St. Joseph Devotional Project begins in schools

Beginning on Dec. 7, 2020, Junior Catechists at each of the Diocesan primary Catholic schools began the task of sharing classroom lessons about St. Joseph and a Catholic devotion to him.

The Diocese Department of Catholic Education St. Joseph Devotional Project new initiative is intended to promote a devotion to the Saint while at the same time developing a devotional life of both children and adults. This project will also create leadership opportunities for students and faculty and cultivate the “Catholic School Culture” of classrooms, schools and the Diocese.

Regina Rettig, of St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, was selected as one of two Junior Catechists at her school. “When my teacher told me that she had chosen me to be the female Junior Catechist for Saint Joseph School, I was so delighted.”

Regina has been a student at St. Joseph for 10 years and is grateful to be able to give back to the school. “I am very glad that I can go teach others about St. Joseph and what a great saint he is and share my devotion with (my classmates). St. Joseph is an important Patron for our school because he is… watching over us and making sure that we do our best.”

The St. Joseph Devotional Project coincides with the ongoing “Year of St. Joseph” in the Diocese of Venice. Bishop Frank J. Dewane consecrated the Diocese to St. Joseph on March 19, 2020, in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese Superintendent of Catholic Education, said the consecration and “Year of St. Joseph” provided the ideal platform to introduce the devotion and begin developing a stronger Catholic culture in each of the Diocesan schools.

The foster-father of Jesus Christ, the Patriarch of the Universal Church, is an ideal saint to have a devotion, Father Belmonte explained. St. Joseph is also guardian and protector of the Church and Her Faithful. He is a figure who led by example, while also offering powerful prayer and protection.

The goal of the St. Joseph Devotional Project is to provide age-appropriate catechesis for students so that they can carry with them a life-long devotion to St. Joseph, Father added.

“This is not something students will just learn about for a few months, but we will build a devotion they will carry with them for a lifetime,” Father Belmonte continued. “When you teach students early on to have a devotion to St. Joseph, Our Lady or any other saint, the result is you gain a devotion to the Church.”

Each primary school selected two eighth grade Junior Catechists (boy and girl) to spearhead the devotion in the classroom. Training took place through a November Zoom virtual conference with Diocese Curriculum Specialist Jennifer Falestiny. The Junior Catechists started entering the classrooms the week of Dec. 7 to catechize their schoolmates with lessons. The pair will visit each classroom teaching about St. Joseph and promoting a Catholic devotion to him.

For the 12 weeks of the project, each week will have a new theme centered on the role of St. Joseph. The first week consisted of teaching about the saint and learning a Prayer to St. Joseph. Later themes include “Delight of Saints,” “Our Spiritual Father,” “Young Husband of Mary,” and more. This will build up to a March 19, 2021, Consecration Mass celebrated by Bishop Dewane. Still in the planning stages, the Mass will be livestreamed to each school to ensure total participation. The announcement by Pope Francis on Dec. 8, 2020, celebrating a “Year of St. Joseph” will be incorporated into the Devotional Project.

Meanwhile, each school will receive a custom plaque of the Most Chaste Heart of St. Joseph with the Child Jesus which are being custom made for the Diocese. Father Belmonte explained how the plaques will be made available for use and handled in the classroom before being permanently displayed at the schools after this project is completed.

An art contest, at the direction of the art teachers, will also focus on children creating their own artwork related to the Most Chaste Heart of St. Joseph. A friendly competition will showcase some of the works with prizes for the best works.

While this project is centered on primary school students, each Diocesan Catholic high school will incorporate pieces of the project into their curriculum.

Father Belmonte concluded that the St. Joseph Devotional Project is the beginning of what he plans to become annual devotions to be promoted at each of the Diocesan Catholic schools. “Our responsibility to our students is to promote a Catholic Culture in our schools. This is one way that is proven to work.”

Bishop addresses men’s retreat

A diverse group gathered Dec. 5, 2020 at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples to participate in the “No Man Left Behind Men’s Retreat.”

The retreat included participants from each of the three different men’s groups at the Parish. The groups are language-based (Creole, English and Spanish) and had never had the opportunity to gather for a retreat. Some 80 men participated in Adoration, Mass, dinner, a talk from Bishop Frank J. Dewane, as well as round-table discussions. Bishop Dewane celebrated the Parish Mass for the Second Sunday of Advent prior to joining the retreat.

The men were thrilled to have the Bishop present to address the different groups and to share his reflections on the role men play in society.

For a beginning, the Bishop cited the example of Pope St. John Paul II, stressing how the role of men is not only to DO things but to model their life on Christ and BE a witness for others.

“Be the witness by building a foundation in prayer,” Bishop Dewane continued. “Being a Catholic man living in the world today is not easy. Work to be a model for others to follow. In this time of moral and culture confusion, it is the role model that is needed. Sainthood follows later.”

Bishop Dewane noted that in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic, he consecrated the Diocese of Venice on March 19, 2020, to the protection of St. Joseph. A prayer card was provided for everyone and the Diocesan Prayer to St. Joseph was recited by the group.

“This foster-father of Jesus Christ is the Patriarch of the Universal Church,” Bishop Dewane said. “He is also guardian and protector of the Church and Her Faithful. St. Joseph is a figure who led by example, while also offering powerful prayer and protection. His example is something that can be followed by us all.”

When speaking of best practices for a Catholic man, Bishop Dewane cited a document written by Bishop Thomas J. Olsmsted of Phoenix, called “Into the Breach.”

This document was directed toward Catholic men in that Diocese, but Bishop Dewane said that the best practices offered were worth repeating. Best practices included praying every day, examining one’s conscience before going to sleep, attending daily Mass, reading the Bible and keeping the Sabbath. In addition, on a monthly basis they are encouraged to go to Confession while also focusing on the building of fraternity with other Catholic men.

“Each of these examples help to center you on your Faith,” Bishop Dewane said. “You are likely doing some of these already but strive to do more. These are easy steps on how to live one’s Faith and be the example.”

Following his talk, Bishop Dewane fielded a variety of questions. The first related to how one can encourage family/friends to return to their Faith. Bishop Dewane noted how this is question which often arises and how so much is dependent on a specific person on what is needed to bring ‘that individual’ back into the Faith.

“Much of what I have been speaking about, that is being the witness and magnifying the Light of Christ in the world is the most important thing you can DO.” Bishop Dewane went on to added, “Also, know your Faith and know the teachings of the Church; arm yourself with knowledge… Don’t ever judge or criticize, because there is likely more of a reason as to why they are away from the Church than what they might express. Be the light and love of Christ by being that example for others to follow.”

The retreat was organized by Father Franckel Fils Aime, Parochial Vicar at St. Peter the Apostle, and Moise Stael Dantes, Parish Communications and Youth Director. Group discussions and reflections were also shared.

Father Gerard Critch, Pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Parish, addressed the group and thanked the Bishop for addressing the retreat. Father Critch said it was wonderful to have all three men’s groups in one place and that they reflected the spiritual quote which served as a guidance for the retreat.  “Where one alone may be overcome, two together can resist. A three-ply cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12.

“We have the three-ply cord together in this room, and it is strong,” Father added.

Bishop to students: Advent a time to prepare

There is still plenty of time to prepare for the birth of Christ at Christmas as well as for His anticipated Second Coming. The Advent Season is an ideal opportunity to pray and ask Christ to help us in areas of life that need improving.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane shared this wisdom on Dec. 4, 2020, during Mass for students at St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring.

While the Church must look different during the Advent Season – with a wreath and purple the dominant color – the Bishop told the students that they need to be different in their hearts during this Season.

“You have to ask the Lord for mercy and healing,” Bishop Dewane said. “We have to have the belief in our lives that Jesus Christ will do for us what we need. This is done through prayer. We can all live a better life with the guidance and support of Jesus Christ.  We are asking Christ, through prayer, to help us in areas of our life where we need improvement. By praying, you remain faithful in Christ.”

The Bishop reminded the students that; as with any friendship, the more one communicates, the closer they will become. This is particularly true with one’s relationship with the Lord.

With that in mind, the Bishop challenged the students to call out to Jesus in prayer for direction and comfort as they prepare for Christmas and the Second Coming. “You need to pray more often. Can you do that this Advent Season?” An enthusiastic “Yes!!!” was the response.

This was the latest in a series of Masses Bishop Dewane is celebrating at Diocesan Catholic Schools. In a normal year, these Masses are focused on the beginning of the academic year, but Bishop Dewane told the students in Sebring that circumstances of the COVID-19 Pandemic forced his schedule to be altered.

“My visit is usually to encourage you in the coming year,” Bishop Dewane said. “However, it is an honor to be here during the Advent Season, when the Church Year begins, and we joyfully prepare for the arrival of Jesus Christ.”

Advent: Season of Preparation and Expectation

Ordinary Time has come to an end and the Season of Advent is upon us. This Season, which marks the beginning of the Church’s Liturgical Year of the Church, commences on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 and will come to an end on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.

Advent is a time of preparation and expectation. The Church describes Advent as a season “of devout and expectant delight.” In Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year, the Church says, “Advent has a twofold character, for it is a time of preparation for the Solemnities of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when, with remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time” (39). In Advent, we look forward not only to the commemoration of Christ’s birth at Christmas, but also to His return.

Pope Francis described Advent as the time “we begin again and it returns us to the horizon of hope, a hope that does not disappoint because it is founded on the Word of God. A hope that does not disappoint, simply because the Lord never disappoints! He is faithful,” just as we are called to be faith-filled, thus faithful.”

Hope is needed during this ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic. Bishop Frank J. Dewane said it may become easy feel down and isolated because of restrictions necessitated by the Pandemic. This may cause the spiritual preparation, to which each of us is called during the Advent Season, to slip through the cracks.

“Staying focused on Advent is critical,” Bishop Dewane said. “As a unique Liturgical Season, Advent is a time for prayer and reflection. Therefore, it is doubly important to follow the lead of our ancestors who prepared their hearts spiritually for Christ, so must Advent prepare us for the Second Coming of Christ and that presence in our daily life.”

Those who have returned to their Parish for Mass and other activities should consider taking part in Daily Mass for the readings build up to the joyous celebration of Christmas. For those who remain home, consider watching a livestreaming Mass, or, if that is not possible, follow along with the daily readings through the Magnificat or the Bible.

One symbol popular in Churches for this Season is the Advent Wreath. By tradition, it is often found either in the narthex (gathering area) or, as is more common, near the ambo of a Church. Having a wreath in the home can be a unifying symbol for families. The liturgical color of Advent is a particular shade of purple, a color which is most often associated with royalty. This color is used to symbolize the anticipation of the birth of Christ, who is our King and Savior.

Each Sunday of Advent, an additional candle of the wreath is lit, with the rose-colored candle lit on the Third Sunday of Advent. This Sunday, best known as Gaudete Sunday, derives its name from Scripture: “Gaudete in Domino semper” (“Rejoice in the Lord always”), and marks the mid-point in the Season. The change in color provides encouragement to rejoice as we continue our spiritual preparation – especially prayer and fasting – for Christmas.

To help prepare for the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior, one should find time to pray each day. Pray for those, and with those, you love. Whether in person or via a virtual connection, praying together gives one strength. Remember to also pray for your Parish and the Diocese, as well as for all those who are suffering during this most challenging time. Prayers should intensify as one gets closer to Christmas. Particular prayers are provided by the Holy Mother Church (called the O’ Antiphon and readily available online) for the period of Dec. 17, 2020 to Christmas Eve, which uniquely prepare us for the coming celebration.

Advent Season is also a great time to prepare one’s soul for the birth of Christ by taking advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Many Parishes offer special times during Advent for the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Contact your Parish for details and times.

Finally, this is a perfect time to deepen one’s knowledge of the Faith. Review the Catechism of the Catholic Church, read the Bible, listen to inspirational speakers online. By living one’s Faith more fully, and sharing it with those around us, it will allow one to make Advent a worthy preparation for the coming again of Christ into the world.

Parish Outreach Center dedicated, blessed in Wauchula

The mission of the new St. Michael Outreach Center in Wauchula is to develop each person’s recognition of their individual dignity and worth through the cultivation of their emotional, spiritual, intellectual and social development. The Center’s supportive economic, therapeutic, and educational resources are designed to provide a healthy framework for personal and social growth within families and the community.

That mission was celebrated with a dedication and blessing ceremony of the Outreach Center by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Nov. 21, 2020. Participating in the ceremony were staff, volunteers, supporters and local government officials (including Hardee County Manager Lawrence McNaul), as well as the Servant Sisters of the Virgin Matara, the religious sisters who serve at St. Michael Parish. Among the supporters’ present were members of the Our Lady of the Angels Knights of Columbus.

The Outreach Center, purchased and remodeled by the Diocese of Venice, is designed for community outreach to low-income individuals/families and the migrant community. This includes overseeing a food bank and thrift store as well as having afterschool programming, immigration services, mental health counseling from Catholic Charities, and other classes for both children and adults.

As part of the ceremony, a prayer service, which included Bishop Dewane first incensing the exterior and interior of the building as well as blessing the building with holy water. The was followed by comments for key people involved in the Outreach Center.

Bishop Dewane praised everyone for their hard work noting that they are making a real difference in reaching out and providing needed services in this poor economically challenged community.

The blessing was delayed because of the COVID-19 Pandemic and participants wore masks as a precaution. Programming at the Center began several months ago but are limited due to social distancing requirements as well as the ongoing urgent need for supplies.

The afterschool program for kindergarten through fifth grade is supplementing the student’s education by providing small group teacher-led instruction to bring them up to grade level. This is necessary because many are simultaneously learning a second language. Teen helpers assist with homework and provide other guidance for the younger children. Included in the afterschool effort is handwriting and cursive instruction, character formation, as well as outdoor developmental playtime.

Chantelle Garcia, who is an elementary school teacher, assists with the afterschool program as tutor and program coordinator. Garcia explained that in the first three weeks of the program the children made great strides. “It is amazing to see the difference that was made in such a short period of time. Imagine how they will be in three months or longer. There is a wait list because families are learning how well those in the program are doing.”

While the Outreach Center is making a positive impact, there are urgent needs. These include basic school supplies (construction paper, card stock, paints/pastels, crayons, educational games, books) for younger children (K-5). There is also a demand for children’s underwear, socks, shoes and sneakers to help the poorer families provide necessities. Another need is for metal supply cabinets with locks, as well as shelves for storage.

“We are just getting started and we don’t have a lot of money in the community, so our needs are great,” explained Erika Wood, Outreach Center Coordinator.

Another example of a need is that of musical instruments. Thanks to a donation of a grand piano, the Outreach Center does offer piano lessons. However, only a few children are learning to play, while other music lessons are limited to teaching basic notes and rhythm. The wish list includes Yamaha electric pianos (with headphones) as well as other instruments, so as more children can learn at the same time.

Sister Gema Ruiz, who is the Director of Religious Education at St. Michael Parish, said it is a blessing to have the Outreach Center and for Bishop Dewane to be present for a blessing and dedication.

“We are providing needed services in this community and it is good to have the Bishop here to see our work and to inform the Diocese of the blessed work we are doing here in Wauchula,” Sister Gema said.

To learn more about how you can help the St. Michael Outreach Center, you can reach Erika Wood at 863-832-6904,, or you can send donations to: St. Michael Outreach Center, 317 N. 6th Ave., Wauchula, FL 33873.

Bishop celebrates Mass for students in Venice

The students at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice have an important homework assignment, one given by Bishop Frank J. Dewane during Mass on Nov. 20, 2020.

Bishop Dewane assigned the task of praying more. This, of course, includes the prayers said during Mass but to go beyond that. Prayer, the Bishop said, is a way to talk with the Lord, “Tell God what you are concerned about. Share your fears and worries. But also share what you are happy about and be sure to give thanks to the Lord so as to acknowledge the gifts you have been given by God.”

The Bishop stressed the importance of prayer as a way to grow closer to the Lord, particularly now, during the time of a global Pandemic.

“We need to be praying that the pandemic will come to an end,” Bishop Dewane added. “We need to pray for members of our family, our class, and our school that all will be kept safe from the Pandemic.”

While prayer in Church is easy, the challenge comes when one leaves the “Temple of the Lord.” This is why the Bishop explained that “with the presence of our souls and Jesus within us, we too are ‘Temples of the Lord.’ As we would give respect to the Lord to pray in His church, we also need to pray to the Lord out of respect for having created each one of us.”

After the Mass, there was a ceremony to induct students into the National Junior Honors Society. After which the Bishop spoke to the eighth graders and answered their questions.

Bishop extends dispensation into 2021

Below is a letter from Bishop Frank J. Dewane letter to faithful regarding extension of dispensation”

November 20, 2020

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King and Advent approaches, please accept my pastoral greetings and concern for you, the good Faithful in the Diocese of Venice. My prayer is that the preparation for the Lord’s coming in the Advent Season will enliven our hope in the promises of Christ.

Allow me to update you regarding Masses as the Covid-19 Pandemic continues to impact the Diocese and all of us. In my October 9, 2020 letter, it was said that the General Dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass would remain in effect until November 28, 2020, and perhaps longer. Considering the present circumstances of the virus spread, the General Dispensation is extended into the New Year and I will advise regarding its conclusion at a future date.

There are some optimistic signs and there are increasing numbers of the Faithful returning to Church for Sunday Mass. Also, there is greater weekday attendance. Please continue to make every reasonable effort to return to in-person worship if you are able. With gratitude, I acknowledge all who have returned and commend those who continue to join the live streaming of Mass due to vulnerabilities and those who care for them. Further, let us all keep in prayer our brothers and sisters who have had the virus and their families.

As Christmas and the New Year approach, it is crucial to maintain vigilance regarding safety precautions in Parishes.  This will necessitate scaling back special Feast Day celebrations and holiday related events.  Unfortunately, it cannot be as it was in the past. Particularly, I underscore the need for the wearing of masks, maintaining appropriate distances, as well as cleaning and sanitizing measures. Parishes have been encouraged to schedule more Masses for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day than is customary. Having additional Masses, perhaps at different times or in different locations (Parish hall or gymnasium), will safely accommodate the potential numbers of Faithful who may attend Mass for Christmas.

At this challenging time, let us be united in prayer as we journey through the Advent Season in preparation for the Birth of Our Lord and Savior.  Be assured of my prayers for you and your family!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+ Frank J. Dewane

Bishop of the Diocese of

Venice in Florida

Youth Rally 2020 style!

The 2020 Diocese of Venice Youth Rally was a huge success, uniting young Catholics in Faith even though the youth were scattered at 20 different locations thanks to restrictions necessitated by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The central site for the Youth Rally was St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples. There, about 100 youth from St. John the Evangelist, St. William and St. Peter the Apostle parishes gathered in the Pulte Family Life Center, maintaining social distancing and wearing masks when possible. Some of the largest secondary sites were St. Michael Parish in Wauchula and St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral.

One young lady from St. John the Evangelist said she enjoyed the day because it provided her time to reflect upon her own spiritual journey while trying to find her place in the world. “It is easy to get lost, but if I listen to the call of the Lord, I will find my way.”

One young man from St. Peter the Apostle was at a previous Diocesan Youth Rally and missed the big crowd – nearly 2,000 in 2019. However, he enjoyed the smaller event because “everyone seemed to be personally talking to me. The speakers talked on my level and seemed to understand the struggle I have in living out my Faith.”

The Youth Rally theme was “Worthy,” from the opening of Chapter 4 of St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians which serves to remind the young men and women that they must “live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane greeted the youth stating, “I am convinced you were called by the Lord to be here (at the Rally), otherwise you would not be here or tuning in to this livestream. The idea of being called is not a one-sided conversation with God. The Lord makes known to you, and to me, the mission that He has for us. We must go out and live that call. Our response has to be worthy of the call we have been given.”

Bishop Dewane stressed that the response from each youth at the Rally will be different based on the gifts and talents they have been given. Because we are each called, in our own way, the Lord is patient with us in our response, never calling upon us to do something we are not capable of doing.

“God knows who we are,” the Bishop continued. “We have to work on turning away from sin and be willing to return to the Lord. Let that worthiness rise up within you and let it make you more!!! In living out that call, you become the witness – the leaven – you are called to speak up for the Lord. You must let the word ‘worthy’ remain with you; think about it in your mind, but more profoundly think about it in your heart and soul.”

The first speaker was Chris Mueller, of, who explained that nothing you can do will be unworthy of God’s love. He added that one doesn’t earn God love, that is always there, even for those who sin, who have flaws or faults, because there is no one who does not have sin. “God says, “Bring them to Me, I will use every part of you, I will make you new, in Me.”

To hear that call, one must hear the call of God through prayer and through living an active Faith life. “By this active participation, God moves our hearts to in fact change us. He makes us new. And by having received that love, we are urge to live our lives in a manner worthy of that call.”

Jackie Angel spoke about the underlying call for all Catholics – to be saints. She explained that this does not mean one will be asked to perform miracles, but one must at least aspire to live in the manner of the saints by being the best Catholic possible.

“To live in the manner worthy of the call to be a saint, one must root out all evil in one’s life, whether it is to remove toxic friends, end destructive behavior, you have to move away from what took you away from the Lord,” Angel said. “You do this because Jesus died for you. The Lord loves you and wants you to be in a relationship with Him and to love you in return.”

Eucharistic Adoration took place in the Family Life Center before Bishop Dewane led the youth to the Parish Church in a Eucharistic Procession. Once in the Church there was additional time for adoration and a Benediction prior to the celebration of Mass.

The day also included a live performance by the band Zander, the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (available at all sites), as well as Catholic trivia.

Mass honors Veterans

Even while the world continues to deal with the impacts of a global Pandemic, time must be taken to remember those men and women who faithfully served in defense of this country so that all can continue enjoy the freedoms we hold dear.

The annual Diocese of Venice Memorial Mass held on Veterans Day had an altered format because of the Pandemic, taking place at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice for a small group of people while being livestreamed, versus an outdoor event at Sarasota National Cemetery.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane noted the difference saying a Mass at the National Cemetery was impractical given restrictions on the size of the crowd due to the Pandemic. This was the first time since the Mass began in 2010 that the celebration was not held at Sarasota National Cemetery. In the end it turned out to be fortuitous that the outdoor event was rescheduled to be indoors as Hurricane Eta chose Nov. 11, 2020 to strike the west coast of Florida.

“We may be a little bit wet, but the reason we are gathered together does not change,” Bishop Dewane said. “We are here to thank all the men and women who served, and continue to serve, in the armed forces for what they have done so that we can live as we do today. We also comfort those who mourn, honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

Bishop Dewane noted that a veteran is called upon to do many things, as they proclaim liberty to captives, bringing glad tidings to the lowly and telling them they are free. Even when their active service is complete, veterans continue to give back to the community in which they live. At the same time, the Bishop said praise should also go to the families of those who serve, who make their own sacrifices in support of veterans.

Pope Francis spoke at an American Cemetery in Italy, a few years back, and reflected upon the vocation of soldiers as they are called to be both patriot and peacemaker. While it is sometimes difficult to do both at the same time, the Holy Father said soldiers are necessary in the world and their vocation allows virtue to flourish.

Ultimately, Bishop Dewane explained that the service of veterans for the common good merits tremendous respect for which we should all offer our heartfelt appreciation.

Members of the Knights of Columbus Color Corps were present at the Mass to bestow honors. The annual Mass is organized by the Diocese of Venice with support from the Knights of Columbus.

Dennis Warren, Past Grand Knight of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Council 13639, said many Knights, including himself, have served in the armed forces. This adds special significance to the annual Mass and is an important opportunity for the organization to join the Bishop in honoring all veterans.

“It is a privilege for all Knights to be part of this annual Mass,” Warren said. “While this year we could not all be together, this important tradition continues.”

Bishop letter to Faithful regarding Florida Attorney General report

November 6, 2020

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we approach the season of Thanksgiving, my prayer is that the strength of the Holy Spirit will renew and deepen our Faith in Jesus Christ. Particularly, as together we face the difficult challenges that the Coronavirus has brought, I call upon the intercession of Our Blessed Mother for the safety and health of you and your family.

It may be recalled that in October of 2018, I shared with you that the then-Attorney General of Florida, Pam Bondi, ordered an investigation of how the seven Dioceses in Florida have handled allegations of misconduct involving minors by clergy. With the full cooperation of the Diocese of Venice, the investigation was thoroughly conducted through the Office of the Statewide Prosecutor, who requested specific clergy files. As a result, a list of priests who had been accused of a substantiated allegation of a sexual offense against minors has been issued by the Statewide Prosecutor. This listing of priests accused of misconduct in Florida is the final action to be taken and the State investigation has been concluded.

Included on the State’s list are nine priests who were incardinated in the Diocese of Venice against whom substantiated allegations have been identified in the investigation. None of the priests listed presently have faculties (allowed to minister) in the Diocese. Some have died, some have been laicized or dismissed from clerical state, and others have had their priestly faculties permanently removed. When the investigation was announced in 2018, it was not precipitated by any new allegation of abuse. The investigation involved historic cases.

As your Bishop, I wish to express compassion and my continual prayer for all victims of child sexual abuse and that each receive God’s healing and peace. The harm done is grave. On behalf of the Church, I ask forgiveness of those who have been harmed by Clergy or others involved with the Church. The Diocese remains committed to the Policy for the Protection of Children and I am pleased that the Statewide Prosecutor’s report recognizes that the Diocese has followed its policies.

The Statewide Prosecutor’s Report is a sad reminder of the harm done in the past to minors by those who had been ordained to serve the Church and care for the Faithful. Be reassured that the investigation did not uncover previously unknown cases in the Diocese of Venice. The commitment the Diocese made in accord with the USCCB Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People has proven effective and helpful in protecting our children, young people and vulnerable adults.

This moment also allows for me to once again encourage all who have been abused to report it to Department of Children and Families and if it involves clergy of the Diocese of Venice, to contact also the Diocesan Victim’s Assistance Coordinator. The Diocese takes every report of abuse seriously and responds promptly.

Humbly, I invite all to continue to pray for the victims of child sexual abuse. Pray also for the Church’s efforts to protect our children and foster a safe environment for all.

May Almighty God bless you and your family, through Christ our Lord.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+ Frank J. Dewane

Bishop of the Diocese of

Venice in Florida