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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.
 
  • Published in Schools

Bishop to convene diocesan synod

Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne has announced plans to convene the first diocesan synod in Vermont since 1962.

Its purpose is to establish a pastoral plan for the immediate future of the Catholic Church in Vermont and to establish particular laws and policies to do so. This will be at least a yearlong project and is “a serious undertaking by the Church,” he said. “It is not a simple convening of meetings.”

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington serves a population of 118,000 Catholics.

There are 65 active priests (45 diocesan and 20 religious order or ex tern) and 43 permanent deacons ministering in 73 parishes and 23 missions. The diocese includes 14 Catholic schools (including St. Therese Digital Academy) and a catechetical system with an estimated 4,700 students. Through Vermont Catholic Charities’ social services and homes for the aged, the Diocese of Burlington assisted more than 6,000 Vermonters last year.

The bishop will serve as the convener and presider of the synod, and membership will contain both ex-officio members of the clergy and laity as well as representatives of religious communities, lay fraternities and at-large representation such as young people, parents and minority communities.

Before the sessions of the synod are convened – the bishop hopes that will be next spring -- all of the members of the Catholic community will be invited to participate in a preparation process in which they will be asked to pray, to listen, to learn and to discern what the future pastoral plan for spreading the “good news” of the Church in Vermont should be. This will take place on the parish level, the deanery (regional) level and the diocesan level. It will include personal meetings but could also make use of new digital and social media means of communication.

After this work of preparation is completed, the bishop will convene the synod to meet in the necessary sessions to complete the work of discernment and planning and to then enact the policies, laws and directives to carry out that plan in the Vermont Church. “I will seek input from all. I will listen to all. And I will discern with you all,” he said.
 

Easter message from Bishop Coyne

"Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" (John 20:15)

Early in the morning of the third day after Jesus was crucified and died, his disciples had returned to the tomb where he had been laid to finish the burial rites, cleansing and anointing his body. When they arrived, they found the tomb empty and Jesus’ body missing. Distraught, they began their search but they found they were not alone. In John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene meets two angels, quickly turns away and sees a man standing in the garden, someone she does not recognize at first — Jesus. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” He then speaks her name, “Mary.” Now she knows who he is and she rushes and embraces him. Suddenly her grief, her loss, her fear is lost in amazement as she meets her Lord and friend, Jesus, standing alive once more.

How often in our lives when we face moments of grief, of loss, and of confusion do we find ourselves just as adrift as the early disciples on that Easter morning? When a loved one dies, we can wander through the burial rites, feeling numb or overwhelmed, doing what needs to be done as we lay them to rest. But, we can also stand in the hope of the resurrection, occasioned by the truth of the empty tomb, as a person of faith. And there is the rub — a person of faith. For if we are going to seek Jesus in our moments of need and truly possess the hope of salvation, we need to know Jesus as our friend and brother, true God and true man. My encouragement to all of us on this Easter morning is that we all seek to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this life so that we may know Him perfectly in the next. It is a call to mission:

"It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.

It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal" (St. John Paul II).
 

Chrism Mass

The April 11 Chrism Mass at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington was rich in tradition as priests and parishioners from the statewide Diocese of Burlington gathered to celebrate the priesthood of Jesus Christ and watch Bishop Christopher J. Coyne bless oils that will be used throughout the year in the sacramental life of the diocese.

During the Chrism Mass, the bishop blessed the oils that symbolize the link of the parishes with the bishop in sacramental ministry. The Mass was a sign of the unity of the local Church in Vermont.
 
The oils blessed were the Oil of the Sick, Oil of Catechumens and the Chrism Oil. To prepare the Chrism Oil, Bishop Coyne mixed in balsam, the perfume that gives it a rich aroma.
 
Scores of priests from every region of the diocese attended the special morning Mass, after which they or their representatives received oils to bring to their churches.
 
The Mass also was an opportunity for the bishop to announce major news: the convening of a Diocesan Pastoral Synod, the first since 1962. Its purpose is to establish a pastoral plan for the immediate future of the Church in Vermont and to establish particular laws and policies to do so. This will be at least a yearlong project and is “a serious undertaking by the Church,” he said. “It is not a simple convening of meetings.”
 
The bishop will serve as the convener and presider, and membership of the synod will contain both ex-officio members of the clergy and laity as well as representatives of religious communities, lay fraternities and at-large representation such as young people, parents and minority communities.
 
Before the sessions of the synod are convened all of the members of the Catholic community will be invited to participate in a preparation process in which they will be asked to pray, to listen, to learn and to discern what the future pastoral plan for spreading the “good news” of the Church in Vermont should be. This will take place on the parish level, the deanery level and the diocesan level. It will include personal meetings but could also make use of new digital and social media means of communication.
 
After this work of preparation is completed, the bishop will convene the synod to meet in the necessary sessions to complete the work of discernment and planning and to then enact the policies, laws and directives to carry out that plan in the Vermont Church. “I will seek input from all. I will listen to all. And I will discern with you all,” he said.
 
After the Chrism Mass, Jack Lyons, a senior at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, commented on its meaningfulness: “It’s always cool to come together as a diocese, but it’s also cool to know…the oils will be used to do good all over the state” as they are used “to serve the people of God through the sacraments.”
 

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Radio

Donna McSoley, a parishioner of St. Francis Xavier Church who won a permit with the FCC to build a radio station, hopes 105.5, WRXJ,
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Radio will be on the air by Easter.
 
The 24-hour station will feature Catholic talk radio transmitted from St. Francis Xavier property.
 
Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne and St. Francis Xavier Pastor Msgr. Richard G. Lavalley have recorded some station IDs that will play at the bottom and top of the hour. “I hope to be able to record all the priests within the listening area at a later date. I think it will be nice for people to hear their pastor’s voice on the air,” said McSoley, president of the nonprofit Our Lady of Perpetual Help Radio Inc.
 
She will not know the exact coverage area until the station is on the air and adjustments are made; she expects it will be about a 12-15-mile radius from Winooski as well as into parts of Plattsburgh, Keeseville, and Peru, N.Y. “The FCC is currently considering increasing the power … to more than double the wattage. That will increase the coverage area considerably. Once the FCC rules on this, we will be able to work from there as to how to move forward towards covering all of Vermont,” she said.
 
She asks for prayers that the Low Power FM station will bring people to the Catholic Church. “We have a great opportunity to preach beyond the pews, and Catholic radio has been proven to increase vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life,” she said. “Sharing our faith through this radio with others can bring many, many people into the satisfying joy and fullness of truth of the Catholic Church. We live in the least religious state of our country, and it's up to all of us to change that statistic and heal Vermont. Let's band together and make this happen.”
 
McSoley has been working to raise about $15,000 to begin the station through the non-profit she began, through fund raising and through donations from “people who want to bring their children back to the Church.”
 

Annual Marriage Mass

Forty-four couples, celebrating 1,836 years of marriage, gathered Feb. 5 at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington for a special Mass celebrated by Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne.
 
Sponsored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter in Vermont and the Diocese of Burlington’s Office of Marriage and Family Life, the Mass uplifted the Sacrament of Marriage.
 
“Marital love makes present to the world God Himself since God is love,” Bishop Coyne said in his homily.
 
Punctuated with humorous anecdotes of marriage and family life, the homily emphasized qualities of marriage like faithfulness, forgiveness, patience and the creation of families.
 
“Marriage is certainly a way in which light breaks into the world,” the bishop said. “Marriage is not a silo that stands separate from the rest of life and the rest of culture and the rest of creation. It stands in the midst of all of creation and is that salt that gives a particular flavor of God to the world. It is intended to illuminate and strengthen the rest of creation.”
 
Phil Lawson, director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington, commented after the Mass, "The joy of the family is the joy of the Church as Pope Francis reminds us. I always look forward to this annual event as it is a witness to the joy-filled hope of what is possible in Christian marriage. Thank you to all of these couples for being such beautiful witnesses."
 
Couples from throughout the diocese celebrating significant anniversaries were invited to the Mass and were recognized by Bishop Coyne.
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Bishop to ordain 2 deacons

Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne will ordain one man to the permanent diaconate and one to the transitional diaconate at a special Mass Feb. 11 at 11 a.m. at St. Michael’s College in Colchester.
 
Phil Lawson, director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington, will be ordained a permanent deacon, and Edmundite Brother Michael Carter will be ordained to the transitional diaconate. The latter works as an Edmundite Campus Minister and teaches in the Religious Studies Department at St. Michael’s College.
 
Brother Carter said he is excited that men are being ordained to the permanent diaconate in the Diocese of Burlington. “Revitalization of this ancient ministry can only be a positive thing for the Church,” he said.
 
The last ordination of permanent deacons here was several years ago.
 
Lawson trained in the Diocese of LaCrosse, Wis., and the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis.; he has been in formation -- both formal and informal -- for about six years.
 
He approaches his ordination with “a mixture of trepidation, wonder, excitement, amazement and peace.”
 
He will be assisting at his home parish, St. Luke in Fairfax and continue to help at the Joseph House ministry in Burlington.
 
Lawson said it will be a privilege to be ordained with Brother Carter and to share in such a joyous day for both the Edmundites and the Diocese of Burlington.
 
Brother Carter’s future assignments will be according to the will of the Edmundite community; after the ordination he will continue his work at the college, at least until the end of this semester. He is scheduled to be ordained a priest on Sept. 16 at St. Michael's College.
 
The faithful of the Diocese of Burlington are invited to the ordination Mass.
 
 
  • Published in Diocesan

The future of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

The last Sunday Mass celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Burlington was on Jan. 1, the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, but there continues to be five daily Masses, confessions, First Friday Eucharistic Adoration with the Divine Mercy Chaplet and daily rosary there as well as ministry to the poor, the homeless and the addicted.
 
“At some point the cathedral will be merged” with St. Joseph Co-Cathedral Parish, said Father Lance W. Harlow, rector of both, noting that there has not been religious education at the cathedral since the 2010-2011 academic year, and there are no young families with children in the parish.
 
“The two parishes are not merged in a canonical sense. This is the process towards which we are working now,” Father Harlow said.
 
Parishioners of both parishes have been working cooperatively since the unexpected 2011 death of Msgr. Thomas Ball, rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, when due to the shortage of priests, one rector had to take responsibility for both the cathedral and St. Joseph Co-Cathedral.
 
“We knew this was coming after Msgr. Ball’s death,” said Bill LaCroix, a member of the finance and parish councils at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. “People are sad to see it go.”
 
The cathedral has been the “seat of the diocese, the bishop’s church, and there has been a lot of pride in that,” he said after a Jan. 22 regular Sunday Mass at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral celebrated by Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne.
 
Father Harlow outlined three factors that contribute to the immanent merger.
 
The most critical factor is insufficient income from collections to pay bills. “We are running at almost $3,000 below what we need to collect every week. This is forcing us to take out money from our investment account to pay operating expenses resulting in a deficit, which increases about every three months,” he said. “It is like a snowball getting larger and larger as it rolls downhill. Because our attendance is so low, there is no way we can generate enough income to pay our bills. By merging with St. Joseph, we will be able to share resources.”
 
The low attendance reflects the situation of downtown Burlington. The area in which the cathedral is located is no longer a residential area; it has become more commercial. As a result, the family neighborhoods that were there in the 19th Century no longer exist.
 
Over the past 30 years Mass attendance has dropped by more than 1,000 parishioners, which is similarly reflected in other churches, Father Harlow said. In the past 10 years, there were many years in which there were no marriages or baptisms; even the number of funerals has declined.
 
The third contributing factor the rector noted is that when Mass schedules had to be altered six years ago because there were not enough priests to maintain the old schedule, parishioners would not make the changes and went to other churches or stopped attending. “We now live in an era where one is attached more to his or her Mass time than to his or her parish,” he said.
 
LaCroix, a lifelong parishioner of the cathedral parish, lamented that many cathedral parishioners attend Masses at other area churches.
 
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception has 275 registered parishioners. “It has been very difficult to provide altar servers, lectors and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion because of the ‘personnel’ shortage,” Father Harlow explained.
 
According to him, parishioners have reacted to the changes that have occurred and those to take place in a variety of ways: Some have related that they knew there were financial problems for many years, but were in denial about it. Others have said that they should not have built the current cathedral after the previous one burned down in 1972. Others would like to see it stay open, but have no viable means of providing income for it. Others for sentimental purposes would like to see it stay open, but do not attend any Masses there and have “no meaningful connection with the Church,” he said.
 
The plan for the future is to ask authorities in Rome for permission to merge Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception with St. Joseph Co-Cathedral. “If that is accepted, then St. Joseph Co-Cathedral would be designated as the cathedral for the diocese,” Father Harlow said. “There is no current plan for the present [cathedral] building as we do not know how long the merger process will take.”
 
Any plan for keeping the building open must take into consideration that the bare minimum need just to pay insurance and utility bills is $85,000 a year—with no viable source of revenue, he continued. “In the meantime, we continue with our schedule with the knowledge that we cannot sustain it for much longer. It will close eventually, but there is no plan for the property as of yet until we have more information.”
  • Published in Diocesan
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