Pardon Our Dust – Parishes and schools – upgrades, renovations and new construction

Dusty construction zones have been a common sight at multiple Diocesan Parishes and Catholic schools during the summer months and in some locations more work is on the horizon.

Projects ranging from window upgrades to constructing new Parish Halls have forced some temporary closures of buildings and other disruptions throughout the summer and into the fall. However, Joe Rego, Diocese of Venice Director of Building and Construction, explained how all the work – nearly 80 active projects – has been necessary stressing the end results will be worth any temporary inconvenience.

“Each of these projects (active, ongoing, or planned) is a priority for the respective Parish and school,” Rego explained. “All of it is necessary and will have benefits that will last for years to come.”

One of the most common projects currently within the Diocese has been roof repair and/or replacement. Such work is often necessitated as buildings age.

For example, the faithful at Our Lady of Grace Parish have endured multiple projects to upgrade their Parish Church and Parish Hall. The roof was replaced on both in 2020 and now interior work is ongoing in the Church with new tile flooring, pews and look to the sanctuary. With Mass taking place in the Parish Hall, the faithful are anxious to return when the work is completed late in the fall.

“Our parishioners’ support has been very vital in the inception and the actual implementation of the project,” said Father Ronnie Sison, Pastor of Our Lady of Grace. “The new floors should be enjoyed and last for generations to come. They also provide us with a healthier and cleaner environment by removing the old carpeting and replacing it with something that will outlast us all.”

The Church at Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostle Parish in Bradenton was closed for a time, and Mass was temporarily held in the Parish Center, to allow the installation of a new roof, and now the pews are being refinished, reupholstered and installed.

Pews were also replaced during the summer at St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral and St. Ann Parish in Naples. Father William Davis, OSFS, Pastor of St. Ann Parish, said the upholstery on the pews was past its usefulness and the cost difference for new ones was close enough that it was a natural choice. Though there was an inconvenience for approximately seven weeks, Father Davis said the results exceeded expectations and “the response has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Meanwhile, the roof at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Sarasota is being worked on now with much more to come. The interior of the church, including the altar, will be renovated with Mass temporarily being held outside starting in late fall. Once all of that work is done, the faithful will see the construction of a new Parish Hall, replacing a structure that was torn down due to safety concerns.

Roof replacement is now taking place on the church building at St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish on Longboat Key with additional buildings at other locations being scheduled for work in the coming year.

Holy Child Mission in Bowling Green has been going through a complete renovation with the interior gutted and replaced. Much of this work was necessitated because of damage caused by Hurricane Irma in September 2017. As that repair work progressed, more issues were discovered and are being addressed. Bishop Frank J. Dewane saw firsthand the progress of the work on Aug. 7, 2021. He was given a tour and learned that upgrades to the restrooms and a new roof were next on the to-do list.

Multiple construction projects are taking place at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande and include a new Parish Life Center, for which the slab is installed with walls being erected. Work will extend into early 2022. Other tasks include modifications to the existing preschool which includes converting spaces and upgrading the play area. Father Jerome Carosella, Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy, said he has been impressed by the progress of the work and what is necessary as the Parish is in an historic district on a barrier island. “The anchors go deep into the ground, so it won’t be going anywhere if a big storm comes,” Father said.

Another Parish Life Center under construction is located at St. William Parish in Naples. The Parish Center is replacing an old structure to accommodate Parish growth. That project began in April 2021 and is at the phase where exterior walls are rising, and interior work will begin by the fall. This project is expected to be done by Easter 2022.

Two Parishes with newly constructed Churches are going through similar renovations to their properties. Both Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch and Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee have work that includes Hall renovations. Work in Immokalee is in the final stages while Lakewood Ranch the construction is in the preliminary phases. Both buildings will include a commercial kitchen and much needed space for the respective growing Parish community.

The most recent high-profile project completed was the new St. Paul Parish Church in Arcadia. This project included the renovation of a former large grocery store into a new Church which was Blessed and Dedicated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane in March 2021. The new Church quadrupled the capacity of the old to more than 1,300. Future work includes classrooms and office space as well as a Parish Hall all contained under one roof.

Smaller projects include work on installing hurricane impact windows at St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota, audio-visual upgrades at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice, a fence for Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton and much more.

Diocesan Catholic schools were not immune to summer work and upgrades focused on the safety of students. Upgrades were made to Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice and Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota.

St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples replaced the fire and public address system which was previously damaged in a lightning strike. Several schools created or expanded dedicated classroom space for the growing STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) curriculum.

St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring and Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria are both having work done to expand their facilities and make better use of existing space to accommodate growth in the schools.

At St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples a new portable classroom building is being installed for use by middle schoolers as the additional classroom space was needed. The old cafeteria is going through a renovation to convert to a building to be used for the arts and sciences. Eventually the school will be building a new administration building and enhanced entrance.

Rego, of Diocesan Buildings Department, said these are just some of the examples of the individual projects currently at different stages of completion throughout the Diocese. It should be noted that some of the projects have been impacted by the global Pandemic which caused shortages of building materials and workers.

“This resulted in delays for some projects,” Rego said. “It was unavoidable but something we strive to deal with. We are confident in the firms we use, as we have developed a good working relationship. When projects are put up for bid, each firms has a clear understanding of our needs.”

Parish helps dreams come true for youth

Over the years the parishioners of St. Leo the Great Parish have forged a strong bond with Catholic Charities programs in Bonita Springs.

“We proudly host their presence on our campus in the Juan Diego Center and constantly witness and support the good works provided by their staff and volunteers, many of whom are our own parishioners,” said Anne Bellows, Assistant to the Pastor.  “We partner in providing donations from our St. Leo Food Bank, as well as annual holiday food and gift drives at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. We receive the most delight in this relationship when it impacts our area children.”

The Positive Youth Development Program is one such Catholic Charities resource which helps area children and operates after-school tutoring and summer camps, explained Jose A. Perez, Positive Youth Development Program Manager.

Each of the 40 children who participated in the Program’s Summer Enrichment Camp received scholarships from parishioners of St. Leo the Great Parish. During the summer the children received tutoring in math and reading, as well as enjoying enriching activities during their seven weeks on campus including a number of day trips.

“This year we wanted to do something special for the youth we have the privilege of working with,” Perez said. “The last two years have been hard on everyone, but especially on youth who will look back and remember the Pandemic as a significant life event, and it has not been a very positive one.”

Perez figured that perhaps the Program could do something that will leave a positive memory for these challenging times in all this sadness.

“After much thought, I decided to reach out to the most magical place on earth (Disney World) since the kids have always asked about visiting since none had ever been,” Perez said. “Looking back on my first time at Disney, I remember what a fantastic experience it was, but it was also expensive.”

With this goal in mind, Perez worked tirelessly to put the pieces together to make this marvelous adventure happen within budget and without a hitch. The effort included reaching out to Disney for discounted tickets and to a local company for economical transportation.

“St. Leo Parish has always been there for our Positive Youth Development Program,” Perez said. “They help us with whatever comes up. Once the time came for us to meet about scholarships, they asked if we’re doing anything different this year, and I said ‘Yes!’ I explained what we were trying to accomplish making a lasting memory for the students, and they were on board. So, we came up with what we wanted to call the trip: ‘Making Dreams That Last Forever.’”

St. Leo the Great Parish covered the cost of nearly everything, including additional funding for t-shirts and money for souvenirs, Bellows noted. “’Making Dreams That Last Forever’ became a joyful reality made possible through the generosity of our parishioners.”

The parents were as excited as the kids were when they learned about the trip, Perez explained. One mother said: “Thank you for giving our children an opportunity we could never give them.”

Therefore, on the July 31, 2021, the group, including 40 youth, nine high school-aged volunteers, and Catholic Charities staff went on a trip of lifetime.

Upon entering the Magic Kingdom, a girl named Arianna said to Perez: “Mr. Jose, look, it’s the Castle! It’s real!”

Camper Briana described her experience this way: “This was amazing. I had always dreamed of going to Disney. I am so glad I was able to come to summer camp. Thank you!”

Other campers had similar reactions: “It was such a magical feeling when we entered the park.” “This is so cool!” “Thank you for making my dream come true!”  “This was the most fun I have ever had!”

Perez said the trip was “beyond what I thought possible, the kids had a fantastic time. Getting to see their faces as we entered the park as they were greeted with the sight and sounds was priceless.”

To learn more about the Catholic Charities Positive Youth Development Program please contact Lose Perez at 239-390-2928 ext. 2302 or email To support the Program, visit

To learn about St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, please visit or call 239-992-0901.

An Opportunity to Encounter Jesus in the Classroom

Religious Educators Prepare for Catechetical Day

By John Carkeet, Special to the Florida Catholic

After 18 months of prayer, patience and preparation, hundreds of religious educators across the Diocese of Venice are poised to participate in its Catechetical Day Conference Sept. 25, 2021, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers.

Hosted by the Diocese of Venice Department of Education, the Conference will feature nine workshops and four keynote addresses led by renowned national speakers presenting a variety of topics rooted in the theme, “Encountering Christ in the Classroom.”

“Catechetical Day is an opportunity for religious educators to learn how to increase their skills in sharing the Word of God with their students in the classroom,” said Anne Chrzan, Diocesan Director of Religious Education. “We broadly define the ‘classroom’ to include homes, parks, playgrounds, churches, and other public gatherings to show that catechists can teach and inspire students to love Jesus, emulate his teachings and embrace their Catholic faith in all dimensions of their lives.

This Conference will allow catechists to come together in smaller groups and learn new material in English or Spanish. Religious education publishers will also showcase innovative resources to help catechists enhance their students’ learning environment.

The day begins with Jesus at the forefront as Bishop Frank J. Dewane will celebrate the liturgy at St. Cecilia Catholic Church. Attendees will then take a short walk or ride to neighboring Bishop Verot Catholic High School, where they will attend workshops, explore the exhibits, and partake in fellowship over a catered luncheon.

Catechetical Day presents the perfect opportunity to help the catechists within the Diocese of Venice learn new and exciting ways to engage young people with a curriculum centered on the teachings of the Catholic Church. By the end of the Conference, Catechists will be better equipped to share how they encountered Jesus in their lives and help students recognize where He is and can be in their lives.

Jared Dees, creator of the website, The Religion Teacher, which offers a treasure trove of practical resources and effective teaching strategies to religious educators, serves as the Conference’s keynote speaker. Dees, who is also the author of Encountering Jesus in the Classroom, will walk participants through the five-step method of Lectio Divina, one of the earliest forms of prayer.

Ricardo Grzona and Dr. Amy Roberts will also lead engaging presentations entitled, “How to Share Your Faith with Children and Parents.” Grzona, founder of Fundación Ramón Pané, a nonprofit organization dedicated to evangelization and spiritual formation, will present the topic in Spanish. Roberts, a classroom methodology professor at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, will address the audience in English.

With approximately 1,100 catechists serving more than 7,500 children and teens across the Diocese of Venice, the Department of Education designed Catechetical Day to educate catechists and give them the tools and resources for parishioners to grow in the Catholic faith. Chrzan expects record breaking attendance for a Conference that gathers catechists who serve the Church in sharing the Word of God among young people from all walks of life.

Register for Catechetical Day at or contact Anne Chrzan at



News Briefs for the Week of Sept. 10, 2021

Bishop celebrates Mass for students in Fort Myers

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School and Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers on Sept. 7, 2021. He stressed the importance of taking time for prayer in their lives. The Bishop cited the Gospel Reading for the day (Lk 6:12-19), when the Lord calls the 12 Disciples by name. “Jesus always took time for prayer before making a major decision or announcement,” Bishop Dewane said. “Find the time in your life to pray.”

Naples Parish hosts Peace Novena

St. Agnes Parish in Naples began a Peace Novena on Sept. 3, 2021, in the lead up to the 20th Anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks and marking the end of the war in Afghanistan with its recent tragic consequences. The daily Peace Novena will conclude at 3 p.m., Sept. 11, in the Church, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road The service will include special decorations, candle lighting, scripture readings, a brief homily, intercessions, the completion of the Novena, and music, prior to the 4 p.m. Mass. The faithful were able to follow the novena through the Parish website.

Knights gifts Bibles to students

The sixth and seventh grade students at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton were each presented with a personal Bible, courtesy of the Knights of Columbus. St. Joseph Pastor, Father Rafal Ligenza, visited each of the classrooms and blessed the Bibles on Sept. 3, 2021.

Students donate blood

More than 60 Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School students donated blood on Aug. 31, 2021 as part of a life-saving drive conducted at the Sarasota school by Suncoast Blood Centers.


Freshmen retreat includes pray and fun

The St. John Neumann Catholic High School Class of 2025 participated in the annual Freshmen Retreat on Sept. 3, 2021 in Naples. It was a day of prayer, adoration, education, fun, games, trivia, and food!

From Afghanistan to Southwest Florida

Susan Laielli – Special to the Florida Catholic

(Images courtesy of Catholic News Service)

From the latest bomb attacks outside of the Kabul Airport in Afghanistan to the Taliban and ISIS-K takeover of the region there is at least one new family in Southwest Florida who is grateful to be alive, and thankful to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. for their support.

Jamal, (not his real name) is a former Afghanistan resident who worked as a contractor for the U.S. Government helping to rebuild the country’s judicial system.  He arrived in the United States two years ago after qualifying for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV). In June 2021, he was reunited with his wife and four children, after they escaped the southern Asian country just before the crisis started to worsen.

“I am so lucky to be alive because all of the contact information from Afghani residents who worked as contractors for the U.S. has been left behind and is now in the hands of the Taliban,” said Jamal, from his newly rented apartment. “They are sure to be killed if they are found.”

Since arriving in the United States Jamal has been assisted by Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., after being referred from Gulf Coast Jewish Children’s Services, says Anna Solovyanchik, Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Case Manager.

“Catholic Charities initially helped with the family’s intake orientation, and I also met with them in their home to offer guidance on some of the cultural differences from country to country,” said Solovyanchik, who became involved when Jamal’s wife and children, ages seven, four, and two-year old twin boys, arrived in the United States in June.

Since then, Solovyanchik says a donor of Catholic Charities has also stepped in to help with food from a local food pantry and from his personal resources, to ensure the family has what they need as they navigate a new life in a country far away from his mother and other siblings who remain in danger. Jamal’s brother also worked for the U.S. Government but hasn’t been able to leave Afghanistan at this time, and Jamal has not had contact with him.

Jamal speaks English very well and is in the process of attending a university to obtain an advanced degree in construction management. Currently, he is working in a warehouse during the day and attends school in the evening. The couple’s seven-year-old son is already enrolled in school, which wasn’t easy for him at first due to language barriers, but his parents say it is getting better with each passing day.

During the Catholic Charities home visit, Solovyanchik assisted with paperwork for referral services for food and other necessary supplies.  She also discovered the family is sleeping on mattresses on the floor, but they are very, very happy to be in America.

“As they begin their new life, the family could use donations of a dinner table and chairs, bedroom sets for the children, and clothing for three boys and one girl,” said Solovyanchik, who was also deeply touched that the family insisted she have lunch with them, sharing the very little food they had to eat.

Philomena Pereira, CEO, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., admits that while many Afghani families are going to larger regions with broader language support and deeper familial ties, Catholic Charities was asked to assist this family.

“Catholic Charities welcomes Jamal and his family as we help them transition and settle into their new home; it is a reminder to us of Pope Francis’ message that to welcome the stranger, is to welcome Christ,” said Pereira.

Jamal says he and his family are forever grateful for the support they are receiving, but he can’t help worrying about his brother whose fingerprints are in the various U.S. systems now in Taliban control.

“They will not stop until they (Taliban) track all these people down – it’s very sad,” said Jamal.

If you are interested assisting Jamal’s family or learning more about Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., please call 941-488-5581 or visit






Foundation starting First Friday Prayer Intentions with Bishop

The Catholic Community Foundation of Southwest Florida is beginning a new “First Friday Prayer Intentions with Bishop Frank J. Dewane” with an introduction from Bishop on Sept. 1, 2021, and the first Prayer Intention on Oct. 1.

“This is an opportunity for the faithful throughout the Diocese of Venice to share prayer intentions and then join Bishop Dewane in prayer on the first Friday of each month,” explained Michael Morse, Executive Director of the Catholic Community Foundation.

The faithful can submit prayer intentions to the Foundation Facebook page ( in the comments section or through the direct message option. For those who do not have access to Facebook or who wish to submit private intentions can do so via email at or by mail: Catholic Community Foundation of Southwest Florida, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

A welcome video to the “First Friday Prayer Intentions with Bishop Dewane” has been posted on the Foundation Facebook page and intention requests can be posted in the comments section at any time. A new video from Bishop Dewane leading viewers in prayer will be posted each First Friday, (Oct. 1, Nov. 5, Dec. 3, and so on).

During the introductory message, the Bishop said, “As written in the Gospel of Matthew, we hear Jesus say, ‘When two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.’”

“May our joint prayer to Our Heavenly Father draw us closer to Christ and remind us of our unity in the one Baptism that we share,” Bishop Dewane continued. “May it also ease our fears, raise our spirits, and renew our faith as we petition our Heavenly Father to help us during our times of both thanksgiving and human need.”

As the Bishop notes, the prayer for intentions can be submitted or be the “ones you hold within your heart.”

Morse explained that the Foundation started this prayer initiative solely with the goal of providing an opportunity for everyone to come together in prayer for others.

A link to the Foundation Facebook page can be found on the Foundation website at If you have any questions, please call 941-441-1124.

Bishop to deliver invocation at Sarasota 9/11 commemoration

Bishop Frank J. Dewane will deliver the invocation for the 20-Year Commemoration of 9/11 being held in Patriot Plaza at Sarasota National Cemetery.

The Commemoration, organized by the Sarasota Ministerial Association, will begin at 6 p.m., Sept. 11, 2021, the anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks on the United States. The memory of those who died will be honored. All first responders, active military, POW/MIA and veterans will also be recognized. There will be a call for all Americans to the “Unity of One Nation Under God.”

In the days leading up to the Commemoration, those interested can choose to represent a person who was killed on September 11 by standing at the appropriate time during the ceremony. Names of the deceased can be selected at During the Commemoration all will be invited to stand and state the name of the Fallen during the Sarasota Fire Department’s “Tolling of the Bell.” Later in the service, participants will again be invited to stand for their Fallen while the bagpipers play Amazing Grace.

For the first 500 attendees arriving to the Commemoration, flowers will be presented and placed in a mesh that will eventually become Old Glory, the American flag, located in front of the stage. Those arriving before 5:55 p.m., may place memorabilia of their chosen Fallen on the Gallery surrounding the American” flag of flowers.”

Several priests from across the Diocese will also be present for the Commemoration and process in with other clergy and distinguished presenters during the opening. In addition to guest speakers, a 70-member community chorus will perform. Special commemorative coins have been minted to mark the occasion and will be presented to 9 /11 Survivors, First Responders, military veterans, active-duty military, and Sarasota Elk Lodge member in attendance.

The Commemoration continues the tradition that began, September 11, 2001 when the Sarasota Ministerial Association held a prayer vigil. During the morning attacks, then-Mayor Carolyn Mason called the Ministerial Association co-founder Chaplain Tom Pfaff to summon a prayer gathering for America. By 4:30 p.m. more than 20 clergy came to the Chaplain J.D. Hamel Park Sarasota War Memorial on the Bayfront to worship God and pray. Every five years since then, the Ministerial Association has become a lead organizer for the Commemoration.

Everyone is welcome to this free 9/11 Commemoration at Sarasota National Cemetery, 9810 State Road 72 (Clark Road), Sarasota. The rain date will be 6 p.m., Sept. 12.

For those unable to attend the Sarasota 9/11 Commemoration, St. Peter the Apostle Parish, 5130 Rattlesnake Hammock Road, Naples, will once again be having its annual 9/11 Memorial Mass at 3:30 p.m., Sept. 11.  The Parish is home to a 9/11 Cross made from the steel of the World Trade Center and has hosted a commemorative Mass each year since 2001. For more information, please contact St. Peter the Apostle Parish at 239-774-3337 ext. 201.

Pastor installed in Naples

Father Leo Smith became emotional on Aug. 29, 2021 when Bishop Frank J. Dewane formally presented him as the new Pastor of St. Finbarr Parish in Naples.

Applause from the faithful was in recognition of the priest who served the faithful of St. Finbarr for six years. The appointment as Pastor solidified in the mind of the parishioners that Father Smith was there to stay, leading them into a bright future as the area around the Parish continues to grow rapidly.

“When I first came here, I was warmly welcomed and your support through the years has been a blessing,” Father Smith said.

As part of the installation process, Bishop Dewane first introduces the priest as Pastor to the parishioners. The priest later starts the Profession of Faith for all to hear, including an additional part solely for him. The new Pastor then recites an Oath of Fidelity and promises to “adhere to the teachings, which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise authentic magisterium.” The installation also includes prayers to provide the new Pastor the wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit to lead the Parish.

The ceremony concluded with the signing of documents by the Bishop, the new Pastor, and two official witnesses of the Parish community, who serve as witnesses for all of the parishioners. Those documents are split between the Parish and Diocese as well as the Pastor’s personnel records.

St. Finbarr Parish was established as a Mission Church of San Marco Parish in 2000 and was elevated by Bishop Dewane to become the 57th Parish of the Diocese of Venice on Dec. 12, 2010. During the peak winter season, each weekend approximately 1,500 attend Masses in English, Spanish and Creole.

News Briefs for Week of Sept. 3, 2021

Bishop Dewane continues to celebrate Mass for students

Bishop Frank J. Dewane continues celebrate Mass for the students in each of the 15 Diocese of Venice Catholic schools. The latest series of Masses took place Aug. 26, 2021 at Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota; Aug. 27 at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charlotte; and Aug. 31 at both St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School and St. Ann Catholic School in Naples.

Diocesan principals meet

The Diocese of Venice Office of Catholic Education hosted a Principal’s Meeting Aug. 26, 2021 at the Epiphany Cathedral Parish Hall. Father John Belmonte, SJ, Superintendent of Catholic Education, led the meeting and updated everyone on how the start of the new Academic Year has been going in the Diocese and how successful the COVID-19 safety precautions have been working. Father Jeff Puttoff, SJ, who assisted in recruiting and promoting the Step Up for Students Scholarship initiative in the Diocese, provided an update on that work which resulted in a more than 12% increase in enrollment. The principals also received updates on the implementation of a comprehensive curriculum update. Jennifer Falestiny, Diocese Director of Curriculum, spoke about training teachers in a variety of areas. Falestiny also focused on the work to expand the STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) programs. This also included a progress report on the implementation of the robotics STREAM initiative which will include competitions starting in the fall. Bishop Frank J. Dewane joined the group for lunch.

Miss Florida 2021 grew up at Bradenton Parish

If the recently crowned Miss Florida 2021, Leah Roddenberry, looks familiar to you, it might be that she is a parishioner and a former altar server at Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish in Bradenton. Father Mark Heuberger, Pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul, congratulated Roddenberry during a Mass in early August and wished her luck for December, when she will compete in the 100th Miss America competition. She graduated in 2017 from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota and previously attended St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton. Congratulations, Leah! We’ll be cheering you on.

Students start garden

School gardens can make lasting differences in the lives of children. The lessons taught through these outdoor learning laboratories transcend gardening to impact children, their families and entire communities for years to come. St. Mary Catholic Academy Teacher A.J. Schiep engaged his students in this wonderful and meaningful activity on Aug. 26, 2021, in Sarasota. The new garden is just outside their classroom windows and the students used various gardening tools, getting their hands dirty, while preparing the soil for planting. The students will work on the garden throughout the year, following the progress and eventually eating the fresh food that grows.

Eighth graders display leadership

St. Francis Xavier Catholic School eighth-grade each year take part in Falcon Academy students where they are excited to display the skills they have developed throughout their years here while serving the school community. This leadership program includes journaling, discussion, and feedback exercises help students self-reflect on their experiences. During the year, they will explore patience, empathy, active listening, reliability, dependability, creativity, positivity, effective feedback, timely communication, team building, flexibility, risk-taking, and mentoring. Host teachers provide mentorship as the eighth graders embark on an exciting year St. Francis Xavier before heading off to high school! For their first session on Aug. 27, 2021, the older students introduced themselves to their younger counterparts with activities, presentations, and read aloud time. Some of the students played a Fun Friday game while working on color recognition and taking turns with the PreK Falcons. Although our eighth graders had a lot of nervous excitement at first, they eventually settled right into the role and had a blast!

Verot students have many Club opportunities

There are so many great ways to be involved at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. Students discovered their many options at an Aug. 26, 2021 Club Fair. Clubs come in various forms and focus, such as Catholics in Action; National Honor Society; Model UN; Academic Team; Black and Gold Delegation; or American Sign Language. While others are more generalized, such as environmental, art, chess, math, creative writing, robotics, theater, debate, and more.

Football team takes part in pre-game Mass

The Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School football team took part in the traditional pre-game Mass before their opener on Aug. 26, 2021 in Sarasota celebrated by Chaplain Father Eric Scanlan. The home game was against Booker High School of Sarasota. The Mooney Cougars won 36-0.

Bishop inspires Catholic School students

In the early portion of each Academic Year Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrates Mass for the students at the 15 Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools.

The first of these Masses was celebrated Aug. 18, 2021 at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton. It was appropriate that the school was chosen as the Diocese and the whole Church are still in the midst of a “Year of St. Joseph,” which continues until Dec. 8, 2021.

During each Mass, Bishop Dewane invokes the Holy Spirit to come down upon the students, faculty and staff for a safe and successful year.

The Bishop used the Gospel reading from the Mass on Aug. 18, which was of the parable of the “last shall be first and the first shall be last.” During the Gospel reading, it is explained that one must not be envious because it is perceived that the Lord is generous to others, but be grateful for the gifts received.

“Jesus is very generous,” the Bishop added. “Jesus gave us a good example… You and I are called to imitate Jesus and be generous in who we are and how we live out our life.”

This can be done by being kind to someone in the school who needs help, or perhaps generosity toward your parents in gratitude for the great sacrifice they make each day. “They give you their total love. Do you give that love in return? This is how you can be generous. It is who we are as children of God. As a student, be generous to your teachers, to your classmates and to all those you encounter throughout the day.”

Realizing that it may be easier to say “I will be generous in my life” than actually doing it, Bishop Dewane said “what we do that is most generous and most felt by others comes from the heart and comes from the Graces the Lord gives us to live out our life. It is just like us wearing the masks. No one likes it, but we do it to be generous to everyone else. Because we are concerned about others.

In this Year of St. Joseph, Bishop Dewane said the Protector of the Church and Foster-Father of Jesus, is a model to follow for his generosity in turning over his life in service to the Lord.

“Pray to St joseph to have that grace to be generous to be seen always as a giver in your life, one who lives that faith and in so doing gives to others a gift,” Bishop Dewane said.

Following the Masses, the Bishop took the opportunity to speak with the eighth-grade students, encouraging them to be the leaders at their school and they must lead by example as they are “big kids” the younger students look up to for guidance. and continue with their education at a local Catholic high school. He also took time to answer any of their questions and then stood for a photo with them.

It so happened that after Mass at St. Joseph Catholic School, the Bishop participated in an award ceremony. The school recognized the top three students from each grade for their participation and success in a summer problem solving competition. The program continues the tradition of academic excellence from the end of June to end of August by offering problems to solve in the subjects of math, language arts, science and social studies. In all, the students at St. Joseph completed 59,211 problems. In addition, after the Aug. 24 Mass at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, the Bishop presented leadership pins to the eighth graders.

During this week, the Bishop also celebrated Mass for Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria on Aug. 24, and St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Catholic Academy in Sarasota on Aug. 25. Additional Catholic School Masses are scheduled for late August and into September.