Affordable housing community blessed in Arcadia

The recently completed San Pedro at Meadow Park affordable housing community with 23 apartments in Arcadia was blessed by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Jan. 30, 2024.

The Diocese of Venice partnered on the project with National Development of America, Inc. (NDA), and was supported by the City of Arcadia.

During the blessing and ribbon-cutting ceremony, Bishop Dewane thanked Arcadia city officials and NDA for their support in getting the much-needed project built.

“The Church teaches that it is one of the basic rights of every individual to have adequate housing,” Bishop Dewane said. “We are happily filling a need to allow families to go forward and live together as one, where parents can be with their children and exercise that concept of a whole family being together.”

Arcadia Mayor Robert W. Heine Jr., who spoke on behalf of the city (several council members and other officials were present for the ceremony), beamed with joy as he thanked Bishop Dewane for bringing the San Pedro apartments to Arcadia.

“This is wonderful. As city officials, what we hear about most is the lack of affordable housing; and this will surely help,” Heine said. “This is an impressive project. It is not low-income, but affordable housing for those people who serve our community – teachers, law enforcement, city employees – who may not be able to afford a big new housing with interest rates and other costs.”

Matt Miller, of NDA, said the project has been in the works since 2020, noting the difficulties of getting financing when construction costs escalated. An additional hurdle occurred when Hurricane Ian struck the area in September 2022, just a month after construction began. Nothing was damaged but all of the people working on the project were affected by the storm.

Miller said San Pedro is a garden-style apartment community consisting of 23 three-bedroom, two-bath units. Each unit has new stainless-steel appliances, plus a washer and dryer. The property has an outdoor green space with a playground for children to enjoy, an on-site clubhouse and leasing office.

“The rent will range from $650 to $900 a month, depending on your income, which in these times is amazing,” Miller said.

Miller also thanked Bishop Dewane for being a continuing partner in bringing affordable housing to those who need it the most.

Previously, the Diocese and NDA worked together in Arcadia to build Casa San Juan Bosco I & II, 97 duplex homes used for farmworker housing, and later the adjoining St. John Paul II Villas, a 64-unit senior housing complex. Other projects include the recently completed Casa San Alfonso, an affordable housing community in Zolfo Springs, and the St. Peter Claver Place apartments currently being constructed in Fort Myers. Additional projects are in development.

In addition, the Diocese has built several low-income elderly housing communities in Sarasota (2), Fort Myers (4), Port Charlotte, and Palmetto (2), as well as creating transitional emergency housing for individuals or families in need in partnership with Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc.

Bishop Dewane concluded the blessing prayer service by saying, “May Christ always be here among the residents, nurturing in love, sharing in joy, and comforting in sorrow, inspired by His teaching, His graces, and His example. May the residents seek to make each home a dwelling place to be shared with God.”

For information about leasing an apartment at San Pedro at Meadow Park, please call NDC Asset Management at 863-884-2123.

Students encouraged to welcome Christ into their lives

Every Catholic Schools Week is an opportunity to recognize the value and contributions of Catholic education to individual students, the Church, and the world.

During the week of Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, 2024, the more than 6,200 students enrolled in the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools celebrated their schools, their Parishes, the nation, vocations, their families, and their teachers in a variety of ways.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated a Mass for Catholic school students in Collier County at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples on Jan. 31. The Mass, which included several concelebrating priests from Parishes throughout Collier County, involved the eighth graders from St. Elizabeth Seton and St. Ann Catholic schools in Naples, Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria, and affiliated Royal Palm Academy in Naples. In addition, the entire student body of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples participated, having walked from their nearby campus to the Mass, and afterward escorted the younger students back for a day of food and fun.

The Mass fell on the Memorial of St. John Bosco, priest, founder of a religious order and supporter of youth and Catholic education. The students at St. John Neumann are very familiar with St. John Bosco, as the school is led by religious women who are Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco.

Bishop Dewane noted that the Gospel reading for the day (Mark 6:1-6), which recounts Jesus’ return to his hometown accompanied by His disciples was most appropriate. The locals, having known Jesus since childhood, were astonished by the wisdom the Lord had, and with a lack of faith, dismissed and took offense of Him.

“Do we dismiss Christ from our life?” the Bishop asked. “As Catholic students, you know the good works and miracles Jesus performed. How faithful are you of placing God before all others? That first Commandment. How faithful are you about going to Sunday Mass? It is a concern that I have. Is that not being dismissive of Christ in your life?”

No matter what disconnection they have from Christ, Bishop Dewane told the students that they need to set about to correct any dismissiveness they may have of Christ.

“When we sin, that is exactly what we do,” the Bishop continued. “Don’t be controlled by others. Have Christ be the influence. We all need to hear that call of the Lord and not dismiss Jesus Christ. Listen to what He has to say. You have been blessed with the graces to be more the young men and women of God you are called to be.”

Sponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), Catholic Schools Week provides an annual opportunity to celebrate and share the good news about Catholic Schools. The theme, “Catholic Schools: United in Faith and Community,” focuses on the important spiritual, academic, and societal contributions provided by a Catholic education firmly rooted in the Truth of the Gospel. The weekend of Jan. 27-28, ahead of Catholic Schools Week, students spoke at many Parish Masses to explain the benefits of their education.

On Jan. 29, St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy celebrated their community through a Living Rosary Prayer Service. Students joined together as a community, prayed the rosary, and read special intentions throughout the service. Sr. Limeteze Pierre Gilles, School Sister of Notre Dame, was introduced to the school community, as throughout the week she taught the students how they can live out the promise of the Pope Francis Encyclical, Laudato Si, in helping the earth, specifically for those less fortunate living in Haiti without electricity and running water.

At Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice, the morning prayer service and assembly on Jan. 29, included a “Catholic Schools Week” proclamation from the Venice Vice Mayor. In addition, the students collected and donated more than 300 sets of pajamas which were donated to a local charity.

At Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, the week kicked off with a school Mass at neighboring St. Cecilia Parish. Following the Mass, there was the traditional announcement of the “Christ The Teacher” award winner, Mary Dakin, chair of the English department. When announcing the honoree, it was noted that Dakin’s voice and personality are transcendent; and to know her is to love her. Dakin was able to enjoy the moment with her family and was rewarded with the afternoon off.

On Jan. 30, the student body of St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School celebrated with a beautiful Eucharistic Procession. Led by Father Casey Jones, Pastor and school Chaplain, the Most Blessed Sacrament was carried in a monstrance through the public streets surrounding the school before concluding with Benediction in Saint Elizabeth Seton Church. Before the procession began, the students were told that a Eucharistic Procession and Benediction is a special way of proclaiming to the world, as well as reminding themselves, that Jesus Christ is their King and that they believe in His Real Presence in the Eucharist.

 

These are just a few examples of some of the activities which took place in the first part of Catholic Schools Week 2024. Please check back in the Florida Catholic next week to learn about more of the festivities!

Group learns about benefits of street evangelization

“Hi, I’m Adam, would you like a Miraculous Medal or a rosary? Can I pray for you?”

That introduction has served as a bridge of trust to welcome stray Catholics back to the Church through a program called St. Paul Street Evangelization. This was the focus of a training workshop on Jan. 27, 2024, at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples.

Adam Janke, from St. Paul Street Evangelization, led the workshop and guided the participants through the process of how to share their faith with anyone, at any time.

“In its basic form, this is the work of relational/prayer ministry,” Janke said. “It is about going out on the street – where the people are – and meeting people in their woundedness. This is where there are moments of healing, as you serve as a conduit of the Holy Spirit to help others gradually get to heaven.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane opened the workshop by celebrating Mass. The Bishop encouraged the participants to take what they are learning out to their Parishes and onto the street as a way to encourage others to share the Light of Christ.

“This is powerful. This can make a difference,” Bishop Dewane said. “We need to have people like you out there, showing God’s Mercy to others; showing that you care and will pray for them.”

At the end of the workshop, many of the group took part in a “live lab,” where they practiced what they learned at the Mercato, a shopping, dining and residential complex at U.S. 41 and Vanderbilt Beach Road.

In pairs, the new street evangelizers confidently approached strangers and offered rosaries and Miraculous Medals. It was quickly apparent that what they were doing was at the least an interesting curiosity to some, and intriguing to those who understood what was being handed out and what was being offered – prayers.

One woman who accepted a Miraculous Medal and was prayed for by two of the new street evangelizers went directly to her waiting friend with a broad smile and proclaimed, “Hey, you won’t believe it. I was just prayed for. Isn’t that great!”

The new evangelizers spent about an hour encountering people. The joy the participants felt afterward was infectious. “People were so wonderful,” one man said. “This was easier than I thought. Once you present them with a rosary, if they don’t know what it is you explain it and the conversation starts. You can immediately see that they are changed by that encounter. It was beautiful to be a part of this. I can’t wait to go out again.”

Sponsored by the Diocesan Department of Evangelization, a previous training workshop took place in Sarasota on Sept. 30, 2023. The goal of the training sessions is to form area St. Paul Street Evangelization teams, with groups set up in every major community in the Diocese going out monthly to evangelize.

While street evangelization is not for everyone, Janke explained that the lessons offered apply in everyday life. This can be with a family member who may have strayed from the Church, friends who are of another faith and might have questions about Catholicism, or a stranger at a store or on the street. “I want you to have the confidence to have that encounter. Let the Holy Spirit do the rest.”

If you are interested in learning more about the St. Paul Street Evangelization program with the Diocese, please contact Jim Gontis at 941-484-9543 or gontis@dioceseofevnice.org.

News Briefs for the Week of February 2, 2024

Mooney runner named Florida Gatorade Player of the Year

Addison Dempsey, a senior at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, has been named the 2023-24 Gatorade Florida Girls Cross Country Player of the Year. Dempsey is the first Gatorade Florida Girls Cross Country Player of the Year to be chosen from Cardinal Mooney.  The award, announced Jan. 22, 2024, celebrates the nation’s top high school athletes for excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community.   The 5-foot-5 senior capped her 2023 campaign by racing to 18th place at the Foot Locker South Regional Championships, clocking a time of 17:39.22 as the state’s top finisher at the event. Dempsey established four new course records this past season, breaking the tape with a personal-best 5K time of 17:20.20 at the North Port XC Invitational. She won eight races during the fall and was Florida’s top finisher at the prestigious Adidas XC Challenge, where she took third.  She earned a bronze in the November Florida High School Athletic Association Girls Class 2A 5K. She earned a silver in the same event in 2022. A volunteer on behalf of the Boys and Girls Club, which assists local, underserved kids and provides them a safe environment, Dempsey has also donated her time as a coach at youth soccer camps and as part of running trail clean-up projects. Dempsey has maintained an impressive 3.88 GPA in the classroom.

School holds memorable night in the “Scottish Highlands”

The annual Celtic Ball, supporting St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, took place at the school on Jan. 27, 2024. The theme of the night was the “Scottish Highlands.” Bishop Frank J. Dewane applauded the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco who serve at St. John Neumann for their unfailing commitment to education and for the example they are for their students and the entire school community. Bishop Dewane also thanked the parents for entrusting their children’s education and future to St. John Neumann. The evening included a live and silent auction, and guests were provided with Scottish cloaks, while some men wore traditional kilts.

Mass honors law enforcement, fire fighters and first responders

To honor and remember the service of active, retired and fallen law enforcement officers, firefighters and first responders who offer their lives in service to the community to keep us all safe and well, St. Agnes Parish in Naples hosted the annual Blue Mass on Jan. 27, 2023. The opening procession was led by music from the Southwest Florida Guns ‘n Hoses Pipes ‘n Drums corps with bagpipes and drums, the Knights of Columbus Color Corps, and Columbiettes. Msgr. Steven P. Hurley, of Wilmington, Delaware, was the homilist for the Mass. He was a policeman in Maryland for eight years before following a vocation to the priesthood. After the Mass, each active and retired first responder present was asked to come forward to receive a token of appreciation. Law enforcement officials received a St. Michael the Archangel Medal, firefighters a St. Florian Medal, and a special medal was also presented for all other first responders. A barbeque, hosted by the Knights of Columbus, followed in the Parish Hall.

National Marriage Week, and World Marriage Day!

The observances of National Marriage Week from Feb. 7 -14, 2024, and World Marriage Day, Sunday, Feb. 11, are opportunities to focus on building a culture of life and love that begins with supporting and promoting marriage and the family. The theme for 2024 is “Love Beyond Words.”  For resources from the USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth to help celebrate and live the great gift of married life, please visit Celebrate National Marriage Week 2024 – For Your Marriage. Resources are available in both English and Spanish.

Health Care Ethics Conference Feb. 17

Medical professionals, students, and interested laypeople are invited to the first annual Converging Roads health care ethics conference on Feb. 17, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs! This one-day conference will offer continuing education credits for health care professionals with presentations centered on the theme of Catholic Medicine in a Secular Society. For information, contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org, and to register, go to convergingroads.com/venice.

2024 Catholic Charities Ball Feb. 17 in Sarasota

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., invites all to the 2024 Catholic Charities Ball, 6 p.m., Feb. 17, 2024, at Michael’s On East Ballroom, 1212 S. East Ave., Sarasota. The theme is “Serving All,” and supports the programs of Catholic Charities in Sarasota and Manatee counties. This year also marks the launch of the new Long-term Recovery Program, which is actively helping families still recovering from Hurricane Ian and other natural disasters. Tickets are $400 a person. The evening will include a cocktail hour, live and silent auctions, fine dining, dancing, and live entertainment. Register at http://bidpal.net/ccb2024. For more information, 941-376-7845 or email ccball@catholiccharitiesdov.org.

Few spots remain for Eucharistic Congress pilgrimage with Bishop

Join Bishop Frank J. Dewane on a Pilgrimage to the 10th National Eucharistic Congress. Only eight spots remain! This once-in-a-lifetime 5-day gathering will take place in Indianapolis July 17 – 21, 2024. The National Eucharistic Congress represents the culmination of the Church’s three-year effort to put an emphasis on the Real Presence of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Eucharistic.  It is a pivotal moment in the Church, and a unique opportunity for participants to draw into a deeper, more intimate relationship with Our Lord. For pilgrimage details, please visit https://ctscentral.rezmagic.com/Booking/Reservation/Start?tripID=5394&CategoryId=52540. Questions? Contact Carrie Harkey, harkey@dioceseofvenice.org.

 

Carrying Pro-Life message to the world

Made in the image and likeness of God, every life matters.

That is the simple, yet overpowering message carried by the faithful during two marches for life in mid-January – one nationally in Washington, D.C., the other locally in Ave Maria.

Unified in their support for life, both rallies brought forth people both young and old, but mostly young people of high school and college ages. The enthusiasm of the participants in the marches was not diminished by the weather, during a Jan. 19, 2024, snowstorm in D.C., or on Jan. 20, a chilly and blustery day in Florida.

All who took part in the marches (tens of thousands in D.C., and more than 1,300 in Ave Maria) returned home invigorated to carry the Pro-Life message out into the world.

“We have the obligation to be that witness, and give that testimony for life,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane during the Ave Maria march, which included faithful from throughout the Diocese, as well as groups from the Archdiocese of Miami and Diocese of Orlando. “We gather as people for a culture of life. The struggle to address abortion is often dragged into the political arena, but it is not a political problem; it is a moral problem – a deep and serious one. It is deeply a moral problem in our society today. That is the arena from which we must address abortion.”

Bishop Dewane said we must continue to speak up for life, even while there have been positive gains, such as the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court Dobbs decision which overturned Roe V. Wade. Even in Florida, with a 15-week ban on abortion, scheduled to soon become a 6-week ban, the gains are threatened by those who don’t cherish the value of life.

The Bishop explained that the positive gains previously noted are being directly threatened by a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution which would essentially allow abortions, for any reason, until birth.

“This is a very dangerous amendment and something we must all be aware of and watch out for if it ends up on the November ballot,” Bishop Dewane said. “We need to rise up as one voice and say no to this amendment.”

Meanwhile, more than 200 from the Diocese of Venice took part in the National March for Life in Washington. The crowd was so large that the procession to the National Mall lasted more than three hours, in a snowstorm.

Among the larger groups in D.C. were representatives from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, Ave Maria University and the Ave Maria School of Law. Diocesan seminarians from St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach and Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts, also participated with their respective schools.

Several of the Diocesan high school students remarked upon their return that they were proud to be part of the National March for Life and they will continue to support the Pro-Life movement going forward until abortion is no more. They say they would also tell their friends about their experiences of being among so many like-minded teens who all have a passion about promoting a Culture of Life.

Father Eric Scanlan, Pastor at Incarnation Parish, went to Washington with students from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School. There, the group prayed outside the national headquarters of Planned Parenthood, the largest group of abortionists in the U.S. They also participated in a Vigil Mass, Jan. 18, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The morning of the National March, the group participated in the Life Fest at the D.C. Armory.

“It is always an emotional experience to participate in the March for Life,” said Father Scanlan, having participated for the past several years. “The best part is how the students respond. They are among thousands of others their own age who are also passionate about life. They carry the Pro-Life message home with them in their heart.”

The effort to protect life does not end with the marches. Starting Feb. 14, Ash Wednesday, and continuing through Lent, there will three 40 Days for Life spring campaign locations within the Diocese (Fort Myers, Naples, and Sarasota). During the campaign, the faithful will stand in peaceful prayer to end abortion. For more details, please visit https://www.40daysforlife.com/en/.

If you would like to learn more about the Respect Life issues and how you can be a witness for life, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/respectlife.

50th Catholic Schools Week– Jan. 28 – Feb. 3 – Diocesan Catholic schools continue to thrive

Each day is a celebration of educating the mind, body and spirit at Catholic Schools throughout the Diocese of Venice.

A more public celebration will occur the week of Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, 2024, when Diocesan schools will participate in a series of exciting activities as part of the 50th annual National Catholic Schools Week.

Sponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), the week provides an annual opportunity to share the good news about Catholic Schools. The theme, “Catholic Schools: United in Faith and Community.” focuses on the important spiritual, academic, and societal contributions provided by a Catholic education firmly rooted in the Truth of the Gospel.

Within the 15 Diocese of Venice Catholic schools, these are exciting times. Just in the past year, a rapid increase in enrollment has continued; an already cutting-edge curriculum has expanded; and many schools are working on projects to expand and upgrade their campus facilities.

Schools typically observe the annual celebration week with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners, and community members. On the weekend starting Catholic Schools Week, look for students to speak at Parish Masses to explain the benefits of supporting their education.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane said Diocesan Catholic Schools not only educate the mind but also the soul, teaching the students to have a concern for their brothers and sisters, whether they live in the same country, down the street, or are in their classroom, through prayer, and the teaching of values, morals, and virtues.

“Through this broader approach, the student begins to learn, to reach out, beyond themselves, seeing for themselves that we are all made in the image and likeness of God,” Bishop Dewane said.

Catholic Schools Week 2024 promises to be bigger and better than ever, starting with the large numbers of students attending Diocesan Catholic schools, which is topping 6,200. This a 30 percent growth rate in the high schools in four years and 40 percent increase in the grade schools. As enrollment for the 2024-2025 Academic Year ramps up, space is limited.

St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School is in the process of building a science center/gymnasium which is expected to add six classrooms and open by the start of the 2024-2025 Academic Year. Several schools also received temporary portable classrooms to accommodate added enrollment. These are temporary solutions as long-term capital campaigns are being planned for projects to upgrade existing facilities, and add classrooms to accommodate current and projected growth.

“This is a good problem to have,” said Jesuit Father John Belmonte, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education. “We have been blessed in that people are choosing Diocesan Catholic schools. Parents are finding a rigorous academic program, but more importantly, the curriculum is about training the will of each student and teaching them to make the right decisions so that they can do the good that is needed by not only their families and themselves but by society.”

Each school offers a comprehensive STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, art, and math) learning model which is combined with the Diocesan curriculum called, “The Gifts of Christ: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Affability, Fortitude, Humility, and Prudence,” creating students of good moral character equipped to succeed in the world of today. This program has a strong robotics component as well.

“We prepare our students for today and for the future,” Bishop Dewane said. “We give the students what they need for success in this challenging world. Through this initiative, we are helping students to discover who they are as men and women of faith, as they learn these virtues that Christ calls us to, time after time in the Gospel.”

For example, there is an annual Diocesan robotics competition, dubbed the Lion Cup. This event brings together teams for each of the schools. The 2023 edition was a highlight for both students and teachers. Nearly 40 teams, and more than 220 students gathered for the middle and high school robotics tournament. The competition was fierce, and the intensity built as the day progressed and the participants became laser-focused on being the best in completing complicated tasks with their machines. Robotics teams are already gearing up for the 2024 Lion Cup which will be in April. In the meantime, the different robotics teams compete in public regional competitions.

On the spiritual side of the education, Father Belmonte has developed an annual devotional project, which is themed to focus students on a particular prayer or aspect of the faith, all in a continued effort to help them grow closer to Jesus Christ. The 2023-2024 project is themed, “Cause of Our Joy: Marian Devotional Project.” The focus of the project is teaching the students about Our Lady, and the importance of praying the Most Holy Rosary. This project builds upon the theme from the previous year, “The Most Holy Eucharist: The Riches of His Glorious Inheritance,” which was done in support of the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival. The Revival is a U.S. Bishops outreach to help increase devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist through prayer and Eucharistic Adoration.

On Dec. 8, 2023, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School football team from Sarasota, earned the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 1S state championship. This was 51 years to the day (Dec. 8, 1972) of the last state title by a Mooney football team. A victory rally was held on Dec. 19 at Mooney.

In addition, the Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria won the 6-man football championship. Also, the Mooney girls’ basketball team, and the St. John Neumann Catholic High School baseball team in Naples, both reached the state Final Four in their respective divisions. Consistently, individual and team Diocesan athletes excel in swimming, cross country, track and field and more. Many go on to earn athletic scholarships and continue playing sports at the collegiate level.

While sports achievements are impressive, many Diocesan students earn honors for their academic and artistic gifts as well.

One Bishop Verot Catholic High School student in Fort Myers recently earned a perfect score on the ACT college placement exam. Students in all grades score at the advanced level on national tests while being grounded in the knowledge of the Catholic Faith. Impressively, the 2023 graduating high schoolers garnered more than $43.2 million in scholarship offers. Those numbers include students earning nationally competitive academic honors, such as the National Merit Scholarship. An astounding 99 percent of the graduates are heading off to higher education at some of the top colleges and universities in the land.

For the artists, students across the Diocese earn honors in both local, regional, and national competitions. In fact, for the past six years, at least one Diocesan student has been recognized for their artwork in the annual Missionary Childhood Association Christmas Art Contest. In the past year, several students have been recognized by county governments for their artistic talents, with artwork appearing in numerous environmentally-themed calendars.

The 15 Diocesan Catholic schools are an investment in the future as they serve as the heart of the Diocese, building the Catholic leadership of tomorrow. Schools are in Bradenton, Sarasota, Venice, Port Charlotte, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples, Ave Maria and Sebring.

Scholarships are available to help ease some of the financial burden, and families should not assume that they wouldn’t qualify. In addition to school, Parish and Diocesan support, state scholarships such as Step Up For Students are also available.

Catholic Schools Week 2024 will showcase many of these aspects of Catholic education within the Diocese of Venice. Please check with the nearest Diocesan Catholic school for a list of public activities by visiting https://dioceseofvenice.org/catholicschools.

Filipino Catholics celebrate Feast Day in Sarasota

The third Sunday of January is set aside in the Philippines to celebrate the “Santo Niño” (or Holy Child Jesus), a symbol of the birth of Catholicism in the Philippines more than 500 years ago.

Incarnation Parish in Sarasota was host to the Diocese of Venice Santo Niño Festival on Jan. 21, 2024, the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time. Organized by the local Filipino Catholic Community (Senor Santo Niño Devotees of Manasota Florida, Inc.), more than 500 people participated in the Mass and Festival which celebrates an important conversion story. This was the third year for this Festival in the Diocese.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the main celebrant for the Mass and said the Santo Niño Mass and Festival “is a wonderful example of a faith and culture coming together beautifully. You hear the call of Santo Niño to help fulfill your mission in life to serve the Lord.”

Bishop Dewane said the Diocese is richer for those who come from various countries and bring their faith and culture, and how celebrating the various important feast days serves as a bridge in one’s faith, connecting to their homeland.

The Feast Day celebration reminds Filipinos of the Christianization of their homeland in the 16th century but also enables them to see the relevance that this devotion to the Santo Niño has for people to this day, whether they are living in the Philippines or in elsewhere. The Feast places a special emphasis on the children and youth, with all the hopes they raise.

The Mass opened with the traditional presentation of the Santo Niño statue to Bishop Dewane. In addition, the faithful are encouraged to bring their own Santo Niño statue, or one purchased in the past year, to be blessed. This was also done at the opening of the Mass.

This builds upon the tradition of Filipino immigrants who brought their Santo Niño statues with them to the United States to be their spiritual recourse, assistant and protector.

Following the Mass, the celebration continued in the Parish Hall.

Hundreds hear speaker on National Eucharistic Revival

The importance of the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival was the focus of a talk on Jan. 18, 2024, at St. William Parish in Naples.

More than 600 people were inspired by Dr. Mary Healy, a theologian, best-selling author, and professor of Sacred Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, during her talk titled, “The Holy Spirit and the Eucharist.”

Healy talked about the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year movement of the U.S. Bishops, including Bishop Frank J. Dewane, to restore understanding and devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist here in the United States. The movement is currently in its Parish-phase, which includes organizing Catholic speakers, more time for adoration, Eucharistic processions, and other exciting events.

Importantly, for this movement, the Bishops chose the term revival over renewal, Healy said. A renewal is a human effort to do things better or to correct them, while revival means, bringing alive what was dead.

“What the Bishops are doing in this National Eucharistic Revival is an energetic, creative and fervent effort that is ultimately God’s work, because He wants to bring His Church alive,” Healy said. “The world needs to see the Church alive.”

This revival is also defined as a sovereign work of God in answer to sincere prevailing prayer – a divine visitation. Healy said this is what we all need to be praying for during these three years because the sovereign work of God is greater than any catechetical program or any Eucharistic Congress.

“During the Revival, God will fill His people with the Holy Spirit, and the graces of the Holy Spirit will awaken us,” Healy said. “Therefore, during the Revival, God awakens hunger in those who don’t know Him, or in those who have walked away from Him, and He awakes a hunger in His people to evangelize to bear witness to Christ. Hunger breeds hunger, and it’s explosive.”

The crowd at St. William Parish was captivated by Healy’s talk and responded enthusiastically when she called on each of them to carry the message of the National Eucharistic Revival in their heart and into the world.

The Diocese of Venice has been actively participating in the National Eucharistic Revival having hosted numerous events with the Most Holy Eucharist as a central theme, including a Diocesan Eucharistic Congress in 2023. The second Diocesan Eucharistic Conference is March 16, at Bishop Verot Catholic High School, 3398 Sunrise Drive, Fort Myers. All are invited to attend the all-day event of faith and fellowship, featuring inspirational Catholic speakers. English and Spanish sessions will be offered. The day will include the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as well as Eucharistic Adoration, and confessions. Space is limited so early registration is encouraged. For more information and to register, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/eucharistic-conference-2024/.

The National Eucharistic Revival will culminate in the first National Eucharistic Congress in the United States in almost 50 years. This historic gathering will take place in Indianapolis from July 17 to 21, 2024. Bishop Dewane is leading a pilgrimage to the National Congress. If you are interested in joining the pilgrimage, please learn more by visiting https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/evangelization/pilgrimage-to-national-eucharistic-congress/.

News Briefs for the week of January 26, 2024

Ordination to the Priesthood Feb. 10

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the faithful to the Ordination to the Priesthood of Transitional Deacon Alan Baldarelli.  The Ordination will take place at 11 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this important event in the life of Deacon Alan as well as the Diocese of Venice. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall. The ordination will be livestreamed at www.facebook.com/epiphanycathedral.

Youth make sandwiches for homeless

Middle schoolers who are part of the Our Lady of Light Parish religious education program in Fort Myers made more than 400 sandwiches during their Jan. 18, 2024, gathering. These sandwiches were donated for distribution by the Lee County Homeless Coalition. The simple act of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches provided the youth a valuable lesson about giving back to the community, as we are all “Called to Serve” our brothers and sisters in Christ. Well done!

Fort Myers Knights have successful “Coats for Kids” drive

The Knights of Columbus Council 2596 at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Fort Myers conducted a “Coats for Kids” program by purchasing a number of jackets and hoodies for children in need. This was done to provide children with nice outerwear during the winter months to not only ward off the chill but to give them something new that they are happy to wear. On Jan. 22, 2024, the Knights were able to provide more than 120 new fleece-lined zip-up jackets for distribution with their partner, Child Care SWFL, a local non-profit that provides a myriad of support and educational services to families in need and at-risk children. Coats were supplied to Child Care’s five learning centers in Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres, and LaBelle. The Knights also presented Child Care with $500 to assist with their ongoing efforts.

Charismatic Day of Renewal and Formation Feb. 3

The Diocese of Venice Catholic Charismatic Renewal Commission invites all to the “Come Holy Spirit, Come” day of renewal from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, 1441 Spear St., Port Charlotte. There is a $10 fee, which includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Seating is limited and the deadline to register is Jan. 31.  Please register at https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/dvccr-day-of-renewal-and-formation. Questions, please contact Theresa Salvo at 804-387-8282 or asolotogod@yahoo.com, or Margie DeFrancesca at 239-595-1938 or imyb25@yahoo.com.

National Marriage Week, and World Marriage Day!

The observances of National Marriage Week from Feb. 7 -14, 2024, and World Marriage Day, Sunday, Feb. 11 are opportunities to focus on building a culture of life and love that begins with supporting and promoting marriage and the family. The theme for 2024 is “Love Beyond Words.”  For resources from the USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth to help celebrate and live the great gift of married life, please visit Celebrate National Marriage Week 2024 – For Your Marriage. Resources are available in both English and Spanish.

Wedding Anniversary Masses in February

All couples celebrating 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, or more than 50 years of marriage are invited by Bishop Frank J. Dewane to an Anniversary Mass in their honor. The Diocese hosts two Anniversary Masses each year (one in the northern part of the Diocese and the second in the southern part) to accommodate the demand. The first Mass is 11 a.m., Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. The second Mass is 11 a.m., Feb. 24 at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. A luncheon follows each Mass. Free pictures with Bishop Dewane will also be available for the couples. To register for either Mass, please contact your local Parish office for reservations no later than one week before the event you choose to attend. For additional information, please contact the Diocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life at 941-484-9543.

Health Care Ethics Conference Feb. 17

Medical professionals, students, and interested laypeople are invited to the first annual Converging Roads health care ethics conference on Feb. 17, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs! This one-day conference will offer continuing education credits for health care professionals with presentations centered on the theme of Catholic Medicine in a Secular Society. For information, contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org, and to register, go to convergingroads.com/venice.

Announcement

After consultation, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announces the following:

Father Michael P. Orsi, is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of St. Agnes Parish and Chaplain of St. John Neumann Catholic High School, in Naples, effective January 17, 2024. Father Orsi requested retirement and thus, was granted, while retaining priestly faculties.

 

Pro-Life fight continues, 51 years post-Roe

In the 51 years since the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for legalized abortion in the United States in the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, more than 65 million innocent lives have been lost. However, since Roe was overturned by the Supreme Court by the Dobbs decision in 2022, great progress has been made to protect women and their preborn children in Florida.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane joined the Florida Conference of Catholics Bishops in releasing a statement ahead of Jan. 22, 2024, the Roe v. Wade anniversary, and now known as the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. In the statement, the Florida Bishops call on the faithful to pray for the protection of the unborn while emphasizing the gains made since the 2022 Dobbs decision which put all abortion regulation in the states.

Since 2022, Florida established a 15-week abortion limit, which remains in effect as the Florida Supreme Court considers a challenge to it. The State Legislature’s passage of a bill to further limit abortion to six-weeks of gestation during the 2023 session, and its approval by Governor Ron DeSantis, is a momentous achievement. This legislation also increases resources to pregnant women and young families, almost six-fold, through the Florida Pregnancy Care Network. If the 15-week law is upheld, the further limit to six weeks will go into effect 30 days later, ushering in a new era.

“Much remains to be done to properly recognize the dignity of the child in the womb, but this marks tremendous progress in the legal protection of preborn children in Florida,” the Florida Bishops stated.

The Florida Bishops warn, “This progress, as well as gains made over the past several decades to protect women and their preborn children from the harms of abortion, is at significant risk.”

An extreme ballot initiative proposing to amend the state constitution to legalize full-term abortion is viewed with grave concern. If passed, the amendment will legalize abortion up until birth, including when the baby is capable of feeling pain. The proposed amendment would eliminate the current law requiring parental consent for a minor daughter to receive an abortion while permitting notification.

“As is required of the petition initiative process, the proposed ballot language is under review by the Florida Supreme Court. In our briefs to the Court, we contend that the ballot title and summary are misleading, which should preclude its placement on the ballot,” the Florida Bishops stated. “The title states the amendment ‘limits’ government interference with abortion when the amendment actually prohibits all regulation before viability. Neither does the language provide fair notice of its impact on existing statutory protections for women. If this extreme amendment ultimately appears on the November 2024 ballot, we urge all Floridians to ‘vote no.’”

Even with the overturning of Wade, the Diocese of Venice is actively involved in seeking an end to abortion of any kind.

Each year, huge numbers of people participate in prayer vigils at abortion facilities throughout the Diocese of Venice while many others participate in larger local, state, and national prayer walks.

For example, a group of students from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota and Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers will be participating in the Jan. 19, 2024, National March for Life in Washington, D.C. This March began in the wake of the Roe decision and remains a key rallying point for the Pro-Life movement in the U.S.

Locally, the Ave Maria Parish Respect Life Ministry is hosting its third annual March for Life, at 10 a.m., Saturday Jan. 20, in Ave Maria. The walk begins with remarks from Bishop Dewane and other dignitaries at the Ave Maria University football stadium. From there, participants will recite the rosary as the walk proceeds through the university on its way to the town square. There, closing remarks and additional prayers will take place prior to a light lunch provided by the Knights of Columbus. This event has grown each year.

“The necessary work to build a culture of life in this great Nation is far from finished,” said Sharon Levesque, Ave Maria Parish Respect Life Coordinator. “Pro-lifers must continue to steadfastly stand together to fight for the lives of all the vulnerable among us in all 50 states of this great Nation. Florida Pro-Lifers are committed to continue in the fight for the protection of the lives of the unborn.”

The opportunity to actively participate in Pro-Life activities is not limited to single marches or events.

For example, each year a large group from the Diocese, including Catholic high school students, takes part in Catholic Days at the Capitol. This trip brings people to meet state legislators to speak about the Pro-Life agenda of the Florida Bishops. The 2024 trip will take place February 6-9, with Bishop Dewane accompanying the group.

The 40 Days for Life campaign takes place each Lent (starting Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14), and again in the fall to coincide with October, National Respect Life Month.

The 2024 spring 40 Days for Life prayer vigil will take place in Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples. The kickoff event for the Sarasota vigil is 10 a.m., Feb. 10, at St. Patrick Parish, 7900 Bee Ridge Road. In Fort Myers, the opening event will take place Feb. 11, at the Planned Parenthood abortion facility at 6418 Commerce Park Drive.

Each day throughout the 40 Days, prayer warriors will be outside the Fort Myers facility, as well as the Planned Parenthood at 736 Central Ave., in Sarasota, and at 1425 Creech Road, in Naples, daily through March 23. Those interested in participating can attend at any time, or check with their home Parish for designated time slots. For more details, please visit https://www.40daysforlife.com/en/.

The Diocese of Venice is a proud partner in the “Walking with Moms in Need” initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This program educates the Parish staff and ultimately the faithful on where to send a pregnant woman for assistance. This program is crucial, as, for years, the Diocese has partnered with pregnancy help centers throughout the 10-county region. This is to ensure that pregnant moms have access to the support and resources needed to encourage them to choose life; it is important that they know they are not alone.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, to which Bishop Dewane is a consultant, aid in a statement ahead of the Roe anniversary, that “each of us is called to radical solidarity with women facing an unexpected or challenging pregnancy.”

Bishop Burbidge reminded all that the most immediate way to protect babies and mothers from abortion is to thoroughly surround mothers in need with loving support in programs such as “Walking with Moms in Need” in their journey of motherhood.

For women or men who have been scarred by abortion, the Diocese offers “Project Rachel,” an outreach of the Catholic Church to those who are suffering and in need of healing following an abortion. This program offers help through the sacraments, retreats, and referrals for professional counseling, all confidentially. For assistance, please contact, Sylvia Jimenez, Project Rachel Coordinator, at 941-412-5860 (English and en Español), or project.rachel@dioceseofvenice.org. The Diocese also works with “Support After Abortion,” a national outreach to provide individualized care for individuals impacted by abortion. For details, visit https://supportafterabortion.com/.

The Florida Bishops concluded their communications on the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, by stating, “A healthy society can only continue to flourish if based on a consistent recognition of the rights of each individual, especially the weakest and most defenseless. With this in mind, we remain committed to pursuing full legal protection of preborn children and continue to support efforts to offer practical assistance and accompaniment to women and their families experiencing difficulties during pregnancy and beyond. We invite all people of good will to join us in these endeavors.”

For more information on Respect Life issues, or to participate in Respect Life events or initiatives, please contact Diocesan Respect Life Director Jeanne Berdeaux at Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068.

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