Retired Monsignor dies

The Diocese of Venice is mourning the loss of Msgr. Joseph Stearns, a retired priest of the Diocese, who passed away Thursday, March 14, 2024, at the age of 79, in Sarasota, Florida.

Born in 1945 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Msgr. Stearns was the youngest of five children. He studied at Eymard Prep Seminary of Blessed Sacrament Fathers in Hyde Park, New York, and St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida.

Msgr. Stearns was ordained to the Priesthood on May 20, 1972, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Miami. He served as Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of the Lakes in Miami Lakes, Little Flower Parish in Coral Gables, and Sacred Heart Parish in Homestead. Monsignor was serving as Pastor of St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston in 1984 when the Diocese of Venice was established and into which he was incardinated.

Within the Diocese of Venice, Msgr. Stearns’ next assignment was as Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda, then as Pastor of St. William Parish in Naples, and finally, in 2007 as Pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish on Siesta Key before retiring in 2015.

As announced from the Office of the Bishop on June 11, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI bestowed Papal Honors on Msgr. Stearns, along with four other Diocesan Priests, in recognition of their dedication and exemplary service to the Church. This Papal Honor elevated him to the rank of Monsignor, as Chaplain to His Holiness. This group of priests was the first to receive this honor in the history of the Diocese of Venice.

Through the years, Msgr. Stearns served as Diocesan Vocations Director, as well as on numerous advisory boards, including the College of Consultors and the Presbyteral Council. Having retired in March 2015, Monsignor assisted at several Parishes including Incarnation Parish in Sarasota and most recently at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch. He was also a Secular Franciscan.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the main celebrant at a Mass of Christian Burial for Msgr. Stearns, Thursday, March 21, 2024, at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch. Father Jack Costello was the homilist.

Bishop Dewane expressed his sorrow over the death of Msgr. Stearns, noting that his service to the faithful of the Diocese never faltered, even in his retirement years.

“He was a true servant of God,” Bishop Dewane stated.

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Msgr. Stearns and the consolation of his family. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in eternal peace.

Emerald Ball celebrates 40th

The 40th Annual Emerald Ball was a great success! Held on March 14, 2024, at the Ritz Carlton Tiburon in Naples, proceeds from the elegant evening will go to support the many programs of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., in Collier County.

The enthusiastic crowd was dressed in elegant eveningwear and the Ball included fine dining, lots of dancing, upbeat music, and a spirited live auction with the “Gift from the Heart” bringing in many enthusiastic bidders. The theme, “Believe the incredible and you can do the impossible,” was inspired by a quote from Venerable Fulton J. Sheen.

Peggy Rodriguez, District Director, welcomed everyone to the evening and explained the different outreach work Catholic Charities is doing and continues to do for the community daily. This work includes helping families in need cope with food or housing insecurity, as well as continuing to assist those who are recovering from Hurricane Ian which caused severe damage in 2022.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane said the 40th Emerald Ball marks a significant milestone in the collective journey of compassion and generosity for those in need in Collier County, recognizing Ball Committee Chair Barbara L. Siniscalchi and other dedicated volunteers and staff who tirelessly worked to make the evening a huge success.

Programs supported by the Ball include the Judy Sullivan Family Resources Center and Family Counseling Center in Naples, and Guadalupe Social Services in Immokalee, each offering a variety of targeted outreaches to help those in need.

If you would like to support the programs of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org.

Bishop to students: It’s not too late to finish Lent strong!

In the final few weeks of Lent, leading to Holy Week and the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter, Bishop Frank J. Dewane has been encouraging Catholic school students to refocus their faith lives and finish the Lenten Season strong.

Bishop Dewane has celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for students at seven Diocesan Catholic schools in the past few weeks, with more to come before Holy Week. His message has been to pay attention to the lessons found in the Gospel of practicing their faith as Jesus did, in their prayers, in their interactions with family and friends, and in the community where they must seek the face of Christ in others.

“It is my prayer for the remainder of the Lenten Season that all of you students recommit yourselves, as you did at the time of Ash Wednesday, to live faithfully, to make the sacrifices that Jesus calls forth from you, and to take time during the rest of Lenten Season to improve your prayer life,” Bishop Dewane said during a Mass on March 13, 2024, for students at St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy in Sarasota. “Focus on your prayers for the remainder of the Lenten Season, whether alone, in school or at home; in that way you will better come to know Jesus Christ.”

It is the call of all the faithful to work to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and live as Jesus calls us to be as men and women of God. Bishop Dewane said there are basic features of being a Catholic, such as attending Mass every Sunday, having an active prayer life, knowing and living the 10 Commandments, and doing acts of charity or service.

“There is nothing stagnant in being a faithful Catholic,” Bishop Dewane said on March 11, to students at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota. “Being Catholic is not merely a state of being, because understanding our faith necessarily makes us people of action. This originates through Baptism and when we live our faith, we do it for the Lord and we become a conduit of God’s grace in the world.”

While we are all called to live our faith daily, as humans, we are not perfect and will sometimes stumble, Bishop Dewane continued.

“We need healing in the spiritual sense, because we are all sinners,” Bishop Dewane said. “You must open yourselves to being healed by Christ through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As you practice your faith, being men and women of God, it is how you respond; do you stand before the Lord and seek the healing you need?  The Lord calls us to respond to His call, if we stumble, the Lord heals us.”

Masses celebrated by Bishop Dewane in the past week were at St. John Neumann Catholic High School, Naples, March 7; St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School and St. Ann Catholic School, Naples, March 8; and St. Catherine Catholic School, Sebring, March 12. Additional Masses will be celebrated prior to Easter.

When time permitted, Bishop Dewane spoke with eighth grade students while also answering their questions. In addition, at St. Catherine Catholic School, the Bishop was presented with a large birthday card signed by the students. The students also sang “Happy Birthday” to him. At St. Martha Catholic School, the Bishop blessed Lenten crosses made by the sixth grade students.

 

Diocesan-wide opportunity for Confession March 21-22

With Holy Week fast approaching, it is not too late to ponder how well prepared we are for the Resurrection of the Lord on Easter Sunday.

One way to help in this effort is through participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation as the precept of confessing grave sins and receiving Holy Communion at least once during the Lenten Season merits a reminder to all.

To facilitate this requirement, the Diocese of Venice will have the Sacrament of Reconciliation available at the same time at ALL Parishes to allow the faithful ample opportunity to receive God’s Mercy. To make this opportunity as convenient as possible, in consultation with the Diocesan Presbyteral Council, Bishop Frank J. Dewane has designated the following days and times for Confession at Each Parish: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., on Friday, March 22, 2024, and from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, March 23, 2024.

Bishop Dewane said that many people view the idea of confessing one’s sins as so unbearable that they either completely avoid the Sacrament or go infrequently.

“It is heartbreaking to hear from those who have avoided confession for many years after carrying around a burden,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is heartwarming to talk to people of all ages who go to confession and are relieved and overjoyed at the benefits. Some even scold themselves for missing such a beautiful Sacrament for so long.”

Throughout the Lenten Season, Parishes have offered extended hours for the Sacrament, in addition to offering Penance Services, where multiple priests from the region were made available to hear confessions.

Pope Francis often speaks about the healing benefits of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, explaining that he goes about once every two weeks.

“In Confession, let’s give God first place,” the Holy Father said. “Once He is in charge, everything becomes beautiful and confession becomes the Sacrament of joy, not of fear and judgement, but of joy.”

As the Catechism teaches, the priest is acting in Persona Christi, that is in the person of Christ, within the confessional. So, like presenting oneself at the altar to be nourished by Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist, a person going to confession is not ultimately confessing to a priest, but confessing to and receiving forgiveness from Jesus Christ.

“The Lord comes to us when we step back from our presumptuous ego… He can bridge the distance whenever, with honesty and sincerity, we bring our weaknesses before him,” Pope Francis said. “He holds out his hand and lifts us up whenever we realize we are ‘hitting rock bottom’ and we turn back to him with a sincere heart. That is how God is. He is waiting for us, deep down, for in Jesus he chose to ‘descend to the depths.’”

The Pope emphasized that God waits for us, especially in the Sacrament of Penance, where he said the Lord touches our wounds, heals our hearts, and leaves us with inner peace.

Please contact your local Parish for additional available confession times.

Venetian Ball supports Catholic Charities in Lee, Glades and Hendry counties

The programs of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., in Lee, Glades, and Hendry counties received tremendous support during the annual Venetian Ball on March 9, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish Hall in Bonita Springs.

“Restoring Our Communities” was the theme of the Venetian Ball, which served as an opportunity for participants to come together to partner with Catholic Charities as it steadfastly serves the needs of families and individuals throughout the area, including those who continue to recover from Hurricane Ian (2022).

Bishop Frank J. Dewane praised the benefactors of Catholic Charities for their concern for the work of Catholic Charities, adding that he was confident their support will continue to assist people in need.

“I thank you,” Bishop Dewane said. “We all know Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc on the community and many are still recovering, some are having a more difficult time, and Catholic Charities has made it a priority in actively helping and providing for long-term care.”

The resilience of the region from overcoming the devastation of Hurricane Ian, economic hardships and more in the past few years has been inspiring, said Alex Olivares, Catholic Charities Region II Director.

“I am so inspired by the spirit of giving and helping in the community,” Olivares said. “The need is still there. For us to do what we do each day, your support is more important now than it has ever been.”

The Frank K. Galeana Humanitarian Award recognized the Region II Pantry Volunteers for their selfless dedication and unwavering commitment. These individuals exemplify the essence of humanitarianism by tirelessly serving their community without seeking recognition.

The award stated: “Their actions, day after day, month after month, embody compassion, empathy, and a genuine concern for human welfare. Through their efforts, they provide healing, hope, assistance, and love to the entire region, enriching countless lives without expecting anything in return. Their profound impact extends far beyond tangible assistance, touching the hearts and souls of those they serve. By presenting this award, we honor their exceptional contributions and express our gratitude for their embodiment of God’s love on earth. These volunteers are not only cherished members of our community but also serve as inspiration for others to follow in their footsteps. Thank you volunteers!”

Bishop Dewane’s birthday fell on the day of the Venetian Ball and those present sang “Happy Birthday” to him. A cake was also presented to the Bishop and this was later auctioned off for $1,000!

The evening included fine dining, silent and live auctions and a “Gift of the Heart” appeal. The emcee was Lois Thome, WINK News anchor and lector at Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in Fort Myers. Guests danced to the music of the Riverboat Jazz Band.

If you would like to support Catholic Charities or learn more about their outreach throughout the Diocese of Venice, please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org.

Deacons encouraged to increase outreach to Hispanic Catholic youth

Several dozen Permanent Deacons of the Diocese of Venice recently gathered to learn how to better serve young Hispanic Catholics, the fastest-growing population both in the Diocese and the nation.

Dr. Hosffman Ospino of Boston College shared practical examples for growth and success in this important demographic in the domestic Catholic Church. He was brought to speak to the Deacons through an invitation from Bishop Frank J. Dewane.

Bishop Dewane said he was pleased Ospino could talk to the Deacons about the needs of Hispanic youth, and tear down some of the misconceptions some have about the Hispanic community in general.

“The Hispanic presence, especially the young people, is not a threat to anyone,” Ospino said. “This is an opportunity, because they are of the same Church. The Church exists to evangelize and right now there is an urgency to evangelize these young men and women so they can become the next generation of evangelizers.”

Ospino praised the Permanent Deacons for answering the call to serve the Church “to go joyfully into the world to proclaim the Good News of the Lord. Because of this, you are the wisdom figure in your Parish communities. Deacons and their spouses are called to evangelize, not to preserve the past, but to ensure the future of our Parish communities.”

Offering a dizzying array of statistics, Ospino said that of the 32 million Roman Catholic Hispanics living in the U.S., about 19 million are 30 or younger. Of those 18 and younger, 94 percent were born in the U.S. and can speak English.

“There is pressure from elders for the younger generation to keep their immigrant roots, versus being Americanized,” Ospino said. “It is a question of cultural background. The only difference is their cultural background,” Ospino said. This means the programs that have worked for the last 25 years won’t work, because the families will pull their children out of any program once the families feel they are not being engaged.”

The answer is to form a partnership with the Hispanic families at the Parish, creating a spirit of cooperation to preach, teach and advocate for the children.

“The idea is to create a welcoming and affirming environment, giving the youth and parents a sense of agency,” Ospino said. “We don’t need state-of-the-art equipment in the classrooms. We need to reach them on the level where they will be engaged and have fun while growing in their relationship with Christ. You must listen to the community and ask for their needs. When you learn what the community wants, focus on one effort, and respond to that well. Know this, if you try to address everything, no outreach exists to do it all.”

Citing a dozen different programs from across the country that have had success in reaching Hispanic youth, Ospino said each serves a niche need within their communities. Some programs offer painting, cooking, music, and poetry classes alongside religious education, while others work on how to grow a relationship with Christ, starting with building better relationships in the household and in the community.

“This can be overwhelming when you are not even sure what will work, but you need to start somewhere,” Ospino said. “Pray together. Eat together. Serve together.”

Praying together can include a community Liturgy of the Hours or praying of the rosary. Eating together means having a Parish fair or festival that celebrates all cultures. The serving together is working in a unified effort to meet need in the community such as feeding the hungry or a clothing drive.

“These are simple, but this approach can work,” Ospino said. “It is you, the Deacons and your spouses, that can make it happen. This can be something that takes place four times a year, and it will grow because these are opportunities to grow as a community together, in the Glory of God.”

The Deacons were impressed by the presentation and noted how the reality of the increasing numbers of Hispanic Catholics in the Church is important to know and information they learned from Ospino will help outreach to this important population.

Bishop Dewane and Ospino encouraged the Deacons to return to their home Parish armed with inspiration and information on how to better connect to Hispanic Catholic youth. The potential to engage and attract more young people to grow in the faith was inspiring!

News Briefs for the Week of March 15, 2024

Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Televised Mass schedule

The Diocese of Venice in Florida will air the televised Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Masses, each for a full hour. The Masses for the homebound can be viewed at noon on the CW Network in Sarasota, Manatee, Desoto, Charlotte, Hardee and Highland counties, and at 10:30 a.m. on FOX4 in Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Hendry, Glades and Desoto counties. The Mass is also available on the Diocese of Venice website at www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass.

Student wins prestigious essay contest

Congratulations to Hunter Wehle from St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charotte who was honored as the 2023 Florida Daughters of the American Revolution Essay Contest winner in Orlando on March 9, 2024. This year, the essay theme was “John Phillip Sousa.” Hunter was one of three St. Charles students who had their essay win a regional competition. Well done everyone!

Student wins state Knights free throw challenge

Maddy Mitchell of Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice placed first in her age group at the Knights of Columbus State Free Throw Championship in Melbourne on March 9, 2024. Maddy was one of two students from Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School to reach the state championships.

First Communion retreat held in Wauchula

First Communion candidates at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula took part in a retreat on March 9, 2024. The boys and girls spent time in Eucharistic Adoration, learning about the different parts of Mass, and praying the rosary. While praying the Holy Rosary, each boy and girl placed a white rose before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This retreat helps clear the way for the youth to take part in their First Sacrament of Reconciliation on March 20. They will receive their first Holy Communion in May.

Students take part in weekly Lenten prayer service

Each Friday of this Lenten Season, St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring has been taking part in a morning prayer service. During the prayer service, students gather around the Blessed Mother for prayers, petitions, Pledge of Allegiance, and mission statement. Each class takes a turn leading the school in this special prayer time.

Gala to celebrate Community Pregnancy Clinics 50th anniversary

Community Pregnancy Clinics Inc. (CPCI) is celebrating its 50th Anniversary with a Gala.  “A Legacy of Life” will take place beginning at 5:00 p.m., on Saturday, April 6 at the Ritz-Carlton Tiburon, 600 Tiburon Drive, Naples. Tickets start at $500 and include cocktail social hour, silent auction, elegant 3-course dinner, keynote speech from The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles, and after party with live music and dancing. For further information and to purchase tickets, please contact Joel Chute at jchute@communityforlife.com or 239-328-7547.

Chrism Mass at Cathedral on March 26

The Chrism Mass, which takes place during Holy Week every year, will be held at 10:30 a.m., March 26, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. During this Mass, Bishop Frank J. Dewane will bless the Holy Oils which are used in the administration of the Sacraments at each parish throughout the year. Priests and Deacons celebrating 25 and 50 years of Ordination are recognized at this Mass. All are encouraged to attend in support of our clergy and to participate in this important Holy Week celebration.

 

Sebring Parish marks century serving the Faithful

For 100 years the Faithful of Sebring in Highlands County have been able to call St. Catherine of Siena Parish their home.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for the St. Catherine community on the exact anniversary when the Parish was erected, March 2, 2024.

“Christ is the cornerstone of the Church, but you, the Faithful of St. Catherine, build up His House, you are the living stones,” Bishop Dewane said.

An anniversary is an important time to look at the past, the present and into the future, Bishop Dewane said. The Bishop reflected upon how much the Parish has grown and transformed in the past 100 years while serving the needs of the faithful in the community. The first Masses in Sebring were celebrated in homes by Jesuit priests who would ride horses from Tampa. It was in 1920 when a Mission church in the Diocese of St. Augustine (which encompassed all of Florida at the time), was established in the name of St. Catherine of Siena.

Bishop Dewane also praised all the priests, as well as the religious men and women who served the Parish through the years, who have served the spiritual needs of the Mission and Parish from its beginnings to today, including Father Jose González, who has been Pastor at St. Catherine since 2005.

“We celebrate this anniversary because we are a people of hope,” the Bishop said. “Christ made us to be this way. St. Catherine’s story goes into the present-day world, and into the future. St. Catherine is a family of believers, united in faith and in love of the Lord – to teach, proclaim and celebrate the word of God. This must continue when you leave the walls of the Church and enter out into the community.”

The Bishop also encouraged the faithful to take the time during the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Parish to grow in a deeper relationship with the Lord. “Pause to recommit yourself to live the faith to its fullest out among the people, not just in our homes. Invite those around you to be a part of this anniversary, this celebration of the Lord as a community and in your life.”

The Parish community has grown since its founding, including the establishment of St. Catherine Catholic School in 2008.

“These students are being formed to make a great contribution to our society as men and women of faith who can go out to the public square,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is the blessing of the Lord that the school continues to grow and continues to have the support of the entire community.”

Students from the school served as the Choir for the 100th Anniversary Mass. They were also pivotal in helping to set up the celebratory luncheon which followed the Mass.

Father González said he was grateful for the presence of Bishop Dewane at the important celebration in the life of the Parish. Father also expressed his gratitude to the parishioners who call St. Catherine their home today for their continuing support.

During the reception Father González recited the following prayer:

“To the pioneers, then, who long ago came to St. Catherine Church and whose first thoughts were of Christ and His Church, we humbly pray… We are grateful to those deeds of the past, which are our inspiration for the present and our hope for the future… As we honor the past, we cannot forget the present and the zealous part our parishioners are playing in the glorious progress of the Diocese of Venice, of St. Catherine Church and St. Catherine Catholic School. May all the good work continue as we pray that You, Loving Father, abundantly continue to bless our Diocese, our Parish and our School. Amen.”

The original Parish church was completed in late 1924, and the first Pastor was Father Patrick O’Brien. When the second Pastor arrived, a rectory was added in 1939. Three Victory Noll Sisters served in the Parish from 1956 until 1970. Father Jose Ruiz was named Pastor in 1976, and with his arrival came many changes. A new church was dedicated in 1978 and a new rectory built in 1979. The Parish Hall was constructed in in the early 1980s and the church was renovated and expanded. A new Parish office and youth center were built in 2000 and 2002 respectively. Father González was appointed Administrator upon the death of Father Ruiz in 2002 and has been at the Parish ever since.

Someone who remembers many of the changes at St. Catherine during the past 80 years is Margaret Mercure, who moved to Sebring in 1944 with her young family, following her husband who was in the military during the height of World War II. The couple loved the area so much, they stayed.

Mercure said she has many fond memories of her early years at the Parish, the religious sisters and growth of the area. Her most vivid memory was that there were no bathrooms for women in the original church. Women would need to use the bathroom in the Parish office as the substitute.

“When the new church was built, it was the first thing I checked out,” she said.

Pat Israel has lived in the Parish for 54 years. She received most of her Sacraments there, including First Holy Communion, Confirmation and Holy Matrimony, as did her children.

“St Catherine has been my spiritual home for many years,” Israel said. “It is home.”

As part of the ongoing 100th anniversary celebration, Father González welcomed Sister Nancy Murray, an Adrian Dominican who is also sister of comedian Bill Murray, who used her gift for acting to spread the story of Dominican Saint Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church. Transforming herself into the 14th century Saint and patroness of the Dominican Order, Sister Nancy’s one-woman show entertains audiences from across the world with her story of St. Catherine’s fierce devotion and love for God. Sister Nancy offered two presentations to the faithful, as well as to children in religious education classes and at St. Catherine Catholic School.

Happy 100th Anniversary to St. Catherine of Siena Parish!

Bishop praises those who stand for life – Says more needs to be done to protect unborn

Calling those who stand up for life the “light in the darkness,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane praised the participants in the 40 Days for Life spring campaign in Sarasota, encouraging all the faithful to join in demonstrating the value of life throughout society.

40 Days for Life is an internationally coordinated 40-day campaign that aims to end abortion locally through prayer and fasting, community outreach, and a peaceful all-day vigil in front of abortion mills. The campaign is currently taking place in the Diocese of Venice in Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples.

Speaking during Mass at St. Martha Parish in Sarasota on March 5, 2024, Bishop Dewane said the prayer intention focused on the continuing success of 40 Days for Life. He went on to say now, it is more important than ever to be seen and heard on the issue of life even though many believed the abortion issue was over when Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U. S. Supreme Court in June 2022.

“It has moved to a different plane, but it is not safe,” Bishop Dewane said. “We discover that we haven’t won. When Roe was overturned it was a moment of new life, almost an exodus of the oppression of the 50 years of direct attacks on the unborn. However, quickly we saw that the taking the life of children didn’t end. Mothers are still being harmed, families being threatened, lives being taken.”

Noting that since that U.S. Supreme Court decision, several states, and even a country, have already enshrined the right to abortion in their respective constitutions.

“We cannot determine what happens in France, but we can still speak out clearly for what happens in our own country,” the Bishop said. “It is not enough to stay silent.”

Currently under review in the Florida State Supreme Court is a dangerous amendment which would essentially allow abortions, for any reason, until birth. This would reverse the recent passage of a 15-week ban on abortion, scheduled to soon become a 6-week ban. What the justices are determining is whether the wording is acceptable – something of a technicality, Bishop Dewane noted, wondering why the court is not concerned with the loss of life.

“As this plays out, and hopefully the ballot amendment does not go forward this year, this issue will not go away,” Bishop Dewane continued. “If it is not this year, it is next year or the year after that. The threat is there.”

“We are not going to find a political solution to this issue,” the Bishop continued. “Abortion is a moral problem, and it is going to take a solution that comes out of moral theology and moral conviction of individuals. In the meantime, you and I do have to enter the political arena, and we have to be ready to make the sacrifices it takes to stand up and continue to speak out for life.”

Bishop Dewane concluded by saying that it is his prayer that individuals will have the strength to stand up to confront the evil that is abortion and to evidence the character that God has given us. “Let us take that love and pass it on to others, so that they can have the possibility to live life.”

Following Mass, the Bishop, along with the faithful, including 10 students from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, went to the Planned Parenthood regional headquarters and abortion facility to stand as public witnesses for life.

The Cardinal Mooney students, led by teacher Tim Shipe, walked from the Parish to the abortion facility, joining others who are committed to preserving life. Participants prayed silently and witnessed for life, holding signs, while others prayed the rosary.

The older people who were participating in the prayer vigil were impressed by the students, encouraged that they are learning about Pro-Life issues and joining in the prayer walk.

Peg Styer, 84, who has been standing witness for many decades, said seeing young people participate gives her comfort that when she is no longer able to be present, others will do their part. “It makes a difference when the young girls come here and see people praying. I have met many of them who saw people praying for them and choose life. It is why we are out here,” Styer said.

The students also toured the nearby Community Pregnancy Clinic, a Pro-Life facility which offers a wide range of life-affirming assistance for moms who are considering an abortion.

A peaceful, rather than confrontational effort, the 40 Days for Life prayer spring campaign started Feb. 14, Ash Wednesday, continues through Palm Sunday (March 24), and is taking place in more than 700 cities worldwide. The Diocese of Venice has participated since 2007, the year of the first national campaign. To date, 24,242 babies have been saved (92 during the 2024 spring campaign through March 5) and 148 abortion centers have been closed.

All are encouraged to participate in the 40 Days for Life prayer vigil. Many area Parishes have signed up for specific days and hours, but all are free to join at any time. The peaceful vigil takes place in the public right of way and appropriate signs are provided.

The prayer vigil in Sarasota is daily, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 736 Central Ave. In Fort Myers, the vigil is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Mon. – Sat.), at 6418 Commerce Park Drive. The Naples prayer vigil is from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Mon. – Sat.), at 1425 Creech Road.

For more information, please visit https://www.40daysforlife.com/en/.

If you would like to learn more about the Respect Life issues and how you can be a witness for life, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/respectlife.

Galas support Catholic Charities programs

Helping mothers who might otherwise be homeless become self-sufficient and productive members of the community is what Our Mother’s House is all about, while the Boca Grande Preschool provides a nurturing and educational haven for children.

These two programs of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., were showcased during special events in the past week. The annual Wine Tasting, Auction & Dinner event to benefit Our Mother’s House was held Feb. 29, 2024, at the Venice Community Center in Venice. The Beach Ball benefitted the Boca Grande Preschool, and was held March 4, at the Gasparilla Inn Beach Club in Boca Grande.

Hundreds showed their support for Our Mother’s House. Attendees made bids on silent auction items and an enthusiastic live auction.

Shannon Hoyt, the Program Director for Our Mother’s House, said for more than three decades the program keeps getting better at promoting self-sufficiency and pushing young mothers towards independence. When young mothers face homelessness, the impact is greater than many realize, including on an emotional and behavioral level. In addition, the young child feels what their mom is going through.

“Your support of Our Mother’s House is having an impact,” Hoyt said. “We couldn’t do what we do for mothers and their children without your help.”

The Boca Grande Preschool is situated on the serene campus of Our Lady of Mercy Parish and is dedicated to providing exceptional early education and childcare services for families residing or working on Gasparilla Island. The school staff is committed to providing a high-quality learning environment, catering to children aged 1 to 5, and offering a comprehensive preschool curriculum that stimulates intellectual, social, and emotional growth. The property received extensive damage from Hurricane Ian in 2022 and all major repairs have been completed.

Both the Beach Ball, as well as the Wine Tasting, had successful “Gift from the Heart” appeals.

To learn more about the Preschool, please call 941-964-2885 or email bocagrandepreschool@catholiccharitiesdov.org.

For more information about Our Mother’s House or to help, please call 941-485-6264 or email omh@catholiccharitiesdov.org.

Support both programs by visiting www.catholiccharitiesdov.org.

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