Bishop participates in September 11 Commemoration

With overhead storm clouds matching heavy hearts on the evening of September 11, 2021, Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of the Diocese of Venice, joined more than a thousand for the 20th Commemoration Ceremony of the 9/11 attacks, held at the Sarasota National Cemetery. The event was organized by the Sarasota Ministerial Association.

Bishop Dewane, joined by several Diocesan priests and deacons at the ceremony, offered the Invocation, asking Our Lord God of Peace to bring that same peace to a world that is often violent.

“We pray for your peace as we remember the terrorist attacks of 9/11,” said Bishop Dewane. “May our suffering awaken in us the awareness, pain and fear that so many live with each day.”

The Bishop also asked Our Lord to show us how to pray for those who struggle against oppression and injustice, and he asked for God to give world leaders wisdom and discernment.

Dozens of community leaders from a wide variety of police and fire departments also addressed the crowd with words of inspiration and hope, as they encouraged all to never forget the nearly 3000 lives lost on that tragic day, including 343 FDNY firefighters who fought valiantly to reach those trapped in the twin towers.

Attendees were given a carnation to place on a canvas, which when filled produced the American Flag.  Commemorative coins were given to survivors of the attacks and to those who served our Country in the military.

One former U.S. Marine, who also received a commemorative coin for his military service, said the 9/11 gathering was the right thing for all to attend as to never forget the pain of that day.

9/11 Commemorations from around the Diocese

In ways large and small the faithful of the Diocese of Venice commemorated the 20th Anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States with reflection and prayer.

Students in Diocesan Catholic Schools took part in prayer services, dressed in patriotic colors and learned about an event that happened before they were born. The students at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers participated in a Red, White and Blue Dress Out fundraiser on Sept. 8, 2021 with proceeds going to the “Tunnel to Towers Foundation” (  The Foundation was created in honor of Fire Department of New York 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.

On Sept. 9, during their lunch periods, the Verot students were given the opportunity to share in discussion with some of the staff members about the events of 9/11 and their lasting impact.

Meanwhile, St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy held a prayer service on Sept. 10 with students encouraged to wear red, white and blue. The service was to further promote peace and tolerance.  The funds raised will be used to purchase a Peace Pole and benches.

Diocesan Parishes also hosted a variety of prayer services and commemorations.

St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples hosted its annual 9/11 Memorial Mass on Sept. 11.  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.

Our Lady of the Angels Parish and the Knights of Columbus of the Saints Cosmas and Damian Council 13341, hosted a Blue Mass on Sept. 11 in honor of the work of public safety personnel including law enforcement, firefighters, and emergency medical services personal.

Leading up to the 20th Anniversary, St. Agnes Parish in Naples hosted a Peace Novena from Sept. 3 to Sept. 11. The novena served a dual purpose of commemorating the terror attacks and marking the end of the war in Afghanistan with its recent tragic consequences. The final prayer service on Sept. 11 included special decorations, a candle lighting ceremony, scripture readings, a brief homily, intercessions, the completion of the Novena, and music, prior to Mass. The faithful were able to follow the entire novena through the Parish website.

These are just some of the examples of how the faithful of the Diocese marked this anniversary all unified in prayer that no one will ever forget the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, and to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

Bishop to deliver invocation at Sarasota 9/11 commemoration

Bishop Frank J. Dewane will deliver the invocation for the 20-Year Commemoration of 9/11 being held in Patriot Plaza at Sarasota National Cemetery.

The Commemoration, organized by the Sarasota Ministerial Association, will begin at 6 p.m., Sept. 11, 2021, the anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks on the United States. The memory of those who died will be honored. All first responders, active military, POW/MIA and veterans will also be recognized. There will be a call for all Americans to the “Unity of One Nation Under God.”

In the days leading up to the Commemoration, those interested can choose to represent a person who was killed on September 11 by standing at the appropriate time during the ceremony. Names of the deceased can be selected at During the Commemoration all will be invited to stand and state the name of the Fallen during the Sarasota Fire Department’s “Tolling of the Bell.” Later in the service, participants will again be invited to stand for their Fallen while the bagpipers play Amazing Grace.

For the first 500 attendees arriving to the Commemoration, flowers will be presented and placed in a mesh that will eventually become Old Glory, the American flag, located in front of the stage. Those arriving before 5:55 p.m., may place memorabilia of their chosen Fallen on the Gallery surrounding the American” flag of flowers.”

Several priests from across the Diocese will also be present for the Commemoration and process in with other clergy and distinguished presenters during the opening. In addition to guest speakers, a 70-member community chorus will perform. Special commemorative coins have been minted to mark the occasion and will be presented to 9 /11 Survivors, First Responders, military veterans, active-duty military, and Sarasota Elk Lodge member in attendance.

The Commemoration continues the tradition that began, September 11, 2001 when the Sarasota Ministerial Association held a prayer vigil. During the morning attacks, then-Mayor Carolyn Mason called the Ministerial Association co-founder Chaplain Tom Pfaff to summon a prayer gathering for America. By 4:30 p.m. more than 20 clergy came to the Chaplain J.D. Hamel Park Sarasota War Memorial on the Bayfront to worship God and pray. Every five years since then, the Ministerial Association has become a lead organizer for the Commemoration.

Everyone is welcome to this free 9/11 Commemoration at Sarasota National Cemetery, 9810 State Road 72 (Clark Road), Sarasota. The rain date will be 6 p.m., Sept. 12.

For those unable to attend the Sarasota 9/11 Commemoration, St. Peter the Apostle Parish, 5130 Rattlesnake Hammock Road, Naples, will once again be having its annual 9/11 Memorial Mass at 3:30 p.m., Sept. 11.  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. For more information, please contact St. Peter the Apostle Parish at 239-774-3337 ext. 201.

Schools, Parish mark 9/11 anniversary

A global pandemic could not diminish the memories of Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists struck in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, leaving behind thousands of dead while showing the world the face of true heroism.

The 19th Anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks was marked throughout the Diocese of Venice at Parishes and Catholic schools. Toned-down a bit because of the pandemic, the commemorations still had powerful meaning for those who participated.

An annual 9/11 Memorial Mass took place at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples, where retired New York Police and Fire Department members participated at the home of the 9/11 Cross, a cross rendered out of the steel of the collapsed South Tower of the destroyed World Trade Center.

Father Gerard Critch, Pastor of St. Peter the Apostle, worked at Ground Zero for several weeks following the terror attacks and spoke about the vivid memories and scars people carry from that day, both externally and internally.

“We gather not in a spirit of vengeance and anger, but in a spirit of hope,” Father Critch said. “We pay tribute and remember what was lost, but we also remember what we are all called to be; the light of Christ in the world.”

At St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota, third graders in Christina Via-Reque’s class learned about and honored the memory of September 11th with several different activities. One included reading Heroes mini-book which focuses on specific heroes, such as police, firefighters, doctors and nurses, military, teachers and more. The students also created an Agamograph, which is a colored foldable art piece that looks different when you look at it at different angles. The message on one side was “9-11” and the other side read “We Remember.”

“The kids were totally engaged all day and loved learning about 9/11 and seeing how America came together to help one another during such a tragic time,” Via-Reque said. “They had many questions that led to long discussions about what it means to be a Hero in our society and that even they themselves can be Heroes in their communities.”

Students at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers were invited to dress in red, white, and blue, in observance of Patriot Day, a national day of service and remembrance. This annual tradition serves to remind students about the significance of the day, as none of the students were born in 2001, and the wearing of different clothes than the school uniform also serves as a fundraiser. Combined, the students raised more than $2,000 in support of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which provides a mortgage free home to families of fallen soldiers and first responders with small children.

A 9/11 Tribute ceremony took place following Mass for students at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples. Led by grades 5-8, the Tribute honored and remembered those who lost their lives on that fateful day while also recognizing the ongoing efforts of local first responders to keep everyone safe. During the ceremony, students placed several items beside a red, white and blue wreath, including scrolls printed with the names of 9-11 victims; roses; and flags. The school also dedicated an inscribed brick to be placed at the Collier County Freedom Memorial located on Golden Gate Parkway. Present for the ceremony were several local dignitaries and first responders.

These were just a sample of the many commemorations which took place across the Diocese.

Solemn Mass commemorates 9-11

Bob Reddy – Naples – It has been eighteen Septembers since the terrorist attacks on the U.S. shocked the world. Images of destruction, death and fear were seared into the minds of those who watched from afar and are felt deeply in the souls of those who were there in person.

St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples hosted an annual Mass on Sept. 11 to commemorate the 18th anniversary since the terror attacks on the U.S. It was in 2001 when terrorist hijacked four airliners and ultimately destroyed the World Trade Center in New York, damaged the Pentagon and caused another airliner to crash in Pennsylvania killing nearly 3,000 and bringing horror to the nation and world.

The main celebrant for the Mass was Father Gerard “G” Critch, Pastor of St. Peter the Apostle, who served as a chaplain next to the fallen towers during the recovery operations. “For those of us who were on the rescue and recovery mission, like myself, this is a very difficult Mass,” Father Critch said as he struggled to continue. “Let’s face it – even after 18 years it doesn’t get easier.”

The opening procession was led by bagpipers playing “Amazing Grace,” followed by retired officers of the New York Police Department and members of the Fire Department of New York.

Propped on the steps of the altar was a display of the 9-11 Cross, made from the steel of the World Trade Center which is normally in the Parish Chapel. In addition, there was a piece of rubble from the Pentagon.

During the Mass, Father Critch asked all to pray for those who lost their lives in 2001, and all those in the past 18 years who have suffered in different ways in the aftermath of that horrific day and seek comfort in their lives. “We cry out to the God of healing love to give us His mercy,” Father added.

Even 18 years later, Father Critch noted that to endure we must have a solid foundation upon which to draw strength, to draw consolation, and underpinning all of this foundation “is Love, which Jesus offers to all of us.”

After the conclusion of the Mass, a retired New York City firefighter spoke about how when a member of the Fire Department of New York dies, the code 5-5-5-5 is broadcast to all stations over the radio. A fire bell was subsequently rung in this manner to not only honor 343 firefighters who died on Sept. 11, 2001, but to all who died.

A display in the narthex from the Gulf Coast Retired Firefighters Association included a beam from the World Trade Center as well as posters which showed the faces of all first responders who were killed in New York City on 9-11. Outside was a fire engine from New York City with an emblem from 9-11 noting the attacks in New York, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

The annual Mass at St. Peter the Apostle Parish came about when Father Critch was assigned to the Parish in 2008 and some of the retired first responders from New York renewed old friendships. The 9-11 Cross was donated to the Parish soon afterwards and the Masses on Sept. 11, now known nationally as Patriot’s Day, have become a central piece of the annual commemorations for many in Collier County.

Father Critch was serving at Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton in 2001 when a doctor in New York City asked that he come to serve as a chaplain for the triage team. The team comforted and supported the first responders who were actively searching for survivors from the collapse of the Twin Towers. The team was based in the historic St. Paul’s Chapel, which had sat in the shadow of the World Trade Center.

As a young priest, Father Critch served in missions in the Caribbean in the aftermath of earthquakes, hurricanes and volcanoes and thought he could handle any disaster. Those experiences did little to prepare him for his time in New York City following 9-11.

For two weeks, the Chapel was his home, sleeping in the pews when he could with the sound of heavy equipment reverberating outside 24-hours-a-day. During this time, Father blessed the workers as they entered the disaster site, provided the Sacrament of Reconciliation, presided over funerals for victims, and was also called on to bless the remains of those recovered at a nearby Brooks Brothers clothing store which served as a temporary morgue.

Janet Springer knew several people who died in the World Trade Center attacks and is always moved to tears during the annual commemorative Mass. “It is a beautiful Mass in honor of those who were taken away so needlessly,” Springer said. “I always take time to touch the 9-11 Cross because it helps connect me to that day, because I don’t ever want to forget.”