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Catholic Schools Week Mass

More than 500 members of Catholic school communities in Vermont attended a special Catholic Schools Week Mass Jan. 31 at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington.
They came in school uniforms by bus or car or walked to the special celebration at which students served as altar servers, readers and gift bearers. Some students carried their school banner in the entrance procession; others brought baskets or boxes of donations for charities in their school’s area to the front of the church during the offertory. 
Students from Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington made up the choir, accompanied by Rice teacher Brian Lynam with cantor Ashlee O'Brien from the University of Vermont Catholic Center.
The theme of the Mass and of Catholic Schools Week was "Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed." The focus was on the important spiritual, academic and societal contributions provided by a Catholic education.
In his homily, Msgr. John McDermott, vicar general for the Diocese, spoke about the importance of choices and encouraged the students to make choices for God, for life and for eternal life.
“What we are trying to teach you” in Catholic schools “is God loves you, called you, redeemed you and calls you to Himself,” said Msgr. McDermott, pastor of Christ the King St. Anthony Parish in Burlington that includes Christ the King School.
Catholic schools help students make important life choices about vocations and avocations, but most importantly help them make choices that will help them become saints. “It’s easier to make choices that lead us further from God,” he said, “but we weren’t made to live an easy life. We were meant to live an eternal life with God in Heaven.”
About a dozen members of the clergy participated in the Mass.
During her remarks, Lisa Lorenz, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Burlington, said the “beauty of Catholic schools” is that they are witnesses of hope as students there grow in grace and the love of the Lord.
Each school represented at the Mass collected donations for charitable organizations in their area including Vermont Catholic Charities Inc., Central Vermont Humane Society, Lamoille County Food Share, Joseph’s House and Chittenden County Food Shelf.
Many of the students who attended the Mass appreciated being a part of the celebration with other Catholic school students. “It was cool to see all the schools in Vermont,” said Henry Sipples, an eighth grader at Good Shepard Catholic School in St. Johnsbury, admitting the attendance was more than he expected.
“It’s good to come together to celebrate our schools,” added classmate Madison Wilson.
PJ Letourneau and Alexis Limlaw-Sicard, eighth graders at St. Paul School in Barton, liked the music, and classmate Marina Rockwell — though she likes her small town — enjoyed visiting the City of Burlington.
But more importantly, she said, she appreciated the feeling of the Church as universal. “Being in Barton, you don’t see other Catholic schools [because St. Paul’s is the only one in the nearby area] so you feel kind of like isolated,” she said. “Coming here with all the other kids who do the things you do [in Catholic school] makes you feel like you’re a big family.”

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School Christmas activity

The boxes of donated items to four different charities during Advent are a testament to the generosity of the families at St. Paul School in Barton.
With only about 50 families, the school sends boxes of gifts to active soldiers, pet items to the local animal shelter, toys to the Toys for Tots program and food to the local food pantry.
“This is little Barton, and our families sacrifice to [send their children] here already. They are so thankful and somehow able to still be generous,” said Principal Joanne Beloin.
There are 68 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, and 30 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced lunches.
“A lot has been done for us at St. Paul’s or we wouldn’t still be here,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do to pass on that generosity and help others.”
The school community sends two boxes of toiletries, games, candy, writing material, socks and homemade cards to soldiers during Advent and another for Valentine’s Day.
“Our school as a whole really supports our vets,” Beloin said, and that support reaches to today’s soldiers.
“They support our country, and we want to honor them and support what they are doing for us,” said Jennifer Wilson, the third- and fourth-grade teacher as her students worked on a poppy-themed art project to send to veterans.
“It’s nice to do this. They are rising their lives for us,” Micha Sicard, 9, a third grader said of the boxes sent to soldiers.
Classmate Akira Conley, 8, said she likes collecting for the animal shelter because “God doesn’t want to see the animals starve because they’re His creation.”
Mara Royer, 13, an eighth grader, usually contributes to the Toys for Tots collection because she likes to help ensure a child’s happiness on Christmas morning. “You want to welcome Christ by being full of cheer, and you want everyone to be as happy as possible.”
Riley Perry, 13, also an eighth grader, said her family and school community model generosity for her: “It’s important to be generous because you can share happiness.”
“Giving is just as good as receiving,” Mara added. “It makes you happy deep down inside.”

--Originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
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Modern-day Santa

St. Paul School in Barton gets $60,000 gift in honor of its 120th anniversary

A “modern-day Santa” made a stop at St. Paul School in Barton Dec. 14, but he didn’t deliver a big bag of toys to the 78 children in pre-kindergarten through grade eight.
Rather, he gave their school a big check: $60,000.
“I’ve been fortunate, and I give back to people who need it,” said developer and philanthropist Antonio Pomerleau after giving an oversized presentation check to St. Paul’s Principal Joanne Beloin and Father Timothy Naples, pastor of Most Holy Trinity Parish that includes St. Paul Church in Barton.
Pomerleau was like a “modern-day Santa,” Beloin said. He “exuded a love of children,” she added, gesturing to make a connection to a picture of a happy Jesus with children. “His roots are here, and he is very tenderhearted about what Catholic education means to his family.”
Pomerleau’s brother and sister attended St. Paul School; the family moved to Newport in 1927 where he attended the former Sacred Heart School.
Now a parishioner of Christ the King Church in Burlington, the 99-year-old businessman made his donation as part of the school’s celebration of its 120th anniversary.
Earlier this year, a campaign began to raise $120 from each of 120 donors, and when Pomerleau learned of the fundraiser – which accepts donations of all amounts -- he pledged to match what was raised.
As of mid December, St. Paul’s had received about 90 of the specific $120 gifts.
Funds raised from the anniversary campaign will be used for the school’s endowment, scholarships, facilities, an outside play space, general programs and technology upgrades.
“The school thrives because of all the gifts we receive in time, talent, money and prayers,” Father Naples said, noting that Pomerleau’s donation was “notably the largest.”
Because of his challenge, “more people have decided happily to donate gifts of varying amounts” from $1.50 to $20,000,” he noted, expressing gratitude for every contribution to the continuing campaign.
“I’m edified and happy to see this position [Pomerleau] has as a donor where he gives out of generosity and gratitude, and he is conscious as a Catholic of the Lord’s goodness which enables him to do that and other people to do the work that he contributes to,” Father Naples said. “He uses his riches to serve the Kingdom of God.”
During his 30-minute visit to the school, Pomerleau greeted students in the cafeteria, listened to a song they sang for him, presented the check and posed for photographs.
He told the children to be diligent and never give up. He was not from a wealthy family and had to work hard; now he is able to contribute to various charities so he does. “I’ve had a lot of success in my life and just passed it on. You can’t take it with you,” he said after the presentation.
Pomerleau was pleased with the school. “I had no idea Barton had a [Catholic] school half as good as that,” he enthused. He was impressed with the children’s polite behavior, the cleanliness of the school and the kind way the children are treated.
Beloin said enrollment is growing at the school, which has 78 students – up 10 from last year. The next graduating class – with 15 members – will be the largest in recent history.
Teachers have a combined total of 250 years of teaching experience; she described them as knowledgeable, experienced, wise and loving. “They want to be here,” she said. “Great things are happening here.”
The principal – who acknowledged all the contributions the parish makes to the school -- hopes the momentum the 120th anniversary campaign has created will continue to ensure quality education in this rural area of Vermont.
Donations can be sent to St. Paul School, 54 Eastern Ave, Barton, VT 05822.
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Barton news 'boys'

Extra! Extra! 

Read all about it!

Two students from St. Paul School in Barton attended National History Day in June at the University of Maryland, bringing home to Vermont the award they won for their performance related to American Labor History.  

Hannah Poginy and Annika Socia – rising eighth graders — created and performed “The Newsboy Strike of 1899.” 

They dressed up as newspaper boys for their 9-minute skit about strike leaders “Kid Blink” and “Racetrack.” A panel of three judges asked questions relating to their research methods and the consequences of the strike. 

The Catholic Church has a well-documented tradition on labor and unions, rooted in the human right of association.

Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 social encyclical, “On the Condition of Labor” (“Rerum Novarum”) addressed the dehumanizing conditions in which many workers labor and affirms workers’ rights to just wages, rest and fair treatment, to form unions and to strike if necessary.

Madalyn Ledoux, religion teacher for grades 3-8 at St. Paul’s and Hannah’s maternal grandmother, said their newsboy strike topic is applicable to Catholic social teaching because the strike was one of the most successful labor strikes in U.S. history and resulted in major reforms regarding child labor. 

“Furthermore, it was primarily started and led by children,” she emphasized.

The 2016 history competition theme was “Exploration, Encounter, Exchange.”

Annika, 12, and Hannah, 13, focused their performance on the newsboy strike because they both like “Newsies The Musical,” a Disney Theatrical Productions stage musical based on the 1992 musical film “Newsies,” which was inspired by the Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City.

Working more than 100 hours on their project, the skit was a requirement in Susan Guilmette’s language arts class at St. Paul’s. 

The best friends first performed their skit in class then in April went to the Vermont History Day in East Montpelier, winning first place in the junior group performance with a superior rating and earning a spot at National History Day where they competed against about 100 other entries in their category.

With help from Peter Tarbox, who participates in local community theater, and Victoria Hughes, Vermont History Day coordinator, the winners of the Calvin Coolidge Prize in Vermont for an entry about something that changed America felt better prepared for the national competition, attended by several of their family members.

“We said lots of Hail Mary’s,” Annika said with a smile, referring to the nervousness the girls felt before their performance in Maryland. “It calmed us down and made us stop thinking about [being nervous,]” Hannah added.

Every year more than 3,000 students from throughout the world advance to the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest in College Park, Md. Annika and Hannah created their costumes with clothing they had bought or borrowed. They smeared charcoal on their faces and clothing to resemble the newsboys who got dirty on the streets, used a cinnamon stick for a cigar and brought stacks of recycled Barton Chronicle newspapers as props.

“They were fighting for fair work conditions,” Annika said of the newsboys.

“You should treat your neighbors as yourself and your workers as yourself,” she added. 

“It doesn’t matter what your gender is or your age or where you’re from,” Hannah said.

Participating in the project helped her understand what children of the past endured. “For children, it’s really important to get educated first,” she said.

Annika was appalled that if the newsboys did not sell enough papers, they did not eat. “It made us think more about child labor,” Hannah said. “It was a hard life.”

Guilmette said the girls were “a joy to work with” because they have the “unheralded” quality of initiative which is “very, very important in life.”

Annika is the daughter of Rosa and Vincent Socia of Albany; they attend St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Newport.

Hannah is the daughter of Alicia and Brandon Poginy of Barton and attends St. John Vianney Church in Irasburg where she is a lector.

Three other St. Paul School students qualified for the national history competition but chose not to attend.

National History Day 2017 will focus on “Taking a Stand in History,” June 11-15.

Annika and Hannah are already brainstorming their entry.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.
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