Catholic Days at The Capitol: A Sea of Red Blankets Tallahassee

Karen Barry Schwarz – Special to the Florida Catholic

Each year, Catholics from across the state gather in Tallahassee to participate in Catholic Days at the Capitol. This two-day event provides an opportunity for the Faithful to put a call to political responsibility into action and to strengthen the presence of Catholic values in the public square.

This year, Catholic Days at the Capitol took place March 7 and 8, 2023, with almost 300 of the faithful traveling to the Capitol in Tallahassee, most of them wearing red as is tradition, including 68 from the Diocese of Venice.


“This number of people traveling from the Diocese of Venice to the Capitol for Catholic Days is an all-time high – a 20-plus year record for us,” said Jeanne Berdeaux, the Diocese of Venice Respect Life Director. “We’re especially excited to have had 38 high school students with us this trip!”

The trip has been organized and led by Berdeaux for the past two decades. The group travelled by bus to Tallahassee. In addition to 30 adults, 38 students represented Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, and Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria.


Berdeaux spends months in advance planning the trip, making appointments with legislators for the faithful to discuss the key issues of importance to Catholics, according to direction provided by Bishop Frank J. Dewane and the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops. The goal is to ensure that legislators know the Church’s position on several key issues and, ideally, to convince them to support (or oppose) certain bills.

This year, there were three bills on the agenda, addressing issues of abortion, education, and the death penalty. The faithful asked legislators for their support of the proposed abortion and education bills, and to oppose the current bill addressing the death penalty. Specifically, Catholics want legislators to:

  • Support provisions that prohibit abortion after detection of a heartbeat. (While this bill does not end abortion in Florida, it limits its harm and is a significant improvement over current law.)
  • Expand access to state scholarship programs for all students and convert state scholarships to educational savings accounts. (Parents should have the option to choose the educational environment that best meets the needs of their children.)
  • Retain the unanimous jury requirement to impose a death sentence, rather than go to a majority requirement. (If Florida is going to retain the death penalty, our state should preserve the highest standard possible to recommend the most severe penalty society can impose.)


Bishop Gregory L. Parkes, Diocese of St. Petersburg, welcomed the group to Catholic Days at the Capitol, reminding the faithful that participating in the legislative process, including advocacy, is not only a right but a responsibility.


Bishop Dewane addressed the group just before they attended their legislative meetings, sending them off with a prayer: “God Almighty our Heavenly Father, we are grateful that you have brought us together this day… We ask you particularly to give us the courage this day as we go forward. Courage to speak up, courage to listen to those with whom we dialogue, but also the strongest insight, the intellect, to respond in a caring and a giving – in Your way – to the threat that we sometimes hear against life.”


A 10th grader from Cardinal Mooney expressed his enthusiasm for the trip felt by many of the high schoolers, “We’re here to fight for the rights of unborn children, and for the preservation of life as Catholics understand it; the death penalty, or abortion . . . so many people suffer from the effects of it. It does more harm than good in our society. That’s what Catholics are really advocating for.”


Other Diocese of Venice students added their excitement, explaining the purpose of the trip: “We’re here to learn about the issues that are facing Florida right now!” “We’re here to become future leaders of our generation!” “We’re here to make a Catholic presence at the capitol!”


Catholic Days at the Capitol concluded with the Annual Red Mass of the Holy Spirit at the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More, concelebrated by all the Bishops of Florida to pray for those working in the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government.  Bishop Erik Pohlmeier, Diocese of St. Augustine and the most recently appointed Bishop in the state, delivered the homily. In addition to Faithful from across the state, several legislators were in attendance.


Catholics are asked to wear red to Catholic Days at the Capitol, and to the Mass, as the color red is said to invoke the Holy Spirit.


To get involved in Catholic Days at The Capitol in the Diocese of Venice next year, contact Jeanne Berdeaux at 941-441-1101, or To learn more about the legislative issues of concern to Catholics, connect with The Florida Catholic Advocacy (FLCAN), an online community established by the Bishops of Florida to connect, educate, and mobilize Catholics across Florida’s seven dioceses. Get alerts from FLCAN by signing up at, or to receive alerts via text message, simply text FLCAN to 50457.

Opportunities to stand witness for Life

The listing below are events planned with the Diocese of Venice during the coming months to help promote a Pro-Life culture.

Catholic Days at the Capitol

The Diocese of Venice is organizing a trip to the annual Catholic Days at the Capitol in Tallahassee from March 7-9, 2023. The three-day trip joins faithful from across Florida and includes a legislative briefing on important bills relating to human life and dignity, a breakfast with legislators and the Florida Bishops, tours of the capitol and museum, scheduled visits with legislators and the annual Red Mass of the Holy Spirit with the Florida Bishops and public officials. Bus transportation is provided at no cost as long as space is available. Register by Feb. 6 at For further details contact Jeanne Berdeaux at 941-374-1068 or

Sarasota Prayer Walk for Life

The 25th Annual Sarasota Prayer Walk for Life is Feb. 7. The event begins with the 8:30 a.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane at St. Martha Parish, 200 N. Orange Ave. A bus will shuttle people from the church to 7th Street where walkers will circle the block around Planned Parenthood in prayer. The shuttle will run between 9 a.m. and noon. Light refreshments will be available near the bus stop on 7th Street. Questions? Contact Jeanne Berdeaux at or 941-374-1068.

Fort Myers Prayer Walk for Life

Join others on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22, for the Fort Myers Prayer Walk for Life, beginning with the 8 a.m. Mass at St. John XXIII Parish, 13060 Palomino Lane, will be celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. A bus will shuttle participants to the area in front of Planned Parenthood at 648 Commerce Park Drive (parking is limited) where students will lead the rosary to kick off the 40 Days for Life Spring Campaign. Contact Jeanne Berdeaux at or 941-374-1068 for additional information.

40 Days for Life Sarasota and Fort Myers

There will be two locations within the Diocese to participate in the 40 Days for Life Spring/Lenten Campaign in Sarasota and Fort Myers which begins Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22 and concludes on Palm Sunday, April 2. 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. Contact your Parish Coordinator for specific information about your Parish’s commitment days. For the 40 Days for Life flier and additional information, please visit or

Chastity talk for youth

Teens, grade 7 and older (and their parents), are invited to hear national speaker Pam Stenzel provide her informational talk, “The Courage to be Chaste Teens,” at 6 p.m., Feb. 23, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish Hall, 12001 69 St. E., Parrish. Contact the Parish Office at 941-776-9097 for additional information.

Venice group enjoys Capitol visit

Buoyed by an influx of young people, a group representing the Diocese of Venice gained new insight and worked together to make their voices heard during the 2022 Catholic Days at the Capitol.

Following a 2021 hiatus, the Catholic Days at the Capitol was Feb. 1-2, 2022, wherein Catholics from across the state gather in Tallahassee to put their faith into action. Some 38 from the Diocese of Venice were among some 200 representing each Arch/diocese in the state. Both Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota and Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers sent delegations to the Catholic Days gathering.

Organized by Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, and within the Diocese by Respect Life Director Jeanne Berdeaux, the Venice group journeyed by bus and participated in each major event.

Activities included a legislative briefing from the Bishops Conference on four key bills that are of significance during the current legislative session and direct visits to the State House and Senate offices of local lawmakers to present the Church’s stance on key legislation. This year, many were able to meet legislators, which is not always possible as they are often unavailable due to their busy schedule during the legislative session.

The high school groups were allowed a behind-the-scenes tour of both the House and Senate Chambers. The Cardinal Mooney students also had the opportunity to meet two Mooney Alumni, State Senator Joe Gruters and State Rep. James Buchanan, a special chance they enjoyed immensely.

Another unique experience of some in the Venice group included an opportunity to sit in on a committee hearing on a bill that would protect women and limit the harm of abortion in Florida. The critical bill would prohibit abortion after 15 weeks gestation, shrinking the window of time in which an abortion is able to be legally obtained.

In addition, there was also a shared breakfast with Florida’s Bishops and legislators, as well as the 47th Annual Red Mass of the Holy Spirit which was concelebrated by the Florida Bishops.

One Venice participant described that Catholic Days at the Capitol as a learning experience about being engaged as a Catholic in the happenings of Florida by learning about the laws and trying to speak to the legislators who vote on these important issues.

Another explained how it was great to see the young people take part and have the opportunity to be amongst like-minded Catholics sharing their faith in a public forum.