Letter to Faithful from Bishop Dewane Oct. 16, 2020

Oct. 16, 2020

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On March 19, 2020, as the Covid-19 was beginning its impact in Florida, I dedicated a year to St. Joseph, Protector for the Faithful of the Diocese of Venice. God appointed St. Joseph the Guardian of the Word Incarnate. Hope in the truth that our prayers to St. Joseph during these days will be graciously heard before the throne of God. Like many moments in her History, Holy Mother Church now faces difficult challenges. However, the hard work of many Priests and Faithful alike have allowed our Parishes to weather these trying times with courage and zeal; and for this I am grateful.

Be assured, I continue to listen to public health data and hear from Priests and Parishioners about the experiences of our Parishes. The dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass has been extended until Nov. 27, 2020, and depending on conditions, perhaps longer. At the same time, I wish to invite the Catholic Faithful who are able, to return to their Parish for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. How good it would be to see more join their fellow Parishioners who have already returned to Sunday Mass.

It is well known that there are immeasurable spiritual graces imparted when we participate in the Mass. Attending the Eucharist strengthens our Faith and Christian discipleship as the Holy Spirit empowers us to know, love, and serve God. The Blessed Sacrament is also a source of hope and unity for our Parishes, communities, country, and the world. Going forth from the Mass, be confident that you are true witnesses of Christ.

Certainly, Catholics who are ill or because of age or underlying health conditions are vulnerable, and those who care for them, should prudently remain home. Parishes will continue to livestream Masses for those who cannot attend in person.  However, as we have experienced during these days, hunger for the Eucharist is only genuinely satisfied when together as the Body of Christ, we draw close to the Real Presence of Our Lord and Savior.

The invitation to return in person for Sunday Mass is accompanied by the promise that safety protocols will continue. That is, masks are still required, and respect for distancing is needed, as well as cleanliness of hands and surfaces remain important.  Many have worked diligently to allow us to venture out to restaurants, stores, and other public events, so, too, we can safely return to our Parish and do what is most essential to Catholics, attend Sunday Mass.

Jesus promised to be with us when we gather in His name. Therefore, let us cherish the Lord’s Goodness and be fed with the Bread Come Down from Heaven. Please accept this “Pastoral Invitation” and prayerfully consider a return to Sunday Mass if you have not already done so. Your Priests look forward to welcoming you once again at the Table of the Lord.

Through St.  Joseph’s intercession, I pray that God will bless you and your family. Let us remain united in prayer, lifting up each other’s needs to the Heavenly Father.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+ Frank J. Dewane

Bishop of the Diocese of

Venice in Florida


Support After Abortion Virtual Conference Oct. 28-30

It comes as no surprise that in its purest sense, the Pro-Life movement seeks to end abortion. But how to go about doing that is a topic of much discussion with a wide range of programs and approaches — all with varying levels of effectiveness.

God planted the seeds for the formation of a new, innovative and unconventional approach with Support After Abortion’s Board President, Janine Marrone, in 2016 at a Luncheons for Life event she sponsors in the Diocese of Venice. Hearing first-hand the emotional devastation, shame and pain that nearly always follows an abortion, while recognizing the stark fact that 50 percent of women will have a repeat abortion, Marrone started a grassroots effort to heal those who are hurting.

Since its founding in 2017, Support After Abortion (SAA) is on a mission to strengthen healing from the impacts of abortion worldwide. Through its network, the organization fosters collaboration and connections between those impacted by abortion and experts in healing. SAA is a center of excellence that strengthens and elevates programs using innovative approaches, methods, education and research.  Ultimately, we build new perspectives rooted in real-life stories; stories that truly change the way the world views abortion.

To expands its reach, the first SAA Healing Network Virtual Conference in July 2020 was designed to unite and connect advocates for abortion healing and reached 5,600 advocates and leaders in abortion healing in 22 countries and 6 continents. It was so successful that an even bigger event is set to take place Oct. 28-30, 2020.

The conference provides educators, program leaders, counselors, therapists, and clergy with access to meaningful, research-based educational resources to make their organizations, staff and individual roles highly effective. Educational and inspirational sessions will be a mix of live and recorded presentations from 60+ leading abortion healing experts globally.

In fact, you’ll find these familiar faces among the keynote presenters: Bishop Frank J. Dewane; Father Joe Gates, Administrator of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Parrish; Father Shawn Monahan, Oblate of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Parochial Vicar at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

In addition, Abby Johnson, the author of the best-selling book and subsequent movie, “Unplanned.” Abby had an eight-year career with Planned Parenthood; one that caused her to ultimately flee the organization and become an outspoken advocate for the pro-life movement.  Abby travels across the globe sharing her harrowing story of her career with Planned Parenthood before becoming an outspoken opponent of abortion. She is the founder of And Then There Were None, a ministry designed to assist abortion clinic workers in transitioning out of the industry.

Registration for the Healing Network Virtual Conference is FREE at https://www.supportafterabortionvirtualconference.com/.  For more information about the Healing Network Virtual Conference or Support After Abortion, please contact Lisa Rowe at 941-468-6148 or lisa@supportafterabortion.com.

Confirmation held in outdoor pavilion

Bishop Frank J. Dewane bestowed the Sacrament of Confirmation on a group of more than 90 young men and women on Oct. 17, 2020 at the Pioneer Park Pavilion in Zolfo Springs.

The youth were from St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, San Alfonso Mission in Zolfo Springs and Holy Child Mission in Bowling Green.

The alternate location was used to ensure that not only the youth and their sponsors could attend, but also family members. The facility is also used for the annual celebration of Our Lady of a Guadalupe.

Verot tackles Mooney in rivalry football game

The Homecoming Football Game for the Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Cougars on Oct. 9, 2020 in Sarasota was spoiled by a tough loss to rival Bishop Verot Catholic High School of Fort Myers.

The two teams fought back and forth throughout the game with Verot leading at halftime with a score of 19-17. Two late Verot touchdowns, a 26-yard run by Kerby Joseph, and then a 38-yard interception return by Keon Anderson sealed the Verot victory in the fourth quarter. The final score was 40-24 with Verot taking home the winner’s trophy back to Fort Myers.

Present for the game were Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Diocesan Superintendent of Education, Father John Belmonte, SJ, along with Mooney Chaplain Father Eric Scanlan who offered the opening benediction.

The crowd in Sarasota was the largest of the season for Cardinal Mooney as stadium capacity is capped at 50 percent, up from 25 percent earlier in the season. Masks were required for all fans. A large group from Verot also travelled to watch the game which was also streamed live on social media by both schools.

News Briefs for the week of Oct. 16, 2020

Memorial Mass on Veterans Day to be livestreamed

Each year the Diocese of Venice holds a Memorial Mass on Veterans Day in honor of the men and women who have served our country and continue to serve and protect us today. The restrictions regarding public gatherings at the Sarasota National Cemetery has precluded holding the Mass at this beautiful site. This year, the Mass to be celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, will be held at 3 p.m., Nov. 11, 2020. The Mass will be live streamed so that all may participate on this important day at facebook.com/dioceseofvenice.org/videos. You do not need to have an account to view the Mass. Please contact Gail Ardy at ardy@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543 for further information.

UnBall virtual event Nov. 12

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice invites everyone to participate in The UnBall, a Virtual Charity Ball to raise funds to help stop human trafficking. Mark your calendar and join at 7 p.m., Nov. 12, 2020. Due to the pandemic and the postponement of the Venetian Ball, the Venetian Ball Committee created The UnBall virtual event. Join Catholic Charities for an hour-long event to raise awareness and stop modern day slavery. Human trafficking is not in the shadows or in faraway nations, it happens in plain sight in our community. Listen to a survivor-leader share her inspirational story and learn how you can make an impact. The UnBall supports the programs and services of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. in Lee, Hendry, and Glades counties which include Positive Youth Development Program, Senior Support Coordination Program, Anti Human Trafficking Assistance Program, immigration services, food assistance, and pantries, baby supplies, and disaster response and recovery. For more information, please contact Janet Pavelack at janet.paverlack@catholiccharitiesdov.org, 239-334-4007 ext. 2101 or by visiting www.catholiccharitiesdov.org.

Mooney student helps hurricane victims

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Senior Mallory Albritton started a relief effort to help farmers and ranchers in Louisiana after Hurricane Laura hit in late August 2020. Mallory coordinated a BBQ fundraiser to make money and buy supplies they needed for the farmers. She helped raise almost $8,000. Mallory, and other supporters from Sarasota, delivered all the supplies on Oct. 1, 2020, before the same region was hit by Hurricane Delta on Oct. 10,

Student assemble 1,000 PPE packets for community

Students of Catholics in Action Club at Bishop Verot Catholic High School assembled 1,000 PPE (personal protective equipment) packets on Oct. 2, 2020 in Fort Myers which will soon be distributed to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. and throughout the community as needed.

Neumann golf team finishes regular season undefeated

Congratulations St. John Neumann Catholic High School Celtic Boys Golf Team for recently finishing their regular season undefeated. The team also placed third in Districts, Next up for the Naples team will be the regional competition the week of Oct. 19, 2020.

Surviving Divorce Retreat Nov. 21 in Fort Myers

The Diocese Office of Marriage and Family Life is hosting a Surviving Divorce Retreat, 9 a.m.-3 pm., Nov. 21, 2020, at Resurrection Parish, 8121 Cypress Lake Drive, Fort Myers. The retreat is open to all and will feature speaker Rose Sweet with a talk titled, “Surviving Divorce: Hope and Healing for the Catholic Family.” The cost is $15 and includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Please register at www.dioceseofvenice.org/divorce. For more information, please contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org.

CCUSA celebrates 110th Anniversary

Built of the shoulders of many before, Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) has dedicated itself to addressing the human dignity of the individual with a variety of services that are provided with prayer and compassion.

A virtual celebration of the 110th Anniversary of CCUSA took place on Sept. 25, 2020, with a Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane and livestreamed to Catholic Charities offices across the nation from Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

Bishop Dewane, who is the Episcopal Advisor to CCUSA said it was appropriate that the Gospel reading from the day was from Luke 9:18-22, when Jesus asks the Disciples “But who do you say that I am?”

“You stand on the shoulders of the many who came before to create Catholic Charities building a response to the Lord’s call in service to all… each person made in the image and likeness of God,” Bishop Dewane said. “This allows us to respond with a richness of our very being.”

The celebration began with prerecorded opening remarks from Adrian Dominican Sister Donna Markham, PhD, President and CEO of CCUSA, as well as Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and President of Caritas Internationalis, a global Catholic charity.

Sister Donna said the timing of the 110th Anniversary celebration, which would have been part of the annual meeting in Cleveland, is a great time to take stock in what Catholic Charities is doing in the midst of a global pandemic, natural disasters and social unrest.

“This is a good reminder that prayer must permeate our hearts and be in the background in all we do,” Sister Donna added. “Prayer has sustained us through all of these years as we are ministers of compassion.”

In his message, Cardinal Tagle thanked the workers and volunteers of Catholic Charities for the heroic work they do, calling them “signs of hope” for humanity. “The work of Catholic Charities is addressing the human being, finding that God is present in all, and that love will triumph over despair.”

To reflect the diversity of the workers and volunteers of Catholic Charities, as well as those who are served each day, the prayers of the faithful were offered in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole and Ukrainian. The livestream was viewed from Catholic Charities offices in Dioceses throughout the U.S. Messages of support and gratitude were posted from across the country including as far away as Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Vermont and Texas.

Present at the Cathedral were Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. staff, as well as members of the various advisory boards from throughout the Diocese. A reception followed in the Cathedral Parish Hall.

To learn more about Catholic Charities, USA, please visit www.catholiccharitiesusa.org, and to learn about Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., please visit www.catholiccharitiesDOV.org.

Witnesses for life make a difference

Whether there are 200 people, or two, the impact of the peaceful 40 Days for Life prayer vigil seeking an end to abortion in the U.S. is meaningful and real.

This was the message delivered by Shawn Carney, 40 Days for Life co-founder and President, when he appeared at an evening vigil in Fort Myers on Sept. 22, 2020, and then in Sarasota on Sept. 23, 2020, the first day of 40 Days Fall Campaign. It was an honor to have Carney present in the Diocese as he helped start what became 40 Days for Life in 2004 while still in college in Texas. From a local prayer vigil, the fall and spring campaigns have included more than one million people in 1,000 cities in 66 countries resulting in the closure of 107 abortion facilities.

“Your peaceful, joyful, prayerful presence out here is a simple, effective and beautiful reminder that there is hope for every woman who drives in here,” Carney said of the Planned Parenthood abortion facility. “You get to come out here and be that witness… You are a beautiful witness that stands in opposition to the sterile lobby just a few yards away. You are the light versus the darkness; the hope versus the hopeless; the joy versus despair. No one coming to that facility finds joy.”

A group of more than 200 gathered in front of the Planned Parenthood at 6418 Commerce Park Drive, Fort Myers, for the opening vigil, a number made even more impressive because it occurred during a global pandemic.

Carney was unsure what the response would be for 40 Days for Life in the wake of the pandemic and social unrest. He need not have worried, because a record 588 cities will have prayer vigils this fall. Since the first nationwide 40 Days for Life in 2007, of which the Diocese of Venice-led vigil in Sarasota was the second to join. During that time, 17,226 babies are confirmed to have been saved, Carney said.

Fort Myers 40 Days Fall Campaign organizers Rick and Paula Hellenbrand have been leading the vigil for the past 10 years and noted that two people cannot do it alone, that it takes a community to have success.

“As one of those women who came to one of these facilities, as my parents drove me to my abortion, no one was there,” an emotional Paula Hellenbrand said. “We have worked hard and overcome many obstacles to make sure we never have an empty sidewalk again as long as they are doing abortions inside this place. Thank you for being out here.”

Second time vigil participant April Couch of Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers said she was moved by the powerful testimony of the Hellenbrands, Carney and the other speakers and planned to share the message to her friends.

“When I first came out here last year, I thought it would be hard,” Couch explained. “In reality, it was very rewarding knowing that I was doing what the Lord wants of all of us, to stand up for the unborn because they cannot defend themselves against the injustice of abortion.”

Opening prayer for the vigil was offered by Father Ananda Reddy, Parochial Vicar at St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral, while the closing prayer was offered by Father Saji Ellickal Joseph, M.C.B.S., Parochial Vicar at St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers.

Other speakers included recent transplant to Southwest Florida Jim Havens, of Station of the Cross Catholic Radio Network and iCatholic Radio; Gabrielle Gabbard, a teen from Collier County who made headlines when she tried to start a Pro-Life club at her Naples high school; as well representatives from Community Pregnancy Clinics Inc. (CPCI) which had their mobile medical clinic present while the Sarasota opening vigil with Carney took place at the clinic there.

The Fort Myers campaign is 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 6418 Commerce Park Drive. If you have questions, contact Paula and Rick at 40DaysforLifeFM@gmail.com.

The Sarasota campaign is 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily, 736 Central Ave. If you have any questions, contact organizer Rich Owens at 40DFLSarasota@gmail.com.

The 40 Days for Life Fall Campaign continues in Fort Myers and Sarasota through Nov. 1, 2020. Many Parishes in the Diocese of Venice have designated days during which the faithful participate, however participants are welcome at any time. No registration is required to participate, but you can do so by visiting https://www.40daysforlife.com/.

Institute welcomes new Executive Director

The Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation provides the faithful of the Diocese of Venice with opportunities for life-long learning in the fullness of Catholic faith fostering ongoing transformation in Christ. Courses for spiritual enrichment, for growing in knowledge and practice of the Faith and for training in service and much more offered by the Institute.

To fulfill these tasks, the Diocese hired a new Executive Director this summer. Dr John Gresham brings a wealth of experience to his new position. In his academic career Gresham has worked in a variety of roles –theology professor, librarian, and administrator — at such places as Franciscan University of Steubenville, Paul VI Catechetical Institute, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, and Sacred Heart Major Seminary. Dr. Gresham has also regularly taught in the Institute for Priestly Formation’s summer spirituality program for seminarians in Omaha, Nebraska. His publications include “Jesus 101: God and Man,” “Holy Spirit 101: Present Among Us,” along with “Wonder and the Prayerful Study of Theology.”

John and his wife of 40 years, Mary Jane, are enjoying exploring their new home. Gresham said, “We are here in response to God’s call – but it is easy to say ‘yes’ when God calls you to beautiful Southwest Florida!”

The couple have 5 children and 4 grandchildren, some of whom have already come to visit since their parents moved to sunny Florida. John and Mary Jane are converts to the Catholic Church, traveling a spiritual pilgrimage from Evangelical and Pentecostal roots through the Episcopal Church, finding their way home to the Catholic Church in 1996. In 2008, John shared their story on EWTN’s Journey Home program.

With over 20 years’ experience teaching online, Gresham is equally comfortable in front of a live classroom or teaching over the Internet. He says, “Whether teaching face to face or online, the key to successful learning is recognizing the Holy Spirit as the true teacher who informs and transforms.”

Gresham is planning an array of courses that will motivate Catholics to become life-long learners. He says, “As disciples of Jesus, we should never stop learning. There is such a wealth of riches in the scriptures and Catholic tradition, there is always more to learn!” Dr. Gresham has plans in the works to provide three levels of courses. The first level is called “Encounter Courses”. These are easy non-academic spiritual enrichment courses that present theological truths in a way that is accessible to all.

Coming soon, the Institute will be inviting all Catholics to take a 4-week online course on “Encountering St. Joseph.” In response to Bishop Dewane dedicating this year to St. Joseph at the start of the Pandemic on March 19, 2020 through March 19, 2021, this course will provide an opportunity to get to know St. Joseph as an intercessor, protector and as an example to follow. Gresham encourages everyone to take this course: “As we learn how St Joseph fulfilled his vocation, he will help us live our own vocations.”

The next level of courses will be “Grow Courses.” These are non-academic courses that provide opportunities to grow in knowledge and practice of the faith. Upcoming series will include Growing in Scripture, Growing in Faith as well as Spirituality and Growing through the Stages of Life (practical and spiritual courses for every stage from marriage and family through living the second half of life)

The final level “Equip Courses” train those who serve the Church. These include our diocesan certification program for catechists, teachers, and others offered through the “Franciscan at Home” online program. For Parish catechists seeking “more” training, the Institute will supplement that program with a series of courses called M.O.R.E (Methods Of Religious Education) covering practical topics like lesson planning and classroom management. The Institute will offer its first course in the M.O.R.E series later this fall.

The Institute will also be offering courses for Catholic school teachers and administrators, for the formation and continuing formation of permanent deacons and others. For those seeking advances degrees, the Institute continues its partnership with Franciscan University of Steubenville through which students can pursue an online MA in Theology and Christian Ministry along with Catechetics and Evangelization at 1/3 off tuition. The Institute offers prerequisite courses for those programs at a 2/3 off regular tuition.

For more information about the Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation, please visit https://institute-dov.org/. You can contact Dr. Gresham at 941-766-7334 or john.gresham@institute-dov.org.

Priesthood Sunday Sept. 27

It can sometimes be easy to take for granted that when one attends Mass or goes to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a priest will be available every time.

The COVID-19 Pandemic gave the faithful a glimpse of life without access to the Sacraments and it is more important than ever to express one’s appreciation for those Parish priests who answered the call of God to a life in service to His Church.

Therefore, it is appropriate each person take the time on Priesthood Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, to reaffirm the vocation of the priesthood of Jesus Christ and its central place in the life of the Church.

The reality is that without priests the Holy Sacraments could not be conferred. Priesthood Sunday was established as an opportunity to show gratitude to our priests who serve the faithful tirelessly throughout the year, and who are instrumental in the Sacramental life of all.

It is a chance to thank and honor priests in unique ways, praising God for their courage and their generosity. A simple note, a smile or a phone call to assure one’s priest of your loving care and gratitude for his presence in the life of your local Parish will go a long way to serve the greater good of the Catholic Church.

While the pandemic may curb any large celebration of the priesthood, the necessity to celebrate priests remains crucial.

The Diocese of Venice is blessed to have priests for each of its 61 Parishes. Bishop Frank J. Dewane ordained a new priest on June 27, 2020, and another 16 are discerning a vocation to the priesthood in seminary.

However, the need for more priests is a constant concern as the average age of priests serving in the U.S. is 67. This is why men who answer the call to priesthood are working harder than ever before.

A special Prayer for Priests (see below) has been shared with all Parishes in the Diocese of Venice for the occasion of Priesthood Sunday. In addition, the Diocese has available a Pray for Priests calendar, which can be found at www.dioceseofvenice.org/offices/daily-resources/pray-for-priest/.

The Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (VDCCW) has embraced Priesthood Sunday to help support its Vocation Fund. The idea is that people can send cards “In memory of” or “In Honor of” to their priests as a thank you for their service.

Currently organized for the VDCCW by Cornelia Zanetti, mother of Father Gordon Zanetti, Administrator of St. Thomas More Parish in Sarasota, the cards are appreciated by the priests because they know the donations help those who are actively discerning a vocation to the priesthood in the seminary.

“It is my privilege and honor to carry on this ministry for the past five years,” Cornelia Zanetti said. “This ministry is very close to my heart.”

Any donation is appreciated, and the amount will not be revealed to the recipient. To take part, please send $1.00, plus your donation, payable to “VDCCW Vocation Fund” to Cornelia Zanetti, 5808 Gulf Drive, #204, Holmes Beach, FL 34217. Please email corniez@aol.com with any questions.

Prayer for Priests

Lord Jesus Christ, eternal High Priest, You offered yourself to the Father on the altar of the Cross and through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit gave Your priestly people a share in Your redeeming sacrifice.

Hear our prayer for the sanctification of our priests. Grant that all who are ordained to the ministerial priesthood may be ever more conformed to You, the Divine Master. May they preach the Gospel with pure heart and clear conscience.

Let them be shepherds according to Your own Heart, single-minded in service to You and to the Church and shining examples of a holy, simple and joyful life.

Through the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Your Mother and ours, draw all priests and the flocks entrusted to their care to the fullness of eternal life where you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.


Oración por los Sacerdotes

Señor Jesucristo, eterno Sumo Sacerdote, tú que te ofreciste al Padre en el altar de la Cruz y por la efusión del Espíritu le dio a su pueblo sacerdotal una participación en tu sacrificio redentor.

Escucha nuestra oración por la santificación de nuestros sacerdotes. Concede a todos los que han sido ordenados al ministerio sacerdotal que sean cada vez más conformes a Ti, Divino Maestro. Que enseñen el Evangelio con el corazón puro y la conciencia clara.

Que sean pastores de acuerdo con tu propio Corazón, una sola mente en el servicio a Ti y a tu Iglesia y ejemplos luminosos de una vida santa, sencilla y alegre.

A través de las oraciones de la Purísima Virgen María, tu Madre y nuestra, atrae e todos los sacerdotes y fieles a su cargo, a la plenitud de la vida eterna donde vives y reinas con el Padre y el Espíritu Santo, un Dios, por los siglos de los siglos.


Respect Life Sunday Collection Focuses on Youth

By Jeanne Berdeaux, Diocese of Venice Respect Life Director,

For the past few years some of the funds received from generous parishioners in the annual Respect Life Sunday (Oct. 4, 2020) special collection have been used to give students from Catholic high schools the unique experience of participating in Catholic Days at the Capitol. This annual three-day trip to Tallahassee draws hundreds of participants from all seven Dioceses in Florida to our state capitol during the two months of the annual legislative session.

They attend a briefing to learn about the bills that are the top priorities for Catholics before visiting their legislators and attending sessions and committee hearings. Finally, they join all the Bishops of Florida for the Red Mass to pray that the Holy Spirit guides and directs members of the legislative, judicial and executive branches of state government in their service to the people of Florida. Many public officials join the Bishops and Catholic Days participants in this special Red Mass, in keeping with a tradition that dates back to the 13th century.

Bishop Verot 2020 graduating senior Anna Latell said, “I gained a lot of knowledge on how the Florida government system functions, and I felt like as Catholics we were able to have a lot of influence in just a few days.” She added, “You should go because it is an eye-opening experience in learning about Florida legislature and the important topics concerning Catholic values.” Another student said, “I enjoyed getting to be on the Senate floor and use the Senate seating.”

Thanks to Senate President Bill Galvano’s staff, the students were able to sit in the Senators’ chairs, conduct a mock debate and vote, giving them a first-hand experience of how the legislative process works.  When asked what they would say to someone thinking about going next year, one student said, “Do it; it was a blast!”

Another important use of funds is to support the Collier Community Abstinence Program (CCAP) which provides free workbooks and materials that impact our Catholic school students in the Diocese of Venice as well as those attending public school. This program promotes abstinence from risky behavior (sexual activity, alcohol and drug use) as the healthiest lifestyle. Parent components help open dialogue within the family. CCAP is developing new video programs for home and school use and a new website (www.AuthenticAbstinence.org). It’s a virtual world these days!  As news spread about the program and the statistics on the program’s success rate in Collier County, teachers across the country began clamoring for the four workbooks. Continuing to provide these resources free of charge to schools is a funding challenge. We are blessed to have funds from this special collection to help with the expansion of this program.

An agreement was made with world renowned “sexual risk avoidance” trainer Pam Stenzel to speak at our three Catholic high schools and the Donahue Academy in Ave Maria. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, this year’s events had to be cancelled, but Pam made a special video for graduating seniors and plans are underway for the current school year.

In his message on Diocesan World Youth Day, Palm Sunday 2020, Vatican News reported that Pope Francis said, “I would like to join you, young people, in calling for a cultural change, based on Jesus’ command to ‘arise.’  He calls us to embrace a reality that is so much more than virtual.”

“Arise!” he adds, is also an invitation to “dream”, to “take a risk”, to be “committed to changing the world, to rekindle your hopes and aspirations, and to contemplate the heavens, the stars and the world around you.”  The Pope then invited young people to “give their passions and dreams free rein, “and, through them, offer the world, the Church and other young people something beautiful, whether in the realm of the spirit, the arts or society… Make your voices heard.” Your generosity enables us to help our young people to answer that call.

The annual Respect Life collection in the Diocese of Venice is the weekend of Oct. 3-4, 2020. Thank you for your generosity in supporting this important collection.

To learn more about the Respect Life activities of the Diocese of Venice, you can contact Jeanne Berdeaux at 941-484-9543 or berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org.