Cathedral students back in main building after Ian damage

Damage caused by Ian repaired within 100 days

Patience, teamwork, hard work, perseverance, and faith were all needed to overcome the destructive impacts of Hurricane Ian at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice.

In less than 100 days, repairs to the main school building were far enough along to ensure all students would safely and joyfully return to their original classroom. It was Sept. 28, 2022, when Hurricane Ian tore off the roof of the main building, allowing water to pour into the classrooms. Replacement of the roof, HVAC and other items, as well as the ceiling tiles and floors of nearly every room, were needed before a return to the classroom could take place.

A celebration of this momentous accomplishment occurred during the morning assembly on Jan. 9, 2023. Students, faculty, staff, and parents gathered as everyone cheered the reopening of the building which houses grades one through eight.

“What a wonderful day,” Principal Nicole Loseto proclaimed. “When the hurricane struck everyone rallied together to salvage what we could to relocate classrooms all over the campus in just two days. It was a challenge to move everyone to a new location and it was seamless and beautiful… Now everyone came together to get us back into our main building. Thank you, everyone!”

Loseto singled-out several maintenance and support staff who went above and beyond in their help during the crisis. She also praised Bishop Frank J. Dewane and his Diocesan staff for overcoming many issues since the storm. Also recognized were Cathedral Rector, Msgr. Patrick Dubois, and Operations Manager Wendy Barraso, for overseeing the logistics of the repairs.

Only the pre-kindergarten students were not displaced by Hurricane Ian. The disruptions were extreme as kindergartners were housed in the library; first and second grades were placed in the cafeteria with a divider; fourth and fifth graders were in the Parish Hall; and middle schoolers were split between the Soy Hall and two gymnasium locker rooms.

Loseto said the students and faculty handled the transition well, adjusting and surmounting any difficulties, comforted in the knowledge that mitigation and repairs began within days. While everything was not perfect, Loseto said patience and understanding was shown in all.

She also gave a shout out to the many people who helped support the recovery effort through financial support which helped ease the burden on the school.

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, was present for the morning assembly and was quick to acknowledge that Loseto herself led everyone through the storm and its aftermath.

“When we first talked about how we were going to open school, even though you didn’t have the main school building, a lot of good ideas came forth on how to do that, and certainly, most coming from Mrs. Loseto. So, I think we owe her a big applause,” Father Belmonte exclaimed as everyone joined in that acknowledgment.

Msgr. Dubois led a prayer service and blessed the repaired building. A ceremonial ribbon-cutting ceremony took place before everyone entered the building.

Ahead of the reopening, a team of faculty staff and parents moved all of the desks and other educational items from their temporary rooms to the main building. The upper grades were allowed in the building on Jan. 6, the 100th day since Hurricane Ian struck Venice.

The younger grades, including Nicole Semlow’s second grade class, got their first look at their refurbished classrooms after the morning assembly. They were impressed.

Lots of oohs and wows were exclaimed as they entered the classroom to the smell of fresh paint and newly laid flooring. The smiles were radiant as they returned to their own room, their own desks, a place they had come to love before Ian. Now the classroom, without any outside distractions, was a place of normalcy for the students.

The students, faculty, staff and parents of Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School started the first full week of school in 2023 with a celebration they won’t soon forget. It marked an opportunity to turn the page beyond the immediate aftermath and recovery of Hurricane Ian into what is a “normal” routine of a Catholic education, including study, fun and prayer.

If you would like to support Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in their continuing recovery, please visit www.ecstigers.com.

Diocesan Eucharistic Congress March 24-25

“A renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ”

Catholics around the world are raised to be aware of the transforming power and mercy of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist – the Source and Summit of the Faith.

To this end, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops developed National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year revival of devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The U.S Bishops believe that God wants to see a movement of Catholics across the United States, healed, converted, formed, and unified by an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist—and sent out in mission “for the life of the world.”

The response of Bishop Frank J. Dewane and the Diocese of Venice is to host a special Eucharistic Congress from March 24 to March 25, 2023, at the Conference Center and Luminary Hotel on the riverfront of downtown Fort Myers. (More details and registration can be found at https://dioceseofvenice.org/eucharistic-congress/.)

The Eucharistic Congress, with a theme “The Word Made Flesh,” will encompass several parts, including three unique sessions. The first is for Diocesan Catholic middle school students; the second part is a Youth Rally for high-school aged teens; and the showcase event is for adult men and women and features special breakout sessions in English and Spanish as well as for both genders.

“The Diocesan Eucharistic Congress is an opportunity for the faithful of the Diocese to come together as one to jointly rekindle a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist,” Bishop Dewane said. “This is a time to grow deeply in your faith, along with others from the Diocese, accompanied by Jesus Christ.”

Elements of the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress include a procession with the Eucharist in a public setting, a significant amount of time for Eucharistic Adoration, substantial availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, talks and catechesis on important matters of faith, and the Holy Mass with Bishop Dewane.

“This is an opportunity for Catholics to bring those things which usually happen behind closed doors, in our Parishes, out into the wide open with the larger community,” explained James Gontis, Diocesan Director of Evangelization.

The schedule for the Congress and line-up of internationally acclaimed speakers will provide each participant the opportunity to become part of the great National Eucharistic Revival.

Gontis said it is expected that those who attend the Congress – be it middle schoolers, high schoolers, or adults – will leave “with their hearts and minds aflame for the love of Jesus, His Catholic Church, and especially the Most Holy Eucharist. Don’t miss the grace!”

Being part of the National Eucharistic Revival and Diocesan Congress is an invitation to the faithful from God to go on a mission, grow in faith, and be compelling witnesses of our Jesus’ love.

Everyone is invited to be a part of this exciting journey as the timing of this movement and the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress come at a critical moment for the Universal Church. The National Eucharistic Revival explains, this effort comes now, because the Church needs healing, and the world needs the Church.

“Scandal, division, disease, doubt. The Church has withstood each of these throughout our very human history. But today we confront all of them, all at once. Our response in this moment is pivotal,” National Eucharistic Revival documents state. “In the midst of these roaring waves, Jesus is present, reminding us that He is more powerful than the storm. He desires to heal, renew, and unify the Church and the world.”

As Pope Francis has stated, each time we are present before the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ it is “a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ.”

Don’t let this opportunity pass you by!

For more information about the schedule, and to register for the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress on March 24-25, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/eucharistic-congress/.

Scholarship applications deadline Feb. 21

The Catholic Community Foundation of Southwest Florida is proud to announce that the 2023-24 Scholarship Applications are now open and will close on Feb. 21, 2023.

A total of 23 scholarships are being offered for both traditional and non-traditional students.

Among the scholarships being offered is the Mary Fran Carroll Scholarship to residents of Sarasota County, for the 2023-24 academic year.

These 15 renewable scholarships were made possible through the Catholic legacy of Mary Fran Carroll and her generous gift to the Catholic Community Foundation of Southwest Florida. Mary Fran Carroll was a woman of deep Catholic Faith, who wanted those receiving her scholarships to benefit from her legacy by being better prepared to face the challenges of the world and the future, in addition to using their education for the betterment of the entire community.

The traditional Mary Fran Carroll scholarship is offered to graduating or recent graduates who wish to pursue an undergraduate degree at any accredited college or university. Scholarships can be used for tuition, books and fees at an accredited college, university or vocational program (housing expenses are not eligible). Non-traditional scholarships are available to adult learners who are returning to school to obtain a college degree or vocational certification after being out of high school for three or more years. Also, previous scholarship winners are encouraged to renew their scholarships for up to a total of five academic years if they maintain a minimum GPA of 3.2 on a 4.0 (unweighted) scale.

“During the past nine years, the Catholic Community Foundation has awarded more than $482,000 in scholarships to students attending universities, colleges, and vocational programs,” explained Michael Morse, Executive Director of the Foundation. “In addition, millions of dollars have been provided to the Catholic Schools within the Diocese of Venice from Foundation endowment funds, donor advised funds, and outright donations for scholarships and tuition assistance for needy students.”

In addition to the Mary Fran Carroll Scholarship, the Foundation is offering:

  • Frank and Florence Coseglia Scholarship, one scholarship to college-bound, financially-needy students graduating from each of the Catholic high schools within the Diocese of Venice. Unlike the other scholarships, students do not apply but are nominated by their school.
  • Frederick W. Schaerf, M.D. Ph.D. Neuroscience Scholarship, for a college-bound, financially needy student graduating from Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, who is interested in pursuing a career in neuroscience or a similar field.
  • Barry L. Carey, M.D. Scholarship, a single, four-year renewable college scholarship for a practicing Catholic high school senior graduating this year from a Catholic, private, home school, or public school within the 10 counties of the Diocese of Venice in Florida. Additionally, the recipient must be the first generation in their family to attend a college or university.
  • James & Margaret Schwarz Scholarship, which is a single, non-renewable college scholarship that can be used for tuition, books, fees, and housing expenses. This is available to a student graduating from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota that is interested in pursuing a degree in education.
  • Steve Toner Math Award, a single non-renewable college scholarship per year to a graduating senior at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples who is pursuing a career in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) field. No application is necessary as it is assigned by the school.

All applications and supporting documents for each of the scholarships must be submitted electronically by no later than Feb. 21, 2023.

 

To find out which Catholic Community Foundation scholarship you qualify for, please visit www.ccfdioceseofvenice.org/scholarships.

 

Fort Myers rosary garden blessed

The work of young hands and inspiration of an American Heritage Girl helped create a new steppingstone rosary garden at St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers.

This new garden, located on Parish property across the street from the main church building, was blessed and dedicated on Jan. 8, 2023, by Father Paul Dechant, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, Pastor of St. Cecilia.

American Heritage Girl Samantha Mitchell (Troop 1203) proposed creating the garden as a special place to pray the rosary. Once approved by Father Dechant, Samantha, along with fellow American Heritage Girls and friends, installed the steppingstones in the shape of a rosary.

American Heritage Girls is a Christian-based Scouting-like organization which was founded in 1995 and has several troops within the Diocese of Venice.

The garden starts with the base of the cross (20 stones) pointing directly toward the church. Each bead is marked with a stone, with the decades having larger stones and the medal a cluster of four stones. The garden was placed primarily in the shade of pine trees to allow the faithful to enjoy peace and quiet while praying the rosary.

As part of the blessing and dedication of the garden Samantha led the faithful in praying the Joyous Mysteries of the Rosary.

The American Heritage Girl program is dedicated to the mission of building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country and currently has about 52,000 members.

Girls across the nation and the globe participate in badge programs, service projects, leadership opportunities, and outdoor experiences, all with an emphasis on Christian values and family involvement.

Samantha Mitchell has been with the American Heritage Girls for several years and has earned numerous badges including several earned through the Diocese of Venice Scouting Award program. The rosary garden service project is similar in scope and importance to projects done by Boy Scouts who seek to become Eagle Scouts.

News Briefs for the Week of Jan. 13, 2022

Cathedral celebrates Feast Day

Epiphany Cathedral in Venice celebrated its Feast Day, the Epiphany of the Lord, with a trilingual (English, Spanish, Polish) Mass on Jan. 8, 2023. Msgr. Patrick Dubois, Cathedral Rector, said the Feast Day is an important moment for the Parish community as well as for the Universal Church. The day marks the moment when the three magi come to pay homage to the Child Jesus, something we must do each day as we celebrated the love of the Lord in our lives. Readings and music alternated between the three languages and at the conclusion of Mass, Msgr. Dubois asked all to wish one another a “Happy Feast of the Epiphany.” A multicultural celebration followed in the Parish Hall.

Basketball player reaches milestone

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School basketball player Olivia Davis reached the 1,000-point milestone during a game on Jan. 6, 2023. After the home game in Sarasota, the star player was honored and recognized for this remarkable achievement, something that is rare in high school basketball.

Opportunities upcoming to support life

There are several opportunities for the faithful to support life in the coming months. First, one can Pray for the protection of all human life during the 9 Days for Life campaign from Jan. 19-27, 2023. Sign up now at www.9daysforlife.com to receive each day’s intention and reflection via email or text message. Second, the annual Ave Maria March for Life will take place at 10 a.m., Jan 21, at the Ave Maria University football field. The walk is held in recognition of the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death, and will conclude in front of Ave Maria Parish Church. Bishop Frank J. Dewane is the featured speaker. A lunch of hot dogs, chips and drink will follow the march.  For more information including registering for small or large groups, please contact Sharon Levesque at amprespectlifeminstry@gmail.com. Next, join others for the 25th Annual Sarasota Prayer Walk for Life on Feb. 7. The event begins with the 8:30 a.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane at St. Martha Parish, 200 N. Orange Ave. A bus will shuttle people from the church to 7th Street where walkers will circle the block around Planned Parenthood in prayer. Lastly, join others from around the state for the annual Catholic Days at the Capitol in Tallahassee from March 7-9. The three-day trip includes a legislative briefing on important bills relating to human life and dignity, a breakfast with legislators and the Florida Bishops, tours of the capitol and museum, scheduled visits with legislators and the annual Red Mass of the Holy Spirit with the Florida Bishops and public officials. Bus transportation is provided at no cost as long as space is available. The registration deadline is February 6. For further details contact Jeanne Berdeaux at 941-374-1068 or Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org.

World Youth Day 2023 Deadline EXTENDED

The deadline to register is open for the Diocesan 11-day pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal, has been extended to Jan. 15, 2023. You are invited to join Bishop Frank J. Dewane for the trip to Lisbon with two nights in Fatima. This pilgrimage is from July 29 to August 8, 2023. The theme for World Youth Day 2023 is “Mary arose and went with haste”. (Luke 1:39) Travel arrangements are facilitated by Peter’s Way Tours. Space is limited and registration must be completed by January 15. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/evangelization/world-youth-day-2023/ for registration and further information.

Lee County schools gather for joint Mass

Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers welcomed students from St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers and St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral for Mass on Jan. 10, 2023. The younger students led everyone in song and afterwards Principal Suzie O’Grady invited students to participate in the “Three Kings” celebration. Following the Mass, the “Three Kings” went around campus writing the following on every door: 20 + C + M + B + 23. For centuries, faithful Catholics have marked the entrance to their homes with a symbol of faith, asking that Jesus bless all who live within the home. The message is as follows: [the first two digits of the year] + C + M + B + [the last two digits of the year]. The “C”, “M”, and “B” stand for the names of the three Magi – Caspar, Malchior & Balthazar, and the “+” represents the cross. The message also abbreviates the Latin phrase, Christus Mansionem Benedicat, meaning “May Christ bless the house.”

Parish marks Three Kings celebration

St. Paul Parish in Arcadia held a special “Three Kings” celebration on the Feast of the  Epiphany of Our Lord, Jan. 8, 2023.

Bishop Dewane reflects on Pope Benedict XVI

The passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has brought a time of mourning and reflection among the Catholics of the world.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane issued a statement within hours of the passing of Pope Benedict to the faithful of the Diocese of Venice: “The Catholic Church throughout the world mourns the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who died today, December 31, 2022. We are saddened by the loss of such a renowned, humble scholar and Shepherd, who gave his life to the service of the Universal Church. The longest living Pope, he was a giant of faith and reason.”

Bishop Dewane celebrated a Mass for the repose of the soul of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice on January 4, 2023.

The Bishop noted how he was blessed to know then-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and later Pope Benedict XVI. The two first met when Bishop Dewane was a seminarian at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. This encounter took place while Cardinal Ratzinger was crossing St. Peter’s Square and paused to speak to a group of four U.S. seminarians, with the future Bishop Dewane among them. Cardinal Ratzinger recognized the group as Americans and took the time to speak with them.

The two also met while then-Msgr. Dewane was working at the Vatican and then during several brief meetings since being ordained as Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in 2006.

“I had the opportunity to speak with him on a number of occasions and was particularly touched by his kindness and humility as well as the warmth and encouragement he imparted to all,” Bishop Dewane said. “Appointed by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI as Bishop of the Diocese of Venice, I have always had a special place for him in prayer and indeed will continue to remember him.”

Bishop Dewane worked at the Vatican starting in 1995 at the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” and was later appointed Under Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, a time when Cardinal Ratzinger was Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and through his election to the Papacy in April 2005, for which then-Msgr. Dewane was present in St. Peter’s Square for the announcement of the new Pope, Benedict XVI.

The pair met for Vatican related matters but were engaged in very different matters and at different levels. “He always recognized me as an American saying, ‘I know you, you work here,’ and we would share comments on that.”

Following his appointment as Co-Adjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in 2006, the meetings became less frequent, but still impactful. Such encounters included Bishop Dewane during his tenure as a member of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” as well as other working visits to the Vatican through the years. Other interactions occurred during the 2008 visit to the U.S. by the Holy Father as well as World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney and World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid.

In what would be their final meeting, Bishop Dewane was part of a group of Bishops from Florida who were at the Vatican in May 2012 as part of their Ad Lumina visit. During that gathering, the Bishops presented their quinquennial reports on the status of their respective Dioceses, which included an audience with the Holy Father.

Bishop Dewane described the encounter at the time: “It is an exciting and moving experience. The Successor of Peter is a profoundly holy man and you see that in him. Each personal audience is a special occasion.”

During the visit, Pope Benedict presented each Bishop with a gift of a pectoral cross, known as a Benedictine cross. The gold-plated cross is a replica of a 14th Century crucifix that hangs in the Benedictine mother-church at St. Anselm in Rome. On the reverse side of the cross is the Papal Coat of Arms. It is a gift Bishop Dewane treasures to this day and wears during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

“It was an unusual gift and something that came from the heart of the Pontiff to the Bishops of the world,” Bishop Dewane said.

In his statement following the death of Benedict XVI, the Bishop concluded: “While we mourn the death of this holy man, we continue to pray: ‘Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.’”

Diocese celebrates Christmas

“When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.” Lk 2:15-17

Passed through generations, the retelling of the coming of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in such a humble way, born in a manger to reign over the world, should cause everyone to pause and reflect on the gifts of grace that have come to each one of us.

This pause and time of reflection is at the heart of what Christmas is all about. This moment was celebrated throughout the Diocese of Venice in a variety of ways, most significantly through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated a pre-recorded TV Mass for the Homebound from St. Thomas More Parish in Sarasota. This hour-long Mass reaches thousands of those who are unable to attend Mass for a variety of reasons.

Bishop Dewane also celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Mass at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. At the Midnight Mass, the Bishop brought forth the Child Jesus and placed Him in the manger as “O Come All Ye Faithful” was sung.

During the Midnight Mass, Bishop Dewane reminded the faithful that we are part of Salvation History. “We are living it today and we have a contribution to make, however small, it is there to be made by each one of us.”

As a part of Salvation History, we are each given a mission and responsibility to serve the Lord as His plan is to unite us to Him, Bishop Dewane said.

“God has sought you and me,” the Bishop said. “In striving for the mission, He gives to us our responsibilities in life… In response, we need to establish and develop our relationship with Our Lord, Jesus Christ… Take this Christmas as an opportunity to reflect upon how it is you are responding to the call of the Lord. Reflect the Light of Christ continually, knowing the Child in the manger represents our Salvation, and everyone has a role to play in that History.”

The manger, or Nativity scene, is a celebratory focus of the Christmas celebration. Several Diocesan Parishes and each Catholic school took time to have a retelling of the birth of Jesus with young children and in some cases with live animals.

For example, at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula a living Nativity play on Dec. 17, 2022, included a donkey, horses and many angels and shepherds. This community celebration is organized by the religious women who serve the Parish, the Sister Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, and includes a festival and the distribution of gifts for the children in the area. This year’s celebration took on a special significance as many families are struggling after being impacted in their homes or work from Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28, 2022.

St. Agnes Parish and St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, both in Naples, hosted living nativity displays through which people walked or drove.

Christmas is also a time to help others so donations for the needy and the many impacted by Hurricane Ian were piled high and distributed. The most common form of collecting items for needy children is through an Angel Tree, where the ornaments are a wish list item for a child or family.

Some Parishes collected general donations for organizations in the area, such as Catholic Charities, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and others. Many gave from their heart and brought bags of items well beyond what was sought. Naturally, no donated item was turned away and it just meant more people were granted a Merry Christmas.

Catholic schools spent much of the month in preparation for Christmas with pageants, recitals, concerts, parties and other fun. At the same time, the schools teach the true meaning of Christmas, including needing to spread the love of Christ, that is in their hearts, out to the world.

Young carolers from schools in Port Charlotte, Bradenton, Sarasota and Fort Myers visited nearby assisted living facilities to spread holiday cheer.

In addition, each school has a service component where students do work, volunteer or raise funds or gifts to give back to the community. This effort goes into high gear during the Christmas Season.

For example, at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota, second graders partnered with the Department of Children and Families and Florida Guardian Ad Litem program that provides items to give foster kids a normal life. The students created cards, ornaments and filled gift bags for the foster children.

Meanwhile, the eighth graders at the school and nearby Parish, worked together to learn about Catholic social teachings, to help those in need. The results were amazing. The Sarasota youth created 140 gift cards and handmade Christmas ornaments for the elderly residents at a Catholic Charities facility; donated 100+ blankets for the homeless; made Get Well/Christmas Cards for those in the hospital; collected and donated toys and household items for needy families; stocked pantries with food and supplies; and much more.

At neighboring Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, students in the school chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society came in during their Christmas break to pack donated toys, books and stuffed animals on the Mooney “sleigh,” and delivered them to boys and girls at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charlotte and St. Elizabeth Seton in Naples each participated in the Wreaths Across America project. This effort puts Christmas wreaths on the graves of veterans in local cemeteries.

These are just a small sampling of how Christmas was celebrated throughout the Diocese of Venice.

St. Pete Diocese helps with Ian relief

Bishop Gregory Parkes, Bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, generously made a donation from the faithful of the Diocese of St. Petersburg to the Diocese of Venice for its ongoing Hurricane Ian recovery.

Bishop Parkes met with Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Dec. 21, 2022, in Venice to personally present the check for $250,000. These funds were the result of a special collection following the hurricane.

The. St. Petersburg Bishop said the donation to the Diocese of Venice is directed to go where it is most needed to help rebuild following the devastating Sept. 28 hurricane.

More than 120 lives were lost in the counties of the Diocese of Venice with thousands losing their homes and livelihoods by storm surge, wind or flooding. Ian caused damage to 93 Diocesan properties. The damage was significant enough to 404 buildings to require major repairs which will be ongoing for many months to come.

Bishop Dewane said he was overwhelmed by the generosity and thoughtfulness of Bishop Parkes and the faithful of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

“Hurricane Ian left a terrible path of destruction throughout Florida,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is a blessing for a fellow Florida Bishop to recognize the great need in our Diocese and is a testament to his compassion and caring for all our brothers and sisters in Christ who continue to suffer in the aftermath of this storm.”

In a Sept. 30 letter to all Parishes in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Bishop Parkes wrote: “Our hearts are moved with compassion for all those who have suffered damage and destruction due to Hurricane Ian, especially our brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Venice.”

A portion of the money received during the special collection remained in the Diocese of St. Petersburg to help with its own recovery as numerous Diocesan facilities there were damaged.

However, Bishop Parkes stated: “This was a tough year for storms here in our area as well as our neighbors in the Diocese of Venice. Thanks to the generosity of our people, not only are we able to assist and help those who sustained damage here in our Diocese, but also to give hurricane relief to those who were affected in the Diocese of Venice. I thank the faithful of our Diocese for their generosity and we pray for all those that have been impacted by the hurricane and storms.”

If you would like to support the Diocese of Venice efforts to recover from Hurricane Ian, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/hurricaneian/.

Celebrating independence and fraternity

On the 219th Anniversary of Haiti as the first Independent Republic in the Caribbean, the Diocese of Venice, in conjunction with the Haitian Catholic Community, a Mass was celebrated at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs on Jan. 1, 2023, Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.

The faithful from throughout the Diocese of Venice attended the Mass which was celebrated by Most Rev. Jacques Fabre-Jeune, CS, Bishop of the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, with Bishop Frank J. Dewane concelebrating. In addition, there were numerous priests from the Diocese who also concelebrated.

Bishop Fabre was appointed to Charleston in May 2022, having been ordained to the priesthood in 1986 as a Missionary of St. Charles, Scalabrinian. The Mass was a homecoming for Bishop Fabre, as his first priestly assignment upon ordination was as Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee from 1986 to 1990. “I remember this area well. It is where I learned to become a priest.”

Bishop Fabre offered a powerful message of community, stressing how each individual is important to the foundation of Holy Mother Church, and should be celebrated each day. During his homily, the Bishop encouraged everyone to greet each other and express this importance to one another.

The Bishop also spoke about the celebration of the independence of Haiti and how it importantly falls upon a major celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the World Day of Peace. He encouraged everyone to remember their roots in Haiti but also accept that they are part of the Universal Church, united in Christ.

Bishop Dewane thanked Bishop Fabre for accepting his invitation to be a guest of the Diocese and for sharing his time, wisdom and faith with the Haitian Catholic Community in their native language. He also said it was an honor and privilege to participate in such an important cultural and religious celebration for the growing Haitian Catholic Community in the Diocese of Venice.

Impressed by Bishop Fabre’s positive message, Bishop Dewane stressed how important the Haitian Catholic Community is to the very fabric of the Diocese of Venice.

“You are important not only because you are here today; but because you come from the Diocese of Venice; you represent the various Parishes; because of the richness you bring from your culture and share with us. We are grateful for that,” Bishop Dewane said. “Our Church here in the Diocese is all the more blessed to have you here as the richness of your Faith is evident to all.”

Crediting the priests who serve the Haitian Catholic Community in the Diocese, many from Haiti, Bishop Dewane thanked them for the dedication to the Church, to the Diocese and to the people of God. “They are a richness for also our larger clergy. Thank you.”

Father Jean-Marie Fritz Ligonde, Diocesan Haitian Ministry Director and Parochial Vicar at St. Columbkille Parish, thanked Bishop Dewane for his unyielding support of the Haitian Catholic Community including for the annual New Year’s Day celebration. At the conclusion of the Mass, and following the lead of Bishop Fabre, Father Ligonde led everyone in singing the Haitian National Anthem.

There are currently Masses celebrated each weekend in Haitian Creole at the following Parishes: St. Charles Borromeo in Port Charlotte; St. Francis Xavier in Fort Myers; St. Michael in Wauchula; Sacred Heart in Bradenton; Our Lady of Guadalupe in Immokalee; and St. Peter the Apostle in Naples. The New Year’s Day celebration is one of the few times the entire community can gather in one place.

For the Haitian community, Jan. 1 is both a spiritual day, and an emotional day commemorating such an important day in their homeland. The Haitians defeated the largest and most powerful army at the time, the army of Napoleon, in Cap-Haitien, and Haiti became the second country in the Americas to declare its Independence on Jan. 1, 1804.

A cultural celebration and dinner took place in the Parish Hall.

News Briefs for the Week of Jan. 6, 2023

Retired religious priest dies

Father Joseph P. Jocco, Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, a retired priest who assisted at St. Ann Parish in Naples and Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, died on Dec. 24, 2022. Father was born in Chicago and served in the U.S. Navy as corpsman prior to entering the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, professing his first vows in 1977.  He was ordained a priest on June 9, 1984. Father Jocco worked in a variety of ministries in secondary education in Philadelphia, Wilmington, Delaware, Daytona Beach, and at Bishop Verot in Fort Myers. He was also the Vocation Director for the Wilmington-Philadelphia Province and Superior of the Salesian community at Parishes in Philadelphia, Robesonia, Pennsylvania and St. Ann Parish in Naples. Father Jocco is survived by several brothers and sisters, as well as many nieces and nephews. A Mass of Christian Burial was held Jan. 3, in Childs, Maryland, with burial following in the Oblate Cemetery.

Bishop celebrates Feast Day Mass in Naples

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass on the Feast of St. Elizabeth Seton (Jan. 4, 2023), at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples. The Mass included the participation of the students from St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School. Bishop Dewane encouraged the students to learn about their patroness who served as an example to follow in how she answered a call from the Lord and helped launch Catholic education in the United States.

Mooney starts equestrian club

Adventure awaits students in Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School’s newest club! The first outing for the Equestrian Club was Dec. 10, 2022, at a local dressage stable, where students learned about horse safety, grooming, and horse care. Members saddled up the beautiful horses at Rosaire’s Riding Academy to learn the basics of riding so that they can go on future trail rides together. The Equestrian Club also had fun hearing presentations by fellow Mooney students that compete in horse shows on the events that comprise equestrian sports – show jumping, hunter trails, and dressage. The next goal is a ride at the beach! The new Equestrian Cub was founded by sophomore Marianna Cardona Ortiz.

Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal continues

The 21st Annual Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal is continuing through January 2023. A donation to the Appeal strengthens Catholic Charities ability to provide much-needed support, for those recovering from Hurricane Ian, or who need any type of assistance in the region. This outreach is accomplished through more than 35 programs in locations throughout the 10-county Diocese. These programs annually support more than 100,000 individuals and families in ways both large and small. To support the Christmas Appeal, please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org or mail a contribution to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

Time running out for hotel rooms for Eucharistic Congress

The two-part Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Congress and Youth Rally is coming March 24 and 25, 2023, to the Conference Center and Luminary Hotel on the riverfront of downtown Fort Myers. The Eucharistic Congress Youth Rally is 5 to 10 p.m., Friday, March 24, 2023, while the main Eucharistic Congress for adults is Saturday March 25. Exciting speakers and musicians are scheduled for these two events. Both events will include Eucharistic Processions and the opportunity to grow closer to the Lord through the Blessed Sacrament. Visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/eucharistic-congress/ to register and for additional details. For those wishing to spend the evening of the 24th or 25th at the Luminary Hotel, the deadline to obtain a special rate is closing soon, please make your reservation by visiting https://www.marriott.com/event-reservations/reservation-link.mi?id=1658159545793&key=GRP&app=resvlink.

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