Bible school at St. Edward Church and visiting residents of Michaud Manor, the high school students shared morning and night prayer and attended daily Mass during their June 12-16 service trip.
 
About 30 children age 3 to 11 and 10 parish middle and high school student helpers -- part of the Mater Dei Young Apostles youth group -- participated in the afternoon classes at which the Rice students served as volunteers and mentors as well as acting in skits about virtues, preparing snacks, cleaning/setting up crafts and leading games.
 
“It’s important for the younger children to see such vibrant teens,” said Steve Gonyaw, co-director of the Vacation Bible School with his wife, Ann, who added, “The Rice students make the parish youth (helpers) feel part of a bigger team.”
 
At Michaud Manor – one of the elder care homes run by Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. – the Rice students visited with residents, played games, helped garden and played music. Resident Tom Day liked playing catch with a plastic ball in the lobby and said the teens were all “nice guys, nice girls.”
 
Resident Georgette Routhier liked having the students visit, saying it was a good change in the routine to have a visit from such pleasant young people.
 
“It was wonderful” having them visit each of the five days of their service trip, said Michaud Manor Administrator Anne Steinberg. “It’s been good social interaction. They all had fun. It was uplifting for everybody.”
 
Ann Gonyaw praised the Rice students for their enthusiasm and their willingness to participate in the Masses.
 
“It’s fun to watch the kids be so excited about religious things,” said Rice rising senior Jordan Finkelstein. “And it’s cool to learn about the lives of the” elders at Michaud Manor.
 
Richard McClintock, a rising senior at Rice from St. Catherine of Siena Church in Shelburne, appreciated the children’s energy: “It brings my energy up.”
 
Molly Altadonna, a rising senior at Rice from St. Pius X Church in Essex Center, said, “It’s fun to be excited with the kids about their faith.”
 
Eight-year-old Ben Thompson of Mater Dei Parish liked having the Rice students at the vacation Bible school. “They are very nice, and all of them like me,” he said. “And they all like God.”
 
Elisabetta Anelli, Rice campus minister, said the service trip to Derby Line – for which some students received community service credit – was an opportunity for them to put others before themselves and make a sacrifice to serve others. “Their presence is meaningful in both places” they served, she added.
 
“We want to show them energetic, engaged people who are passionate about the faith at our age,” said Leo Capone, a rising sophomore from St. Patrick Church in Fairfield.
 
 

Flynn Estate Scholarship Program

For more than 40 years Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. has been supporting the educational and economic needs of children in Chittenden County with funds from the late John J. Flynn bequest.
 
“The Flynn Estate Scholarship Program is available to provide supplemental assistance to families who find themselves unable to meet their tuition commitment at a Catholic school in Chittenden County because of unforeseen circumstances,” noted Mary Beth Pinard, executive director of Vermont Catholic Charities. “The funds are not intended to be planned budget tuition income for the schools.”
 
In February $40,997 was awarded to 16 families (23 students), and in May $19,022 was awarded to 11 families (16 students). Each year $60,000 is available for Vermont Catholic Charities to distribute.
 
Students who have received scholarships this year attend Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, Mater Christi School in Burlington, St. Francis Xavier School in Winooski, Christ the King School in Burlington and St. Therese Digital Academy.
 
“The Flynn scholarships help families, tremendously, because they serve as a safety net … for families who with all good intentions contracted to pay a specific amount for the year and then an unforeseen hardship occurs and they are falling behind in their financial obligations,” commented Sister of Mercy Laura DellaSanta, Rice principal. “It is a one-time appeal that Rice can make for a particular family. It is not something families themselves apply for, but an appeal made by the school for an identified during-the-year hardship. It is always a pleasure to inform the family; [the scholarship] is received with relief and thankfulness by the family.”
 

Catholic college graduations

Vermont’s two Catholic colleges conducted commencement ceremonies this month.
 
Seventy students received degrees at the College of St. Joseph’s 58th commencement ceremony May 13.
 
St. Michael’s College in Colchester marked its 110th commencement on May 14 in the Ross Sports Center; it included 456 undergraduates and 30 graduate degree recipients.
 
“It’s never about you,” said Gen. Joseph Dunford ’77, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told the St. Michael’s College Class of 2017 that moral courage and a commitment to serving others are essential qualities for “leaders of consequence.”
 
The nation’s highest-ranking military figure, Dunford told graduates that being a leader means doing the right thing even when it’s unpopular, and that “the greatest call is to serve.”
 
“What I’ve learned in 40 years is that extraordinary leaders are actually ordinary men and women who make a commitment to excellence” and dig down deep, he said, adding that the world will need the new graduates’ leadership given that “from a security perspective alone, the challenges we face are as complex as any we’ve faced since World War II,” while the pace of change is unprecedented. As St. Michael’s graduates, he told the class, “you are uniquely equipped” to meet those challenges.
 
Dunford called upon the graduates to “go forth to be leaders of consequence.”
 
At the College of St. Joseph, former Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas spoke of some of Vermont’s greatest challenges and how graduates can help to confront them, including the state’s declining population and its effects.
 
“So, here’s my pitch: We need each of you to be a part of our state’s future. We need you to live and work here, to make Vermont your home,” Douglas said. “To use your education to find meaningful work and perhaps create additional jobs. We need you to raise your families here and to contribute to your community and state.”
 
Douglas, the commencement speaker, also discussed his views on the decline of civil discourse and how graduates can best use their voices in discussions with others whose opinions with which they may not agree.
 
“I urge each of you to listen to different voices, to respect others when they speak and to weigh objectively the arguments they put forth. You may not be persuaded. You may become more confident in your own views,” Douglas said. “But, in a democracy, we can’t delegitimize the thoughts of others. We must allow them to be expressed. As many have said through the years, the remedy for speech you don’t like is more speech.”
 

St. Michael's high school accreditation

Rodney Duteau and Catherine Mazzer, both 16-year-old sophomores at St. Michael’s School in Brattleboro, began their education there as freshmen. He had attended public school through grade eight; she was homeschooled. Both look forward to completing their high school education at the Catholic school that now has received both regional and state accreditation through grade 12.
 
She likes the family atmosphere and small class size. He appreciates the faith-based education and the confidence instilled in students.
 
Last year the New England Association of Schools and Colleges expanded St. Michael’s School’s accreditation from a pre-kindergarten through grade-eight school to one that educates students through grade 12. And in April the Vermont State Board of Education granted the school approval to include all high school grades.
 
The school currently goes to 10th grade, and plans call for one grade to be added each year until the high school section includes grades nine through 12.
 
There are currently five students in the ninth grade and seven in tenth. In the fall a dozen students are expected to be enrolled as freshmen, five as sophomores and eight as juniors. The goal is to have 10-20 students per class eventually.
 
“This is very promising,” said Principal Elaine Beam.
 
The Walnut Street school building used to house both elementary and high school grades, but the high school closed in 1968. The high school reopened in 2015, and the first class is expected to graduate in 2019.
 
The high school is filling a need in the tri-state area for not only a solid academic education addressing individual learners and a religious-based education but for a secondary education that prepares young people to become “invested citizens,” said Bethany Thies, the school’s development/admissions director.
 
The community aspect of the school is also important to parents, Beam said. “We are a Catholic school for all children not a school for Catholic children.”
 
Numerous families have joined or returned to the Church through the children’s experience at St. Michael’s School. “The New Evangelization is Catholic schools bringing people into a loving, respectful, caring community and presenting them with opportunities to feel God’s grace in a safe environment,” Thies said.
 
And if parents want a St. Michael’s education for their children but have difficulty affording tuition, scholarships are available. “If you desire to be here, we do everything we can to make it happen,” Thies said, noting St. Michael Parish has been generous with aid.
 
Beam hopes that during the next academic year, when more courses are added, St. Michael’s School will participate with the Diocese of Burlington’s St. Therese Digital Academy with a sharing of staff.
 
The Brattleboro school also is connecting with local educational resources and community leaders to offer additional hands-on learning experiences that support classroom learning and get students “invested in being community citizens,” Thies said.
 
“I love the education here,” said Rodney, one of the sophomores. “I feel confident to go out into the world from here.”
 
 
 

'Bake for Good'

Twelve-year-old Evan Eggsware, a sixth grader at The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales in Bennington, learned to toss pizza dough at school April 26.
 
But it was a lesson in more than pizza making or even baking.
 
King Arthur Flour presented its “Bake for Good: Kids Learn, Bake, Share” program for students in fifth through eighth grades, and Evan was one of the demonstrators.
 
He and Grace Kobelia, 11, also a sixth grader, assisted Paula Gray, manager of the Bake for Good program, onstage, putting into action what she talked about: making dough from scratch.
 
A former math and science teacher, she explained the math and science that go into baking bread as well as hygienic procedures like hand washing and pulling hair back.
 
Like a television cooking show, video close-ups of the dough-making procedures were shown on a large screen on the stage next to the table where the students and Gray worked.
 
One catchy lesson included in the program was the proper way to measure flour: fluff (in a bowl), sprinkle (into the measuring cup) and sweep (off excess with a dough scraper to even the flour in the cup).
 
Kneading requires “fold, push and turn” to get the dough soft, smooth, not sticky and stretchy, Gray instructed.
 
Once the students saw how it’s all done, they received a bread baking kit from King Arthur – based in Norwich – so they could bake at home. The kits included wheat and all-purpose flour, yeast, a dough scraper, a recipe booklet and a plastic bag and gift tag. (Gluten-free flour was given to students who are gluten-intolerant.)
 
Their instructions were clear: Bake one bread for themselves and one for the Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales food shelf in Bennington. (They could choose to make rolls if they preferred.)
 
“They are ‘baking for good,’ baking for other people,” and that fits in with lessons learned at the school of caring for others as Jesus would have them do, commented Principal David Estes.
 
At the school, “we learn to be respectful and serve our community and follow the example of Jesus Christ,” Grace said.
 
Gray said representatives of King Arthur like to present the free program in Catholic schools, which are “all about the mission of sharing, caring and giving to others,” just like the Bake for Good program.
 
After assisting her in the school program, both Evan and Grace said they are more inclined to bake more, though both have some baking experience at home.
 
King Arthur Flour presents the Bake for Good program at about 200 schools each year; about 800 apply.
 
For more information, go to kingarthurflour.com/learnbakeshare.
 

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.

 
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