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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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College of St. Joseph Provider Scholars serve community

The College of St. Joseph in Rutland – once known as The College of St. Joseph the Provider – is providing students who might not otherwise be able to attend college with special financial aid that benefits both the students and the community.
 
The college – founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph -- is furthering its mission and addressing national concern about the rising cost of higher education by offering the Provider Scholarship Program. The scholarship for full-time undergraduate students, worth $65,500 over four years, incorporates a commitment to academic excellence, personal and professional growth and community service.
 
Each Provider Scholar is required to serve the community for a minimum of 15 hours a semester, but most do more.
 
Senior psychology majors Tammy Robitille of Lowell and Jane Cretella of Naugatuck, Conn., are among the nearly 170 Provider Scholars.
 
“Without this program, I would not be able to attend college. It’s too expensive,” Robitille said.
 
Tuition and room and board is $35,900 a year for residential students and $24,000 for commuters; both are eligible for Provider Scholarships.
 
“The reason I came here was the financial opportunity the Provider program offers,” said Cretella, an independent student raised by her grandmother and aunt.
 
She said she always has been community minded; she used to volunteer at the YMCA at home and as a Provider Scholar most of her hours this year have been done at Rutland Community Cupboard. Her service opportunity of choice last year was at Vermont Foodbank. “I know it’s helping people who need it,” she said. “I don’t feel obliged to do it; obviously I have to (to fulfill the scholarship requirements), but I have a desire to do it.”
 
A Catholic who did service work as part of her religious education, Cretella said her faith and her grandmother model an attitude of service. “It’s just the right thing to do, to help others.”
 
Likewise, Robitille is motivated by a desire to help others; much of her Provider Scholarship service has been with DREAM, a Vermont mentoring organization that builds communities of families and college students to empower children from affordable housing neighborhoods so that they may recognize their options, make informed decisions and achieve their dreams.
 
“You just do the right thing. You have an obligation to help people in need,” she said. “If somebody in town needs food, you can up some of your vegetables” and share. “If you were in a needy situation, you’d want someone to help.”
 
The Provider Scholarship Program “falls in line with the cores values of the Sisters of St. Joseph,” said Elicia Mailhiot, associate director of communications.
 
Those values include hospitality, love of neighbor without distinction, reconciliation and unity of all people with God, one another and all creation.
 
Provider Scholars have completed more than 18,000 hours of service to the greater Rutland region since the program's inception in fall 2013.
 
According to Kimberly Rupe, community engagement coordinator at the college, organizations the students serve appreciate their efforts. “The partnerships and relationships built with outside organizations have been wonderful.”
 
Among the organizations students serve are Habitat for Humanity, Loretto Home/St. Joseph/Kervick Home, Dismas House, Vermont Achievement Center, Rutland Regional Medical Center, Rutland Area Child Parent Center, Rutland County Women's Network and Shelter and Vermont Foodbank.
 
“We couldn’t do what we do without CSJ,” enthused Hanna Snyder, volunteer coordinator for Vermont Foodbank, noting that about a dozen Provider Scholars – many of them repeat volunteers – help each week to pack bags of food for weekend meals for about 1,300 students in Vermont.
 
“CSJ is invaluable,” she said. “We’ve come to rely on them,” she said of the college students. “They are great volunteers we know we can count on every single week.”
 
Rupe, herself a Provider Scholar and 2016 graduate of the College of St. Joseph, said her service at the Rutland County Women’s Network and Shelter and Green Mountain Power solar event helped build her professional network “dramatically.”
 
Applicants who are accepted to the college are eligible for consideration for the Provider Program. Provider Scholars are intellectually curious, want to make a difference on campus and in the community and have a 2.0 to 4.0 grade point average.
 
“We care about our community. Everybody has to look out for each other,” Mailhiot said.

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

Pursuing justice, respecting life

Both the responsibilities to respect life and pursue justice are founded on the basic principle of the inherent dignity of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God.
 
People sometimes disagree about how to handle pro-life and social justice issues, particularly when it comes to public policy when there are competing interests at play. “This can lead to a false assumption that social justice and pro-life are somehow at odds. They are not,” said Carrie Handy, respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington.
 
“Acknowledging the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings compels us to be particularly attentive to those who may not be able to care for themselves — the most vulnerable among us,” said Handy.
 
Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. supports life and justice ministries through its partnership with the Diocese to support Project Rachel (a ministry to those affected by abortion), through caring for residents at residential care homes and through deGoesbriand Grants to agencies supporting life and justice initiatives.
 
“Human life is sacred, and Vermont Catholic Charities is committed to the dignity of the human person,” emphasized Mary Beth Pinard, executive director.
 
“We do ourselves a disservice when we speak of social justice and protection of life as two separate issues,” said Stephanie Clary, manager of mission outreach and communication for the Diocese. “Protecting life is an issue of social justice and social justice is always an issue of protecting life.”
 
“In both arenas, the weaker and relatively defenseless are pitted against the more powerful,” said Deacon Peter Gummere, director of the Permanent Diaconate for
the Diocese, bioethicist and adjunct faculty member at Josephinum Diaconate Institute where he teaches courses in medical morality and moral theology. “In abortion, a tiny human is threatened by a big, powerful human. In assisted suicide, a weak person is invited to die earlier than they would otherwise for the convenience of society.”
 
Pro-life convictions lead Catholics not only to advocate for the unborn and the terminally disabled but also for others who are weak and marginalized. “It should
include sensitivity for the single mom, reaching out to her with a supportive network,” he said. “It should include helping to ensure the wellbeing of the disabled, the sick and others who are marginalized. It should include working to eliminate barbaric practices like excessively harsh conditions in prisons and capital punishment. And we should work toward more ecologically sustainable
practices in order to protect our planet.”
 
“To authentically work for justice in one area we must consider the connectedness of that issue with other aspects of reality,” Clary said. “When we work toward clean water, we quench someone’s thirst. When we reduce carbon emissions and prevent a crop-killing drought, we feed someone’s hunger. When we demand breathable air, we decrease the likelihood of birth defects and increase the life expectancy of elders.”
 
As Pope Francis points out in his encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” “we need to be attentive to the relationships that exist among creation if we truly wish to address injustices and protect life,” she added.
 
“What the Catholic Church means when it identifies as prolife is pro all life, not only because all life is connected, but more importantly because all life is of God. It was created with intention, purpose and love and it gives glory to God by its very existence,” Clary said. “We each have our own passions, areas of interest and expertise. The important thing is that we’re always considering the big picture and working together with those of different passions, interests and expertise to collectively pursue justice, the protection of life in our world.”

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

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

Remembrance Wall

Holy Cross Father Robert Wiseman knows that funerals are “a golden opportunity to do some ministry, and we don’t want to miss it.”
 
That’s why he has taken the suggestion of Rita Dee, a parishioner of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Church in Bennington where he is parish administrator, to establish a “Remembrance Wall” on which persons who have had a church funeral are being memorialized for a year.
 
St. John the Baptist Parish in North Bennington, where Father Wiseman is also administrator, has a similar Remembrance Wall.
 
The first black walnut cross was placed on a wall near the vigil lights at Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Church in December, and since then at least three more have been added to the space beneath a stained glass window of Jesus after His resurrection and next to a statue of St. Anthony of Padua.
 
The name and date of death of the person being remembered is engraved on a brass plate on the center of each four-by-six-inch cross made by parishioner John Fahey.
 
Family members of the deceased hang the cross on the wall at the end of the Mass of Christian Burial.
 
“It’s a way to connect to people with our faith,” Father Wiseman said. “Often we see people at a funeral and never see them again. This [Remembrance Wall] is a way to connect with people to come in and see their family member’s name on the wall.”
 
Dee brought the idea to Father Wiseman after experiencing a similar wall at Immaculate Conception Church in Glenville, New York, at her father’s funeral. “It was very consoling, taking the cross and putting it on the wall for everyone to see” and to keep her loved one in people’s memory, she said.
 
So far there have been only a handful of church funerals between the Bennington and North Bennington Catholic churches since the Remembrance Walls were begun, and Father Wiseman said reaction has been positive. “The crosses are beautiful, and the ritual of having the family put the cross on the wall is a plus too.”
 
The Remembrance Wall is a way for the parish to give honor to the person who has died, while the church funeral in general is a “chance for us to stop and look at what is important in life” and for people to console one another, Father Wiseman said. “It is an opportunity to embrace people who have lost a loved one and to let them know the Church is here to help them deal with the reality of death that has come into their life.”
 
Church “funerals are a chance to focus on your relationship with Christ and reignite people’s faith,” Dee added.
 
There were 23 church funerals at Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Church in the 2017 calendar year.
 
In is 40 years of priesthood, Father Wiseman has never before seen a Remembrance Wall, and he encourages people to look at the crosses on the walls: “They are a real, physical presence of people’s lives.”
 
Plans call for a remembrance book to be added to a shelf near the crosses, which will remain in the church until the first anniversary of the person’s death when the cross will be given to the family at a weekend Mass near the anniversary date.
 
 
  • Published in Parish
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