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Totus Tuus 2017

Troy Norman, a seminarian for the Diocese of Burlington, is spending part of his summer break from his own studies -- teaching.
 
A team leader and teacher in the Totus Tuus program, he is, he said, “helping children give themselves to Jesus through Mary” and sharing his experience of the faith with them as a role model.
 
Two teams of two seminarians and two young women each are conducting five Totus Tuus programs for elementary and middle school students and a separate one for high schoolers.
 
In Bennington, 62 children participated along with about a dozen high schoolers.
 
Totus Tuus was St. John Paul II's apostolic motto. It is a Latin phrase meaning "totally yours" and expressed his personal consecration to Mary.
 
Totus Tuus is a Catholic youth program dedicated to sharing the Gospel and promoting the Catholic faith through catechesis, evangelization, Christian witness and Eucharistic worship. The goal of Totus Tuus is to help young people grow in their understanding of, and strengthen their faith in, Jesus Christ. The program strives to bring faith to life by creating a balance between knowledge of the meaning of the sacraments and an authentic sacramental life.
 
According to Holy Cross Father Robert Wiseman, administrator of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Parish in Bennington and St. John the Baptist Parish in North Bennington, the program provides a consistency in vacation religious education throughout the statewide Diocese.
 
Though some parishes have their own Vacation Bible School programs, Totus Tuus offers the same program with a strong catechetical basis throughout the Diocese with trained staff members.
 
Vermont is the only site in New England where it is currently offered.
 
Father Dwight Baker, director of the Catholic Center at the University of Vermont in Burlington and chaplain for Totus Tuus, said the program is a “great blend of learning and fun.”
 
Classes are geared to each grade level, and each year the theme is different mysteries of the rosary; this year it is the Joyful Mysteries. Participants also learn about salvation history.
 
“The young people [on the team] are on fire for their faith, and the children see they are living an authentic life in their faith,” Father Baker said. “They are people [the children] look up to.”
 
Participants in the Bennington Totus Tuus – one of the largest in the Diocese – came from Bennington, North Bennington, Manchester and Arlington and from North Adams and Williamstown, Mass.
 
Jessica O’Connell, one of the coordinators, sent her son, Ambrose, 5, to Tutus Tuus at the Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Parish Center. “It’s an opportunity for him to be with a group of his peers and be exposed to the older leaders who are encouraging him in his faith,” she said.
 
The other coordinator, Tammy Buckley, said she hoped the Totus Tuus experience would have an effect on the wider community too, bringing persons to Jesus through the words and actions of the participants. “It’s really all about love,” she said.
 
Father Wiseman said Totus Tuus also is an opportunity for him to meet parents “and engage is some pastoral ministry.”
 
In addition, he said it is good for parishioners to see youth activities in the parish; he planned to show a video of Totus Tuus during upcoming weekend Masses.
 
Kayla E. King, 14, a volunteer helper from Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Parish, said she helped the children “stay focused” on their lessons and have fun. “It’s important so they can grow in their faith,” she said.
 
Totus Tuus is funded in part by The Bishop’s Annual Appeal/the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.
 

Ukulele lessons

Uke-otta hear this: Children at The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales in Bennington learning to play ukuleles.
 
Free ukes.
 
Thanks to a win in a contest sponsored by Kala, a popular brand of ukuleles, the school got 45 of the instruments at no cost at the beginning of the current school year.
 
The ukulele, sometimes abbreviated to uke, is a member of the lute family of string instruments.
 
“I enjoy the ukulele; it makes a beautiful sound,” fourth grader Isabella Thurber, 9, said after a March music class during which the students worked on their ukulele skills.
 
March is Music in Schools Month.
 
“Whenever you can put an instrument in the hands of a child, it’s exciting,” enthused Principal David Estes.
 
Ken Pallman, father of fourth grader Kaelene, is a drummer who took up the uke about three years ago; he likes it so much he has 17 in his collection – including two Kalas. “It’s more fun than the recorder,” a common musical instrument for entry-level school band members, he said. “It sounds like a happy instrument. You can’t be sad and play a uke. It’s a blast.”
 
He entered a Facebook contest and encouraged others to participate, and the result was a prize of 45 ukes for the Catholic school.
 
Students in grades four and five are learning to play the ukulele during their weekly 45-minute music classes, and this is the first time the school has provided instruments. (Third graders learn to play the recorder, and like students who play in a school band, their families must provide their instruments.)
 
“We’ve never done the ukulele; we’ve done the recorder. Ukuleles are more fun,” said Ryan Maroney, 10, a fourth grader.
 
Classmate Vincent Mattison, 10, called out his enthusiasm for “Hey, Ho! Shalom” when his music teacher, Stephanie Paul, asked students to play it. “It’s slow, and you don’t have to change chords,” he said.
 
He likes the instrument because, he said, “once you learn it, you can play the guitar.”
 
The ukulele has four strings; the guitar six or 12.
 
Kaelene Pallman, 10, already is learning to play the guitar, which she said helps her with the uke. “This is easier because I know how to do the fingering” of the chords, she said.
 
Ken Pallman, inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame as a drummer in 2014, said there has been a “huge upswing” in interest in ukuleles over the past half dozen years. “I think it’s because it is an instrument anybody can pick up and at least noodle on and get somewhat proficient,” he said, adding that ukulele groups are forming throughout the country.
 
There is even one in Bennington that people of all ages attend.
 
The instrument is popular, Paul said, because it is easily grasped. “You can start to feel you’ve mastered the ukulele pretty easily, and it’s a lifetime instrument you can play.”
 
Taking ukulele lessons at school gives Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales students “an opportunity if they are not so inclined to do something musical,” Pallman said. “Music is a wonderful thing.”
 
He said students who learn to read music increase their math proficiency because musical notes are based on math.
 
“You have to know your numbers” to learn music, said fourth grader Zoey Zazzaro, 10. “You have to get your timing right.”
 
When Paul was a child she had difficulty with long division, and in the fifth grade began playing the saxophone. Within a year and a half she was in advanced math class. “It’s getting that part of the brain turned on” that affects both music and math skills, she said.
 
She called it a “blessing” to give the children the hands-on experience of the ukulele. “They can see their progress and hopefully use this experience to be confident as they try out other instruments in their lives.”
 
Some of the ukulele players will accompany the school chorus during a performance of “Over the Rainbow” in the spring concert.
 
  • Published in Schools

2017: "Year of Creation"

Diocese to observe 2017 as "Year of Creation"

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

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

Together we pray: A day of prayer for peace is set in September

In light of recent incidents of violence and racial tension in communities across the United States, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops invited all dioceses throughout the country to unite in a Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities and appointed a special task force to support bishops in marking that Day of Prayer and promoting peace and healing.

In his initial and immediate response to the racially related shootings in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., noted the need to look at ways the Catholic Church can walk with and help these suffering communities, according to the USCCB.

“I have stressed the need to look toward additional ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence,” Archbishop Kurtz said. “The Day of Prayer and special task force will help us advance in that direction. By stepping forward to embrace the suffering, through unified, concrete action animated by the love of Christ, we hope to nurture peace and build bridges of communication and mutual aid in our own communities.”

The Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities will be celebrated on the Feast of St. Peter Claver, Sept. 9, and will serve as a focal point for the work of the task force.

According to Phil Lawson, director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington, parishes are encouraged to pray for peace in all communities at Mass that day. “Where the rosary is prayed before or after Mass, peace can be the particular intention that day. A Holy Hour in adoration is also a good option,” he suggested. “Still further, as we are called to take the peace of the Lord out into our communities, why not offer a free noontime cookout on the front lawn of the parish and invite the neighboring families, businesses, churches and workers to come together in fellowship?  Or an evening ice cream social open to the whole community?  The possibilities are unlimited.” 

Asked why parishes should join in this effort, he quoted Blessed Teresa of Calcutta: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

The purpose of the task force is to help bishops engage the challenging problems directly by gathering and disseminating supportive resources and best practices, actively listening to the concerns of members in troubled communities and law enforcement and building strong relationships to help prevent and resolve conflicts. 

The task force will conclude its work with a report on its activities and recommendations for future work to the November General Assembly.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, former USCCB president, will chair the task force.  

“At every Mass, we ask the Lord for His peace, we receive it in our hearts, and we go forth to share it with others. What a world we could have!” Lawson said.  

For more information, click below:

Ordained to the Priesthood and Transitional Diaconate

Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne ordained two men to the priesthood and one to the transitional diaconate at a special Mass June 18 at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington.

The celebration was part of the diocesan commemoration of the Year of Mercy and its Jubilee for Priests and Seminarians.

During the more-than-2-hour Mass, the bishop ordained Fathers Curtis Miller and Matthew Rensch and Deacon Joseph Sanderson.

"These three men – Joseph as a transitional deacon and Curtis and Matthew as priests – have been chosen by God through his holy Church to go forth, appointed and anointed through the sacrament of Holy Orders to spread the Good News that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and the bearer of salvation to [the] entirety of creation," the bishop said in his homily. "You are called forth from the community to serve that same community and the wider Church as servants of the Church. What an honor and what a responsibility."

He told the men that they were taking on an awesome responsibility and he encouraged them and the members of the congregation that filled the co-cathedral: "In all Christian vocations – marriage, the single life, parenthood, widowhood, consecrated and religious life – if we do not place ourselves in God's hands and rely on his mercy and love, we shall fail. But when we do [fail], he shall lift us up on eagle's wings."

Bishop Coyne emphasized that all things are possible with God. "When we rely on God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – when we say 'it is not about me' but about him and his people, then our lives – but most especially the life of deacon or priest – are built on a solid foundation," he said. "This foundation is built of the bricks of daily prayer, especially intercessory prayer for the needs of others, the Liturgy of the Hours, the reading of Scripture and the celebration of the sacraments, the font and summit of which is the Eucharist, all of this being centered on Christ, relying on him who alone is our rock and our fortress."

The Rite of Ordination included a Litany of Supplication in which the Church invokes the intercession of the saints and martyrs in heaven to intercede for the candidates and the entire pilgrim Church on earth, asking for God to pour forth his grace and mercy. During the litany, the candidates lay prostrate at the foot of the steps in front of the altar.

The bishop then placed his hands on the head of each candidate. Through this Laying on of Hands by the bishop and the prayer of ordination, the gift of the Holy Spirit for the diaconal office was conferred on Deacon Sanderson and the gift of the Holy Spirit for the priestly office was conferred on Fathers Miller and Rensch.

Deacon Sanderson received the diaconal stole and dalmatic, signs of the office of deacon, and Fathers Miller and Rensch received the stole and chasuble, signs of the office of the ministerial priesthood.

In the Handing on of the Book of the Gospels, Deacon Sanderson knelt in front of the bishop who prayed, "Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach."

The bishop anointed the new priests' hands with sacred chrism and later placed in their hands the bread and wine – on a paten and in a chalice, respectively – pointing to their duty of presiding at the Celebration of the Eucharist and of following Christ crucified.

Father Miller was born in St. Johnsbury, the son of Edward and Judy Miller.

"We're ecstatic," Mr. Miller said, adding that his son will be a "great priest because he's a great person."

Father Miller's first priestly assignment will be as parochial vicar of Corpus Christi Parish in St. Johnsbury, Lyndonville and Danville.

When he was young, the family moved to Colchester where he grew up and attended public schools and Our Lady of Grace Church.

He heard the call to priesthood when he was in high school on a retreat with the opportunity to spend time with the Lord in prayer, especially in Eucharistic adoration. He said yes to the call because he believes it is what God is asking him to do and trusts that God is leading him on the path on which he can best serve God and the Church and be truly fulfilled.

Father Rensch was born in Binghamton, N.Y., the son of William and Margaret Rensch.

"This is the proudest day in my life," Mrs. Rensch said before the Mass. "It's so joyful. I'm so grateful."

The Rensch family moved to Vermont when he was five; his home parish is Immaculate Heart of Mary in Williston.

His call to priesthood was influenced by the close relationship of his family to their parish and the former pastor, Father Donald Ravey, and attending daily Mass. "Another key moment was reading C.S. Lewis' 'Mere Christianity' in high school; he was a true witness of Christ to me," Father Rensch has said. "Then in college the witness of the professors and the continued spiritual life helped to clarify the call."

He has been appointed temporary parochial vicar of St. Monica Parish in Barre.

Deacon Sanderson, born in Middlebury, is the son of John and Jennifer Sanderson of Conversion of St. Paul Church in Orwell.

"I feel blessed," Mrs. Sanderson said after the ordination, adding that she thinks what her son is doing in becoming a priest is "beautiful."

Pope Francis inspires Deacon Sanderson to get out of his comfort zone and to seek out those who are suffering, lost or estranged from Christ and his Church in any way. "I look to the example of the pope and pray for the courage to take up this task," he said.

This summer he will be assigned to parish work in Swanton and Highgate Center.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban Vermont Catholic staff writer.

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