News Briefs for the week of February 16, 2024

Large group goes to Catholic Days

More than 50 people from the Diocese of Venice, including Bishop Frank J. Dewane and two dozen Catholic school students, took part in Catholic Days at the Capitol in Tallahassee from Feb. 7 to Feb. 8, 2024. This is an annual opportunity for the faithful to voice opinions directly to lawmakers from Southwest Florida on key pieces of legislation which are under consideration during this session. Primary focus was on ensuring the continued limitation on access to abortion. The students from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota and Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers also met with lawmakers and received a tour of the State Capitol.

40 Days for Life opens in Fort Myers, Sarasota and Naples

Show your support for life by simply praying for an end to abortion on the public sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood throughout the Lenten Season until March 24, 2024. For details and flier go to www.40daysforlife.com (add /sarasota or /fortmyers or /naples for a direct link to the location near you). Questions? Contact Jeanne at 941-374-1068 or Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org.

Two Diocesan teams participate in Model UN conference

Teams from St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples and Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Sarasota were delegates to the 23rd Boston University Model United Nations Conference (BosMUN) Feb. 2 to Feb. 4, 2024. The Model UN is a three-day simulation of the United Nations hosted by Boston University for high school students. Jake Marks and Alessio Cirino, of Neumann, took home the prestigious title of Outstanding Delegates, showcasing their exceptional diplomatic skills and commitment to global problem-solving. Fellow delegates Hunter Lund and Kale Van Wart received Verbal Commendations. Congratulations to all the delegates who listened, engaged, and contributed to this wonderful conference of intelligent minds who hope to help guide the world to a better tomorrow.

Bishop welcomes priests, deacons to his home

Ahead of the Lenten Season, Bishop Frank J. Dewane hosted the priests of the Diocese of Venice to his home for a dinner and reception on Feb. 9, 2024. The next evening the Permanent Deacons of the Diocese visited with Bishop for their own dinner and reception. The evenings were intended to create an opportunity for the clergy to gather together in an relaxing atmosphere ahead of busy Lenten Season.

Vocation talk inspires

Sharing her vocations journey, Sister Juliana Alfonso, Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco, and teacher at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, inspired eighth grade girls during a vocation talk at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers. Sister Juliana spoke about her vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and encouraged the young girls to think about their own relationship with Christ. Sister offered tips about growing closer to the Lord through prayer, reading the Sacred Scriptures, participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and most importantly by being at Mass each Sunday. The girls found Sister Julian engaging and loved having her visit.

Knights on Bikes promotes its Diaper Ride

The Knights on Bikes, a motorcycle club of the Knights of Columbus, took part in the first-ever Diaper Ride to Thrive Pregnancy Clinic in Cape Coral on Feb. 10, 2024. In addition to bringing diapers, they also donated $500. Thrive is a maternity home (formerly known as Lifeline), that brings Christ to women who have chosen life, The Knights on Bikes mission is to promote and adhere to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, and evangelize through fellowship, charity, and service. For more information about the Knights on Bikes please contact Pete Battle at 239-601-6061 or email konbflvenice@gmail.com.

Scholarship application deadline approaching

The Catholic Community Foundation of Southwest Florida has opened the 2024-25 online scholarship applications. There are currently five different scholarships available from the Foundation. Applications close on Feb. 29, 2024. The majority of the scholarships are for residents of Sarasota County. These scholarships are for graduating seniors (class of 2023 or 2024), or for non-traditional students who have been out of school for 3+ years and wish to pursue a higher education. To find out which Catholic Community Foundation scholarship you qualify for, please visit www.ccfdioceseofvenice.org/scholarships.

Our Mother’s House Wine Tasting Feb. 29

All are invited to attend the Our Mother’s House Wine Tasting, 5:30 p.m., February 29, 2024, at the Venice Community Center, Venice, 326 Nokomis Ave. S. The event will benefit the mothers and children at Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. This is a 2-year transitional living program, dedicated to empowering single mothers and their young children. Tickets are $90. Register online at http://bidpal.net/2024omh. For more information, 941-485-6264 or email omh@catholiccharitiesdov.org.

News Briefs for February 9, 2024

Appointments

After broad consultation, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announces the following:

Father Joseph Binu, appointed as Parochial Vicar of St. Agnes Parish, Naples, effective January 19, 2024, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of Sacred Heart Parish, Bradenton.

Father Benjamin Casimir, appointed as Administrator of Jesus the Worker Parish, Fort Myers, effective February 5, 2024, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of St. Peter the Apostle Parish, Naples.

Order of Malta retreat

The Knights and Dames of Malta recently gathered in Naples for a retreat: a time of prayer, reflection and renewal. Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the opening Mass for the retreat at St. William Parish on Feb. 2, 2024, The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. During the Mass, the Bishop said that the message the Knights and Dames carry is one of preparing the way for the Lord. The Order of Malta is a lay religious order of the Catholic Church that seeks to glorify God by promoting the sanctification of each member through witness to the Catholic Faith and service to the sick and the poor. The retreat master was Msgr. Robert Dempsey of Chicago. The retreat is held ahead of Lent to help the Knights and Dames prepare spiritually for this important Liturgical Season.

Eucharistic Conference held at Ave Maria University

The Aquinas Center for Theological renewal and the Thomistic Institute hosted the “Thomas Aquinas and the Eucharist: Pathways to Revival” Conference from Feb. 1 to Feb. 3, 2024, at Ave Maria University. Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for the Conference on Feb. 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, in the Ave Maria Parish Church. Bishop Dewane praised the Conference organizers and the attendees for taking time to focus on the Holy Eucharist during the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year revival of devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist created by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The conference drew upon Saint Thomas for theological, spiritual, pastoral, and evangelistic pathways in the Eucharistic Revival. Concelebrating the Mass with Bishop Dewane was Archbishop Allen Vigneron, of Detroit, who was the conference keynote speaker.

40 Days for Life opens in Fort Myers, Sarasota and Naples

Show your support for life by simply praying for an end to abortion on the public sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood between Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, and March 24, 2024. For details and flier go to www.40daysforlife.com (add /sarasota or /fortmyers or /naples for a direct link to the location near you). Questions? Contact Jeanne at 941-374-1068 or Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org.

Theology on Tap Sarasota Feb. 15

Theology on Tap for young adults takes place on the third Thursday of each month at 7:00 p.m. at the Mandeville Beer Garden in Sarasota, 428 N. Lemon Ave, Sarasota. Join the gathering for food and refreshments, presentations, and discussions about the Catholic Faith. The next scheduled date is Feb. 15, 2024, and will feature Father Daniel Scanlan, Parochial Vicar at St. Thomas More Parish, Sarasota. The topic will be Lent. For any questions, please email Jim Gontis at gontis@dioceseofvenice.org.

Walk for the Poor Feb. 17 in Cape Coral

The St. Andrew Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) is hosting its 3rd Annual “Walk for the Poor” on Saturday, Feb 17, 2024, in the campus of St. Andrew Parish and Catholic School, 2628 Del Prado Blvd., Cape Coral. The event will begin at 10 a.m., and end at 1 p.m. The walk supports the outreach of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which answered 1,176 calls for assistance in 2023. Assistance includes food, transportation, clothing, household items, job resources, as well as financial support for prescriptions, housing and utilities. Anyone interested in walking or making a donation can visit https://go.rallyup.com/capesvdp, or contact Marlene Douglas at 239-772-3543.

Health Care Ethics Conference Feb. 17 in Bonita Springs

Medical professionals, students, and interested laypeople are invited to the first annual Converging Roads health care ethics conference on Feb. 17, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. This one-day conference will offer continuing education credits for health care professionals with presentations centered on the theme of Catholic Medicine in a Secular Society. For information, contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org, and to register, go to convergingroads.com/venice.

2024 Catholic Charities Ball Feb. 17 in Sarasota

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., invites all to the 2024 Catholic Charities Ball, 6 p.m., Feb. 17, 2024, at Michael’s On East Ballroom, 1212 S. East Ave., Sarasota. The theme is “Serving All,” and supports the programs of Catholic Charities in Sarasota and Manatee counties. This year also marks the launch of the new Long-term Recovery Program, which is actively helping families still recovering from Hurricane Ian and other natural disasters. Tickets are $400 a person. The evening will include a cocktail hour, live and silent auctions, fine dining, dancing, and live entertainment. Register at http://bidpal.net/ccb2024. For more information, 941-376-7845 or email ccball@catholiccharitiesdov.org.

 

 

News Briefs for the Week of February 2, 2024

Mooney runner named Florida Gatorade Player of the Year

Addison Dempsey, a senior at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, has been named the 2023-24 Gatorade Florida Girls Cross Country Player of the Year. Dempsey is the first Gatorade Florida Girls Cross Country Player of the Year to be chosen from Cardinal Mooney.  The award, announced Jan. 22, 2024, celebrates the nation’s top high school athletes for excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community.   The 5-foot-5 senior capped her 2023 campaign by racing to 18th place at the Foot Locker South Regional Championships, clocking a time of 17:39.22 as the state’s top finisher at the event. Dempsey established four new course records this past season, breaking the tape with a personal-best 5K time of 17:20.20 at the North Port XC Invitational. She won eight races during the fall and was Florida’s top finisher at the prestigious Adidas XC Challenge, where she took third.  She earned a bronze in the November Florida High School Athletic Association Girls Class 2A 5K. She earned a silver in the same event in 2022. A volunteer on behalf of the Boys and Girls Club, which assists local, underserved kids and provides them a safe environment, Dempsey has also donated her time as a coach at youth soccer camps and as part of running trail clean-up projects. Dempsey has maintained an impressive 3.88 GPA in the classroom.

School holds memorable night in the “Scottish Highlands”

The annual Celtic Ball, supporting St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, took place at the school on Jan. 27, 2024. The theme of the night was the “Scottish Highlands.” Bishop Frank J. Dewane applauded the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco who serve at St. John Neumann for their unfailing commitment to education and for the example they are for their students and the entire school community. Bishop Dewane also thanked the parents for entrusting their children’s education and future to St. John Neumann. The evening included a live and silent auction, and guests were provided with Scottish cloaks, while some men wore traditional kilts.

Mass honors law enforcement, fire fighters and first responders

To honor and remember the service of active, retired and fallen law enforcement officers, firefighters and first responders who offer their lives in service to the community to keep us all safe and well, St. Agnes Parish in Naples hosted the annual Blue Mass on Jan. 27, 2023. The opening procession was led by music from the Southwest Florida Guns ‘n Hoses Pipes ‘n Drums corps with bagpipes and drums, the Knights of Columbus Color Corps, and Columbiettes. Msgr. Steven P. Hurley, of Wilmington, Delaware, was the homilist for the Mass. He was a policeman in Maryland for eight years before following a vocation to the priesthood. After the Mass, each active and retired first responder present was asked to come forward to receive a token of appreciation. Law enforcement officials received a St. Michael the Archangel Medal, firefighters a St. Florian Medal, and a special medal was also presented for all other first responders. A barbeque, hosted by the Knights of Columbus, followed in the Parish Hall.

National Marriage Week, and World Marriage Day!

The observances of National Marriage Week from Feb. 7 -14, 2024, and World Marriage Day, Sunday, Feb. 11, are opportunities to focus on building a culture of life and love that begins with supporting and promoting marriage and the family. The theme for 2024 is “Love Beyond Words.”  For resources from the USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth to help celebrate and live the great gift of married life, please visit Celebrate National Marriage Week 2024 – For Your Marriage. Resources are available in both English and Spanish.

Health Care Ethics Conference Feb. 17

Medical professionals, students, and interested laypeople are invited to the first annual Converging Roads health care ethics conference on Feb. 17, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs! This one-day conference will offer continuing education credits for health care professionals with presentations centered on the theme of Catholic Medicine in a Secular Society. For information, contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org, and to register, go to convergingroads.com/venice.

2024 Catholic Charities Ball Feb. 17 in Sarasota

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., invites all to the 2024 Catholic Charities Ball, 6 p.m., Feb. 17, 2024, at Michael’s On East Ballroom, 1212 S. East Ave., Sarasota. The theme is “Serving All,” and supports the programs of Catholic Charities in Sarasota and Manatee counties. This year also marks the launch of the new Long-term Recovery Program, which is actively helping families still recovering from Hurricane Ian and other natural disasters. Tickets are $400 a person. The evening will include a cocktail hour, live and silent auctions, fine dining, dancing, and live entertainment. Register at http://bidpal.net/ccb2024. For more information, 941-376-7845 or email ccball@catholiccharitiesdov.org.

Few spots remain for Eucharistic Congress pilgrimage with Bishop

Join Bishop Frank J. Dewane on a Pilgrimage to the 10th National Eucharistic Congress. Only eight spots remain! This once-in-a-lifetime 5-day gathering will take place in Indianapolis July 17 – 21, 2024. The National Eucharistic Congress represents the culmination of the Church’s three-year effort to put an emphasis on the Real Presence of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Eucharistic.  It is a pivotal moment in the Church, and a unique opportunity for participants to draw into a deeper, more intimate relationship with Our Lord. For pilgrimage details, please visit https://ctscentral.rezmagic.com/Booking/Reservation/Start?tripID=5394&CategoryId=52540. Questions? Contact Carrie Harkey, harkey@dioceseofvenice.org.

 

Catholic Charities events support the needy

Now is the time of year that people are planning their busy seasonal social schedule, with lots of interesting choices, from evenings of elegance or just casual fun.

While choosing from the many opportunities Southwest Florida has to offer, consider these events for a chance to give back to the community. Proceeds go directly to help our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in need through the many programs of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc.

In most cases, the Catholic Charities galas are elegant black-tie affairs, but no matter what the attire, all of the proceeds will go directly to help those in the community where the event is held. This means that by buying a ticket you could help feed families, teach children to read or even prevent some from becoming homeless. Beginning in late January through March there are several chances to support Catholic Charities in an entertaining and unique way.

The Catholic Charities galas and events are of critical importance as they bring like-minded and faith-filled people together for a good cause.

“Catholic Charities does a wonderful job in providing programs that not only help in a crisis but assist in improving daily the lives of those they reach,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane. “The support of Catholic Charities by the faithful is vital to the community. Each gathering serves to help educate people about a critical need in the area, while at the same time offering everyone a chance to have fun.”

Throughout 2023, Catholic Charities assisted more than 335,000 people in need, providing a wide range of services throughout the 10-county Diocese of Venice.

Services included emergency assistance, food and housing assistance, counseling and mental health services, and programs for seniors and children. More than $3 million was distributed throughout the year to provide financial assistance to keep families housed and fed in the ongoing recovery from 2022’s Hurricane Ian. Overall, disaster relief has reached far more than 100,000, and the assistance has transitioned into long-term recovery.

Additionally, Catholic Charities offers programs that help struggling families and seniors avoid homelessness, by operating several affordable housing communities (for example, Our Mother’s House helps moms with young children, and Casa San Juan Bosco has housing for farmworker families and the elderly in Arcadia). To address the chronic problem of hunger in the area, more than 270,000 children and individuals were assisted at six food pantries as well as support at food pantries at area Parishes. Catholic Charities also provides direct assistance for victims of human trafficking, and offers after-school education, youth services, empowerment programs, as well as a pre-school.

The upcoming events will be centered on various themes and benefit either regional or specific programs of Catholic Charities. Many of the events will include a cocktail hour, live and silent auctions, fine dining, dancing, and live entertainment. The list of events is as follows:

  • Catholic Charities Ball, 6 p.m., Feb. 17, Michael’s On East Ballroom, 1212 S. East Ave., Sarasota. The theme is “Serving All,” and supports the programs of Catholic Charities in Sarasota and Manatee counties. This year also marks the launch of the new Long-term Recovery Program, which is actively helping families still recovering from Hurricane Ian and other natural disasters. Tickets are $400 a person. Register online at http://bidpal.net/ccb2024. For more information, 941-376-7845 or email ccball@catholiccharitiesdov.org.
  • Our Mother’s House Wine Tasting, Auction and Dinner Dance, 5:30 p.m., Feb. 29, Venice Community Center, Venice, 326 Nokomis Ave. S., Venice. The event will benefit the mothers and children at Our Mother’s House, a 2-year transitional living program located in the heart of Venice, is dedicated to empowering single mothers and their young children. Tickets are $90. Register online at http://bidpal.net/2024omh. For more information, 941-485-6264 or email omh@catholiccharitiesdov.org.
  • Venetian Charity Ball, 6 p.m., March 9, at St. Leo the Great Parish Hall, 28290 Beaumont Rd., Bonita is themed “Restoring Our Community.” This event supports the programs in Lee, Hendry, and Glades counties, the communities hardest hit by Hurricane Ian in 2022. Tickets are $250. Register online at http://bidpal.net/vb2024. For more information, call 239-334-4007 ext. 2100 or email VenetianBall@catholiccharitiesdov.org.
  • Emerald Ball, 5:30 p.m., March 14, at Ritz-Carlton Tiburon Golf Resort, 2600 Tiburon Dr., Naples. This event celebrates 40 years of Catholic Charities in Collier County. Tickets are $400. Register online at http://bidpal.net/eb2024. For more information, call 239-455-2655 or email emeraldball@catholiccharitiesdov.org.

 

For additional information about the good works of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org.

 

News Briefs for the week of January 12, 2024

Annual Mass held for circus and traveling show workers

Each year the circus and travelling show workers of the United States gather for three days to thank God for their continued blessings. This retreat was Jan. 5-7, 2024, at St. Martha Parish in downtown Sarasota, which is designated the “National Circus Parish.” The pastoral workers, who ensure that the Sacraments are available and maintained for travelling show people, function under the direction of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Cultural Diversity’s Subcommittee on the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers (PCMRT). Bishop Frank J. Dewane is the Episcopal Liaison for the Circus Ministry of the PCMRT. Bishop Dewane celebrated the closing Mass on Jan. 7, the Epiphany of the Lord, and he was assisted by several of the priests who serve the circus and traveling show workers. A special moment during the Mass occurred when Sister Joanna Okereke, a Handmaid of the Holy Child Jesus and assistant director of the PCMRT subcommittee, renewed her religious vows. This is done annually on the Epiphany of the Lord, and was presided over by Bishop Dewane, and witnessed by the faithful present.

9 Days for Life novena begins Jan. 16

The faithful are encouraged to pray “9 Days for Life,” an annual Respect Life novena starting Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. In the Catholic Church, a ‘novena’ consists of prayers over nine successive days, and this particular novena is an opportunity for prayer and reparation in observance of the annual Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children on Jan. 22. The overarching intention of the novena is the end to abortion. Each daily prayer intention highlights a related topic and is accompanied by a reflection, educational information, and suggested daily actions. Participants may access the novena and also subscribe to receive the daily prayers by email or text message in English at 9daysforlife.com or in Spanish at respectlife.org/9-dias-por-la-vida.

Migrant Care Grants application period open

Grant requests for funding of projects in 2024 are available from the Foundation for the Care of the Migrant Poor Fund and need to be submitted no later than Friday, March 31, 2024. To be considered 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 visiting https://www.grantinterface.com/Home/Logon?urlkey=ccfsf.

New mural adorns Verot building

Students returned back from Christmas break at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers on Jan. 8, 2024, and were greeted by a new sight on campus! Eric Riemenschneider, a graphic design teacher, was busy during the past few weeks working on a new mural outside, in the cafeteria courtyard. The mural reads VEROT in bold letters on a blue background. Within the letters are symbols of school life, hands clasped together in prayer, caps tossed at graduation, St. Francis de Sales and Bishop Verot, patrons of the school, athletes in action, and the school Viking logo. Above the VEROT image is a large white cross. The mural is not complete, weather delayed the progress, but judging by its look so far, it will inspire Bishop Verot students for years to come.

Prayer Walk for Life Jan. 20 in Ave Maria

The Respect Life Ministry of Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria is hosting its 3rd annual Prayer Walk for Life, 10 a.m., Jan. 20. The walk begins with remarks from Bishop Frank J. Dewane and other dignitaries at the university football stadium and will then proceed through the university and conclude in the town square. More than 1,000 took part in 2023.

Knights on Bikes deliver toys to Clewiston mission

The Knights on Bikes, a motorcycle club of the Knights of Columbus, rode out to Santa Rosa de Lima Mission in Montura Ranch Estates, just south of Clewiston, on Jan. 6, 2024, the Feast of the Epiphany. There they delivered and distributed toys to migrant children in the community.  The Knights on Bikes mission is to promote and adhere to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, and evangelize through fellowship, charity, and service.

WARNING – Text/Email 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 clergy – including Bishop Frank J. Dewane – or Parish/school staff, requesting donations in the form of gift cards and/or wire transfers. It is Diocesan policy that neither the Bishop, nor priests or staff request donations in the form of gift cards, PayPal, MoneyGram, etc. Without this awareness, some have responded to the spoofed messages, with consequences, including loss of funds. There is an established process in place on how parishioners can make donations and participate in the life of the Diocese/Parish/school. If you receive such a SCAM text or email, please immediately contact the Diocesan/Parish/school directly!

Christmas celebrated across Diocese

The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:10-14

Passed through generations, the retelling of the coming of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in such a humble way, born in a manger to reign over the world, should cause everyone to pause and reflect on the gifts of grace that have come to each one of us through His birth.

This pause and time of reflection is at the heart of what Christmas is all about. This moment was celebrated throughout the Diocese of Venice in a variety of ways, most significantly through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated a pre-recorded TV Mass for the Homebound from St. Bernard Parish in Holmes Beach. This hour-long Christmas Mass reaches thousands of those who are unable to attend Mass for a variety of reasons.

Bishop Dewane also celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Mass at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. At the Midnight Mass, the Bishop brought forth the Child Jesus and placed Him in the manger as “O Come All Ye Faithful” was sung.

During the Midnight Mass, Bishop Dewane reminded the faithful that we are all part of Salvation History, and as such, we are called to a life within the Church, a Church not like the Roman Empire of Jesus’ time, but the new Kingdom built for us all.

“We are part of a new Kingdom, which started in a humble manger, with the Baby Jesus dressed in swaddling clothes,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is a different type of Kingdom from the time of Caesar Augustus when the individual meant little. The new Kingdom was built for us all. Jesus Christ does care about each one of us.”

Because of this new Kingdom, which is the Church on earth, led by the successors of Peter, we each have an obligation and responsibility to stand and speak up for the Church, the Bishop said.

“Jesus Christ has built for us a Church, a home for you and for me, and for many of our brothers and sisters. We are blessed to receive the goodness of the Lord by the love we express to Him, by our presence and active participation as we live our lives within the Church; being a full member; going to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each week; and praying to the Lord. This is who we are all called to be,” Bishop Dewane said.

The manger, or Nativity scene, is a celebratory focus of the Christmas Season. Several Diocesan Parishes and each Catholic school took time to have a retelling of the birth of Jesus with young children and in some cases with live animals.

For example, St. Michael Parish in Wauchula held a living Nativity play on Dec. 17, 2024, included a donkey, horses and many angels and shepherds. This community celebration is organized by the religious sisters who serve the Parish, the Sister Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, and includes a festival and the distribution of gifts for the children in the area.

Epiphany Cathedral Parish in Venice and St. William Parish in Naples hosted meals for those in need, the homeless, and the lonely. Epiphany hosted a Christmas Day dinner in the Parish Hall. The St. William luncheon took place at the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., on Dec. 26, and was coordinated with nearby St. Peter the Apostle Parish and Catholic Charities. Many volunteers supported each effort, including Bishop Dewane who worked the serving line at the Cathedral dinner, bringing smiles to the faces of those who came for a hot meal.

Christmas is also a time to help others so donations for the needy were piled high and distributed. The most common form of collecting items for needy children is through an Angel Tree, where the ornaments are a wish list item for a child or family.

The Angel Tree at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Parrish brought in a massive number of toys of all types, as well as more than $4,000 in gift card donations.

In Naples, at St. Ann Parish, the annual Council of Catholic Women Family 2 Family Christmas Gift Giving Program was a huge success, as it is each year. The effort collected more than 600 gift bags filled with needed items and then were distributed to several local charities.

As was the case at each Parish, many gave from their heart and brought bags of items well beyond what was sought. Naturally, no donated item was turned away and it just meant more people were granted a Merry Christmas.

Catholic schools spent much of the month in preparation for Christmas with pageants, recitals, concerts, parties, and other fun, such as creating handmade presents for family members or building and decorating gingerbread houses. At the same time, the schools teach students the true meaning of Christmas, including needing to spread the love of Christ, that is in their hearts, out to the world.

Young carolers from schools throughout the Diocese visited nearby assisted living facilities to spread holiday cheer by singing Christmas carols.

In addition, each school has a service component where students do work, volunteer or obtain funds or gifts to give back to the community. This effort goes into high gear during the Christmas Season.

At St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, the students collected canned goods for the St. Joseph Food Pantry, and toys and other goodies for needy children in the area.

The Knights on Bikes, a motorcycle club of the Knights of Columbus, donated more than 300 unwrapped Christmas presents for the more than 100 children at the Golisano Childrens Hospital in Fort Myers. Following their drop-off, the Knights gathered around the flagpole in front of the hospital and prayed a rosary for the children.

The “Good News of great joy” was widely celebrated throughout the Diocese of Venice during the Christmas Season, which continues through Jan. 8, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This year, many of the Diocesan faithful thought not only of their own family and friends but also of others, especially those most in need.

News briefs for the week of January 5, 2024

High school club honors veterans

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School club Vikings for Heroes spent time helping the “Wreaths Across America” program on Dec. 14, 2023. This program took place at cemeteries across the entire nation, and the purpose was to “Remember the fallen. Honor those who serve. Teach the next generation the value of freedom.” Students spent the day decorating headstones at Fort Myers Memorial Gardens in preparation of the Christmas holiday. Vikings for Heroes is led by Pete Orsita, a military veteran himself who teaches science. Orsita’s passion to help other veterans is clear in how he has helped with outreach efforts such as “Wreaths Across America,” the Veteran’s Day assembly, and support for Honor Flights, which enables veterans to visit the memorials in Washington, D.C.

Boat building challenges robotics students

Congratulations to the ingenious 6th, 7th, and 8th grade robotics students at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Corel. On Dec. 21, 2023, the students embarked on an aluminum boat-building challenge, showcasing problem-solving skills, collaboration and creativity that left us in awe! Special kudos went to 7th graders, Ryder and Matias, whose boat sailed to victory, holding an impressive load of 50 pennies, an example of true innovation at work. The project was a testament to teamwork, critical thinking, and the sheer joy of hands-on learning. All 15 Diocese of Venice Catholic schools offer a comprehensive STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, art and math) learning model which is combined with the Diocesan curriculum called, “The Gifts of Christ: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Affability, Fortitude, Humility, and Prudence,” creating students equipped to succeed in the world of today.

Catholic Charities Annual Christmas Appeal needs your support!

The 22nd Annual Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal needs your support! The Christmas Appeal continues through the end of January 2024 and is Catholic Charities’ largest annual fundraiser, critical to operating this critical social service organization. Gifts provide funding for the many Catholic Charities programs and services available throughout Southwest Florida. Your generosity enables Catholic Charities to serve those seeking help all year long. To donate please visit https://catholiccharitiesdov.org/donate, or mail a contribution to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

Catholic Street Evangelization training in Naples

Interested in learning about Catholic Street Evangelization? Register now for the January 27 Saint Paul Street Evangelization (SPSE) training at St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Ave N, Naples.  Registration deadline is January 23. SPSE is supported and encouraged by Bishop Frank J. Dewane and is a response to the mandate of Jesus Christ to “preach the Gospel to all nations…” taking the Catholic Faith to the public square. The organization seeks to train others to witness effectively to the truth, beauty, and goodness of Jesus and His Church in a non-confrontational way. All Catholics who are 18 years of age and older are cordially invited to register. The daily Mass is at 8 a.m., and the workshops are from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. A “Live Lab” will follow. The cost is $15 per person and includes continental breakfast and lunch. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/2024-st-paul-street-evangelization to register. For other questions, please contact Jim Gontis at gontis@dioceseofvenice.org.

Volunteers Needed for Prison Outreach

Join the team of Diocesan volunteers who enter county jails and state prisons within the 10-county Diocese of Venice to do pastoral outreach, distribute the Eucharist and facilitate programs. Priests, Deacons, and lay volunteers are encouraged to assist in this ministry. Volunteers will first participate in an orientation program before entering the facility and will “shadow” experienced volunteers until they feel comfortable. Times and days vary by facility. Please contact Joe Mallof at 224-217-7139 or Bob Hiniker 863-558-0407 to learn where you can fit into this joyful opportunity.

 

News Briefs for the week of December 12, 2023

Haitian Independence Mass

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites all to participate in the Annual Mass celebrating the 220th Anniversary of Haitian Independence on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. The 1:30 p.m. Mass, which takes place on the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, brings together the various Haitian communities within the Diocese of Venice for one celebration. Bishop Dewane and priests serving the Haitian Catholic community of the Diocese welcome Most. Rev. Charles Peters Barthelus, Bishop of the Diocese of Port-de-Paix, who will be the Principal Celebrant and Homilist. There is a reception after the Mass in the Parish Hall. For more information, please contact Father Fritz Ligondé at 239-210-1018.

WARNING – Text/Email 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 clergy – including Bishop Frank J. Dewane – or Parish/school staff, requesting donations in the form of gift cards and/or wire transfers. These messages, which are more frequent during the Christmas Season, often come from text/emails that look similar to official Diocesan/Parish/school numbers or accounts and often greet the recipient by name and have the priest’s, Bishop’s, or staff member’s name in the “From” line and/or closing signature of the message. The SPAM often claims that the priest/Bishop/staff member is in need of gift cards or money to aid a sick child, relative, or parishioner. The message then asks the person to purchase gift cards/money and then to text/email the redemption code and PIN number. It is Diocesan policy that neither the Bishop, nor priests or staff request donations in the form of gift cards, PayPal, MoneyGram, etc. Without this awareness, some have responded to the spoofed messages, with consequences, including loss of funds. There is an established process in place on how parishioners can make donations and participate in the life of the Diocese, Parish, or school. If you receive such a SCAM text or email, please immediately contact the Diocesan/Parish/school directly!

Catholic Charities Annual Christmas Appeal needs your support!

The 22nd Annual Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal is underway and needs your support! The Christmas Appeal continues through January 2024 and is Catholic Charities’ largest annual fundraiser, critical to operating this social service organization. Gifts provide funding for the many Catholic Charities programs and services available throughout Southwest Florida. Your generosity enables Catholic Charities to serve those seeking help all year long. To donate please mail a contribution to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285, or visit https://catholiccharitiesdov.org/donate.

Christmas Luau in Naples

The staff and faculty of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples welcomed its generous 2022-23 donors to campus for a Christmas Luau on Dec. 13, 2023. From tiki torches to a roasted pig, the celebration in the school courtyard brought the magic of the islands to the celebration. Bishop Frank J. Dewane was present and gave the blessing and the Principal, Salesian Sister Patricia Roche, gave the State of the School address. Participants learned about the positive impact that their gifts have had on the school and the exciting news that the school is growing! The faculty and staff expressed their gratitude to those who were able to join them and to those who were unable to attend this year. There are already plans to do it again next year!

Midterm exam support offered in Sarasota and Fort Myers

The Senior Ministry Club of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota delivered hand-written notes to all freshmen on Dec. 14, 2023, wishing them good luck on their midterm exams. Along with the note came a “Smarties” candy. Meanwhile, at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, the student services faculty brought in furry friends on Dec. 15, to help alleviate the stress as students prepared for their exams. Petting a dog, or giving a few hugs, offered a break from the intensive studies and testing that takes place every year before the Christmas holiday break.

News Briefs for the week of December 15, 2023

Longtime immigration specialist retires from Catholic Charities

The staff of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., held their annual holiday party in Lee County at Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in Fort Myers on Dec. 8, 2023. During the celebration, time was taken to provide special recognition of Maria Rodriguez, the lead immigration specialist in Lee County. Rodriguez is retiring from Catholic Charities after 31 years of service. She started as an assistant with the organization and worked her way up to be a valued leader who helped assist families and individuals navigate their way through the immigration process. Rodriguez was presented with an award from Eddie Gloria, CEO of Catholic Charities, and Alex Olivares, Regional Director covering Lee, Hendry and Glades counties. Thank you, Maria, for your years of service and have a blessed and happy retirement.

Student takes cameras to the zoo

Photography class students at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers took a field trip to the Naples Zoo on Dec. 7, 2023. The goal of the trip was for the students to capture images of the various wildlife, as well as to allow them to practice the fundamentals of photography they have been learning all semester long, and really put their skills to work! The fun trip helped the students to show off their talents and develop their photography skills.

Bishop to speak at Theology on Tap Dec. 21

Each third Thursday of the month, young adults gather for faith, fellowship and fun at the Mandeville Beer Garden in Sarasota. Theology on Tap is presented by the Diocesan Office of Evangelization, and the Dec. 21, 2023, guest speaker will be Bishop Frank J. Dewane. The Mandeville Beer Garden is located at 428 N. Lemon, Ave., and the gathering begins at 7 p.m. For any questions, please email Jim Gontis at gontis@dioceseofvenice.org.

Televised Mass for the Homebound on Christmas Day

The televised Christmas Day Mass for the Homebound with Celebrant Bishop Frank J. Dewane will air for a full hour on Christmas Day. For viewers in the northern portions of the Diocese (DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Manatee, and Sarasota counties), the Mass will air at 8 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee counties), the Mass will air at 8 a.m. on WFTX-TV (FOX-4). Please check your cable provider for channel listings. The Mass will also be available on the Diocesan website at www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass. Leaflet missals are available upon request by calling Gail Ardy at 941-486-4714 or by writing: TV Mass, Diocese of Venice, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285. For more information email ardy@dioceseofvenice.org.

22nd Annual Christmas Appeal comes at critical time

“Providing Help, Creating Hope, Serving All!” – the mission statement of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc.

Catholic Charities continues to bring hope to families and people in need in Southwest Florida, thanks to the generosity of benefactors who support the many programs of Catholic Charities throughout the year.

Catholic Charities assisted more than 335,000 people in need, providing a wide range of services throughout the 10-county Diocese of Venice this year. Service included emergency assistance, food and housing assistance, counseling and mental health services, and programs for seniors and children. For example: $3,000,000 provided financial assistance to keep families housed and fed in the post-pandemic period and recovery; 1,000 families and seniors were provided housing assistance; disaster relief continued for more than 100,000 impacted by Hurricane Ian; 5,000 services were provided to victims of human trafficking; and more than 270,000 hungry children and individuals were assisted at numerous food pantries.

To enable Catholic Charities to continue to do its vital work, the 22nd Annual Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal is taking place now through January 2024. A donation strengthens Catholic Charities to provide this much-needed support.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane noted that the support of Catholic Charities by the faithful of Southwest Florida is inspiring and critical to ensure “our brothers and sisters in Christ continue to receive the help and support they need. Please remember that every number represents a child, family or individual who relied on the support of Catholic Charities to get through a crisis. Catholic Charities does a wonderful job in providing programs that not only help in a crisis but assist in improving daily the lives of those they reach. Your support is appreciated, and critical!”

In an appeal letter to supporters, Eddie Gloria, CEO of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, and Rita Cavuto, Chair of the Board of Directors, wrote, “This Christmas, help us to continue to bring the message of God’s hope. Your donation this Season holds the power to uplift the lives of people in need. Each person and family seeking assistance faces unique challenges. Your help allows Catholic Charities to develop the programs and services to meet these diverse needs.”

Perhaps the personal testimony of beneficiaries says it best:

 

  • Judith of Cape Coral, a victim of Hurricane Ian, said of Catholic Charities, “I was granted a place to live, and they helped me pay my bills and it was a tremendous blessing. May God continue to bless their heart and their mind and the good work that they’re doing for people. They helped me to put myself back on my feet.”

 

  • Nicolas of Naples said, “I was struggling financially with my health. I reached out to Catholic Charities, and they assisted me with a medical bill and a portion of my rent. I’m truly grateful for the help and can’t thank you enough.”

 

  • Alexa, a graduate of the Our Mother’s House program for homeless moms and their children, said, “Our Mother’s House provided me with the help I needed to get back on my feet and care for my son. Now I feel joy, and I am hopeful about the future – because now I have one.”

This is just a small sampling of the many positive outcomes Catholic Charities has been privileged to support during the past year and they are prepared for the possibilities of tomorrow because of donations to the annual Christmas Appeal.

To support the 22nd Annual Christmas Appeal, please mail a contribution to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285, or visit https://catholiccharitiesdov.org/donate.

“No matter the amount of your gift, when combined with others, it will make a significant difference for those who turn to us for help!” the appeal letter concluded.

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