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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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Movie review: 'Black Panther'

Step aside, Huey Newton, there's a new "Black Panther" (Disney) in town.
 
Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler's adaptation of a series of Marvel Comics — Stan Lee and Jack Kirby first launched the character of the title in 1966 — is sprawling, energetic, lightened by some clever humor but, ultimately, overlong.
 
Though the mayhem on screen, which ranges from hand-to-hand combat to a high-flying, high-tech dogfight, is treated with restraint, touches of vulgarity may give some parents of older teens pause. Weighing on the other side of the scale, however, is the racial empowerment that drives the narrative and the significant themes the film tackles in a thoughtful way.
 
The primary setting of "Black Panther" is the imaginary — and secret — African kingdom of Wakanda. As straightforward exposition at the start of the movie explains, Wakanda's inhabitants have, over the centuries, made use of a super-powerful mineral, vibranium, to achieve both prosperity and a range of technological wonders unknown to the outside world.
 
When Wakanda's young prince, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) assumes the throne, and thereby becomes the Black Panther, he intends to continue the policy of his late father, King T'Chaka (John Kani), by keeping Wakanda concealed from foreigners. But he faces two principal challenges.
 
One involves South African arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). Klaue has managed to infiltrate Wakanda and steal a stock of vibranium, which he aims to sell to the highest bidder.
 
The other concerns the ongoing consequences of a long-ago family conflict (involving Michael B. Jordan) that has the potential to dethrone T'Challa and destabilize Wakanda.
 
In tackling these problems, T'Challa is aided by his tech-savvy sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright). Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), the woman he would like to make his queen, Okoye (Danai Gurira), the leader of his army's band of fierce female warriors, and, eventually, by Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman), a CIA agent out to foil Klaue.
 
Real-world preoccupations are incorporated into this sci-fi-tinged action adventure. The Wakandans, for instance, debate whether they should put their own security at risk in order to assist downtrodden people of color in other nations.
 
Plot developments also present characters with moral choices. Faced with the kind of evil embodied by Klaue — an unreconstructed apartheid-era Afrikaans of the nastiest stripe — should one pursue vengeance or accept justice? The divergent paths of violent revolution and peaceful reform are also contrasted.
 
Ceremonies and customs drawn, however indirectly, from indigenous African religions are showcased. But they are contained within the picture's framework of fantasy and will probably not cause mature adolescents any spiritual confusion.
 
The film contains nonscriptural religious ideas and practices, much stylized violence with minimal gore, several crude and at least one crass term and an obscene gesture. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
 
  • Published in Reviews

Church communities united in Christ

Parishioners of churches joined by the ministry of one priest are making their way toward greater unity by collaborating on outreach projects.
 
In Essex, for example, members of Holy Family/St. Lawrence and St. Pius X parishes came together as the Essex Catholic Community to help their neighbors — both parishioners and non parishioners — through Serve Our Neighbor Day.
 
The project, begun by Holy Family/St. Lawrence parishioners, takes place in the fall and spring to help people with chores like small home repairs, window washing, raking and gutter cleaning. Most recently about 125 volunteers spent a day on 24 projects.
 
“An event like this brings us all together,” said John McMahon, a project coordinator who is also the Holy Family/St. Lawrence faith formation director.
 
Teams for the projects are made up of members from the difference churches so parishioners get to know one another. “It’s a lovely expression and breaks down barriers,” he said. “It’s part of the process of bring the churches together … mobilizing the parishes to joyfully serve people in need.”
 
It can be challenging to bring two distinct parish communities together, each having its own identity and traditions.
 
“When I arrived at my two parishes they had their own distinct way of putting God’s call to us ‘to love thy neighbor’ into practice,” noted Father Yvon Royer, pastor of St. Peter Church in Vergennes and St. Ambrose Church in Bristol. Though much of that distinctiveness remains, the parishes do offer free community meals once a month, open to both communities. “We are feeding on average 275 people per month between the two of them,” Father Royer said.
 
Edmundite Father Charles Ranges is pastor of the three Essex churches, two in Essex Junction and one in Essex Center. “Essex is really one community and all of the students go to the same high school,” he said. “The churches are close together and people attend all three of the churches.”
 
The parishioners served on “Serve Our Neighbor Day” are generally elderly and unable to do this work themselves. The day begins and ends with prayer and reflection and the work is done in the name of Jesus. 
 
“The work has been enhanced by joining forces and is advertised as an event of the Essex Catholic Community,” Father Ranges said.
 
Other activities on which the Essex Catholic parishes work together are “Essex Eats out,” a monthly community dinner, collecting food for Heavenly Pantry in Essex Junction and the Essex Jericho Underhill Food Shelf. 
 
And as they prepared for Christmas, all three churches had "giving trees" and baskets with food that was given to needy families. "The attempt is to have a unified message at all churches so we are united in our charitable activities,” the pastor said. “Bringing the good works of both parishes together is a ‘work in progress,’ but I know that we are going in the right direction since when united we can accomplish more.”
 
  • Published in Parish

Catholic Schools Week Mass

More than 500 members of Catholic school communities in Vermont attended a special Catholic Schools Week Mass Jan. 31 at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington.
 
They came in school uniforms by bus or car or walked to the special celebration at which students served as altar servers, readers and gift bearers. Some students carried their school banner in the entrance procession; others brought baskets or boxes of donations for charities in their school’s area to the front of the church during the offertory. 
 
Students from Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington made up the choir, accompanied by Rice teacher Brian Lynam with cantor Ashlee O'Brien from the University of Vermont Catholic Center.
 
The theme of the Mass and of Catholic Schools Week was "Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed." The focus was on the important spiritual, academic and societal contributions provided by a Catholic education.
 
In his homily, Msgr. John McDermott, vicar general for the Diocese, spoke about the importance of choices and encouraged the students to make choices for God, for life and for eternal life.
 
“What we are trying to teach you” in Catholic schools “is God loves you, called you, redeemed you and calls you to Himself,” said Msgr. McDermott, pastor of Christ the King St. Anthony Parish in Burlington that includes Christ the King School.
 
Catholic schools help students make important life choices about vocations and avocations, but most importantly help them make choices that will help them become saints. “It’s easier to make choices that lead us further from God,” he said, “but we weren’t made to live an easy life. We were meant to live an eternal life with God in Heaven.”
 
About a dozen members of the clergy participated in the Mass.
 
During her remarks, Lisa Lorenz, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Burlington, said the “beauty of Catholic schools” is that they are witnesses of hope as students there grow in grace and the love of the Lord.
 
Each school represented at the Mass collected donations for charitable organizations in their area including Vermont Catholic Charities Inc., Central Vermont Humane Society, Lamoille County Food Share, Joseph’s House and Chittenden County Food Shelf.
 
Many of the students who attended the Mass appreciated being a part of the celebration with other Catholic school students. “It was cool to see all the schools in Vermont,” said Henry Sipples, an eighth grader at Good Shepard Catholic School in St. Johnsbury, admitting the attendance was more than he expected.
 
“It’s good to come together to celebrate our schools,” added classmate Madison Wilson.
 
PJ Letourneau and Alexis Limlaw-Sicard, eighth graders at St. Paul School in Barton, liked the music, and classmate Marina Rockwell — though she likes her small town — enjoyed visiting the City of Burlington.
 
But more importantly, she said, she appreciated the feeling of the Church as universal. “Being in Barton, you don’t see other Catholic schools [because St. Paul’s is the only one in the nearby area] so you feel kind of like isolated,” she said. “Coming here with all the other kids who do the things you do [in Catholic school] makes you feel like you’re a big family.”
 

 
 
 
  • Published in Schools

Generosity of Spirit at St. Thomas Parish

Delivering groceries, providing clothing, distributing holiday gifts, assisting new mothers and sending cheerful greeting cards are just some of the ways members of St. Thomas Church in Underhill Center are looking out for their neighbors and letting them know someone cares.
 
“Love of God is very important in this community,” and it is manifested in works of charity and social action, commented Laura Wells, the parish director of religious education.
 
The Eucharist nourishes people in their service, she said. “You can see those people coming every week [to Mass] opening their hearts and minds and eyes to the world” and its needs.
 
One of the parish volunteers is Louise Mathews, a retired case worker whose church activities include chairing the yard sale, coordinating the Ladies Group (which provides Christmas gifts to a local family in need) and helping send holiday greeting cards to the sick and shut-ins and to married couples on their anniversary.
 
The greeting card ministry sends about 500 cards a year; cards are donated, and the parish purchases the stamps. “We want them to know they are not forgotten,” Mathews said.
 
Each weekend parishioners bring non-perishable food to Mass; children bring some items to the altar during the offertory. Thus “the children get the sense that not every child has as much to eat as they have,” Mathews commented.
 
Some parishioners bring food to the church during the week, and what is donated goes to the Essex, Jericho, Underhill Ecumenical Ministry food shelf, where several parishioners volunteer.
 
The religious education program sponsors annual food and fruit baskets at Christmas and Easter, and confirmation students work on a host of social action activities including emergency relief, Operation Christmas Child, Vermont
Catholic Youth Serve projects and the COTS walk for the homeless.
 
The active Knights of Columbus St. Thomas Council #7810 contributes to the wellbeing of others through fundraisers that allow the Knights to donate to organizations like the local fire department, Special Olympics and a shelter for homeless veterans. They have donated to Christmas food baskets and helped someone get a service dog and someone else get a hearing aid.
 
St. Thomas parishioners support the prolife cause with donations to the Baby Bottle Campaign to benefit Aspire Together in Burlington and St. Albans, and they support Vermont Catholic Charities Advent Appeal for persons in need.
 
After the parish tag and rummage sales, clothing is donated to agencies that help veterans, military families, infants, refugees and others.
 
One organization pays cash for leftover clothing, and the funds the parish gets go to help people in Indonesia, said Sharon Leonard, a Finance Council member and rummage sale chair.
 
Parishioners also support the Jim Farrington emergency fund to help people throughout the year who need help.
 
“There is a generosity of spirit here,” Wells said. “People really open their hearts to their neighbor.”

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