Information sessions for men’s outreach coming in June

The Diocese of Venice Office of Evangelization is hosting a series of information sessions throughout June 2023 to help spread the word about a growing outreach to men called “That Man is You (TMIY).”

That Man is You is a Catholic men’s program that honestly addresses the pressures and temptations that men face in our modern culture, especially those relating to their roles as husbands and fathers. The program harmonizes current social and medical science with the teachings of the Church and the wisdom of the saints to develop the vision of man fully alive!

Since its inception, more than 100,000 men have been involved in TMIY.  The transformative effects in participants have been most evident in helping men become better husbands and fathers, strengthening them in virtue, and in increased Parish participation.

TMIY currently exists at several Diocesan Parishes right now, with more coming online in the fall. To help spread the word, and to encourage more Parishes to adopt this program, the Office of Evangelization is hosting one-hour TMIY information sessions in June 2023.

The information session scheduled is as follows:

  • Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish, 335 S. Bridge Street, LaBelle, 7 p.m., June 7 (also in Spanish).
  • Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Avenue West, Venice, 6 p.m., June 8.
  • Peter the Apostle Parish, 5130 Rattlesnake Hammock Road, Naples, 7 p.m., June 14 (also in Spanish).
  • Katharine Drexel Parish, 1922 SW 20th Avenue, Cape Coral, 6 p.m., June 19.
  • Incarnation Parish, 2929 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota, 6:30 p.m., June 20.
  • Charles Borromeo Parish, 21505 Augusta Ave., Port Charlotte, 7 p.m., June 26.
  • John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Avenue North, Naples, 7 p.m., June 27.
  • Our Lady of the Angels Parish, 12905 E. State Road 70, Lakewood Ranch, 7 p.m., June 28.

For an updated listing of locations for TMIY information sessions in the coming weeks, please visit or contact James Gontis, Diocese of Venice Director of Evangelization at 941-484-9543 or

News briefs for the week of May 26, 2023

Verot athlete wins discus state title

Wyatt Whalen, a graduating senior at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, won the Florida State 2A Discus Championship at the recent Florida High School Athletic Association Track & Field State Championship on May 19, 2023, at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Whalen made a throw of 16.48 meters (54-feet 1-inch), which follows up his 2022 state title in the shot put. Verot teammate Grayson Tubbs, also a senior, finished third in the 800-meter race with a time of 1:56.52. The Verot boys finished 7th overall, with the girls coming in at 16th. Other top performances came from the girls and boys 3200 relay teams, which both finished fourth. Other Verot athletes to reach the awards podium (top 8) were: Logan Schwartz, javelin (4th), Mackenzie De Lisle, 3200 (4th); Julie Reitz, 1600, (8th); Ryan Peterson, discus (5th); Raven Gadsen, triple jump (8th). In the same competition, Marc Dalmau, a graduating senior at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, took third in the discus with a throw of 49.12 meters (161-feet 2-inches). Congratulations to everyone!

Neumann falls in baseball state semifinals

The dream year for the St. John Neumann Catholic High School baseball team came to an end on May 18, 2023, in the state semifinals at the Lee County Sports Complex in Fort Myers. The team fell by a score of 3-0 to Lakeland Christian, the eventual state 2A champions. The Celtics finished the season with a record of 23-9 and reached the state Final Four for the first time since 1985. Great season everyone!

40-Hours Devotion and Eucharistic Procession coming to North Port

San Pedro Parish, 14380 Tamiami Trail, North Port, will celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi and the ongoing Eucharistic Revival with a 40-Hours Devotion and Eucharistic Procession. Adoration will begin at 3 p.m. Friday, June 9, 2023, and conclude at 7 a.m., Sunday, June 11. Adoration will be interrupted during the daily Masses (8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, June 10). There will be a Eucharistic Procession around the Parish grounds following the 10:45 a.m. Mass on Sunday, June 11. To sign up for an hour of adoration, please contact 941-426-2500 or

Physics on display

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School Honor’s Physics class of Michelle Vocu held a time-honored tradition on May 16, 2023, and tried their luck with the egg drop experiment. The assignment was to design and construct a container that would allow the egg to fall freely without increased air resistance from the top of the football stadium press box, and land unharmed. The maximum weight allowed was 600 grams, and the students were encouraged to have a minimum size for the structure. In addition, they were not allowed to use any food or packaging materials in their design. After their drops (most of which were successful), the designs were evaluated, and recommendations were made for a redesign. The students were also able to calculate the impact force and velocity of their egg, using the data collected. What a great way to round out the year!

School improvement project moves into next phase

The North Campus Improvement Project at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton has moved into Phase 2 beginning in mid-May 2023. The next activity includes the installation of a shade structure over the outdoor basketball courts. The improvement project includes the construction of a six-classroom early learning/aftercare center, updates to the playground, classroom lighting and much more. If you have questions about how you can help support the school, please contact Carlee Colonneso at,or visit

Retreat encourages men to return to Church

The latest John XXIII Movement retreat took place the weekend of May 19-21, 2023, at Campo San Jose Retreat Center in Lake Placid. The retreat was for men who have been absent from the Church and marginalized from society. The John XXIII Movement is a private international association of laity, born to be a movement of evangelization/conversion and to work, helping the faithful return to full and active participation in the Catholic Church.



Groundbreaking held for gymnasium and science building

With a deafening cheer, a blast of confetti and the tossing of dirt, ground was broken on the new St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School gymnasium and Center for Science and Engineering building on May 10, 2023, in Port Charlotte.

Students were excited as Bishop Frank J. Dewane led the ceremony, blessing the ground as he, and others, joined in breaking ground on the project with ceremonial gold shovels.

What was once thought to be impossible has been made possible through prayer, determination and sharing of the treasure of many supporters with their love for education so that others may benefit from it, exclaimed Father John Fitch, Pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish.

“It’s an exciting day. We have been working on this for years. Some people have been talking about a gym here since the 1990s,” Father Fitch said. “Today we thank God for the gift of the resources for the gymnasium and Center for Science and Engineering. We ask that this building be entrusted with education and that is to bring the joys of discovery and wisdom with the truth of the Gospel.”

Bishop Dewane acknowledged that the gym project had been around for a while and credited the steadfast efforts of Father Fitch and Principal Tonya Peters to help make the project become a reality as he stood in full support. He added that he pushed to get classrooms added to the original concept to ensure the new building would not only support the growth of body, but also the mind.

“Many made this possible through their kindness, goodness, and their concern for you as students here at St. Charles Borromeo. So, I want to thank all who worked hard on this. It is what was needed to be done,” the Bishop said.

“Grant that the work that we begin may serve to better the lives of all the students who pass through St. Charles Borromeo and through your goodness continue to spread the Kingdom of Christ,” Bishop Dewane concluded before blessing the ground with holy water. Father Fitch did likewise.

Dozens of parents and school supporters stood in the hot sun on the muggy day for the groundbreaking ceremony, something Father Fitch noted in his remarks. “I know it’s very warm out here but that’s why we are building a gym because it is even worse when it’s raining in August,” he said.

Joining Bishop Dewane, Father Fitch and Principal Peters for the groundbreaking were Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education Father John Belmonte, SJ; Diocesan Buildings Director Joe Rego; John Prahl, founder of Canco Construction, the project contractor; as well as David Hunt, a sixth grader who represented the students.

Diocese Council of Catholic Women gather

A group of dedicated Catholic women has answered the call of Christ as they imitate Him in how they live their lives each day.

These women are represented by the Venice Diocese Council of Catholic Women (VDCCW) serving as an example of a heartfelt commitment to serve the Church while dedicating themselves to being open to the Holy Spirit.

Each year members gather for a convention with the goal of unifying their efforts to do good for the benefit of all. With a theme of “Called to Serve the Lord through the Holy Spirit,” the 37th annual Convention took place May 12-13, at the Embassy Suites in Fort Myers.

A central part of the gathering was the women participating in a celebration of the Mass which was celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. The Mass was concelebrated by Father Janusz “Jay” Jancarz, who is the VDCCW Spiritual Advisor and Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice.

Bishop Dewane praised the VDCCW for coming together and giving witness to the Faith by how they are believers and followers of Jesus Christ who are called forth to reach out to others.

“You respond to the question Jesus often asks of His disciples, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ by what you do each day, promoted by the Holy Spirit,” Bishop Dewane said. “You do this by being an advocate for the Lord for the whole world in who you are as women of God. The Holy Spirit is alive and thriving in the VDCCW and you have to reflect upon that among yourselves, and you will grow from that.”

The Bishop specifically thanked the members of the VDCCW for the important role the ladies play in the Diocese and in the Parishes.

The VDCCW acts through its membership to support, empower, and educate all Catholic women in spirituality, leadership and service. Council programs exude Gospel values and serve the needs of the Church and society in the modern world. To exemplify this, the VDCCW is a strong supporter of the Diocesan seminarians and presented a check of a substantial amount to Bishop Dewane for the Diocesan Seminarian Fund.

Outgoing VDCCW President Josephine Weiss said the Convention serves to unify and inspire the members as they work throughout the year in support of the Catholic Church at the Parish, Diocese and national levels.

The women also learned about a variety of topics including a presentation on the Holy Eucharist, Diocesan Respect Life and Communications initiatives, and much more. A check was also presented to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., from the VDCCW Hugs for Homeless Fund.

The Convention concluded with the installation of new officers: President Barbara Evans, President-Elect Katie Morris, Secretary Nancy Gorman, and Treasurer Rebecca Harper.

Retired Pastor of three Parishes dies

Father Eugene J. McCarthy, a retired priest of the Diocese of Venice, passed away Monday, May 15, 2023, at the age of 89, in Venice. He is a former Pastor of San Marco Parish on Marco Island, Ascension Parish in Fort Myers Beach, and St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres.

Born in Skibbereen, Ireland, Father McCarthy was ordained to the priesthood on June 19, 1960, in Dublin, Ireland, and served in the Diocese (later Archdiocese) of Miami. In his early years as a priest, Father McCarthy served as Parochial Vicar at Parishes in North Miami Beach, Hialeah, Boca Raton and Lake Worth.

In 1967, Father McCarthy was assigned as Administrator of St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres (then part of the Miami Archdiocese) and then as Pastor from 1968-1971.

For the next 19 years (1971-1990), Father McCarthy served as Pastor of Ascension Parish on Fort Myers Beach. There he oversaw the renovation and expansion of the church, and the construction of a Retirement Center for Priests, which later became a convent for the Poor Clare Nuns. During this same time, the Diocese of Venice was established, and Father McCarthy was incardinated as a priest of the Diocese.

Next, Father McCarthy was assigned to San Marco Parish on Marco Island where he served from 1990 until his retirement in April 2004. While at San Marco, Father oversaw the construction of a new rectory for the priests and the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. In addition, Holy Family Chapel (1993) in Everglades City and then St. Finbarr Mission (2000) in East Naples were both established under the control of San Marco Parish. St. Finbarr has since become an independent Parish.

Visitation is at 11:45 a.m., Monday, May 22, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. A Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 1:30 p.m. Burial will follow in Venice Gardens Cemetery, 1950 Center Road, Venice.

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Father McCarthy and the consolation of his family. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in eternal peace.



Cardinal Mooney Graduation 2023

The Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Class of 2023 Commencement Exercises were held May 12, 2023, at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on the Sarasota Bayfront. There were 141 graduates who received their diploma.

The Valedictorian was Michael Ramsamooj and Salutatorian was Michael Yencik. The Commencement Address was given by Patrick Del Medico, former parent of three Mooney graduates and school Advisory Board Chair.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the main celebrant at the Baccalaureate Mass on May 10 at Incarnation Parish, with priests of the Diocese assisting.

Nearly every graduate is going on to higher education, with one opting for military service and another for a gap year.

The Class of 2023 (141 graduates) earned $15.8 million in scholarship offers and among the graduates are four who received Commended Recognition from the National Merit Scholarship Program, and three who received National Hispanic Scholar Recognition from the PSAT National Merit Scholarship Program. Congratulations Cougar Alumni!

News Briefs for the week of May 19, 2023

Neumann baseball reaches Final Four

For the first time since 1985, the St. John Neumann Catholic High School baseball team has reached the State Final Four. The Naples boys went on the road and defeated Canterbury of Fort Myers on May 15, 2023, to win the Class 2A-Region 3 championship. The Celtics (23-8) will face either St. Johns Country Day or Lakeland Christian on May 18 at the Lee County Sports Complex in Fort Myers. If they win, the State Championship game will be May 20. The team is led by first year coach Charlie Mauer. Congratulations and good luck!

Sarasota beach volleyball team falls in Final Four

The Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School girls beach volleyball team fell in the state Final Four on May 13, 2023, at the Florida State University Beach Volleyball Courts in Tallahassee. The Sarasota team was the fifth seed going into the tournament and won twice, including the quarterfinals, before falling in the semifinals to eventual state champions, top seeded New Smyrna Beach. The Cougars finished the season 24-2. On April 22, the team were crowned the Sunshine State Class AA Beach Volleyball champs for the second straight year, after having competed at the Game Point Event Center in Orlando. Great season Cougars!

Living Rosary held in Naples

On the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, May 13, 2023, faithful at St. Agnes Parish in Naples took part in a “Living Rosary,” where people stand in to represent the beads on a rosary. The event was organized by Karen O’Shea and prayers were given for Peace in the World and the life of pre-born babies.

Youth help clean Our Mother’s House

Youth from Epiphany Cathedral in Venice took time out on May 13, 2023, to do a service project at Our Mother’s House, a Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., residence program for moms and their babies, who might otherwise be homeless. The teens cleaned up the various properties, did some planting and much more. Great job everyone.

Sarasota cheer team wins at Nationals

The two Incarnation Catholic School cheer teams from Sarasota took first place on May 20, 2023, at the East Coast Cheerleading Grand Nationals Championship in Orlando. The “Littles” and “Older” girls wowed the judges. The teams put in endless hours of practice and their dedication and teamwork paid off. Congratulations!

Fort Myers e-sports team wins title

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School E-Sports Team won the Sunshine State Athletic Conference (SSAC) State E-Sports Rocket League Championship in Orlando on May 11, 2023. Rocket League is a high-energy, physics-based sports game that combines elements of soccer and demolition derby, requiring skillful maneuvering of vehicles to outscore opponents. The Fort Myers team competed against top-ranked schools from throughout Florida culminating in a dominant 4-0 victory over Master’s Academy in Orlando.

Construction projects shared with young students

Prekindergarten students at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota got a special treat on May 12, 2023, when they were invited to learn about different construction projects made by sixth-grade students in the class of Sister Cathy Bonfield, SSND. The older students showed off their amazing K’Nex creations (a rod and connection building system that incorporates battery-powered moving parts to create large designs), which included rollercoasters, cranes and much more. The sixth-grade students also shared how the creations move and operate, and about the building process, while the prekindergartners listened in rapt attention.

Money raised for homeless

St. Catherine Catholic School students in Sebring recently finished a “Penny War” contest, raising more than $1,200 for supplies for homeless children and families of Highlands County. These items were delivered on May 16, 2023, to the Kiwanis Club which is partnering on the purchase of shoes. The various personal care items were then packed by students before delivery.

Food pantry thanks community

The St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton was overwhelmed by the recent U.S. Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive and dozens of volunteers helped sort the food on May 13, 2023. St. Joseph Food Pantry is the primary food pantry in Manatee County and the Postal Carrier donation is a big help as the pantry is gearing up to help feed children throughout the summer as they are away from regular school meals. If you would like to help, please visit Donors can also bring food such as canned corn, canned green beans, 1lb box spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, boxed macaroni and cheese, cheese, cereal, as well as peanut butter and jelly to St. Joseph Food Pantry, 2704 33rd Ave W., Bradenton, FL 34205. The food pantry is open 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday. Volunteers are always welcome. For more information, call 941-756-3732 or email

Students learn about history visit Diocesan Eucharistic Memorial

Fifth grade students from St. Joseph Catholic School enjoyed a May 12, 2023, visit to the DeSoto National Memorial in Bradenton, where they learned about Florida history as well as Diocesan history. The students learned that Hernando DeSoto led an expedition of 10 ships and 620 men, including 12 priests, which landed near present-day Bradenton on May 25, 1539 (68 years before the founding of Jamestown). A Eucharist Memorial and Cross were built and dedicated by the Diocese of Venice in this location to commemorate this historical event.

Students learn about saints

Third-grade students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers took part in a special project called the Saints Wax Museum. This project included learning about the saints, doing research and making a presentation about their life, what acts led them to being named a saint, and much more. The culmination of the project was on May 11, 2023. The students dressed as their saint and stood behind a table, which had a display with the biographical information about the saint, and they had to be prepared to talk about the saint as students from other grades (and later parents) came by to ask them questions. This was a fun and immersive way for all of the students to learn about saints.

Day of Reflection for Sacramental Marriage

The Office of Marriage and Family Life will be hosting a Day of Reflection for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church on two separate dates. A specially prepared team will share their experiences and information enabling couples to be more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of marriage.  The first event will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., June 17 at St. Katharine Drexel Parish, 1922 SW 20th Avenue, Cape Coral. The cost of $50/couple covers all retreat materials and lunch. Pre-registration is required at Marriage Preparation Seminar 2023 ( Should you have questions or require additional information contact Carrie Harkey at or 941-484-9543 ext. 4748.

The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Christian Life

During the month of May, more than 3,000 young boys and girls throughout the Diocese of Venice will take part in the Sacrament of the Eucharist for the first time.

At St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, the First Communion group of 86 children was so large that two Masses were needed on May 6, 2023.

The girls in white dresses and boys in suits or white shirts with ties solemnly came forward as they reached this important milestone in their spiritual journey of faith. Sitting behind the First Communicants were their parents who beamed with joy.

Before Mass, the children were given final instructions by the catechists, told to clasp their hands together in prayer and then processed into the Church in two lines, boys and girls.

During his homily, Father Wilner Durosier, CS, Administrator of St. Michael Parish, explained the idea of the miracle of the Eucharist to the First Communicants. “It is through a miracle Jesus turned mere bread into the Body of Christ. This is why your priest will say: ‘The Body of Christ’ when giving you the Eucharist each time.”

Father Durosier asked the children if they recall in the lessons about the Last Supper, when Jesus turned bread into His Body, to make sure everyone knows He is there all of the time for everyone who receives Him.

“Jesus gave Himself over to us. Take advantage of the gift Jesus has made available for us at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” Father continued. “Jesus is always there, waiting for you to return. While today you receive your First Communion, I pray that today will be the beginning of many, many Communions so that your heart may always, like today, be festive and full of joy and above all be blessed. Jesus will be waiting for you.”

The children at St. Michael also consecrated themselves to Mary after receiving their First Communion. After the Mass, a group picture was taken and the children proudly stood for individual photos with Father Durosier.

One of the girls, Gabriella, said she was nervous about receiving Jesus in the weeks leading up to her First Communion but was comforted when one of the women religious who serve at the Parish comforted her by saying that if she wasn’t ready, she could wait until she felt she was truly prepared to allow Jesus to become a greater part of her life.

“I am so happy right now,” Gabriella said after the Mass. “I love Jesus so much.”

Similar scenes have taken place at other Parishes in the Diocese or will occur throughout the month. At Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park, the First Communion Mass was also on May 6. There, each child first gathered in the Parish Hall and processed to the church together before coming forward to receive their First Communion while on a kneeler.

At San Marco Parish, in Marco Island, the First Communion was incorporated into the Mass for the Fifth Sunday of Easter on May 7. While there were only 10 First Communicants, the importance for the children, parents, and Holy Mother Church was no less significant.

During a 2019 trip to Bulgaria, Pope Francis told First Communicants how the Lord wants them to share the joy of the Eucharist with others.

“Making your First Communion shows that you want to be closer to Jesus every day, to grow in friendship with Him and to lead other people to share in the joy He wants us to feel,” the Holy Father said. “The Lord needs you because He wants to work the miracle of bringing His joy to many of your friends and family members.”

The 3,000-plus First Communions taking place in the Diocese of Venice throughout May occur during a time of a National Eucharistic Revival. This revival is a three-year effort of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to reinforce the devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane spoke during a March 2023 Eucharistic Congress in Fort Myers, held as part of the National Eucharistic Revival, before groups of teens and adults about the importance of the Holy Eucharist in the life of every Catholic, from the youngest who receive their First Communion to the oldest.

“It is in a precise way in the Eucharist, the Lord is given to us, and we receive Him… Put yourself in a relationship with Jesus Christ, through the Eucharist. It is Christ. It is His Body and Blood. It is His Real Presence!” Bishop Dewane said. “Let His Real Presence in the Eucharist fill your heart, fill your mind, fill your soul with His indication of what it is He wants from you and for you to do in your life.”

Please pray for all children receiving their First Holy Communion during May, that they love the Lord with all their hearts and forever live faithfully.

Osprey Pastor installed

Bishop Frank J. Dewane installed Carmelite Father Anthony Armstrong as Pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Osprey on May 7, 2023, in the context of the Mass.

“We are all called to go forth, responding every more faithfully to the Lord, with ever more strength. Holy Mother Church calls for a Pastor to accomplish that in each Parish, and I, as Bishop, am called to appoint them,” Bishop Dewane said. “Father has been here a while, and you have come to know him, to understand his ways as he has come to know this community here at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I ask that you continue to pray for him as he leads your Parish into the future.”

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish was established in 2000 as a Chapel of Epiphany Cathedral in Venice under the care of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It was in 2002 when Our Lady of Mount Carmel was elevated to a Parish. The current building used for the liturgy was opened in 2004 with a Parish Hall, located a short distance away, added in 2019. The Parish has approximately 1,000 families. Father Armstrong is the fifth Pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

As part of the installation process, Bishop Dewane first called Father Armstrong to the ambo following the homily. Father then recited, along with the faithful, the profession of faith, including additional parts solely for him. He then recited an Oath of Fidelity in which he promises to “adhere to the teachings, which either the Roman Pontiff or the college of bishops enunciate when they exercise authentic magisterium.” The installation also includes prayers to provide the new Pastor the wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit to lead the Parish.

The Bishop then presented Father Armstrong as the new Pastor to the faithful gathered. Documents are later signed by the Bishop, the new Pastor, and two official witnesses of the Parish Community, who serve as witnesses on behalf of all of the parishioners. Copies of these documents are put in the Diocesan files for the Parish and Father, while a copy is kept at the Parish.


After Mass, Father Armstrong first thanked Bishop Dewane for the honor of appointing him, and then the faithful for being so supportive since his appointment in 2022.


“I am well aware of the awesome responsibilities I am undertaking, and I am well aware of my need for your prayers for me as your Pastor,” Father said. “I know that, without your prayers, and without God’s grace, I will not be able to fulfill the role that I have been given.”


A reception followed in the Parish Hall.

Hundreds complete latest Faith Formation program in Spanish

For the past six years the Hispanic Ministries outreach of the Diocese of Venice has strived to meet the needs of those desiring to be better formed in their Faith through a focused formation program, with hundreds participating each year.

Father Claudio Stewart, Diocese Hispanic Ministries Director, said this formation program has been recognized as one of the largest Diocesan-level outreach efforts in the nation which directly includes the Hispanic Catholic community.


The 2022-2023 Spanish Faith Formation Program sessions offered “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit,” as its latest series. This latest session completed instruction just prior to Easter.

Father Stewart said the series of “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit” was a natural follow-up to earlier faith formation offerings as more than 400 took at least one of the seven classes, with nearly 200 having earned certificates of completion.


With the support of Bishop Frank J. Dewane, the Spanish Faith Formation Program sessions were developed immediately following the local consultation process of the V Encuentro in 2016 and 2017.


The V Encuentro was a multi-year outreach initiated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, with a goal of discerning ways for the Church in the U.S. to better respond to the needs of the growing Hispanic population. The process involved consultations at the Parish, Diocesan, regional and national levels. A final report was submitted to the Vatican in September 2019 with recommendations for inclusive action at all levels of the Church in the U.S. These actions are now being implemented.

The idea behind the initial three-step Spanish Faith Formation Program within the Diocese was to quickly help bridge the gap in formation for Hispanics in the Diocese for whom English is not their first language. This gap had created isolation among some, and the new program became empowering to Hispanic Catholics who often felt they were outsiders in the Catholic Church within the U.S., primarily due to the language difference.


The results were overwhelmingly positive as the program has shown there is a real desire for Hispanic Catholics to be formed in their Faith, Father Stewart explained. This is why the latest class was offered on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and he was pleased that even during the pandemic the interest to participate remained high.


The initial three-year Faith Formation Program (2018-2020) included a series on the “Magisterium,” with a thorough explanation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church; “Revelation and Introduction to the Sacred Scriptures;” and the “History and Tradition of the Church.” After the initial three years, the offering in 2020-2021 was the “The Seven Sacraments,” and then in 2021-2022 “The Christian Virtues” was offered.


The benefit of having the formation program in Spanish allows the students the opportunity to better absorb the complexities of the Faith without the extra work of translating the information. This also helps streamline the instruction and allows for a more open discussion. At the conclusion of each program year, those who earned certificates are encouraged to use their new-found knowledge to evangelize in their Parish community.


The Faith Formation classes are divided into five geographic regions of the Diocese to allow easier access to the courses. Students are offered the option to participate in-person or online. Instructors included priests, women religious and deacons. Each level becomes increasingly more sophisticated, challenging the participants to take a fresh look at the Catholic Church. The seven weeks of the “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit” formation series were broken down as follows: General Notions – Fear of the Lord; Fortitude – Piety; Knowledge – Counsel; Science; Understanding; Wisdom; and Pentecost, the Feast of Love. Certificates will be distributed in June and July at regional locations.


“For next year the formation program will be focused on the National Eucharist Revival. The first part of the classes will be on the liturgy, history of the different parts of the Mass and the second part in theology of the Eucharist according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Desiderio Desidervi, an Apostolic Letter from Pope Francis,” Father Stewart said.


Other actions taken since the local V Encuentro sessions have encouraged a broader outreach and inclusion in existing Parish and Diocesan events. This means having sessions in Spanish at conferences, bilingual programs, and other steps that will help unify the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Venice. As this is the focus of Dioceses across the country, the goal is to create a stronger Catholic Church in the U.S.


Father Stewart said the lessons of V Encuentro remind all that there is not supposed to be a separate Faith for English speakers versus Spanish speakers, but we are all part of the same Universal Church – founded by Jesus Christ.


To learn more about other Diocese of Venice initiatives through the Hispanic Ministries Office, please email, or visit