In ways large and small the faithful of the Diocese of Venice commemorated the 21st Anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States with reflection and prayer.
St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples hosted its annual 9/11 Memorial Mass on Sept. 11, 2022. The Parish is home to a 9/11 Cross made from the steel of the World Trade Center and has hosted a commemorative Mass each year since 2001. Father Gerard Critch, Pastor of St. Peter’s, served as a Chaplain at Ground Zero during the initial search and recovery process following the terror attacks in New York City.
Father Francis Critch, Order of Franciscan Minor, celebrated Mass in lieu of his brother, Father Gerard, who is recovering from an illness. During the Mass, Father Francis Critch, who previously served in New York City, reflected on the courage and sacrifice of the First Responders, noting the first official death was fellow Franciscan Friar, Father Mychal Judge, Chaplain of the New York Fire Department.
Father Critch reflected upon those First Responders who sacrificed everything to save others in the face of evil.
“Be kind to each other, show love and be heralds of hope,” Father said. “This is what we are and continue to be. Their presence brought hope and guidance to the many who were saved that day. Many more would have died if not for their strength and courage… Fear was overcome, they were a light in darkness, for they understood their purpose and their vocation – dedication without thought. We are eternally grateful.”
Prior to the Mass, bagpipers led a procession of retired members of the FDNY and New York Police Department. At the close of the Mass, a fire bell was rung with the code- 5-5-5-5, which announces the death of a fire service member. In the Parish narthex were images of the fallen Fire Responders and a piece of steel from the World Trade Center.
The Knights of Columbus Saints Cosmas and Damian Council 13341 sponsored a First Responders Mass on Sept. 10, at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch. Parochial Vicar Father Shawn Roser celebrated the Mass, and reflected on the continued importance of First Responders and those who answered the call to serve in the military following 9/11. A Blue Mass was celebrated at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice on Sept. 11. Both Masses honored the work of First Responders, including law enforcement officials, firefighters, and emergency medical service personnel.
A special prayer service took place in the Memorial Garden of St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers on Sept. 11. This service included the dedication of a new 9/11 memorial sculpture which includes pieces of the World Trade Center. The sculpture was installed in March 2022.
Recognizing the need to keep the memory of the tragic events of 9/11 alive for the next generation, Diocesan Catholic schools hosted a variety of activities, such as prayer services, dressing in patriotic colors and understanding an event that happened before they were born.
Continuing a standing tradition, students at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers participated in a Red, White and Blue Dress Out fundraiser on Sept. 9, with proceeds going to the “Tunnel to Towers Foundation.” The Foundation was created in honor of Fire Department of New York (FDNY) member Stephen Gerard Siller, who was headed home following his shift on Sept. 11, 2001, when he heard the call. Though blocked by traffic, he then proceeded to run in full gear across the Brooklyn Bridge to the Twin Towers where he later perished.
At St. Mary Academy in Sarasota, the students commemorated the day by reading and discussing the book “The Man Who Walked Between the Towers” by Mordicai Gerstein. The students learned about the significance of what happened in 2001 and gained an understanding about the importance of forever honoring those lost on 9/11.