2024 Priest and Deacon Jubilarians

Seven Priests and four Permanent Deacons who are celebrating the 25th and 50th anniversaries of their ordination in 2024 were recognized and honored on March 26, 2024, during the annual Chrism Mass at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane congratulated each jubilarian for their years of service to Christ and Holy Mother Church. A reception was held in the Parish Hall following the Mass.

The priest golden jubilarians were Msgr. Mark Svarczkopf, who assists at multiple Parishes in Hardee and Highlands counties; Father Richard Bondi, who assists at Ave Maria Parish and University in Ave Maria; and Father Brian Manning, who assists at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples. Priest silver jubilarians were Father Anthony Hewitt, Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande; Father Victor Caviedes; who is Parochial Vicar at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota; Father Anthonio Jean, who is Parochial Vicar at Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton; and Father Jayabalan (Jay) Raju, Administrator of St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers.

Among the Deacons, the lone golden jubilarian was Deacon Michael Leahy, who is retired. Celebrating their silver jubilees are Deacon Edward Gwiazda, who assists at St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres; Deacon William Hickey, who assists at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch; and Deacon Alfred Mauriello, who assists at St. Finbarr Parish in Naples.

Jubilarian Bios

50 years

Father Richard A Bondi

Father Richard Bondi graduated from Boston College in 1970 with a degree in philosophy and theology, then from Mount Saint Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, with a degree is sacred scripture. On May 11, 1974, he was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Springfield (Massachusetts) where he served as both Parochial Vicar and Pastor in various Parishes. Further assignments, in addition to Parish ministry, members of the Diocesan Priest Senate, head of the Renew Program, as well as assisting at six different university and colleges within the Diocese. Father Bondi served as Chair of the Diocesan Building Commission and further advanced his studies, receiving a Doctor of Ministry Degree in Psychology and Clinical Studies from Weston Jesuit School of Theology. In 2009, Father purchased a home in Ave Maria and since 2022 he retired to the Diocese of Venice, assisting at Ave Maria Parish and Ave Maria University. Born the second of twin sons, Father Bondi was born in 1948 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Father Brian Manning

Father Brian Manning was Ordained to the Priesthood in Boston, Massechusetts, on May 18, 1974. Father Manning obtained degrees from St. John Seminary College in Boston. Upon his ordination, Father served as Parochial Vicar at several Parishes in the Boston area. As Pastor, Father Manning served at Parishes in Somerville, Scituate, and Franklin, before retiring in 2023 to Naples. Father currently assists at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples. Father Manning was born in 1948, the fourth of six children.

 

 

Msgr. Mark Svarczkopf

Prior to ordination, Msgr. Mark Svarczkopf studied at the Latin School of Indianapolis High School Seminary, St. Meinard Seminary College and then at Pontifical North American College in Rome. Ordained to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis on June 8, 1974, Msgr. began his priestly ministry in various capacities including Associate Pastor, Administrator, Pastor, Chaplain of Scouts, Dean of the Indianapolis Northern Deanery, and Priest Moderator. He was also named Prelate of Honor, Director of the Institute for Continuing Theological Education, U.S. Bishop’s Seminary, North American College in Rome, and Vice-Rector for Administration of the North American College. Msgr. Svarczkopf retired in 2019 and for the Diocese of Venice currently assists in the Eastern Deanery, including at St. Michael in Wauchula, St. Catherine in Sebring, St. James in Lake Placid, and Our Lady of Grace in Avon Park. Born in 1948, Msgr. has two brothers.

25 years

Father Victor A. Caviedes

Father Victor Caviedes, a native of Lima, Peru, earned degrees from the University of Martin de Porres in Peru, and Autonomous University in Madrid, Spain. While in Madrid, he met Father Celestino Gutierrez who arranged for him to come to the United States in 1997. He studied as St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. Bishop John J. Nevins ordained Father Victor as a Diocesan priest at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice on Oct. 22, 1999. For the Diocese of Venice, Father has served at numerous Parishes as a Parochial Vicar, including Our Lady Queen of Heaven in LaBelle, Jesus the Worker in Fort Myers, and St. James in Lake Placid, dedicating himself to pastoral work with poor families and immigrants. Father’s current assignment is as Parochial Vicar at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota. He was born in Peru in 1953.

Father Anthony Hewitt

Father Anthony Hewitt was Ordained to the Priesthood at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice on Oct. 22, 1999. He studied at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami, and at St. Vincent de Paul Regional seminary in Boynton Beach, and Catholic University in Washington, D.C., prior to his ordination. For the Diocese of Venice, Father Hewitt has served as Parochial Vicar at St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral, St. Jude Parish in Sarasota, and Pastor at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Fort Myers. Father currently serves as Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande. In addition to his Parish duties, Father also serves as a Defender of the Bond in the Diocesan Tribunal Office. Father was born in Kokomo, Indiana, in 1971 and has three younger sisters.

Father Anthonio Jean

Upon completing his studies at Cap-Haitien College Notre-Dame and the Grand Seminary Notre Dame of the Holy Cross in Haiti, Father Anthonio Jean was Ordained to the Priesthood on Oct. 22, 1999, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. Father has served as Parochial Vicar at numerous Parishes within the Diocese of Venice, including St. Charles Borromeo in Port Charlotte, St. Francis Xavier in Fort Myers, San Pedro in North Port, Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles in Bradenton, and St. Katharine Drexel in Cape Coral. Father Jean also served as Administrator of St. James Parish in Lake Placid. His most recent assignment is as Parochial Vicar at Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton. He also served on the Presbyteral Council as a representative of the Eastern Deanery. Father Jean was born in Carice, Haiti in 1966, and has eight siblings.

Father Jayabalan (Jay) Raju

Having received degrees from Arul Anandar College, and St. Paul’s Seminary, all in India, Father Jayabalan (Jay) Raju was Ordained to the Priesthood on Aprill 11, 1999. His assignments as a priest included Parishes in India as well as Director of Madurai Multipurpose Social Service Society (Diocesan Catholic Charities), and Deputy Director of the Tamil Nadu Social Service Society (Regional Catholic Charities), also in India. For the Diocese of Venice, Father Raju has served as a Parochial Vicar at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Grove City, St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral, St. Francis Xavier Parish in Fort Myers, and Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. Father’s current assignment is as Administrator of St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers. Father Raju was born in 1971 and is the middle of three children.

 

Permanent Deacons

50 years

Deacon Michael Leahy

Deacon Michael Leahy obtained his education at the University of Dayton in Ohio, the University of Toledo in Ohio and Sacred Heart Seminary, Shelby, Ohio. On June 1, 1974, Deacon Michael was Ordained as a Permanent Deacon at Rosary Cathedral in Toledo. Since his Ordination, Deacon Leahy has served in nine different Dioceses in seven different states. Highlights from his career includes serving in jails, as well as state and federal prisons; being a Fire Department Chaplain in Ohio and Florida; leading a Deacon Training Course in New Hampshire and the Diocese of Charlotte; and serving in rest homes and hospitals in several different Dioceses. Deacon Leahy was born in 1939 in Tiffin, Ohio.  He has been married to his wife, Judy, for 62 years. Together they have eight children, 31 grandchildren and 17 great-children.

25 years

Deacon Edward J. Gwiazda

Deacon Edward Gwiazda was ordained to the Permanent Diaconate on May 8, 1999, in Trenton, New Jersey.  He completed his studies at Monmouth University, West Longbranch, New Jersey.  Deacon Edward served at St. Isaac Jogues Parish, New Jersey, and currently serves at St. Raphael Parish, Lehigh Acres.  For his career, Deacon Gwiazda was a software engineer. Deacon Edward was born in 1948 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He is married to Kathleen, and they have one child and two grandchildren.

 

Deacon William Lawrence Hickey

On June 6, 1999, Deacon William Hickey was ordained to the Permanent Diaconate in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  His post graduate education was completed at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Deacon Hickey served in Philadelphia as Assistant to the Associate Vicar for Clergy – Permanent Deacons, and as Associate to the Director in the Archdiocese for Permanent Deacons as well as at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in West Chester. For the Diocese of Venice, Deacon Hickey serves at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch. He was born in Philadelphia in 1962, and is married to Melissa (Carragher) Hickey. They have six children and eight grandchildren. His current profession is as an Instructional design consultant.

Deacon Alfred J. Mauriello II MD

Following his Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate on June 5, 1999, in Philadelphia, Penn. Deacon Alfred Mauriello served at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish and continues to serve at Ss. Simon and Jude Parish, both in Philadelphia. Since 2022, he assists in the winter months at St. Finbarr Parish in Naples for the Diocese of Venice. Deacon Alfred was born in Philadelphia in 1943, and attended St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia. On June 1, 2023, Deacon Mauriello retired as a head and neck surgeon. Since his retirement, he still volunteers his time. Deacon Alfred is married to Susan (Patterson) and they have three children.

Chrism Mass – Symbol of Unity – Renewal of Priestly Promises; Consecration and Blessing of Holy Oils

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was joined by more than 150 priests from across the Diocese for the annual Chrism Mass March 26, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

The Chrism Mass, which the Bishop concelebrates with priests from throughout the Diocese and during which he consecrates the sacred Chrism and blesses the other oils, is among the principal manifestations of the fullness of the Bishop’s Priesthood and is considered to be a sign of the close bond between the Priests and their Bishop. For it is with the sacred Chrism consecrated by the Bishop that the priests are ordained, the newly baptized are anointed, and those to be confirmed are signed. It is with the Oil of Catechumens that catechumens are prepared and disposed for Baptism. Finally, it is with the Oil of the Sick that those who are ill are comforted in their infirmity.

This celebration, which was witnessed by more than 1,000 of the faithful, including 350 students from Diocesan Catholic schools, is an expression of unity of the priests with their Shepherd, the Bishop of the Diocese.

The celebration not only brings into focus the historical context of the priesthood by the renewal of Priestly Promises, but also presents an opportunity for the priests to recall their ordination and to reflect upon their ongoing priestly vocation. Having all the priests of the Diocese come together at the Chrism Mass, united with their Bishop, on the eve of the Easter Triduum, reminds priests of their calling to act in the person of Christ – in persona Christi. This is the largest annual gathering of the clergy for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

During the Renewal of Priestly Promises the gathered priests stood as one, and spoke with one voice responding, “I am,” three times to a series of questions asked by Bishop Dewane. These same questions were asked of them at the time of their Ordination to the Priesthood.

Bishop Dewane publicly thanked the priests for their continued service to the People of God throughout the Diocese of Venice. He also called upon the faithful to continue to support the priests who bring the Sacraments into their lives.

“The Chrism Mass highlights the role and responsibility of the ordained in relationship with their Bishop, but primarily in their relationship to God and to Jesus Christ in offering that eternal sacrifice at the table of the Lord,” Bishop Dewane said. “My brothers, our hands were and remain anointed with the oil of Chrism, the same Chrism that will be instituted today; may Jesus always preserve you to sanctify the Christian people and in the Holy Office, in sacrifice to God.”

The anointed hands of a priest are sacramental instruments that baptize, confirm, bless, absolve sin, consecrate, offer the Bread of Life, the Chalice of Salvation; they are sacramental instruments that touch heads who ask for a blessing and at the end of life, open the door to eternity for many.

“Those are the instruments the Lord gives us,” Bishop Dewane said. “St. Teresa of Avila emphasized this point, saying, ‘Christ has no hands on earth but yours.’ Your hands are important in that role. They pray, they labor, they offer compassion and peace to those you meet. The anointed hands have been further consecrated, use them carefully for what God wants.”

While the priesthood can be challenging, the Bishop said that the heart of the priest “pulsates the lifeblood of the Body of Christ, the Church, keeping Her alive, active and sacred. Let it be part of who you are. That beating heart; let it be for Christ in every way.”

Pope Francis said the grace of the priesthood is for service, not for glory, as there is no recompense greater for a priest than the friendship with Jesus Christ. Seeking one’s own glory robs the priest, and ultimately the faithful, of the presence of Christ.

“We must all be careful of not letting our hearts and hands get numb to the repeated exercise of our service, but recognize them as a blessing and grace for those whom we serve,” Bishop Dewane said. “Be men of a priestly heart, so the faithful can approach and listen to you, as they yearn to be faithful themselves. Let them feel the presence of the Lord, through you as a priest, while they seek your companionship on their spiritual journey.”

During the Chrism Mass, Bishop Dewane recognized the seven Priests and four Permanent Deacons who are celebrating the 25th and 50th anniversaries of their ordination for their years of service to Christ and Holy Mother Church. Bishop Dewane also recognized Father Celestino Gutierrez, who is marking his 60th anniversary as a priest in 2024 and recently retired as founding Pastor of St. Jude Parish in Sarasota.

 

In attendance for this special occasion were religious men and women; Diocesan seminarians; Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem; Knights and Dames of the Sovereign Order of Malta; the Knights of Columbus, including those of the Color Corps; members of the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women; students from Diocesan Catholic schools; as well as the faithful of the Diocese of Venice.

Sacred Chrism Oil

The Chrism Mass takes its name from the sacred Chrism oil, the most eminent of the three holy oils, which the Bishop consecrates and blesses for use by Parishes of the Diocese. Bishop Dewane referred to the Gospel message which described the oils as being the oil of gladness, which represent the indelible mark each bestows.

The Oil of the Sick, used for those who seek anointing, and the Oil of the Catechumens, which is imposed on those preparing for baptism, are blessed, by the Bishop at different times during the Chrism Mass. The sacred Chrism is both blessed and consecrated. The verb “consecrate” is applied to the action of making holy the chrism and indicates its use to spiritually separate, sanctify and purify its recipients.

For the blessing and consecration of the sacred Chrism oil, the initial motion is to pour balsam into the oil, and then this is mixed. The balsam is added so that it gives the oil a sweet smell intended to remind those who encounter it of the “odor of sanctity.” All of the Faithful are called to strive for sanctity. Next, the Bishop breathes on the Sacred Chrism “to symbolize the Holy Spirit coming down.” At a particular point in the consecratory prayer for the Sacred Chrism, all the priests join the Bishop in extending their right hand toward the Chrism, as the Bishop concludes the prayer.

After Mass, the oils were given to each Pastor to use in their Parish throughout the Liturgical Year.

Priest and Deacon Jubilarians

A reception was held in the Parish Hall following the Mass to honor Priests and Deacons celebrating their jubilee in 2024.

Reverend Mark Svarczkopf spoke for the golden jubilarians. Father Svarczkopf is originally from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and currently assists in the Eastern Deanery of the Diocese of Venice, primarily at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, but also at St. Catherine in Sebring, Our Lady of Grace in Avon Park and St. James in Lake Placid. Father said a key part of being a priest is having the grace to soften the hardest of hearts.

Father Anthony Hewitt spoke on behalf of the silver jubilarians. Father Hewitt spoke about the importance of Holy Week to priests. “The totality and the very reason we exist on this planet – Jesus Christ – that Holy Hour where He goes to glorify His Heavenly Father; where He goes to die and rise on Easter Sunday.” Father prayed that the faithful find the beauty of the Paschal Triduum, because many “don’t see the joy of Holy Thursday; the magnificent beauty and the glory that is Good Friday; and they never ever come to Easter Vigil.” Father Hewitt is currently Pastor at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande.

Also celebrating 50 years were Father Richard Bondi, who assists at Ave Maria Parish and University in Ave Maria; and Father Brian Manning, who assists at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples. Additional priest silver jubilarians were Father Victor Caviedes, who is Parochial Vicar at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota; Father Anthonio Jean, who is Parochial Vicar at Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton; and Father Jayabalan (Jay) Raju, Administrator of St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers.

Deacon Michael Leahy, a golden jubilarian, is retired. Celebrating their silver jubilees are Deacon Edward Gwiazda, who assists at St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres; Deacon William Hickey, who assists at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch; and Deacon Alfred Mauriello, who assists at St. Finbarr Parish in Naples.

Briefs for the week of March 22, 2024

Seminarian installed as Acolyte

Congratulations to Diocese of Venice Seminarian Joseph Bao Quoc Nguyen was one of five men installed to the ministry of Acolyte on March 15, 2024, at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, OFM Cap., Archbishop of Boston, presided over the Mass of Institution which plays a significant role in the formation of these men as they journey towards their ordination to the priesthood. As an Acolyte, the primary responsibility will be assisting the Deacon and priest during Mass, with a focus on ensuring the altar is prepared. They may also serve as Extra-ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at Mass and bringing the Holy Eucharist to the sick.

Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Televised Mass schedule

The Diocese of Venice in Florida will air the televised Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Masses, each for a full hour. These special Masses for the homebound can be viewed at noon on the CW Network in Sarasota, Manatee, Desoto, Charlotte, Hardee and Highland counties, and at 10:30 a.m. on FOX4 in Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Hendry, Glades and Desoto counties. The Mass is also available on the Diocese of Venice website at www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass.

Chrism Mass at Cathedral on March 26

The Chrism Mass, which takes place during Holy Week every year, will be held at 10:30 a.m., March 26, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. During this Mass, Bishop Frank J. Dewane will bless the Holy Oils which are used in the administration of the Sacraments at each parish throughout the year. Priests and Deacons celebrating 25 and 50 years of Ordination will also be recognized. All are invited and encouraged to attend in support of our clergy and to participate in this important Holy Week celebration.

Lenten school Masses continue

Following the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Bishop Frank J. Dewane continued to celebrate Mass for students at each of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools during the Lenten Season. The most recent Masses were March 14, 2024, at Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota, St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton on March 19 (the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary), and Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria, on March 20. Bishop continued to encourage the students to finish the Lenten Season strong in preparation for Holy Week.

St. Joseph Feast celebrated in Italian

Epiphany Cathedral in Venice hosted a Mass for the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was celebrated in Italian on March 19, 2024, and included the active involvement of the Italian American Club of Venice. Following the Mass, the statue of St. Joseph was carried to the Parish Hall in a procession led by the Knights of Columbus. There, Msgr. Patrick Dubois, Cathedral Rector, blessed the traditional St. Joseph’s table of bread and sweets, which were later distributed.

School Gala has a Roaring 20’s theme

The St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School Roaring 20’s Gala & Auction took place on March 16, 2024, at the Vineyards Golf and Country Club in Naples. A vintage Duesenberg was on display as guests arrived, many of the woman in sequined flapper-style dresses with feather headbands, while the men dressed in 20’s style tuxedoes, complete with fedoras. Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the guest of honor and thanked the parents for entrusting their children’s education to St. Elizabeth Seton. In addition, Bishop Dewane praised the faculty and staff for consistently delivering a quality education centered on faith, while also managing rapid growth and improvement of the school facilities.

Cars blessed at Sarasota Parish

Priests at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota blessed about 70 vehicles on March 14, 2024. The blessing follows the tradition in Rome, Italy, where cars line up outside the Colosseum in front of the Monastery of St. Frances of Rome (the patron saint of drivers) for a blessing. This was observed by Incarnation Pastor Father Eric Scanlan and shared with drivers who drove under the church portico for their blessing and then made way for the next vehicle.

News Briefs for the Week of March 15, 2024

Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Televised Mass schedule

The Diocese of Venice in Florida will air the televised Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Masses, each for a full hour. The Masses for the homebound can be viewed at noon on the CW Network in Sarasota, Manatee, Desoto, Charlotte, Hardee and Highland counties, and at 10:30 a.m. on FOX4 in Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Hendry, Glades and Desoto counties. The Mass is also available on the Diocese of Venice website at www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass.

Student wins prestigious essay contest

Congratulations to Hunter Wehle from St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charotte who was honored as the 2023 Florida Daughters of the American Revolution Essay Contest winner in Orlando on March 9, 2024. This year, the essay theme was “John Phillip Sousa.” Hunter was one of three St. Charles students who had their essay win a regional competition. Well done everyone!

Student wins state Knights free throw challenge

Maddy Mitchell of Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice placed first in her age group at the Knights of Columbus State Free Throw Championship in Melbourne on March 9, 2024. Maddy was one of two students from Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School to reach the state championships.

First Communion retreat held in Wauchula

First Communion candidates at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula took part in a retreat on March 9, 2024. The boys and girls spent time in Eucharistic Adoration, learning about the different parts of Mass, and praying the rosary. While praying the Holy Rosary, each boy and girl placed a white rose before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This retreat helps clear the way for the youth to take part in their First Sacrament of Reconciliation on March 20. They will receive their first Holy Communion in May.

Students take part in weekly Lenten prayer service

Each Friday of this Lenten Season, St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring has been taking part in a morning prayer service. During the prayer service, students gather around the Blessed Mother for prayers, petitions, Pledge of Allegiance, and mission statement. Each class takes a turn leading the school in this special prayer time.

Gala to celebrate Community Pregnancy Clinics 50th anniversary

Community Pregnancy Clinics Inc. (CPCI) is celebrating its 50th Anniversary with a Gala.  “A Legacy of Life” will take place beginning at 5:00 p.m., on Saturday, April 6 at the Ritz-Carlton Tiburon, 600 Tiburon Drive, Naples. Tickets start at $500 and include cocktail social hour, silent auction, elegant 3-course dinner, keynote speech from The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles, and after party with live music and dancing. For further information and to purchase tickets, please contact Joel Chute at jchute@communityforlife.com or 239-328-7547.

Chrism Mass at Cathedral on March 26

The Chrism Mass, which takes place during Holy Week every year, will be held at 10:30 a.m., March 26, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. During this Mass, Bishop Frank J. Dewane will bless the Holy Oils which are used in the administration of the Sacraments at each parish throughout the year. Priests and Deacons celebrating 25 and 50 years of Ordination are recognized at this Mass. All are encouraged to attend in support of our clergy and to participate in this important Holy Week celebration.

 

Chrism Mass: A Sign of Unity in Diocese

Renewal of Priestly Promises with Bishop; Consecration and Blessing of Holy Oils

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was joined by more than 130 priests from across the Diocese for the annual Chrism Mass April 4, 2023, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

The Chrism Mass, which takes place during Holy Week every year, is one of the most solemn and important liturgies of the Catholic liturgical calendar. This celebration, which was witnessed by more than 1,000 of the faithful, including more than 350 students from Diocesan Catholic schools, marks the institution of the priesthood by Christ and is an expression of unity of the priests with their Shepherd, the Bishop of the Diocese.

During the Chrism Mass, Bishop Dewane blessed and consecrated Holy Oils to be used in Parishes across the Diocese of Venice for the sacramental life of the Church throughout the coming year.

The celebration not only brings into focus the historical context of the priesthood by the renewal of Priestly Promises they take, an opportunity for the priests to recall their ordination and to reflect upon their ongoing priestly vocation. Having all the priests of the Diocese come together at the Chrism Mass, on the eve of the Easter Triduum, reminds priests of their calling to act in the person of Christ – in persona Christi. This is one of the few times that so many priests are gathered together for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

During the Renewal of Priestly Promises the gathered priests stood as one, and spoke with one voice responding, “I am,” three times to a series of questions asked by Bishop Dewane. These same questions were asked of them at the time of their Ordination to the Priesthood.

Bishop Dewane publicly thanked the priests for their continued service to the People of God throughout the Diocese of Venice.

The priest has an irreplaceable role in the leading of the faithful and non-believers, to the Lord. Still, this is taking place within a society in which many things have changed through the years and continue to change to this day, Bishop Dewane explained.

“Many of the functions the priests have exercised in the Church have been assumed by others – likely rightfully so in many instances. At the same time, many of the traditional social supports for the priests have been weakened along the way.”

Bishop Dewane understands that while each priest strives daily to do their best, “none of us is the perfect priest. That is Jesus Christ. But we must strive to follow His ways. This in his shown in the life of the priest, in his prayer life and reflection on the Word of God. This is further demonstrated in his celebration of the Sacraments, his pastoral care for the faithful, as well as the love and affection for those who call upon him.”

Addressing the younger priests, Bishop Dewane encouraged them to overcome any difficulties and not fall into the trap that they are alone and no one notices them.

“You are noticed by your brother priests and by your Bishop. It is the faithful who approach me and who may have a concern on an issue that is genuinely about your wellbeing and who you are. Know that not one of us is alone. I understand it can feel that way. But no one of us is alone. The Lord does not allow for that. He Himself is with you, with me, with our brother priests throughout the day. Yes, we will fail along the way but He is still there, with you and with me. The Lord has chosen each one of us knowing our strengths and our weaknesses, having made us. Christ asks us to allow His strength to enter into our lives, for that matter, to rule our lives.”

Bishop Dewane shared a reflection from Pope Francis from an address regarding priests who had lost the flame of their first love, and who may have become a little barren in their experience by stressing the “four closenesses,” that exist for each priest in their lives.

The first is a “Closeness to God,” which calls for priests to rely on the strength of Jesus Christ in the experience of both joys and sorrows. This closeness to God needs to be nourished in prayer, in the Eucharist and drawing closer to His flock.

Next is a call for a “Closeness to the Bishop,” which Pope Francis referred to as allowing priests to learn how to listen, to recognize God’s will in another, and to execute it in obedience to another. “The Holy Father tells us,” Bishop Dewane said, “a Bishop establishes and preserves the Church’s identity in a particular area – places upon you the consecrated oils at ordination and has an affinity for those oils (to be consecrated today). The Holy Father goes on to invite priests in this regard to pray for their Bishop. If we can persevere in this bond, we will advance surely along the way toward salvation. In addition to the Holy Father’s call, I also ask for your prayers.”

A “Closeness to other priests” is also important, according to Pope Francis. This refers to the virtue of fraternity, of living the eternal love for the priestly fraternity which involves deliberately pursuing holiness with others, not by oneself. In this context the Holy Father addressed the value of priestly celibacy which he calls on all priests to live. “Pope Francis refers to this gift that the Latin Church preserves and notes that it must be rooted in healthy relationships, and stress that these be found in the Presbyterate,” Bishop Dewane said.

Lastly, Pope Francis calls for a “Closeness to the People of God.” “This closeness to the faithful, in its proper place, is important for every priest, as it involves their daily life. Rather than taking shelter from people’s difficulties and misery, Jesus is the example for us in this task.”

Bishop Dewane concluded his remarks by noting that everyone who attends the Chrism Mass, regardless of their state in life (priest, religious, deacon, laity), must “hear the call of Christ and enter humbly and profoundly into the Sacred Triduum… into the celebration of the real summit in our lives, our faith, our spiritual calling, that is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Following his homily, and before the renewal of Priestly Promises, Bishop Dewane recognized the nine Priests and three Permanent Deacons serving or living in the Diocese celebrating the 25th and 50th anniversaries of their ordination for their years of service to Christ and Holy Mother Church. Bishop Dewane also acknowledged priests who have served more than 50 years, noting those marking 55, 60 and 65 years since their priestly ordination.

While the Oil of the Sick and Oil of the Catechumens are blessed, the Sacred Chrism is also blessed and consecrated; and each will be used at Parishes throughout the year in the administration of the Sacraments.

The annual Chrism Mass, which is celebrated on or before Holy Thursday, takes place in every Diocese throughout the world. In the Diocese of Venice, the Chrism Mass is historically celebrated on the Tuesday of Holy Week to accommodate the priests who need to travel substantial distances.

In attendance for this special occasion were religious men and women; seminarians; the Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem; the Knights and Dames of the Sovereign Order of Malta; the Color Corps of the Knights of Columbus; approximately 350 students representing most of the Diocesan Catholic Schools; members of the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women; as well as the Faithful of the Diocese of Venice.

Sacred Chrism Oil

The Chrism Mass takes its name from the Sacred Chrism Oil, the most eminent of the three holy oils, which the Bishop consecrates and blesses for use by Parishes of the Diocese. Bishop Dewane referred to the Gospel message at which described the oils as bringing “glad tidings” which represent the indelible mark each bestows.

The Oil of the Sick, used for those who seek anointing, and the Oil of the Catechumens, which is imposed on those preparing for baptism, are “blessed,” by the Bishop at different times during the Chrism Mass. The Sacred Chrism is “blessed and consecrated.” The verb “consecrate” is applied to the action of making holy the chrism and indicates its use to spiritually separate, sanctify and purify its recipients.

For the blessing and consecration of the Sacred Chrism Oil. In the Rite, the initial motion is to pour balsam into the oil, and then this is mixed. The balsam is added so that it gives the oil a sweet smell intended to remind those who encounter it of the “odor of sanctity.” All of the Faithful are called to strive for sanctity. Next, the Bishop breathes on the Sacred Chrism “to symbolize the Holy Spirit coming down.” At a particular point in the consecration prayer of the Sacred Chrism, all the priests join the Bishop in extending their right hand toward the Chrism, as the Bishop concluded the prayer.

After Mass, the oils were given to each Pastor to use in their Parish throughout the Liturgical Year.

Jubilarians

A reception was held in the Parish Hall following the Mass to honor Priests and Deacons celebrating their jubilee in 2023.

Father Bob Kantor, Pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Naples and Vicar Forane for the Southern Deanery, spoke for the priest jubilarians. Father Kantor marks the silver jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood in 2023 and described his journey to becoming a priest while growing up in a Polish-Catholic family in Buffalo, New York. Father described his priestly journey “as one that is blessed and graced by the people we encounter; may we be open to the lessons that they bring us that show true holiness.”

Deacon Humberto Alvia spoke on behalf of the jubilarian Deacons, also marking his 25th anniversary of ordination. Deacon Alvia, who serves at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota, spoke about his own journey, shared by his wife, Pia. Born in Ecuador, the couple was living in Brooklyn, New York, when they were first encouraged to take part in different church groups. This expanded for the couple to become part of Pre-Cana retreats and ultimately being invited into the Permanent Diaconate program. Ordained in Brooklyn, Deacon Alvia moved to Florida and was invited to first serve at St. Martha Parish and then was part of the construction of St. Jude Parish. Deacon Alvia said he is grateful to his wife and family, for understanding his dedication and time he spent doing what he was ordained to do. “That is to do his duty to the Bishop, to follow faithfully the Church teaching, and to serve with love the people of God.”

Celebrating 50 years were Father Richard York, who is retired but assists at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Grove City and Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande, and Deacon Robert Egendoerfer, who is retired after having served at St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Parish in Parrish.

Additional silver jubilarians were Father Jarek Sniosek, Pastor of St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, Father Murchadh O’Madagain, Pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Myers, Father Remigious Ssekiranda, Parochial Vicar at St. Paul Parish in Arcadia, Deacon Ripperton Riordan, who assists at Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers, and Deacon John Ruh, who assists at San Pedro Parish in North Port.

2022 Chrism Mass: A Sign of Unity

Renewal of Priestly Promises; Consecration and Blessing of Holy Oils

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was joined by 110 Priests and 30 Deacons from across the Diocese for the annual Chrism Mass on April 12, 2022, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

This celebration, which was witnessed by more than 1,000 of the faithful, including more than 350 students from Diocesan Catholic schools, marks the institution of the priesthood by Christ and is an expression of unity of the priests with their Shepherd, the Bishop of the Diocese.

During the Chrism Mass, Bishop Frank blessed and consecrated Holy Oils to be used in Parishes across the Diocese of Venice for the sacramental life of the Church throughout the coming year.

The Chrism Mass, which takes place during Holy Week every year, is one of the most solemn and important liturgies of the Catholic liturgical calendar. The celebration not only brings into focus the historical context of the priesthood but is also an opportunity for the priests to recall their ordination and to reflect upon their ongoing priestly vocation. Having all the priests of the Diocese come together at the Chrism Mass, on the eve of the Easter Triduum, reminds priests of their calling to act in the person of Christ – In persona Christi. This is one of the few times that so many priests are gathered together for the Mass.

During the Renewal of Priestly Promises the gathered priests stood as one, and spoke with one voice saying, “I am,” three times in response to questions asked by Bishop Dewane. These same questions were asked of them during their Ordination to the Priesthood.

Bishop Dewane publicly thanked the priests for their continued service to the People of God throughout the Diocese of Venice for what they do each day. “We have to know the faithful People of God, the people for whom a priest is called to be anointed, and in turn for those he is set to anoint. Allow that joy to penetrate your life, allow it to go deep within your heart. This is a guarded joy –a sense of safety – guarded and guided by God, the Father.”

The Bishop spoke about the poverty, fidelity and obedience as the sisterly guards of priests.

The poverty aspect isn’t only related to money, but the joyful sacrifice each priest makes when answering the call of the Lord in their life by “giving up” – according to the secular world – much to become a priest. But Bishop Dewane said “a priest is given much in return. Don’t look at the poverty; look to the richness the Lord gives.”

The fidelity of a priest is solely to the one Bride, the Church. “It is who you are called to be, precisely the living Church. A priest must share his life, as shepherd of the Parish, day in and day out.”

Regarding obedience, it must always be to the Church, which was set up as a hierarchy. “All are called to live it, know it, and let it be a comfort rather than something else,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is something we must internalize in our life – a strength – called for in union with God. We need to be obedient with our service, our availability, our readiness to go out and allow the Lord to make us the servant we are called to be. It is not easy. No one said it would be easy.”

At their core, priests must be spiritual beings, by having an interior unity through being in Communion with Christ.

“This fundamental Union with Christ is our gift,” Bishop Dewane said. “The Anointed One has anointed us, to still anoint others in the sacraments. This union with the Anointed One must be the hallmark of the things we do. Our response to the filling of the Holy Spirit in your life, in my life, must come from within; allowing us, always in Communion with Him, to act as an instrument of the Lord.”

Bishop Dewane explained how young people are also in search of their own spirituality, a challenge for priests, parents and families. “It is my prayer that you (young people) will begin to live that interior unity of life – you are made in the image and likeness of God – finding idealism, generosity for life and a love for Jesus Christ and His Church.”

The Bishop then challenged the Faithful present for the Mass, and across the Diocese, to be close to their priests – through prayer, through friendship, through supporting him in any way – and in the expressions of proper affection. “This goes a long way in the life of the priest, to let them know that the gift the Lord gave them sometimes takes a lot out of them. It is my prayer that you make them feel that they are the gift – a gift to the Diocese.”

The six Priests and three Permanent Deacons serving or living in the Diocese celebrating the 25th and 50th anniversaries of their ordination were individually recognized by the Bishop for their years of service to Christ and Holy Mother Church.

While the Oil of the Sick and Oil of the Catechumens are blessed, the Sacred Chrism is also blessed consecrated; and each will be used at Parishes throughout the year in the administration of the Sacraments.

The annual Chrism Mass, which is celebrated on or before Holy Thursday, takes place in every Diocese in the world. In the Diocese of Venice, the Chrism Mass is celebrated on the Tuesday of Holy Week to accommodate the priests who need to travel substantial distances.

In attendance for this special occasion were religious men and women; seminarians; the Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem; the Knights and Dames of the Sovereign Order of Malta; the Color Corps of the Knights of Columbus; approximately 350 students representing most of the Diocesan Catholic Schools; members of the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women; as well as the Faithful of the Diocese of Venice.

Sacred Chrism Oil

The Chrism Mass takes its name from the Sacred Chrism Oil, the most eminent of the three holy oils, which the Bishop consecrates and blesses for use by Parishes of the Diocese. Bishop Dewane described the oils as “Oils of Gladness” which represent the indelible mark each bestows.

The blessing of the oils takes place at different times during the Chrism Mass. Vested in white, Bishop Dewane raised hands and first blessed the Oil of the Sick at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer as it was held by the Deacon. Following the Prayer After Communion, the Bishop blessed the Oil of the Catechumens.

Next, the final portion of the Rite is the blessing and consecration of the Sacred Chrism Oil. First balsam is poured into the oil and then mixed. The balsam is added so that it gives the oil a sweet smell intended to remind those who encounter it of the “odor of sanctity.” All of the Faithful are called to strive for sanctity. Next, the Bishop breathes on the Sacred Chrism “to symbolize the Holy Spirit coming down.” At a particular point in the consecration of the Sacred Chrism, all the priests present joined the Bishop in extending their right hand toward the Chrism, as the Bishop concluded the prayer of consecration.

The Oil of the Sick, used for those who seek anointing, and the Oil of the Catechumens, which is imposed on those preparing for baptism, are “blessed,” by the Bishop. The Sacred Chrism is “blessed and consecrated.” The verb “consecrate” is applied to the action of making holy the chrism and indicates its use to spiritually separate, sanctify and purify its recipients.

After Mass, the oils were given to each Pastor to use in their Parish.

Jubilarians

A reception was held in the Parish Hall following the Mass to honor Priests and Deacons celebrating their jubilee in 2022.

Father Hugh McGuigan, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, Pastor of Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers, spoke for the priest jubilarians. Father McGuigan marks the silver jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood in 2022 and described his journey first for 23 years as an Oblate Brother before becoming a priest. He also expressed his gratitude to Bishop Dewane and the Diocese for the support of the Ministry of the Oblates as they serve the Diocese at four Parishes.

Deacon Raymond Barrett spoke on behalf of the jubilarian Deacons, marking his 50th anniversary of ordination, as part of one of the earliest diaconate classes in the U.S. Deacon Barrett spoke about how his service evolved through the years to include prison and hospital outreach and then assisting for two decades at a retired priest nursing home.

Also celebrating 50 years were Msgr. Joseph Stearns, who assists at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch; Father Adrian Wilde, O. Carm., who is Prior of a Carmel at Mission Valley in Nokomis, Father David Foley assists at Parishes in Collier County.

Additional silver jubilarians were Father Patrick O’Connor, OSFS, Pastor of Jesus the Worker Parish and San Jose Mission in Fort Myers, Father Leszek Sikorski, a U.S. Navy Command Chaplain, Deacon Henry de Mena who serves at St. Agnes Parish in Naples, and Deacon Mark Miravalle, who teaches at Ave Maria University.

News Briefs for the Week of April 1, 2022

Two to be ordained Transitional Deacon April 2

Diocese of Venice Seminarians Michael Young and Alan Baldarelli Jr. will be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate, along with nine others, at 11 a.m. April 2, 2022, at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Boynton Beach. Young is studying at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts, while Baldarelli is studying at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. Presiding over the ordination is Bishop David Toups of the Diocese of Beaumont. The liturgy will be livestreamed at www.svdp.edu/live. As newly ordained Transitional Deacons, these men will be assigned to Parishes where they will exercise their ministry in preparation to become priests. Among many duties, they will preach, perform baptisms, witness marriages, as well as preside over wakes and funerals. Please join in praying for Michael and Alan as they take this important step in their vocational journey.

40th Anniversary celebration a success

St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School’s 40th Anniversary Celebration Gala & Auction was a great success in Naples on March 26, 2022. Parents, priests, parishioners, and other supporters attended the event at the Spirit Center of St. Peter the Apostle Parish. It was a fun night of fellowship, dinner, music and dancing with silent and live auctions, and a Call to the Heart to fund a second Kindergarten classroom in the fall. Demand for enrollment at Seton is at an all-time high creating a great need for additional classroom and administrative space. The event raised approximately $200,000 benefiting the school’s ongoing Campus Expansion Program to meet the needs of the many families desiring quality Catholic education for their children. For more information about the school’s expansion plans, visit www.Saintelizabethseton.com/Giving.

Genocide survivor shares story of loss and forgiveness

Immaculée Ilibagiza, a Rwandan genocide survivor and author, was the guest speaker at the annual Faith & Ale – Faith & Wine Joint Event in Lee County at St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers on March 24, 2022. Approximately 650 heard Immaculée’s presentation as she shared her amazing story of being a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. In addition to sharing the details of having lost her parents and brothers, her message centered around the topic of faith, hope and forgiveness. Faith & Wine Lee County is a Catholic faith lay-group which unites women of all backgrounds. A related program, Faith & Ale, is a Catholic men’s group and will host its final gathering of the season on April 21 at St. John XXIII Parish, 13060 Palomino Lane, Fort Myers, for a presentation by Dan Hesse on the topic, “Can Catholic Values Save Capitalism?” Hesse is a retired CEO of AT&T Wireless Services and Sprint. The program begins at 6 p.m., with pizza and refreshments for a $10 donation. Reservations are required – please register online at www.faithandale.com.

History project develops special skills

Second grade students at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton completed a biography research project on March 25, 2022, which included making a presentation and dressing up as the historical figure they researched. The students also created posters, a wax museum and essays about the person. Among the historical figures chosen were Abraham Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Gala supports Cardinal Mooney

Race for the Roses Gala, benefiting Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, was held March 25, 2022, at the Grove in Lakewood Ranch. Supporters dressed in their favorite outfits fit for a day at the Kentucky Derby. Proceeds were targeting the creation of a new science and physics labs. Ginger Judge was this year’s recipient of the School Sister’s of Notre Dame Award for her continuous support of Cardinal Mooney.

Ave Maria students run for gold

The girls track team of Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish came home from the Immokalee Meet on March 23, 2022, with seven gold medals, two silvers, five bronzes and winning the meet overall! The boy’s team did well, too, earning multiple medals and an overall third place team finish. Special recognition goes to Freshman Izzy Meyer who brought home three gold medals. The results are impressive taking into account this is only the second year the school has had a track team.

Care packages for needy

On March 28, 2022, students at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral partnered with the St. Vincent de Paul Society to create “care packages” for the needy of Southwest Florida. The students had been collecting the items for weeks leading up to a packing session. Items included various products that promote personal hygiene.

Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Televised Mass

The Diocese of Venice in Florida will air the televised Palm Sunday (April 10) and Easter Sunday (April 17) Masses, each for a full hour. The Masses can be viewed at 9 a.m. on the CW Network in Sarasota, Manatee, Desoto, Charlotte, Hardee and Highland counties, and at 10:30 a.m. on FOX-4 in Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Hendry, Glades and Desoto counties. The Mass is also available on the Diocese of Venice website at www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass.

Diocesan-wide Opportunity for Sacrament of Reconciliation

As the Lenten Season progresses, the precept of confessing grave sins and receiving Holy Communion at least once during the Lenten Season merits a reminder to all. To facilitate this requirement, every Parish in the Diocese of Venice will be open with a confessor present from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., on Friday, April 8, and from 9:00 a.m. to noon, Saturday, April 9. Check with your local Parish for additional confession times or the availability of a Penance Service. These opportunities are made available so that the faithful may find ample opportunity to receive God’s Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the Lenten Season.

Chrism Mass April 12

The Diocese of Venice Chrism Mass, which takes place during Holy Week every year, will be held at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, April 12 at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., in Venice. During this Mass, the faithful of the Diocese join the Priests, Deacons and Bishop for the blessing of the Holy Oils which are used in the administration of the Sacraments at each parish throughout the year. Priests and Deacons celebrating 25 and 50 years of Ordination are recognized at this Mass. All are encouraged to attend in support of our clergy and to participate in this important Holy Week celebration.

The 2022 Priest and Deacon Jubilarians are:

  • 50 years – Msgr. Joseph Stearns, Father Adrian Wilde, O. Carm., Father David Foley, and Deacon Ray Barrett.
  • 25 years – Father Hugh McGuigan, OSFS, Father Patrick O’Connor, OSFS, Father Leszek Sikorski, Deacon Henry de Mena, and Deacon Mark Miravalle.

Mass for Victims of Child Abuse

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and in conjunction with the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Diocese of Venice will hold a Mass for Victims of Child Abuse for the 15th consecutive year. The Mass will take place at 8 a.m., Wednesday, April 20, 2022, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. The Mass will be live-streamed, and all are welcome to attend as we come together to pray for the victims of abuse.

Chrism Mass: A Sign of Unity

The Chrism Mass is a Holy Week tradition when Holy Oils are blessed and consecrated while priests from across the Diocese stand united with the Bishop.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, joined by the priests of the Diocese of Venice, celebrated the Chrism Mass on March 30, 2021, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. To accommodate the latest guidance on social distancing and limiting the size of gatherings, only priests and Permanent Deacons and their wives were present for the Mass. The public was able to view this Mass via a livestream.

“Gather here for this Chrism Mass, quite different from a year ago for all of us, indeed a much better vision for me seeing all of you,” Bishop Dewane remarked at the opening of the Mass as seeing more than 120 priests present. “We gather here for an important reason, to bless and consecrate the oils to be used throughout the Diocese in the sacramental life of the Church.”

The Chrism Mass marks a celebration and is an expression of unity of the priests with their Shepherd, the Bishop of the Diocese. By having all the priests of the Diocese come together on the eve of the Easter Triduum, reminds each of their calling to act in the person of Christ – in persona Christi.

During the Renewal of Priestly Promises the priests stood as one, and spoke with one voice saying, “I am,” three times in response to questions asked by Bishop Dewane. These same questions were asked of them during their Ordination to the Priesthood.

Bishop Dewane publicly thanked the priests for their continued service to the People of God throughout the Diocese of Venice for what they do each day, and in particular during the ongoing response to the Pandemic. “Reflect that a year ago we were not able to gather – and not able to do many things because we simply didn’t know. We have come to realize there are things we can do. We can gather to give glory and praise to God.”

While addressing the priests directly, Bishop Dewane cited the readings of the day from the Prophet Isaiah, Book of Revelation, and the Gospel of Luke, which identify those who are called to be priests.

“The idea of being made is something that is truly ongoing, a work in progress,” the Bishop continued. “The strength of Christ is given to you and it has made your identity as a priest. It makes you new in the Lord, over and over again.”

At Dioceses around the world, Pope Francis and local Bishops carry out the annual Chrism Mass, which is celebrated during Holy Week, on or before Holy Thursday. In the Diocese of Venice, the Chrism Mass is traditionally celebrated on the Tuesday of Holy Week to accommodate the priests who need to travel great distances. This year was no different.

The Chrism Mass takes its name from the Sacred Chrism oil, which the Bishop blesses and consecrates for use by Parish priests of the Diocese throughout the coming year.

The Order of the Blessing of the oils and consecration of the Sacred Chrism takes place at different times during the Mass. Vested in white, Bishop Dewane, raised hands over the urns on a table near the altar and first blessed the Oil of the Sick at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer. Following the Prayer After Communion, the Bishop blessed the Oil of the Catechumens.

Before the final blessing, the final portion is the consecration of the Sacred Chrism oil. First balsam is poured into the oil and then mixed. The balsam is added so that it gives the oil a sweet smell intended to remind those who encounter it of the “odor of sanctity” – the faithful are called to strive for sanctity. The Bishop then extended his hands toward the vessel containing the oils and said the prayer of consecration. The celebration is brought to a close with a final blessing.

The Oil of the Sick is used for those who seek the Anointing of the Sick, and the Oil of the Catechumens, which is imposed on those preparing for Sacrament of Baptism, are simply “blessed,” by the Bishop, while the Sacred Chrism is “consecrated.” The Sacred Chrism is used for Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders as well as the consecration of altars and dedication of churches.

The Chrism Mass brings together the entire Presbyterate (all active priests in the Diocese) and would normally be witnessed by more than 1,000 people, including religious, student representatives from each of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools, Knights of Columbus Color Corps and Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta as well as the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher.

Recognized during the Chrism Mass were priests and deacons celebrating 50 and 25 years since their ordination. The priest Golden Jubilarians were: Father Roger L. Charbonneau; Father Donald H. Henry; Father Paul F. McLaughlin; Father Patrick C. Organ; and Father Patrick Oliver Toner. The priest Silver Jubilarians were: Father John M. Belmonte, SJ; Father John F. Costello; and Father Pawel Kawelec. The deacon Silver Jubilarians were: Deacon Gary Christoff; Deacon Michael F. Cristoforo; and Deacon David R. Jerome. A complete biography of each jubilarian can be found at https://dioceseofvenice.org/news/.

2021 Diocese of Venice priest and deacon jubilarians honored

The Diocese of Venice honored Golden and Silver anniversary priests and deacons during the annual Chrism Mass on March 30, 2021 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

A reception following the Mass in the Cathedral Parish Hall includes reflections from Golden Jubilarian Father Patrick Organ, pastor of San Pedro Parish in North Port, and from Father Jack Costello, Rector of Epiphany Cathedral.

Golden Jubilee

Rev. Roger L. Charbonneau

The middle child of three boys, Father Roger L. Charbonneau was born in 1944 in Newport, Vermont to Romeo and Albertine Charbonneau. He attended St. John Vianney Seminary in Barre, Vermont and St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts. Ordained for the Diocese of Burlington, Vermont on May 22, 1971, Father Charbonneau was assigned to Parishes in Burlington, Montgomery Center, Troy, Lowell, Colchester, Enosburg Falls, Sheldon Springs, Franklin, Barton, Orleans and Enosburg Falls. For the Diocese of Burlington, Father also served in the Diocesan Tribunal as Defender of the Bond, Director of the Propagation of the Faith, on the Presbyteral Council and Personnel Board. Retiring to Florida in 2015, Father Charbonneau serves for the Diocese of Venice in the Tribunal and assists at St. Thomas More Parish in Sarasota.

Rev. Donald H. Henry

Born in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1944, Father Donald H. Henry is the second of four children. Having attended St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Father was ordained to the Priesthood on March 27, 1971 for the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania. Father Henry served at Parishes in Allentown, Schuylkill Haven, Orefield, Summit Hill, Pottsville, and Easton before joining the Diocese of Venice in 1994, being incardinated into the Diocese in 1998. Father served as Parochial Vicar at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples until 2001, before being assigned as Pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Sarasota where he remained until his retirement in 2015. Within the Diocese of Venice, Father Henry also served on the Pastor Peer Review, Diocesan Priest Personnel and the Priest Convocation Committees. In retirement, Father continues to assist at St. Thomas More and at a local retirement community.

Rev. Paul F. McLaughlin

Father Paul F. McLaughlin was born in 1943 in New Haven, Connecticut, the youngest of five children. Having attended St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Joseph College, Mill Hill, England; and the Seminary of Our Lady of the Angels in Albany, New York, Father was ordained on May 22, 1971 for the Diocese of Hartford, Connecticut. Father McLaughlin served at a Parish in Hartford before becoming a U.S Navy Chaplain where he achieved the rank of Captain. Father Paul was incardinated into the Diocese of Venice on August 15, 1990. From 2008 until his retirement in 2013, Father Paul served as Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton.

 

Rev. Patrick C. Organ

Born in Ennistymon, County Clare, Ireland in 1944, Father Patrick C. Organ is the eldest of five children. Having attended Ennistymon Christian Brothers Seminary and St. Kieran’s Seminary in Kilkenny, Ireland, he was ordained on June 13, 1971 for the Archdiocese of Miami. Father Organ served at Parishes in Lake Worth, Miami, Coral Springs and Hollywood. Within the Diocese of Venice, Father served as Parochial Vicar at San Marco Parish on Marco Island, St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Port Charlotte, and then as Pastor of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish in Bokeelia. Since 1992, Father Organ has served as Pastor of San Pedro Parish in North Port. Father also served on the Diocese of Venice Review Board.

 

Rev. Patrick Oliver Toner

Father Patrick Oliver Toner was born in 1944 in Trim, County Meath, Ireland, the second child of Patrick and Philomena Toner. After attending St. Francis Franciscan College in Pilltown, County Meath and the Jesuit Seminary, Milltown Park, Dublin, Ireland, he was ordained on July 16, 1971 in Dublin for the Carmelite Order. Father Toner served for the Order in Kildare Town, Ireland, as well as at Parishes in Davis, California and Tampa, Florida. He was incardinated into the Diocese of Venice on April 26, 1999 and had served in the Diocese of Venice as priest in residence and later as Parochial Vicar at St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral from 1980 to 1988. Since September 1988, Father Toner has been a Parochial Vicar at Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers.

 

Silver Jubilee

Rev. John Belmonte, SJ

Born in 1963 in Chicago, Illinois, Father John Belmonte is a member of the Society of Jesus. His parents, Joseph and Suzanne (Spicer) Belmonte, also have a son, Joe, who is Father’s twin and a younger son, Matt. Father John attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy, Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Loyola University of Chicago. Ordained on June 14, 1996 for the Jesuit Order, Father served as a teacher in Milwaukee and Chicago, and as a Principal in Milwaukee before becoming Superintendent of Catholic Education for the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois in 2010. After leaving the Diocese of Joliet last year, Father Belmonte joined the   Diocese of Venice as Superintendent of Catholic Education.

 

Rev. John F. Costello

The eldest of eight children, Father John F. Costello was born in 1950 in Boston, Massachusetts. Father attended Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, St. Michael’s College in Burlington, Vermont, and St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida, and was ordained on October 25, 1996 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice for the Diocese of Venice. Prior to becoming a priest, Father Costello was a Christian Brother for 25 years. For the Diocese of Venice, Father served as Parochial Vicar at St. William Parish in Naples, as Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton and has served as Rector of Epiphany Cathedral since 2008. Father Jack also served on the Pastor Peer Review Committee and on the Advisory Board for Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center.

 

Rev. Pawel Kawalec

Father Pawel was born in Staracowice, Poland in 1970 to Andrew and Urszula (Backo) Kawalec. Father was ordained to the Priesthood as a Missionary Priest of the Society of Christ in Poznan, Poland, on May 21, 1996. In September 2004, Father Pawel emigrated to the United States and served as a priest in residence at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice before being assigned to Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Venice.  Subsequently, he served at Ss. Peter and Paul Parish, Bradenton and Holy Cross Parish, Palmetto. Father was incardinated into the Diocese of Venice in December 2005.  Since 2015, Father Pawel has been a Parochial Vicar at St. Catherine Parish, Sebring, Florida.

 

Deacon Silver Jubilee

Deacon David R. Jerome, DDS

Deacon David R. Jerome, DDS, was born in 1937 in Buffalo, New York. He studied at Canisius College in Buffalo, State University of New York at Buffalo Dental School, and Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, New York. Ordained to the Permanent Diaconate on June 16, 1996 for the Diocese of Buffalo, Deacon Jerome served at a Parish in Lancaster, New York, as well as for the Diocese of Buffalo Family Life Department. For the Diocese of Venice, Deacon Jerome serves at St. Finbarr Parish in Naples. He is married to Norene (Tuck) Jerome, and they have three children and 12 grandchildren. Deacon David is a retired dentist and dental educator.

 

Deacon Michael F. Christoforo, MD

Born in 1936 in New York City, New York, Deacon Cristoforo studied at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, and Marquette University School of Medicine in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Deacon Michael was ordained to the Permanent Diaconate on April 27, 1996 for the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois. He served at a Parish in Rockford and then for the Diocese of Venice at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples and San Marco Parish on Marco Island before retiring in 2019. Married to Donna Jean (Dermody) Christoforo, he has three sons and five grandchildren. Deacon Michael is a retired physician.

 

 

Chrism Mass: A Virtual Sign of Unity – Holy Oils Blessed and Consecrated

The Chrism Mass, a Holy Week tradition when Holy Oils are blessed and consecrated and priests from across the Diocese stand united with the Bishop, took on a different form this year but the significance and meaning of what took place were not diminished.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, joined by priests representing each of the four Deaneries of the Diocese of Venice, celebrated the Chrism Mass on April 7, 2020, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. To accommodate the latest guidance on social distancing and limiting the size of gatherings, present on the altar were the Bishop, five priests and three permanent deacons.

“Nothing can stand in the way of the celebration of the Word of God,” Bishop Dewane said at the start of the Mass. “I am grateful that we have the opportunity for the priests and the lay faithful to tune in and witness this celebration. The oils that are blessed and consecrated during this Mass are not only for us priests to use when conveying the Sacraments, they are for you, the faithful.”

Held during Holy Week each year, the Chrism Mass would typically bring together the entire Presbyterate (all active priests in the Diocese) and would be witnessed by more than 1,000. Present for the Mass would be religious, deacons, student representatives from each of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools, Knights of Columbus Color Corps and Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta as well as the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher.

While no one was able to be present in person as witnesses to the Mass, Bishop Dewane said the Word of God and the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ, together, unite us whether everyone is together in person or remotely.

The Chrism Mass marks a celebration and is an expression of unity of the priests with their Shepherd, the Bishop of the Diocese. By having all the priests of the Diocese come together – this year virtually – on the eve of the Easter Triduum, reminds priests of their calling to act in the person of Christ – In persona Christi.

During the Renewal of Priestly Promises the representative priests stood as one, and spoke with one voice saying, “I am,” three times in response to questions asked by Bishop Dewane. These same questions were asked of them during their Ordination to the Priesthood.

Bishop Dewane publicly thanked the priests for their continued service to the People of God throughout the Diocese of Venice for what they do each day, and in particular during the ongoing response to the pandemic. “I miss very much your presence here today… However, when we do gather, the Word of Lord is there… the words that have been said and heard today have great meaning for us.”

While addressing the priests directly, Bishop Dewane cited the readings of the day from the Prophet Isaiah, Book of Revelations, and the Gospel of Luke, which identify those who are called to be priests.

The first reading states that those who “shall be named priests of the Lord, ministers of God, you shall be called.” “The operative word being named,” Bishop Dewane said. “This is profoundly a part of our vocation. The idea of being named is also found in the Prophet Jerimiah 1:5 which states, ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I dedicated you a prophet to the nations I appointed you.’”

From the second reading from the Book of Revelation, the idea of who has been made or created who has made us into a kingdom of priests. The operative word there is made – the idea of being created.

Finally, the Bishop continued, the Gospel of Luke, where the idea of you and I being sent has a special meaning, He has sent me – the operative word being sent.

Bishop Dewane said to the priests: “The idea of being made is something that is truly ongoing, a work in progress. The strength of Christ is given to you and it has made your identity as a priest. It makes you new in the Lord, over and over again.”

As part of being called to the priesthood, Bishop Dewane said the priests are sent to follow where the Lord leads them, and to go forth humbly, joyfully and prayerfully.

“You are sent by the Lord through every Eucharist you celebrate; sermon you preach, truth that you teach; child or adult you baptize; confession you hear; sinner you absolve; marriage you witness; dying person you prepare for their last journey – each one of you have been sent to continue on this priestly journey.”

In an appeal to the faithful, Bishop Dewane asked them to assist the priests, not just during this difficult time caused by the pandemic, but during all times and all difficulties. “We, as a body of priests, need to be uplifted.”

As noted at the beginning of his homily, Bishop Dewane concluded by reminding the priests that it is the Word of God that carries with intention, a meaning and a purpose for them and for the people of God entrusted to their care. “Know, as the faithful, they trust you, they need you, they love you, and so do I. May God bless you all.”

From Jerusalem to Rome, and to Dioceses around the world, Pope Francis and local Bishops carry out the annual Chrism Mass, which is celebrated during Holy Week, on or before Holy Thursday. In the Diocese of Venice, the Chrism Mass is traditionally celebrated on the Tuesday of Holy Week to accommodate the priests who need to travel great distances. This year was no different.

Sacred Chrism Oil

The holy oils which were blessed and consecrated April 7, 2020, during the Chrism Mass at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. Seen from left to right, the Oil of Sick, Sacred Chrism and the Oil of the Catechumens.

The Chrism Mass takes its name from the Sacred Chrism Oil, the most eminent of the holy oils, which the Bishop blesses and consecrates for use by Parish priests of the Diocese.

The Order of the Blessing of the oils and consecration of the Sacred Chrism takes place at different times during the Mass. Vested in white, Bishop Dewane, raised hands over the urns on a table near the altar and first blessed the Oil of the Sick at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer. Following the Prayer After Communion, the Bishop blessed the Oil of the Catechumens.

Before the final blessing, the final portion is the consecration of the Sacred Chrism Oil. First balsam is poured into the oil and then mixed. The balsam is added so that it gives the oil a sweet smell intended to remind those who encounter it of the “odor of sanctity.” All of the faithful are called to strive for sanctity. The Bishop then extended his hands toward the vessel containing the oils, and at one point asked the priests to raise their right arm in prayer, and said the prayer of consecration. The celebration is brought to a close with a final blessing.

The Oil of the Sick is used for those who seek anointing, and the Oil of the Catechumens, which is imposed on those preparing for baptism, are simply “blessed,” by the Bishop, while the Sacred Chrism is “consecrated.”

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