Christmas celebrated across the Diocese

The celebration of Christmas is a time to recognize the truth about Christ: our Incarnate Savior, the Son of God, both human and divine.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane stressed the importance of this reality when speaking about the meaning and symbolism that we must recognize and accept that on Christmas Day, “the Savior, the Messiah, is sent to us. In so doing, you and I become children of God.”

The true gift of Christmas is not the presents found under a tree, but the light God sent forth into the world, Jesus Christ and the example He provides, Bishop Dewane added.

“That gift of light is with you and me,” Bishop Dewane continued. “No matter where we find ourselves, that light of Christ rests with all of us. It is we who have to accept that, and when we do, we become that Child of God.”

For Christmas, Bishop Dewane celebrated the Televised Mass for Homebound which was recorded at St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota. As the Bishop has in the past, he made a point to celebrate the Mass for the incarcerated in the region. This was accomplished Christmas Eve at the DeSoto Correctional Facility in Arcadia and the day after Christmas at the Hardee Correctional Institute in Bowling Green.

Christmas throughout the Diocese reflected the generosity of the faithful toward those in need. The Advent tradition of having a Jesse Tree, with ornaments listing the wish of a needy child, was a common sight in churches in December. The result was that tens of thousands of gifts were distributed throughout the region to local children.

Also, part of the Christmas Season were concerts with carolers to help everyone get into the spirit of the coming Holiday. Christmas Eve was the time for children’s Masses with the younger faithful participating in the retelling of the Nativity story.

In what has become an annual tradition, St. Agnes Parish in Naples hosted a Living Nativity, complete with a recreation of the town of Bethlehem and live animals.

A common pre-Christmas celebration at several Parishes in the Diocese is “Las Posadas,” a tradition from Mexico and Central and South America where the Nativity story is retold over the course of nine days. The highlight of the novena is one larger centerpiece gathering. One of the more elaborate celebrations occurs at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula. This year, the celebration was postponed due to weather until Jan. 4. In the retelling of the Nativity story, more than 100 youth participated.

Before the Christmas Break, Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools joined in the fun of the season by giving back to those in need while also holding their own celebrations.

Each school held their own toy drives to benefit needy children in the area with the generous response reaching beyond what was expected. Other fun activities included decorating cookies and trees, gift making and wrapping, as well as pageants and concerts, each to showcase the talents of the students.

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School National Honors Society in Fort Myers hosted young students from St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral and St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers to build gingerbread houses and decorate cookies.

Kindergartners at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton visited a nearby nursing home to sing carols to spread holiday cheer. Students at the school also received a visit from Mrs. Santa Claus who delivered books as part of a reading initiative from the Early Learning Coalition.

The Key Club of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples hosted a “Holiday Gift Shop” for the Friends of Foster Children Forever. Families came to the campus to choose from thousands of new toys that went to some very deserving foster children in the area.

Neumann students also helped pack 150,000 meals to help feed the needy in the local community. Food and toys were also delivered to the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center of Catholic Charities.

The events and activities listed represent a mere fraction of what took place in December at Parishes and schools across the Diocese of Venice.

Celebrating independence and unity

On the 216th Anniversary of the first Independent Republic in the Caribbean in Haiti, the Diocese of Venice, in conjunction with the Haitian Catholic Community, celebrated a Mass at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs on Jan. 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God.

Nearly 1,000 people from throughout the Diocese of Venice attended the Mass which was celebrated by Most Rev. Max Leroy Mésidor, Archbishop of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, with Bishop Frank J. Dewane in attendance. There were several additional priests from the Diocese of Venice who concelebrated as well as priests from St. Leo the Great Parish

Archbishop Mésidor spoke about the celebration of the independence of Haiti and how it importantly falls upon a major celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the World Day of Peace. This is particularly poignant in Port-Au-Prince where in recent months there has been unrest due to fuel and food shortages and corruption in the government.

The Archbishop encouraged those gathered to remember the sacrifice of Haitians and to use the example of Mary, for she said ‘Yes’ to God with courage and grace. He added that they should feel confident in relying on Mary, the Holy Mother of God, to give them the strength to be sons and daughters of Jesus Christ.

Archbishop Mésidor added that they should be proud of their roots in Haiti and that they will always be Haitian. With this in mind, the Archbishop encouraged everyone to keep a connection to their homeland as well as with their faith which will serve them well in whatever obstacles they may face in the future, noting.

In a gesture of gratitude toward Bishop Dewane, Archbishop Mésidor noted that the Haitian Catholic Community within the Diocese of Venice is in good and capable hands and thanked Bishop Dewane for his support.

Bishop Dewane thanked Archbishop Mésidor for being a guest of the Diocese and sharing his time, wisdom and faith with the Haitian Catholic Community in their native language. He also said it was an honor and privilege to participate in such an important cultural and religious celebration for the growing Haitian Catholic Community in the Diocese.

Bishop Dewane also thanked and recognized the Haitian priests serving in the Diocese for their continued dedication and passion for caring for the faithful, in particular those in the Haitian community. “The work you do does not go unnoticed,” the Bishop added.

There are currently Masses celebrated in Creole at the following parishes: St. Charles Borromeo in Port Charlotte; St. Francis Xavier in Fort Myers; St. Michael in Wauchula; Sacred Heart in Bradenton; Our Lady of Guadalupe in Immokalee; and St. Peter the Apostle in Naples. The New Year’s Day celebration is one of the few times the entire community can gather in one place. With this in mind, following the conclusion of the Mass all joined in singing the National Anthem of Haiti.

For the Haitian community, Jan. 1 is both a spiritual day, and an emotional day commemorating such an important day in their homeland. It was in 1803 that the Haitians defeated the largest and most powerful army at the time, the army of Napoleon, in Cap-Haitien. Haiti became the second country in the Americas to declare its Independence.

When the French were in control, they enacted a law that said the French were the only ones who could eat soup because they were in the upper class. When Haiti proclaimed its independence, all Haitians started to eat soup so as to demonstrate that everyone was equal. Thus, began the custom of cooking and eating soup on New Year’s Day in celebration of freedom. In honor of this unique tradition, soup was offered at the meal that followed the Mass in Bonita Springs.

Mass to honor Widows and Widowers Jan. 26 in Naples

Throughout Scriptures we are reminded to care for widows and widowers who are protected by God. For this reason, the Bishop Frank J. Dewane is celebrating the annual Mass for all widows and widowers at 3 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 26 at St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th North Avenue, Naples. A dinner will follow in the Parish Hall.

In 2019 hundreds of widows and widowers were recognized during the first Mass at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. The response was overwhelmingly positive and was described by several as beautiful and touching.

Bishop Dewane said this Mass is an important opportunity to recognize those who have suffered the loss of a spouse. The Bishop called the widows and widowers an inspiration and gift to the community as they stand strong in their faith, even with the loss that may continue to strike them hard.

The concept for the Mass grew out of the annual Mass honoring couples celebrating significant wedding anniversaries. Those Masses, which will be held Feb. 1 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and February 29 at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, are extraordinarily popular. At the conclusion of one such Mass, a volunteer noted that she would have attended the anniversary Mass but for the fact that her spouse had recently passed away. This planted the seed for what has now become the annual Widows and Widowers Mass. (Registration for the Anniversary Masses is through your Parish.)

“Widows and widowers are not forgotten but are in fact recognized and in particular revered by the Church,” Bishop Dewane said. “The Holy Father has called upon widows and widowers to use their experiences to help the young and poor; showing them the tenderness of God and His closeness in love.”

The celebration will include a display of photos available for viewing during the reception. Should an attendee wish to share a photo for the display, they can either bring the image to the event, email it to, or mail it to Diocese of Venice, Attn: Family Life Office, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, Florida  34285.

To register, or for further information about the Widows and Widowers Mass with Bishop Dewane, please visit, or call 941-484-9543.

Opportunities coming to stand up for Life

We are all called by Christ to be witnesses of our Faith and to stand up against evil.

The Diocese of Venice Respect Life Office is co-sponsoring several events to mark the 47th tragic anniversary of the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision which opened the door for abortion in the United States.

Today, after more than 60 million abortions, there is less regard for all human life as society discards those deemed inconvenient because of age, infirmity or any other reason, the Florida Bishops noted in a statement released in early January. In fact, some states sought to strengthen laws that permit abortions even to the moment of birth.

Locally, there are several opportunities to act.

For example, St. Francis of Assisi Parish, 5265 Placida Road, Grove City, is hosting a Parish Prayer Walk for Life at 11 a.m., Jan. 18. The walk is in solidarity with the National March for Life in Washington, D.C., and for participants to be a witness to a Culture of Life and defend the right to life of all unborn children. Everyone is welcome. For more details, and for pledge sheets, please call 941-697-4899.

You can also join Bishop Frank J. Dewane for a Mass and the annual Prayer Walk for Life on Jan. 21 in Sarasota. The Mass is at 8:30 a.m., St. Martha Parish, 200 N. Orange St. Participants will then take a shuttle or walk to the Planned Parenthood on Central Avenue for a Prayer Vigil.

This year, Bishop Dewane is joining a group of approximately 475 from the Diocese of Venice on Jan. 24 to stand up for life. The young men and women, representing each Diocesan High School as well as 10 different parishes, will be joining hundreds of thousands in the National March for Life in Washington, D.C.

In addition, the U. S. Catholic Bishops invite everyone to join thousands of Catholics nationwide for 9 Days of Prayer for Life, a novena from Jan. 21-29 for the protection of human life. Each day’s intention is accompanied by a short reflection and suggested actions to help build a Culture of Life. You can receive daily pro-life prayers via e-mail or on your phone via text. For further information, visit

The 40 Days for Life spring campaign is held this year from Feb. 26 to April 5. The campaign includes 40 days of prayer and fasting for an end to abortion where all are welcome to stand and peacefully pray. These vigils will take place in the public right-of-way outside Planned Parenthood abortion facilities in Naples, Fort Myers and Sarasota. For more information, go to and click on the location nearest you.

The Diocese offers multiple pro-life efforts throughout the year. This includes regular prayer vigils are held in front of abortion facilities throughout the Diocese.

For information on all Diocesan activities promoting a Culture of Life, please contact Jeanne Berdeaux at or 941-374-1068

News briefs from around the Diocese

Cathedral celebrates Feast Day

On Jan. 5, the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, the Feast Day of Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, Bishop Frank J. Dewane presided over a tri-lingual Mass (English, Spanish and Polish). This annual tradition includes the different language communities that are based at the Cathedral. At the beginning of the Mass, Bishop Dewane blessed the Cathedral where it is inscribed 20+C+M+B+20 (the year and the initials of the three magi) above the main interior entrance to the Church.

Senior apartments available in Arcadia

Brand new apartments are move-in ready at St. John Paul II Villas of Catholic Charities in Arcadia. The senior community (55 years and older) has a community center and numerous activities throughout the year. Rents start at $459 for a one bedroom and $626 for a two bedroom. Income restrictions apply. All units include washer/dryer, microwave, dishwasher, garbage disposal, and some units have a walk-in shower. If you are interested, please contact the leasing office at 863-884-2123 (TTY711).

How can I be more ‘A Disciple of Christ’ in my own life

Letter from Bishop Dewane:

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Just past the midpoint of Advent, we all have been provided an initial time of fruitful preparation for the coming of Christ into our hearts and homes. As we look toward the end of Advent and the coming of Christmas, the call to become “A Disciple of Christ” in a new way should come to mind each day. This Advent, the Diocese of Venice launched a campaign to be “A Disciple of Christ,” to invite Christ in a personal and transformative way into our hearts that leads us to follow Him intentionally and willfully.  At this time, it is fitting to find newness in our relationship with Christ, to ask oneself, “How can I be more ‘A Disciple of Christ’ in my own life’?”

This beginning allows each of us a fresh start as well as a focal point which, of course, is Christ Himself. In the words of St. Gregory of Nyssa, “He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.” This is what it means to both become and to be a disciple, since it is Christ that we desire and His love that we know. It is never too late to begin anew, to follow Christ and invite Him into our hearts.

The Season of Advent began with the focus on the Second Coming of Christ, when He comes in glory to judge the living and the dead. The portion of the Season which we are entering now sets its gaze on the first coming, the coming of the Christ Child. With roughly a week left of Advent and in view of the quickly approaching Christmas Season, why not up our game? Make the most of the opportunity of preparation for the coming of the Christ Child into our own lives. Our beginning points may be different, as St. Gregory told us, but we continue to move from beginning to beginning so that Christ may be born in our hearts again and again.

The Gospel of Luke tells us of the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement of the coming of Christ. Mary, in a special way, displays what it means to be a disciple, and she is, in fact, the first “Disciple of Christ.” When she hears the Word of God spoken to her, she responds in faith, exclaiming, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word” (cf. Luke 1:38). This is the essence of living the Gospel: “may it be done to me according to your word”; it is an acceptance and a response to God.  In this way, all ought to be “A Disciple of Christ,” eager to receive His call and respond with love and faith. Then let us act and boldly allow Christ to take precedence in our lives in every respect.

Another example to be taken from this is the hearing and listening to God’s Word. How often do we allow the Bible to collect dust on the coffee table or on a bookshelf? Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice, He knows them, and they follow Him (cf. John 10:27). In this Season of preparation and in the following Season of Christmas, open your Bible with your family. “Take and read” as the Lord spoke to St. Augustine.  In this you will find the “words of eternal life” (cf. John 6:68) present in Our Lord who is “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” (cf. John 14:6) and you will know what it means to be “A Disciple of Christ.”

Looking toward the end of Advent and preparing for the coming of the Christ Child, be always aware of His Second Coming; be prepared to meet Christ as a disciple. Recognize the ways that He gives His love and respond to that love!

I wish you a fruitful remainder of the Advent Season and indeed a very Blessed and Merry Christmas! Know that you are in my prayers and please keep me in your prayers as we prepare for the coming of Christ into our hearts so as to be “A Disciple of Christ.”

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+Frank J. Dewane

Evenings dedicated to Charity

Now is the time of year that people are planning their busy seasonal social schedule with lots of interesting activities to choose for evenings of elegance or just casual fun.

While choosing from the many opportunities Southwest Florida has to offer, consider these events for a chance to give back to the community. Proceeds go directly to help our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in need through the many programs of Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc.

In most cases, the Catholic Charities galas are elegant black-tie affairs, but no matter what the attire, all of the proceeds will go directly to help those in the community where the event is held. This means that by buying a ticket you could literally help feed families, teach children to read or even prevent some from becoming homeless. Beginning in late January through April there are 10 chances to support Catholic Charities in an entertaining and unique way.

“These Catholic Charities Galas and events are of critical importance as it brings like-minded and faith-filled people together for a good cause,” explained Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. CEO Philomena Pereira. “Each gathering serves to help educate people about a critical need in the area, while at the same time offering everyone chance to have fun.”

The upcoming events will be centered on various themes and benefit either regional or specific programs of Catholic Charities. Many of the Balls will include a cocktail hour, auction, dining and dancing. The list of events is as follows:

  • Jammin’ for the Mamas for Our Mothers House, 13, Boca Royale Golf and Country Club, Englewood, $50, call 941-485-6264 or 941-662-7787,;
  • Sugar Bowl Show of Shows North Port, Jan. 25, North Port Performing Arts Center, 6400 W. Price Blvd. North Port, $20 or $25 a person, 941-426-8479;
  • Catholic Charities Ball, Feb. 8, Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, $300 a person, 941-355-4680, 31 or;
  • Boots and Bandannas Dinner Dance, Feb. 15, Kingsway Country Club, Port Charlotte, $75 per person, 863-494-1068,;
  • Bethesda House Mardi Gras Madness, Feb. 22, Art Ovation Hotel, Sarasota, $150 a person, 941-355-4680, ext. 301 or;
  • Our Mother’s House Wine Tasting, Auction and Dinner Dance, Feb. 27, Venice Community Center, Venice, $85 a person, 941-485-6264 or;
  • Emerald Ball, March 7, Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort, Naples, $400 a person, call 239-455-2655 or email;
  • Sugar Bowl Show of Shows Bradenton, March 14, Neel Performing Arts Center, at State College of Florida, Bradenton, $25, $20, $35 per person, 941-74-5448;
  • Venetian Charity Ball, March 21, Hyatt Regency Coconut Point, Bonita Springs, $250 a person, call 239-334-4007 or;
  • AFCAAM of Catholic Charities Charity Golf Classic, April 17, Forest Country Club, Fort Myers, 239-728-4571 or

For more details about specific events and to buy tickets, please visit

Our Lady celebrated across Diocese

Tradition, prayer, reverence and music marked the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, throughout the Diocese of Venice.

Celebrated on Dec. 12, the Feast is often linked to the Dec. 9 Feast of St. Juan Diego, the day in 1531 when Our Lady first appeared to the saint near modern day Mexico City.

Parishes throughout the Diocese celebrated this special day with a variety of events including Masses, overnight vigils, large processions, early morning prayer celebrations, and even outdoor festivities.

“Our Lady of Guadalupe means so much to me and so many others,” said Valeria Hernandez of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples. “My mother prayed to the Blessed Virgin when I was sick as a child and she told me to do so every day. I do pray to her all the time and it gives me great comfort. On this Feast Day, in a special way, we all join together to give thanks to Her and to honor Her.”

For Diego Reyes, of St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, the celebration is “every holiday wrapped into one. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the acceptance of the Hispanic people into the Universal Catholic Church. We were welcomed by the Blessed Virgin Mary with open arms. What an honor and important moment that deserves our prayerful thanks and a true celebration.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the Feast Day Mass at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, joined by Administrator Father Casey Jones and Parochial Vicar Father Luis Pacheco. Following the Mass, a play depicting the story of the apparition of Our Lady was led by children of the Parish. Afterwards, a local Aztec dancer troupe performed under the church portico.

Celebrations took place in many parishes and schools throughout the Diocese. Hundreds took part in rainy procession along U.S. 41 to St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples on their way to Mass. At Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park the Mass was followed by an outdoor festival with music, dancing and food. Diocesan Catholic Schools also took time out to celebrate Our Lady by using the moment as a teaching lesson.

Other celebrations took place Diocesan Catholic Schools, where students learned about the cultural a rainy procession along U.S. 41 in Naples to St. Peter the Apostle Parish;

Our Lady appeared, dressed like an Aztec princess, to St. Juan Diego, a poor widower who was on his way to Mass. She asked, in his native language, to have the Bishop of Mexico build a church in Her honor. Skeptical, the Bishop asked for a sign. Our Lady again appeared to St. Juan Diego who shared the request of the Bishop. So, in the middle of winter Our Lady provided beautiful roses to wrap in St. Juan Diego’s tilma, a cloak made of cactus fibers. When he opened the tilma for the Bishop, the roses fell to the floor and an impression of Our Lady appeared on the tilma in the form an indigenous woman.

This apparition led to the conversion of Mexico almost overnight, when up to that time Catholic missionaries from Europe had made very little headway. The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City was built on the site of the apparitions and is one of the most visited religious shrines in the world. It is also home of the actual tilma of St. Juan Diego, which can still be seen, with the image clearly visible, nearly 500 years later.

Sacramental theologian speaks to priests, deacons, musicians

Permanent deacons of the Diocese of Venice recently gathered at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Port Charlotte to hear from visiting speaker Father Eusebius Martis, O.S.B.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane introduced Father Martis, a Benedictine monk of Marmion Abbey and a well-known sacramental theologian who was in the Diocese of Venice for the annual Priest Convocation in the first week of December.

While in the Diocese Father Martis also offered his expertise to a gathering of Diocesan musicians at St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers on Dec. 5.

During his presentation to the deacons on Dec. 7 Father Martis focused on the importance of the liturgy noting that a deacon is intimately connected with the life of the community. “The role of the deacon is to act in the best of his ability as a model for the people and show them what they are supposed to do. You articulate what the truth is.”

Father Martis noted that every moment of the Liturgy has a specific purpose and meaning and the corresponding actions by a deacon matter. Therefore, the Liturgy is not a place to let individuality shine through, he continued. “It is a place of becoming united, formed into the Body of Christ. Liturgy that manifests division does a disservice to prayer.”

The Liturgy, actions and meanings of which are described in detail in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal Rite books and the Ordo, is a ritual of repetition, a process that repeats our pilgrimage to Heaven, Father continued.

“Our unity is manifested in common gestures, shared actions and joining our voices into a harmonious voice of Christ,” Father Martis explained. “The Deacon has his own role in the Liturgy: proclaiming, occasionally preaching; universal prayer, assisting the priest, and modelling for the people their gestures and postures.”

Father Martis also spoke to musicians from various Parishes using a similar theme.

Support of vocations crucial to continuation of Church’s Mission

The Diocese of Venice is blessed with many generous and dedicated priests who have followed Christ’s call to act in His person in the priesthood. The Diocese is further blessed with vocations to the priesthood, evidenced by our present number of 17 seminarians.

Support of the Annual Seminary Collection, always the first weekend in the New Year, continues to be crucial as challenges increase in the educating and forming of our future priests.

This Seminary Collection, to be taken up this year the weekend of Jan. 4-5, “ensures that we continue to educate the seminarians so as priests they can serve you and your family,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane said in a letter promoting the collection. “It enables the Church’s mission of cultivating and fostering vocations, supporting the next generation of diocesan priests in their formation and all the accompanying expenses. Programs to invite more men to consider the priesthood must also be organized and funded. Your gift to the Seminarian Collection helps offset these costs.”

Further the contributions assist in the assessment given to the Diocese of Venice to contribute toward the updating of St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. The institute is co-owned by all of the Arch/diocese in the state of Florida. It has recently been totally remodeled.

Father Shawn Roser, Diocese of Venice Director of Vocations, reflected upon the importance on supporting vocations to the priesthood and religious life, in particular during the Advent and Christmas Seasons.

“The very mention of Christmas fills us with a flood of memories and feelings,” Father Roser said. “Perhaps as children, we gazed with wonder at the infant lying in the manger scene or tried to imagine what the angels sounded like when they appeared to those shepherds long ago.”

The seasons are a magical time of year, full of lights, life, and love of God and neighbor through acts of charity and prayer, Father Roser added.

“The ‘Yes!’ of Mary – even the ‘Yes!’ of Joseph – in answer to the call from God, led to the miracle of Christmas and that in a similar way, when we say yes to God’s will for us in our vocation, He can work powerfully through us,” Father continued. “As Christmas approaches, we should prepare our hearts, like mangers, to receive the Christ child once again. And so, as Our Lord is the Father’s gift to us, let us make our lives a gift back to Him. Please generously contribute to the Seminary Collection!”

Your gift to this important collection provides vital financial support which is working to ensure the future of the Church in the Diocese of Venice.

If you feel the Lord May be calling you to lay down your life for Him and His Church as a priest or religious, please contact Father Shawn Roser at 941-484-9543 or