For New Year, pope urges help for refugees, respect for lifeVATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis began the New Year praying the world would demonstrate a marked increase in solidarity and welcome for migrants and refugees. "Let's not extinguish the hope in their hearts; let's not suffocate their hopes for peace," the pope said Jan. 1 before reciting the Angelus with a crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square. For the New Year's celebration of World Peace Day and the feast of Mary, Mother of God, Pope Francis had chosen to focus on migrants and refugees and their yearning for peace. "For this peace, which is the right of all, many of them are willing to risk their lives in a journey that, in most cases, is long and dangerous and to face trials and suffering," the pope told an estimated 40,000 people gathered in the square around the Christmas tree and Nativity scene. Pope Francis said it is important that everyone, including individuals, governments, schools, churches and church agencies, make a commitment to "ensuring refugees, migrants — everyone — a future of peace."
Postulator: Religious killed in Algeria will be recognized as martyrsVATICAN CITY (CNS) — A bishop, seven Trappist monks and 11 other religious men and women killed by extremists in Algeria in the 1990’s will soon be recognized as martyrs, the postulator for their causes said. The decree for their beatification should be published sometime in January, Trappist Father Thomas Georgeon said Jan. 1 in an interview with Mondo e Missione (World and Mission), a monthly magazine and website run by the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions. A 10-year armed conflict between government forces and extremist Islamic rebel groups left tens of thousands of people dead, making the deaths of the 19 religious "a martyrdom in the midst of a sea of violence that devastated Algeria," he said. "To pay homage to these 19 Christian martyrs means also paying homage to the memory of all those who gave their life in Algeria those dark years" as they were killed "for their country and for their faith," the priest said.
Update: Cardinal condemns deaths in Congolese protestsKINSHASA, Congo (CNS) — Congolese Church leaders, including the nation's cardinal, condemned security forces' attacks on Catholic protesters that left at least eight dead and 120 people detained. The Vatican Embassy in Kinshasa backed local Church officials, saying "the promotion of social justice and the defense of political and civil rights of citizens are an integral part of the social doctrine of the Church." The Jan. 2 statement said the nuncio was keeping the Vatican Secretariat of State informed, but people should not look for approval or condemnation "because it is standard in the Church to respect the competence of the diocesan bishops." The Dec. 31 protest against rule by President Joseph Kabila was organized by the Kinshasa archdiocesan lay coordination committee. At least a dozen priests were among those detained. "We condemn with utmost vigor this unjustified violence," the Congolese bishops' conference said in a statement Jan. 2.
Catholic program for abandoned babies may have saved Edmonton newbornEDMONTON, Alberta (CNS) — A safe-haven program called Angel Cradle, operated by Covenant Health, may have saved a newborn baby's life. A healthy baby was dropped off at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital in Edmonton within the past six months under the Angel Cradle program that lets parents anonymously leave a baby in a cradle within a doorway. It was the first time a baby has been abandoned under the Angel Cradle program since it began in Edmonton in 2013 and it is proof that the program is working, said a spokesman for Covenant Health, which operates the Angel Cradle at Grey Nuns and Misericordia hospitals. "In light of Catholic social teaching, our mission is to meet the needs of the most vulnerable and, in this case, there was a positive outcome," said Gordon Self, vice president of mission, ethics and spirituality. "We can't lose sight of the desperate circumstances that would lead to this decision, and we have to remember that this person chose to leave their baby in a safe environment. The Angel Cradle program helps prevent situations from being very tragic, which happens as we know," he said.
Don't confess other's faults, own up to sins, pope says at audienceVATICAN CITY (CNS) — Fear and the shame of admitting one's own sins leads to pointing fingers and accusing others rather than recognizing one's own faults, Pope Francis said. "It's difficult to admit being guilty, but it does so much good to confess with sincerity. But you must confess your own sins," the pope said Jan. 3 at his first general audience of the new year. "I remember a story an old missionary would tell about a woman who went to confession and she began by telling her husband's faults, then went on to her mother-in-law's faults and then the sins of her neighbors. At a certain point, the confessor told her, 'But ma'am, tell me, are you done?' 'No. ... Yes.' 'Great, you have finished with other people's sins, now start to tell me yours,'" he said. The pope was continuing his series of audience talks on the Mass, reflecting on the penitential rite.
From Father Thomas MattisonThere are so many remedies for those who suffer unjustly that we have begun to imagine that suffering itself is wrong. Worse! We begin to think that those who suffer willingly or without complaining must be “sick” or uninformed or, maybe, getting what they asked for when they didn’t take care of themselves at some earlier time. In a fixable world, sufferers lose any right to compassion.
Those of us who are of a certain age learned a different answer: Offer it up! We may want to laugh at that, but it holds a profound spiritual truth. Compared to what others can do and have, I may be impoverished. But that impoverishment does not diminish the reality of God’s love for me. Nor does it rob me of the ability to be brave, to be generous, to be patient, to be forgiving, to be compassionate, to be loved, to be grateful. Some impoverishments may even provide me with the ability to inspire others; isn’t that what a support group is about?
Suffering can make me more aware of my need for God and more willing to trust His love. Suffering so that His love can reach others makes me more and more like Jesus, even if I look more and more like the “losers” of the world. Karl Marx lampooned Christianity as “the opiate of the masses.” A cult of entitlement has led us to an epidemic of opiates.
There are those who, with greater and greater frequency, are beginning to ask if fixing the different and leveling all disparities is actually a good idea. If all difference is abolished — maybe even made illegal — what will be the fate of the truly exceptional? Will they, too, be banned because they make others feel inadequate?
We know that state-sponsored collectivism produced a loss of incentive, a loss of healthy competition and a precipitous cultural regression. It did not stop greed or repression or persecution or torture or murder — either private or judicial. The tyrannical few and the tyrannical many are all dyed in the same blood.
“Offering it up” may sound quaint or old fashioned when we can make someone else pay for our happiness. On the other hand, the poor in spirit are promised the Kingdom of God, and those who mourn are promised comfort, and those who make peace are called children of God.
For more information about Father Mattison’s parish, Christ our Savior in Manchester Center and Arlington, go to christoursaviorvt.com.
Christ the King School open houseBURLINGTON--Christ the King School will host an open house on Thursday, Feb. 1, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. This event will take place during the annual weeklong celebration of Catholic Schools Week.
Teachers will be present, and classrooms will be open with student work displayed. Guests will have the opportunity to explore the school, ask questions and get a feel for some of the activities and learning opportunities at the school.
Christ the King School is a Catholic elementary school in Burlington serving learners of all faiths from three years old through eighth grade. For the past 77 years it has focused on providing a high quality, values based, rigorous and rewarding learning experience for students.
The comprehensive curriculum focuses on the development of the whole child — body, mind and spirit. Students are encouraged to discover and to develop their God-given gifts and to become people of character who possess a love for learning and a zest for life.
For more information, go to cksvt.org or to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by searching for CKSVT.
9 Days for Life9 Days for Life is an annual period of prayer and action focused on cherishing the gift of every person's life. It will take place Jan. 18-26. Surrounding the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children (Jan. 22); the overarching intention of the novena is the end to abortion. Join at 9daysforlife.com.
'Re-engaging the Occasional Catholic'COLCHESTER--“Re-engaging the Occasional Catholic,” a presentation by Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne on Jan. 17, will take place at Holy Cross Parish from 6:30 to 8 p.m. This presentation will also be available via live streaming on the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington Facebook Page, facebook.com/vermontcatholic.com.
Msgr. Thomas J. Ball Memorial OpenWEST BOLTON--Register now for the eighth annual Msgr. Thomas J. Ball Memorial Open, which will take place on Saturday, May 12, at the West Bolton Golf Club.
Registration will be at 8 a.m., and there will be a four-person team scramble for $400 per team.
The fee includes greens fees with cart, breakfast, an on-course luncheon, soft drinks, Father Joseph F. McCarthy $80,000 Shootout, The Msgr. Richard G. Lavalley $1,000,000 Shootout and a silent auction plus an hors d'oeuvres reception following tournament play.
All participants will receive a commemorative gift from the Knights of Columbus St. Stephen Council #2284.
In the 3rd Hole Challenge, a hole in one wins a $10,000 new kitchen. In the 14th Hole Challenge: a hole in one wins a 2018 Mercedes Benz C-300, and in the 6th Hole Challenge, a hole in one wins $10,000 cash.
There will be Masses for the living and deceased intentions of all benefactors, golfers, sponsors and volunteers of the Monsignor Thomas J. Ball Memorial Open. These will take place:
+ Sunday, May 13, at 10 a.m. at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington;
+ Monday, May 28, at 10 a.m. at New Mount Calvary Cemetery in Burlington;
+ Friday, June 8, at 12:05 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Burlington;
+ Sunday, June 17, at 10 a.m. at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral;
+ Wednesday, Aug. 15, at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral;
+ Thursday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral;
+ Saturday, Dec. 8, at 4 p.m. at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral; and
+ Wednesday, Dec. 12, at 12:05 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
For more information, call Greg Clairmont at 802-343-8446.
St. Francis Xavier open houseWINOOSKI—St. Francis Xavier School will host an open house for prospective families on Wednesday, Jan. 31, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Take a tour and learn more about the school, which offers strong academics, a vibrant community and a supportive, faith-based environment for students.
St. Francis Xavier School serves students from pre-school (age 3) to eighth grade.
The school seeks to develop the whole person, focusing on academics, character, community and faith.
For more information, go to fxvt.org.
Data science at St. Michael’s CollegeCOLCHESTER--The most employable data analysts and statisticians in 21st century jobs will need more than just the technical and math training that equips them to meet squarely a tsunami of high-tech information flooding fields as diverse as public health, government or community policing, say curriculum leaders at St. Michael’s College in Vermont. The best analysts also will possess the creativity afforded by broad liberal arts education to make something substantial and useful from so much data.
Such was the thinking behind new Data Science and Statistics majors at St. Michael’s. The Catholic college of just under 2,000 students, like so many small New England liberal arts colleges in recent years, has been working hard to counter a significantly shrinking pool of high school graduates – a demographic that makes recruiting quality classes more competitive every year. One proactive answer has been to develop new programs that will be attractive to students of the 21st century, said Karen Talentino, the College’s vice president for academic affairs.
Greta Pangborn, a Cornell-trained professor of computer science at St. Michael’s who will teach courses within the new majors, said students will be exposed to some key algorithms for artificial intelligence or “machine learning” -- a hot topic in the media these days. “We hope it will allow them to see the utility tools, but also recognize what is sometimes buzzword hype. Students will grapple with the ethical implications of these tools in our program.”
Although a statistics major is somewhat common at larger universities, majors in statistics and especially in data science still are relatively rare at liberal arts colleges, she said, and St. Michael’s aims to strike while the iron is hot. Michael Larsen, a newly hired Harvard-trained scholar of statistics and data analysis who will develop and teach classes in the new St. Mike’s majors, explained why the timing is good: “These are emerging fields, so the education that people get will essentially help them define what the fields become,” said Larsen, “and they can take leadership in areas that are branching out like never before.”
Talentino said “regardless of what industry or discipline a student might want to go into, anybody with a background in statistics/quantitative analysis is going to stand shoulders above any other candidate. You can pair these with any other major or as a minor and it will play well in the employment marketplace.”
Larsen said a background in statistics “is useful broadly in jobs, in graduate programs and just in general in a lot of aspects of life --and I think we’re at a special point where computing and the availability of data are where you can really try to do some exciting things.”
He offered examples: “In medicine, large-scale health surveys can be linked to electronic records to provide a broader picture of factors influencing our health, or governments can use electronic records to tell them useful things about communities,” said Larsen, who also mentioned how the Burlington Police Department “has an open-data initiative that helps officers do their job better and informs citizens about the use of force and social justice issues involved with policing.”
Many employers, whatever the industry, are interested in analyzing their customer data bases and market information on the internet, Larsen said, “And somebody who can do something creative and efficient with data can really be useful.”
Pangborn said a number of her recent graduates in math/computer science have gone on to work in the data science field already. The discipline’s emergence was a recent focus in such major publications as Forbes, sparking interest among current and prospective students. “I think students benefit from learning about a variety of disciplinary perspectives, which is a goal of a liberal arts education” Pangborn said -- “including a data science perspective.” Even one or two courses would benefit a student, she and Larsen said.
Pangborn also said that students interested in policy questions related to technology “need to have an understanding of technology to make good decisions” For example, if a student is interested in privacy questions, “they need to understand how data is collected online, stored and processed.”
Talentino said St. Michael’s faculty already was so strong in STEM-related disciplines that the new majors were natural additions. All the new St. Michael’s majors are slated to be open to incoming first-year students next fall, pending approval by the Board of Trustees, and current juniors could aim to complete either the data science or statistics minor next year, enhancing their field research capabilities if they discover a chosen field such as psychology requires specific data skills.
Pangborn said recent studies indicate that “employers are very interested in these skills and that students with data science and statistics skills have a significant advantage when looking for a position.” As Larsen puts it, “These fields can train people to be better users of all this information that is more readily available than ever before.”
KEEP CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS—Several students at St. Francis Xavier School in Winooski were winners of the Knights of Columbus "Keep Christ in Christmas" poster contest sponsored by St. Stephen Council #2284. In addition to the honor of representing Vermont in the regional poster competition, these students also received gift cards to Ben and Jerry's for their efforts. Pictured are: Mia Brigante (second place tie, 8-10 year-old category), Landon Merchant (second place tie, 8-10 year-old category), Aida McCormick (first place, 11-14 year-old category), Molly Walsh (second place, 11-14 year-old category) and Sullivan "Sullie" Martanauk (first place, 8-10 year-old category).