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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.Therese Digital Academy enrollment increases

Enrollment at the Diocese of Burlington’s St. Therese Digital Academy has grown from four to 52.
 
Principal Lisa Lorenz attributes the growth to several factors including grant money from Our Sunday Visitor and the Catholic Communications Campaign of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, word of mouth, courses for the Lay Formation Program Institute for Missionary Discipleship, the building of the digital academy’s own curriculum and existing brick and mortar schools using its courses.
 
St. Therese Digital Academy is an online diocesan Catholic high school with a rigorous program grounded in the firm foundation of the Catholic faith. The academy works with parents in their role as the primary educators of their children by providing flexible options to assist with the diverse educational needs of students and their families. Its goal is to develop well-grounded disciples of Jesus Christ who possess 21st-century skills, equipping them to fulfill their roles as members of the Body of Christ within society.
 
The digital academy offers high school courses and theology for the Lay Formation Program, with projections for catechetical classes for ongoing professional development.
 
“We are rolling out our own courses. We are beginning our adult theology classes and have projected to roll out courses for the Diocesan Lay Formation Program as part of the Institute for Missionary Discipleship. In addition, our courses are being used in our existing [Catholic] schools now with increasing interest,” said Lorenz, who is also superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Burlington and principal of Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington.
  • Published in Diocesan

Laity in Catholic schools

When David Estes, principal of The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales in Bennington, walked into his first meeting of Vermont Catholic school principals in 1987, he looked around the room and saw one religious brother; the rest of the principals were women religious.
 
Now he is no longer the minority; Vermont has no Catholic school principals who are members of religious orders.
 
And according to Lisa Lorenz, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Burlington, this years marks the first year there are no religious sisters on staff of any of the 14 Catholic schools in Vermont, though pastors and other clergy are “wonderful” about visiting the schools.
 
Father Scott Gratton is the new part-time vice principal for Catholic mission at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington.
 
Staffing is just one change Estes – a husband and father of two -- has lived through in his nearly 40 years in Catholic education – all at the Bennington school where he used to teach third and fifth grades.
 
“I have a lot of history” here, he said as he sat in a school office that was once a choir loft overlooking what was Sacred Heart Church.
 
The 1995 closing of the church located within the brick school building is but one of the changes Estes has witnessed. When Sacred Heart Church was merged with St. Francis de Sales Church, the Bennington parish became Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales, and eventually the name of Sacred Heart School was changed to that of the parish.
 
Other changes he has experienced during his tenure at the school are numerous: the reinstatement of grades seven and eight and the addition of a preschool; the expansion of the school into the church space for use as a multi-purpose room; an increase in interest in Catholic education among non-Catholics seeking quality education and a safe, disciplined environment; and the retirement of the last Sister of St. Joseph to teach in the school.
 
“For decades, schools were staffed entirely by religious but as numbers of religious decreased, schools were staffed by very capable, committed lay colleagues who ministered with religious and understood/understand what Catholic education is about,” commented Sister of Mercy Marianne Read, a former Catholic school teacher, principal and superintendent in Vermont.
 
“All lay teachers today in Catholic education understand that by the words spoken and by their presence to children and young adults, they can bring faith and hope and joy,” she continued. “Our lay teachers, continue the legacy of religious [congregations] and continue to build on a strong foundation, for they teach us that it is not just the crucifix on the wall or the statue of Mary or Joseph in the school building that makes a school Catholic. It is not just the priests, religious sisters and brothers or lay teachers we have that make a school Catholic. It is this and far more. It is the living out of the charism of the religious orders who taught in the schools. It is the teaching of Gospel values and striving to model the message of Christ on a daily basis, not just in religion class but witnessed to throughout the school day; it is our conscious participation in the life and mission of the Church that makes us Catholic.”
 
When the last Sister of St. Joseph at Sacred Heart School retired, Estes said there was concern about maintaining the Catholicity of the school, but the lay teachers and staff members live, teach and pray in ways that make it clear this is a Catholic school. “There is a joy here surrounded by the Catholic faith,” Estes said.
 
School Masses and prayer are key, he added. “When you see the students singing the Lord’s Prayer, they’re not singing. They’re praying. They mean it. It’s the presence of God here among everyone.”
 
Last year six students were baptized, an example of the evangelization role played by the school, once filled with only Catholic children. “We are evangelizing all the time,” Estes said.
 
Other changes he has witnessed through the years include the addition of technology and technology education to keep up with the changing times; the addition of athletic teams that build school spirit; more single-parent families and safe environment training for teachers, staff and volunteers.
 
“The gift of religious and clergy is truly a gift, and the gift of the laity is a gift,” Lorenz said. And having all-lay staffs in Catholic schools “is different, but this is a new time in our world” when there are fewer religious and clergy available to staff schools.
 
When Estes first came to the Catholic school, tuition was $50 a month; now it is $475. Though financial assistance is available, Estes said new ways of financing Catholic education need to be found.
 
As he looks to the future, Estes can’t help but look back on the changes he has experienced. “We’ve had a lot of change here at the school,” he said. “Change takes a lot of work, a lot of forethought and a willingness to change. …Change is a risk, but you have to go forward.”
 
--Originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
  • Published in Diocesan

Catholic radio now available

“Catholic Radio is up and broadcasting in Burlington, Winooski, Essex and South Burlington! Congratulations to Donna McSoley and all who helped her make this happen,” Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne enthused on social media.
 
The station went live Sept. 29, the Feast of the Archangels.
 
Tune in to WRXJ, 105.5 FM for Our Lady of Perpetual Help Radio, dedicated to helping listeners grow in holiness in Jesus Christ.
 
The low-power radio station is owned by St. Francis Xavier Parish Charitable Trust; it broadcasts from St. Francis Xavier Parish in Winooski.
 
A member of the parish, Donna McSoley, landed a permit with the Federal Communications Commission to build the radio station. She now serves as its president.
 
An Oct. 1 post on the non-profit station’s Facebook page noted, “We are on the air! Tune in to 105.5 FM to hear Our Lady Of Perpetual Help Radio — your prescription for joy.”
 
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Radio’s programming purpose is evangelization and catechesis. Broadcasting from Winooski, it reaches communities in the Burlington area with its signal reaching across Lake Champlain into New York.
 
McSoley said she was relieved, excited and happy to have the station on the air. “I love listening to it in the car,” she enthused. “Now the fun part can start.”
 
She would like to include homilies of local priests, some local programming and talks on topics of Catholic interest and on topics of social issues.
 
Programming currently includes EWTN Live, Mornings with Mother, Sunday Night Prime and Women of Grace. “The EWTN content is so excellent,” McSoley said.
 
Through broadcasting scripture, sound doctrine and pastoral advice, the station is committed to helping listeners understand the Catholic faith, increase hope by preaching truth and bring about the interior conversion that is demanded in the Gospels.
 
According to its website, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Radio Inc. is faithful to the teachings of sacred Scripture, sacred tradition and the magisterium: “We hope that our encouragement will bring people in deeper union with God, and in doing so, strengthen our community. In a world that has lost its way, we offer hope and invite all to know clarity, wisdom and truth through the lens of the Church that Jesus founded, in order to bring it peace, love and light.”
 
“I want to support the Diocese to evangelize and proclaim the Gospel,” McSoley said.
 
For programming information, go to wrxj1055.org/programing.
 
 
  • Published in Diocesan

New life for former churches

When a church closes – no matter what the reason – it’s obviously difficult for its members. Sometimes former church buildings become a parish center when a new church is built or serve a larger, merged parish as a social center. Many former churches have been sold, experiencing a renaissance as a gallery, a workshop, a home or an artist studio. Some, alas, are torn down.
 
But as with any home, the former church building does not hold the memories. Rather, the community that worshipped there keeps those memories close; the individuals who received sacraments there treasure their recollections of their experiences of grace there.
 
Among the uses for former churches in the Diocese of Burlington are:
 
St. Benedict Church, North Hero
The GreenTARA Gallery is located in the former St. Benedict Church in the center of North Hero. Diane Gayer bought the former church last year and renovated much of it over six months. It is now an art gallery with coffee/tea bar and artist studios plus workshop space. The former church was built as a general store in 1823 and situated on the waterfront in the village of North Hero. It was converted to a Catholic church in 1888-89 and moved to its current location in 1947. It closed as a church in 2008. “Because of the 24-foot-by-50-foot spatial dimensions, the building exhibits the qualities of the Golden Ratio,” Gayer said. “The high vaulted ceiling brings in a lot of soft daylight, which we are careful to use as direct sunlight on art can be destructive.” Both the wood dais (where the sanctuary had been in the church) and the choir loft offer areas for larger art or activities or to create a quieter space under the overhang of the loft. “Additionally the church was quite simple in its details due to the time it was built and converted; this in turn allows it to make a very attractive art gallery,” Gayer said. The location provides lovely views of Lake Champlain to the east, and west to expansive fields of corn and open sky. The name GreenTARA keeps a spiritual nature to the business and is in keeping with the much needed healing in the world, Gayer said. Green Tara is the Tibetan goddess of compassion and enlightened activity. Additionally the activities, from the mix of exhibits and guest talks to workshops on green roofs and emphasis on local food, all have art and environment at their core.
 
Our Lady of Lourdes Church, North Pownal
James Gardiner has transformed the former Our Lady of Lourdes Church in North Pownal into his home and workshop for his business, Atmosphyre – a bathroom vanity and sink manufacturer. The designer said the space fits his needs perfectly “because when you are making stuff from nothing you want to be inspired.” He does plan to replace some of the colored windows with clear glass because he is “starving for natural light.” He has replaced the pews with a variety of tools, but the space still has the feel of a church. “The building was completely designed and built … to make a connection between man and God,” he said. “People are still mindful of God when they enter the building.”
 
Sacred Heart Church, Bennington
Sacred Heart Church in Bennington – located within Sacred Heart School – closed when the parish merged with St. Francis de Sales Parish and the new Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Parish took up residence in the larger, freestanding church. The space on the ground floor of the school once dedicated to the church became the school’s multipurpose room where music lessons take place, students eat, theatrical shows are performed and the school community assembles.
 
Sacred Heart Church, Bellows Falls
The former Sacred Heart Church in Bellows Falls, located just up the street from St. Charles Church, became a parish center after it closed. Now the Sacred Heart St. Charles Education and Social Center, it has classrooms for religious education, a soup kitchen to serve the needy and a parish hall for various functions. The building remains “very sentimental” to parishioners who once were members of Sacred Heart Church, said Herald of Good News Father Maria Lazar, administrator of St. Charles Church.
 
St. Columban Church, Arlington
The cornerstone of the former St. Columban Church in Arlington was brought from Mucross Abbey in Ireland; the church was named after the 7th-century Irish missionary abbot who founded monastic centers in France, Switzerland and Italy that became centers of evangelization and learning. When the church closed in the 1960s, the congregation moved to its new St. Margaret Mary Church. The former St. Columban’s was once home to a Norman Rockwell museum (the Saturday Evening Post artist lived in Arlington for 14 years) and most recently an artist’s studio and gallery.

Originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
  • Published in Diocesan
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