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Rally for Life

More than 350 people marched from Montpelier City Hall to the Statehouse Jan. 21 for the annual Rally for Life, meeting other pro-life advocates there to continue their call for respect for all human life.
 
The event came the day after Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as 45th president of the United States, hours before the massive Women's March on Montpelier drew an estimated 15,000 participants and the day before the 44th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
 
The day’s events began with a pro-life Mass at St. Augustine Church in Montpelier celebrated by Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne; following the march, life advocates gathered in the House chambers to listen to speeches against abortion and in favor of measures to respect the life of all humans from conception until natural death.
 
Jewels Green, a pro-life advocate and writer from Philadelphia and one of the featured speakers, said before the Mass that every state is important in the “fight for life.”
 
She said the “time is right in Vermont” to begin to make changes for life – not just the unborn but also for “Vermont elderly, infirmed and those vulnerable to pressure to assisted suicide.”
 
She told her Statehouse audience that she had an abortion at age 17, subsequently attempted suicide and spent more than five years working in an abortion clinic. But in 2010 she learned of a surrogate mother who was carrying a baby with Down syndrome, and the parents paid her contract and directed her to have an abortion.
 
“I knew fundamentally that was wrong,” she said. “If I could say that abortion was wrong, it finally clicked all abortion is wrong.”
 
Bishop Coyne – who opened the Statehouse gathering with a prayer – gave the homily at the Mass and walked in the march. At the church he prayed for the protection of all human life especially those most vulnerable.
 
“Sometimes in our society children are seen as something less than a gift, even as a burden,” he said. But “children and life are a gift, a gift of creation….All life is sacred. All life is from God, and we must protect it.”
 
Dr. Felix Callan of St. Andrew Church in Waterbury, who has been active in the pro-life movement since 1972, said he is more optimistic than in the past for an increase in respect for life. The election of Trump, who has said he is pro-life “could be an opportunity” for the pro-life cause to make strides nationally, he said.
 
Carrie Handy, respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington, said she was encouraged by the number of young people involved in the pro-life movement “who have not bought the idea that women’s rights include depriving life to the unborn.”
 
Regarding Trump, she said, “I have every reason to believe he will be true to his pro-life promises” which include appointing pro-life justices to the Supreme Court and defunding Planned Parenthood, a provider of abortions.
 
Sharon Iszak, who attends St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington, said she attended the prolife Mass because Mass “is the best way to begin every day.”
 
She believes the new president “will encourage a sincere respect for life.”
 
During the march after the Mass, people of all ages made their way up State Street. The messages on their signs included “Abortion stops a beating heart,” “Life,” “Face It. Abortion Kills,” “Abortion hurts women” and “Pray to end abortion.”
 
Several members of the clergy of the Diocese of Burlington participated in the march with people of various faith backgrounds.
  • Published in Diocesan

St. Therese Digital Academy grants

The Diocese of Burlington’s St. Therese Digital Academy, an online Catholic high school with a rigorous program grounded in the Catholic faith, has received two grants totaling $116,000 to support the development of a digital learning platform, curriculum and marketing.
 
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Catholic Communications Campaign awarded $96,000 and Our Sunday Visitor awarded $20,000 to provide access to a Catholic education to families limited by geography and for Catholic formation courses and catechism education for children and adults.
 
"This support will provide us with the resources necessary to develop Catholic formation courses for Catholics young and old who desire to continue to grow in their knowledge of our Catholic faith beyond the traditional means. Faith formation is no longer hindered by conflicting work, school or extra-curricular schedules," said Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne. "We want to reach out to people and provide as many options as possible to grow in their faith; to do so we must embrace technology."
 
The academy works with parents in their roles as primary educators by offering an online Catholic high school with flexible options to assist in their child’s education while also providing weekly local opportunities for enrichment courses, community service projects and social and spiritual formation.
 
“This format of a Catholic high school overcomes the obstacles of no Catholic school nearby. We are serving military families whose children would otherwise not be able to have access to a Catholic education such as Okinawa, Japan,” said Lisa Lorenz, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Burlington and principal of the digital academy. 
 
The school’s goal is to develop well-grounded disciples of Jesus Christ who possess 21st-Century skills that equip them to fulfill their roles as members of the Body of Christ within today’s society.
 
This spring plans call for offering classes to students at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington who need specific classes to meet their requirements or are in need of advanced classes.
 
“We will be offering to our smaller high schools that cannot afford to have a large variety of courses this online format as a supplement to the rigors of their already in-person classes,” Lorenz said, referring to Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland and St. Michael High School in Brattleboro. “We even have students taking classes merely for enrichment. Our hopes are that we can also aid those families who may not be able to send their children to Catholic schools but really would like to have their child continue growing in the faith by studying theology classes.”
 
In addition, there will be adult theology classes for ongoing catechesis. “All of this can and will be built with the funding made possible by Our Sunday Visitor and the USCCB,” Lorenz said.
 
She has been speaking at parishes about the digital academy and has found it is met with enthusiasm, support and a sense of hope for Catholic education being restored in their communities in a 21st-Century model.
 
“Without the funds this endeavor would be impossible,” Lorenz said. “It will permit Catholic education to reach beyond brick and mortar, as well as being able to offer a more affordable Catholic high school.”
 
St. Therese Digital Academy currently enrolls five students.
 
There are three other Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Burlington: Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland and St. Michael High School in Brattleboro.
 
For more information about the digital academy, go to stdavt.org.
 
 
  • Published in Schools

2017: "Year of Creation"

Diocese to observe 2017 as "Year of Creation"

Similar to the global Year of Mercy announced by Pope Francis last year which entertained a heightened focus on the role of mercy in the Catholic faith, the diocesan wide Year of Creation will entertain an intentional, heightened focus on ecological justice. Various events, initiatives and resources will be made available to parishes and Catholic schools to better educate on and encourage the embracing of Pope Francis’ message in his 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.”
 
This is the second encyclical of Pope Francis. It is addressed to "every person living on this planet" for an inclusive dialogue about how people are shaping the future of the created world. He calls everyone to acknowledge the urgency of pursuing ecological justice and to join him in embarking on a new path based in integral ecology.
 
Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne invites all Catholics to join with him in celebrating this “Year of Creation” in the diocese.
 
He noted the pope’s emphasis that concern for the created world is not optional, but an integral part of Church teaching on social justice. “While it has been nearly two years since its publication, I think it is time for the Church here in Vermont to study, ponder and begin to implement much of what the pope calls for” in the document, the bishop said.
 
The diocese also has formed a partnership with Commons Energy that allows for low-cost energy efficiency audits and energy efficiency/renewable energy projects on many church-owned buildings throughout the state. Within the first two months of the year, fifteen buildings have requested to begin the energy efficiency audit process.
 
Additionally, one of the first steps the Diocese of Burlington has taken at 55 Joy Drive in South Burlington, the diocesan headquarters, to counteract a "throwaway culture" and set an example of ecologically responsible practices is to adopt the practice of composting—a simple way to support circular models of production and consumption.
 
“Vermont’s 118,000 Catholics can make a sustainable impact on the state of the created world and its creatures. Furthermore, if the Diocese of Burlington’s Year of Creation is successful in raising awareness of and action toward ecological justice, it can serve as an encouraging example for other Catholic dioceses and communities of faith throughout the country and the globe. There are an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics on Earth—just think of what could be achieved if we committed to caring for the created world together,” said Stephanie Clary, mission outreach and communication coordinator.
 
A Year of Creation Committee comprised of scientists, activists and people of faith has been formed to assist with this initiative. Committee members include:
  • Brian Tokar, Lecturer in Environmental Studies at the University of Vermont and a board member of 350Vermont and the Institute for Social Ecology 
  • David Mullin, Executive Director of Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity
  • Dcn. Phil Lawson, Director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington
  • Ellen Kane, Executive Director of Development and Communications for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington and the Vermont Catholic Community Foundation
  • Fr. Thomas Houle, OFM Cap., Pastor of St. Peter Church in Rutland (first parish in the diocese to adopt renewable energy) and St. Alphonsus Church in Pittsford
  • Betsy Hardy, Coordinator for Vermont Interfaith Power and Light
  • James Ehlers, Executive Director of Lake Champlain International 
  • Stephanie Clary, Mission Outreach and Communication Coordinator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington
  • Mary Quinn, RSM, Co-Director of Mercy Farm Eco-Spiritual Center in Benson 
  • Marybeth Christie Redmond, a writer-journalist and communications professional for global and local non-profit organizations  
  • Joseph Gainza, Producer and Host of “Gathering Peace” on WGDR and WGDH 
  • Gina Fiorile, a junior at the University of Vermont studying environmental studies and public communications 
  • Maura Thompson, a senior at Rice Memorial High School, involved in Campus Ministry and Global Unity and Solidarity Group

The committee will be working an awareness campaign and events throughout the year, including:
  • Spring issue of Vermont Catholic dedicated to Year of Creation;
  • "The Stations of the Cross with John Paul II: On the Path of Ecological Conversion" and Global Catholic Climate Movement's Lenten Fast for Climate Justice on March 3;
  • Statewide Catholic schools care for creation education, prayer and action project on April 12;
  • "Mercy for Our Common Home" evening prayer and "green parish" roundtable discussion for Mercy2Earth Weekend on April 23;
  • Year of Creation Conference with keynote speaker Dr. Carolyn Woo in September;
  • “Laudato Si’ in the Parish” training program offered to pastors, deacons, catechists;
  • Vermontcatholic.org/yearofcreation webpage with resources for parishes and anyone interested in learning more. 
 
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Updated: 02.07.17
  • Published in Diocesan

A Catholic Christmas and new year

This will be my second celebration of Christmas as the bishop of the Diocese of Burlington. I feel very much at home here. Over the past two years, I have met a lot of very wonderful and good people, some who share our Catholic faith, others who do not. There is a large network of men and women in our state who are dedicated to doing good works, whether it is helping the neediest and most vulnerable in our midst, striving for affordable housing, feeding the hungry and the homeless, providing resources for people and families who are finding it difficult to make ends meet or working tirelessly to protect our water and our environment. Much of this is reported in the 2016 winter issue of Vermont Catholic in which we acknowledge the good deeds and works that are being carried out by faithful Catholics here in Vermont.
 
This is what we Catholics do. We feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, comfort the sorrowing, welcome the stranger, visit the prisoner and clothe the needy. We do it because we know the meaning of Christmas: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son...” (Jn 3:16). The conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb and His later birth in the manger which we celebrate at Christmas remind us that God was born among us to bring reconciliation between God and man and reconciliation between all of us as brothers and sisters. Jesus’ later preaching of the Kingdom of God was a call to communion with Him and with one another. That communion calls us to be merciful, doing unto others as we would have done to ourselves.
 
So, I wish you all a merry Christmas as we contemplate the merciful love of God for each of us, and I wish you all a new year of faith in which we renew our call to serve God through loving acts of mercy for others.
 
On another note, I invite you to join with me in celebrating 2017 as a “Year of Creation” in our diocese. On May 24, 2015, Pope Francis published his encyclical on the environment entitled “Laudato Si’” subtitled, “On care for our common home.” In this encyclical, he states that concern for the natural world is no longer “optional” but is an integral part of Church teaching on social justice. While it has been nearly two years since its publication, I think it is time for the Church here in Vermont to study, ponder and begin to implement much of what the pope calls for in “Laudato Si’.” As such, a number of resources, events and programs have been created for both parish and diocesan venues to help us do so. More will follow over the next few months, but I hope you will join me in this endeavor.
 
Yours in Christ,
 
The Most Reverend Christopher J. Coyne
 
Bishop of Burlington
 
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Bishop Coyne's statement on the recent elections

It has been over a week now since the recent national, state, and municipal elections, a week which has allowed me, and I hope you, an opportunity for prayer and reflection on the outcomes. Out of this, I now write to the Catholic community of the Diocese of Burlington words of encouragement and challenge.

First, allow me to commend the citizens and candidates of the state of Vermont for the positive manner in which the state and local campaigns and elections were carried out. While there was some negative campaigning at times, the general overall tenor of the campaigns was respectful and civil.

However, as we all know, such was not the case nationally. This past presidential election was brutal, nasty, and angry. It has left our country divided and a lot less civil. Last Wednesday morning, I found myself thinking, “What just happened? How did we ever get to this point as fellow citizens of this great country?” Please know that I am not talking about the results of the election. I found both candidates to be an appalling choice. I am talking about the process and its aftermath.

We are now faced with a president entering office with a high “unfavorable” rating. This would have been the case for either candidate. Consider this statistic: 61% of those who voted for Mr. Trump did so because they didn’t like Mrs. Clinton while 61% of those who voted for Mrs. Clinton did so because they didn’t like Mr. Trump. That has never happened before. How does one govern and lead with that kind of a handicap going into office? And what does that do to our national psyche and our trust in government? There is more division, more anger, and more angst in our country then ever before.

That was where I found myself early last Wednesday. But later in the day I found a place of encouragement and solace in the first reading of the Mass of the day – Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica – in a vision of the prophet Ezekiel. An angel has brought Ezekiel to the temple in Jerusalem where he stands and sees water flowing from the gates of the temple, in all directions, bringing life, healing, and freshness to whatever the waters touch. This vision has been seen within the Church’s tradition as a vision of the Church herself from which the waters of baptism and the gift of salvation flow to all of creation.

I thought of how necessary this vision is now, both communally and personally. We as a Church, the Catholic community in Vermont, need to see ourselves as baptized people who seek to bring life and healing to all of creation. I thought of how I need to see myself as someone who brings “good news” to everyone I meet. I thought of the words from a well-known song, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me” and how that needs to be my mantra.

Can we be a people who bring peace, not anger? Can we be a people who stand up for what is right while lifting up what is good? Can we be a people who talk “policies” and not “persons?” Can we be the salt, the leaven, the seeds of goodness in our culture? Can we be “living water” that flows out in words and gestures of healing and charity?

Yes, if we do so united in our faith, supporting each other in prayer and worship, and with the grace of God.

God bless America.



Bishop Christopher J. Coyne



[Statement originally published on Bishop Coyne's blog, Nov. 16, 2016: http://bishopcoyne.org/statement-on-the-recent-elections/.]
  • Published in Diocesan

Closing of the Holy Door: Nov. 20

This Holy Year of Mercy will come to a close on Nov. 20, 2016, on the Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe. Join Bishop Christopher Coyne, and the Faithful of the Diocese of Burlington for a very special Mass in celebration of God’s gift of Mercy through Christ Jesus, and the many gifts God has bestowed upon us in this Jubilee year. Mass will begin at 3 pm in St. Joseph Co-Cathedral. Fellowship and light refreshments will be available after Mass. 
 
Throughout this Year of Mercy, the Diocese of Burlington has formally celebrated Jubilees for lay ministers, religious and consecrated life, young children, young adults, deacons, priests and seminarians, families, musicians, catechists and school teachers, and the sick, while also holding all of God’s people in prayers of mercy, peace, and love. Take a look back at the opening of this extraordinary Jubilee, what mercy means in our lives, and the various celebrations each month at vermontcatholic.org/yearofmercy.
 
"In this Jubilee Year, may the Church echo the word of God that resounds strong and clear as a message and a sign of pardon, strength, aid, and love. May she never tire of extending mercy, and be ever patient in offering compassion and comfort. May the Church become the voice of every man and woman, and repeat confidently without end: “Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old” (Ps 25:6)."  -Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus
  • Published in Diocesan

Bishop Coyne's Statement on the Upcoming General Election

I write to you, my brothers and sisters, with words of encouragement as your bishop and fellow citizen of this great country.
 
My first encouragement is that each of us who can vote in this November’s election do so. Do not abdicate your right to vote. It is a privilege and a duty. I give thanks to God that my family and I live in the United States of America as free citizens who can exercise the right to vote without coercion or concern that our government or any agency would work to thwart either my right to vote or the intention of my vote.  With that in mind, we must exercise that right to vote and have our voices heard. This is especially true here in Vermont where many are standing for local and state offices, positions that often have a greater impact on our day to day lives than national offices.
 
Secondly, I ask that as people of faith we not leave that faith in Jesus Christ and in his Church at the door of the voting booth but allow that faith to inform the choices we make in that booth.  I encourage you to spend some time in prayer prior to voting, asking the Holy Spirit to infuse you with her guidance in making choices that are in keeping with our faith and the common good of all.  This is especially true in making choices that, as Cardinal Dolan of New York recently wrote, promote the dignity of the human person, as something “to be defended and promoted as a first priority, a dignity not dependent upon race, green card, stock portfolio, age, or health; [and] the sacredness of human life, from the instant of conception to the holy moment of natural passing, to be defended vigorously rather than diluted and then discarded.”
 
My final encouragement is to be people of “Good News,” doing and saying only the good things that men and women need to hear, things that will lift them up. There is already too much anger, vitriol, and incivility in our culture today. We do not need to add to it but instead apply a cure: kindness, charity, and mutual respect for each other as brothers and sisters created in the image of God.
 
May God bless America.




Bishop Christopher J. Coyne

 
[For those who are interested in further instruction and guidance from the Church on these matters, I direct you to the US Bishops’ teaching on “Faithful Citizenship” at www.faithfulcitizenship.org]
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Bishop Kenneth Angell remembered at funeral for his forgiveness, humor, kindness

BURLINGTON--It is difficult to name one moment that defines a person’s life, but if Msgr. Richard Lavalley had to choose one to describe the life of the late Burlington Bishop Kenneth A. Angell, it would be the moment he stood on the steps of St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington and forgave the terrorists who killed his brother and sister-in-law on Sept. 11, 2001.
 
“On those steps I heard the greatest homily I’ve ever heard in my life,” he said. Bishop Angell stood there, crosier in hand, and when asked how he felt about the terrorists who took the lives of his family members he said, “I am Christian. I am told to forgive so I do."

"And he did,” Msgr. Lavalley said in his homily at the Mass of Christian Burial for Bishop Angell Oct. 11 in that very same church.

A friend of Bishop Angell, Msgr. Lavalley is pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church in Winooski.
 
Bishop Angell, eighth Bishop of the Diocese of Burlington, died on Oct. 4 at the age of 86.
 
He has been remembered for his sense of humor, his kindness, his respect for life and his charity.
 
His wake took place in the co-cathedral on the day of the funeral and the day before, and scores of the faithful prayed next to the open casket.
 
Fourth Degree members of the Knights of Columbus from throughout the Diocese of Burlington provided an honor guard, with the changing of the guard every 12 minutes during the wake.
 
Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne, the celebrant of the Mass of Christian Burial, read a letter from the apostolic nuncio, Bishop Christophe Pierre, noting that Pope Francis was saddened to learn of the death of Bishop Angell and recalled with gratitude his years of service to the Diocese of Burlington.
 
Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap., metropolitan archbishop of Boston, along with eight bishops, priests, deacons, religious, friends, members of other faith communities, Catholic school children and others attended the 90-minute Mass.
 
The cardinal offered a light-hearted recollection of Bishop Angell, saying that when regional bishops had gone to Rome for an ad limina visit with Pope John Paul II, everyone was nervous and wondering what to say: “Ken Angell was the ice breaker” and soon had the pope “in peals of laughter.”
 
Karen Brendli of Brewster, N.Y., said before the funeral that many of her fondest memories of her uncle, the bishop, centered around Christmas. “Every year Uncle Ken would go to the prison in Rhode Island (where he was auxiliary bishop before coming to Burlington). He said it was an emotional time for him.”
 
The children in the family loved seeing him. “He always told stories with characters and voices that entertained the kids.”
 
Members of the Angell Family accompanied the casket to the front door of the church as bishops, priests and deacons – vested in white – stood under a bright blue sky at the bottom of the stairs singing Salve Regina.
 
Burial will be at a later date in the family plot in Rhode Island.
 
Click on the slideshow below to view more photos from the wake and Mass.

For more about the funeral and the life of Bishop Angell, see the upcoming commemorative publication from Vermont Catholic.

 
  • Published in Diocesan
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