Giving Back on Thanksgiving

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic


Two parishes in the Diocese of Venice took the idea of Thanksgiving to another level this year by giving back to help others.

St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples took over the long-running Thanksgiving in the Park in Immokalee, where approximately 1,500 people were fed a hot meal on Thanksgiving Day. Meanwhile, Thanksgiving was a day of rest for the volunteers who helped at the St. Joseph Parish Food Bank in Bradenton, which handed out more than 1,300 bags of food to the needy in the area.

Volunteers from St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples fed about 1,500 people during Thanksgiving in the Park in Immokalee. Here Pastor Father John Ludden (in blue) and Parochial Vicar Father Bob Murphy (in gray) hand out the prepared hot meals.

St. John the Evangelist and of the faithful within the Diocese of Venice. While not all parishes served hot meals or packed bags of food, much was done to help this Thanksgiving.

For the people in Naples, the idea of giving back was especially poignant because they were helping their brothers and sisters in Christ who were severely impacted by Hurricane Irma on Sept. 10. In Immokalee the hurricane left in its wake many homes damaged and farms decimated while also throwing many out of work. Meanwhile the Church and other buildings of St. John the Evangelist had damage and the surrounding area saw suffering as well.

Volunteers from St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples prepare hot food for about 1,500 people during Thanksgiving in the Park in Immokalee.

St. John Pastor Father John Ludden said the day is about seeing the face of Christ in others and seeing the dignity in them while taking a small action to help in a specific way. “It is the faces we see that make the hard work pay off. The reward is knowing we are making a difference.”

Magdalena Ramirez said the hot food was great, as her 3-year-old son Pedro focused on eating and playing with his pie. “These people making the food are a blessing. It has been a struggle for so many since the hurricane. This is a chance to forget about that for a few hours.”

More than 120 volunteers helped on Thanksgiving Day with cooking and serving the meals while many others helped in the preparation during the days leading up to the hot meal. Father Ludden blessed the meal, the people of Immokalee and the volunteers. Then he and Parochial Vicar Father Bob Murphy handed out the meals of turkey, mashed potatoes, and green beans. About 200 turkeys and nearly 200 pies were donated for the cause. Some 175 meals were also delivered to the home bound in the area.

At St. Joseph Parish the work to hand out more than 1,300 loaded bags of food in three days started well in advanced, explained Food Pantry co-Director Patricia O’Driscoll. “This a huge effort with the parish and community coming together to bring a little happiness into the lives of people at Thanksgiving.”

Sara Walsh said the food she received is welcomed as she is unable to work because of ongoing health issues. “I’m not sure what my Thanksgiving would have been like without this. It is so wonderful to know that people care for someone like me.”

The Thanksgiving week distribution targets families … and individuals who previously have received food from the St. Joseph Food Pantry throughout the year when more than 500,000 pounds of food is distributed to thousands of individuals and families throughout the year, O’Driscoll explained.

Each bag is provided based on the size of the household, with a minimum of a canned ham, breads, dessert and other holiday fare. Due to the limited quantities, turkeys were provided to only larger families.

O’Driscoll said the Thanksgiving effort is made possible through the generosity of the parishioners of St. Joseph Parish, with the support of other parishes in Manatee County and other donors.

One final example of people helping others in need comes from Young Vincentians from Cardinal Mooney High School in Sarasota. Thanksgiving Week, the group delivered more than 1,300 pounds of food and $1,000 to Bethesda House, a Sarasota Catholic Charities program for people impacted by HIV/AIDS. The program provides a number of support services including helping the clients receive critical nutritional support.

November 26, 2017

Posted in Uncategorized

National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty

The faithful are invited to join Bishop Frank J. Dewane in signing a national pledge to end the use of the death penalty.

The Catholic Mobilizing Network’s National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty was announced in Washington, D.C. As Chair of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop Dewane was one of the first signatories who committed to advocate, educate and pray for the end of the use of the death penalty.

For more information on the national pledge, please visit:

Faith at Heart of Recovery


Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

Wearing play “hard hats” and showing a resilience that reflects their age, the students of St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples returned to their battered school on Oct. 2 with smiles and an enthusiasm that was inspiring.

Students at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples pray on Oct. 2, their first day back to school following the devastating impacts of Hurricane Irma which did extensive damage to the school.
With their parents in tow, the students started arriving at the school more than three weeks after they were last there, greeted by Principal Maria Niebuhr and the teachers.
“We have a brand new beginning,” Niebuhr said during the resumption of morning prayer service in the school courtyard which has signs of damage and repair. “We are a work in progress and we are Seton Strong! We are most grateful for God’s Mercy.”

In the courtyard are two statues of St. Elizabeth Seton, one by herself, another surrounded by children reflecting the saint which developed the Catholic school system in the U.S. That the school is open at all is a blessing, Niebuhr explained. She credits Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Diocese Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kristy Swol, and Seton Parish Administrator Father Russell Ruggiero with responding to the immediate needs of the school community and her dedicated staff, the supportive parents, and the busy contractors for making the first day back a reality.

It was on Sept. 10 when Hurricane Irma tore at the heart of Southwest Florida with ferocious winds and flooding rains, but the recovery is well underway. While the damage was extensive, Bishop Dewane has remarked how blessed the Diocese was in comparison to the flooding of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and the destruction Irma and Hurricane Maria wrought on the Caribbean.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane surveys the damage to St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Naples following Hurricane Irma. A large section of the roof was blown off causing debris and insulation to come into the church.

“I am keeping everyone in my prayers,” Bishop Dewane said. “We saw with what happened with Hurricane Maria about how much worse things could have been. Here in the Diocese many have suffered and many are still trying to rebuild. We must continue pray for them all and do all we can to provide the support they need. Christ does not ask of us anything we cannot do. Find comfort in this knowledge and continue to pray as the recovery continues.”

The most serious damage in the region was focused in Collier County, with Golden Gate and East Naples seeing the brunt of the damage. This does not mean other areas were not spared the wrath of Irma, in fact the damage spread out leaving no part of the 10-county Diocese unscathed. Many businesses have suffered leaving many without income for extended periods of time.

A temporary roof and other mitigation including water removal and covering of pews, has been done to St. Elizabeth Seton Parish Church in Naples since Hurricane Irma struck on Sept. 10.

In the three-plus weeks since the Category 4 storm crossed the coast on Marco Island, the Diocese of Venice, led by Bishop Dewane and his senior staff, have been working non-stop to address the damage wrought since the Sept. 10 arrival of Irma.
This work has included visiting properties to assess damage and then bringing in mitigation workers to prevent further problems. Insurance claims have been filed and contractors are being contacted to get work completed as quickly as possible. Of utmost importance has been the health and safety of all people, meaning buildings will not be reoccupied until they are safe.

Work is being done Sept. 21 on the ceiling of the St. Elizabeth Seton Parish Hall in Naples which was damaged during Hurricane Irma.
In some cases, rebuilding is already taking place. At St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, a section of the Church roof was blown off but has already been replaced. However, interior water damage was extensive and those repairs will take months.

Catholic Charities volunteers at the Galeana Center in Fort Myers are hugged while assisting with Hurricane Irma relief.

At St. Ann Parish, the cupola was damaged but has already been fixed. The elementary school building has a great deal of water, but the school reopened on Sept. 25 with a reorganization of classrooms into the middle school building.

To accommodate lost days, Dr. Swol said each Diocesan Catholic School has taken measures to adjust schedules moving forward as they make up for time lost due to the hurricane. Some schools were closed as few as seven days, while others were closed 12 or more. Examples of measures being taken, include giving up pre-scheduled half-days or professional development days, or daily adding 30 minutes of class time.
“Each school is in a different situation,” Dr. Swol added. “However, all schools will complete their academic year as planned and no student will be left behind.”
At the parish-level, those impacted the most, either through damage, power loss or hurricane recovery, are reassessing religious education classes that need to be rescheduled or adjusted to ensure everyone receives the proper formation.

Faith and Ale

Faith and Ale is a Catholic apostolate that offers men an encounter with the Catholic faith and Christ through fellowship and quality Catholic speakers. The next event is from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Thursday, October 19 at Resurrection Parish, 8051 Cypress Lake Drive, Fort Myers. The speaker for this event is Gus Lloyd, Radio Host & Catholic Evangelist “Eleven Attributes of a Magnetic Christian”. For further information, tickets and future dates please visit

“Screenagers, Growing Up in the Digital Age”

Epiphany Cathedral School, Venice is presenting a special screening of the movie “Screenagers, Growing Up In the Digital Age”, 6:30 p.m., Thursday, October 19 (rescheduled due to Hurricane Irma) at Epiphany Cathedral, Parish Hall A, 316 Sarasota St., Venice. This 60 minute film is about the impact of the digital age on children and how to help them minimize harmful effects and find balance. The Moderator of the film is psychologist, Dr. Christopher Cortman. Reservations are requested via email at or by calling 941-615-0284. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.

White Mass & Lecture for Medical Professionals

St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, will hold a White Mass at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, October 18, the Feast of St. Luke, for all medical professionals. Following Mass, a lecture and breakfast will take place in the Parish Center. The lecture is titled “Physician-Assisted Suicide” presented by speaker F. Michael Gloth, III, MD and interlocutor for pastoral insights, Father Michael P. Orsi. There is a $25 fee per person. To register, go to For more information please contact Maggie Brady 239-592-1949. (1 CME Credit)

“Share the Journey” Begins

Staff Report – Florida Catholic


On September 27, Pope Francis launched the worldwide, two-year “Share the Journey” campaign calling on Catholics and the faithful to ‘encounter’ migrants and refugees in an effort to break down barriers of fear, as well as building bridges of understanding and hospitality.

Diocese of Venice logo for “Share the Journey,” an initiative of Pope Francis reaching out to migrants and refugees.


Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) are part of a global network of Caritas organizations participating in the campaign. Together they have launched a new website for the global “Share the Journey” campaign in support of migrants and refugees around the world.

On the Diocese of Venice website, a photo slideshow was posted focusing on the issue, along with a video about a young woman, the adult child of migrant workers, who is now Program Director for Catholic Charities Guadalupe Social Services in Immokalee.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane has called on all parishes in the Diocese to include special prayer intentions for refugees at Masses and to regularly pray for migrants. As the two-year campaign moves forward, additional activities will be taking place.

The USCCB statement announcing the start of the campaign notes that the Pope is asking us to pray and reflect and to use the awareness we build to take action, both personally and publically. To our Church, this campaign is an embodiment of the Biblical command to love our neighbor.

Pope Francis kicked off “Share the Journey” at the Vatican with a symbolic gesture of reaching out to those displaced from their homes, who now number some 65 million around the world, the biggest such crisis since World War II.

“The Holy Father wants us to feel this personally,” says Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA. “Each of us must work to encounter the migrants and refugees who are all around us. All too often, they seem invisible to us. We need to hear their stories, literally share their journeys, and see them as our brothers and sisters.”

The campaign also calls for governments and international organizations to take responsibility for caring for forced migrants, most of whom are fleeing disasters – war, famine, violence – beyond their control.

More information about “Share the Journey” is available on