Mission marks 43 years

The faithful of Holy Child (Divino Nino) Mission in Bowling Green celebrated their 43rd anniversary on July 24, 2022, with a procession, Mass and fiesta.

This annual observance took on a special meaning this year with the recent completion of extensive repairs and remodeling of the church. This work included a new roof, replacing the flooring, pews, and creating additional space for a cry room and other upgraded touches. The welcoming worship space is befitting of this close-knit Hispanic Catholic community.

Father Oscar Mendoza, who is Administrator of the Mission and nearby St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, opened the Mass with a blessing of the new worship space.

The work was much needed and results were beautiful, Father Mendoza said, later reflecting upon how the community came together to collect the funds and volunteered to do some of the work to complete the renovations.

Father Mendoza thanked Bishop Frank J. Dewane for his support and guidance during the project, without whom the project would never have been completed.

Before the Mass, Deacon Ramiro Hernandez led the faithful in a procession with a statue of the Holy Child Jesus, which included the faithful singing praise to Jesus Christ.

Holy Child Mission was dedicated in 1979 and an annual celebration marks the anniversary. As in years past, a fiesta of rich foods followed.

Deacon Hernandez said the completion of the work on the Mission church was important for the local community, which is comprised of many families with connections to the farming and mining industries.

“There is a strong personal connection for the faithful to this Mission,” the Deacon explained. “To have the work of the community come together, through donations and physical labor is particularly rewarding for everyone. It reminds everyone of the time when this was how churches were built and supported, by the community and for the community.”


Parish marks 15 years

While 15 years may not seem as it is such a long time to most people, for the faithful of St. Agnes Parish in Naples, reaching this milestone was cause for celebration.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass on March 12, 2022, 15 years to the day the Bishop erected St. Agnes as a Parish, which had been a Mission of St. John the Evangelist Parish from 1999 to 2007.

The vibrant Parish has 5,244 registered families, and while the Church holds about 1,500 people, there are eight Masses each weekend during the winter months, including one at a high school 10 miles away. Because of this reality and continued growth of the area, there are plans for St. Agnes to establish a Mission farther east in Naples in the future.

“We’re so pleased to have Bishop Dewane here,” said Father Bob Kantor, Pastor of St. Agnes. “We celebrate 15 years of life as a Parish and you see beautiful aspects here… there are many new faces, including many of you who have come to the Parishes over the years. We welcome you, whether you’re a parishioner for a short time or all of those 15 years or well beyond.”

Father Kantor thanked Bishop Dewane for his assignment in Naples noting that “the people are wonderful and have been a blessing to me and we have done our best to serve God.”

Bishop Dewane spoke about how it is appropriate to celebrate milestones in the life of a Parish, pausing to look back at what has been accomplished and to look forward to where the Parish is going, particularly, one that continues to grow. The Bishop reflected how the Parish was able to overcome considerable debt in its early years thanks to the generosity of the faithful who had confidence in the vision of Father Kantor and his advisors.

“The life of a Parish is very cyclical, as you follow the footsteps the Good Lord has set generations before,” Bishop Dewane said. “The Catholic population is growing, and many people are moving in and now, today, you find yourself in another role – you are now looking toward a Mission Church.”

The Bishop noted that the faithful are what St. Agnes Parish is all about, as their presence and contribution to the faith community are what make a Parish thrive.

“St. Agnes only grows and changes by your personal response to a call to holiness as you each strive to grow closer to the Lord,” Bishop Dewane said. “St. Agnes started out as a vision by a few, including Father Thomas Glackin of St. John the Evangelist Parish; but it is the faithfulness of the people of God here at St. Agnes Parish who stepped forward to say we can handle it and have carried it forward to today and will do so into the future.”

The original St. Agnes Mission was established in October 1999 with Masses held at two different area schools. The current Parish Church was dedicated as a worship site in 2006, a few months before the Mission was elevated to a Parish. A Parish Hall was later established on a neighboring property.

A 15th Anniversary celebration Mass included the full choir, which is normally present for Sunday morning Masses. Following the Mass, a Gala was held at the Vineyards Country Club.

Retreat Center Celebrates Quarter Century

For more than a quarter century Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat and Spirituality Center in Venice has been bringing visitors closer to the Lord in its majestic setting along the banks of the Myakka River.

To celebrate its years of service as the main Retreat Center for the Diocese of Venice, a “Butterfly Ball” was held Feb. 19, 2022, at the St. Thomas More Parish Chelsea Center in Sarasota. The elegant evening included a live and silent auction as well as a “Gift from the Heart” appeal.

Irene Bauer, who was there when the idea of OLPH was being developed, said the Retreat Center “is like a portal to heaven, an open heavenly gate that brings souls closer to Jesus.”

Established by Bishop John J. Nevins, the groundbreaking for OLPH was in 1995 and buildings were added through the years. During its early years, OLPH was run by Redemptorist Father Charlie Mallen and Sister Carmella DeCosty, Sister of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. The Retreat Center continues to flourish under the leadership of Bishop Frank J. Dewane and the succeeding religious orders who have taken the helm of leading the center including the Carmelites and now the Oblates of the Virgin Mary.

Bishop Dewane said OLPH was the second location he visited in the Diocese upon his appointment as Bishop. “I realized immediately; it is holy ground.” He credited Bishop Nevins, Father Mallen and Sister Carmella with having the vision and the determination to bring an idea to life with its expansive grounds, many places for contemplation, and beautiful St. Joseph Chapel, allowing visitors the opportunity to encounter the Holy Spirit.

The Bishop also thanked everyone present for their support of OLPH that evening and through the years. “Your assistance will allow OLPH to remain the sacred and spiritual haven that it is today and will continue to be for many years to come.”

Father Mark Yavarone, OVM, current OLPH Director, reflected upon how blessed he is to see the transformation of retreatants who spend time on the grounds. Whether as part of a large group retreat or an individual directed retreat, the transition from the noises of the outside world to the peaceful retreat center grounds help them get rid of the clutter, opening them up to hear the Lord.

With the exception of the founding Director, Father Mallen, all past and present Directors and Administrators were in attendance at the “Butterfly Ball.” The past Directors included Redemptorist Father Peter Sousa, Carmelite Father J.J. McCarthy, Oblates of the Virgin Mary Fathers Sean Morris and Shawn Monahan. Currently serving is Father Yavarone and assisting is Father Lino Estadilla, OVM. Sister Carmella was Administrator of OLPH for 18 years, and Denise Riley has held that position since 2013.

Today, in addition to the seven buildings on site, retreatants can spend time enjoying the beautiful grounds, which include a Rosary Walk, Way of the Cross, prayer decks and an outdoor Shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Help which was dedicated to Father Mallen by Bishop Dewane in June 2021.

OLPH offers a variety of individual and group and retreats as well as Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. For more information about OLPH, please visit www.olph-retreat.org or call 941-486-0233.

A Sign of Hope: 15,756 years of Sacramental Commitment

More than 300 couples celebrating 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50 and 50+ years of marriage were recognized and honored by Bishop Frank J. Dewane during a Mass Feb. 19, 2022, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, the second of two such Masses within the Diocese of Venice.

The combined years married for the couples present in Venice was well over 15,756, with 57 couples present celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, and five couples each celebrating 70 or more years.

Bishop Dewane called it a beautiful sight when he looked out upon so many couples who give a fantastic witness of their sacramental commitment.

“All of you represent love, joy and commitment to each other in a sacramental way, as a sign of hope,” Bishop Dewane said. “You were called to make a sacrifice, to live out the sacramental commitment, the important vocation that contributes greatly to the Church and to society as a whole. You are an example to others, not just to your children and grandchildren but to society that looks to you for guidance, inspiration and hope.”

The longest couple married present in Venice were Donald and Nonna Rassier of Epiphany Cathedral, who will be celebrating 74 years together on Oct. 2, 2022. Four additional couples, celebrating 70 or more years, were present for the Mass including: Carl and Natalie Pensak, Raymond and Gayle Bickowski, both 70 years; Thomas and Dolores Martorana, 71 years, and Leon and Ann Reser, 73 years.

The first Anniversary Mass was held Feb. 12, at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs and included 180 couples. The couples present for the two Masses combined for a staggering 24,570 years of marriage. The Anniversary Mass is held in two locations each year to accommodate the large and growing number of participating couples and in recognition of the difficulty for some couples to travel great distances.

Parish celebrates 90 years

The passage of time at a Parish can be counted by the number of Masses and significant sacramental moments which take place through the years, such as the baptisms, First Holy Communions, confirmations, weddings and funerals.

It has been 90 years since St. Margaret Parish was established to support the growing Catholic community in Clewiston, located in Hendry County, along the south shore of Lake Okeechobee. The joy of the faithful was reflected in the presence of a large crowd and the enthusiasm they had during the celebration of such an important milestone.

To mark the occasion, Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass on Feb. 5, 2022, just two days short of the actual anniversary. Present to concelebrate the Mass was Father Jean Woady Louis, the current Parish Administrator, as well as several priests who served at St. Margaret through the years, and priests from the neighboring Parishes.

Bishop Dewane said reaching 90 years is no small achievement and that the celebration was as much about those who came before, as it is about those who breathe life into the Parish today and those who will continue to do so long into the future.

“The celebration gives thanks to God for what has been provided to this community for the past 90 years, and to ask for what needs to be provided as we move forward,” the Bishop said.

The establishment of the Parish and the dedication of the Church took place at the same time, Feb. 7, 1922, but more importantly established St. Margaret Parish and its’ people as the living Temples of God.

“You are the reason for the celebration today,” Bishop Dewane continued. “As human beings created in the image and likeness of God. We literally have the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts and in our midst. We need to evidence that more clearly – day in and day out; by the life we live, by the actions we do. Answer the question: Am I living like the Church – where people might meet God? If you are having trouble doing this, find within yourself the correction needed, and then set out to be that witness.”

Bishop Dewane said that thinking back 90 years, how Clewiston has grown, been challenged and stumbled, but keeps coming back; this is how each of us must be in our own life. “Be careful who we are spiritually – be the Temple of the Lord.”

The Bishop also thanked the many priests who served the people of God in Clewiston through the years. He specifically mentioned the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Light, who are currently serving the faithful in many ways, as well as the religious sisters who previously served, including the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who were present from 1973-2000.

Father Woady said the anniversary is a time to offer sincerest gratitude to the Lord.

“Through 90 years of prayers and understanding, we pray this ceremony will bring us closer as one family in Jesus Christ as it is our duty and best effort to keeping the faith alive,” Father Woady concluded.

A special moment in the larger celebration came when young children danced. Special gifts were also presented to Bishop Dewane, including baskets filled with the many items grown in this rural community, such as sugar cane, fruits, and vegetables.

“This is such a wonderful day,” said Magdalena Lopez. “Having the Bishop celebrate Mass for us means so much to St. Margaret Parish.”

To accommodate the large number of people, representing both the Parish and nearby Santa Rosa de Lima Mission, the Mass was celebrated in the Parish Hall. Even that was not large enough as a tent was necessary to accommodate the large crowd. Also present for the Mass were members of the Knights on Bikes, a motorcycle club of the Knights of Columbus.

After the Mass, a take-out barbecue meal was enjoyed.

Marco Island Knights Council celebrates 50th

Knights of Columbus San Marco Council 6344 celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year. On Thursday, January 13, 1972, approximately 30 Knights formed San Marco Council.

The Knights of Columbus are a fraternal Catholic organization that empowers Catholic men to live their Faith at home, in their Parish, in the Diocese, at work and in their community. Through various Knight programs and resources, the Knights of Columbus provides opportunities to enhance their Catholic identity and to live and spread the Faith.

The Knights of the San Marco Council, whose founding Grand Knight was Alexander Ayyot, was formed to focus on providing charity, a key focus of all Knights. This has been done to help the needy through countless food drives, clothing drives, toy drives and much more in support of such organizations at the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Catholic Charities. The Council also supports college scholarships and has assisted in purchasing ultrasound machines which are donated to local pregnancy clinics and serve a critical role in showing mothers their unborn child which ideally helps them choose life.

Current Grand Knight, John Coff explained how “50 years is a milestone for any organization, but for Knights Council 6344 it is a tribute to all the Knights came before and had the vision for the good work Council has done and will continue to do through our Church into the future… We are excited about our anniversary and are grateful to our Pastors who made our Council possible.”

Over the years, Coff said the Knights have done some wonderful work both supporting the Parish and area organizations. He is especially proud of the fact that Knights are always active in the support of San Marco Parish by volunteering as lectors, ushers, Eucharistic Ministers, as well as assisting at Parish events.

Soon after the Council formed, fundraising events were initiated to include bingo, Lenten fish fry, car shows, concerts and more.

The Council also has woman’s auxiliary, the Columbiettes, which was founded in 2008 and works hand-in-hand with the Knights in their programming.

As Grand Knight Coff noted, “It’s been a great 50 years.”

For more information about Knights of Columbus San Marco Council 6344, please call 239-389-5633 or visit www.sanmarcoknights.com.

2021 Diocese of Venice priest and deacon jubilarians honored

The Diocese of Venice honored Golden and Silver anniversary priests and deacons during the annual Chrism Mass on March 30, 2021 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

A reception following the Mass in the Cathedral Parish Hall includes reflections from Golden Jubilarian Father Patrick Organ, pastor of San Pedro Parish in North Port, and from Father Jack Costello, Rector of Epiphany Cathedral.

Golden Jubilee

Rev. Roger L. Charbonneau

The middle child of three boys, Father Roger L. Charbonneau was born in 1944 in Newport, Vermont to Romeo and Albertine Charbonneau. He attended St. John Vianney Seminary in Barre, Vermont and St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts. Ordained for the Diocese of Burlington, Vermont on May 22, 1971, Father Charbonneau was assigned to Parishes in Burlington, Montgomery Center, Troy, Lowell, Colchester, Enosburg Falls, Sheldon Springs, Franklin, Barton, Orleans and Enosburg Falls. For the Diocese of Burlington, Father also served in the Diocesan Tribunal as Defender of the Bond, Director of the Propagation of the Faith, on the Presbyteral Council and Personnel Board. Retiring to Florida in 2015, Father Charbonneau serves for the Diocese of Venice in the Tribunal and assists at St. Thomas More Parish in Sarasota.

Rev. Donald H. Henry

Born in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1944, Father Donald H. Henry is the second of four children. Having attended St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Father was ordained to the Priesthood on March 27, 1971 for the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania. Father Henry served at Parishes in Allentown, Schuylkill Haven, Orefield, Summit Hill, Pottsville, and Easton before joining the Diocese of Venice in 1994, being incardinated into the Diocese in 1998. Father served as Parochial Vicar at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples until 2001, before being assigned as Pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Sarasota where he remained until his retirement in 2015. Within the Diocese of Venice, Father Henry also served on the Pastor Peer Review, Diocesan Priest Personnel and the Priest Convocation Committees. In retirement, Father continues to assist at St. Thomas More and at a local retirement community.

Rev. Paul F. McLaughlin

Father Paul F. McLaughlin was born in 1943 in New Haven, Connecticut, the youngest of five children. Having attended St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Joseph College, Mill Hill, England; and the Seminary of Our Lady of the Angels in Albany, New York, Father was ordained on May 22, 1971 for the Diocese of Hartford, Connecticut. Father McLaughlin served at a Parish in Hartford before becoming a U.S Navy Chaplain where he achieved the rank of Captain. Father Paul was incardinated into the Diocese of Venice on August 15, 1990. From 2008 until his retirement in 2013, Father Paul served as Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton.


Rev. Patrick C. Organ

Born in Ennistymon, County Clare, Ireland in 1944, Father Patrick C. Organ is the eldest of five children. Having attended Ennistymon Christian Brothers Seminary and St. Kieran’s Seminary in Kilkenny, Ireland, he was ordained on June 13, 1971 for the Archdiocese of Miami. Father Organ served at Parishes in Lake Worth, Miami, Coral Springs and Hollywood. Within the Diocese of Venice, Father served as Parochial Vicar at San Marco Parish on Marco Island, St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Port Charlotte, and then as Pastor of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish in Bokeelia. Since 1992, Father Organ has served as Pastor of San Pedro Parish in North Port. Father also served on the Diocese of Venice Review Board.


Rev. Patrick Oliver Toner

Father Patrick Oliver Toner was born in 1944 in Trim, County Meath, Ireland, the second child of Patrick and Philomena Toner. After attending St. Francis Franciscan College in Pilltown, County Meath and the Jesuit Seminary, Milltown Park, Dublin, Ireland, he was ordained on July 16, 1971 in Dublin for the Carmelite Order. Father Toner served for the Order in Kildare Town, Ireland, as well as at Parishes in Davis, California and Tampa, Florida. He was incardinated into the Diocese of Venice on April 26, 1999 and had served in the Diocese of Venice as priest in residence and later as Parochial Vicar at St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral from 1980 to 1988. Since September 1988, Father Toner has been a Parochial Vicar at Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers.


Silver Jubilee

Rev. John Belmonte, SJ

Born in 1963 in Chicago, Illinois, Father John Belmonte is a member of the Society of Jesus. His parents, Joseph and Suzanne (Spicer) Belmonte, also have a son, Joe, who is Father’s twin and a younger son, Matt. Father John attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy, Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Loyola University of Chicago. Ordained on June 14, 1996 for the Jesuit Order, Father served as a teacher in Milwaukee and Chicago, and as a Principal in Milwaukee before becoming Superintendent of Catholic Education for the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois in 2010. After leaving the Diocese of Joliet last year, Father Belmonte joined the   Diocese of Venice as Superintendent of Catholic Education.


Rev. John F. Costello

The eldest of eight children, Father John F. Costello was born in 1950 in Boston, Massachusetts. Father attended Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, St. Michael’s College in Burlington, Vermont, and St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida, and was ordained on October 25, 1996 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice for the Diocese of Venice. Prior to becoming a priest, Father Costello was a Christian Brother for 25 years. For the Diocese of Venice, Father served as Parochial Vicar at St. William Parish in Naples, as Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton and has served as Rector of Epiphany Cathedral since 2008. Father Jack also served on the Pastor Peer Review Committee and on the Advisory Board for Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center.


Rev. Pawel Kawalec

Father Pawel was born in Staracowice, Poland in 1970 to Andrew and Urszula (Backo) Kawalec. Father was ordained to the Priesthood as a Missionary Priest of the Society of Christ in Poznan, Poland, on May 21, 1996. In September 2004, Father Pawel emigrated to the United States and served as a priest in residence at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice before being assigned to Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Venice.  Subsequently, he served at Ss. Peter and Paul Parish, Bradenton and Holy Cross Parish, Palmetto. Father was incardinated into the Diocese of Venice in December 2005.  Since 2015, Father Pawel has been a Parochial Vicar at St. Catherine Parish, Sebring, Florida.


Deacon Silver Jubilee

Deacon David R. Jerome, DDS

Deacon David R. Jerome, DDS, was born in 1937 in Buffalo, New York. He studied at Canisius College in Buffalo, State University of New York at Buffalo Dental School, and Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, New York. Ordained to the Permanent Diaconate on June 16, 1996 for the Diocese of Buffalo, Deacon Jerome served at a Parish in Lancaster, New York, as well as for the Diocese of Buffalo Family Life Department. For the Diocese of Venice, Deacon Jerome serves at St. Finbarr Parish in Naples. He is married to Norene (Tuck) Jerome, and they have three children and 12 grandchildren. Deacon David is a retired dentist and dental educator.


Deacon Michael F. Christoforo, MD

Born in 1936 in New York City, New York, Deacon Cristoforo studied at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, and Marquette University School of Medicine in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Deacon Michael was ordained to the Permanent Diaconate on April 27, 1996 for the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois. He served at a Parish in Rockford and then for the Diocese of Venice at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples and San Marco Parish on Marco Island before retiring in 2019. Married to Donna Jean (Dermody) Christoforo, he has three sons and five grandchildren. Deacon Michael is a retired physician.



Sacrament of Holy Matrimony a Beautiful Vocation

The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is a sacred bond between a man and a woman which reflects the honor, love, commitment and fidelity each demonstrates for the other.

In celebration of that commitment each year Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites couples married 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50+ years to a Mass in their honor as witnesses to a beautiful vocation for younger generations to see and admire.

“I stand before you truly joyful and truly humbled by the commitment you live each day,” Bishop Dewane said Feb. 6, 2021 at one of two Masses celebrated at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. “It is not just a celebration of the numbers you have accomplished, but of your presence here today and to your dedication, one to the other. You wouldn’t be here if Christ wasn’t at the center of your commitment to each other.”

As examples for others within their own family and society, the Bishop said that the life that married couples live, in kindness and fruitfulness, is unique in what it contributes to society.

“You have made society rich – with your forgiveness, compassion and love for one another,” Bishop Dewane added. “Know that the Lord sees that and gives you the strength to be that example; the silent preachers of something that is good and permanent.”

Masses are celebrated each year in the northern and southern sections of Diocese of Venice so as to accommodate those wanting to attend. In 2021, to allow for social distancing due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, two Masses were celebrated Feb. 6, 2021 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. An additional two Masses, at 10 a.m. and noon, on March 6, 2021, will be celebrated at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. (Registration is through your Parish.)

For the two Masses in Venice, there were 126 couples present – married a combined 6,571 years – with six celebrating 70 or more years of marriage. The longest married couple was Donald and Nonna Rassier of Epiphany Cathedral. On Oct. 2, 2021, they will celebrate their 73 years together.

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.

Alex and Lynn Franklin of St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota have been married for 40 years and have four children and 12 grandchildren.  Lynn Franklin was thrilled to be present for such a beautiful Mass and thanked Bishop Dewane for ensuring the Mass took place even during the Pandemic.

The couple credits their longevity to their faith and communication. “We talk about everything, openly and honestly,” Lynn Franklin explained. “She means everything,” Alex Franklin quipped. Lynn quickly added that by communicating the couple remains focused on their life together. “It is a good life, grounded in our love of God and our whole family.”

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


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

73 years

Donald and Nonna Rassier, Epiphany Cathedral;

71 years

James and Maria Nixon, Epiphany Cathedral;

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

70 years

Thomas and Dolores Mortorana, Epiphany Cathedral;

John and Rita Riebel, Epiphany Cathedral;

Russell and Gianina Stanley, St. Bernard Parish, Holmes Beach.

Also present were two couples celebrating their anniversary on the day of the Mass:

Ken and Diane Neyer, Epiphany Cathedral, 50th Anniversary; and Guido and Sharon Leutem, Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish, Bradenton, 61st Anniversary.

Collier Parish starts Golden Jubilee Celebrations

The Golden Jubilee celebration of the establishment of San Marco Parish on Marco Island began with Mass and a blessing of the new statue of St. Mark, patron saint of the Parish and Diocese of Venice.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the Mass, with the assistance of the priests of the Parish, including Father Timothy Navin, Pastor of San Marco Parish since 2004.

Father Navin said the timing of the beginning of the Golden Jubilee nearly coincides with the first Mass on Marco Island, which took place on Feb. 6, 1966 in the ballroom of the Marriot hotel. A mission church of St. Ann Parish in Naples, the new San Marco changed locations multiple times before the Parish was formally erected in 1971.

Noting that anniversary celebrations are always a good time to bring a Parish community together, Bishop Dewane recognized that togetherness means something different during the challenging times of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“We may not all be able to be together physically, but we are together in our Faith,” Bishop Dewane said. “This is a time to look back and see what has been achieved in those 50 years and those who have gone before. It is also a time to look forward, as the Parish rededicates itself with new initiatives in service to the Lord.”

The Bishop said the Parish community must strive to hear the “Word of God, taught through the authority of Jesus Christ, and live it to the fullest as this year of celebration continues.”

After Mass, Bishop Dewane blessed the new statue of Saint Mark the Evangelist to the delight of the faithful who applauded and cheered at the conclusion of the blessing.

The bronze statue was created by world renown sculptor Timothy Schmalz and is 74 inches tall and weighs 700 pounds. Additional work done to the front entrance of the Parish includes a pedestal for the statue, a new walkway and extensive landscaping.

Claire Banks, who has been a seasonal parishioner at San Marco for the past 10 years, said the celebration and statue dedication are a bright spot for everyone. “It is great to be part of this celebration. While 50 years is a long time, I’m 76, so that doesn’t seem very long. No matter, it’s a wonderful day and I hope San Marco is here in another 50 years and beyond.”

Father Navin reflected upon this moment which marked the start of a year of celebrations marking 50 years: “Thank God for the many blessings bestowed upon our Parish and especially for the faith, sacrifice and service of all those priests, religious, deacons and people who have gone before us,” “May we follow in their footsteps and pass on this great legacy to a future generation of Marco Islanders.”

San Marco Parish has 2,400 families and serves many seasonal visitors. The Parish also serves the Everglades City community with Holy Family Mission. Since its establishment, the Parish was also the parent Church of St. Finbarr Parish in Naples, which was established as a mission in 2000 and became a Parish in 2010.

For more information about San Marco Parish, please visit http://sanmarcochurch.org.

School time capsule opened: Part of ongoing 60th Anniversary celebrations

The 2020-2021 school year at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charlotte has been unique with precautions required by the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic. However, it is also a time for celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the school.

Events will be taking place throughout the school year with class and school projects helping each student become more aware of their important place in the school’s history. Bulletin boards at the school include displays reflecting its history in Faith, faculty, uniforms, service, sports, music and more.

Principal Tonya Peters held an informal ceremony on Nov. 12, 2020 to reveal the contents of a time capsule which had been placed in a “Peace Pole” on the school grounds, next to a covered pavilion and the sports field. The event was delayed a day because the threat of Hurricane Eta.

“That’s ironic because when the school opened in 1960, the first day was delayed by a hurricane,” Peters explained.

Peters, with the help of Collin Smith, an alum, parent and Home and School Co-President, emptied the pole/capsule to reveal the contents. The event was livestreamed to classrooms, as well as to virtual learners at home, to continue to ensure the safety of all students. Also present were Lily Solano of the School Board; Melissa Elsberry, first-grade teacher, parent and Co-President of Home and School; as well as Father Philip Scheff, School Chaplain.

The contents of the pole/capsule were wrapped in plastic bags with some being wet. The first item removed was a 1996 yearbook which immediately helped everyone realize what year the time capsule was created. “We had no idea,” Peters explained. “That’s 24 years ago. A long time. Let’s see what else they included.”

Moisture had damaged some of the items, but there were pictures of a student-teacher basketball game; a copy of the May 26, 1995 Florida Catholic in which featured a story about the school science fair; as well as individual prayers for peace written by students.

“That was fun, but it is only part of what we are doing today,” Peters said. “We are creating our own time capsule. We have two stainless steel official ‘time capsules’ that will be buried in the same place we found this one. But, let’s face it, we’re 2020, we’re different, and we had every class prepare something special.”

Some basic items were natural to include, such as the mission statement, a list of current school leaders, a 2020 soccer team championship t-shirt, a baton with the school prayer, a magnet with the 60th Anniversary logo, as well as a picture of Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Pope Francis shaking hands.

The Pre-Kindergarten 3-4 classes placed fingerprints from paint and placed them and their names on masks and the kindergarten students provided a group photo (all wearing masks).

The first-grade class created a “Zooming in 2020 at School” packet which included drawings from the students demonstrating what can and can’t be done while taking classes virtually. Examples of what is ok included paying attention and muting microphones when not asking or answering a question. Examples of what not to do included jumping on your bed, making silly faces, or playing with your pets.

The third-grade class provided a roll of toilet paper which was signed by all of the students. “It is so appropriate to have this and impossible for anyone to understand the great toilet paper shortage of 2020,” Peters said with a chuckle.

Other grades created a prayer for the future; notes that represent themselves; a display describing the presidential election; a word search with names of the students; and a decade-by-decade recap of important cultural events since the school opened.

“This has been so exciting,” Peters said. “We will place all of these new items into the time capsules and bury them. Maybe they will be opened in 24 more years, or even later.”

Smith, the alumnus, parent and Home and School Co-President who helped to reveal the contents of the time capsule, said St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School has been a part of his family since before he was born, with his grandmother and mother both teaching at the school, and now his children attend.

“This is home for my family and so many more,” Smith said. “It is a blessing to have St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School here in Port Charlotte.”