Opportunities to stand witness for Life

The listing below are events planned with the Diocese of Venice during the coming months to help promote a Pro-Life culture.

Catholic Days at the Capitol

The Diocese of Venice is organizing a trip to the annual Catholic Days at the Capitol in Tallahassee from March 7-9, 2023. The three-day trip joins faithful from across Florida and 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. Register by Feb. 6 at https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/respect-life/catholic-days-at-the-capitol/. For further details contact Jeanne Berdeaux at 941-374-1068 or Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org.

Sarasota Prayer Walk for Life

The 25th Annual Sarasota Prayer Walk for Life is 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. The shuttle will run between 9 a.m. and noon. Light refreshments will be available near the bus stop on 7th Street. Questions? Contact Jeanne Berdeaux at Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068.

Fort Myers Prayer Walk for Life

Join others on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22, for the Fort Myers Prayer Walk for Life, beginning with the 8 a.m. Mass at St. John XXIII Parish, 13060 Palomino Lane, will be celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. A bus will shuttle participants to the area in front of Planned Parenthood at 648 Commerce Park Drive (parking is limited) where students will lead the rosary to kick off the 40 Days for Life Spring Campaign. Contact Jeanne Berdeaux at Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068 for additional information.

40 Days for Life Sarasota and Fort Myers

There will be two locations within the Diocese to participate in the 40 Days for Life Spring/Lenten Campaign in Sarasota and Fort Myers which begins Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22 and concludes on Palm Sunday, April 2. This Campaign encompasses 40 days of prayer and fasting for an end to abortion. Stand and peacefully pray during vigils in the public right-of-way outside Planned Parenthood in Fort Myers or Sarasota. Contact your Parish Coordinator for specific information about your Parish’s commitment days. For the 40 Days for Life flier and additional information, please visit www.40daysforlife.com/sarasota or www.40daysforlife.com/fortmyers.

Chastity talk for youth

Teens, grade 7 and older (and their parents), are invited to hear national speaker Pam Stenzel provide her informational talk, “The Courage to be Chaste Teens,” at 6 p.m., Feb. 23, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish Hall, 12001 69 St. E., Parrish. Contact the Parish Office at 941-776-9097 for additional information.

40 Days for Life fall campaign concludes – 4 saves confirmed in Sarasota

All life is precious. For this reason, each fall and spring hundreds gather in front of abortion facilities in the Diocese of Venice praying that unborn children can be saved from the scourge that is abortion.

The 40 Days for Life fall campaign concluded on Nov. 6, 2022, with local efforts taking place in Sarasota and Fort Myers. The campaign began Sept. 28 but was delayed locally due to the arrival and impacts of Hurricane Ian.

Those impacts did not deter the prayer warriors who stood faithfully in front of the two Planned Parenthood abortion facilities as soon as it was safe, about a week after the storm at both sites. Sarasota 40 Days coordinator Rich Owens said people were in front of the downtown regional headquarters of Planned Parenthood the day the facility reopened after the hurricane. “We are here because that monstrosity is here.”

A peaceful, rather than confrontational, effort, the 40 Days for Life prayer campaign takes place in more than 1,000 cities across the United States and in 64 countries. The Diocese of Venice has participated since 2007, the year of the first national campaign. To date, 22,289 babies have been saved and 131 abortion centers have been closed.

Included in that number are four saves at the Sarasota location in just a few weeks. The saves, with the fourth was only recently confirmed, includes moms who come forward to thank the prayer warriors for their presence, which aided them in choosing life.

Many of the moms seeking help in the shadow of the abortion facility in Sarasota are directed to the neighboring Community Pregnancy Clinics (CPCI), a pro-life, free clinic that provides ultrasounds and extensive support for pregnant mothers. CPCI has medical offices in Naples, Fort Myers and Sarasota. In addition, CPCI has mobile clinics which visit rural communities, as well as college campuses, seeking to educate women and men about the pro-life options they have during an unexpected pregnancy.

During a closing vigil Jericho Walk on Nov. 5, Owens led a group of about 30 prayer warriors to rally and continue the fight to end abortion beyond the 40 days. The group circled the abortion facility, led by a banner which read “Viva Christo Rey – By Thy Power May Peace Come,” seven times. At the conclusion a horn blasted as everyone shouted in prayer, just as God told the Israelites in Joshua 6: 4-5, “On the seventh day march around the city seven times, and have the priests blow the horns. When they give a long blast on the ram’s horns and you hear the sound of the horn, all the people shall shout aloud. The wall of the city will collapse, and the people shall attack straight ahead.”

While the walls of the abortion facility did not collapse, the sounds of the prayer warriors resonated and will continue to do so long after the 40 Days fall campaign is concluded.

Owens said participation in the prayer vigil was less than in years past because many falsely believe the June 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade was the end of the battle for life. In reality, the court decision was “a good first step,” but Florida law still allows abortions up to 15 weeks.

“Until that is changed to conception, this fight is not over,” Owens said.

Owens vowed that each day the abortion facility in downtown Sarasota is open, the faithful prayer warriors will be out front praying and standing witness. This vigil takes place on Tuesdays and often several days each week, depending on the hours Planned Parenthood announces.

The 40 Days for Life spring campaign begins Feb. 22, 2023, and concludes on Palm Sunday, April 2.

To learn more about how you can help protect life from conception until natural death, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/respectlife.

Diocesan Respect Life Volunteer of the Year – And the Award Goes To…

Pro-Life movement continues post-Roe

By Jeanne Berdeaux, Special to the Florida Catholic

Every year each Diocese in Florida presents a “Volunteer of the Year” award at the statewide Culture of Life Conference.  At this year’s event (Oct. 15, 2022), hosted by the Diocese of St. Petersburg at its Bethany Retreat Center, Rich Owens was announced as the Diocese of Venice award recipient.

A winter resident from New Jersey and seasonal member of St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota, Owens participated several times in the 40 Days for Life fall campaign in Sarasota. The Diocesan Respect Life Office has been coordinating the campaign since the first national fall campaign in 2007.

In the fall of 2018, Owens asked why there wasn’t a spring campaign in Sarasota.  It was explained that the office had been coordinating spring campaigns in Naples and could only handle one at a time. Besides workload issues, this was the policy of the national 40 Days for Life team. He then offered to lead a spring campaign in Sarasota in 2019. His request was enthusiastically accepted, and information was shared to help him launch this new endeavor. Owens poured lots of hours and effort into making the spring campaign a huge success and then asked if he could take over the management of the fall campaign. Of course, the response was a resounding “YES!”

Owens shared his personal story on a 40 Days for Life national video interview that his son was born prematurely at 28 weeks at 2.7 lb., soon dropping to only 1.13 lbs. He will never forget holding that tiny baby whose head fit in his hand and is now taller than his dad, a testimony to the right to life of even the smallest baby.

With each campaign, Owens worked harder to fill all 480 hours, 12 hours a day for 40 days, with at least two individuals praying on the sidewalk per hour. The spring 2022 campaign saw all but one hour filled.  The good news of the overturning of Roe v Wade created an unexpected problem and caused many people to think that it wasn’t necessary to go out to the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood to pray anymore, but that could not be farther from the truth!

The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in June 2022 did not end abortion; it only sent the decision back to the individual states to be decided by the legislatures. The new 15-week abortion ban passed by the Florida legislature and signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis did not end abortion in Florida.  There were almost 5,000 second-trimester abortions in 2021 out of the total near 80,000 abortions in Florida in the last year.

This new 15-week abortion ban, although laudable, will only cut 6% of the abortions annually based on these figures. It will not affect the other 75,000 abortions. Because abortion is still legal in the first trimester when most abortions happen, Florida has the potential of becoming a “destination abortion state,” drawing women seeking abortions from other states where it is now illegal. The need to be on the sidewalk praying and witnessing to life is greater now than ever!

Some people were afraid to go back to the sidewalk after hearing about violence and vandalism in some parts of the country following the overturning of Roe v Wade. Fortunately, the fall 40 Days for Life campaign was as peaceful as it has ever been over the past 15 years.

As Owens said on the video, “We’re the last line of defense for these women going in; we’re saying, ‘We will fight for you!’”

And so, Owens continues to lead what is known as “40 Days for Life 365” in Sarasota, with the aim of having a peaceful, prayerful presence outside of Planned Parenthood during all of the hours they are open throughout the week. He’s already thinking of new ideas for his eighth campaign during Lent in the spring of 2023. Will you join him?

To learn more about the efforts of the Diocese protecting life from conception to natural death, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/respectlife.

Jeanne Berdeaux is the Diocese of Venice Respect Life Director and can be reached at 941-484-9543 or berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org.

40 Days for Life Sept. 28 – Nov. 6 in Fort Myers, Sarasota

In a post-Roe v. Wade world, there is still a great need to stand in prayerful witness for the unborn. The fall of Roe was just one battle; there are many more ahead in the quest to protect innocent human life.

There is much excitement about the recent Supreme Court decision on the new Texas law severely limiting abortions, but the faithful must remain vigilant, as has been witnessed by the many states proposing or passing legislation making abortion available at various stages of life.

One way to stand as a witness for life is to participate during the fall campaign of 40 Days for Life which begins on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, and runs until Sunday, Nov. 6, with local vigils taking place in Sarasota and Fort Myers.

40 Days for Life is an internationally coordinated 40-day campaign that aims to end abortion locally through prayer and fasting, community outreach, and a peaceful all-day vigil in front of abortion mills. For those unable to be present in front of an abortion facility, they are encouraged to pray from home and fast for the end of abortion. Others are welcome to come to the sidewalk for as short or as long as they wish.

Paula Hellenbrand, 40 Days Fort Myers Co-Coordinator, has been leading the fall prayer vigil in Fort Myers for 12 years with her husband Rick.

“Honestly, with all of our prayers. I never thought we would be on this sidewalk post-Roe v. Wade,” Paula Hellenbrand said while trying to hold back tears during a kickoff event on Sept. 13. “Never! It makes me cry now because I can’t believe it. When we think this isn’t worth our time, or the heat or rain discourage us, know we are making progress. God hears our prayers.”

Having prayerful witnesses in front of abortion facilities serves as a powerful message of hope for those mothers who may think abortion is the only alternative they have for their unborn child, explained Co-Coordinator Rick Hellenbrand. Participants also brought diapers to be given to needy moms through area pregnancy resource centers.

Also speaking during the Fort Myers 40 Days kickoff was Terry Beatley, the founder of the Hosea Initiative. Beatley shared a story of the “Abortion King” Dr. Bernard Nathanson. Beatley explained how Nathanson co-founded the National Abortion Rights Action League (which has since been renamed to NARAL Pro-Choice America) and contributed to the momentum of the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

“He admits to unleashing abortion on America and then saw a baby on an ultrasound and quickly resigned from NARAL,” Beatley said. “The science converted the father of abortion, who trained Planned Parenthood doctors. He became 100 percent unequivocally pro-life and could not figure out any reason why any woman would have to kill her baby.”

The Diocese of Venice has been involved with 40 Days for Life since the beginning with vigils taking place in the fall – to coincide with October, Respect Life Month – and in the spring – during Lent.

The success of 40 Days for Life has been seen locally when women approach vigil participants and tell their story of how their mind was changed by those present who were there to pray for their unborn child. More than 150 cases of lives being saved have been documented.

The Fort Myers prayer vigil is on the public right-of-way in front of Planned Parenthood at 6418 Commerce Park Drive, Fort Myers. The Fort Myers vigil takes place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily.

In Sarasota, the vigil is 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily outside the regional headquarters of Planned Parenthood, 736 Central Ave. A kickoff event will be held at 10:30 a.m., Sept. 28, in the parking lot of the Community Pregnancy Clinic (CPCI), around the corner from Sarasota Planned Parenthood. The guest speaker will be Lisa Rowe, CEO of Support After Abortion, which provides hope and healing to women and men who have experienced pain and grief after an abortion and don’t know where to turn.

Participants in the prayer vigil will join other like-minded individuals in communities around the nation and world. Some commit to taking part for a few minutes, an hour, or all day as they stand in the public right-of-way. Appropriate signs will be provided at both sites but are not needed to stand and pray. Check with your Parish to learn what hours they have committed to 40 Days for Life, as many often commit to several days of prayer on the front lines.

40 Days for Life Sept. 28 to Nov. 6

Sarasota

When: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily,

Where: 736 Central Ave.,

Contact: Rich at  40DFLSarasota@gmail.com

Fort Myers

When: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily,

Where: 6418 Commerce Park Drive,

Contact: Paula and Rick at 40DaysforLifeFM@gmail.com

 

News Briefs for the week of September 2, 2022

Office of the Bishop

After consultation, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announces the following:

Father Inna Reddy (Ignatius) Yeruva, M.o.C., relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar for Ministry at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish/Soup Kitchen in Immokalee, effective August 12, 2022.

Father Nathan Marzonie, O.M.V., as Parochial Vicar of San Pedro Parish in North Port, effective August 22, 2022.

Father Shawn Monahan, O.M.V., as Assistant Director of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center, Venice, effective September 1, 2022.

Father Lino Estadilla, O.M.V., relieved of his duties as Assistant Director of our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center, Venice, effective September 1, 2022, and thus has returned to his Religious Community.

Father Eric Scanlan, is appointed as Director of the Permanent Diaconate Program, Diocese of Venice in Florida, effective September 1, 2022.

28th Annual Undy Sunday coming in October to Collier County

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., in Collier County is hosting its 28th Annual Undy Sunday campaign. This effort is a collection of undergarments and socks for needy children in Collier County. This year, there are three ways to support this cause.

There will be collection containers marked “Undy Sunday” at the Parish exits, for on-site collection the weekends of Oct. 22 – 23, and Oct. 29 – 30. Please bring new and unused underwear and socks in sizes Small, Medium, and Large for children ages 5 -14.

The Undy Sunday team has an Amazon Charity Wish List where you can find current needs at https://smile.amazon.com/hz/charitylist/ls/R7GC9KYLQEIF/ref=smi_ext_lnk_lcl_cl.

You can make a monetary donation using a secure online donor portal of Catholic Charities: https://one.bidpal.net/undysunday. All monetary donations will be used to purchase underwear and socks for the needy children. Any questions or comments, please contact Undy Sunday coordinators Mike Egan at 239-333-9933 or Tim Corcoran at 781-799-5486, or Catholic Charities at 239-455-2655 ext. 3100.

Mooney senior excels at international swim competition

Michaela Mattes, a world class swimmer who is in her senior year at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, recently helped lift TEAM USA to a win at the Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Honolulu, Hawaii from Aug. 24 to 27, 2022. Michaela finished the meet winning gold in the 1500m (mile) freestyle with a time of 16:25.19, and placed 3rd in the 800m freestyle in 8:35.78. She also placed 5th in the 400 individual medley and 9th in the 400 freestyle. Michaela was the overall 3rd top scorer for the USA women. With this Cougar’s help, TEAM USA won the Junior Pan PAC meet! The team consisted of 20 girls and 21 boys who were the fastest 18 & under (born in 2004 or later) from the US International Trials in April. The senior, who is a three-time State Champ in the 500m freestyle, is committed to swimming at the University of Florida starting in 2023.

Diapers urgently needed in Bonita Springs

Please do what you can to provide diapers to the Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., office in Bonita Springs, 28360 Beaumont Rd, Bonita Springs, FL 34134. They have put out a call as they are in dire need for diapers for clients because their shelves are bare. A donor who use to provide them in the past, has moved away. They particularly need sizes 5 & 6 for toddlers, as well as sizes 3 & 4 for newborns (not so much the smaller sizes). The Catholic Charities office is next to St. Leo the Great Parish and can be reached by calling 239-390-2928. You can also donate directly to Catholic Charities by visiting www.catholiccharitiesdov.org/donate.

Young students build robots and follow moon mission

A robotics class at St. Ann Catholic School in Naples had fun building and coding space rovers in anticipation of the NASA Artemis I rocket launch on Aug. 29, 2022. While the rocket never blasted off, the students had a blast building their miniature rovers and some even built rockets using Lego. These specialized skills are being learned as part of a broader STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) curriculum. This curriculum, guided by “The Gifts of Christ: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Affability, Fortitude, Humility, and Prudence,” grew out of a robotics program, and has expanded to enhance the spiritual and academic opportunities for students. With Artemis missions, NASA will collaborate with commercial and international partners and establish the first long-term presence on the Moon. Then they will use what they learn on and around the Moon to take the next giant leap: sending the first astronauts to Mars.

Married couples’ night in Fort Myers

The Hispanic Outreach of Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers celebrated married couples with a special dinner/dance on Aug. 26, 2022. The evening included prayer, a delicious meal and dancing. This was a gathering in celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage and the commitment of the couples to each other, through God. The theme of the night was “God once again manifests Himself through His word, remembering that those who once put their lives together was through the love of God.”

Viking Class golf tournament in Fort Myers

The annual Bishop Verot Catholic High School Athletic Booster Viking Golf Classic is Oct. 15, 2022, at Stoneybrook Golf Club, 21251 Stoneybrook Gold Blvd., Estero. There is an 8 a.m. shotgun start. Take your best shot on a few holes, as there will be some mini-games: hole-in-one contest, longest drive, and closest to the pin. After the tournament, enjoy a luncheon at the clubhouse, complete with raffles and a silent auction! Tickets are $150/person or $600/group. Sponsorships at multiple tiers are available. Reach out to Jason Baumgardner for more information at either jason.baumgardner@bvhs.org or 239-274-6711.

Fans come out for football opener in Sarasota

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School students, parents, alumni and friends came out in droves to support the Cougars for the opening of the football season on Aug. 26, 2022, against Booker High School in Sarasota. The Cougars won the defensive battle 10-9 and have high hopes for the coming season. It was great to see so many familiar faces in the crowd cheering on the team.

5K Walk/Run for Life Oct. 8 in Naples

The 8th Annual St. Agnes 5K Walk/Run for Life will be held Oct. 8, 2022, with the goal of promoting a respect life message and raising funds for pro-life causes while encouraging healthy living (body and soul). Registration is at the Parish at 6 a.m., with the race at 7:15 a.m., at 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road in Naples. Only those registering by Oct. 2, will receive a race shirt. Registration is open at www.stagnesnaples.org. For more information, please call 239-592-1949 or email deaconroberto@stagnesnaples.org.

First Responders Mass

The Knights of Columbus Saints Cosmas and Damian Council 13341 is honored to sponsor the First Responders Mass at 1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 10, Our Lady of the Angels Parish, 12905 E. State Road 70, Lakewood Ranch. The Mass will honor the work of public safety personnel, including law enforcement officials, firefighters, and emergency medical service personnel. This Mass is a way to recognize the sacrifice of first responders and to remember those who have given their lives in service to their communities. All are welcome.

40 Days for Life Fall Campaign begins soon

The Fall Campaign of 40 Days for Life begins Sept. 28 and ends Nov. 6, 2022. Check with your Parish coordinator to join your Parish’s day on the sidewalk or go to www.40daysforlife.com (look under the locations tab for Sarasota or Fort Myers). Your presence can be a powerful sign to women in need that there are better options available. Questions? Contact Jeanne Berdeaux at Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068. Join the 40 Days for Life Fort Myers kickoff event at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 13, outside of Planned Parenthood, 6418 Commerce Park Drive, Fort Myers. The event will be highlighted by national pro-life speaker and author Terry Beatley. The Kick-Off Rally in Sarasota is from 10:30 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, Sept. 28, at the Community Pregnancy Clinic, 1419 7th St., Sarasota (around the corner from Planned Parenthood). The guest speaker will be Lisa Rowe, CEO of Support After Abortion.

Priest appreciation dinners coming soon

The Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women invites all to one of two Priest Appreciation Dinners the group is hosting. The dinners are intended to honor all priests serving in the Diocese. The first dinner is 6 p.m. – 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 16, at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Hall, 1301 Center Road, Venice, while the second is at the same time on Friday, October 7, at Our Lady of Light Parish, 19680 Cypress View Drive, Fort Myers. The dinner is $45. For those interested in attending either dinner, please contact Ellen Bachman at 941-721-7393 or pennyln99@aol.com.

Eucharistic Conference in September

Inspired by the National Eucharistic Revival movement, St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples is creating the opportunity for people to learn more about Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. The one-day Eucharistic Conference is 9 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. The day features talks and worship music in both English and Spanish. There are sessions only in Spanish at the same time as the only English sessions followed by Eucharistic worship in both languages. Father Casey Jones, Pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton, and Jon Niven, Music Director at Seton, are hosting the English track. Special guests Juan De La Rosa, Director de la Renovación Carismática and Fernando Torres, Ministerio Agnes Dei Líder de Adoración, both from the Archdiocese of New York, are hosting the Spanish sessions. The day will end with a bilingual Vigil Mass at 4:30 pm. Breakfast and lunch are provided. Cost is $10 per person. Registration is on Seton’s website, www.StElizabethSeton.org. The Parish is located at 5225 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples. Please call 239-455-3900 for any additional information.

White Mass for Healthcare Professionals in Naples

Registration is now open for the annual White Mass for health care professionals at 8:30 a.m., Oct. 15, 2022, at St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples. A blessing of the stethoscopes will also be held. Physicians are asked to wear their white coats. There will be a breakfast and lecture in the Parish Center with guest speaker Dr. Christina Puchalski, a pioneer and international leader in the movement to integrate spirituality into healthcare in clinical settings and medical education. Physicians and nurses may qualify for continuing education credit. For more information, and to register, please visit www.stagnesnaples.org.

Sarasota Laps for Life Oct. 8

Join the Sarasota Laps for Life 5K on Siesta Key Beach from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. This year the Knights of Columbus are running to benefit SOLVE maternity homes in Bradenton, Sarasota and Englewood. SOLVE provides cost-free housing, counseling and support for women and teens with unintended pregnancies. Why run? Promote a culture that encourages life in abundance by providing the support and resources available for both mother and child so they can flourish. Join us as we celebrate life in abundance! See www.srqlapsforlife.net for details and registration.

 

Witnessing for Life a 365-day effort

The 40 Days for Life peaceful spring campaign in Sarasota and Fort Myers came to a successful conclusion on April 10, 2021, but there is more work to do. In fact, there is day 41 and beyond as people are needed 365 days to unfailingly stand as a witness for life, the voice of the voiceless – the unborn.

The 40 Days for Life 365 is an effort to ensure that whenever a local abortion facility exists, whether surgical abortions are taking place or not, the faithful are present showing compassion and support for those who enter such facilities.

Rich Owens, the Sarasota 40 Days for Life campaign organizer, spoke during a Candlelight Vigil on April 9 in front of the regional headquarters of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortionists in the nation. He focused on how the 12-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week coverage makes a difference with five confirmed unborn babies saved since the start of 2022.

“You don’t know who you are going to impact,” Owens said. “There were 21 babies saved because of our vigil outside of this monstrosity (Planned Parenthood) last year. The most recent save we had was of a woman who approached one of us and said: ‘There were people here three years ago. Here is a picture of my 3-year-old, because you are here.’ It mattered to this girl, and it matters to the five we have saved since the start of the year. But it is more than that, it is the 10 souls (mothers and fathers) who don’t have to go through the pain and emotional physical and spiritual suffering of having killed their child.”

The 40 Days for Life spring campaign began Ash Wednesday (March 2) in thousands of locations in the United States and around the world with 455 babies saved. The local campaigns in Sarasota and Fort Myers benefitted from the support of local churches, both Catholic and other Christian denominations. Each church selects a day for coverage to ensure all hours are filled. Faithful from Parishes in the northern areas of the Diocese stand witness in Sarasota, while those from the central and southern regions are witnesses outside the Fort Myers Planned Parenthood. Participants can stand vigil for as much time as they wish. Signs are provided for those who want them, while others pray the rosary.

An expansion to 365 days is a daunting challenge even as both Diocesan locations have teams of dedicated prayer warriors and trained sidewalk counselors who are present on surgical abortion days (several days a week). The need for 365-day coverage comes from the reality that pre-surgery appointments and abortion-inducing drugs are offered at any time.

Maureen Nash, the 40 Days for Life leader in Fort Myers, explained that surgical abortions are performed at the Lee County facility on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“We make sure that those days are covered throughout the year,” Nash said. “Along with our prayer warriors, Wednesday and Thursday we have Sidewalk Advocates for Life and the mobile van with ultrasound equipment available brought to us by Community Pregnancy Clinics Inc.”

It is the effort to keep the Pro-Life campaign going that matters now, Nash added.

While there has been encouraging news from state Legislators regarding limiting access to abortion in Florida, and there is hope the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade (the decision that paved the way for unlimited legalized abortion in the U.S.); it is too early to celebrate a victory.

Owens said that in Sarasota the loss of one life to abortion is one too many and that the vigils will continue until this scourge on humanity ceases.

For 40 Days for Life 365 information on the two Diocesan locations, please go to www.40daysforlife.com/sarasota or www.40daysforlife.com/fortmyers. The Fort Myers prayer vigil takes place at 6418 Commerce Park Drive, while Sarasota prayer vigil is at 736 Central Ave.

For more information about ongoing efforts to defend life from conception to natural death within the Diocese of Venice, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/respectlife or contact Jeanne Berdeaux at 941-484-9543 or berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org.

40 Days for Life spring campaign opens

Praying for life and the unborn has taken on a renewed urgency in recent months with the hope that comes with the possibility that the landmark Roe vs. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision might be overturned soon.

“These are exciting times,” said Janice Cooper of Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers, as she took part in the opening Candlelight Prayer Vigil for the 40 Days for Life spring campaign on March 1, 2022, in front of a Planned Parenthood abortion facility. “Years of praying may be coming to fruition.”

Father Ricky Varner, Pastor of St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral, opened the vigil and remarked that those gathered were peacefully joined together in prayer to promote a culture of life and love. Father added that it is indifference to the moral teachings of Christ which has created a culture where many have no regard for innocent human life, particularly of the unborn.

“We are here because of how sacred life is – babies, human beings inside their mother’s womb, who belong to God,” Father Varner continued. “Our prayers for life rise up throughout the world as part of 40 Days for Life. Jesus Himself showed us that prayer and fasting are the most effective forces against evil.”

Also speaking during the opening vigil were Paul and Ivette Ladato of the Christian TV Network SWFL. The vigil was livestreamed through Christian TV Network and will also be available nationally on the station which has affiliates throughout the country.

The Prayer Vigil in Fort Myers kicks off the spring campaign which officially runs from March 2 to April 10. A campaign in Sarasota will also be taking place throughout Lent.

This year, the 40 Days for Life has 588 cities participating in what is described by 40 Days Co-Founder and CEO Shawn Carney as one of the largest mobilizations of pro-lifers in history. The Diocese of Venice has been active in the 40 Days for Life movement since its inception in 2007.

The excitement for change in the Pro-Life movement comes from a pivotal Mississippi abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that many see as the best chance to change the law that has led to more than 62 million abortions across the United States. A decision in the case isn’t expected until the end of the court’s term in June.

Anyone interested in standing peacefully and praying during local 40 Days for Life vigils will do so in the public right-of-way outside Planned Parenthood in Fort Myers or Sarasota.

The Fort Myers prayer vigil is 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday to Saturday, at 6418 Commerce Park Drive. The Sarasota prayer vigil is daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 736 Central Ave.

Check with your local Parish to learn the days they are committed to standing up for life. Most participants are encouraged to spend at least one hour in silent prayer in front of a local abortion facility seeking an end to legalized abortion in the U.S.

With a landmark case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, there has never been more reason for hope and prayer. For 40 Days for Life information on the two Diocesan locations, please go to www.40daysforlife.com/sarasota or www.40daysforlife.com/fortmyers.

For more information about ongoing efforts to defend life from conception to natural death within the Diocese of Venice, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/respectlife or contact Jeanne Berdeaux at 941-484-9543 or berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org.

40 Days for Life Sept. 22-Oct. 31 in Fort Myers, Sarasota

The fall campaign of 40 Days for Life begins on Sept. 22, 2021 and runs until Sunday, Oct. 31, with local vigils taking place in Sarasota and Fort Myers.

40 Days for Life is an internationally coordinated 40-day campaign that aims to end abortion locally through prayer and fasting, community outreach, and a peaceful all-day vigil in front of abortion businesses. For those not yet ready to be among crowds due to the pandemic, they are encouraged to pray from home and fast for the end of abortion. Others are welcome to come to the sidewalk and social distance to their level of comfort.

Diocese of Venice Respect Life Director Jeanne Berdeaux said having prayerful witnesses in front of abortion facilities serves as a powerful message of hope for those mothers who may think abortion is the only alternative they have for their unborn child.

“There is much excitement about the recent Supreme Court decision on the new Texas law severely limiting abortions, but we must remain vigilant,” Berdeaux said. “That was just one battle, but there are many more ahead in our quest to protect innocent human life. Planned Parenthood in our area continues to destroy little boys and girls in the womb every week. They continue to hurt women emotionally and physically.  Many men who have no legal right in an abortion decision continue to be devastated or are not even aware of an impending abortion of their own child.”

Berdeaux stressed the need for the faithful to go to the sidewalk, in front of the centers where children die, to be a public witness, “to be the sign that unsure women seek that they should not keep the abortion appointment.  People need to know that there is something seriously wrong with what is going on inside of the abortion facility.”

40 Days for Life is an opportunity to be that witness by peacefully praying for an end to abortion where it matters most and finding out that it’s not so scary after all when you join with other like-minded Christians.

The Diocese of Venice has been involved with 40 Days for Life since the beginning with vigils taking place in the fall – to coincide with October, Respect Life Month – and in the spring – during Lent.

The success of 40 Days for Life has been seen locally when women approach vigil participants and tell their story of how their mind was changed by those present who were there to pray for their unborn child. More than 150 cases of lives being saved have been documented.

The Fort Myers prayer vigil is on the public right-of-way in front of Planned Parenthood at 6418 Commerce Park Drive, Fort Myers. An opening prayer vigil will take place 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 21 and has become an annual tradition in Fort Myers, serving as a rallying point for the long 40 days ahead. The Fort Myers vigil takes place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily.

In Sarasota, the vigil is 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily outside the regional headquarters of Planned Parenthood, 736 Central Ave. A kickoff event will be held at 10:30 a.m., Sept. 22, in the parking lot of the Community Pregnancy Clinic (CPCI), around the corner from Sarasota Planned Parenthood. Brian Harkins, of the St Thomas More Parish Knights of Columbus, will be the Leader for the Rally. The guest speaker will be Angie Carey, Executive Director of “A Bond of Love Adoption Agency.” Learn about another critical, life-saving pro-life ministry!!

Participants in the prayer vigil will be joining other like-minded individuals in communities around the nation and world. Some commit to taking part for a few minutes, an hour, or all day as they stand in the public right-of-way. Appropriate signs will be provided at both sites but are not needed to stand and pray. Check with your Parish to learn what hours they have committed to 40 Days for Life, as many often commit to several days of prayer on the front lines.

Those interested in taking part in a local prayer vigil are encouraged to sign up in advance at www.40daysforlife.com (search for Fort Myers or Sarasota). While registration is encouraged, all are welcome to come for any amount of time they can to help save a life.

 

40 Days for Life Sept. 23-Nov. 1

Sarasota campaign details

When: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily,

Where: 736 Central Ave.;

Contact: Rich 40DFLSarasota@gmail.com

Fort Myers campaign details

When: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily;

Where: 6418 Commerce Park Drive;

Contact: Paula and Rick at 40DaysforLifeFM@gmail.com

Bishop ignites 40 Days Spring Campaign

The 40 Days for Life Spring Campaign seeking an end to abortion in the U.S. commenced on Ash Wednesday. Present at the opening vigil in Fort Myers were more than 200 people, including students from two Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was at the head of the vigil on Feb. 17, 2021, encouraging everyone present to be strong as they stand up to end an evil that plagues society: the taking of innocent life. “It is part of our Lenten journey to give ever more to life in every way, and participation in this vigil is an important step,” Bishop Dewane said.

Students from Bishop Verot Catholic High School and Donahue Academy of Ave Maria took part in the vigil. First, they took part in an opening procession as escorts of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary to a podium across from the Planned Parenthood abortion facility. The students then led the praying of the rosary and heard from several speakers who shared their passion for life while holding up signs such as “Pray to End Abortion,” “Smile, Your Parents Chose Life,” and more.

The sight of the students filled the hearts of the older participants with joy upon hearing that the youth were part of the respective school’s Pro-Life club. The students are actively learning and sharing what they know about Church Teaching and the sanctity of all life from conception to natural deaths with their peers, while participating in a variety of other activities throughout the year.

“It is heartwarming to see the young people out here,” said 72-year-old Susan Byrd of St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers. “It is their generation that is being harmed and we need them to take up the mantle in speaking out for the unborn.”

One Bishop Verot student said she was proud to be a part of the opening for the 40 Days for Life Spring Campaign and plans to return during the coming weeks. “We were not able to go to the national March for Life because of the Pandemic, but I am so glad we could be here. The message of life needs to be heard here!”

Another 40 Days for Life Spring Campaign can be found in Sarasota, where more than 80 took part in the opening vigil. The two Diocesan campaigns are part of the larger national effort which this year include 567 cities and continues through March 28.

Bishop Dewane said that many make the issue of life a political one, when in reality it is a moral issue.

“Failing to protect life is a moral evil that threatens the dignity of each and every human being in the world today,” the Bishop continued. “For this reason, the Catholic Church and U.S. Bishops have been unwavering and outspoken in their stance on this issue.”

For more information about how you can participate in the 40 Days for Life Spring Campaign within the Diocese, go to www.40daysforlife.com and click on the location nearest you. You can also contact your Parish Life Coordinator for specific information about your Parish’s commitment days.

Cape Coral honored as Diocesan Respect Life volunteers

A Cape Coral couple with a passion for promoting a culture of life was honored with the 2020 Diocese Respect Life Volunteers of the Year at the 34th Annual Culture of Life Statewide Conference on Oct. 24, 2020 which was livestreamed from the Diocese of Palm Beach.

Rick and Paula Hellenbrand from St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral organized the first 40 Days for Life fall campaign in Fort Myers in 2011 and have been leading the campaign ever since. This year marks their 10th fall campaign. The award was presented to the Hellenbrand’s at the opening Vigil of the 40 Days for Life Fall Campaign on Sept. 22, 2020, in lieu of a personal presentation at the Conference.

In her nomination of the Hellenbrands, Jeanne Berdeaux, Diocese of Venice Respect Life Director, wrote: “It’s amazing that they have been able to run successful campaigns every year while operating a successful real estate business. Rick has also served as his Knights of Columbus Council’s Culture of Life Chairman and Grand Knight. We thank them for their hard work and continued dedication to promoting a greater respect for all human life.”

The couple expressed their deep gratitude in being recognized by the Diocese of Venice as the recipients of this award.

“Managing the 40 Days for Life Fall campaign over the past 10 years has been fruitful in protecting the lives of the innocent children,” Rick Hellenbrand stated. “As husband and wife, parents and now grandparents, to serve in such a lifesaving capacity is its own reward. None of which is possible without the many pro-life warriors who are equally engaged on the sidewalks throughout the Diocese to do the same to defend life in its earliest stages. We are humbled and filled with gratitude to receive such an honor.”

While the honor as Diocesan Volunteers of the Year was special for the couple, Rick Hellenbrand concluded by saying there is an ultimate goal to this effort. “It is with much appreciation that this award is received, and with hopes that the efforts of all volunteers together we will soon win this battle to end abortion forever.”

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