EASTER: Spreading the Good News of the Risen Lord

Throughout the Universal Church the faithful gathered for a joyous celebration on Easter; that is the Resurrection of Our Lord, the Summit of the Catholic Faith.

This celebration comes after the holiest of weeks which began with the entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and included the suffering and death of Our Lord. The Resurrection on Easter completes the journey for Jesus when death was conquered. This moment marks the beginning of a new journey of belief and hope for all the faithful, Bishop Frank J. Dewane said during the Easter Vigil Mass, March 30, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

“Humanity has never really known a single night so powerful as tonight, during this Easter Vigil – so majestic, so holy – the greatest night, when the power of death is conquered,” Bishop Dewane said. “This is the night of keeping vigil as we wait for the Lord. This is the night of the new Adam, and of the New Covenant.”

The Easter Vigil, which takes place on Holy Saturday night, “is the greatest and most noble of all solemnities and it is to be unique in every single Church,” according to the Roman Missal. The Vigil began in darkness before the Easter fire was kindled and the Paschal (Passover) Candle was lit, and then proceeded down the main aisle, carried by a Deacon, into the darkened church with the proclamation that Christ is our Light.

The Gospel reading tells of the three women who went to the tomb of Jesus to complete the anointing of Jesus’ body properly, even though they knew a great stone was in their way, they were carried by their faith, hope and love for Jesus Christ because following a great darkness, the sun had risen that Easter morning.

“We must continually grow closer to the Lord, seeking His help, and proclaiming that He is risen,” Bishop Dewane said. “By living faith, hope, and love, in our own lives, just as those women did, the stones which keep us from the Lord will be moved out of our way, because we are each called to enter into the tomb and be with Christ, seeing, understanding and believing.”

During this Mass, the faithful hear the story of Salvation proclaimed in numerous Scripture readings. It is also at this time when the Bishop/priests confer the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation for the Catechumens and Candidates. At Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice, there were 662 women and men who entered fully into the Catholic Church, a record number for the Diocese.

One of these candidates was Shawn Marren, who first received the Sacrament of Confirmation and then the Sacrament of First Holy Communion from Bishop Dewane at Epiphany Cathedral.

Marren was emotional when he received his First Holy Communion. He explained that this moment meant a great deal to him having studied and learned the origin of the Real Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist. His journey toward becoming Catholic started a few years ago while filling in as an organist at the Cathedral. Marren was fascinated by the Most Holy Eucharist and the homilies offered during Masses. He then asked questions of Cathedral Rector Msgr. Patrick Dubois and was directed to read early Church teachings.

“I had never read pre-Reformation texts and my eyes were opened to the Catholic faith, and how the Real Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist lives to this day,” Marren said. “I feel truly blessed.”

The celebration of Easter is not confined to a single day, in fact, throughout the next 50 days the Easter Season is celebrated “in joyful exultation as one Feast Day, or better as one ‘great Sunday.’”

The first days make up the Octave of Easter and are celebrated as solemnities of the Lord. On the 40th day of the Easter Season, Catholics celebrate the Ascension of the Lord (May 9, which is moved to the following Sunday on May 12 in most Diocese in the U.S., including the Diocese of Venice), and for the nine days following, prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (May 19).

Easter Triduum celebrated in Diocese

The summit of the Liturgical Year is the Easter Triduum (March 28-31, 2024) — from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday. Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery.

The single celebration of the Triduum marks the end of the Lenten Season, and leads to the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord at the Easter Vigil.

The liturgical services that take place during the Triduum are:

  • Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Thursday)
  • Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Good Friday)
  • Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord (Easter Vigil)

Thousands of the faithful of the Diocese of Venice gathered at Parishes for the celebration of the Triduum.

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park included the commemoration when Jesus Christ established the Sacrament of Holy Communion prior to His arrest and crucifixion. It also observes His institution of the priesthood. This Liturgy included the presentation of the oils blessed and consecrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane during the March 26 Chrism Mass, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, which will be used for the Sacraments in the Parish throughout the year. Later was the traditional washing of the feet, reenacting Jesus washing the feet of the Disciples. Following the Prayer after Communion, the Mass concluded with a procession to transfer the Holy Eucharist to a place of repose in the Parish Hall. This action left the tabernacle vacant until the Easter Vigil.

On Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, the faithful at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples participated in the Liturgy which included the reading of the Passion from the Gospel of John. Next was the presentation of the cross, brought forth by the priest and unveiled as the priest sang: “This is the wood of the cross, on which hung the salvation of the world,” and the congregation responded: “Come let us adore.” The faithful were then encouraged to come forward to venerate the cross. This was done by either touching, bowing, or genuflecting.

Either prior to, or after, the Good Friday Liturgy, many Parishes hosted the Stations of the Cross, sometimes led by children or including a dramatic retelling.

For example, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee, the Living Stations began in a field behind the Parish church, and then travelled through the neighborhood. The Stations were inclusive to include the languages of the Parish (Spanish, English and Creole). By the time the procession returned to the Parish the crowd had swelled into the thousands.

For the first time, a public Stations of the Cross took place in downtown Venice, starting at Epiphany Cathedral and proceeding into nearby Centennial Park and then down Venice Avenue. Approximately 800 took part, including members of the youth group, as streets were temporarily blocked.

On Holy Saturday, the only Mass of the day is the Easter Vigil

On Easter Sunday, several Parishes celebrated Mass at sunrise while extra Masses were added to accommodate the increased numbers common for this holiest of days.

Many Parishes also hosted fun for children which often included Easter egg hunts either on the Saturday or following a Children’s Liturgy on Sunday.

New Chief Executive Named for Catholic Charities

Bishop Frank J. Dewane announced that Christopher M. Root has joined Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. (CCDOV), as Chief Executive Officer, effective April 2, 2024.

Root comes to Catholic Charities from Families First Network of Lakeview Center, an organization that provides child welfare, foster care, and adoption services, and where he was Director of Administration. Previously, Root spent decades working with other Catholic Charities organizations in Northwest Florida and Michigan.

“Christopher Root’s commitment to service, and passion for helping others, is abundantly clear, and his leadership and guidance will be a blessing not only to the organization and the Diocese, but to so many here in Southwest Florida who need help,” Bishop Dewane said.

Root said his dedication to service is rooted in his Catholic faith.

“As Catholics, it is our duty to recognize the human dignity of every individual, granted to them by God, and to share His love with all whom we encounter,” Root said. “I am looking forward to advancing the work of Catholic Charities here in the Diocese of Venice, and providing help, creating hope, and serving all, as our mission dictates.”

In his previous work with Catholic Charities, Root worked at Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee and in Michigan, at the Diocese of Lansing. He oversaw broad-reaching programs and services such as soup kitchens, food pantries, and transitional housing, as well as more specialized programs like adoption, foster care, Life Justice, Project Rachel, behavioral health counseling, substance abuse, adult daycare, refugee resettlement, personal assistance programs, and medical and immigration law clinics.

Root holds Master of Social Work and Bachelor of Arts degrees, both from Michigan State University, and is also a graduate of the Mission to Service Program at the University of Notre Dame and the Catholic Charities USA Leadership Institute.

He and his wife, Diana, have nine children, and nine grandchildren.

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, is a nonprofit founded in 1984. The organization serves as a resource to the community offering health and human services, food pantries, counseling, legal assistance, rapid re-housing, education, and disaster response. Catholic Charities serves the 10 counties of the Diocese. The mission of Catholic Charities is to provide help, create hope, and serve all. For more information, visit http://www.catholiccharitiesdov.org

2024 Priest and Deacon Jubilarians

Seven Priests and four Permanent Deacons who are celebrating the 25th and 50th anniversaries of their ordination in 2024 were recognized and honored on March 26, 2024, during the annual Chrism Mass at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane congratulated each jubilarian for their years of service to Christ and Holy Mother Church. A reception was held in the Parish Hall following the Mass.

The priest golden jubilarians were Msgr. Mark Svarczkopf, who assists at multiple Parishes in Hardee and Highlands counties; Father Richard Bondi, who assists at Ave Maria Parish and University in Ave Maria; and Father Brian Manning, who assists at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples. Priest silver jubilarians were Father Anthony Hewitt, Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande; Father Victor Caviedes; who is Parochial Vicar at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota; Father Anthonio Jean, who is Parochial Vicar at Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton; and Father Jayabalan (Jay) Raju, Administrator of St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers.

Among the Deacons, the lone golden jubilarian was Deacon Michael Leahy, who is retired. Celebrating their silver jubilees are Deacon Edward Gwiazda, who assists at St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres; Deacon William Hickey, who assists at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch; and Deacon Alfred Mauriello, who assists at St. Finbarr Parish in Naples.

Jubilarian Bios

50 years

Father Richard A Bondi

Father Richard Bondi graduated from Boston College in 1970 with a degree in philosophy and theology, then from Mount Saint Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, with a degree is sacred scripture. On May 11, 1974, he was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Springfield (Massachusetts) where he served as both Parochial Vicar and Pastor in various Parishes. Further assignments, in addition to Parish ministry, members of the Diocesan Priest Senate, head of the Renew Program, as well as assisting at six different university and colleges within the Diocese. Father Bondi served as Chair of the Diocesan Building Commission and further advanced his studies, receiving a Doctor of Ministry Degree in Psychology and Clinical Studies from Weston Jesuit School of Theology. In 2009, Father purchased a home in Ave Maria and since 2022 he retired to the Diocese of Venice, assisting at Ave Maria Parish and Ave Maria University. Born the second of twin sons, Father Bondi was born in 1948 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Father Brian Manning

Father Brian Manning was Ordained to the Priesthood in Boston, Massechusetts, on May 18, 1974. Father Manning obtained degrees from St. John Seminary College in Boston. Upon his ordination, Father served as Parochial Vicar at several Parishes in the Boston area. As Pastor, Father Manning served at Parishes in Somerville, Scituate, and Franklin, before retiring in 2023 to Naples. Father currently assists at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples. Father Manning was born in 1948, the fourth of six children.



Msgr. Mark Svarczkopf

Prior to ordination, Msgr. Mark Svarczkopf studied at the Latin School of Indianapolis High School Seminary, St. Meinard Seminary College and then at Pontifical North American College in Rome. Ordained to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis on June 8, 1974, Msgr. began his priestly ministry in various capacities including Associate Pastor, Administrator, Pastor, Chaplain of Scouts, Dean of the Indianapolis Northern Deanery, and Priest Moderator. He was also named Prelate of Honor, Director of the Institute for Continuing Theological Education, U.S. Bishop’s Seminary, North American College in Rome, and Vice-Rector for Administration of the North American College. Msgr. Svarczkopf retired in 2019 and for the Diocese of Venice currently assists in the Eastern Deanery, including at St. Michael in Wauchula, St. Catherine in Sebring, St. James in Lake Placid, and Our Lady of Grace in Avon Park. Born in 1948, Msgr. has two brothers.

25 years

Father Victor A. Caviedes

Father Victor Caviedes, a native of Lima, Peru, earned degrees from the University of Martin de Porres in Peru, and Autonomous University in Madrid, Spain. While in Madrid, he met Father Celestino Gutierrez who arranged for him to come to the United States in 1997. He studied as St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. Bishop John J. Nevins ordained Father Victor as a Diocesan priest at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice on Oct. 22, 1999. For the Diocese of Venice, Father has served at numerous Parishes as a Parochial Vicar, including Our Lady Queen of Heaven in LaBelle, Jesus the Worker in Fort Myers, and St. James in Lake Placid, dedicating himself to pastoral work with poor families and immigrants. Father’s current assignment is as Parochial Vicar at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota. He was born in Peru in 1953.

Father Anthony Hewitt

Father Anthony Hewitt was Ordained to the Priesthood at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice on Oct. 22, 1999. He studied at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami, and at St. Vincent de Paul Regional seminary in Boynton Beach, and Catholic University in Washington, D.C., prior to his ordination. For the Diocese of Venice, Father Hewitt has served as Parochial Vicar at St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral, St. Jude Parish in Sarasota, and Pastor at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Fort Myers. Father currently serves as Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande. In addition to his Parish duties, Father also serves as a Defender of the Bond in the Diocesan Tribunal Office. Father was born in Kokomo, Indiana, in 1971 and has three younger sisters.

Father Anthonio Jean

Upon completing his studies at Cap-Haitien College Notre-Dame and the Grand Seminary Notre Dame of the Holy Cross in Haiti, Father Anthonio Jean was Ordained to the Priesthood on Oct. 22, 1999, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. Father has served as Parochial Vicar at numerous Parishes within the Diocese of Venice, including St. Charles Borromeo in Port Charlotte, St. Francis Xavier in Fort Myers, San Pedro in North Port, Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles in Bradenton, and St. Katharine Drexel in Cape Coral. Father Jean also served as Administrator of St. James Parish in Lake Placid. His most recent assignment is as Parochial Vicar at Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton. He also served on the Presbyteral Council as a representative of the Eastern Deanery. Father Jean was born in Carice, Haiti in 1966, and has eight siblings.

Father Jayabalan (Jay) Raju

Having received degrees from Arul Anandar College, and St. Paul’s Seminary, all in India, Father Jayabalan (Jay) Raju was Ordained to the Priesthood on Aprill 11, 1999. His assignments as a priest included Parishes in India as well as Director of Madurai Multipurpose Social Service Society (Diocesan Catholic Charities), and Deputy Director of the Tamil Nadu Social Service Society (Regional Catholic Charities), also in India. For the Diocese of Venice, Father Raju has served as a Parochial Vicar at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Grove City, St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral, St. Francis Xavier Parish in Fort Myers, and Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. Father’s current assignment is as Administrator of St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers. Father Raju was born in 1971 and is the middle of three children.


Permanent Deacons

50 years

Deacon Michael Leahy

Deacon Michael Leahy obtained his education at the University of Dayton in Ohio, the University of Toledo in Ohio and Sacred Heart Seminary, Shelby, Ohio. On June 1, 1974, Deacon Michael was Ordained as a Permanent Deacon at Rosary Cathedral in Toledo. Since his Ordination, Deacon Leahy has served in nine different Dioceses in seven different states. Highlights from his career includes serving in jails, as well as state and federal prisons; being a Fire Department Chaplain in Ohio and Florida; leading a Deacon Training Course in New Hampshire and the Diocese of Charlotte; and serving in rest homes and hospitals in several different Dioceses. Deacon Leahy was born in 1939 in Tiffin, Ohio.  He has been married to his wife, Judy, for 62 years. Together they have eight children, 31 grandchildren and 17 great-children.

25 years

Deacon Edward J. Gwiazda

Deacon Edward Gwiazda was ordained to the Permanent Diaconate on May 8, 1999, in Trenton, New Jersey.  He completed his studies at Monmouth University, West Longbranch, New Jersey.  Deacon Edward served at St. Isaac Jogues Parish, New Jersey, and currently serves at St. Raphael Parish, Lehigh Acres.  For his career, Deacon Gwiazda was a software engineer. Deacon Edward was born in 1948 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He is married to Kathleen, and they have one child and two grandchildren.


Deacon William Lawrence Hickey

On June 6, 1999, Deacon William Hickey was ordained to the Permanent Diaconate in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  His post graduate education was completed at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Deacon Hickey served in Philadelphia as Assistant to the Associate Vicar for Clergy – Permanent Deacons, and as Associate to the Director in the Archdiocese for Permanent Deacons as well as at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in West Chester. For the Diocese of Venice, Deacon Hickey serves at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch. He was born in Philadelphia in 1962, and is married to Melissa (Carragher) Hickey. They have six children and eight grandchildren. His current profession is as an Instructional design consultant.

Deacon Alfred J. Mauriello II MD

Following his Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate on June 5, 1999, in Philadelphia, Penn. Deacon Alfred Mauriello served at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish and continues to serve at Ss. Simon and Jude Parish, both in Philadelphia. Since 2022, he assists in the winter months at St. Finbarr Parish in Naples for the Diocese of Venice. Deacon Alfred was born in Philadelphia in 1943, and attended St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia. On June 1, 2023, Deacon Mauriello retired as a head and neck surgeon. Since his retirement, he still volunteers his time. Deacon Alfred is married to Susan (Patterson) and they have three children.


2024 Easter Message of Bishop Frank J. Dewane in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole.

My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Easter is the “feast of feasts,” the “solemnity of solemnities.” It is the Most Holy Day of the Liturgical Year! Today, the Greatest of All Sundays, we proclaim, “Christ the Lord is risen, Alleluia! Alleluia!”

The Paschal Mystery is the very essence of our Catholic Faith. Through Christ’s Suffering Death and Resurrection, He paved the way for our Salvation.

This Easter, as we find ourselves in the midst of a National Eucharistic Revival, let us more fully recognize and embrace Christ’s precious gift of Himself, present in the Holy Eucharist, in our lives.

Take comfort knowing that this gift is available to us not only today, but every day, at each and every Mass, through Christ’s great love for us.

I wish you, and your family, a very Blessed and Joyous Easter Sunday.

Happy Easter!  Let us rejoice and be glad!

+ Frank J. Dewane

Bishop of the Diocese of

Venice in Florida


Mis queridos Hermanos y Hermanas en Cristo:

La Pascua es la “fiesta de fiestas”, la “solemnidad de las solemnidades”. ¡Es el día más santo del año litúrgico! Hoy, el más grande de todos los domingos, proclamamos: “¡Cristo el Señor ha resucitado, Aleluya! ¡Aleluya!”

El Misterio Pascual es la esencia misma de nuestra Fe Católica. A través del sufrimiento, muerte y resurrección de Cristo, Él allanó el camino para nuestra salvación.

En esta Pascua, mientras nos encontramos en medio de un Avivamiento Eucarístico Nacional, reconozcamos y abracemos más plenamente el precioso don de Cristo de sí mismo, presente en la Sagrada Eucaristía, en nuestras vidas.

Consuélese sabiendo que este don está disponible para nosotros no solo hoy, sino todos los días, en todas y cada una de las Misas, a través del gran amor de Cristo por nosotros.

Le deseo a usted, y a su familia, un Domingo de Pascua muy bendecido y alegre.

¡Felices Pascuas!  ¡Regocijémonos y alegrémonos!

+ Frank J. Dewane

Obispo de la Diócesis de

Venice en Florida

MESAJ Pak 2024

Chè frè m ak sè m yo nan Kris la,

Pak se “fèt tout fèt yo,” “solanite tout solanite yo”.” Li se jou ki pi Sen nan tout ane litigik la! Jodi a, pi gran nan tout dimanch, nou pwoklame : “Kris Granmèt-la leve byen vivan, Alleluia! Alleluia!”

Mistè Paschal la se fondman lafwa Katolik nou an. Atravè soufrans Kris la ak Rezirèksyon Kris la, Li te pave wout la pou Delivrans nou.

Pak sa a, pandan nou twouve nou nan mitan yon Renouvo Ekaristik Nasyonal, se pou nou rekonèt e anbrase plis toujou ,kado presye Kris la nan bay tèt li, prezan nan lekaristi e nan lavi nou.

Se pou-n rekonfòte nou lè nou konnen ke kado sa a disponib pou nou ,non sèlman jodi a, men chak jou, nan tout e chak Mass, atravè gwo lanmou Kris la pou nou.

Mwen swete nou, ak fanmi nou, yon gwo benediksyon ak yon Dimanch Pak kèb kontan.

Jwayez Pak!  Annou rejwi e annou fè kè-n kontan!

+ Frank J. Dewane

Monseigneur Evèque du Diocèse de

Venice, Florida

Chrism Mass – Symbol of Unity – Renewal of Priestly Promises; Consecration and Blessing of Holy Oils

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was joined by more than 150 priests from across the Diocese for the annual Chrism Mass March 26, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

The Chrism Mass, which the Bishop concelebrates with priests from throughout the Diocese and during which he consecrates the sacred Chrism and blesses the other oils, is among the principal manifestations of the fullness of the Bishop’s Priesthood and is considered to be a sign of the close bond between the Priests and their Bishop. For it is with the sacred Chrism consecrated by the Bishop that the priests are ordained, the newly baptized are anointed, and those to be confirmed are signed. It is with the Oil of Catechumens that catechumens are prepared and disposed for Baptism. Finally, it is with the Oil of the Sick that those who are ill are comforted in their infirmity.

This celebration, which was witnessed by more than 1,000 of the faithful, including 350 students from Diocesan Catholic schools, is an expression of unity of the priests with their Shepherd, the Bishop of the Diocese.

The celebration not only brings into focus the historical context of the priesthood by the renewal of Priestly Promises, but also presents an opportunity for the priests to recall their ordination and to reflect upon their ongoing priestly vocation. Having all the priests of the Diocese come together at the Chrism Mass, united with their Bishop, on the eve of the Easter Triduum, reminds priests of their calling to act in the person of Christ – in persona Christi. This is the largest annual gathering of the clergy for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

During the Renewal of Priestly Promises the gathered priests stood as one, and spoke with one voice responding, “I am,” three times to a series of questions asked by Bishop Dewane. These same questions were asked of them at the time of their Ordination to the Priesthood.

Bishop Dewane publicly thanked the priests for their continued service to the People of God throughout the Diocese of Venice. He also called upon the faithful to continue to support the priests who bring the Sacraments into their lives.

“The Chrism Mass highlights the role and responsibility of the ordained in relationship with their Bishop, but primarily in their relationship to God and to Jesus Christ in offering that eternal sacrifice at the table of the Lord,” Bishop Dewane said. “My brothers, our hands were and remain anointed with the oil of Chrism, the same Chrism that will be instituted today; may Jesus always preserve you to sanctify the Christian people and in the Holy Office, in sacrifice to God.”

The anointed hands of a priest are sacramental instruments that baptize, confirm, bless, absolve sin, consecrate, offer the Bread of Life, the Chalice of Salvation; they are sacramental instruments that touch heads who ask for a blessing and at the end of life, open the door to eternity for many.

“Those are the instruments the Lord gives us,” Bishop Dewane said. “St. Teresa of Avila emphasized this point, saying, ‘Christ has no hands on earth but yours.’ Your hands are important in that role. They pray, they labor, they offer compassion and peace to those you meet. The anointed hands have been further consecrated, use them carefully for what God wants.”

While the priesthood can be challenging, the Bishop said that the heart of the priest “pulsates the lifeblood of the Body of Christ, the Church, keeping Her alive, active and sacred. Let it be part of who you are. That beating heart; let it be for Christ in every way.”

Pope Francis said the grace of the priesthood is for service, not for glory, as there is no recompense greater for a priest than the friendship with Jesus Christ. Seeking one’s own glory robs the priest, and ultimately the faithful, of the presence of Christ.

“We must all be careful of not letting our hearts and hands get numb to the repeated exercise of our service, but recognize them as a blessing and grace for those whom we serve,” Bishop Dewane said. “Be men of a priestly heart, so the faithful can approach and listen to you, as they yearn to be faithful themselves. Let them feel the presence of the Lord, through you as a priest, while they seek your companionship on their spiritual journey.”

During the Chrism Mass, Bishop Dewane recognized the seven Priests and four Permanent Deacons who are celebrating the 25th and 50th anniversaries of their ordination for their years of service to Christ and Holy Mother Church. Bishop Dewane also recognized Father Celestino Gutierrez, who is marking his 60th anniversary as a priest in 2024 and recently retired as founding Pastor of St. Jude Parish in Sarasota.


In attendance for this special occasion were religious men and women; Diocesan seminarians; Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem; Knights and Dames of the Sovereign Order of Malta; the Knights of Columbus, including those of the Color Corps; members of the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women; students from Diocesan Catholic schools; as well as the faithful of the Diocese of Venice.

Sacred Chrism Oil

The Chrism Mass takes its name from the sacred Chrism oil, the most eminent of the three holy oils, which the Bishop consecrates and blesses for use by Parishes of the Diocese. Bishop Dewane referred to the Gospel message which described the oils as being the oil of gladness, which represent the indelible mark each bestows.

The Oil of the Sick, used for those who seek anointing, and the Oil of the Catechumens, which is imposed on those preparing for baptism, are blessed, by the Bishop at different times during the Chrism Mass. The sacred Chrism is both blessed and consecrated. The verb “consecrate” is applied to the action of making holy the chrism and indicates its use to spiritually separate, sanctify and purify its recipients.

For the blessing and consecration of the sacred Chrism oil, the initial motion is to pour balsam into the oil, and then this is mixed. The balsam is added so that it gives the oil a sweet smell intended to remind those who encounter it of the “odor of sanctity.” All of the Faithful are called to strive for sanctity. Next, the Bishop breathes on the Sacred Chrism “to symbolize the Holy Spirit coming down.” At a particular point in the consecratory prayer for the Sacred Chrism, all the priests join the Bishop in extending their right hand toward the Chrism, as the Bishop concludes the prayer.

After Mass, the oils were given to each Pastor to use in their Parish throughout the Liturgical Year.

Priest and Deacon Jubilarians

A reception was held in the Parish Hall following the Mass to honor Priests and Deacons celebrating their jubilee in 2024.

Reverend Mark Svarczkopf spoke for the golden jubilarians. Father Svarczkopf is originally from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and currently assists in the Eastern Deanery of the Diocese of Venice, primarily at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, but also at St. Catherine in Sebring, Our Lady of Grace in Avon Park and St. James in Lake Placid. Father said a key part of being a priest is having the grace to soften the hardest of hearts.

Father Anthony Hewitt spoke on behalf of the silver jubilarians. Father Hewitt spoke about the importance of Holy Week to priests. “The totality and the very reason we exist on this planet – Jesus Christ – that Holy Hour where He goes to glorify His Heavenly Father; where He goes to die and rise on Easter Sunday.” Father prayed that the faithful find the beauty of the Paschal Triduum, because many “don’t see the joy of Holy Thursday; the magnificent beauty and the glory that is Good Friday; and they never ever come to Easter Vigil.” Father Hewitt is currently Pastor at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande.

Also celebrating 50 years were Father Richard Bondi, who assists at Ave Maria Parish and University in Ave Maria; and Father Brian Manning, who assists at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples. Additional priest silver jubilarians were Father Victor Caviedes, who is Parochial Vicar at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota; Father Anthonio Jean, who is Parochial Vicar at Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton; and Father Jayabalan (Jay) Raju, Administrator of St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers.

Deacon Michael Leahy, a golden jubilarian, is retired. Celebrating their silver jubilees are Deacon Edward Gwiazda, who assists at St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres; Deacon William Hickey, who assists at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch; and Deacon Alfred Mauriello, who assists at St. Finbarr Parish in Naples.

Legion of Mary group renews promises

The Annual Acies of the Manasota Curia of the Legion of Mary took place March 23, 2024, at Incarnation Parish in Venice.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the Mass for the gathered members which represented nine different Legion of Mary praesidiums (chapters) from across the region.

Bishop Dewane praised the Legion of Mary for its commitment to carrying the message of the Blessed Virgin Mary to others. That message includes giving oneself over to the Lord by doing what He asks without question.

Annually, during the Acies ceremony, the members reconsecrate themselves to Mary by renewing their Legionary Promise, so that they may better work in union with the Blessed Virgin as they do their Legionary battle against the evils of this world. In this consecration, the members open their hearts to Mary, so that Our Lady may guide them and bless them throughout the year.

Kathy Bragdon said the annual Acies serves to rededicate each member of the Legion of Mary to Our Lady, providing the strength and guidance to continue forward with their work. Following the Mass, the Legionaries enjoyed a luncheon.

The Legion of Mary is a worldwide organization of lay Catholics focusing on Marian spirituality and apostolic works in more than 180 countries. The Legion 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 of the Legion of Mary become instruments of the Holy Spirit through a balanced program of prayer and service in a family atmosphere. Works include door-to-door evangelization, parishioner visitation, visitation of the sick or aged, Catholic education, visiting the newly baptized, visiting families, 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. Members meet once a week for prayer, planning and discussion in a family setting. They do two hours of work each week in pairs and under the guidance of their spiritual director.

A main apostolate of the Legion is activities directed towards Catholics and non-Catholics, encouraging them in their faith or inviting them to become Catholic. This is usually done by encouraging prayer, attending Mass, and learning more about the Catholic Faith.

For a list of Parish praesidia (chapters) in the Diocese of Venice, please visit http://www.legionofmarymiamiregia.com.

News Briefs for the week for March 29, 2024

Palm Sunday opens Holy Week

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord brought the faithful together as the Lenten Season nears a close (Holy Thursday). This is the day we remember and honor Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, greeted by cheering crowds waving palm branches that they set out on the ground along his path, before his crucifixion on Good Friday.  As is tradition, the faithful received palms upon entering church, which were then blessed by the presiding priest. During this Mass, the Passion of the Lord from the Gospel of Mark was read.

Hour-long Easter Sunday Televised Mass schedule

The Diocese of Venice in Florida will air the televised Easter Sunday Mass for a full hour. This special Mass for the homebound and celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, 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.

Bishop Dewane inspires high schoolers

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for students at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers on March 19, 2024. During the Mass, Bishop Dewane encouraged the students to finish Lent and the school year strong, while focusing on placing Christ before all else. The Bishop also complimented the faculty and students for their support of the wildly successful Diocesan Eucharistic Conference which was hosted by the school and included many student volunteers on March 16. Bishop Dewane said the actions of the faculty and students reflected well on the school and let others in the Diocese know what he already knew – Bishop Verot is a place where students are educated and formed to be leaders in the community.

Students learn about importance of having a vocation

Juniors and seniors at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota were blessed to have the opportunity to learn more about hearing the call to vocations in the priesthood and religious life on March 15, 2024. Father Alex Pince, Diocese of Venice Director of Vocations and Mooney Chaplain, and Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist spoke to men and women respectively, sharing their experiences and spiritual journey to the priesthood and/or religious life. The key message was to keep one’s heart open to the call of Jesus.

Couples retreat at Ave Maria University on April 6

Missionaries to the Family is hosting a FREE half-day couples retreat from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., April 6, 2024, in the St. Scholastica Honors lounge, Ave Maria University, 5050 Ave Maria Blvd., Ave Maria. “The Art of Catholic Family Life: Building a Holy Home” is a half-day retreat open to all married and engaged couples, offering a unique opportunity to explore what it means to live the spirit of Nazareth in your home. Note, the Feast of the Annunciation Mass will be celebrated at 1 p.m. Please register at https://paradisusdei.ticketleap.com/avemaria/. The Missionaries to the Family is an Ecclesial Lay Ministry of the Catholic Church and an Initiative of Paradisus Dei, well-known for THAT MAN IS YOU!

Diocesan Eucharistic Conference deepens faith, brings joy

Renewed with a passion for the Most Holy Eucharist, nearly 1,400 of the faithful participated in the Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Conference in Fort Myers on March 16, 2024.

“We gather for a special occasion in the life of the Diocese – to acknowledge the presence of Christ in our midst, but particularly always present with us in the form of His Body and His Blood,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane said during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which opened the Conference.

“Know the Lord sees your desire to come to know Him more profoundly, to seek refuge in Him during difficult times in our lives,” Bishop Dewane said. “He knows you already; He knows why you are here today.”

Bishop Dewane called upon the faithful to summon the Grace of the Lord from within to become a true disciple of the Lord and let the Bread and Wine we receive at Communion remind us of the presence of Christ.

“Let us pray that this day will be an opportunity for you to be reached ever more by the Lord. Let us reach down deeper within ourselves, to become that full blown disciple of Jesus Christ. To go forward in our lives, proclaiming and evidencing Jesus Christ, His Presence, His Body and His Blood, as truly part of the lives we live,” the Bishop concluded.

The event, part of a nationwide effort called for by all the Catholic Bishops of the United States to revive belief in, and reverence for, the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist, began with Mass, celebrated by Bishop Dewane at St. Cecilia Parish – and the church was at capacity, before continuing at neighboring Bishop Verot Catholic High School.

The day included private and group Adoration, the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and thought-provoking talks by nationally known Catholic speakers, in both English and Spanish. The reaction from Conference participants was inspiring.

“What a wonderful day,” said Sharon Brown from Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers. “My love for Jesus has never been greater.”

“We are one Church, united in Christ through the Most Holy Eucharist,” said Anita Thompson of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Port Charlotte. “You couldn’t ask for a more perfect day to celebrate the Catholic Faith.”

Corina Sanchez of Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers said the entire day was a beautiful experience, which included the opening Mass, celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, inspirational talks, the opportunity to be among the faithful from across the Diocese, and the concluding group Eucharistic Adoration.

“Everything was perfect,” Sanchez said. “Jesus was with us all today.”

The keynote speaker for the Conference was acclaimed author Steven Ray, who presented on “Defending the Eucharist: Baptists Accept the Real Presence.” Ray spoke to all attendees, with a simultaneous Spanish translation offered, sharing his story of awakening from mocking the Catholic belief in the Real Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist to the awakening and now vigor with which he has defended the Catholic Faith, and the Real Presence, for the past 25 years.

Crystalina Evert, founder of Women Made New Ministries and the co-founder of Chastity Project, and guest and the host on TV programs for EWTN, spoke on “How the Eucharist Can Heal, Restore, and Protect You, Your Family, and Your Parish,” while Tim Glemkowski, CEO of the National Eucharistic Congress, spoke on “What God Did and What God is Doing: The Need for a Eucharistic Revival and Your Place in One.”


Father Elvis Gonzalez, a National Eucharistic Revival preacher based in Miami, presented “The Eucharist: Source and Transforming Force of Family Life.” Kathia Aranga, Director of the Office for Hispanic Catholics in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and President of the National Hispanic Committee for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the United States and Canada, spoke on “Holy Eucharist as the Center of Parish and Family Life.” Both of these talks were presented in Spanish.

Each speaker offered the faithful the opportunity to become part of the greater National Eucharistic Revival and to leave with their hearts and minds aflame for the love of Jesus, His Catholic Church, and especially His Real Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist.

The Diocesan Eucharistic Conference drew upon the success of the 2023 Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Congress which brought more than 4,000 Catholic school students, youth, and adults together for two days of events. What’s next? The National Eucharistic Revival will hold a National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in July. Bishop Dewane will be leading a pilgrimage group from the Diocese.

For more information, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org.

Symposium unites Catholic educators

Catholic school teachers and administrators gathered for the third annual STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Education, Arts and Mathematics) Symposium hosted by the Diocese of Venice Department of Education.

The Symposium took place on March 15, 2024, at St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers, and included more than 450 teachers and administrators. The core Gift of Christ of the Symposium was “Truth,” and the theme tag line was “Teaching Truth to Our Youth.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane opened the day with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. During the Mass, Bishop Dewane praised the teachers and faculty for the love they have for their students and their profession. “The innovation that takes place knows no bounds. It is easy to perceive that. You are infused with the love for what you do, there is no hiding that.”

“In a world of technology, the light that shines out from Jesus Christ is the splendor of the truth,” the Bishop said. “Christ is that truth. It is that love of Christ, the desire for truth that is part of human nature itself. Let us take that desire for truth from Christ and educate – addressing human nature itself – teaching the youth in the schools of the Diocese of Venice that it is Jesus Christ that holds for them all truth.”

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Catholic Education, said educators love to learn, and the Symposium was going to help them teach young people about the beautiful Catholic faith and Catholic school culture, and learn about God’s truth, beauty and goodness.

“It is Truth with a capital T, that we will be exploring,” Father Belmonte said. “Teaching Truth has never been more difficult to teach. We are going to take those concepts and adapt them into something new.”

Father Robert Spitzer SJ, Ph. D., president of The Magis Center of Reason and Faith, spoke on “Truth of Creation and Science,” and focused on sharing the close connection among science, reason, and faith. The theme for Liz Repking, founder of Cyber Safety Consulting, was “Technology and the Truth of Now,” sharing the reality that children of all ages are online and the many dangers that go with that reality. Joe Allen, author of Dark Aeon: transhumanism and the War Against Humanity, spoke on “Dark Aeon: A.I. Challenges Faced by Youth,” which included information about the growing use of AI (artificial intelligence) in many aspects of life today and the types of threats this poses to people of all ages.

One teacher from St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral said the Symposium was one of the best events she had even been to, specifically because it covered relevant topics that concern teachers today. Many other teachers agreed, as it focused on a topic, teaching “Truth,” to students who get “truths” from many, often unfiltered, sources outside of the home or the classroom.

Father Belmonte presented the Charitas Awards, the highest Diocesan Education award given to faculty and leadership, nominated by their peers, for their constant exhibition and embodiment of the Virtue of Charity. Recipients are teachers and administrators who produce excellence in all that they do, including: radiates with care and compassion towards students and colleagues, treats others as brothers and sisters in Christ, embodies the Catholic Faith inside and outside the classroom, leads by example, and spreads Truth, Beauty and Goodness to those around them.

Teachers who have demonstrated leadership in STREAM and robotics education at their school were presented the Blue Apple Award. The color blue in the Bible has been described by scholars as denoting the Holy Spirit and Truth or service to God, as well as the waters of the new creation in the Book of Genesis, and most importantly the color blue is associated with our Blessed Mother.

Each Catholic school principal was also presented with an award of a crystal blue lily, representing the Blessed Virgin Mary. In addition, Father Belmonte was honored with a bronze fruit tree as a “Thank You” for helping to grow and improve the Diocesan Catholic schools. Additionally, Years of Service Awards were presented in categories of 10-15 years, 15-19 years, 20-25 years, 25-29 years, and more than 30 years. Maria Barbato, Director of School Counseling at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, was presented the Legacy Award for her 35 years of “Guiding God’s Children in the Diocese of Venice.” She is retiring at the end of the academic year.

The day concluded on a high note with an “after-school snack” which included an ice cream food truck, meaning everyone left the day with a big smile.