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Cori Fugere Urban

Cori Fugere Urban

Cori Urban is a longtime writer for the communications efforts of the Diocese of Burlington and former editor of The Vermont Catholic Tribune.

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Year of Mercy event celebrates Jubilee for Families

The celebration of the Year of Mercy in the Diocese of Burlington continues on July 17 at the "Center of Life, Light and Love" with a Jubilee for Families during a special pilgrimage Mass. It will take place at Isle LaMotte' St. Anne's Shrine at 12:15 p.m.

This will be an opportunity for families from throughout the diocese to gather to celebrate this Year of Mercy and enjoy God's gift of nature at this holy location in the diocese.

There will be a procession to the statue of St. Anne after the Mass and then a cookout.

St. Anne's Shrine – located on the shore of Lake Champlain – includes an outdoor pavilion for Mass, outdoor Stations of the Cross, a gift shop, picnic area, gardens, cafeteria, camping and retreat cabins.

"The shrine is a very special place for families to gather because of the beauty of the grounds," said Edmundite Father Brian Cummings, spiritual director there. "Families often picnic or barbecue after Mass on the beach or on the many spots on the grass. Families can recreate playing sports games, swimming, kayaking, biking, fishing or boating. The shrine provides the opportunity for families to pray together and rest in the Lord's presence in a peaceful place. Some families come by boat and tie their boats at our dock. It is a prayerful and fun destination."

The mission of St. Anne's Shrine is to serve as a welcoming place of peace and minister to all God's people through prayer, devotion, hospitality and spiritual renewal.

Father Cummings suggested visitors tour the historic chapel and visit the grottos housing statues of various saints. Walking the grounds, particularly the areas where there are new cabins, would give them a feel for the potential for family and parish overnight retreats which are welcomed here.

As early as 1666, the French erected a fort and chapel on Isle LaMotte, dedicated under the invocation of "la bonne Sainte Anne." It was here that Mass was offered for the first known time in the Northeast.

It is a unique place of pilgrimage with a rich religious tradition steeped in the history of the country's founding. French explorers brought Jesuit missionaries with them as they landed on Isle La Motte establishing Fort St. Anne.

The care and direction of the shrine was entrusted to the care of the Society of St. Edmund in 1904; the Edmundites purchased it from the Diocese of Burlington in 1921.

For more than 100 years, families have come together to worship and to celebrate their faith on the shrine grounds. "The peaceful, serene and natural surroundings of the shrine are conducive to relaxation, prayer and recreation for people of all ages," Father Cummings said.

People who visited as children often return years later with their own families to renew their relationships and faith.

"I hope the people of our diocese will join us on July 17 for a day of prayer and family fun," Father Cummings said. "We will worship together in celebrating the Eucharist, and the sacrament of reconciliation will be available. Afterwards, we will then kick back and enjoy each other's company in a relaxed setting. It should be a great celebration remembering God's mercy and giving thanks to God for the blessings in our lives. And it should be fun!"

And for those looking to stay on Isle LaMotte in scenic Grand Isle County longer than just the day, there are various other attractions. A short distance from the shrine is the Fossil Preserves, a national natural landmark. On the south end of the Island is the Fisk Quarry Preserve and the Goodsell Ridge Preserve, an ancient fossil reef almost half a billion years old. Both preserves are open to the public with a self-guided tour.

To the north, a short walk from the shrine, is the Isle LaMotte Lighthouse Station established in 1857. The lighthouse is visible from the end of the road along the shore north of the shrine.

The Isle LaMotte Historical Society is located on the island with an original blacksmith shop and cabin.

In addition the island is a popular attraction for cyclists of all ages.


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

Father Naples' blog engages, evangelizes

The Diocese of Burlington has a bishop who is known as "the blogging bishop," and Most Holy Trinity Parish in Barton, Orleans and Irasburg has its own blogging pastor.

Father Timothy Naples likes to write – especially about Scripture – and he has another outlet for his words: his blog.

"I write," he said simply, explaining his desire to blog.

Located on Blogspot, the blog includes the pastor's Holy Thursday homily, 10 reasons to have a marriage blessed by the Catholic Church and a 9,300-word post about Jesus' parables that he had published also as a booklet. "The tradition of the Church is we have the Scriptures which are divinely inspired, and the Church's job is to interpret them, and the job of the priest is to explain them to the people," Father Naples said.

A self-described "slight introvert," he said he is more at ease speaking publically after thinking and writing about his topic.

So although blogging helps him articulate his thoughts, the blog is more in depth for readers "than the sound bite community you have on most social media," said the priest, who also has a Facebook page.

Father Naples does not blog regularly, but he uses that space to place something with a theological or spiritual interest "when I don't want it to get lost in Facebook archives," he said. "Facebook and Twitter are short posts. The blog allows more substantive pieces and archives in a way that is easy to access for anyone on the Internet."

In a broad sense, blogs can be tools for evangelization, he said: "In contrast to other social media, they have more of a potential for interpersonal connection and getting to know the blogger and readers of the blog through writing. It's much closer to being pen pals than texting or exchanging tweets."

But he laments that as the youngest pastor in Vermont – and one who knows how to blog – he has few young people locally with whom to communicate via the blog. "I want to keep working with it and slowly develop in my ability to connect others with the Gospel through it," he said.

Father Naples hopes to expand his blog to continue to teach Scripture and the devotional life of the faith.

As he sat at the dining room table of the St. Paul rectory in Barton, Father Naples – wearing a green vest from Mount St. Joseph Academy (in Rutland where he once taught) – posed a question for himself: What can I do as a priest to encourage a better understanding of this particular [blog] media for evangelization and spirituality for the Catholic community in Vermont?

His answer: Try to build readership of his blog among the young people he meets; use it to reach those he cannot reach in person who might be inclined to make an online connection with a Catholic writer; and retain the catechetical aspect of his writing.

"One of the most important things I can do is explain the faith for the readers so that if they are not practicing Catholics something might open them up to the faith more," he said. "And if they are practicing Catholics, I help equip them to fulfill their vocation in the world, which is what a priest is to do."

To read Father Naples' blog, go to trinityparishinbarton.blogspot.com.

Article and photos by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.

  • Published in Parish

Walk-Ins Welcome

North Bennington clinic cares for community body and soul

Bea Talbot brought a Crock-Pot filled with American chop suey; Sherry Monte provided the sliced bread, and Lorraine Breen contributed a plate of brownies.

They are members of the Social Concerns Committee at St. John the Baptist Church in North Bennington, and they provided the meal for people who came to the free clinic, a program of Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services, Inc., at First Baptist Church.

The clinic at the Bennington church is open from 6-9 p.m. on Thursdays; walk-ins are seen as time permits, but appointments are encouraged. The clinic also has appointment hours on Monday mornings.

While volunteer doctors and nurses see patients and volunteers help clients enroll in health insurance plans, simple meals are provided in the reception area; St. John the Baptist parishioners provide the food once every other month, and Talbot gets there early to set up the meal, enough for about 10 people.

She likes to make it simple: soup, chili or her favorite, American chop suey. "People come here to be seen [by the doctors and nurses], and often they don't eat. Some don't even see a doctor" but need the meal, said Talbot who also volunteers as a greeter at the clinic once a month.

When the free clinic opened in 2009, people brought in food for the staff. That celebratory spirit of bringing food continued in the second week; a mother waiting to see a doctor asked if her children could have some of the salad because they had not eaten.

And so began the free meal at the free clinic.

Some of those who partake of the free meal have expressed surprise that it is available; often they comment on how tasty it is.

St. John the Baptist parishioners have been involved in the meal for seven years. Other individuals and faith communities provide meals too.

Because the clinic serves people of low or moderate income, food is an important issue there, said Sue Andrews, executive director of Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services. "We try to nurture a close working relationship with local faith communities by involving them in social justice issues," she said.

In addition to the medical services, the agency provides food and fuel assistance, a food pantry and health insurance navigation services.

It's all part of what Andrews calls "radical hospitality."

Deacon David O'Brien, a member of the St. John the Baptist Social Concerns Committee, helped connect the parishes to the work of Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services. "This meal is one of the things that goes on day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, year-to-year" within the interfaith community, he said.

"The beauty of it for me is the interfaith group is looking at the needs of the community," said Sherry Monte, chair of the social concerns committee. "We are all working together and responding to the needs of the community."

In addition, working together enables members of different houses of worship to understand other faiths and to grow together in mutual respect as a community.

Lorraine Breen, a member of the social concerns committee, said she wanted to get involved in community service when she retired as an administrative assistant. She appreciates the work of the committee to help the homeless, feed the hungry and help with housing.

"There are people in need, and as much as we can work together and help them, that's our goal," Monte said. "Our job is to respond to the needs of the community. That's what Christ asks us to do."

Andrews said the faith communities "engender the opportunity for people to volunteer and be part of the community" and to help their neighbors in need.

Supporting the programs of the Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services "is part of who we are," Deacon O'Brien said.

"Our job as a social concerns committee is to keep our [church] community focused on the needs out there," Monte said, "and to respond the way that Christ asked us. That's what drives us."

To schedule an appointment at the free clinic, call (802) 447-3700.

For more information on Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services, go online to www.benningtoncares.org.

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

  • Published in Parish

Strengthening faith with personal reflection, interaction with others

Bonnie Day, Vermont Lay Director of Cursillo, says it would probably take a book to catalogue and discuss the benefits she has received from the movement of the Church, which makes it possible for people to live what is fundamental to being a Christian, helps them to fulfill their personal vocation and promotes the creation of groups of Christians who change their environments by living the Gospel.

But to synopsize the benefits she has received, Day said the sense of community is paramount along with the ongoing support and encouragement of others on the same Christian journey.

She and others involved in Cursillo talk about faith, the liturgy, evangelization and how to be a better Christian.

"Cursillo provides a method of routine reflection to help me be a better Christian and Catholic," she said. "It is a method that asks, 'What aids have contributed to my spiritual growth this week (or day)? When was I most aware of Jesus during this period of reflection? What have I studied, watched, heard or read during this period that has increased my knowledge of my Church and Jesus? What have I done to bring Jesus Christ to others?'"

Cursillo is a ministry of the Roman Catholic Church. It was founded in Majorca, Spain, by a group of laymen in 1944 while they were refining a technique to train pilgrimage leaders. A layman, Eduardo Bonnín, participated in the early years of the "short courses" in Majorca and helped develop the Cursillos to the point that it became an active renewal movement in the Church. In 1957, the movement had spread to North America, when the first American Cursillo took place in Waco, Texas.

A Cursillo weekend is a short, intense course in Christianity; a three-day experience of living in a Christian community; a unique, communal and deeply spiritual experience that is built on talks, activities, group dynamics and liturgy; and a chance to strengthen one's relationship with Jesus Christ.

Candidates must be Catholic, in communion with the Church and receiving the sacraments or able to do so. They must be able to understand the message and willing to commit themselves to it.

If married, the spouse must agree to attend, or must agree for his/her spouse to attend, and both need to meet with an active Cursillo member to understand the movement. Candidates are sponsored by someone who has attended a Cursillo.

The mission of the Vermont Cursillo movement is to live the method and strategy of the Cursillo Movement so that each man and woman can be enlightened and Christianized to go forth and transform their environments in the light of the Gospel and the glory of the risen Christ.

Asked how she lives this mission, Day responded: "The Cursillo Movement has a phrase 'Bloom where you are planted.' I am planted within the Diocese of Burlington, in the parish of St. Ignatius [of Loyola in] Lowell. My activities tend to be focused in that area and at work. I contribute routinely to various charities, such as the Bishop's Fund, the parish annual appeal, weekly collections at Mass and various religious charities. I volunteer for parish council and finance council when my help is needed. I pray and offer my Communion and Masses for my own conversion and that of my family. I pray for and offer my Communion and Masses for the needs of my neighbors and members of the Cursillo movements throughout the world."

She made her Cursillo in 2010 in Killington. Cursillo helps to better bring Jesus Christ to my ministry and my neighbor. "Cursillo has taught me that the best way to do this is through friendship. We are to make a friend, to be a friend and to bring that friend to Christ," said the wife and mother of four grown children. "Cursillo teaches us to look at our environments and the people in them, and then ask the question, 'What would a friend do in this situation?' Would a friend be an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, a driver to provide transportation, or any of a myriad of other things a Christian friend can feel called upon to perform for a friend?"

Father Dwight Baker, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in Northfield and St. Edward Church in Williamstown, has been spiritual director of Vermont Cursillo for the past year. He attends the monthly state meetings and gives spiritual guidance to the movement in Vermont.

"Cursillo is a wonderful spiritual movement within our Catholic faith that enriches and enhances one's personal relationship with Jesus Christ," he said. "When one has made their Cursillo weekend it helps bring a vibrancy to their faith, and the Cursillista [Cursillo participant] focuses on piety, study and action. This lends itself toward being more involved in one's local parish as well as bringing others to Christ."

Day, who works at Vermont Commercial Warehouse as financial operations manager/office manager, meets with her small Ultreya (post Cursillo) group to discuss her prayer life and her spiritual life. "We also talk about how that relationship with my neighbor can develop into a more Christian response," she said. "We share ideas on how can I help a neighbor who is dying, or in financial need or one who is in spiritual need. We also discuss events that have occurred that may be Jesus trying to talk to me or to open my heart to some direction or condition."

Such small groups help participants support one another in living out the faith and encourages them to invite others to make Cursillo, Father Baker said.

"This movement is, fundamentally and deeply, a lay movement," Day said.

Vermont Cursillo Weekends take place about every other year. In the past there have been as many as two sets of weekends in a year, but as the base membership has grown older there have been fewer younger members.

Usually about 15-30 people attend each weekend. Teams are usually comprised of five to eight laypersons and two ordained or vowed religious persons.

Asked what has kept Cursillo alive in Vermont, Day responded simply, "God's will."

The next Cursillo Weekend for Men will take place at St. Anne's Shrine in Isle LaMotte July 28-31; the next Cursillo Weekend for Women take place there Aug. 4-7.

For more information, visit www.vtcursillo.org.

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

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