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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. Amadeus Clothes Closet

What began as a Girl Scout community service project to collect coats for people in need has been zipped up into the St. Amadeus Clothes Closet in Alburgh, providing all kinds of clothing for all ages and raising funds for the parish.
 
“There are a lot of low-income people in this town, and there was a need” for the coat project that began about a dozen years ago, explained Denise Pardee, one of the organizers of the project and a parishioner of St. Amadeus Church.
 
The Clothes Closet has become an important part of life for many in this northwest corner of the statewide Diocese of Burlington who come often or infrequently to get clothing for themselves and their families and baby goods like a stroller, dresser or changing table.
 
Many customers don’t drive, so the Main Street location in the parish hall across from the church is convenient.
 
Sometimes volunteers get requests from the elementary school next door for essential winter wear for one of the students. “If we don’t have it, we get it,” said Connie Cosgrove, co-coordinator of the Clothes Closet with Pardee.
 
Word about the parish’s clothing ministry — located in a converted front porch — spreads through the school, the local health center, veterans’ groups, the fire department and the senior center so people know clothing and other goods like bedding are available.
 
Working poor and retirees in need of a helping hand come not only from Alburgh but from neighboring towns.
 
Operated by a volunteer team of four who sort and — when needed, mend and launder — the donated items, the Clothes Closet accepts donations for all items; there are no set prices. “You put in what you want,” Cosgrove said; some people put in $20 for a bag of clothes while others can put in only coins.
 
And that’s OK.
 
“We have an abundance of clothes,” she continued. “God made sure. We don’t care what they put in. We want to help.”
 
In addition to the coats and jackets, there are shirts, pants, sweaters, pajamas and even holiday apparel.
 
The Clothes Closet takes in about $150-$200 a month; it is added to parish funds.
 
Asked why they volunteer with the clothing ministry, Cosgrove and Pardee agree it’s the way they were raised. “I like to sort and organize, and I know there is a need in our community. This is the way I was raised. … I would go without so somebody else could have something,” Cosgrove said.
 
“Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the people say or show their appreciation,” commented Laura Limoge, a parish secretary.
 
Yet she knows a few people might abuse the system. “My faith informs me when I see the cheating of the system. I’d cut them off, but my faith says, ‘You can’t do that, Laura,’” she said. “My faith allows me to overlook some things I might not otherwise,” especially when it comes to food. “Having people go hungry in the richest country in the world is an abomination.”
 
The parish also has a food shelf in the parish center, adjoining the Clothes Closet. It offers fresh foods and baked goods from Hannafords on Wednesday and Friday from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Non-perishable food is available at the rectory on Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
 
The Clothes Closet is generally open Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. from April through December and at other times for emergency needs by calling the rectory at 802-796-3481.
 
Originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
  • Published in Parish

St. Jude Parish senior lunches

Maxine Burritt is a regular at the Senior Meals St. Jude Parish offers in Hinesburg. She brings her mother for the “good camaraderie,” hot meal and bingo games. “It’s fun, and the meals are good,” said the parishioner of St. Catherine Church in Shelburne.
 
Active St. Jude parishioners Kathy and Ted Barrett began the lunches nearly 10 years ago in the parish hall to “do something” for the seniors in the parish and in the community; one need not be Catholic to attend.
 
Ted, a retired engineer, saw a need, so he and his wife set out to meet it.
 
She is a retired preschool teacher and lactation consultant, and she wants to send the message that “our doors are always open, come join us” at St. Jude’s.
 
The Senior Meals take place on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month from noon to 2 p.m.; serving begins at noon.
 
Caregivers are welcome too.
 
According to Edmundite Father David Cray, pastor, the meals — before which grace is said — are a way for the parish to help seniors eat well and enjoy community life.
 
“We consciously make a lot of things happen here and let people know St. Jude’s is here,” he said. Such happenings include not only the Senior Meals but also Tae Kwon Do, Tae Chi, line dancing, Red Cross trainings, contra dances and baking classes.
 
Non-Catholics or lapsed Catholics who attend these events at the church might be drawn back to the practice of their faith or to join the Church. “We see it as part of the New Evangelization to be visible in the community,” Father Cray said.
 
On a recent Tuesday, the bingo games after the dinner were punctuated with laughter and good-natured banter. “They love it [attending the meal], especially during the winter” when there are fewer opportunities to socialize, Barrett said.
 
Friendships form, participants help one another.  Some share the bounty of their garden; some bring in prizes for bingo.
 
“I like having a happy place for people to come and talk, enjoy themselves and get a good meal,” Barrett said. “It’s a wonderful place to have something like this” in the parish hall, in the same building as the church.
 
“We have church members hosting people in their church house,” Father Cray said.
 
Barrett specifically chose to have the meals served to the guests, no buffet-style here, and no paper plates. “We want to make it festive and homey,” she said. “How would I want my parents or in-laws treated? With a little extra help and kindness,” said the mother of four and grandmother of four.
 
The hot meals are prepared by FitzVogt food service in Rutland and are subsidized partially by Age Well, formerly Champlain Valley Agency on Aging. The suggested donation for the meal is $4 per person.
 
The parish contributes as needed.
 
About 25 guests come to each meal, some arriving early for coffee and conversation.
 
“This is a good thing for the church to do,” Burritt said. “We are taught to share and give and share Jesus’ love. That’s what this is.”
 
-- Originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
  • Published in Parish

College of St. Joseph Provider Scholars serve community

The College of St. Joseph in Rutland – once known as The College of St. Joseph the Provider – is providing students who might not otherwise be able to attend college with special financial aid that benefits both the students and the community.
 
The college – founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph -- is furthering its mission and addressing national concern about the rising cost of higher education by offering the Provider Scholarship Program. The scholarship for full-time undergraduate students, worth $65,500 over four years, incorporates a commitment to academic excellence, personal and professional growth and community service.
 
Each Provider Scholar is required to serve the community for a minimum of 15 hours a semester, but most do more.
 
Senior psychology majors Tammy Robitille of Lowell and Jane Cretella of Naugatuck, Conn., are among the nearly 170 Provider Scholars.
 
“Without this program, I would not be able to attend college. It’s too expensive,” Robitille said.
 
Tuition and room and board is $35,900 a year for residential students and $24,000 for commuters; both are eligible for Provider Scholarships.
 
“The reason I came here was the financial opportunity the Provider program offers,” said Cretella, an independent student raised by her grandmother and aunt.
 
She said she always has been community minded; she used to volunteer at the YMCA at home and as a Provider Scholar most of her hours this year have been done at Rutland Community Cupboard. Her service opportunity of choice last year was at Vermont Foodbank. “I know it’s helping people who need it,” she said. “I don’t feel obliged to do it; obviously I have to (to fulfill the scholarship requirements), but I have a desire to do it.”
 
A Catholic who did service work as part of her religious education, Cretella said her faith and her grandmother model an attitude of service. “It’s just the right thing to do, to help others.”
 
Likewise, Robitille is motivated by a desire to help others; much of her Provider Scholarship service has been with DREAM, a Vermont mentoring organization that builds communities of families and college students to empower children from affordable housing neighborhoods so that they may recognize their options, make informed decisions and achieve their dreams.
 
“You just do the right thing. You have an obligation to help people in need,” she said. “If somebody in town needs food, you can up some of your vegetables” and share. “If you were in a needy situation, you’d want someone to help.”
 
The Provider Scholarship Program “falls in line with the cores values of the Sisters of St. Joseph,” said Elicia Mailhiot, associate director of communications.
 
Those values include hospitality, love of neighbor without distinction, reconciliation and unity of all people with God, one another and all creation.
 
Provider Scholars have completed more than 18,000 hours of service to the greater Rutland region since the program's inception in fall 2013.
 
According to Kimberly Rupe, community engagement coordinator at the college, organizations the students serve appreciate their efforts. “The partnerships and relationships built with outside organizations have been wonderful.”
 
Among the organizations students serve are Habitat for Humanity, Loretto Home/St. Joseph/Kervick Home, Dismas House, Vermont Achievement Center, Rutland Regional Medical Center, Rutland Area Child Parent Center, Rutland County Women's Network and Shelter and Vermont Foodbank.
 
“We couldn’t do what we do without CSJ,” enthused Hanna Snyder, volunteer coordinator for Vermont Foodbank, noting that about a dozen Provider Scholars – many of them repeat volunteers – help each week to pack bags of food for weekend meals for about 1,300 students in Vermont.
 
“CSJ is invaluable,” she said. “We’ve come to rely on them,” she said of the college students. “They are great volunteers we know we can count on every single week.”
 
Rupe, herself a Provider Scholar and 2016 graduate of the College of St. Joseph, said her service at the Rutland County Women’s Network and Shelter and Green Mountain Power solar event helped build her professional network “dramatically.”
 
Applicants who are accepted to the college are eligible for consideration for the Provider Program. Provider Scholars are intellectually curious, want to make a difference on campus and in the community and have a 2.0 to 4.0 grade point average.
 
“We care about our community. Everybody has to look out for each other,” Mailhiot said.

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

Pursuing justice, respecting life

Both the responsibilities to respect life and pursue justice are founded on the basic principle of the inherent dignity of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God.
 
People sometimes disagree about how to handle pro-life and social justice issues, particularly when it comes to public policy when there are competing interests at play. “This can lead to a false assumption that social justice and pro-life are somehow at odds. They are not,” said Carrie Handy, respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington.
 
“Acknowledging the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings compels us to be particularly attentive to those who may not be able to care for themselves — the most vulnerable among us,” said Handy.
 
Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. supports life and justice ministries through its partnership with the Diocese to support Project Rachel (a ministry to those affected by abortion), through caring for residents at residential care homes and through deGoesbriand Grants to agencies supporting life and justice initiatives.
 
“Human life is sacred, and Vermont Catholic Charities is committed to the dignity of the human person,” emphasized Mary Beth Pinard, executive director.
 
“We do ourselves a disservice when we speak of social justice and protection of life as two separate issues,” said Stephanie Clary, manager of mission outreach and communication for the Diocese. “Protecting life is an issue of social justice and social justice is always an issue of protecting life.”
 
“In both arenas, the weaker and relatively defenseless are pitted against the more powerful,” said Deacon Peter Gummere, director of the Permanent Diaconate for
the Diocese, bioethicist and adjunct faculty member at Josephinum Diaconate Institute where he teaches courses in medical morality and moral theology. “In abortion, a tiny human is threatened by a big, powerful human. In assisted suicide, a weak person is invited to die earlier than they would otherwise for the convenience of society.”
 
Pro-life convictions lead Catholics not only to advocate for the unborn and the terminally disabled but also for others who are weak and marginalized. “It should
include sensitivity for the single mom, reaching out to her with a supportive network,” he said. “It should include helping to ensure the wellbeing of the disabled, the sick and others who are marginalized. It should include working to eliminate barbaric practices like excessively harsh conditions in prisons and capital punishment. And we should work toward more ecologically sustainable
practices in order to protect our planet.”
 
“To authentically work for justice in one area we must consider the connectedness of that issue with other aspects of reality,” Clary said. “When we work toward clean water, we quench someone’s thirst. When we reduce carbon emissions and prevent a crop-killing drought, we feed someone’s hunger. When we demand breathable air, we decrease the likelihood of birth defects and increase the life expectancy of elders.”
 
As Pope Francis points out in his encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” “we need to be attentive to the relationships that exist among creation if we truly wish to address injustices and protect life,” she added.
 
“What the Catholic Church means when it identifies as prolife is pro all life, not only because all life is connected, but more importantly because all life is of God. It was created with intention, purpose and love and it gives glory to God by its very existence,” Clary said. “We each have our own passions, areas of interest and expertise. The important thing is that we’re always considering the big picture and working together with those of different passions, interests and expertise to collectively pursue justice, the protection of life in our world.”

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