Mass to honor Widows and Widowers Jan. 20

Staff Report – Florida Catholic


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 a Mass for all widows and widowers at 3:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 20 at Epiphany Cathedral, 310 Sarasota Street, Venice. A dinner will follow in the Parish Hall.

Bishop Dewane said this Mass is an important opportunity to recognize those who have suffered the loss of a spouse but remain strong in their faith.

The concept for the Mass grew out of the annual Mass honoring couples celebrating significant wedding anniversaries. Those Masses, which will be, March 2 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and March 16 at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, are extraordinarily popular, however each year there are empty spaces in the pews when a spouse passes away.

“Widows and widowers are not forgotten but are in fact recognized and in particular revered by the Church,” Bishop Dewane said. “The Book of Revelation says the Lamb will shepherd and lead those who grieve to the springs of life-giving water and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. This reminds us that we can persevere…”

The celebration will include a display of photos available for viewing and be part of the Mass for widows and widowers. 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, email Kim Elsmore at, or call 941-484-9543.

News from around the Diocese

Christmas Day Television Mass for the Homebound

The televised Christmas Day Mass for the Homebound with Bishop Frank J. Dewane as Celebrant will air for a full hour on Christmas Day. For viewers in the northern portions of the Diocese (DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Manatee, and Sarasota counties), the Mass airs at 9:30 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee counties), the Mass airs at 8:00 a.m. on WFTX-TV (FOX-4). Please check your cable provider for channel listings. Leaflet missals are available upon request by calling 941-486-4714 or by writing: TV Mass, Diocese of Venice, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285. For more information, contact Gail Ardy at 941-486-4714 or email

2018 Christmas Appeal

Catholic Charities launches the annual Christmas Appeal during December 2018 and January 2019. The goal is to raise $565,000 and your gifts are much appreciated! The Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal is the agency’s largest fundraiser and critical to operating the social service organization. Your donation will benefit Catholic Charities programs and services available throughout Southwest Florida that assist individuals, families, and seniors all year long. Thank you for your giving spirit! To donate please visit or mail a donation to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., 5824 Bee Ridge Road, PMB #409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065. For more information, please call 941-488-5581.

Bishop Blesses Christmas Tree

During the first week of Advent, Bishop Frank J. Dewane blessed the Catholic Center Christmas Tree Dec. 6 during a prayer service with the employees of the Catholic Center in Venice. The tree was then decorated and various holiday treats were offered.



Mass at Dawn continues through Dec. 23

Following the Filipino tradition, several parishes have hosted all or part of the so-called Mass at Dawn (Simbang Gabi).  This novena of Masses in celebrated preparation for Christmas. In the Diocese, the full novena was available at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Port Charlotte and began Dec. 15. Three Diocesan Filipino priests celebrated the opening Mass. Additional one-day Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo opportunities took place Dec. 16 at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota and St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral, as well as Dec. 21 at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. Although this tradition is not exclusive to Filipinos, its observance is very much highlighted and distinctive of the Philippine Catholic culture.

Mass Celebrating Haitian Independence Jan. 1

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites everyone to participate in the Annual Mass celebrating Haitian Independence at 2 p.m., New Year’s Day, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. The Mass, which is on the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, brings together the various Haitian communities within the Diocese of Venice for one celebration. Most Rev. Désinord Jean, Diocese of Hinche, Haiti, will be the Principal Celebrant and Homilist. There is a reception after the Mass in the Parish Hall.

“Lord Teach Me To Pray” Series begins Jan. 8

Are you longing for a deeper relationship with Jesus? If so, the “Lord Teach Me To Pray” prayer series rooted in Ignatian spirituality is for you. The first part of the three-part series, “Praying Christian Virtues,” is being offered for women for 12 weeks beginning Tuesday, January 8, at St. Thomas More Parish, 2506 Gulf Gate Drive, Sarasota. For more details, please email Veronica at

Fashion Show Jan. 12

All are invited to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center at 1 p.m. Jan 12, 3989 South Moon Drive, Venice, for an afternoon of fashion, food and fun. Registration begins at 12:30 p.m. with an opportunity to bid on auction items. Lunch will be a Caesar Salad with your choice of salmon of chicken. Great Christmas gift! For more information or to buy tickets please visit or call 941-486-0233 ext. 3002.

 Couples Date Night Jan. 15 and 17

The Office of Family Life is hosting two Parenting workshops.  Catholic Parenting is challenging!  Learn specific tips and tricks that helped hundreds of families thrive!  Jim and Maureen Otremba have been presenting for over 20 years and have given presentations to Parishes and Diocese around the country. The workshops are 6 p.m., Jan. 15 at Our Lady of Light Parish, 19680 Cypress View Drive, Fort Myers, and from 6 p.m. Jan. 17 at Our Lady of the Angels Parish, 12905 E. State Road 70, Lakewood Ranch. The cost is $25 for materials.  Registration is needed.  Pizza dinner and drinks will be provided.  Our Lady of the Angels will have babysitting available.  For more information and registration go to

Spirituality of Retirement workshop Jan. 16

The Office of Family Life is hosting a workshop at 1 p.m., Jan. 16, at St. William Parish Ministry Hall, 750 Seagate Drive, Naples. The Universal Call to Holiness invites us to “the fullness of the Christian life and the perfection of charity” (Lumen Gentium). For Catholics in their retirement years, this invitation takes on new joys and challenges as their wisdom increases and defining life characteristics such as career, mobility, and relationships undergo transition. This workshop provides strategies for retired Catholics to enrich their identity as cherished members of the Body of Christ. Rooted in our baptismal call to holiness and drawing on the riches of the Eucharist, the presentation incorporates current research on brain biology, generativity, and wellness. Participants will gain an enhanced knowledge of the gift they are to the Body of Christ along with ways to share their gifts with their faith community. Suggested donation at the door.  Please register by Jan. 14 either online at or call St. William at 239-261-4883.

Faith and Ale Lee County Jan. 17

Faith and Ale is an outreach for men to learn more about their faith and grow closer to Our Lord. The next gathering is 6:00 p.m. Thursday, January 17, at Our Lady of Light Parish, 19680 Cypress View Drive, Fort Myers. The speaker is David Casper, a retired Hall of Fame American football player. Locations will vary throughout the 2018-19 season. To register, or for more information, please visit

Blue Mass in Naples Jan. 26

St. Agnes Catholic Church, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples will celebrate a Blue Mass in honor of Law Enforcement and First Responders, Active and Retired on Saturday, January 26, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. This year’s guest homilist will be Deacon Bob Montelongo of the Chicago Police Department. Please join us as we honor their sacrifice and service to our community. A luncheon will immediately follow in the Parish Hall. Please RSVP at 239-592-1949 for the reception.

Mooney Lady Cougar Weightlifting team debuts

This is the new Lady Cougar Weightlifting Team at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota.

The Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Lady Cougar Weightlifting Team made its debut in November. This new Sarasota team consists of 15 inaugural participants and will be competing against teams at competitions throughout the region.





Making gingerbread houses

Bishop Verot Catholic High School National Honors Society members hosted a gingerbread house decorating Dec. 6 in Fort Myers for second and third grade students from St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers and St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral.

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School National Honor Society welcomed second and third graders to the Fort Myers campus Dec. 6 from St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral and St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers. It was a fun day of creating beautiful Gingerbread Houses and Christmas Cookies, and a little snacking too.





Bringing music for weary travelers

Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School students from Venice played Christmas music in early December at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.

String musicians from Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice entertained weary travelers at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport on Dec. 4 with a holiday concert. Musicians from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota also had their own holiday concert a few days later. Great job everyone.

Cathedral illuminated in Red for Persecuted Christians

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic


Epiphany Cathedral in Venice was illuminated in red as the Diocese participated in the “Courage in Red” initiative to shine the light on the plight of persecuted Christians.

In addition to the illuminating of the Cathedral on Nov. 28, a variety of activities took place throughout the Diocese in support of the “Courage in Red” initiative. The activities are part of a worldwide “Courage in Red” campaign by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the international papal charity that provides pastoral and humanitarian aid to persecuted Christian communities.

Edward Clancy, ACN U.S. director of outreach, said that “hundreds of thousands of Christians suffer various forms of persecution each year – from horrific brutality in North Korea to systemic, if more subtle, oppression in countries like India.”

The “Courage in Red” campaign is designed to bring the plight of our suffering brothers and sisters more dramatically to the attention of faithful in the U.S, Clancy explained. “Hopefully, greater awareness will lead to greater action,” Clancy added.

In a recent report by Aid to the Church in Need on Religious Freedom, it found that some 61 percent of the world’s population live in countries where religious freedom is not respected. Among them are almost 300 million Christians, or 1 in 7, who live in a country of persecution, subject to violence, arrest, and human rights violations.

Bishop Verot Catholic High School students were red aon Nov. 28 as part of the “Courage in Red” campaign to raise awareness for Persecuted Christians around the world. They spelled out V-E-R-O-T on the football field.

On Nov. 28, Diocesan Catholic school students wore red in solidarity with persecuted Christians and participated in age-appropriate activities to learn about their plight. Several schools held prayer services focusing on the suffering and martyred Church throughout the world.

High school students also watched the new documentary “Christians in the Mirror” which compares and contrasts the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East and Africa in contrast to other Christian Churches which live in relative peace.

At St. Ann Catholic School in Naples, the morning prayer included students placing their prayers for persecuted Christians in a prayer box.

The students at Bishop Verot Catholic High School all wore red and went out onto the football field to stand united at the center of the field and then to form the letters V-E-R-O-T.

Students at St. Ann Catholic School in Naples participate in a prayer service while wearing red on Nov. 28 as part of the “Courage in Red” campaign to raise awareness for Persecuted Christians around the world.

Every student at St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary’s Academy in Sarasota wore a red uniform shirt and a red ribbon in honor of those being persecuted for their faith. Each student also created a card of support for persecuted Christian children and will send them to those in the Holy Land. Every one of the classes prayed one decade of the Rosary in chapel during that week for countries where Christians are being persecuted.

An evening prayer vigil was held at Epiphany Cathedral which included prayers, Adoration and Benediction. Led by Father James Shea, he spoke about how the persecution of Christians started with Jesus Christ, who suffered and died on the Cross.

“Christ was the first martyr of what would become many through the years, leading up to today where people are dying for their faith each day,” Father Shea said. “Those being persecuted feel forgotten by the West. Because it’s not happening here, we don’t pay attention. We Christians should pay attention. We need to be more prayerful each and every day; praying for our brothers and sisters in other nations who are being persecuted and standing together with them in their struggle.”

Christmas Appeal seeks needed funds

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic


Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice, Inc., is best known as a highly rated social service agency that assists thousands of people in the community each year. But Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice is so much more. Behind the many statistics are the real people who are helped each year.

“The voices of our clients tell the most genuine story of how your gift to the annual Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal helped them bring about real change in their lives.” Catholic Charities CEO Philomena Pereira said in a letter for the 2018 Christmas Appeal. “Catholic Charities works with individuals and families, who face the challenges of poverty and instability, to reach the goal of self-sufficiency.”

The Christmas Appeal is the largest fundraiser for Catholic Charities and is vital for operating the social service organization. Each donation will help real individuals and families who are assisted through any one of the 37 different programs available in more than 30 locations throughout the Diocese. The Appeal goal is $565,000.

Jose, a client at the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center of Catholic Charities in Naples, is very grateful to the program. During a recent visit he was greeted by a wonderful case worker with the most compassionate smile.

“I started crying when she asked me if I was okay and I saw that her eyes also got watery,” Jose said. “I felt that I was in the right place to get help. I told her that I was homeless and had recently lost my job, car, and home. As she helped me with things to eat from the food pantry, she asked me questions about my situation and looked for other ways to help. The emotional support I received… I have not received in a long time. From a slice of pizza for lunch, to restaurant coupons, a week stay at a hotel, and a bicycle, I do not have the words to describe the generosity, love and care that Catholic Charities gave to me. Thank you so much.”

Your gift to the Christmas Appeal answers the prayers of clients. Caring for those who are less fortunate not only requires the necessities of food, clothing and shelter but an array of professional programs and services to meet all their needs. Contributions of any amount are welcome and will help provide beneficial opportunities for deserving individuals and families. Each year, Catholic Charities provides assistance to more than 42,000 individuals and families.

“Please remember that every number represents a child, family or individual who relied on the support of Catholic Charities to get through a crisis,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane said. “Your gift to this year’s Christmas Appeal will allow Catholic Charities to continue the important work of helping the most vulnerable in our community. It is to all the people who have helped sustain Catholic Charities, which works to serve those in need, that I am deeply grateful.”

Sue is a client of Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities in Venice which provides a transitional housing program for mothers with young children. Sue noted that Our Mother’s House has been the greatest gift that a single mother could ask for.

“This place is truly a blessing from God,” Sue continued. “Not only did they give me and my baby a place to live, but they provided the education I needed to become independent. Words cannot express the gratitude that I have for the opportunity to grow as a woman and as a mother. The parenting classes have given me the skills to be a better mom to my son. The financial classes have given me the skills that I need to budget and sustain goals. This has been one of the best experiences in my life. I do not know where we would be without this program. God put this program in our path at the best time. The staff was very supportive and motivated me in all the right ways to fight for a successful life.”

Catholic Charities is often the voice for those who have no voice, Pereira said. We continue to be good stewards of your contributions, with sound fiscal management and a commitment to accountability and transparency. We always put the needs of our clients first.

Catholic Charities has received the top four-star rating 16 times from Charity Navigator. In addition, a total of 93 cents of every dollar donated to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. goes directly to services for people in need. Catholic Charities serves and empowers ALL regardless of race, nationality or creed.

You can contribute by visiting You can send a donation in memory of a loved one or in honor of a family member or friend. We will send a Christmas card telling the special person of your generous gift. Donations by mail can be sent to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., 5824 Bee Ridge Road, PMB #409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065. For more information, please call 941-488-5581.

Thanksgiving celebrated around the Diocese

Staff Report – Florida Catholic


The Thanksgiving holiday brings people together for a meal with the opportunity to thank the Lord for all that has been provided during the past year.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane helps serve a hot meal at the Knights of Columbus Council 3358 in Sarasota for the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner for the community.

While Thanksgiving is typically a celebration of the family, many take the opportunity to help those in need, whether it is through bags of food or offering a hot meal, the outreach throughout the Diocese is impressive.

The Young Vincentians from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota delivered more than 1,000 pounds of food to Bethesda House, a Catholic Charities program for people impacted by HIV/AIDS.

Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities in Immokalee and the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center in Naples both offered baskets of food to hundreds of needy families. This included food that would not only be used for the holiday itself but could feed a family of four for up to a week.

One mother, who received a gift basket from the Judy Sullivan Center, noted that the food was much appreciated as it would allow her to provide a special meal for her two children at Thanksgiving. “I’m just so grateful to everyone who provided the food. It means so much to my children too.”

The St. Joseph Food Pantry handed out more than 1,200 bags of food Thanksgiving Week in Bradenton.

At St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton, volunteers handed out more than 1,200 bags of food in three days. Meanwhile, the Young Vincentians from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota delivered more than 1,000 pounds of food to Bethesda House, a Catholic Charities program for people impacted by HIV/AIDS. At St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers, more than 120 turkeys and other items were donated to St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston and St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven.

Volunteers at St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers load turkeys for delivery to parishes in Clewiston and Moore Haven just before Thanksgiving.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was in Sarasota on Thanksgiving Day when he joined the Knights of Columbus Council 3358 for the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner for the community. The Bishop gave the opening blessing and helped on the food line. This annual event is in its third decade and this year provided about 600 hot meals for many people who have nowhere else to go on Thanksgiving. An additional 200 meals were delivered to the homeless in the area. Earlier, Bishop Dewane celebrated Mass at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch.

In Immokalee, the faithful of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples offered “Thanksgiving in the Park” which provided more than 2,000 meals. More than 100 volunteers helped prepare the meal and then serve the food on Thanksgiving Day.

Several other parishes had Thanksgiving dinner for the faithful, including at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples which served about 300.

These were just a few examples of what took place throughout the Diocese of Venice Thanksgiving week.

Donor-Advised Funds

Susan Laielli – Special to the Florida Catholic


It’s difficult to imagine that with one simple phone call a person can donate to any number of their favorite Catholic, social service, and other pro-life causes such as Pregnancy Care Centers, abstinence programs, Catholic Schools, Catholic Charities and beyond, through the Catholic Community Foundation of Southwest Florida (CCFSF).

After investing in other foundations in Southwest Florida, philanthropists Janine Marrone, and her husband Steve, decided to place their hard-earned money into a Donor-Advised Fund (DAF) at the Catholic Community Foundation of Southwest Florida, where their Catholic and pro-life passions could prosper, and hopefully change hearts and minds along the way.

A Donor-Advised Fund is a charitable investment account for the sole purpose of supporting charitable organizations you care most about, while offering an immediate tax deduction. Donors make a charitable contribution to their fund and recommend grants from it over time to their favorite Catholic, pro-life or social service programs and ministries.

In the Marrone’s case, they advance many Catholic and pro-life missions, such as creating Luncheons4Life. They are assisted by many good people in Sarasota, Lee and Collier counties within the Diocese, each offering monthly luncheons in support of life. The luncheons, also held in Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, Georgia, and Alton, Illinois, bring like-minded supporters of life together without politics, and with no cost or “ask” at the end.  Through their Donor-Advised Fund, the Marrone’s are able to raise awareness in hopes of bringing an end to abortion and offering healing to those who have had an abortion.

“The Donor-Advised Fund allows our contributions to be forwarded to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center for the luncheons, or to our Parish, the Catholic Faith Appeal, and Catholic Schools,” said Janine Marrone, who was excited to open the first Donor-Advised Fund with the Catholic Community Foundation of Southwest Florida this year.

“We can also contribute to the Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation, Pregnancy Care Centers, and to Catholic Charities through this fund,” added Marrone, who was well-versed and experienced in donor-advised funds.

She approached the Catholic Community Foundation when she heard they were launching their own Donor-Advised Fund program that was more in alignment with her faith and values.

Funds with the Catholic Community Foundation are invested in socially responsible, Catholic-screened investments.  Distributions can only be made to Catholic, pro-life or social service agencies whose mission and services are in keeping with the teachings of the Church.

“Earlier in 2018, the Catholic Community Foundation Board approved the launch of our Donor-Advised Fund program in response to numerous requests from donors within the Diocese who were looking for a Catholic option,” said Michael Morse, Executive Director of the Catholic Community Foundation of Southwest Florida. “I was so blessed to work with the Marrone’s on the program’s launch.”

With the launch of this new program the CCFSW is now a full-service community foundation that can meet the needs of donors looking for a faith-based alternative for their giving. All Donor-Advised Funds, similar to all funds held by the Foundation, are governed by fund agreements signed by the donor, which specify how they may be used.

“With the recent changes to the tax laws, Donor-Advised Funds with the Catholic Community Foundation may be a great way to maximize your tax benefits this year and going forward,” added Morse.

Marrone exhibits much enthusiasm when she talks about charitable giving and making a difference, but she also is very active and engaged in the community, so there’s not a lot of time to waste.

“Working with the Foundation is easy, and with the Donor-Advised Fund it’s essentially one-stop-shopping, really,” said Marrone.

For more information on donor-advised funds or the Catholic Community Foundation, please contact Michael Morse at 941-441-1124.

Memorial Mass for Deacons held

By Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic


November is an appropriate time to remember those who have died, that they may someday be accepted into heaven.

For this reason, Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the Permanent Deacons and their wives to participate in a Memorial Mass each year as a time to pray for, to honor, and to remember the Deacons and their wives who have passed away. The 2018 Mass was celebrated on Nov. 6 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice. Today, there are more than 50 Permanent Deacons, many seasonal, living and serving throughout the Diocese.

Bishop Dewane paid tribute to the Deacons for answering the call of the Lord in a precise way and took time to honor those who came before to ensure they are not forgotten.

“Being a Deacon is about building a spiritual life,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is an intentional aspect of discipleship. You go forward – with the support of your spouse – blessed by the Lord who provides the resources necessary so that you finish that call you were given.”

That call includes being representatives of the Living Church. Permanent Deacons serve as Ministers of Word, proclaiming the Gospel, preaching, and teaching in the name of the Church. They also baptize, lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages, and conduct wake and funeral services. As ministers of Charity, Deacons are leaders in identifying the needs of others, then marshaling the resources to meet those needs.

The goal of the Memorial Mass is to bring attention to all of the Deacons who have served in the Diocese of Venice since its founding in 1984.

“Let us not just remember on a single day those who go before us,” Bishop Dewane concluded. “Let us not forget that example of strength they gave us before continuing on their journey toward the Lord.”

As part of this annual tradition, the names of those who have passed away during the previous year are solemnly read as a candle is lit in their honor. Included in the list of names were Deacon Edward McCarthy, Deacon Joseph Cirieco, Lillian Camacho and Miriam Horvath.

Deacon Frank Camacho said that the annual Mass serves as an opportunity for the Permanent Deacons of the Diocese, and their spouses, to take time out to reflect on those who have died in the most appropriate way through Mass and prayer.


Grandparents honored at Neumann

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic


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

That celebration on Nov. 7 opened with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane as students sat with their grandparents in the Our Lady of the Angels Chapel. Afterwards, everyone went to the Student Life Center for a luncheon.

During the Mass, Bishop Dewane spoke about the wisdom and knowledge of the faith older people can share with the young.

“Those of you who are blessed to still have your grandparents in your lives must take advantage of this,” the Bishop said. “Learn from them. Learn about how the Lord has shaped their lives.”

The Bishop also encouraged the grandparents to impart their wisdom through love and tenderness. “You as grandparents are a connection to Jesus Christ that the young people need. You are the example for them to follow.”

Several grandparents, and their grandchildren, complimented the Bishop for speaking so clearly about their respective roles in the Church – one as mentor and example, the other as respectful listener and observer.

Following the Mass, one grandparent noted that he is proud his grandchildren attend a Catholic High School. “My grandson is getting the best education. I tried to pass the faith along to my own children and grandchildren. It is rewarding to see that lesson is being passed down to my grandchildren and enhanced here at St. John Neumann.”

Sarasota Red Mass Oct. 24

Red Mass celebrating 10 years: Free to Worship Without Fear: The First Amendment guarantees it

Evelyn L. Moya, Esq. (Special to the Florida Catholic)


Since the first Red Mass in the Diocese of Venice was held in Sarasota at St. Martha Church on March 14, 2008; more questions have arisen as to its significance, its history and purpose.

The Red Mass is a special liturgy steeped in Catholic Church tradition since 1245, when the first on record was held in the Cathedral of Paris. It is a liturgy based upon the prayers invoking the blessings of the Holy Spirit to bestow His gifts (among them: wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge) upon those who serve in the administration of justice.

The popular name “Red Mass’ was derived from the red vestments worn by the judges of the royal courts of Europe. However, it was King Edward I, who started the tradition in 1310, of convening the judges at Westminster Abbey for the annual Mass. The Red Mass is a continuing tradition in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Philippines, Scotland, Wales and other countries although Catholics may not be the majority of the countries’ population.

The first Red Mass in the United States was held at St. Peter and Paul Church in Detroit Michigan in 1877. However, the first official Red Mass is recognized as the one held in New York City in 1928. According to a Time Magazine article it was President Dwight Eisenhower, (Presbyterian) who encouraged his cabinet members to attend the Red Mass held in Washington, D.C., which he attended in 1953, in an effort “to show the nation’s communist adversaries that the United States was not anti-religion.”

Many criticisms have been leveled against the practice of the Bench and Bar attending a Catholic Mass together. However, it must be noted that the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees the freedom of every individual to worship in the manner of the individual’s choice.  After all, what is there to argue about when praying is asking for what is good. The Red Mass is open to every person of faith. Each event may include a renewal of the lawyer’s oath to serve in truth and justice.

At the nation’s capital, the Red Mass is celebrated annually on the Sunday before the first Monday in October, for opening of the term of the Supreme Court. Persons who serve in the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of the government have frequently participated. In Tallahassee, the Red Mass is held before the opening of the State Legislature and includes all of the Bishops of Florida.

The Red Mass is presided by a Bishop. It is usually hosted by a Diocese, or Catholic law organizations such as a Thomas More Society (named after the Catholic chancellor beheaded by King Henry VIII for disobedience), or the John Carroll Society (named after the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence) or the Catholic Lawyers Guild, such as the one hosting the Red Mass 5:30 p.m., Oct. 24 at St. Martha Parish, 200 N. Orange Avenue, Sarasota.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane will be the principal celebrant. The Mass is intended for judges, lawyers, lawmakers, their families, and staff.

The Catholic Lawyers’ Guild of the Diocese of Venice is also introducing an award to a person the Guild deems as demonstrating the exemplary attributes of a faithful servant of the law while giving glory to God.

For additional information about the Red Mass, please call 941-316-9200.

Bishop Dewane will also be celebrating a Red Mass at noon, Nov. 16 at St. Catherine Parish, 820 Hickory St., Sebring. All Catholic members of the legal profession in the Eastern Deanery (Highlands, Hardee, DeSoto, Glades and Hendry counties) are invited and encouraged to attend. For additional information, please call the Parish at 863-385-0049.

Creating a Safe Environment

By Ashley Fox – Special to the Florida Catholic

Recent events continue to underscore the importance of protecting children, young people and adults from sexual abuse and supporting victims/survivors as they bravely come forward with their reports. All forms of sexual abuse are intrinsically evil, especially those that occur within the Catholic Church. It is the commitment of the Diocese to provide an environment which is safe and nurturing.

The mission of the Safe Environment Program is:

  • To provide required education for all employees (clergy, religious and laity), those volunteers and others regularly involved with minors, and parents, as to the issue of abuse of children including the detection, prevention and reporting of child abuse.
  • To provide required training programs for children and young people in our Catholic schools and religious education programs. This includes age appropriate materials pertaining to personal safety and information about improper touching and relationships. Children are not expected to be fully knowledgeable about child abuse or of the laws governing care of children but they need to know when they should seek assistance from a trusted adult.
  • To thoroughly screen and evaluate the background of all employees at the parishes, Catholic schools, and other diocesan entities – clergy, religious and laity – and those volunteers who work with children, young people, and vulnerable adults.
  • To hold those who minister in the Diocese of Venice – all employees (clergy, religious and laity) at the parishes, Catholic schools, and other diocesan entities and those volunteers who work with children, young people, and vulnerable adults – to Christ-centered and professional codes of conduct.

Since 2002, the Diocese has engaged a professional company to conduct background screening through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation with results available to the Diocesan Safe Environment Coordinator within 24-48 hours. There have been over 35,541 background screenings and 33,700 persons trained in safe environment. In the last five years alone, 13,494 were background screened and 11,257 trained in safe environment.

There are 48 safe environment lay men and women trainers currently active. These trainers teach the safe environment training sessions held in the parishes, Catholic schools, and other diocesan locations. The trainings are offered throughout the year and the list can be found on the Diocesan Safe Environment Website under “Training Schedule,” accessible at Since January of this year alone, 141 trainings were offered in multiple locations around the Diocese.

Employees (clergy, religious and laity) and volunteers become certified in safe environment after completing a training session. During the sessions, attendees are trained: in the detection of grooming techniques by a potential sex offender; in the detection and prevention of abuse on a child or vulnerable adult; and in the detection of labor and sex trafficking. Additional training includes learning about National Hotline contacts for child, elder, labor or sex trafficking abuse, anti-cyber-bullying and anti-sexting resources, and procedures for reporting grooming techniques and abuse. The training also provides location-specific sex offender registries within a two-mile radius of each Catholic school in the Diocese.

Attendees are also trained in Diocesan Procedures, especially the Code of Pastoral Conduct, the Code of Conduct for Volunteers Working with Minors, the Policy and Procedural Guidelines for the Diocese of Venice in Florida relating to the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults, and Electronic Fingerprinting Procedures. These codes, policies and procedures are accessible to the public on the Diocesan Safe Environment Website.

It is the duty of all persons to report abuse. The following are the mandatory steps regarding reporting:

  1. An allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by anyone should be reported immediately to the Florida Department of Children and Families Child Abuse Hotline (800-96Abuse) and/or any Law enforcement agency.
  2. An allegation of elder abuse by anyone should be reported immediately to the Elder Abuse Hotline (800-96Elder) and/or any Law enforcement agency.
  3. An allegation of labor or sex trafficking abuse by anyone should be reported immediately to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (888-373-7888) and/or any Law enforcement agency.
  4. If the alleged abuser is a Diocesan employee or volunteer, including clergy, also notify Victim Assistance Coordinator at 941-416-6114.

Once a report is made to the Victim Assistance Coordinator, the Diocesan Review Board is notified, primarily compromised of non-Diocesan-employed lay professionals, is notified. The board meets promptly to review the allegation, investigate the case, and make recommendations to the Bishop.

As part of the Safe Environment Program in each Parish and Catholic school, there are 105 Safe Environment Coordinators who coordinate the compliance that persons employed or volunteering with children, young people, and/or vulnerable adults are background screened and safe environment trained prior to their employment or volunteering.

Every five years, employees and volunteers are background rescreened and employees are recertified in safe environment. The Diocese is informed by the State of Florida within 24 hours of the arrest of any of its employees, including clergy.

Every priest or deacon must be background screened at two levels – the State of Florida and the Federal Bureau of Investigation – and become certified in safe environment in order to minister in the Diocese of Venice. These requirements are in addition to a reference check and a letter of good standing from their bishop or provincial superior for religious order priests.

In the 2017-2018 academic year, 14,865 children and youth in parish religious education programs and Catholic schools were safe environment trained. Each Parish and Catholic school is yearly audited on its safe environment training for children and youth by the Diocese, and the information in the Diocesan Safe Environment Program is subject to national audits.

Parishes and Catholic schools are also required to publish information on proper reporting to the Department of Children and Families by posters and other forms of communication. The Diocese of Venice works hard to maintain safe environments and to bring awareness about abuse and how to properly report.

The Diocese is committed to providing a comprehensive Safe Environment Program in an effort to protect the most vulnerable from all types of abuse. An important part of this program is prayer. Each year, Bishop Dewane invites all faithful to join him in prayer for the victims/survivors at two special Masses held in April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

We must always endeavor to improve and move forward. An organizational change involves creating a vigilant culture of protection and healing. Anyone interested can become certified in safe environment and aide in maintaining safe environments in every parish, Catholic school, and diocesan entity. For more detailed information about what the Diocese of Venice does to prevent abuse or to register for the nearest training, please visit the Diocesan Safe Environment Website or contact the Office of Safe Environment Awareness and Certification at 941-484-9543.

Ashley Fox is Diocese of Venice Director of Safe Environment Awareness and Certification as well as Director of Religious Education. She can be reached at or at 941-484-9543.