802-233-9603
P.O. BOX 734
ESSEX JUNCTION, VT 05453

Challengers for Catholic Faith (CCF)
The realization of an idea
This day is the culmination of one person’s inspiration to provide a conference type event for the adults of our Diocese. The seed was planted many years ago while attending a Youth Congress weekend which included inspirational speakers, music, prayer, worship, and fellowship. Would it not be possible to provide the same type of energetic program for adults? This seed of an idea eventually grew into a group of motivated individuals who share this vision. After much prayer and reflection and heeding Bishop Matano’s call to grow in our unity of faith, this group resolved to identify itself as "Challengers for the Catholic Faith". "Challengers" began by conducting parish visits around the state to gauge interest for a conference type gathering. The enthusiasm expressed verbally and on questionnaires at these visits encouraged "Challengers" to continue. The results of the questionnaires affirmed that an adult conference would benefit the faithful of our diocese.

Our Mission Statement
As adult members of the Roman Catholic Church, living in the Diocese of Burlington, Challengers for the Catholic Faith (CCF), commit to reflecting the power of God’s Word in our lives and in turn assisting others in the pursuit of a deeper understanding of morality, faith and enrichment of spirituality. To achieve that goal, we rely upon the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, Scripture, Catholic tradition, role models and speakers, while striving to  provide a safe and prayerful environment through conferences and retreats for adult religious education.

Franciscan Friar of the Renewal draws Catholics to Conference
Catholics with an eye on heaven who want to be more holy got advice, encouragement, and ideas at the fourth annual Vermont Catholic Conference Nov. 6 at Central Vermont Catholic School and St. Monica Church in Barre.
As participants visited vendor display tables before the beginning of the conference, some scanned the school gymnasium looking carefully to spot Franciscan Friar of the Renewal Father Benedict J. Groeschel.  The best-selling author and beloved spiritual leader, writer, psychologist, and television host was the keynote speaker at the daylong event that drew 450 participants.  It included a variety of spirit-building workshops presented by several priests and lay members of the diocese.
"We want people to come and be fed by the message of the keynote speaker and the individual presenters," said Lucy Bathalon of St. Thomas Parish in Underhill Center, a member of the Challengers for the Catholic Faith, which sponsored the conference.  "That gets participants of the conference excited (about their Cathoilc faith), and the goal is for each of them to take that excitement home and tell others."

VT Catholic Conference 2009
Read our feature in the Vermont Catholic Magazine Conference explores prayer, sacraments, family & evangelization
The third annual Vermont Catholic Conference drew its largest crowd yet: more than 150 people participated in the daylong event Nov. 7 at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Windsor.

“The Church is alive. The Church is exciting. The Church is rich,” said Lucy Bathalon of St. Thomas Church in Underhill Center, one of the organizers of the event. “We don’t ever know everything. We need to continue to feed ourselves and to grow,” she said, and that’s why so many people turned out for the conference that included a keynote speaker, workshops, confessions, quiet prayer, networking, Adoration, Benediction and a closing Mass celebrated by Bishop Salvatore R. Matano, Bishop of Burlington.

VCT Article for Catholic Conference 2008
2nd Annual Vermont Catholic Conference The hills of Vermont will be alive with the sound of music, Praise and Worship music to be exact, on November 8th as hundreds of your fellow Catholics gather in Windsor Vermont for our Diocese’s second annual Vermont Catholic Conference. Elaine Letourneau, a Bennington resident and one of last year’s conference workshop presenters, comments, "I loved the praise and worship. Singing and praising God with everyone who attended was very uplifting for me." Praise and Worship is only one aspect among many faith-inspiring activities that make-up the days schedule. "Suffering and Hope, The Catholic Perspective", the theme for this year’s conference, will be presented by the keynote speaker: Rev Lance Harlow, Pastor of St. Charles Parish in Bellows Falls. He will also present a workshop on "Suffering with Mary" - a devotion to Our Lady leads one to a deeper union with Jesus, her Son. The conference also welcomes back last year’s keynote speaker: Rev. Daniel White, presenting a workshop on the "Christian meaning of Human Suffering - JPII Salvifici Doloris." Workshops on "Marriage/Divorce/Annulment", "Turning Misery into Hope", "The Role of the Single Person in the Church", "Finding Christ in Today’s Media", and "End of Life Issues", will all be available that day. "I got a lot out of the Conference last year, especially the large group sessions. Having so many enthusiastic Catholics in one room rejuvenated me as well as my faith. I’m looking forward to attending again this year," says Marge Boisvert, one of the attendants of last year’s conference. She is only one, of dozens, of returning participants who found the conference so spiritually enriching that they have sought out more information about this year’s conference, even before the advertising had begun. The conference begins at 8:30am and ends with Mass at 5pm. For more information, please visit http://www.vtchallengers.org.

VCT Article - VT Catholic Conference 2007
Challengers for the Catholic Faith gather
By Cori Fugere Urban
VCT Staff Reporter
RUTLAND - "Any challenge that is presented to us... as the body of Christ will have an answer, and that answer is Jesus Christ," the vocations director for the Diocese of Burlington told about 100 people gathered for Vermont Catholic Conference 2007 here at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish November 3.

Father Daniel E. White, who also serves as director of the Catholic Center at the University of Vermont in Burlington, noted a variety of "isms" that challenge the Church - hedonism, secularism, relativism, even "huffy-ism"- and he said the busyness of life can also challenge Catholics as they struggle to live lives of faith in a secular world. "Perhaps the biggest challenge is people fail to know who God is," he said. "If we don’t know who he is, we don’t know who we are."

Father White was one of several speakers at the daylong conference sponsored by Challengers for the Catholic Faith, a group of adults committed to reflecting the power of God’s word in their lives and to assisting others in the pursuit of a deeper understanding of their faith and Catholic spirituality. To achieve this goal, Challengers call upon the magisterium, Scripture, Catholic tradition, role models and speakers, while striving to provide a safe and prayerful environment through conferences and retreats. Father White said Catholics today are challenged to remain faithful. "But the one who is faithful promises to help us," he encouraged. "He is the answer to all of those challenges."

The conference offered several workshops to help participants live their faith more fully. In "Recipe for Daily Challenges," three lay presenters offered a variety of ideas to enhance prayer lives, encourage family prayer and make God more a part of daily life. "The real question is not ’Am I holier than thou?’ but ’How can I become holier than now?’" said Kelly Bartlett, a member of St. Thomas Church in Underhill Center.

She lamented that she had never been taught the Baltimore Catechism but said learning it now is enhancing her life. Sometimes when she feels frazzled, she looks to the catechism, asking "Why am I here?" The answer is to know, love and serve God.

She said she prays daily with her daughters, and at night she makes it a point to pray in thanksgiving with them so they go to bed with an attitude of gratitude. And sometimes short prayers like "Holy Spirit help me" are comforting and effective during her busy days as a homeschooler.

She said her children have been an inspiration to her, using as an example a scare they had when they thought one of their dogs was lost. As Bartlett began planning to e-mail neighbors and post signs, her children prayed to St. Francis of Assisi, St. Jude and St. Anthony. Their faith moved her - and the dog returned home.

During his presentation at the same workshop, Tony Carbrello, youth ministry events coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington, said, "Our prayer life can be so similar to our need for food. We need to do it daily." Carbrello, who holds a master of theological studies degree and taught high school theology at Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland, suggested people vary their prayer life so it remains fresh: Pray the rosary or a chaplet, read daily devotionals or spend quiet time with God, he said.

He encouraged workshop participants to pray through the day by offering faith-based responses like "Blessed beyond belief" when asked how they are, or praying for emergency responders and the sick and injured when they see an ambulance. When passing a Catholic church they could bless themselves, or pray for those who don’t have enough food when they pass a grocery store. "Spontaneous prayer is a great gift," he said. "The more we can do to expose ourselves to the wide world of Catholicism, the more resources we have," he added, saying resources for continuing faith formation include bookstores, online Catholic resources and Christian music.

Elaine Letourneau, a member of St. John the Baptist Church in North Bennington, was the third presenter in the workshop. "I can be very spontaneous in my prayer. I have become very confident and very open praying," she said. Letourneau serves in several ministry programs in her parish and is senior vice president and senior loan officer at the Bank of Bennington. She suggested using a prayer journal to record intentions for which people have requested prayers, to record ongoing prayers like those for peace in the world or for those who have no one to pray for them, and to record how God has answered prayers. She encouraged participants to bring their faith with them wherever they go and to ask God’s help in determining what people need. "Thy work, thy will, thy way," she said is one of her frequent prayers.

In her workshop entitled "Sharing & Defending the Faith," attorney Therese Corsones, a member of Christ the King Parish in Rutland, said there are opportunities to spread the Catholic faith even in everyday situations, because so many people stray from the true, authentic teachings of the Church. When the Church faces a crisis, like the clergy sexual abuse crisis, there is opportunity, she said. "We must increase our faith. Every Catholic has the power to do that," said the member of the Diocesan Review Board and the Rutland Deanery Youth Ministry Steering Committee.

She challenged workshop participants to be authentic, true Catholics who are willing to put their faith into action. "Be true to your Catholic faith. Practice your faith and stand up for your faith. Have the courage to be Catholic." Corsones said that people make a difference in the lives of others when they show others how important their Catholic faith is. Day-to-day interactions can be opportunities to set a good example and to evangelize, she added. But to defend the faith effectively, one must learn about it, she emphasized.

Other workshops at the conference included "Faith and Reason" with Father White and "Marriage/Divorce/Annulment" with Father John J. McDermott, chancellor and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Burlington who serves in the Diocesan Tribunal, and Father Daniel J. Jordan, judicial vicar and the vice chancellor for the Diocese of Burlington and administrator of St. Thomas Parish in Underhill Center and St. Mary Parish in Cambridge. Bishop Salvatore R. Matano, Bishop of Burlington, celebrated the Saturday afternoon Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, and many of the conference participants attended. "Sanctity, transformation and renewal of life are not impossibilities in our lifetime," he said. "It depends ultimately on us."

Stressing the importance of the Eucharist, the bishop said, "Each time we receive the Eucharist, we are coming to Christ and he is coming to us... He makes his dwelling within us." The holy Eucharist is the heart of the Catholic faith and identifies persons as Catholics. "No prayer is as perfect as the Eucharist when God again gives his son to us, body, blood, soul and divinity," Bishop Matano said. Catholics must bring Christ to others, and they can do this, the bishop said, in a variety of ways including praying with their children, showing charity and love of neighbor, asking persons estranged from the Church to go to Mass, exercising honesty in business relationships and treating others as Jesus Christ himself.

“When you receive Christ in the Eucharist, make an affirmation of faith in your heart†to be Christ-like, the bishop said. Bishop Matano prayed for God’s blessing on those who had gathered for the conference to learn about their faith, to understand it, to love it and to spread it.

Lucy Bathalon, a member of Challengers for the Catholic Faith and of St. Thomas Church in Underhill Center, was an organizer of Vermont Catholic Conference 2007. She said it was inspired by a Youth Congress where she thought "we (adults) need to have this for ourselves."

The purpose of the adult conference was to provide an opportunity to foster unity of faith and bring people together from all parts of the statewide diocese to talk and learn about authentic Catholic teaching.

Barbara T. Murphy, of Our Lady of Mercy Church in Putney, said she felt joy at the conference because she saw "a lot of others who are looking for faith enrichment," and she was impressed so many are hoping for the Church to grow.

Fifteen-year-old Brigid Brown of Christ the King Parish in Rutland said she found the conference helpful in providing ideas for daily prayer and how to live faith in daily life. Conference participant Peter Nero of St. Michael Parish in Brattleboro commented, "Seeing other Catholics who feel strongly about their faith and wanting to improve themselves is uplifting." The conference also included music, a presentation on how to start a prayer group, a question-and-answer session with Father White, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and the sacrament of reconciliation.
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