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.

News briefs for the week of May 18

Naples Deacon remembered

Deacon Donald Healy, who served at St. Ann Parish in Naples, died April 2, 2020. he was 83.

Deacon Donald Healy, the oldest Permanent Deacon to be ordained for the Diocese of Venice, who served at St. Ann Parish in Naples, died April 2, 2020. He was 83. Deacon Healy was born in Rome, N.Y. and was a highly recruited college athlete in three sports. He ultimate chose football and played as a two-way player (office tackle and defensive guard) for the University of Maryland before he was drafted in the third round (37th overall) by the Chicago Bears in 1958. He was then selected in the 1960 expansion draft by the Dallas Cowboys where he still holds the team record for recovered fumbles in one season (5), the longest standing record in team history. He played his professional final season with the Buffalo Bills before retiring in 1962 due to injuries. He lived for many years in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he and his wife Genevieve (Shea) Healy raised four children. He worked in agricultural chemical sales and then later in the automotive parts industry. The couple moved to Naples in 1995 and Deacon Healy eventually earned an advanced degree in theology, a requirement for his lifelong dream of becoming a Permanent Deacon. When he was 70, he was ordained a Deacon by Bishop John J. Nevins on Oct. 25, 2006 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and was assigned to St. Ann Parish. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, four children, and 11 grandchildren. A Memorial Mass will be held later at St. Ann Parish.

Scam Alert

It has once again been brought to the attention of the Diocese of Venice that parishioners have received text/email messages from people pretending to be priests or Bishop Frank J. Dewane and requesting donations in the form of gift cards and/or wire transfers. The messages often greet the person by name and have the priests name in the closing signature of the message; this is a well-crafted and targeted attack on the Church across the country which has hit our Diocese again. These text/email messages are ‘spoofed’ fakes that should not be responded to or taken seriously by anyone. The best defense against this sort of scam is to raise awareness in the community and not respond or open any worrying attachments. It is Diocesan policy that no priest or staff within the Diocese request donations in the form of gift cards, PayPal, MoneyGram, etc.

There is already an established process in place on how parishioners can make donations and participate in the life of the Parish. Whenever a parishioner is worried about any request for money from the parish or a priest, they should immediately call their parish and under no circumstances should they respond to these scam requests.

Neumann golfer earns First Tee! scholarship

St. John Neumann Catholic High School graduating senior Sophie Shrader has been announced as a recipient of a $10,000 a year scholarship from The First Tee! Shrader has participated in The First Tee for eight years and represented the organization in many national opportunities. Shrader will continue her education in the fall at the University of West Florida.

Letters bring smiles to medical professionals

Second graders from St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota have been distance learning and one of the things they learned about through reading is about communication through letter writing. The students read a story called “Dear Juno” and their assignment was to write letters of appreciation and send goodie baskets to the medical professionals at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. The staff took time to take a picture and send thanks to the students.

Roof work taking place in Avon Park

A much-needed roof replacement project is taking place at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park. The church roof is being replaced and upgraded to ensure its safety and security for years to come.

Mooney teacher earns Doctorate

Sarah Hard Gates, a Theology instructor at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, and 1997 graduate of the school, successfully defended her dissertation and was awarded her PhD in Education from Abilene Christian University. She previously earned degrees from St. Leo University, the University of South Florida, and Barry University. Gates, a beloved teacher who is considered one of the “fun” teachers, has been teaching at Cardinal Mooney for 16 years.

Athletes distance training in Naples

The St. John Neumann Catholic High School Celtic Football Team isn’t letting this time for social distancing ruin their plans to start next season as strong as possible. The boys in Naples have been working hard each morning with their at-home workouts, while connecting with their teammates and coaches via ZOOM!

Rosary maker group keeps busy

The Our Lady of the Angels Parish Rosary Outreach group in Lakewood Ranch has continued to be busy! In the past few weeks more than 400 rosaries have been made. They are given to nursing homes, assisted living residences, hospitals, people in religious education classes, Confirmandi, First Communicants, and for others to hand out. Some 500 rosaries have gone to Africa for children’s rosary groups and 400 will be going to Cuba with The Society for the Propagation of The Faith (once travel resumes). The Rosary is our sword in these difficult times, and the goal of the Rosary Outreach is to spread the beauty of prayer through the rosary.

Students take virtual field trip to museum

The St. Francis Xavier Catholic School fifth grade in Fort Myers recently was provided a special treat, courtesy of The Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota. Students were taken on a virtual field trip led by museum staff where they were able to see the Ringling grounds, some special portraits and paintings and learn about the life of John Ringling.

Community service during quarantine

Leave it to a Diocesan Catholic school student to turn the challenge of a quarantine into a giving opportunity. Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Freshman Morgan Franklin in Sarasota took it upon herself to still be committed to community service during our stay home policy and cut her hair for Locks of Love, for those suffering from hair loss. She shared before and after photos of herself online, as well of as the hair that will be donated.

Year of Saint Joseph

On the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, March 19, 2020, Bishop Frank J. Dewane consecrated the Diocese of Venice to the care and protection of Saint Joseph in the context of the Coronavirus. The Bishop announced a “Year of Saint Joseph” beginning March 19, 2020 through March 19, 2021. Saint Joseph, often referred to as the Protector, can be our protector during this time of the pandemic. To pray a Novena to Saint Joseph please visit the Year of Saint Joseph webpage at www.dioceseofvenice.org.

Online Preached Retreats

During the current health crisis, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice is offering online 3-day, 5-day, and 8-day retreats based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. In these online retreats, Father Mark Yavarone, OMV, or Father Lino Estradilla, OMV, trained spiritual directors, will meet with you for an hour each day via a link provided to you, to help you to pray and to recognize how God is speaking to you. A Bible and journal should be available for your use. Participants will be emailed any additional materials needed as the retreat unfolds. The cost is as follows: 3-day online retreat, $132.23; 5-day online retreat, $203.98; and 8-day online retreat, $306.48. All information will be confidential, and password protected. If you would like to participate in an online retreat, please email Denise Riley at riley@olph-retreat.org and a code will be provided for your online registration as well as an application. For planning purposes, please allow 7 days from your completed application until the beginning of your retreat.

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