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Cori Fugere Urban

Cori Fugere Urban

Cori Urban is a longtime writer for the communications efforts of the Diocese of Burlington and former editor of The Vermont Catholic Tribune.

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Brattleboro Catholic school principal appointed to state council

The principal of St. Michael School and St. Michael High School in Brattleboro has been appointed to serve as an approved independent school representative on the state’s Council of Independent Schools.
 
Elaine Beam, in her ninth year at the helm of the Catholic school, was appointed in November, beginning her service immediately.
 
The appointment is for two years.
 
“I am honored to be asked to join other independent school leaders in representing our schools and hope that I can bring awareness to [the] issues of inequity, especially for our Catholic schools,” she said.
 
The council plays an important role in keeping both recognized and approved schools apprised of changes taking place in State Board of Education rules and regulations. 
 
Asked about concerns facing independent schools like St. Michael’s, Beam said, “The issue that is of most concern is Vermont's Tuition Voucher System. Many smaller Vermont towns do not operate a local middle or high school and some do not have an elementary school.”
 
Thus, families in these towns are eligible to choose from among public or non-religious independent schools in other towns, even outside of the state or nation.  “My biggest concern as a principal of a Catholic school is that these families are not allowed to choose any of our Catholic schools throughout the state or any of the religious-based schools throughout the state,” she said. “Is that really school choice?”
 
Some families do have a choice, “as long as their choice fits the state statutes,” she continued. “All families should have access to the education that they choose for their children, especially if the independent schools they are choosing meet the accreditation standards that the state has chosen.”
 
Beam also expressed concern about Act 77, a dual enrollment statute amendment, which provides financial support for high school students to take college-level courses from college instructors and receive credit toward both high school and college graduation. “The legislation specifically excluded from dual enrollment financial support those Vermont residents attending independent schools on a private-pay basis, which because of the exclusion mentioned above, denies any financial support to Catholic students [for] access to these college level courses,” she said.
 
As she enters the discussions on a state level, Beam said she would bring to the table her background as a public school principal and as the principal of an independent and Catholic school. This, she said, gives her “perspective from both sides.”
 
Beam serves on the Executive Council of The New England Association of Schools and Colleges and works with that agency helping schools become accredited or maintain accreditation. 
 
She earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from the Adult Degree Program at Norwich University then earned a master's in School Administration from Castleton State College.
 
She began teaching at a small, first-through-fourth-grade public school in Acworth, New Hampshire. There was no principal on site so she was asked to be the lead teacher; she worked there for a total of six years. 
 
She was a teaching principal at The Grafton Elementary School in Grafton and became the full-time principal as the school grew and merged with the Athens Elementary School; she worked in Grafton for 11 years. 
 
During her tenure at St. Michael’s, high school grades have been added.
 
  • Published in Schools

Prison ministry Christmas gifts

At Christmastime some Vermont parishes collect needed items to be sent to those incarcerated in Vermont prisons.
 
“Prison is a pretty dark place. It’s important to make sure people [who are incarcerated] know they are not forgotten,” said Deacon Gerry Scilla, coordinator of prison ministry for Vermont Catholic Charities Inc.
 
Parishioners of Our Lady of Mercy in Putney and the West River Missions have been participating in a prison ministry Christmas project for inmates at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield since 2014, and this year their contribution to the ecumenical effort was 4-ounce containers of solid deodorant.

Deacon Richard Anderberg of Our Lady of the Valley Church in Townsend (one of the West River Missions) conducts a monthly Communion service at the correctional facility; he spearheads the parish’s effort that was part of an ecumenical endeavor involving a half dozen churches including Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Springfield and St. Joseph in Chester.

He had about 70 deodorant containers for his first delivery; if more came in, he would gladly accept and deliver it.
 
Parishioners — who in the past have contributed white socks, bar soap and microwave popcorn to the Christmas project — “really go well beyond what you expect,” he said.
 
“We’re always collecting at Christmas for somebody,” said Daisy Anderberg, Deacon Anderberg’s wife. “It is better to give than to receive.”
 
In past years the parish and missions have conducted a Christmas drive for families in the Selma, Alabama, area.
 
The people of the parish, he said, “give from the heart.”
 
Deacon Scilla coordinates Catholic volunteers in Vermont’s six prison facilities and administers the Prison Ministry Assistance Program to help those recently out of prison with needed assistance with food, rent and clothing. In addition, as a deacon he volunteers as the Catholic chaplain at the Northwest Regional Correctional Facility is St. Albans, visiting those who are incarcerated, conducting Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults classes and mentoring former inmates.
 
Recently Deacon Scilla procured a dozen teddy bears for inmates at the Springfield Correctional facility to give to their children. He ordered them online and had them shipped to the facility for distribution, using funds from donations to Vermont Catholic Charities directed to prison ministry.
 
Deacon Anderberg said he could see the sadness in the inmates as Christmas approaches and they are separated from their loved ones. “They need some cheering up,” and the gifts they receive help.
 
But more than the gifts, “it’s making contact with our brothers and sisters” who are incarcerated, he added. “It’s showing them there is a community out there that cares,” his wife added.
 
 
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Vocation story: Edmundite Father David Cray

As a priest, Father David Cray for years did not live and minister in the New England culture into which he was born and in which he lived before entering the Society of St. Edmund during college.
 
He lived mostly in Canada, Europe and the American South until he came to Vermont to serve as pastor of St. Jude Church in Hinesburg and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Charlotte in 2003.
 
“The benefit of living in more than one culture is you realize there are very few absolutes apart from God,” he said.
 
Born into an Irish Catholic family in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston in 1945, he is the youngest of the three children of John F. Cray, a high school Latin teacher, and Alice M. Kernan Cray, who worked in the Boston Public Library.
 
He smiles when he says that he grew up in a “religious theme park,” because in his immediate neighborhood was the Maryknoll Brothers novitiate, the Daughters of St. Paul motherhouse and novitiate, the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent orphanage and the Greek Orthodox Church seminary.
 
Because he lived a distance from his parish and parish school, he attended public school but got to know many of his religious neighbors, skating in the park with Maryknoll Brothers or building a tree house on their property, for example.
 
Sometimes he and his friends would be playing outside when one would suggest going into the Maryknoll chapel to pray the Stations of the Cross. “The religious aspect was part of our lives,” he said.
 
He graduated from Boston Latin School in 1963 and enrolled at St. Michael’s College in Colchester; his family had ties to Bellows Falls, and he liked the idea of studying in Vermont at a Catholic college where he attended daily Mass.
 
He intended to become and English teacher, but during his sophomore year, his plans changed as he prepared for study in Europe during his junior year.
 
In the process of planning with the dean of students, Father Francis Gokey, the Edmundite priest asked him what he intended to do after college. When he replied, “teach,” Father Gokey asked him if he had ever thought of the similarity between teaching and preaching.
 
Young David Cray got the hint.
 
He told his friends what Father Gokey had said, and they agreed he’d make a good priest. “Father Gokey sparked and fostered my vocation,” he said.
David Cray entered the Edmundite novitiate and graduated from St. Michael’s in 1968 then studied theology at the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto, earning a master of divinity degree in 1971.
 
Burlington Bishop John A. Marshall ordained him to the priesthood in 1972, and his first assignment was as parochial vicar of St. Edmund of Canterbury Parish in Whitton in southwest London, a parish staffed by the Society of St. Edmund.
 
Father Cray lived in Burlington where he served as director of scholastics for the society and later as secretary general, and he lived in Mystic, Conn., where he was the order’s director of novices.
 
He served parishes — some years two at once — in Quebec and was episcopal vicar for the English-speaking region in the Diocese of Saint-Jean–Longueuil where, for two years he was a pastor in Greenfield Park.
 
From Canada he was transferred to Selma, Ala., to serve as programs director of the Society of St. Edmund’s Southern Mission, and from there moved to New Orleans to be president of Bishop Perry Middle School.
 
Now living in Charlotte, Father Cray said through his experiences outside Vermont he learned what it is like to be in a minority. In England he worked with a religious minority — Catholics — and in Quebec he worked with an English-speaking minority in a French-speaking province in an English-speaking country. In Selma and in New Orleans he worked with the African American population, a minority group in the United States. He lived in a Black community and was in the white minority.
 
He became accustomed to living as part of a minority population, and he earned a master of theology degree from Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans with a concentration in Black Pastoral Theology.
 
“I have benefitted tremendously from living in cultures that are not the culture I was brought up in,” Father Cray said. “I lived in cultures that would be foreign to me if I had not lived there and been integrated into them.”
 
Commenting on the racial and religious tensions that grab headlines almost daily, Father Cray said such division creates an atmosphere that legitimizes racism and violence. “Hate breeds hate. Nasty breeds nasty,” he said.
 
“You can change the tone of the conversation in your circle of friends and family,” he suggested. “You don’t have to keep intensifying the atmosphere and feelings of alienation, of division, of hatred.  If you do, it just gets worse.”
 
Emphasizing that all persons are children of God, Father Cray said, “God has given us all one single origin and calls us all to be one single human family.”
 
Living in different cultures has broadened his perspective and enriched his life. “Division and violence come out of not knowing. When you do not know, have no awareness of or acquaintance with people who are completely different from you, you fear them. When you get to know people and appreciate people, you come to love them, and you don’t fear them.”
 
A member of the Society of St. Edmund, which is celebrating its 175th anniversary, Father Cray said he has served in various places and cultures because of his vow of obedience. “It is important to discern God’s will and be obedient to it,” he said.
 
-- Originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
 
 
 
  • Published in Parish

The Edmundite Show

Father Lino Oropeza is a fan of technology. He worked in information technology in his native Venezuela before becoming a priest of the Society of St. Edmund, based at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, so it seems natural that he would come up with an idea to combine technology and education about the Catholic faith. “People are not coming to church, so this was an idea to bring the church to them,” he said. “The charism of the Society of St. Edmund is to evangelize people. Everything we do is geared toward that. This is one piece of that.”
 
“This” is The Edmundite Show, a weekly half-hour program on YouTube presented by Father Oropeza and fellow Edmundite, Father Michael Carter.
 
The show, produced in Father Oropeza’s office in Alliot Hall, is not scripted; the order’s two youngest priests just let the conversation develop.
 
Father Oropeza, 36, and Father Carter, 27, presented the first Edmundite Show for All Saints Day in November. Since then, topics have focused on vocations, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, St. Edmund, Thanksgiving and the Solemnity of Christ the King, Advent and the Immaculate Conception.
 
Because he already had the computer he uses for the show, all Father Oropeza needed were two microphones and a soundboard. His religious order invested less than $200 for the equipment.
 
Technology is his hobby, so the Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts international coordinator at St. Michael’s likes to keep up with the latest developments. YouTubers and their programming made him think of a program about the Catholic faith, so he asked Father Carter to work with him on the project and “talk about Church stuff.”
 
Through The Edmundite Show, they hope to educate about the faith, promote vocations and help viewers get to know the Society of St. Edmund, the 175-year-old religious order founded in France that began St. Michael’s College.
 
The program streams live at 4 p.m. on Wednesdays on the Society of St. Edmund’s YouTube channel. While it is live streaming, there is a chat feature so the priests can accept comments and questions; Father Oropeza monitors the chat on a computer during the recording of the program.
 
“It’s not a fully polished product yet,” Father Carter said of the show Dec. 6.
 
Though the show is not directed to any one demographic, Father Oropeza said students at the college are curious about religion and God, and when they have the opportunity to talk to him, they ask deep questions; “but at the same time, they are not coming to the sacraments.”
 
The idea of The Edmundite Show, then, is to catechize, which they do in a light-hearted way. “In a way, that’s the nature of the medium,” said the bearded Father Carter, an avid Facebook user. “We want to present energy that is fun and sometimes silly — that’s more me than Lino” who is clean-shaven.
 
Father Carter began one show wearing a light-up turkey headband.
 
Humor is a tool he uses when he teaches religion at the college or preaches at the three churches of the Essex Catholic Community that he serves as parochial vicar. “When you use the element of humor, it brings people’s guard down and you can segue into something more serious.”
 
The priests, both graduates of St. Michael’s College, seek to bring the depth of their beliefs out in a way that is understandable and appealing.
 
Father Oropeza had hoped for five viewers for the first show, so he was surprised to have 30. But that number has grown as high as 1,034 with people watching not only in the United States but in such other countries as Venezuela, Bolivia, Mexico, Spain and Sweden.
 
Father Carter, a graduate of Burlington High School, participated in that school’s theater program because he considers himself a shy person and thought it would help him with public speaking, which it did.
 
“I’m definitely not shy,” Father Oropeza interjected. “I’m introverted — though some people would not believe that of me. I have no fear standing in front of people and talking to people. But at the end of the day I need time to be by myself and regroup.”
 
Shy or not, it’s evident both priests enjoy The Edmundite Show.
 
Father Oropeza hopes more people will subscribe to the show (at 36 at the time of this report) and that there will be more interaction with viewers during live streaming. He’s also considering adding another live stream on a different day of the week to interview various guests.
 
The fruit of their efforts, Father Carter said, will be facilitating even one person having a more open perspective about the Catholic Church, the priesthood or vocations. “I’d be pleased with that … or to make one person more curious about the Church than they were before.”
 
Father Oropeza said he knows of one man who binge-watched The Edmundite Show and liked it because he learned about the Catholic faith.
 
“Now we need [the Edmundite Show] community to grow,” he said.
 
Watch the show and subscribe for free.
 
 
 
  • Published in Schools
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