New Superintendent meets Principals

Shares vision about building Catholic School Culture

The mission of the Catholic Church, and by extension its Catholic Schools, is to introduce the world to its Savior.

This mission concept favorite declaration of Cardinal Francis George, the late Archbishop of Chicago and shared by Father John Belmonte, a Jesuit and new Diocesan Superintendent of Schools.

Father Belmonte shared the message at a meeting with principals on July 8, 2020 at Epiphany Cathedral Parish Hall in Venice. “That is what we do,” he explained. “That is our mission.”

He added that the world happens to be the school for the principal, the classroom for the teachers, and the family for those who are parents.

“We get to do that as Catholic School educators every day; which in my view is the greatest mission that anyone could have the privilege of serving and why I certainly get up in the morning and what I want to have happen in all Catholic schools – to introduce the world to its Savior! There is nothing better!”

As Superintendent, Father Belmonte said he sees his job – and by extension the entire Office of Education – as helping each principal, and by association each Diocesan Catholic school, to be wildly successful.

“If you are already wildly successful, congratulations, we will continue to facilitate that,” Father continued. “If you’re not quite wildly successful, we will work on that… because if we are, then we are introducing our students, families, teachers, everyone that we are serving, to our Lord, through the Church. Nothing is more important than that.”

Father Belmonte did warn the principals that he obsesses about developing Catholic School culture and its deeper and richer meaning in comparison to Catholic identity. “It is much more than that.”

The gathering began with the Liturgy of the Hours, a daily prayer of the Church, followed by a welcome by Bishop Frank J. Dewane.

The Bishop welcome Father Belmonte and said he was humbled that Father accepted the position with the Diocese, having a strong background in education which is also the Charism of the Jesuit religious order.

Bishop Dewane opened his comments by first thanking the gathered principals for their hard work during the last few months and managing the challenges caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“Know that I am very proud of how you handled it, and how we were perceived out in the public arena in handling the online teaching during the spring semester and as we approach reopening in August,” said Bishop Dewane while specifically thanking Interim Superintendent of Schools Ben Hopper for stepping up while also doing double duty as principal at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School.

Father Belmonte has a long connection to the Diocese of Venice having visited the area with family, specifically Anna Maria Island in Manatee County, for the past 50 years. He has an extensive background in education as a teacher and administrator, most recently as superintendent of the Diocese of Joliet.

Prayer, formation, fun at summer program

The sounds of a few dozen girls praying together in Church had been missing for the past few months at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula.

The Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara (SSVM), women religious who serve at the Parish, were determined to change that by organizing two religion-based programs for children, one for girls the week of June 29-July 3, 2020, and the boys from July 6-July 10, 2020.

Sister Gema Ruiz, SSVM, said, “We are excited to see our children praying and playing together. These programs allow them to experience a week of joy and friendship in this time of hardship.”

The summer programs were for children from kindergarten through fifth grade and usually has more than 150 children. Therefore, the usual raucous crowds were a bit toned down this year with limits on the number of participants to about 60 each. This did nothing to change the purpose of the summer programs, bringing young boys and girls in a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.

This was accomplished through the daily participation in celebration of the Mass, prayer time, religion and Bible classes, games, arts and crafts with some fun mixed in to help burn off the pent-up energy of the young ones.

Safety protocols were followed by children and volunteers alike. There was lots of hand washing and wearing of masks was required at Mass, or at indoor activities in the Parish Hall or classrooms. Masks were only put to the side while eating or when outdoor games took place to avoid heat-related illnesses.

Assisted by men and women who are discerning life as religious with the order each day began early and lasted through the afternoon. There was even a field trip one morning to the Heartland Event Center.

The programs served the added benefit of bringing something normal back into their lives, being together with friends for a few hours.

When asked how his week had gone, one second grade boy jumped high off the ground stretching out his arms legs and exclaimed, “Great!”

Notes of encouragement sent to nursing home residents

At the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, and its corresponding isolation of nursing home residents, one woman at Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish in Bradenton knew she had to act.

“We are here on this earth to help each other,” explained Kathe Hughes, who tries to live her life like that each day. Therefore, she started a card/letter writing campaign to residents at five area nursing homes. “They are not able to have visitors and I knew they were so isolated, so I thought this would be a way to reach out.”

Hughes started her effort with notes or cards which were short “uplifting, encouraging and religious, plus a few with jokes.”

The response from the nursing homes was so positive and demand for more became overwhelming for just one person to handle, Hughes explained. She knew she did not want the letter writing to be a one-time effort, so she mentioned her work to staff at the Parish, which created a new Parish program called the Letter Writing Outreach. Now members of the Bible study, the Catholic Women’s Association as well as the prayer shawl group are all actively involved.

Fast-forward to July and amazingly more than 950 cards and notes have been delivered with more coming in each week.

The cards and notes are generic, and people drop their sealed messages off at the Parish offices, where Hughes regularly collects and immediately delivers them. She leaves the bundles outside to ensure they are handled safely by the facility.

Many start their participation by using old greeting cards they don’t use at home before transferring to writing longer notes. Because of privacy laws, the names of the recipients are unknown, but Hughes said that does not matter. “It is the message and support behind the message that matters. We care. They know that.”

Hughes also recently took on the mission to deliver 150 notes of support and encouragement from herself to the Bradenton Police Department, just another example of living her life helping others in ways large and small.

A letter writing effort is something she suggests anyone, or any Parish, can easily accomplish by simply reaching out to area nursing homes and asking if they accept cards and how many residents they have. Meanwhile, Hughes is already planning on expanding her efforts in anticipation of the Christmas holidays.

Naples Parish shows gratitude to Pandemic Heroes

Priests, doctors, nurses, grocery store clerks and so many others have stepped-up to put their own safety on the line during the ongoing response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Many have asked how they can show their gratitude and appreciation for these Pandemic Heroes for their compassion, devotion and service to the community. In response, St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples has partnered with its health and wellness partner, Blue Zones Project of Southwest Florida, to provide just the right type of acknowledgment.

The Parish is asking the Faithful to share the first name and job title of these heroes. It could be a healthcare worker that recently took care of them or someone they love. Or maybe it is the essential worker at a grocery store, restaurant, religious organization, or utility company whose actions have ensured our continued health and livelihood.

In addition to compiling the names and jobs, which will be posted weekly in the bulletin and online, the Parish will sound its bells each day at 2:20 p.m. in their honor. In addition, the names and occupations will also be listed in the Blue Zones Project newsletters.

Parish Business Manager Jean-Paul Boucher said the “Daily Bellagram” is a way to say, “Thank You!” to those courageous individuals who often go unrecognized while unfailingly answering the call to serve the community.

“With every facet of our lives transformed by the COVID-19 Pandemic and the international response required to save lives, Blue Zones Project and St. John wanted to find a way to positively unite our community in North Naples,” Boucher said.

More than two dozen names were posted in the first week or so. Among those being honored are priests, nurses, pulmonary/critical care specialists, pharmacists, physical therapists, grocery store workers and many more.

If you know of someone you would like to honor, please email bellagram@sjecc.com with the first name of the individual, along with their occupation or your reason for the gratitude, and they will be prayed for and thanked on a daily basis by the Parish and the Naples Community.

News Briefs for week of July 13 2020

Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate Aug. 15

Bishop Frank J. Dewane will ordain to the Permanent Diaconate seven men at 11 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020 at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. The candidates are: Jeffrey Ball of Ave Maria Parish, Ave Maria; Enrique (Rick) Castro of St. Cecilia Parish, Fort Myers; Ramiro Hernandez of St. Michael Parish, Wauchula; Jack W. Milholland Jr. of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Lakewood Ranch; Roberto Pagán of Jesus the Worker Parish, Fort Myers; Vern W. Smith of St. Martha Parish, Sarasota; and Dr. William Soscia of St. Joseph Parish, Bradenton. A reception in the Parish Hall will follow. All are invited and encouraged to attend.

CCW supports Catholic Charities

Representatives of the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women recently presented a check to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc. for their homeless prevention program. The presentation took place on June 23, 2020 at the Catholic Center in Venice. VDCCW President Brenda Dolan and Board Member Ellen Bachman presented the check for $7,000 to Philomena Pereira, CEO of Catholic Charities. Bishop Frank J. Dewane was also present as a show of support for both the VDCCW and Catholic Charities. The money is part of an annual effort of the VDCCW and will go toward the numerous programs that provide housing and also prevent people from becoming homeless.

Support After Abortion Virtual Conference

Join the Support After Abortion Healing Network Virtual Conference 2020: Building and Strengthening Abortion Healing Worldwide – Thursday, July 30 to Saturday, August 1.  See and hear online over 40 presenters: clergy, authors, curriculum leaders and those who have been impacted by abortion as they share their wisdom, insights and personal stories. Don’t be surprised that Support After Abortion resides in the Diocese of Venice and some of the presenters live here as well. There is no charge to watch any of the presentations during the three-day virtual conference by visiting www.supportafterabortionvirtualconference.com/home. See the website for a premium upgrade for access to each of the presentations for 90 days. (NOTE: Any priest interested in a free 90-day premium pass – a $49.99 value – can request one by e-mailing Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or calling 941-374-1068.)

Online Master’s in Bioethics Offered

St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens is offering a new Master’s in Bioethics to be earned in four semesters. The comprehensive program is designed for graduates to be equipped to address all relevant bioethical issues of our time; to serve as consultors; to give workshops; develop Parish programs; and to train others to do the same. All courses are taught according to the teachings of the Catholic Church. The program is four consecutive semesters (fall, spring, short summer, fall and students who start in the fall of 2020 will be graduating in December of 2021. The program consists of two courses per semester for a total of 30 credits and are fully available online. For more information, contact Father Alfred Cioffi, Director of the Institute for Bioethics, St. Thomas University, at 786-489-9369 or acioffi@stu.edu.

Year of Saint Joseph

On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, in the context of the Coronavirus, consecrated the Diocese of Venice to the care and protection of St. Joseph. The Bishop announced a “Year of St. Joseph” beginning March 19, 2020 through March 19, 2021. St. Joseph, often referred to as the Protector, can be our protector during this time of the pandemic. To pray a Novena to St. Joseph please visit the Year of St. Joseph webpage at www.dioceseofvenice.org.

Wauchula Food Pantry

St. Michael Parish in Wauchula is home to a food pantry which has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 Pandemic response. To accommodate those who work, the food pantry is open Saturdays from 7:00 a.m. to 8:45 a.m., at 408 Heard Bridge Road, Wauchula. If you need food at a different time or would like to support the efforts to assist the community, please call the Parish at 863-773-4089.

Free Rosary Repair Service

Send your broken rosaries in a padded envelope to Betty and Dick Holden, 7930 Estero Blvd. #502, Fort Myers, FL 33931. Rosaries will be repaired and returned within the week of receipt. Donations of old rosaries are also accepted which will be repaired and sent to missions. Include a note indicating repair or donation. For more details, please call 239-463-3993 or email holdenbnd@gmail.com.

Dispensation

While the celebration of public Mass resumed May 18, 2020, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announced that the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in effect through Sept. 1, 2020 for those who are at greater risk or anxious about returning at this time. The Faithful ought not to worry about remaining home if they are concerned for their wellbeing or that of other parishioners. Of course, those who are sick or have symptoms associated with COVID-19 are to stay home. Please check the Diocese of Venice website for any updates.

Livestreaming

The Diocese of Venice will continue livestreaming the Mass through the Diocese website (www.dioceseofvenice.org) and Facebook pages from the Catholic Center in Venice 9:15 a.m. daily as the dispensation to attend Mass remains.

Sunday Televised Mass

The Televised Mass for the Homebound is available throughout the Diocese each Sunday. In northern parts of the Diocese (Manatee, Highlands, Hardee, Sarasota, DeSoto and Charlotte counties) the Mass airs on television at 9:30 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Collier, Lee, Glades, Hendry, Charlotte counties) the Mass airs at 10:30 a.m., on WFTX-TV (FOX-4). This same Mass can be found on the Diocese of Venice website at any time during the week, www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass. Please check local listings for channel information.

Parish donations

During this challenging time in the life and mission of the Diocese of Venice, our Parishes face increased risk of financial shortfalls due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and its effects on everyday life. Parishes depend on weekly financial gifts to continue their ministries, especially in this critical time of crisis. The Diocese of Venice is providing an online platform and encourages the Faithful to support their Parish. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/ways-to-give/parish-donations-online/ to donate to your Parish. The Faithful may also contribute through usual channels (e.g., envelopes, and through the Parish online giving option). Together we will navigate through this crisis, provide assistance to those in need, and secure the road ahead for the Parishes within the Diocese of Venice.

Online Resources

A special coronavirus webpage is located on the Diocese of Venice website at www.dioceseofvenice.org. Resources include links to the Mass, the prayer for an Act of the Spiritual Communion, videos of the Stations of the Cross, Divine Mercy Chaplet and Pray the Rosary. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website, www.usccb.org, also posts the daily Mass readings.

Act of Spiritual Communion

It has long been a Catholic understanding that when circumstances prevent one from receiving Holy Communion, it is possible to make an Act of Spiritual Communion which is a source of grace. Spiritual Communion means uniting one’s self in prayer with Christ’s sacrifice and worshiping Him in His Body and Blood.

The most common reason for making an Act of Spiritual Communion is when a person cannot attend Mass, as is the case during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Acts of Spiritual Communion increase our desire to receive sacramental Communion and help us avoid the sins that would make us unable to receive Holy Communion worthily.

For all who will not be able to receive the Holy Eucharist in person, consider this special prayer, an Act of Spiritual Communion:

My Jesus,
I believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,

and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there

and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.
Amen.

Bishop supports two landmark Supreme Court decisions

Bishop Frank J. Dewane expressed his whole-hearted support for two U.S. Supreme Court decisions which were handed down on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. The two decisions addressed fundamental issues facing the Catholic Church – Religious Freedom and the ministerial exception.

The Religious Freedom case guarantees employers the right to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage in their health plans, in a case repeatedly argued and championed by the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The case examined if the expansion of the conscience exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate violated the health care law and laws governing federal administrative agencies. Several states argued that the federal government did not have the power to grant its exception after the Trump administration issued an Executive Order in 2017 that gave employers protection to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage in their health plans.

Bishop Dewane said, “It is hoped that the case involving the contraceptive mandate exception will finally put an end to government discrimination against people of Faith.” Echoing the statement released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), he added that while the case is a significant victory in the name of Religious Freedom, everyone must remain vigilant for new threats.

The second case clarifies the right of the Church to select those who carry out its work. The case specifically addressed the right of Catholic schools, free of government interference, to choose teachers who will teach and model the Catholic Faith without limits.

Bishop Dewane noted the Court decision reaffirms previous rulings regarding the right to select those who carry out the ministry of the Church, or ministerial exception. “I applaud the Court’s decision not to allow government interference on ministerial decisions.”

The ministerial exception to anti-discrimination laws meant that religious organizations couldn’t be sued for firing an employee classified as a minister. The latest decision said that though the teachers in the case were not given the title of “minister” and have less religious training than the teacher in the previous court case involving the ministerial exception, the court said that the same rule applies.

“The religious education and formation of students is the very reason for the existence of most private religious schools, and therefore the selection and supervision of the teachers upon whom the schools rely to do this work lie at the core of their mission,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote.

The USCCB wrote friend-of-the-court briefs in support of both cases.

 

Catholic News Service contributed to this report.

Catholic Charities Summertime Appeal 2020

Providing food, mental health counseling, housing, and financial assistance to individuals and families has always been the mission of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc.

During these unprecedented times of the COVID-19 Pandemic crisis, the program is serving more people than ever. Now is the time to “Be an Angel” to your neighbors in need and consider giving to the annual “Summertime and the Giving is Easy” Appeal.

By “Being an Angel” you will bring about change in the lives of those who look to Catholic Charities for assistance and hope for a brighter future.

Catholic Charities offers the people of Southwest Florida the means to move beyond poverty and achieve self-sufficiency. The appeal is critical for the continuing operations of the three dozen different programs available in locations throughout the 10-county Diocese. These programs, all still functioning during the Pandemic, annually support some 90,000 individuals and families in ways both large and small.

For example, right here in Southwest Florida, many individuals and families go hungry. Catholic Charities food pantries operate year-round, whether there is a Pandemic crisis or not, providing essential nutrition for thousands.

Finding safe, affordable housing or basic shelter is an essential need. Catholic Charities is there with affordable housing for would-be homeless mothers and their young children, transitional housing and much more.

Assisting those in the community who are overwhelmed during difficult times is important, so Catholic Charities offers affordable mental health care which can give youth and adults hopeful future.

Whether there is a Pandemic or not, people struggle with expenses beyond food and housing. Emergency financial assistance allows individuals and families to address needs and stay on track to self-sufficiency.

Philomena Pereira, Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Charities, says all donations – great or small – will enable Catholic Charities to continue to help those most vulnerable in Southwest Florida.

“The annual ‘Summertime and the Giving is Easy’ appeal reminds us all that many people in our communities of Southwest Florida do not have the essentials,” Pereira said. “Please consider a donation. You can make a real difference!”

To donate to theSummertime and the Giving is Easy” appeal, please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org or mail a check to Catholic Charities, 5824 Bee Ridge Road PMB 409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065.

How Donations Help Others

These are examples of how your dollars can make a difference. Donations of any amount are appreciated.

$10,000 helps maintain 5 transitional houses for homeless families for a year.

$6,500 provides a notebook computer to 20 children.

$4,300 provides a pallet of rice, a pallet of beans, and a pallet of maseca providing 27,950 servings.

$2,000 buys a pallet of beans which provides 15,000 servings.

$1,800 provides English classes to 25 people for one month.

$1,300 provides rent for a family for a month.

$525 provides a child with 10 hours of professional counseling.

$500 provides 5 human trafficking victims a backpack of essential supplies including toiletries, clothing and other necessities.

$500 houses a homeless mother and baby for a week.

$300 assists a victim of human trafficking with mental health counseling for a month.

$250 covers the utilities cost for a veteran for a month.

$250 sustains 5 families from a food pantry for a week.

$100 supplies 10 people living with HIV/AIDS nutrition for a week.

$75 covers the initial appointment for an adult seeking mental health counseling.

$45 provides a mother with a box of diapers.

Drive-by farewell overwhelms retiring priest

After 22 years serving at St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales Father Stanley Dombrowski knew now was the time to retire.

“I had a great run, but it was time,” said Father Dombrowski, who will soon turn 73. He started at St. Cecilia as Parochial Vicar in 1998 before becoming Pastor in 2001 with his retirement effective July 1, 2020.

To mark his retirement, the Parish staff decided to hold a drive-by farewell on July 2, 2020, wherein the parishioners could drive into the parking lot and heap their praises on Father from their vehicles.

The unusual circumstances of the COVID-19 Pandemic forced this unusual, but successful farewell in lieu of a traditional farewell party. Vehicles arrived long before the celebration was to commence, and the line was so long it created a temporary traffic jam on nearby roads.

As much as a party, cake and speeches would have been more traditional, the drive-thru allowed each family to have a few moments to personally thank Father for his service and to pray for a blessed retirement. The impact one priest had upon the faithful at St. Cecilia was evident in the decorated vehicles and words of kindness.

One driver summed it up best for many: “No words can express what you mean to our family. We love you.”

Father Dombrowski wore a funny hat and was all smiles as he greeted every family by name, recognizing grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren who have been part of the Parish for many years. Jokingly, he reminded everyone that although he is retired, he will still help out at St. Cecilia. “I have the 7:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Mass this Sunday.”

Afterwards he said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support. “That was wonderful. It brought back such strong memories.”

Father Dombrowski made his first profession with the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales in 1979 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1983. He first served as a teacher in Wilmington, Delaware, then as campus minister at Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales in Pennsylvania. He later served as a U.S. Navy Chaplain before arriving at St. Cecilia in Fort Myers.

New Superintendent begins, Diocese welcomes three new Principals

July is a time for transitioning within Catholic schools across the Diocese of Venice as the most recent academic year is over and a new one is quickly approaching.

On July 1, 2020, Jesuit Father John Belmonte assumed his role as the Superintendent of Catholic Education of the Diocese of Venice, a move announced in May 2020. Prior to coming to the Diocese of Venice, Father Belmonte was Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Joliet since 2010 and earlier served at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and St. Ignatius Preparatory High School, Chicago, Illinois.

The Diocesan Catholic Schools also recently announced three new principals effective in July.

Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice announced the return of Nicole Loseto as Principal, returning to the school where she taught for years and served as assistant principal before December 2019 when she took the top post at St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring. She has 18 years of educational experience and holds two Masters’ degrees – one from Touro College in New York (Education and Special Education) and a second from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio (Educational Leadership).

Filling her vacancy at St. Catherine Catholic School is Dr. Christine Higgins, who arrives after serving at Cardinal Newman Catholic High School in West Palm Beach since 2004, first as a teacher and then as Principal for the past eight years. She has attended Florida Atlantic University where she holds a B.A. in Mathematics “Cum Laude,” a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and a Ph. D. in Curriculum and Instruction. She previously lived in Sebring as a child.

The final addition is Dr. Jack Chavez, who will be taking

over as Principal of Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota. Chavez mostly recently served as Principal of St. Mary Nativity Catholic School in Joliet, Illinois. An historian, businessman and lifelong musician, he holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Indiana State University, an MBA and an M.S.Ed from Purdue University and a Bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University.

Welcome to all of the new leaders of Catholic Education in the Diocese of Venice!

Graduating in a time of Pandemic

Each graduating class points to one moment or event during their senior year that will serve to inexorably unite the group for years to come.

A banner adorns the facade of Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, honoring the graduating Class of 2020.

For the Class of 2020, the COVID-19 Pandemic is obviously that event/moment. The impact not only caused schools to close and introduce new meaning to phrases like distance learning and quarantine, but it altered each graduating seniors’ perspective of themselves and the world in which they live.

The four Diocese of Venice Catholic high schools accommodated their students with Zoom classes and altered graduations plans.

The Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria held their graduation June 5, 2020, a week late. The graduation took place in the Parish Church, following the Baccalaureate Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. Each of the graduates sat with their immediate family only and were separated by at least one pew.

This Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School graduating senior proudly stands with her mother in front of a graduation sign delivered to their home on April 23, 2020.

Arrangements are being made to ensure local health and safety guidelines are followed for the in-person graduations at the other three Catholic high schools. For example, the Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers (Mass, July 17 and graduation, July 18), the graduation may be switched to the school’s stadium. St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples (Mass and graduation July 23), will hold both events in the church with limited access. Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota (Mass, July 30 and graduation July 31) is holding its graduation at LECOM Park, the Bradenton spring training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Because of social distancing requirements, each graduation will limit the number of guests, meaning some family members will not be able to attend. To help lessen the impact, each of the graduations will be streamed live on social media.

The graduates have expressed a feeling of loss or emptiness by missing key moments of the last semester. Whether it was the prom, class trips, awards ceremonies, even the last days and chances to say farewell in person. Delayed and social distancing graduations add to the unusual nature of the final months of their high school lives.

Inevitably, not all students will be present for graduation. In fact, one student watched her graduation from afar for the Donahue Academy ceremony.

Anne Klemeyer of Cardinal Mooney is not sure she will be able to watch her own graduation as she has reported to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. She is heartbroken to have missed out on many of the senior year traditions. Klemeyer really enjoyed going to school each day and said it was hard having a last day of school and not even knowing it would be the last.

The last few months of school for Spencer Ebenger of Bishop Verot were described as the most trying time in his young life. “We all worked so hard. we had goals, and it was hard to stay motivated. It really made me appreciate being at school, my friends and the teachers. But it was also a time when I saw the world experiencing the same thing. Everyone came together for the betterment of others. It showed that there is a lot of good in the world.”

The Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria commencement took place June 5, 2020 in the Ave Maria Parish church. Social distancing rules applied as only families sat together.

Distance learning taught the Class of 2020 what life will be like after high school, explained Abbey Lawe of Donahue. “The pandemic caused me to realize just how much of my character, personality and identity was formed by my Catholic school. It has given me a deeper gratitude and sentiment for all that Donahue has given me.”

The leadership of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, including the religious sisters, are on a school bus ready to deliver graduation presents to the Class of 2020 on April 30, 2020.

The most mundane and ordinary things, such as going to school, a restaurant, or simply hanging out with friends is something St. Neumann’s Ryan O’Connor will never take for granted again. “Things that seem so simple can easily be stopped, or come to an end, and because of that we should cherish every moment… I will definitely have this new mindset during the next chapter in my life.”

The Diocese of Venice Catholic High School Class of 2020 learned many lessons from the changing world, including adapting and preparing to face whatever challenges that come their way armed with a faith-based education centered in Gospel values.

X