Dispensation from obligation to attend Mass lifted effective May 1, 2021

Returning to Mass and Parish Life during Covid-19

As Bishop Frank J. Dewane continues to listen to public health data and hear from Priests and Parishioners about their experiences at Diocesan Parishes, the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass will be lifted in the Diocese of Venice beginning May 1, 2021. Below is a letter to the Faithful in English and Spanish announcing this change. For the revised guidelines in English updating Parish safety protocols which includes the need to continue to wear masks at Mass, as well as at all Diocesan and Parish activities, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/daily-resources/diocese-of-venice-responds-to-novel-coronavirus-covid19/ and in Spanish visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/hispanic-apostolate/.

April 9, 2021

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers (Acts 2:42).

This Scripture passage reminds us that the Easter Season is an apt time to renew our fidelity to those essential actions that define us as the Body of Christ. Preeminent among these activities is gathering with the Church to celebrate the Most Holy Eucharist on Sundays and Holy Days.

In March of last year, because of the many unknowns that came with the Covid-19 Pandemic, and to protect the most vulnerable among us, after consultation I decided to take the unprecedented step of suspending public Masses and granting a general dispensation to the Catholic Faithful of the Diocese of Venice from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. Together with our fellow citizens, I urged Catholics to exercise caution to protect the health of all. I thank everyone for their patience and understanding during this difficult time.

As the Faithful returned to in-person worship when restrictions were loosened, the Diocese’s Clergy and Faithful performed exceptional service in maintaining safety protocols. In recent weeks as vaccines have become available, the news in Florida is encouraging, even more members of the Faithful have returned to our Parishes for Sunday Mass. Our Holy Week and Easter Liturgies were particularly edifying examples of commitment to Christ and the Eucharist. Furthermore, life in Southwest Florida has returned to some level of normalcy; restaurants, stores, and entertainment venues are open, and people of all ages seem willing to return to ordinary activities.

It is apparent that circumstances now allow almost all Catholics to attend Mass safely. Therefore, beginning May 1, 2021, the general dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation will be lifted in the Diocese of Venice.

At the same time, the Faithful should note this obligation does not apply to those who are ill, or others as outlined in the revised guidelines accompanying this letter. The revised guidelines adjust safety protocols to acknowledge that most Catholics can return to in-person worship at their Parish churches.

During this year dedicated to St. Joseph, the Faithful are encouraged to turn to his intercession for protection and courage. Let us be mindful in prayer of those who are no longer with us and those who continue in their recovery. May God bless you and your family.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+ Frank J. Dewane

Bishop of the Diocese of

 Venice in Florida

 

9 de abril de 2021

Queridos Hermanos y Hermanas en Cristo,

Se dedicaron a la enseñanza de los Apóstoles y a la vida comunitaria, a partir del pan y a las oraciones (Hch. 2:42).

Este pasaje de las Escrituras nos recuerda que el Tiempo de Pascua es un momento propicio para renovar nuestra fidelidad a aquellas acciones esenciales que nos definen como el Cuerpo de Cristo. Entre estas actividades destaca la asistencia a la Iglesia para celebrar la Santísima Eucaristía los Domingos y Días de Obligación.

En marzo del año pasado, debido a las muchas incógnitas que vinieron con la Pandemia de Covid-19, y para proteger a los más vulnerables entre nosotros, después de una consulta, decidí dar el paso sin precedentes de suspender las Misas públicas y otorgar una dispensa general a los Fieles Católicos de la Diócesis de Venice de la obligación de asistir a Misa los Domingos y Días Santos de Obligación. Junto con nuestros conciudadanos, insté a los Católicos a actuar con cautela para proteger la salud de todos. Agradezco a todos por su paciencia y comprensión durante este momento difícil.

Cuando los Fieles regresaron a las Celebraciones en persona después de no tener restricciones, el Clero y los Fieles de la Diócesis realizaron un servicio excepcional, mantenimiento los protocolos de seguridad. En las últimas semanas, a medida que las vacunas están disponibles, las noticias en Florida son alentadoras e incluso más Fieles han regresado a nuestras Parroquias para la Misa Dominical. Nuestra Semana Santa y las Liturgias de Pascua fueron ejemplos particularmente edificantes de compromiso con Cristo y la Eucaristía. Además, la vida en el Suroeste de Florida ha vuelto a cierto nivel de normalidad; los restaurantes, las tiendas y los lugares de entretenimiento están abiertos y las personas de todas las edades parecen estar dispuestas a volver a sus actividades normales.

Es evidente que las circunstancias ahora permiten que casi todos los Católicos asistan a Misa de manera segura. Por lo tanto, a partir del 1 de mayo de 2021, se levantará en la Diócesis de Venice la dispensa general de la obligación de asistir a Misa los Domingos y los Días de Obligación.

Al mismo tiempo, los Fieles deben tener en cuenta que esta obligación no se aplica a aquellos que están enfermos u otros, como se describe en las pautas revisadas que acompañan a esta carta. Las pautas revisadas se ajustan a los protocolos de seguridad para reconocer que la mayoría de los católicos pueden regresar a las celebraciones en persona en sus Iglesias Parroquiales.

Durante este año dedicado a San José, se anima a los Fieles a acudir a su intercesión en busca de protección y coraje. Pidamos en la oración por los que ya no están con nosotros y por los que continúan en su recuperación. Que Dios le bendiga a usted y a su familia.

Sinceramente tuyo en Cristo,

+ Frank J. Dewane

Obispo de la Diócesis de

Venice en Florida

 

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

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

 

 

Letter to Faithful from Bishop Dewane Oct. 16, 2020

Oct. 16, 2020

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On March 19, 2020, as the Covid-19 was beginning its impact in Florida, I dedicated a year to St. Joseph, Protector for the Faithful of the Diocese of Venice. God appointed St. Joseph the Guardian of the Word Incarnate. Hope in the truth that our prayers to St. Joseph during these days will be graciously heard before the throne of God. Like many moments in her History, Holy Mother Church now faces difficult challenges. However, the hard work of many Priests and Faithful alike have allowed our Parishes to weather these trying times with courage and zeal; and for this I am grateful.

Be assured, I continue to listen to public health data and hear from Priests and Parishioners about the experiences of our Parishes. The dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass has been extended until Nov. 27, 2020, and depending on conditions, perhaps longer. At the same time, I wish to invite the Catholic Faithful who are able, to return to their Parish for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. How good it would be to see more join their fellow Parishioners who have already returned to Sunday Mass.

It is well known that there are immeasurable spiritual graces imparted when we participate in the Mass. Attending the Eucharist strengthens our Faith and Christian discipleship as the Holy Spirit empowers us to know, love, and serve God. The Blessed Sacrament is also a source of hope and unity for our Parishes, communities, country, and the world. Going forth from the Mass, be confident that you are true witnesses of Christ.

Certainly, Catholics who are ill or because of age or underlying health conditions are vulnerable, and those who care for them, should prudently remain home. Parishes will continue to livestream Masses for those who cannot attend in person.  However, as we have experienced during these days, hunger for the Eucharist is only genuinely satisfied when together as the Body of Christ, we draw close to the Real Presence of Our Lord and Savior.

The invitation to return in person for Sunday Mass is accompanied by the promise that safety protocols will continue. That is, masks are still required, and respect for distancing is needed, as well as cleanliness of hands and surfaces remain important.  Many have worked diligently to allow us to venture out to restaurants, stores, and other public events, so, too, we can safely return to our Parish and do what is most essential to Catholics, attend Sunday Mass.

Jesus promised to be with us when we gather in His name. Therefore, let us cherish the Lord’s Goodness and be fed with the Bread Come Down from Heaven. Please accept this “Pastoral Invitation” and prayerfully consider a return to Sunday Mass if you have not already done so. Your Priests look forward to welcoming you once again at the Table of the Lord.

Through St.  Joseph’s intercession, I pray that God will bless you and your family. Let us remain united in prayer, lifting up each other’s needs to the Heavenly Father.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+ Frank J. Dewane

Bishop of the Diocese of

Venice in Florida

 

Aug. 26, 2020 Letter from Bishop Dewane

August 26, 2020

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

During the month of September, as Holy Mother Church devotionally commemorates Our Lady of Sorrows, allow me to express my ongoing concern for the wellbeing of the Faithful of the Diocese of Venice. Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may you and your family be uplifted in hope as together we face the challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Subtle signs of hope are emerging. For example, our Catholic Schools were able to open. The Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese have done commendable work in promoting safety. As a result, Church attendance is gradually Improving. More of the Faithful, feeling the urgent need for the Holy Eucharist, have decided it is safe to return to worship in person. With your fellow citizens, you are adjusting to safety measures as you shop, return to restaurants, and resume much of your normal activities. Data about the Coronavirus, while not indicating the threat is over, appears to be slowly moving in a positive direction.

There is still a need to protect those most at risk, persons in convalescent homes or with serious health conditions as well as the elderly. For this reason, after consultation, the dispensation given to all the Faithful, from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, will be extended in the Diocese of Venice until All Saints Day, November 1, 2020. Also, live streaming of the Mass will continue during this time.

The continuation of this extraordinary measure allows those who are sick to feel comfortable staying home as well as helps the vulnerable avoid the risk of larger gatherings. It is hoped that those who are healthy and involved in other activities while observing the necessary precautions will, despite the dispensation, return to their Parishes for Sunday Mass. Our Parishes are safely celebrating the Holy Eucharist with a congregation. If necessary. Parishes could adjust Mass schedules to allow for the observance of COVID-19 protocols and safely accommodate those who wish to attend Sunday Mass. As Catholics, our worship is not an individual exercise. Rather, it is the way of experiencing communion with God and unity with our brothers and sisters.

Please remember the importance of being united in prayer. Your prayers bring needed comfort to those affected by COVID-19 and inspire you to practice the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love. Through prayer we manifest empathy and show solidarity with all who are engaged in a physical or spiritual battle with the Coronavirus.

Your understanding and cooperation in these matters has been greatly appreciated. Let us continue to remain safe, observe the protocols about face-coverings, carefully wash hands, and maintain safe distances. In addition, you are encouraged to extend a helping hand to your neighbors in need of hope or healing. No doubt, there are challenging times ahead. Still, we can face these days with faith and courage because Our Lord is with us, and Our Lady and the Saints intercede for us.

Be assured of my prayer for the wellbeing of the Faithful, as well as the prayers of our Priests. May God bless and protect you and your family.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+Frank J. Dewane

Bishop of the Diocese of

Venice in Florida

Adoration resumes across Diocese

Bishop Frank J. Dewane has authorized the resumption of Eucharistic Adoration in Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice while at the same time encouraging other Parishes to offer this as a new opportunity for the faithful to spend to with the Lord.

Bishop Dewane encouraged the expansion and availability of Adoration in an Aug. 5, 2020 letter to the priests of the Diocese. Adoration was necessarily limited upon the reopening of Parishes on May 18, 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic.

“This will be of great help and consolation to the Faithful during these turbulent times, when the People of God long to be close to the Lord,” Bishop Dewane wrote. “By offering Adoration, an opportunity for prayer in the Lord’s presence is provided for those who may have reservations about attending Mass due to the number gathered.”

Bishop Dewane also wrote that it may also be helpful to offer Holy Communion to attendees following the closing Benediction or at the start of Adoration.

“Clearly, I recognize that these are challenging times for us all,” Bishop Dewane added. “While in itself Adoration has great value, it does encourage another population to increase their contact with the Parish.”

While exposition may be held either in the main Parish Church or in a Chapel, the continued following of protocols for social distancing and face coverings is still required. If using a smaller space, it was suggested that Parishes may wish to consider a registration process to limit the numbers present at any one time.

The Bishop also noted in his letter that he highly values and appreciates the efforts of the priests to continue to provide pastoral care during these challenging times.

Bishop extends dispensation for Mass through Sept. 1, 2020

Encourages all continue to wear masks, follow safety guidelines

The dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass has been extended through at least Sept. 1, 2020 due to the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic. At the same time Bishop Frank J. Dewane continues to thank the Faithful of the Diocese for following health and safety guidelines by the wearing of face coverings and maintaining social distancing.

This announcement was made by Bishop Dewane in a June 26, 2020 letter to the Faithful. “Catholics are encouraged to stay at home if ill or are not comfortable returning to public gatherings for the celebration of Mass.”

The decision, Bishop Dewane wrote, comes after consultation with priests of the Diocese and the decisions addressed will allow everyone to remain focused on the health and well-being of the Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese, as well as those in the larger community, as we move forward. (Visit www.dioceseofvenice.org to read the Bishop’s letter.)

The decisions were also based on the reality that while restrictions due to the Pandemic have been somewhat lessened and, at the same time, confirmed cases are on the rise in Florida.

“The Faithful of the Diocese of Venice are to be commended for their cooperation and compassion during these difficult times. We are all in this together, and your support and assistance are needed and deeply appreciated,” the letter states.

The letter also addresses the use of face coverings during Mass, which remains an essential part of the protocols for remaining open.

While the wearing or not wearing of masks has become a political statement for some, the letter states, “face coverings are essential because of the guidance that wearing a mask lessens the likelihood of transmission of the virus. Therefore, I ask for your cooperation in wearing masks, particularly at Mass and any public gathering at your Parish. Please consider the use of face coverings a mandatory step taken in genuine concern for the well-being of our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Lastly, the letter notes that Pastors/Administrators have been asked to use their discretion as to whether small groups who are gathering for prayer or to coordinate ministries may meet safely while at the same time ensuring that guidance for face coverings and social distancing be observed.

However, the letter continues that it is not yet time for large groups to assemble for social or fraternal purposes to meet safely.

“Let us remember the importance of prayer for those who are affected by the Coronavirus and for a quick end to the threat associated with the virus. Be assured that Our Merciful Father hears and answers our prayers.”

Bishop Dewane concluded the letter expressing his empathy with the difficulties being experienced by everyone during these uncertain times, but to always remember to stand united to safeguard the well-being of all, including the larger community.

Bishop addresses racism: Calls for unity, action and finding God in each other

In a recent letter to the faithful, Bishop Frank J. Dewane directly addressed racism in this country and called on all to seek unity, take action and continue to find the image and likeness of God in others.

The letter, dated June 9, 2020, acknowledged the death of George Floyd and the suffering caused by racism in the United States. It also expressed an understanding for the anger and frustration felt by many as evidenced in protest in cities throughout the country, while at the same time stating that the Church encourages a peaceful response and prayers for an end to racism.

“The Church, Her leaders and the Faithful have an important role in confronting the sin of racism. Responding to the call to defend human dignity, the Church must raise Her voice against every instance of the evil of racism. I add my voice and condemn racism in all its forms.”

Bishop Dewane, who is on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee on Racism, has spoken repeatedly about bigotry and discrimination in the county, and the unrest in the wake of the death of George Floyd, either during the daily livestreaming Mass from the Catholic Center or when celebrating Mass at Parishes in the Diocese. During his recent visits to Parishes throughout the Diocese, racism has been a recurring theme, including June 13, 2020 at St. Catherine Parish in Sebring.

“Every human being, regardless of their skin color, is made in the image and likeness of God,” Bishop Dewane said during the livestreamed Mass on June 14, 2020, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi – The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

A table display at St. Agnes Parish in Naples includes the USCCB Prayer to Overcome Racism along with a candle and flowers the weekend of June 13-14, 2020.

“It is not just one race, one color, every human being, you, me, all our neighbors,” Bishop Dewane continued.  “As human beings, as the Body of Christ, we have to see the image and likeness of God in all – not just some. The race of a human being, or the color of their skin, cannot determine the humanity showed toward them; the human respect that they are given shouldn’t be differentiated – it has to be the same!”

Citing racial unrest in the 1960s, 70s and 90s, and even just a few years ago, the Bishop said a solution to racism has not been found and it is very much present around us all. “We are the Body of Christ. We are the Church. We find ourselves here in the Diocese of Venice. You belong to a particular Parish. We need to drill down on this – and everyone needs to take action. You and I, we need to find unity. We need to seek peace and we do it all in the recognition that each and every person has been made in the image and likeness of God.”

In his letter to the faithful, the Bishop cited the words of Pope Francis who recently said: “My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.”

Bishop Dewane also noted that he sent a request to priests of the Diocese to speak out against racism during their homilies for the weekend of June 13-14 and beyond. A variety of resources were made available to the priests through the USCCB website which are also available to the public. The Bishop also suggested that Parishes hold prayer sessions and programming to address the question of racism.

Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers hosted a June 11, 2020, “Prayer Service for Peace.” The gathering included Eucharistic Adoration, a Gospel reading, Sacred music, prayer and reflections on racism in this country.

During the weekend of June 13-14, many Parishes added special intentions against racism to the Prayers of the Faithful. St. Agnes Parish in Naples had a tabletop display in their narthex which included candles, flowers and a framed copy of the USCCB “Prayer to Overcome Racism.” The Parish will dedicate Adoration hours specifically calling for an end to racism.

You can find the Bishop’s Letter to the Faithful  and other resources on the Diocese of Venice homepage at www.dioceseofvenice.org, or for other resources, please visit www.usccb.org.

Bishop Letter: Jesus revealed to us in a new way

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Christ is risen!  Alleluia!  These joyful words may seem oddly placed for many as the world seems to be held by the Pandemic in a more Lenten period of sacrifice, trial, and difficulty.  People throughout the Diocese, the country, and the entire world are going through tremendous hardships.  Families struggle with finances; others are challenged with health concerns from the ongoing pandemic; and the spiritual needs of the faithful, through the Sacraments, has only recently been made available. Amidst all this adversity, we do not forget that Christ has risen! He has overcome the world!  He is victorious!  Christ sends us the promise of Himself, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, during the upcoming Pentecost Sunday.

Allow yourself to be placed in the upper room with the Disciples of Jesus Christ and the Mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, as they waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Imagine the uncertainty and even fear that they may have had. In this time of uncertainty in your life, how might you live as “A Disciple of Christ?”

We recall a similar feeling in the Upper Room before the Resurrection of Jesus.  In the middle of the night, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, filled with a great sorrow and the feelings of missing Jesus dearly. Many of us can relate to this now, not being able to see our Lord and receive Him in the Eucharist. It is precisely here, in this desire of Mary to be with our Lord, that He appears to her. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” (Jn 20:15), Jesus asks Mary, who does not recognize Him.  “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni’” (Jn 20:16).

For many of us, Jesus is revealing Himself in a new way during this time of COVID 19. We might not recognize Him, just as Mary did not outside the tomb, possibly due to fear and anxiety. It is when Jesus calls her by name that she knows who He is.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine,” (Is 43:1) the Lord says to you and to me. How are you listening for Jesus’ Words today? Are you listening to Him calling you by name, calling you to be, in a new and deeper way this Pentecost, “A Disciple of Christ?”

Like St. Mary Magdalene, Jesus hears your prayers and sees the desire of your heart to know Him. It is truly a joy that the public celebration of the Mass has resumed, and many are able to return to the Sacraments. The Lord is waiting to encounter you.

Although businesses are slowly opening again and the Churches of the Diocese of Venice are open, there remains a level of uncertainty and caution. Even after the Resurrection, the Disciples had to endure great difficulties. When Jesus has ascended to heaven, the Disciples remained in the Upper Room for 10 days in fear for their lives. In this time, the words of Jesus remained in their hearts. “For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn 16:7).

As the Church will move from Pentecost into Ordinary Time, we wait to see how the Lord will continue to get us through the Pandemic. Let us do so like the Disciples, “devoted […] with one accord to prayer (Acts 1:14). Trusting that the Lord will “work all things to good” (cf. Rom 8:28).

Do not forget that on Pentecost the Lord has sent us the Holy Spirit who is our Advocate, Comforter, Sanctifier, and Counselor.  Ask the Spirit daily for help to live as “A Disciple of Christ,” for He will “teach you everything and remind you of all that {Christ} told you” (Jn 14:17) and “helps us in our weakness” (Rom 8:26).

Pentecost leads the Church into Ordinary Time. This is precisely because “God declares that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh” (Acts 2:17) and all are given the call to “preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). Pentecost is followed by Ordinary Time because the normal life of the Church is to be filled with the Holy Spirit and we are to live as “A Disciple of Christ.”

This still may take some ingenuity and effort due to the ongoing Pandemic, but do not give up hope! Christ sees your efforts to know Him and love Him and He will bless you for them. Present restrictions in our society provide help to many people but create a need for others, and with this there are many opportunities for you to love your neighbor.

Strive to come to know the Lord in a new way at this time! Pick up your phone to be present to those you have not spoken with in a while. Take these opportunities to pray with one another and build each other up in the faith. Go to the Church, keeping with social distancing guidelines and wearing a mask, so as to allow your taking advantage of Mass and Confessions being offered.  Use this extra time for spiritual reading and even pick up your Bible that maybe has not been open in a long time.  Through these and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, you can be ever more “A Disciple of Christ.”

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give it to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (Jn 14:27).  This is a time of great trial and difficulty, but do not give up hope!  The Lord will calm the storm (cf. Mk 4:39).  “The LORD will fight for you; you have only to keep still” (Exodus 14:14).  Allow the Lord into your heart in a new way, a way that you might not recognize just yet, but allow yourself to hear Him when He calls you by name, as He calls you to be “A Disciple of Christ.”

May God bless you and your family on this Pentecost!  Know of my continual prayers for you, especially as the Mass is offered daily for your good.  Please keep me in your prayers as well.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+ Frank J. Dewane

Bishop of the Diocese of

Venice in Florida

Public celebration of Mass resumes May 18

The following is a letter from Bishop Dewane to the faithful, dated May 12, 2020: 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Bishop Frank J. Dewane raises the host during the Mass at St. Ann Parish in Naples in January, 2020. The public celebration of the Mass in the Diocese resumes May 18, 2020.

As we rejoice in our Easter Faith, my prayer is that the new life we have in Christ will bring you and your family hope and comfort. The Coronavirus has brought numerous challenges. Our common efforts to mitigate the disease have asked us to sacrifice and adjust to new realities for the good of all. United in Christ, we continue to face the present difficulties with courage and compassion. So many have persevered in faith and charity and our Parishes have remained beacons of God’s love and grace. For this, I am profoundly grateful to God and to the Priests and Faithful of the Diocese of Venice.

After much prayer and discernment, and having consulted with the priests on the Presbyteral Council, it has been determined that public celebration of the Mass in the Diocese of Venice can resume. Therefore, I am announcing that the celebration of Holy Mass with a congregation present, will begin on May 18, 2020 and moving forward.  All other non-liturgical activities at Parishes remain suspended until it is determined that these activities can safely resume; thank you for your understanding on this point.

Out of concern for the safety of all involved, our Pastors have been asked to follow established directives and guidelines. These limit the size of the congregation to 25% of occupancy, maintain social distancing guidance, and ask the Faithful’s cooperation to wear facemasks and bring with them hand sanitizer for their use. The Faithful are also asked to receive communion in the hand. These are extraordinary times and I ask for your patience and good will as Parishes reopen for public celebrations. Further, schedules may need to be adjusted and some Priests or liturgical ministers may not be able to participate publicly because of age or health conditions.

As Parish churches reopen for Mass, I remind those who are at greater risk or anxious about returning at this time, that the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in effect until June 28, 2020. Parishes have been asked to continue livestreaming until the dispensation is lifted. The Faithful ought not to worry about remaining home if they are concerned for their wellbeing or that of other parishioners. Of course, those who are sick or have symptoms associated with COVID-19 are to stay home.

The Faithful of the Diocese of Venice have remained resolute in their faith during these unprecedented times, vibrantly expressing their Spiritual Communion with Christ and His Church. Still, I am aware that there is a hunger for the Eucharist. My prayerful hope is that, strengthened by the Bread come down from Heaven, you will emerge from these times with stronger faith. As we return to Holy Mass, let us with the psalmist, raise our voices in praise of God: I rejoiced when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+ Frank J. Dewane

Bishop of the Diocese of

Venice in Florida

 

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