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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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St. John Bosco Conference for Catechists and Religious Educators

Twenty-three Vermonters representing 15 different parishes traveled by bus to participate in The St. John Bosco Conference for Catechists and Religious Educators that took place July 17-20 at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.
 
“Working in ministry can be challenging on many levels. When times are challenging, we are called to hope and trust even more deeply,” commented Teresa Hawes, director of religious education at St. Monica Parish in Barre who coordinated the trip for the Vermont group. “This was a time of strong fellowship and renewal, with nourishment for the head, heart and soul. It was amazing to see how our group, many of whom did not know each other at the start, returned home strengthened and transformed.”
 
The conference theme was "Jesus, Our Hope."
 
“The conference left me with at least a dozen practical suggestions on how to improve catechesis in our parishes, which is exactly what you would expect from a conference for catechists and religious educators,” commented Michael J. Hagan, coordinator of religious education and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington and a conference participant. “However, the conference also provided a deeply spiritual, retreat-like atmosphere – through daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, praise and worship music and many opportunities for private prayer – that brought me closer to Christ and left me with a sense of spiritual renewal.”
 
There were 520 conference participants, some from as far away as Nigeria and Australia.
 
Featured speakers were Bishop David L. Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisc.; Jim Beckman, a scholar in residence and professor of leadership and evangelization for the Augustine Institute in Denver; Scott Hahn, author or editor of more than 40 books; and Amy Roberts, a member of the catechetics faculty of Franciscan University.
 
Among the Vermonters in attendance at the conference was Kelly Lagasse, director of religious education, catechist and marriage preparation coordinator for All Saints Church in Richford, St. Isidore Church in Montgomery Center and Our Lady of Lourdes Church in East Berkshire. “I was overwhelmed how the leaders on campus were so docile to the Holy Spirit, not holding back in sharing their knowledge, experiences and love with us,” she said. “Throughout the conference as information was taught, there were overwhelming themes and lessons of surrender, vulnerability, relationship, abiding in Him, encounter and communion in an incarnational ministry.”
 
She was reminded that her parish boundaries go beyond the four walls of a church to everyone in the towns and that parents are the first and foremost educators of their children. “I hope to bring this information back to our catechists and pray about how to refocus our education on not just the giving of information, but also the forming of disciples within and outside of our church walls,” she said. “One specific change I would like to make is to implement a family faith program for catechism that is more focused on accompanying our families in the education of their own children in their lifelong pilgrimage to Christ.”
 
This was the 21st year of the Bosco Conference, one of several adult conferences that are offered on the campus of Franciscan University of Steubenville each summer.
 
“Now it’s our job to take what we’ve learned and implement it in our various roles in Vermont,” Hagan said. “We were given handouts at most workshops, many of us took notes, and we were given the opportunity to network with others who could support our efforts. Coming back home to Vermont with these resources makes it possible for us to put our new knowledge into practice.”
 
The Vermont trip was funded in part by Our Sunday Visitor.
 
 
 

Totus Tuus 2017

Troy Norman, a seminarian for the Diocese of Burlington, is spending part of his summer break from his own studies -- teaching.
 
A team leader and teacher in the Totus Tuus program, he is, he said, “helping children give themselves to Jesus through Mary” and sharing his experience of the faith with them as a role model.
 
Two teams of two seminarians and two young women each are conducting five Totus Tuus programs for elementary and middle school students and a separate one for high schoolers.
 
In Bennington, 62 children participated along with about a dozen high schoolers.
 
Totus Tuus was St. John Paul II's apostolic motto. It is a Latin phrase meaning "totally yours" and expressed his personal consecration to Mary.
 
Totus Tuus is a Catholic youth program dedicated to sharing the Gospel and promoting the Catholic faith through catechesis, evangelization, Christian witness and Eucharistic worship. The goal of Totus Tuus is to help young people grow in their understanding of, and strengthen their faith in, Jesus Christ. The program strives to bring faith to life by creating a balance between knowledge of the meaning of the sacraments and an authentic sacramental life.
 
According to Holy Cross Father Robert Wiseman, administrator of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Parish in Bennington and St. John the Baptist Parish in North Bennington, the program provides a consistency in vacation religious education throughout the statewide Diocese.
 
Though some parishes have their own Vacation Bible School programs, Totus Tuus offers the same program with a strong catechetical basis throughout the Diocese with trained staff members.
 
Vermont is the only site in New England where it is currently offered.
 
Father Dwight Baker, director of the Catholic Center at the University of Vermont in Burlington and chaplain for Totus Tuus, said the program is a “great blend of learning and fun.”
 
Classes are geared to each grade level, and each year the theme is different mysteries of the rosary; this year it is the Joyful Mysteries. Participants also learn about salvation history.
 
“The young people [on the team] are on fire for their faith, and the children see they are living an authentic life in their faith,” Father Baker said. “They are people [the children] look up to.”
 
Participants in the Bennington Totus Tuus – one of the largest in the Diocese – came from Bennington, North Bennington, Manchester and Arlington and from North Adams and Williamstown, Mass.
 
Jessica O’Connell, one of the coordinators, sent her son, Ambrose, 5, to Tutus Tuus at the Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Parish Center. “It’s an opportunity for him to be with a group of his peers and be exposed to the older leaders who are encouraging him in his faith,” she said.
 
The other coordinator, Tammy Buckley, said she hoped the Totus Tuus experience would have an effect on the wider community too, bringing persons to Jesus through the words and actions of the participants. “It’s really all about love,” she said.
 
Father Wiseman said Totus Tuus also is an opportunity for him to meet parents “and engage is some pastoral ministry.”
 
In addition, he said it is good for parishioners to see youth activities in the parish; he planned to show a video of Totus Tuus during upcoming weekend Masses.
 
Kayla E. King, 14, a volunteer helper from Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Parish, said she helped the children “stay focused” on their lessons and have fun. “It’s important so they can grow in their faith,” she said.
 
Totus Tuus is funded in part by The Bishop’s Annual Appeal/the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.
 

A 'puzzling' celebration

The July celebration for the 25th anniversary of ordination for Father Romanus Igweonu definitely was puzzling.
 
That’s because guests at his reception were busy putting together puzzles.
 
It was a way to bring together the people of the three churches he serves as pastor: St. Bridget and St. Stanislaus Kostka in West Rutland and St. Dominic in Proctor.
 
“The love of the people of God inspires their pastor,” Father Igweonu commented as he watched a few people put finishing touches on the puzzles in the parish center of St. Bridget Church.
 
Eight puzzles were made for the celebration, and they featured individual pictures of St. Dominic Church, St. Bridget Church, St. Stanislaus Church and Father Igweonu. Another version included pictures of each church, Pope Francis, Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne and Father Igweonu.
 
Guests at the reception for the pastor’s silver jubilee included parishioners of the three churches as well as churches he served before his current assignment.
 
“When you put the pieces of the puzzle together, you have something special,” he said. “And when you put together our three churches, you have something special.”
 
Marguerite Sadowski of St. Bridget Parish said the puzzle project brought together the people of the churches. “We worked together, and that was a symbol to make the congregations more closely united.”
 
The three churches once had their own pastors but are now united with one pastor.
 
“It was brilliant to do the puzzles because people worked together and had a common goal,” said Barbara Fischer, a parishioner of Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Ludlow, one of the parishes Father Igweonu served before his current assignment. “The puzzles symbolize unity and diversity.”
 
Ray Sevigny of St. Bridget Parish said that like the parishes, the pieces of the puzzle “make something beautiful when they come together.”
 
“The puzzles were a beautiful idea,” said Nancy Basile of St. Bridget’s. “People are building something together, which makes unity.”
 
“The project symbolizes togetherness,” said fellow parishioner Peg Harvey.
 
“We are following the injunction of the bishop to worship together, witness together and walk together to build unity,” Father Igweonu said. “By doing so, we can change the way people react to the Church when they see us walking together, collaborating and supporting each other. We are looking to build the Church.”
 
 
  • Published in Parish

Coordinator of evangelization and catechesis

Joshua M. McCusker says that evangelization begins with becoming friends with people. 
 
New to Vermont, the coordinator of evangelization and catechesis at St. Luke Church in Fairfax and Ascension Church in Georgia is doing just that.
 
He understands the importance of showing interest in people and concern for what is happening in their lives. “Treating everyone with dignity and respect is key,” he said.
 
He plans to get involved in the community and befriend people who are not Catholic in hopes of showing them the beauty of the Catholic faith. He wants to work with youth, particularly the teens in the community. “I hope to help them fall in love with the Lord just as I did at that age,” he said.
 
This is the first time the parish has had a full-time person to address catechesis and evangelization. “It can be helpful when the same person who invited you to the Church is the one who accompanies you and instructs you in the faith,” said Father Henry Furman, pastor, adding, “Every confirmed Catholic has an important responsibility to spread the Gospel.”
 
Pope Francis in “Joy of the Gospel” invited everyone to be bold and creative in the task of rethinking goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities, noted Deacon Phil Lawson, director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington.
 
He called hiring McCusker to have full-time responsibilities for evangelization “a very exciting development in our Diocese and one that I hope can be a model for other parishes going forward.”
 
Currently there are two parishes in the diocese with a staff member that has part- time evangelization responsibilities: St. Mark in Burlington and St. Francis Xavier in Winooski.
 
In the Fairfax and Georgia areas, McCusker “will be helping with both outreach in the community and in equipping and inspiring parishioners to be joy-filled missionaries of the Gospel,” Deacon Lawson said. “Father Furman and St. Luke and Ascension churches are to be commended for responding to Pope Francis’ call to be bold and try new models in fostering the New Evangelization.”
 
McCusker’s job in Fairfax/Georgia will entail catechetical adult faith formation, confirmation preparation, baptism preparation, marriage preparation, “Post-Cana,” altar-server training and forming new ways of evangelization both within the parish and beyond it for adults and youth.
 
“When I first heard about the need for evangelization and missionary work among the Catholics in Vermont, I was instantly drawn to the challenge,” he said. “From the time of my Confirmation, God has placed this desire on my heart to be missionary and to evangelize in the parish, but also outside it.”
 
Many people have never heard the Gospel. “Many lapsed Catholics have never been approached by the Church since they left. There are many on the peripheries,” Father Furman said. “There are a number of people awaiting the first announcement of the Good News to them. As our Lord says, the harvest is rich but the workers are few. For these reasons a coordinator for evangelization is important.”
 
McCusker was born in Rochester, N.Y., and also lived in Rhode Island and Georgia.
 
He was a member of a vibrant and faithful parish community and spent much of his time as an altar server and volunteering in the middle school and high school youth groups, Respect Life Ministry and Knights of Columbus. “I loved everything about parish life and all that it had to offer,” he enthused.
 
He attended Ave Maria University in Florida, earning a bachelor’s degree in theology with a minor in history. 
 
It was there that he met his wife, Jovannah; they were married in June.
 
McCusker enjoys sports, music and the outdoors, and he has worked various jobs during the past eight years in restaurants, landscaping, radio communication and athletics.
 
“I know that God is calling me to work for the Church, and I could not be more excited for this opportunity here in Vermont,” he said. “Catholics are called to evangelize. It is part of our faith, and it is an obligation. If we truly believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church and in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, how can we not share this truth with others?”
 
 
 
 
  • Published in Parish
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