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Addressing adverse childhood experiences

Traumatic events in children’s lives can lead to problems later in life.
It seems obvious, but researchers wanted to know more.
Scientific research has identified physical and mental health problems linked to early childhood trauma events known as adverse childhood experiences or ACEs. 
“Thru extensive research, they have identified common risk factors in people that often develop physical and emotional problems as they become teenagers and young adults,” explained Thomas Mott, director of counseling services for Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. “Not all children who experience one ACE event (or two) will have problems later in life. However, the research has shown that the greater the number of ACEs in childhood, the greater the chance for health problems down the road. The research also identified the factors that can help protect a child from trauma events and increase their resilience to future problems.”
He is part of a team of people and a nationwide initiative called “Building Flourishing Communities,” which, in Vermont, is supported by the Vermont Department of Health and the Department of Children and Families.
The initiative is promoting public awareness of the scientific research that has identified the physical and mental health problems linked to early childhood trauma events.
The goal is talking about ACEs will raise public awareness and decrease the occurrence of future ACEs in children, thus, improving individual lives, their families and the community at large.
Local presentations on the topic will take place in various locations in Chittenden County. The first will be on Jan. 18 at St. Francis Xavier School in Winooski from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The second presentation will take place Feb. 14 at Flynn Elementary School in Burlington from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Future ones will take place in Milton and Essex Junction.
Examples of ACEs include being verbally, physically or sexually abused; being subjected to threats of bodily harm; feeling neglected or unloved by family; not having enough food to eat or clothes to wear; losing a biological parent through divorce or abandonment; witnessing one’s mother being pushed, grabbed, slapped or hit; living with someone who is a problem drinker or uses street drugs; having a family member who is depressed or mentally ill; or having a household member attempt suicide or be incarcerated.
“ACEs impact the individual, who in turn influences their family members. Similarly, families that act in unhealthy ways influence other families and the communities they live in,” said Mott whose participation in the ACE’s project is part of his ministry as a mental health and substance abuse counselor for Vermont Catholic Charities.
“Vermont Catholic Charities is committed to supporting people and families in need. By helping to strengthen families, we support our local communities and the activities of the Catholic Church throughout Vermont,” he said. “It’s important the Catholic Church play a role in community activities so that people see we put words into action.”
Future ACEs can be prevented when parents, grandparents and other care givers learn how their words and actions have a direct influence on children, for good and bad, he said, adding that “by educating people about childhood trauma, we can help prevent future generations from being mistreated and develop personal resilience to life’s challenges.”
Recent conversations have focused on domestic violence. “Our clergy and many laypeople started conversations about the topic, and women started to say ‘No’ to abuse,” Mott said. “Women sought help from battered women’s shelters and some entered into counseling. We are extending that conversation to childhood trauma now. Our goal is to promote awareness and knowledge so that future generations of children will be free of trauma.”
For more information, contact Vermont Catholic Charities at 802-658-6111.
  • Published in Diocesan

Obituary: Mary Markle McNamara

Mary M. McNamara died Dec. 16 at the McClure Miller VNA Respite House in Colchester. She was a former executive director of Vermont Catholic Charities Inc.
She was born in Burlington on April 7, 1941, the daughter of Ruth (McGovern) Markle and Ralph Markle, both of whom predeceased her. Her husband Dan, whom she married in 1982, predeceased her in 2005. She was also predeceased by her cousin, Judy Moriarty, in 2014.

Mary was educated in the spirit of the Sisters of Mercy from kindergarten through college at Mount St. Mary’s elementary and high school and at Trinity College in Burlington. She received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Trinity College and a master’s in social work from the State University of New York in Albany.
She began her social work career at the Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. in 1963, becoming executive director in 1998 and retiring in 2008. After completing her work for the Diocese, she delivered flowers for Chappell's Florist.

She is survived by her sister, Pat Markle, and nephews Josh (Elly), Seth and Ben (Carrie) as well as by extended family and friends.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Saturday, Dec. 30, at 11 a.m. in the Sacred Heart Chapel at Mount St. Mary Convent, 100 Mansfield Ave., Burlington. Visitation will be prior to the service beginning at 9.
Burial will follow at Resurrection Park in South Burlington. 
  • Published in Diocesan

Thanksgiving baskets

The annual Thanksgiving basket partnership between Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington and Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. took place Nov. 16. 
The students, teachers, staff and Rice community put together baskets of food and decorations for a full Thanksgiving feast for needy families from the Chittenden County area.  From turkeys and stuffing to pies and candles, goodies were placed with care in baskets and boxes. 
Twenty-one families (46 adults and 59 children) will enjoy a full Thanksgiving dinner thanks to this project.
“Thank you so much for the Thanksgiving basket. Without your generosity, we would not have a Thanksgiving this year. We all appreciate it more than you know,” said one recipient.
“Thank you so much for your help this year in helping my children have a great Thanksgiving. It is people like you that help us all grow.  Thank you!” said another.
Members of the Vermont Catholic Charities and Diocese of Burlington staff judged the baskets. The judges were inspired and impressed with the creative and overflowing baskets.  
The students who worked on the winning basket earned a dress-down day. There was a tie this year so the dress down day was awarded to the students from Gretchen Fricke-Langan’s and Sarah Smith Conroy’s classes.  
“As emergency aid coordinator at Vermont Catholic Charities, I feel blessed and thankful this Thanksgiving for the support of our extended community at VCC and Rice,” said Irene Manion, emergency aid coordinator at Vermont Catholic Charities. “It is so gratifying to see the generosity and spirit of the entire Rice community come together from the students, staff, parents — the abundant food donations, the beautifully decorated baskets and the spirit of sharing and helping our neighbors in need. The families we assisted could not have been more excited and appreciative, some were overwhelmed with the generosity, some almost tearful for the kindness. It truly makes me thankful to see how VCC and Rice working together can bring holiday joy to our friends and neighbors.”
  • Published in Schools

Loretto Home residents' portraits

Artist Louise Kenney is shining a light on the uniqueness and dignity of each resident of Loretto Home in Rutland, creating one pastel portrait a week to give to them.
Cindy Johnson of Christ the King Parish in Rutland was the first to be drawn when Kenney began the project on March 8, Johnson’s 62nd birthday. “It’s something you’re going to remember,” she said of the experience being interviewed by the artist and having her photo taken.
“It’s something you’re always going to have,” she added of the portrait, which clues the viewer into Johnson’s enjoyment in calling bingo on Sundays at the elder care home administered by Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. (A basket of bingo balls is seen in the bottom right corner of the portrait.)
After meeting with the resident, learning about him/her and taking photographs, Kenney returns to her studio and spends about 10 hours on each portrait before returning to Loretto Home the next week to deliver it and begin another.
“Every Wednesday people wait for Louise to see the portrait” for that week, said resident Thomas Munukka.
In his portrait he is wearing a shirt with a deer emblem, a nod to his interest in hunting. His children liked the portrait so much, they got two copies so one could have the original and the other two could have the copies. “I loved it, and the kids liked it better,” he said with a smile.
Resident Norma Patterson was pleased to have a portrait of herself, “which is very rare,” she said. An award she received from the Paramount Theater can be seen in the background.
“And it will probably be the last” portrait done of her, she added.
As much as the residents enjoy the portraits, they also like to visit with Kenney, and they feel honored.
There are about 43 residents at Loretto Home; Kenney has done portraits for about two dozen.
“You see a twinkle in their eye when they get their picture, and it gives them something to look forward to,” said Maryese White, activities director.
Her predecessor had been looking for someone to do portraits of the residents, so when Kenny – a retired speech-language pathologist -- had “divine inspiration” to embark on the project and contacted her, it was a go.
She specializes in pastel portraiture. “I find it is so rewarding to produce a painting that not only captures a physical likeness but portrays the essence and personality of my subject,” she notes on her website.
Frames for the portraits are courtesy of a friend of Kenney who wanted to support the endeavor, and a volunteer provides high quality digital prints of the photographs from which Kenney works.
Kenney – a wife, mother of two and grandmother of one – was not formally trained but has taken workshops and classes.
She called the Loretto Home project “extremely rewarding” because of the smiles she sees when residents receive their portrait.
“I was really surprised how it looked like me!” Manukka enthused.
For more information, go to louisekenneyportraitart.wordpress.com.
  • Published in Diocesan

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.”
  • Published in Schools

Help with addiction recovery

Not everyone who drinks alcohol becomes an alcoholic, “but, we know that most alcoholics began as binge drinkers,” said Thomas Mott, director of counseling services for Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. “Alcohol, or ethyl alcohol, is a drug that can result in social and psychological problems as well as chemical dependence if consumed to excess over time.”
He noted that ethyl alcohol is almost chemically identical to ether, which once was used in hospitals to sedate patients and prepare them for surgery. “Alcohol also sedates people, and if consumed to excess can render them unconscious just as ether was once used,” Mott said.
Because of the similarity of the effect of alcohol and other drugs on the body, people often simply use the term “drug addiction” or “drugs” when referring to alcohol and other substances that impact the brain.
Drug abuse is generally thought of in terms of the social problems it can cause. These may include arguments with family members, warning notices from an employer for being late or out sick from a hangover or forgetting other important dates. “When we talk about drug dependence, we not only see the common abuse problems, but, we also see signs of developing a physical tolerance to the drug and withdrawal symptoms when the body starts noticing the drug isn’t being delivered on time or in the amount it has grown accustomed to,” Mott explained. “Put another way, someone who is dependent not only wants it, but needs it to feel ‘normal.’”
The most commonly abused drugs in Vermont are alcohol, marijuana, opiates, nicotine, benzodiazepines and cocaine because they generally are readily available, cheap to buy and in the case of alcohol and nicotine, legal for adults. “With marijuana, there is the false belief that it is a harmless plant with no lasting impact on the body,” Mott said.
He encourages people who recognize they have a substance abuse problem to meet with an outpatient substance abuse counselor who can complete a thorough evaluation and make a professional recommendation about further treatment.   Outpatient counselors are well informed about inpatient rehab treatment centers, admission requirements, cost, insurance coverage and other critical factors that need to be considered to make an informed decision.
“Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Nar-Anon and other 12- step programs are excellent programs, and I highly recommend them,” Mott said. “Their track record in helping people get sober and clean is outstanding. In my experience, they are vital to maintaining long-term sobriety.”
He also recommends Celebrate Recovery, a program that has helped thousands of people receive support and encouragement to live a life in recovery. 
Vermont Catholic Charities has three addiction experts on staff that have years of experience identifying, assessing and diagnosing and treating addiction on an outpatient basis. “We can answer questions, give suggestions and recommend smart choices for the person struggling with addiction and their family members,” Mott said.
For more information about addiction or mental health issues, call Vermont Catholic Charities at 1-877-250-4099 or 802-658-6111, ext. 1318.  All calls are confidential and private. 
Another option for help is to email Mott at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to set up a convenient and private time to talk on the phone.
“The Catholic Charities counseling service is committed to reducing the impact of drug addiction and domestic violence in our communities,” he said. “Please don’t hesitate to call us. We are here to help.”

Responding to domestic violence

Abuse and violence have no place in marriage. Period.
That was the message of a presenter at the “Responding to Domestic Violence” workshop, Feb. 22, sponsored by the Diocese of Burlington and Vermont Catholic Charities Inc.
“There is no way you can justify abuse and violence in a Catholic marriage,” emphasized Dr. Sharon O’Brien, director of Catholics For Family Peace at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. “We are called to honor ourselves and protect our children.”
In “When I Call for Help,” a pastoral response to domestic violence against women, the United States bishops condemned the use of the Bible to support abusive behavior in any form. “A correct reading of Scripture leads people to an understanding of the equal dignity of men and women and to relationships based on mutuality and love,” they wrote.
O’Brien emphasized the hope, help and healing the Church offers to victims of domestic violence.
That was illustrated by “Nicole,” a survivor of domestic violence who told the gathering of about 50 people, including priests and deacons, at Holy Family parish center in Essex Junction that she “never would have made it through” without the strength she found in her faith and the compassion of a priest.
Pregnant, unmarried, underemployed, physically and emotionally abused, “scared beyond anybody’s ability to understand” and often locked in a room, she ran when she had the opportunity.
When the priest saw her crying at the back of the church one day, he spoke with her and suggested she contact Vermont Catholic Charities for help. “If he had not done that, I would still be in an abusive relationship and my child would be abused,” she said.
At Catholic Charities, she learned of services and resources available to her.
During her presentation, O’Brien explained that domestic violence is behavior that is used to control an intimate partner through fear and intimidation. It can include emotional, physical, sexual, psychological, financial and spiritual abuse as well as stalking.
She encouraged her listeners to “recognize, respond and refer” when they encounter abuse, but she stressed the importance of the abused person having a plan for what she/he will do later, before leaving. She suggested faith communities pray for both the abused and abusers, support local resource providers and showcase local resources and programs (by, for example, posting helpful information in rest rooms).
O’Brien noted that both men and women are abused. Signs of abuse include name calling, insults, constant criticism, humiliation; forced isolation from family and friends; monitoring of how time is spent; control of finances and refusal to share money; threats of deportation or of reporting to a welfare agency; death threats; destruction of property, such as household furnishings; and forced sex.
“The Church is crystal clear: There is no place for abuse and violence in marriage,” O’Brien reiterated.
Tom Mott, director of counseling services for Vermont Catholic Charities, addressed the gathering on “Catholic Charities Counseling Services for Victims and Perpetrators of Domestic Violence.”
Information about Vermont Catholic Charities, or call (Burlington) 877-250-4099 or (Rutland) 800-851-8379.

  • Published in Diocesan
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