Vaccination clinic in Arcadia successful

When Olivia Fernandez received her first of two Covid-19 vaccination shots on May 1, 2021 she was very happy, having a new piece of mind that her whole family will be safe.

Fernandez was one of about 100 who received their vaccinations at Casa San Juan Bosco, a farm worker housing community in Arcadia built and operated by Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc.

“I’m am so happy to be here,” Fernandez said. “I worry about my little ones and this is one way to make sure I do what is right for them.”

The clinic was free and open to anyone in the community and administered by the DeSoto County Health Department. The event was scheduled from 1-4 p.m., but some arrived as early as 9 a.m. The effort was to encourage the large local Hispanic population to get vaccinated, a part of the community that has been reluctant to receive their vaccines because of worries over side-effects and misunderstandings about possible costs and documentation requirements.

Heather Smith of the DeSoto and Highlands County Health Departments praised Catholic Charities for the effort, explaining how the community members were receptive to take part in a clinic held at a property run by the Catholic Church.

“This made a big difference,” Smith said. “Thank you, Catholic Charities for doing this.”

Philomena Pereira, CEO of Catholic Charities, said the support of Bishop Frank J. Dewane allowed the most recent effort to happen. An initial vaccination clinic was held in late April but limited to the adult residents of Casa San Juan Bosco. They will be receiving their second shots in two weeks.

“This is just the next phase of our response to the pandemic,” Pereira said. “Part of that is being the conduit to help more and more people get vaccinated.”

There are plans to have additional vaccination clinics soon at other Catholic Charities sites, she explained. These will be promoted to the local communities as was the clinic in Arcadia. Fliers were set up throughout DeSoto County helping get the word out and ensuring success. Another Catholic Charities site in Arcadia, the food pantry adjacent to St. Paul, will host a vaccine clinic May 16.

The Arcadia clinic had some extra perks for those who were able to take part. People received a gift bag which included donated sandwiches from Market360 in Naples, fresh vegetables, coloring books and crayons from the faithful of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Fort Myers, as well as undergarments for adults and children.

Father Anthony Hewitt, Pastor of St. Francis Xavier assisted throughout the day, helping people check in and fill out the necessary health forms. Also present were representatives from the Patterson Foundation promoting their summer reading program, and information was provided about how to apply for free or low-cost health services. Catholic Charities representatives were also there to answer any questions, translate when necessary and to share information about other programs that are offered at two Arcadia locations.

Those who received their first vaccine on May 1 will be able to return for their second vaccine at Casa San Juan Bosco on May 29.

Please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org to learn more about Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc.

News Briefs for the Week of April 30, 2021

Appointment

After consultation with the Priest Personnel Board, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announces the following appointment: Father Daniel A. Flens, as Parochial Vicar of St. Andrew Parish, Cape Coral, effective March 1, 2021.

Dispensation to attend Mass ends effective May 1, 2021

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. For a letter from Bishop Dewane and the revised guidelines 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/ for English and for Spanish, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/hispanic-apostolate/.

Youth group raises money for Earth Day

The St. Columbkille Parish Youth Group lesson for the week was Catholic Social Justice, and Caring for God’s Creation, and in turn they hosted a lemonade stand after Masses on April 18, 2021 with all donations going to help the earth. The group raised more than $600 and opted to split the money and shared it with ECHO in North Fort Myers and the Calusa Nature Center in Fort Myers. ECHO teaches sustainable farming and combats world hunger, while the Calusa Nature Center connects people with nature educating them about our unique ecosystem and environmental issues concerning the region. The success was attributed to the hard work of the youth and the support of the parishioners.

 

Volunteer recognized nationally

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. Volunteer Tim Gunderman of Bonita Springs was recently named one of 6 finalists a finalist for the Catholic Charities USA Volunteer of the Year Award. Gunderman by virtue of his efforts to help people in the Bonita Springs and Naples areas during the past year first made the top 36 then the top 6. A video of each finalist was created as part of the selection process. Congratulations Tim for your time, knowledge and heart in helping to support Catholic Charities.

The St. Vincent de Paul Rummage Sale May 1

Please join the Sacred Heart Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in our continuing efforts to raise money to assist those in need in our community by taking part in a May 1, 2021 Rummage Sale from 9 a.m. to noon at 25200 Airport Road in Punta Gorda. There will be household items, furniture, linens, clothing, shoes, purses, jewelry, books and toys. The rain date is May 8.

Junior Class Retreat theme: “Have No Fear”

The peer ministry team at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples was on campus until late on April 22, 2021 and returned to school bright and early the next day to lead the Junior Class Retreat! The theme of the retreat was “Have No Fear” (Psalm 23) with the focus on letting go of our fears in order to trust more in God. The day included time for prayer and reflection as well as a variety of fun activities

Student places third in countywide Spelling Bee

Congratulations to Elizabeth Burke, a student at Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Parish, for taking third place in the 2021 Optimist Club of Naples Spelling Bee on March 24, 2021.

First graders learn about science

The first-grade class of Anne Boddison at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers recently enjoyed reading stories on inventing and engineering things. The students then had fun working together and using different items from their S.T.R.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts, Math) bins to build many unique objects such as flying houses, robots, mazes, and much more. The students then recorded what they built by drawing and writing about what they created in their journals.

Online fundraiser to support Our Mother’s House

Honor your mother, daughter, sister, friend, or someone who has been like a mother to you with a gift that will help homeless mothers and their children. Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities provides a safe environment for residents to achieve self-sufficiency through education, vocational training, and personal growth. This year they are holding their annual Mother’s Day fundraiser so everyone can help a needy mother succeed. To support Our Mother’s House please visit www.dov.regfox.com/mothers-day-2021.

Porn: Seven Myths Exposed event May 4

The porn industry has taken our culture hostage! The Diocese of Venice Family Life Office is hosting an event at 6:30 p.m., May 4, 2021 at the Epiphany Cathedral Parish Hall, 399 Sarasota St., Venice, to address and educate teens, parents and all others on the tyranny of pornography in our society. Matt Fradd is the speaker who has authored and coauthored several books, and creates and hosts the podcast, “Pints with Aquinas”. There is no cost to attend. For further information, please contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543.

Stepping into Marriage with Children

Did you know 60 percent of second marriages fail and the failure rate increases to 70 percent when there are children from a previous marriage in the home. The difficulties of parenting and stepparenting seemingly insurmountable are often the root cause of such failures. A free half day workshop, organized by the Diocese Office of Family Life, entitled “Stepping into Marriage with Children” is designed for those couples beginning or currently in a stepfamily situation, and will take place from 9 a.m. to noon, May 15, 2021 at Our Lady of Light Parish, 19680 Cypress View Drive, Fort Myers. This workshop takes a realistic look at blended families and offers strategies and tools to meet unique challenges. There is no cost to attend but registration is required at https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/stepping-into-marriage-with-children. For further information please contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543.

Year of the Family

On March 19, 2021, the fifth anniversary of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, on the joy and beauty of familial love, Pope Francis inaugurated the year “Amoris Laetitia Family” which will conclude on June 26, 2022 on the occasion of the next World Meeting of Families in Rome. When announced, the Dicastery said in a statement, “The Pandemic experience has highlighted the central role of the family as the domestic Church and has shown the importance of community ties between families”. To learn more about the effort and the initiatives occurring in the Diocese of Venice during this commemorative year visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/year-of-the-family/.

8th Annual Marian Eucharistic Conference

All are invited to the 8th Annual Marian Eucharistic Conference at Ave Maria University from May 14 to May 16, 2021. Featured speakers will include Dr. Mark Miravalle, John Paul II Chair of Mariology, Franciscan University of Steubenville; Kathleen Beckman L.H.S., author and President of Foundation of Prayer for Priests; Dr. Edward Sri, theologian, author, and co-founding leader of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students); and Roy Shoeman, speaker and author of “Salvation is from the Jews” and “Honey from the Rock.” Please visit www.aveconferences.com to register for this event. Lodging and meals available. For more information call 239-348-4725 or email aveconferences@gmail.com

Prayer Vigils continue abortion centers

40 Days for Life continues year-round in Fort Myers and Sarasota! Please join in prayer outside of Planned Parenthood. Help is needed in Fort Myers on Wednesdays and Thursdays when abortions take place and in Sarasota Monday, Tuesday and Thursdays. Your presence makes a difference! When people are there on the sidewalk, the “no show rate” for abortion appointments can go up 75%. For more information about the Fort Myers vigils, please email monash127@aol.com and for Sarasota  40dflsarasota@gmail.com.

Foster Homes Needed in Florida

There are over 20,000 children requiring foster care in the State of Florida with only 5000 families certified to meet their needs. During May, National Foster Care Awareness Month, please consider providing a loving home where a child can heal and thrive. To learn more about foster parenting children in Florida who do not have relatives who are able to care for them, please call 1-83-FOSTERFL or visit MyFloridaMyFamily.com.

Bonita Springs man finalist for CCUSA Volunteer of Year

When most people retire in Florida, they might envision golfing, fishing or lounging on the beach, but that’s not what Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. volunteer Tim Gunderman would choose to do most days, which is why he’s nominated for Volunteer of the Year by Catholic Charities USA and is one of 36 finalists.

After moving to Bonita Springs from North Carolina, the former construction company owner noticed that Hurricane Irma had been very unkind to several migrant farmworkers’ homes in the area. Much of the damage from the storm was still evident with blue tarps on roof tops and other interior issues left unresolved.

Gunderman, who knows all things construction, was quick to spring into action and assisted with getting estimates for repairs, and assured Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., that each job was performed by a reputable company who guaranteed the work. He soon developed a friendship with families he calls, “the poorest of the poor.”

“These are the pickers, the packers, and such, and they’re not represented – people we rely on to get our food,” said Gunderman, from a Bonita Springs farmworker migrant camp, where he also volunteers to deliver food to families who do not have cars.

During the Pandemic when many locations were closed, Gunderman realized while working to repair the damaged mobile homes from Hurricane Irma, there were also hungry people who did not have transportation to pick up food for their families during this health crisis. It was a one-two punch to the families who were now out of work due to the Pandemic.

Gunderman, who joined the Order of Malta several years ago, soon crossed paths with Rebecca Maddox, owner of Three60 Market in Naples, who was donating food to organizations during the Pandemic.

Gunderman quickly began donating money to the cause of food production by Three60 Market, and through Catholic Charities volunteering offered to drive to the farmworker migrant camps a few days a week across Southwest Florida to bring nutrition to the hungry.

In a video to promote Gunderman’s nomination, Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in Florida says Tim is “contagious” with his passion, and Catholic Charities CEO Philomena Periera says Tim sees the “Face of Jesus” in all he meets.

Gunderman has put in 1980 hours during this last year as a volunteer for Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc.

“I grew up in a modest home, Okay. We had one bathroom.  I’m healthy, my kids are educated, what more do we need,” said Gunderman, as he handed out sandwiches, chips, and Easter coloring books and crayons to the families who lined up to see him this day.  “If I have the opportunity, I can give back.  You know, how much money do you need?” Gunderman said, as he choked up.

Click here (https://vimeo.com/532460138) to view the full video of Tim Gunderman’s work for Volunteer of the Year for Catholic Charities USA.

News briefs for week of February 26, 2021

Verot artists shine in chalk

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School Art Club members participated in the Chalk Block contest on Feb. 5-6, 2021 on the waterfront in Fort Myers. More than 40 Lee County high school teams participated in the Chalk Block event which was sponsored by Lee Health and Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

 

Verot seniors Angela Hopkinson, Letitia Tiranayake-Siriwardena, and Rachelle Hartig won the Golisano Children’s Hospital “Sunny and Sparkle” award in addition to taking third place overall. Ainsleigh Ellis, Sophie Purdue, and MacKenzie Housler won a judge’s award for their sun garden. The theme this year was CommUNITY. The girls are currently considering making their chalk block design into a t-shirt that will raise money for art therapy programs at the Children’s Hospital.

 

Sarasota Charity Ball a success

The 2021 Sarasota Charity Ball was a huge success on Feb. 13 at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in downtown Sarasota. The proceeds from the event will benefit the programs of Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice in Sarasota and Manatee counties including the St. Martha Early Learning Center, Bethesda House, Our Mother’s House, North Port Family Haven and more, all which help to serve the needy in the area.

The elegant evening included a live auction and dinner catered by Michael’s on East and was chaired by Bridget Speiss.

Mooney student medals in State Weightlifting

Congratulations to Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School student McKayla Cantrell who medaled and finished 4th in the 2021 Class 1A Girls Weightlifting State Championship on Feb. 12, 2021 at Suwanee High School in Live Oak. Her combined lift was 305 pounds (165 pounds in the bench press and 140 in the clean and jerk). McKayla is Mooney’s first state medalist in this event.

Parish adds spiritual touch to food distribution

St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples are now partnering with St. Matthew’s House for a weekly food distribution. This outreach began in January and more than 400 families are coming by for food each week. In addition to giving food, the Parish Prayer Team provides something different to help the recipients connect to the Lord. For example, the team recently provided rosaries along with information in the Divine Mercy Devotion. As the team prays with their guests, they also learn if there are any other needs, such as rent or utilities, which are then addressed by the Parish St. Vincent DePaul Society.

Migrant Care Grants deadline Feb. 28

Grant requests for funding of 2021 projects from the Foundation for the Care of the Migrant Poor are available and need to be submitted no later than Feb. 28, 2021. To be considered by the Board of Directors for a Grant, the project must clearly be seen as a service to the migrant poor or new immigrants. Preference will be given to those projects under Catholic auspices. Applications can be submitted by going to the Foundation page on the Diocese website at https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/organizations/foundation-for-the-care-of-the-migrant-poor/.

Volunteers needed

The St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift stores in Bonita Springs and Naples are in need of more volunteers. If you feel you can help, please contact Samantha Maturo, Program/Volunteer Coordinator, at smaturo@svdpnaples.org or 239-775-2907 ext. 1014.

Safe Haven Sunday

Pornography is one of the leading causes of addictions, abuse, adultery, divorce, and even human trafficking: it is, in short, a pervasive evil inflicting grave wounds on our families. Pornography creates unsafe environments for children and confuses others about attitudes towards sex and marriage. It is a moral issue. For this reason, March 7 has been designated as Safe Haven Sunday in the Diocese of Venice. This day for awareness will give an opportunity to address the harmfulness of pornography in marriages, families, and culture, while providing helpful resources for all. Detailed information about the implementation of this program will be shared in the coming weeks through your Parishes. If you have any questions, please contact Carrie Harkey, Diocesan Coordinator of Family Life at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543.

Women’s Conference March 13

Registration is now open for the 2021 Women’s Conference on March 13, which will feature speakers Kimberly Hahn and Mary Ann Weisinger-Puig. The Conference will be held at Bishop Verot Catholic High School, 5598 Sunrise Drive, Fort Myers. The Conference is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (doors open at 8 a.m.) with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. Confession will be available all day. For more information or to register, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/adultconferences.

40 Days for Life now until Palm Sunday

Join other Christians from now through March 28, for the Spring 40 Days for Life campaign. This Campaign encompasses 40 days of prayer and fasting for an end to abortion. Stand and peacefully pray during vigils in the public right-of-way outside Planned Parenthood in Fort Myers or Sarasota. For more information, go to www.40daysforlife.com and click on the location nearest you.

News briefs for the week of Jan. 20, 2021

Students learn about St. Joseph

During this “Year of St. Joseph,” St. Ann Catholic School 8th grade Junior Catechists Mariana Franco and Jack McGovern taught 1st grade students to create a shrine for St. Joseph during the week dedicated to the Saint. This is part of the ongoing St. Joseph Devotional Project taking place at all Diocesan elementary schools. The “Year of St. Joseph” was established by Bishop Frank J. Dewane in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic on March 19, 2020 and will continue through Dec. 8, 2021 as directed by Pope Francis. St. Joseph is the Protector of the Universal Church.

Marriage Prep Retreats for 2021

The Diocese Office of Family Life is offering a “Day of Reflection” retreats for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage. A specially prepared volunteer team of married couples and a priest will share their experiences and information with the intention of enabling couples to be more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of marriage. The retreats in English are from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., April 17, Aug. 7 and Nov. 13, 2021. Retreats in Spanish are at the same time and will be March 6, Aug. 7 and Oct. 30. To register for the English retreats, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/marriage-preparation-retreat-2021 and to register for the Spanish retreat, please contact St. Jude Parish in Sarasota at 941-955-3934. For more information or to inquire about a virtual option contact Carrie Harkey at 941-484-9543 ext. 3019.

St. Joseph student takes second place in state soccer competition

Emmanuel, a student at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton took second place in the state for his age division in the Knights of Columbus State Soccer Challenge held on Jan. 16, 2021, in Melbourne. Emmanuel, and classmate Connor, won at local, regional and district levels of the Knights Soccer Challenge qualifying for the state events. Well done!

Institute provides Lenten offering

Spend this Lent growing in prayer! “Encountering God in Prayer: A Lenten Journey” is a theological and practical online course offered by the Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation. The course will guide you through the rich and beautiful teaching on personal prayer found in part four of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Short video lectures, online discussions, prayer exercises and other learning activities which constitute the class content. Students log in each week at times most convenient to them. The instructor, Dr. John Gresham, Executive Director of the Institute, has extensive experience teaching on prayer in courses, workshops, and retreats. The course runs from Ash Wednesday Feb. 17, 2021 to April 5. For more information visit the Institute website www.institute-dov.org, call 941-766-7334 or email john.gresham@institute-dov.org.

Updated times for Sunday Mass on radio in Spanish

St. Jude Parish in Sarasota broadcasts the Holy Mass in Spanish, celebrated by Father Celestino Gutierrez, every Sunday at 8 a.m. on radio station FM 99.1 and 10 a.m. on FM 105.3. We are grateful to the sponsors and SOLMART Media for their collaboration in this effort.

“Child’s Play” virtual fundraiser Feb. 25

Our Mother’s House, a program of Catholic Charities which provides housing and support for homeless mothers and their infant children, is having a virtual fundraiser titled “Child’s Play.” This night of interactive fun begins at 7 p.m., Feb. 25, 2021 with funds raised used to ensure that the mothers and their children receive the suport they need as they strive for self-sufficiency. For information about the event, contact Lisa Ventura at Lisa.Ventura@CatholicCharitiesDov.Org or 941-485-6264. A generous donor has offered to match all donations up to a total of $125,000. Please participate and help make a difference.

Projector installed in school Chapel

The Our Lady of the Angels Chapel at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples has a new addition of a projector courtesy of the Salesian Sisters Education Fund. Installed on Jan. 11, 2021, the projector allows the text and music for the Mass to be seen by all, removing the need to print worship aids for each Mass or prayer service.

Surviving divorce program beginning in February

A 12-week program called “Surviving Divorce … Hope and Healing for the Catholic Family” will begin Feb. 16, 2021 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice. There will be monthly group gatherings and weekly on-line Zoom meetings. Content includes internet access to a weekly video, group sharing and discussion. Participants will be provided assurance that they are not alone and a place to tell one’s story and be heard. The cost of the program is $25 and includes a Participant’s Workbook and access to all videos. For more information and to register, contact Bob and Chris Smialek at bobandchrissmialek@icloud.com or 815-275-5305

Naples Catholic School Virtual Gala Feb. 3

The Saint Ann School Foundation is hosting its annual Heart for Education Gala, which will be a virtual event on Feb. 3, 2021. The Foundation is dedicated to ensuring a faith-based education remains accessible to all families desiring it for their children, regardless of income. Many of our families have experienced great hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The need is greater now as more families have asked for additional scholarship funds. To register to receive a link to the Virtual Gala, please visit www.stann.net/gala or contact Pamela Macia at 239-262-4110 ext. 307 or foundation@stann.net or pamelamacia@gmail.com.

Cathedral School Gala April 16

The Epiphany Gala is one of our most successful fundraisers for Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School and will take place April 16, 2021 at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice. The Gala theme is the Amalfi Coast and features both live and silent auctions as well as a dinner and dancing. This year’s Shining Stars are Troy and Joyce Sacco. For more detail, please contact Leah Mihm at 941-615-0284 or mihm@ecstigers.com. Note, this event may become a Virtual Gala if conditions require.

2021 to be busy across Diocese

Opportunities abound for the faithful of the Diocese of Venice to grow closer to the Lord as the new year begins while continuing to deal with the impacts of the global COVID-19 Pandemic. A variety of larger Diocesan events are scheduled or in the planning stages while at the same time numerous Parishes are in the process of either completing or starting major construction work. Therefore, 2021 is sure to be an exciting year for Catholics across Southwest Florida.

In the coming months there will be the Ordination to the Priesthood of two men, a new initiative to curb the impacts of pornography on society, small and large conferences, Masses for couples celebrating significant wedding anniversaries, opportunities to promote the sanctity of life, celebrations of all sorts, as well as the continuation of the “Year of St. Joseph.”

With the blessing of Bishop Frank J. Dewane, such activities will take place throughout the Diocese as part of the continuing effort to emerge with a new purpose in the wake of the darkest days of the Pandemic. All of this will be done while following the guidelines of social distancing, face coverings and extensive sanitizing (cleaning) which continues to take place. These measures remain, not only to ensure the safety of the public attending Mass or other events, but for priests, staff and volunteers who serve throughout the Diocese.

Two of the most important occasions to grow in the Faith are the annual Women’s and Men’s Conferences at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. Each year captivating speakers help bring focus to the faith-life of participants. The Conferences are from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and include Mass with Bishop Dewane, Adoration, the chance for Confession, listening to presenters and enjoying lunch. The Men’s Conference is Feb. 20, 2021, while the Women’s Conference is March 13, 2021. For more information please contact the Office of Evangelization at evangelization@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543..

For all couples celebrating a significant wedding anniversary in 2021, Bishop Dewane will be the celebrant of Masses in your honor. This year, to allow for appropriate social distancing, each location will have two Masses, 10 a.m. and noon on Feb. 6, 2021, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice, and 10 a.m. and noon on March 6, 2021, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. All registration is being handled through local Parishes with seating commitments confirmed at least one week before the Mass you wish to attend.

The Office of Respect Life will be busy throughout 2021 with a variety of in-person and virtual activities all to raise awareness about important issues regarding the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. First up is the 23rd annual Sarasota Prayer Walk for Life on Jan. 22, 2021 outside of the Planned Parenthood in downtown Sarasota. Bishop Dewane will celebrate Mass at 8:30 a.m. at St. Martha Parish, and immediately following, participants will gather for the prayer walk. Space is limited for Mass, so registration is required at www.dioceseofvenice.org/2021prayerwalk. The Mass will be livestreamed through the Diocesan Facebook page and will be shared with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s 9 Days for Life campaign.

Two weeks later, Feb. 2-3, 2021, the faithful will be able to participate in the Virtual Catholic Days at the Capitol courtesy of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops at flaccb.org/cdac. Finally, there will be an opportunity to participate in the national 40 Days for Life Spring Campaign during Lent in Fort Myers and Sarasota then for the Fall Campaign (October) at multiple locations in the Diocese.

New this year, the Diocese will be participating in Safe Haven Sunday, March 7, 2021, to raise awareness about the harmfulness of pornography in the family and society. Pornography creates unsafe environments for children and confuses others about attitudes towards sex and marriage. It is a moral issue, therefore this day of awareness will explain the impacts pornography can have on marriages, families, and culture, while providing helpful resources for all. Detailed information will be shared with the faithful about how to combat this scourge in the week leading up to Safe Haven Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Diocese continues to be dedicated to celebrating the “Year of St. Joseph,” which began on March 19, 2020, the Feast of St. Joseph. The prayers of the Diocese, as directed by Bishop Dewane, are focused on the Saint who is the foster-father of Jesus and the Protector of the Universal Church. In light of Pope Francis recently dedicating a “Year of St. Joseph,” the Diocesan celebration will continue through December 8, 2021. A “Year of St. Joseph,” webpage (https://dioceseofvenice.org/a-year-of-st-joseph/) was added to the Diocesan website for prayers, devotions and general information. Meanwhile, the Diocesan Department of Catholic Education started a St. Joseph Devotional Project to promote a dedication to the Saint while at the same time developing a devotional life of both children and adults into 2021.

In the coming months, Bishop Dewane will preside over a variety of celebrations which occur each year, including the Rite of Election in February when Bishop Dewane welcomes those in RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) who will be fully entering the Church at the Easter Vigil, a Mass for Victims of Abuse, and later in the year a Veterans Day Mass, the 25th anniversary celebration of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center, a Red Mass for legal professionals and more. It is also expected that two men will be Ordained to the Priesthood by the Bishop in early summer.

Throughout 2021 there will be a variety of Parish-based celebrations to include the 50th Anniversary of the founding of San Marco Parish on March Island; the opening of a new church for St. Paul Parish in Arcadia; the completion of roof repairs for Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish in Bradenton; groundbreakings for Parish Centers at St. William Parish in Naples and Our Lady of Mercy in Boca Grande; the renovation of property that previously functioned churches into Parish Centers at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee and Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch; and the completion of extensive audio-visual upgrades to Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers. These are just samples of the ongoing projects and work underway to support Parishes as they take action now for the benefit of future generations.

As 2021 moves forward, check the Diocesan website (www.dioceseofvenice.org) frequently for information about these and other upcoming events. As always, check the weekly Florida Catholic e-Edition to read stories and view images from these and other happenings across the Diocese. If you would like to read the story about life in the Diocese during 2020, please visit www. https://dioceseofvenice.org/looking-back-on-turbulent-2020/.

 

News briefs for the week of Jan. 15, 2020

Fort Myers school installs new floors

Thanks to the contributions of generous donors, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers recently started implementing Phase 2 of its “Health and Safety Initiatives.” During the Christmas break carpet was replaced in seven Middle School classrooms, with laminate wood floors. In addition, the school added flexible classroom furniture which support collaborative learning within recommended social distancing parameters.

All-school Mass held for high schoolers in Fort Myers

The entire student body of Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers gathered for Mass in the Viking Stadium on Jan. 6, 2021, the Feast of the Epiphany. The outdoor Mass, with students sitting in the stands or on the football field, was the first time all students were able to gather together for Mass since the start of the Academic Year. Previous Masses had been divided by classes or grades, due to the need for social distancing. During the Mass, students took time to remember Joe Ilnitzki, an English teacher, who joined the faculty in the fall and died during the Christmas break.

Knights collect shoes and socks for homeless vets

The Knights of Columbus Council 11425 of St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers had a successful Shows and Socks for Homeless Veterans drive. This was the fourth such annual collection, which brought in more than 200 pairs of shoes and 500 pairs of socks and will be distributed to area agencies which support homeless veterans. Socks are one of most requested items for the homeless.

Students plant and maintain garden

Returning from Christmas vacation, second graders from Ms. Binky Ravazzoli’s class at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota worked hard on Jan. 6, 2021, assisting in the cleaning of the school Garden Beds and in planting new lettuce, beans, corn, carrots and rosemary. The fresh herbs and vegetables from the garden are eaten by the students throughout the year. The garden is also used as a hands-on learning tool to teach environmental awareness while having the responsibility of maintaining and later benefitting from their hard work.

Catholic Charities Ball Feb. 13

Please join us Feb. 13, 2021, for an elegant evening at one of Sarasota’s beautiful Jewels on the Bay, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. Bring your valentine to an elegant evening featuring exquisite cuisine and wine pairing by Michael’s on East. The beautiful and unique setting of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens reminds us that, despite this pandemic, we are surrounded by God’s majesty and Mother Nature’s glory. The event begins at 6 p.m. with cocktails. Tickets are $350 with a limit of 150 guests. For more information call 941-909-7817 or email hilles.hughes@catholiccharitiesdov.org.

Faith & Wine Lee County Virtual Event Jan. 21

Faith & Wine of Lee County will hold its next Virtual Zoom Event at 7 p.m., Jan. 21, 2021. The guest speaker is Kitty Cleveland on the topic “Beloved: Finding My Identity in Christ.” Registration is now open for this free event at faithandwineleecounty.com.

Dispensation

As Bishop Frank J. Dewane continues to listen to public health data and hear from Priests and Parishioners about the experiences at Diocesan Parishes, the dispensation given to attend Sunday Mass has been extended indefinitely. At the same time, Bishop Dewane invites the Catholic Faithful who are able, to return to their Parish for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Please check the Diocese of Venice website for any updates.

Livestreaming

The Diocese of Venice will continue livestreaming the Mass through the Diocese website (www.dioceseofvenice.org) and Facebook pages from the Catholic Center in Venice at 9:15 a.m. daily as the dispensation to attend Mass remains.

Act of Spiritual Communion

It has long been a Catholic understanding that when circumstances prevent one from receiving Holy Communion, it is possible to make an Act of Spiritual Communion which is a source of grace. Spiritual Communion means uniting one’s self in prayer with Christ’s sacrifice and worshiping Him in His Body and Blood.

The most common reason for making an Act of Spiritual Communion is when a person cannot attend Mass, as is the case during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Acts of Spiritual Communion increase our desire to receive sacramental Communion and help us avoid the sins that would make us unable to receive Holy Communion worthily.

For all who will not be able to receive the Holy Eucharist in person, consider this special prayer, an Act of Spiritual Communion:

My Jesus,
I believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,

and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there

and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.
Amen.

Online Resources

A special coronavirus webpage is located on the Diocese of Venice website at www.dioceseofvenice.org. Resources include links to the Mass, the prayer for an Act of the Spiritual Communion, videos of the Stations of the Cross, Divine Mercy Chaplet and Pray the Rosary. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website, www.usccb.org, also posts the daily Mass readings.

Parish donations

During this challenging time in the life and mission of the Diocese of Venice, our Parishes face increased risk of financial shortfalls due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and its effects on everyday life. Parishes depend on weekly financial gifts to continue their ministries, especially in this critical time of crisis. The Diocese of Venice is providing an online platform and encourages the Faithful to support their Parish. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/ways-to-give/parish-donations-online/ to donate to your Parish. The Faithful may also contribute through usual channels (e.g., envelopes, and through the Parish online giving option). Together we will navigate through this crisis, provide assistance to those in need, and secure the road ahead for the Parishes within the Diocese of Venice.

Looking back on turbulent 2020

Blessings and joy, which come with each New Year, offer the opportunity to reflect upon what has passed in the previous year with a new perspective.

While 2020 was filled with challenges, suffering and sadness from the impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic, it was also a time of amazing kindness, compassion and an opportunity for spiritual renewal as the faithful found new ways to grow closer to the Lord.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane guided the Diocese of Venice initially through the normal busy times of seasonal activities in the first two months of 2020 before quickly adapting to and addressing the changing realities of the Pandemic and its impact on the faithful for the balance of the year.

Parishes ceased operations temporarily and all reopened two months later under stringent health and safety guidelines. Livestreaming Masses, including with Bishop Dewane, became the norm and many are still available to this day.

The inability to gather physically Church impacted many, in particular the elderly, and efforts were made to reach out (via the mail, email, phone or socially distanced visits) to keep people connected. After Parishes were closed for public Mass on March 20, 2020, there were offerings of outdoor Sacrament of Reconciliation and Holy Communion, and, following the lead of Bishop Dewane, many offered a livestreamed Mass. The dispensation for the obligation to attend Sunday Mass for those who were ill, or fearful of illness, was extended into 2021.

While many events were cancelled during 2020, key Holy Week Masses were celebrated by Bishop Dewane and livestreamed from Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. Bishop Dewane expressed sadness of having these celebrations without the Faithful. In addition, many Diocesan offices, within their area of specialization, reached out with online programming and content which included prayers, devotions, links to information about saints and much more.

The nationwide shutdown threw many out of work creating a crisis, which Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. had never seen before, and responded with its full capacity. In addition to opening six emergency food pantries, Catholic Charities established hotlines to expedite the process of getting help (food, emergency funds or tele-mental health) for the community. From late March through December, Catholic Charities distributed more than 2 million pounds of food and helped more than 170,000 individuals. The generosity of the faithful shined forth during the crisis as requests for donations were answered.

When the restrictions caused by the Pandemic struck, the Diocese of Venice Prison Outreach quickly facilitated virtual access to Mass, which continued throughout the year. In addition, digital religious education programming and other materials on the teachings of the Catholic Church, were made available to prisoners statewide.

Following the lead of the State of Florida, Parishes reopened for public Mass on May 18, 2020. This was accomplished by implementing a variety of guidelines (social distancing, face coverings and extensive sanitizing) not only to ensure the safety of the public attending Mass, but for those priests, staff and volunteers who serve at the Parishes. All of those guidelines remain in effect.

Celebrations, which would have brought large crowds, together were held with all dignity and tradition respected while distancing precautions were taken. Included among these events were the Ordination to the Priesthood of Father Franckel Fils-Aime on June 27, 2020; the Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate for the Diocese of Venice of seven men on Aug. 15, 2020; and the Ordination to the Transitional Diaconate of Diocesan Seminarian Alexander Pince on Aug. 29, 2020.

Other liturgical celebrations by Bishop Dewane which were made available through a livestream included the Mass for Victims of Abuse, Veterans Day Mass, Red Mass for legal professionals and more.

The annual Diocesan Youth Rally was different from its usual gathering of nearly 2,000. On Nov. 14, 2020, about 100 gathered at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples to hear music, talks and then participate in Mass with Bishop Dewane. At the same time, youth joined virtually from 20 satellite locations across the Diocese.

Diocesan Catholic Schools closed for an extended Spring Break before classes resumed virtually in late March 2020 for the balance of the academic year as everyone adapted to the ever-changing situation.

All Diocesan Catholic Schools successfully reopened for the new 2020-2021 Academic Year in August to both in-classroom and online instruction, including a full slate of athletics. This was accomplished by using lessons learned in the spring, combined with the implementation of comprehensive health and safety protocols. The success of this effort is reflected in the reality that nearly 90 percent of all students are learning in the classroom.

Bishop Dewane declared a “Year of St. Joseph,” effective March 19, 2020, the Feast of St. Joseph, the Protector of the Universal Church. This happened to be the last day of public Masses before the temporary suspension. “Particularly in this time of uncertainty in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is appropriate to seek the intercessions of the saints for guidance and protection,” Bishop Dewane stated. It should be noted that Pope Francis declared a global “Year of St. Joseph” from Dec. 8, 2020 through Dec. 8, 2021. Considering this notice, Bishop Dewane extended the Diocesan year to conclude Dec. 8, 2021.

A “Year of St. Joseph,” page (https://dioceseofvenice.org/a-year-of-st-joseph/) was added to the Diocesan website so as to provide prayers, devotions and general information about the foster-father of Jesus. Meanwhile, in December 2020, the Diocesan Department of Catholic Education started a St. Joseph Devotional Project to promote a devotion to the saint while at the same time developing a devotional life of both children and adults.

Before the Pandemic, activities which took place as usual included: a Widows and Widowers Mass on Jan. 26, 2020; a Men’s Conference on Feb. 8, 2020; a Women’s Conference on Feb. 22, 2020; two Wedding Anniversary Masses in February; as well as a Prayer Walk for Life in January. Parish activities slowly restarted in August and have been adjusted to ensure the health and safety of all.

While 2020 brought great challenges to many, including to the Diocese of Venice, the Catholic Church remains strong and 2021 looks to be a time of celebration and hope.

Stay tuned to learn about the events of 2021 coming in the Jan. 15, 2021 edition of The Florida Catholic.

Celebrating Christmas during a Pandemic

The Christmas Season is a time to celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ and an opportunity to let the light of the Lord shine forth from within.

Celebrations abounded throughout the Diocese of Venice with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses bringing in the number of faithful not seen since before the start of the global COVID-19 Pandemic.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane recorded a Christmas Day Mass for broadcast on TV to the homebound and also offered a livestream Mass from the Catholic Canter in Venice on Christmas Day.

The message of Bishop Dewane was of hope, not only of the news that vaccines are being distributed, but the “hope that God gave us in sending His Son into the World. That is what we celebrate today… Allow Christ to be the light in your life.”

Aside from the decorated altars, behind the scenes it was the Faithful who magnified the light of Christ through their generosity in supporting those in the community who are less fortunate.

To reach as many children as possible, while still staying safe, St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston, distributed gifts during smaller celebrations throughout December. Each child also received a t-shirt with an image of Jesus embracing a child and the name of the Parish. In all, some 500 children received gifts.

At St. Jude Parish in Sarasota, Pastor Father Celestino Gutiérrez helped to distribute toys and food for 58 families at the Myakka Mission for Migrants brings smiles to the faces of 118 children.

Donors from across the Diocese brought holiday cheer to children at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, where gifts were distributed following an outdoor Nativity Play on Dec. 19, 2020. In addition to the gifts, the young children of the Parish also received jackets, donated by the Knights of Columbus from Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch.

Those in religious education classes at Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda, who usually visited nearby assisted living facilities, turned their disappointment into activities which included handmaking Christmas cards and creating gift bags for residents. The youth created videos of Christmas Carols that were shared with the residents and posted to social media.

Donations not only came from Parishes and the faithful, but from inspiring children who wanted to help kids like themselves.

For example, Renata, Milena and Tyler, along with their friends, all from the Vilano Community in Sarasota, pooled their lemonade stand money to buy necessities and donate them to the mothers at Our Mother’s House in Venice, a residential and support program of Catholic Charities which assists single mothers and their children who might otherwise be homeless.

One young girl from Fort Myers, 5-year-old Chandler Ciccarello, first went to friends and then went on social media to raise money so she could use the money, with the help of her mom, to buy gifts for area needy children. In the end, more than $4,000 was raised and gifts were purchased for 400 children and donated to Catholic Charities of Lee County. Originally the idea was to buy bicycles for children and enough was raised that all children who asked receive a bicycle for Christmas courtesy of Chandler.

These are but a few examples of the spirit of Christmas which spread across the Diocese of Venice this Holiday Season.

News briefs for the week of Jan. 4, 2021

“A Seminarian Story” fifth installment available

The Diocese of Venice in Florida Office of Vocations launched a video series titled, “A Seminarian Story,” to celebrate the 16 Seminarians currently in formation. The first four videos have been released and more will follow approximately every few weeks. The most recent video is about Seminarian Christian Chami who is doing formation at Pontifical North American College in Rome. Developed with the assistance of the Diocese Communications Department, the goal of the series is to inspire others to follow in the path to the priesthood or religious life, as well as encourage the faithful to continue to support the seminarians as they continue their formation process at different seminaries. “A Seminarian Story” featuring Christian Chami can be found at https://vimeo.com/443069438.

Sarasota Prayer Walk for Life

The 23rd annual Sarasota Prayer Walk for Life will be held on Jan. 22, 2021. The day begins with the 8:30 a.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane at St. Martha Parish, 200 N. Orange Ave. A shuttle bus will run after Mass until 3 p.m. to Planned Parenthood, 736 Central Avenue, where participants will circle the block in prayer for an end to abortion. An additional Parish Mass is available at noon. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, space is limited and advanced registration is required by Jan. 11, 2021, at www.dioceseofvenice.org/2021prayerwalk. The 8:30 a.m. Mass will be livestreamed as part of the national 9DaysforLife.com campaign at facebook.com/DioceseofVenice. Masks will be required. Questions? Contact Jeanne Berdeaux at Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068.

Time to Take Holiness Seriously with virtual class

Enjoyed the Catholic Mysticism series and want to go deeper? Or did you miss the opportunity to join us with our first series? You are welcome to join a 10-week Catholic book study on Catholic Spirituality using the book “Knowing the Love of God” by Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. Learn from this true spiritual master with a group of your peers and see how you can actually become a Saint and grow in your spiritual life (no matter the circumstances!). The sessions will be held virtually 10 a.m. each Tuesday beginning Jan. 12, 2021, and concluding March 16, 2021. Please contact Joshua Mazrin for more details at mazrin@dioceseofvenice.org.

Catholic Charities Ball Feb. 13

Please join us Feb. 13, 2021, for an elegant evening at one of Sarasota’s beautiful Jewels on the Bay, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. Bring your valentine to an elegant evening featuring exquisite cuisine and wine pairing event by Michael’s on East. The beautiful and unique setting of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens reminds us that, despite this pandemic, we are surrounded by God’s majesty and Mother Nature’s glory. The event begins at 6 p.m. with cocktails. Tickets are $350 with a limit of 150 guests. For more information call 941-909-7817 or email hilles.hughes@catholiccharitiesdov.org.

Our Mother’s House Child’s Play Virtual Event

Our Mother’s House is hosting a Virtual Fundraiser to support the mothers and babies we serve. Join us for a night of interactive fun in support of Our Mother’s House with wine, auction, and more at 7 p.m., Feb. 25, 2021. For information about the event, contact Lisa Ventura (941) 485-6264, email Lisa.Ventura@CatholicCharitiesDov.Org or visit https://ccdov.ejoinme.org/MyEvents/OurMothersHouse2021VirtualGala/tabid/1147646/Default.aspx.

Registration open for January Faith & Wine Lee County Virtual Event

Faith & Wine of Lee County will hold its next Virtual Zoom Event at 7 p.m., Jan. 21, 2021. The guest speaker is Kitty Cleveland on the topic “Beloved: Finding My Identity in Christ.” Registration is now open for this free event at faithandwineleecounty.com.

Virtual Catholic Days at the Capitol

Through the use of technology, Catholics will continue to bring their values and voices to Tallahassee to promote and protect human life and dignity. Register now to participate in the Feb. 2-3, 2021, virtual event to include a legislative briefing on key bills, a rosary with the Florida Bishops, an award presentation to a legislator, meetings with legislators and the Red Mass of the Holy Spirit.  Join us for all or any part of the event!  For details see flaccb.org/cdac or contact Jeanne Berdeaux at Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068.

Anniversary Masses

All couples celebrating 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, or more than 50 years of marriage are invited by Bishop Frank J. Dewane to an Anniversary Mass in their honor to be celebrated in two locations. This year, considering the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, each location will have two Masses to allow for appropriate social distancing. The Masses are 10:00 a.m. and noon on Feb. 6, 2021, Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., and 10:00 a.m. and noon, March 6, 2021, St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. All registration is being handled through your local Parish. Please reserve seats at least one week before the Mass you wish to attend.

Save the Date for Men’s and Women’s Conferences

Mark your calendars for the 2021 Men’s and Women’s Conferences which will be held at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. The Men’s Conference will be 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Saturday, February 20, and the Women’s Conference will be held 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Saturday, March 13. Stay tuned for registration details! Please contact the Office of Evangelization with any questions at evangelization@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543.

Safe Haven Sunday

Pornography is one of the leading causes of addictions, abuse, adultery, divorce, and even human trafficking: it is, in short, a pervasive evil inflicting grave wounds on our families. Pornography creates unsafe environments for children and confuses others about attitudes towards sex and marriage. It is a moral issue. For this reason, March 7, 2021, has been designated as Safe Haven Sunday in the Diocese of Venice. This day for awareness will give an opportunity to address the harmfulness of pornography in marriages, families, and culture, while providing helpful resources for all. Detailed information about the implementation of this program will be shared in the coming weeks through your Parishes. If you have any questions, please contact Carrie Harkey, Diocesan Coordinator of Family Life at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org.

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