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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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Church Mutual Nurse Hotline

If an employee of the Diocese of Burlington associated with the diocesan insurance policy sustains a non-life-threatening injury on the job, who you gonna call?
The Church Mutual Nurse Hotline.
“We keep our eyes out for new, innovative programs with an already-proven track record to improve outcomes for employees hurt on the job,” said Betty Wyhowanec, administrative assistant in the diocesan Office of Insurance and Facilities. “This [nurse hotline] has a huge impact on the health and healing times of employees.”
The new program will go into effect Dec. 1 and get medical information to injured employees quickly and then provide them with documentation of the triage call.
According to churchmutual.com, if a non-life-threatening injury occurs while an employee of the Diocese is on the job, he or she can get fast and free advice by calling the 24/7 Nurse Hotline at 844-322-4662 before spending time and money at a health care facility.
The Nurse Hotline benefits both employees and employers by providing immediate medical advice on the most appropriate form of treatment. “Getting health care questions answered quickly and at no cost to employees is a win-win for everyone,” the site notes.
This service is powered by Medcor, which provides injury triage services from coast to coast, giving injured employees instant access to specially trained medical professionals and state-of-the-art triage protocols. As a result, employees experience better health outcomes and employers benefit from greater productivity, minimized frequency and reduced severity of workers’ compensation claims.
“In fact using Medcor service through this program can serve to reduce the overall insurance premium cost,” Wyhowanec added.
The call center is staffed with registered nurses under the direction of Medcor’s full-time medical director who is board certified in emergency medicine.
For more information about the program in the Diocese of Burlington, call 802-658-6110 ext. 1141 or ext. 1205.
  • Published in Diocesan

Perpetual Care Fund supports Vermont Catholic cemeteries

“Operating a cemetery is very expensive in today's world, and for that reason we need to be good stewards of all cemetery funds to provide a sacred place for those who have placed their love ones in our care,” said Robert E. Brown, director of cemeteries for the Diocese of Burlington. “The Catholic faithful expect our cemeteries to be a place of reverence, a peaceful area for prayer and reflection.”
But maintaining them is expensive.
The Vermont Catholic Community Foundation provides pathways for Catholics to leave a legacy that will shape the future of the Catholic Church in Vermont. “One of those pathways is the Perpetual Care Fund which enables our Catholic Parish Cemeteries to place their perpetual care monies together for an opportunity of a higher return on their investment,” Brown explained. “The foundation will manage these funds and distribute them on a percentage based on the principle invested. This will provide our cemeteries much needed funds for their operations.”
Perpetual Care by definition is the continued maintenance and care of the burial spaces, roads, buildings, equipment, tools, compensation for employees and record keeping.
Parish cemeteries are "not all that uncommon" in the Midwest, said Grant Emmel, who is charged with keeping tabs on the 125 cemeteries in the Madison Diocese.
"The parish cemetery is like a business. You've got to approach it with that kind of mindset," Emmel told Catholic News Service. "You've got inventory, you're selling things, you've got customer service, a lot of record-keeping — more so than a general nonprofit might think about. Then you've got the whole ministry side. ... You start adding that in, there's a lot to learn, but it's not overwhelming."
He explained the dual nature of cemetery as business and ministry: "Like catechesis, like religious education, like the Catholic school, the cemetery is a ministry. In some situations, you say: 'Listen, the cemetery has to be self-sustaining. It has to pay its own way.' That's not an unreasonable thing to say, but at some level, there's going to be some level of expectation that this is important to us, and it's worth it to us to expend some of our resources to keep this up and running.”
Learn more about The Vermont Catholic Community Foundation.
--Catholic News Service contributed to this article.
  • Published in Diocesan

Center for Agricultural Economy receives CCHD grant

The Center for an Agricultural Economy, a non-profit organization based in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, is the recipient of a $70,000 grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development to support its organizing campaign and issues assembly that will launch the Northeast Kingdom Organizing Project.
“As a member-led organization, NEKO will be a vehicle for people to have a voice in critical decisions that impact their lives,” said Martha Braithwaite, lead organizer.
The Hardwick-based Center for an Agricultural Economy envisions a future with thriving landscapes, healthy local food and vital, equitable communities and believes a place-based agricultural economy and intentional community development is the path to this future.
For many years, the center has been working in the local food system, within communities and with farm and food businesses. “But we also knew we weren’t moving fast enough,” Braithwaite said.
In 2015, the Center for an Agricultural Economy began a listening campaign designed to uncover some of the larger challenges related to food access, equity and independence in the local community. Staff spent a year learning from community members, low-income neighbors and faith-based communities about what challenges people in rural Vermont.
“The results were varied, but it led us to realize that we can’t do this work alone,” Braithwaite said. “Food equity and access are tied up in other issues such as transportation, livable wages, childcare, opiate addiction and generational poverty.”
Out of this work has grown the Northeast Kingdom Community Organizing Project, a regional network of partners who believe that working across sectors and groups is a critical approach to successfully addressing our issues of rural poverty and food insecurity.”
She added, “As a group, we believe that community organizing around issues is a critical strategy to change the future for the better. We also believe that the tent is wide enough for many partners to work together.”
An equitable food and agricultural economy has created empowered, interdependent communities with shared mutual goals, within the greater Hardwick region that are socially and economically thriving and contribute to a vital ecological future, is the organization’s stated vision.
“We are very excited that this grant will allow us to dramatically accelerate the pace of our organizing,” Braithwaite said. “Community organizing is slow and deliberate work. Surfacing the root causes of issues that negatively impact our communities and building relationships among leaders ready to take action together to address them takes time.”
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development was founded in 1970 by the Catholic bishops of the United States as their domestic anti-poverty program. Designed to address the policies and structures that perpetuate poverty to create sustainable solutions, CCHD empowers poor and marginalized people to join together and make decisions to improve their lives and neighborhoods.
The CCHD national collection date is the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
  • Published in Diocesan

'Extern' priests serving in Vermont

There was a time when the Diocese of Burlington sent priests to serve in missions in the developing world with groups including Maryknoll and The Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle.
But as the clergy shortage became more acute in Vermont, parishes here began to welcome more and more priests who were born outside the United States; in effect roles were reversed and Vermont became “mission territory.”
Of the 74 priests in full-time ministry in Vermont, there are currently 22 “extern” priests serving here with permission of their home bishop or religious order.
The extern priests serve at 41 churches and the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.
“Without their assistance, we would not be able to provide pastoral coverage to a large number of churches,” said Msgr. John McDermott, vicar general for the Diocese of Burlington. “Their presence is essential at this time in the life of the Diocese.”
Father Romanus Igweonu was ordained for the Diocese of Abakaliki in his native Nigeria and served there as a parochial vicar, pastor, teacher, principal and chaplain before coming to the United States to study in 2004, earning advanced degrees in education. An educational specialist, he worked in special education in Pittsburg before then-Burlington Bishop Salvatore R. Matano invited him to serve in the Diocese of Burlington.
Though he also looked into educational positions, Father Igweonu chose to come to Vermont “because my first vocation is as a priest; I have to pay homage to the Church.” Education, he said, is his “second career.”
He arrived in Vermont in 2006 and served churches in Fairfax, Milton, Ludlow and Proctorsville before his current assignment as administrator of St. Bridget and St. Stanislaus Kostka churches in West Rutland and St. Dominic in Proctor. 
“When I came to Burlington, I met life. I met love. I met brotherliness and unity and acceptance,” he said. “I came as a missionary to Vermont, but I feel one with the presbyterate of Vermont,” which makes him feel more of a diocesan priest than a missionary. “As imperfect as I am, they treat me as a brother.”
The growing numbers of African-born clergy and religious ministering in the United States are at the vanguard of an important moment in both the U.S. and worldwide Catholic Church, said Jesuit Father Allan Deck, a teacher of theology and Latino studies at Loyola Maryknoll University in Los Angeles.
"The Church is growing in Asia, in Latin America and most especially in Africa," he said. "So at this moment in time and as we move into the future, the life of the universal Church, the leadership of the universal Church -- and all the hard work that we need to do to evangelize -- more and more has to be assumed by up-and-coming groups, and one of those groups is the Catholic faithful of the various countries of Africa.”
Father Deck served from 2008 to 2012 as the first executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.
The priest called the influx of foreign-born ministers "a globalized priesthood, a globalized religious."
Father Maria Lazar, pastor of St. Charles Parish in Bellows Falls, was ordained a priest of the Heralds of Good News order. In his native India he was a parochial vicar, pastor and Catholic school administrator.
“One fine morning my superior [in the religious order] called me and said to prepare to go to Vermont,” he recalled. “Vermont was not on the map according to me back then,” he added with a smile.
But he arrived in Vermont in 2009 with another member of his order. “I didn’t know anything of Vermont,” he said. “I had no idea about the climate, the culture or the people.”
And though he thought he could speak English, he realized he did not speak it fluently. In fact, at first “it was not distinguishable,” he said.
Acclimating to a new place can be a challenge for a missionary priest, but Father Lazar did not balk; the object of his order is to train and supply priests where they are needed. “I’m a minister to the people. I cannot be hiding in a room,” he said, noting that in seminary he was told he could be sent “anywhere” so he would have to “bloom where you are planted.”
He has served churches in St. Albans, Barre and Rutland.
Asked if there is a priest shortage in his home diocese, Father Igweonu said, “yes and no.” Many parishes still need pastors because of an expansion program, so though there are many young men going to the seminary, “there are not enough priests because of the expansion,” he said. “No amount of priests is enough because the Church is growing in Africa.”
His plans to stay depend on the wishes of his home bishop and the bishop of Burlington. “I see my life as a priest anywhere I’m called to serve,” he said.
Father Lazar is committed to the Diocese of Burlington for 10 years, and when that is complete, he would like to go home to India, but he will, in obedience, go where he is needed. “I said ‘yes’ to God when I entered the seminary and when I was ordained. I should continue to [say ‘yes’] until my last breath.”
Father Julian Asucan, pastor of St. Augustine Church in Montpelier at North American Martyrs Church in Marshfield, was ordained in 2000 for the Diocese of Talibon in the Philippines where he assisted the bishop and was a parochial vicar and pastor before coming to Vermont in 2008 after learning the Diocese of Burlington needed priests.
“I wanted the experience of knowing what was beyond the borders of my country and to know the universal Church,” he said. “What we do there is the same thing we do here – celebrate the sacraments.”
He has served parishes in Bradford, Hardwick, Fairfax, Milton and Colchester.
He never thought of the United States as “mission territory,” but he understands the need now because of fewer American-born priests.
“For the Church to continue to exist, you have to have your own priests in the Diocese,” he said. “What if other Dioceses [and religious orders] did not send their priests?”
Father Lazar hopes that he will inspire young Vermont men to heed the call to priesthood. “Mission priests cannot stay here forever,” he said. “Mission priests are coming and serving and then they go to different places. Promoting local vocations is the only solution [to the clergy shortage], something every [Catholic] should work on.”
--Catholic News Service contributed to this story.
--Originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
  • Published in Diocesan
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