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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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Father Yvon Royer's call to priesthood

Father Yvon Royer’s ministry as a priest was shaped by his experience growing up on a farm as part of a large family.
 
“Farming has taught me a lot of lessons that I have carried into my ministry,” said the pastor of St. Peter Church in Vergennes and St. Ambrose Church in Bristol. These include the value of working hard and the importance of taking care of what one is responsible for: people and property.
 
Farming helped him to be practical in his approach to all situations and to be able to see that like the land needed to be cared for -- tilled, stones removed and given proper nutrition –- people’s relationship with God needs attention.
 
Father Royer, 54, has been influenced by the image of the Good Shepherd and by exposure at an early age to the reality of tragedy.
 
The son of Andrew and Bertha Royer, he was born in Newport in 1963, the second of five children. His mother died suddenly at the age of 55 in 1993; his father remarried and lives in Derby with his wife, Annette.
 
In 1975, when young Yvon was in the seventh grade, his father became seriously ill and was not able to work for more than a year. Then a cow broke some of his ribs, and he lost an eye through a farming accident. “Each incident left my father unable to work for a period of time, and we [Father Royer and his two brothers] just took over” the farm operations, Father Royer said.
 
He first lived on a farm in Holland and then on one in Newport Center.
 
“My parents believed that if we were old enough to go to school then we were old enough to do chores,” he said. “Thus starting in first grade my brother and I, (we are what is known as ‘Irish twins’ because we were both born in the same year) were responsible for cleaning and feeding the heifers for both morning and afternoon chores.”
 
By the time they were 10 they were responsible for milking the cows and rose at 5 a.m. They did chores until it was time to get ready for school; after school they went to the barn until about 7 p.m. to do the evening chores. “I never really minded doing chores except on Sunday evenings when I would have rather been watching football,” he said.
 
During the haying season his two brothers and he worked in the fields during the day and then decided who was going to continue to work in the fields and who would take care of the chores. “I did most of the baling. Back then we would end up with around 20,000 small square bails that we would put on an elevator into our hay barn above the livestock which consisted of 70 milking cows and 50 heifers,” he said.
 
Father Royer attended Newport Center Elementary School until seventh grade when he discerned that he might be called to the priesthood. He transferred to Sacred Heart Elementary School in Newport and graduated from Sacred Heart High School; both schools are now closed.
 
He graduated from St. Michael’s College in Colchester with bachelor’s degree in religious studies and a minor in philosophy.
 
Upon graduation he entered St. Paul’s Seminary in Ottawa and earned a diploma in pastoral counseling; he was ordained a priest in 1990.
 
The Royer family farm was called “The A&B Farm & Sons,” the initials of his parents. The farm was sold in 1996, three years after his mother died. “Before we sold the farm, we sold the rights of the land to Vermont Land trust which would help ensure that the land could remain as farmland and not be developed. It has sold again, and it is still a working farm,” Father Royer said.
 
Two of his brothers own their own farms nearby.
 
Attending Mass at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Newport was always a priority for Mr. and Mrs. Royer. “If we were not able to get to the early Mass on Sunday then we knew that we would be going to the later Mass,” Father Royer said.
 
Two experiences led him to become aware of the importance of his relationship with God. The first was when he broke his leg during a ski outing in the fifth grade. “In the six weeks that I was not able to do chores, our religious education class was working on what prayer was,” he said. “As crazy as it sounds, I am forever grateful that I did break my leg because it allowed me the time to foster my relationship with God through my prayer life. That relationship has never wavered.”
 
The second experience was his father’s illness in 1975. “Because I felt comfortable with God, I told Him that if He healed my father I would become a priest. He is still living, and I am a priest. I really wonder what God was thinking as He listened to my offer.”
 
His parents, the family’s practice of the Catholic faith and their connection to St. Mary Star of the Sea Church all influenced his vocation. And now, as a priest, his greatest joy is found in the many opportunities that he has to share the joy of God’s love in his many one-on-one interactions and via the classes he teaches as a parish priest.
 
“The greatest challenge is to help our parishioners recognize that despite our hectic lives a connection to one’s parish family is needed,” Father Royer said. “We need to know that we are truly part of a bigger plan, a plan that is part of God’s mission for us. Being part of a faith community helps us keep this as a focus. We have a responsibility not just to ourselves but to all that God has created.”
 
He currently serves as dean of Addison County, a member of the Presbyteral Council and a member of the College of Consultors. He is the chaplain for the Daughters of Isabella and the chairperson of the Diocesan Pastoral Council. He has served churches in Rutland, Chittenden, Burlington, Derby Line, West Charleston and Newport and was assistant chaplain at the Catholic Center at the University of Vermont.
 
Asked for his advice for a young person considering a call from God to religious life or priesthood, Father Royer responded: “A lifetime of happiness will only be found when we say ‘yes’ to God’s plan for us. Do not let fear stop us from saying ‘yes’ to God’s call. Who is it that we should desire to please more, God or society? I would also say that as a priest we receive many blessings and honors because of our priesthood, but our desire to answer God’s call should always be focused on the desire to be of service. May we learn to follow Jesus’ example of how we are to love, serve and forgive as Jesus has done for us.”
 
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Originally published in the 2017 spring issue of Vermont Catholic Magazine.
 
 

Geologic significance of Isle LaMotte

Many Vermont Catholics know of Isle LaMotte for its religious and historic significance, but it also has geologic significance that is threatened by development.
 
Charlotte Mehrtens, a University of Vermont professor of geology, has been studying “The Chazy Reef" for about 30 years, and she is concerned about development of the landscape where the fossil reef is exposed.
 
"The Chazy Reef" is the name given to a fossiliferous portion of the Chazy group, an approximately 500-foot thick sequence of limestone rocks of middle-Ordovician age (470-450 million years old). Rock exposures of the reef can be found throughout the Champlain Valley of southern Quebec, New York and Vermont. 
 
“It is a fabulous educational resource,” Mehrtens said. “It can be used for hands-on instruction in biology, ecology and geology by teachers from elementary to university level.”
 
Edmundite Father Brian J. Cummings, spiritual director of St. Anne’s Shrine in Isle LaMotte, said the Lake Champlain island – site of the first Mass celebrated in what is now Vermont -- is an example of the beauty of God’s creation in many respects. “The peacefulness of the island and the deep green of the summer season with stunning sunsets over the Adirondacks are simply breathtaking. The expansive night skies display a light show with shooting stars and a full moon lights up the shrine’s holy grounds on clear nights. There is nothing more prayerful than to see God’s presence in such creation,” he said, adding that the natural beauty of the shrine calls to mind the words of the psalmist: “Near restful waters he leads me, to refresh my soul.”
 
Many people are familiar with coral reefs. “The environment that we call a ‘reef’ is one where a group of organisms live together in shallow, warm marine water in a complex food web,” she explained. Today, reefs are constructed by coral, sponges and algae, but this was not the case in the geologic past; different plants and animals constructed reefs.
 
“The Chazy Reef is the oldest example of a fully developed reef ecosystem, with organisms that changed composition over time. In other words, it exhibits ecological succession,” the professor explained. This means that the oldest reef horizons were built by one group of organisms (bryozoa) and then the middle reef horizons were built by stromatoporoids (a relative of the sponges), algae and coral and finally, the upper reef horizons were built by stromatoporoids, sponges, coral and algae.    
 
Coral first appear in The Chazy Reef but are not the dominant reef-builders as they are on modern reefs.  
 
When studying the reef, Mehrtens and her students ask questions like, “Why did the primary reef-builders change over time?"  "What are the associations of plants and animals that co-exist?” “Is the increase in marine biodiversity at this time in Earth’s history the explanation for the appearance of ecological succession?"  
 
Much of her work has been in documenting the organisms that occur, what layers they occur in and what other plants/animals occur in the same layers. Early work studied the rocks themselves in order to determine physical controls on the environment such as water level and wave and current activity. “We need to know this so we know what environmental conditions the reef organisms are living in,” she said.
 
Mehrtens encourages support of local land trust organizations that identify places deserving of preservation. “The Isle LaMotte Land Trust and Goodsell Preserve have been critical in saving some of the best exposures from second home/vacation home development,” she said.


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Originally published in the 2017 spring issue of Vermont Catholic Magazine.
 

Feast of St. Joseph

St. Joseph, patron saint of the universal church and Jesus' earthly father, was a "dreamer capable of accepting the task" entrusted to him by God, Pope Francis said.
 
"This man takes God's promise and brings it forward in silence with strength; he brings it forward so that whatever God wants is fulfilled," the pope said March 20 during morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.
 
Because the March 19 feast of St. Joseph fell on a Sunday this year, the liturgical commemoration of the feast was moved to March 20.
 
St. Joseph, the pope said in his homily, provides an example needed "in this time where there is a strong sense of orphanhood."
 
By marrying Mary, Joseph ensures that Jesus is born of the House of David and provides him with an earthly father and with a stable family.
 
The biblical St. Joseph is "a man who doesn't speak but obeys, a man of tenderness, a man capable of fulfilling his promises so that they become solid, secure," he said.
Christians, especially young people, should follow the example of St. Joseph who was not afraid to listen to his dreams like when he was told in a dream not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife and again when he was told to flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt.
 
When "we dream great things, beautiful things, we draw close to God's dream, the things that God dreams for us," the pope said.
 
"May he give young people -- because he, too, was young -- the ability to dream, to risk and to take on difficult tasks that they have seen in their dreams," Pope Francis said.
 
The pope also spoke about the feast during his Sunday Angelus address March 19, which is celebrated as Fathers' Day in Italy. Pope Francis led the crowds in St. Peter's Square in applauding fathers everyone.
 
Pope Francis told the crowd about the beatification March 18 of Blessed Josef Mayr-Nusser, an Italian layman and father who was sentenced to death for refusing to swear an oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler.
 
He died of dysentery on the way to the Dachau concentration camp Feb. 24, 1945.
 
Like St. Joseph, Blessed Mayr-Nusser is a "model for the lay faithful, especially for fathers, who we remember with great affection today," the pope said.
 
Before reciting the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading in which Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman at the well.
 
The "tiring and tedious work" of drawing water from a well, the pope explained, mirrored the Samaritan woman's fruitless efforts to quench her thirst "for affection and a full life" by having had five husbands.
 
"Perhaps we are going in search of 'wells' whose waters do not quench us. When we forget the true water, we go in search of wells that do not have clean water," the pope said.
 
The Lenten season, he added, is a time for Christians to renew the grace of baptism and to "quench our thirst at the source of the word of God and of his Holy Spirit."
 
  • Published in World

Ukulele lessons

Uke-otta hear this: Children at The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales in Bennington learning to play ukuleles.
 
Free ukes.
 
Thanks to a win in a contest sponsored by Kala, a popular brand of ukuleles, the school got 45 of the instruments at no cost at the beginning of the current school year.
 
The ukulele, sometimes abbreviated to uke, is a member of the lute family of string instruments.
 
“I enjoy the ukulele; it makes a beautiful sound,” fourth grader Isabella Thurber, 9, said after a March music class during which the students worked on their ukulele skills.
 
March is Music in Schools Month.
 
“Whenever you can put an instrument in the hands of a child, it’s exciting,” enthused Principal David Estes.
 
Ken Pallman, father of fourth grader Kaelene, is a drummer who took up the uke about three years ago; he likes it so much he has 17 in his collection – including two Kalas. “It’s more fun than the recorder,” a common musical instrument for entry-level school band members, he said. “It sounds like a happy instrument. You can’t be sad and play a uke. It’s a blast.”
 
He entered a Facebook contest and encouraged others to participate, and the result was a prize of 45 ukes for the Catholic school.
 
Students in grades four and five are learning to play the ukulele during their weekly 45-minute music classes, and this is the first time the school has provided instruments. (Third graders learn to play the recorder, and like students who play in a school band, their families must provide their instruments.)
 
“We’ve never done the ukulele; we’ve done the recorder. Ukuleles are more fun,” said Ryan Maroney, 10, a fourth grader.
 
Classmate Vincent Mattison, 10, called out his enthusiasm for “Hey, Ho! Shalom” when his music teacher, Stephanie Paul, asked students to play it. “It’s slow, and you don’t have to change chords,” he said.
 
He likes the instrument because, he said, “once you learn it, you can play the guitar.”
 
The ukulele has four strings; the guitar six or 12.
 
Kaelene Pallman, 10, already is learning to play the guitar, which she said helps her with the uke. “This is easier because I know how to do the fingering” of the chords, she said.
 
Ken Pallman, inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame as a drummer in 2014, said there has been a “huge upswing” in interest in ukuleles over the past half dozen years. “I think it’s because it is an instrument anybody can pick up and at least noodle on and get somewhat proficient,” he said, adding that ukulele groups are forming throughout the country.
 
There is even one in Bennington that people of all ages attend.
 
The instrument is popular, Paul said, because it is easily grasped. “You can start to feel you’ve mastered the ukulele pretty easily, and it’s a lifetime instrument you can play.”
 
Taking ukulele lessons at school gives Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales students “an opportunity if they are not so inclined to do something musical,” Pallman said. “Music is a wonderful thing.”
 
He said students who learn to read music increase their math proficiency because musical notes are based on math.
 
“You have to know your numbers” to learn music, said fourth grader Zoey Zazzaro, 10. “You have to get your timing right.”
 
When Paul was a child she had difficulty with long division, and in the fifth grade began playing the saxophone. Within a year and a half she was in advanced math class. “It’s getting that part of the brain turned on” that affects both music and math skills, she said.
 
She called it a “blessing” to give the children the hands-on experience of the ukulele. “They can see their progress and hopefully use this experience to be confident as they try out other instruments in their lives.”
 
Some of the ukulele players will accompany the school chorus during a performance of “Over the Rainbow” in the spring concert.
 
  • Published in Schools
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