31 December 2011

Pavarotti and Joan Osborne: "Gesu Bambino"

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer Pavarotti and Joan Osborne singing a "Gesu Bambino" medley with the East London Gospel Choir:

New England Municipal Government News Headlines

Recent news stories related to municipal government in New England include these articles:

CT: ‘Gorgeous’ Bozrah property renovated as town center (Norwich Bulletin)

ME: Out with the young, in with the old: Harpswell adjusts to an aging population (The Forecaster)

MA: Court says Fairhaven wind developers must be added to suit (The Standard-Times)

NH: Nashua school student discipline hearings have tripled in past year (Nashua Telegraph)

RI: Stormwater utility fee system explained (Westerly Sun)

VT: Checkpoint quiet, but educational (Bennington Banner)

Background information:

Town of Bozrah, CT

Town of Harpswell, ME

Town of Fairhaven, MA

Nashua,NH, School District

City of Nashua, NH

Town of Westerly, RI

Bennington, VT, Police Department

Bennington, VT, Town Government

Report: Over 40% of Connecticut High School Grads Complete a College Program

The P-20 Council (officially the Connecticut Commission for the Advancement of 21st Century Skills), in conjunction with the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education and the State Department of Education , recently released a report providing an overview of college degree and certificate completions by the state’s public high school students. Through an analysis of data from the National Student Clearinghouse, the report examines the educational pathways Connecticut public school students took after graduating from high school in 2004.

According to the report, before September 2010:

  • two out of five (41%) public high school students in the class of 2004 completed at least one degree or certificate;
  • at least another third enrolled at a college or university during this period, but did not complete a credential; and
  • about another quarter were not found in the National Student Clearinghouse database, suggesting they did not enroll in a collegiate institution during those six years.

The report provides degree completion rates by high school for each school in the state, information which has previously not been available in Connecticut. This research was initiated at the request of the P-20 Council to support efforts to improve connections across the state’s educational systems and workforce. This report follows a series of workshops on college and career readiness held this fall attended by leaders from schools and higher education institutions. The release of this data is designed to make information widely available so that schools, colleges, universities, students, parents, policymakers ,and other stakeholders can better understand the state’s pathways to educational success and develop partnerships to improve the effectiveness of our educational system.

The report also calls for directing attention to the third of students who enroll but don’t graduate within six years. Creating better ways to connect information about students across state agencies while maintaining individual privacy was also among the report’s conclusions. The report also recommended conducting additional research to understand better what factors make students more likely to enter college prepared and to complete degrees and certificates.

The P-20 Council, created in January 2009 by executive order, is co-chaired by the President of the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education, and the State Commissioner of Education. By supporting collaboration among four education sectors (early childhood, K-12, higher education, and workforce training), the council is striving to create an effective education and career pathway that maximizes the number of skilled people in Connecticut with a postsecondary degree or other credential. Council funding is provided by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and the state’s College Access Challenge Grant program.

To access the complete report, please visit:

CT P-20 Councit: Postsecondary Enrollment and Completion Patterns of Students from Connecticut Public High Schools:
An Analysis of Data from the National Student Clearinghouse (December 2011)

Additional information:

Supplementary High School Data for the P-20 Report

Media report:

Hartford Courant: Two-Fifths Of Connecticut High School Graduates Complete A College Program, Report Says (30 DEC 11)

Background information:

Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education: P-20 Council

Connecticut State Department of Education

Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education

National Student Clearinghouse

Blanket Project Helps Young Offenders Reach Out to Others

In a recent column in the Portland (ME) Press Herald, Bill Nemitz wrote about the Blanket Project, an initiative in which a number of boys at Long Creek Youth Development Center, a juvenile detention facility in South Portland, have been making blankets for those in need (especially young children).

To access Mr. Nemitz’s column, please visit:

Portland Press Herald: Bill Nemitz: Hooked on giving back (30 DEC 11)

Background information:

Long Creek Youth Development Center

Five Die in Stamford, CT, Christmas Fire

Three child and two adults died in an early Christmas morning three-alarm fire in a large 2 1/2 story Victorian house at 2267 Shippan Avenue in the Shippan Point neighborhood of Stamford, CT.

The initial alarm was struck at 0452 hours.

Media reports:

Stamford Advocate: 5 dead in Christmas morning blaze (26 DEC 11)

The Hour: Five dead in Christmas morning house fire in Stamford (26 DEC 11)

The Hour: 7-year-old twins, 10-year-old and grand parents killed in Stamford fire Christmas day (26 DEC 11)

WTNH-TV: Fireplace embers may have caused deadly Stamford fire (27 DEC 11)

Hartford Courant: Ash From Fireplace Blamed For Christmas Fire (28 DEC 11)

Stamford Patch: Stamford's Fatal Shippan Ave. Fire: A Timeline (28 DEC 11)

Connecticut Post: Officials doubt smoke detectors were working Sunday (29 DEC 11)

Stamford Patch: Stamford Fire Officials: Shippan Ave. Home Lacked Smoke Detectors (29 DEC 11)

Stamford Advocate: Recordings detail Shippan fire scene (30 DEC 11)

Stamford Patch: Renovations At Shippan Home Before The Fire (30 DEC 11)

Background information:

Stamford Fire & Rescue

Facebook: Stamford Fire & Rescue Department

City of Stamford

Wikipedia: Stamford, Connecticut

Wikipedia: Shippan Point

Google Map: 2267 Shippan Avenue, Stamford, CT

CatholicTV: The Peace of Christmas

In a special Christmas concert on CatholicTV, Mary and Kevin Nelson and friends offer music, scripture, and reflections on the season.

To access a video of this concert, please visit:

CatholicTV: The Peace of Christmas

Background information:


Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the opportunities You place before us to go to confession, to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, and for the good priests through whom You work in this sacrament.

Jamie McAdams on Promoting the Sacrament of Reconciliation

"Here's the deal. I'm just a guy in the pews. Most of what I know about Catholicism is self taught. I have no degrees in theology so everything I have learned has been from books, CD's or retreats for the most part. So, I'm no expert by any means. But, I think I'm right when I say the sacrament of reconciliation is fabulous and is too under used and unappreciated--in my little opinion. Furthermore, I think one of the reasons that it is under used is because Catholics don't understand it and they don't understand it because it's not taught like it should be in most parishes."

In a recent commentary, Jamie McAdams reflected on the importance of the sacrament of reconciliation and on ways in which parishes may encourage reception of this sacrament.

To access his complete post, please visit:

Roman Catholic Cop: Three Prongs for Confession (28 DEC 11)

Reflection Starter from Jim Rohn

"Do not doubt yourself, for where doubt resides, confidence cannot. Do not neglect yourself, for with neglect comes loss. Do not imagine yourself to be less than you are, not more than you are, but seek always to become all of which you are capable. Do not allow yourself to become arrogant or discourteous, for both are characteristics adopted by those who seek to cover their weaknesses. Do not spend time regretting the past, but invest that time wisely by preparing a better future. You are a fertile seed of the Creator of all things, destined not to lie dormant, but to spring forth from the soil called life, and grow upward toward the unlimited horizons - overcoming all obstacles in the process. It is your destiny to tap your talents and to achieve all that of which you believe yourself to be worthy . . . to love more, anticipate more, overcome more, plan more, attract more, and to enjoy more than you ever dreamed possible. Such is the standard of life awaiting your mental decision and outstretched hand. You are deserving - you are becoming - and you shall succeed." - Jim Rohn

30 December 2011

Celtic Woman: "The First Noel"

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer Celtic Woman singing "The First Noël":

New England Municipal Government News Headlines

Recent news stories related to municipal government in New England include these articles:

CT: Thompson may change private road plow policy (Norwich Bulletin)

ME: Steuben exploring new public school options (Bangor Daily News)

MA: Rockport, other communities deal with threat to affordable housing posed by expiring mortgages (Boston Globe)

NH: City Fire Station 3 'browning out' (Portsmouth Herald)

RI: Planning board spends year trying to keep town quaint, yet help it grow (Jamestown Press)

VT: Police deliver gifts to Middlebury kids (Addison County Independent)

Background information:

Town of Thompson, CT

Regional School Unit 24, ME

Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation, MA

Portsmouth, NH, Fire Department

City of Portsmouth, NH

Town of Jamestown, RI

Middlebury, VT, Police Department

Town of Middlebury, VT

Internet Crime Complaint Center: Beware of Using Popular Passwords

The Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center, is advising that an Internet site that manages passwords recently posted an article pertaining to the lack of secure passwords being utilized which may be a factor in data breaches - past, present, and future. One reason for the lack of security is the amount of passwords a user is required to remember to access the many databases, applications, multiple networks, etc., used on a daily basis. Sharing passwords among users in a workplace is becoming a common theme to continue the flow of operations. Users have prioritized convenience over security when establishing passwords.

The article provided a list of millions of stolen passwords posted on-line by hackers and ranked the top 25 common passwords.

password     123456      12345678      qwerty      abc123
monkey       1234567      letmein       trustno1    dragon
baseball       111111       iloveyou      master       sunshine
ashley         bailey         passw0rd     shadow     123123
654321        superman   qazwsx        michael      football

Background information:

Internet Crime Complaint Center

Symantec: The Simplest Security: A Guide To Better Password Practices

A Christmas Reminder and Greeting from Mark Shea

"It’s really quite wonderful that something which started on the other side of the planet with a couple of refugee parents and no earthly prospect of success should now be celebrated in remote villages in the Arctic Circle (as well as in . . ."

As part of a recent reflection, Mark Shea shared a good video with a Christmas greeting from our Eskimo brethren. To access this video, and Mark's complete reflection, please visit:

NC Register: Mark Shea: Hey! It's Still Christmas! (28 DEC 11)

The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The assigned readings are Genesis 15:1-6, 21:1-3 (or Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19) and Luke 2:22-40. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 128 (Psalm 128:1-5).

The Gospel reading is as follows:

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, '”Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: "Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel."

The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted - and you yourself a sword will pierce - so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Reflection on this feast:

Deacon Keith Fournier: Feast of the Holy Family: Learning to Love, Pray and Live in the School of Nazareth (29 DEC 11)

For additional reflection:

Apostolic Exhortation of Pope John Paul II: Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World) (22 NOV 1981)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the blessings of family life, especially for the family-related blessings You have given me over the years.

Brandon Vogt on the Blessing of the Pope being 'Just a Man'

"'You actually follow the Pope?!' people have asked me, sure that this is just as silly as believing in fairies. 'He's just a man like you and me! What are you brainwashed?'

"For many years, I wondered the same thing about Catholics. Before I entered the Church I questioned why so many people were devoted to a simple, strange old fellow in a white dress. After all, he's just a man, right?"

In a recent commentary, Brandon Vogt reflected on what a blessing it is, despite a number of Popes who have left something to be desired, that Jesus chose "just a man" to be his Vicar during our earthly pilgrimage.

To access Brandon's complete post, please visit:

Ignitum Today: Why I’m Glad the Pope is ‘Just a Man’ (26 DEC 11)

Reflection Starter from Blessed Pope John Paul II

"As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live." - Blessed Pope John Paul II

29 December 2011

Twila Paris: "Today A Child is Born"

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer Twila Paris singing "Today A Child is Born":

New England Municipal Government News Headlines

Recent news stories related to municipal government in New England include these articles:

CT: Enfield Board Of Education Snubs ACLU Settlement Offer That Would Bar Holding Graduations In Church (Hartford Courant)

ME: Flood complaints prompt Randolph selectmen to work on policy (Kennebec Journal)

MA: In Hingham, bowmen using conservation land raise concern (Boston Globe)

NH: Battling over Great Bay's nitrogen levels (Exeter News-Letter)

RI: Complications Delay Derelict Boats' Eviction (Warren Times-Gazette)

VT: Study looks at merger of Ed. districts (St. Albans Messenger)

Background information:

Enfield, CT, Public Schools

Town of Enfield, CT

American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut

Town of Randolph, ME

Hingham, MA, Conservation Commission

Town of Hingham, MA

New Hampshire Coastal Program

New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

Town of Warren, RI

Franklin Central Supervisory Union, VT

HUD Awards Funding to Programs Serving Homeless

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently awarded $1.47 billion to renew funding to more than 7,100 local homeless programs operating across the country.  The funding is designed to ensure these housing and service programs remain operating in 2012.

To access a complete list of the programs being funded in New England and throughout the rest of the U.S., please visit:

HUD: Continuum of Care Grants Awards

Boston Boy Choir and Saint Paul Parish Men’s Schola Christmas Concert for CatholicTV

Boston Boy Choir and the Men’s Schola of Saint Paul Parish, Cambridge, MA, recently performed a special Christmas concert for CatholicTV.

To access a video of this Christmas special , please visit:

Catholic TV: Carols by Candlelight

Background information:


Boston Boy Choir

Saint Paul Parish: Liturgical Ministry

Note: The Boston Archdiocesan Choir School, a choir school (for boys in Grades 5-8) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is the only boy-choir school in the United States of America affiliated with the Catholic Church. Its choir (with men from the Saint Paul Men's Schola) sings for liturgical services at Saint Paul Church and performs within the Boston area and elsewhere.

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of Hope - one of the theological virtues - and the common virtue of hope You instill in each of us.

Msgr. Pope on a Powerful Reading from the Christmas Liturgy

"There is a Scripture reading proclaimed at the Christmas Liturgy that usually gets overlooked. And yet it should elicit considerable reflection since it is proclaimed at the Christmas Midnight Mass, one of the Church's most prominent Liturgies."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on the second reading from the Midnight Mass on Christmas (Titus 2:11-14).

The reading is as follows:

Beloved: The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.

To access Msgr. Pope's complete post, please visit:

Msgr. Charles Pope: An Overlooked But Powerful Reading from the Christmas Cycle (26 DEC 11)

Reflection Starter

"I must do something" always solves more problems than "Something must be done." - Author Unknown

28 December 2011

The Blenders: "Do You Hear What I Hear"

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer The Blenders presenting "Do You Hear What I Hear":

New England Municipal Government News Headlines

Recent news stories related to municipal government in New England include these articles:

CT: More municipal records put online (Connecticut Post)

ME: Program at Winthrop High School benefits volunteer firefighter (Morning Sentinel)

MA: Milford sports bar will appeal adult entertainment ruling (Milford Daily News)

NH: Bartlett voters give selectmen the OK to borrow $2 million for Irene repairs (Conway Daily Sun)

RI: Wind turbine deal in No. Smithfield could include multiple communities (Valley Breeze)

VT: Chittenden County needs more mentors (Burlington Free Press)

Background information:

Town of Bethel, CT

City of Milford, CT

Connecticut State Library

Town of Winthrop, ME

Town of Milford, MA

Town of Bartlett, NH

Town of North Smithfield, RI

Burlington, VT, Police Department

City of Burlington, VT

Mobius - The Mentoring Movement

Recreation Corridors Recommended for New England

A recently released report by the Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service for the National Park Service recommends support for seven interstate “recreation corridors” in New England as a means to reconnect people with the outdoors and spur economic development in riverfront and trailside communities.

To access a copy of this report, please visit:

Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service: Connect People to the Outdoors in New England (November 2011)

Media report:

Bangor Daily News: Report urges development of ‘recreation corridors,’ including 3 in Maine (27 DEC 11)

Background information:

U.S. National Park Service

All Saints Youth Choir: Readings and Christmas Songs

All Saints Youth Choir recently presented readings and Christmas songs in a CatholicTV Christmas special.

To access a video of this Christmas special , please visit:

CatholicTV: Christmas Under the Stars

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the beauty contained within a single snowflake.

Fr. Jim Chern on the Speed of Light Vis-à-vis the Mystery of Christmas

"It probably would be a safe bet to say that everyone here has at least heard of a man by the name of Albert Einstein.  If you're like me, you might not really know why he's considered an intellectual heavyweight - you just accept that his face could be an illustration of 'one who is brilliant,' or that his name seems to be synonymous with genius.  If you studied physics in High School (I barely got through Chemistry and Biology, so I didn't) you probably learned a great deal about Einstein and why he is somewhat revered for his knowledge.   Particularly his major contribution to the field of Physics - his discovery of 'the speed of light.'"

In a recent commentary, Father Jim Chern reflected on the mystery of the speed of light vis-à-vis the mystery of Christmas.

To access Fr. Chern's complete post, please visit:

Father Jim Chern's Blog: Faster, Greater, More Important than the Speed of Light! (Christmas 2011)

Reflection Starter from David Grayson

"I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day.  We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year.  As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year.  And thus I drift along into the holidays - let them overtake me unexpectedly - waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself:  'Why, this is Christmas Day!'" - David Grayson

27 December 2011

John Tesh: "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer  John Tesh playing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing":

New England Municipal Government News Headlines

Recent news stories related to municipal government in New England include these articles:

CT: Changes mapped for Westport schools' gifted program (Connecticut Post)

ME: Residents petition South Portland to end free councilor health care (The Forecaster)

MA: Insurers: BPD theft stats don’t jibe with loss claims (Boston Herald)

NH: Some in Manchester missed memo for trash day (New Hampshire Union Leader)

RI: North Providence, Johnston consortium brings back low-cost, home repair loans (Valley Breeze)

VT: BFUHS vs National Grid Dispute over access point (Brattleboro Reformer)

Background information:

Westport, CT, Public Schools

Town of Westport, CT

City of South Portland, ME

Boston, MA, Police Department

City of Boston, MA

Manchester, NH, Department of Public Works

City of Manchester, NH

Town of Johnston, RI

Town of North Providence, RI

Bellows Falls, VT, Union High School

Town of Rockingham & Bellows Falls Village, VT

Connecticut Child Fatality Review Panel Issues 10-Year Report

Between 1 January 2001 and 1 January 2011, the Connecticut Child Fatality Review Panel has investigated the deaths of 1,529 children. The panel recently released a report on those deaths and provided a number of recommendations designed to reduce the number of children who die each year.

According to the report, 840 of the deaths reviewed were due to natural causes. (Note: the panel does not review many natural deaths from cancer, complex heart conditions, chronic health conditions, asthma, complications associated with prematurity, and other acute illnesses.) The panel also reviewed 400 accidental child deaths, 106 child homicides, and 77 child-youth suicides. In addition, the panel reviewed 106 child deaths for which the cause was undetermined.

Recommendations offered by the panel in this report include:

  • continue collaborative efforts related to all child safety initiatives and other public awareness campaigns that
    keep the focus on safety as the first step in preventing injury and death;
  • encouraging strong partnerships to reduce underage drinking, binge drinking, and prescription drug abuse;
  • supporting efforts for positive ways for youth to deal with anger;
  • continuing statewide efforts to prevent abusive head trauma stemming from abuse in infants and children; and
  • working with key community stakeholders to support public education and awareness efforts to reduce the risk of suicide.

To access the complete report (with its complete list of recommendations), please visit:

CT Child Fatality Review Panel: An Examination of Connecticut Child Fatalities: A Ten Year Review January 1, 2001 to January 1, 2011 (December 2011)

Media report:

Hartford Courant: Child Fatality Review Panel Issues 10-Year Report (15 DEC 11)

Background information:

Connecticut Child Fatality Review Panel

JAMA: Sleep Disorders Affect Health, and Safety in Police Officers

In a recent survey of police officers in the United States and Canada, 40.4% screened positive for at least one sleep disorder (most of these had not been previously diagnosed). As reported in JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association), these sleep disorders were significantly associated with increased risk of adverse health, performance, and safety outcomes.

To access an abstract and the complete article, please visit:

JAMA: Sleep Disorders, Health, and Safety in Police Officers (December 2011)

Nashua, NH, Firefighters Assist Families in Need

Continuing a twenty-year tradition, on the Wednesday before Christmas, a number of Nashua, NH, firefighters filled baskets with food and delivered the baskets to dozens of local families struggling in these difficult times.

Media report:

NH: Firefighters prepare, deliver food for 72 needy families (Nashua Telegraph)

Background information:

Nashua Fire Rescue

City of Nashua

Wikipedia: Nashua, New Hampshire

CatholicTV Christmas Special, "A Winter's Journey"

Aine Minogue recently hosted a Christmas special, A Winter's Journey, on CatholicTV.

To access a video of this special, please visit:

CatholicTV: A Winter's Journey

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the great variety of seasonal music, traditional and contemporary, You guide and encourage during the Christmas celebration. Thank you for continuing Your work of creation through the work of the composers and artists involved.

Pope Benedict's Christmas 2011 Urbi et Orbi Message

"Christ is born for us!  Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to the men and women whom he loves.  May all people hear an echo of the message of Bethlehem which the Catholic Church repeats in every continent, beyond the confines of every nation, language and culture.  The Son of the Virgin Mary is born for everyone; he is the Saviour of all."

On Christmas Day, Pope Benedict XVI delivered the traditional Urbi et Orbi (to the city and to the world) Message.

To access Pope Benedict's complete message, please visit:

Urbi et Orbi Message of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, Christmas 2011

Reflection Starter from Robert Schuller

"Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed." - Rev. Robert H. Schuller

26 December 2011

Daughters of Saint Paul Christmas Concert for CatholicTV

The Daughters of Saint Paul recently performed a special Christmas concert for CatholicTV.

To access a video of this concert, please visit:

CatholicTV: Christmas Joy

Background information:


The Daughters of Saint Paul

Community New Year’s Eve Events in New England

Throughout New England on this coming weekend, there are a number of community events designed to welcome in the new year, 2012. These events include a variety of music and other entertainment, refreshments, and fireworks designed to being members of the community together in a safe, fun atmosphere for this celebration.

These events include the following:

CT: First Night Danbury

CT: First Hartford Night

CT: First Night Westport/Weston

ME: Downtown Countdown 2012 (Bangor)

MA: Beverly's New Year

MA: First Night Boston

MA: First Night Chatham

MA: First Night Northampton

MA: New Years Rockport Eve

MA: First Night Worcester

NH: First Night Portsmouth

NH: First Night Wolfeboro

RI: Bright Night Providence

VT: First Night Burlington

VT: First Night (Montpelier)

VT: First Night St. Johnsbury

Mount Saint Mary's Abbey Christmas Carol Program

Each year between Christmas Vigils and Midnight Mass, Mount Saint Mary's Abbey, Wrentham, MA, presents a program of Christmas Carols.  They have made this year's program available on their website:

Mount Saint Mary's Abbey

New England Municipal Government News Headlines

Recent news stories related to municipal government in New England include these articles:

CT: Cromwell reaches deal on recycling (Middletown Press)

ME: Career center helping students (The Times Record)

MA: Dartmouth considering GPS devices on town vehicles (The Standard-Times)

NH: Two nights in a row, dozens rally to keep technology program at Hollis Brookline High School (Nashua Telegraph)

RI: Providing Bristol With Paramedic Care For 25 Years (Bristol Phoenix)

VT: Charlotte residents raise concerns about solar project (Burlington Free Press)

Background information:

Town of Cromwell, CT

Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority

Regional School Unit 1, ME (Arrowsic, Bath, Phippsburg, West Bath, and Woolwich)

Town of Dartmouth, MA

Hollis-Brookline Cooperative School District, NH

Town of Bristol, RI

Town of Charlotte, VT

Milken Institute Release Survey of Best Performing Cities

The Milken Institute recently released its annual survey of Best Performing Cities.

The Best-Performing Cities index includes measures of job, wage, and technology performance to rank the nation’s 200 large metropolitan areas. Unlike other “best places” rankings, it does not use quality-of-life metrics, such as commute times or housing costs. In the Institute’s index, employment growth is weighted most heavily due to its critical importance to community vitality. Wage and salary growth measures the quality of jobs created and sustained. In addition to the 200 largest metros, the Milken Institute research also looked at 179 small metros.

New England cities in the 200 largest metros list, listed by 2011 rank:

   #12 - Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, MA (last year - #22)

   #40 – Peabody, MA (last year - #75)

   #41 – Worcester, MA (last year - #129)

   #53 – Boston-Quincy, MA (last year - #42)

   #57 – Springfield, MA (last year - #127)

   #78 – Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, ME (last year - #137)

   #82 – Rockingham County-Strafford County, NH (last year – #81)

   #97 – Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT (last year - #85)

   #110 – Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA (last year - #175)

   #122 – Norwich-New London, CT (last year - #91)

   #158 – Manchester-Nashua, NH (last year - #90)

   #169 – Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT (last year - #111)

   #170 – New Haven-Milford, CT (last year - #153)

New England cities in the 179 smallest metros list, listed by 2011 rank:

   #26 – Burlington-South Burlington, VT (last year - #71)

   #84 – Bangor, ME (last year - #119)

   #97 – Barnstable Town, MA (last year - #96)

   #126 – Lewiston-Auburn, ME (last year - #123)

To access report information, please visit:

Milken Institute: 200 Largest Metros List

Milken Institute: 179 Smallest Metros List

Background information:

The Milken Institute

Celine Dion: "O Holy Night"

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer Celine Dion singing "O Holy Night":

Saint Stephen, the First Martyr

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr. The assigned readings are Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-59 and Matthew 10:17-22. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 31 (Psalm 31: 3-4, 6, 8. 16-17).

The first reading is as follows:

Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people. Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.

When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."

Reflections on this feast day:

CatholicCulture: Feast of St. Stephen, first martyr

Pope Benedict XVI: Angeles Message, Feast of Saint Stephen (26 DEC 05)

Christmas in Bethlehem (Connecticut)

"Did you know there are towns named Bethlehem in America? Some are little, like the carol goes, and some are much bigger. Whatever the size, some Bethlehems become a destination because they try to connect in some way to that miraculous event of 2,000 years ago.

"A favorite destination is the rural town of Bethlehem, Conn., and the crèche at the Regina Laudis Abbey (AbbeyofReginaLaudis.com), a community of cloistered Benedictine nuns founded after World War II."

A recent National Catholic Register article examined the annual Christmas celebration in Bethlehem, Connecticut.

To access the complete article, please visit:

National Catholic Register: Christmas 2011 in Bethlehem, USA (18 DEC 11)

Background information:

Abbey of Regina Laudis

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, CT

Wikipedia: Bethlehem, Connecticut

Town of Bethlehem

Old Bethlem Historical Society: Bethlehem, CT, The Christmas Town

New York Times: A Crèche, and Gifts, Too (11 DEC 09)

President Reagan on the Christmas Celebration

“At this special time of year, we all renew our sense of wonder in recalling the story of the first Christmas in Bethlehem, nearly 2,000 year ago.

“Some celebrate Christmas as the birthday of a great and good philosopher and teacher. Others of us believe in the divinity of the child born in Bethlehem, that he was and is the promised Prince of Peace. Yes, we’ve questioned why he who could perform miracles chose to come among us as a helpless babe, but maybe that was his first miracle, his first great lesson that we should learn to care for one another.”

In a recent post, Donald R. McClarey reflected on President Reagan’s 1981 Christmas speech.

To access his complete post, which includes President Reagan’s entire Christmas address, please visit:

The American Catholic: Thirty Years Ago: Reagan Christmas Address (23 DEC 11)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways - as Church and as families - in which we celebrate Your birth, Your coming into this world as one of us.

Joe Heschmeyer on the Opposition of Two Christmas Celebrations

"Terry Mattingly of GetReligion has a great column about the 'two Christmases.'  As he notes, for the Church, the Christmas season runs from Christmas Day (December 25) to Epiphany (January 6).  These are the famous Twelve Days of Christmas.  But in secular society, the Christmas season runs from around Thanksgiving until December 25.   So this Sunday marks either the end of the Christmas season (for secular culture), or the First Day of Christmas (for the Church)."

In a recent commentary, Joe Heschmeyer reflected on the conflict between the celebration of Christmas by secular society (including many Christians) and the celebration of Christmas by the Church (and he also adds a comment about "Happy Holidays").

To access Joe's complete post, please visit:

Shameless Popery: Is This the End of the Christmas Season, or the Beginning? (23 DEC 11)

Reflection Starter from G. K. Chesterton

"When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?" - G. K. Chesterton

25 December 2011

A Look at Some New Ways of Giving This Holiday Season

"From Bangor, Maine, to Los Angeles, anonymous philanthropists known as 'layaway angels' are paying off tens of thousands of dollars in layaway items for struggling families.

"The Salvation Army, too, is seeing evidence of a shift in altruistic behavior at their iconic red kettles. Even as overall coin-dropping is down from last year, people in cities like Atlanta and Kokomo, Ind., are dropping off valuable items, including gold krugerrands, gold bars, and even diamond wedding bands, in large numbers."

A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor examined some of the trends in assisting the less fortunate during this holiday season. Among other observations, the article also explored the possibility that Americans may be looking for social connections in their giving this holiday season.

To access the complete article, please visit:

Christian Science Monitor: 'Layaway angels' and gold coins: Americans find new ways to warm hearts (21 DEC 11)

Related media report:

Bangor Daily News: ‘Layaway Angels’ spread holiday cheer Bangor Kmart (21 DEC 11)

Firefighter Dies in Peabody, MA, Three-alarm Fire

Peabody, MA, James Rice died in a three-alarm fire in a three-story apartment building at 5 Hancock Street in that city on Thursday, 23 December. One civilian was also injured in the fire, to which companies were dispatched at approximately 1325 hours.

Media reports:

Peabody Patch: 13 Left Homeless After Hancock Street Fire (23 DEC 11)

Newburyport Daily News: Firefighter dies in 3-alarm blaze (24 DEC 11)

Lynn Daily Item: Peabody fire officials: Blaze likely accidental (24 DEC 11)

Peabody Patch: Scenes From 5 Hancock St. (24 DEC 11)

1st Responder Broadcast Network: Peabody MA Firefighter Killed While Fighting 3 Alarm House Fire

The Fire Critic: Peabody, MA Firefighter James Rice Dies in The Line of Duty at Hancock Street Apartment Fire

Background information:

City of Peabody

Wikipedia: Peabody, Massachusetts

Google Map: 5 Hancock Street, Peabody, Massachusetts

Mannheim Steamroller: "Joy To The World"

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer Mannheim Steamroller playing "Joy To The World":

Bob Hope's Christmas Visits to the Troops

When he was alive and working, comedian Bob Hope regularly visited military facilities around the world during the Christmas season (and other times as well). Here is a video highlighting some of these visits and their effects on those in military service:

YouTube: Bob Hope Christmases with the troops

Background information:

Bob Hope: Entertaining the Troops

Wikipedia: Bob Hope

Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas). The assigned readings for the Mass at dawn are Isaiah 62:11-12, Titus 3:4-7, and Luke 2: 15-20. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 97 (Psalm 97: 1, 6, 11-12).

The Gospel reading is as follows:

When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us."

So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.

Reflections on solemnity:

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio: The Deeper Meaning of Christmas

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: Christmas Day (December 25, 2011)

The Quiet Corner: Celebrating Jesus’ many manifestations of good will (22 DEC 11)

Msgr. Charles Pope: In the Incarnation We Are Touched by God (23 DEC 11)

The Deacon's Bench: “Thanks for listening”: a Christmas homily (24 DEC 11)

The Happy Priest: Christmas and the Language of God  (24 DEC 11)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the beauty , peace, and joy of Christmas and for coming into the world in such an awesome way.

Fr. Steve Rossetti and His Antarctica Ministry

“While most of us are turning our attention this weekend to the North Pole, Fr. Steve Rossetti is looking in the other direction.   A priest for the Diocese of Syracuse and a teacher at Catholic University, he’s been serving for a few weeks as a chaplain at a base at the South Pole  — and it looks like he may be there for Christmas.”

In a recent post, Deacon Greg Kandra offers a look at Father Steve Rossetti and his ministry on Antarctica.

To access his complete post, please visit:

The Deacon's Bench: The continent with only one priest (23 DEC 11)

Reflection Starter from Pope Benedict XVI

"Joy is the true gift of Christmas, not the expensive gifts that call for time and money. We can communicate this joy simply: with a smile, a kind gesture, a little help, forgiveness. And the joy we give will certainly come back to us. . . . Let us pray that this presence of the liberating joy of God shines forth in our lives." - Pope Benedict XVI (18 DEC 05)

24 December 2011

Christmas Blessings

As we enter the Eve of Christmas, I offer my deepest wishes for a truly blessed Christmas to each member of my extended family, each of my friends, each of my associates in any work/ministry, each of my readers, and each of the people of this region!!!

I ask a special blessing for those who are ill, alone, and/or away from home on this day.

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests.They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:5

YouTube: Christmas Blessings 2011

YouTube: The Blessing Song

Nat King Cole: "O, Little Town of Bethlehem"

As we enter into our Christmas celebration, I offer Nat King Cole singing "O, Little Town of Bethlehem":

"O, Little Town of Bethlehem" was written by Rev. Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), an Episcopal priest and rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Philadelphia, PA. He was inspired when he visited Bethlehem in 1865, and, a few years later, he wrote the poem for his church. The parish organist, Lewis Redner, added the music using the tune, "St. Louis".

A Christmas Eve Shift

"On Christmas Eve in 1977, I learned that blessings can come disguised as misfortune, and honor is more than just a word.  I was riding one-man patrol on the 4-12 shift. The night was cold.  Everywhere I looked I saw reminders of the holiday: families packing their cars with presents, beautifully decorated trees in living room windows and roofs adorned with tiny sleighs. It all added to my holiday funk."

In a recent post, Jamie McAdams shared a reflection from another police sergeant on an experience lived during a Christmas Eve shift.

To access the complete post, please visit:

Roman Catholic Cop: Working on Christmas Eve (22 DEC 11)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the wondrous mystery we celebrate this holy night.

Msgr. Pope on Paradoxes of Christmas

“In the ancient Church, and until rather recently, we genuflected at the two references to the incarnation in the Mass: at the Creed and at the Last Gospel (John 1). Why did we do this? It was explained to me that the mystery was so deep that one could only fall in silent reverence.”

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on some of the paradoxes within the Christmas mystery.

To access Msgr. Pope's complete post, please visit:

Msgr. Charles Pope: Paradoxes of Christmas (21 DEC 11)

Reflection Starter

"It is easy to think Christmas, and it is easy to believe Christmas, but it is hard to act Christmas." - Source Unknown

23 December 2011

New England Municipal Government News Headlines

Recent news stories related to municipal government in New England include these articles:

CT: Behavior specialists help teachers and students stay on track (The Day)

ME: Habitat, Freeport agree on duplex housing deal (The Times Record)

MA: Spencer selectmen pull back on new parking ban (Worcester Telegram & Gazette)

NH: Water weeds causing problem in Hudson ponds; town accepts $13K grant to help (Nashua Telegraph)

RI: City's growing homeless problem: Too many people, not enough beds (Valley Breeze)

VT: Town rebuffs rink critics, says $6.5 million reasonable (Stowe Reporter)

Background information:

New London, CT, Public Schools

City of New London, CT

Town of Freeport, ME

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland (ME)

Town of Spencer, MA

Town of Hudson, NH

New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

City of Pawtucket, RI

Town of Stowe, VT

Moody's: Credit pressure on Local Governments More Acute in Rhode Island

Local governments in Rhode Island are experiencing economic weakness, revenue stagnation, and pension expense growth that are more acute than in most other states and are likely to persist into the future, says Moody's Investors Service in a new report, “Rhode Island Local Governments Face Elevated Credit Pressure.”

Government revenues are strained because of decreasing taxable values, the implementation of a statewide tax levy cap, and consecutive state cuts in local aid. Rhode Island’s exposure to pending federal budget cuts also remains high.

Rhode Island local governments get most of their revenues from property taxes and state aid, which continue to stagnate and decline as the state’s economy lags the weak national recovery. According to Moody’s, there is a higher probability than most other states that Rhode Island will experience a double-dip recession, which portends continued stress on most sources of local government revenues.

Rhode Island has a program to provide increased oversight of local governments in distress that could help mitigate credit deterioration for the most challenged municipalities such as Central Falls (rated Caa1/negative outlook). Other mitigants for local governments include an exemption from the property tax limit for general obligation debt, and there is no use of variable rate debt or swaps.

"However, the oversight program is relatively new and untested, and could be overwhelmed by multiple unanticipated local governments seeking state assistance at the same time," said Galluccio.

In anticipation of the Central Falls bankruptcy, the state enacted new legislation that provides a priority secured pledge for general obligation debt, putting such debt ahead of unsecured obligations. The bankruptcy court will ultimately decide if the legislation will stand.

The Lighter Side of Chanukah

In a related post, Deacon Greg also shared a fun song related to Chanukah:

To access this post, please visit:

The Deacon's Bench: Oy to the world: try this hilarious Hanukkah medley. You’ll plotz. (21 DEC 11)

Peter, Paul, and Mary: "Don’t let the light go out"

In a recent post, Deacon Greg Kandra shared a video clip of Peter, Paul, and Mary singing a song related to Chanukah.

To access this post, please visit:

The Deacon's Bench: “Don’t let the light go out…” (21 DEC 11)

Christmas Tree in the Woods Tradition Continues

In Lincoln, Vermont, there is, and has been for fifteen years, a Christmas tree in the woods (courtesy Bill Finger, town manager of nearby Middlebury). Thanks to the recent incursion of Tropical Storm Irene, though, the tree almost did not make an appearance this year.

To access an Addison County Independent article on the tree and its appearance this year, please visit:

Addison County Independent: Season's greeting shines again (22 DEC 11)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to be gainfully employed.

The Truth about Santa - He's Real

In a recent commentary, Matt Warner reminded his readers that Santa is indeed a real person.

To access Matt's post, please visit:

Fallible Blogma: Are you lying to your children about Santa? (22 DEC 11)

Reflection Starter from Roy L. Smith

"He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree." - Roy L. Smith

22 December 2011

Rejected Sports Team Names

Top 19 Rejected Names for International Sports Teams:

   19. Brussels Sprouts
   18. Cannes Openers
   17. Amsterdam Yankees
   16. Vienna Sausages
   15. Belgium Waffles
   14. Manila Folders
   13. Czech Bouncers
   12. New Dehli Catessans
   11. Buenos Airheads
   10. Guadalajara Krishnas
   9. Iraqi Raccoons
   8. Bolivia DeHavillands
   7. Seoul Brothers
   6. Taipei Personalities
   5. Syria Killers
   4. Hungary Jacks
   3. Dublin Mint Twins
   2. Prague Tologists
   1. Peking Toms

Thank you, Pastor Tim Davis for the tip.

New England Municipal Government News Headlines

Recent news stories related to municipal government in New England include these articles:

CT: School board votes to cut February vacation week (Connecticut Post)

ME: Fired Washington County principal can proceed with wrongful termination lawsuit (Bangor Daily News)

MA: Officials hopeful leaner JBOS more effective, too (Sentinel & Enterprise)

NH: Judge rules towns can't make own motorcycle noise rules (Portsmouth Herald)

RI: JFC Cleared Of Open Meetings Violations (Warren Times-Gazette)

VT: Middlebury refines fire station design (Addison County Independent)

Background information:

Fairfield, CT, Public Schools

Town of Fairfield, CT

Town of Ayer, MA

Town of Harvard, MA

Town of Shirley, MA

Devens Committee

Town of North Hampton, NH

New Hampshire Citizens Against Loud Motorcycles

Bristol Warren Regional School District, RI

Middlebury, VT, Fire Department

Town of Middlebury, VT

Education: Windsor, VT, High School Initiatives

A recent Valley News article highlighted a number of initiatives being taken in Windsor, VT, High School in response to its being designated a Tier II school in 2010.

Media report:

Valley News: Shifting Winds at Windsor High  (17 DEC 11)

Background information:

Windsor School District

Town of Windsor

Wikipedia: Windsor, Vermont

Christmas Message from Providence College Alumni/ae Chaplain

Rev. John S. Peterson, O.P. ’57 recently offered a Christmas message on behalf of the Providence College Alumni/ae Chaplaincy:

"Breath of Heaven" and the Nativity

In this video clip, Amy Grant sings "Breath of Heaven" set to scenes from The Nativity Story:

Thank you, Monsignor Pope, for sharing this.

Santa Visits Seniors in Norridgewock, ME

For over two decades, Santa Claus (in the person of Firefighter James Gordon) and his helpers have been making regular visits to senior citizens in Norridgewock, Maine. Each senior visited during this year’s trip received a treat from the Norridgewock Fireman's Association.

Media report:

Morning Sentinel: Norridgewock firefighter brings Santa to seniors (19 DEC 11)

Background information:

Town of Norridgewock

Wikipedia: Norridgewock, Maine

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, that I am one of the richest people in the world. I may not have much in the way of $$$, but I am so blessed in many, many ways.

Vatican Christmas Tree

The Vatican Christmas tree, a tall spruce from the Zakarpattia region of the Ukraine, was recently lit in the presence of bishops and other visitors from that nation. Other smaller trees have also been donated, and they are being set up at other places in Vatican City State.

This tree, said the Holy Father, is "a significant symbol of Christ's Nativity because, with its evergreen boughs, it reminds us of enduring life. The spruce is also a sign of popular religiosity in your country, and of the Christian roots of your culture. My hope is that these roots may increasingly reinforce your national unity, favoring the promotion of authentic shared values. Over the centuries your nation has been a crossroads of different cultures, a meeting point for the spiritual richness of East and West. By tenaciously adhering to the values of the faith, may it continue to response to this unique vocation."

The tree and nativity scene, Benedict XVI went on, "are elements of that typically Christmas atmosphere which is part our communities' spiritual heritage; a climate impregnated with religiosity and family intimacy which we must seek to conserve, even in modern societies where consumerism and the search for material goods sometimes seem to prevail. Christmas is a Christian feast, and its symbols are important references to the great mystery of the incarnation and birth of Jesus, which the liturgy constantly re-evokes. The Creator of the universe, by becoming a child, came among us to share our journey; He became small to enter the heart of man and renew it with His love. Let us prepare ourselves to welcome Him with faith".

Media Reports:

Catholic News Agency: Vatican Christmas tree lights up St. Peter’s Square (16 DEC 11)

Washington Post: Vatican lights Christmas tree from Ukraine amid memories of Pope John Paul II (16 DEC 11)

Seasons of Grace: Vatican’s Christmas Tree Is a Show-Stopper (19 DEC 11)

Background information:

Wikipedia: Vatican Christmas Tree

Reflection Starter from Blessed John Paul II

"The liturgy of Advent . . . helps us to understand fully the value and meaning of the mystery of Christmas. It is not just about commemorating the historical event, which occurred some 2,000 years ago in a little village of Judea. Instead, it is necessary to understand that the whole of our life must be an ‘advent,’ a vigilant awaiting of the final coming of Christ. To predispose our mind to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the Creed, one day will come to judge the living and the dead, we must learn to recognize him as present in the events of daily life. Therefore, Advent is, so to speak, an intense training that directs us decisively toward him who already came, who will come, and who comes continuously." – Pope Blessed John Paul II

21 December 2011

New England Municipal Government News Headlines

Recent news stories related to municipal government in New England include these articles:

CT: Residents succeed in changing path of Pequonnock River Trail (Connecticut Post)

ME: OccupyMaine sues Portland, claims city code is unconstitutional (The Forecaster)

MA: $35 sticker required for Freetown nonresidents (The Standard-Times)

NH: Hebron man wants system to review property assessments (New Hampshire Union Leader)

RI: Ornament keeps landmark alive (Woonsocket Call)

VT: Homeless students look for stability (Addison County Independent)

Background information:

Town of Trumbull, CT

Greater Bridgeport Regional Planning Agency

City of Portland, ME

Town of Freetown, MA

City of Woonsocket, RI

Addison Central Supervisory Union, VT

Addison Northeast Supervisory Union, VT

Addison Northwest Supervisory Union, VT

National Center on Family Homelessness

CDC Initiates New Effort to Combat Childhood Obesity

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has initiated a new effort to address childhood obesity through a research project focusing on doctors, families, and communities helping children make healthy choices.

In this initiative, funding made available through the Affordable Care Act will support a four year Childhood Obesity Demonstration Project.  Supported by $25 million in funding awards, the project is designed to build on existing community efforts and work to identify effective health care and community strategies to support children’s healthy eating and active living and help combat childhood obesity.

For information about the Childhood Obesity Demonstration Project, please visit:

CDC: Childhood Obesity Demonstration Project

Hallowell, ME, to Review Fire Station/Fire Protection Study

A recently competed study of the Hallowell, ME, Fire Department by consultant Neil D. Courtney reaffirms the need for fire station improvements originally listed in a 2009 engineering study of the station. In addition, Courtney’s report reviewed options related to providing fire protection services for the community.

Media report:

Kennebec Journal: Hallowell ponders fire station options (19 DEC 11)

To access a copy of Neil Courtney’s report, please visit:

Neil D. Courtney: Development of Options Relative to the Delivery of Fire Protection Services - Draft Report (December 2011)

To access a copy of the 2009 engineering study, please visit:

E.S. Coffin Engineering & Surveying/Summit Environmental Consultants: Engineering/Environmental Services for Fire Station Structure Report (October 2009)

Background information:

Hallowell, ME, Fire Department

Town of Hallowell, ME

Wikipedia: Hallowell, Maine

Saint Olaf Christmas Festival and Choir

This past weekend’s presentation of the PBS program, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, included a segment on the Saint Olaf Choir and on the Christmas concert performed annually at this small Lutheran college in Northfield, Minnesota, a concert that has become known - and loved - around the world.

To access this presentation, please visit:

Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: St. Olaf Christmas Festival and Choir (16 DEC 11)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for Your presence among us in so many ways and Your constant reminders that You are indeed present.

Msgr. Pope on the Christmas Story and Our Call to Love and Serve the Poor

"One of the great gifts to be sought at Christmas is to experience an increase in our love the poor. Poverty, it is true, remains a complicated and vexing problem, especially in modern market based economies. Linked to poverty are complicated social issues such as addiction, single motherhood and the unintended though real consequences of welfare programs, as currently structured."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on the mystery of the first Christmas and its relationship to our call, as (Catholic) Christians, to love and serve the poor.

To access Msgr. Pope's complete post, please visit:

Msgr. Charles Pope: On the Poverty of the First Christmas and the Gift to Love the Poor (18 DEC 11)

Reflection Starter from Charles Kendall Adams

"No one ever attains very eminent success by simply doing what is required of him; it is the amount and excellence of what is over and above the required that determines the greatness of ultimate distinction." - Charles Kendall Adams

20 December 2011

New England Municipal Government News Headlines

Recent news stories related to municipal government in New England include these articles:

CT: City officials mull provision in blight ordinance aimed at silencing CCSU students (New Britain Herald)

ME: Panel to recommend postponing action on high schools (Sun Journal)

MA: Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation to donate $1.1 million artificial turf field at Springfield's Central High School (The Republican)

NH: Teacher's emails center of dispute (Concord Monitor)

RI: R.I. wants to quash lawsuit on funding (Woonsocket Call)

VT: Landfill may warm Pete’s new greenhouses (The Chronicle)

Background information:

City of New Britain, CT

Regional School Unit 73, Maine (Jay, Livermore, Livermore Falls)

City of Springfield, MA

Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation

Concord, NH, School District

City of Concord, NH

Northeastern Vermont Development Association

Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development

Northern Community Investment Corporation

This Week’s New England City & Town Weekly Dispatch

To access this week’s issue of New England City & Town Weekly Dispatch, please visit:

New England City & Town Weekly Dispatch - 20 December 2011

Center on Education Policy Releases AYP Report

The Center on Education Policy, a national, independent advocate for public education and for more effective public schools, recently released a report updating previous CEP research on the number of schools not making adequate yearly progress (AYP) under the No Child Left Behind Act. The estimated percentage of all U.S. schools not making AYP was 48% in 2011, an all-time high and an increase from 39% in 2010. The report also provides six years of trends in the percentage of schools in all 50 states, D.C., and the nation not making AYP, using official numbers from the State Consolidated Performance Reports submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.

To access this report, please visit:

Center on Education Policy: AYP Results for 2010-11 (15 DEC 11)

"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"

As we continue our observance of the holy season of Advent, I offer this version of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" sung by the by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, England, and filmed at Saint Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St. Edmunds, England:

Note: This traditional hymn is based on the "O Antiphons" (mentioned in Sunday's post).

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the prayer support You inspire and encourage for each of us, whether we are aware of it or not.

Bishops Renew Poverty USA Campaign in Response to Growing Domestic Poverty

With 15 percent of all Americans, including nearly 1 in 4 children, living in poverty, the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is renewing its poverty awareness campaign, Poverty USA, including a revamped website, a new social media presence, Poverty Awareness Month in January.

"Our culture of life begins with a love that binds us to the hopes and joys, the struggles and the sorrows of people, especially those who are poor or any way afflicted," said Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, chairman of the bishops’ domestic anti-poverty effort, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, in a prepared statement. "We march with immigrant families toward a society made stronger and safer by their inclusion. We embrace the mother and her unborn child, giving to both of them hope and opportunity. We measure our own health by the quality of care we give to those most vulnerable. We labor with those whose work is burdensome."

The campaign is designed to promote awareness about domestic poverty with updated statistics on the Poverty USA landing page on the USCCB website (http://www.usccb.org/about/catholic-campaign-for-human-development/povertyusa/). Other resources include an interactive poverty tour and a newly-launched presence on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/povertyusa).

For Poverty Awareness Month, the campaign plans to launch a month-long event on its new Facebook page. Catholic families and individuals may take part in Poverty Awareness Month by joining the Facebook event and participating in daily activities that are designed to build greater understanding about poverty in the United States. The content is also recommended for use by diocesan social action directors and program coordinators and parish social ministry leaders, teachers, and others.

Reflection Starter from Sirach

Awesome indeed is the LORD, and wonderful his power.
Lift up your voices to glorify the LORD as much as you can,
          for there is still more.
Extol him with renewed strength,
          do not grow weary, for you cannot fathom him.
For who has seen him and can describe him?
Who can praise him as he is?
Beyond these, many things lie hidden;
          only a few of his works have I seen.
It is the LORD who has made all things;
          to those who fear him he gives wisdom.

                                              - Sirach 43:29–33

19 December 2011

New England Municipal Government News Headlines

Recent news stories related to municipal government in New England include these articles:

CT: Toy gun incident in New Hartford stirs up controversy (The Register Citizen)

ME: Topsham selectmen back housing plan (The Times Record)

MA: In Templeton, fired town official fires back (Worcester Telegram & Gazette)

NH: Seabrook Beach homeowner starts petition to fight fireworks ban (Hampton Union)

RI: Restraining order by low bidder puts recycling contract in limbo (Valley Breeze)

VT: Bennington police get Humvee, free (Bennington Banner)

Background information:

New Hartford, CT, Public Schools

Town of New Hartford, CT

Town of Topsham, ME

Town of Templeton, MA

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination

Town of Seabrook, NH

Town of Cumberland, RI

Bennington, VT, Town Government

MA and RI to Receive Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grants

The White House announced that Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and seven other states will receive grant awards from the $500 million Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge fund, a competitive grant program jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services.

"A strong educational system is critical not just for our children but also for our nation's economic future," said U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius in a prepared statement. "The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge takes a holistic approach to early education, promotes innovation, and focuses on what it takes to help put young children on the path of learning, opportunity, and success.”

The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge is designed to support the work of the state grantees to develop new approaches to raising the bar across early learning centers and to close the school readiness gap. Awards will invest in grantees' work to build statewide systems of high-quality early learning and development programs. These investments are to impact all early learning programs, including Head Start, public pre-Kindergarten, childcare, and private preschools. Key reforms are to include: aligning and raising standards for existing early learning and development programs, improving training and support for the early learning workforce through evidence-based practices, and building robust evaluation systems that promote effective practices and programs to help parents make informed decisions.

For more information about about the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, please visit:

U.S. Dept. of Education: Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge