History of the Diocese

Diocese of Venice Timeline

Diocese of Venice is Created

 July 17, Pope John Paul II erects the Diocese of Venice in Florida from parts of the Archdiocese of Miami, the Diocese of St. Petersburg and the Diocese of Orlando, naming Archdiocese of Miami Auxiliary Bishop John J. Nevins as the first bishop; Oct. 25 Bishop John J. Nevins is installed as first Bishop of the Diocese and Epiphany Church was dedicated as the Cathedral of the Diocese; Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. founded; Diocese has 116,495 registered parishioners. 11 schools; first chancery of Diocese in rented building in Capri Isles area of Venice.


Father Arthur William Hannaway is first priest ordained in the Diocese of Venice on May 25; St. Thomas More Parish dedicates new church; Council of Catholic Women founded for Diocese.


Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice, St. Vincent de Paul Parish in North Fort Myers and Sts. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish in Bradenton founded as parishes; Hispanic Services of Catholic Charities established in Fort Myers.


The first six men ordained into permanent diaconate; Our Mother’s House, a home for single mothers with young children opens in temporary home in Bradenton; Catholic Center dedicated in Venice; St. Alfonso Chapel in Zolfo Springs dedicated.


St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples, St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota, Our Lady of Mercy (elevated from mission) in Boca Grande and St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Port Charlotte founded as parishes; Poor Clare Nuns form contemplative monastery in Fort Myers Beach; new San Marco Parish church on Marco Island dedicated; TV Mass for the homebound begins.

5 Years

Diocese of Venice celebrates five years with a variety of events; Los Hermanos Community of Christian Brothers begins ministry to migrants in Bonita Springs; Mass celebrated at DeSoto National Memorial in Bradenton to commemorate the 450th Anniversary of Hernando DeSoto’s landing in Florida; St. Andrew School opens in Cape Coral; first Catholic Charities ball in Sarasota; new churches at Holy Cross Parish in Palmetto, Sts. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish in Bradenton and Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee are dedicated; Rosary Crusade draws more than 4,000 to Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte; Mental health counseling offered by Catholic Charities for first time in Sarasota.


Our Lady of Light Parish in Estero is Blessed (now Saint) Katharine Drexel in Cape Coral founded as parishes; new Hispanic Social Services Center in Fort Myers and St. Ann Parish church in Naples dedicated.


First interfaith Yom Hashoah Service in remembrance of the Holocaust held at Epiphany Cathedral; Diocesan television Mass debuts; new St. Michael Parish church in Lake Placid and San Pedro Parish church in North Port dedicated; Mission and Catholic Hispanic Community of the Apostle St. James in Lake Placid founded; Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities opens in Venice; first Diocesan Life Chain Pro-Life event draws 20,000 faithful along U.S. 41 from Bradenton to Naples.


St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Chapel founded in Buckhead Ridge.


St. Columbkille is established as a parish; San Antonio Parish in Port Charlotte established; Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park renovated; Holy Family Chapel in Everglades City founded; St. John the Evangelist Parish church dedicated; first Media Appreciation luncheon.

10 Years

Diocese celebrates 10 years as a Diocese with a variety of events; Blessed Edmund Rice School established in Port Charlotte, serving adult formation class throughout Diocese; first Leaven Conference held; Guadalupe Social Services in Immokalee comes under Catholic Charities.


St. Vincent de Paul Parish church dedicated; San Antonio Parish church dedicated in Port Charlotte; Our Lady of Lourdes Parish church in Venice dedicated; St. Peter the Apostle Parish church in Naples dedicated; Rice School opens in Arcadia.


Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat and Spirituality Center in Venice and the Campo San Jose Retreat Center in Lake Placid open.


Bishop Nevins offers Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish as site for negations for migrant workers; Florida Youth for Life Congress held in Ellenton; statewide workshop for Parish nurses and Pastors held at Epiphany Cathedral Parish; St. Vincent de Paul Society of Naples dedicates Ozanam Center.


St. Columbkille Parish Church dedicated; first class graduates from Rice School.

15 Years

Diocese celebrates 15 years as a Diocese; St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Parrish founded as a Parish and Church dedicated; St. Michael the Archangel Parish church on Siesta Key rededicated, St. Agnes Mission in Naples was established; Hispanic Services of Catholic Charities opens offices in LaBelle and Bonita Springs.



St. Joseph the Worker Parish Church in Moore Haven dedicated; St. Finbarr Mission in East Naples dedicated; St. Elizabeth Seton Parish Church in Naples dedicated, Catholic Charities develops Diocese Disaster Response Program.


Dreams Are Free School in Sarasota established; Catholic Charities Refugee/Resettlement Program expanded to Naples, Fort Myers, Venice and Sarasota; U.S. government grant provides funding for establishment of HIV/AIDS housing program in Sarasota.


Saint John XXIII in Fort Myers, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Osprey and Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Bradenton founded as a Parishes; St. Rose of Lima Mission in Clewiston and Father Anglim Academy at Dreams Are Free in Fort Myers established; Bishop Nevins Academy in Sarasota opens for St. Martha School and Dreams Are Free Academy; first Kristallnacht Convocation with Catholic/Jewish Dialogue Committee of Southwest Florida.


Our Lady of the Angels Parish multi-purpose facility in Bradenton dedicated.

20 Years

Diocese celebrates 20 years as a Diocese; Hurricanes Charley, Francis and Jeanne strike Southwest Florida causing extensive damage to the region leaving thousands homeless and seriously damaging St. Isabel Parish on Sanibel, Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda and St. Paul Parish in Arcadia; new Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Parish church in Bokeelia, St. Katharine Drexel Parish church in Cape Coral and St. Padre Pio Shrine at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish in Sarasota dedicated; St. Therese Mission in North Fort Myers founded.


Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma strike Southwest Florida doing extensive damage and leaving thousands homeless; Saint John XXIII Parish church dedicated.


Pope Benedict XVI names Msgr. Frank J. Dewane to succeed Bishop John J. Nevins as Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in Florida; Msgr. Dewane ordained as Co-Adjunct Bishop of Venice in July; St. Jude in Sarasota founded as a Parish and Church dedicated; Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish Church/Parish center dedicated; St. Padre Pio Shrine dedicated at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish in Sarasota.



Bishop Frank J. Dewane takes over all duties as second Bishop of the Diocese of Venice; Bishop Emeritus John J. Nevins retires on his 75th birthday; Our Lady of Light Parish Church dedicated; Holy Martyrs Mission in LaBelle and St. Agnes in Naples established as a Parish; enhanced building and construction guidelines for Diocese, including greening efforts, established; enhanced Safe Environment program to protect children and vulnerable adults; Bishop Dewane celebrates Masses in area prisons for the first time; first Walk for Life in Fort Myers.


St. Charles Borromeo Parish Church in Port Charlotte rededicated, St. Isabel Parish on Sanibel reopens, new Sacred Heart Parish Church dedicated in Punta Gorda, each received heavy damage from Hurricane Charley in 2004; St. Catherine School in Sebring opens and is the 15 school in the Diocese; Quasi-Parish of Ave Maria Oratory founded; first Red Mass at St. Martha Parish in Sarasota; first Bioethics Conference in Fort Myers for priests and medical professionals; first Novena of Masses for Life held throughout Diocese; first Environmental Justice Forum on Water.

25 Years

“Year of Celebration,” Diocese celebrates 25 years; 250,000 registered parishioners, eight elementary schools, three high schools, two special needs schools and one adult formation school. Mass held in honor of Bishop Nevin’s 50th anniversary as a priest; first Men’s and Women’s Conferences held; first Diocesan-wide Youth Rally; inaugural Volunteer Appreciation Mass in Venice, Mass held at Eucharistic Memorial in Bradenton; walk-a-thon for World Missions.


First Veterans Day Mass held at Sarasota National Cemetery; five priests bestowed with Papal Honors; first Walk for Life in Naples; Christ the King Chapel founded in Sarasota.


“Catholics Come Home” campaign media blitz a success; St. Therese in North Fort Myers named 58th Parish in Diocese; new Jesus the Worker Parish Church dedicated in Fort Myers; nearly 100 pilgrims attend World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain; group of 25 youth go on mission trip to St. Lucia; Diocese celebrates Month of the Rosary; Diocese hosts 25th Annual Respect Life Conference; first project in Neighborhood Stabilization program dedicated in Sarasota; Ave Maria University recognized as Catholic University.


“The Light is On” campaign was introduced during Lent to encourage the faithful to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation with great success; Year of Faith began with a variety of events themed to encourage Catholics to become more energized in their Faith; The “Catholics Come Home” campaign returned in a modified format; four men ordained priests by Bishop Dewane during two separate ordination Masses; a new Women Religious community welcomed at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula when sisters from the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara arrived in September; a key theme throughout the year was the defense of Religious Freedom with thousands of people attending several rallies and participating in campaigns to encourage reversal of the HHS mandate; St. Monica Residence, a Catholic Charities apartment building for low-income families in Sarasota was opened; a new redesigned Diocesan website was unveiled; the year ended with the blessing and dedication of the new church for St. William Parish in Naples.


Pope Benedict resigns; Habamus Papum! Pope Francis elected; Year of Faith; three Volunteer Appreciation Masses; Religious Freedom stays on forefront of public debate; Bishop Dewane celebrates 25th anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood; Youth Rally hits 1,200 mark at St. Leo Parish in Bonita Springs; Casa Maria Soup Kitchen in Immokalee dedicated; Phase I of Casa San Juan Bosco Inc. of Catholic Charities farm worker housing in Arcadia blessed and dedicated; first Apologetics Conference; Poor Clare Sisters on Fort Myers Beach mark 25 years in Diocese; new athletics facilities blessed at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples; group of 50 go to World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro; three men ordained; Theology on Tap begins in Sarasota; Bishop Dewane battles illness for part of year.

30 years

Death of Diocese founding Bishop John J. Nevins; 30th Anniversary of the Diocese; one ordained to the priesthood; first Veterans Gala by Catholic Charities; first Bible Study Training Day; first Family Fun Day; Apologetics Conference expands; Youth Rally moves to Punta Gorda, grows and includes Eucharistic Procession through downtown streets; Theology on Tap expands to Naples and Fort Myers; new Chapel dedicated at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples; private/public partnership in North Port Family Haven, a homeless portal which places the needy in temporary shelters and transitional housing; Year of Consecrated Life begins.


Year of Consecrated Life continues and all Religious recognized at severe public and private events; TV Mass expands to include whole Diocese for first time; Vatican Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education visits Diocese, celebrates Mass for Polish Catholic community; Year of Consecrated Life continues and includes Mass in honor of all Religious men and women at Epiphany Cathedral; Jesus the Worker becomes 59th Parish in the Diocese; blessing of new Catholic Charities Family Haven Homeless Shelter for Families in North Port; STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) pilot program begins at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral; five Permanent Deacons ordained; Pope Francis visits U.S.; Bishop, other groups attend World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia with Pope; Bishop awarded the Guardian of the Holy Land Award from the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land; blessing of Knights Memorial following annual Veterans Day Mass at Sarasota National Cemetery; Year of Mercy begins and Mercy doors open at Epiphany Cathedral and Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande.


Years of Mercy continues throughout year, more than 15,000 pilgrims go through Mercy Doors at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and Our Lady of Mercy in Boca Grande; 10th Anniversary of Bishop Dewane’s Episcopal Ordination; Bishop Dewane assumed a three-year term as Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; three ordained to priesthood; “24 Hours with the Lord” confession initiative in Diocese; Ecumenical Prayer Service for Peace in Fort Myers; Salute to Veterans in Venice by Catholic Charities; blessing of Phase II of Casa San Juan Bosco farm worker housing of Catholic Charities; blessing of additional housing for North Port Family Haven of Catholic Charities; 140 join Bishop in Krakow, Poland for World Youth Day 2016; Youth Rally reaches 1,900; V Encuentro initiative for Hispanic Catholic Community begins; blessing of Zazarino Center for St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy in Sarasota.


Diocese struck by Hurricane Irma – serious damage to 33 parishes and eight schools in addition to other facilities; in the first three weeks following the hurricane, Catholic Charities assisted more than more than 80,000 individuals and families at 12 different Disaster Response Centers with food and water; as Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop Dewane  authors, or coauthors, a number of letters to the President and Congress and made public statements on a wide range of issues that impact the lives of millions, including health care, tax reform and much more; one ordained to the priesthood; Ave Maria and Christ the King (Latin Masses only) elevated to Parish status, the 60th and 61st Parishes in the Diocese; Corpus Christi Chapel erected for Latin Mass in Naples and Fort Myers; V Encuentro initiative for Hispanic Catholic Community expands; first Mission Immokalee youth retreat; Mission trip to Grenada; Apostolic Nuncio addresses Youth Rally; two-year “Share the Journey” campaign from Pope Francis begins; Golden Jubilee of Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conference draws 1,400; Opiate Crisis Clergy Conference; “Witnessing Faith with Bishop Dewane” monthly radio show on Relevant Radio begins; Vocations Awareness Days held for Catholic School sixth graders; Diocese formally consecrated the Diocese to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; 33-day “Diocesan Advent Journey to Jesus through Mary.”


Recovery from Hurricane Irma continued including St. Elizabeth Seton Parish and School in Naples both returning to their buildings; outpouring of support from Diocese for victims of Hurricane Michael in Florida Panhandle; blessing new Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center of Catholic Charities; blessing of new Church for Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch; one ordained to the priesthood; 20,000 rosaries blessed and distributed to students in Catholic Schools and Diocesan Religious Education programs; Diocese hosts 32nd Annual Statewide Florida Respect Life Conference in Punta Gorda; first Walk to Our Lady from Our Lady of Lourdes Parish to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice; V Encuentro Hispanic Catholic Outreach continues; new Spanish-language Faith Formation Certificate Program begins; Opioid Crisis Symposium held in Sarasota; Bishop reads for children during summer program in Arcadia; new apartments blessed for Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities; St. John XXIII Parish Hall and Adoration Chapel blessed in Fort Myers; St. Raphael Parish in Englewood completes Church renovations; St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral rededicated; St. John the Evangelist Family Life Center blessed; “Share the Journey” initiative about persecuted Christians includes Diocesan youth film festival and participation in Courage in RED, with students wearing red and the Cathedral illuminated; new Diocesan website launched.

35 years

Blessing of St. John Paul II Villas of Catholic Charities affordable senior housing in Arcadia; new Church and conference rooms blessed for Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee; first Mass for Widows and Widowers at Cathedral; blessing of a new Hall for St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers; St. Peter the Apostle Parish office and rectory blessed in Naples; St. John the Evangelist Parish Church rededicated; Bishop joins group at World Youth Day 2019 in Panama City, Panama; Mercy Nights initiative takes place during Lent; second Walk to Mary includes Bishop; Frassati Society for young adults begins; Knights of Columbus Silver Rose visits Diocese; Missionary Discipleship Society begins for young adults.

Bishop Consecrates Diocese to St. Joseph

Bishop Dewane Consecrates the Diocese to the care and protection of St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus Christ.  The Bishop designates “A Year of St. Joseph” in the context of the Coronavirus Pandemic through March 19, 2021.  Pope Francis calls for a “A Year of St. Joseph” through December 8, 2021.