Town hall meetings with Bishop Coyne kick off in St. Albans

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ST. ALBANS, Vt. (WCAX) A series of public meetings with Bishop Christopher Coyne seek to improve communication and transparency within Vermont's Catholic Church.

Bishop Christopher Coyne/File

Catholic Church leaders say they are ready and listening.

Thursday marks the first of six town hall meetings across the state where Bishop Coyne will be listening to what people have to say. It's part of an effort to improve communication and transparency within Vermont's Catholic Church.

Bishop Coyne says the clergy has met to discuss the future of the Catholic Church. They looked at things like who they are as a church, how they are living their lives and what they are doing in terms of their mission in Burlington and around the state.

One of the big topics and the inspiration for the meetings is communication. Coyne says he feels that communication needs to be two ways and the meetings are a way to make sure people are heard.

He says the Catholic Church has changed in many ways over the years, most notably the way it retains its parishioners.

"Now, in many ways, we are a missionary church. We have to go out and encourage people to come. We can't just open our doors and expect people to come. It used to be you'd open your doors and the church would be full, you open your doors now people leave," Coyne said.

He says because of this, he has to change the way he engages the community and is hoping these meetings will be helpful.

He's expecting topics including the shrinking church, the fact that the child sex abuse scandal isn't fully resolved and the shortage of priests. He says to keep the community engaged, communication is key.

One of the aspects of the Catholic Church he really wants to communicate is that Catholicism is really about charity, which is something he thinks all Vermonters can relate to.

"The Catholic Church is right in the middle of doing social justice work, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, taking care of addicted families all those things we need to do in Vermont there’s a commonality there and I'm always encouraging our folks to be part of the common good process," Coyne said.

One of the reasons he says Catholics may not be practicing their faith is because of the stance the church takes on certain issues like the LGBTQ community and women's role in the church. You don’t have to be Catholic to participate in the meetings.

The schedule for all the meetings:

Jan. 10: St. Mary’s Church, 45 Fairfield St., St. Albans
Jan. 22: Holy Family Church, 4 Prospect St., Essex Junction
Jan. 23: St. Theresa Church, 44 East St., Orleans
Jan. 28: Sacred Heart Church, 238 Main St., Bennington
Jan. 29: Christ the King Church, 66 S. Main St., Rutland
Jan. 31: St. John Vianney Church, 160 Hinesburg Road, South Burlington