Catholic Charities receives $100,000 grant

By Kirsten Pederson, Special to the Florida Catholic

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., has received a $100,000 grant as part of The Cigna Group Foundation Healthier Kids For Our Future® initiative to help support the organization’s youth mental health programs that provide school-based services for youth in Lee County public schools.

The Cigna Group Foundation’s Healthier Kids For Our Future program is a nationwide initiative that provides funding to non-profit organizations that are working to improve the health and well-being of children and families.

“We are thrilled to receive this grant from The Cigna Group Foundation,” said Eddie Gloria, Catholic Charities Chief Executive Officer. “This funding will allow us to expand our Youth Mental Health Services Program in Lee County public schools and provide much needed support to struggling young people in our community. We are committed to using this funding to make a meaningful impact in the lives of young, and with the support from The Cigna Group Foundation and other donors, Catholic Charities is able to provide licensed mental health counselors to offer onsite one-on-one counseling in respective Lee County public schools.”

Joe McNair, Catholic Charities Director of Behavioral Health, added, “This grant provides the funds to eliminate barriers to access care, care that many families need but cannot afford, and provides an innovative model to address the mental health needs of our youth.”

“Today’s youth are facing many challenges that impact their mental health,” said Bonnie Mann, program officer for The Cigna Group’s Healthier Kids For Our Future grant program. “By providing Lee County students access to much-needed services, we can put them on a path to thrive, not only during their school years but their entire lives. The skills they learn now will help them become healthy adults. We are excited to be a part of this great program.”

For more information on Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice, Inc., and its Youth Mental Health Services program, please contact Joe McNair at

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice, Inc., is a nonprofit founded in 1984 by the Diocese of Venice in Florida and serves as a resource to the community, offering assistance in the area of health and human services, food pantries, counseling, legal assistance, rapid re-housing, education, and disaster response. Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice serves 10 Southwest Florida counties, including Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Lee, Manatee, and Sarasota. The mission of Catholic Charities is to provide help, create hope, and serve all. For more information, visit

News Briefs for the week of June 30, 2023

Program helps incoming freshman in Fort Myers

Students in the first Bishop Verot Catholic High School LEAP program (Learning Enrichment Academic Program) of the summer finished on June 23, 2023, in Fort Myers. The two-week program is for incoming freshmen as they take part in a reading assignment (The Lord of the Flies) together and discuss it as a group each day. They even made their own bandanas (a key plot point in the dystopian novel). The program gives the new students a sample of high school life without the usual pressures of a full campus. A second LEAP session will take place in July and include a review of the novel Pygmalion. Another summer program includes the opportunity for upperclassmen and their parents to receive help with the college application process, including working on essays, collecting recommendations, or even filling out applications with Maria Barbato, Verot Director of School Counseling. This outreach to students is offered throughout the summer.

Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal

Every day, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., serves the area’s most vulnerable population by feeding, housing, empowering, and helping all in need. This summer, you can be the one that makes a difference. Your acts of kindness have the power to transform lives and leave a positive impact in our community. The Catholic Charities Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal is asking for your support. The giving is easy! Your gift will make a positive impact on our less fortunate brothers and sisters! Please visit or mail a check to Catholic Charities, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

OLPH needs volunteers

As Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice continues to recover from Hurricane Ian, volunteers are needed to assist in that effort. Projects include landscaping, assembling furniture and more. If you are interested in helping out and becoming a volunteer, please contact Dee Isabelle at, call 941-486-0233, or register at If you would like to assist financially, please visit

Free counseling services available

Did you know that Catholic Charities offers FREE counseling and Psychotherapy? If you or someone you know is ready to take the first step towards healing and wellness, call 888-249-9296. Catholic Charities serves ALL that come to us for help, regardless of race or religion.

Support pregnant mothers in need

Looking for a way to help pregnant women in need?  Your tax-deductible donation will help with rent, utilities, or other necessities.  Give to the Catholic Charities Pennies for Babies Fund, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285 where no administrative fees are taken from any donations. Questions?  Contact Jeanne Berdeaux, or 941-374-1068.


Summertime and the Giving is Easy – Support 2023 Catholic Charities Appeal

“Whoever cares for the poor lends to the Lord, who will pay back the sum in full.” Proverbs 19:17

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., changes lives through faith, hope, love, and goodwill. This is accomplished through more than 28 programs in locations throughout the 10-county Diocese. These programs annually support more than 100,000 individuals and families in ways both large and small, including feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. That number more than doubled in the past year due to the disaster response following Hurricane Ian.

A donation to support Catholic Charities is an opportunity for the faithful to make an immediate and positive impact on those in need throughout the Diocese, said Bishop Frank J. Dewane.

“The staff and volunteers of Catholic Charities are on the front lines every day working to spread the love of Christ to those in need,” Bishop Dewane said. “Everyone at Catholic Charities lives their motto: ‘Providing Help, Creating Hope, Serving All,’ with compassion and mercy. None of it would be possible without the generosity of the faithful in the Diocese of Venice.”

Catholic Charities CEO Eduardo Gloria said support for the “Summertime and the Giving is Easy” appeal offers the “opportunity to make a significant impact with a direct gift to children and families in need. This appeal comes at a time when Catholic Charities continues to help people recover from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Ian. Your generosity is deeply appreciated. Remember, no matter the amount of your gift, when combined with others, it will make a significant difference for those who turn to Catholic Charities in their time of need.”

What You Can Do

Step forward to support a child’s success. As a community, when we provide support to our youth, we significantly enhance their chances of developing into resilient and capable adults. By investing in their well-being and growth, we empower them to overcome challenges and thrive in their journey towards becoming strong individuals.

  • $6,500 provides 20 children a notebook computer.
  • $1,000 gives 10 children a backpack full of school supplies.
  • $500 provides a new twin mattress, frame and bedding for a child.
  • $250 supplies diapers, wipes, and hygiene supplies for a mother and child for one month.

Step up and give peace of mind. Catholic Charities strives to create a better tomorrow – a tomorrow where children and adults can experience hope, recovery, and wellness. Mental health counseling and life-skills classes offer the tools necessary to overcome challenges.

  • $6,400 provides life-skills classes for 22 moms for one year.
  • $2,800 allows a child mental health counseling for an entire school year.
  • $1,700 provides a homeless mom with 12 sessions of counseling.
  • $600 helps survivors of human trafficking with 2 months of mental health counseling.

Make a difference in ending homelessness. Homelessness is a complex problem that affects the entire community. Providing stable and permanent housing is the first crucial step towards assisting individuals and families in achieving better lives.

  • $10,000 helps maintain 5 transitional houses for homeless individuals and families.
  • $3,900 will house a disadvantaged mom and her baby for 2 months.
  • $1,250 houses a survivor of human trafficking for 1 month.

Help end hunger by giving. Food insecurity affects 1 in 5 children in Florida, but we can work together to make a difference by providing food to families, children, and seniors in our community. Let’s join to combat hunger and end food insecurity in our area.

  • $5,000 provides more than 2,000 hot meals at the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen.
  • $1,600 purchases a pallet of black beans feeding 500 families.
  • $750 provides 150 children weekend meals when school meals are not available.
  • $100 feeds a family of 4 for 2 weeks from a food pantry.

To support the “Summertime and the Giving is Easy” appeal at any donation level, please visit, or send a check to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285. For more information, please call 941-488-5581.

Service Locations

Arcadia, Boca Grande, Bonita Springs, Bradenton, Clewiston, Fort Myers, Immokalee, Naples, North Port, Palmetto, Port Charlotte, Sarasota, Venice and Wauchula

Programs & Services

Adult Education

Affordable Housing

After-School Programs

Anti-Human Trafficking Assistance

Case Management

Clothing Distribution

Counseling Services

Disaster Response and Recovery

Early Learning Centers

Career Development and Empowerment

English Classes

Farm Worker Housing

Financial Assistance

Food Assistance and Pantry

Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)

Housing for Vulnerable Populations

Homeless Prevention

Housing for Homeless Families

Immigration Services

Infant/Toddler Supplies


Residential Program for Mothers and Children

Senior Housing

Senior Services

Soup Kitchen

Summer Youth Program

Transitional Housing

Youth Mentoring Program




Service Retreat opens eyes of students

Instead of spending their first week of summer vacation at the beach or playing video games, a group of students from St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples put their classroom lessons to work when they participated in a weeklong Immokalee Service Retreat.

The group travelled about 40 minutes from their school to Immokalee, a short physical distance but it was a long spiritual journey that surprised many in how deeply it impacted them.

Each of the 21 students learned about the Collier County community that is home to many farms and food processing facilities and is also one of the poorest in the country.

Throughout the week of May 30-June 2, 2023, the students spent each day assisting at different outreach facilities such as Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities, Habitat for Humanity, the Pepper Ranch Preserve, Pathways Early Education Center of Immokalee, and the Guadalupe Center.


The annual service trip was organized and led by Sisters April Cabaccang and Nicole Daley, Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, both of whom are on the faculty at St. John Neumann. To start the week, they prayed each student would gain a renewed sense of Christian Service from their experience.

The theme for the week was based on a quote from Pope Francis to youth – “Young friends, don’t wait until tomorrow to contribute your energy, your audacity, and your creativity to changing our world. You are the NOW of God.”

The enthusiasm of the students to put Catholic Social Teaching into practice was reflected in the effort and care they put into each task they were assigned.

When the week began, the students were unsure how the retreat would impact them as most had never been to Immokalee or even heard of the plight of the people there.

Kale Van Wart needed service hours and had heard about what fun the week would be. The reality was a profound experience that impacted Kale more than he expected.

“I thought we would be doing more fun things, but I have really enjoyed doing the hard work,” Kale said. “Seeing how people live each day in such poverty makes you want to do more. I also realize we are making a small difference and that is important.”

Tasks throughout the week included students painting ceilings and picnic tables, clearing branches and shrubs, and picking up trash. Other times they served and sorted food, spent time with preschool children and more.

When not out working, the students stayed in a dormitory at Ave Maria University, just south of Immokalee. Each day included Mass at Ave Maria Parish, morning and evening prayer as well as time for reflections and the group sharing about their experiences. There was also time for some fun and games.

The students also heard from people who shared their knowledge about the needs of the community. One of the speakers was a Neumann graduate who attended the service week in 2019, and another was from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a group which fights for the right of farmworkers locally and nationwide.

When helping at Pathways Early Childhood Center the students learned that the lunch the children receive each day is likely the only food they will have access to all day. At Guadalupe Social Services, students helped in the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen and with the food pantry.

Anna Leigh Walker said the retreat helped her grow in her faith and in understanding the importance of giving back to the community in thanks for the gifts she has received in her life, provided by Christ.

“This week we have heard a lot about hardships and sad lifestyles that the population of Immokalee face. However, we have also been able to experience how many people come together to make all of these organizations happen,” Anna Leigh said.

St. John Neumann students volunteer thousands of hours each year throughout Collier County. The 2023 graduates completed 12,350 service hours in their four years.

Sister April said the week is much more than service hours earned and being with friends. “It is about developing a desire to serve others and that when we serve, we are serving Jesus in the people we encounter.”

For more information about St. John Neumann Catholic High School, please call 239-455-3044 or visit

News Briefs for the week of June 9, 2023

Students learn about how corporation operates

Members of the Bishop Verot Catholic High School Scholars Academy learned about color, fabric quality, lab testing, trends, concept design, visual merchandising, and technology while touring the Fort Myers campus of Chico’s headquarters in May 2023. These students had a front-row seat to see how a large clothing retail company operates, as the students learned how to connect their academic paths to future career opportunities.

STREAM summer camp in Bradenton

St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton is hosting a summer camp which focuses on learning STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math) skills. The first day of the camp was June 5, 2023, and activities included making morphing creations, enjoying books, and participating in “Math and Movement.”

Young adult outreach opportunity

St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers hosts a once a month gathering for young adults called Rooted, in the church at 4 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month (June 11, 2023). This includes praise and worship, along with Eucharistic Adoration. In addition, the outreach program is looking to expand it’s offerings to young adults, such as for college students, those 20-30, young adults who are married with/without children (children welcome), and older adults aged 30 years and up. If you are interested in helping to organize, lead, or participate in this effort, please contact Kelly Evers, St. John XXIII Coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, at or 239-561-3022.

Day of Reflection for Sacramental Marriage June 17

The Office of Marriage and Family Life will be hosting a Day of Reflection for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church on two separate dates. This day of reflection will be 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., June 17, 2023, at St. Katharine Drexel Parish, 1922 SW 20th Ave., Cape Coral. A specially prepared team will share their experiences and information enabling couples to be more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of marriage. The cost of $50/couple covers all retreat materials and lunch.  Pre-registration is required at Marriage Preparation Seminar 2023 (  Should you have questions or require additional information contact Carrie Harkey at 941-484-9543 ext. 4748, or

Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal

Every day, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., serves its most vulnerable population by feeding, housing, empowering, and helping all in need. This summer, you can be the one that makes a difference. Your acts of kindness have the power to transform lives and leave a positive impact in our community. The Catholic Charities Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal is asking for your support. The giving is easy! Your gift will make a positive impact on our less fortunate brothers and sisters! Please visit or mail a check to Catholic Charities, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

Ordination to the Priesthood July 15

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the faithful to the Ordination to the Priesthood of Transitional Deacons Alejandro Giraldo Roldan and Daniel Scanlan. The Ordination will take place at 11 a.m., Saturday, July 15, 2023, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this important event in the lives of Deacons Alejandro and Daniel as well as the Diocese of Venice. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall.

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 you 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 May 19, 2023

Neumann baseball reaches Final Four

For the first time since 1985, the St. John Neumann Catholic High School baseball team has reached the State Final Four. The Naples boys went on the road and defeated Canterbury of Fort Myers on May 15, 2023, to win the Class 2A-Region 3 championship. The Celtics (23-8) will face either St. Johns Country Day or Lakeland Christian on May 18 at the Lee County Sports Complex in Fort Myers. If they win, the State Championship game will be May 20. The team is led by first year coach Charlie Mauer. Congratulations and good luck!

Sarasota beach volleyball team falls in Final Four

The Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School girls beach volleyball team fell in the state Final Four on May 13, 2023, at the Florida State University Beach Volleyball Courts in Tallahassee. The Sarasota team was the fifth seed going into the tournament and won twice, including the quarterfinals, before falling in the semifinals to eventual state champions, top seeded New Smyrna Beach. The Cougars finished the season 24-2. On April 22, the team were crowned the Sunshine State Class AA Beach Volleyball champs for the second straight year, after having competed at the Game Point Event Center in Orlando. Great season Cougars!

Living Rosary held in Naples

On the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, May 13, 2023, faithful at St. Agnes Parish in Naples took part in a “Living Rosary,” where people stand in to represent the beads on a rosary. The event was organized by Karen O’Shea and prayers were given for Peace in the World and the life of pre-born babies.

Youth help clean Our Mother’s House

Youth from Epiphany Cathedral in Venice took time out on May 13, 2023, to do a service project at Our Mother’s House, a Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., residence program for moms and their babies, who might otherwise be homeless. The teens cleaned up the various properties, did some planting and much more. Great job everyone.

Sarasota cheer team wins at Nationals

The two Incarnation Catholic School cheer teams from Sarasota took first place on May 20, 2023, at the East Coast Cheerleading Grand Nationals Championship in Orlando. The “Littles” and “Older” girls wowed the judges. The teams put in endless hours of practice and their dedication and teamwork paid off. Congratulations!

Fort Myers e-sports team wins title

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School E-Sports Team won the Sunshine State Athletic Conference (SSAC) State E-Sports Rocket League Championship in Orlando on May 11, 2023. Rocket League is a high-energy, physics-based sports game that combines elements of soccer and demolition derby, requiring skillful maneuvering of vehicles to outscore opponents. The Fort Myers team competed against top-ranked schools from throughout Florida culminating in a dominant 4-0 victory over Master’s Academy in Orlando.

Construction projects shared with young students

Prekindergarten students at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota got a special treat on May 12, 2023, when they were invited to learn about different construction projects made by sixth-grade students in the class of Sister Cathy Bonfield, SSND. The older students showed off their amazing K’Nex creations (a rod and connection building system that incorporates battery-powered moving parts to create large designs), which included rollercoasters, cranes and much more. The sixth-grade students also shared how the creations move and operate, and about the building process, while the prekindergartners listened in rapt attention.

Money raised for homeless

St. Catherine Catholic School students in Sebring recently finished a “Penny War” contest, raising more than $1,200 for supplies for homeless children and families of Highlands County. These items were delivered on May 16, 2023, to the Kiwanis Club which is partnering on the purchase of shoes. The various personal care items were then packed by students before delivery.

Food pantry thanks community

The St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton was overwhelmed by the recent U.S. Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive and dozens of volunteers helped sort the food on May 13, 2023. St. Joseph Food Pantry is the primary food pantry in Manatee County and the Postal Carrier donation is a big help as the pantry is gearing up to help feed children throughout the summer as they are away from regular school meals. If you would like to help, please visit Donors can also bring food such as canned corn, canned green beans, 1lb box spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, boxed macaroni and cheese, cheese, cereal, as well as peanut butter and jelly to St. Joseph Food Pantry, 2704 33rd Ave W., Bradenton, FL 34205. The food pantry is open 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday. Volunteers are always welcome. For more information, call 941-756-3732 or email

Students learn about history visit Diocesan Eucharistic Memorial

Fifth grade students from St. Joseph Catholic School enjoyed a May 12, 2023, visit to the DeSoto National Memorial in Bradenton, where they learned about Florida history as well as Diocesan history. The students learned that Hernando DeSoto led an expedition of 10 ships and 620 men, including 12 priests, which landed near present-day Bradenton on May 25, 1539 (68 years before the founding of Jamestown). A Eucharist Memorial and Cross were built and dedicated by the Diocese of Venice in this location to commemorate this historical event.

Students learn about saints

Third-grade students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers took part in a special project called the Saints Wax Museum. This project included learning about the saints, doing research and making a presentation about their life, what acts led them to being named a saint, and much more. The culmination of the project was on May 11, 2023. The students dressed as their saint and stood behind a table, which had a display with the biographical information about the saint, and they had to be prepared to talk about the saint as students from other grades (and later parents) came by to ask them questions. This was a fun and immersive way for all of the students to learn about saints.

Day of Reflection for Sacramental Marriage

The Office of Marriage and Family Life will be hosting a Day of Reflection for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church on two separate dates. A specially prepared team will share their experiences and information enabling couples to be more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of marriage.  The first event will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., June 17 at St. Katharine Drexel Parish, 1922 SW 20th Avenue, Cape Coral. The cost of $50/couple covers all retreat materials and lunch. Pre-registration is required at Marriage Preparation Seminar 2023 ( Should you have questions or require additional information contact Carrie Harkey at or 941-484-9543 ext. 4748.

Emerald Ball dazzles

The 39th Annual Emerald Ball was a great success! Held on March 16, 2023, at the Ritz Carlton Tiburon in Naples, proceeds from the elegant evening will go to support the many programs of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., in Collier County.

The annual event was forced to relocate from the Ritz Beach Resort due to the impacts of Hurricane Ian. The hurricane was on the minds of many as the community continues to recover from the storm which flooded coastal areas and wreaked havoc in the area.


The enthusiastic crowd was dressed in elegant eveningwear and the Ball included fine dining, lots of dancing, upbeat music, and a spirited live auction with the “Gift from the Heart” bringing in many enthusiastic bidders. The theme, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin,” was inspired by a quote from St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta.


Peggy Rodriguez, District Director, welcomed everyone to the evening and explained the different outreach work Catholic Charities is doing and continues to do for the community daily.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane presented the James A. McTague Humanitarian Award to Richard and Josephine (Dick and Jo) Rogan. The Rogan’s are active at St. Peter the Apostle Parish and volunteer in many different capacities. Dick has served as a member of the Catholic Charities Collier County Advisory Board and is past Chairman of the Catholic Charities Board. After Hurricane Irma in 2017, he helped mobilize and lead more than 300 volunteers to assist with relief efforts distributing food and water to more than 25,000 people.


Programs supported by the Ball include the Judy Sullivan Family Resources Center, Family Counseling Center, Golden Gate Senior Center, and Guadalupe Social Services, each offering a variety of targeted outreaches to help those in need.


Barbara L. Siniscalchi served as chair of the Emerald Ball Committee with the support of many co-chairs. Bishop Frank J. Dewane offered the opening invocation and presented the McTague Humanitarian Award.


If you would like to support the programs of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., please visit


Two events benefit Catholic Charities

The programs of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., in Lee County received tremendous support during two recent elegant evenings.

First up was the Venetian Ball on March 4, 2023, at St. Leo the Great Parish Hall in Bonita Springs. Proceeds from the evening benefit the programs of Lee, Glades, and Hendry counties, with particular focus on disaster recovery.

Just two days later, on March 6, The Beach Ball took place at The Gasparilla Inn Beach Club on Boca Grande. This event supports the Boca Grande Preschool, operated by Catholic Charities, sustained serious damage during Ian.

The Venetian Ball theme was “Resilience, Rebuilding, and Community” and served as an opportunity to come together as a community to support and partner with Catholic Charities to serve the many survivors of Hurricane Ian; to celebrate survival and helping of one’s neighbor. The event itself was directly impacted by Ian, as the original venue was damaged, forcing a date and location change. The Pastor and staff of St. Leo the Great stepped up to be the hosts for the event.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane praised the staff, volunteers, and benefactors of Catholic Charities for coming together in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

“Catholic Charities accomplished a tremendous amount and did a great deal of work,” Bishop Dewane said.

The 100 staff and hundreds of volunteers of Catholic Charities set up 10 distribution sites, with the help of the Parishes, where water, food and needed supplies were distributed to more than 110,000 people during the span of two months.

“That is an incredible achievement for a group of our size,” Eddie Gloria, Catholic Charities CEO said. “The work done each day is not always pretty or seen on the news, but the work makes a difference.”

Gloria explained how Catholic Charities is transitioning from emergency disaster relief to long-term disaster case management. Up to 40 case managers will work for years helping the many people in need. And the need is great, as within the 10-county Diocese of Venice territory more than 400,000 applications for FEMA assistance have been made.

“There is a lot of work ahead of us,” Gloria said.

The Frank K. Galeana Humanitarian Award was posthumously awarded to Louis J. Baumer II, the first development director of Catholic Charities, founder of the Boots & Bandanas event in Arcadia and the Samaritan Guild, who also served as executive director of the Catholic Charities Foundation and regular volunteer. Baumer passed away in November 2022. His widow was unable to attend the event, so the award was accepted by longtime friend Gerrie Weaver.

Meanwhile, The Beach Ball was an evening of dining and dancing under the stars. The Boca Grande Preschool is on the campus of Our Lady of Mercy Parish on Boca Grande. The roof of the school ripped apart, allowing rainwater to pour in and cause additional damage.

The preschool was founded in 1988 for island residents in need of childcare which grew into a formal preschool providing early education opportunities for children (12 months to pre-kindergarten) whose parents work or live on Gasparilla Island in the Boca Grande community. Father Jerome Carosella, Our Lady of Mercy Pastor, has been instrumental in the development and growth of the program through the years and offered his gratitude for the continuing and generous support of the people of Boca Grande. The guests of honor for The Beach Ball were Sarah and Will Farish.

If you would like to support Catholic Charites or learn about their outreach throughout the Diocese of Venice, please visit

News Briefs for the week of March 10, 2023

St. Patrick’s Day Dispensation

With St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Friday (March 17) during the Lenten Season, Bishop Frank J. Dewane is granting a one-day dispensation of abstaining from meat on that Friday alone. The Faithful are encouraged to choose another day in the same week to abstain from meat and to perform some other penance or work of charity on March 17 to assist in their spiritual Lenten journey. Abstinence from meat is to be observed by all Catholics who are 14 years of age or older. Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent (including Good Friday) are days of abstinence. Fasting, almsgiving, and prayer are the three traditional disciplines of Lent.

Seminarian receives Ministry of Acolyte

Diocese of Venice Seminarian, Joseph Corboy Doherty was one of 19 seminarians to enter into the Ministry of Acolyte on March 5, 2023, in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at the Pontifical North American College, Vatican City State. Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre of Louisville was the main celebrant and spoke the following words as he handed the paten to each candidate: “Take this vessel with bread for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of his Church.” In his homily, Archbishop Fabre encouraged the seminarians, saying, “The ministry of an acolyte has a special connection to the altar and to the Eucharist. It is the duty of the acolyte to assist in serving the altar during liturgical celebrations and to attend to the Eucharist in certain functions and capacities. This is certainly an important ministry since it involves service to some of the most important elements of our Catholic faith, if not the most central element.” Representing the Diocese of Venice were Father Christian Chami and Transitional Deacon Daniel Scanlan.

Verot send two to state wrestling championships

The first ever wrestling state qualifiers from Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers competed in the State Championships on March 3-4, 2023, in Kissimmee. Gabriella Vasquez, who wrestles at 105 pounds, and became the first female wrestler in Verot history to make states, placed third in the regionals on Feb. 21. At the state competition, Gabby fell in the first round and was injured and unable to finish in the consolation round of the double-elimination tournament. The second Verot wrestler to make states is Jack Benaitis who won the regionals to qualify for the 1A 285 competition.  Jack won his open match, but fell in the second round, and again in the consolation round. These two worked hard all season long to earn a spot in the state championships, and Verot couldn’t be prouder!

Medical professionals meet with Bishop

The leadership of the Southwest Florida Guild of the Catholic Medical Association met with Bishop Frank J. Dewane on March 2, 2023, at the Catholic Center in Venice. The group provided Bishop Dewane with their annual report on their latest activities, including plans for a Catholic medical educational seminar in the fall.

Support children this Easter

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice, Inc. in Arcadia is seeking help in giving the gift of an Easter Basket for children of Casa San Juan Bosco farmworkers housing, local families, and migrant farm workers. Supporters can donate Easter Basket supplies, gift cards, or check to help the program bless children this Easter! Drop off or deliver items ordered online to Catholic Charities, 1210 East Oak St., Arcadia, FL 34266, by April 5.

First graders show off reading skills

First graders at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral showed off their reading skills in February by completing 225 books in one month. Laurie Pistorio’s students were recognized for their hard work on March 6, 2023. Well done young readers!!

Verot grad returns to Jeopardy!  

Claire Sattler, a Bishop Verot Catholic High School 2019 graduate, recently joined 27 former teen Jeopardy! contestants as they faced off in the Jeopardy! High School Reunion Tournament. The players competed for a $100,000 grand prize and a spot in the next Tournament of Champions. Sattler, now a senior at Yale University, won the 2018 Teen Tournament of Champions. In the opening quarterfinal round, which aired Feb. 27, 2023, Sattler was able to secure her win in the Final Jeopardy round because of a research paper topic that was given to her by her freshman English teacher – Lynn Chervenok Knox. In honor of her former teacher, Sattler drew a smiley face next to the winning question and wrote, “Thanks, Mrs. Knox!” With her victory, the native of Bonita Springs next appeared in the semifinals on March 6. Sattler, who had been in the lead with $8,600 going into Final Jeopardy. All three contestants failed to get the correct solution, so when Sattler bet $8,201, and dropped to $399, she ended up in third place. Well done as she continues to proudly represent Bishop Verot.

High schoolers pray “Living Rosary”

On March 3, 2023, the Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School community gathered in the gymnasium to pray the “Living Rosary,” led by Father Eric Scanlan, Mooney Chaplain and Pastor of Incarnation Parish in Sarasota. During the “Living Rosary,” students stood in the form of a rosary, each standing for a bead, with each class represented in a decade, including one in Spanish. This beautiful prayer was brought to life by involving everyone – body and soul.

Grandparents recognized in Ave Maria

Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria took time on March 3, 2023, to recognize grandparents with a special day. This event included a delicious breakfast, talk from principal Dr. Daniel Guernsey, high school choir performance, Mass with grandkids, Eucharistic Adoration, and classroom visits. Whew! See more in our stories today.

Field Day fun at Cathedral school

A day filled with indoor and outdoor fun made for a great field day on March 3, 2023, at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice. There were many different games and contests between individual students, between different classrooms and even between different grades. A great time was had by all.

Fort Myers students learn about Everglades

The Environmental Studies classes at Bishop Verot Catholic High School have been working on a course component with the Florida Everglades Foundation. Students recreated a diagram of the Everglades to show the impact of water levels and what we, as humans, are doing to the surrounding environment. The foundation’s mission is to work to restore and protect America’s Everglades through science, advocacy & education.

Program for young mothers gets needed support

Helping mothers who might otherwise be homeless become self-sufficient and productive members of the community is what Our Mother’s House is all about.

The annual Wine Tasting, Auction & Dinner event to benefit Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., was held Feb. 23, 2022, at the Venice Community Center in Venice.

Hundreds showed their support for the program. Attendees made bids on silent auction items and an enthusiastic live auction, plus donations made during a “Gift from the Heart” appeal.

Shannon Hoyt, the new Program Director for Our Mother’s House, said that after more than three decades, the program keeps getting better at promoting self-sufficiency and pushing young mothers towards independence.

Hoyt said that when young mothers face homelessness, the impact is greater than many realize, including on an emotional and behavioral level. In addition, the young child feels what their mom is going through.

“Your support of Our Mother’s House is having an impact,” Hoyt said. “These are generational effects. You are impacting the lives of moms who will go on and do great things, thanks to your support tonight and throughout the year.”

Jessie, a mom in the program, shared her story of overcoming addiction and despair, and finding Our Mother’s House which helped turn her life around.

“I found myself in the grasp of addiction – homeless, hopeless, and unable to escape the endless routine of self-destruction,” Jessie said. “I was lost and didn’t know how to move forward with my life. Not until I was unapologetically pushed, encouraged and sometimes even harassed to change the circumstances that I was in.”

Jessie wanted to be clean and the best version of herself, but it wasn’t until she became pregnant and heeded the advice of a friend that she went into a rehab program. It was there that she gave birth to a healthy daughter and was connected with the people at Our Mother’s House.

Although overwhelmed with being a single mother, the staff and volunteers at Our Mother’s House provided Jessie with the opportunities to set goals and to work towards them. That included offering her education about how to be a single mother and be successful.

“I never knew such a place existed. It was just what we needed,” Jessie said. “I’m truly becoming the woman I was supposed to be. (Our Mother’s House) gave me my sense of self; gave me my future back; and gave me the ability, as a mother, to secure and build a positive future.”

The 2023 event to support Our Mother’s House was the first full gathering since the pandemic. In 2022, a hybrid event included an in-person aspect, as well as a livestream for those unable to attend. The 2021 event was entirely virtual.

In addition to financial support, the program is in need of diapers, baby wipes and other supplies. For more information about Our Mother’s House or to help, please call 941-485-6264 or email You can also visit to donate or find the Wish List.