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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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Recognition for solar energy leadership

When State Rep. Herb Russell (D-Rutland) learned that St. Peter Parish was the first parish in the Diocese of Burlington to install money-saving solar panels to generate electricity, he said he "felt it was only correct to acknowledge and highlight something very positive."

That's why he introduced a resolution congratulating St. Peter Parish on its solar energy leadership.

An Episcopalian, Russell said the Catholic church is "a very integral part of the district" he represents, Rutland House District 5-3. "There is a richness of culture in the parish and so much history."

The solar project was part of ongoing parish efforts – that included weatherization of the rectory and installation of energy-saving LED light bulbs – to conserve both energy and funds and is "in line" with Pope Francis' call to care for "our common home," the Earth, said Order of Friars Minor, Capuchin Father Thomas Houle, pastor.

With a $20,000 grant from Green Mountain Power and a $6,000 contribution from Rutlandbased Same Sun of Vermont Inc. – which installed the panels – the parish only needed to contribute $20,000 for the $46,000 project.

As of mid-May, St. Peter's had raised more than $17,000 – cash in hand – for the project.

Among the components of the parish's solar array are 30 315-watt panels and a ground mount with six ballasts weighing a total of 48,000 pounds. Located between the former parish school and the rectory, the array is surrounded by a four-foot chain-link fence for safety.

The virtually maintenance-free system is expected to produce 12,255-kilowatt hours of clean energy per year. This will offset 183.825 tons of carbon in its lifecycle, expected to be at least 30 years.

The solar array "is certainly going to help the church," Russell said. "For them to take this great 'leap of faith,' so to speak, over the use of solar energy makes total sense."

Russell went to Rutland May 9 to present Father Houle the official resolution with a gold seal on it and signed by Shapleigh Smith Jr., speaker of the House; Phil Scott, president of the Senate; and William M. MaGill, clerk of the House of Representatives.

The resolution Russell offered "resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives that the General Assembly congratulates St. Peter Roman Catholic Parish in Rutland on its solar energy leadership."

Said Father Houle: "I am so proud, and honored, and so thankful to all who were instrumental in having all of this accomplished. I was very stunned and surprised to receive such a congratulatory resolution, never expecting, or thinking, that it would reach that level."

He will continue to advocate for reducing carbon footprints by following in the footsteps of the founder of his Franciscan community, St. Francis of Assisi, "who saw all of creation as a gift from God and became the patron saint of ecology as he attempted to show us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace."

Father Houle encourages other parishes to investigate the possibility of using solar energy, especially when grants are available.

A recent month's parish electric bill would have been $201.28, for the rectory, but the earnings from solar totaled $273.18; the parish earned a credit of $71.90, "and we paid nothing for the rectory portion of this month's electric bill," he said. "We are seeing our rate of return, and savings already, as had been projected, in just one month's time!"

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.

  • Published in Parish

Year of Mercy event celebrates Jubilee for Families

The celebration of the Year of Mercy in the Diocese of Burlington continues on July 17 at the "Center of Life, Light and Love" with a Jubilee for Families during a special pilgrimage Mass. It will take place at Isle LaMotte' St. Anne's Shrine at 12:15 p.m.

This will be an opportunity for families from throughout the diocese to gather to celebrate this Year of Mercy and enjoy God's gift of nature at this holy location in the diocese.

There will be a procession to the statue of St. Anne after the Mass and then a cookout.

St. Anne's Shrine – located on the shore of Lake Champlain – includes an outdoor pavilion for Mass, outdoor Stations of the Cross, a gift shop, picnic area, gardens, cafeteria, camping and retreat cabins.

"The shrine is a very special place for families to gather because of the beauty of the grounds," said Edmundite Father Brian Cummings, spiritual director there. "Families often picnic or barbecue after Mass on the beach or on the many spots on the grass. Families can recreate playing sports games, swimming, kayaking, biking, fishing or boating. The shrine provides the opportunity for families to pray together and rest in the Lord's presence in a peaceful place. Some families come by boat and tie their boats at our dock. It is a prayerful and fun destination."

The mission of St. Anne's Shrine is to serve as a welcoming place of peace and minister to all God's people through prayer, devotion, hospitality and spiritual renewal.

Father Cummings suggested visitors tour the historic chapel and visit the grottos housing statues of various saints. Walking the grounds, particularly the areas where there are new cabins, would give them a feel for the potential for family and parish overnight retreats which are welcomed here.

As early as 1666, the French erected a fort and chapel on Isle LaMotte, dedicated under the invocation of "la bonne Sainte Anne." It was here that Mass was offered for the first known time in the Northeast.

It is a unique place of pilgrimage with a rich religious tradition steeped in the history of the country's founding. French explorers brought Jesuit missionaries with them as they landed on Isle La Motte establishing Fort St. Anne.

The care and direction of the shrine was entrusted to the care of the Society of St. Edmund in 1904; the Edmundites purchased it from the Diocese of Burlington in 1921.

For more than 100 years, families have come together to worship and to celebrate their faith on the shrine grounds. "The peaceful, serene and natural surroundings of the shrine are conducive to relaxation, prayer and recreation for people of all ages," Father Cummings said.

People who visited as children often return years later with their own families to renew their relationships and faith.

"I hope the people of our diocese will join us on July 17 for a day of prayer and family fun," Father Cummings said. "We will worship together in celebrating the Eucharist, and the sacrament of reconciliation will be available. Afterwards, we will then kick back and enjoy each other's company in a relaxed setting. It should be a great celebration remembering God's mercy and giving thanks to God for the blessings in our lives. And it should be fun!"

And for those looking to stay on Isle LaMotte in scenic Grand Isle County longer than just the day, there are various other attractions. A short distance from the shrine is the Fossil Preserves, a national natural landmark. On the south end of the Island is the Fisk Quarry Preserve and the Goodsell Ridge Preserve, an ancient fossil reef almost half a billion years old. Both preserves are open to the public with a self-guided tour.

To the north, a short walk from the shrine, is the Isle LaMotte Lighthouse Station established in 1857. The lighthouse is visible from the end of the road along the shore north of the shrine.

The Isle LaMotte Historical Society is located on the island with an original blacksmith shop and cabin.

In addition the island is a popular attraction for cyclists of all ages.


Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.

Father Naples' blog engages, evangelizes

The Diocese of Burlington has a bishop who is known as "the blogging bishop," and Most Holy Trinity Parish in Barton, Orleans and Irasburg has its own blogging pastor.

Father Timothy Naples likes to write – especially about Scripture – and he has another outlet for his words: his blog.

"I write," he said simply, explaining his desire to blog.

Located on Blogspot, the blog includes the pastor's Holy Thursday homily, 10 reasons to have a marriage blessed by the Catholic Church and a 9,300-word post about Jesus' parables that he had published also as a booklet. "The tradition of the Church is we have the Scriptures which are divinely inspired, and the Church's job is to interpret them, and the job of the priest is to explain them to the people," Father Naples said.

A self-described "slight introvert," he said he is more at ease speaking publically after thinking and writing about his topic.

So although blogging helps him articulate his thoughts, the blog is more in depth for readers "than the sound bite community you have on most social media," said the priest, who also has a Facebook page.

Father Naples does not blog regularly, but he uses that space to place something with a theological or spiritual interest "when I don't want it to get lost in Facebook archives," he said. "Facebook and Twitter are short posts. The blog allows more substantive pieces and archives in a way that is easy to access for anyone on the Internet."

In a broad sense, blogs can be tools for evangelization, he said: "In contrast to other social media, they have more of a potential for interpersonal connection and getting to know the blogger and readers of the blog through writing. It's much closer to being pen pals than texting or exchanging tweets."

But he laments that as the youngest pastor in Vermont – and one who knows how to blog – he has few young people locally with whom to communicate via the blog. "I want to keep working with it and slowly develop in my ability to connect others with the Gospel through it," he said.

Father Naples hopes to expand his blog to continue to teach Scripture and the devotional life of the faith.

As he sat at the dining room table of the St. Paul rectory in Barton, Father Naples – wearing a green vest from Mount St. Joseph Academy (in Rutland where he once taught) – posed a question for himself: What can I do as a priest to encourage a better understanding of this particular [blog] media for evangelization and spirituality for the Catholic community in Vermont?

His answer: Try to build readership of his blog among the young people he meets; use it to reach those he cannot reach in person who might be inclined to make an online connection with a Catholic writer; and retain the catechetical aspect of his writing.

"One of the most important things I can do is explain the faith for the readers so that if they are not practicing Catholics something might open them up to the faith more," he said. "And if they are practicing Catholics, I help equip them to fulfill their vocation in the world, which is what a priest is to do."

To read Father Naples' blog, go to trinityparishinbarton.blogspot.com.

Article and photos by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.

  • Published in Parish

Walk-Ins Welcome

North Bennington clinic cares for community body and soul

Bea Talbot brought a Crock-Pot filled with American chop suey; Sherry Monte provided the sliced bread, and Lorraine Breen contributed a plate of brownies.

They are members of the Social Concerns Committee at St. John the Baptist Church in North Bennington, and they provided the meal for people who came to the free clinic, a program of Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services, Inc., at First Baptist Church.

The clinic at the Bennington church is open from 6-9 p.m. on Thursdays; walk-ins are seen as time permits, but appointments are encouraged. The clinic also has appointment hours on Monday mornings.

While volunteer doctors and nurses see patients and volunteers help clients enroll in health insurance plans, simple meals are provided in the reception area; St. John the Baptist parishioners provide the food once every other month, and Talbot gets there early to set up the meal, enough for about 10 people.

She likes to make it simple: soup, chili or her favorite, American chop suey. "People come here to be seen [by the doctors and nurses], and often they don't eat. Some don't even see a doctor" but need the meal, said Talbot who also volunteers as a greeter at the clinic once a month.

When the free clinic opened in 2009, people brought in food for the staff. That celebratory spirit of bringing food continued in the second week; a mother waiting to see a doctor asked if her children could have some of the salad because they had not eaten.

And so began the free meal at the free clinic.

Some of those who partake of the free meal have expressed surprise that it is available; often they comment on how tasty it is.

St. John the Baptist parishioners have been involved in the meal for seven years. Other individuals and faith communities provide meals too.

Because the clinic serves people of low or moderate income, food is an important issue there, said Sue Andrews, executive director of Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services. "We try to nurture a close working relationship with local faith communities by involving them in social justice issues," she said.

In addition to the medical services, the agency provides food and fuel assistance, a food pantry and health insurance navigation services.

It's all part of what Andrews calls "radical hospitality."

Deacon David O'Brien, a member of the St. John the Baptist Social Concerns Committee, helped connect the parishes to the work of Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services. "This meal is one of the things that goes on day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, year-to-year" within the interfaith community, he said.

"The beauty of it for me is the interfaith group is looking at the needs of the community," said Sherry Monte, chair of the social concerns committee. "We are all working together and responding to the needs of the community."

In addition, working together enables members of different houses of worship to understand other faiths and to grow together in mutual respect as a community.

Lorraine Breen, a member of the social concerns committee, said she wanted to get involved in community service when she retired as an administrative assistant. She appreciates the work of the committee to help the homeless, feed the hungry and help with housing.

"There are people in need, and as much as we can work together and help them, that's our goal," Monte said. "Our job is to respond to the needs of the community. That's what Christ asks us to do."

Andrews said the faith communities "engender the opportunity for people to volunteer and be part of the community" and to help their neighbors in need.

Supporting the programs of the Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services "is part of who we are," Deacon O'Brien said.

"Our job as a social concerns committee is to keep our [church] community focused on the needs out there," Monte said, "and to respond the way that Christ asked us. That's what drives us."

To schedule an appointment at the free clinic, call (802) 447-3700.

For more information on Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services, go online to www.benningtoncares.org.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.

  • Published in Parish
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