Galas support Catholic schools

The 50th anniversary of Catholic Schools Week was a great time to have a celebration. Three Catholic schools within the Diocese of Venice finished the week by hosting elegant galas to support Catholic education on Feb. 3, 2024. An additional school hosted a Gala on Feb. 10.

St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring held its inaugural gala, themed “A Night in Siena,” at the Grogan Center of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park. More than 220 took part in the event. Funds raised were designated to go toward adding classroom space in the school at the main campus to accommodate recent growth. During the gala, the school Cantor Club performed and artwork from students was on display.

Founded in 2008, St. Catherine’s is the only Catholic school in the Eastern portion of the Diocese. St. Catherine launched with students in pre-kindergarten-3 through second grade scattered throughout a few buildings near the Parish church. Current enrollment is 213 students, up 115 students in the past few years. Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Catholic Education Jesuit Father John Belmonte attended the Gala and said he was impressed by how much the communities in Highlands and Hardee counties support Catholic education in general and St. Catherine Catholic School specifically.

St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral hosted “A Night of Enchantment” Gala at the Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center in Fort Myers. The evening used this new venue because the gala had outgrown its previous locations as the school has continued its own rapid growth, with more than 635 students at present, nearly double the number from a few years ago. The crowd was entertained by members of the Gulfshore Ballet.

St. Andrew Principal David Nelson said the proceeds from the evening will fund campus security, including the cost of having a Lee County Sheriff’s Schools Resource Officer present for the 2024-2025 Academic Year.

The third Gala on Feb. 3 took place in support of the St. Ann School Foundation at the Naples Jet Center. Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the guest of honor, and the theme for the evening was “Swingin’ Into the Sixties.” The St. Ann School Foundation supports the work of St. Ann Catholic School, which has also undergone tremendous growth to more than 475 students, up nearly 200 students in the past few years. The Gala proceeds will go toward student scholarships and enrichment programs for the students.

Marking its 70th anniversary, the St. Joseph Catholic School “Heritage of Faithfulness” Gala took place on Feb. 10 at the IMG Academy Golf Club, in Bradenton. As with the other Catholic schools, St. Joseph has seen growth of 29% in the past four years, from 224 students to 319. Money raised during the celebration will go toward supporting and expanding the many opportunities offered to the students. Festivities for the evening included live music, silent auction, photobooth, as well as an awards presentation. Dr. William and Karen Soscia were recognized as honorary chairs; James and Marla Doss were presented the Soaring Eagle Award; Angelina “Angel” Colonneso, Esq received the Outstanding Alumni Award, and the Class of 2002 were recognized as the Top Alumni class with donations and attendees. A video presentation about the history of the school was offered, with congratulatory remarks from Bishop Dewane.

As was seen at each of the galas, the enthusiasm for Diocesan Catholic schools knows no boundaries, with many stepping up to help support the tremendous growth seen by Diocesan schools in recent years.