Bradenton Catholic School hosted a STREAM program

St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton hosted a two-week virtual STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) program in June 2020 for students of all ages.

Connected to their teachers via online Zoom sessions, students were empowered to follow the “Invention Process” as they collaborated, innovated, designed prototypes and learned from their failures. Program kits were sent directly to the students’ homes ahead of time so they could actively follow along and learn.

Students learned about flight with gliders, rockets, and robots. They constructed paper airplanes and measured their flight path and even built air traffic control towers. In addition, the students also investigated, took apart and customized a high-tech flight simulation robot.

They drew sketches, built prototypes, and designed logos for a new invention they created. Later the students created parachutes to air-drop different animals into different environments.

The inventors also designed and produced energy-efficient LED plant lights and even manufactured their own biodegradable pot and later planted seeds.

Participants discovered the unseen inventors behind their favorite sports and then designed and built their own ultimate sports complex. Students used simple machines to roll a ball during a table-top game.

Through these activities, students gained essential skills they can apply throughout their lives.

This STREAM program is just the latest in cutting-edge educational opportunities provided to students at St. Joseph Catholic School. To learn more about the school, please call 941-755-2611 or visit

Helping brothers and sisters in need

Crisis brings out best in people

“We would be here even if it was to help one family.”

This was the assertion made by Maria DeJesus the director of St. Jude Parish Food Pantry in Sarasota. In existence since the Parish was founded in 2006, the food pantry, which sits in a mobile home at the rear of the Parish property, normally assists a few dozen families each week. Most of these families are down on their luck or in need of emergency supplies because of other unexpected expenses.

The COVID-19 Pandemic changed the dynamics in the community as many families were struck with unforeseen job loss as well as an uncertain future. “We jumped to helping more than 120 families each week,” DeJesus explained. “It was shocking, but we responded in the best way we could; with prayers, hard work and the grace of God.”

Appeals for financial support went out and the faithful responded either with food or financial donations. With All Faith’s Food Bank – a primary source for supplies – nearly depleted because of the same demand, DeJesus and other volunteers purchased food at local stores – whatever they could get their hands on.

“It was tough,” she explained. “The stores didn’t have much, but we talked to the managers and they worked with us to get what we needed. They understood that our food was feeding people who might otherwise starve without our help.”

Starvation might seem like an extreme statement, but when families lose jobs and bills continued to come in, difficult choices must be made. Food becomes a luxury item and as the home cupboards emptied, they turned to the one place they trusted – the Parish.

Father Celestino Gutierrez, Pastor of St. Jude, said he is proud of the work being done through the food pantry and ensure they have what is needed to meet the demand.

“When we built the Church, I made sure we had this food pantry,” he explained. “I purchased this used mobile home (which holds the pantry) so that we had something when people came to us for help, we would always be there.”

Father Gutierrez said the Catholic Church is a beacon of hope for the world and in turn the Parish food pantry is an important part of that hope for the local community. “We are called by Jesus to help the least of our brothers (Matt 25:40). We must always remember to do that.”

As a vehicle approached on a recent Wednesday evening, the driver’s face was unfamiliar, but the story was not: job loss, hardship, worry, need.

Two overflowing bags of food were loaded into the back of the vehicle as the driver said she was thankful and wanted to get out and give them a hug. Of course, there are no hugs during social distancing, but the thanks and gesture were appreciated.

DeJesus said the peak demand has tapered off since mid-June as businesses are reopening and people go back to work, but there are still upwards of 60-80 families coming to the food pantry during the two distribution times each week (5-6:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 8:30-9:30 a.m. Saturdays). That translates to hundreds of mouths being fed. The pantry offers food that will last families for about two weeks, offering various dry good, and when available, meat, fruit and vegetables.

“No matter the demand, we will be here,” DeJesus said.

That same attitude is found at other Parishes which established emergency food pantries. St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples set up its emergency food pantry in the Spirit Center, a place where receptions and fun events normally take place. Directed by John Toti, the Parish Events Coordinator in other times, who noted that locally those working in service industries were particularly hard hit and requests for help came pouring in, even as the Parish offices were closed to visitors.

“In the past we would have either directed them to go to Catholic Charities or the St. Vincent de Paul Society, or even given them a gift card to a nearby store,” Toti explained. “But everyone was hit with demand all at once, so we knew we had to do something else.”

An emergency request was made to Catholic Charities and the response was positive as Toti previously volunteered at the nearby Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center, a facility run by Catholic Charities which includes a large food pantry. A general appeal to parishioners for donations generated its own overwhelming response and for the past eight weeks food has been made available to all.

“It is the right thing to do,” Toti said. “We are here every day (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) and provide a good mix of food that will last.”

While St. Jude and St. Peter the Apostle are not the only Parishes to step up during this crisis, either through their own food pantry or through donations from local organizations, the acts of generosity is not limited to these groups.

For example, St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota recently announced the generosity of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School student and St. Martha Alumnus, Mallory Albritton who heard about needy local families and decided to help.

Mallory, along with Total Tennis Sarasota owner, Phil Perrla and his wife, Epp Miller, donated the meat from their hogs. Mallory bought hers through the 4H Market Swine Project with her own money ($1,300) specifically to donate to families while Perrla and Miller won theirs in the 4H Foundation Raffle. Mallory also paid with her own money to process the meat that was donated.

These donations will help seven families in need from St. Martha Catholic School, St. Mary Academy and Incarnation Catholic School, all in Sarasota. The donation included multiple packages of sausage, pork chops, ham steaks, hams, hocks, picnic shoulder, Boston butt, roast, spareribs and bacon!

Siobhan Young, St. Martha Principal, said she was visiting Albritton Fruit Farms a few weeks ago and was approached about the business wanting to donate the pork and asked if she knew anyone who was in the school that needed help. The farming family has had children and now grandchildren attend St. Martha.

“There are families at the schools that have lost jobs and were regularly using food pantries to sustain them,” Young explained. “The meat they received is up to a 4-week supply.”

These are just a few examples of the action taking place throughout the Diocese of Venice, not just in Parishes but by individuals. The hard work taking place is often done without fanfare or recognition, but it is an effort that is making a difference to our brothers and sisters in need.

If you know of any acts of kindness during the COVID-19 Pandemic that you think should be recognized, please contact Bob Reddy at 941-486-4701 or


How to help

St. Jude Parish Food Pantry

3930 17th St., Sarasota, FL 34235



St. Peter the Apostle Parish

5130 Rattlesnake Hammock Road

Naples, FL 34113

Sister Frances retires leaving advice: ‘Stay close to Jesus’

Susan Laielli – Special to the Florida Catholic

With a smile and her famous Irish twinkle shared with Parishioners of Epiphany Cathedral in Venice for the last 26 years, Sister Frances Lalor, RSM, announces her retirement effective June 30.

Religious Sister of Mercy Frances Lalor, longtime Director of Religious Education at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, is retiring June 30, 2020.

Sister Frances, 81, professed her vows as a Religious Sister of Mercy (RSM) on September 8, 1957 in Ireland, and completed her studies in Columbia, Missouri in the 1960’s, eventually serving as principal of a Catholic School in Lake Worth, Fla., before coming to Southwest Florida.

“When we first came to America, we had the most beautiful habits made for us in Ireland, but oh boy, were they hot,” laughs Sister Frances. “We had to make lighter weight habits on the hurry.”

Since 1994, Sister has been a leader in Catholic Education working as Epiphany Cathedral’s Director of Religious Education, a position that is extremely crucial with respect to teaching and preparing young minds and hearts for the Sacraments of Confirmation, First Confession and First Holy Communion, as well as overseeing the annual Vacation Bible School and weekly Religious Education classes. She also coordinated the Parish’s RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) Faith Formation classes, which brings new Catholics into the Church. In addition, she served as acting Principal of Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School for several months a few years ago.

Over two-and-a-half decades of teaching in Venice, one can only imagine the impact Sister has had on several generations of growing Catholics. The advice she always offered was to always “stay close to Jesus.”

“Well, I hope I have. You never know for sure if you have made a difference,” said Sister Frances. “In fact, I met a little girl just last Sunday who went through a very difficult time in her life when she was growing up here. Now, a nurse in Texas, she came back to visit. When someone says to you, ‘You saved my life’ – you know…”

With teary eyes, Sister recalls the little girl’s father died by suicide and she spent time working with the family through that rough time, including helping her to get through the Christmas pageant that year.

Religious Sister of Mercy Frances Lalor, center, seen in Ireland with her brother Tom, a newly ordained priest, and cousin Sarah Ryan in this photo from 1968. The longtime Parish Director of Religious Education is retiring on June 30, 2020.

Born in County Laois, Ireland, Sister Frances grew up in a “very” Catholic Family, one of seven children, who never missed Mass, and whom as a family prayed the Holy Rosary each night on their knees, as she says, “not in cushy chairs.”

“No matter who came to the door the Rosary didn’t stop. They just walked in and got down on their knees – whether it was a workman, or someone else, because we lived on a farm,” said Sister Frances.

The visitors would finish the Rosary with the family, then work would go on, she recalls.

With a memory of seven Popes in her lifetime, she says if she had to choose a favorite, it would be Pope (St.) John XXIII, who served from 1958-1963.

“I like Pope John XXIII because before he became Pope, he helped the Jews quite a bit, but when he became Pope, he was just natural and human,” said Sister.

Retirement is one of the unavoidable stages in a life well-lived and is bittersweet.

On June 1, 2020, Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School teachers honor retiring Religious Sister of Mercy Frances Lalor, a one-time principal at the Venice school. The longtime Parish Director of Religious Education is retiring on June 30, 2020.

As Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School celebrates 60 years of Premier Education for a Life of Purpose this year, the school recently honored Sister Frances with its 2020 Shining Star Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Epiphany Gala, held in February.

Before the effects of COVID-19 took hold, Sister Frances had big retirement plans to visit a religious order in San Antonio, Texas. But for now, those plans are on hold, so she’ll remain local with a few good meals until the Pandemic subsides.

“A favorite would be eggplant parmigiana with a glass of white wine – not red!” smiles Sister Frances.

Best and brightest of the Diocesan Class of 2020

Each year the four Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Venice send into the world some of the best prepared students.

The Class of 2020, which includes Bishop Verot in Fort Myers, Cardinal Mooney in Sarasota, Donahue Academy in Ave Maria, and St. John Neumann in Naples, has graduates who are going forth having received an excellent education based on Gospel values.

Among the graduating class, 97 percent have plans to go to college earning a combined $46.5 million in scholarship offers, all while dedicating thousands of hours of service in the community.

Of course, the Class of 2020 will likely be best remembered because their final semester was upturned by the impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic. An enforced quarantine and subsequent distance learning, as well as missing key events in their final months of school, did not dampen the excitement as they prepare for the next phase in their lives.

It should come as no surprise that at each school the students were nurtured in a supporting and spiritual environment to become life-long learners. The Pandemic did little to change that fact as some of the top graduates recently reflected upon their high school experiences and how well-prepared they are for college and beyond.

Alberto Macia, St. John Neumann Valedictorian, explained how the academics fully prepared him to be competitive for college applications and set him up to be successful. “However, it is so much more than academics,” the Cornell University-bound student said. “The faculty really cares about each student. The atmosphere is fun and really like a family. Some of my classmates have been my friends since I was three years old. They are more than classmates, they are family.”

Summa Cum Laude Bishop Verot graduate Connor Shovlin, who is a National Merit Scholarship Finalist and will be attending Duke University in the fall, said he is very prepared for college. “Verot delivers a superior quality education and has a great community and environment in which to learn. I have been very impressed with the support that Verot provides to its students. All of the teachers are passionate about their subject and about teaching.”

Donahue Catholic Academy Valedictorian Quinten Fairchild is heading to the University of Notre Dame and credits his school with providing each student the opportunity to do something great. “Catholic schools are able to speak about God in a way that public schools are not. Moreover, they are free to speak their minds, and that really manifests itself in great ways at Donahue.”

Graham Linehan, Cardinal Mooney Valedictorian, who is headed to the University of Florida Honors College, called his school a close-knit community. When asked what he would tell of prospective student, he said: “If you are looking for a specific personal experience, I would go for it… these schools are innovative and adaptive.”

The 13 years of Catholic education (St. Ann Catholic School and Neumann) provided to Salutatorian Ryan O’Connor, “truly instilled values I am thankful to have in my life.” The future University of Florida student continued: “By having a school deeply rooted in the Catholic Faith, I have been taught morals and principles that are hard to find in any other school community.”

Bishop Verot Summa Cum Laude graduate Spencer Ebenger is attending Vanderbilt University in the fall and while in school founded a non-profit to help improve literacy in rural areas as well as in Jamaica. He explained that Verot is a community of people who are there for each other. “It’s bigger than one person and has that extra personal touch. Everyone cares about each other. There is no censorship of other religions; there is an open dialogue. The culture is one big family. The people are there for you. They were there for me and (going) was easily the best decision of my young life.”

Anna Klemeyer, Cardinal Mooney Salutatorian, who recently reported to the U.S. Naval Academy, said she attended Mooney because her parents wanted her to go to a school with morality involved in the school culture. She also found the family atmosphere helped her succeed. “I will always cherish the relationships I built here, with not only my classmates, but the amazing faculty that help all students whether it be with math homework or supporting them in a time of need.”

The most valuable lesson Abbey Lawe, Salutatorian at Donahue, gained from her education was to learn how to think, not just what to think. Continuing her education at Providence College, she said Donahue was “more than just a school, it really was a community of teachers and students who so wanted us to succeed… allowed us to feel known, supported and loved by our teachers and classmates.”

These top graduates reflect well upon the entire Class of 2020 and serve as an example of the excellence found in the students of Bishop Verot, Cardinal Mooney, Donahue and St. John Neumann.

Below, please find more information on the top graduates from the Diocese of Venice Class of 2020.

Alberto Macia – St. John Neumann


Cornell University

Mechanical engineering

Clubs/sports: National Honors Society, Peer Ministry, House Captain, Beta Club, baseball for four years and football for senior year.

Ryan O’Connor – St. John Neumann


University of Florida

Biomechanical engineering

Clubs/sports: National Honors Society, Beta Club, four years of football.

Spencer Ebenger – Bishop Verot

Cumma Sum Laude

Vanderbilt University


Clubs/sports: National Honors Society, Model UN, Mock Trial, Spanish Club, Mu Alpha Theta Club, COSA (future health professionals).

Connor Shovlin – Bishop Verot

Summa Cum Laude

Duke University

Biomechanical engineering and computer science

Clubs/sports: National Honors Society, Math Honors Society, Spanish Honors Society, STEM Team, Academic Quiz Bowl, tutor, Verot Scholars Academy, National Merit Scholarship Finalist.

Quinten Fairchild – Donahue Academy


University of Notre Dame

History and political science

Clubs/sports: National Honors Society, Student Life, Model UN (founding member), Shakespeare in Performance, four-years basketball, three-years cross country.

Abbey Lawe – Donahue Academy


Providence College, R.I.


Clubs/sports: National Honors Society, Student Life, Model UN (founding member), Shakespeare in Performance, Yearbook Club, tutor, four-years-basketball.

Graham Linehan – Cardinal Mooney


University of Florida Honors College

International studies

Clubs/sports: National Honors Society, Junior Class President, Academic Olympics, Spanish Club, co-founder of Italian Club, four-year tennis player.

Anna Klemeyer – Cardinal Mooney


U.S. Naval Academy

Cyber Operations

Clubs/sports: National Honors Society, Academic Olympics, four-year volleyball player.

Together again: Bradenton school reunites to congratulate the Class of 2020

By John L. Carkeet IV – Special to the Florida Catholic

Friends and loved ones gathered at St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton June 17, 2020 to honor the Class of 2020. The graduation Mass and ceremony marked the first official occasion where students, faculty and families could meet face-to-face since March 13.

“This is the first time we have shared the same space since classes were suspended from the (COVID-19) Pandemic,” said Deborah Suddarth, principal at St. Joseph Catholic School. “I’m grateful we could make this happen in a safe and special manner.”

With facemasks mandatory and social distancing strictly enforced, 20 eighth grade graduates and their families were given the opportunity to celebrate the next chapter in their life’s journey under one roof.

Before the pandemic, all St. Joseph students would have been invited to attend the graduation, Suddarth explained. “One of this year’s graduates told me she would watch her older peers walk down the aisle and receive their diplomas year after year, and she couldn’t wait for the day it would be her turn… That’s when I knew we had to do our best to make this day special for the Class of 2020.”

The celebration opened with a Mass celebrated by Parish Administrator Father Rafal Ligenza. “One of the customary things to say during graduation is ‘believe in yourselves,’” Father Ligenza added. “If you only put faith in yourself, you will wind up disappointed. Believe in God instead. He will take care of you… You will succeed if you trust in the Lord.”

Mass was followed by a ceremony that recognized the achievements and accolades of the graduates. Joshua P. Ogline received several awards including highest honors in sports, science, religion and language arts.

“But I’m most proud of the St. Joseph Spirit Award,” said Joshua, who also served as the School’s Student Council President. “It recognizes the time and effort our school dedicated to service projects. It recognizes how we incorporated our faith by working together and having fun in everything we did.”

A luncheon followed the ceremony, giving graduates and their families something that most people once took for granted: authentic, in person communication.

“This is a mature class blessed with a supportive network of families,” Suddarth said. “They put the needs of others before their own, and they took every opportunity to lead by example… Although this may be the last time we meet as a group, it will not be the last we’ve heard of the Class of 2020.”

Virtual presentation to high school seniors covers serious topics

The Diocese of Venice Respect Life Office works tirelessly to educate people of all ages on the Church teachings on issues of life, from conception to natural death.

While it is always hard to educate young people on such topics as abortion, premarital sex, the transmission of sexual related illness and other health issues, the most difficult group to reach and educate are high school-aged girls and boys. The combination of outside influences and the reality that many teens do not have a solid understanding of Church Teaching, makes any discussion challenging.

This screen capture is a from a recorded a frank virtual presentation by Pam Stenzel to Diocesan Catholic high school seniors on sex, abortion and sexually transmitted diseases.

To help reach the students in Diocesan Catholic High Schools, Diocese Respect Life Director Jeanne Berdeaux reached out to Pam Stenzel, a national speaker and founder of Enlighten Communications, with more than 25 years’ experience speaking to teens around the world.  She is currently the senior regional clinic coordinator for Community Pregnancy Clinics of Southwest Florida, with special focus on Gainesville and Sarasota.

“The idea to have Pam speak came about when we had another speaker talk to the students in 2015, and afterwards a survey was done.  Many of the students, even after the presentation, were sympathetic to the idea of abortion in cases of rape. Pam does a great job on this issue since her birthmother was raped.”

While it was planned to have Stenzel give a presentation at each high school in April, these were cancelled because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. When distance learning became the new normal for Diocesan schools, it was decided that Stenzel would record her presentation and each of the Diocesan high schools would incorporate it into the May lesson plan for graduating seniors.

The hour-long video covers a variety of topics and teachers were provided with a list of discussion questions.

Stenzel said her goal for the presentation was that no one would be able to watch her talk and leave and never again have to say to a physician, to a counselor, or to a future husband or wife – “nobody told me” about the consequences of premarital sex.

“Today you are going to be told, and whatever you choose to do after our time together is 100 percent up to you,” she stressed.  “I don’t decide what you are going to do about sex… The choice is yours. Your parents can’t choose for you. Some of them might wish they could… All we can do is love you. Tell you the truth and pray you make good choices.”

Starting with the basics, Stenzel explained that God created sex – but with boundaries. He also created choice, knowing that there would be pain, suffering and even death as a consequence when one steps outside of the boundaries.

The boundaries created by God are to contain sex within the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, she added, “not just when you are in love or have a warm fuzzy feeling. In the Sacrament… This is the rule. If you are not married, don’t do it. If you have sex outside of the context of one monogamous marriage, there is a cost: physically, emotionally and spiritually.”

She spoke about how young girls come to pregnancy clinics in fear of being pregnant, and how they are suddenly relieved if that test in negative. Of course, Stenzel must ask the follow-up questions of whether the girl has been tested for more than a dozen sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Many of these STDs have horrible and lasting side-effects. In fact, she added that young girls are 10 times more likely to receive an STD than to get pregnant during a sexual encounter. “They are not at all worried about getting an STD, they are worried only about getting pregnant. Unbelievable!”

While talking about many different topics, Stenzel spoke extensively on St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, and what it means to love someone freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully, noting that it takes integrity, respect and courage to wait to have sex until married. “You are worth it.”

The frankness of Stenzel is necessary to get her powerful message across. She stresses that she is not trying to upset or scare anyone but wants the teens to all know the price of having sex outside of the Sacrament of Marriage. “Knowledge will help you make the decision that is right for you.”

She left them with the advice to seek out the Catholic community wherever they are going to college, noting that it will be exponentially harder to live their Faith in the years ahead, thus having a solid connection to the Catholic Church will give them the strength they need.

News briefs from the week of June 22 2020

First grader wins national Space Art contest

Artwork of Javier Herrera, a first grader at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers, who won the Living Worlds Space Art Contest sponsored by the University of Notre Dame.

Javier Herrera, a first grader at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers has been named the first-place winner in the Living Worlds Space Art Contest sponsored by the University of Notre Dame. Javier won the K-1st grade category in the contest which asked students to imagine what new and unusual forms of life may exist on other planets. For his top place finish, Javier was presented with a beginner telescope and some science books. His teacher/classroom will receive a $250 gift card to purchase science and art supplies.

A panel of educators and scientists evaluated the artworks based on their artistic creativity, scientific accuracy, and the written explanation. By participating in this contest, it is hoped that students will learn about adaptation, the discovery of planets around other stars, and the diversity of life both on our planet and beyond.


LaBelle priest earns Doctorate

Congratulations to Father David Vidal, Administrator of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle, for successfully defending his doctoral dissertation on April 23, 2020, through the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Father Vidal is also a part-time member of St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami Philosophy Faculty as well as one of the adjunct spiritual directors. Father Vidal is a Thomistic scholar whose research and writings deal with the idea of the “Transcendentals” in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Son of current Ave Maria family ordained Transitional Deacon

On June 14, 2020, Salesian Brother Steven Joseph DeMaio (Salesians of Don Bosco) was among seven ordained transitional deacons in Jerusalem. He is originally from Sherman, Conn., but his parents are parishioners at Ave Maria Parish. Deacon DeMaio entered formation in 2010 and made his first vows in 2012 and perpetual vows in 2018. The ordaining prelate was Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, Latin-Rite Apostolic Administrator of Jerusalem. The ordinations were celebrated at the Church of All Nations in Gethsemane. This summer he will exercise his ministry at a parish in Belle Glade in Diocese of Palm Beach, about 20 miles east of Clewiston.


Food pantry open in Wauchula

St. Michael Parish in Wauchula is the home to a food pantry which has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 Pandemic response. To accommodate those who work, the food pantry is open each Saturday, 7–8:45 a.m., 408 Heard Bridge Road, Wauchula. If you need food at a different time or would like to support the efforts to assist the community, please call the Parish at 863-773-4089.

Community supports Catholic Charities program

The Vilano Community of Sarasota recently held a food drive for Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities in Venice and dropped of the items in early June 2020. The drive also collected items for the babies such as diapers and wipes. The program assists mothers and their young children who might otherwise be homeless with shelter and supportive assistance.

Bradenton food pantry available

The St. Joseph Parish Food Pantry, 2704 33rd Ave. W., Bradenton, is open and distributing food from 9a.m. to noon Monday-Friday, and 5-7 p.m. Wednesdays, following all social distancing protocols. New clients are welcome to register during regular pantry hours. Call 941-756-3732 if you have any questions or wish to make a donation of money or food. For more information on the St. Joseph Food Pantry go to

Catholic Charities Response to Pandemic

If you need help

If you need assistance from Catholic Charities for food, financial assistance or tele-mental health counseling, please call the number for your area listed below 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday:

  • Sarasota/Manatee/DeSoto/Hardee/Highlands counties: 844-385-2407,
  • Charlotte/Lee/Hendry/Glades counties: 844-385-2423,
  • Collier County: 844-385-2404.

Food distribution

Catholic Charities food distribution will take place only at the following times and locations. Please call the regional number for more information.

  • Monday-Friday, 9-11 a.m., Guadalupe Social Services, 211 S. 9th St., Immokalee;
  • Tuesdays, 9-11:30 a.m., Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center, 3174 Tamiami Trail E., Naples;
  • Thursdays, 9 a.m.-noon, St. Margaret Parish, 208 Dean Duff St., Clewiston;
  • Fridays, 9-11 a.m., St. Leo the Great Parish, 28360 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs;
  • Fridays, 9 a.m.-noon, Elizabeth K. Galeana Pantry, 4235 Michigan Avenue Link, Fort Myers;
  • 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month, 9-11 a.m., St. Paul Parish, 1208 E. Oak St. Arcadia;

How to Help

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. is in urgent need of your financial support during its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To help, please visit or send a check to: Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc., 5824 Bee Ridge Road, PMB 409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065.

Prayer Chain against Racism in Naples June 28

On Sunday, June 28, Catholics of Collier County are invited to stand as silent witness to the reality of racism in the country as part of a Prayer Chain Against Racism and affirming the Equality and Dignity of Every Human Person. The gathering will be on the

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops logo for Prayer to Overcome Racism

west side of U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) from Pine Ridge Road southward.

While it is being organized by Catholic Parishes in the area, it is hoped that it will be an inclusive event and all Christians, people of other faiths and all people of good will are invited to attend. There will be no speakers or presentation, but a quiet, peaceful, prayerful witness in these challenging times. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, people are requested to wear masks and maintain appropriate social distancing.

Prayer to Overcome Racism

Mary, friend and mother to all, through your Son, God has found a way to unite himself to every human being, called to be one people, sisters and brothers to each other.

We ask for your help in calling on your Son, seeking forgiveness for the times when we have failed to love and respect one another.

We ask for your help in obtaining from your Son the grace we need to overcome the evil of racism and to build a just society. We ask for your help in following your Son, so that prejudice and animosity will no longer infect our minds or hearts but will be replaced with a love that respects the dignity of each person.

Mother of the Church, the Spirit of your Son Jesus warms our hearts: pray for us. Amen.

Oración para superar el racismo

María, amiga y madre de todos, a través de tu Hijo Dios ha encontrado un camino para unirse a todos los seres humanos, llamados a ser un solo pueblo, hermanas y hermanos entre sí.

Pedimos tu ayuda al recurrir a tu Hijo, buscando el perdón por las veces en que hemos fallado en amarnos y respetarnos.

Pedimos tu ayuda para obtener de tu Hijo la gracia que necesitamos para vencer el mal del racismo y construir una sociedad justa.

Pedimos tu ayuda para seguir a tu Hijo, para que el prejuicio y la animosidad no infecten ya nuestras mentes o corazones sino que sean reemplazados por el amor que respeta la dignidad de cada persona.

Madre de la Iglesia, el Espíritu de tu Hijo Jesús alienta nuestros corazones: Ruega por nosotros. Amén.


Copyright © 2018, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All rights reserved.


Bishop addresses racism: Calls for unity, action and finding God in each other

In a recent letter to the faithful, Bishop Frank J. Dewane directly addressed racism in this country and called on all to seek unity, take action and continue to find the image and likeness of God in others.

The letter, dated June 9, 2020, acknowledged the death of George Floyd and the suffering caused by racism in the United States. It also expressed an understanding for the anger and frustration felt by many as evidenced in protest in cities throughout the country, while at the same time stating that the Church encourages a peaceful response and prayers for an end to racism.

“The Church, Her leaders and the Faithful have an important role in confronting the sin of racism. Responding to the call to defend human dignity, the Church must raise Her voice against every instance of the evil of racism. I add my voice and condemn racism in all its forms.”

Bishop Dewane, who is on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee on Racism, has spoken repeatedly about bigotry and discrimination in the county, and the unrest in the wake of the death of George Floyd, either during the daily livestreaming Mass from the Catholic Center or when celebrating Mass at Parishes in the Diocese. During his recent visits to Parishes throughout the Diocese, racism has been a recurring theme, including June 13, 2020 at St. Catherine Parish in Sebring.

“Every human being, regardless of their skin color, is made in the image and likeness of God,” Bishop Dewane said during the livestreamed Mass on June 14, 2020, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi – The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

A table display at St. Agnes Parish in Naples includes the USCCB Prayer to Overcome Racism along with a candle and flowers the weekend of June 13-14, 2020.

“It is not just one race, one color, every human being, you, me, all our neighbors,” Bishop Dewane continued.  “As human beings, as the Body of Christ, we have to see the image and likeness of God in all – not just some. The race of a human being, or the color of their skin, cannot determine the humanity showed toward them; the human respect that they are given shouldn’t be differentiated – it has to be the same!”

Citing racial unrest in the 1960s, 70s and 90s, and even just a few years ago, the Bishop said a solution to racism has not been found and it is very much present around us all. “We are the Body of Christ. We are the Church. We find ourselves here in the Diocese of Venice. You belong to a particular Parish. We need to drill down on this – and everyone needs to take action. You and I, we need to find unity. We need to seek peace and we do it all in the recognition that each and every person has been made in the image and likeness of God.”

In his letter to the faithful, the Bishop cited the words of Pope Francis who recently said: “My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.”

Bishop Dewane also noted that he sent a request to priests of the Diocese to speak out against racism during their homilies for the weekend of June 13-14 and beyond. A variety of resources were made available to the priests through the USCCB website which are also available to the public. The Bishop also suggested that Parishes hold prayer sessions and programming to address the question of racism.

Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers hosted a June 11, 2020, “Prayer Service for Peace.” The gathering included Eucharistic Adoration, a Gospel reading, Sacred music, prayer and reflections on racism in this country.

During the weekend of June 13-14, many Parishes added special intentions against racism to the Prayers of the Faithful. St. Agnes Parish in Naples had a tabletop display in their narthex which included candles, flowers and a framed copy of the USCCB “Prayer to Overcome Racism.” The Parish will dedicate Adoration hours specifically calling for an end to racism.

You can find the Bishop’s Letter to the Faithful  and other resources on the Diocese of Venice homepage at, or for other resources, please visit

Catholic Charities partnership assists COVID patients

The positive COVID-19 cases in Immokalee surpassed the 1,000 mark on June 11, 2020 according to information provided by the Florida Department of Health.

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. is collaborating with the Collier County Bureau of Emergency Services Division (BES), to help those infected with the virus who have tested positive and are unable to self-isolate.

First, to help alleviate the spread of the coronavirus, Collier County BES is leasing seven apartments, for 65 days, at Horizon Village, a dormitory in Immokalee for unaccompanied migrant and seasonal workers owned by the Collier County Housing Authority.

The items, purchased with the help of a donor by Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities, will be used to create “Move-In-Kits” for positive COVID-19 cases who receive temporary housing assistance from Collier County in Immokalee while in quarantine.

The reason for this action is that those living in Immokalee live in very simple and extremely close quarters. The efficiency apartments obtained by the county are a safe place for those infected with the virus to quarantine themselves and yet, remain near family and friends.

With this arrangement finalized, Catholic Charities CEO Philomena Pereira was approached by Dan Summers, director of BES, to provide “Move-In-Kits” for those needing the emergency shelter as well as to offer some hot meals and other food they can cook in their temporary homes while in isolation.

Peggy Rodriguez, Program Director of Catholic Charities Guadalupe Social Services in Immokalee, jumped at the opportunity to help curb the spread of the coronavirus in her community.  Rodriguez contacted one of her generous donors, Tom and Fran McCarthy, to learn if they would help fund the “Move-In Kit” project. They most graciously agreed. Rodriguez and her team went shopping to purchase the supplies needed for the “Move-In Kits.”

The “Move-In-Kit” supplies include: bed kits (sheets, blankets, pillows, comforter), bathroom kits (towels, soap, toilet brush, plunger), cleaning kits (glass cleaners, dish soap, disinfectants cleaning products, bleach, broom, dustpan, laundry detergent), kitchen kits (pots, frying pans, glasses, dish set, utensils, coffee maker) and an AM/FM radio. The cost of one “Move-In Kit” is about $150.

In addition, Catholic Charities will be providing a daily hot meal from Guadalupe Social Services Casa Maria Soup Kitchen and other culturally appropriate non-perishable food items for the length of their stay. The apartments each have refrigerators and kitchenettes.

Father Inna Reddy Yeruva, M.o.C., hands out soup to-go at the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen of Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities in Immokalee on June 10, 2020.

Collier County officials said if more space is needed, more rooms can be reserved quickly. Officials are also unsure how many people will ultimately need the temporary sheltering in the coming weeks and months and thus how many additional “Move-In-Kits” will be needed.

Pereira said this partnership with Collier County came out of ongoing discussions on the increasing demands for assistance in Immokalee. The rural farming community has been hit hard by the impacts of the pandemic in two ways. First there have been massive job losses when farms ceased operations. There has also been a spike in positive tests as many of the residents live in communal housing where social distancing and isolation are next to impossible.

Father Inna Reddy Yeruva, M.o.C., hands out soup to-go at the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen of Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities in Immokalee on June 10, 2020.

Guadalupe Social Services is also home to a food distribution point which has seen a massive increase in demand since the crisis began. The food pantry is open 9-11 a.m. each weekday, and the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen is now open for take-out of hot food during the same hours. Other living accommodations are being made as required and requested by needy families and Collier County officials.

Catholic Charities Board Chair Dick Rogan noted that he had a sense of pride with how Catholic Charities has stepped up to assist in Immokalee and complimented Rodriguez’ team for going above and beyond.

Pereira said the community partnership taking place in Immokalee is an example of how Catholic Charities is adjusting its response to the evolving impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic as the situation changes in different areas of the Diocese. Primarily, more rural areas are seeing larger numbers of people out of work and an increase in positive cases, so the focus for assistance is shifting.

“It will take all of us joining forces to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to help those who continue to struggle throughout the Diocese of Venice,” she said.

If you would like to assist the efforts of Guadalupe Social Services, or Catholic Charities as a whole, your financial support is urgently need. To help, please visit or send a check to: Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc., 5824 Bee Ridge Road, PMB 409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065.

If you need help

If you need assistance from Catholic Charities for food, financial assistance or tele-mental health counseling, please call the number for your area listed below 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday:

  • Sarasota/Manatee/DeSoto/Hardee/Highlands counties: 844-385-2407,
  • Charlotte/Lee/Hendry/Glades counties: 844-385-2423,
  • Collier County: 844-385-2404.

Food distribution

Catholic Charities food distribution will take place only at the following times and locations. Please call the regional number for more information.

  • Monday-Friday, 9-11 a.m., Guadalupe Social Services, 211 S. 9th St., Immokalee;
  • Tuesdays, 9-11:30 a.m., Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center, 3174 Tamiami Trail E., Naples;
  • Thursdays, 9 a.m.-noon, St. Margaret Parish, 208 Dean Duff St., Clewiston;
  • Fridays, 9-11 a.m., St. Leo the Great Parish, 28360 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs;
  • Fridays, 9 a.m.-noon, Elizabeth K. Galeana Pantry, 4235 Michigan Avenue Link, Fort Myers;
  • 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month, 9-11 a.m., St. Paul Parish, 1208 E. Oak St. Arcadia.