There is a special place for St. Nicholas in the life of Father Lance Harlow.

It’s not just because the saint whose feast day is Dec. 6 is the patron saint of children and known for his charity to children in need, but because he is the patron of a project Father Harlow began in 2015 to assist the residents of The Kurn Hattin Homes for Children in Westminster.

Since 1894, Kurn Hattin has helped thousands of children and their families by offering a safe home and quality education in a nurturing environment.

The St. Nicholas Project seeks to invite the Catholic community in Vermont to participate in the good works taking place at Kurn Hattin. “Since the Catholic Church in Vermont no longer has an orphanage or any direct child-care-related ministries, it seemed the perfect relationship for Catholics to perform works of mercy and experience the joy of loving Jesus in these children who come from difficult circumstances,” said Father Harlow, rector of St. Joseph Co-Cathedral and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Burlington.

He became involved with Kurn Hattin when he was pastor at St. Charles Church in Bellows Falls in 2005, not far from the school. He was invited to give the benediction at the annual Veterans’ Day Ceremony, and the director of music, Lisa Bianconi, asked if he played any musical instruments. Upon learning that he did, she recruited him to play trombone in the low-brass section of the middle school band.

Because there are some 100 students in the music program, adult musicians help them. Father Harlow can play a variety of instruments, so he performed with the jazz band, marching band and select choir for six years.

As pastor of St. Charles, he also helped with the religious education of the Catholic children, baptized and conferred First Reconciliation and First Communion.

After he was transferred to Chittenden County, it became more difficult for him to travel to Westminster to participate in the concerts and other public events, so he became more involved with fundraising for Kurn Hattin.

Each year he invites all of the parish religious education programs to make Christmas cards for the boys and girls at the residential school; the Catholic Daughters and the Knights of Columbus have been generous with financial donations as well as donating raffle items and sports equipment. Some religious education programs have donated school items and toys.

And one of Father Harlow’s former parishes, Immaculate Heart of Mary in Williston, collected coats one winter for the children. “Parishioners have been very generous,” he said.

This year, in honor of his silver jubilee of priestly ordination — which will occur on May 8, 2018 — he has committed to several fundraising projects for Kurn Hattin with the goal of raising $25,000 in honor of his 25 years of priesthood. These included a September back-to-school shoe fundraiser to provide shoes and boots for the students.

The winners of a Christmas raffle will be drawn at the Dec. 14 Christmas concert at Kurn Hattin. Tickets are still available through Father Harlow or at (Be sure to enter the words “Christmas raffle.”)

Tickets are $25 for one or a book of five for $100. There are three cash prizes $2,500, $1,000 and $500.

The DeGoesbriand Council of the Knights of Columbus in Burlington will conduct a drive to collect sports equipment for Kurn Hattin in April, and in May, parishioners from St. Joseph Co-Cathedral will host a spring tea for ladies to learn more about Kurn Hattin.

Father Harlow is traveling to his eight former parishes to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving and speak about the St. Nicholas Project, and on May 8, 2018, there will be the grand finale Mass of Thanksgiving at his home parish of St. Francis of Assisi in Windsor at which the Kurn Hattin Select Choir will sing. “Everyone is invited to attend the Mass and reception following — and meet some of the children and staff from the Kurn Hattin Homes for Children,” he said.

“His work for us is astounding,” enthused Stephen Harrison, executive director of Kurn Hattin. “He has a heart for children.”

Harrison said the priest’s ongoing commitment to the school — which generally has 95-105 students in kindergarten through grade eight — “has been a real Godsend in so many ways.”

In addition to raising funds and organizing drives for things like clothing, shoes, quilts and pillowcases, the way he has involved people from throughout the Diocese of Burlington is meaningful to the children, Harrison said. “He has touched so many children’s lives and done so through many people in Vermont who might not have ever heard about us let alone assist us.”

He called Father Harlow’s work on behalf of the residential school “stellar.”

For more information about Kurn Hattin, go to