The celebration of Christmas is a time to recognize the truth about Christ: our Incarnate Savior, the Son of God, both human and divine.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane stressed the importance of this reality when speaking about the meaning and symbolism that we must recognize and accept that on Christmas Day, “the Savior, the Messiah, is sent to us. In so doing, you and I become children of God.”
The true gift of Christmas is not the presents found under a tree, but the light God sent forth into the world, Jesus Christ and the example He provides, Bishop Dewane added.
“That gift of light is with you and me,” Bishop Dewane continued. “No matter where we find ourselves, that light of Christ rests with all of us. It is we who have to accept that, and when we do, we become that Child of God.”
For Christmas, Bishop Dewane celebrated the Televised Mass for Homebound which was recorded at St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota. As the Bishop has in the past, he made a point to celebrate the Mass for the incarcerated in the region. This was accomplished Christmas Eve at the DeSoto Correctional Facility in Arcadia and the day after Christmas at the Hardee Correctional Institute in Bowling Green.
Christmas throughout the Diocese reflected the generosity of the faithful toward those in need. The Advent tradition of having a Jesse Tree, with ornaments listing the wish of a needy child, was a common sight in churches in December. The result was that tens of thousands of gifts were distributed throughout the region to local children.
Also, part of the Christmas Season were concerts with carolers to help everyone get into the spirit of the coming Holiday. Christmas Eve was the time for children’s Masses with the younger faithful participating in the retelling of the Nativity story.
In what has become an annual tradition, St. Agnes Parish in Naples hosted a Living Nativity, complete with a recreation of the town of Bethlehem and live animals.
A common pre-Christmas celebration at several Parishes in the Diocese is “Las Posadas,” a tradition from Mexico and Central and South America where the Nativity story is retold over the course of nine days. The highlight of the novena is one larger centerpiece gathering. One of the more elaborate celebrations occurs at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula. This year, the celebration was postponed due to weather until Jan. 4. In the retelling of the Nativity story, more than 100 youth participated.
Before the Christmas Break, Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools joined in the fun of the season by giving back to those in need while also holding their own celebrations.
Each school held their own toy drives to benefit needy children in the area with the generous response reaching beyond what was expected. Other fun activities included decorating cookies and trees, gift making and wrapping, as well as pageants and concerts, each to showcase the talents of the students.
The Bishop Verot Catholic High School National Honors Society in Fort Myers hosted young students from St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral and St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers to build gingerbread houses and decorate cookies.
Kindergartners at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton visited a nearby nursing home to sing carols to spread holiday cheer. Students at the school also received a visit from Mrs. Santa Claus who delivered books as part of a reading initiative from the Early Learning Coalition.
The Key Club of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples hosted a “Holiday Gift Shop” for the Friends of Foster Children Forever. Families came to the campus to choose from thousands of new toys that went to some very deserving foster children in the area.
Neumann students also helped pack 150,000 meals to help feed the needy in the local community. Food and toys were also delivered to the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center of Catholic Charities.
The events and activities listed represent a mere fraction of what took place in December at Parishes and schools across the Diocese of Venice.
St. Mother Teresa once said, “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota loves taking part in giving back to the community from serving meals to the homeless to food and toy drives.
To kick off the giving season, Mooney students and staff participated in a Thanksgiving food drive that provided over 65 families with a full Thanksgiving meal as well as served over 200 homeless lunch in the downtown Sarasota area on Nov. 27.
The Cardinal Mooney chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society collected new toys to support Andrew’s Toybox and delivered them Dec. 19, just in time for Christmas, to the pediatric wards of Sarasota and Manatee Memorial Hospitals.
The 60 residents of Sunshine Meadows Nursing Home in Sarasota received items on their Christmas list Dec. 13, as part of an effort by the Cardinal Mooney staff as well as by different members of clubs on campus.
Also taking part of the giving season was the Cardinal Mooney Cougar Band which performed at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and University Town Center mall to help bring cheer to those travelling and shopping during the holidays.
Service in the community
Every student at Cardinal Mooney participates in giving back through community service and is required to complete 100 hours of service during their four years at the college preparatory school.
Most students have well over the 100 hours including senior Aaron Dhanhai who has 612 hours, with 550 of those hours as a volunteer at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Junior Mallory Allbritton has more than 440 hours with Sarasota Disaster Relief Services, 4H and Future Farmers of America (FFA). Allyson Galvin, a sophomore, has 330 hours working on various service projects with Our Lady of Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch. Cooper Flerlage, a freshman, already has over 330 community service hours, mostly with the Sarasota County Summer Camp Program.
The family environment of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School fosters spiritual growth and prepares all students to become servant leaders in the world by performing over 30,000 community service hours a year.
Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, a Christ-centered, college preparatory institution is celebrating its 60th Anniversary. The school prepares students to serve and lead by nurturing spiritual growth, cultivating the talent of all students, and challenging them to pursue academic excellence.
As a nationally accredited school, Mooney is now offering the new rigorous AP Capstone diploma; as well as a full honors curriculum; Advanced Placement courses; dual enrollment; and learning strategies programs. Student-athletes participating in over 30 athletic teams have won district, sectional, and regional titles with three state titles this year. With a 100 percent acceptance rate to college, Cardinal Mooney graduates earned more than $9 million in scholarships in 2019.
Filipino Catholics arounds the Diocese of Venice and around the world have a custom in preparation for Christmas of participating in a novena of Masses at Dawn, known as Simbang Gabi.
Celebrated at several parishes in the Diocese, for the first time the tradition was celebrated at the Vatican by Pope Francis. The Holy Father opened the celebration at St. Peter’s Basilica on Dec. 15, Gaudete Sunday.
“Through this celebration we want to prepare ourselves for Christmas according to the spirit of the Word of God that we have listened to, remaining constant until the Lord’s definitive coming,” Pope Francis explained.
The Simbang Gabi tradition in the Philippines dates back to the 17th century and was introduced to the Philippines by Spanish friars to allow the farmers to hear Mass before going to the fields early in the morning. Filipinos hang a star outside their homes, and attend early morning Masses on each of the nine days before Christmas.
This tradition is also known by its popular Spanish name as the Misa de Gallo, or “Mass of the Rooster,” commonly indicating the pre-dawn Christmas Eve Mass. The novena serves as spiritual preparation for Christmas, in commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. The celebration is also seen as a way of requesting blessings from the Lord, as most people believe that if one completes the whole series of nine dawn Masses, wishes will be granted.
Pope Francis noted that as Filipinos have migrated throughout the world, their traditions and devotions have followed. In the Diocese of Venice, the full novena has been celebrated at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Port Charlotte for many years. Where the Filipino Catholic community is smaller, Incarnation Parish in Sarasota and St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral, abbreviated novenas were observed.
Although this tradition is not exclusive to Filipinos, its observance is strong and distinctive in the Philippine Catholic culture.
The Holy See allows the Simbang Gabi Masses to differ from the traditional Advent Season readings and requirements. This exception allows the readings to be directly associated with the Christmas Season and the Church is also decorated while the priests wear white vestments. The exception to this guidance is if the Mass is celebrated as part of Gaudete Sunday, which maintains its precedence.
As at the Vatican, the Simbang Gabi Mass at St. Andrew Parish was on Gaudete Sunday. Following the Mass there was a reception in the Parish Hall where there was a potluck dinner was served with a variety of traditional delicacies including rice cakes, seafood and noodle dishes, as well as pastries and other sweets. The choir sang Christmas songs in English and Tagalog, the language known by most Filipinos,
Tradition dictates that time changes during this celebration of the Holy Mass for the novena. It is no longer the same moment of Advent that is celebrated during the day, everything becomes Simbang Gabi, but when the sun rises it returns to the Advent Season. It is because we are living that magical moment that is before the sun rises.
This is an important and growing Catholic tradition as the faithful prepare their hearts waiting for that dawn when the sun rises. The sun rise is associated with Jesus Christ, bringing with it a new hope, new life.
It is believed that participating in the novena of Masses brings many blessings, mostly for the family. Some also believe that if you attended the Simbang Gabi you would find your future spouse, which naturally increased the popularity of the tradition.
The televised Christmas Day Mass for the Homebound with Celebrant Bishop Frank J. Dewane will air for a full hour on Christmas Day. For viewers in the northern portions of the Diocese (DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Manatee, and Sarasota counties), the Mass will air at 9:30 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee counties), the Mass will air at 8 a.m. on WFTX-TV (FOX-4). Please check your cable provider for channel listings. Leaflet missals are available upon request by calling Gail Ardy at 941-486-4714 or by writing: TV Mass, Diocese of Venice, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285. For more information email email@example.com.
Student artwork nationally recognized
Two St. Martha Catholic School students named as 2018-2019 Missionary Childhood Association (MCA) Christmas Artwork Contest winners earlier in the year, were recognized locally on Dec. 13 for their achievement. Sixth grader Collier Moser, and seventh grader Charlotte Thompson were two of only 24 students nationwide to be recognized with this honor. Additionally, Charlotte’s artwork was named one of two grand prizes and was reproduced as the Christmas Card of the national office of the Missionary Childhood Association. On Dec. 13, Father Bob Kantor, Director of the Diocese Office of the Propagation of the Faith (Missions Office), went to the Sarasota school for a presentation and to personally congratulate the winners and their art teacher, Mary Jo Salomone. Earlier in December, Charlotte attended a Mass in celebration for winners and their families at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The artwork of all 24 student winners is on display there until mid-January.
Mass Honoring Widows and Widowers in Naples Jan. 26
Bishop Frank J. Dewane will celebrate a Mass for all widows and widowers beginning at 3 p.m., Jan. 26, St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th N. Ave., Naples. Dinner will follow in the Parish Hall. A display of photos will be available for viewing during the reception; should you wish to participate with a photo of you and your deceased spouse, please email Gail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send a copy in advance to Diocese of Venice, ATTN: Widows and Widowers Mass, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, Florida 34285. There is no cost to attend. Registration is required to plan for food. To register visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/calendar. For more details contact Gail at 941-484-9543 or email@example.com.
Christmas Appeal continues
The annual Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal occurs now through January. The goal is to raise $565,000 and your gifts are much appreciated! The Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal is the agency’s largest fundraiser and critical to operating the social service organization. Your donation will benefit Catholic Charities programs and services available throughout Southwest Florida that assist individuals, families, and seniors all year long. Thank you for your giving spirit! To donate please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org or mail a donation to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., 5824 Bee Ridge Road PMB 409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065.
Mass Celebrating Haitian Independence
Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites everyone to participate in the Annual Mass celebrating Haitian Independence at 2 p.m., New Year’s Day, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. The Mass, which is on the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, brings together the various Haitian communities within the Diocese of Venice for one celebration. There is a reception after the Mass in the Parish Hall.
Apologetics Conference Jan. 16-17
The Diocese Office of Evangelization is offering three opportunities to attend an Apologetics Conference with Mike Aquilina. An award-winning author of more than fifty books on Catholic history, doctrine, and devotion, Anguilla will speak at 5:30 p.m., Jan. 16, Resurrection Parish, 8121 Cypress Lake Drive, Fort Myers; and then 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., Jan. 17, 2020, Epiphany Cathedral, 310 Sarasota St., Venice. The topics is “Defend Youth Faith: Finding answers to modern problems in the early Church.” There is no cost, and all are welcome. For information, please call 941-484-9543, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/calendar.
Card party in Englewood Jan. 8
The St. Francis Assisi Parish Women’s Guild card party will be held at 11 a.m., Jan. 8, in the Parish Hall, 5265 Placida Road, Grove City. Play cards or games until 2:30 p.m.. Please make your reservations by Jan. 6 by visiting to www.sfoachurch.com – Parish Forms – Card Party – Reservation form, or by calling 941-697-4899 ext. 6 and leave a message with your name, phone number and number of people at your table. Tickets are $8 and includes your lunch, drinks, playing time and door prizes. All are welcome to attend.
Marriage Prep Retreat Jan. 11
St. Charles Borromeo Parish, 21505 Augusta Ave., Port Charlotte, is offering a pre-Cana retreat called for by the Witness to Love Marriage Preparation program from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Jan.11. Engaged couples attend this retreat before their 5th meeting with their mentor couples, the Theology night with the priest or deacon. Mentor couples and couples preparing for convalidation through the Witness to Love Civil Marriage Initiative are also welcome to attend if they wish. The retreat will be held in the Saint Charles Parish Center from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The cost is $25 per couple. Couples should register with Michael Barrett at (941) 585-0668 or email@example.com by January 4th.
St. Ann Catholic School honored
The Naples Award Program has selected St. Ann Catholic School for the 2019 Best of Naples Award in the School category. The program is an annual awards outreach honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local business throughout the Naples area. Recognition is given to those that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate advantages of long-term value.
Dinner for St. Vincent de Paul Society Jan. 14
The Knights of Columbus San Marco Council 6344 will sponsor the St. Vincent de Paul Society Dinner, 5:30 p.m., Jan. 14, in the San Marco Parish Center, 851 San Marco Road, Marco Island. The barbeque dinner includes pulled pork or fried chicken, baked potato, baked beans, salad, rolls and butter, coffee, tea, and dessert. Soda, Wine and Beer are available at a cash bar. The cost will be $25 per person. Credit cards accepted. Reserve a table. No take-out is available. This event is open to the public and everyone is invited. Buy your tickets at the Church Office or by calling Joe Granda at 239-389-2823, Mickey Flynn 609-335-2458, Joe Swaja at 239-269-7033, Gene Consolo at 248-321-2204 or John DeRosa at 239-272-0816. For more information, contact 239-389-5633 or visit our website at www.marcoknights.com.
Filipino Catholics participated in a novena of Masses as a form of spiritual preparation in the nine days leading up to Christmas.
This tradition was introduced to the Philippines by Spanish friars to allow the farmers to hear Mass before going to the fields early in the morning. Simbang Gabi is also known by its popular Spanish name as the Misa de Gallo, or “Mass of the Rooster,” commonly indicating the pre-dawn Christmas Eve Mass. The novena serves as spiritual preparation for Christmas, in commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. The celebration is also seen as a way of requesting blessings from the Lord, as most people believe that if one completes the whole series of nine dawn Masses, wishes will be granted.
The complete novena was held at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Port Charlotte, with the opening Mass celebrated by Pastor Father Teofila Useche and Father Kristian Villafana, Parochial Vicar of St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. Celebrated in Tagalog, the language known by most Filipinos, Masses were also celebrated on one day of the novena period at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota (Dec. 16), St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral (Dec. 16), and at St. Leo the Great Parish (Dec. 21).
Although this tradition is not exclusive to Filipinos, its observance is very much highlighted and distinctive of the Philippine Catholic culture.
Father Villafana explained that the Vatican allows the Simbang Gabi Masses to differ from the traditional Advent Season readings and requirements. This exception allows the readings to be directly associated with the Christmas Season and the Church is also decorated while the priests wear white vestments.
“Time changes during this celebration of the Holy Mass,” Father said. “It is no longer the same moment of Advent that you celebrate during the day, everything is Simbang Gabi, but when the sun rises it returns to the Advent Season. It is because we are living that magical moment that is before the sun rises.”
This is an important and growing Catholic tradition as the faithful prepare their hearts waiting for that dawn when the sun rises, Father Villafana added. The sun rise is associated with Jesus Christ, bringing with it new hope, new life.
“We are living that moment in joyful and hopeful anticipation,” Father continued.
Father Villafana added that it is believed that participating in the novena of Masses brings many blessings. Some believe that if you attended the Simbang Gabi you would find your future spouse, which naturally increased the popularity of the tradition.
The best prayer is about family,” Father concluded. That God would take care of our family and help us remain united in that great love that the Lord has given us in the form of a child born on Christmas Day. That child shows us the value of sacrifice and the value of true love in our life.”
Following the daily Masses, a reception is held serving traditional Filipino delicacies including rice cakes, pastries, coffee and breakfast rolls.
The Word brought Light into the darkness – Christmas brings the Light of Christ into the world, providing comfort and courage.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the Midnight Mass at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice where the Gospel of Luke (2: 1-14), speaks in recognition of Christ and the birth of Our Savior that is still celebrated in the Church more than 2,000 years later.
The Gospel is broken into two important parts, Bishop Dewane explained. The first part sets the time and place when the birth took place, namely in Bethlehem at the time of the census called for by Caesar Augustus.
“This is not just some event that happened at some vague time that is debated,” the Bishop added. The Birth of Christ happened and can be recorded to that specific place and time. This is an historical event!”
This is stressed here as well as in the other Gospels related to the Birth of Christ so as to establish the voracity of the event; so there is no debate or confusion when the story is retold.
The second part of the Gospel is about the shepherds who were given a call to be witnesses to the Birth of Jesus Christ. From them we learn about the simplicity of Jesus being born in the manger to Mary and Joseph and why there was no room at the inn.
“The shepherds are told, ‘do not be afraid,’” Bishop Dewane said. “This message is for all of us. As the shepherds were called to proclaim the Good News of the Lord, so too are we called to take that message into our heart. Let this message provide comfort and courage as we move forward this Christmas Season.”
The Bishop also celebrated the Christmas Televised Mass for the Homebound from Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch, and asked everyone to prayer during the Christmas Season for the homebound and those who are alone or might be incarcerated.
Throughout the Diocese of Venice, the Christmas Season was celebrated in a variety of ways. Parishes had Angel Trees from which parishioners could buy gifts for those in need in the community and for Catholic Charities programs. Several Parishes also had a Living Nativity, complete with live animals. The largest of these was a St. Agnes Parish in Naples and included a town laid out in the Parish Hall parking lot and actors portraying key figures in the Nativity Story.
Catholic Schools throughout the Diocese contributed huge numbers of gifts to other children in the region. In addition, many held holiday pageants and concerts with nativity plays a common theme. Children also made gingerbread houses, caroled at nursing homes and others brought holiday cheer to those with disabilities.
The following are a complete listing of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Mass times for all Parishes/Missions within the Diocese of Venice. Time are listed by the city in which the Parish/Mission is located.