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Combatting hunger in our community – always in style!

The Worcester Housing Authority (WHA) and Renaissance Medical Group (RMG) are thrilled to announce the kickoff of the Food Matters program on Tuesday,
November 1, 2022, at 1:30 pm at 1050 Main Street (rear).

The Food Matters program is a
new free meal delivery program that will address food insecurity among elderly and disabled WHA residents.

A rustic stew. Meals delivered to Worcester’s neediest will help folks stay healthy as the price of groceries continues to sky rocket! CECELIA/InCity Times file photos.

The kickoff event will feature a number of speakers, including Congressman James McGovern.

Other speakers include:

• Joseph Petty, Mayor, City of Worcester
• Eric Batista, Acting City Manager, City of Worcester
• Alex Corrales, CEO, Worcester Housing Authority
• Jesus Suarez, CEO, Renaissance Medical Group
• Eric Dickson, CEO, UMASS Memorial Health System
• Gina Plata-Nino, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Through the Food Matters program, the WHA will deliver 12 shelf stable meals per month to more than
1,000 residents.

These meals will be culturally diverse and can be heated and eaten by residents as

Fresh vegetables and fruit can be $$ expensive!

The pilot program will initially be offered at 6 WHA properties:

• Webster Square Towers (1050 & 1060 Main Street)
• Elm Park Tower (425 Pleasant Street)
• Pleasant Tower (275 Pleasant Street)
• Murray Apartments (50 Murray Avenue)
• Wellington Apartments (30 Wellington Street)

The pilot program will focus on the WHA’s elderly and disabled community. These populations with limited mobility will especially benefit from non-perishable meals delivered to their door— as groceries are hard to access and nutritious meals may be hard to make.

As the program grows, delivery service will expand to other WHA properties.

The kickoff event will provide guests an opportunity to sample food, listen to live music and learn about other food insecurity resources offered in the community.

Fresh ingredients make all the difference!

Guest speakers will touch upon, not only the need for food access but also the impact food insecurity has on an individual’s mental and
physical health.

The Food Matters program aims to help residents gain access to healthy meals, consistently. As the
price of groceries has steeply risen over the past few years, there is a greater need than ever to ensure those in need are able to access to food that is filling and nutritious. As food is an essential
part of overall health, the WHA has made it a priority to combat food insecurity and to ensure
residents have the food they need throughout the year. The program also intends to reduce the
mental stress that food insecurity can bring on, by providing residents with shelf-stable food they can eat when needed and can safely store when not.

The WHA chose to partner with Renaissance Medical Group (RMG). RMG will provide the premade
meals that will be distributed to WHA residents. RMG is a medical group focusing on holistic
healthcare for diverse populations, with services such as home care, behavioral health care, and
primary care services, in addition to their food program. RMG currently has a health clinic at 1060 Main Street.

The WHA is confident and hopeful that the kickoff event and Food Matters program will bring to light
the needs of the low income residents it serves. Residents will be able to participate in focus groups and take surveys that will measure if the food is assisting them, along with feedback and suggestions to improve the program.

What difference can we make? For animals, a big one!🐖🐑🐔🐄🐤🦃

By Rebecca Libauskas

When a ubiquitous figure like Queen Elizabeth II passes away, many of us confront our own morality. We may ask ourselves, “What will I be remembered for?” and “Did I make a difference?”

The queen made a difference by banning fur from the royal wardrobe — a decision that spared animals painful deaths and set an example of compassion for the world to follow.


Country music legend Loretta Lynn, who recently passed away, too, also left a legacy of kindness. She permitted PETA to use her 1971 hit song “I Wanna Be Free” in a campaign urging people never to leave their dogs chained up, alone and miserable, and instead to let them live inside with their human families.

Dogs must always be indoors with their people – never chained outdoors, or left in a backyard.

But we don’t have to be famous to make a difference.

A nurse in Pennsylvania, for example, wrote a letter to her hospital’s personnel department asking that it stop selling circus tickets to its employees and detailing how animals are chained and beaten in order to force them to perform. When her letter went unanswered, she told the hospital’s president that she would send a copy of it to the local paper. The hospital quickly decided to stop offering the tickets.

In another case, a Missouri woman’s persistent efforts led to the permanent closure of a dreadful roadside zoo and the amendment of laws to prohibit keeping tigers inside cages in backyards.

Each of us has the power to make a tremendous difference. If you’re unsure where to begin, may I suggest starting with your next meal? Going vegan is the single best thing anyone can do for animals, the planet and their own health.


Chickens, pigs, cows and other animals are clever, complex individuals who love their families, have highly developed communication systems, invent games to amuse themselves and more. Yet animals used for food are kept in filthy, windowless sheds and crowded into wire cages, metal crates or other severely restrictive pens. They’re never allowed to care for their young, feel the soil under their feet, make nests or do anything else that’s natural and important to them before they’re slaughtered. Each vegan prevents nearly 200 animals from enduring this misery every year.


Going vegan makes a difference for the Earth, too: By eating foods made from plants instead of animals, each of us can save 1,100 gallons of water, nearly 40 pounds of grain and 30 square feet of forested land daily. We can also slash our carbon footprints: A University of Oxford study shows that meat-eaters are responsible for almost two and a half times as much dietary greenhouse gas emissions per day as vegans are.

We are all interconnected …

Let’s choose healthy, delicious vegan foods for every meal of every day and do even more good by supporting vegan hunger-relief organizations like Food for Life Global. We can also donate nonperishable vegan food items like oatmeal, rice, beans and shelf-stable boxes of almond milk to a local food bank and consider supporting a health charity like the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which never experiments on animals and which advocates healthy vegan eating, including to support cancer prevention and survival.

In light of all these benefits, why not defend animals for a living? Animal rights organizations are always looking for passionate, talented people to join the team. And never underestimate the power of your pen. Like the nurse who ended her hospital’s promotion of cruel circuses, we can achieve significant change just by writing letters to people in power.

Even if we grew up eating meat, eggs and dairy; wearing leather and fur; and attending abusive circuses, it’s never too late to change for the better. Our choices can make a difference for animals, the planet we share and our own health. Let’s start today at breakfast — by making it vegan!
There are so many vegan options at Trader Joe’s in Shrewsbury – and at your local supermarket!


… Or you can make your own meals and treats from scratch:American-vegan-kitchen-cookbook

Worcester’s Central Mass Housing Alliance just got funds$$$ to house Worcester’s homeless youth … a suggestion🏘️

By Rosalie Tirella

St. Paul’s rectory. photos: R.T.

Worcester’s Central Mass Housing Alliance just got a huge HUD GRANT to house Worcester’s homeless youth. Kids on the street – in wintertime, maybe abused by family members, thrown out of the home because they’re gay, bi or trans. Suffering. Exploited.

My question: Central Mass Housing Alliance has gotten the $$bucks, but will they follow through? Will they be able to provide the actual physical room or apartment for the homeless young person? This past year there were 30 Central Mass Housing Alliance clients walking around town with HUD housing vouchers – and STILL HOMELESS! Worcester agencies were pointless, useless. A tragedy unfolded, quietly in the streets.

St. Paul’s School on Chatham Street – a big beautiful building – underutilized by the Catholic Church – and perfect for studio apartments or SROs for Worcester’s homeless youth. Here’s the entrance to their food pantry – open only for 6 or so hours a week.

A suggestion, echoing Father Reidy’s idea that he shared with me a year back. He’s a big important person at the Diocese of Worcester Chancery on Elm Street, but he is also a compassionate, down-to-earth guy. He was at one time a parish priest in Oxford and visited the elderly in nursing homes – my late mom included. He delivered her eulogy. The good padre suggested that the old but beautiful St. Paul’s School on Chatham Street be used as a shelter for the homeless, to help the hopeless, to care for our neediest. I thought it was a great idea, but in light of the CMHA grant$$$, suggest renovating St. Paul’s School and converting the huge building into studios or small apartments for homeless young people. The old St. Paul’s school and rectory, across from St. Paul’s Cathedral on Chatham Street in downtown Worcester, is probably the most underutilized beautiful, functional building in Worcester. The Catholic school was once home to AN ENTIRE SCHOOL. TEACHERS (nuns), A COUPLE OF HUNDRED STUDENTS, OFFICE STAFF (nuns and priest). Now you’ve got Vo Robert’s Elder Outreach office, a City of Worcester agency, sucking up space there. Her office suites take up half a floor – and it’s just Vo and two part timers – 9 to noon for two young people on alternating days. Ridiculous. Vo has three big rooms to herself – and she’s out half the time. Once I suggested to her that her space would make for two lovely studio apartments – and bring money into St. Paul’s. She poo pooed the idea. At the other end of the long corridor where Vo works sits one secretary. Alone. Behind a huge desk. THAT’S IT.

About five people work out of the school today! UNDERUTILIZED!

Theres a food pantry in the basement that the church opens for six hours a week…and a janitor named Gary who had the whole basement area smelling like piss the whole winter. (Two women finally did his work and cleaned properly.) BUT THAT’S IT!! The little Catholic radio station moved out a year ago – now it’s just basically Vo Robert – and a little fiefdom that the Catholic Church would sell IMMEDIATELY IF A BIG TIME DEVELOPER CALLED THE BISHOP AND OFFERED HIM MILLIONS OF DOLLARS FOR IT. Just like what happened with Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Worcester’s East Side.

But right now it’s all a secret – as is the St. Paul’s rectory. A HUGE building with basically the pastor, Father Hugo, and a young priest living there. Rooms and space galore – all underutilized.

The St Paul’s school is pristine. Shiny hardwood floors, maple – or mahogany – door jambs and window frames. The Catholic nuns years ago kept the building sparkling – free labor that priests and Bishop exploited years ago. But now the free teachers – the nuns – are gone. And the free janitorial help, too. The school, like many Catholic schools, closed because paying decent salaries to lay teachers and principals and office staff was all too expensive.

So now Vo Robert and Gary the janitor rule the roost.

Why not take the rectory, the school and create an apartment complex – or an SRO – for our homeless kids? HOME. They deserve it. Winter is closing in …

Ma’s Medals❤️❤️

By Rosalie Tirella

A few days ago, while unpacking my books in my new digs, a little grey envelope fell from between book covers and landed on the floor. I picked it up, curious: I had scrawled “Ma’s Medals” on it in blue pen years ago. I smiled and spilled the contents onto my open palm, knowing exactly what they were! No, they weren’t medals my late mom won in some war – though much of her life seemed like a battle, the protracted, losing battle of the poor. And, no, they weren’t medals for cooking the tastiest apple pie or yummiest cranberry bread. Ma was a lousy cook, and her 1940s General Foods Cookbook and good wife/hostess guidebook languished in the back of her closet, unopened, for decades. No, these medals, old, dirty and worn smooth and thin with age (Ma wore her medals 24/7 on a gold chain around her neck year in and year out), were Ma’s “holy medals” – medals with little imprints of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and a passel of saints stamped onto them. Saints whom my mom prayed to every day.

Ma’s medals. photos: R.T.

Ma had collected these little trinkets – some blessed by the poor – as a maid for the Bishop of Springfield during World War II; she added more medals to her collection during Downtown Worcester shopping trips with us kids in the 1960s – to O’Brien’s Religious Store (behind where the Midtown Mall is today). And, later, they were sent to her, cheaply made, often plastic, from Indian missionary schools in some no man’s land in South Dakota, as a gift for her anticipated donation of $5. Or they came to her taped to little booklets from the street priest in New York City who ran a shelter for homeless boys. Years later he was convicted of child molestation and removed from his position. Ma kept sending her money to the organization and getting her holy medals – from the new director, a good nun.

Pray for us!

O’Brien’s was a Catholic’s one stop shop for all things prayerful. They sold books on Jesus, laminated little prayer cards with all the saints printed on them (and a prayer to them on the back), bookmarks with Celtic crosses embroidered on them, his and her Bibles, in black and white, respectively … plus white tapers, pretty votives, rosaries, rings, framed paintings of Jesus on the cross. And they had those fun 25 cents plastic holy medals for us kiddos and sterling silver and gold-plated medals for the adults. They also sold very expensive but very beautiful statues of the Infant of Prague or Saint Joseph or the Blessed Mother. Jesus always wore a red robe, Mary’s was sky blue … They cost serious bucks!! Every statue was lilly white – all the pictures of the Virgin Mary looked like Maureen O’Hara, the movie star. Jesus was always a white man – and, truth be told, he always looked a little wimpy. Now historians recognize Jesus to be a dark, Middle Eastern guy with thick features and a gorgeous head of curly hair – and he was tough and a man who loved a good party. Ma skipped all that and made a bee line to the sterling silver medals. She’d buy just one, all she could afford, usually representing the saint who was missing from her collection on the gold chain with its big tarnished links, the one she wore around her neck. A saint who had a special power for her – a power Ma needed right at that time to get through whatever challenges she and her little family – me, my two kid sisters and Polish grandmother, Bapy – faced. Maybe Ma felt hopeless about money – that no matter how long and hard she worked at the dry cleaners on Millbury Street, she could barely pay the bills to keep our Lafayette Street tenement warm in the winter or stay on top of rent payments. That problem called for a St. Jude medal – he was the patron saint of Hopeless Cases. He would turn things around for us, if Ma prayed to him every day, kissed his medal at night before she went to bed. Our case would not be so hopeless then!

Or maybe Ma had lost her wrist watch, the one from Springfield that the Bishop had given her for Christmas. He gave a wristwatch to each of her sisters, too – they were housekeepers at the Bishop’s with Ma. Well, if she prayed to Saint Christopher, patron saint of Lost Objects – and Safe Journeys – maybe that precious wrist watch would be found, come back to Ma.

Saint Theresa – the Little Flower.

Ma was also big on St. Anne. She was the mother of the Virgin Mary – Jesus’ mother. I think my mother felt St. Anne was a good role model, that she did a terrific job of raising her daughter if she grew up to be Jesus’ mom! I remember our St. Anne statue on the shelf in our kitchen – standing next to a young Virgin Mary. Anne’s holding an open book, the Bible. Both mother and daughter’s heads are bowed – they’re reading the Bible together. I never really prayed with my mother after fifth grade. I was into my own stuff now: reading all the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Black Beauty, buying pet hamsters at Woolworth’s, finding a kitten, school projects like building soap flake volcanoes for Mr. Monfredo’s science hour at Lamartine Street School. Ma never judged me, scolded me or made me feel I was wayward. She let me go my own quirky way. She wanted me to be number 1 in my class and was proud of my straight A’s. I did have a weekly “holy” chore – to dust Saint Anne and all the the other saint statues lined up along a thin shelf above our kitchen sink. I loved this chore – the plaster saints were about 10 inches high, dressed beautifully in their flowing robes, holding Bibles or flowers or rosaries. My Bapy loved flowers and “decorating,” so often she would join in, hobble over in her cute knit slippers, dumpling shaped, four feet, 10 inches tall, and tell me to place some red or blue or yellow plastic flowers at this saint’s feet or by that saint’s hair. Sometimes we placed the flowers in small glass vases next to our favorite saints, flowers and vases courtesy of White’s Five and Ten on Millbury Street. I remember Bapy added her little weather vane from Poland to the mix – incongruous and ugly, but she was Bapy and always prevailed! It was a small dark plastic house with a witch inside and when it was windy a little boy or a little girl came out the door, running away from the witch. The girl stood on one side of a thin strip of plastic, the boy stood on the other. The plastic was attached in the middle to a screw and swiveled at the slightest breeze. The witch had a long nose with a pimple on the end and always lurked inside and less you took her out of her grim abode. The little girl clutched a small basket of poseys to her flat chest. The boy just stood there. Once a week my chore would be to take all the saints statues off the shelf, witch’s house included, dust them off with a damp rag, rinse off the plastic flowers – and rearrange as I saw fit. Maybe the witch house would lead the parade this week, followed by St. Joseph holding Jesus, then the tiny creche I got at catechism class from the nun. Maybe St. Anne and daughter Mary would be in the middle of the shelf all nice and clean and get the plastic pink rose, in the pretty vase. The frilly White’s Five and Ten plastic shelf paper, thumbtacked into the old wood by Ma, added that special touch!

A holy medal for sailors?

But I digress! At home, back from O’Brien’s with her new medal, Ma would take her gift and hook it to a tiny safety pin and then pin it to her gold chain where it would clink and clank with the other medals between Ma’s two heavy breasts. She never took that chain off in all the decades I knew her – she wore it around her hunched neck (hunched from serious manual labor, starting when she was 12) to bed, she took it off only for a few minutes, in the morning when she was just starting her day, kneeling on a wooden chair from our old kitchen, the pale morning sunlight making our old cafe curtains look pretty … Ma would bless herself, kiss each medal individually and murmur a little prayer to it. She believed these saints had a direct line to God, were able to advocate for her and help her. Because God loved them so much, he’d listen to them – and help Ma and the humans who were struggling here on earth. The saints were like celestial case managers, without the MSWs – these humans who walked the earth and died but, through their devotion to God, their piety, their good deeds when alive, were able to perform miracles from the grave. People never forgot them – prayed to them, in fact! So they weren’t really dead. They were and are as eternal as love. Through beatification by the Catholic Church, they moved up the holiness ladder – not quite angels, but definitely in heaven sitting on their clouds right next to Jesus. They have his ear! They’re trying to help people in trouble, people like Ma trying to make it to the next paycheck, the homeless kid trying to make it to the next bus stop, the best up wife trying to make it to the kinder husband, the refugee crossing that wild river to get to that safer country, the riper fruit, the more fertile land, the water, HOME…LOVE…GOD. Unfortunately, so we were taught in CCD class by the St Mary’s nuns, most of humanity, except for people like MLK or Ann Frank and such, never become saints – we’re usually stuck in Purgatory for a few centuries after we die. Not engulfed in flames in Hell but bored as hell in Purgatory, just waiting around to get into Heaven. Purgatory, for you non-Catholics, is like a spiritual Greyhound bus station: crappy coffee and those hard plastic seats.


I touch my mother’s holy medals now. So small, so dirty … so worthless. I see the medal with the anchor… interesting. Ma’s brother was in the US Navy during World War II. He must have given her this medal – and she prayed to it, to Saint Elizabeth (patron saint of calm seas?) for his safety. … Ma loved St. Theresa, the Little Flower, who wrote her own book about her relationship with God. Ma read it and for years I had the copy. Lost or stolen during my move to the country. Then there’s the big plastic medal from the Indian missionary school in South Dakota…”PRAY FOR US” engraved on the back of Ma’s Saint Joseph medal.

The plastic medal from the missionary school in South Dakota

And pray Ma did. My father, Daddy, whenever he sauntered into our apartment, after being gone for a night or a week or two months …or three years would say to his wife, kneeling on that rickety kitchen chair, praying to her little chips of metal, so intently, so intensely: “DONKEY!! KEEP PRAYING!! YOU’RE AS SIMPLE AS THE DAY AS LONG! YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN A NUN!! FUCK NUT!!” And then my father’s face would turn red and he’d pivot to leave what he saw as an absurd scene – but not before yelling to my praying mother that my twin sisters were too skinny!! or why did she encourage me to write poetry when I should be typing, studying to become a secretary?!

But Ma just kept on praying. She knew God was the answer.

Ma, left, as a young lady, with her mom, Rose’s grandmother from Poland – Bapy!

A Dutch city banned meat ads – US cities should, too!

By Heather Moore

Vegan holiday roast with sage stuffing. Trader Joe’s grocery store in Shrewsbury has many kinds of vegan Thanksgiving and Christmas “roasts” for you to discover! art: PETA

The Dutch city of Haarlem, which is home to about 160,000 people, is set to become the first city in the world to ban meat advertisements in public places in an attempt to reduce meat consumption and combat the climate catastrophe.

This move begs the question: “What are U.S. cities waiting for?” The average American eats about four times as much beef as people in the rest of the world, and beef production alone causes massive amounts of greenhouse-gas emissions.

Help slow down climate change, eat way less meat and way more vegan and vegetarian meals!

Do we really need to be bombarded with billboards, commercials and other advertisements prompting us to eat cruelly produced, cholesterol-laden foods that cause climate change and other environmental problems?


Global food production generates 35% of all planet-warming emissions, with animal agriculture, including organic, pasture-fed beef and lamb, causing twice the amount of greenhouse gases as fruit, grain and other vegan foods.

That’s largely because farmed animals produce a lot of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. A United Nations report states that reducing methane emissions is one of the easiest ways to curb climate change and urges meat-eaters to choose vegan meat rather than animal flesh.

Studies have found that that vegan meat has a 93% smaller carbon footprint than beef, and researchers estimate that consuming vegan beef rather than cow flesh could reduce the number of cows raised for meat by up to 12 million.

Switching to vegan beef would also reduce the carbon footprint of food production in the U.S. alone by as much as 13.5%. And that’s not all. Scientists predict that a 50% reduction in the consumption of chickens and pigs by 2040 would be equivalent to taking 8 million cars off the road for a year.

The University of Oxford estimated the environmental impact of 57,000 different foods in the U.K. and Ireland and concluded that vegan foods tend to be 10 times better for the planet than animal-derived ones, not to mention that they’re often more sustainable as well.

There’s no question that vegan foods are healthy and nutritious, whereas animal flesh, eggs and dairy are high in unhealthy cholesterol and saturated fat. And animal-based foods are also devoid of fiber, complex carbohydrates and other nutrients essential to good health.

Going vegan means pigs, chickens, chicks, lambs and cows don’t lead horrific lives on American factory farms, many abused and tortured.

As Haarlem clearly realizes, raising cows, pigs, chickens and other animals for food exacerbates the climate catastrophe. With the Earth in crisis, the last thing we should do is encourage people to eat more animal flesh. That’s as counterproductive as advertising liquor at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

For the sake of our planet and our health — and the animals who suffer immensely when raised and killed for food — U.S. cities should follow Haarlem’s lead and prohibit companies from advertising meat.

Americans don’t need ads that will prompt us to eat unhealthy, environmentally destructive and inhumanely produced foods. We need ads that will prompt us to eat nutritious earth- and animal-friendly foods — vegan ones.



Vegan nachos!


THE HAPPY PEAR are twin brothers from Ireland who are amazing vegan chefs! Check out their cooking and baking tutorials on YouTube – and be amazed!



Jim – always in style. Here’s his latest column …🍂🍂🍂

Former WPS superintendent – John E. Durkin – died this fall … and is memorialized

By Jim Coughlin


The late former Worcester School Superintendent John E. Durkin was memorialized at a Mass at Blessed Sacrament Church on Friday, October 7. John E. Durkin was remembered as Worcester’s school superintendent during financially challenging times for the school district and as the person who succeeded long-time superintendent, John F. Connor who served during the 1970s.

John E. Durkin was remembered by the community this fall.

In interviews following the Mass with former members of the Worcester School Committee, they said Durkin was especially known for his strong leadership during a time when there were calls for closing schools and laying off teachers in the wake of Proposition 2 and 1/2, the cost cutting initiative approved by the state’s voters in 1980, the same year Durkin became WPS superintendent.

He retired in 1993.

He died on September 2 at the age of 90.

A wake in his honor was held at the Callahhan, Faye & Caswell Funeral Home, and burial services were private. The Blessed Sacrament Mass was for members of his family and those with whom he served with as school superintendent. His friends and neighbors gathered in the church to say “good bye.”

John Durkin’s church service. Mayor Petty, far right, and John’s family. photo submitted.

Durkin’s career spanned a total of 39 years with the Worcester Public Schools, starting when he was an elementary school teacher at the West Boylston Street School where he taught both the 5th and 6th grades. He later became an assistant principal at Winslow Street School and became the director of staff development in 1977, and then the supervisor of program development and lastly as interim school superintendent after Connor retired in 1980.

When I was in my teens, I was told by Mr. John F. “Jack” Clancy who was the Director of the former Piedmont Nature Center on Piedmont Street what the “three elements of leadership” are. Clancy said they are called “The 3 G’s: Guts, Guidance and God.” He explained that this model of leadership comes from the philosophy of the Boy Scouts of America.

In my estimation, John Durkin exhibited all 3 Gs of leadership throughout his service as Worcester’s School Superintendent – and in ample amounts. Among the past and present city officials with whom John Durkin served during his superintendentcy who attended the memorial Mass were current Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty, former WPS School Superintendent Maureen Binienda, former Worcester mayors Tim Murray (and former Massachusetts lieutenant governor), Timothy J. Cooney, Raymond J. Marianno and John B. Anderson, along with former Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. Former Worcester School Committee members Jack Foley and John Monfredo and current school committee member Tracy Novick represented the past and present Worcester school committees at the funeral.

In interviews after the Mass with some former members of the school committee, they all mentioned the word “leadership” in relationship to John Durkin. Former Mayor Cooney said, “John Durkin called them as he saw them.”

But Jack Foley, recently retired from the school committee, got specific about Durkin’s leadership when the school system had to close 11 city schools, two middle schools, and lay off 270 teachers. This was during the time of Proposition 2 & 1/2 or what was commonly referred to as “Prop 2 & 1/2” (which limited the amount of local city and town spending from local real estate taxes). Foley said, “There were four (Prop 2 & 1/2) overrides on the city ballot that year, and the only one that passed was the one for education. … The superintendent was so happy it passed.”

Former Superintendent Bienienda was equally complimentary towards her precedessor, calling him, “my mentor” whom she regularly turned to for counsel and advice during her superintendency. “He was a strong educator and leader of all the people who worked for him,” she said.

I did not have a chance to interview former Mayor Marianno who served in the Worcester mayoralty during the height of the Durkin superintendentcy.

In eulogizing his former parishioner at Blessed Sacrament, Father Charles Monroe said: “John lived his life like a seed for both the big and little decisions.” And scanning out to the gathering of about 100 attending his funeral Mass, the good padre said, “He helped all of you so often during the difficulties of running the school system and he did a wonderful job.”

The priest’s reference to “the seed” is rooted in the Book of Matthew in the New Testament. That was the way Dr. John E. Durkin served during his superintendentcy in helping others in the field of education. As is written in the Bible: “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of Mustard Seed which a man took and sowed in his field; which indeed is smaller than all the seeds. But when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and lodge on its branches.”

One of the “seeds” which John planted in the Worcester Public Schools just happened to be my fellow writer for CECELIA/InCity Times, John Monfredo, whom he appointed as the principal of Belmont Street Community School in the 1980s.

In saluting his mentor, Mr. Monfredo said, “I was appointed as principal in the ’80s, after an extensive interview with a panel. I then met with him to discuss my new role as a principal. He was dedicated to his profession and expected principals to be dedicated as well. His main goal for us was to provide the best education possible for our students and to do all we could to reach out to our parents.”

John Durkin was, indeed, a gift to the Worcester Public Schools and truly lived his life as the catalyst for quality education in the Worcester Public Schools. Rest in Peace, Mr. Superintendent, and thank you for your many years of unselfish service to our school district and for being that “mustard seed” for students, their parents and the WPS teachers and staff.

This school year: Ideas for the Worcester Public Schools and our students and families

By John Monfredo, retired principal of Belmont Community School and former grade 5 teacher at the ol’ Lamartine Street School – and former Worcester School Committee member!

Mr. Monfredo, this summer. photo: R.T.

“To reach a child’s mind a teacher must capture his heart. Only if a child feels right can he think right.” – Dr. Haima Ginott

Mr. and Mrs. Monfredo’s annual book drive puts books into the hands of hundreds of Worcester County kids! photo submitted.

School is back in session and, after being affected by COVID-19 for the past two years, our schools need to come back even better! Most important, parents are a child’s first and most influential teacher: they must be part of the learning process! Together with our educators, parents must be an important part of the solution in moving forward after the global pandemic.

According to researchers, learning loss due to the COVID pandemic is much greater than most educators and parents realized; assistance from the Federal Government and the State of Massachusetts needs to continue. There are funds out there to help, but the funding needs to be used in the most comprehensive way. Moving forward this school year will require that our educators look at the data, present funding parameters and meet the new needs of our students. Hopefully, the administration and Worcester School Committee members will assess the needs and use the money in the best way possible to help our students learn and grow.

Based on the research, school districts will need to expand their after-school activities and tutoring opportunities for students. They will need to make more of an effort to encourage parents to enroll their children in a variety of activities, ranging from after-school homework assistance to mental health counseling. Enrichment might also include learning to play a musical instrument, getting involved in art classes or projects or trying new phys-ed programs/sports. Students can also start a variety of clubs, such as pen pals, a school newspaper, a school video movie etc. Let’s hope that all school districts come out soon with their plans after meeting with parents and talking about how they intend to move forward this school year.

Worcester, Highland Street: a dad walking his son to school, first week of school.

As for our teachers, it is so critical that from day one they begin to build a strong relationship with their students. As a former Worcester Public Schools elementary school teacher and principal, I know firsthand how important it is to reach out to all of your students and to find the opportunity to help each and every one of them – and their families. Make sure that each student feels important and knows that you care! I would recommend that teachers make the effort to contact parents early in the school year and establish a rapport with them – let them know you want them to be part of the learning process. Give them ideas as how they can assist their child at home. Again, that will vary from parent to parent.

Having been an educator in inner-city schools for decades, schools with a high level of poverty, I support what researchers have continued to state:

* That no matter what the parents income or background, students with involved parents earned higher grades and test scores, enrolled in higher level academic programs, attended school regularly, had better social skills, showed improved behavior, adapted well to school and graduated and went on to post-secondary education.

Even with very busy schedules, parents can make a real difference in their child’s education by encouraging them to talk about their school day and by listening to them explain the events, classes and people at their schools. Talking to your child about school sends a message that you value their education. Plus, the discussions provide an opportunity for children to use the language they are learning in school. It all starts with teachers making that important move in reaching out to parents and to continue doing so throughout the school year.

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Keep your kids reading!

So, parents, let’s look at your commitment this school year!

At home, parents need to set priorities at bedtime because a good night’s sleep is at the center of a healthy lifestyle and in your child getting off to a good start each school day. According to research, it’s essential that parents keep a bedtime routine, especially during school time. Another suggestion: an hour before bedtime, put away all electronic devices to help kids wind down – and use that time for reading before bed.

The Worcester Public Library is a great place to check out children’s and teen books.

Parents need to develop good management practices for their children such as homework time and packing their backpacks before turning in and placing them outside their bedroom doors. Speaking of backpacks, parents need to retrieve them as soon as their children come home to get all those school papers out so you can sign permission slips and add appointments to the family calendar. Routines can be an important force in keeping everyone on the same track. Consider making a checklist for the simple tasks of who gets to use the bathroom first and what’s for breakfast!

Now for homework. Here are just a few strategies to consider:

* Make sure your child has a quiet, well-lit place to do her homework.

* Try to avoid having your child do homework with the television on or in places with other distractions.

* Help your child with time management. Establish a set time each day for doing homework. Don’t let your child leave homework until just before bedtime.

* Think about using a weekend morning or afternoon for working on big projects, especially if the project involves getting together with classmates.

The Worcester Historical Museum – another great learning resource for students – fun and interactive! Cool old Worcester photos! Great staff! And located in downtown Worcester at 30 Elm St.

* Be positive about homework. Tell your child how important school is. The attitude you express about homework will be the attitude your child acquires. When the teacher asks that you play a role in homework, do it. Cooperate with the teacher. It shows your child that school and home are a team. Follow the directions given by the teacher.

* Watch your child for signs of failure and frustration. Let your child take a short break if he/she is having trouble keeping his/her mind on an assignment.

* Reward progress in homework.
If your child has been successful in homework completion and is working hard, celebrate that success with a special event (e.g., a fun walk, a trip to the park or nature sanctuary) to reinforce the positive effort.

In addition, parents also need to make every effort to meet their child’s teacher early in the school year. Teachers are always excited about meeting their new students and their parents. It is always best to make an appointment to meet with your child’s teacher to introduce yourself and let them know that you are here to support your child’s learning.

Taking time to meet and introduce yourself and your child to the principal is also a way to let your child know other adults at the school are there to help.

Communicating with the school early on is a good idea, especially if your child has special needs or if your family may be going through difficult times such as divorce, an illness or death of a family member – or a recent or pending move. Keep that communication line open!

Blackstone River Road: mom and daughter bundled up this winter day. CECELIA file photo.

Other ideas:

· Learn everything you can about your child’s school

· Review the school’s handbook and the district’s web site

Contact the teacher immediately if your child doesn’t understand an assignment or if you notice a change in your child’s behavior or school performance.

· Worth mentioning … participate in parent meetings and conferences and special events at the school. Do join the school’s parent organization!

Also, remember the importance of reading, for reading is a key to a successful school year. Here are some other tips to consider…

– Read to and with your child every day (including weekends).

– Make sure your child sees you reading regularly.

– Talk to your child about what you are each reading. In addition to keeping your child on track, regular reading activities with your child will help you spot any possible problems in plenty of time to work with teachers and prevent them from becoming serious. So practice day to day reading and include writing by having your child write in a journal about the day’s events. Be consistent and have this done perhaps before bedtime.

Stay abreast of all that is WPS! Attend the weekly Worcester School Committee meetings at Worcester City Hall, or watch the policy-setting sessions and more on-line! Photo: R.T.

Best wishes for a great school year and should you need any advice – teachers or parents – please feel free to contact me at


Minions: The Rise of Gru

By Luis Sanchez

Luis loves the movies and plans on writing a book!

In this film, an 11-year-old Gru dreams of becoming a supervillain with the help of everyone’s favorite yellow bean-shaped characters. Minions: The Rise of Gru was produced by Illumination and distributed by Universal Pictures. It is a sequel to the Minions movie released in 2015 and a prequel to Despicable Me released in 2010. It was directed by Kyle Balda, produced by Chris Meledandri, Janet Healy and Chris Renaud, and written by Matthew Fogel with Steve Carell reprising his role as Gru.

The minions have made such a name for themselves that this animated film has brought families and friends together. I found it quite interesting how there were essentially two storylines within this movie: one featured Gru and his childhood supervillain idol, and the other featured the minions on a quest. Surprisingly, the movie did well on balancing screen time and dividing the workload of entertainment to the audience between the two storylines. What I enjoyed a lot about the Gru storyline was the “supervillain becomes parent” plot which keeps warming all of our hearts.

The minions storyline was hilarious as ever, and that brought good balance to the film between comedic gold and a story. What many movies fail to achieve these days is exactly that: balance between comedy and story. Sometimes comedy distorts the story because the directors are trying harder to get the punch line right rather than developing characters. Minions: The Rise of Gru thought outside of the box and separated both so the comedy would not interfere with the story, and it worked out excellently. This balance also provides a great medium for a family film, one which gives the parents a narrative to follow and provides the children with shrieks of laughter (not to mention the parents laughing as well!). If you have children, definitely try and watch this film with them. Those family-go-to-the-movies moments are the ones that last a lifetime.

I had a lot of fun with this movie. Obviously, like all movies, it was not perfect. Sometimes the division between the stories left a lot to wish for, or perhaps the characters were not fleshed out enough. Either way, the main objective of this movie was to entertain and it achieved it. Being able to hear laughter in a location that is meant to be completely silent says a lot about a film. With its distribution, characters and unique production, Minions: The Rise of Gru was a solid 7/10. I would not be upset if I was offered to watch it again.

Crying dogs🐩 and gabby dolphins 🐬

By Heather Rally, D.V.M.

Jett and Lilac have been best friends for years and get upset when separated from each other. Rose doesn’t know what she’ll do when 15+-year-old Jett passes. Lilac will be heartbroken! photo: R.T.

A recent study by Japanese researchers observing that dogs cry happy tears when reuniting with their guardians should surprise no one. Science long ago proved that dogs, like all animals, experience a full range of emotions, including joy, sorrow, empathy, grief and doubt. The evidence is both academic and empirical.

Elephants repeatedly return to the graves of deceased loved ones to pay their respects. Rats giggle when they’re tickled. Crows hold grudges when they see others who have offended them — even years later.

No more captive monkeys! Photos: PETA

Captive rhesus monkeys refused to pull a switch to obtain food if it meant another monkey would receive a shock — even when they were hungry. And when given the choice between feasting on chocolate or saving a drowning companion, rats chose the latter.

Video footage of a bullock carefully nudging an overturned tortoise until the reptile flipped upright garnered millions of views online. A bear at the Budapest Zoo was filmed gently plucking a drowning crow out of the water, carefully placing the bird on the ground and then going about his business. Dogs — and cats — routinely alert their guardians to house fires.

Animals often express their feelings very clearly. Mother cows and their calves bawl inconsolably when they’re separated so that people can steal the milk. Researchers have found that — just like us — dolphins love to gab. Those clicks and whistles are complex conversations, sharing news, relaying important tips, such as plentiful fishing spots, or expressing concern for an ill friend.

Dolphins communicate with each other constantly!

Individuals within a pod of orcas all communicate with one dialect, and they can communicate with individuals in other pods, who have their own dialect. The pods make up larger groups called clans, and the languages of the clans are as different as Russian is to Arabic.

Wild parrots use unique calls to name their babies, who are then instantly identifiable. When hearing a name called, other parrots can distinguish gender as well as the mate and family that the parrot belongs to, just as we can when someone calls for “Mrs. John Smith.” Sometimes we can understand these keenly intelligent birds. Neighbors in one Florida neighborhood called the police when they thought they heard a woman screaming, “Help! Help! Let me out!” but it turned out to be a parrot.

When a kitten companion of Koko, the gorilla who had been taught American Sign Language, got tired of playing with her, Koko would sign, “Obnoxious. Cat.” But when she was told that the kitten had been killed after getting hit by a car, she whimpered and cried and signed, “Sleep. Cat.”

It has now been unequivocally established that animals aren’t “things” to exploit but rather living, breathing, feeling beings who have families, interests, intelligence and emotions. To believe otherwise is speciesist. And as our society continues to evolve and reject that mindset, we will finally look back with shame for once having viewed animals as inferior to us.

Orcas are highly intelligent and travel hundreds of miles in the ocean. They should never be behind glass or made to “perform tricks” for us humans!

Adjustments …🏠🚙🦅☀️🐾💕🐶

By Rosalie Tirella

Coffee and Jett 💕 in the new apartment. photos: R.T.

Today: breakfast at HOME!! God, it feels … almost surreal! I’m still not used to the domesticity! I’m used to waking up at 5:30 a, watch the sunrise (always magnificent), throwing off the blankets, getting out of my car, slipping on my shoes, stretching, taking the dogs to pee and poop, running them in the dog park…staying in park for an hour so Lilac and Jett can have some real fun. I’m drinking my morning coffee that I bought at McDonald’s (they open at 6 a) and enjoy an egg biscuit sandwich they make special for me because they know I don’t eat meat…or sometimes I slurp yesterday’s yogurt, all the while listening to nature greet the day. And what a show! All the birds are chirping like crazy, they’re almost too noisy, too ecstatic about the new day! The grass in the field and dog park is sopping wet – my shoes are soaked. Lucky I’m not wearing socks! The sunlight is not very warm but looks so pretty on the trees and leaves. Jett and Lilac are so happy, they’re sniffing the ground by the rocks, on the hunt for still drowsy snakes and chipmunks … They’re like the singing birds – excited for the new day!

Home life is a bit … less dramatic. This past year+ I learned nature is amazingly dramatic, noisy, ecstatic … intense! Something is always buzzing, swooping, chirping, being born or dying … It takes such energy! I once watched a hawk take wing – not at all a pretty sight like I’d imagined it would be. Nothing graceful about this hawk. Athletic is the better adjective. You could see his gargantuan effort to become skyborne: the hawk crouching low on his big powerful claws, then as he pushes up with those thick feathery “legs” like two tree trunks, he starts moving his wings…once, twice, they gather the air, the hawk leaps off the ground … and I think is he gonna do it? Whup, whup go the big wings… he’s young so there’s not the huge wing span. I once heard a reddish HUGE hawk fly off a tree branch directly above me as I walked the dogs at Holy Cross college. Frightened at the tremendous noise I looked up to see the hawk push it’s way skyward. His wing span was easily as broad as I was tall…at least 5’6″. I read a few years later that a red tailed hawk had been killed in Auburn, a town right by the college. I wondered if it was my hawk who had been killed; I never saw him in flight, over the Cross, ever again …

Why kill something so majestic????

Another gal pal gave me a new French press; so I made my morning coffee here for the first time☕. … And look who’s peeking ’round the corner!💕🐾My best ramblin’ boy, Jett! … I think he misses our outdoor adventures …

Jett at the dog park.

Lilac romping …