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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.”
 

St. Michael’s College a 2017 ‘Best College Value’

St. Michael’s College in Colchester has been named to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance’s list of the Top 300 Best College Values of 2017. Schools making the list “embody exceptional academic quality and affordability,” according to Kiplinger’s.
 
St. Michael’s also was a Kiplinger’s Best College Value of 2016.
 
Introduced in 1998, the rankings highlight public schools, private universities and private liberal arts colleges that combine outstanding academics with affordable cost, and this year combine those three categories into a single, comprehensive list. In addition, Kiplinger has ranked the top 100 best values in each category, and St. Michael’s earned a spot on the magazine’s list of “100 best values in private universities.”
 
Kiplinger assesses value by measurable standards of academic quality and affordability. Quality measures include the admission rate, the percentage of students who return for sophomore year, the student-faculty ratio and four-year graduation rate. Cost criteria include sticker price, financial aid and average debt at graduation.
 
“I’m thrilled to see St. Michael’s included on the Kiplinger’s Best Value list again this year,” said Michael Stefanowicz, St. Michael’s director of admission. “What a wonderful accolade that celebrates our campus-wide commitment to a high quality liberal arts education, as well as the innovation and care that are characteristic of our focus on affordability and retention.”
 
Janet Bodnar, editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, said that with the rankings, which weigh affordability alongside academic quality, “our goal is to help students and their parents understand what’s really worth the price … [and] all 300 schools on the list are of extraordinary value, being chosen out of a universe of 1,200.”
 
At Kiplinger.com, visitors have access to the "Find the Best College for You” tool and other tools that let readers sort by admission rate, average debt at graduation and other criteria for all schools, plus in-state and out-of-state cost for public universities.
 
The complete rankings are now available online at kiplinger.com/links/colleges and will appear in print in the February 2017 issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, on newsstands Jan. 3.
 
St. Michael’s College, founded on principles of social justice and compassion, is a selective, fully residential Catholic college. Its closely connected community delivers internationally-respected liberal arts and graduate education. To prepare for fulfilling careers and meaningful lives, young adults there grow intellectually, socially and morally, learning to be responsible for themselves, each other and their world.

St. Therese Digital Academy grants

The Diocese of Burlington’s St. Therese Digital Academy, an online Catholic high school with a rigorous program grounded in the Catholic faith, has received two grants totaling $116,000 to support the development of a digital learning platform, curriculum and marketing.
 
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Catholic Communications Campaign awarded $96,000 and Our Sunday Visitor awarded $20,000 to provide access to a Catholic education to families limited by geography and for Catholic formation courses and catechism education for children and adults.
 
"This support will provide us with the resources necessary to develop Catholic formation courses for Catholics young and old who desire to continue to grow in their knowledge of our Catholic faith beyond the traditional means. Faith formation is no longer hindered by conflicting work, school or extra-curricular schedules," said Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne. "We want to reach out to people and provide as many options as possible to grow in their faith; to do so we must embrace technology."
 
The academy works with parents in their roles as primary educators by offering an online Catholic high school with flexible options to assist in their child’s education while also providing weekly local opportunities for enrichment courses, community service projects and social and spiritual formation.
 
“This format of a Catholic high school overcomes the obstacles of no Catholic school nearby. We are serving military families whose children would otherwise not be able to have access to a Catholic education such as Okinawa, Japan,” said Lisa Lorenz, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Burlington and principal of the digital academy. 
 
The school’s goal is to develop well-grounded disciples of Jesus Christ who possess 21st-Century skills that equip them to fulfill their roles as members of the Body of Christ within today’s society.
 
This spring plans call for offering classes to students at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington who need specific classes to meet their requirements or are in need of advanced classes.
 
“We will be offering to our smaller high schools that cannot afford to have a large variety of courses this online format as a supplement to the rigors of their already in-person classes,” Lorenz said, referring to Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland and St. Michael High School in Brattleboro. “We even have students taking classes merely for enrichment. Our hopes are that we can also aid those families who may not be able to send their children to Catholic schools but really would like to have their child continue growing in the faith by studying theology classes.”
 
In addition, there will be adult theology classes for ongoing catechesis. “All of this can and will be built with the funding made possible by Our Sunday Visitor and the USCCB,” Lorenz said.
 
She has been speaking at parishes about the digital academy and has found it is met with enthusiasm, support and a sense of hope for Catholic education being restored in their communities in a 21st-Century model.
 
“Without the funds this endeavor would be impossible,” Lorenz said. “It will permit Catholic education to reach beyond brick and mortar, as well as being able to offer a more affordable Catholic high school.”
 
St. Therese Digital Academy currently enrolls five students.
 
There are three other Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Burlington: Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland and St. Michael High School in Brattleboro.
 
For more information about the digital academy, go to stdavt.org.
 
 

Mount St. Joseph Academy's 'Project Help'

One of Mount St. Joseph Academy Principal Sarah Fortier’s favorite times at the Rutland Catholic high school is the time just before Christmas when the whole school is engaged in the annual Project Help.
 
“We’re giving back to the community, and it’s a fun service project,” she said of the drive to collect food and children’s gifts then prepare boxes for people in need at Christmas.
 
This year marked the 48th annual Project Help.
 
It serves about 100 families referred by Vermont Catholic Charities Inc.
 
“It’s a representation of the whole season of Advent – giving and doing for others,” Fortier said.
 
Teams of students and chaperones canvass the city, asking for donations or simply picking up the food donors have left for them.
 
Some people make monetary donations to supplement what is needed to fill the boxes for distribution; businesses also make monetary and in-kind donations.
 
Once the collection phase is completed, students – and even some alumni who value the project -- pack the boxes for delivery or pick up later that day or the next.
 
Boxes include a turkey or chicken, age-appropriate children’s gifts, bread, potatoes and nonperishables.
 
This year Project Help took place Dec. 20 and 21.
 
“This is a real reminder of how fortunate we are and to do what Jesus told us: Care about those who have less,” said Fortier, a 1999 Mount St. Joseph Academy graduate who was a student leader of Project Help.
 
Her parents, Elaine (Class of 1964) and John (Class of 1966) Bride, have long supported Project Help. This year they brought 40 boxes of cereal to the school gym during the collection process. Fortier told them that was a needed item.
 
 “Jesus taught us to give back and help those in need,” Mrs. Bride said.
 
Plus, the Brides are big supporters of the school. “See our blood? It’s green!” she said with a laugh, referring to the school color.
 
Another MSJ alum, Adam DeBlasio, Class of 2012, participated this year in his 10th Project Help. He said he could not imagine being anywhere else while the project was happening. “It’s so engrained in my brain,” he said. “I enjoy helping MSJ. It’s a great community.”
 
The school, as well as Boy Scouts, instilled in him the importance of giving back to the community.
 
MSJ sophomore Tori Tracy of Christ the King Parish in Rutland said Project Help is her favorite school activity. She likes collecting with friends, but what’s even better, she said, is distributing the boxes of food and gifts. “The smile on [recipients’] faces lets you know you made their holiday season better,” she said. “If you reversed the situation, you’d want people to do for you.”
 
Senior Mackenzie C. Traska of Christ the King Parish, vice president of Student Government, was in the gym keeping track of who was out canvassing and what areas of the city were covered. “The mood is very cheery. People love helping,” she said.
 
“Everyone wants to help,” added classmate Benjamin E. DeCota, senior class representative to Student Government. “The spirit of giving is emphasized here. Everyone want to give rather than take…. The whole giving and living out Christ’s mission is emphasized here.”
 
“Christmas is not about yourself,” Mackenzie said. “It’s about giving.”
 

Christmas pajama project

When the children in the preschool/pre-kindergarten class at St. Monica-St. Michael School in Barre were asked how many of them had warm pajamas to wear this winter and enjoyed bedtime reading, a sea of small hands went up.
 
But they also know that before going to sleep not every child has warm pajamas – or any pajamas – to put on or a book to read – or have read to them.
 
So for the second year, the teachers of the youngest children at the Catholic school are spearheaded a pajama drive, this year opening it not only to members of their class but to the school and wider community as well.
 
Marianne Goodrich and Nancy Durgin, preschool/pre-kindergarten teachers, want their students to understand that there are other children who do not have all that they have and that even the youngest children can help.
 
“They’re learning to be merciful to others,” Durgin said. “They’re learning Jesus wants us to help His people because we’re all His people.”
 
The 18 children in the class are eager to learn and have taken the lessons to heart. “Jesus wants us to be kind to others; that’s what they are doing,” Durgin said.
 
This pre-Christmas pajama drive was done in conjunction with Scholastic Reading Club, which pairs pajamas with an age-appropriate book for each recipient. The sets were donated to a local shelter or shelters.
 
Since 2009, Scholastic Reading Club classrooms have collected and donated nearly 500,000 pairs of pajamas to Pajama Program through the Great Bedtime Story Pajama Drive.
 
Brand-new pajamas in all sizes, from newborn to adult, were needed. Pajamas had to be complete sets -- a top and bottom or an appropriate nightgown. The garments were needed for all seasons but especially for the winter months.
 
“Because this is the Year of Mercy, we thought it would be wonderful to include the whole school and local parish, hoping to get the community involved too,” Goodrich said.
 
Some of the children go shopping with their parents to purchase the new pajamas to donate to the drive, sometimes buying ones they would like or already have at home. “They are so excited to bring them in. It makes me happy,” Goodrich said.
 
Popular in the St. Monica-St. Michael preschool/pre-kindergarten pajama world were those bearing images of cats, Batman, Spiderman, Captain America, cows, turtles and trucks. Some of the children like pajamas with feet.
 
Without warm pajamas this winter, children would be cold and sad, said prekindergarten student Sadia Riso.
 
Classmate Alexis Corrigan said it would not be comfortable to sleep in school clothes.
 
So having new pajamas and a new book just in time for Christmas will, the students chimed in, help make recipients feel warm, happy, comfortable and loved. 
 

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.

Advent projects at St. Michael School in Brattleboro deliver joy

O what charitable works the students at St. Michael School in Brattleboro are doing for Advent!
 
They are not just learning about the holy season of preparation for Christmas, they are reaching out to others with messages of compassion, hope and love.
 
Students in second, third, fourth and fifth grades, for example, are involved in projects to benefit residents of elder care homes. The younger children are making Jesse Tree ornaments with residents of Bradley House, a residential care facility. The older students are making Advent cards with O Antiphon and Advent wreath themes to be delivered by eighth, ninth and tenth graders when they visit nursing homes to assist Father Justin Baker, pastor of St. Michael Parish, with weekly Masses.
 
“Advent brings joy, and the joy our students bring to the nursing homes is twofold – joy for our students and joy for the senior members of our community,” said Elaine Beam, principal. “Advent is a season, not one event. This is an opportunity for students to prepare with senior members of our community for Christmas.”
 
The projects are among the ways students connect with members of the wider community through service.
 
Third graders Brendan Rose-Fish and John Mazzer explained the Jesse Tree project taking place in their classroom. “It’s something we do in Advent to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus,” John said. “The ornaments that hang on the (Jesse) tree tell stories that are in the Bible about the promise that God made to His people that He would send a savior,” Brendan added.
 
Among the symbols are an apple for the story of Adam and Eve and a rainbow to represent the story of Noah and the flood.
 
Every other Thursday the second and third graders visit residents of Bradley House as part of the Catholic school’s community service.
 
Brendan and John like to go there and hear residents’ stories and play games. “Jesus teaches us to do this,” John said. “He wants us to be nice to other people and love your neighbor as yourself,” Brendan added.
 
The fourth and fifth graders talked about their Advent card project as they colored, cut and glued their cards. “Advent is getting ready for Jesus to come, and we want people to feel Jesus is also coming for them,” said fifth grader Annabelle Thies.
 
“We’re doing this to lift up their spirits,” contributed Bobby Ellis, a fourth grader.
 
“They should know God is still with them even if they are lonely or sick,” fifth grader Emma Gragen said of the seniors who will receive the Advent cards.
 
O Antiphons accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from Dec. 17-23, using ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament and present hopes.
 
Among the O Antiphons are O Wisdom, O Key of David, O Radiant Dawn and O Emmanuel.
 
“Jesus inspires us to believe in Him…and to treat other people the same way you’d treat yourself,” fifth grader Kateri Laflamme said.
 
These are lessons students at St. Michael School learn and live there daily, not just during Advent.
 
“I hope it inspires people to believe in Jesus and to be kind to other people,” fourth grader Jayke Glidden concluded.
 
 

Rice Memorial High School students step up to alleviate hunger, homelessness

SOUTH BURLINGTON--Students at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington are stepping up to alleviate hunger and homelessness.
 
As a part of the freshmen history curriculum, Sarah Smith Conroy, chairperson of and a teacher in the History Department, has integrated two required community service projects each year, and each year these students raise significant amounts of money for those in the community who are in need.
 
Freshmen walk to raise awareness and money around issues of hunger relief both globally and locally as they participate in the annual CROP Hunger Walk in October. Likewise, the entire freshmen class raises money and awareness around the issue of homelessness in Vermont by participating in the annual COTSWalk in May.
 
Conroy’s relationship with COTS began as early as 1985 and has evolved into a strong bond over the past 30 years. “Every student that I have taught, whether at Champlain College [in Burlington] or Rice Memorial High School, has been required to participate at the COTS Walk in some capacity as a part of my curriculum,” she said.
 
This is her 17th year at Rice where all freshmen must earn eight hours of service by doing both walks, sophomores earn 20 hours, juniors earn 25 hours and seniors must log 30 hours of service.
 
As a result, many upper class students also join the freshmen for the fall and spring events. “The result has been overwhelmingly positive; the community of Rice annually represents the largest single group at each of these walks and has been annually presented with awards and personal thanks from each agency,” Conroy said, noting that for the past nine consecutive years, the students at Rice have raised more money for the Crop Walk than any other high school in the continental United States and more than any other school in Vermont for the COTS Walk.
 
“Students get involved initially because they are required to as a Rice freshmen. This is the right thing to do and a young adult often needs to be introduced to the world of service and shown that they can make a difference in the lives of others,” Conroy said.
 
Some students stay involved with COTS by walking, others help with organizing future walks, and others serve as crossing guards during the walk itself. Once students are 18, many volunteer at COTS helping with any important steps that people take to get out of the cycle of homelessness. 
 
“This organization is important because it serves the many levels of homelessness, whether it is shelter, job training, interview skills or supplies for children learning to make their way. Working with COTS provides students with perspective and with a real sense of their ability to care for others,” Conroy said. “My efforts are to help those in our community who are less fortunate and to put a human, real face to these realities. Every person has a story and there are many lessons to be learned in listening to, helping with and supporting the lives of others.”
 
Rice senior Olivia Parker has participated in the walk and donated money to the effort. “Activism on the local level is vital because it promotes awareness about problems that are happening in our own community and how we can make a difference,” she said. “In terms of COTS, many people living in Vermont are unaware of the homelessness problem and its extent, and COTS fosters both awareness and activism.”
 
Her involvement humbles her. “Through participating and/or donating, I feel initially proud that I can do something to help, and it gives me another perspective on how fortunate I am,” she said. “Taking time to be aware of those around you and giving what you are able is a vital practice for all people to learn.”
 
 

Rice Memorial High School students provide families with Thanksgiving baskets

SOUTH BURLINGTON—Students and members of the Rice Memorial High School community helped 21 families have a happier Thanksgiving this year by providing them with baskets of food for a Thanksgiving meal.
 
They also engaged in a bit of competition with first place basket awarded to religion teacher Patrick Welsch’s class for a Snoopy "basket,” and second place going to History teacher Christian Frenette's class. Third place went to religion teacher Marti Burt's class.
 
Every first-period class was responsible for putting together the fixings for a Thanksgiving meal. Students are encouraged to be creative in their presentation and often go above and beyond what is asked.  
 

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.    
 
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