Finance Councils learn from Diocese leaders

Each year the Diocese of Venice provides certificates and continuing development opportunities for staff and volunteers to update them on Diocesan, local and potentially federal policies related to their specific area of responsibility.

With this in mind, the Diocese offered a series of seminars in January and early February for members of Parish/School Finance Councils. Members of the Finance Councils are volunteers who generously provide their time and expertise while serving a critical role in support of their Pastor/Administrator. This work is done to ensure all pastoral needs are met, which includes financial stability, charitable work as well as planning for the future.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane welcomed the gathering on Jan. 21 at St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota, thanking the laity for sharing their experiences and expertise with their Parish/School and their Pastor/Administrator, as well as other members of their respective Finance Councils.

“We are blessed to have such volunteers who so passionately participate in the life of the parish and/or school,” Bishop Dewane added. “We’d be lost without people like yourselves. You are giving the advice and life experience in your respective areas and we are most grateful. Your contributions make a big difference for the priests of the Diocese who might not have the same experience in managing finances.”

The response to the seminars was overwhelmingly positive. One participant in the seminar said the information offered provided clarity to many questions while also providing context and a greater appreciation for the vastness and complexities of the Diocese.

The seminars, one held in each Deanery, helped to provide updates and a broad overview of Diocesan policies and procedures, future planning, and Diocesan growth related to finances. This was also an opportunity for Council members to understand the structure of the Diocese and to put a face to the names of Diocesan staff with whom they may interact and seek information. Topics addressed included the challenges inherent with rapid growth and seasonal nature of many of the parishioners as well as the fact that each Parish/School is unique and has its own issues.

This partnership between the Finance Council and the Pastor/Administrator is vital to the stable finances of any entity. Finance Councils assist the Pastor/Administrator in budgeting; review of quarterly financial statements; developing a long-term Parish/School capital improvement plan, including implementation and funding sources; developing a program for the care and maintenance of all facilities; development and maintenance of position descriptions for the Parish Business Manager/Accountant (bookkeeper) and other staff/personnel engaged in the management, operation or administration of the Parish; and to serve as a resource to advise the Pastor/Administrator on significant expenditures before making a purchase or lease commitment in accordance with Diocesan policies.

Each Parish/School undergoes a financial review every three years by an independent CPA firm, with which the Finance Council is an integral part. Parishes also participate in safety and security programs which must also be budgeted. One of the most challenging aspect of Parish/School finances is the maintenance and operation of the various buildings. As in a household, the Council must ensure that all expenses, such as electricity, water, security, and maintenance, as well as any salaries, are part of current future budgeting processes.

Long-term planning (three-month, one year, five years) is one of the more important aspects of the Finance Councils responsibilities. This is to ensure that the Parish/School is being a good steward of the money, in support of the Pastor/Administrator

Seminar presentations were from the Diocesan Director of Finance Peter McPartland; Risk Management Director Donna Foti; Director of Internal Finance Lorraine VanLede-Brown, Director of the Office of Stewardship and Development Carla Repollet, as well as the Executive Director of the Catholic Community Foundation of Southwest Florida Michael Morse.

Because of the complex nature of the Diocese, where each parish/school has its own unique identity and challenges, the gathering about finances was necessarily more of a general overview than a presentation on specific issues. This is because of the great diversity of the Diocese, with unique clusters of population and income ranges.  However, each speaker addressed the most common topics relating to finances. Each seminar also concluded with a question and answer session.

June 20, 2018 Bishop Letter on current Immigration issue

June 20, 2018

Dear Brothers and Sister in Christ,

This is a critical moment in our nation, a land of immigrants. We hear the cries of the children who are being torn away from their parents and family. As the political debate rages, action must be taken, and families need to remain together!

At its core, this is a moral issue, not merely a political debate. This is about the sanctity of the family, a bond that cannot be duplicated or replaced. While we may differ in our views on how to fix the immigration crisis, we can all agree that returning children to their parents must be of utmost priority.

Unlike many of you, I am not a parent, therefore I can only imagine the horror and suffering that takes place when children are torn from their parents’ arms. I can recall, as we all can, as a child the times when separated from our mother and/or father for any length of time – the anguish, the uncertainty and the deep hurt.

Children are being taken from their parents and detained on our border. They have no parent to comfort them as they are exposed to irreparable harm and trauma facing an uncertain future. Is this how we really want to treat children? Does this address basic human dignity? I hear this deep concern shared with me as I travel throughout the Diocese.

The family is the basic unit of society. When families are forcibly pulled apart, society is severely wounded. While every country has the right to secure and safe borders, it is the moral duty of us all to protect children. The government should not tear apart the family.

As brothers and sisters in Christ, pray for the children, parents and families who are suffering separation at our border. Pray that our country, the administration and the lawmakers find a solution to the immigration debate that makes sense and keeps families together.

I stand with my brother Bishops in asking you all to urge lawmakers to put aside politics and act for the moral good – reunite children with their parents!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+ Frank J. Dewane

Bishop of the Diocese of

Venice in Florida

National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty

The faithful are invited to join Bishop Frank J. Dewane in signing a national pledge to end the use of the death penalty.

The Catholic Mobilizing Network’s National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty was announced in Washington, D.C. As Chair of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop Dewane was one of the first signatories who committed to advocate, educate and pray for the end of the use of the death penalty.

For more information on the national pledge, please visit:

Faith at Heart of Recovery


Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

Wearing play “hard hats” and showing a resilience that reflects their age, the students of St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples returned to their battered school on Oct. 2 with smiles and an enthusiasm that was inspiring.

Students at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples pray on Oct. 2, their first day back to school following the devastating impacts of Hurricane Irma which did extensive damage to the school.
With their parents in tow, the students started arriving at the school more than three weeks after they were last there, greeted by Principal Maria Niebuhr and the teachers.
“We have a brand new beginning,” Niebuhr said during the resumption of morning prayer service in the school courtyard which has signs of damage and repair. “We are a work in progress and we are Seton Strong! We are most grateful for God’s Mercy.”

In the courtyard are two statues of St. Elizabeth Seton, one by herself, another surrounded by children reflecting the saint which developed the Catholic school system in the U.S. That the school is open at all is a blessing, Niebuhr explained. She credits Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Diocese Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kristy Swol, and Seton Parish Administrator Father Russell Ruggiero with responding to the immediate needs of the school community and her dedicated staff, the supportive parents, and the busy contractors for making the first day back a reality.

It was on Sept. 10 when Hurricane Irma tore at the heart of Southwest Florida with ferocious winds and flooding rains, but the recovery is well underway. While the damage was extensive, Bishop Dewane has remarked how blessed the Diocese was in comparison to the flooding of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and the destruction Irma and Hurricane Maria wrought on the Caribbean.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane surveys the damage to St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Naples following Hurricane Irma. A large section of the roof was blown off causing debris and insulation to come into the church.

“I am keeping everyone in my prayers,” Bishop Dewane said. “We saw with what happened with Hurricane Maria about how much worse things could have been. Here in the Diocese many have suffered and many are still trying to rebuild. We must continue pray for them all and do all we can to provide the support they need. Christ does not ask of us anything we cannot do. Find comfort in this knowledge and continue to pray as the recovery continues.”

The most serious damage in the region was focused in Collier County, with Golden Gate and East Naples seeing the brunt of the damage. This does not mean other areas were not spared the wrath of Irma, in fact the damage spread out leaving no part of the 10-county Diocese unscathed. Many businesses have suffered leaving many without income for extended periods of time.

A temporary roof and other mitigation including water removal and covering of pews, has been done to St. Elizabeth Seton Parish Church in Naples since Hurricane Irma struck on Sept. 10.

In the three-plus weeks since the Category 4 storm crossed the coast on Marco Island, the Diocese of Venice, led by Bishop Dewane and his senior staff, have been working non-stop to address the damage wrought since the Sept. 10 arrival of Irma.
This work has included visiting properties to assess damage and then bringing in mitigation workers to prevent further problems. Insurance claims have been filed and contractors are being contacted to get work completed as quickly as possible. Of utmost importance has been the health and safety of all people, meaning buildings will not be reoccupied until they are safe.

Work is being done Sept. 21 on the ceiling of the St. Elizabeth Seton Parish Hall in Naples which was damaged during Hurricane Irma.
In some cases, rebuilding is already taking place. At St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, a section of the Church roof was blown off but has already been replaced. However, interior water damage was extensive and those repairs will take months.

Catholic Charities volunteers at the Galeana Center in Fort Myers are hugged while assisting with Hurricane Irma relief.

At St. Ann Parish, the cupola was damaged but has already been fixed. The elementary school building has a great deal of water, but the school reopened on Sept. 25 with a reorganization of classrooms into the middle school building.

To accommodate lost days, Dr. Swol said each Diocesan Catholic School has taken measures to adjust schedules moving forward as they make up for time lost due to the hurricane. Some schools were closed as few as seven days, while others were closed 12 or more. Examples of measures being taken, include giving up pre-scheduled half-days or professional development days, or daily adding 30 minutes of class time.
“Each school is in a different situation,” Dr. Swol added. “However, all schools will complete their academic year as planned and no student will be left behind.”
At the parish-level, those impacted the most, either through damage, power loss or hurricane recovery, are reassessing religious education classes that need to be rescheduled or adjusted to ensure everyone receives the proper formation.

Faith and Ale

Faith and Ale is a Catholic apostolate that offers men an encounter with the Catholic faith and Christ through fellowship and quality Catholic speakers. The next event is from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Thursday, October 19 at Resurrection Parish, 8051 Cypress Lake Drive, Fort Myers. The speaker for this event is Gus Lloyd, Radio Host & Catholic Evangelist “Eleven Attributes of a Magnetic Christian”. For further information, tickets and future dates please visit

“Screenagers, Growing Up in the Digital Age”

Epiphany Cathedral School, Venice is presenting a special screening of the movie “Screenagers, Growing Up In the Digital Age”, 6:30 p.m., Thursday, October 19 (rescheduled due to Hurricane Irma) at Epiphany Cathedral, Parish Hall A, 316 Sarasota St., Venice. This 60 minute film is about the impact of the digital age on children and how to help them minimize harmful effects and find balance. The Moderator of the film is psychologist, Dr. Christopher Cortman. Reservations are requested via email at or by calling 941-615-0284. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.

White Mass & Lecture for Medical Professionals

St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, will hold a White Mass at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, October 18, the Feast of St. Luke, for all medical professionals. Following Mass, a lecture and breakfast will take place in the Parish Center. The lecture is titled “Physician-Assisted Suicide” presented by speaker F. Michael Gloth, III, MD and interlocutor for pastoral insights, Father Michael P. Orsi. There is a $25 fee per person. To register, go to For more information please contact Maggie Brady 239-592-1949. (1 CME Credit)

“Share the Journey” Begins

Staff Report – Florida Catholic


On September 27, Pope Francis launched the worldwide, two-year “Share the Journey” campaign calling on Catholics and the faithful to ‘encounter’ migrants and refugees in an effort to break down barriers of fear, as well as building bridges of understanding and hospitality.

Diocese of Venice logo for “Share the Journey,” an initiative of Pope Francis reaching out to migrants and refugees.


Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) are part of a global network of Caritas organizations participating in the campaign. Together they have launched a new website for the global “Share the Journey” campaign in support of migrants and refugees around the world.

On the Diocese of Venice website, a photo slideshow was posted focusing on the issue, along with a video about a young woman, the adult child of migrant workers, who is now Program Director for Catholic Charities Guadalupe Social Services in Immokalee.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane has called on all parishes in the Diocese to include special prayer intentions for refugees at Masses and to regularly pray for migrants. As the two-year campaign moves forward, additional activities will be taking place.

The USCCB statement announcing the start of the campaign notes that the Pope is asking us to pray and reflect and to use the awareness we build to take action, both personally and publically. To our Church, this campaign is an embodiment of the Biblical command to love our neighbor.

Pope Francis kicked off “Share the Journey” at the Vatican with a symbolic gesture of reaching out to those displaced from their homes, who now number some 65 million around the world, the biggest such crisis since World War II.

“The Holy Father wants us to feel this personally,” says Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA. “Each of us must work to encounter the migrants and refugees who are all around us. All too often, they seem invisible to us. We need to hear their stories, literally share their journeys, and see them as our brothers and sisters.”

The campaign also calls for governments and international organizations to take responsibility for caring for forced migrants, most of whom are fleeing disasters – war, famine, violence – beyond their control.

More information about “Share the Journey” is available on