Naples Parish wins global Stewardship Award

St. Agnes Parish in Naples has been honored with the Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy Memorial Parish Stewardship Award by International Catholic Stewardship Council (ICSC).

The award is presented each year at the International Catholic Stewardship Council annual conference – held virtually the week of Oct. 5, 2020. The award is given to the Parish which best exemplifies a long-term commitment to stewardship as a way of life. Its purpose is to recognize a Parish that has embraced every aspect of stewardship and has shown evidence of spiritual growth and community outreach.

According to the ICSC, the recipient of this award must have initiated and developed this way of life at a comprehensive level that embraces stewardship of time, talent and treasure across all Parish groups. The Parish’s on-going conversion to stewardship will be evidenced by its growth in spirituality and its witness and outreach to the larger community.

“It was a big deal for us,” said Father Bob Kantor, St. Agnes Pastor who credits his fellow clergy, Parish staff and the faithful for helping make this honor possible. “Hopefully others learning about it will receive some encouragement.”

This year the Conference was virtual instead of being held in California as originally planned. Father Kantor addressed the plenary session on Oct. 6, 2020, and Gloria Carter, Deacon Roberto Landron and Dominick and Rita Cavuoto conducted a webinar the same afternoon as part of the Conference.

“This is a great accomplishment to be selected from Parishes all over the world,” said Gloria Carter, Parish Stewardship Coordinator who helped prepare the St. Agnes application for the award. “A considerable amount of time and energy has gone into producing the requirements of achieving this honor.”

Documentation provided for the award covered different areas of promoting stewardship at the Parish and included: stewardship brochures, calendars and newsletters; Parish handbooks; commitment cards; welcome postcards, letters and packets; invitations to newly registered parishioners; outreach mission statement; and much more.

Named in honor of Archbishop Murphy, Bishop of Great Falls from 1978-1987 and Archbishop of Seattle from 1987 until his death in 1997. He was an ardent supporter of the International Catholic Stewardship Council and attended many of its annual conferences.

Since St. Agnes was formally established in 2007, the Parish has gone from 16 outreach programs to 80.

While earning this award is a great honor for St. Agnes, Carter added, “This does not mean that we stop Stewardship,” she said. “Stewardship is not a program, it is a Way of Life and as life continues, so does Stewardship. It is up to all of us as individuals to bring Jesus Christ to others; to live out Stewardship in our daily lives. As baptized Catholics we have become Disciples of Jesus and as such we are required to bring the teaching of Jesus to others. Living as good holy people says more to others than the world ever could. Remember to thank God for all our gifts and talents and see how much we can accomplish together.”

To view the St. Agnes Parish submission for the Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy Memorial Parish Stewardship Award submission, please visit : http://www.stagnesnaples.org/110.

Verot tackles Mooney in rivalry football game

The Homecoming Football Game for the Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Cougars on Oct. 9, 2020 in Sarasota was spoiled by a tough loss to rival Bishop Verot Catholic High School of Fort Myers.

The two teams fought back and forth throughout the game with Verot leading at halftime with a score of 19-17. Two late Verot touchdowns, a 26-yard run by Kerby Joseph, and then a 38-yard interception return by Keon Anderson sealed the Verot victory in the fourth quarter. The final score was 40-24 with Verot taking home the winner’s trophy back to Fort Myers.

Present for the game were Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Diocesan Superintendent of Education, Father John Belmonte, SJ, along with Mooney Chaplain Father Eric Scanlan who offered the opening benediction.

The crowd in Sarasota was the largest of the season for Cardinal Mooney as stadium capacity is capped at 50 percent, up from 25 percent earlier in the season. Masks were required for all fans. A large group from Verot also travelled to watch the game which was also streamed live on social media by both schools.

News Briefs for the week of Oct. 16, 2020

Memorial Mass on Veterans Day to be livestreamed

Each year the Diocese of Venice holds a Memorial Mass on Veterans Day in honor of the men and women who have served our country and continue to serve and protect us today. The restrictions regarding public gatherings at the Sarasota National Cemetery has precluded holding the Mass at this beautiful site. This year, the Mass to be celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, will be held at 3 p.m., Nov. 11, 2020. The Mass will be live streamed so that all may participate on this important day at facebook.com/dioceseofvenice.org/videos. You do not need to have an account to view the Mass. Please contact Gail Ardy at ardy@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543 for further information.

UnBall virtual event Nov. 12

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice invites everyone to participate in The UnBall, a Virtual Charity Ball to raise funds to help stop human trafficking. Mark your calendar and join at 7 p.m., Nov. 12, 2020. Due to the pandemic and the postponement of the Venetian Ball, the Venetian Ball Committee created The UnBall virtual event. Join Catholic Charities for an hour-long event to raise awareness and stop modern day slavery. Human trafficking is not in the shadows or in faraway nations, it happens in plain sight in our community. Listen to a survivor-leader share her inspirational story and learn how you can make an impact. The UnBall supports the programs and services of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. in Lee, Hendry, and Glades counties which include Positive Youth Development Program, Senior Support Coordination Program, Anti Human Trafficking Assistance Program, immigration services, food assistance, and pantries, baby supplies, and disaster response and recovery. For more information, please contact Janet Pavelack at janet.paverlack@catholiccharitiesdov.org, 239-334-4007 ext. 2101 or by visiting www.catholiccharitiesdov.org.

Mooney student helps hurricane victims

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Senior Mallory Albritton started a relief effort to help farmers and ranchers in Louisiana after Hurricane Laura hit in late August 2020. Mallory coordinated a BBQ fundraiser to make money and buy supplies they needed for the farmers. She helped raise almost $8,000. Mallory, and other supporters from Sarasota, delivered all the supplies on Oct. 1, 2020, before the same region was hit by Hurricane Delta on Oct. 10,

Student assemble 1,000 PPE packets for community

Students of Catholics in Action Club at Bishop Verot Catholic High School assembled 1,000 PPE (personal protective equipment) packets on Oct. 2, 2020 in Fort Myers which will soon be distributed to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. and throughout the community as needed.

Neumann golf team finishes regular season undefeated

Congratulations St. John Neumann Catholic High School Celtic Boys Golf Team for recently finishing their regular season undefeated. The team also placed third in Districts, Next up for the Naples team will be the regional competition the week of Oct. 19, 2020.

Surviving Divorce Retreat Nov. 21 in Fort Myers

The Diocese Office of Marriage and Family Life is hosting a Surviving Divorce Retreat, 9 a.m.-3 pm., Nov. 21, 2020, at Resurrection Parish, 8121 Cypress Lake Drive, Fort Myers. The retreat is open to all and will feature speaker Rose Sweet with a talk titled, “Surviving Divorce: Hope and Healing for the Catholic Family.” The cost is $15 and includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Please register at www.dioceseofvenice.org/divorce. For more information, please contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org.

Pet blessings abound

For the past six months Eleanor Warring has relied on her best friend more than ever.  Sammy, a 7-year-old terrier poodle mix was one of more than a dozen dogs present for the annual Blessing of the Animals on Oct. 3, 2020 at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch.

Warring lost her husband of 58 years in 2016 when Sammy was nearly 3 years old and the two have been nearly inseparable since. The companionship has been valued more since the pandemic began, which is why Warring wanted to be certain Sammy received a proper blessing with Holy Water from Deacon Jack Milholland.

Sammy remained still throughout the prayer service which consisted of readings from Scripture, prayers and intercessions followed by a general blessing and then individual blessings as Deacon Milholland worked his way through the crowd.

“I would bring him to Mass if I could,” Warring explained. “That is why this blessing is so special. I find great comfort with Sammy and find great comfort in the Church.”

The Blessing of the Animals traditionally occurs on Oct. 4, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of animals and the environment. St. Francis loved the birds near his hometown and even allowed himself to be displaced from a place of shelter in deference to a donkey. The Saint wrote a Canticle of the Creatures, an ode to God’s living things, “All praise to you, Oh Lord, for all these brother and sister creatures.”

The celebration of the Blessing of the Animals celebrates the sacredness of all God’s creation. In the spirit of Saint Francis, the celebration honors animals that share our lives and touch our hearts. It also acknowledges and encourages respect for all of creation.

With requirements of social distancing, many of the blessings throughout the Diocese were on a smaller scale than in the past, but their importance seemed just as crucial. At St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers, Father Lorenzo González held a drive-thru blessing, as did Father Casey Jones at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples. Meanwhile the blessing at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples by Father Gerard Critch was held in a courtyard.

In the wake of the pandemic, many became much closer to their pets. Whether the pets are furry, feathered, scaled or finned, they helped their owners cope with the isolation and loneliness brought on by the quarantine, or the need to remain home for work and/or school.

2020 World Mission Sunday Oct. 18

By Father Bob Kantor – Special to the Florida Catholic

This World Mission Sunday comes amid a pandemic affecting the whole world and so much else happening in our nation. Each year, parishes take up a collection that provides for more than a thousand mission dioceses in territories that cover more than half of the globe. This year will be no different. The World Mission Sunday collection is the weekend of Oct. 17-18, 2020. Unfortunately, with fewer people in the pews it is likely to translate to lighter support of the priests, religious and lay pastoral leaders who proclaim the Gospel, build the Church and serve the poor and most vulnerable. Their work is both a witness to Christ and a practical help. If you are able, please be generous.

Some mission experiences for the people of our Diocese have been understandably curtailed during the pandemic. The Mission Impossible: Immokalee summer experience for teens was cancelled in June. Tentative plans for an international mission experience for young people in the Caribbean remain on the drawing board. Missionaries who were supposed to travel to half of the Parishes in the Diocese in November as part of the Diocese of Venice Mission Cooperative Plan were cancelled. Second collections will be taken up in those Parishes, who host a missionary every other year as part of the plan.

Despite all these challenges, we are still called to mission!  Pope Francis has challenged each of us to live our lives of faith as missionary disciples, spreading the good news of Jesus Christ in creative ways, pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones to share the Faith. In his message for World Mission Day 2020, the Holy Father notes that this year is marked by the suffering and challenge posed by Covid-19. “Like the disciples in the Gospel were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm.  We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other,” the Holy Father said.

Pope Francis calls us to an awareness of others, not thinking only of ourselves.  Regarding our call to mission, he added “the invitation to step out of ourselves for love of God and neighbor presents itself as an opportunity for sharing, service and intercessory prayer. The mission that God entrusts to each one of us leads us from fear and introspection to a renewed realization that we find ourselves precisely when we give ourselves to others.”

How can we make a difference today and tend the oars of the boat we all feel being tossed about these days? Your generosity on World Mission Sunday is one concrete means of offering help that is greatly needed around the world. Christ also offers a very personal call to each of us. To the extent we can, in the ways we can in these times of less personal contact, bringing Jesus to the world is even more critical. Where there are suffering hearts and anxious spirits, we can be the ones to reflect the peace of Christ and the soothing of the Spirit to an ailing world.

A global pandemic, contentious elections and social unrest have many people seeking answers and trying to effect solutions that they hope will improve present conditions.  Without God, is this possible? Without justice, peace and love undergirding any initiative, can it really work? Perhaps this year more than ever, our own nation can be thought of as mission territory, where you and I can bring Christ to bear where he has been ignored or forgotten. Perhaps these challenging times will lead to a more profound World Mission Sunday than ever, one where we not only make our greatly needed sacrificial offering, but also contribute something profound from our very lives for God and neighbor.

By Father Bob Kantor is the Diocesan of Venice Director for the Propagation of the Faith (Mission Office) and Pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Naples. To learn more about the Diocese Mission Office, please call 239-592-1949 or email missionoffice@dioceseofvenice.org.

Catholic Energizer Making it Happen

Susan Laielli – Special to the Florida Catholic

If you have ever needed bereavement services from St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers, chances are you have been hugged, supported, and loved by 88-year old Claire Johnson.

Since 2008, Johnson has been supporting the grieving of the Parish from the beginning of the planning process until the last song plays at the funeral for a loved one.

“I tell them when they come in, it’s ok, go ahead and cry. It’s part of the healing process and it is very therapeutic,” said Johnson, from the Parish library, where she meets those coming in to plan a funeral. “Some of them have never planned a funeral before, there is a lot to know.”

A nurse for 40 years, Johnson understands the grieving process and works very hard to meet a family’s needs because she admits as a volunteer for the Bereavement Ministry, she wants everything to be just right for those suffering the loss of a loved one. It was not that long-ago she was in their shoes.

Moving to Florida in 1970, Johnson lived in four foreign countries and nine states with her husband George, who retired from the U.S. Air Force after 20 years of service. The pair met in high school at the age of 15 in Lawrence, Mass., and were married for almost 55 years before his death.

“I came to St. Cecilia’s Parish to join a friend after being a member of St. Francis Xavier Parish since 1974,” said Johnson. “After my husband died 13 years ago, I couldn’t go back. It was too hard.”

Suffering the loss of a loved one can change a person forever. Johnson believes the Holy Spirit began working on her more than a decade ago to move into the Bereavement Outreach at St. Cecilia, where she joined many others and quickly learned what needed to be done.

It is not surprising then that Johnson obtained her master’s degree in Public Health at the age of 64 and went to work for the Lee County Health Department for many years, before retiring and volunteering for the Church full-time.

“I attend every funeral with the family, because it’s important they know they have an advocate until the service is completed,” said Johnson, who also serves as the Sacristan for the Masses.

One might think that is quite enough to keep a person busy, however, she also volunteers as a Eucharistic Minister to the Homebound, operates as a sous-chef for the Lenten fish fry, conducts private home visits for hospice patients and prays the rosary at their bedside. She also leads the Rosary Group on Tuesdays following daily Mass.

As a decorator and coordinator for the former Senior Lunch at the Parish, she says the name was changed to Lunch Bunch. It sounds nicer.

“I am part of an excellent, caring team of bereavement ministers – and I’m very blessed!”

 

 

Free online course on St. Joseph begins Oct. 26

In response to Bishop Frank J. Dewane consecrating the Diocese of Venice to St. Joseph this year in the context of the global pandemic, the Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation is offering a free online spiritual enrichment course.

This 4-week course, “Encountering St. Joseph,” is a non-academic adult faith formation course that provides an opportunity to grow in knowledge and devotion to St. Joseph.

“Every adult member of the Diocese is invited to join this course,” said Dr. John Gresham, new Executive Director of the Institute. “It will be very helpful for those who serve as catechists, teachers, or other positions of service in the Church, but it is really for anyone who wants to know more about St Joseph.”

When it comes to the Holy Family, many would likely admit that they know Jesus and they know Mary, but Joseph remains something of a stranger, Gresham added. This is your opportunity to get to know this sometimes-neglected Saint better.

Participants in the course will be guided by another Saint, St. Pope John Paul II. This course will walk you through St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation, “The Person and Mission of St. Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church;” known by its Latin title as Redemptoris Custos (The Guardian of the Redeemer).

In this exhortation, St. John Paul II seeks to increase our devotion to St. Joseph as a great intercessor and patron of the Church but even more importantly, he wants us to get to know St. Joseph as a great example who has many lessons to teach us about living our own vocations.

The free online course begins Oct. 26, 2020 but participants can logon to the course anytime during the week that is most convenient by using a computer, tablet, or phone. The course consists of 20-minute pre-recorded lectures, opportunities for online discussion, Scriptures to pray with, and other learning activities. You can do as much or as little as you like each week.

The course will be taught by Gresham, who brings more than 20 years of experience teaching in the classroom and online, having previously taught for Franciscan University of Steubenville, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, Paul VI Catechetical Institute, and Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

The course begins Oct. 26, but you can logon early and access the Welcome Module. For more information and to register, please visit www.institute-dov.org and click on Courses or contact Dr. John Gresham john.gresham@institute-dov.org.

New Briefs for Week of Oct. 7, 2020

Diocesan seminarians reach milestones

Three Diocese of Venice seminarians studying at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach recently reached significant milestones in their discernment of a vocation to the priesthood. Seminarian Jacob Gwynn was conferred as Lector; Juan Contreras as Acolyte, and Alejandro Giraldo Roldán received both Lector and Acolyte. The Mass was celebrated on Sept. 27, 2020 by Bishop Felipe J. Estévez, Bishop of St. Augustine and Chair of the Seminary Board of Trustees. The day was significant in that is was both Priesthood Sunday and the Feast Day of St. Vincent de Paul, for whom the Seminary is named. First, as part of the Rite for Lectors, the Bishop placed the Holy Scriptures in the hands of each candidate and said, “Take this book of Holy Scripture and be faithful in handing on the word of God, so that it may grow strong in the hearts of his people.” Then as part of the Rite for Acolytes, the Bishop placed the paten, which contains the hosts for the celebration of Mass, in the hands of each candidate. He then said, “take this vessel with bread for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and His Church.”

Parishioners pray rosary with deputies

Dozens of faithful from St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Port Charlotte gathered to pray on Sept. 26, 2020 at the District 3 offices of the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office. Participants prayed for the protection of the deputies and their families. The group prayed the rosary and a prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, while also presenting deputies with St. Michael the Archangel medals.

2 Rosary Rallies in Bradenton Oct. 10

Bradenton will be the host of two separate America Needs Fatima Rosary Rallies, at noon, Oct. 10, 2020. The rallies are at the foot of the cross on the Manatee River at DeSoto National Memorial Park, 8300 DeSoto National Memorial Parkway, and Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish, 2850 75th St. W. Participants are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blanket, umbrella and your Rosary. For details on the DeSoto National Memorial Rally, please call Marie at 941-795-0413 and for the Parish Rally, please call 941-795-1228.

Faith & Wine Lee County going virtual

The new season of Faith & Wine Lee County returns 7 p.m., Oct. 22, 2020 with a virtual event livestreamed from the groups Facebook page. The presenter is Liz Larson, who will share her life-changing experience following the devastating diagnosis of her unborn child. Registration is not necessary but encouraged so everyone can register for “door prizes.” For more information, please visit www.faithandwineleecounty.com.

Oktoberfest coming to Lehigh Acres

St. Raphael Parish, 2514 Lee Blvd., Lehigh Acres, is hosting Oktoberfest, at 6 p.m., Oct. 24, 2020. This traditional event will include music, authentic German menu, raffles and prizes, as well as a cash bar. The event is sponsored by Knights of Columbus County 6265. Tickets are $20 per person, or $38 per couple. For more information, please call 239-369-8317 or visit www.koc6265.org.

Luncheon to Feature Olympian Nancy Kerrigan

Let’s celebrate this opportunity to socialize again and support Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc. with an “It’s Time to Dress Up Again!” event featuring superstar and 2-time Olympic Medalist, Nancy Kerrigan. The luncheon, 11:30 a.m., Nov. 18, 2020, Plantation Golf and Country Club, 500 Rockley Blvd., Venice, is hosted by Champagne Tennis and Kerrigan will speak about her life and career. Tickets are $60 per person and include two-course lunch and a drink (red or white wine, mimosa). Tables limited to 6-8 guests and all CDC restrictions will be strictly enforced. To purchase tickets online, please visit www.ccdov.ejoinme.org/ItsTimetoDressUpAgain2020; or send a check to Our Mother’s House, PO BOX 2240, Venice, FL 34284. For more information, please call 941-485-6264 or omh@catholiccharitiesdov.org.

CCUSA celebrates 110th Anniversary

Built of the shoulders of many before, Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) has dedicated itself to addressing the human dignity of the individual with a variety of services that are provided with prayer and compassion.

A virtual celebration of the 110th Anniversary of CCUSA took place on Sept. 25, 2020, with a Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane and livestreamed to Catholic Charities offices across the nation from Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

Bishop Dewane, who is the Episcopal Advisor to CCUSA said it was appropriate that the Gospel reading from the day was from Luke 9:18-22, when Jesus asks the Disciples “But who do you say that I am?”

“You stand on the shoulders of the many who came before to create Catholic Charities building a response to the Lord’s call in service to all… each person made in the image and likeness of God,” Bishop Dewane said. “This allows us to respond with a richness of our very being.”

The celebration began with prerecorded opening remarks from Adrian Dominican Sister Donna Markham, PhD, President and CEO of CCUSA, as well as Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and President of Caritas Internationalis, a global Catholic charity.

Sister Donna said the timing of the 110th Anniversary celebration, which would have been part of the annual meeting in Cleveland, is a great time to take stock in what Catholic Charities is doing in the midst of a global pandemic, natural disasters and social unrest.

“This is a good reminder that prayer must permeate our hearts and be in the background in all we do,” Sister Donna added. “Prayer has sustained us through all of these years as we are ministers of compassion.”

In his message, Cardinal Tagle thanked the workers and volunteers of Catholic Charities for the heroic work they do, calling them “signs of hope” for humanity. “The work of Catholic Charities is addressing the human being, finding that God is present in all, and that love will triumph over despair.”

To reflect the diversity of the workers and volunteers of Catholic Charities, as well as those who are served each day, the prayers of the faithful were offered in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole and Ukrainian. The livestream was viewed from Catholic Charities offices in Dioceses throughout the U.S. Messages of support and gratitude were posted from across the country including as far away as Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Vermont and Texas.

Present at the Cathedral were Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. staff, as well as members of the various advisory boards from throughout the Diocese. A reception followed in the Cathedral Parish Hall.

To learn more about Catholic Charities, USA, please visit www.catholiccharitiesusa.org, and to learn about Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., please visit www.catholiccharitiesDOV.org.

Witnesses for life make a difference

Whether there are 200 people, or two, the impact of the peaceful 40 Days for Life prayer vigil seeking an end to abortion in the U.S. is meaningful and real.

This was the message delivered by Shawn Carney, 40 Days for Life co-founder and President, when he appeared at an evening vigil in Fort Myers on Sept. 22, 2020, and then in Sarasota on Sept. 23, 2020, the first day of 40 Days Fall Campaign. It was an honor to have Carney present in the Diocese as he helped start what became 40 Days for Life in 2004 while still in college in Texas. From a local prayer vigil, the fall and spring campaigns have included more than one million people in 1,000 cities in 66 countries resulting in the closure of 107 abortion facilities.

“Your peaceful, joyful, prayerful presence out here is a simple, effective and beautiful reminder that there is hope for every woman who drives in here,” Carney said of the Planned Parenthood abortion facility. “You get to come out here and be that witness… You are a beautiful witness that stands in opposition to the sterile lobby just a few yards away. You are the light versus the darkness; the hope versus the hopeless; the joy versus despair. No one coming to that facility finds joy.”

A group of more than 200 gathered in front of the Planned Parenthood at 6418 Commerce Park Drive, Fort Myers, for the opening vigil, a number made even more impressive because it occurred during a global pandemic.

Carney was unsure what the response would be for 40 Days for Life in the wake of the pandemic and social unrest. He need not have worried, because a record 588 cities will have prayer vigils this fall. Since the first nationwide 40 Days for Life in 2007, of which the Diocese of Venice-led vigil in Sarasota was the second to join. During that time, 17,226 babies are confirmed to have been saved, Carney said.

Fort Myers 40 Days Fall Campaign organizers Rick and Paula Hellenbrand have been leading the vigil for the past 10 years and noted that two people cannot do it alone, that it takes a community to have success.

“As one of those women who came to one of these facilities, as my parents drove me to my abortion, no one was there,” an emotional Paula Hellenbrand said. “We have worked hard and overcome many obstacles to make sure we never have an empty sidewalk again as long as they are doing abortions inside this place. Thank you for being out here.”

Second time vigil participant April Couch of Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers said she was moved by the powerful testimony of the Hellenbrands, Carney and the other speakers and planned to share the message to her friends.

“When I first came out here last year, I thought it would be hard,” Couch explained. “In reality, it was very rewarding knowing that I was doing what the Lord wants of all of us, to stand up for the unborn because they cannot defend themselves against the injustice of abortion.”

Opening prayer for the vigil was offered by Father Ananda Reddy, Parochial Vicar at St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral, while the closing prayer was offered by Father Saji Ellickal Joseph, M.C.B.S., Parochial Vicar at St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers.

Other speakers included recent transplant to Southwest Florida Jim Havens, of Station of the Cross Catholic Radio Network and iCatholic Radio; Gabrielle Gabbard, a teen from Collier County who made headlines when she tried to start a Pro-Life club at her Naples high school; as well representatives from Community Pregnancy Clinics Inc. (CPCI) which had their mobile medical clinic present while the Sarasota opening vigil with Carney took place at the clinic there.

The Fort Myers campaign is 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 6418 Commerce Park Drive. If you have questions, contact Paula and Rick at 40DaysforLifeFM@gmail.com.

The Sarasota campaign is 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily, 736 Central Ave. If you have any questions, contact organizer Rich Owens at 40DFLSarasota@gmail.com.

The 40 Days for Life Fall Campaign continues in Fort Myers and Sarasota through Nov. 1, 2020. Many Parishes in the Diocese of Venice have designated days during which the faithful participate, however participants are welcome at any time. No registration is required to participate, but you can do so by visiting https://www.40daysforlife.com/.

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