Lakewood Ranch Parish reflects on 25 years

There were just 96 parishioners at the first Mass of Our Lady of the Angels Mission in Lakewood Ranch on Feb. 7, 1999. The first Catholic Church east of Interstate 75 in Manatee County celebrated 25 years of serving the faithful with a Mass on Feb. 24, 2024, the Second Sunday of Lent, with more than 1,000 in attendance.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the main celebrant for the Mass, and commended the faithful for their commitment to growing the Parish community through the years, impressed by how much has been accomplished in a relatively short period of time.

“The 25 years is relatively few when compared to the 2,000 years history of the Church founded by Jesus,” Bishop Dewane said. “But the role the faithful have at Our Lady of the Angels is as important as it was years ago; that is to build up the Body of Christ. That is who you are; called to spread the Good News about Our Lady of the Angels to those who should or could be here. Just as Jesus called His disciples to be the messengers to carry the Word of God out into the world. Every one of us, as followers of Jesus Christ, have that command.”

Father Sebastian Szczawínski, S.A.C., Pastor of Our Lady of the Angels, remarked that he was very grateful for the support and prayers of the faithful in working to positively impact the lives of people across Lakewood Ranch and beyond.

“Church growth doesn’t happen by accident,” Father Szczawínski said. “It takes hard work, prayer and commitment. It also takes the holy blessing of the Lord. That is why we are here today, to acknowledge that He has richly blessed us over the last many years.”

In 1999, Our Lady of the Angels was established as a Mission of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish in Sarasota, sharing worship space with Our Living Lord Lutheran Church. Franciscan priests initially serving the pastoral needs of the community as the Parish was formally erected in 2002. A multi-purpose building was opened in 2003 and Masses were celebrated there until the current Parish Church was dedicated in 2019 by Bishop Dewane.

Since those humble beginnings, the growth in Lakewood Ranch has been reflected in the massive growth of the Parish community. Our Lady of the Angels currently serves more than 3,200 registered families with up to seven weekend Masses offered during the peak season.

As the Parish continues to grow, new construction is ongoing for a 12,580-foot Parish Activity Center and duplex rectory on the west side of the property. The work began in November 2023 and is expected to take 12-16 months to complete.

Following the Mass of celebration, a reception was held in the Parish Hall.

Forty is Fabulous – Naples Catholic School starts year of celebration

St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples kicked off the start of their 40th Anniversary with an outdoor event on March 27, 2021 commemorating four decades of excellence in Catholic education!

The celebration included a student talent show, book fair, time capsule, school history table, student artwork, games, silent auction, and an evening concert with Paul Todd.

It was a fun and successful day for the school, finally bringing an opportunity for students, families, and parishioners to come together in fellowship and support of the community after such a challenging year.

Principal Maria Niebuhr said the 40th Anniversary celebration brought the opportunity to look back with pride over the great accomplishments of the school and its students.

The Mission Statement of St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School “is to nurture the development of each student to achieve their spiritual, intellectual, physical and social potential. Catholic values and traditions are incorporated with academic excellence in an atmosphere of faith, discipline and love.”

The school’s history dates to 1981, when four classrooms were built and three portables installed on Parish land on Golden Gate Parkway, thanks to the faithful who wanted their children to have a quality faith-based education in a safe, family-friendly environment. The school offers high academic standards, as well as spiritual nourishment and growth for students.

Hurricane Irma dealt a devastating blow to the campus in September 2017 when the school sustained severe damage, resulting in elementary classes being moved to portable trailers. Students returned to a renovated building with many upgrades in 2019.

Today there is one classroom for each grade serving approximately 225 students in grades PK3 through 8. The campus includes a media center, computer lab, resource rooms, art room, and more. The 13,000 square foot gymnasium was completed in the spring of 2011.

“We are proud of the continued performance of our faculty and staff, as well as the involvement, participation and support of its parents,” Niebuhr said.

Though forced to virtual learning in the spring of 2020, Seton has been open for in-class instruction since the start of the current 2020-2021 Academic Year. The school recently introduced its “Campus Expansion Program,” which includes plans to build a much-needed administration building with single point of entry, provide for additional classroom space to accommodate the school’s growing enrollment, and other facility enhancements. From Seton’s humble beginnings, the commitment to the tradition of excellence in Catholic education continues.

St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School is currently open for enrolment for the 2021-2022 Academic Year. For more information about how to support the school or to enroll a students, please visit

Sacrament of Holy Matrimony a Sacred Bond

Two people make up a married couple, but it is so much more than that – the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is a sacred bond between a man and a woman which reflects the honor, commitment and fidelity each demonstrates for the other.

To celebrate significant wedding anniversaries, Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites couples married 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50+ years to a Mass in their honor. Two Masses are celebrated each year in the Diocese of Venice so as to accommodate those wanting to attend. The first in 2020 was Feb. 1 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and a second will be 11 a.m., Feb. 29 at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. (Registration is through your Parish.)

There were 317 couples present – married a combined 16,591 years – with eight celebrating 70 or more years of marriage. The longest married couple was Donald and Nonna Rassier of Epiphany Cathedral. On Oct. 2, 2020, they will celebrate their 72 years together.

Bishop Dewane said this celebration is of their commitment to each other, as well as to God. The celebration acknowledges the accomplishment they experienced in their lives which is honored and recognized by the Church.

“Your commitment to each other brings hope to the world,” Bishop Dewane said. “You represent something so great. A vocation to marriage. You were the ministers of the Sacrament, with a priest as a witness, and lived it each day during the years that followed… What a beautiful moment of grace and your being here – no matter how many years you are celebrating – is no small accomplishment.”

During the Mass, the married couples renewed their wedding vows. In addition, each couple was presented with commemorative certificates, signed by the Bishop, for their enduring commitment to marriage.

In speaking to one of four couples celebrating their anniversary on the very day (Feb. 1) of the Mass in Venice was Donald and Marilyn Dumas of Epiphany Cathedral.

“What a wonderful treat to have our anniversary on the day of this beautiful Mass,” Marilyn said of their 62nd Anniversary. The couple fell in love the moment they met, when he was on leave from the military and visiting a neighbor of Marilyn’s in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

Now, 62 years later, with three children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, with another on the way, they wouldn’t change a thing. “We joined with each other through Christ,” Donald said. “That bond carried us through all the good times and the bad. The key to our success is that you have to have a sense of humor and have to be able to say I’m sorry.”

A reception followed the Mass with lunch and the opportunity to have complimentary pictures taken with the Bishop.

Present for the Mass were eight couples who were celebrating 70 or more years of marriage:

72 years

Donald and Nonna Rassier, Epiphany Cathedral;

71 years

John Theresa Kromish, St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Port Charlotte;

James and Maria Nixon, Epiphany Cathedral;

Leon and Ann Reser, St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Grove City;

Paul and Stefie Zielinski, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Venice;

70 years

George and Marcia Equizi, St. Martha Parish, Sarasota;

Eugene and Jeanne Jakos, Our Lady of Lourdes;

and Robert and Elena Ranieri, Epiphany Cathedral.