Advent: Season of Preparation and Expectation

Ordinary Time has come to an end and the Season of Advent is upon us. This Season, which marks the beginning of the Liturgical Year of the Church, commences on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, and will come to an end on Christmas Eve.

Advent is a time of preparation and expectation, a time leading to Christmas which Pope Francis calls beautiful when we repeatedly pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

“It is a time where we have to live by that phrase, not just say it,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is the essence of the Season which is truly an invitation to pause in silence to recognize the signs of the coming of the presence of the Lord.”

The Advent Season has a two-fold characteristic, the First Coming of the Son of God, which we know as Christmas or the Nativity, and we prepare for that, Bishop Dewane explained. Also, in this Advent journey we prepare for the Second Coming of Our Lord.

“Advent is a time of devout and expectant delight,” the Bishop added. “We don’t usually think of it as delight, we have delight in who the Lord is as our Savior comes into our life.”

The Advent Season in the Church is different from the Christmas Season. The Advent Season is from Nov. 27 through the vigil of the Nativity of the Lord. The Christmas Season in the Church runs from First Vespers of the Nativity of the Lord up to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on Jan. 9, 2023.

After the annual celebration of the Paschal Mystery, the Church has no more ancient custom than celebrating the memorial of the Nativity of the Lord and his first manifestations.

The main focus of the Advent Season is preparation through prayer, quiet reflection, weekday Mass attendance and even fasting, Bishop Dewane explained. Taking time to quietly reflect and grow in Faith can be a challenge, but we are called to put distractions aside, even for a few minutes a day, which allows the love of God to fill one’s life with joy.

One key symbol in Churches for this Season is the Advent Wreath. The lights of the candles on the Advent Wreath serve to break through the darkness, reminding us of the Light of Christ that we anticipate during this Holy Season. The liturgical color of Advent is a particular shade of purple, a color which is most often associated with royalty. This color is used to symbolize the anticipation of the birth of Christ, who is our King and Savior.

Each Sunday of Advent, an additional candle of the wreath is lit, with the rose-colored candle lit on the Third Sunday of Advent. Best known as Gaudete Sunday, this celebration derives its name from Scripture: “Gaudete in Domino semper” (“Rejoice in the Lord always”) and marks the mid-point in the Season. Bishop Dewane said that the change in color provides encouragement to rejoice during a Season of penance, as we continue our spiritual preparation for Christmas.

Aside from the Sundays of Advent, the Church also celebrates two important Marian feasts, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, which is observed as a Holy Day of Obligation, and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, on Dec. 12. We are also called to seek the intercession of the saints as we make this journey towards Christmas, particularly those saints whose feasts we celebrate during Advent, such as St. Francis Xavier, St. Nicholas, St. Juan Diego, St. Lucy, and St. John of the Cross. They modeled for us the way to salvation and assist us in our own pilgrimage to Heaven.

The First Sunday of Advent also marks the start of the new Liturgical Year of the Church. In it, the Church marks the passage of time with the celebration of the main events in the life of Jesus and the story of Salvation. In so doing, Pope Francis said the Church illuminates the path of our existence, which supports us in our daily occupations and guides us towards the final encounter with Christ.

The Pope invites everyone to live this time of preparation in the Season of Hope with “great sobriety” and simple moments of family prayer. “Advent is a continuous call to hope: it reminds us that God is present in history to lead it to its ultimate goal, to lead it to its fullness, which is the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Bishop Dewane said, “Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas. Let us resolve to help bring Him into the hearts of those we encounter throughout each day. Let us take advantage of what is new in the Advent Season as the Universal Church prepares for the birth of Christ. And let us grow in Faith during this portion of the Liturgical Year on our journey toward Salvation.”

Many work to make Thanksgiving joyful

Thanksgiving is an annual national holiday to praise and give thanks to God for our blessings of food and life.

In preparation for the holiday, many volunteered to help those who are less fortunate or who are struggling in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

Parishes and Diocesan Catholic school students collected thousands of cans of food and other items to help fill local food pantries. Many also volunteered to distribute food as lines of vehicles twisted through parking lots in hopes of getting items for a hearty meal this year. Some Parishes hosted pre-Thanksgiving dinners to bring holiday cheer wherever they could.

For example, St. Andrew Catholic School students in Cape Coral donated 1,630 pounds of food to a local food pantry while at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, the student there collected 1,253 items. Similarly, St. John Neumann Catholic School students in Naples held their own food drive to benefit Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., collecting and delivering 6,423 canned goods.

The beneficiary of the St. John Neumann food drive was the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center of Catholic Charities in Naples. The Thanksgiving food distribution there took place on Nov. 22, 2022.

Allegra Belliard, Program Director, supervised as a steady stream of grateful families came and received a turkey and ham as well as bags of food. The turkey and ham meals were courtesy of Publix Charities.

Belliard said the demand is higher in 2022 as compared to the height of the COVD-19 pandemic. This is because the cost of food is much higher due to inflation combined with many people being out of work because of Ian. The hurricane damaged or destroyed many homes, businesses, and resorts, dramatically impacting those in the service industry. Among the places damaged was the Family Resource Center itself. Storm surge flowed through the building and surrounding neighborhood, but the food pantry part of the building was open within a few weeks as the demand remained high.

Cordelia Fulton felt blessed to have Catholic Charities provide food for her family. “Bless you all,” the mother of three who has been unemployed since Ian said. “It will be a happy Thanksgiving in our home.”

Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities in Immokalee did their own food distribution on Nov. 19. This area had some damage during Hurricane Ian, but the greatest impacts were to the crops which are an important resource for work in the rural community.

Peggy Rodriguez, Catholic Charities Regional Director for Collier County, said teams of volunteers packed more 700 bags of food ahead of Thanksgiving, above what is normally distributed each week. About 200 of those bags were dispersed directly from the Guadalupe Social Services food pantry. Meanwhile, several agencies worked together to deliver the balance of the food to 500 more families who were unable to arrive during regular hours.

Students from St. Joseph Catholic School show off the items collected during a Thanksgiving food drive on Nov. 18, 2022, to benefit the St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton.

In Manatee County, where hurricane damage was scattered, the demand for food ahead of Thanksgiving was still very high at the St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton.

A line of vehicles filled with families seeking a turkey with all the trimmings, twisted its way through the parking lot of St. Joseph Parish on Nov. 21. In a three-day period, the pantry expected to distribute food to 800 families. A generous donation of 2,000 turkeys the week before Thanksgiving enabled the pantry to give every family a turkey, something that isn’t always possible.

Sylvia Trotter said she has been struggling to feed her family while juggling expenses such as caring for two children and her parents. “We combine our money for important things, and we doubted that we would celebrate Thanksgiving this year,” Trotter said. “Everything is a luxury now, which makes these wonderful (volunteers) my heroes.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane offered the following Thanksgiving message to the faithful of the Diocese:

“Greetings to all and a Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving! In this season of gratitude, let us remember to give thanks to God who has given many great gifts to all. The greatest gift God has given is the body and blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, in the Eucharist. The word “Eucharist” actually means “an act of thanksgiving to God”. By participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we are united as one body, one human family, in Christ.

On Thanksgiving Day, I extend my gratitude to all here in the Diocese of Venice, and to the many around the country, who so generously have provided aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. Know that you remain in my prayers.

Happy Thanksgiving! Have a Blessed Advent Season!”

If you would like to support Catholic Charities, please visit or if you would like to support the Diocesan effort to recover from Hurricane Ian, please visit

Mooney swimmer takes State title for fourth consecutive year

A Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School senior repeated as Class 1A State Champion Nov. 18, 2022, at Sailfish Splash Park and Aquatics Center in Stuart.

Michaela Mattes took the State Championships in the 500 Freestyle for the fourth year in a row and came in second in the 200 Individual Medley, proudly representing her Sarasota school. Michaela completes her swimming career as the most decorated Mooney athlete and will go on to swim for the University of Florida in the fall.

Michaela took the 500 Freestyle with a dominating time of 4:43.80, more than 9 seconds faster than her nearest competitor. Her winning time earned her automatic All-American status with the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association (NISCA). She was also State Champ in the same event as a freshman, sophomore and junior.

In the 200 individual medley, Michaela took silver with a time of 1:59.27, again earning All-American status. This was also the fourth consecutive year Michaela medaled in the event, taking gold in 2020 and silver in 2019 and 2021. On her own, Michaela took 15th in the team competition.

The Mooney boys qualified for States in the 200 medley relay with swimmers Alexander Mitten, Daniel Krajewski, Michael Navarro-Lenza, and Turner Mitten. Turner Mitten finished 12th in the 500 free, while Krajewski qualified for the 200 individual medley, and Alexander Mitten in the 100 backstroke.

At the same event, Bishop Verot Catholic High School swimmers Alexander Price, Stephen Prendiville, Nicolas Scripcariu and Daniel Perez also qualified for the 200 medley relay. Meanwhile, Eleanor Bonds, finished 11th in the 1 meter diving competition, while her teammate Kaylie Cunniff finished 14th in the same event.

The 1A State competition was delayed one week due to impacts from Hurricane Nicole.

Progress made in Ian recovery

In the two months since the devastating winds and waters of Hurricane Ian struck the Diocese of Venice the monumental work to clean up and rebuild have been going strong.

Ian struck on Sept. 28, 2022, with winds up to 155 mph and storm surge measured at 15 feet swept across Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach. In all, the wide impacts of Ian caused damage at 30 Parishes and 10 Catholic schools, as well as at many other Diocesan properties.


Two of the most dramatic impacts in the Diocese were to St. Isabel Parish on Sanibel, as well as to Ascension Parish and the Poor Clare Monastery of San Damiano on Fort Myers Beach.

At St. Isabel, the Parish church and hall suffered severe storm surge damage and contractors hired by the Diocese have worked non-stop to mitigate against further damage since Oct. 25, the first day access was granted to the island for contractors after the causeway was rebuilt.

A visit to the Parish on Nov. 12 revealed a team of 30 contractors chiseling out the tile floor and cutting out moldy drywall in the church after already doing identical work in the neighboring hall.

The approach to the Parish on Sanibel-Captiva Road revealed a pile of debris at least six feet high and approximately 75 yards long, obstructing the street view of the Parish property. This pile of debris included the contents of the hall and church, including flooring, drywall, ceiling tiles, furniture, and other built-in materials which were all beyond salvage. In addition, there was the debris that was scattered across the property by the surge and wind, such as trees, branches, pieces ripped from the Parish buildings, as well as various detritus scattered by the wind and water from nearby properties.

One of the lead contractors on Sanibel said the damage was severe but could have been worse as the walls of the church and hall both withstood the force of the wind and rain. The roofs of both buildings held up well, although there was water intrusion through the soffits and impacts to the roof. The drying of the building interiors was completed by mid-November, with clearing out the remaining debris from the grounds, the final step yet to be completed.

A message to parishioners on Nov. 18 stated “The first steps have begun toward the restoration of our Parish… Each building faces substantial restoration.”

The cleanup at Ascension Parish and the Poor Clare monastery on Fort Myers Beach started sooner but the destruction there was more complete. Contractors have been on the property since two weeks after Ian’s landfall dealing with what was left over after the storm surge blasted through the church, hall, rectory, and monastery.

By Nov. 12, all of the main debris, including the contents of all the buildings, had been pushed to the curb. The first part of this monumental task was clearing access to the property as there was rubble from at least nine destroyed homes piled as high as 15 feet. The debris was so deep that crews used front-end loaders and bulldozers to do the heavy work. The result was that most of the vegetation was scraped away, leaving bare dirt and sand in most areas. The final part of this process was draining and clearing out two large ponds which were overflowing with various wreckage.

In each building, the work crews also cut out the drywall and floors. Fortunately, the walls of the church and monastery were made of concrete, meaning no structural damage occurred. Part of securing the property from any further damage included putting plywood over each of the blown-out windows and doors as air blowers were helping with the final drying out process.

A sign of hope on the property was that the larger trees survived, and the stripped leaves are slowly returning.

Before reconstruction can begin on Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach, additional contractors and supplies need to be accumulated and brought to the barrier islands.

Joe Rego, Diocesan Buildings Director, who is overseeing the response to Hurricane Ian, explained that the Diocese is actively working to hire contractors to repair damage to all properties, but that the extensive damage at St. Isabel and on Fort Myers Beach will require an unknown amount of time to complete. This is because the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems in each building need to be assessed and either completely replaced or require extensive repairs after being exposed to storm surge inundation of salt water.

While it is hoped that reconstruction work can begin immediately, there is a shortage of workers and key supplies, such as drywall, plywood, flooring, and roofing materials, throughout the disaster zone.

“These issues are not unique to the barrier island properties, this is across the region,” Rego explained. “That part of the rebuilding effort is out of our control. The contractors have been up front in explaining the challenges and will expedite work wherever possible.”

All options are on the table, Rego added, meaning work at St. Isabel and on Fort Myers Beach might be done in phases to ensure some buildings are operational faster than others versus doing everything all at once.

“This is going to be a long process and we know we are not alone in facing these challenges,” he said. “We ask everyone’s patience as we work our way through this complicated process. In the end, we will build back better; it just might take a while.”

If you would like to support the Diocese of Venice efforts to recover from Hurricane Ian, please visit

Memorial Mass held for Deacons and their wives

Remembering those who have gone before, Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the annual Deacon Memorial Mass on Nov. 19, 2022, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

The Mass is held in November to coincide with the Month of All Souls. In addition to Deacons and their spouses, also present were members of the Permanent Diaconate Formation Class of 2025 and their spouses.

The readings of the day were from All Souls Day (Nov. 2), when the faithful learn that God has provided life and an afterlife through His Son, Jesus Christ.

“Jesus identifies himself as the Bread of Life,” Bishop Dewane said. “Christ takes that opportunity to reveal Himself to you, and to me, so you and I will choose Him and hear His message, achieving a new level of understanding of what that eternal life means… We are conscious that we have a life here on earth for a limited time, so do those we love. But that reality isn’t a denial of death. Christ offers something more to us, and to those who came before – a lifting up. It is the eternal promise of being in the hands of God.”

Bishop Dewane explained that being a part of the Permanent Diaconate is a unique responsibility and humble role in the Church, for they live a sacramental marriage and answer a specific call to serve the Lord. Pope Francis says Deacons are sentinels, people of action who look out for the poor, those who are on the margins and those who might be on the fringes of the Church.

“Deacons help the Christian community to spot those who are far off on the margins by getting the larger community to see and understand as well as work to bring them closer to the Lord,” the Bishop said.

The Memorial Mass brings together those Deacons, and their wives, serving today while honoring the memory of those who have served in the Diocese of Venice since its founding in 1984. Appropriately, it is a time of expressing gratitude to all for their answering the call of the Lord in a precise way.

As part of this annual tradition, during the Prayer Intentions, the names of those who have passed away during the previous year are solemnly read as candles are lit in their honor. Included in the list of names this year were Vicki Brenner, Gail Tomasso, Sapina Pele, Joan Zammett, and Andrea Schultz.

Today, there are more than 60 Permanent Deacons, many seasonal, living and serving throughout the Diocese.

Applications sought for new Permanent Diaconate class

Bishop Frank J. Dewane has approved the call for applicants to the permanent diaconate, Class of 2028.  There are currently 10 men studying in the five-year program. The new class will begin in September 2023.

Inquirers must be Catholics in good standing and fully initiated into the faith for at least five years. An inquirer must be at least 35 years of age at the time of application and no older than 60 at ordination.

Informational meetings will be held for inquirers and their wives on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, at St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, or on Dec. 10, 2022, at St. Martha’s Parish, 200 N. Orange St., Sarasota. The meetings are from 10 a.m. to noon.

Further information is also available from the Diaconate Office at the Catholic Center in Venice by calling Deacon Bob Gaitens, Director of Diaconate Student Formation, at 941-350-2634 or email Further information on the Permanent Diaconate may be found on the Diocesan web site at

News Briefs from the week of Nov. 25, 2022

Fort Myers Rabbi given Papal Knighthood

Rabbi A. James Rudin, co-founder of the St. Leo University’s Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies, became only the third American rabbi in history to be honored with the Papal Knighthood of the Order of St. Gregory for his work in interfaith relations at St. Leo University on Nov. 20, 2022. Rabbi Rudin, who is from Fort Myers, received the medal of the Order of St. Gregory from Auxiliary Bishop Mark O’Connell, of the Archdiocese of Boston. The investiture ceremony was conducted on behalf of Pope Francis in recognition of Rudin’s decades of work in building positive Catholic-Jewish relations throughout the world, fostering interreligious dialogue and understanding. Rabbi Rudin has spoken several times at interreligious gatherings within the Diocese of Venice, including the annual Yom HaShoah commemoration in Venice, as well as the Kristallnacht commemoration in Naples. Bishop Frank J. Dewane was among the honored guests for the investiture. Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston, originally was to conduct the ceremony on behalf of Pope Francis, but was unable to attend. The Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies was co-founded by Bishop John J. Nevins, founding Bishop of the Diocese of Venice.

“Blessings Bags” for Our Mother’s House

Girl Scout Troop 71404, which is located in North Royalton, Ohio, and is composed of 16 kindergarten girls who recently had a lesson on hurricanes, made “Blessings Bags” for moms and kids in the Diocese of Venice after hearing about Hurricane Ian.  The girls made 46 bags including 13 bags for moms with personal hygiene items, six bags for babies including items such as pacifiers, rattles, and hooded bath towels, and 27 bags for children, which included toys, writing pads, and crayons. The “Blessings Bags” were distributed to moms, babies and kids at Our Mother’s House in Venice on Nov. 17, 2022. The Catholic Charities programs provides residential support for new mothers who might otherwise be homeless. Upon receiving the “Blessing bags,” Shannon Hoyt, Our Mother’s House Program Manager said, “What an amazing, thoughtful thing for them to do! Thank you so much!”

Giving Tuesday, Nov. 29

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving (Nov. 29, 2022) has been traditionally recognized as Giving Tuesday, when people switch from their frenetic Christmas shopping to give back to local charities. Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. (, as well as each of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools ( are participating in this Giving Tuesday. Many of these organizations have challenges which can multiply your donation and better benefit a school or program. Please consider giving on Giving Tuesday.

Parish celebrates cultural diversity

St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers celebrated a multicultural Mass on Nov. 20, 2022, the Solemnity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Prior to the Mass, women of the Vietnamese Catholic community performed a ceremonial dance in honor of Christ the King. The Mass included readings in Spanish, Filipino, and English, and music from each of the cultures. This Mass was originally scheduled for early October but was delayed due to the destruction caused to the Fort Myers area during Hurricane Ian. The celebration was one way to mark the ongoing recovery as well the diversity and unity of the Universal Church.

Students make blankets for the homeless

As part of a Reverse Advent Calendar Project, eighth graders at St. Martha Catholic spent the week before their Thanksgiving break making blankets for the homeless. A special thank you to the local JoAnn Fabric stores for making the fabric for the blankets available.

Science, art and food enhance classroom lesson

As part of a biology class at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples on Nov. 16, 2022, students created a 3-D representative of a eukaryotic and prokaryotic cell, with a twist. The goal of the project was to develop and use the model to describe the function of a cell as a whole and showed ways that parts of cells contribute to the function. Then they ate the cells which were created out of a variety of food. This unique project was developed by teacher Elaina Gianello who used various aspects of the STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, art, and math) curriculum to make the lesson more engaging for the students.

Safety patrol recognized for hard work

The Safety Patrol team at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton received a surprise visit on Nov. 16, 2022, from deputies from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. Each Safety Patrol member was presented with a Junior Deputy Badge and AAA Certificate. A Sheriff’s representative spoke to the Safety Patrol member to recognize the hard work and commitment these fourth-grade students have put into their positions.

Students make prayer ropes

Bishop Verot Catholic High School theology students in Fort Myers recently learned about prayer ropes and made them during an outdoor lesson on Nov. 15, 2022. These ropes are typically made with intricate knots, 33 of them to be specific – one for each year of Jesus’ life. A prayer rope is a loop made up of complex woven knots formed in a cross pattern, usually out of wool or silk. The students learned a little more about this tradition and got to enjoy some time outside of the classroom in the process during their theology class. Most commonly part of the practice of Eastern Orthodox monks and nuns, the prayer ropes are used to count the number of times one has prayed to Jesus.

Diocese honors veterans with Mass

The Diocese of Venice continued its tradition by celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for veterans who have served and continue to serve our country in the armed forces.

The annual Veterans Day Catholic Mass, celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, is in its 13th year, with the 2022 Mass celebrated at St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota. The Mass, which has been traditionally held at the nearby Sarasota National Cemetery, was relocated out of an abundance of caution for the safety of participants due to rains caused by Hurricane Nicole.

“We honor our veterans in a very clear way,” Bishop Dewane said. “They fought to promote justice and to defeat tyranny… They had a faith that what they were doing was right and needed to be done; they were fighting not just for one nation, but for all of humanity. In the end, they had faith that a just God would grant them mercy.”

The Bishop noted that more than 41 million Americans have served in the armed forces over the course of the nation’s history and more than 1.2 million died in combat, causing everyone to pause and remember the sacrifice of not just the soldiers but of the families and friends whom they left behind.

“We celebrate the goodness, and the grace of each one of those individuals who serve their country and their God,” Bishop Dewane said, adding that veterans teach everyone “how to give totally of ourselves for one another to lay down one’s life in charity and love – our dear veterans have contributed all that they had, their whole life, many of them, for the sake of our greater good.”

The Veterans Day celebration opened with the singing of the National Anthem, and a presentation of a ceremonial wreath by one retired and two active members of the military.

Adding to the dignity and ceremony of the day were active and retired veterans who were asked to stand and be recognized as part of the opening ceremonies. The Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus formed a Color Corps, and many other Knights were also present to support the veterans.

Following the conclusion of the Mass, everyone joined in reciting a Veterans Day prayer before singing God Bless America. The Diocese of Venice coordinates the Veterans Day Catholic Mass with the support of the Knights of Columbus and plans to return to the Sarasota National Cemetery in 2023.

In the schools

Each of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools celebrated Veterans Day in different ways.

At St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples, students processed to church with patriotic art projects for a Veterans Day Mass and tribute. The eighth graders led the tribute with a special flag folding ceremony, and hand-made wreaths were given to each veteran present, and prayers were offered for those not present.

St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton had a special flag raising ceremony led by the fourth graders, while at St. Ann Catholic School in Naples the students attended Mass where veterans were recognized and honored. Meanwhile, the Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School Young Marines faith program from Venice participated in the Sarasota Veterans Day parade.

These are just a few examples of how Catholic school students honored our veterans.

Veterans Day began as an informal celebration to mark the conclusion of World War I (Nov. 11, 1918), before being designated as a national holiday in 1954 to honor all military men and women who have sacrificed so much in their service to this country.


Eucharistic Devotional Project begins in schools

Each year, one of the annual initiatives of the Diocese of Venice Department of Education is the development of the devotional lives of our students through a Diocesan-wide devotional project.

The 2022-2023 devotional project is “The Most Holy Eucharist: The Riches of His Glorious Inheritance.” Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, said the theme was approved and encouraged by Bishop Frank J. Dewane as it supports the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival, led by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress and Youth Rally on March 24-25, 2023. The devotional project during the 2021-2022 academic year was the Saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Saints, and during the 2020-2021 academic year it was St. Joseph.

To get the devotional project off the ground, a training session took place Nov. 4, 2022, at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota. The training included two eighth graders (a boy and girl) from each school who will act as Junior Catechists for this project. Just as they did in previous years, these student leaders will catechize their classmates with a classroom lesson and go classroom to classroom, teaching about our Catholic devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist.

“At our training day, we highlighted the importance of leadership in the faith, evangelization and discipleship,” Father Belmonte said. “We met for Benediction and Adoration, a training session with the students led by our Diocesan Curriculum Director, Jennifer Falestiny. I led the parents who brought their children to the meeting in a presentation on devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist.”

Father Belmonte started the training session for the Junior Catechists with the words of St. John Vianney, “There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us.”

“The 15-week project is intended to bring to our students a deeper awareness and more ardent love of our Lord’s Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist,” Father Belmonte said.

The junior catechists were trained and received a Catholic Altar kit complete with miniature chalice, paten, cruets, ciborium, as well as all the elements for learning about the Mass. These eighth-grade leaders will visit classrooms at their schools to teach their classmates about the Most Holy Eucharist. They will teach on how to visit the Blessed Sacrament, encourage their classmates to learn about Eucharistic miracles and track their visits to the Blessed Sacrament.

High school students will be learning about the 15 Eucharistic miracles during their theology classes.

As part of the devotional project, Bishop Dewane gave each school a Lego Mass set, pocket prayer cards and informational cards relating to visiting the Blessed Sacrament.

“Our efforts are part of the National Eucharistic Revival initiated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to rejuvenate belief in the Real Presence among U.S. Catholics,” Bishop Dewane said.

The Catechism teaches us that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). It is the sanctifying grace which is the point of everything in our Catholic religion. “By learning about the Most Holy Eucharist and teaching how to visit our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, our junior Catechists will help their classmates to participate in the very life of God. St. John Vianney would be very pleased indeed,” Father Belmonte said.

In addition to the student-led classroom lessons, there will be weekly teacher-led classroom activities.

Outside of Mass times, students are encouraged to visit Our Lord in the Tabernacle. With each visit during the 15 weeks, students are asked to say the Devotional Prayer to the Most Holy Eucharist which was provided in a pocket-sized card.

In addition to the classroom aspects, this devotional project has several other components.

There is also a Digital Blessed Sacrament Visit Tracker, a website where teachers can help students keep count of each visit to Our Lord (at Mass, during Adoration, in the school or Parish Chapel) from Nov. 15, 2022, to April 10, 2023. The school with the most visits will be recognized at the end of the devotional project.

Each school also received a Catholic Altar Learning Set for a differentiated STREAM project. In December, the schools will learn about CAD/CAM 3D modeling challenge for students.

Finally, there is an art competition. As in previous years, students will be encouraged to produce art work based on our Catholic artistic tradition around the Most Holy Eucharist.

“With Bishop Dewane, it is my hope that our emphasis on devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist and the study of these various Eucharistic miracles will bring us closer to Our Lord as we visit Him truly present in the Blessed Sacrament,” Father Belmonte said. “May He inspire all of us to emulate the love He has for us to others in our schools and in the world.”

For more information about this Diocesan devotional project, please visit

Solemnity of Christ the King Nov. 20

On the last Sunday of each liturgical year, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, or Christ the King.

Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925 with his encyclical Quas primas (“In the first”) to respond to growing secularism and atheism. He recognized that attempting to “thrust Jesus Christ and His holy law” out of public life would result in continuing discord among people and nations. This solemnity reminds us that while governments come and go, Christ reigns as King forever.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops notes that this Solemnity is a fitting moment in the liturgical year to promote the Church’s teaching on religious freedom. The USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty “urge[d] that the Solemnity of Christ the King – a feast born out of resistance to totalitarian incursions against religious liberty – be a day specifically employed by Bishops and priests to preach about religious liberty, both here and abroad.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane said this year’s commemoration of Christ the King Sunday has a special meaning for the people of the Diocese of Venice.

“On the Solemnity of Christ the King, in these trying times in which so many still suffer from the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, let us be mindful of hope,” Bishop Dewane said. “Hope, like faith, is a gift from God. On this day, we can ask Christ the King, the first to rise from the dead and head of the Church, to strengthen in us the hope that is essential to our faith, the hope that pushes us forward even when facing difficulty. In prayer, let us acknowledge that Christ is our King, and with Christ all things are possible. By truly knowing that our origin and end is in Jesus Christ Our King, we find hope, peace, justice, freedom, and happiness.”

Pope Francis said in a 2021 address about Christ the King, “His kingship is truly beyond human parameters. We could say that he is not like other kings, but he is a King for others.”

The Holy Father said that Jesus was a king who liberated His followers, freeing us from being subject to evil.

“His Kingdom is liberating, there is nothing oppressive about it,” Pope Francis continued. “He treats every disciple as a friend, not as a subject… Christ wants to have brothers and sisters with whom to share His joy… We do not lose anything in following Him — nothing is lost, no — but we acquire dignity because Christ does not want servility around Him, but people who are free.”

As stated by Pope Pius XI, Christ’s kingship is rooted in the Church’s teaching on the Incarnation. Jesus is fully God and fully man. He is both the divine Lord and the man who suffered and died on the Cross. One person of the Trinity unites Himself to human nature and reigns over all creation as the Incarnate Son of God. “From this it follows not only that Christ is to be adored by angels and men, but that to him as man angels and men are subject, and must recognize his empire; by reason of the hypostatic union Christ has power over all creatures” (Quas primas, 13).

For more information and resources about the Solemnity of Christ the King, please visit

Exciting sports news from around the Diocese

It was a busy time the past week for athletes at Diocese of Venice Catholic high schools between competitions and signings.

First up, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Sophomore Nico Bencomo fired a -1 (71) to tie for 2nd in Florida High School 1A Golf State Championship, Nov. 12, 2022, at Mission Inn Resort and Country Club in Howey-in-the-Hills. Bencomo led Mooney to a team bronze medal.

Mooney’s Tommy Tyler fired an even par 72, one shot out of the medals to tie for 6th. Other Mooney golfers included Joe Pike, Lukas Wahlstrom, and Finley Murphy. This is the best team finish in school history for the Sarasota boys.

At the same competition, the Bishop Verot Catholic High School team finished 5th overall. The golfers were Christian Allen, Michael Bevins, Zachary Loninger, Kevin Kelly, and Dalton Payne. In addition, Connor Shea, of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples was the only boy to qualify for States.

In the girls’ golf competition, the Verot team finished 12th overall. Golfers included Amelia Loninger, Samantha Loninger, Morgan Franklin, Caroline Kelly, and Ava Aloia. Due to the impacts of the Hurricane Nicole, the State Championship was delayed and then shortened a single 18-hole event.

Meanwhile, on National Signing Day, Nov. 9, 2022, 13 student-athletes from across the Diocese signed their letters of intent to play at the collegiate level.

At Mooney, five student-athletes made their announcements. They include: Jordyn Byrd, University of Texas (volleyball, the 6-foot-5 senior outside hitter is part of the 1,000 Kills Club and was the 2021-2022 Gatorade Florida Volleyball Player of the Year); Michaela Mattes, University of Florida (swimming, ranked as the No. 5 recruit in the country and No.1 out of Florida according to College for the Class of 2023); Jack McKinnon, University of South Florida, (baseball, also a standout varsity football player); Olivia Davis, University of Tampa (basketball, four year starter at Mooney); and Caity Patterson, Florida Gulf Coast University (softball).

At Bishop Verot, six students signed their letter of intent. They are: Victoria Ash, Stetson University (softball); Camryn Feast, Florida Gulf Coast University (softball), Andrew Hanlon, Brown University (baseball); Aidan Knaak, Clemson University (baseball); Sarah Yamrick, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania (softball); and Gigi Malik, University of Piedmont (lacrosse).

At St. John Neumann in Naples, Carter White and Tyler Kozera both signed to play baseball at the University of Central Florida.

Congratulations and good luck to each student-athlete!