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Rules of engagement

“No road is long with good company.” Turkish proverb
Every great relationship needs someone to initiate the conversation to get things going.
Great personal advice? Certainly, but on the website where I found this quote, “start the conversation” was the first of several tips on how to improve your social media engagement.
Be attentive, spark intrigue, know your audience, have a sense of humor, share compelling data – translate those into rules to improve personal relationships and your friends and loved ones will be happy.
If we followed the rules of engagement for social media marketing in our personal relationships, whether with family, friends, or even with God, we would be making real relationship headway.
But our culture has become such that we are more comfortable engaging with technology than we are with other people.
Recently I came across a video of a popular Italian-American comedian, Sebastian Maniscalco. He was new to me, but the topic of his act caught my eye -- The doorbell rings: then verses now.
He described how when the doorbell rang 20 or more years ago, the whole family jumped up and went to the door, delighted they were to have company. Mom brought out a store bought cake she was saving for just such an occasion. A pot of coffee was made and life was good.
Today, he demonstrated, when the doorbell rings, everyone drops to the floor and is shushed by parents into silence. Dad mouths the words, “Did you invite anyone over? Who invited someone over?” He commands somebody to grab the sword from under the couch and instructs mom to do the army crawl out of the kitchen so whoever is at the door won’t see movement and know someone is home.
The performance loses a lot in a simple text translation, but I had tears from laughing. All comedy is an exaggeration of some kind, but for me this skit rang true. When I was young we didn’t hesitate to open the door when the bell rang.
We didn’t have store-bought cake but my mom always had a box of Jiffy muffin mix ready to pop into the oven. The white and blue Corelle Ware percolator was ready on the counter for the unexpected guest and we often had family and friends popping in just to visit.
Today, when the doorbell rings we know instinctively it’s not a visitor. Everyone is too busy, and you just don’t drop in on people in this day and age. You make an appointment. If there’s someone at the door, it is probably someone proselytizing, a salesman, a utility company coming to turn off your service, or the mailperson needing a signature on a certified letter, which is never good.
Because we live in an age of fear, we now have security systems built into our doorbells just in case a visitor is really a criminal casing the house. I mean, who else would be stopping by without calling first?
Social isolation, including isolation from God, has become a reality for us in a time of increased social media use. While technology is speeding ahead in light years and employees are required to stay abreast of the latest and greatest, our real honest-to- goodness facetime with the people in our lives is being tossed aside like yesterday’s android phone.
The truth is we cannot have healthy relationships without investing time and presence. We need both for our loved ones and for God.
A friend of mine shared some of her dad’s wisdom as he reached the end of his life. He said it was important to get your priorities straight – God, family and work, in that order.
The great thing about God is you don’t need to call ahead and He loves company.

--Mary Morrell
  • Published in Diocesan

The sick, our everyday heroes

By Sister Constance Veit, lsp
Recently two of my family members were talking about a mutual friend who, though chronically ill, routinely does heroic acts of kindness for others. Though they get exasperated with her when she overextends herself, they realize that caring for others is what makes life meaningful. I thanked God that these women are kind enough to support their friend through both good times and bad, helping her to live a full life.
This incident came to mind as I read Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of the Sick (celebrated this year on Feb. 11) in which he reflects on St. Bernadette’s relationship to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our Lady spoke to Bernadette “as one person to another,” he says, treating her with great respect, even though she was poor and sickly. “This reminds us that every person is, and always remains, a human being, and is to be treated as such. The sick and those who are disabled, even severely, have their own inalienable dignity and mission in life.”
In light of the expanding legalization of assisted suicide, Pope Francis’ insights are invaluable.
Studies have shown that the majority of people who support assisted suicide do so because they fear the loss of personal autonomy and dignity in their final days. Suffering, they say, is meaningless and should have no place in the human experience. It seems that the thought of having to go on living when faced with serious disability or illness is becoming unacceptable in our post-Christian society.
What I find most tragic in this exaltation of independence and personal choice is that this attitude denies the beautiful reality that we are made for community. Created in the image and likeness of God, who is a Trinity of Persons, we are inherently relational, not autonomous. Mutual dependence, rather than independence, is the true Gospel value, and so we should not be ashamed when we need the assistance of others. Our weakness or infirmity can be a graced opportunity for those who help us, as well as for ourselves, for as St. John Paul II so often repeated, we can only find fulfillment through the sincere gift of self to others.
This is why Pope Francis is asking us to honor the sick by helping them to share their gifts and abilities. “Let us ask Mary Immaculate for the grace always to relate to the sick as persons who certainly need assistance,” he writes, “but who have a gift of their own to share with others.”
St. Bernadette turned her frailty into strength by serving the sick and offering her life for the salvation of humanity. The fact that Mary asked her to pray for sinners, the pope writes, “reminds us that the infirm and the suffering desire not only to be healed, but also to live a truly Christian life.”
Social media has allowed me to become acquainted with numerous heroes who go on giving in the midst of tremendous suffering. If you are looking for inspiration just Google Zach Sobiech or Lauren Hill, young adults who made a difference in the world while dying of cancer; J.J. Hanson, president of the Patients Rights Action League, who triumphed over a brain tumor; or O.J. Brigance, a former professional football player who inspires thousands though he is completely paralyzed by Lou Gehrig’s disease.
I am sure that you have unsung heroes in your midst in the person of sick, disabled or elderly persons who enrich your life despite their own trials. This year as we celebrate the World Day of the Sick, let’s honor these everyday heroes by letting them know that we admire them and are there for them in their moments of need, and by asking them to pray for us.
Sister Constance Veit is director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.
  • Published in World

Christmas Day Fire in 1905

Fairfield, Dec. 26, 1905

Dear Bishop –
I have a most calamitous news to tell you. The church and the house here were destroyed by fire yesterday – nothing but some house furniture was saved. I cannot account for it. At about half past twelve, I looked in the church to see that the outside doors were closed, to keep the heat in – and I saw nothing out of the way, hardly more one hour after the smoke was coming out in heavy clouds from the steeple. This took place at about two o’clock yesterday afternoon.

Yours in grief, N. J. LaChance

St. Patrick’s parishioners had decorated the church beautifully for Christmas with evergreens and candles – which were left to continue burning around the altar after the last Mass was over. Fairfield had no firefighting resources readily available and little could be done to save the church, rectory and stable. The fire burned through and completely destroyed the structures. At the time, it was said to have been the worst in the town’s history. Damage was valued at about $25,000 by Father Napoleon (Norbert) J. LaChance. The wooden church, complete with a wooden steeple, had been built about 40 years prior, replacing the first St. Patrick’s, which had been a brick structure with a small belfry, originally erected in 1847.

While the Catholics were displaced from their own church building, the Congregational church building was made available for their use for as long as necessary. Thanks to Father LaChance’s direction, the generosity of parishioners and some funds from the church’s insurance policy, the current St. Patrick Church was under construction within a year of the fire and dedicated on Sept. 20, 1910.

Kathleen Messier, Archivist
Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington 

St. Michael’s College a 2017 ‘Best College Value’

St. Michael’s College in Colchester has been named to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance’s list of the Top 300 Best College Values of 2017. Schools making the list “embody exceptional academic quality and affordability,” according to Kiplinger’s.
St. Michael’s also was a Kiplinger’s Best College Value of 2016.
Introduced in 1998, the rankings highlight public schools, private universities and private liberal arts colleges that combine outstanding academics with affordable cost, and this year combine those three categories into a single, comprehensive list. In addition, Kiplinger has ranked the top 100 best values in each category, and St. Michael’s earned a spot on the magazine’s list of “100 best values in private universities.”
Kiplinger assesses value by measurable standards of academic quality and affordability. Quality measures include the admission rate, the percentage of students who return for sophomore year, the student-faculty ratio and four-year graduation rate. Cost criteria include sticker price, financial aid and average debt at graduation.
“I’m thrilled to see St. Michael’s included on the Kiplinger’s Best Value list again this year,” said Michael Stefanowicz, St. Michael’s director of admission. “What a wonderful accolade that celebrates our campus-wide commitment to a high quality liberal arts education, as well as the innovation and care that are characteristic of our focus on affordability and retention.”
Janet Bodnar, editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, said that with the rankings, which weigh affordability alongside academic quality, “our goal is to help students and their parents understand what’s really worth the price … [and] all 300 schools on the list are of extraordinary value, being chosen out of a universe of 1,200.”
At Kiplinger.com, visitors have access to the "Find the Best College for You” tool and other tools that let readers sort by admission rate, average debt at graduation and other criteria for all schools, plus in-state and out-of-state cost for public universities.
The complete rankings are now available online at kiplinger.com/links/colleges and will appear in print in the February 2017 issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, on newsstands Jan. 3.
St. Michael’s College, founded on principles of social justice and compassion, is a selective, fully residential Catholic college. Its closely connected community delivers internationally-respected liberal arts and graduate education. To prepare for fulfilling careers and meaningful lives, young adults there grow intellectually, socially and morally, learning to be responsible for themselves, each other and their world.
  • Published in Schools
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