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Diocesan Churches, Missions and School Recognizing St. Joseph

As a spiritually engaging way to make the most of the newly proclaimed “Year of St. Joseph”, all are encouraged to visit the many Diocesan locations named in honor of the Patron Saint of the Universal Catholic Church, families, fathers, expectant mothers, travelers and immigrants, among others.

Saint Joseph Parish

Bradenton, Florida – Established October 1, 1927

Following the 1860 establishment of Saint Louis Church in Tampa, many Catholic families in the mission area to the south were occasionally visited by the Tampa priests.

The earliest known Mass in the Manatee area was celebrated in May 1869 by Father H. Landry and Father J. B. Allard in the Manatee home of Mrs. Brady, a Protestant. Father Allard and Father Landry also baptized Mary Letitia Fogarty, infant daughter of Captain Tole Fogarty and Mary Ellen Fogarty in May 1869.  Mass was occasionally celebrated at the home of Captain Bartholomew Fogarty from 1868-1888 for the few Catholic families in an area later named Fogartyville.

In June 1884, Captain Fogarty donated 2.5 acres of land in Fogartyville to Bishop John Moore of Saint Augustine as the site for a Catholic church. Bishop Moore contributed to the fund to pay for a church building on the property along 1st Avenue and 31st Street West, and by July 1888, a chapel was completed. On July 18, 1888, the first Mass was celebrated for sixteen people by Father Henry Paul Clavreul, and the church was dedicated to the Sacred Heart.

Jesuit priests from Tampa continued to visit Sacred Heart over the next twenty-five years. A second mission chapel was built in 1915 on land donated by Mrs. Ada Hubbell, and on December 25, 1915, the first Mass was celebrated in the new Saint Joseph Chapel with fifteen families in attendance.

After 1915, the old Sacred Heart Church in Fogartyville was eventually sold as the congregation grew smaller. Sacred Heart was then combined with Saint Joseph, and Father Charles Elslander became Administrator. Saint Joseph Mission chapel was moved to 12th Avenue and 15th Street West in 1926, becoming a parish on October 1, 1927. Father Elslander was assigned to the parish temporarily, and by late 1927, Father Patrick J. Halligan was assigned as first Pastor.

By the 1950s, the small church, with 194 families, became inadequate as parish membership grew. Saint Joseph School was established in October 1954, and a new church near the school was completed in 1958. The old church on 12th Avenue eventually became Sacred Heart Parish in the late 1960s.

Saint Joseph School

Bradenton, Florida – Established October 4, 1954

In October of 1954, construction of eight classrooms, and a convent, was completed for the new Saint Joseph School, and classes began immediately. The school consisted of forty-two children in grades 1-4 and was temporarily staffed by the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Within six weeks of the opening date, the Sisters of the Holy Name arrived to serve the parish and school. In 1955, the Sisters of the Holy Name added grades 5 and 6. The next year, grades 7 and 8 were added, bringing the enrollment to 358 students. A ninth grade was added in 1957, but was discontinued when Cardinal Mooney High School opened in 1959. Lay teachers joined the school staff in 1957.

A kindergarten class was added to the school in 1963, but, after two years, was discontinued in 1965. It was later reopened in 1978. In April 1963, construction was completed on a new administrative building and a two-story classroom building. In June 1976, the Sisters of the Holy Name left the school after twenty-two years of service. The Sisters of Saint Ann arrived in 1976 as the new Administrators of the school and remained until the spring of 1983.

Parent participation in school activities has been evident since the early years of operation. The Home and School Association, founded in 1958, has been extraordinarily active in providing financial support to St. Joseph School. The Advisory Board was formed in 1971 to provide administrative assistance in areas of financial and physical operations.

An early childhood program for four-year-olds was added in 1989. The newest additions to the campus include 7th and 8th grade classrooms, a conference room, a science lab, a library, and computer labs.

While remaining a parish school, because Saint Joseph School is the only Catholic school in Manatee County, it serves nine surrounding parishes.  The current principal is Deborah Suddarth.

Continuing to give witness to the values and teachings of Jesus Christ, St. Joseph School provides a curriculum and social environment structured according to the Pastoral message on Catholic education: “To Teach As Jesus Did: message, community, and service.” The school includes grades Pre-Kindergarten through 8 and currently has an enrollment of 432 students.

St. Joseph the Worker

Moore Haven, Florida – Established July 1961

The history of Saint Joseph the Worker Parish began in 1960, when Monsignor Beerhalter was driving through Lakeport, Florida, and stopped at a local store owned by the Van De Velde family, where he met Margaret Van De Velde.  They soon became good friends and began discussing the possibilities of building a church and/or school. In March 1961, Margaret agreed to deed twenty acres of pastureland located near Highway 27 and State Route 78 for the new parish. On this land would be established the area’s first Catholic parish, Saint Joseph the Worker.

Through a great deal of hard work on the part of the original five parish families, money was raised and a church completed. The new church was dedicated by Archbishop Coleman Carroll of Miami in July 1961. Many visiting priests would continue to serve the area until 1982. Father Bill Romero became the first resident Pastor in 1982 and served the parish until September 1991.

Father Emilian Swiatecki became Pastor in November 1991. The church was already thirty years old, and his new home was a tiny trailer that rattled and shook when trucks passed the church property. Father Swiatecki was responsible for many additions to the church property, including new classrooms for CCD classes and meetings, a back patio for the church, and the beautiful grotto to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary. A new rectory was also built under his guidance and was blessed on June 24, 1996. The new rectory also served as a small chapel for daily Mass, as offices, and as a conference room.

Father Swiatecki was instrumental in gathering the funds for a much needed new church to accommodate the growing congregation and to provide space for religious instruction classrooms. On December 24, 1999, the parishioners of Saint Joseph the Worker Parish celebrated the first Mass, and the new church was later dedicated on February 20, 2000, by Bishop John J. Nevins.

Father Marcial Garcia is the current pastor of the Parish.

San Jose Mission

Fort Myers, Florida  – Established 1968

Mision de San Jose (San Jose Mission) was originally founded in 1968 as a mission church of Saint Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Myers to care for the spiritual and material needs of predominantly immigrant Catholics in the area.

Priests from the Archdiocese of Miami and later the Diocese of Saint Petersburg came to help staff the mission, which originally was named Lourdes Mission. The founders of the mission were priests from Spain, including Father Esteban Soy, Father Nicanor Lobato, Father Antonio Diez, who came to offer their help and who stayed for as long as three years at a time.

San Jose Mission continues as a small but tight knit community in Fort Myers that welcomes all who enter. It is now a mission of Jesus the Worker Parish and is administered by Father Patrick O’Connor, O.S.F.S.

Campo San Jose Retreat Center

Lake Placid – Established 1996

Located in the Eastern Deanery of the Diocese of Venice, Campo San Jose was established as a retreat center in 1996. Father Jose Gonzalez, director of the retreat center, opened the Diocesan facility in what was once a house for retired priests from Puerto Rico. The center focuses on Hispanic Outreach and includes an on-site chapel, dining hall, large gathering room with multi-media equipment for presentations, and a spacious conference room for social activities.



Disciple of Christ Prayer

Diocese of Venice Disciple of Christ Prayer

God Almighty, You alone are the source of every good gift.  Help us to show gratitude and to be thankful, and guide us on our journey as a Disciple of Christ.

We have been invited to proclaim Your Gospel of hope and salvation.  Teach us to be faithful missionary disciples through words and actions in our homes, communities and all whom we meet.

Strengthened by the gifts of the Holy Spirit to “go forth and make disciples of all nations”, may we carry out the great work of Jesus while here on earth.

Through the intercession of Our Mother Mary, help us to accept the challenges and opportunities You place before us, thereby giving witness as a Disciple of Christ and sharing our faith with others.

This prayer is offered through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.



Dios Todopoderoso, solo tú eres la fuente de todo bien. Ayúdanos a ser agradecidos y guíanos en nuestro camino como discípulos de Jesucristo.

Hemos sido invitados a proclamar tu Evangelio de esperanza y salvación.  Enséñanos a ser fieles discípulos misioneros a través de palabras y acciones en nuestros hogares, comunidades y con todos los que nos encontramos.

Fortalecidos por los dones del Espíritu Santo para “salir y hacer discípulos de todas las naciones”, que podamos llevar a cabo la gran obra de Jesús mientras estamos aquí en la tierra.

A través de la intercesión de nuestra Madre María, ayúdanos a aceptar los desafíos y oportunidades que pones ante nosotros, de tal manera que demos testimonio como discípulos de Cristo y compartir así nuestra fe con los demás.

Esta oración la ofrecemos a través de Jesucristo, Nuestro Señor, que vive y reina contigo y el Espíritu Santo, ahora y para siempre. AMÉN.



If you would like a copy of this prayer card in English or Spanish, please contact Gail Ardy at, or call 941-484-9543.


Student Winners

Disciple of Christ 35th Anniversary Student Showcase Competition

1st Place Winners and Prize Selection (Certificate, Ribbon, Cash Prize):

Art LINK Sara Blandon St. Elizabeth Seton 8th Grade $100 Cash
Video LINK Jasmine Aviles St. Catherine 8th Grade $100 Cash
Essay LINK Ava Irion St. Francis Xavier 8th Grade $100 Cash

HONORABLE Mention (Certificate and Ribbon):

Art LINK Taylor Copeland St. Francis Xavier 8th Grade
Video LINK Theresa Harrell St. Martha 7th Grade
Essay LINK Christopher Wasdin St. Mary 8th Grade

1st Place WINNER ART – Sara Blandon, St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School, Naples

Description: (link above)
When I think of a disciple of Christ, my mind goes directly to Saint Teresa of Calcutta. I drew Saint Teresa of Calcutta holding a malnourished baby to represent, the love that she put in caring for those who were in need. Mother Teresa has exerted a great influence on all individuals. She loved people with all her heart, even those with the worst diseases. Mother Teresa renounced all her wealth to serve those who had no food, shelter, a good health nor clothing. With the devotion she gave, she became that true reflection of our Lord. A true disciple is one who gives up everything and helps those who truly need help. But most importantly, a true disciple is one who leads people closer to God. In conclusion, St. Teresa of Calcutta is a true disciple of Christ with all the work she did, she is a human who we should admire to become that true disciple of Christ.  

HONORABLE MENTION ART – Taylor Copeland, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, Fort Myers

Description: (link above)
I used a digital art application to create my depiction of a Disciple of Christ. I chose St. Dorcas, also known as St. Tabitha, because I feel women don’t have as much representation in the Bible as male disciples. It is stated that Dorcas was the first female disciple. She was alive the same time as St. Peter, and she lived in Joppa. She spent all of her life caring for the sick and the poor. When she died, the people who knew St. Dorcas sent for Peter, who was in a nearby town. Peter knelt down and said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes. Peter had brought her back to life! I find her story beautiful and inspiring. She is my favorite disciple especially because of the kindness she displayed to others.


1st Place WINNER – Ava Irion, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, Fort Myers
There are many ways in which a person can be a Disciple of Christ. If someone is a Disciple of Christ, he or she respects and loves all humankind no matter the circumstance. Even more importantly, a disciple of Christ loves God more than their possessions and even more than their family. For example, John 8:31 states that, “A disciple loves others as Jesus has loved him.” By following the Ten Commandments, by helping others in everyday life, and by evangelizing, anyone can become a wonderful disciple of Christ. This is not an easy task, but someone who is a true disciple will surrender everything for God. The following will focus on traits that true disciples display:  kindness, acceptance, and character.
To begin, kindness is one of the prime traits that someone needs in order to be a Discipline of Christ and to live the way Jesus did. Kindness was displayed by Jesus in many ways throughout his life. He did this by healing, caring, and showing mercy for others. He never judged nor thought that he was better than others. Instead, he helped those who were different. No matter who they were or where they came from, Jesus showed kindness to everyone he came across. Some might think that this would be easy to do, however Jesus even showed immense kindness toward his enemies. Matthew 5:44 explains, “I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Jesus followed these words and was kind to those who persecuted him and to those who cursed him. So the challenge is to live and act the way that Jesus did in his life.  If we use kindness towards our neighbors, loved ones, and enemies more often in our everyday lives, we will be closer to living as a Disciple of Christ. Next, Jesus showed acceptance to others in his life. Acceptance of those who may look or act differently is very hard to do. However, all people need to be treated with human dignity and respect. Jesus showed acceptance many times in the Bible. One example is in Matthew 8:14 when Jesus touched the untouchable. Back in the time of Jesus, people who were visibly ill were outcasts. They were the “scraps” of the society. However, Jesus still loved them very much. In Matthew 8:14, a leprous man approached Jesus as he was walking up a mountain side. The man begged Jesus to be healed. Jesus broke all of the laws and boundaries as he walked up to the leper man and touched him. In one small, single touch, the leper was healed and was free to live the rest of his life. The man was cast out from society because of his differences but Jesus accepted him. Jesus was the only one who still saw this man as a human and not as some sort of monster. This acceptance from Jesus changed the man’s life. Jesus chose tosee him as a real person and not as a plague. This enabled the man to be cured. Acceptance was powerful and lifechanging, as it can be in each person’s daily life.

Finally, character is a trait that can turn an ordinary person into someone who loves Jesus with all of their heart, mind, and soul. Character can mean that someone is a role model, and that this person cares for others.Parents are a great example of this, as they are role models to their children. Parents can teach lifelong lessons such as, “Treat others how you want to be treated.” Parents model behavior for their children to learn and to act upon as the children grow into adults. Parents show their children how to treat others with respect. No matter what life throws at someone, that person can look to the character of their parents and think about what they would do in that situation. Another role model with strong character is Jesus. Jesus displayed character by showing forgiveness, love, and compassion. To act like Jesus means to not hold a grudge, to never wish harm to anyone, and to never try to one up someone to feel superior. Jesus forgave the people that killed him. Forgiveness in today’s world might not have to be that extreme, but one should never hold a grudge and should learn to love those who hurt them. The love of Jesus is the most radiant and powerful love ever. People need to love as he does. They need to love their neighbors and love him, with all of their hearts, minds, and souls. Finally, Jesus always had compassion for everyone he came across. Instead of worrying for himself, he thought of others and how he could help them. If humans learn from their parents and demonstrate the great character of Jesus, anyone can become a Disciple of Christ.

Overall, a Disciple of Christ needs to have the traits of kindness, acceptance, and character. If someone can demonstrate these virtues to others the way that Jesus did, they are becoming a Disciple of Christ. The core of being a Disciple of Christ is interesting and complex, but, ultimately, it means living like Jesus did. If people truly love Jesus and act with kindness, acceptance, and character, they can be one of the strongest and most amazing Disciples of Christ. How will you use these traits to become a Disciple of Christ?

HONORABLE MENTION – Christopher Wasdin, St. Mary Academy, Sarasota
What does it mean to be a Disciple of Christ? It is  helping other people that are poor, sick, or they need food.  We can be merciful to everyone if they are being mean or cruel. Forgiving others will help them to forgive other people too.
You can pray for those who have died and meet people who have done bad things and talk to them. You can help people who get hurt and make sure they will be okay. You can give people that don’t have much clothing your old clothes,  and give people homes, and give them water.

Visiting the sick to pray for them so they will get better soon is being a disciple of Christ.  You can bury those who have helped us or served us who had a great heart. Being a disciple is not just doing for yourself.  If you truly care about other people and you want to make the world a better place you will do things for them. If you want to be a disciple you could help out your neighbors, friends, or family.