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Pursuing justice, respecting life

Both the responsibilities to respect life and pursue justice are founded on the basic principle of the inherent dignity of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God.
People sometimes disagree about how to handle pro-life and social justice issues, particularly when it comes to public policy when there are competing interests at play. “This can lead to a false assumption that social justice and pro-life are somehow at odds. They are not,” said Carrie Handy, respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington.
“Acknowledging the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings compels us to be particularly attentive to those who may not be able to care for themselves — the most vulnerable among us,” said Handy.
Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. supports life and justice ministries through its partnership with the Diocese to support Project Rachel (a ministry to those affected by abortion), through caring for residents at residential care homes and through deGoesbriand Grants to agencies supporting life and justice initiatives.
“Human life is sacred, and Vermont Catholic Charities is committed to the dignity of the human person,” emphasized Mary Beth Pinard, executive director.
“We do ourselves a disservice when we speak of social justice and protection of life as two separate issues,” said Stephanie Clary, manager of mission outreach and communication for the Diocese. “Protecting life is an issue of social justice and social justice is always an issue of protecting life.”
“In both arenas, the weaker and relatively defenseless are pitted against the more powerful,” said Deacon Peter Gummere, director of the Permanent Diaconate for
the Diocese, bioethicist and adjunct faculty member at Josephinum Diaconate Institute where he teaches courses in medical morality and moral theology. “In abortion, a tiny human is threatened by a big, powerful human. In assisted suicide, a weak person is invited to die earlier than they would otherwise for the convenience of society.”
Pro-life convictions lead Catholics not only to advocate for the unborn and the terminally disabled but also for others who are weak and marginalized. “It should
include sensitivity for the single mom, reaching out to her with a supportive network,” he said. “It should include helping to ensure the wellbeing of the disabled, the sick and others who are marginalized. It should include working to eliminate barbaric practices like excessively harsh conditions in prisons and capital punishment. And we should work toward more ecologically sustainable
practices in order to protect our planet.”
“To authentically work for justice in one area we must consider the connectedness of that issue with other aspects of reality,” Clary said. “When we work toward clean water, we quench someone’s thirst. When we reduce carbon emissions and prevent a crop-killing drought, we feed someone’s hunger. When we demand breathable air, we decrease the likelihood of birth defects and increase the life expectancy of elders.”
As Pope Francis points out in his encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” “we need to be attentive to the relationships that exist among creation if we truly wish to address injustices and protect life,” she added.
“What the Catholic Church means when it identifies as prolife is pro all life, not only because all life is connected, but more importantly because all life is of God. It was created with intention, purpose and love and it gives glory to God by its very existence,” Clary said. “We each have our own passions, areas of interest and expertise. The important thing is that we’re always considering the big picture and working together with those of different passions, interests and expertise to collectively pursue justice, the protection of life in our world.”

Originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
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Catholic Campaign for Human Development collection to return

The Diocese of Burlington again will participate in the annual collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
The appeal will take place the weekend of Nov. 19, the weekend before Thanksgiving and the first ever World Day of the Poor; 25 percent of funds collected will remain in the Diocese to fund local anti-poverty projects, and the remainder is distributed nationally through grants.
There are more than 46 million people in the United States living in poverty, and this collection supports programs to empower local communities to address the challenges they face. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development supports those living in poverty across the country to identify and address the unique obstacles they face as they work to lift themselves out of poverty. “By supporting this collection, donors are giving those on the margins a hand up, not a hand out,” said Mary Beth Pinard, diocesan director of CCHD and executive director of Vermont Catholic Charities Inc.
CCHD supports grassroots organizations that work to bring permanent and positive changes to their communities through community development grants, technical assistance grants, economic development grants and national strategic grants.
Community development grants range from $25,000-$75,000 and work to nurture solidarity between people living in poverty and those who do not. Projects funded by these grants empower those living in poverty to identify and take action to change problematic systems and structures in their communities.
Economic development grants range from $25,000-$75,000 and support community-based organizations and businesses that create just workplaces, provide quality jobs and develop assets for low-income people. 
National strategic grants range from $200,000-$500,000 and fund projects that promote justice and economic development on a significantly larger scale.
Vermont has two organizations that have currently received national grants from CCHD: The Center for the Agricultural Economy and Vermont Interfaith Action.
The Diocese of Burlington participated in the national CCHD collection until 2010 when it instituted The Bishop deGoesbriand Appeal for Human Advancement to raise money to support local non-profit organizations that make a difference in the daily lives of Vermonters. That specific collection will not be taken.
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2017 Bishop deGoesbriand grants

Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. has awarded 27 grants through The Bishop deGoesbriand Appeal for Human Advancement.
The non-profit organizations that received the grants make meaningful differences in the daily lives of Vermont individuals and families.
Each November, Vermont parishes take a second collection to support this grant program. One hundred percent of the money collected is distributed throughout the statewide Diocese of Burlington in the form of grants to local non-profit organizations who seek to create a higher quality of life in their communities at, for example, homeless shelters, right-to-life programs and food programs for children and families.
“As a Catholics, our mission is to help the vulnerable and underserved populations,” said Mary Beth Pinard, executive director of Vermont Catholic Charities.
“By supporting the Bishop deGoesbriand Appeal, donors are enriching the lives of individuals and families in all corners of the state. Vermont Catholic Charities is grateful for the tremendous support from Catholics.”
Since this grant program began in 2011, Vermont Catholic Charities has awarded more than $377,000.
“The grant positively impacts the hungry people who are able to receive a hot healthy meal four days a week, as well as take-out meals when needed,” said someone associated with St. Brigid’s Kitchen in Brattleboro.
“Living on a college campus can seem like living in a bubble at times, with practically
everything you need at your fingertips, but going into Burlington and serving at the
Salvation Army can really pop that bubble,” commented a University of Vermont student who helps with meals there. “It is a great way to take a step back and think about what we really are here for.”
This year the following organizations received grants totaling $58,139:
* Addison County Community Action (HOPE) ($3,000) Middlebury
Funding will support the organization’s Essential Services Program, which provides vital assistance to those unable to meet their own basic needs for food, shelter, heat, and medical care.
* Aunt Dot’s Place ($500) Essex Junction
Aunt Dot’s Place is a new organization with the mission “to organize volunteers who will provide a safe and welcoming place where the less fortunate can obtain help with basic needs such as food, clothing and community resources.” Funding will support this start up.
* Branches Pregnancy Resource Center ($600) Brattleboro
Funding will be used to help begin a new Fatherhood Program which is a mentoring and teaching program for expecting/new fathers taught by men.
* Aspire Together ($1,000) St. Albans and Burlington
Funding will be used to train new client service advocates to meet the demand of the two offices.
* Cathedral Parish Food Shelf Ministry ($3,000) Burlington
Funding will be used to purchase non-perishable food items for families/individuals in need in the Burlington area.
* Catholic Center at The University of Vermont -- Feed The Hungry  ($2,130) Burlington
Students at the University of Vermont will use funding to shop, cook and prepare
dinners for the poor in Burlington and take the food to the Salvation Army to serve the meal.
* Champlain Valley Birthright ($3,000) Burlington
Funding will be used for advertising to increase community awareness of Birthright’s services and to making themselves known to any woman who is ambivalent about her pregnancy.
* Committee on Temporary Shelter ($1,500) Burlington
Funding is to support the COTS Daystation program, which serves as refuge from the streets for men and women experiencing homelessness and helps people stabilize their lives in times of crisis.
* Community Emergency Relief Volunteers ($4,000) Northfield Falls
Funding will be used to support the summer lunch program, increase the volume of food needed to accommodate a larger number of clients and support families with emergency funds as needed.
* Dismas of Vermont ($2,500) Winooski/Rutland/Burlington
Funding will be used to support camping trips that reconnect former prisoners with their children.
* Ecumenical Lunch Bunch Program ($500) Essex Junction
Funding will be used to provide nutritious lunches to needy children during their summer vacation.
* Faith in Action Northern Communities ($4,000) Cabot
Funding will support this agency’s work of trying to meet the needs of people who “fall through the cracks” by helping with transportation to medical appointments, providing respite care, assisting with food and helping with yard work and constructions projects.
* Good Beginnings of Central Vermont ($2,500) Montpelier
Funding will support the Post-Partum Angel Family Support Program and the Loving Arms Program that provide postpartum support and resources to the most vulnerable families in Central Vermont, with particular focus on families that are geographically isolated or that are affected by drug addiction.
* Good Samaritan Haven ($4,500) Barre
Funding will support the Emergency Shelter Program. This agency is the only homeless shelter in Central Vermont providing housing and support services for homeless people in the community.
* Grateful Hearts ($1,000) East Dorset
Funding will help provide healthy prepared meals to families in need by utilizing surplus food resources made available by local farms.
* Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity ($2,000) Williston
Funding will help build homes for low-income working families.
* Martha’s Kitchen ($4,000) St. Albans
Funding will help sustain expanded hours of operation to include weekends.
* Meals &Wheels of Greater Springfield ($1,800) Springfield
Funding will assist in meeting the rising cost of food and supply costs so the agency can continue to meet the demand of providing hot, nutritious meals to homebound seniors who cannot prepare or are unable to purchase food.
* Neighborhood Connections ($2,500) Londonderry
Funding will support the agency’s Community Health Initiative for Families and Seniors.
* North Central Vermont Recovery Center ($2,000) Morrisville
Funding will help sustain the Recovery Coach Program, which trains individuals to help guide and aid people in their recovery from drugs and/or alcohol.
* Northeast Kingdom Human Services Zero Suicide Initiative ($2,000) Newport
Funding will be used to support a new initiative to provide and implement training in the Zero Suicide approach for staff members.
* Spectrum Youth & Family Services ($3,000) Burlington
Funding will support the agency’s Basic Needs & A Stable Home programs, which provide an essential safety net for youth who are living on the streets, in cars, couch surfing, camping or otherwise unable to sustain stable, permanent housing.
* St. Ambrose and St. Peter parishes ($2,360) Bristol and Vergennes (a grant to each parish)
Funding will support free monthly community meals at the parishes for those who are struggling with finances.
* St. Brigid’s Kitchen ($1,250) Brattleboro
Funding will be used to continue to offer meals to those in need in the Brattleboro community.
* St. Brigid’s Pantry ($1,500) Brattleboro
Funding will support the Take-A- Bag Program and the holiday food program, which serve the less fortunate in the parish and in the Brattleboro area.
* Vergennes Rotary Club ($2,000) Vergennes
Funding will help provide needed afternoon snacks to children of the Boys and Girls Club of the greater Vergennes area.

Originally published in the Summer 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.

Flynn Estate Scholarship Program

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

2016 Advent Appeal underway

The 22nd Advent Appeal is taking place throughout the Diocese of Burlington to raise funds to help individuals and families with basic needs such as food, utilities fuel and back rent/security deposits throughout the year.
For Christmas, funds will be used to help families with fuel assistance, unexpected expenses, food cards and gift cards to help provide children with Christmas gifts.
“This is the only appeal Vermont Catholic Charities conducts, and it supports individuals and families during the Christmas season and year around. The ‘Season of Giving’ has no bounds for people in need,” said Mary Beth Pinard, executive director of Vermont Catholic Charities Inc.
Last year a change was made to the appeal so that it would focus not only on helping people during the Christmas season but also provide additional funds for Vermont Catholic Charities’ year-round Emergency Aid Program. Throughout the year, Vermont Catholic Charities provides aid to hundreds of individuals and families who need immediate, short-term financial support.
“At Catholic Charities, we see the face of Christ in each and every person we encounter through the services we provide.  We couldn’t do this without the support of donors,” Pinard said, adding thanks to all those donors who have given in the past and those who will give this year. “Please know that although you don’t get see the relieved faces of clients helped, the individuals and families are grateful for your compassion.”
Last year the Advent Appeal raised $85,252, and it is hoped that the collection will exceed that this year.
During the Christmas season, support was given to 473 individuals/families and 445 children. This included supporting 56 requests from parishes.
In 2015, the Vermont Catholic Charities’ Emergency Aid program served more than 938 individuals and 591 children throughout the state.
“Electricity and food are such everyday needs, and when you don’t’ have them, your world feels upside down,” an emergency aid recipient said. “Thank you for helping my world stay upright.”
The geographic reach of the Emergency Aid Program includes households in all 14 Vermont counties encompassing 82 cities/towns. The top three emergency aid categories for clients were back rent/security deposits, electricity and fuel/heat.
“The population benefitting from emergency aid included the unemployed, the underemployed, those who have faced unexpected crises in their lives and those needing emotional support,” Pinard said.
“I am a single parent on disability with my four children living with me,” one Advent Appeal recipient said. “It has been a little bit of a struggle this year. I’m so appreciative with what you are doing to help me.”
“Pope Francis has invited us to celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy through service and acts of charity to those in need,” Pinard said. “Supporting the Advent Appeal is one way for people to show that they are a visible sign of God’s love and mercy to Vermonters in need. They are continuing to answer the call to serve others. This financial assistance supports Corporal Works of Mercy – feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless.”
The deadline for contributing to this year’s Annual Appeal is Dec. 31, but any donations received after that date are greatly appreciated as the emergency aid program provides year-round support.
To donate, send a check to Vermont Catholic Charities, Advent Appeal, 55 Joy Drive, South Burlington, VT  05401 or give online at vermontcatholic.org/adventappeal.
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