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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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Coordinator of religious education and catechesis

Michael J. Hagan became coordinator of religious education and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington in June, and he will be working to strengthen religious education within the Church by working with directors of religious education in Vermont parishes.
 
“Catechesis is important because our faith is not something that anyone can immediately -- or once-and-for-all – grasp,” he said. “Being a Christian is a lifelong process of unfolding the mystery of our faith, which is exactly what catechesis (the teaching of our faith) helps us to do. This journey is just as important, if not more so, for adults as it is for children.”
 
He plans to introduce more catechetical programs that include the whole family, both children and parents. “How that applies specifically, however, will depend on each parish and its particular strengths,” he said, adding that he will continue to offer catechists educational opportunities throughout Vermont.
 
One of his goals is to better understand how Vermont parishes function and then use that knowledge to be a strong support to assist and encourage them in their individual religious education goals. “The only way to truly achieve this is to pick up the phone, get in the car and build relationships with DREs around the state,” he said.
 
Hagan, 26, was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Grove City College and a master’s in theology from Villanova University.
 
He worked as a theology teacher and campus minister at a Catholic high school in Toledo, Ohio.
 
“In my experience as a high school teacher, I quickly discovered that books alone don't cut it. Outside of the classroom, students naturally consume information digitally, whether it be YouTube videos, online articles or apps on their phones,” he said. “Just as Jesus used familiar objects to make His parables relatable, we need to make technology a part of our religious education curriculum. This will help our students to be engaged in our material. Books are certainly important, but it is best to weave in the latest technology when possible.”
 
Hagan is married and now a resident of South Burlington and a parishioner at Christ the King/St. Anthony Parish in Burlington.
 

Vermont Catholic staff earns press awards

The staff of Vermont Catholic earned four awards – including a coveted “Magazine of the Year” award – from the Catholic Press Association of the United States & Canada at its annual Catholic Media Conference June 21-23 in Quebec City.
 
In the “Magazine/Newsletter Of The Year” Diocesan Magazine category, Vermont Catholic staff took third place.
 
“My congratulations to the staff of Vermont Catholic magazine for being honored by the Catholic Press Association. These awards only confirm what I and the readers of Vermont Catholic already know: that the staff of the magazine are creative, faith-filled and hardworking people,” commented Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne.
 
Graphic designer Monica Koskiniemi garnered first place in the “Best Layout of an Article or Column” category for diocesan magazines for her print layout of "Sharing the Love," and Stephanie Clary, assistant editor and mission outreach and communication manager, placed second for her article “The Cry of the Earth, The Cry of the Poor” in the “Best Reporting of Social Justice Issues: Care for God’s Creation” category.
 
The staff earned a third-place award for “Best Redesign.”
 
“You are only as good as your team, and Vermont Catholic magazine is blessed with a very talented team,” said Vermont Catholic editor Ellen Kane. “Even though we are a small team of four, wearing many different hats at the Diocese, it is our strong commitment to the mission of the Catholic Church and spreading the Good News to households throughout Vermont that keeps us focused on producing a high quality magazine that connects Catholics around our common faith.”
 
The magazine’s quarterly format – introduced with the December 2016 issue -- allows the staff to take a “deeper dive into different aspects of our faith and share the rich diversity of Catholic life from every corner of the statewide Diocese of Burlington,” she added. “We are delighted that the redesign of the magazine was received so positively on the national level.”
 
In the “Magazine/Newsletter of the Year” category, judges said: “The scope of this magazine is demonstrated by its totally different cover treatment, all centered around people. They illustrate the diversity of subjects of Catholic life in Vermont from the mother with child to the family so happily posed to the young man working on a farm while on retreat. Stories are interesting and well-written.”
 
In the “Best Redesign” category, judges remarked: “The redesign results in a much more energetic and lively magazine. Feature articles are well designed and layouts are creative. Type is used to enhance the lively energetic feel. Biggest success is the redesign of the cover and the art. Logo is stronger and makes a better visual statement. Art is much larger, clearly focused and draws the reader into the magazine.”
 
Koskiniemi earned top honors for “Best Layout of an Article or Column: Diocesan Magazine” judges said, because of “great graphics, great layout, great use of type and contrast.” They continued, “The eye moves around the page and the reader is able to quickly get the sense of the story and the intensity of the project. There is also a great sense of energy.”
 
Clary’s entry in the “Best Reporting of Social Justice Issues: Care for God’s Creation” earned second place because it distilled the insights of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, "Laudato Si’: On Care For Our Common Home." into a concise explanation of ecological justice as part of the Christian mission. “The article emphasizes that the poor are particularly harmed by climate change and that those who are privileged have a special responsibility to address its effects,” the judges wrote.
 
The Catholic Press Association has been uniting and serving the Catholic press for more than 100 years. It has nearly 250 publication members and 500 individual members. Member print publications reach 10 million households plus countless others through members’ websites and social media outlets.
 
Vermont Catholic and its predecessor, the biweekly Vermont Catholic Tribune, have won numerous CPA awards throughout the years.
 
 

Cigars and Stories

It was a warm, dry Thursday evening, and the fire in the pit next to Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Springfield was burning almost lazily. Five men, including the pastor, Father Peter Williams, relaxed around it, telling stories punctuated by deep, hearty laughs.
 
It was the July men’s meeting for “Cigars and Stories,” though only a couple had a cigar.
 
“This is relaxing,” said parishioner Dennis Pine. “I look forward to it,” added Father Williams whose idea it was to gather the men to relax, get to know one another and share their wisdom.
 
He occasionally smoked a pipe, but when he saw a computer ad for Immaculata Cigars, he was intrigued because of his devotion to St. Maximilian Kolbe, founder of the Militia of the Immaculata, a worldwide evangelization movement that encourages total consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary as a means of spiritual renewal for individuals and society.
 
He bought a box of the cigars, made by Ave Maria Cigars, but then wondered what he would do with them. So he decided to share them with the men of the parish.
 
The monthly, 7 to 9 p.m., May through October gatherings around the campfire began last summer and are open to all men. “The purpose is gathering. And keep it simple,” Father Williams said. “We [men] don’t often socialize unless we have an event. This is a social event.”
 
He hopes by participating, men of the parish will get to know one another better – “which is invaluable” – and appreciate the wisdom of the older men. “It’s an exchange of wisdom,” he added.
 
Men are encouraged to “come with a story;” and although they don’t have to be funny, “it helps if they are,” Father Williams said with a laugh.
 
Stories have centered on topics like family, travel and camping.
 
But Father Williams is open to questions, and the gatherings of about a half dozen men are times when they can seek answers to questions about the Church or their faith.
 
“This is a nice getaway … to hang out,” said parishioner Dave Prunier who contributed a story about “German festive coffee.”
 
“We all get along, and this is a way to continue to get to know people in the parish,” he said.
 
Asked why he attends, parishioner Pierre Peltier exclaimed, “It’s our penance,” and the other men roared with laughter.
 
Parishioner Tony Klementowicz said he enjoys the camaraderie and the comfortable atmosphere around the fire. (If it rains the gathering is moved indoors.)
 
Pine is hoping the group will meet around the campfire at least once in the winter.
 
 
 
 
  • Published in Parish

Cable ministry of Deacon Blicharz

Even though he was granted “senior deacon” status about three years ago because of debilitating spinal stenosis that makes walking difficult, Deacon John F. Blicharz continues his role of service to the Church through his cable television program.
 
His 30-minute monthly program, “Sharing Thoughts,” is recorded in the kitchen of his tidy Bellows Falls home, a two-foot crucifix from the former Sacred Heart Church visible behind him.
 
The program is “about our faith in general,” he said, and topics have included the Knights of Columbus, World Youth Day, the Holy Land, prayer, purgatory and the right to life.
 
Aired on Fact TV Channel 8 in Bellows Falls, the cable access program can be seen four times a week. Its purpose, Deacon Blicharz said, is “to spread the word of God and to show forth our faith.”
 
Deacon Blicharz – of Polish descent -- grew up “across the river” in North Walpole, N.H., but was a parishioner of Sacred Heart Church in Bellows Falls – a Polish parish -- until it closed in 2004. A graduate of the former Bellows Falls High School, he attended St. Mary’s College in Orchard Lake, Mich., affiliated with Sts. Cyril and Methodius Seminary there. He studied at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore for two years before returning to the Bellows Falls area.
 
He and his wife, Jane A., have been married since 1972 and have two adult children, Stephanie and Timothy – both graduates of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. -- who now live in the Boston area.
 
Deacon Blicharz, 70, is a retired office worker for James Oil in Bellows Falls.
 
Burlington Bishop John A. Marshall ordained him to the permanent diaconate in 1982, and he served both in the Diocese of Burlington and in the Diocese of Manchester, N.H, in a church just about a mile from his home on the other side of the Connecticut River.
 
He said he was called to the permanent diaconate because of his love for the Church and because though the Lord did not call him to the priesthood, he could still serve the people of God. “I’ve always been involved in the Church,” said the former longtime high school religious education teacher.
 
When Father Lance Harlow – now rector of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph Co-Cathedral parishes in Burlington – was pastor of St. Charles Church in Bellows Falls, he asked Deacon Blicharz to be on his cable program, “Curious about Catholicism.”
 
The deacon was on the program three times, discussing the permanent diaconate in Vermont and Sacred Heart Church.
 
“My family was deeply rooted and involved in Sacred Heart Parish,” he said proudly.
 
Now a parishioner of St. Charles Church, Deacon Blicharz is committed to uplifting the Church, particularly through his cable program. “Faith is fragile, like an eggshell,” he said. “Unless you’re really grounded in it, you could lose it very quickly.”
 
So when Father Harlow asked him to take over the cable program in 2011, he agreed. “It was a good way to show the faith by continuing the show,” the deacon said.
 
Lamenting that the country has become more godless, Deacon Blicharz said he hopes through the program “people get a better grasp of who Jesus Christ is, Our Lord and savior.”
 
Describing himself as a “people person,” Deacon Blicharz said the program has uplifted him because being unable to serve as a deacon on a regular basis because of his leg problems “broke my heart.”
 
But he emphasizes that the program is not about him. “It’s about Jesus Christ using me to put forth what needs to be said to the people about our faith.”
 
Topics for future programs include Our Lady of Fatima, prison ministry and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein).
 
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