I am up in Vermont, my home state. I love coming home. The fresh mountain air, the beautiful spring flowers, shrubs, and flowering trees, all remind me of how blessed I was to grow up in the physically beautiful surroundings of the green mountains. Vermont is a charming and picturesque state. It is the home of my ancestors both Catholic and Protestant for many generations.
It is my Catholic ancestors that I have come to Vermont to search out and learn more about. I have a purpose, too. I want to write down for my family, for my children and grandchildren, the legacy of our Catholic roots in Vermont. It is in this blog post that I want to encourage you to do the same.
It is not that I knew nothing of my Catholic family history. Years ago I had heard that the first Mass in Underhill, Vermont, was held in the home of my great-great-great grandfather Michael Barrett. I had also heard that Fr. Harold Barrett, my grandmother, Katherine's first cousin, had given her 25 silver dollars from his twenty fifth silver anniversary. Were these true stories or family legends?
I began searching the stories out. I was looking for some external documentation that would corroborate these events. I went to St. Thomas Church, Underhill, Vermont to ask questions of those who worked at the parish and lived in the community. I found many facts about the early history of our family on my grandmother Katherine's maternal side there. I was given the centenary booklet produced in 1991 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the church. In it I found the documentation I was looking for regarding the site of the first Mass, and I received direction to more external sources which will help me fill out the picture of the deep faith of Michael Barrett and his family line - my Catholic family line.
I encourage you to do the same. Whether the Catholic faith has been carried on for many generations in your family or you are a convert or a revert to the faith, write down your story or your family's story. Save it for your children and their children. I only learned in 2019 that my great great grandfather, Patrick Barrett and his wife, Cecelia, donated a stained glass window to St. Thomas Catholic Church in Underhill, Vermont. I wondered why I had not heard of it from older family members? There may be many reasons, but I am proud that one of Michael Barrett's sons, my great great grandfather was willing to give the money for a beautiful rose window when the church was built in 1891. Patrick and Cecelia were not wealthy people. Patrick did not live to see the window put in. Cecelia who died in 1895 did.
|Window donated by Patrick and Cecelia
Barrett, St. Thomas Church,
There are many personal details in our family stories of sacrifice for the faith, of willingness to go the extra mile when establishing the new community of faith for themselves and their children. There is a beautiful cooperation in these histories between the Bishop of the Diocese, of pastors, and parish priests and the laity of the parishes that we can't let be lost to history. We must search them out and make them known if only to our own children and grandchildren.
So this week while I am in Vermont with my husband enjoying the scenery, cooler northern climate, and beautiful flowers, I will be digging away researching our Catholic family line. Will I find evidence that Fr. Harold gave my grandmother 25 silver dollars? I doubt it, but I might! I do know that I will find many other details regarding our family line which will fill out the history that I am piecing together. A history which makes me proud of those who came before me and who I wish to honor by retelling their faith and devotion to my family.
Let us remember to pray for those in our family who have gone before us, and to ask for their prayers as we journey together to the eternal city.
Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, And may the perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithfully departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen