Music, faith bring Lee County youth together

A question which has baffled religious scholars for millennia – “How do you get teens to get excited about their faith?” – may have found a solution in Fort Myers.

The answer, good music, and a chance to let loose for an evening which ultimately focused on the Blessed Sacrament and an examination of their faith.

On Aug. 28, 2022, the regularly scheduled youth outreach meetings at Parishes across Lee County were instead directed to St. John XXIII Parish, where the Parish Youth Council hosted a free summer concert event featuring EPIC the Band, for a night of music, adoration, faith and fun.

EPIC the Band is a young and vibrant group of artists based in Miami, who have dedicated their lives to sharing the Gospel through music. EPIC will be touring with Matt Maher in 2023. The band has appeared in the Diocese of Venice in the past and theirs is a sound that blends multiple genres.

The night opened with some beachballs being tossed around and music blaring as the teens got into the fun of the night.

Lead Guitarist Luis Castro spoke to the teens during and between the various songs, sharing the meaning of the music and how each member of the band has gone through a spiritual journey to bring them to this point.

“Ups and downs, from darkness to the light of God,” he said, adding that everyone’s spiritual journey has these moments which are comforted by an undeniable reality. “The Lord is the One who always believes in you; who never gives up on you; who loves you no matter what; who will comfort you; who will lift you up; who will help you find your way. He does this because you are His child, precious and beautiful.”

Guiding the youth, and many adults, through their songs, Castro and the band members encouraged everyone to join in as the songs were created out of their collective love for God and His people which is poured out in musical praise.

While some teens stayed in the background, for much of the music was unfamiliar, many others joined in clapping to the beat and echoing lyrics they learned.

“This is great,” said one girl from Resurrection Parish. Another from Our Lady of Light Parish said she had “lots of fun.”

During the second set of music the evening pivoted to include Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament when Castro called on everyone to “point your gaze toward the Lord; He is why we are here.”

Father Simon Hoang Minh Dao, CRM, came forward to the stage and placed the Blessed Sacrament into a monstrance on a prepared table.

While everyone kneeled, the music continued in a solemn tone with a mix of sacred music and instrumental background. Father then led everyone in prayer before taking the Blessed Sacrament to a place of repose.

Following Adoration, the evening continued with more music and spirits lifted high.

The event was free for everyone, but there was a concession for pizza and drinks, and a 50/50 drawing.

Kelly Evers, St. John XXIII Coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Outreach, said the evening was a huge success, with 338 in attendance, adding that this is the latest joint youth effort among Parishes in the area.

“We are working to help reach our youth in different ways,” Evers said.

The Parish has a High School Social program after Masses once a month. This program is intended to build a strong connection to the Parish because high school-aged students are often at risk of straying from their faith during these formative years.

Meanwhile, a Middle School Youth Group meets Wednesday evenings, providing a place for youths to identify their place in the Church, grow in their faith, and together in fellowship. The outreach is intended to help youths and families become more actively involved in the parish life.

Other Parish youth leaders also had groups at the St. John XXIII event. The Sunday night gathering served as an unofficial kick-off to the fall religious education season. Several Parishes are also expanding their middle and high school outreach efforts, trying to keep the teens connected to the faith. Many are nearing, or at the time they should be seeking the Sacrament of Confirmation, while others may have completed this goal and are now seeking a security of their future place in the Church.

Evers said the answer to that is simple, these teens are the Church, the present and the future.

News briefs for the week of Nov. 10, 2020

Virtual Diocesan Concert Series continues

The first Virtual Diocesan Concert was a success when it was streamed live from Incarnation Parish in Sarasota on Nov. 6, 2020. Incarnation Music Director Andi Zdrava directed the performance with Johanna Fincher and Abigale Zdrava providing the stunning vocals, while Dr. Nina Kim played the violin and Edevaldo Mulla the cello.

Music included a variety of selections such as “Panis Angelicus” and “I heard the voice of Jesus say,” as well as two versions of the “Ave Maria.” The series continues from a new location on Nov. 13, 2020 at noon and again on Nov. 20, 2020. Each segment will be live and last approximately 30 minutes. Anyone can view the live stream through the Diocese of Venice Facebook page at You do not need to register to view live events on Facebook.

Catholic Medical Association Guild leaders meet with Bishop

Leadership of the Southwest Florida Guild of the Catholic Medical Association met with Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Nov. 5, 2020 at the Catholic Center in Venice. The leadership provided Bishop Dewane with their annual report on their latest activities.

Bereavement seminar Nov. 16 in Naples

Deacon Henry deMena is hosting “There is Hope – Surviving the Holidays” Bereavement Seminar at 3 p.m., Nov. 16, 2020, at the St. Agnes Parish Center, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples. This is for those who have experienced a death in the family or the loss of close friend or are trying to help someone who has experienced a loss. Deacon deMena will share he bereavement counseling experience and helpful advice on surviving the holidays. He will also discuss issues which have arisen as a result of isolation due to COVID-19. The seminar is free and open to all. No registration is required. Masks must be worn. Seating will be socially distanced. For those not comfortable to attend, the seminar will be livestreamed from the St. Agnes Parish website and Facebook pages. For more information, please email Deacon deMena at

Youth make prayer bowls

Youth at St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers gathered Nov. 8, 2020 to make prayer bowls. The youth used arts and crafts to decorate their bowls with various religious symbols as part of an ongoing effort to learn about the significance of various Christian symbols such as the dove, the Alpha and Omega and much more.

News briefs from week of October 26, 2020

Virtual Diocesan Concert Series begins Nov. 6

The Diocese of Venice is proud to announce that a virtual concert series will be offered to the faithful at noon on the first three Fridays of November 2020. The concerts will be livestreamed from select Parishes in the Diocese and offer a broad selection of Catholic music. This is being offered as many remain home due to the ongoing global pandemic and miss the richness of music. The series begins at noon, Nov. 6, 2020 and will return on Nov. 13 and Nov. 20. Each segment will be live and last approximately 30 minutes. Anyone can view the live stream through the Diocese of Venice Facebook page at You do not need to register to view live events on Facebook. For more information, please contact Gail Ardy at 941-484-9543 or

Equestrian Order celebrates Feast Day

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for the Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem on Oct. 27, 2020 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. The annual Mass is held as close as possible to the Order’s Patroness Feast Day, Our Lady of Palestine, which is Oct. 25 and was approved by the Holy See in 1933. Following the Mass, two Knights and two Dames were presented with honors from the Order by Bishop Dewane. The Feast Day asks all to join in praying to the Virgin Mary for special protection of Palestine and the holy city of Jerusalem. The Equestrian Order is the only lay institution of the Vatican State charged with the task of providing for the needs of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and for all the activities and initiatives which are necessary to support the Christian presence in the Holy Land. The Order is present in nearly 40 countries worldwide.

Adopt a family for Christmas

Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities is looking for people who want to make Christmas special for single mothers and their babies by providing gifts from their wish list. If you are interested in adopting a family for Christmas or want to donate a gift, please contact Rita Millner, Case Worker for Our Mother’s House at 941-485-6264, or email All wrapped gifts must be delivered before Dec. 9, 2020. Our Mother’s House is committed to helping homeless mothers and their children achieve self-sufficiency.

Students take action to prevent bullying

An Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School student makes a pledge to promote unity during a rally to end bullying on Oct. 21, 2020 in Venice.

Diocese of Venice Catholic School participated in the annual Unity Day on Oct. 21, 2020, to take action in their world and stand up against bullying. At Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice, students wore orange to school and took a pledge of acceptance, kindness, and inclusion.

Students in this second grade class at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers write positive, kind and thoughtful notes about their classmates as part of Unity Day, a effort to promote kindness and stop bullying.

In addition to wearing orange, at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers students in a second-grade class wrote a positive, kind and thoughtful thing about each student in the class and placed it in their kindness buckets. These were just a few of the activities which took place at Diocesan Catholic schools.

If you need help from Catholic Charities

If you need assistance from Catholic Charities for food, financial assistance or tele-mental health counseling, please call the number for your area listed below 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday. Services have expanded to include assistance in applying for state and federal benefits if you have lost work due to the COVID-19 Pandemic:

  • Sarasota/Manatee/DeSoto/Hardee/Highlands counties: 844-385-2407,
  • Charlotte/Lee/Hendry/Glades counties: 844-385-2423,
  • Collier County: 844-385-2404.

Food distribution from Catholic Charities

Catholic Charities food distribution will take place only at the following times and locations. Please call the regional number for more information.

  • Monday-Friday, 9-11 a.m., Guadalupe Social Services, 211 S. 9th St., Immokalee, the Soup Kitchen is providing meals-to-go;
  • Tuesdays, 9-11:30 a.m., Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center, 3174 Tamiami Trail E., Naples;
  • Thursdays, 9 a.m.-noon, St. Margaret Parish, 208 Dean Duff St., Clewiston;
  • Fridays, 9-10:30 a.m., St. Paul Parish, 1208 Oak St., Arcadia;
  • Fridays, 9-11 a.m., St. Leo the Great Parish, 28360 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs;
  • Fridays, 9 a.m.-noon, Elizabeth K. Galeana Pantry, 4235 Michigan Avenue Link, Fort Myers.

How to Help

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. is in urgent need of your financial support during its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To help, please visit or send a check to: Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc., 5824 Bee Ridge Road, PMB 409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065.

Parish donations

During this challenging time in the life and mission of the Diocese of Venice, our Parishes face increased risk of financial shortfalls due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and its effects on everyday life. Parishes depend on weekly financial gifts to continue their ministries, especially in this critical time of crisis. The Diocese of Venice is providing an online platform and encourages the Faithful to support their Parish. Please visit to donate to your Parish. The Faithful may also contribute through usual channels (e.g., envelopes, and through the Parish online giving option). Together we will navigate through this crisis, provide assistance to those in need, and secure the road ahead for the Parishes within the Diocese of Venice.


As Bishop Frank J. Dewane continues to listen to public health data and hear from Priests and Parishioners about the experiences at Diocesan Parishes, the dispensation given to attend Sunday Mass has been extended through Nov. 27, 2020, and depending on conditions, perhaps longer. At the same time, Bishop Dewane invites the Catholic Faithful who are able, to return to their Parish for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Please check the Diocese of Venice website for any updates.


The Diocese of Venice will continue livestreaming the Mass through the Diocese website ( and Facebook pages from the Catholic Center in Venice at 9:15 a.m. daily as the dispensation to attend Mass remains.