Boots and Bandanas helps support Ian recovery

Nearly a year ago the winds and flooding rains of Hurricane Ian displaced many families in DeSoto, Hardee and Highlands counties. Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., was on the front lines helping desperate people get the basics necessary for survival.

Today, the recovery is ongoing but the need to support families in the region remains. Large swaths of these counties had severe wind damage compounded by river flooding that washed away homes and displaced thousands of families.

In support of the ongoing recovery efforts in the region, the Boots and Bandanas Gala took place on Sept. 23, 2024, at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch. On hiatus for the past few years, the event has a country-western theme which reflects the rural communities.

Catholic Charities programs is this region includes food pantries, farmworker housing, financial assistance, after school programming, and much more.

“Your support will go a long way to helping these needy families get the help they need,” said Eddie Gloria, CEO of Catholic Charities. “There continues to be a tremendous need in this area even a year after Ian.”

Gloria said that Catholic Charities helped more than 100,000 in the first months following the hurricane on Sept. 28, 2022, but that the demand for continued assistance in the rural communities of DeSoto, Hardee, and Highlands counties remains high.

After Ian, St. Paul Parish in Arcadia and St. Michael Parish in Wauchula served as distribution points for food and water and other emergency supplies, even while floodwaters surrounded the communities.

In fact, at both Parishes, people rallied to bring fresh food and hot meals to help feed their neighbor in need. In Wauchula, the religious sisters hosted an evening barbeque for two weeks after the storm passed. In addition, at both Parishes, donated clothing was also made available for those families who lost everything to flooding. Later, donated furniture and other necessities for rebuilding lives were donated and distributed. That work continues one year later.

In addition, Catholic Charities, helped by volunteers, organized a point of distribution of food, water, tarps, cleaning supplies and more, with the assistance of the National Guard and FEMA.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was one of many who volunteered his time at both locations in the days following Ian and saw the need in the area. While Bishop Dewane was unable to be at the Boots and Bandanas Gala due to a prior commitment, a message of gratitude for the ongoing support of Catholic Charities was shared.

The Boots and Bandanas event was on hiatus because of Hurricane Ian and other logistical issues, before Father Sebastian Szczawínski, Pastor of Our Lady of the Angels, enthusiastically offered to host the gala for the first time.

The evening included a live auction item of dinner with Father Szczawínski, which two bidders won, as well as a wide assortment of silent auction items. The meal was provided by Mission BBQ, while the music was from Arcadia native Andy Pursell and his band.

“We’re happy that all these people came out, and we’re loving the fact that we can wear these boots and bandanas and make it a fun night for everyone,” Gloria said.

If you would like to support Catholic Charities in its mission to help those in need, please visit

Seminarian Instituted as Lector

Congratulations to Diocese of Venice Seminarian James G. Gates Jr., who was among a group Admitted to Candidacy for Ordination to the Priesthood was well as being Instituted as Lector.

Presided over by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, the Rite of Candidacy took place on Sept. 23, 2023, during Solemn Vespers at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach.

Surrounded by faculty, staff, and friends, Gates was among a group of 17 seminarians from across Florida and other Dioceses in the U.S. to enter candidacy.

The Rite of Admission to Candidacy for Ordination is celebrated when a seminarian has reached a maturity of purpose and is shown to have the necessary qualifications. The intention of receiving orders is expressed publicly by the candidate. Then the Bishop accepts the publicly proclaimed intention.

The Institution to Lector and Acolyte then took place during Mass at the seminary on Sept. 24, and was also presided over by Bishop Dewane. Seminarian Gates was among the 17 to be instituted as a lector, while 20 others were instituted as acolyte.

During the Mass, Bishop Dewane told those who were to be instituted as lectors and acolytes that God is calling each of them forward in a particular way and that they should see themselves as closer to the Lord, responding to the power of God.

“We do nothing without the power of God,” Bishop Dewane said. “Be aware of the ministry that is placed before you and live it to its fullest.”

Bishop Dewane encouraged the lectors to seek to understand the meaning of His Word, growing closer to the Lord in that process. Called to build up the Christian community they accept it in obedience to be the word they will live more fully.

As part of the Rite, the candidates were individually called by name to be presented to the Bishop. Following the homily, the Bishop recited a prayer of blessing on the candidates – granting that, as they meditate on the Word of God, they may grow in its wisdom and faithfully proclaim it to His people. Then each candidate came forward to be presented the Holy Scriptures by the Bishop, as he said: “Take this Book of Holy Scripture and be faithful in handing on the Word of God so that it may grow strong in the hearts of His people.”

According to the Church’s Law and practice, the instituted lector is charged with proclaiming the readings from the Sacred Scriptures (except for the Gospel), announcing the intentions in the Prayer of the Faithful (in the absence of a Deacon), and reciting or singing the responsorial psalm if there is no cantor. As distinct from the typical Parish reader, these men will now exercise this ministry in a permanent way.

The next steps for Diocesan Seminarian Gates will Institution to Acolyte, then Ordination to the Transitional Diaconate, before being Ordination to the Priesthood.

Please pray for Seminarian Gates and all Diocese of Venice seminarians as they continue their own vocation journeys.

Vocations Weekend

If you are young man (high school age or above) and sense that the Lord is calling you to the priesthood, St. John Vianney College Seminary is hosting a free Vocations Weekend at the end of October.

Join with other discerners from around the state of Florida to experience a glimpse of seminary life, meet the young men who are already studying for the priesthood as seminarians, and join with them in prayer and fraternity during this awesome weekend retreat. (The typical schedule for the weekend includes adoration, spiritual talks, daily Mass, personal testimonies from seminarians, meet and greet with the professors, a campus tour, games and sports.)

The event begins with pizza and night prayer on Friday evening, Oct. 27 and ends with Holy Mass and brunch on Sunday, Oct. 29.

For more information and to RSVP, please visit or email Father Shawn Roser, the Director of Vocations at the Diocese of Venice at or call or 941-486-4720.

Prayer for Vocations

God our Father, we thank you for calling men and women to serve in your Son’s Kingdom as priests, deacons, religious, and consecrated persons. Send your Holy Spirit to help us respond generously and courageously to your call. May our community of faith support vocations of sacrificial love in our youth. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.



Diocesan Rosary Congress Oct. 6 to 14

30 Parishes hosting opportunity to pray as a community

The month of October each year is dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary. Yearly, on Oct. 7, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in honor of the Blessed Mother. October was also the month in which Mary appeared for the last time to shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, urging them to “say the rosary every day to obtain peace for the world.”

In celebration of the Blessed Virgin, 30 Parishes in the Diocese of Venice will be participating in a Rosary Congress from Oct. 6, to Oct. 14, 2023. During the Rosary Congress, the host Parishes will provide the hourly praying of the Holy Rosary as well as Eucharistic Adoration. Many of the Parishes taking part will also have the celebration of the Mass at the opening and closing of a 24-hour period of Adoration, while others will have at least a large period of time dedicated to the praying the rosary and adoration. In addition, several Parishes will make the Sacrament of Reconciliation available during specific times of the Rosary Congress. (See Box Below)

Initiated in 2021, the Rosary Congress is encouraged by the Diocesan Office of Evangelization as a way to present a unique opportunity to place all prayer intentions and the needs of all the faithful into the loving arms of the Mother of God.

“The Rosary Congress offers a great means of grace, combining many aspects of our Faith, and this year the Diocese is blessed that the Congress has expanded to 30 Parishes,” explained Jim Gontis, Diocesan Director of Evangelization. “Each Parish session will include Eucharistic Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the hourly praying the Our Lady’s Rosary, and most importantly, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is an opportunity to experience a river of grace coming from the infinite ocean of God’s Mercy.”

Each hour the Rosary will be said for intentions such as the Church, the faithful of the Diocese of Venice, our country, and difficulties throughout the world. The faithful are encouraged to renew themselves to the Blessed Mother and for a ever greater love for Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist.

The Diocese has included the Rosary Congress as a key component of the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival which is in its Parish Year phase and concludes with a national pilgrimage to Indianapolis in July 2024. The Revival is an initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to reaffirm a devotion to, and belief in, the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

“What better way to do this than through praying to Mary, Mother of God, in the way She taught us, through the Holy Rosary,” Gontis said.

The Diocese of Venice has continually fostered its devotion to the Blessed Mother. Our Lady of Mercy is the Patroness of the Diocese. Under this patronage, the Diocese was formally consecrated to Our Lady during Advent of 2017.

Pope Francis frequently describes praying the rosary as armor to be used in the spiritual battle we all face each day.

“The recitation of the rosary is the most beautiful prayer we can offer to the Virgin Mary; it is a contemplation on the stages of the life of Jesus the Savior with his Mother Mary and is a weapon that protects us from evils and temptations,” the Holy Father said in 2021.

Pope Francis said that the Blessed Virgin Mary has urged the recitation of the Holy Rosary in her apparitions, “especially in the face of the threats looming over the world.”

More information regarding the Diocesan Rosary Congress may be found at or by contacting Jim Gontis at 941-484-9543 or


Rosary Congress listings, including Parish name, address, phone, as well as any relevant details:

Friday, Oct. 6 – Saturday, Oct. 7

  • Resurrection of Our Lord, 8121 Cypress Lake Drive, Fort Myers, 239-481-7172 – from 8 a.m. Mass through 7 p.m. on Oct. 6;
  • St. Joseph, 3100 26th St. W., Bradenton, 941-756-3732 – from 8:30 a.m. Mass on Oct. 6 through 8:30 a.m. Mass on Oct. 7;
  • St. John the Evangelist, 625 111th Ave. N., Naples, 239-566-8740 – from 6 p.m. Oct. 6 through 6 p.m. Oct. 7;

Saturday, Oct. 7 – Sunday, Oct. 8

  • Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice, 941-484-3505 – from 8 a.m. Mass on Oct. 7 through 7:30 a.m. Mass on Oct. 8
  • St. Katharine Drexel, 1922 S.W. 20th Ave., Cape Coral, 239-283-9501 – from 4 p.m. Vigil Mass on Oct. 7 through 12:30 p.m. Mass on Oct. 8 (At 3 p.m. on Oct. 8 will be Divine Mercy Chaplet, Rosary, and Confession);
  • St. Michael, 408 Heard Bridge Road, Wauchula, 863-773-4089 – from 5 p.m. Mass on Oct, 7 through the 7 p.m. Mass on Oct, 8 at Holy Child Mission, Wauchula.  (Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with the Rosary being prayed each hour is at the St. Michael’s Chapel the entire time between the two Masses on Oct. 7 – 8);

Sunday, Oct. 8 – Monday, Oct. 9

  • Sacred Heart, 1220 15th St. W., Bradenton, 941-748-2221 – 4 p.m. Mass on Oct. 8 in Creole through 7:30 a.m. Mass in English. Rosary will be prayed at various times in English, Spanish, and Creole;
  • St. Martha, 200 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota, 941-366-4210 – 5:30 p.m. Mass on Oct. 8 through 5:30 p.m. Mass on Oct. 9; Monday;

Monday, Oct. 9 – Tuesday, Oct. 10

  • Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, 6600 Pennsylvania Ave., Sarasota, 941-755-1826 –8 a.m. Mass on Oct. 9 through 8 a.m. Mass on Oct. 10;
  • St. Peter and Paul, 2850 75th St. W., Bradenton, 941-795-1228 – 11 a.m. Mass on Oct. 9 through 8 a.m. Mass on Oct. 10;
  • St. Elizabeth Seton, 5225 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples, 239-455-3900 –7 p.m. on Oct. 9 through 7 p.m. Adoration with praise and worship on Oct. 10;

Tuesday, Oct. 10 – Wednesday, Oct. 11

  • Our Lady of the Angels, 12905 State Road 70 E., Lakewood Ranch, 941-752-6770 – 8 a.m. Mass on Oct. 10 through 8 a.m. Mass on Oct. 11;
  • St. Francis of Assisi, 5265 Placida Road, Grove City, 941-697-4899 – 8:15 a.m. Mass on Oct. 10 through 8:15 a.m. Mass on Oct. 11;
  • Our Lady of Light, 19680 Cypress View Drive, Fort Myers, 239-267-7088 – 8:30 a.m. Mass on Oct. 10 through 8:30 a.m. Mass on Oct. 11;
  • St. Michael the Archangel, 5394 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota, 941-349-4174 – 9 a.m. Mass on Oct. 10 through 9 a.m. Mass on Oct. 11;
  • Incarnation, 2901 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota, 941-921-6631 – 11 a.m. Mass on October 10 through 11 a.m. Mass on October 11;

Wednesday, Oct. 11 – Thursday, Oct. 12

  • San Marco, 851 San Marco Road, Marco Island, 239-394-5181 – 8 a.m. Mass on Oct. 11 through 8 a.m. Mass on Oct. 12;
  • St. John XXIII, 13060 Palomino Lane, Fort Myers, 239-561-2245 – 8 a.m. Mass on Oct. 11 with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Rosary until 8 p.m. (After 8 p.m., an open Zoom will focus on a shrine to the Blessed Mother. This will continue until the 8 a.m. Mass on Oct. 12);
  • St. Agnes, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, 239-592-1949 – 8:30 a.m. Mass on Oct. 11 through 8:30 a.m. Mass on Oct. 12;
  • St. James, 3380 Placid View Drive, Lake Placid, 863-465-3215 – 9 a.m. Mass on Oct. 11 through 9 a.m. Mass on Oct 12;
  • St. Peter the Apostle, 5130 Rattlesnake Hammock Road, Naples, 239-774-3337 – 7 p.m., Oct. 11 through 7 p.m., Oct. 12. (Rosary in English, Spanish, Creole at various times);

Thursday, Oct. 12 – Friday, Oct. 13

  • Our Lady Queen of Heaven, 355 S. Bridge St., LaBelle, 863-675-0030 – 8 a.m. Mass on Oct. 12 through 6 p.m. Rosary on Oct. 13;
  • St. Charles Borromeo, 2500 Easy St., Port Charlotte, 941-625-4754 – 8:30 a.m. Mass on Oct. 12 through 8:30 a.m. Mass on Oct. 13;
  • St. Andrew, 2628 Del Prado Blvd. S., Cape Coral, 239-574-4545 – 9 a.m. Mass on Oct. 12 through 9 a.m. Mass on Oct. 13;
  • Ave Maria, 5078 Pope John Paul II Blvd., Ave Maria, 239-261-5555 – 9 p.m. on Oct. 12 through 9 p.m. on Oct. 13;

Friday, Oct. 13 – Saturday, Oct. 14

  • Our Lady of Lourdes, 1301 Center Road, Venice, 941-497-2931 – 8 a.m. through 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 13;
  • St. Patrick, 7900 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota, 941-378-1703 – 8 a.m. Mass on Oct. 13 through 8 a.m. Mass on Oct. 14;
  • St. Catherine, 820 Hickory St., Sebring, 863-385-0049 – 8 a.m. Mass on Oct. 13 through 9 a.m. Mass on Oct. 14;
  • St. Sacred Heart, 211 W. Charlotte Ave., Punta Gorda, 941-639-3957 – 8 a.m. Mass on Oct. 13 through 9:30 a.m. Mass on Oct. 14;
  • St. Vincent de Paul, 13031 Palm Beach Blvd., Fort Myers, 239-693-0818 – 9 a.m. Mass on Oct. 13 through 9 a.m. Mass on Oct. 14.

News Briefs for the Week of September 29, 2023

Called to serve God

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for students at Incarnation Catholic School on Sept. 21, 2023, and Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers on Sept. 26. The Bishop encouraged the students to reflect on the call of God in their lives and to live that call to holiness each day. This can be accomplished through prayer and reflection on the Word of God, which will open their hearts as they go forward in service to the Lord.

Neocatechumenal Way holds prayer service

Bishop Frank J. Dewane presided over a prayer service of the Neocatechumenal Way on Sept. 20, 2023, at Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers. The gathering included a sending forth of several in the group for the next phase of their formation process. The Neocatechumenal Way was initiated in Madrid in 1964, and is dedicated to post- and pre-baptismal formation of Christians, based on the Word of God, the Eucharist and the Christian community. The Way engages families who through their witness and life of service to establish the presence of the Catholic Church in countries where the Church is absent or tiny, or to revive and strengthen the presence of Catholic communities in difficult and ‎highly secularized areas. During the prayer service the candidates were called to be sent forth and be witnesses to God in the community, announcing the Good News of His resurrection. They also committed to live their lives according the Nicene Creed, and agreed to let the Holy Spirit drive out their sins of doubt and guide them through their lives.

Fun Run supports schools

St. Mary Academy and St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota share facilities and work together to offer a quality education to their students. In the 10 days before Sept. 22, 2023, the students collect donation commitments as part of a Boosterthon which culminated in a Fun Run, where the students ran in circles either getting sprayed with water or covered in colored dyes. Run and laughter prevailed as more than $115,000 was raised to help update the school’s outdoor lunch and learning spaces. Way to go everyone who supported this cause.

Legion of Mary gathers

The annual Manasota Curia Legion of Mary Retreat was held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice on Sept. 16, 2023. About 75 people took part in this event. The Legion of Mary is a worldwide organization of lay Catholics focusing on Marian spirituality and apostolic works. It has been active in the United States since 1931, and was endorsed by the Second Vatican Council. The main purpose of the Legion of Mary is to give glory to God through the sanctification of its members. Members become instruments of the Holy Spirit through a balanced program of prayer and service. Works include door-to-door evangelization, parishioner visitation, prison ministry, visitation of the sick or aged, religious education, visiting the newly baptized, Pilgrim Virgin Statue rotations, and meeting the other spiritual needs of the parish community. Legionaries are under the guidance of a spiritual director who is appointed by the Pastor. The Legion is, in essence, an extension of the heart and hands of the Pastor. The keynote speaker for the retreat was Jim Gontis, Diocese of Venice Director of Evangelization. For a list of Parish praesidia (chapters) in the Diocese of Venice, please visit


Ian recovery continues – Long term help evolves to meet unmet needs

Even before Hurricane Ian slammed into the coast of Southwest Florida on Sept. 28, 2022, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., was gearing up to respond. In the intervening 12 months, the organization, with its teams of staff and volunteers, have been taking action to help people in a variety of ways.

First, after the winds, storm surge, and floods subsided, Catholic Charities was on the scene providing emergency supplies to thousands. That assistance transitioned over time to meet more complex needs beyond the basics of food and water to offering financial and other support.

Now, one year later, there are still many who need help in their recovery process. Therefore, Catholic Charities has partnered with Lee County to be the lead agency on a dedicated recovery team. The Lee County Long Term Recovery Group (LTRG) is a team of staff who are focusing on collaborating with dozens of not-for-profit, government, and private sector stakeholders to provide a “safety net” for Hurricane Ian survivors.

As a facilitator, the LTRG will help maximize the effects of the many agencies working to help Ian survivors with a goal to restore them to their pre-storm status, within reason.

Catholic Charities CEO Eddie Gloria said the LTRG is working on a long-term plan that focuses on fixing homes and infrastructure, improving the economy, providing social services and financial relief, and preparing for future disasters.

This process is backed by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who saw the wisdom of this focused effort, as Catholic Charities will support the LTRG by providing full-time staff, guiding its strategy, helping with activities, measuring progress, raising awareness, influencing policy, and finding funding for recovery efforts in Lee County during the next five years.

Catie Eck, formerly of Lee County Emergency Management, was selected as the LTRG Director, and has been working to hire staff to ensure that as individuals go through the process of recovery, the pieces are in place to help them.

“If your primary residence was in Lee County on Sept. 28, 2022, and you have sustained damage or have been impacted by loss of work then they will come to our attention,” Eck said. “There is a great and continuing need in Lee County. It may not be obvious, but it is there. This group is here to help fill in the gaps of people who have exhausted the assistance that was initially made available to them and can’t reasonably complete their recovery from Ian by themselves.”

Initially, there were more than 2,200 who were identified as still needing immediate assistance, but that number has been whittled down to 311, a number that will evolve over time. This group of people have been handed over to designated disaster case managers.

Eck explained that the LTRG has resources that will be used to help people, such as licensed general contractors, suppliers who can offer construction material, a warehouse of donated items (clothes, furniture and other items), groups of volunteers who can do labor, as well as organizations who can offer financial support when other resources don’t fill the gap.

“This way, when a case comes before the board, everybody comes together to get a person what they need,” Eck explained. “We are striving to make them whole, to pre-Ian levels, but when that isn’t possible, we will work to get them as close to that as we can.”

During LTRG process, a person with an unmet need would approach a partner agency (Catholic Charites, United Way, etc.), and they would then be referred to a case manager. The applicant will be helped through the paperwork which will document damage, what recovery actions have been done since the storm and what help has been received. This includes making sure the person did everything to help themselves and used any aid appropriately (insurance, FEMA, etc.), before finally establishing that there is a true need.

Once a need is identified, the case manager will then put together a proposal on how to fill the gap, which is then presented to the unmet needs group. At that point, resources (roof repair, drywall, labor) are assigned, when available. If there is still a monetary gap, the funding aspect will come into play. There, the partner organizations would then divide up the financial burden based on available funding so no one agency takes on an undue burden.

This case management process eliminates duplication of aid and allows participating agencies to help the maximum number of people with the resources that are available. Those resources can come in the form of donations, grants and government funding, but they are not unlimited and the LTRG is responsible to ensure the money is being used as intended.

While the initial case management number is at 311, Eck said that the recovery process will take a long time.

“People are still recovering from Hurricane Katrina (2005),” Eck said. “You must remember, Lee County lost a municipality (Fort Myers Beach); the barrier islands and large parts of Cape Coral were under water, and more than 60% of hotel rooms were initially gone. We are coming back strong, but we are nowhere near where we need to be. This is why the LTRG exists; to continue to be there to help people who are in need.”

Eck noted that there are many who still need to clean out their homes from flood damage, others who have tarps on their roofs, some are living in the shell of a home or are in temporary housing waiting to return home.

“These are the people we will help,” Eck said.

While the LRTG will help as many people in need as possible, there are limits. First, if the financial need is greater than the capability of the supporting organizations, a decision can be made to deny a claim in preference to apportioning that aid to more people. Eck said these instances will be rare, but as an agency dealing with funding from different sources, most donated, there is a responsibility to use the money appropriately.

For those who are unwilling to provide the required documentation of their recovery, including financial disclosures, or even apply for state federal aid, Eck said there is little that can be done because of the inability to ensure donor intent.

Others who may be eligible for help in the future are the many who are still fighting their insurance company for a final claim. If the status of such an applicant changes and resources are then exhausted and unmet needs are identified, the LTRG will step in to fill the gap.

As the LTRG becomes more operational, Eck said a hotline will be established, but for now, cases are being filtered through the various agencies that are part of the overall group, such as Catholic Charities, the United Way and more.

“This Long Term Recovery Group is unique in that Lee County had the foresight to fund the staffing,” Eck said. “Catholic Charities then stepped up to take the lead. Government usually doesn’t work in that manner, but the scope of the disaster and the number of people who are still in need made this the best way to bring many different organizations together help the most people possible.”

Supporting Life opportunities in October

In October, the Catholic Church in the United States celebrates Respect Life Month, and the first Sunday of October is designated as Respect Life Sunday.

Also taking place is the 40 Days for Life fall campaign begins Sept. 27, 2023, with prayer vigils each day through Nov. 5, all to call for an end to abortion in the U.S., including Fort Myers, Naples and Sarasota.

In a letter to the faithful regarding Respect Life Month, Bishop Frank J. Dewane stated: “As Catholics, we are called to teach, defend and protect those who are most vulnerable and promote a greater respect for life.”

“The Catholic Church remains at the forefront in speaking out on the issue of the sanctity of life, from conception to natural death, and at every point in between,” Bishop Dewane wrote. “The Church’s entire social doctrine is guided by the fundamental principle that every human life has innate dignity and incomparable value. Fulfilling Christ’s command to love one another takes shape in our practice of this radical solidarity; solidarity by making the well-being of others our own.”

Diocese of Venice Respect Life Director Jeanne Berdeaux explains there are many opportunities for people to make a real difference in supporting life, whether through actively praying on the sidewalk at a 40 Days for Life prayer vigil, learning how to be a sidewalk counselor, contributing to the Respect Life collection, or praying from home for an end to abortion.

“The Pro-Life movement is all about people coming together in every way they can to be a witness for the unborn. Being a voice for the voiceless,” Berdeaux said.

This year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities calls upon the faithful to focus on “Radical Solidarity,” seeking to inspire all Catholics to put their love for others into action by protecting, supporting, and accompanying mothers and their children.

To help live out this call to radical solidarity, Catholics are invited to join “Walking with Moms in Need.” Through this process, Catholic Parishes and communities walk in the shoes of local pregnant and parenting women to better understand, support, and respond to their needs. It is important for them to know they are not alone. For resources, please visit

40 Days for Life

That 40 Days for Life takes place in hundreds of locations with local prayer vigils taking place in Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples from Sept. 27 to Nov. 5. Faithful stand in prayer, in the public right of way, outside of abortion facilities seeking an end to abortion in the U.S. and the world.

Since its inception in 2007, 40 Days for Life participants report having saved 23,525 lives from abortion during a campaign. That’s the type of impact that led an ACLU spokesperson to describe 40 Days for Life as the “greatest threat to choice.”

40 Days for Life has contributed to a groundswell of pro-life support worldwide. More than 140 abortion centers, along with numerous referral centers, where campaigns have been hosted, have closed their doors forever.

The prayer vigil in Fort Myers is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Mon. – Sat.), at 6418 Commerce Park Drive. The kickoff is at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 26. For more information, please contact Paula and Rick at, or visit

In Sarasota, the vigil is daily, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 736 Central Ave., with a kick-off event at 10:30 p.m., Sept. 27. For more details, please contact Rich at, or visit

Returning for the first time since the pandemic, the Naples prayer vigil is from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Mon. – Sat.), at 1425 Creech Road. For more details, please contact Ricki & Katrina at, or visit An opening prayer vigil took place Sept. 14, which coincided with the anniversary of the opening of the Planned Parenthood abortion center. Dozens came out to pray and be a witness for life.

Respect Life Collection

On the weekend of Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, Parishes across the Diocese of Venice will conduct a special collection to enhance this life-affirming work. The funds remain in the Diocese of Venice and facilitate a Culture of Life as a faith community in Southwest Florida and to support Respect Life Programs, among them, “Walking with Moms in Need.”

Respect Life Novena

If you would like to join others in prayer across the nation, there is a national Respect Life Month Novena from Oct. 13-21. Sign up at to receive an email with daily prayers for the protection of human life, from conception to natural death. The information offered will feature a different pro-life prayer intention accompanied by a short reflection and suggested actions to help build a culture of life.

Counselor training

Anyone who has prayed outside an abortion center or just has a heart to help women and babies is encouraged to attend a training program from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 28, at St. John XXIII Parish Center, 13060 Palomino Lane, Fort Myers. Lauren Muzyka, Founder, President and CEO of the national organization, Sidewalk Advocates for Life, is coming to Fort Myers to train individuals interested in helping women choose life for their preborn babies. The peaceful, prayerful, law-abiding method of compassionate outreach has already saved more than 20,000 babies from abortion. Training material and lunch will be provided. For details and to reserve your spot, contact Cyrille at 917-991-6147, or Jeanne Berdeaux, or 941-374-1068.

Post-Abortion Help

Are you suffering after abortion? There is hope and healing waiting for you. Many women and men experience deep pain and grief after an abortion and don’t know where to turn. They don’t realize there is help available for them. Project Rachel is the outreach of the Catholic church to those who are suffering this loss. We offer help through the sacraments, retreats, and referrals for professional counseling. For confidential information, contact Sylvia Jimenez, Project Rachel Coordinator, 941-412-5860 (English and en español),, or visit Help is also available at Support After Abortion at

More ways to Support Life

Other opportunities to support Pro-Life activities within the Diocese in October.

Life Chain Oct. 1

You are invited to witness for life and respect life causes on Respect Life on Oct. 1, from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.  Gather at 2 p.m. on US 41 across from Shikany Funeral Home, 28300 S. Tamiami Trail, Bonita Springs, or Seagate/Pine Ridge Roads in Naples (near St. William Parish).  Pick up a sign or bring your own, then pick your spot between these locations to silently witness and pray for a greater respect for all human life. Questions? Contact Rich Evans at 239-776-9848.

5K Walk/Run for Life Oct. 7

The 9th annual 5K Walk/Run for Life will take place Oct. 7, at St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples. Registration on the day of the event opens at 6 a.m. with the race beginning at 7:15 a.m. This event is meant to promote a respect for life message and raise funds for pro-life causes.  To register please visit the Run for Life link at For additional information please contact the Parish Office at 239-592-1949 or email Deacon Roberto at

An Afternoon of Healing

An Afternoon of Healing is a powerful day of Prayerful Remembrance and Intercession. Created in the spirit of the New Evangelization and designed for all of our community seeking healing through acknowledgment of the far-reaching impact from participation in abortion. The afternoon will begin at noon, Oct. 7, at St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Avenue North, Naples, and concludes at 3 p.m. with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. There will be a brief talk given by post-abortion speaker Mary Eisman exploring “The Far-Reaching Impact of Abortion on our Family, Friends, and Society.” Individual Testimonials, Reflections and Intercessory Prayer, a Holy Hour with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as well as recitation of the Holy Rosary will lead up the celebration of the Mass. On this day we offer the opportunity for everyone to come together for a period of contemplation, grace and prayerful intercession seeking forgiveness and healing for ourselves and for our nation. For further information please contact the Parish at 239-566-8740.

Dinner for Life

Are you looking for a fun and meaningful way to spend your evening? Do you want to support a great cause and enjoy a delicious meal? If so, you are invited to attend a Dinner for Life, a special event to celebrate and support the Culture of Life in our community. This event will be held beginning at 5 p.m., Oct. 7, at the Columbus Banquet Hall, located at 4880 Fruitville Road, Sarasota. Appetizers will be served followed by a delicious prime rib dinner at 6 p.m. You can also enjoy cocktails served at the cash bar. This event will feature guest speakers from Solve Maternity Homes and 40 Days for Life. You will also hear from Father Chris of Saint Martha Church, who will share his insights and experiences on the importance of defending the dignity and sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. The Dinner for Life is a fundraiser event to support these two non-profit organizations that provides Christ-centered care to pregnant mothers in our community and surrounding areas.  The tickets for the event are $40 per person or $320 per table of eight. You can purchase your tickets in advance at the Parish Office of St. Martha Parish, 200 N. Orange Avenue, Sarasota.

IVF Conference

An In Vitro Fertilization Conference featuring Father Tad Pacholczyk, PhD, from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, will be taking place from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Oct. 7, in the Prince Building Auditorium at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria. The event is free, but registration is required at Presented by the Southwest Florida Guild of the Catholic Medical Association, this two-lecture event is titled “Longing for Life: Catholics, Infertility, and IVF.” and will explore both our natural yearning for offspring and the reasons why IVF is morally objectionable. Presentation titles are: “What is the Spiritual Significance of Infertility?” and “Why is In Vitro Fertilization Wrong?”  Potential alternative therapies to help resolve underlying causes of infertility, and related approaches that are ethically congruent with marital intimacy, will also be discussed.

Pastor installed in Palmetto Parish

An installation of a new Pastor is a punctuation in the life of a Parish.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane installed Father Teofilo Useche as Pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Palmetto, on Sept. 17, 2023, in the context of the Mass.

“You knew him as your Pastor in the past, and he has returned,” Bishop Dewane said. “This Parish is of two cultures, two languages (English and Spanish), two gifts that come together, respectfully, one for the other. It is a beautiful sight to see.”

Bishop Dewane told the faithful how important a Pastor is to the spiritual development of the Parish, particularly one that is as culturally rich as Holy Cross.

“Father is here to help you grow into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ,” Bishop continued. “It is my prayer that you continue your support of Father well into the future as your Parish continues to thrive.”

Father originally served at Holy Cross from 2003 to 2011, appointed first as Administrator, then as Pastor. He was appointed to St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs in 2011 before going on to St. Maximilan Kolbe Parish in Port Charlotte in 2013.

Enhancing the celebration, the installation of Father Useche was just a few days following the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (Sept. 14), the Parish Feast Day.

The history of Holy Cross dates to 1956, when the first Mass was celebrated at the Palmetto Women’s Club. A new church was built on U.S. 41, north of the town and was dedicated in 1958. Due to growth, the Mission was elevated to Paish-status in February 1960. The current church was dedicated in 1989. The Parish has more than 1,000 families and Mass is celebrated in English and Spanish each weekend.

As part of the installation process, the priest first recites a profession of faith for all to hear, including an additional part solely for him. The new Pastor then recites an Oath of Fidelity and promises to “adhere to the teachings, which either the Roman Pontiff or the college of bishops enunciate when they exercise authentic magisterium.” The installation also includes prayers to provide the new Pastor the wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit to lead the Parish.

The ceremony concludes with the signing of documents by the Bishop, the new Pastor, and two official witnesses of the Parish Community, who serve as witnesses for all.

At the conclusion of Mass, Father Useche thanked the faithful of Holy Cross for being so supportive upon his return and considers them all part of his extended family. Among the well-wishers for the Mass were family and friends, as well as faithful from St. Maximilian Kobe Parish, where he had served as Pastor from 2013 to 2023.

A reception celebration was held in the Parish Hall. In addition, prior to Mass, and after Mass, dancers in traditional garb performed.

News Briefs for the week of September 22, 2023

Bishop celebrates Mass for students in Venice, Ave Maria and Sarasota

Bishop Frank J. Dewane recently celebrated Mass for students at three Diocesan Catholic schools, visiting Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School on Sept. 14, 2023, Dohue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria on Sept. 18, and Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, Sept. 19. Bishop Dewane continues to be impressed by the increased enrollment at each of the schools as the students’ filled churches, auditoriums, and gymnasiums. The Bishop is also continuing to invoke the Holy Spirit to descend upon the students as they go forth into the 2023-2024 Academic Year. When eighth graders are present, Bishop Dewane takes time to speak to this group, offering words of encouragement and taking questions. At Ave Maria Catholic School, the Bishop visited a few classrooms and spoke to students, while also inspecting the results of a recently completed expansion project.

Mass celebrated to honor first responders

Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers hosted a Blue Mass on Sept. 16, 2023, to honor all first responders for their sacrifice and service to the community. Among those honored were law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics, emergency managers, and more. The opening ceremony, prior to the Mass, included music from the Guns & Hoses Pipes & Drums of Southwest Florida, a Lee County Sheriff’s Office Color Guard, and the singing of the National Anthem. Also present was the Knights of Columbus Honor Guard and members of the Knights on Bikes. This Mass takes place annually and occurs as close to Sept. 11 as is practical, being an appropriate moment to honor first responders. At the conclusion of the Mass, medals and rosaries were blessed. For the firefighters and paramedics present, there were St. Florian medals and red rosaries, while St. Michael the Archangel medals and blue rosaries were given to law enforcement officers. A reception followed in the Parish Hall.

Prospective students visit high school

Eighth grade students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers had fun during a visit to Bishop Verot Catholic High School on Sept. 14, 2023. Students who were interested in going to Bishop Verot next year had the opportunity to see what a day is like being a Viking. Students were able to sit in on a class, see campus by way of a scavenger hunt (led by some freshmen students from St. Francis), get a first-hand look at what being a student at Verot is really like. All of that was topped off with pizza for lunch.

Mooney athlete clocks fast time

Addison Dempsey, a senior at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, clocked the fastest time in the state of Florida for this cross-country season, so far, with her third-place finishing time of 17:38 at the Adidas XC Challenge on Sept. 16, 2023, in Cary, North Carolina. Considered one of the top distance runners in Florida, as a junior, Addison took the silver medal in the November 2022 Class 2A girls Florida High School Athletic Association Cross Country State Championship in Tallahassee.

Scientific method taught in Naples classroom

The students who attend Diocese of Venice Catholic schools are ensured of a well-rounded education where they have the opportunity to mix science experiments with lessons on the faith and the virtues. At St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples, eighth graders learned to use the scientific method to gain knowledge by designing fun experiments in class on Sept. 18, 2023. The students investigated how different brands of soap make bubbles with larger diameters. Catholic schools offer a comprehensive STREAM  (science, technology, religion, engineering, art and math) learning model which is combined with the Diocesan curriculum called, “The Gifts of Christ: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Affability, Fortitude, Humility, and Prudence,” creating students equipped to succeed in the world of today.

Service club makes impact on community

Members of the St. John Neumann Catholic High School Key Club took time out of their busy schedules on Sept. 16, 2023, to volunteer their time packing food for Meals of Hope in Naples. The 47 students packed 12,096 healthy meals that will make a real impact on the life of many people. Key Club moderator Susan Cavness organized the project, and the participation reflected the willingness of the students to improve the world.

“Wow!” School retreat unites Diocesan educators

Starting the new school year with a focus on the spirituality of the faculty and staff, as well as developing a strong Catholic school culture, served as the focus of a special “Back-to-School Retreat” on Sept. 11, 2023.

The goal of the day was to start the school year with a spiritual message by incorporating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Then the retreat pivoted to focus on creating a daily prayer life for the faculty and staff, before then looking at ways to build a stronger Catholic culture into each of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools.

Jesuit Father John Belmonte, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, said at its heart, the retreat was a professional learning day with the rare opportunity for all faculty and staff to be together.

“We wanted to create an environment where everyone had time to reflect on the faith that we teach and to be inspired by our Bishop while ultimately perfecting our teaching craft,” Father Belmonte said.

A spiritual message was delivered by Bishop Frank J. Dewane during Mass, when he thanked the educators for following their vocation to impart their knowledge and faith upon their students.

Bishop Dewane told the educators that by following the example of Christ, they are helping their students “to live a better life. You are helping them to hear who the Lord is calling them to be. You help them to become more than they think they can. You are their inspiration.”

While each Diocesan Catholic school has experienced tremendous growth in the past three years (up 30% with more than 6,200 enrolled), the quality of the education and the spiritual aspect has also grown stronger, the Bishop noted.

“It is that spiritual aspect that I am most concerned about,” Bishop Dewane continued. “No matter whether you teach theology, science – or whatever subject – you are their introduction to Christ. It all comes down to virtues and values as you are called to live your life responsibly because your students follow your example. It is through how you teach, how you act, and how you live your lives that they find Jesus Christ. Take that role seriously. I know that you do this, and I am grateful for your choosing to serve, enhancing the Catholic schools here in the Diocese of Venice.”

Father Belmonte spoke to the educators about how they need to focus on the Mission of the Catholic schools, introducing the students to the Lord.

“This is what we are about, every day in every classroom in the Diocese of Venice, we introduce the world to our Savior,” Father continued. “Aside from the administration of the Sacraments of the Church, this is the greatest thing, in my opinion, the Church does every day. If you go into any one of our Catholic schools, you will see the mission of the Church in living color. That is why we are here.”

Father also introduced the faculty and staff to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, something they are encouraged to incorporate into their daily lives. Father Belmonte provided a handout which included the daily reflections covering 25 weeks, encompassing the remainder of the school year. The goal was to enable the staff and faculty to promote their daily prayer life in an easy and straightforward way.

During the presentation, Father included responses from students at the different schools to a homework assignment he gave them: What advice do you have for your teacher as he or she goes on retreat? And the responses were entertaining and insightful. The message Father found most profound was the simplest: “Do good,” something he said all educators are called to do each day. “If they can do that, they will be able to impact students in a meaningful and overwhelmingly positive way.”

The day concluded with a presentation by Elisabeth Sullivan, Executive Director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education. The institute inspires and equips Catholic educators to renew today’s Catholic schools by drawing on the Church’s tradition of education, which allows teachers and students the joyful pursuit of faith, wisdom, and virtue.

Sullivan shared the success of 225 different schools who have incorporated a Catholic classical liberal arts education when “Catholic identity” is not just added on, but is instead woven through the school culture, curriculum, content, and pedagogy.

Schools which have incorporated this approach are emerging as engines for evangelization in the Church, by integrating faith, culture, and life.

Beginning with the 2023-2024 Academic Year, Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota began to implement this program. In a letter to parents, it was explained that this new classical approach will educate students in a way that combines Catholic faith with academic excellence and help students become more aware of the transcendent realities of Truth, Beauty and Goodness. This begins a new chapter to better prepare the students to pursue excellence while growing in faith, knowledge, and love. Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria has used this classical approach since its founding.

The retreat also included a special recognition of Mike Gill, a teacher at Bishop Verot Catholic High School for the past 52 years. Bishop Dewane presented Gill with a special legacy award for his commitment to Catholic schools.

Also recognized were the teachers who are new to education and new to teaching in Catholic schools.

Diaconate candidates instituted as Lector

One by one, the 10 Permanent Diaconate candidates placed their hands on a Bible, promising to live out and share the powerful message of its ancient, holy words.

“Take this Book of Holy Scripture, be faithful in handing on the Word of God, so that it may grow strong in the hearts of His people,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane instructed during the Rite of Installation into the Ministry of Lector, Sept. 9, 2023, at a Vigil Mass at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota.

Installation to the Ministry of Lector is part of the candidate’s journey to ordained ministry in the Church, as the 10 are on track for ordination as Permanent Deacons in 2025.

According to the Church’s Law and practice, the instituted lector is charged with proclaiming the readings from the Sacred Scriptures (except for the Gospel), announcing the intentions in the Prayer of the Faithful (in the absence of a deacon), and reciting or singing the responsorial psalm if there is no cantor. As distinct from the typical Parish reader, these men will now exercise this ministry in a permanent way.

The following constitute the Permanent Diaconate Class of 2025:

  • Richard E. Dahn, St. Agnes Parish, Naples;
  • Richard A. Hellenbrand, St. Andrew Parish, Cape Coral;
  • Thomas A. Januszka, St. Francis Cabrini Parish, Parrish;
  • Stephen L. Jendrysik, Incarnation Parish, Sarasota,
  • James N. Jenkins, St. William Parish, Naples;
  • Ramon R. Kanacheril, St. Vincent DePaul Parish, Fort Myers;
  • Mark A. Osterhaus, St. Agnes Parish, Naples;
  • Orlando A. Rubiano, St. Vincent DePaul Parish, Fort Myers;
  • Jeffrey P. Tenbarge, St. Peter the Apostle Parish, Naples;
  • John-William M. Trainer III, St. Peter the Apostle Parish, Naples.

As part of the Rite, the deacon candidates were individually called forth to be presented to the Bishop. Following the homily, the Bishop continued the Rite by reciting a prayer of blessing on the men – granting that, as they meditate on the Word of God, they may grow in its wisdom and faithfully proclaim it to His people. Then each candidate came forward to be presented the Holy Scriptures by the Bishop.

“Be conscious of what it is you do,” Bishop Dewane said. “In proclaiming God’s word to others, it is key that you accept it yourselves, and do it in obedience to the Holy Spirit.”

The diaconate candidates were told by the Bishop that this new responsibility is more than just reading Sacred Scriptures; it is about their understanding the text, and also revealing the Word of God to those around them.

Deacon Bob Gaitens, the Director of Formation for the Permanent Diaconate, said the deacon candidates have worked hard to get to this point.

“This is an important milestone as the candidates are very busy with ongoing intellectual study through the formation program,” Deacon Gaitens said.

Deacon candidates admit that their journey can feel like a marathon at times, and it can be a challenge to fit the many requirements along with their ongoing daily life requirements of marriage, family, and work. Installation rites offer a much-needed boost as they continue on their path.

John-William Trainer III, of St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples, was overjoyed to have reached this important moment in his formation journey. He credited the support of his wife, Angela, their three children, and Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary with his reaching this point. “I feel so blessed,” Trainer said.

Present for the installation were the wives of the candidates, who also take part in the formation process attending several of the formation weekends each year with their husbands. The wives are an integral part of the diaconate program as they support their husbands through prayer, sacrifice, and by assuming added duties of home and family.

Also present were children of the candidates, other supporters and friends as well as the recently selected Permanent Diaconate Class of 2028, who were taking part in their first formation weekend.

Upon completion of their formation program and Ordination to the Diaconate, Permanent Deacons may officiate at baptisms, weddings and funerals, read the Gospel and preach at Mass, and help with the canonical process for marriage and baptism. One of their greatest priorities, however, is service to the poor and marginalized.

Please keep the 10 Permanent Deacon candidates and their families in your prayers.