Memorial Mass held for deceased Deacons and their wives

Remembering those who have gone before, Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the annual Memorial Mass for deceased Deacons and their wives on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, 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 Deacons and their spouses, also present were members of the Permanent Diaconate Formation Classes of 2025 and 2028 and their spouses.

The readings of the day were from All Souls Day (Nov. 2), when the faithful learn that God has provided life and an afterlife through His Son, Jesus Christ.

“We learn that death is not an end in itself,” Bishop Dewane said. “The Lord took the souls of the departed Deacons and their wives to Himself, fulfilling that promise of life ever after.”

Bishop Dewane explained that being a part of the Permanent Diaconate is a unique responsibility within the Church, resurrected following Vatican II. Since the Diocese of Venice was created in 1984, the Bishop said Deacons are following in the footsteps of their predecessors.

“The role of the Deacon is the idea of a ministry of service within the Church,” Bishop Dewane said. “The calling of a Deacon is to imitate the goodness and love that is God and be a beacon for others.”

The Memorial Mass brings 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. Appropriately, it is a time of expressing gratitude to all for their answering the call of the Lord in a precise way.

Bishop Dewane concluded his homily by saying, “For all of the Deacons and their spouses who have gone before us and we no longer see, I end by saying: ‘Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!’”

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 Rich Spiro, Deacon William Cassidy, and Frances Pennypacker.

Today, there are more than 6o Permanent Deacons, many seasonal, living and serving throughout the Diocese of Venice.

Diaconate candidates instituted as Lector

One by one, the 10 Permanent Diaconate candidates placed their hands on a Bible, promising to live out and share the powerful message of its ancient, holy words.

“Take this Book of Holy Scripture, be faithful in handing on the Word of God, so that it may grow strong in the hearts of His people,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane instructed during the Rite of Installation into the Ministry of Lector, Sept. 9, 2023, at a Vigil Mass at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota.

Installation to the Ministry of Lector is part of the candidate’s journey to ordained ministry in the Church, as the 10 are on track for ordination as Permanent Deacons in 2025.

According to the Church’s Law and practice, the instituted lector is charged with proclaiming the readings from the Sacred Scriptures (except for the Gospel), announcing the intentions in the Prayer of the Faithful (in the absence of a deacon), and reciting or singing the responsorial psalm if there is no cantor. As distinct from the typical Parish reader, these men will now exercise this ministry in a permanent way.

The following constitute the Permanent Diaconate Class of 2025:

  • Richard E. Dahn, St. Agnes Parish, Naples;
  • Richard A. Hellenbrand, St. Andrew Parish, Cape Coral;
  • Thomas A. Januszka, St. Francis Cabrini Parish, Parrish;
  • Stephen L. Jendrysik, Incarnation Parish, Sarasota,
  • James N. Jenkins, St. William Parish, Naples;
  • Ramon R. Kanacheril, St. Vincent DePaul Parish, Fort Myers;
  • Mark A. Osterhaus, St. Agnes Parish, Naples;
  • Orlando A. Rubiano, St. Vincent DePaul Parish, Fort Myers;
  • Jeffrey P. Tenbarge, St. Peter the Apostle Parish, Naples;
  • John-William M. Trainer III, St. Peter the Apostle Parish, Naples.

As part of the Rite, the deacon candidates were individually called forth to be presented to the Bishop. Following the homily, the Bishop continued the Rite by reciting a prayer of blessing on the men – granting that, as they meditate on the Word of God, they may grow in its wisdom and faithfully proclaim it to His people. Then each candidate came forward to be presented the Holy Scriptures by the Bishop.

“Be conscious of what it is you do,” Bishop Dewane said. “In proclaiming God’s word to others, it is key that you accept it yourselves, and do it in obedience to the Holy Spirit.”

The diaconate candidates were told by the Bishop that this new responsibility is more than just reading Sacred Scriptures; it is about their understanding the text, and also revealing the Word of God to those around them.

Deacon Bob Gaitens, the Director of Formation for the Permanent Diaconate, said the deacon candidates have worked hard to get to this point.

“This is an important milestone as the candidates are very busy with ongoing intellectual study through the formation program,” Deacon Gaitens said.

Deacon candidates admit that their journey can feel like a marathon at times, and it can be a challenge to fit the many requirements along with their ongoing daily life requirements of marriage, family, and work. Installation rites offer a much-needed boost as they continue on their path.

John-William Trainer III, of St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples, was overjoyed to have reached this important moment in his formation journey. He credited the support of his wife, Angela, their three children, and Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary with his reaching this point. “I feel so blessed,” Trainer said.

Present for the installation were the wives of the candidates, who also take part in the formation process attending several of the formation weekends each year with their husbands. The wives are an integral part of the diaconate program as they support their husbands through prayer, sacrifice, and by assuming added duties of home and family.

Also present were children of the candidates, other supporters and friends as well as the recently selected Permanent Diaconate Class of 2028, who were taking part in their first formation weekend.

Upon completion of their formation program and Ordination to the Diaconate, Permanent Deacons may officiate at baptisms, weddings and funerals, read the Gospel and preach at Mass, and help with the canonical process for marriage and baptism. One of their greatest priorities, however, is service to the poor and marginalized.

Please keep the 10 Permanent Deacon candidates and their families in your prayers.

News Briefs for week of August 18, 2023

Knights honor clergy

The Knights of Columbus of Saints Cosmas and Damian Council 13341 of Bradenton hosted a Clergy Appreciation Dinner on Aug. 12, 2023, at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch. Among the honorees were Bishop Frank J. Dewane; Father Sebastian Szczawínski, Pastor of Our Lady of the Angels; Father Shawn Roser, Parish Parochial Vicar and Diocesan Vocations Director; Msgr. Joseph Stearns who is retired but assists at the Parish; Deacon Jack Milholland; and Deacon G. Thomas Harencher. The evening included dinner for more than 200 and each of the honorees was presented with a commemorative compass. Grand Knight Jerry Graceffo Jr. said it was appropriate for the Knights to honor the clergy who serve the spiritual needs of the faithful is many different ways.

High school welcomes new assistant director

Bishop Verot Catholic High School has announced the hiring of a new Assistant Director of Special Events, Donor & Alumni Relations. Crystal Melton will lead Bishop Verot’s events and alumni relations efforts as the school continues to have record enrollment and growth. Melton brings with her experience in the field of events, fundraising and community relations. Melton earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, and a master’s in Curriculum and Instruction. She previously was on the Verot School Board and the chair of the Curriculum & Academic Affairs Committee for the school. Most recently, she was a teacher and Director of Development at St. Andrew Catholic School.  Melton grew up in Alaska and Virginia, before moving to Florida in 2010 with her husband and their two children. Her daughter is a Verot Alum and her son is an 8th grader at St. Andrew Catholic School, and a future Viking.

Support our seminarians

Support, encourage and educate future priests through the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women Seminarian Fund. Join the VDCCW in celebrating Priesthood Sunday on September 24, 2023, in a special and lasting way by sending your Parish Priest a Seminarian Fund “IN HONOR OF” card. This is a gift that keeps on giving. The Diocese is currently educating 13 men in various seminaries and a donation of any amount would be a great help (The donation amount will not be revealed to the recipient). To take part, please send your donation, made out to VDCCW Seminarian Fund (plus $1 to cover postage and printing) to: Cornelia Zaneƫti, Seminarian Fund Guardian, 5808 Gulf Drive, #204, Holmes Beach, FL 34217.

Early bird registration for the Marriage Conference

Registration is now open for the Oct. 21, 2023, Diocese of Venice “Together in Holiness” Marriage Conference, presented in partnership with the Diocese of Venice Office of Family Life and the St. John Paul II Foundation. This marriage enrichment conference will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at St. John XXIII Parish, 13060 Palomino Lane, Fort Myers. All Catholic married and engaged couples throughout the Diocese of Venice and beyond are welcome. Grow together in holiness, learn to form your children in the Catholic Faith, enjoy a day of quality time with your spouse, witness dynamic presentations! The day will include the Mass and the availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This special event is for all couples, engaged, newlywed or long married! On-site childcare will be provided. Early bird couple registration is $54, ($64 after Aug. 28). To register, please visit https://forlifeandfamily.org/events/th23-vnfl/. Please contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org for further information.

Catholic Charities event to benefit programs in DeSoto County

The 2023 Boots and Bandannas event to benefit the programs of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., in DeSoto County will take place, at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, at Our Lady of Angels Parish, 12905 SR. 70 E., Lakewood Ranch. Enjoy a fun night of great food, live auction, and live music by Andy Pursell and his band.  Kick up your heels for a great cause with programs such as a food pantry, farmworker and senior housing, youth and afterschool educational enrichment programs, financial and housing assistance and disaster response and recovery.  For more details, and to register for Boots and Bandannas 2023, please visit, https://one.bidpal.net/2023boots/welcome.

Red Mass for legal professionals to be held in Sarasota

The Red Mass, a medieval tradition of the Roman Catholic Church, is observed annually in the Diocese of Venice. The Red Mass will be celebrated at 5:30 p.m., Oct. 18, 2023, at St. Martha Parish, 200 N. Orange St., Sarasota. Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Bishop will be the main celebrant. A reception hosted by the Catholic Lawyers Guild (CLG) follows immediately at the Fr. Fausto Parish Hall. The first recorded Red Mass was held in the Cathedral of Paris in 1245. The popular name “Red Mass” refers to the traditional red vestments of the clergy and the judges when convened at the royal courts in Europe. Prayers at the Red Mass are offered to invoke the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon those who serve in law and the administration of justice. Hence, lawyers, judges, public officials, law enforcement officers, and law students are specifically invited to participate at the Red Mass, although everyone is welcome to attend. In the United States, an annual Red Mass is held in Washington, D.C., before the opening of the U.S. Supreme Court. Similarly, Red Mass is held at the start of the legislative session in Tallahassee. The first Red Mass in the Diocese of Venice was held in March 2008 at St. Martha. At the Red Mass, prayers are for wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord, to help us through these challenging times. For further information, please contact Atty. Paul Consbruck at 866-558-7285; 941-966-6706 or adoptfla@yahoo.com.

News Briefs for the Week of Jan. 27, 2023

Retreat brings Deacons together

Two retreats were recently held for the Permanent Deacons of the Diocese of Venice, first Jan. 19, 2023, at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice and then on Jan. 21, at Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers. The retreats were presented by Deacon Dominic Cerrato, Director of Diaconal Ministries and editor of “The Deacon Magazine.”  The goal for the retreat was to offer the opportunity for the Deacons to grow in greater intimacy with Christ the Servant. The retreat reemphasized what the Deacons committed to during the prayer of ordination as it relates to: “Our relationship to Him; Our Identity in Him; Our mission with Him.” Deacon Cerrato explained that these are the three key elements in grasping the essential nature of the Diaconate.

Principal gathering held in Sarasota

Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools principals gathered for their Colloquio 2023 meeting Jan. 19-20, 2023, in Sarasota. The meeting focused on goal setting and empowering the principals in how they can support their faculty and staff to help ensure long-term retention. The keynote was Tony Ferraro, of Floyd Consulting, who spoke on “The Dream Manager,” a program based on a book by acclaimed author Matthew Kelly. The book is a business parable about how companies can achieve remarkable results by helping their employees fulfill their dreams. The meeting was organized by Father John Belmonte, SJ, Superintendent of Catholic Education, and Jennifer Falestiny, Diocesan Curriculum Specialist.

Robotics program teaches “Gifts of Christ”

Third grade students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School began the robotics unit Jan. 18, 2023, in technology class and are learning to focus on the Gift of Christ, affability, with their partner. Working together, the students built a robotic snail and used block coding to create the snail’s communication through signal lights.

Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal ending

The 21st Annual Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal is continuing through the end of January 2023. A donation to the Appeal strengthens Catholic Charities ability to provide much-needed support, for those recovering from Hurricane Ian, or who need any type of assistance in the region. This outreach is accomplished through more than 35 programs in locations throughout the 10-county Diocese. These programs annually support more than 100,000 individuals and families in ways both large and small. To support the Christmas Appeal, please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org or mail a contribution to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

Last call to book hotel rooms for Diocesan Eucharistic Congress

The two-part Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Congress and Youth Rally is coming March 24 and 25, 2023, to the Caloosa Sound Convention Center and Luminary Hotel on the riverfront of downtown Fort Myers. For those wishing to spend the evening of the 24th or 25th at the Luminary Hotel, the deadline to obtain a special rate is Feb. 1, please make your reservation by visiting https://www.marriott.com/event-reservations/reservation-link.mi?id=1658159545793&key=GRP&app=resvlink. The Eucharistic Congress Youth Rally is 5 to 10 p.m., Friday, March 24, while the Adult Eucharistic Congress is Saturday, March 25. Exciting speakers and musicians are scheduled for these two events. Both events will include Eucharistic Processions and the opportunity to grow closer to the Lord through the Blessed Sacrament. Visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/eucharistic-congress/ to register and for additional details.

Parishes participate in the National Night of Prayer for Life

On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the 33rd annual National Night of Prayer for Life took place within the Diocese of Venice at four Parishes.

The National Night of Prayer for Life is an effort to unite people across the country, establishing a bridge between the Solemnity and the Feast of St. Juan Diego, to protect our culture, our Church and our land. Participating Parishes included San Pedro in North Port, St. Agnes in Naples, St. James in Lake Placid, and Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles in Bradenton.

The faithful were encouraged to make reparations for all the lives lost in this nation to abortion and to pray that parents may be conscious of their calling as they share in God’s creative power. Prayers were also made that those who have acted against human life experience forgiveness.

The National Night of Prayer for Life includes adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the holy rosary, prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, silent prayer and hymns.

The goal is to be united with churches across the country in prayer to end abortion and restore God’s blessings of Life and Religious Liberty in America.

At San Pedro Parish in North Port, the prayer vigil was led by Deacon Richard Frohmiller and corresponded with overlapping times across the different times zones in the country between 9 p.m. through 1 a.m. The unifying time when all major times zones in the country participated was between midnight and 1 a.m. (9 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the west coast).

During the San Pedro vigil, the faithful were able to complete each of the Mysteries of the Rosary, participate in an Act of Consecration, prayers to St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Pius XII Prayer to Our Queen (reign Prayer).

Deacon Frohmiller said the importance of participating in the National Night of Prayer was not diminished by the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, but is actually now more important than ever as many states are focusing on allowing abortions until birth, and/or forcing more taxpayer funding for this evil act.

To learn more about abortion and respect life issues in general, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/respectlife.

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. 19, 2022, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

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

The readings of the day were from All Souls Day (Nov. 2), when the faithful learn that God has provided life and an afterlife through His Son, Jesus Christ.

“Jesus identifies himself as the Bread of Life,” Bishop Dewane said. “Christ takes that opportunity to reveal Himself to you, and to me, so you and I will choose Him and hear His message, achieving a new level of understanding of what that eternal life means… We are conscious that we have a life here on earth for a limited time, so do those we love. But that reality isn’t a denial of death. Christ offers something more to us, and to those who came before – a lifting up. It is the eternal promise of being in the hands of God.”

Bishop Dewane explained that being a part of the Permanent Diaconate is a unique responsibility and humble role in the Church, for they live a sacramental marriage and answer a specific call to serve the Lord. Pope Francis says Deacons are sentinels, people of action who look out for the poor, those who are on the margins and those who might be on the fringes of the Church.

“Deacons help the Christian community to spot those who are far off on the margins by getting the larger community to see and understand as well as work to bring them closer to the Lord,” the Bishop said.

The Memorial Mass brings 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. Appropriately, it is a time of 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 Vicki Brenner, Gail Tomasso, Sapina Pele, Joan Zammett, and Andrea Schultz.

Today, there are more than 60 Permanent Deacons, many seasonal, living and serving throughout the Diocese.

Applications sought for new Permanent Diaconate class

Bishop Frank J. Dewane has approved the call for applicants to the permanent diaconate, Class of 2028.  There are currently 10 men studying in the five-year program. The new class will begin in September 2023.

Inquirers must be Catholics in good standing and fully initiated into the faith for at least five years. An inquirer must be at least 35 years of age at the time of application and no older than 60 at ordination.

Informational meetings will be held for inquirers and their wives on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, at St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, or on Dec. 10, 2022, at St. Martha’s Parish, 200 N. Orange St., Sarasota. The meetings are from 10 a.m. to noon.

Further information is also available from the Diaconate Office at the Catholic Center in Venice by calling Deacon Bob Gaitens, Director of Diaconate Student Formation, at 941-350-2634 or email gaitens@dioceseofvenice.org. Further information on the Permanent Diaconate may be found on the Diocesan web site at https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/permanent-diaconate/.

Bishop Approves Selection of Permanent Diaconate Class of 2028

Bishop Frank J. Dewane has approved the call for applicants to the permanent diaconate, Class of 2028.  There are currently ten men studying in the five-year program. The new class will begin in September 2023.

Inquirers must be Catholics in good standing and fully initiated into the faith for at least five years. If married, there must be evidence of a stable marriage for at least five years and the wife of an applicant must be willing to support her husband in this endeavor and to participate in a formation weekend program for at least the first two years. Single men must understand that deacons remain celibate following ordination.

An inquirer must be at least 35 years of age at the time of application and no older than 60 at ordination. The diaconate educational program consists of 12 outsourced courses that are assigned to the inquirer and 12 courses with the Diaconate Program at eight annual formation weekends during the five years.  Further information on the Permanent Diaconate may be found on the Diocesan web site at https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/permanent-diaconate/.

Informational meetings will be held for inquirers and their wives on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, at St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, or on Dec. 10, 2022, at St. Martha’s Parish, 200 N. Orange St., Sarasota. The meetings are from 10 a.m. to noon.

Further information is also available from the Diaconate Office at the Catholic Center in Venice by calling Deacon Bob Gaitens, Director of Diaconate Student Formation, at 941-350-2634 or email gaitens@dioceseofvenice.org.

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.”

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