One week in and students fully engaged

Sounds such as the trudging of feet in the hallways, the ringing of the first bell, morning prayers, and classroom instruction, are what make up a typical school day.

However, the sounds have a new ring in each of the 15 Diocese of Venice Catholic schools as the halls are full with a combined complement of more than 6,200 students. That equates to a record enrollment for the 2023-2024 Academic Year, which began on Aug. 9, 2023.

The first days were full of everyone figuring out where to go, reuniting with old friends or making new ones, participating in their first academic lessons and taking part in any of a myriad of extracurricular activities.

At Diocesan Catholic schools, each student attended an opening Mass, either the first day of school, or within the first week.

Jesuit Father John Belmonte, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, started the year by celebrating Mass for students at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples on Aug. 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Father Belmonte encouraged the students to turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary for guidance as a pathway toward heaven. The solemnity celebrates Mary’s Assumption, body and soul, into heaven and eternal life, so that she might be more fully conformed to her Son, Jesus Christ, the conqueror of death.

“This is another exciting year in our Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools,” Father said. “We are full up with every school having some sort of waitlist. We have new initiatives which are being implemented to ensure that each of our students receives the educational experience that parents have come to expect from the Diocese: that is a quality education that helps to build the mind, body and spirit, all focused on building up the glory of God in the world.”

Diocesan schools have fully integrated the STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) learning model into all classrooms. At the same time, the Diocesan curriculum called, “The Gifts of Christ: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Affability, Fortitude, Humility, and Prudence,” is the norm.

This approach, fully supported through the generosity of Bishop Frank J. Dewane, places students ahead of the curve in primary fields while continuing to promote core Catholic virtues by helping students to develop cognitive thought processes and gain skills such as leadership, communication, complex problem solving, teamwork and creativity.

Many classrooms showed off their STREAM skills in the first days of school with second graders at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers, using blocks to make homes and churches. They created a Tree of Knowledge story/drawing and stained-glass art.

Just after school began, the three Catholic schools in Lee County were the beneficiary of the Catholic Schools Night on Aug. 11, at The Mighty Mussels minor league baseball game at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers. Part of the proceeds benefited St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, as well as St. Francis Xavier and Bishop Verot Catholic High School, both in Fort Myers. The Mighty Mussels mascot visited the students at St. Andrew the morning of the game.

The first Friday at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples was a House Retreat Day, where new students are assigned to one of four Houses which serve as their center of social and school spirit activities throughout the coming year. Each of the four teams competes for points to earn different rewards or prizes throughout the year, with a trophy for the winners at the end.

Students at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice are now participating in daily Mass. This builds upon the lessons from the last school year when the students learned about the Most Holy Eucharist.

At St. Mary Academy in Sarasota, STREAM was part of a fun and messy hands-on lesson with toothpaste. The experiment focused on the question: Can you get all of the toothpaste back into a tube once it is all squeezed out? Some of it might end up back inside, but the majority of it sticks elsewhere. During the expansive lesson, the students learned that our words and actions are like toothpaste. We have to stop and think about what we say and do towards others so that our kindness is what sticks to others. It is very hard to take back unkind words or actions- just as hard as trying to get all of the toothpaste back into the tube. This was such a strong lesson in how words must be chosen carefully and not say things you will regret.

These are just a few of the examples of what took place during the first week of school in the Diocese of Venice and doesn’t even come close to covering the full scope of the exciting things that are taking place each day. Stay tuned as we follow our students throughout the school year.

To learn more about Diocese of Venice Catholic schools, please visit