News briefs from the Diocese Sept. 13-27

Ordination to the priesthood Oct. 5

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

 

 

 

Bishop interviewed for series “The Chair”

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

 

 

 

Summer reading program a big success

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

Anti-Human Trafficking Assistance Program challenge

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

Support Venice Diocesan CCW Seminarian Fund

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

Verot seniors perfect on college pre exams

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

Naples School Fall Festival Oct. 12

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

Kids Helping Kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diocese welcomes two new principals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more about St. Andrew Catholic School, please visit www.standrewcs.org; and for St. Ann Catholic School please visit www.stann.net/.

 

For information about all Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org.

CCW Juniors gather for retreat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Young Adult Missionary Discipleship Society starting

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mission statement for the Society is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assumption: contemplating this mystery of the Blessed Virgin

Holy Day of Obligation Aug. 15

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Responding to the Call

Seminarians gather for summer retreat

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

The seminarians of the Diocese of Venice have each responded to a specific call from the Lord, to take a journey which leads them on a discerning path toward a vocation to the priesthood.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane closed the annual seminarian convocation on Aug. 2 with the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice.

“Thank you for responding to a call of the Lord – a call to holiness,” Bishop Dewane said. “You have a belief in yourself and how you have responded. That belief will give you strength as you move forward.”

By choosing a vocation to the priesthood, the seminarians have responded to live a life of knowing the Lord in His goodness and this requires more than simply listening to what the Lord has to say, but actually living life as the Lord wants, the Bishop added. “The Lord blesses you for giving yourself freely. You are on a journey with and to God.”

The convocation is an annual gathering of those seminarians at different stages in their ongoing discernment for the priesthood and took place from July 31-Aug. 2.

The gathering gives the seminarians – 16 of the 19 from the Diocese able to attend – an opportunity to come together as a group to pray, to reflect on their choice of vocation and to share their thoughts and their personal journey with others who are on the same path. The goal is for them to leave refreshed and prepared for the next phase in their faith journey. The retreat was directed by Msgr. Michael Muhr of the Diocese of St. Petersburg while sharing his experiences of 36 years in the priesthood and offering different ways for them to grow in their relationship with the Lord.

Seminarian David Portorreal, who is returning to St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach in the fall, spent his summer at the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University, Omaha, Neb. “It was a great experience to go and be with other seminarians and priests from across the country, each going through continuing formation. It was inspiring.”

Another seminarian, Kevin Avellaneda, who will be on a Pastoral Year in the Diocese, spent his summer in Pastoral Ministry to the Sick through St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, St. Paul, Minn. While there he had powerful encounters with those who are sick in the hospital, nursing homes and in hospice. “It was a very moving experience. You get a chance to see the work of God in different ways. Seeing someone on a ventilator and just being there for the person, but also for the families, strengthened my faith.”

Bishop Dewane encouraged the seminarians to return to their respective seminaries more committed to the Lord. “That commitment should come from your experiences of faith knowing you are not alone in your journey, either through my prayers, the prayers of the priests and the prayers of the faithful across the Diocese.”

Father Shawn Roser, Diocese of Venice Director of Vocations, said the annual convocation allows the seminarians to share their experiences, which is valuable as some are very close to ordination, while others are going into the seminary for the first time in just a week or two.

Please pray for our seminarians as they return to their respective seminaries and continue in discerning their vocation to the priesthood.

Diocese of Venice Seminarians are supported through the Diocese Catholic Faith Appeal, the Knights of Columbus and the generosity of the faithful.

Parishioners from around the Diocese are encouraged to help support the seminarians in their studies and choice of vocation through prayer and financial assistance. Donations may be sent to: Diocese of Venice, Office of Vocations, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

For more information about the seminarians or Vocations, contact Father Shawn Roser at roser@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-486-4720, or visit www.venicevocations.com .

Diocese of Venice Seminarians

Deacon Carlos Encinas

Deacon Franckel Fils-Aime

Deacon Daniel Ricardo

Kevin Avellaneda

Alan Baldarelli

Christian Chami

Juan Contreras

James Gates Jr.

José Grullon

Jacob Gwynn

Mark Harris

Peirrot Lazarre

Nathaniel Nieves

Euder Paul

Alexander Pince

David Portorreal

Carlos Rodriguez

Alejandro Roldan

Daniel Scanlan

Prayer for Vocations

God our Father, we thank you for calling men and women to serve in your Son’s Kingdom as priests, deacons, religious, and consecrated persons. Send your Holy Spirit to help us respond generously and courageously to your call. May our community of faith support vocations of sacrificial love in our youth. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

 

Diocese Principal’s Corner

Dr. Benjamin H. Moore, Ed.D. – Superintendent of Catholic Education

Every family has the fundamental right to choose the best school for their child. I am thrilled and humbled to welcome over 4,500 students whose families have made Catholic education their choice when the 2019-2020 school year begins on August 12.

The start of the school year is a time of excitement, hope, perhaps some anxiety, and always an opportunity for new beginnings. This school year we are introducing the “Principal’s Corner” to highlight the wonderful things happening in all our schools.

Each issue of the “Principal’s Corner” will focus on the unique attributes and accomplishments of one of our schools and offer readers the opportunity to learn more about how our schools pursue our mission of educating the whole child – mind, body, and spirit. The fifteen schools of the Diocese of Venice are vibrant faith communities where academic rigor is infused with Catholic values, teachings, and traditions.

Our goal is to prepare our students for a life of service to family, community, and Christ. Beyond academic excellence, athletic and extra-curricular success, accreditation and accolades Catholic schools continue traditions of discipline and reverence. The school’s partner with parents, as the primary educators of their children, to instill character and promote respect for oneself and others. Through the support of generous donors, multiple state scholarship programs, and a variety of financial resources a Catholic education remains an accessible and affordable option.

Throughout this school year, I invite you to continue to check on the “Principal’s Corner,” or take the opportunity to schedule a visit at one of schools and learn more about the Catholic schools of the Diocese of Venice. I wish all of our students, parents, administrators, faculty and staff a blessed and successful 2019-2020 school year.

From the Principal’s Corner:

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

Mrs. Coleen Curlett – Incarnation Catholic School, Sarasota

Dr. Denny Denison – Bishop Verot High School, Fort Myers

Dr. Dan Guernsey – Rhodora J. Donahue Academy, Ave Maria

Mr. John Gulley – St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, Fort Myers

Mrs. M.C. Heffner – Epiphany Cathedral School, Venice

Mr. Ben Hopper – Cardinal Mooney High School, Sarasota

Mrs. Nicole Loseto – St. Catherine Catholic School, Sebring

Mr. David Nelson – St. Andrew Catholic School, Coral Gables

Mrs. Maria Niebuhr – St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School, Naples

Mrs. Tonya Peters – St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School, Port Charlotte

Mrs. Rebecca Reynolds – St. Mary Academy, Sarasota

Sister Patricia Roche, Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco – St. John Neumann High School, Naples

Ms. Deborah Suddarth – St. Joseph Catholic School, Bradenton

Mrs. Siobhan Young – St. Martha Catholic School, Sarasota

 

Making a Home for Trafficking Survivors

Judy Bokorney – Special to the Florida Catholic

Dick and Betty Porrel used to buy homes, fix them up and sell them to help with the cost of college tuition for their six children. Today, now in their mid-80s, they again refurbish homes but this time it is for survivors of human trafficking.

“The Porrels have been instrumental in the development of the transitional homes we have for the Anti Human Trafficking Assistance Program,” said Catholic Charities Program Coordinator Erika Pineros. “They have furnished all of the six units. They have bought couches, beds, dressers, kitchen supplies, dining tables, washers and dryers, stoves, refrigerators and more. They assessed each unit and fully equipped them with the essentials.”

The Porrels are active members of the advisory board for Catholic Charities in Lee, Hendry and Glades counties. They began volunteering for the Anti Human Trafficking Assistance Program when the first transitional home was purchased in 2017.

“We liked the idea of helping to renovate the house,” said Dick Porrel. “We enjoyed doing the work together back when our children were young. We still do today. It feels like a natural way for us to volunteer.”

Dick stated it was important for the program to provide transitional housing. “How will survivors fully become self-sufficient without housing? They need a safe place to live where they cannot be found by their traffickers.”

The three transitional houses are duplexes with each unit having two bedrooms with two beds in each room. Four people can live in each unit totaling eight for each duplex.

The Porrels began helping with the first duplex doing small repairs and supplying all the furniture, household items and appliances, if needed. They donated the cost of everything.

“We went to St. John the XXIII Parish Thrift Store to get supplies for the first two duplexes,” said Betty Porrel. “When we went back there to shop for the third duplex, the store manager asked us what we were doing and why we kept coming back and looking for more items. We explained our volunteer project and she said that we could have anything we needed for free.”

“She started to save items for us,” continued Betty. “We only wanted to take what was necessary to furnish and equip the home, but she insisted on extra things such as decorations and accessories. She was so generous.”

Pineros said the transitional housing would not have been implemented if not for the support of the Porrels.

“I was in awe of their dedication to each home,” she said. “They have done this with love. I have witnessed the hard work they have put into making these properties into comfortable homes.”

Currently, the transitional homes are all occupied. “The focus of the program is to bridge the gap that survivors encounter, the main one being housing. We continue to have a need for more housing and will look for funding opportunities to acquire more. The transitional homes were developed to allow survivors to learn essential living skills,” said Pineros.

The Porrels agreed if additional housing is purchased, they will outfit the homes again. “This is something we can do together as a couple, and we love to be together,” said Betty. “It is great. You feel like you are accomplishing something. We are helping people,” said Dick.

The Anti Human Trafficking Assistance Program provides clients with: food and clothing; shelter at a safe distance from the site of the exploitation and transitional housing; coordination of medical and dental services; weekly supportive counseling and further mental health services as needed; transportation to and from appointments; orientation to state and federal laws and benefits; assistance with benefit applications; coordination of educational and English as a second language (ESOL) services; liaison with law enforcement and immigration service providers; and coordination with various community agencies for other required services.

Pineros said the program will soon offer coaching and mentoring for survivors as well. “It really does take a village to offer all the services survivors need to heal and reach self-sufficiency.”

For more information, please call 239-390-2928 or email epineros@ccslee.org.

New Curriculum Specialist hired

Staff Report

Jennifer Falestiny has joined the Diocese of Venice Education Department as a Curriculum Specialist.

Falestiny has spent most of her career in School Instruction and Curriculum Development, most recently holding the position of STEM lab and Robotic Coordinator/ Instructor at Saint Gregory Catholic School in Plantation.

“It is very exciting to be part of the Diocese of Venice,” Falestiny said.

Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Catholic Education Dr. Ben Moore said Falestiny will be supporting teachers through a variety of professional development offerings in the areas of curriculum mapping and the vertical alignment of newly developed academic standards.

“She will provide leadership for the schools’ accreditation efforts including the pursuit of STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) designation from the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops,” Moore added. “Falestiny’s education and background utilizing instructional technology will enrich the students’ experience as she promotes innovative strategies.”

During her first month on the job, she visited most of the Catholic Schools in the Diocese to do an initial needs assessment.

“The plan is to work on creating a standardized curriculum that meets the academic and spiritual needs of each student,” Falestiny said. “This will be a lengthy process as the strengths of each school is evaluated.”

She earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education from University of Central Florida with a focus on special education, and a Master of Science Degree STEM Education from the University of San Diego. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Instructional Design and Technology at Keiser University. She is married with three young children and they live in Sarasota.

Jennifer Falestiny can be reach at falestiny@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543,

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