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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

Salvation Army dinners

University of Vermont students are responding to the Gospel command to serve others by preparing and serving dinners at the Salvation Army in downtown Burlington.
 
Twice a month during the school year students prepare and serve mixed vegetable salad and macaroni and cheese with ham; the Salvation Army provides the dessert.
 
They do the prep work on Thursday evenings at the Catholic Center, then return for cooking and final preparations before heading to the Main Street meal site to serve the meal; they plan to serve about 120 people in need.
 
“There is definitely a heart for service at UVM,” said Father Dwight Baker, director of the Catholic Center. The students “definitely witness to our faith in Christ and put our faith into action.”
 
During any given week during the school year, an average of about 20 students are involved in the meal program sponsored by the Catholic Center.
 
Nora Ghostlaw, a senior from Hanover, Mass., majoring in elementary and special education, has been involved in preparing meals for the Salvation Army since the end of her first year at the university. “When I first signed up to help cook and serve, I thought it would be a great way to not only get further involved in the Catholic Center but also a great way to give back to the Burlington community,” she said. “The guests that come through are so appreciative of the meal that we serve, and it is an amazing feeling to play a small part in helping the Salvation Army.”
 
Students from the center have been cooking and serving meals at the Salvation Army for about 10 years; for about eight years before that they served only.
 
Funds for the meals come from a grant from the Bishop deGoesbriand Appeal, supported by the parishes of the Diocese of Burlington.
 
The cheese for the macaroni and cheese is donated, and sometimes the pasta is too.
 
“Living on a college campus can seem like living in a bubble at times, with practically everything you need at your fingertips, but going out into Burlington and serving at the Salvation Army can really pop that bubble,” Ghostlaw said. “It is very easy to get caught up in the busyness of college life, but it is important to always take a step back to see what is happening in the world around you. I think as Catholics we are called to serve others in the likeness of Jesus and out of the goodness of our hearts, and we are so fortunate to have the amazing opportunity to do just that at the
 
Salvation Army.”
 
Taking time out of a busy schedule to cook and serve a meal “is a great way to take a step back and think about what we are really here for,” she said. “I think it can help put things in life into perspective for students.”
 
  • Published in Schools

Care regardless of ability to pay

Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. provides quality care in its four eldercare residences regardless of a resident’s ability to pay.
 
In 2015, 77 percent of the residents received Medicaid.
 
“Our mission is to provide residents with a safe, caring and homelike environment where they can enjoy a pleasant living experience rooted in Christian dignity,” said Mary Beth Pinard, executive director of Vermont Catholic Charities. “For private pay residents, if they convert to Medicaid, they can stay with us and in their same room.  This isn’t the case every facility. Some facilities require residents to move once they have moved from private pay to Medicaid.”
 
Michaud Memorial Manor in Derby Line has 33 beds; Loretto Home and St. Joseph Kervick Residence in Rutland have a total of 107 beds including Loretto Home’s special care unit for residents assessed with higher physical and/or cognitive limitations. St. Joseph’s Residential Care Home in Burlington has 41 beds.
 
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington provides rent-free use the four residential care homes totaling $1.35 million annually because “our social mission is to care for the sick, the poor, the elderly regardless of their ability to pay,” pointed out Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne. “As Catholics, we are all called to put our faith into action and follow in the footsteps of Jesus.”
 
According to Jeanne Schmelzenbach, administrator of Loretto Home and St. Joseph Kervick Residence, 83 percent of the residents cannot afford the private pay rate and are subsidized by Catholic Charities. “This number has been increasing steadily over the past several years.” It was about 75 percent in 2014.
 
“We pride ourselves on providing exceptional resident care to all residents regardless of their ability to pay,” said Mary Belanger, administrator of St. Joseph’s Residential Care Home. “All our residents are provided the care and services that they need to thrive.”
 
The homes’ commitment to the dignity of all people comes from the Gospel, Catholic Charities and founders of the homes.
 
“Our commitment comes from the belief that we as a Catholic institution, give back to the residents in need with an open heart,” Belanger added.
 
“Our goal is to provide a homelike environment where everyone can enjoy a pleasant living experience and receive the assistance they need,” Schmelzenbach said.
 
The residential care homes provide personal care, general supervision, medication management and nursing overview to persons unable to live wholly independently but are not in need of the level of care provided in nursing homes.
 
According to Anne Steinberg, administrator of Michaud Memorial Manor, because of Vermont Catholic Charities dedication to serving those in need, the home is fortunate to be able to care for an unusually high number of Medicaid recipients – about 70 percent at Michaud. “The rate of reimbursement that Medicaid provides is relatively low, making it pretty cost prohibitive for most homes to accept a large percentage of Medicaid residents,” she said. “I feel very blessed to work for an organization that recognizes the importance of opening our doors to all those in need, regardless of payer source.”
 
“The Medicaid reimbursement helps us care for residents with higher care needs without needing to transfer them to a nursing home,” Belanger said, adding that the reimbursement helps but it is not enough to care for all the people in need in the community.
 
The Catholic Charities-run homes are fully licensed by the Vermont Division of Licensing and Protection as Level III Residential Care Homes. 
 
Medicaid provides about one third of the actual cost of caring for a resident.
 
“Catholic Charities and fiscal management of the homes enable us to support this underserved segment of our population,” Schmelzenbach said.
 

A community that CARES

This is a faith community that CARES.
 
CARES Catholic Network, a cooperative health and wellness ministry of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Winooski and the Burlington parishes of St. Mark, St. Joseph Co-Cathedral and Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, is all about Compassion, Advocacy, Respite, Education and Service.
 
Housed at the former convent at St. Mark’s on North Avenue in Burlington, CARES Catholic Network is a Christ-centered, parish-based ministry dedicated to the holistic health and wellness of the community. Through assessment of people’s needs, planning and implementing health and wellness activities and reflecting on the Gospel mission of health and wholeness, CARES promotes the integration of body, mind and spirit both in volunteers and in those they serve.
 
Services and activities include transportation, home visits, a durable medical goods exchange (canes, shower chairs, commodes etc.), advocacy for immigrants, handyman services, right-to-life advocacy, blood pressure screenings and a caregiver support group.
 
CARES has a full-time parish nurse, Sharon Brown, who makes home and hospital visits, coordinates CARES services and is a liaison with other service providers.
 
The Francis Center at St. Mark Parish provides physical space and is the hub of the CARES Catholic Network. It consists of a chapel, two medium-sized multi-purpose rooms, two smaller conference rooms and a residential kitchen.
 
It is a place for community, serving others and spiritual growth.
 
At the center there is space for meetings, trainings and spiritual formation for volunteers; community prayer groups and faith formation activities; cultural/educational activities; education/support group meetings; and storage/collection space for durable medical and household goods.
 
“We are excited we can use this space to reach out to minister to the community, following our faith and doing works of mercy,” said Father Dallas St. Peter, administrator of St. Mark Parish. “The reason [for the center] is to extend the Church’s mission of mercy in this area.”
 
Services are available to everyone, regardless of religious affiliation.
 
Two of the approximately 60 people who volunteer in the CARES ministry as their time allows are Claudine Nkurunziza and her mother, Merida Ntirampeba, natives of Burundi now living in Winooski and attending St. Francis Xavier Church. “My life is to help somebody,” Ntirampeba said.
 
She and her daughter escaped the genocide in their homeland and thank God for the help they received to do so. “They were doing it [helping the mother and child] for the love of God, and I want to repay God,” she said.
 
“Many people would have just saved themselves,” Nkurunziza added.
 
St. Francis CARES – which began three years ago -- brought the family food and clothing when needed and provided transportation and nursing assistance. “Without them, I don’t know where we’d be. They really have helped,” Ntirampeba said.
 
St. Mark Parish joined the CARES Catholic Network in 2015, and the cathedral and co-cathedral parishes joined in September. “We have absolute support from the pastors and administrative assistants,” Brown said.
 
Volunteers will spend the winter identifying programs needed for the spring and summer. Already fabric and sewing machines have been donated for a spring sewing class for refugee women.
 
Marie Forcier of St. Mark’s plans to be an instructor. “I love helping out,” she said.
 
“Pope Francis tells us to take care of each other,” Brown said. “By caring for others, we show the heart of Jesus.”
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Year of Mercy to conclude with special Mass at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral

The door will close on the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy on Sunday, and the impact of the celebrations in the Diocese of Burlington has been “wide.”
 
A closing Mass will take place at 3 p.m. at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington.
 
Pope Francis called for the extraordinary jubilee to be celebrated from Dec. 8, 2015, to Nov. 20, 2016.
 
As an "extraordinary jubilee" it was set apart from the ordinary cycle of jubilees, or holy years, which are called every 25 years in the Catholic Church. A holy year outside of the normal cycle emphasizes a particular event or theme.
 
The pope called for the jubilee because, he said, “It is the favourable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.”
 
Father Lance Harlow, rector of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph Co-Cathedral parishes in Burlington and chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Year of Mercy, said the monthly celebrations have had a “wide” impact.
 
“Not only did we have the major monthly jubilee celebrations drawing large crowds, but there were also various parish, school and individual pilgrimages to St. Joseph Co-Cathedral throughout the year,” he said. “People of all ages passed through the holy door to gain the plenary indulgence, and hundreds of confessions were heard. The success of the jubilee can only be attributed to the work of God.”
 
The Diocese of Burlington followed the program Pope Francis established for the universal Church to recognize different aspects of ecclesial life. Ministries that are operative in the diocese were emphasized including the ordained ministry, lay ministry, families, Catholic education and the healing of the sick.
 
The September Jubilee for Catechists and School Teachers was a celebration of instructors of the Catholic faith coming together to give thanks for the ministry of Catholic education in this diocese. “We are all responsible for faith formation of our children, young adults and one another,” said Sister of Mercy Laura DellaSanta, principal of Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington.
 
Stephen Giroux, creative director for Third Generation Media and Design was the videographer for all of the monthly events and edited all of the videos and interviews.
 
“I had the opportunity to see God’s mercy from a very unique perspective: Being behind the camera and capturing each of the jubilees on video has allowed me to really listen -- especially in the post-production process -- and to understand more deeply my role as a member of our Catholic community,” he said.
 
He considers himself fortunate to have had parents who taught him about being a merciful person as they practiced the corporal and spiritual works of mercy in their everyday lives and passed those values to each of their children. “For that reason I think that I was very impressed and inspired by the Jubilee for Families” at St. Anne’s Shrine in Isle LaMotte, Giroux said. He has many fond memories of annual family pilgrimages there for the Feast of St. Anne. “It’s been a wonderful opportunity to renew my Catholic roots,” he said.
 
The February Jubilee for Religious and Consecrated Life was special to Sister DellaSanta because it focused on their ministry in the diocese past, present and future. “It was a time to reflect on our ministries today vs. our ministries of yesterday and how we have partnered with the laity to pass on our community missions to be carried on by future generations,” she said. “It was also such a special celebration with our brothers and sisters from the many religious communities to come together as one, along with the lay groups and their members that also share in Catholic ministries in our diocese.”
 
Two of the most meaningful celebrations for Father Harlow were the Jubilee for Families in July and the Jubilee for the Sick in October at the co-cathedral.
 
“The presence of so many families gathered at the historic St. Anne’s Shrine, the site of the first Catholic Masses in Vermont, represented a powerful continuity of faith between those French Catholic explorers of the 17th Century and their spiritual descendants of the 21st Century,” he said.
 
At the Jubilee for the Sick more than 450 people came to the co-cathedral in search of God’s grace and healing. “Many people reported to me afterwards how they felt physically and spiritually changed by the healing prayers,” Father Harlow said. “Their experience is a diagnostic indication that we need to do much more healing work in our parishes.”
 
He praised The Year of Mercy Committee comprised of priests, a religious sister, lay men and lay women. “While most participants saw the finished celebration, there were hours of work done behind the scenes and in the weeks leading up to each of the monthly events,” he said.
 
A corps of volunteers included ushers, musicians and parking attendants, and Father Harlow was especially grateful to Msgr. Peter Routhier, former rector of the Burlington cathedrals and now pastor of St. Augustine Church in Montpelier, who supervised the majority of the events including the construction of the “porta sancta,” the holy door.
 
“The jubilee events helped to bring the diocese together as a bigger family/community, and for that reason I feel that it was very successful,” Giroux said.
 
As the Year of Mercy came to a conclusion, Father Harlow hoped that parishioners would remember that God’s mercy is experienced personally through the sacrament of reconciliation, the Eucharist and the works of mercy performed by the faithful in every corner of the diocese. “I am very proud of the members of my committee, the co-operation of the parish priests and the faithful participation of all of those who came to experience, in a concrete manner, the mercy of God which endures forever,” he said.
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Msgr. McDermott makes good on pledge to have head shaved for Daddy Warbucks part

BURLINGTON--Ever wonder what a $2,000 haircut looks like? 
 
Look here:  www.dropbox.com/sh/8niadbp3ck6xt0e/AADh08qqaz3wfh5n3yFniU4ia?dl=0
 
Msgr. John McDermott is vicar general of the Diocese of Burlington and pastor of Christ the King/St. Anthony Parish.  He is playing another part on Nov. 4 and 5: Daddy Warlocks, the iconic and beloved millionaire, in Christ the King School’s production of “Annie, Jr.”
 
Daddy Warbucks is famously bald, and Msgr. McDermott is – was -- not. However, he agreed to really get in character by shaving his head -- at a cost of $1,000.
 
He challenged the community to give $1,000 within a week, with all donations going to replace the school’s aging theater lighting, and he would have his head shaved in front of the entire school.  The $1,000 goal was reached in a matter of days, but the donations kept coming in, and by the end of the challenge the school had collected more than $2,000.
 
Thursday afternoon Msgr. McDermott brought in a professional hairstylist, Lori Detore, who removed his locks on the CKS stage in front a cheering crowd. 
 
By the end of the $2,000 haircut, he looked much more the Daddy Warlocks part and the school was a big step closer to replacing the theater lighting.    
 
  • Published in Schools

Help Christ the King School raise funds for Msgr. McDermott's haircut challenge

BURLINGTON—You could call it a $1,000 haircut.
 
Msgr. John McDermott has challenged the Christ the King School community to raise $1,000 for new stage lights, and if the goal is reached, he will have his head shaved in front of the entire school.
 
“I made the challenge because the school has been trying to get new stage lights for a while. This may get us closer to getting them,” said the pastor of Christ the King-St. Anthony Parish and vicar general for the Diocese of Burlington.
 
Of the 16 theater lights, only eight work, and not well. Efforts to raise money to fix the theater lighting have been ongoing for the last three years. The cost is estimated at $12,000 to replace the current bank of lights with the least expensive new version available.
 
Msgr. McDermott has had crew cuts before, but never a shaved head. “However I'm a lot closer to a bald head than I was as a newly ordained priest,” he said.
 
The new look will be fitting for his role in Christ the King School’s production of “Annie.” He is playing the famously bald Daddy Warbucks.
 
“I've done theater since elementary school. I love the stage and the opportunities to work with others to put on a show,” Msgr. McDermott said. “I was asked to join the cast, and I'm thrilled to help out. Being on stage is much more exciting than being in the audience.”
 
Christ the King School Principal Angela Pohlen expressed deep appreciation to Msgr. McDermott for the “clear love and joyfulness with which he engages the school.”
 
“Annie” will be performed Nov. 4 and 5 at 7 p.m. at the school.
 
Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. Call the school at 862-6696 to reserve tickets and then pay at the door.
 
All donations to Msgr. McDermott’s fundraiser will go directly to replacing the aging stage lights.
 
“The community's response is more aptly connected to Msgr. McDermott himself than to the challenge for the lights,” Pohlen said. “Our community loves him. He's present at the school and visits classrooms every single day; he knows the teachers, children and parents by name.”
 
It is fun for her to watch him rehearse with the students: “He fits right in, adding his talent, joviality and even a little silliness, with theirs. These kids will never, ever forget this experience. As a result, the community has responded with enthusiasm to the challenge. But that's not surprising. How do you not return love with love?”
 
Give online at www.cksvt.org/warbucks or drop off a check at the school’s front office.
 
“The arts are an important part of educating the whole child and a great way to bring a community together,” Msgr. McDermott said.
 
  • Published in Schools

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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