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Year of Mercy to conclude with special Mass at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral

The door will close on the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy on Sunday, and the impact of the celebrations in the Diocese of Burlington has been “wide.”
 
A closing Mass will take place at 3 p.m. at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington.
 
Pope Francis called for the extraordinary jubilee to be celebrated from Dec. 8, 2015, to Nov. 20, 2016.
 
As an "extraordinary jubilee" it was set apart from the ordinary cycle of jubilees, or holy years, which are called every 25 years in the Catholic Church. A holy year outside of the normal cycle emphasizes a particular event or theme.
 
The pope called for the jubilee because, he said, “It is the favourable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.”
 
Father Lance Harlow, rector of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph Co-Cathedral parishes in Burlington and chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Year of Mercy, said the monthly celebrations have had a “wide” impact.
 
“Not only did we have the major monthly jubilee celebrations drawing large crowds, but there were also various parish, school and individual pilgrimages to St. Joseph Co-Cathedral throughout the year,” he said. “People of all ages passed through the holy door to gain the plenary indulgence, and hundreds of confessions were heard. The success of the jubilee can only be attributed to the work of God.”
 
The Diocese of Burlington followed the program Pope Francis established for the universal Church to recognize different aspects of ecclesial life. Ministries that are operative in the diocese were emphasized including the ordained ministry, lay ministry, families, Catholic education and the healing of the sick.
 
The September Jubilee for Catechists and School Teachers was a celebration of instructors of the Catholic faith coming together to give thanks for the ministry of Catholic education in this diocese. “We are all responsible for faith formation of our children, young adults and one another,” said Sister of Mercy Laura DellaSanta, principal of Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington.
 
Stephen Giroux, creative director for Third Generation Media and Design was the videographer for all of the monthly events and edited all of the videos and interviews.
 
“I had the opportunity to see God’s mercy from a very unique perspective: Being behind the camera and capturing each of the jubilees on video has allowed me to really listen -- especially in the post-production process -- and to understand more deeply my role as a member of our Catholic community,” he said.
 
He considers himself fortunate to have had parents who taught him about being a merciful person as they practiced the corporal and spiritual works of mercy in their everyday lives and passed those values to each of their children. “For that reason I think that I was very impressed and inspired by the Jubilee for Families” at St. Anne’s Shrine in Isle LaMotte, Giroux said. He has many fond memories of annual family pilgrimages there for the Feast of St. Anne. “It’s been a wonderful opportunity to renew my Catholic roots,” he said.
 
The February Jubilee for Religious and Consecrated Life was special to Sister DellaSanta because it focused on their ministry in the diocese past, present and future. “It was a time to reflect on our ministries today vs. our ministries of yesterday and how we have partnered with the laity to pass on our community missions to be carried on by future generations,” she said. “It was also such a special celebration with our brothers and sisters from the many religious communities to come together as one, along with the lay groups and their members that also share in Catholic ministries in our diocese.”
 
Two of the most meaningful celebrations for Father Harlow were the Jubilee for Families in July and the Jubilee for the Sick in October at the co-cathedral.
 
“The presence of so many families gathered at the historic St. Anne’s Shrine, the site of the first Catholic Masses in Vermont, represented a powerful continuity of faith between those French Catholic explorers of the 17th Century and their spiritual descendants of the 21st Century,” he said.
 
At the Jubilee for the Sick more than 450 people came to the co-cathedral in search of God’s grace and healing. “Many people reported to me afterwards how they felt physically and spiritually changed by the healing prayers,” Father Harlow said. “Their experience is a diagnostic indication that we need to do much more healing work in our parishes.”
 
He praised The Year of Mercy Committee comprised of priests, a religious sister, lay men and lay women. “While most participants saw the finished celebration, there were hours of work done behind the scenes and in the weeks leading up to each of the monthly events,” he said.
 
A corps of volunteers included ushers, musicians and parking attendants, and Father Harlow was especially grateful to Msgr. Peter Routhier, former rector of the Burlington cathedrals and now pastor of St. Augustine Church in Montpelier, who supervised the majority of the events including the construction of the “porta sancta,” the holy door.
 
“The jubilee events helped to bring the diocese together as a bigger family/community, and for that reason I feel that it was very successful,” Giroux said.
 
As the Year of Mercy came to a conclusion, Father Harlow hoped that parishioners would remember that God’s mercy is experienced personally through the sacrament of reconciliation, the Eucharist and the works of mercy performed by the faithful in every corner of the diocese. “I am very proud of the members of my committee, the co-operation of the parish priests and the faithful participation of all of those who came to experience, in a concrete manner, the mercy of God which endures forever,” he said.
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Closing of the Holy Door: Nov. 20

This Holy Year of Mercy will come to a close on Nov. 20, 2016, on the Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe. Join Bishop Christopher Coyne, and the Faithful of the Diocese of Burlington for a very special Mass in celebration of God’s gift of Mercy through Christ Jesus, and the many gifts God has bestowed upon us in this Jubilee year. Mass will begin at 3 pm in St. Joseph Co-Cathedral. Fellowship and light refreshments will be available after Mass. 
 
Throughout this Year of Mercy, the Diocese of Burlington has formally celebrated Jubilees for lay ministers, religious and consecrated life, young children, young adults, deacons, priests and seminarians, families, musicians, catechists and school teachers, and the sick, while also holding all of God’s people in prayers of mercy, peace, and love. Take a look back at the opening of this extraordinary Jubilee, what mercy means in our lives, and the various celebrations each month at vermontcatholic.org/yearofmercy.
 
"In this Jubilee Year, may the Church echo the word of God that resounds strong and clear as a message and a sign of pardon, strength, aid, and love. May she never tire of extending mercy, and be ever patient in offering compassion and comfort. May the Church become the voice of every man and woman, and repeat confidently without end: “Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old” (Ps 25:6)."  -Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus
  • Published in Diocesan

Teachers, catechists honored at Year of Mercy celebration

BURLINGTON—More than 100 teachers and catechists attended the Jubilee for Catechists and School Teachers at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral on Sept. 18 to honor, bless and celebrate Catholic educators and their selfless call to teach young people about the love and mercy of God.
 
“I have been very moved by this Year of Mercy in our diocese,” said Sister of Mercy Laura DellaSanta, principal of Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington. She appreciates how the people of the Diocese of Burlington come together for the special monthly events that recognize, affirm and pray for people involved in various ministries. “It unites us and strengthens us.”
 
Among those in attendance at the celebration for educators were Catholic school teachers and administrators, parish religious educators, directors of religious education, home schooling parents and students.
 
Following the celebration at the co-cathedral, attendees enjoyed refreshments and displays shared by various schools and parishes that represented aspects of their curriculum dedicated to passing on the Catholic faith.

For more information about the Jubilee for Catechists & School Teachers click here.
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Pope highlights sanctity of life in Year of Mercy visits

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis donned a green hospital gown over his white cassock and entered the neonatal unit of a Rome hospital, peering in the incubators, making the sign of the cross and encouraging worried parents.

The trip to the babies' ward of Rome's San Giovanni Hospital and then to a hospice Sept. 16 were part of a series of Mercy Friday activities Pope Francis has been doing once a month during the Year of Mercy.

By visiting the ailing newborns and the dying on the same day, the Vatican said, Pope Francis "wanted to give a strong sign of the importance of life from its first moment to its natural end."

"Welcoming life and guaranteeing its dignity at every moment of its development is a teaching Pope Francis has underlined many times," the statement said. With the September visits he wanted to put "a concrete and tangible seal" on his teaching that living a life of mercy means giving special attention to those in the most precarious situations.

During the Mercy Friday visits, Pope Francis has spent time with migrants, the aged, at a recovery community for former drug addicts and at a shelter for women rescued from human trafficking and prostitution.

Pope Francis stopped by the emergency room of San Giovanni Hospital before going to the neonatal unit, where 12 little patients were being treated. Five of the newborns, including a pair of twins, were in intensive care and were intubated, the Vatican said. The pope also went to the maternity ward and nursery upstairs, greeting new parents and holding their bundles of joy.

At the neonatal unit, the Vatican said, the pope was "welcomed by the surprised personnel" and, like everyone else, put on a gown and followed all the hygiene procedures. 

Leaving the hospital, he drove across town to the Villa Speranza hospice, which hosts 30 terminally ill patients. The hospice is connected to Rome's Gemelli Hospital.

Pope Francis went into each of the rooms and greeted each patient, the Vatican said. "There was great surprise on the part of all -- patients and relatives -- who experienced moments of intense emotion with tears and smiles of joy."
  • Published in Vatican

40 Miles closer to God

The Year of Mercy celebration, a pilgrimage, an opportunity to pass through the Holy Door at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington and a visit to the site of the first Mass in Vermont celebrated 350 years ago were all rolled into one as parishioners of Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Springfield walked 40 miles from St. Anne’s Shrine in Isle LaMotte to the co-cathedral.

“We are called to deepen our relationship with God, so we felt that in this Year of Mercy, we would do it in a very traditional way, through pilgrimage,” said Father Peter Williams, pastor. “As we walked such a great distance we realized how powerless we are before God and hopefully learned to trust Him more.”

Six of the original 12 walkers completed the 40-mile walk July 30-31.

“After about 15 miles I had some blisters and could feel my body start to shut down, and then I thought of our Lord who was beaten and then had to carry His cross to His death,” said participant Paul Kendall. “It sure made walking the rest of the way seem pretty easy. What a wonderfully spiritual journey it was.”

The walk’s step off was preceded by a 7 a.m. Mass at the shrine and a blessing by Father Williams. Along the way the pilgrims observed an hour of silence and prayed a group rosary. After about seven hours everyone had arrived at a campground in Grand Isle, most able to finish the first 20 miles. The day concluded with evening prayer and planning for the second day of the pilgrimage.

Morning prayer was at 7:30 a.m. the next day. “Everyone had arrived at St. Joseph’s (Co-Cathedral) by 3 p.m., and as we prepared for Mass and walked through the Holy Door there was a shared feeling of reverence and accomplishment,” said Eileen Kendall, the parish’s religious education director. “All came away with a profound feeling of gratitude for such an amazing faith experience.”

She was reluctant to go on a 40-mile walk with camping in between, but it turned out to be a fulfilling experience for her. “I spent the weekend with people I don’t usually spend time with, and we all talked about our faith, our faith experience and those times we saw God in the people and the world around us,” she said. “It was more rewarding than I had expected to complete the pilgrimage, and when we walked through the door and knelt to pray it was powerful.”

 On June 26, 40 people took a chartered bus from the Springfield parish to St. Joseph Co-Cathedral to walk though the Holy Door.

According to the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, anyone who passes through the Holy Door will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instills hope. The doors are symbols of God’s mercy, open to welcome everyone into the compassion of God’s love that Christ proclaimed.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban,
Vermont Catholic content editor/staff writer.
  • Published in Parish

Jubilee for Families

More than 300 people celebrated family and faith July 17 at the Year of Mercy Jubilee for Families at St. Anne’s Shrine in Isle La Motte. Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne celebrated Mass, which was followed by a procession. Afterward, families enjoyed a barbecue and fun-packed day filled with sunshine, lawn games and swimming in Lake Champlain. The Society of St. Edmund co-hosted the event.  Next year’s Family Day Mass and picnic will be at St. Anne’s Shrine  on July 16.

Time for forgiveness has begun, pope says, as holy doors open worldwide

With the opening the Holy Door at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Pope Francis declared that the time for tenderness, joy and forgiveness had begun.

As holy doors around the world were opened at city cathedrals, major churches and sanctuaries Dec. 13, the pope said this simple gesture of opening God's house to the world serves as "an invitation to joy. The time of great pardon begins. It is the Jubilee of Mercy."

Dressed in rose vestments on Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, marking the joyful expectation of Christmas, the pope began the ceremony outside the basilica in front of the bronze holy door. The door depicts a bas relief of the crucified Christ looking down on Mary tenderly holding the baby Jesus, whose small foot shone like bright gold from the countless kisses and touches of visiting pilgrims.

"This is the door of the Lord. Open for me the gates of justice. I will enter your house, Lord, because of your great mercy," the pope read solemnly before climbing two marble steps and pushing open the large door. He crossed the threshold decorated with a garland of flowers and greenery and bowed his head in silent prayer inside the darkened interior of the basilica.

The Church and the people of God are called to be joyful, the pope said in his brief homily.

"We cannot allow ourselves to become tired, no form of sadness is allowed even if we have reason for it with the many worries and multiple forms of violence that wound our humanity," he said.

Amid the bullying, injustice and violence wrought, "above all, by men of power, God makes it known that he himself will rule his people, that he will never leave them at the mercy of the arrogance of their leaders and that he will free them of all anguish," the pope said.

People today are called to listen to the words of the prophet Zephaniah in the day's first reading, as he told God's people not to be afraid or discouraged "because of doubt, impatience or suffering."

God always protects his people, he is always near, the pope said, and that is why "we must always be joyful and with our kindness offer everyone witness of the closeness and care God has for everyone."

The Holy Year of Mercy is meant to be a time for people to rediscover God's real presence in the world and his tenderness, he said.

"God does not love rigidity. He is father. He is gentle. He does everything with fatherly tenderness."

As Christians are called to cross the threshold of "the door of mercy," they are asked to welcome and experience God's love, which "re-creates, transforms and reforms life."

From there, people of faith must then go out and be "instruments of mercy, aware that we will be judged by this," the pope said. Being a Christian calls for a lifelong journey and a "more radical commitment" to be merciful like God the father, he added.

Christians are asked to be joyful as they open their arms to others and give witness to "a love that goes beyond justice, a love that knows no limits. This is the love we are responsible for despite our contradictions," and weaknesses, he said. (CNS)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Each month there will be a diocesan event celebrating the Holy Year of Mercy. A vesper service will be held at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington. For a complete listing of events log on at: www.vermontcatholic.org/yearofmercy.

 
  • Published in Vatican

Jubilee Year of Mercy officially begins as hundreds pass through Holy Door

To officially begin the special Jubilee Year of Mercy in Vermont, Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne called for the Holy Door at St. Joseph Co- Cathedral in Burlington to be opened during a Dec. 13 vesper service, saying, "Open the gates of justice; we shall enter and give thanks to the Lord."

He said he was overjoyed to see the cathedral filled with hundreds of the people of God as they began the Jubilee of Mercy. "It is a sign of our faith and how we want to be bearers of that mercy to others."

The celebration, he said, marked the solemn beginning of the Holy Year in the diocesan Church, "a prelude to the profound experience of grace and reconciliation that awaits us this year."

And as the symbolic yellow and white door in the main aisle of the Old North End church opened, he proclaimed, "This is the Lord's gate: Let us enter through it and obtain mercy and forgiveness."

Carrying the Book of the Gospels, he then lead clergy and laity – some making the sign of the cross before passing through the door – in two columns through the doors to continue the afternoon service for the opening of the "Porta Sancta" (Holy Door) for the Year of Mercy that began on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, and will end on Nov. 20, 2016.

Walking through the Holy Door – for the first time in her life – was a "monumental experience" for Marie Moore of Ascension Church in Georgia. "It may be the only time in my life," she said. "It's a time to recognize that it's a new beginning."

During the service, Msgr. Peter Routhier, rector of the co-cathedral and of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Burlington, read from the papal Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy announcing the Holy Year. He said, in part: "Jesus Christ is the face of the Father's mercy . . . . Whoever sees Jesus sees the Father. Jesus of Nazareth, by His words, His actions and His entire person reveals the mercy of God."

He continued, "We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace. Our salvation depends on it."

During the course of the year, Catholics are invited to make a pilgrimage to the co-cathedral to pass through the Holy Door and ponder God's love and mercy in their lives and how they, too, can be vehicles of that mercy to others.

According to Catholic teaching, walking through special Holy Doors results in a remission from sin – an indulgence – when accompanied by prayer and repentance. The act of walking through the doors symbolizes spiritual renewal and the passage from sin to grace.

Moore is fulfilling the requirements for the indulgence. "It shows I have faith and I am praying for faith and peace around the world," she said.

St. John Paul II said that the Holy Door " . . . evokes the passage from sin to grace which every Christian is called to accomplish. Jesus said, 'I am the door' in order to make it clear that no one can come to the Father except through Him."

Also when the door opens, the obstacles of passage to the Lord are removed.

The doors of the Church "are wide open so that all those who are touched by grace can find the certainty of forgiveness," Pope Francis said. "God never ceases to demonstrate the richness of His mercy over the course of centuries."

God touches people's hearts with His grace, filling them with repentance and a desire to experience His love, he added. "The greater the sin, the greater the love, which the Church must express toward those who convert."

God's mercy is wider than the sea, and "there are no ifs, ands or buts about God's mercy," Bishop Coyne emphasized in his homily at the vesper service. "That is not poetic hyperbole; it's the Gospel truth."

He spoke about those to whom Jesus was merciful, including Zachaeus the tax collector and Mary Magdalene, the woman caught in adultery.

His mercy was not merited, and He showed mercy without conditions. But He sought a response: that those who received mercy, healing and forgiveness would respond in mercy, conversion and faith.

"There is a wideness to God's mercy that is incomprehensible to us because we want to place conditions on mercy" when showing it, Bishop Coyne said.

"We seek it. It is there. If we desire it, we will know it," he said.

The biblical theme of the year is "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

Traditionally, every 25 years the popes proclaim a holy year, which features special celebrations and pilgrimages, strong calls for conversion and repentance and the offer of special opportunities to experience God's grace through the sacraments, especially confession.

Extraordinary holy years, like the Holy Year of Mercy, are less frequent, but offer the same opportunities for spiritual growth.

The Year of Mercy will be devoted to personal conversion, prayer and apostolic works.

Gerry Couture of St. Joseph Co-Cathedral Parish attended the vesper service and said it is comforting to know God's mercy and forgiveness are limitless. "The world needs that message more than ever now with all the violence," he said. "I think it is import to forgive, and it is important for people to know it's important to forgive. Forgiveness is something that is underrated."

The service at the co-cathedral to begin the Holy Year was months in planning and coincided with a Burlington inter-faith service against gun violence with a particular focus on the forgiveness of sin, prayers for the prevention of gun violence and sincere spiritual renewal.
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