Principals Corner – Incarnation

By Colleen Curlett – Principal of Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota

Sarasota’s lively history radiates pride, love, and joy thanks in part to awe-inspiring attractions such as the Ringling Museum and College of Art and Design, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and Sailor Circus Academy. These creative havens have paved a community of collaboration, as does Incarnation Catholic School (ICS), a lesser known but much celebrated entity. ICS is small in stature but not in accomplishments, recognition and inspiration. In fact, Sarasota’s SRQ magazine voted Incarnation Catholic School the Best Private School in 2018.

Incarnation has retained a rich, caring history from the day it opened its doors in 1961.  Much has changed in nearly 60 years, and ICS has made great leaps forward thanks to the many faculty, alumni, parents, grandparents and volunteers who for decades have invested enormous sums of time, talent and resources into the school and parish community.

Former parents and students continue to forge their legacy across the county. Danny Strzempka, a father of an involved ICS family, is celebrated as the creator of the prosthetic tail for Winter, an injured dolphin. The best-selling book, “Dolphin Tale,” and its award-winning feature film that recall Winter’s miraculous recovery has inspired millions to use their God-given talent to benefit all of His creatures. Strzempka, who has a prosthetic himself, often returns to Incarnation as a motivational speaker to address faith, charity and ingenuity.

I attribute the success of Incarnation Catholic school to our stellar staff and faculty and their collaboration with our students, parents, and community. As an aspiring STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) school, we have seamlessly integrated technology within our traditional curriculum and our Catholic faith. Many creative activities are an off-shoot of our STREAM initiatives. Our middle school students pushed their technological and artistic talents to new heights when they hosted a dinner theater extravaganza that enticed guests to solve a family-friendly mystery with a variety of hands-on forensics labs.

The love shared among our ICS family members also extends throughout Sarasota county. Our quarterly service project, “Keeping Sarasota Beautiful,” helps us bond with the community as we work together to clean our adopted roads.

ICS students can choose from a variety of extracurricular clubs and activities. The Incarnation Cheer team won the division title during the 2018-2019 All Out competition in Orlando. Middle school students have the options to take digital photography and guitar lessons offered by Florida Virtual School.

The Pre K-3 class is in its first year and is already a huge success. We are blessed to have these young, bright children join our ever-expanding family. Each and every addition to the ICS community offers another, unique perspective that inspires us to enhance our knowledge, embrace our faith, and empower our community to teach, love, and lead our disciples of the 21st Century.

Learn more about how you and your child can strengthen our foundation of faith at

You can reach Principal Colleen Curlett at

Dorian reminds faithful to pray and be aware

A watchful eye is kept on developing storms that can form and potentially threaten Florida in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico from June through November during Hurricane Season. During Labor Day Weekend Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas before going on to lash the east coast of the U.S. with winds and rain while spreading fear from Florida to the Carolinas and beyond.

In preparation for Hurricane Dorian, the Diocese of Venice Hurricane Committee met daily as the monster storm loomed in the Caribbean Sea and menaced Florida with some early forecasts ominously aiming directly at Southwest Florida with impacts as early as Sunday, Sept. 1. This committee included leaders of Catholic Charities, which would have led the post-disaster humanitarian response.

The Catholic Center, as well as parishes and schools and other entities, took appropriate measures to secure facilities should the storm approach. Everything that could be done to prepare was done. At the Catholic Center, as a precaution, the hurricane shutters were put up and sensitive electronic devices were covered.

In anticipation of the storm, and out the abundance of caution, parishes were forced to cancel many Labor Day Weekend activities and most delayed the start of religious education programs by one week. While these were an inconvenience, the need for caution and vigilance outweighed all else.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who also closely monitored the storm throughout, remained in contact with pastors and administrators throughout the Diocese addressing individual needs as required.

Dr. Ben Moore, Diocesan Superintendent of Schools, was the main contact for the schools in the Diocese, while Philomena Pereira, CEO of Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc., helped to coordinate storm preparations for Catholic Charities entities and set up a plan to respond immediately following the storm with emergency supplies to designated areas.

The challenge in Dorian was that there were many unknowns, and each notification in the forecast changed the potential impacts to different parts of the region. At certain points the storm was expected to cross Florida on top of the Diocese. Such a path would have been crippling, so preparations and plans had to be put in place.

Thankfully, prayers were answered, and the Diocese was spared. The last area to have any type of impacts from Dorian was Highlands County which was under a Tropical Storm Warning for two days. There St. Catherine School in Sebring was closed on Sept. 3 and 4 and parish activities and hours were limited. Schools in Collier County were also closed Sept. 3, while other schools remained open.

Because of the storm, Bishop Dewane postponed Masses for students at St. Ann Catholic School and St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples on Sept. 3, as well as a Mass on Labor Day for the students and faculty of Ave Maria University. These are in the process of being rescheduled as quickly as possible.

Many still have fresh memories of Hurricane Irma from 2017. That storm struck Marco Island and went up the center of the state, leaving in its wake a trail of destruction.  Thousands of families were left with damaged homes and many without power for weeks and dozens of Diocesan buildings were damaged or destroyed. Similar impacts occurred after Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and Hurricane Charley in 2004.

With those memories in mind, as Dorian struck the Bahamas and the U.S. coastline, the focus of many switched for preparation to wanting to help. Residents of the area remember the generosity of outsiders following Hurricane Irma, so the faithful were quick to ask for somewhere to send donations in support of those impacted by Dorian. A Hurricane Dorian fund was created and can be found on the Diocese of Venice website at Financial donations will be given to organizations assisting the victims of the storm. No Diocesan collections of goods was established given the difficulty in logistics.

While Hurricane Dorian ultimately only inconvenienced the region, it served as a stark reminder for all to remain vigilant throughout the remainder of the Hurricane Season and always have plenty of emergency supplies on hand ahead of time before supplies run out. We all must be vigilant and take action should a storm threaten.

Cardinal Mooney now offering AP Capstone Diploma

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota is now offering the prestigious Advanced Placement® (AP®) Capstone Diploma for the 2019-2020 school year.

AP Capstone™ is a diploma program from the College Board based on two yearlong AP courses: AP Seminar and AP Research. Both courses prepare students for college and career success through the development of critical thinking, academic research, collaboration, presentation, and time management skills.

“We are excited to launch this new program and proud to recognize the nine students who have chosen to participate in the inaugural offering of the AP Capstone Diploma program,” said Ben Hopper, principal of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School. “We look forward to providing them with opportunities to explore their passions while building their research and collaboration skill needed for college and beyond.”

The AP Capstone program provides student-centered learning while incorporating performance-based assessments. Throughout the program, AP Seminar and AP Research students study a variety of topics across multiple disciplines and have the flexibility to choose topics of personal interest to show mastery of critical thinking, research, and presentation skills. Official AP Seminar and AP Research assessments also go beyond a single AP Exam to include academic papers, multimedia presentations, and defense of findings.

To receive the AP Capstone Diploma™, students must earn scores of 3 or higher in AP Seminar, AP Research, and on four additional AP Exams. To receive the AP Seminar and Research Certificate, students must earn scores of 3 or higher in AP Seminar and AP Research.

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School currently offers 16 different Advanced Placement classes, which provide students the opportunity to take challenging college-level courses while still in high school. A 3 or higher on an AP Exam has multiple benefits for students, including earning college credit, advanced placement, or both for successful performance on AP Exams, saving them time and money.

Principals Corner – St. Ann

Principal’s Corner

By Mr. Michael Buskirk, St. Ann Catholic School, Naples

My name is Michael Buskirk, and I am the new Principal of St. Ann Catholic School in Naples. After spending the past four years as the Principal of St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri, I feel truly blessed to have this opportunity to return to Florida and serve the St. Ann Community. Located in the heart of downtown Naples, St. Ann has offered thousands of students and their families throughout Collier County a high quality, faith-based educational experience since 1956.

On Aug. 12, we started the school year by welcoming 266 students to our spiritually enriching community. This diverse student body, representing a variety of backgrounds and cultures, has emboldened our excellent reputation as the most prestigious Catholic School in Naples. Our class sizes help us meet the individual needs of every child in an academically challenging environment that incorporates a strong sense of community by embodying our Catholic teachings to create disciples of Christ.

Our students are taught the skills they need to fulfill their life’s work on Earth and to prepare them for everlasting life in the kingdom of God within a disciplined, caring, loving, and safe environment. Our promise to maintain high academic standards for all students is evident throughout the school’s modern, state-of-the-art campus and well-rounded, faith infused curriculum. We offer gifted, honors, and resource classes that seamlessly integrate the latest technology at every grade level.

The staff and faculty at St. Ann’s help students learn and appreciate the arts with interactive classes in band, choir, art, music, and drama. We also provide a comprehensive physical education and sports program including opportunities to compete in basketball, soccer, volleyball, golf, tennis, and track.

Extra-curricular activities and field trips round out every child’s educational experience. Most importantly, through the amazing dedication and commitment of our compassionate and professional teachers and staff, every child is nurtured to reach his/her potential.

Thanks to the generosity of our parents, parishioners, and community partners this summer we further enhanced the safety of our campus through the construction and reinforcement of walls and fences to offer an added layer of security by directing all campus visitors to a secure single point of entry. We also enhanced our STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) initiatives by installing fiberoptic Internet throughout the campus, created an iMac Lab, and completed numerous upgrades to our Media Center to include two state-of-the-art 3D printers. St. Ann is also the first school in Collier County to boast an autonomous lawnmower to help keep our playing fields in pristine condition.

We would love to welcome you and your family to our school community. For more information or to schedule a tour of St. Ann Catholic School, please contact Tracy Farley at 239-262-4110 or visit

News briefs from the Diocese Sept. 13-27

Ordination to the priesthood Oct. 5

All are encouraged to attend the celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Orders at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. Transitional Deacon Carlos Encina will be Ordained to the Priesthood by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. This in an important celebration for the entire Diocese as ordinations help to ensure the continued availability of the Sacraments. A reception will follow.




Bishop interviewed for series “The Chair”

Representatives of DeSales Media visited Epiphany Cathedral in Venice Aug. 25-26 to produce a segment for a series about U.S. Cathedrals and their Bishops called “The Chair.” which will air on NET TV, a channel of the Diocese of Brooklyn. In addition to filming the Cathedral and learning about its history, the team interviewed Bishop Frank J. Dewane.




Summer reading program a big success

The students enrolled in the Summer Reading Program at Casa San Juan Bosco of Catholic Charities farm worker community in Arcadia took part in the Summer Reading Challenge. The program is funded through the generosity of The Patterson Foundation and is part of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. The reading challenge takes place for nine weeks and 26 kindergarten to fifth grade students signed up for the program this summer at the farm worker community. The campers receive a wristband for the number of books completed and activities are coordinated to go with the reading materials for each day. Research shows that children who do not read during the summer can lose up to three months of reading progress and that the loss has a cumulative, long-term effect on them. But reading just six books, at the appropriate reading level, over the summer can prevent that “summer slide” and keep a struggling reader from regressing.

Anti-Human Trafficking Assistance Program challenge

Join the fight to end human trafficking. Today more than ever, victims of human trafficking need your support. To combat this serious issue, a concerned donor has pledged to match all contributions given to the Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. Anti-Human Trafficking Assistance Program up to $100,000. Double your donation through our benefactor’s match to Catholic Charities. Survivors have vast needs. They begin with the basics of food, housing and clothing then move on to referrals to medical, legal and mental health providers and finish with life and job skills training to reach self-sufficiency. The goal is to end this modern-day slavery. Your gift will offer survivors the hope and help required to overcome their obstacles and achieve a healthy life. To make a donation, please visit

Support Venice Diocesan CCW Seminarian Fund

The Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women invite all to join them in celebrating Priesthood Sunday, September 29, in a special and lasting way – by sending priests of your parish a Seminarian Fund “IN HONOR OF” card. Please remember that this is a gift that keeps on giving. The Diocese of Venice is currently educating 18 men in various seminaries. A donation of any amount will be a great help. The donation amount will not be revealed to the recipient. To take part, please send $1.00 plus your donation (made out to the VDCCW Seminarian Fund) to Cornelia Zanetti, 5808 Gulf Drive, #204, Holmes Beach, FL 34217. If you have any questions, please email Cornelia at

Verot seniors perfect on college pre exams

Two Bishop Verot Catholic High School seniors, Connor Shovlin and Madison Tilton, have achieved perfection on the SAT and ACT. Connor received a perfect 36 on his ACT and a perfect 800 on the Math portion of the SAT. Madison received a perfect 800 on the Reading & Writing section of the SAT. Congratulations!

Naples School Fall Festival Oct. 12

St. Ann Catholic School is hosting a Fall Festival from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Oct. 12 at the St. Ann Jubilee Center and School Field at 525 Ninth Ave. S., Naples. There will be fun for all, including: a chili contest, games, face painting, bounce house, bake sale, snow cones, food, line dancing and much more. The Festival will benefit the St. Ann Home and School Association. For more details, please call 239-262-4110.

Kids Helping Kids

St. Andrew Catholic School students began the school year in Cape Coral by helping other students in their community.

On the first Friday of the new school year (Aug. 16), students participated in a dress down (no uniforms) day to benefit the Cape Coral Safe Zone Park Bench Project, sponsored through the Rotary Foundation. As an extension of the Rotary Club, St. Andrew Catholic School hosts a RotaKids club.

Student mentors and club advisors decided the Cape Coral Safe Zone Park Bench Project was a perfect way to assist the community. The one-day collection of donations from the dress-down day was enough to sponsor a bench which was installed at the corner of the St. Andrew Catholic Church property.

RotaKids is a club for children up to 12 years and is an initiative created from the Rotary Club principles of helping ​​others. The children enjoy a boost of confidence and self-esteem at a key age and develop an understanding of how their actions can impact on others.

On Aug. 23, St. Andrew RotaKids, members of the Cape Coral Rotary Club, and other community leaders assembled for a special dedication of the bench.

After placing balloons on the bench, students joined hands in prayer and sang “Amazing Grace.”

A plaque now adorns the bench thanking the RotaKids for their support of the Safe Zone Bench Project, a community wide project that began to help students remain safe at their bus stops.

Diocese welcomes two new principals

The start of the 2019-2020 School Year brings new leadership to two Diocesan Catholic School.

St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral welcomes David Nelson, and St. Ann Catholic School in Naples welcomes Michael Buskirk.

Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Catholic Education Dr. Ben Moore said a comprehensive selection process brought the best candidates to the two schools. That process included a dedicated search committee at each school which consisted of Diocesan, Parish and school leadership. Each new principal comes with the unique skills needed to lead their respective school into the future.

Nelson is a familiar face in the Diocese, having most recently served as Assistant Principal for Student Life at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. Born in Kalamazoo, Mich., he attended Carthage College in Wisconsin, where he played baseball and earned an undergraduate degree in elementary education and later earned an advanced degree in educational leadership from St. Leo University in St. Leo, Fla. Nelson is also a graduate of the Diocese of Venice Principal Discernment Program and is on the Diocesan STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) Committee and is a member of the Florida Catholic Conference School Accreditation Team. He taught at two elementary schools in Fort Myers and at the same was varsity baseball coach at a high school in Lehigh Acres.

While still teaching in elementary school, Nelson became as an assistant baseball coach at Bishop Verot and was part of the staff for the 2011 4A baseball state championship team. In 2012, he joined Bishop Verot as a teacher in theology, world history and world geography while also taking head baseball coaching duties. In 2014, he was named Dean of Students, then Assistant Principal for Student Affairs and finally as Assistant Principal for Student Life. He attends St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers with is family, where he is an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.

“As a leader of a Parish school, I plan to work with (the priests) and will aim to create a professional ongoing Catholic learning environment, providing development opportunities for staff and teachable moments for our students,” Nelson said. “It will be my mission to instill a sense of purpose, vision, optimism, and a Gospel message for success in those I lead.”

St. Ann’s new principal, Michael Buskirk is originally from Philadelphia, Pa. and holds an undergraduate degree in biology, with an education certification, from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, as well as graduate degree in educational leadership, with a principal certification, and an education specialist degree in leadership, with superintendent certification, all from the University of Missouri.

His first 11 years of teaching experience was in Florida at schools in Broward, Duvall (Catholic high school), and Clay counties, before taking a position with a Catholic School in the Diocese of Jefferson City. In 2015 Buskirk was appointed principal at a Catholic elementary school and in 2018 he has also took on the position as Administrator of Diocese Athletics for the Diocese of Jefferson City.

“I have found that giving people a voice and allowing their opinion creates an aura of ownership, which is extremely important in current times to keep private schools thriving,” Buskirk stated. “My belief is that it takes everyone, parents, students, and parishioners to be successful. We are not just a school; we are a Diocese.”

To learn more about St. Andrew Catholic School, please visit; and for St. Ann Catholic School please visit


For information about all Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools, please visit

CCW Juniors gather for retreat

A group of young ladies received important last-minute lessons as they prepared to return to school – how to defend their faith and what the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (VDCCW) is all about.

A CCW Juniors Convocation took place Aug. 9-10 at Campo San Jose Retreat Center in Lake Placid. Organized by Iris Gomez, VDCCW Past-President of St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, girls from four different parishes spent time together before they had to return to school on Aug. 12.

“I want these girls to learn about how to defend their faith in the real world,” Gomez explained.

This is important, Gomez added, because when the young ladies are in school, or out with friends, they don’t have anyone physically standing beside them to explain why they are Catholic and what being Catholic is all about.

“We want them to grow in strength and confidence while being comforted by the companionship of the Lord,” Gomez concluded.

The girls, from St. Jude Parish in Sarasota, Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton, Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park, and St. Michael Parish, took part in a variety of activities. These tasks were sometimes a lot of fun, but very serious, with each helping them to understand the love the Lord has for them as women of God.

To help achieve this, Gomez and the chaperones stressed the importance of prayer, particularly of the rosary. After each prayer session, the girls would gather in smaller groups for talks.

One young lady from St. Michael Parish said she had fun during the convocation and felt confident that when she returned to high school, she would be a stronger woman who was not shy about her faith. “I never really talked about being Catholic to people who didn’t know I was already,” she said. “I am proud to wear my cross neckless and carry a rosary with me. It is part of who I am.”

This feeling was shared by many of the other girls who appreciated the frank talks that they rarely have about faith.

The first activities of the convocation included a living rosary, sharing a meal together, pep talks, campfire, a movie with popcorn, and the recitation of evening prayers.

When they arose in the morning, they participated in Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, celebrated by Fathers Juan Carlos Sack and Timothy Van Zee. This was followed by more talks and small group gatherings.

Following their lunch, the girls had some fun, by putting permanent stickers on t-shirts. Many of the girls chose “faith” or a heart that represented the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The group also took part in a service project, ironing on stickers to baby onesies and bibs. These would later be distributed to needy moms throughout Hardee County.

The young ladies from St. Michael Parish also did a skit on the story of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a religious sister who lived a humble life to whom Jesus appeared. She was canonized by St. John Paul II in 2000, who at that time declared the Second Sunday of Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday, a celebration of the mercy of Jesus as reminded us by St. Faustina.

The final activity of the retreat was to spend some quality time in quiet and prayer with the Lord through the participation in Eucharistic Adoration.

When their convocation was completed, they returned home, ready and energized for a great school year while keeping Jesus first in their lives.

Young Adult Missionary Discipleship Society starting

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

Are you a young adult Catholic who wants to become more involved in your Faith? Are you a cradle-Catholic who needs an extra push?

If you think the answer is yes to these or other questions you may have about how to build a closer relationship with Jesus Christ and are from the southern areas of the Diocese, the soon-to-be-formed Society of Missionary Discipleship may be a starting point for you.

Under the direction of the Diocesan Office of Evangelization’s, Youth and Young Adult Outreach, the purpose of the Society of Missionary Discipleship is to form a group of Catholic young adults (ages 21-39) committed to prayer, community, and service. The plan is to begin meeting starting time in September.

The Society is to provide a place for those Catholics who desire to continue to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and helping others within the Diocese to do the same. Those participating will be like a family to one another, supporting, helping each other grow in holiness and serving the Lord. The aim of this is to increase the participation of the young adult faithful within all Parishes in the Diocese.

Diocese Director of Evangelization Joshua Mazrin said the Society is welcoming to all, just as the Church is welcoming. “Participants will commit to a year of becoming Missionary Disciples of Jesus Christ, as well as growing in fellowship with one another… Members will learn their faith like never before as they grow in a family environment with fellow Missionary Disciples.”

The group will offer a full retreat once a month for all who sign up as well as participation in a ministry/service project. The gatherings will serve as a means to evoke greater participation of the lay faithful within their faith, as well as the Diocese, and to provide them with a community of like-minded individuals. Throughout this process, participants will develop the core values of holiness, prayer, evangelization, fellowship, leadership, study (Biblical, theological, ministry, evangelism), and accountability.

The Mission statement for the Society is:

“The Society of Missionary Discipleship empowers the lay faithful within the Diocese of Venice to boldly proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Members are equipped spiritually, intellectually, and practically within a communal setting through comradery to take their faith out into the public square.”

Mazrin said the pilot program will include a group of 10-30 young adults from the Fort Myers and Naples area who attend 10 monthly retreats which will provide spiritual enrichment, education in ministry and theology, prayer, fellowship, and team-building. The group will also participate each month in a type of missionary activity (i.e. service to the community; e.g. Street Evangelization, Prison Ministry, Theology on Tap, other aspects of spiritual and corporal works of mercy). The year will conclude with participation in the annual Steubenville Conference.

The basic structure, or curriculum will include: evangelization practices; spirituality; basic Scripture; basic Sacraments; Theology of the Body; basic Doctrine (Christology, Soteriology, Trinitarian Theology, Ecclesiology, Mariology, etc.); and spiritual formation.

Done in a retreat-style, all content will provide solid teaching but be presented to the participants in the context of a retreat, Mazrin explained. The purpose of this is for all transmitted knowledge to be practical for their mission of evangelization as well as applied to their own spiritual lives to grow as disciples.

It is hoped that the members of the Society of Missionary Disciples will go on to the next step – a commitment to serve in a particular capacity with a Parish or Diocesan initiative for a year (while continuing to meet monthly for ongoing formation). The Society of Missionary Discipleship will serve as a means to evoke greater participation of the lay faithful within the Diocese and to provide them with a community of like-minded individuals.

To learn more details about the new Society of Missionary Discipleship, please contact Joshua Mazrin at 941-484-9543 or

Assumption: contemplating this mystery of the Blessed Virgin

Holy Day of Obligation Aug. 15

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

The upcoming Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to be celebrated Aug. 15, is a particular time in the year to reflect upon the story of eternal hope for the faithful.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Guido Reni, circa 1642.

Pope Francis said the Assumption (a Holy Day of Obligation) is a time when “the holy faithful people of God express with joy their veneration of the Virgin Mother. They do so in the common liturgy and also in a thousand different ways of piety; and thus, the prophecy of Mary herself comes true: ‘All generations will call me blessed’ (Luke 1:48), because the Lord has regarded His humble handmaid.”

The Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven, in soul and body, is a divine privilege accorded to the Holy Mother of God because of her particular union with Jesus, Pope Francis noted.

“It’s a corporal and spiritual union, which began with the Annunciation and matured throughout Mary’s life, through her singular participation in her Son’s mystery,” the Holy Father continued. “Mary always went with her Son: she went behind Jesus, and so we say she was His first disciple.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the Assumption in this way: “The Immaculate Virgin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of death.”

Pope Francis said that while the Blessed Virgin has entered into heavenly glory, this does not mean that She is distant or detached from us; “rather Mary accompanies us, struggles with us, and sustains Christians in their fight against the forces of evil. The stupendous reality of Mary’s Assumption manifests and confirms the unity of the human person, and it reminds us that we are called to serve and glorify God with all our being, soul and body. To serve God only with the body would be an action of slaves; to serve God only with the soul would be against our human nature.”

This Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the oldest celebration of Our Lady. The original celebration was known as the “Memory of Mary” or “Falling Asleep” of Mary for it initially centered on the end of her earthly existence, commonly known as her “dormition.”

Soon the name was changed to the “Assumption of Mary,” since there was much more to the feast than the end of her earthly life. The belief that Mary had been taken up, body and soul, into heaven dates back to the Apostles themselves.

Clear from the beginning was that there were no relics of Mary to be venerated, and that an empty tomb stood on the edge of Jerusalem near the site of the end of her earthly existence or dormition. That location also soon became a place of pilgrimage. (Today, the Benedictine Abbey of the Dormition of Mary stands on the spot.)

In 1950, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Assumption of Mary a dogma of the Catholic Church, therefore, an ancient belief became Catholic Doctrine and the Assumption was declared a truth revealed by God.

The declaration of the dogma was to “make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective,” Pope Pius XII stated in a proclamation.

The proclamation went on to say that the definition of the Assumption “will contribute in no small way to the advantage of human society, since it (reflects and builds up) the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity, to which the Blessed Mother of God is bound by such singular bonds.”

It was also expected that the faithful would be stirred up to a stronger piety toward their heavenly Mother; And that those who meditate upon the glorious example Mary offers be more and more convinced of the value of a human life entirely devoted to carrying out the heavenly Father’s will and to bringing good to others.

Pope Francis said the current devotion that the faithful throughout the world have toward the Blessed Virgin confirms, the earlier expectations of Pope Pius XII.