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Catholic Schools Week 2018

Catholic Schools Week 2018 will be celebrated Jan. 28 to Feb. 3 and will focus on the theme “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.”
 
Sponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association, Catholic Schools Week is an annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. Schools typically observe the week with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members. Through these events, schools focus on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to the Church, local communities and the nation.
 
“Catholic Schools Week is a time to truly celebrate what makes us unique,” said Carrie Wilson, head of School at The Bishop John A. Marshall School in Morrisville. “There is so much joy in our schools, and we take the time during Catholic Schools Week to share that joy with each other and with the community. We are the best-kept secret in education, and we deliberately take time that week to shout it from the rooftops!”
 
Catholic schools in Vermont will celebrate Catholic Schools Week with prayer, service projects, outdoor fun, family activities, art exhibits, sports events, volunteer appreciation and dress-down days.
 
A special event for all schools will be a Mass celebrated by Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne on Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 10 a.m. at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral with students from Catholic schools throughout the Diocese who will participate in different roles in the Mass including serving and singing.
 
Students from both Christ the King School and Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland will travel to the Mass to celebrate with other Vermont Catholic school students. “The two schools will also have a Mass at Christ the King Church celebrating the rich history of Catholic schools in Rutland and all that it means to be a Catholic community,” said Sarah Fortier, principal of both schools.
 
Other Catholic Schools Weeks activities include letter writing to seminarians, recitation of the rosary, luncheons and open houses.
 
 

School Christmas activity

The boxes of donated items to four different charities during Advent are a testament to the generosity of the families at St. Paul School in Barton.
 
With only about 50 families, the school sends boxes of gifts to active soldiers, pet items to the local animal shelter, toys to the Toys for Tots program and food to the local food pantry.
 
“This is little Barton, and our families sacrifice to [send their children] here already. They are so thankful and somehow able to still be generous,” said Principal Joanne Beloin.
 
There are 68 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, and 30 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced lunches.
 
“A lot has been done for us at St. Paul’s or we wouldn’t still be here,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do to pass on that generosity and help others.”
 
The school community sends two boxes of toiletries, games, candy, writing material, socks and homemade cards to soldiers during Advent and another for Valentine’s Day.
 
“Our school as a whole really supports our vets,” Beloin said, and that support reaches to today’s soldiers.
 
“They support our country, and we want to honor them and support what they are doing for us,” said Jennifer Wilson, the third- and fourth-grade teacher as her students worked on a poppy-themed art project to send to veterans.
 
“It’s nice to do this. They are rising their lives for us,” Micha Sicard, 9, a third grader said of the boxes sent to soldiers.
 
Classmate Akira Conley, 8, said she likes collecting for the animal shelter because “God doesn’t want to see the animals starve because they’re His creation.”
 
Mara Royer, 13, an eighth grader, usually contributes to the Toys for Tots collection because she likes to help ensure a child’s happiness on Christmas morning. “You want to welcome Christ by being full of cheer, and you want everyone to be as happy as possible.”
 
Riley Perry, 13, also an eighth grader, said her family and school community model generosity for her: “It’s important to be generous because you can share happiness.”
 
“Giving is just as good as receiving,” Mara added. “It makes you happy deep down inside.”

--Originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
 
 

St. Monica-St. Michael School Christmas Craft Fair

The giving for this Christmas project began with people who like to make gifts, and it will continue into the new year helping people in need.
 
Teachers and parents from St. Monica-St. Michael School and parishioners of St. Monica Church in Barre contributed box loads of homemade items for the school’s annual Christmas Craft Fair Dec. 18 and 19.
 
This was a fair for the schoolchildren, a place they could buy gifts for family members without family members knowing.
 
All gifts were $1, and children could bring in $5 to buy five gifts, though children from larger families could purchase enough gifts, and any child whose family could not afford $5 could still shop like everyone else.
 
A Christmas tree was decorated with ornaments for sale, and other gifts were displayed on tables throughout the conference room. There were barrettes and bookmarks, hats, mittens, scarves, spices, tea, homemade soap, candies, plastic spoon lily votive lights, magnets and key chains among the choices for everyone on the children’s list from siblings to grandparents.
 
And once the children had selected their items, parent volunteers wrapped the gifts to ensure they would be a surprise.
 
“The children love this because they like to be able to shop without us with them,” said Melissa Cadorette, a parent volunteer.
 
“They’re really proud they’re getting these gifts and so happy,” added another parent volunteer, Krissy Lyon.
 
Ziva Covey, 6, a first grader, was buying for her brother, father, two grandmothers and grandfather, her shopping list tucked under her arm. She got a gift elsewhere for her mother. “I like shopping here,” Ziva said. “There’s so much awesome things.”
 
And while they are having fun shopping, the children are learning the importance of giving to others, said parent volunteer Shauna Wolf.
 
The gifts they give really are gifts that keep giving: Proceeds from the Christmas Craft Fair are donated to the St. Monica Food Pantry and the St. Augustine Soup Kitchen in nearby Montpelier.
 
“This is a wonderful opportunity for the children to learn to think of others as well and for the volunteers and crafters to be able to give of their talents and skills,” said Principal Brenda Buzzell. “Then the churches will benefit from the donations to help people in need.”
 
 
 
 

Brattleboro Catholic school principal appointed to state council

The principal of St. Michael School and St. Michael High School in Brattleboro has been appointed to serve as an approved independent school representative on the state’s Council of Independent Schools.
 
Elaine Beam, in her ninth year at the helm of the Catholic school, was appointed in November, beginning her service immediately.
 
The appointment is for two years.
 
“I am honored to be asked to join other independent school leaders in representing our schools and hope that I can bring awareness to [the] issues of inequity, especially for our Catholic schools,” she said.
 
The council plays an important role in keeping both recognized and approved schools apprised of changes taking place in State Board of Education rules and regulations. 
 
Asked about concerns facing independent schools like St. Michael’s, Beam said, “The issue that is of most concern is Vermont's Tuition Voucher System. Many smaller Vermont towns do not operate a local middle or high school and some do not have an elementary school.”
 
Thus, families in these towns are eligible to choose from among public or non-religious independent schools in other towns, even outside of the state or nation.  “My biggest concern as a principal of a Catholic school is that these families are not allowed to choose any of our Catholic schools throughout the state or any of the religious-based schools throughout the state,” she said. “Is that really school choice?”
 
Some families do have a choice, “as long as their choice fits the state statutes,” she continued. “All families should have access to the education that they choose for their children, especially if the independent schools they are choosing meet the accreditation standards that the state has chosen.”
 
Beam also expressed concern about Act 77, a dual enrollment statute amendment, which provides financial support for high school students to take college-level courses from college instructors and receive credit toward both high school and college graduation. “The legislation specifically excluded from dual enrollment financial support those Vermont residents attending independent schools on a private-pay basis, which because of the exclusion mentioned above, denies any financial support to Catholic students [for] access to these college level courses,” she said.
 
As she enters the discussions on a state level, Beam said she would bring to the table her background as a public school principal and as the principal of an independent and Catholic school. This, she said, gives her “perspective from both sides.”
 
Beam serves on the Executive Council of The New England Association of Schools and Colleges and works with that agency helping schools become accredited or maintain accreditation. 
 
She earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from the Adult Degree Program at Norwich University then earned a master's in School Administration from Castleton State College.
 
She began teaching at a small, first-through-fourth-grade public school in Acworth, New Hampshire. There was no principal on site so she was asked to be the lead teacher; she worked there for a total of six years. 
 
She was a teaching principal at The Grafton Elementary School in Grafton and became the full-time principal as the school grew and merged with the Athens Elementary School; she worked in Grafton for 11 years. 
 
During her tenure at St. Michael’s, high school grades have been added.
 

The Edmundite Show

Father Lino Oropeza is a fan of technology. He worked in information technology in his native Venezuela before becoming a priest of the Society of St. Edmund, based at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, so it seems natural that he would come up with an idea to combine technology and education about the Catholic faith. “People are not coming to church, so this was an idea to bring the church to them,” he said. “The charism of the Society of St. Edmund is to evangelize people. Everything we do is geared toward that. This is one piece of that.”
 
“This” is The Edmundite Show, a weekly half-hour program on YouTube presented by Father Oropeza and fellow Edmundite, Father Michael Carter.
 
The show, produced in Father Oropeza’s office in Alliot Hall, is not scripted; the order’s two youngest priests just let the conversation develop.
 
Father Oropeza, 36, and Father Carter, 27, presented the first Edmundite Show for All Saints Day in November. Since then, topics have focused on vocations, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, St. Edmund, Thanksgiving and the Solemnity of Christ the King, Advent and the Immaculate Conception.
 
Because he already had the computer he uses for the show, all Father Oropeza needed were two microphones and a soundboard. His religious order invested less than $200 for the equipment.
 
Technology is his hobby, so the Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts international coordinator at St. Michael’s likes to keep up with the latest developments. YouTubers and their programming made him think of a program about the Catholic faith, so he asked Father Carter to work with him on the project and “talk about Church stuff.”
 
Through The Edmundite Show, they hope to educate about the faith, promote vocations and help viewers get to know the Society of St. Edmund, the 175-year-old religious order founded in France that began St. Michael’s College.
 
The program streams live at 4 p.m. on Wednesdays on the Society of St. Edmund’s YouTube channel. While it is live streaming, there is a chat feature so the priests can accept comments and questions; Father Oropeza monitors the chat on a computer during the recording of the program.
 
“It’s not a fully polished product yet,” Father Carter said of the show Dec. 6.
 
Though the show is not directed to any one demographic, Father Oropeza said students at the college are curious about religion and God, and when they have the opportunity to talk to him, they ask deep questions; “but at the same time, they are not coming to the sacraments.”
 
The idea of The Edmundite Show, then, is to catechize, which they do in a light-hearted way. “In a way, that’s the nature of the medium,” said the bearded Father Carter, an avid Facebook user. “We want to present energy that is fun and sometimes silly — that’s more me than Lino” who is clean-shaven.
 
Father Carter began one show wearing a light-up turkey headband.
 
Humor is a tool he uses when he teaches religion at the college or preaches at the three churches of the Essex Catholic Community that he serves as parochial vicar. “When you use the element of humor, it brings people’s guard down and you can segue into something more serious.”
 
The priests, both graduates of St. Michael’s College, seek to bring the depth of their beliefs out in a way that is understandable and appealing.
 
Father Oropeza had hoped for five viewers for the first show, so he was surprised to have 30. But that number has grown as high as 1,034 with people watching not only in the United States but in such other countries as Venezuela, Bolivia, Mexico, Spain and Sweden.
 
Father Carter, a graduate of Burlington High School, participated in that school’s theater program because he considers himself a shy person and thought it would help him with public speaking, which it did.
 
“I’m definitely not shy,” Father Oropeza interjected. “I’m introverted — though some people would not believe that of me. I have no fear standing in front of people and talking to people. But at the end of the day I need time to be by myself and regroup.”
 
Shy or not, it’s evident both priests enjoy The Edmundite Show.
 
Father Oropeza hopes more people will subscribe to the show (at 36 at the time of this report) and that there will be more interaction with viewers during live streaming. He’s also considering adding another live stream on a different day of the week to interview various guests.
 
The fruit of their efforts, Father Carter said, will be facilitating even one person having a more open perspective about the Catholic Church, the priesthood or vocations. “I’d be pleased with that … or to make one person more curious about the Church than they were before.”
 
Father Oropeza said he knows of one man who binge-watched The Edmundite Show and liked it because he learned about the Catholic faith.
 
“Now we need [the Edmundite Show] community to grow,” he said.
 
Watch the show and subscribe for free.
 
 
 

Thanksgiving baskets

The annual Thanksgiving basket partnership between Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington and Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. took place Nov. 16. 
 
The students, teachers, staff and Rice community put together baskets of food and decorations for a full Thanksgiving feast for needy families from the Chittenden County area.  From turkeys and stuffing to pies and candles, goodies were placed with care in baskets and boxes. 
 
Twenty-one families (46 adults and 59 children) will enjoy a full Thanksgiving dinner thanks to this project.
 
“Thank you so much for the Thanksgiving basket. Without your generosity, we would not have a Thanksgiving this year. We all appreciate it more than you know,” said one recipient.
 
“Thank you so much for your help this year in helping my children have a great Thanksgiving. It is people like you that help us all grow.  Thank you!” said another.
 
Members of the Vermont Catholic Charities and Diocese of Burlington staff judged the baskets. The judges were inspired and impressed with the creative and overflowing baskets.  
 
The students who worked on the winning basket earned a dress-down day. There was a tie this year so the dress down day was awarded to the students from Gretchen Fricke-Langan’s and Sarah Smith Conroy’s classes.  
 
“As emergency aid coordinator at Vermont Catholic Charities, I feel blessed and thankful this Thanksgiving for the support of our extended community at VCC and Rice,” said Irene Manion, emergency aid coordinator at Vermont Catholic Charities. “It is so gratifying to see the generosity and spirit of the entire Rice community come together from the students, staff, parents — the abundant food donations, the beautifully decorated baskets and the spirit of sharing and helping our neighbors in need. The families we assisted could not have been more excited and appreciative, some were overwhelmed with the generosity, some almost tearful for the kindness. It truly makes me thankful to see how VCC and Rice working together can bring holiday joy to our friends and neighbors.”
 

'It’s what you do with what happens to you'

Chris Waddell brought a simple message to students at Mater Christi School in Burlington: “It’s not what happens to you. It’s what you do with what happens to you.”
 
Speaking from his wheelchair on the stage in the school gymnasium Sept. 13, one of the most decorated male mono skiers in Paralympic history told students in second through eighth grade that while no one is free of struggle, everyone has the opportunity to choose how they react to their challenges.
 
He said people can see themselves as victims or survivors, as overwhelmed or challenged, as alone or part of a team, as having only one strategy or as having many; the latter in each pair is what fosters resiliency, he said.
 
“Not being able to walk is the worst thing I could imagine,” said the Utah resident who is a graduate of Middlebury College.
 
In 1988 a skiing accident in Massachusetts brought his worst nightmare to reality; his ski popped off in the middle of a turn. He fell, broke two vertebrae and damaged his spinal cord.
 
Paralyzed from the waist down, he learned and achieved more than he could have imagined.
 
“This is the most powerful I’ve been in my life,” Waddell said, noting that he had to let go of “some of the things that tripped me up every day” like frustration and worry that could have prevented him from accomplishing his revamped goals.
 
He returned to college just two months after the accident, began mono skiing in less than a year and was named to the U.S. Disabled Ski Team a little more than two years later. With 13 Paralympic medals, he became the most decorated male mono skier in history.
 
“If I had never had my accident, I’d never have been the best in the world at something,” he told the Mater Christi students during his One Revolution Foundation’s Nametags Educational Program.
 
The program has been presented to more than 150,000 students in more than 550 schools throughout the United States and in Russia. Nametags does not focus on disability but rather the universal experience of challenge and the power of resilience.
 
Created by Waddell and resilience educator Donna M. Volpitta, the program centers on the message, “It’s not what happens to you. It’s what you do with what happens to you” and people’s collective responsibility to create communities that allow people to thrive. It focuses on helping students learn that they have the power to make choices about how they are perceived -- the “nametags” they wear. In the face of adversity, they can choose resilience.
 
Friends have told Waddell they could never have done what he has done, overcoming the loss of his ability to walk and turning it into triumphs elsewhere.
 
“Inspiration comes when we hear the truth…that we all need to hear,” said Timothy E. Loescher, president/head of school at Mater Christi who introduced Waddell to the assembly. (They were friends at Middlebury College.)
 
He thanked Waddell for “helping us develop into the people we are called to be.”
 
Also a track athlete, Waddell is one of a handful to have won World Championships in both winter and summer. He competed in four Winter Paralympics, winning 13 medals and three Summer Paralympics, winning a silver medal in the 200 meters. In World Championship competition, he won a total of nine medals.
 
He was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and the Paralympics Hall of Fame. Skiing magazine placed him among the “25 Greatest Skiers in North America.”
 
In 2009 Waddell became the first nearly unassisted paraplegic to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, using a specially made pedal-powered, four-wheel vehicle.
 
Patrick Walsh, 12, an eighth grader from St. Catherine of Siena Church in Shelburne, was impressed with Waddell’s tenacity and positive attitude.
 
For him, Waddell’s message mirrored the message of faith. “If you have a connection with God, you can get through anything. You can pray and feel better.”
 
Classmate Myla Altadonna, 13, said the message she would take from the presentation is “not to let anything get in your way.”
 
“Even when you have an obstacle, you can go on and do great things,” she added.
 
 
 
 



 
 

Rice Memorial High School celebrating centennial

Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington is celebrating its centennial.
 
Tracing its beginning back to Cathedral High School in Burlington in 1917, the largest of the two Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Burlington has earned a reputation as a “great school,” said Interim Principal Lisa Lorenz. “It is known for its Catholic identity, its community service and everlasting sense of family. The spirit and love of Rice is felt long after graduation and even decades later.”
 
Celebrating the milestone anniversary is important, Lorenz said, to commemorate the roots, mission, drive and purpose that brought the school into existence. “When we take the time to pause and deeply reflect upon the events that inspired the beginnings it is then we allow the Lord to work in us anew to continue His work in the world of today, being lead by the inspirations of the Holy Spirit,” she continued. “If we fail to pause and reflect on our past and future direction, we risk the danger of floundering about like a boat without a rudder.”
 
The 100th school year kicked off Aug. 29, an occasion marked with a special First Day of School Assembly and "Clap In” to which alumni and parents were invited.
 
Alumni from every decade since the 1940s were present to cheer on current students, hear from school leaders and blow out the candles on Rice-Cathedral's 100th birthday cake. 
 
The celebration continues on Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 6-8, with a full calendar of events designed to engage alumni, parents and students.
 
For more information on the events go to rmhsvt.org/riceturns100.
 
“Our Centennial year is book-ended by these events and those at the tail end of the year including an All School Reunion and Rice-Cathedral Alumni Association Golf Tournament the weekend of June 22-23, 2018,” noted Christy Warner Bahrenburg '88​, director of advancement and communication.
 
There are currently 431​ students enrolled at Rice, up 21 percent in six years. Students come from 53 towns and 12 countries.
 
The mission of Rice throughout the years has remained in essence the same: to love learning, to serve others and to seek God through Jesus Christ and His Church, Lorenz said.
 
Rice – named after third Burlington Bishop Joseph J. Rice – opened in 1959.
 
 

Rice students serve in Derby Line

These students from Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington could have spent the first week of their summer vacation catching up on sleep, working, spending time with family and friends or going to the beach, but they chose to travel to the Canadian border town of Derby Line to assist with a vacation Bible school for children and visit residents of an elder care home.
 
“They chose to spend this time helping others…and entered into it with a spirit of love,” commented Father Scott Gratton, head chaplain at Rice and one of the chaperones.
 
In addition to helping at the Mater Dei Parish vacation Bible school at St. Edward Church and visiting residents of Michaud Manor, the high school students shared morning and night prayer and attended daily Mass during their June 12-16 service trip.
 
About 30 children age 3 to 11 and 10 parish middle and high school student helpers -- part of the Mater Dei Young Apostles youth group -- participated in the afternoon classes at which the Rice students served as volunteers and mentors as well as acting in skits about virtues, preparing snacks, cleaning/setting up crafts and leading games.
 
“It’s important for the younger children to see such vibrant teens,” said Steve Gonyaw, co-director of the Vacation Bible School with his wife, Ann, who added, “The Rice students make the parish youth (helpers) feel part of a bigger team.”
 
At Michaud Manor – one of the elder care homes run by Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. – the Rice students visited with residents, played games, helped garden and played music. Resident Tom Day liked playing catch with a plastic ball in the lobby and said the teens were all “nice guys, nice girls.”
 
Resident Georgette Routhier liked having the students visit, saying it was a good change in the routine to have a visit from such pleasant young people.
 
“It was wonderful” having them visit each of the five days of their service trip, said Michaud Manor Administrator Anne Steinberg. “It’s been good social interaction. They all had fun. It was uplifting for everybody.”
 
Ann Gonyaw praised the Rice students for their enthusiasm and their willingness to participate in the Masses.
 
“It’s fun to watch the kids be so excited about religious things,” said Rice rising senior Jordan Finkelstein. “And it’s cool to learn about the lives of the” elders at Michaud Manor.
 
Richard McClintock, a rising senior at Rice from St. Catherine of Siena Church in Shelburne, appreciated the children’s energy: “It brings my energy up.”
 
Molly Altadonna, a rising senior at Rice from St. Pius X Church in Essex Center, said, “It’s fun to be excited with the kids about their faith.”
 
Eight-year-old Ben Thompson of Mater Dei Parish liked having the Rice students at the vacation Bible school. “They are very nice, and all of them like me,” he said. “And they all like God.”
 
Elisabetta Anelli, Rice campus minister, said the service trip to Derby Line – for which some students received community service credit – was an opportunity for them to put others before themselves and make a sacrifice to serve others. “Their presence is meaningful in both places” they served, she added.
 
“We want to show them energetic, engaged people who are passionate about the faith at our age,” said Leo Capone, a rising sophomore from St. Patrick Church in Fairfield.
 
 

Flynn Estate Scholarship Program

For more than 40 years Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. has been supporting the educational and economic needs of children in Chittenden County with funds from the late John J. Flynn bequest.
 
“The Flynn Estate Scholarship Program is available to provide supplemental assistance to families who find themselves unable to meet their tuition commitment at a Catholic school in Chittenden County because of unforeseen circumstances,” noted Mary Beth Pinard, executive director of Vermont Catholic Charities. “The funds are not intended to be planned budget tuition income for the schools.”
 
In February $40,997 was awarded to 16 families (23 students), and in May $19,022 was awarded to 11 families (16 students). Each year $60,000 is available for Vermont Catholic Charities to distribute.
 
Students who have received scholarships this year attend Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, Mater Christi School in Burlington, St. Francis Xavier School in Winooski, Christ the King School in Burlington and St. Therese Digital Academy.
 
“The Flynn scholarships help families, tremendously, because they serve as a safety net … for families who with all good intentions contracted to pay a specific amount for the year and then an unforeseen hardship occurs and they are falling behind in their financial obligations,” commented Sister of Mercy Laura DellaSanta, Rice principal. “It is a one-time appeal that Rice can make for a particular family. It is not something families themselves apply for, but an appeal made by the school for an identified during-the-year hardship. It is always a pleasure to inform the family; [the scholarship] is received with relief and thankfulness by the family.”
 
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