Special collection aids Diocesan hurricane recovery

The Diocese of Venice continues its recovery from Hurricane Ian which devastated the region on Sept. 28, 2022, with winds up to 155 mph and storm surge and flooding rains.

The recovery has been aided thanks to the kindness of many who saw the plight of the Parishes in the Diocese of Venice and contributed to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) 2022 Special Collection for the Bishops’ Emergency Disaster Fund. The Diocese of Venice has been awarded $1.383 million from the USCCB collection.

Since the time of the founding of the Diocese in 1984, the faithful have generously responded to help others through special collections, and now this generosity is coming back to our own Diocese, as it did following Hurricane Charley in 2004 and Hurricane Irma in 2017.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane said he was personally grateful, on behalf of the faithful of the Diocese of Venice, “to all of the people who contributed to the Bishops’ Emergency Disaster Fund Special Collection in the wake of Hurricane Ian. The devastation to communities in the area, and even to the infrastructure of the Diocese, was catastrophic. Even today, as families continue the process of rebuilding, so do our Diocesan Parishes. I also wish to thank my fellow Bishops who saw the need in the Diocese of Venice and were generous to those Parishes who were most burdened financially when disaster struck.”

Ian took a heavy toll on the Diocese of Venice, with more than 685 reports of damage to various structures. Significant damage was found in more than 400 structures, including at 30 Parishes and 10 Catholic schools, as well as at many other Diocesan entities. The resulting cost to rebuild exceeded what many Parishes could begin to manage.

Bishop Dewane, on behalf of the Diocese of Venice, made a formal request for grant money raised through the Bishops’ Emergency Disaster Fund. This application included a complete description of damages, with accompanying photos, as well as the entities financial situations.

At a USCCB meeting, the Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions awarded a $1.383 million grant from the Bishops’ Emergency Disaster Fund to the Diocese of Venice. This grant money was designated to assist 13 Parishes in the Diocese that serve impoverished communities and had sustained severe damage from Hurricane Ian. The funds received covered a significant portion of the insurance deductibles – in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars – and costs that Parishes owed for new roofs, mold mitigation, and other repairs that otherwise didn’t have resources.

Parishes receiving a portion of the grant monies included Jesus the Worker (San Jose Mission), Fort Myers; Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, Sarasota; San Antonio, Port Charlotte; St. Andrew, Cape Coral; St. Catherine, Sebring; St. Charles Borromeo, Port Charlotte; St. James, Lake Placid; St. Joseph the Worker, Moore Haven; St. Katharine Drexel, Cape Coral; St. Maximilian Kolbe, Port Charlotte; St. Michael, Wauchula; St. Paul, Arcadia; and St. Francis Xavier, Fort Myers.

The Bishops’ Emergency Disaster fund was established as a way for Dioceses to take up special collections in response to disasters and humanitarian crises. The fund supports USCCB efforts for pastoral and reconstruction efforts.

“St. Paul wrote that when one Christian suffers, all Christians suffer – because we are all part of one Body of Christ,” said Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on National Collections. “That unity is the heart of (special) collections. They bring faith, hope, and love to people in despair… and to disaster victims in our own nation.”

Bishop Dewane and Diocese of Venice Chancellor Dr. Volodymyr Smeryk visited impacted Parishes to see firsthand the extent of the damages and to learn of specific financial hardship. Parishes reported severe damage to churches, rectories and other Parish facilities.

Grant awards were announced in July, with the Diocese of Venice awarded $1.383 million. Smeryk said the grants assisted substantially in helping the most impoverished Parishes to recover from Ian faster than would otherwise have been possible.

In addition to the Bishops’ Emergency Disaster Fund grants, the Diocese was also the beneficiary of emergency grants from Catholic Charities USA in the weeks following the storm, support which continues to this day. This support went to the immediate disaster response, helping people with emergency supplies such as food and water. Catholic Charities USA’s generous contribution continues to help even today, now providing long-term disaster recovery and financial assistance for families who continue to rebuild from Hurricane Ian more than one year later.

Hurricane Season returns – Reminders of Ian linger

It has been eight months since Hurricane Ian struck Southwest Florida with devastating winds, storm surge and rain and it doesn’t take much searching to realize many continue to struggle with the recovery.

This is true in the Diocese of Venice as shortages of materials and workers have put nearly every rebuilding project behind schedule. While it is important to continue the steady work of recovery, unfortunately with the calendar soon changing to June 1, 2023, the official Atlantic Hurricane Season has arrived and it’s time to begin preparations again.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane said that while the Diocese of Venice continues to recover from Ian, plans are in place to respond, if needed, to the next storm.

“We are all well aware of the catastrophic impacts of hurricanes as witnessed by the destruction caused during Hurricane Ian. Be assured everything is being done to mitigate from further damage in the future,” Bishop Dewane said. “My prayers are for the people who continue to be displaced by Ian and who continue to face the long road to recovery. We should all be comforted that as terrible as Ian was, the Light of Christ was reflected in our midst as neighbors helped neighbors. As the new Atlantic Hurricane Season arrives, let us all ask God for protection and safety from these storms in this year and beyond.” (Please see prayer on Page 4.)

Forecasters are expecting a “normal season,” with up to 14 named storms. The forecast does not note if any of the storms will strike Florida, but it is only intended for planning purposes and to raise awareness. Of course, it is an important reminder that as the region learned in 2022, it only takes one storm to strike to have a very bad hurricane season.

Officials also stress that each tropical system is different, explaining that just because you survived Ian without any damage doesn’t mean the next storm, whether it is a tropical storm or major hurricane, couldn’t destroy everything around you. This is why heeding evacuation orders is so important. This was particularly true during Ian when some models forecast the storm to make a direct strike as far north as Tampa, meaning many let their guard down.

While keeping a wary eye on the weather forecast is important, being prepared before storms approach is just as vital. Preparedness means many things, but a key part is simply knowing where you live in relationship to evacuation zones in your city or county. Also, knowing how well constructed your home is can also impact your preparations and planning in the event an evacuation is ordered. With many still needing repairs leftover from Ian, emergency management officials say that this must be a factor in determining the making of evacuation plans. Also, as many learned, power could be out for days, or weeks, following a storm, and the decision must also be made if one wants to stay under those conditions.

How Best to Prepare

Emergency Management officials recommend each family have a Disaster Supply Kit, which should have a minimum of enough water and food to last three to seven days. That means one gallon of water per person/per day, plus enough non-perishable food that does not require electricity to prepare and consume safely. Those who care for infants, or the elderly, also need to think hard about what specialty items will be needed such as medications.

Other keys items for a Disaster Supply Kit include clothing (rain gear and sturdy shoes), blankets/pillows, first aid kit, all medicines and prescription drugs, toiletries, flashlights, battery-operated radio, cash, important documents in a waterproof container, and any items for your pets.

Do not forget the problems many had in getting basic supplies after Ian while large swaths of the Diocese remained without power for weeks. The Federal Emergency Management Agency stresses that in the aftermath of a major disaster, you should expect to be on your own for at least three days, if not longer, before substantial state and federal resources can be expected.

To help encourage the people of Florida to buy their emergency supplies now, this year, the Florida Legislature has approved two 14-day disaster preparedness sales tax holidays. The first began May 27 and will continue through June 9. The second is Aug. 26 through Sept. 8.

During these two periods, certain hurricane supplies will be tax-free. Along with the traditional items in a supply kit – like flashlights, radios, tarps and batteries – the tax holiday also includes a number of items related to the safe evacuation of household pets.

Also new this year, common household items that may be helpful with disaster cleanup are included, such as laundry detergent, toilet and paper towels, soap, sunscreen and various household cleaning products. Check your local retail store for a complete list.

If you have a Disaster Supply Kit that went unused in 2022, go through it to ensure all items are fresh and the batteries are still good.

Hurricane Center officials add that having an emergency preparedness plan will help lessen the stress when inevitably, the new tropical system forms and threatens the region. Key things like know your evacuation zone, knowing if your home can withstand forecasted winds, and having emergency supplies and documents ready ahead of time, are key actions to take ahead of the season.

Anyone who has medical, or transportation, issues must contact their city/county Emergency Management Office (the number is in the blue pages of the phone book or you can dial the non-emergency 511), to register and to potentially be relocated to a shelter if a storm threatens.

Another key action is to make sure your insurance is up-to-date, and photographs are taken of all valuables before the storm. Keep in mind that hurricane and flood insurance can take up to 30 days to go into effect, meaning buying insurance now will mean it could take until July, a month into the season, before the policy can be used.

Hurricane Preparedness in the Diocese of Venice

The Diocese of Venice has its own Hurricane Preparedness Plan, as do each of the entities such as Parishes, Catholic Schools, Catholic Charities and more. These plans are revised each year under the guidance of Bishop Dewane and a team from the Diocese, and reflect the valuable lessons learned from Ian, but also from Hurricanes Irma (2017) and Charley (2004).

With many locations still recovering from Ian, Diocesan Buildings Director Joe Rego said contingency plans are in place to protect properties in the best way possible as repair work continues in many locations.

Meanwhile, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. remains at the heart of the Hurricane Ian recovery and is planning for a “what if we get impacted by another storm” scenario to ensure that disaster relief supplies are distributed quickly to those most in need. After Ian, a dozen different disaster response sites opened up throughout the Diocese helping tens of thousands of people get needed food, water and other supplies. Those will reopen as needed if a storm strikes.

Should disaster strike again, Catholic Charities will be at the forefront in preparing and responding. Catholic Charities will send a team to the epicenter of the disaster and then coordinate to set up relief centers — called PODs, which stands for Points-Of-Distribution – where the need is greatest. These centers – often located at Parishes or next to Catholic Charities offices – will be sites where water, clothing, food and other disaster relief assistance can be distributed.

The Diocese of Venice is well versed in responding to these storms. Each Parish, Catholic school and other entities have hurricane preparedness plans which assist in preparation before a storm and recovery afterwards.

For a complete list of how to plan and prepare for a disaster, please visit www.floridadisaster.org/planprepare.

News briefs for the week of May 26, 2023

Verot athlete wins discus state title

Wyatt Whalen, a graduating senior at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, won the Florida State 2A Discus Championship at the recent Florida High School Athletic Association Track & Field State Championship on May 19, 2023, at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Whalen made a throw of 16.48 meters (54-feet 1-inch), which follows up his 2022 state title in the shot put. Verot teammate Grayson Tubbs, also a senior, finished third in the 800-meter race with a time of 1:56.52. The Verot boys finished 7th overall, with the girls coming in at 16th. Other top performances came from the girls and boys 3200 relay teams, which both finished fourth. Other Verot athletes to reach the awards podium (top 8) were: Logan Schwartz, javelin (4th), Mackenzie De Lisle, 3200 (4th); Julie Reitz, 1600, (8th); Ryan Peterson, discus (5th); Raven Gadsen, triple jump (8th). In the same competition, Marc Dalmau, a graduating senior at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, took third in the discus with a throw of 49.12 meters (161-feet 2-inches). Congratulations to everyone!

Neumann falls in baseball state semifinals

The dream year for the St. John Neumann Catholic High School baseball team came to an end on May 18, 2023, in the state semifinals at the Lee County Sports Complex in Fort Myers. The team fell by a score of 3-0 to Lakeland Christian, the eventual state 2A champions. The Celtics finished the season with a record of 23-9 and reached the state Final Four for the first time since 1985. Great season everyone!

40-Hours Devotion and Eucharistic Procession coming to North Port

San Pedro Parish, 14380 Tamiami Trail, North Port, will celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi and the ongoing Eucharistic Revival with a 40-Hours Devotion and Eucharistic Procession. Adoration will begin at 3 p.m. Friday, June 9, 2023, and conclude at 7 a.m., Sunday, June 11. Adoration will be interrupted during the daily Masses (8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, June 10). There will be a Eucharistic Procession around the Parish grounds following the 10:45 a.m. Mass on Sunday, June 11. To sign up for an hour of adoration, please contact 941-426-2500 or sanpedrorevival@gmail.com.

Physics on display

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School Honor’s Physics class of Michelle Vocu held a time-honored tradition on May 16, 2023, and tried their luck with the egg drop experiment. The assignment was to design and construct a container that would allow the egg to fall freely without increased air resistance from the top of the football stadium press box, and land unharmed. The maximum weight allowed was 600 grams, and the students were encouraged to have a minimum size for the structure. In addition, they were not allowed to use any food or packaging materials in their design. After their drops (most of which were successful), the designs were evaluated, and recommendations were made for a redesign. The students were also able to calculate the impact force and velocity of their egg, using the data collected. What a great way to round out the year!

School improvement project moves into next phase

The North Campus Improvement Project at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton has moved into Phase 2 beginning in mid-May 2023. The next activity includes the installation of a shade structure over the outdoor basketball courts. The improvement project includes the construction of a six-classroom early learning/aftercare center, updates to the playground, classroom lighting and much more. If you have questions about how you can help support the school, please contact Carlee Colonneso at development@sjsfl.org,or visit https://www.sjsfl.org/donate.

Retreat encourages men to return to Church

The latest John XXIII Movement retreat took place the weekend of May 19-21, 2023, at Campo San Jose Retreat Center in Lake Placid. The retreat was for men who have been absent from the Church and marginalized from society. The John XXIII Movement is a private international association of laity, born to be a movement of evangelization/conversion and to work, helping the faithful return to full and active participation in the Catholic Church.

 

 

Groundbreaking held for gymnasium and science building

With a deafening cheer, a blast of confetti and the tossing of dirt, ground was broken on the new St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School gymnasium and Center for Science and Engineering building on May 10, 2023, in Port Charlotte.

Students were excited as Bishop Frank J. Dewane led the ceremony, blessing the ground as he, and others, joined in breaking ground on the project with ceremonial gold shovels.

What was once thought to be impossible has been made possible through prayer, determination and sharing of the treasure of many supporters with their love for education so that others may benefit from it, exclaimed Father John Fitch, Pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish.

“It’s an exciting day. We have been working on this for years. Some people have been talking about a gym here since the 1990s,” Father Fitch said. “Today we thank God for the gift of the resources for the gymnasium and Center for Science and Engineering. We ask that this building be entrusted with education and that is to bring the joys of discovery and wisdom with the truth of the Gospel.”

Bishop Dewane acknowledged that the gym project had been around for a while and credited the steadfast efforts of Father Fitch and Principal Tonya Peters to help make the project become a reality as he stood in full support. He added that he pushed to get classrooms added to the original concept to ensure the new building would not only support the growth of body, but also the mind.

“Many made this possible through their kindness, goodness, and their concern for you as students here at St. Charles Borromeo. So, I want to thank all who worked hard on this. It is what was needed to be done,” the Bishop said.

“Grant that the work that we begin may serve to better the lives of all the students who pass through St. Charles Borromeo and through your goodness continue to spread the Kingdom of Christ,” Bishop Dewane concluded before blessing the ground with holy water. Father Fitch did likewise.

Dozens of parents and school supporters stood in the hot sun on the muggy day for the groundbreaking ceremony, something Father Fitch noted in his remarks. “I know it’s very warm out here but that’s why we are building a gym because it is even worse when it’s raining in August,” he said.

Joining Bishop Dewane, Father Fitch and Principal Peters for the groundbreaking were Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education Father John Belmonte, SJ; Diocesan Buildings Director Joe Rego; John Prahl, founder of Canco Construction, the project contractor; as well as David Hunt, a sixth grader who represented the students.

Sanibel recovery progressing

Each Sunday, the bulletin at St. Isabel Parish on Sanibel offers an update on the latest efforts to recover from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Ian after the barrier island and Parish were overwhelmed by storm surge and wind damage.

It is Pastor Father Edward Martin’s goal to ensure that the rebuild goes as quickly and smoothly as possible. Father also wants to be sure to keep parishioners appraised on what is taking place and how the Parish is moving forward through the complicated process while dealing with city code and compliance requirements, contractors and much more.

While each step in the recovery is important, it can sometimes be difficult to envision when the work will be done when delays are taking place due to supply-chain issues or other factors. When Hurricane Ian roared ashore with winds near 155 mph and a storm surge of 10 feet inundating Sanibel, the storm and severely impacted every home and business. The storm wrecked the Parish priest rectory, while saltwater intruded into the Parish church and hall. While the amount of water inside was only a few inches, the impacts were severe.

The severity was caused by the corrosive nature of saltwater, combined with a lack of access to the island for several weeks as the Sanibel Causeway was repaired. A Diocesan team accessed the island by boat to view the damage and determine what needed to be done to prevent further damage, but by the time the Causeway reopened and the island, county, state, and federal authorities determined it was safe to allow access for contractors, more damage had occurred.

This delay meant the water had time to be absorbed by the drywall, flooring, furniture, equipment doors, and pews. Once the property was accessible, contractors brought in heavy equipment and dryers to help mitigate further damage. This is the standard process for the Diocese Buildings Department for areas impacted by natural disasters.

Once detailed assessments were made of the property, it was determined that the rectory was a total loss and that the drywall and floors of the church and hall needed to be removed. Some additional drywall and ceiling work was needed because of damage to the roof and HVAC systems in both buildings. In addition, nearly the entire contents of both buildings needed to be replaced.

Father Martin said there have been great improvements made at the Parish and across the island since Hurricane Ian, but most understand why all the work isn’t completed as they deal with their own recovery.

“Everyone here on Sanibel has suffered. We are going through this together,” Father Martin said. “People are buoyed by any progress, and when you hear stories of the work being done each day, that is uplifting for everyone. Here, the work to clean up the property and fix the landscaping has made a huge difference in how everyone feels. It is good to see, and we are blessed with all of the support we have received since the hurricane.”

Joe Rego, Diocese of Venice Director of Building and Construction said “by mid-April the drywall work in the church and hall were completed. Next, we are in the process of securing flooring proposals as well as waterproofing in the church.”

The main doors to the church and hall are being replaced. However, due to their size and a need to ensure they can handle any future hurricanes, getting them replaced is still a few months away.

Another example of both progress and delays are the new pews. Rego explained how the replacements were ordered three months ago, but there is up to an eight-month lead time to get them delivered and installed. The progress in the hall is further along, but the floors and kitchen are still in process, again due to unforeseen delays. Meanwhile, the HVAC systems to both buildings have been replaced, but final repairs to the roof are awaiting materials.

“This is not unique to St. Isabel. We are seeing these issues everywhere within the disaster zone. If we had all the supplies available, we’d be much further along in the recovery, but that just isn’t the reality,” Rego said.

The initial progress of mitigation was first evident Dec. 11, 2022, when the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass returned after an absence of 74 days.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the first Mass after Hurricane Ian, saying he was humbled to be with the parishioners and to pray with them in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Bishop Dewane said that we are united in the Holy Eucharist, and prayed that the grace of the Lord gives the faithful the strength needed to rebuild from Hurricane Ian.

The Bishop stressed that as difficult as it was to see the church and Parish property with such extensive damage, “the physical church is just a building. You are the Church! What is strong is the people who make up the Church.”

During his visit, Bishop Dewane was given a tour of the property to see firsthand the extent of the damage and what was needed for a complete recovery.

Since that Sunday in December, Father Martin has been celebrating Mass as mats cover a floor which was stripped bare to the concrete base. With the pews removed, folding chairs are in their place.

“We were blessed that the main sanctuary, where the altar and tabernacle are located, was untouched by the hurricane. What we have left is a bit primitive, but it works,” Father said.

When the work in the hall is completed, the Mass will be temporarily transferred to help facilitate the reconstruction of the church.

The repair work will take time to be completed, as the devastation is unprecedented, not only to the people of Sanibel, but to the entire region which received extreme damage from Hurricane Ian while displacing thousands.

If you would like to support the rebuilding effort for St. Isabel Parish, please visit https://www.saintisabel.org/ or go to https://dioceseofvenice.org/hurricaneian/.

Nicole brushes by Diocese, minor damage

Winds from Hurricane Nicole peaked at 57 mph at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and gusts were reported higher through the region still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Ian 43 days earlier.

Those winds on Nov. 10, 2022, were enough to cause tarps at several sites to be ripped, allowing more water into buildings which were damaged during Ian on Sept. 28.

Incarnation Parish and Catholic school in Sarasota both had damage and water intrusion during Ian and the winds from Nicole penetrated the tarps. Parish and school staff reported new water intrusion and teams were quick to come out to mitigate any further damage.

This type of tarp damage and water intrusion also occurred at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice, the rectory at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Port Charlotte and the hall at Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda. Each of those locations also had water intrusion during Ian with tarps that were compromised.

Diocese of Venice Buildings Manager Joe Rego said it was disappointing that the tarps failed, but thanks to quick action at the Parishes and schools, the additional damage was negligible and is unlikely to delay any scheduled repair work.

“It happens. We cannot control the weather,” Rego said. “This adds some more mitigation work we had not planned on at a time when we are starting to ramp up our work to get repairs done.”

At sites where damage to the buildings was extreme due to storm surge, such as Ascension Parish in Fort Myers Beach and St. Isabel Parish on Sanibel, the winds from Nicole added to the debris needed to be cleaned up.

One worker in Fort Myers Beach explained that there are many large piles of debris all over the island which meant even wind gusts of about 40 mph during the storm were enough to carry roof tiles, insulation, and other small items onto the grounds, adding to the cleanup process.

During Hurricane Ian damage was reported at more than 30 Parishes in the Diocese, 10 Catholic schools, as well as to other Diocese-owned and operated buildings. Teams have been doing mitigation work, such as putting tarps on roofs, removing damaged equipment and furniture and much more. Other work includes the removal of drywall where necessary.

“There is a lot of work that needs to be done,” Rego said.

Check back in the Nov. 25, 2022, e-edition of The Florida Catholic for the latest in the recovery and rebuilding in the Diocese following Hurricane Ian.

Parish stained glass inspires

Stained glass windows have a long history in the Catholic Church, with the earliest surviving examples dating to the 7th century. The windows were used in churches to enhance their beauty and to inform the viewer through narrative or symbolism about key moments in Salvation History.

Because of the lengthy process of making and creating each section of a window, some as tall an 14-feet, these windows are often the last additions when a new Parish Church is completed.

Such was the case at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch which was dedicated and blessed by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on April 22, 2018. The only stained-glass window in place on that date was a 11-foot 4-inch diameter rose window of Our Lady of the Angels, the patroness of the Parish. It is located above a triple arched entrance canopy.

The church design at Our Lady of the Angels features more than 60 exterior windows, which were bare and open to the sunlight and gradually filled in by professionals from Conrad Pickel Studio Inc., of Vero Beach. The final gap, located above the south transept exit, were installed on July 22, 2022, revealing the image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

This key window caused much comment prior to the installation, as at certain times of the day the open window would allow direct sunlight either onto the altar or onto the choir during Mass.

Of course, after the installation of the new stained glass, the view transformed from stark sunlight to a colorful image of Our Lady.

Father Sebastian Szczawinski, Administrator of Our Lady of the Angels, blessed the windows during a Mass on July 24. He thanked the faithful for their support and patience and said that it was well worth the wait.

“It is a real delight for me to realize there are those who are willing to sacrifice in making a Church more beautiful,” Father Szczawinski said. “After more than three years, this church is officially finished.”

The faithful applauded this pronouncement and following the Mass many remained behind to admire the windows, four of which were installed the previous week. Some of the reactions included: “Stunning!” “What amazing colors!” “Perfect!”

Paul Pickel, President of Conrad Pickel Studio Inc., said the company designed and fabricated the 24 sanctuary windows over a period of 3 ½ years. Present for the moment were the staff of the studio as well as the artist, Lyn Durham.

The mouth-blown glass, coming from factories in France and Germany, is made by hand and eventually folded down to a very thin sheet. The Pickel studio has many color shades and pieces that work together with lead once a client, such as Our Lady of the Angels Parish, approves the final design.

Durham said she offers a scale color drawing, with the lines denoting where color transitions and lead lines are to be placed. She then physically makes a full-size sketch. Once the glass is laid out, she hand-etches the glass, painting figures and faces. Any parts of the glass where there is a bright white shining through the etchings is called flashing. This requires a delicate touch on Durham’s part but creates a dramatic effect. This can be seen in the clothing of Mary in some windows, or in the stars of night scenes.

The windows, paneled to custom fit each window section from the inside, were installed by two men on scaffolding. With well-practiced ease, as the final screw was placed, those gathered from Pickel Studios, as well as a group of staff and volunteers from the Parish, let out a small cheer and applauded the completion of a job well done.

The front section of the main sanctuary has six key scenes of the life of Jesus including the Nativity, Holy Family, Holy Child Jesus in the Temple, the Last Supper, and Resurrection. The transepts have images of Our Lady in scenes from Jesus’ life and crucifixion, the Annunciation and Assumption among others, as well as under her various titles, such as Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Guadalupe and more. Each window has a title marker at its base.

Pardon Our Dust – Parishes and schools – upgrades, renovations and new construction

Dusty construction zones have been a common sight at multiple Diocesan Parishes and Catholic schools during the summer months and in some locations more work is on the horizon.

Projects ranging from window upgrades to constructing new Parish Halls have forced some temporary closures of buildings and other disruptions throughout the summer and into the fall. However, Joe Rego, Diocese of Venice Director of Building and Construction, explained how all the work – nearly 80 active projects – has been necessary stressing the end results will be worth any temporary inconvenience.

“Each of these projects (active, ongoing, or planned) is a priority for the respective Parish and school,” Rego explained. “All of it is necessary and will have benefits that will last for years to come.”

One of the most common projects currently within the Diocese has been roof repair and/or replacement. Such work is often necessitated as buildings age.

For example, the faithful at Our Lady of Grace Parish have endured multiple projects to upgrade their Parish Church and Parish Hall. The roof was replaced on both in 2020 and now interior work is ongoing in the Church with new tile flooring, pews and look to the sanctuary. With Mass taking place in the Parish Hall, the faithful are anxious to return when the work is completed late in the fall.

“Our parishioners’ support has been very vital in the inception and the actual implementation of the project,” said Father Ronnie Sison, Pastor of Our Lady of Grace. “The new floors should be enjoyed and last for generations to come. They also provide us with a healthier and cleaner environment by removing the old carpeting and replacing it with something that will outlast us all.”

The Church at Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostle Parish in Bradenton was closed for a time, and Mass was temporarily held in the Parish Center, to allow the installation of a new roof, and now the pews are being refinished, reupholstered and installed.

Pews were also replaced during the summer at St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral and St. Ann Parish in Naples. Father William Davis, OSFS, Pastor of St. Ann Parish, said the upholstery on the pews was past its usefulness and the cost difference for new ones was close enough that it was a natural choice. Though there was an inconvenience for approximately seven weeks, Father Davis said the results exceeded expectations and “the response has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Meanwhile, the roof at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Sarasota is being worked on now with much more to come. The interior of the church, including the altar, will be renovated with Mass temporarily being held outside starting in late fall. Once all of that work is done, the faithful will see the construction of a new Parish Hall, replacing a structure that was torn down due to safety concerns.

Roof replacement is now taking place on the church building at St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish on Longboat Key with additional buildings at other locations being scheduled for work in the coming year.

Holy Child Mission in Bowling Green has been going through a complete renovation with the interior gutted and replaced. Much of this work was necessitated because of damage caused by Hurricane Irma in September 2017. As that repair work progressed, more issues were discovered and are being addressed. Bishop Frank J. Dewane saw firsthand the progress of the work on Aug. 7, 2021. He was given a tour and learned that upgrades to the restrooms and a new roof were next on the to-do list.

Multiple construction projects are taking place at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande and include a new Parish Life Center, for which the slab is installed with walls being erected. Work will extend into early 2022. Other tasks include modifications to the existing preschool which includes converting spaces and upgrading the play area. Father Jerome Carosella, Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy, said he has been impressed by the progress of the work and what is necessary as the Parish is in an historic district on a barrier island. “The anchors go deep into the ground, so it won’t be going anywhere if a big storm comes,” Father said.

Another Parish Life Center under construction is located at St. William Parish in Naples. The Parish Center is replacing an old structure to accommodate Parish growth. That project began in April 2021 and is at the phase where exterior walls are rising, and interior work will begin by the fall. This project is expected to be done by Easter 2022.

Two Parishes with newly constructed Churches are going through similar renovations to their properties. Both Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch and Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee have work that includes Hall renovations. Work in Immokalee is in the final stages while Lakewood Ranch the construction is in the preliminary phases. Both buildings will include a commercial kitchen and much needed space for the respective growing Parish community.

The most recent high-profile project completed was the new St. Paul Parish Church in Arcadia. This project included the renovation of a former large grocery store into a new Church which was Blessed and Dedicated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane in March 2021. The new Church quadrupled the capacity of the old to more than 1,300. Future work includes classrooms and office space as well as a Parish Hall all contained under one roof.

Smaller projects include work on installing hurricane impact windows at St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota, audio-visual upgrades at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice, a fence for Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton and much more.

Diocesan Catholic schools were not immune to summer work and upgrades focused on the safety of students. Upgrades were made to Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice and Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota.

St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples replaced the fire and public address system which was previously damaged in a lightning strike. Several schools created or expanded dedicated classroom space for the growing STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) curriculum.

St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring and Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria are both having work done to expand their facilities and make better use of existing space to accommodate growth in the schools.

At St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples a new portable classroom building is being installed for use by middle schoolers as the additional classroom space was needed. The old cafeteria is going through a renovation to convert to a building to be used for the arts and sciences. Eventually the school will be building a new administration building and enhanced entrance.

Rego, of Diocesan Buildings Department, said these are just some of the examples of the individual projects currently at different stages of completion throughout the Diocese. It should be noted that some of the projects have been impacted by the global Pandemic which caused shortages of building materials and workers.

“This resulted in delays for some projects,” Rego said. “It was unavoidable but something we strive to deal with. We are confident in the firms we use, as we have developed a good working relationship. When projects are put up for bid, each firms has a clear understanding of our needs.”

Parish Center breaks ground in Naples

A cleared lot will soon become the Parish Center for St. William Parish in Naples.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane led a blessing and groundbreaking ceremony on April 28, 2021 with a group of about 25 parishioners present to cheer on the project.

St. William Pastor Father George Ratzmann was delighted to get the project moving forward and thanked the support of the faithful and specifically for their understanding the vision of the Parish Center built not only for current parishioners but for future generations.

“I am so grateful for everyone who got behind this project,” Father Ratzmann said. “It has been a long process, but we are one big step closer to reaching our dream.”

The new Parish Center will be approximately 30,000 square-feet, include two auditoriums and a pre-function space, classrooms, offices, conference rooms, catering kitchen and elevator. The project is expected to take a year.

Parishioner Debbie Brunel was present for the groundbreaking and thrilled to see that work is beginning. “This is so exciting. We can’t wait for a whole year before it is complete. Plus, it is something the whole Parish community will be able use and enjoy but a wonderful legacy for those who will follow.”

Bishop Dewane began the groundbreaking with a brief prayer service, as well as blessing the construction site with holy water. As a continuation of the groundbreaking, Bishop joined Father Ratzmann, as well as representatives of the contractors and a few dignitaries, to turn dirt with special shovels.

The Parish Center is located on the north side of Seagate Avenue, just west of U.S. 41 and diagonal from the Parish church and across from the Waterside Shop. The former Parish Hall was torn down a few months ago and the Parish offices just a few days before the groundbreaking ceremony. The Parish Offices are temporarily located in the Parish Hall, which is at the rear side of the Church.

The project contractor is Abraham Construction Group, Inc., and the architect is BSSW Architects Inc.

Built of Living Stones – New Church Dedicated in Arcadia

A Church building, dating from the ancient times, has been given the name – the Temple of the Lord. Because of this, a Dedication of a new Parish Church permanently makes the building a Sacred and Holy place where the faithful come to hear the Word of God, to pray together, to celebrate and receive the Sacraments, and to most precisely celebrate the Eucharist at the Table of the Lord.

The Church, as a building, is destined solely and permanently for the gathering of the faithful to give Glory and Praise to God, Bishop Frank J. Dewane stressed when he dedicated the new St. Paul Parish Church during a Mass on March 21, 2021 in Arcadia before a joyous assemblage.

While the Church is a visible building, Bishop Dewane said it is nothing without the faith-filled people of Arcadia. “You are the ‘living stones.’ You are the why we build this Church – to come to gather as a community to adore Christ… It fills my heart with joy to see so many here for this important moment.”

Fittingly, the dedication began in the old church, which lies a short distance to the west of the new worship space and was built more than 50 years ago. Present for the dedication were Father Pablo Ruani, IVE, Administrator of St. Paul Parish, and Father Remigious Ssekiranda, Parochial Vicar.  In addition, also present were Father Jose Gonzalez, Dean of the Eastern Deanery and Pastor of St. Catherine Parish in Sebring, as well as several priests who previously served at St. Paul and others serving in the Deanery.

Bishop Dewane began the Rite by proclaiming: “Beloved brothers and sisters, we have gathered with joy to dedicate a new church by celebrating the Lord’s Sacrifice. Let us take part in these sacred rites with loving devotion, listening to the Word of God with faith, so that our community, reborn from the one font of Baptism and nourished at the same table, may grow into a spiritual temple and, brought together at one altar, may advance in the love from on high.”

Led by the cross bearer, the priests and Bishop then processed from the old church to the front doors of the new church. Accompanying the procession were members of the Parish youth group dressed in festive Mexican garb as they led the singing of a chant. Once at the new church, the building was symbolically handed over to the Bishop and he said: “Enter the gates of the Lord with thanksgiving, his courts with songs of praise.” Father Ruani then opened the door.

The next part of the Rite began with the opening process and with Bishop arriving in the sanctuary and blessing of the water. Then he, along with Father Ruani, blessed the people with Holy Water as a symbol of the spiritual Temple of the Lord so as to recall their Baptismal promises. This was followed by the sprinkling of the walls of the Church, marking the Church as a holy place from that day forward – before finally blessing the altar and the sanctuary.

During his homily, Bishop Dewane emphasized the importance behind the new church by citing the Gospel of Matthew (16:13-19), which was proclaimed during the Mass. In Matthew, Jesus questions the disciples about who other people say He is. When their answers were unsatisfactory or seem to fall short, Jesus challenges Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” The Bishop noted that each one of those present is called to answer that question by the life that they live.

“Here in Arcadia, we set about to build this new Church to assist everyone in answering that question,” Bishop Dewane continued. “It is not just for the Fathers to answer it, or for those who are here often…  We put up this Church so that no one will have the chance to say: ‘Let someone else enter there.’ Let it be – in this Church of St. Paul – where everyone begins their response to the Lord, the question of ‘Who do you say that I am?’ and they end with their response by carrying the Lord with them throughout their daily life.”

After the homily, as part of the Rite, the Litany of Saints replaced the general intercessions, and was the followed by the placing in the altar a relic of St. Juan Diego.

Bishop Dewane then gave the Prayer of Dedication, which was followed by the anointing, when he spread Sacred Chrism Oil – blessed at the Chrism Mass during Holy Week – first on the altar and then in the sign of the cross at four points on the walls of the Church. This is done to mark, through sacred designation, the altar and Church. Next was the incensation, symbolic of the “prayers rising up to the Lord, not just for today, but for generations to come” of the altar and then of the nave of the Church.

The formal lighting of the altar and the Church began with the Bishop presenting Father Ruani with a lighted candle, who then proceeded to light the candles on the newly anointed altar while the lights of the building were turned on. With the Rite concluded and the altar prepared, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass continued.

Bishop Dewane thanked the many people who worked behind the scenes in getting the new church ready and open and acknowledged the local dignitaries from Arcadia who were present. After the Mass, there was a celebratory reception.

Leticia Flores said she cried during the Mass of Dedication, noting how beautiful the new worship space is and how important this day is for the Parish community. Following the Mass, she stayed with her family in the Church to not only pray but to admire the beautiful worship space.

“What a wonderful day,” Flores said. “Bishop Dewane has blessed this community with this new church. We are so grateful. Incredible!”

Manuel Rojas has only been at St. Paul for two years, but said he was in shock when he entered the new church and saw its massive size and bright interior.

“Stunning!” Rojas said while examining the altar which is flanked by statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Paul. “You could fit several of our old churches in here. It is the perfect place to pray and worship to Our Lord.”

The new Church addresses the Pastoral needs of the growing and vibrant multicultural community and greatly increases the seating capacity from the existing worship space. The new Church was previously a supermarket and the necessary liturgical and canonical features were included in the redesign. The front façade is in a traditional style that borrows from Spanish Mission Revival archetypes. The central entrance features fusion glass windows with a rose window above the triple arched entrance. On the roofline is a large cross as well as 11-foot-tall bronze statues of St. Paul and St. Peter. Baker Liturgical Arts, LLC of Plantsville, Connecticut, was the contractor; Prime Design Professional was the architect and engineer.

The remaining space at the new location will be improved in the coming years to eventually accommodate the Parish offices, space for religious education instruction, as well as a Parish Hall.

St. Paul Parish has a rich history in Arcadia that dates back to the 1880s. The first permanent priest arrived in 1910 and the first Church was built in 1915. St. Paul was canonically erected as a Parish on July 25, 1958 in the Diocese of St. Augustine which then covered the entire state of Florida. Currently, St. Paul serves more than 3,100 individuals and 600 families.

As necessitated by the Pandemic, the number of people inside the church for the dedication and blessing was limited to ensure appropriate social distancing.