Permanent Deacon to be ordained June 18

There were many times throughout the life of Craig J. Dutka when he could have turned away from his Faith, breaking his strong connection with Christ. But that is not the Catholic man Dutka has become. Instead, he is on the threshold of achieving the dream of being Ordained to the Permanent Diaconate for the Diocese of Venice.

The Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate is at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, June 18, 2022, at Holy Cross Parish, 506 26th St. W., Palmetto.

Dutka came to the Diocese of Venice from the Diocese of Metuchen in New Jersey. It is where he was born and raised and started his own family. After hearing a call to become a Permanent Deacon, Dutka entered the Diaconate training program in New Jersey, taking requisite advanced classes at Seton Hall University and progressing well even though he had little background in sacred theology.

However, that dream of service to the Church as a Permanent Deacon was put on hold when Dutka lost the business he founded and ran for 17 years. With a financial crisis and a need to ensure the future of his family, he dropped out of the diaconate formation program and eventually moved to Florida to find work in his field as an electrician and project manager.

“Although fear abounded,” Dutka explained, “God always tells us to: ‘Trust Me in all things.’ My trust in God is absolute. I felt very alone as my class moved forward toward ordination. However, God has been so good to me, and the trajectory of my life could have gone in a negative direction; but my Faith and my family helped me get through the junkyard that was that point in my life.”

So, when his New Jersey classmates, whom he identifies as brothers, were each ordained as Permanent Deacons in 2019, Dutka was there to pray and cheer for them.

At the same time, his life in Florida was settling down and he reached out to the Diocese of Venice Permanent Diaconate Formation program leaders seeking to learn about his options. Dutka said that although he had competed nearly all of his formation in New Jersey, he was practical in the reality that he might have to go through an entire seven-year process a second time.

“Deacon Bill Ladroga (then Permanent Diaconate Formation Director) was hesitant because of my age and the fact that no one in the Diocese of Venice knew who I was,” Dutka said. “A letter from my Bishop (Most Rev. James F. Checchio) to Bishop Dewane opened the door to a personal interview.”

Bishop Dewane was impressed with Dutka’s determination and understood his unique circumstances. Ultimately, Bishop Dewane offered Dutka entrance into the Diocese of Venice formation program with the stipulation that he make the commitment with his whole heart and soul, and was willing to complete at least two additional years of study, at which point his petition for ordination would be reviewed.

“I immediately agreed because at that point I was willing to do 7 more years of formation,” Dutka said. “I joined the Venice formation class of 2025 and was worried that I wouldn’t have anything in common with my new brothers, but it was the opposite… I gained a great deal of love and support from them, and they learned from me. The Diaconate is a brotherhood of service that creates a strong bond.”

Dutka credits Bishop Dewane, Deacon Ladroga, Deacon Bob Gaitens (current Permanent Diaconate Formation Director), as well as Father Kristian Villafaña, Temporary Administrator of Holy Cross Parish, with helping him make it through. They each offered guidance and had faith and confidence in him to succeed, he said.

Although he has overcome many obstacles in his life, from being born in a taxi during a snowstorm, losing both parents in a short period of time when he was a teen, to losing his business and more, Dutka said he always counts himself as blessed.

“I have had a calling within the Church. My journey might serve to inspire others to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit tells you ‘This is or isn’t what you are going to do with your life,’ you have to listen and have Faith.”

Dutka grew up and worked in Monroe, New Jersey, before coming to Florida. He currently works as a project manager at Willis Smith Construction and is married to his wife of 22 years, Eileen. He has three boys, Shane, Brett and David.

The Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate of Craig J. Dutka is open to the public and all are welcome and encouraged to attend. The ordination is 10:30 a.m., Saturday, June 18, 2022, at Holy Cross Parish, 506 26th St. W., Palmetto.

News Briefs for the Week of June 3 2022

Fire department fun

The Naples Fire-Rescue Department visited St. Ann Catholic School on May 25, 2022. In this annual visit, the ladders extended, and blasts of refreshing water sprayed all over delighted students. What a fun time for all the students as the school year ends.

Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate June 18

All are invited and encouraged to attend the Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate for the following candidate: Craig Dutka of Holy Cross Parish in Palmetto. The Ordination will be held at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, June 18, 2022, at Holy Cross Parish, 506 26th St. W., Palmetto. A reception in the Parish Hall will follow.

Our Lady of Fatima Rosary Rally June 4

Please join our national “America Needs Fatima Rosary Rally” for the Traditional Family and Public Prayers in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to end abortion which will be held Saturday, June 4, from noon to 1 p.m., at the corner of Daniels Parkway and Daniels Commerce Blvd near Tile Outlet of America and TIAA Bank in Fort Myers. Parking is in an empty lot at Daniels Commerce Blvd. and Commerce Park Blvd. or John Yarbrough Linear Park off Daniels at Metro Parkway. Please arrive 10 minutes early and bring your Pro-Life signs, chairs, water, and umbrellas. For more information, please contact Toni at toni@defendingtheunborn.com.

22nd Annual Knights Liberty Ball June 18

The Knights of Columbus Assembly 2542 is hosting the 22nd Annual Liberty Ball, June 18, 2022, at Our Lady of Light Parish, 19680 Cypress View Drive, Fort Myers. Presented by the Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus, the evening will honor Knights who are veterans. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., with Presentation of Colors at 6 p.m. with dinner to follow. Tickets are $35 and include dinner, two drink tickets and dancing. Dress code for Fourth Degree Knights is tuxedo with Social Baldric, all others, smart casual. This Gala is open to everyone. For ticket or event information, please contact any of the following: Jim Mendolera at 239-390-0346, Frank Haneline, 239-466-6883, or Ron Bekech at 239-437-4999.

Religious Freedom Week 2022

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is once again promoting the celebration of Religious Freedom Week beginning Wednesday, June 22 to Thursday, June 29. Each year the week encompasses the period between the Memorial of Saints Thomas More & John Fisher, through the Solemnity of Saints Peter & Paul. The theme for this year is Life and Dignity for All. As we approach the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, we are especially mindful of the debates around our country about abortion. The Church plays a crucial role in both bearing witness to the gospel of life and serving all who will be affected by these discussions and their outcomes. Learn how you can pray, reflect, and act to promote religious freedom at www.usccb.org/ReligiousFreedomWeek.

Youth Conference in July

The 14th annual Ave Maria University Youth Conference – “Fearless” – is being held July 8-10. Featured talks are by Father Rick Martignetti, Father Joseph Lugalambi, Father Rich Pagano and Chris Padget. The event includes the talks, Mass, Adoration, praise and worship, fellowship, opportunities for confession and much more. The cost is $175 and includes lodging, all meals, a t-shirt and more. To register, call 239-348-4725, aveconferences@gmail.com or www.aveconferences.com.

“Smile! God Loves You!” Sarasota Pastor of 31 years retires

With a radiant smile and infectious positivity, not to mention his Italian accent, Pallottine Father Fausto Stampiglia retires from St. Martha Parish in Sarasota leaving behind a legacy that is nearly impossible to comprehend.

For the past 31 years, as Pastor of St. Martha, Father Stampiglia – known as Father Fausto to all – served the faithful with all his heart, impacting the lives of countless individuals and families, being there for moments great and small.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1960, now 86, Father Fausto enters retirement comforted by the knowledge that he did the best he could while shining the light of the Lord into the world. A favorite phrase – “Smile, God Loves You!” is on a plaque of his bust on the wall outside the Parish Hall named in his honor, with the rest of the quote saying – “and so do your Parishioners.”

This feeling of love for Father Fausto has been evident throughout his many years and became more prevalent as his retirement approached in recent months.

Comments posted to social media when the official date for Father Fausto’s retirement was made public included: “You will be missed in this role – you have touched so many in our community.”  “You will always have a special place in our hearts. Thanks for everything you’ve done for me and my family.” “Your messages of Christ’s love and infinite ability to forgive us were deeply appreciated!” “Your entire life has been about serving God through us, His children.” “Father Fausto’s legacy is one of great care for generations of students. We pray his retirement be filled with blessed days and good health! Well done, Father Fausto, you have been a good and faithful servant.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane reflected on the impact of Father by stating: “Father Fausto deserves great recognition and praise for the pastoral work he has accomplished in his years of service with the Diocese of Venice. He has been a blessing to the Diocese of Venice and to St. Martha Parish. Most may only know him as the Pastor of St. Martha, but he contributed in so many other areas. His compassion and love for all is always evident. While he is retiring and his cheerful presence will be missed, the legacy Father Fausto leaves behind will be remembered for generations. Father was a legend in his own time!  I know that he will continue the good work of our Lord in his life going forward in all that he does.”

The humble Italian understands how much people care for him and deeply appreciate his service as Pastor at St. Martha. He recently reflected on his life, from growing up in war-torn Italy where he sought shelter from bombings from the age of five to nine; to his entering religious life at 16 with the Society of Catholic Apostolates (Pallottines); then to his scholarly studies then to assignments teaching first in Italy then in East Harlem, New York, then to Albany, New York. Then he became the expert at starting or reinvigorating Permanent Diaconate Programs at several different Dioceses.

That is what brought Father Fausto to the Diocese of Venice in 1986.

Living at St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota, Father Fausto worked at the Catholic Center and assisted at Parishes in Sarasota while expanding the Permanent Diaconate program and helping to establish the Institute for Catholic Studies and Faith Formation.

As the Diocese expanded and new Parishes were erected, the Pallottines, with Father Fausto as Pastor, were asked to take over St. Martha Parish in downtown Sarasota in 1991. When he arrived at St. Martha, the Parish was in debt, and St. Martha’s school was facing a possible closure.

With Father Fausto’s charm, patience and humble approach to each problem, the Parish soon got out of debt and the school started adding students. Honesty and directness helped during this process as Father Fausto sought donors to support his plans for the future. This included building a new school on property several miles east of the Parish.

While going through that process, Father saw a need and supported the establishment of a new school for students with learning disabilities, the current St. Mary Academy (then known as Dreams Are Free Academy).

Father also supported the Spanish-speaking Catholics in the area, having been assigned to several Spanish-language Parishes in his early priesthood, and helped to establish St. Jude Parish.

Throughout the years at St. Martha, Father helped establish the Vietnamese and Tridentine Rite Masses, and has always been a strong supporter of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., including St. Martha Early Learning Center for needy pre-school children, and Bethesda House (a outreach for victims of AIDS), which sit across from the Parish Church. He was also active in creating Casa Santa Marta I & II (low-income housing for seniors), as well as a Caritas outreach.

During his service to the Diocese of Venice Father Fausto has also been Vicar Forane (Dean) of the Northern Deanery since 1991, Theologian to the Bishop, Director of the Permanent Diaconate, an ex-officio member of the Presbyteral Council, a member of the College of Consultors, Liturgical Commission, and Diocesan School Board, as well as the Diocesan representative on the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Ethics Committee. He is also a Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus.

At the conclusion of the “Year for Priests,” in 2010, Father Fausto was honored with the Papal Medal of Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (For Church and the Pope) from then-Pope Benedict XVI by Bishop Dewane. The Papal Medal is the highest recognition for a Religious Priest and was presented for his exemplary service and for his dedication to the people of St. Martha Parish and to the Diocese of Venice.

Throughout his service to the Church, Father has been with the faithful at every moment of life, from births to deaths and everywhere in between.

To help smooth his transition from Pastor to retirement, the last official act Father Fausto had as Pastor occurred on May 14, 2022, presiding over the First Holy Communion of the students from St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy. At his side was his successor, fellow Pallottine Father Jerzy (George) Suszko. In the following few weeks, he was also present as an assisting priest at Confirmation and at Masses for the students at St. Martha and St. Mary before the close of the Academic Year.

Although he often has the energy of people half his age, Father’s retirement comes in his mid-80s, a time when most people would relax. That is not Father’s style.

First on his agenda is a trip to his home in Rome, Italy, to see family and friends for the first time since the start of the pandemic. While in Italy, Father will also visit the superiors of his religious order, Society of Catholic Apostolates (Pallottines).

Upon his return to the U.S., he will vacation at national parks in the American West, something he has done for decades. After that, he will assist at St. Martha whenever he is needed.

“I will be living in Sarasota and remaining at St. Martha,” Father Fausto explained. “I’m going to help. It is part of being a religious priest. The Pallottines are staying here so I will be here. This is my home; my family.”

News Briefs for the week of May 13 2022

Appointments

After consultation, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announces the following:

Father Jayabalan Raju, Parochial Vicar of Epiphany Cathedral Parish, Venice, is welcomed to the Presbyterate of the Diocese of Venice and is incardinated into said Diocese, effective April 22, 2022.

Father Fausto Stampiglia, S.A.C., V.F., retired as Pastor of St. Martha Parish and other Diocesan responsibilities, effective May 14, 2022, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Pastor of St. Martha Parish.

Father Jerzy (George) Suszko, S.A.C., is appointed as Pastor of St. Martha Parish, effective May 14, 2022. At the same time, he is relieved of his duty as Parochial Vicar at St. Martha Parish.

Father Marcin Koziola, is relieved of his duties as Administrator of Holy Cross Parish, effective May 2, 2022.

Father Kristian Villafaña, is appointed as Temporary Administrator of Holy Cross Parish, effective May 2, 2022.

Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate June 18

All are invited and encouraged to attend the Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate for the following candidate: Craig Dutka of Holy Cross Parish in Palmetto. The Ordination will be held at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, June 18, 2022, at Holy Cross Parish, 506 26th St. W., Palmetto. A reception in the Parish Hall will follow.

Sarasota Beach Volleyball team State Champs

Congratulations to our Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Girls Beach Volleyball team from Sarasota, they are State Champions for the Sunshine State Conference! The team beat Merritt Island High School on April 30, 2022, at Hickory Point Beach in Taveras. The team then fell in the quarterfinals of the FSHAA State Tournament on May 7, 2022, at Florida State University in Tallahassee. The team finished the season with a 22-2 overall record.

Fort Myers tennis team takes second at State

Congratulations to the Bishop Verot Catholic High School Viking Girls Tennis team in Fort Myers. They made Verot history today, earning 2nd place in the State Championship on April 29 at Red Bug Lake Park in Casselberry! The ladies entered the State Tournament at the 6th seed and took down two teams before falling in the Final to Gulliver Prep. Way to go ladies!

Pitcher throws Perfect Game

St. John Neumann Catholic High School Freshman Sophia Escobar pitched a Perfect Game on April 26, 2022, against South Fort Myers High School. She also struck out 14 batters during the game. A Perfect Game means Sofia did not allow any walks, hits or runs. Well done!

Venice school is STREAM Accredited

Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice is officially a STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts, Math) Accredited Catholic School in the Diocese of Venice. Accreditation became official on April 26, 2022, from the Florida Catholic Conference of Bishops Accreditation Committee. The process of being certified has taken six years and the school credits its teachers for dedicating unit and lesson plans to the process.

Youngest students have fun measuring

Pre-kindergarten students, the youngest at St. Catherine Parish in Sebring, had fun on May 9, 2022, learning how to measure different objects. This lesson is helping to prepare these young minds for more advanced math in Kindergarten and beyond.

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.

Memorial Mass held for Deacons and their wives

Remembering those who have gone before, Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the annual Deacon Memorial Mass on Nov. 13, 2021, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice.

The Mass is held in November to coincide with the Month of All Souls. In addition to a number of Deacons and their spouses, also present were members of the Permanent Diaconate Formation Class of 2025, who, with their spouses, were on a weekend retreat in Sarasota.

Bishop Dewane said that we are all witnesses of hope. This comes from knowing that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and has promised us, all who believe in Him, the Way and the Truth and the Light. It is not only a hope but also a realization that those who have gone before us – they give us hope in the sharing of the Resurrection.”

That hope changes how we look at the world and points us to things that are heavenly, the Bishop continued. We have been promised eternal life and must live accordingly through the gifts we have been given, each in their own way lifting us up to be more than we can be on our own.

“As the Gospel of John said to us, ‘I shall raise him up on the last day.’ (John 6:40) That applies to each one of us, each deacon or spouse who has gone before us. Let it be our hope that joins us with them daily. It is our strength,” Bishop Dewane concluded.

The goal of the Memorial Mass is to bring together those Deacons, and their wives, serving today while honoring the memory of those who have served in the Diocese of Venice since its founding in 1984 while at the same time expressing gratitude to all for their answering the call of the Lord in a precise way.

As part of this annual tradition, during the Prayer Intentions, the names of those who have passed away during the previous year are solemnly read as candles are lit in their honor. Included in the list of names this year were Deacon George Doerr, Deacon Lin Pennypacker and Deacon John Henry Harrington.

A luncheon followed during which Deacon David Reardon, who is Diocesan Director of Diaconate Personnel, spoke on behalf of the Deacons and Diaconate aspirants present in thanking the Bishop for his support of the Permanent Diaconate program. Today, there are more than 75 Permanent Deacons, many seasonal, living and serving throughout the Diocese.

News Briefs for the Week of May 28, 2021

Student art on display at Fort Myers airport (held from last week)

If you happen to be traveling through the Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers sometime this year, take some time to check out the St. Andrew Catholic School student canvas on display in Concourse B. St. Andrew students in grades 5-8 participated in creating a collaborative canvas for the “Art In Flight” exhibit. Every couple of years the Alliance for the Arts coordinates with the Lee Art Educators Association to create student artwork for the exhibit. This year’s theme was “New Frontiers,” and students were challenged to question what would be the new frontier(s) for their generation. The title of our canvas is “Hope For Our Future”. You can visit https://www.flylcpa.com/artinflight/ to learn more about the project and view the student artwork.

Deacon aspirants finish first year of formation

The 11 aspirants for the Diaconate Class of 2025 finished their first year of formation with a weekend retreat on May 22-23, 2021 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice. The retreat was led by Father Jim Simko, Parochial Vicar of St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton.

Religious Freedom Week coming soon

Solidarity in Freedom takes place from June 22 to 29. The Week begins with the Feast of Ss. John Fisher and Thomas More, ends with the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul and includes the Feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist. During Religious Freedom Week, Catholics are encouraged to pray and act each day for religious freedom. The (USCCB) United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Pray-Reflect-Act Series aims to help Catholics build solidarity with people of faith who are persecuted and find strength to carry out the mission of the Church here in the United States. For resources and reflections each day of this week, please visit https://www.usccb.org/committees/religious-liberty/religious-freedom-week.

2021 Marriage Preparation Retreats

The Diocesan Office of Family Life is offering “Day of Reflection” retreats for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage. A specially prepared volunteer team of married couples and a priest will share their experiences and information with the intention of enabling couples to be more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of marriage. The retreats in English are from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., on the following Saturdays: August 7, and November 13. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/marriage-preparation-retreat-2021 to register for the English retreats. Retreats in Spanish take place: 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., August 7 and October 30 at St. Jude Parish, 3930 17th Street, Sarasota, and 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., August 14 and December 4, at Our Lady Queen of Heaven, 355 S. Bridge Street, LaBelle. To register for a St. Jude retreat date please contact the parish at 941-955-3934. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/retiro-de-formacion-matrimonial. to register for a retreat at Our Lady Queen of Heaven, For further information contact Carrie Harkey at 941-484-9543 ext. 3019.

Ave Maria University 12th Annual Youth Conference

All high school age youth from incoming freshman to outgoing seniors are invited to join us for the 12th Annual Ave Maria University Youth Conference “FEARLESS” July 9-11th at Ave Maria University. This incredible weekend will be full of faith, fellowship, music, and great speakers! The special rate for this year’s conference is only $130 per person and includes lodging, meals, and conference fee PLUS a cool t-shirt! Call or email 239-348-4725 or aveconferences@gmail.com or visit us at www.aveconferences.com for more information.

Time capsule dug up

The eight graders at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice opened up a time capsule on May 19, 2021, revealing what they buried as fifth graders. Among the items were photos and articles about the students, as well as notes to their future selves.

Students write children’s book

The work of St. John Neumann Catholic High School students in the Creative Writing class of Cindy Brewer culminated in mid-May through a published hardcover book that included stories written and animated by the class.

Each student used a monster friend to help conquer a specific fear. Once published, these freshman and sophomores visited nearby St. Elizabeth Seton School and read their stories to the kindergarten class.

Mooney hires new baseball coach

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota is thrilled to announce Mike Mercurio as the new head varsity baseball coach for the Cougars. Mercurio is an alumnus of Cardinal Mooney, Class of 1985, and has been coaching for Cardinal Mooney for nine years, the last three as the head junior varsity coach for the Cougars. His coaching experience and devotion to the Cardinal Mooney baseball team brings a wealth of knowledge to his alma mater. Mercurio is currently a Lieutenant with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office and will be retiring this summer after 34 years. Together with his wife Karen, they have two daughters that are also graduates of Cardinal Mooney.

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.

 

 

Sarasota Prayer Walk commemorates dark anniversary

Support of the unborn is a moral stance, not a political one. This was the message shared during the 23rd Annual Prayer Walk for Life in Sarasota Jan. 22, 2021.

This walk coincided with the National Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. The day also marked the 48th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision which cleared the way for the legalization of abortion in the U.S. Since legalization, some 60 million babies have been aborted.

A Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane began the day at St. Martha Parish, putting the activities in their proper context of prayer, resolve and hope. This Mass was livestreamed and shared via the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities social media accounts and was available for viewing by those outside of the Diocese.

“Respecting life is not a political issue, but a moral one,” Bishop Dewane stated. “Failing to protect life is a moral evil that threatens the dignity of each and every human being in the world today.”

For this reason, the Catholic Church, U.S. Bishops, priests and the faithful are obligated to continue to speak out for the voiceless because the right to life is God-given, the Bishop added.

“It has to be all of us together,” Bishop Dewane continued. “Abortion is of preeminent priority and we need to continue to be a voice for life in our country. The position of the Church and that of the U.S. Bishop Conference is unchanging and publicly well known. The sacredness of human life must be defended and has been the position of the Conference and Church since the beginning.”

The prayer walk took place in front of the regional headquarters for Planned Parenthood on Central Avenue in Sarasota, the largest abortionist in the nation.

Circling the facility in prayer, approximately 100 took part in the walk with some holding signs seeking the closure of the facility, others calling for all to pray for the unborn.

Carmella Roberts of Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch said she was pleased that there were so many people participating in the walk because of many factors that could have prevented participation.

“I’m so glad people didn’t use the excuse of the cold weather, the Pandemic or even a new president to stop coming out for this important walk for life,” Roberts said. “We are out here to raise awareness about what happens here, but also to educate others about the sacredness of all life. Jesus calls us to be here, in His place, to pray for the unborn and for the mothers that they choose life.”

The faithful of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Grove City took part in their own Prayer Walk for Life on Jan. 23, 2021. Participants circled the Parish Church while praying the rosary as witnesses to the dignity of the human person.

In addition, a Prayer Life Chain took place on Jan. 24, 2021 on U.S. 41 in front of San Pedro Parish in North Port. Dozens of faithful, led by Deacon Richard Frohmiller, held up signs for passing motorists to see that read “Jesus Forgives and Heals,” “Adoption is a Loving Option, “Pray to End Abortion,” “Abortion Hurts Women,” and more.

Beginning Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, the faithful will have the additional opportunity to stand up as witnesses for life. There will be two Diocesan locations for the Spring Campaign of 40 Days for Life. Stand and peacefully pray during vigils in the public right-of-way outside Planned Parenthood in Fort Myers or Sarasota. For more information, go to www.40daysforlife.com and click on the location nearest you.

For more information about the Diocese of Venice Respect Life Office, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/respectlife, or contact Jeanne Berdeaux at 941-484-9543 or berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org.

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