Advent: a continuous call to Hope

The Catholic Church is fast approaching one of the most important seasons of the Liturgical Year: Advent. It is a time which offers us a sense of preparation for the second coming of the Christ Child.

With the pre-Christmas frenzy, it is important to remain watchful. Why? Because, as St. Augustine stated, one great mistake in life is to get absorbed in a thousand things and not to notice God.

Advent begins on Nov. 28, 2021, the start of the new Liturgical Year, therefore it is appropriate to begin anew and raise one’s heart and mind to Christ’s second coming at the end of time and prepare for the celebration of the anniversary of the Lord’s birth.

“A time of deep prayer and meditation, Advent has an anticipatory mood in which the faithful must learn from the Old Testament of how the Prophets foretold the coming of Jesus into the world,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane said. “As our ancestors prepared their hearts spiritually for His coming, so must we prepare ourselves in the Season of Advent for the second coming.”

The main focus of the Advent Season is preparation through prayer, quiet reflection, weekday Mass attendance and even fasting, Bishop Dewane explained. Taking time to quietly reflect and grow in Faith can be a challenge, but we are called to put distractions aside, even for a few minutes a day.

“This will allow the love of God to fill one’s life and one’s family with joy,” Bishop Dewane said.

Pope Francis stresses that Advent is both a time of “God’s closeness and our watchfulness.”

The Holy Father notes that on the First Sunday of Advent, a new Liturgical Year begins. In it, the Church marks the passage of time with the celebration of the main events in the life of Jesus and the story of salvation. “In so doing, as Mother, she illuminates the path of our existence, supports us in our daily occupations and guides us towards the final encounter with Christ.

The Pope invites everyone to live this time of preparation in the Season of Hope, with “great sobriety” and simple moments of family prayer. “Advent is a continuous call to hope: it reminds us that God is present in history to lead it to its ultimate goal, to lead it to its fullness, which is the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

During Advent, we are reminded that we are called to redouble our efforts to bring Christ’s saving message to all people. How can this be done? A few simple suggestions:

  • Liturgy: Seek Christ in the Sacred Liturgy and in the intercessions of His saints. The Advent Season offers a number of special feasts and solemnities that call for our active participation. Aside from the Sundays of Advent, the Church also celebrates the two Marian feasts, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8) which is observed as a Holy Day of Obligation, and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas on Dec. 12. We also ask for the intercession of the saints as we make this journey towards Christmas, particularly those saints whose feasts we celebrate during Advent, such as St. Francis Xavier, St. Nicholas, St. Juan Diego, St. Lucy, and St. John of the Cross. They modeled for us the way to salvation and assist us in our own pilgrimage to Heaven.
  • Prayer: Spend time every day in prayer and include the work of the local Parish and of the Diocese in these prayer intentions. Offer up daily sacrifices for the good of others. This time of prayer and sacrifice should intensify as we draw near Christmas, with particular prayers given to us by the Church from December 17 to Christmas Eve to prepare for the celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior.
  • Confession: One of the most critical ways to prepare one’s soul for the birth of Jesus at Christmas is to take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This Holy Season is an ideal time to open one’s soul and to be set free from the burdens of past sins and wrongs. Many Parishes offer special times during Advent for the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
  • Volunteer: Another way to grow in Faith through this season is to recognize Christ in neighbors, especially those in need such as the elderly and sick. Get involved and give of yourself in some work of the Church, possibly evangelization, education, or charity. Use the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to accompany those in need and help them draw closer to Christ.  We are to be doers of our Faith on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ and all those around us.

Bishop Dewane said, “As Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas. Let us resolve to help bring Him into the hearts of those we encounter throughout each day. Let us take advantage of what is new in the Advent Season as the Universal Church prepares for the birth of Christ. And let us grow in Faith during this portion of the Liturgical Year on our journey toward Salvation.”

Parish named after Saint tries to live up to name

Visit St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton and you will find something taking place at nearly all hours of every day of the year.

What you will discover will vary. It could be the faithful coming or going to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; people praying in the Adoration Chapel or partaking in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You might also find people at the Parish participating in the more than three dozen different outreach programs; then again maybe they are heading into the growing Catholic school and even others are there to stock shelves in the food pantry.

“St. Joseph has a certain welcoming feeling that draws people – it is a family,” said longtime parishioner and member of Parish Advisory Council, Mary Miller. “There is a connection here that people get that is down to earth. Everyone is so welcoming and warm.”

Their Pastor, Father Rafal Ligenza said that since his arrival in 2019 the faithful have been on a journey together building the Kingdom of God. Faithful come from far distances in Manatee County to attend Mass at St. Joseph, something Father credits to the faithful.

Named after the Protector of the Universal Church, and Foster-Father of Jesus, the Parish has roots dating back to 1869 when missionary priest served the area. The Parish dates to 1926 and the Catholic school to 1954. Bishop Frank J. Dewane consecrated the Diocese of Venice to a “Year of St. Joseph” on March 19, 2020, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, in the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic. That year was extended upon Pope Francis creating a Universal “Year of St. Joseph from Dec. 8, 2020 to Dec. 8, 2021.

Bishop Dewane has often said St. Joseph, who never says a word in the Bible, but who is a model of obedience of what God asks of him. “St. Joseph freely and willingly accepted a vision he was given in life… to be the foster father of Jesus, but also the head of the Holy Family; the provider and the Protector.”

Father Ligenza said he is humbled to be at a Parish named after St. Joseph.

“There is so much faith in God here,” Father said. “Every day we have people using the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in service to God. There is a passion about this Parish that the community has, and it is wonderful. We are growing together, obedient to the teachings of Christ.”

This support manifested itself when a big change was recently made. The tabernacle was moved to the center of the church, behind the altar. Previously, the tabernacle was in a Chapel at the back of the church building. The was because the choir sits behind the altar and no appropriate location was identified when the church was built. After some explaining and work, the tabernacle has a new home, properly at the rear center of the altar.

“Everyone understood because this puts the focus where it needs to be, on Our Lord at all times when we are in the church,” Father Ligenza said.

The Parish is home to the largest food pantry in Manatee County serving more than 1,000 families each month. There is also has a huge choir and vibrant religious education and youth program. In fact, the Middle School Youth Group, CTG (Called to Greatness), had a mini retreat on Nov. 17, 2021, in honor of November being the month of Holy Souls. The group talked about what living like a Saint means, what purgatory is, played a fun Saint game, focused on teamwork, and ended with a candlelight vigil for loved ones that passed away.

“There are great things happening here,” Father Ligenza said.

Miller has been a witness to many of those happenings since her family first came to St. Joseph in the 1970s, a time when the Parish was part of the Diocese of St. Petersburg prior to the establishment of the Diocese of Venice in 1984.

She tried to enroll her children into the Catholic school, which was led by a religious order of sisters and there was a waitlist. Eventually they were enrolled, and the Millers never left.

“When we came, we felt like we belonged,” Miller added. “After our children were enrolled in the school my husband and I became more involved in the Parish and volunteered wherever we were needed.”

Miller’s husband, Walter, served many years on the Parish Advisory Council and the School Board and was pivotal in spearheading many efforts to support the Parish and school. The last major project he worked on before his death in 2020 was the installation of a new electronic sign in front of the Parish. His local ties helped make it happen and the sign is dedicated to his memory.

Mary Miller was so involved as a volunteer in the Parish that she became a paid staff member for 20 years. When the time to retire came, she remained active in the Parish  as a money counter, assisting in the food pantry and recently rejoined the Parish Advisory Board.

‘St. Joseph is where my heart is,” Miller said. “I pass other Catholic churches to come here. I know many other do as well. This is where the faith is and holds so strongly for many people.”

The Parish has about 1,600 families and is located at 3100 26th Street W. Bradenton. Daily Mass is Monday to Saturday at 8 a.m., and weekends Masses are 4 p.m. on Saturday, and 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Sundays.

For more information about St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton, please call 941-756-3732 or visit For more information about St. Joseph Catholic School, please call 941-755-2611 or visit  or visit


Avon Park faithful welcome Pastor

An installation of a new Pastor is a punctuation mark in the life of a Parish, a moment defined by its lasting impact on the People of God.

In the context of the Mass on Nov. 21, 2021, the Solemnity of Our Lord, Christ, King of the Universe, Bishop Frank J. Dewane installed Father Ronnie Sison as Pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park.

When Bishop Dewane noted that a Pastor can make a lasting mark on a Parish, the faithful responded with applause when it was suggested that the time in Avon Park could be marked with an exclamation point. “I now know how you feel about your new Pastor, Father Ronnie.”

As well as his installation was received by the faithful at Our Lady of Grace, Bishop Dewane encouraged the faithful to continue to offer advice to their Pastor, but they must accept that he may sometimes make decisions that are not popular.

“As he helps you to become more centered on Christ, be connected to your new Pastor, and be willing to support him and uplift him in his sacred work,” the Bishop concluded.

Father Sison has been serving as Administrator of Incarnation Parish since Oct. 1, 2019, and Bishop Dewane said it was an appropriate time to install him as Pastor. During his time at Our Lady of Grace, Father Sison has overseen the replacement of the roof to the Parish church and hall. Work was completed in October on the renovation of the interior of the church with new flooring and altar space.

During the installation, the priest begins with selected words leading to the start of the Creed at which point he is joined by the faithful. At the end of the Creed, the new Pastor has extra lines which are exclusive for him. In addition, the Pastor takes an Oath of Fidelity to the Bishop and his successors; formalized by his placing his hand upon the Book of Gospels.

Following the installation, two members of the Parish, representing the entire congregation, served as witnesses and signed the formal documents, copies of which are left at the Parish, placed in the Diocesan archives and in the personnel file of Father Sison. Bishop then introduced the new Pastor to a rousing applause.

Father Sison was emotional when thanking Bishop Dewane for having the confidence and trust in him as the new Pastor. He also expressed his deepest gratitude for the joyous support the community has given him since his arrival in Avon Park.

After the installation, a reception was held in the Parish Hall.

News Briefs for the week of November 26, 2021

Bishop helps distribute food

Bishop Frank J. Dewane assisted in loading turkeys into cars at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples on Nov. 22, 2021. The drive-thru Thanksgiving food distribution was coordinated by St. Matthews House with more than 700 families being feed and donations coming from across the region including nearby Parishes and Catholic schools.

Christmas Day Televised Mass for the Homebound

The televised Christmas Day Mass for the Homebound with Celebrant Bishop Frank J. Dewane will air for a full hour on Christmas Day. For viewers in the northern portions of the Diocese (DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Manatee, and Sarasota counties), the Mass will air at 9:30 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee counties), the Mass will air at 6 a.m. on WFTX-TV (FOX-4). Please check your cable provider for channel listings. The Mass will also be available on the Diocesan website at Leaflet missals are available upon request by calling Gail Ardy at 941-486-4714 or by writing: TV Mass, Diocese of Venice, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285. For more information email Also, please check the Dec. 17 e-Edition of the Florida Catholic for a complete listing of Diocese of Venice Christmas Mass times. The times will also be posted on the Diocesan website by Dec. 13, 2021.

Essay about priest earns state recognition

A Sarasota student was recently recognized for his writing skills in the First Lady Casey DeSantis’ Hispanic Heritage Month Essay Contest. Giacomo Mutti, a Booker High School senior, wrote his essay about Father Celestino Gutiérrez, Pastor of St. Jude Parish, who supports the Sarasota County community through his volunteerism. Giacomo was recognized by Gov. Ron DeSantis during a ceremony held on Nov. 12, 2021. The theme for the 500-word essay was limited to “celebrating Hispanic-American Community Leaders and Champions.” A ceremony honoring Giacomo was held Nov. 21, at St. Jude Parish where he was able to show off his prize and directly thank Father Gutiérrez for being an inspiration to him and others in the community. For winning the contest, Giacomo earned a four-year Florida College Plan scholarship provided by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation. Well done!

Students continue service project

During November, fourth graders at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers lead the school wide/year-long “Breath of Life – Help Our Heroes,” service project. The students created colorful Thanksgiving canvas art for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Respiratory Team at Golisano Children’s Hospital. They also provided these dedicated caregivers with sandwiches, chips and beverages to enjoy when they take a well-deserved break!

Naples students learn science of parade balloons

Second graders at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples leaned all about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade the week of Nov. 15-19, 2021. The students read “Balloons Over Broadway”, completed literacy activities and conducted a science experiment showing how combining a liquid and solid created a chemical reaction causing the gas to inflate the balloons. The students designed and created their own balloons for our very own “Balloons Over Broadway” parade.

Thanksgiving Feast for parents and students

St. Mary Catholic Academy in Sarasota hosted its annual Thanksgiving Feast on Nov. 18, 2021. School board members, Home and School Association assisted in making this tradition a success for the students and their families.

School endowment campaign unveiled in Naples

On Nov. 16, 2021, the Saint Ann School Foundation held a launch party to publicly announce their plans for a $10 Million Campaign to provide students scholarships for the students of Saint Ann Catholic School in Naples.

“We are grateful to all who joined us for a spectacular evening in celebration of our formal launch of the Faith Family Future Endowment Campaign for the Saint Ann School Foundation,” said Pamela Marcia, Foundation Executive Director. “It was a beautiful and joyful evening for Catholic Education.” The big news of the night was the thrilling reveal of the “Faith Family Future Endowment Campaign.”

In six months, 16 generous donors have committed $7.7 Million of the $10 Million campaign goal. We are extremely grateful and humbled by the generosity of our faithful friends of the Foundation for their trust and belief in our mission. To learn more about the Saint Ann School Foundation, please visit

Veterans Day Mass honors military service and sacrifice

The 12th Annual Veterans Day Catholic Mass made a successful return Sarasota National Cemetery as Bishop Frank J. Dewane prayed for those currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, those who have died, and their families.

More than 500 people attended the Mass which was celebrated in 2020 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice out of caution because of the global pandemic and a threat from a hurricane.

Bishop Dewane thanked the veterans for their service in defense of freedom, enjoyed to this day thanks to those who served and sacrificed throughout this nation’s history and those who will continue to answer the call in the future.

“We come here to say, ‘Thank you!’ to all veterans in a very particular way,” the Bishop said. “We remember them in our prayers and in the intentions of this Mass. We stand up and we speak out for liberties and the freedom that we enjoy; but we must remember at all times those who have made it all possible. You were called to serve that the rest of us may have a more secure a safer life.”

Reflecting on the sacrifice of veterans, some of whom are elderly, some young and still some actively serving in posts around the world, Bishop Dewane acknowledged that the lasting impact of their service – be it physical or mental injury – is something that cannot be ignored and must be supported. He also recognized the sacrifice of military family members who are left behind and offered prayers for their comfort.

Citing from a statement by St. John Paul II, the Bishop said the brave men and women who have served our country upholding the dignity of human life, of a freedom, of liberty – transforms them somehow into soldiers for Christ.

“Our veterans wear their faith and hearts on their sleeves,” Bishop Dewane continued. “Let us in acknowledging the valiant fight they have given our country… Pray each and every day that they always know that, with God, all of us will be victorious and we will have eternal life.”

Prior to the opening of the Mass, all veterans – active and retired – were asked to stand and be recognized. This was followed by the singing of the National Anthem.

The Sarasota National Cemetery celebration concluded with a procession, escorted by the Knights of Columbus Color Corps, to the nearby graves as those in attendance sang “God Bless America.” Priests, Deacons, and the Knights of Columbus Color Corps and all present, gathered in silent prayer before “Taps” was played on a bugle. Bishop Dewane also blessed the area with Holy Water.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. (Ret.) Scott Predmore, a 20-year veteran, expressed his gratitude for the Mass. “This means a great deal to me and really to all veterans. We served our country and would gladly do it again, but it’s a service that is not always appreciated,” Predmore said. “Having faith while serving in combat was something which helped me to get through some difficult times.”

There are about 25,000 veterans and eligible family members currently interred in the National Cemetery and more than 19 million military veterans in the United States.

The Diocese of Venice coordinates the Catholic Mass at the National Cemetery with the support of the Knights of Columbus. One of the graves is that of Father Robert G. Tierney, a former assistant at St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton, who served in the U.S. Navy. Father Tierney died in 2006 and was one of the first people buried in the National Cemetery.

Memorial Mass held for Deacons and their wives

Remembering those who have gone before, Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the annual Deacon Memorial Mass on Nov. 13, 2021, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice.

The Mass is held in November to coincide with the Month of All Souls. In addition to a number of Deacons and their spouses, also present were members of the Permanent Diaconate Formation Class of 2025, who, with their spouses, were on a weekend retreat in Sarasota.

Bishop Dewane said that we are all witnesses of hope. This comes from knowing that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and has promised us, all who believe in Him, the Way and the Truth and the Light. It is not only a hope but also a realization that those who have gone before us – they give us hope in the sharing of the Resurrection.”

That hope changes how we look at the world and points us to things that are heavenly, the Bishop continued. We have been promised eternal life and must live accordingly through the gifts we have been given, each in their own way lifting us up to be more than we can be on our own.

“As the Gospel of John said to us, ‘I shall raise him up on the last day.’ (John 6:40) That applies to each one of us, each deacon or spouse who has gone before us. Let it be our hope that joins us with them daily. It is our strength,” Bishop Dewane concluded.

The goal of the Memorial Mass is to bring together those Deacons, and their wives, serving today while honoring the memory of those who have served in the Diocese of Venice since its founding in 1984 while at the same time expressing gratitude to all for their answering the call of the Lord in a precise way.

As part of this annual tradition, during the Prayer Intentions, the names of those who have passed away during the previous year are solemnly read as candles are lit in their honor. Included in the list of names this year were Deacon George Doerr, Deacon Lin Pennypacker and Deacon John Henry Harrington.

A luncheon followed during which Deacon David Reardon, who is Diocesan Director of Diaconate Personnel, spoke on behalf of the Deacons and Diaconate aspirants present in thanking the Bishop for his support of the Permanent Diaconate program. Today, there are more than 75 Permanent Deacons, many seasonal, living and serving throughout the Diocese.

Marriage prep seminar enlightens

Couples from all across the Diocese of Venice recently attended a marriage prep “Day of Reflection” seminar specially designed for engaged couples preparing for the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

A volunteer team of married couples, clergy, and Natural Family Planning instructors shared their experiences and information Nov. 13, 2021, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice. The intention of the seminar was to enable the 18 couples to become more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of a Catholic marriage.

The morning began with a presentation on the theology of sacramental marriage by Father Vincent Huber, FSSP, a Parochial Vicar at Christ the King Parish in Sarasota.

The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is a supernatural calling by God for couples to strive to live holy, permanent, fruitful and lifelong marriages, explained Carrie Harkey Diocese Family Life Coordinator whose office sponsored the seminar.

“The role of husband and wife in a marriage is to help one another on this pilgrimage through life to get to heaven,” Harkey said. “Following this firm foundation, couples explored how the Christian Faith is meant to challenge us to become holier. The Church’s moral teachings are aimed at happiness.”

Couples then spent private time around the OLPH grounds with discussion prompts and had the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The afternoon was focused on life skills that lead to successful, holy, happy marriages. Couples also heard a presentation on Natural Family Planning from Margaret Kelly, FCPI- NFP.

Recognizing that finances are a normal and natural challenge in a marriage, the couples explored how the four Cardinal Virtues, habits that help us make good decisions – Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance – can be used to make sound decisions.

Finally, the day wrapped up focusing on living as a Catholic family. Deacon Ron and Silvia Dains, as well as Keith and Carla Geurts, couples representing decades of marriage experience, shared their tips and advice for lifelong success. It was stressed that married love between spouses, rooted in Christ, flows out into family life, friendships, and the world.

One participant commented that the experience was a “great time to step away from daily life and put our decision to marry in proper perspective.”

For more information about the seminar or to participate in one of the days being held in 2022 contact, please Carrie Harkey at 941-484-9543 or

Inspired Diocesan Youth “Sent” – Rally draws 1,000 for rousing day

Amazing things happen when you put 1,000 teenage Catholics under one roof.

For some 8 hours on Nov. 6, 2021 teens heard from inspirational speakers, rocked to spiritual music, and participated in Eucharistic Adoration and the Mass. At the same time, they bonded with each other and learned how they are an important part of the Universal Church.

Judging by the smiling faces at the end of the day the impact was evidently strong. Most importantly was their instant reaction to the question: “How was the Youth Rally?”

The answers were simple and uncomplicated: “Powerful!” “Awesome!” “The Best!” “Inspiring!” “Impactful” “Unforgettable!” “Poignant!” “Overwhelming!” “Emotional!” “Prayerful!” “Memorable!”

The theme for 2021 Diocese of Venice Youth Rally was “Sent” which comes directly from the Bible – “As you sent me in the world, so I sent them in the world” (John 17:18).

Each speaker, each song, each moment encouraged and challenged the young men and women to examine how they are living out their Faith in their home, with their friends, in their Parish and in society. What they learned is that Jesus Christ does not expect anyone to be perfect in their Faith journey, but they must continue to work to live their Faith better. And when they inevitably face difficulty and may stumble along the way, the teens learned that they shouldn’t be discouraged but instead encouraged that Jesus will be there to accompany them. Many of the youth were inspired to the point that a large number received the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which was made available throughout the event.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane told the teens that above all else they must make room for the love of the Lord in their life.

“Allow that to be what fills you. Let that be what sends you out into the world,” Bishop Dewane continued. “And with that love of God, become the bearer of the Faith. Allow yourself to be the instrument that Christ has meant you to be… you have to make that happen. Use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to send you out; but know that it is you who has to then give of what you have to others. May you be filled ever more and learn to give because you have been sent out to communicate God’s Love.”

Bishop Dewane opened the Youth Rally to a rousing ovation from the young men and women. The Bishop said the Rally was the event he missed the most during the pandemic, reminding them how they are a blessed part of their Parish, the Diocese and the Universal Church and they should never forget their place.

“You are God’s gift to this Diocese,” the Bishop added. “You and the young people like yourself bring your talents and gifts, which are a reflection of the Lord. We celebrate those talents and gifts and call on all of you to use them in praise of Lord by the life you live.”

A key point of the day was the large group Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which refocused the teens on the Supreme Sacrifice Our Lord made for all of us. Bishop Dewane lead the Adoration before a temporary altar on the stage. He took time to process through the crowd with the monstrance, allowing each person to come up close and to be personal with Christ.

Other highlights of the day included inspirational music, games, and a chance for fresh air outside the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center. There were also lots of opportunities to take photos and selfies, many of which Bishop Dewane was a part. Displays from religious orders, the Diocesan Respect Life and Religious Education offices, and a Vocations table staffed by active Diocesan seminarians, were also present as well as several groups selling religious articles.

Throughout the day, the 2021 Youth Rally included an exciting line-up of speakers including David Calavitta and Kelly Colangelo. They each shared their unique Faith journey while also offering poignant advice to the teens as to how they can keep their focus on the Lord. Both stressed that the mid-teen years are a critical time as it is when the tumultuous world is trying to lure them down a darker path. At one point the young men were moved to a separate part of the facility thus allowing talks geared more personally toward the young women and men. The split sessions also included vocations talks.

The speakers were accompanied by inspirational music provided by the Francis Cabildo Band as the youth enthusiastically joined in singing each selection.

The 2021 Youth Rally is one of the largest gatherings in the Diocese of Venice each year. Parish and high school groups ranged in size from 4 to 140. The largest groups were from St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle, St. Paul Parish in Arcadia, and Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers.

Visit the for a link to a slideshow of more photos

School honors grandparents

Grandparents, a vital link to the past – most importantly as regard Faith – were welcomed to St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples for a special celebration.

That celebration on Nov. 5, 2021, opened with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane as students sat with their grandparents in Our Lady of the Angels School Chapel. Afterwards, everyone went to the Student Life Center for a luncheon.

During the Mass, Bishop Dewane praised the Grandparents Day event as reflecting the true nature of the school – a family of faith with no limits. He also spoke about how we are all called to live out goodness in our lives through the Holy Spirit.

“Grandparents sing the praises of God in the traditions they pass down and in how they live their life,” the Bishop said. “Let the light of the Holy Spirit make it more. More than visit roots, let it be the goodness that personifies who you are as more the man or woman of God you are called to be.

Bishop Dewane urged the students to listen to the grandparents more often, explaining that while they may not be as well versed in modern technology, they have the ability to understand the most difficult situations.

“You might say they are old, how can they know,” the Bishop continued. “That is why they know. They have faced the same difficulties. Get the experience; get the wisdom they offer. We can all learn something from each other by looking for the goodness within yourselves and within your grandparents. Bring generations together.”

Bishop Dewane concluded by praying for the grandparents, saying, “May the Lord bless each and every one of you grandparents and give you many more years allowing you to share the goodness the Lord has given you, to share your wisdom, to share your roots, and most of all, to share your Faith.”

Following the Mass, several grandparents, and their grandchildren, thanked the Bishop for his presence and for acknowledging the roles both have to play in building up the faith of each other.

One grandparent said he is proud that his grandchildren have all attended Catholic schools. “Of course, my grandson is now getting the best education. My wife and I passed on the faith along to my children and grandchildren, but it has to continue. We have more to share. We are so pleased to see that lesson being enhanced here at St. John Neumann.”

Parishes, schools help bring Saints to life

In the days leading up to and following Nov. 1, 2021, the Solemnity of All Saints, Parishes and Diocesan Catholic schools took time out to put a special emphasis on the Saints.

At some Masses children dressed as their favorite Saint. In some schools, presentations were made to allow the young “Saints” to share the story of these holy men and women of God.

The most popular activity this year was the Trunk-or-Treat which provided a safe environment for the little ones to come and get candy and have a little fun.

Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Parish in Bokeelia supported the Pine Island event by supplying 162 kids prepackaged bags of candy that had a label that said “Never Stop FALL-O-WEEN Jesus for Heavenly Treats. Have a Happy Halloween from OLMM Catholic Church.” The parishioners donated the candy for the event as the Parish Trunk-or-Treat Theme was: “FALL for Jesus, He Never LEAVES.”

Meanwhile, St. Michael Parish in Wauchula decided to host a carnival/trick-or-treat event in the field behind the Parish. Children dressed as priests, angels and a variety of superheroes and other characters each had to complete a carnival game to receive candy. One game had children try to identify images of saints with only a small hint to help. All the candy was donated by the faithful at St. Raphael Parish in Englewood.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane often describes the saints as women and men who do ordinary things extraordinarily well.

An example of this occurred in Bradenton, where second graders from St. Joseph Catholic School shared candy, homemade cards, and sang their favorite songs for the residents at nearby Truewood Assisted Living. Thanks to a donor who supplied candy, the students also enjoyed Trick or Treating throughout the facility.

The Beta Club of St. John Neumann Catholic School in Naples also did a little thing well when they delivered treats to the faculty and teachers at St. Ann Catholic School in Naples in thanks for their dedication to education. Each bag also featured a bible verse chosen by the Beta Club – “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” James 1:12.

Back at the high school, the seniors escorted pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students from St. Ann and St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Schools for trick-or-treating to each of the classrooms.

Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers hosted kindergarten students from St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral and St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers on Oct. 28 for pumpkin decorating and a few treats.

At Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria the children in grades Pre-k through third came to Mass on Oct. 29 dressed as their favorite saint. After Mass had concluded, the costumed children took turns announcing to the assembled students, teachers, parents and visitors which saint they were.

On the Solemnity, Nov. 1, St. Andrew Catholic School students wore a wide variety of “saint” costumes to Mass with many Blessed Virgin Mary’s, several angels, and a few Popes.

Pope Francis said true happiness does not come from being young, rich, or successful, as the world thinks, but from the counter-cultural idea to follow Jesus Christ. The Holy Father made his remarks during a special Angelus address for the Solemnity of All Saints, celebrated by the Catholic Church on Nov. 1, 2021. This year the obligation to attend Mass was abrogated in the United States because the Solemnity fell on a Monday.

In addition, schools also took time out on All Soul’s Day, Nov. 2, to pause to remember deceased family and friends. Middle school-aged students at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton created images made from sugar with prayers for deceased relatives and friends written on the back of each one. This was part of a special Family Night celebrating Día de los Muertos on Oct. 29.

At Bishop Verot, for many years Fathers Joe and John Beattie, Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, would have a book for staff and students to record the names of loved ones to remember on All Souls Day. That tradition continues to this day with students and staff invited to participate this year.

Parishes also did the same with several dedicating evening Masses to the reading of the names of deceased parishioners from the previous year. The entire month of November is dedicated to all the Souls in Purgatory.