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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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Action for Ecological Justice conference

A former president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States, brought a message of hope to the Diocese of Burlington, telling more than 200 people at a conference on ecological justice that though “we are in the midst of a crisis,” it is important to focus on what can be done to take better care of the Earth.
 
“Our actions do matter, and there are things we can do to make a difference,” said Dr. Carolyn Woo, the keynote speaker at Action for Ecological Justice: Celebrating a Year of Creation, Sept. 30 at St. Michael’s College in Colchester. The Year of Creation is a yearlong, statewide, intentional focus on embracing the message of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.”
 
“Hope is where you believe that action can make a difference,” Woo said.
 
The Catholic Church in Vermont presented the conference, the signature event of the Year of Creation called for by Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne.
 
Among the responses to climate change, which disproportionately affects the world’s poor, Woo suggested responses such as land and crop adaptations, watershed management, alternative farming techniques, alternative crops, water service and community capacity building.
 
She also suggested socially responsible investing with companies that have good ratings for healthy living, clean water, renewable energy, zero waste and disease eradication. “You don’t have to sacrifice [financial] returns,” she added.
 
Woo said there is momentum in the area of clean energy, noting that 21 states score in the top 10 in at least three of the 12 Union of Concerned Scientists metrics that include energy savings, power plant pollution reduction, clean energy jobs and electric vehicle adoption.
 
Vermont is number two in that overall scoring, second only to California.
 
Woo encouraged the creation of “green jobs” in areas such as wind and solar power and sustainable issues, and she asked her listeners to encourage young people to pursue careers in this industry.
 
To reduce carbon emissions in the environment, she suggested the use of wind turbines, plant-rich diets, solar farms, natural family planning, reduced food waste and refrigerant management.
 
Care of the Earth, she emphasized, “transcends politics.”
 
"The state of creation affects everyone. We must work together to create a more sustainable future for all," said Stephanie Clary, manager of mission outreach and communication for the Diocese of Burlington and coordinator of the conference.

Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne opened the conference with a moment of silence for victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. 
 
The daylong conference included various workshops including one titled, “Engaging the Parish: How Do I Invite Others to Join Me,” facilitated by Chris West who directs the Partnership, Training and Engagement Unit of Catholic Relief Services and David Mullin, executive director of Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity in Northwestern Vermont.
 
They emphasized the importance of using inviting language when encouraging others to join in parish ministries, rather than telling people they “should” get involved.
 
Identify, invite, and encourage -- three steps West said bring more people into ministries.
 
Mullin said that if people are “interested in moving a cause forward, expose your passion for it” to attract others to it.
 
In his breakout session, “Can Economics Save the World?” St. Michael’s College Associate Professor of Economics Patrick Walsh asked participants, “Why are we hurting the environment?”
 
Answers included: to accommodate a growing population, because people are disconnected from nature, market forces, cultural and lifestyle expectations, ignorance and greed.
 
A way to explain people’s behavior is to know what incentives they face, he explained.
 
For example, shoppers might shy away from one item that is too expensive, considering “the price told me not to” buy it. But they might purchase a sale item because “the price made me do it.”
 
Incentives for reducing carbon emissions include carbon taxes and limited government permits for carbon emitters. “If it’s costly to ‘go green,’ it’s going to be an uphill struggle,” Walsh said.

Allison Croce, a sophomore at St. Michael's College from Abingdon, Md., said her Catholic faith and her passion for the environment were the reasons she attended the daylong conference. "We all share the Earth, so we should all conserve [resources] and promote justice for all," said the environmental studies major.
 
Musician and songwriter Bob Hurd concluded the day with a variety of songs related to justice, caring for the Earth, the sanctity of life and peace, some based on “Laudato Si’.”
 
He connected Jesus’ living, dying and rising to healing and the glorification of all creation. “Every celebration of the Eucharist acknowledges creation,” he said.
 
Carolyn Meub, executive director of the Rutland-based Pure Water for the World, said attending the conference “really motivated me to look at my own actions because I believe my actions are making a moral statement” – like composting and doing business with ethical companies.
 
Rose-Marie Santarcangelo of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Church in Bennington drove nearly the length of Vermont to attend the conference because of its subject matter. “More people need to be involved…to save this planet,” she said.
 
Lisa Gibbons, a member of St. Francis Xavier Church in Winooski, said the conference offered her a “great opportunity” to bring together two important parts of her life: her Catholic faith and care for the Earth.

"This Diocese is a light to help us understand what a Diocese can do in a holistic way to respond to climate change," Woo told Vermont Catholic. She praised the work being done in parishes and schools to educate, reduce, reuse and recycle and acknowledged the Diocese's efforts to collaborate with other faith groups and government organizations. "This is an inspiring example," she said.

Clary said the conference a success, commenting, "It's encouraging that so many people hold care for creation as an important part of their lives --whether Catholic or not. Hopefully today is just one of many collaborative efforts to work together in caring for our common home."
 
For more information about the Action for Ecological Justice conference, see the Year of Creation website.

 

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

St. Joseph Co-Cathedral steeple

The unique steeple atop St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington has been removed, and a team of engineers and architects is studying the necessary work and cost involved in replacing it.
 
In 2010 the steeple was removed for safety reasons after church officials realized it was rotting and there was a risk that the 800-pound cross atop it could fall.
 
“Parishioners have contributed faithfully to this project for many years, and it will be a great source of local pride to have this very visible monument restored to the downtown Burlington skyline,” said Father Lance Harlow, rector of St. Joseph Co-Cathedral and Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception parishes.
 
Proceeds from the sale of St. Joseph School also will be devoted to the construction and erection of the steeple.
 
The Champlain Housing Trust purchased the former Catholic elementary school on Allen Street for $2.15 million.
 
The steeple on St. Joseph Church was completed in 1887, constructed by Joseph Cartier, a local blacksmith whose shop was on North Street in Burlington. 
 
The steeple had a large copper ball in the middle and at the very top of the cross a cock, a scriptural reference to the cock that crowed at Peter's denial of Jesus. “This unique French-Canadian religious symbol is the only one of its kind on any church steeple in the Diocese of Burlington,” Father Harlow said.
 
The steeple was removed when it began to list to the side because of rot. “Because of the extensive age and weathering of the original steeple, a new one will be constructed to resemble the former,” Father Harlow said.
 
 
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Aging with grace

For Catholics like Rita Whalen McCaffrey, aging with grace means more than being elegant, beautiful, poised and dignified. Grace, for a Catholic, is a participation in the life of God – something for all ages.
 
“The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of His own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it,” explains the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification.”
 
Grace, for Catholics, is a supernatural gift of God bestowed on them through the merits of Jesus Christ for their salvation.
 
So to “age with grace,” one must be concerned not only with the physical aspects of the process but also with the spiritual.
 
For some people, the aging process seems to begin early with aches and pains, greying hair, facial wrinkles and difficulty remembering, while for others, their physical appearance and quick wit belie their true age.
 
For some time moves slowly, while for others – like McCaffrey – days and years pass at what seems a blink of an eye. “You wake up one day and you’re 80 years old,” she said with a smile.
 
That’s her age, and she moves through life with her husband, Francis – currently a Rutland County Treatment Court Judge with the Rutland Drug Court -- embracing all that God has given her.
 
The founder of Dismas of Vermont, she remains active in the Dismas community – transitional homes for former prisoners. She worships just up the road from her home in Weston at Weston Priory and participates in a monthly Scripture group in Weston and a biweekly prayer group in Rutland where she used to be a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish.
 
McCaffrey – tall and stately with blue eyes and white hair -- was the 1986 Vermont Mother of the Year, the 1987 national Mother of the Year and a Vermont state senator. She has participated in Cursillo and still attends Group Reunion meetings.
 
The mother of four and grandmother of six, McCaffrey – a longtime peace activist – said it is important to recognize Christ in others. “I’m interested in other people. It’s about relationships and learning more about each other,” she said.
 
She has been blessed with good health – though she has knee problems – and she is happiest when she is doing outreach work.
 
But it is her desire to live the Gospel that helps her age with grace. “It gives my life so much goodness and strength,” she said. “It’s such a gift to live the Gospel. It’s a greater gift when other people…join you.”
 
Her faith gives her life meaning and purpose, and she takes seriously the role of the people as the Church.
 
Anne M. Steinberg, administrator of Michaud Memorial Manor in Derby Line, encourages people, as they age, to continue their involvement in church and their relationship with God. “Maintain close relationships with loved ones, continue involvement in your community, continue to take pride in your appearance through dress and grooming, don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed, don’t be embarrassed by limitations that you may be experiencing because of age-related changes – acknowledge them and make accommodations for them as able,” she suggested.
 
Steinberg said persons she has witnessed aging with grace most successfully are the ones who continuing to take care of themselves as they age through proper diet and exercise and by maintaining their usual routines, lifestyles and relationships to the extent possible: “Sometimes this may mean making modifications as needed to allow them to continue doing the things they love.”
 
As she ages, McCaffrey “pushes through” even when she is tired. “I’m motivated. I have things to do,” she said.
 
Part of her self care is participating in the prayer life of the Benedictine brothers at the priory, receiving the Eucharist, spending time with family and friends and following the Boston Red Sox.
 
Her advice for those who want to age with grace is to maintain an active faith life, be optimistic and live with hope. “Do something you’re passionate about,” she added. Get to know people. Share what you’re able to share. Listen to other people. Don’t isolate yourself. Pray for others. Be grateful for all the grace God has given.”

Originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
  • Published in Diocesan
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