11 Acolytes instituted

A group of 11 men were instituted as Acolytes during a June 1, 2024, Mass at St. Martha Parish in Sarasota, as friends and family looked on. For the 11, this is the next major step in their journey to become Permanent Deacons.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane instituted Richard E. Dahn, Richard A. Hellenbrand, Thomas A. Januszka, Stephen L. Jendrysik, James N. Jenkins, Ramon R. Kanacheril, Mark A. Osterhaus, Orlando A. Rubiano, Jeff Tenbarge, John-William M. Trainer III, and Edward Watson, of the Diaconate Formation Program for the Diocese of Venice as Acolytes.

The Acolyte has a special role in the Church as it is now their responsibility to assist priests and Deacons in carrying out their ministry; this is most commonly done through assisting the priest during Mass. Bishop Dewane described the Acolyte as a special ministry where they give Holy Communion at the Sacred Liturgy, as well to the sick, wherever they may be found. This was a crucial step before these men are ordained as Permanent Deacons in 2025.

During the institution, the men were called forward for presentation to Bishop Dewane by Deacon Robert Gaitens, Director of Formation for the Permanent Diaconate.

The Bishop handed each candidate a vessel with bread to be consecrated, saying: “Take this vessel with bread for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of his Church.” The candidates each responded: “Amen!” (This bread was not consecrated at the time, but the bread and vessel symbolize the service that the Acolyte can now provide for the Church, in particular during the Mass.)

Bishop Dewane told the men that by becoming Acolytes they are more bound to the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ and Holy Mother Church.

“As a person chosen for the ministry of acolyte, you will have a special role in the Church’s ministry,” Bishop Dewane said. “The Summit and Source of the Church’s life is the Eucharist, which builds up the Christian community and makes it grow.”

As men who have reached a milestone in their Permanent Diaconate formation, the Bishop said the responsibility to build up that community of God is growing and this institution is one more important step in their formation process, and most importantly, their spiritual growth.

“Because you are specially called to this ministry, you should strive to live more fully by the Lord’s sacrifice and to be molded more perfectly in its likeness. You should seek to understand the deep spiritual meaning of what you do, so that you may offer yourself daily to God as a spiritual sacrifice acceptable to him through Jesus Christ,” Bishop Dewane concluded. “In performing your ministry bear in mind that, as you share one bread with your brothers and sisters, so you form one body with them. Show a sincere love for Christ’s Mystical Body, God’s holy people.”

During the Mass, the Bishop recognized the wives and families of the diaconate candidates for their commitment and support during the formation process.

Orlando Rubiano, of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Myers, said he was blessed to have his daughter Elizabeth there with her family, and said he was grateful to Bishop Dewane for instituting him and his fellow Diaconate candidates to the Ministry of Acolyte.

“I feel blessed to have reached this point in my formation journey and look forward to serving our Lord, as He desires, when I become ordained next year,” Rubiano said. “It is a great honor and privilege to be called by my Lord to love and serve Him through my fellow brothers and sisters!”

The Acolytes come from across the Diocese: Dahn of St. Agnes Parish, Naples; Hellenbrand of St. Andrew Parish, Cape Coral; Thomas A. Januszka of St. Francis Cabrini Parish, Parrish; Jendrysik of Incarnation Parish, Sarasota; Jenkins of St. William Parish, Naples; Kanacheril of St. Vincent DePaul Parish, Fort Myers; Osterhaus of St. Agnes Parish, Naples; Rubiano of St. Vincent DePaul Parish, Fort Myers; Tenbarge of St. Peter the Apostle Parish, Naples; Trainer of St. Peter the Apostle Parish, Naples; and Watson of Ave Maria Parish, Ave Maria.

This group will be entering their fifth and final year of studies in the Diaconate Formation Program in September, with ordination to the Permanent Diaconate anticipated sometime in 2025.

During the process to become a Permanent Deacon, the men receive training in theology, canon law and pastoral ministry. They were previously admitted as candidates when they publicly declared their intention to become Permanent Deacons and the Bishop accepted. Then later, they were then instituted as lectors by the Bishop.

In addition to friends and family, also present for the Institution of the Acolytes were many of those discerning to become Permanent Deacons as part of the class of 2028.

For more information about the Permanent Diaconate, please call Deacon Robert Gaitens at 941-484-9543.

Two seminarians ordained to Transitional Diaconate

Jacob (Jake) Christian Gwynn and William Patrick (Pat) Long were ordained to the Transitional Diaconate on Saturday, April 13, 2024. The pair followed different calls of the Lord in their lives, but their answers were the same, leading the two Diocese of Venice seminarians on a journey toward the priesthood.

Deacons Gwynn and Long were among 10 ordained at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Boca Raton by Most Rev. Gerald M. Barbarito, Bishop of the Diocese of Palm Beach. The men, from different Dioceses across Florida, are studying at either St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach or Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts.

Following his ordination, Deacon Gwynn said, “The theme that was said many times on my day of ordination continues to resound in my heart today: ‘This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad’ (Ps 118:24). I am eternally grateful for the call to serve the Lord and His people through the ministry of the Diaconate and eventually as a priest!”

Deacon Long said the ordination brought “tremendous peace, joy and gratitude; gratitude to God for His great love, and for the opportunity to share that love with many as a newly ordained Deacon in His Church.”
The first of three ranks of ordained ministry in the Church, Deacons perform many services to the Church in conjunction with the ministries of priests and Bishops. Among their many duties, they will preach, perform baptisms, witness marriages, and preside over wakes and funerals.

Bishop Barbarito opened by giving thanks to the Lord for calling the ordinandi to the ministry of Holy Orders in service to all, and then by giving thanks to each of the men and their supporters.

“We also give thanks to each of them for discerning and accepting the call of the Lord, as well as to all of you, their family members and friends in supporting them in their discernment,” the Bishop said.

To the men, Bishop Barbarito stressed the importance of the day, after years of prayer and preparation.

“Holy Orders is the ordering of our lives toward Christ… Today, you will make three significant promises to Him and to His Church which will intimately affect your lives – a lifelong commitment of celibacy; to prayer; and to the service of Church as expressed in obedience. All of them become one in handing yourselves over to the Lord completely and totally.”

Following the homily, the men approached Bishop Barbarito one-by-one, knelt and promised respect and obedience, each to his own Bishop and his successors. To signify humble submission before God, the men then lay prostrate in the sanctuary while the assembly sang the Litany of Saints. The faithful remained standing during the Litany as the ordination took place during the Easter Season.

Each man again approached the Bishop who imposed his hands on the candidate and proclaimed a prayer of consecration, to confer the Holy Spirit to guide their ministries. This is the moment the men were ordained. The Deacons then received a stole and dalmatic (the exterior garb of a deacon), signifying the Office of Diaconate and the deacon’s role in the celebration of the Eucharist.

Next, the newly ordained Deacons knelt before the Bishop who presented them each with the Book of the Gospels, and said: “Receive the Gospels of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” The receiving of the Book of Gospels is a symbol of their new ministry of proclaiming the Gospel and preaching. The Rite of Ordination concluded with the fraternal kiss of peace.

Deacon Gwynn is studying at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary, having graduated from St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami in 2020. Born and raised in Palmetto, Deacon Jake is the third of four children. Deacon Jake recalls that becoming a priest was one of his earliest aspirations. One of his mentors from a young age was Msgr. Joseph Ferraro, a retired priest who also served as a U.S. Navy Chaplain, who inspired him to pursue a path to not only the priesthood but also in the Navy Chaplaincy. Following that inspiration, he was sworn in as an officer of the U.S. Navy in 2021 and is currently a Lt. (j.g), in the U.S. Navy Reserves.

As a Diocesan seminarian, Deacon Gwynn has had summer assignments at the following Parishes: St. William in Naples, St. Agnes in Naples; Our Lady of Lourdes in Venice; and Our Lady of Grace in Avon Park. He served a pastoral year at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. In addition, he has taken part in the Navy Officer Development School and later the Navy Chaplain Basic Leadership School, both in Newport, Rhode Island. Deacon Gwynn is pursuing his priesthood for the Diocese of Venice and the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. Deacon Gwynn was vested by Deaon Craig Dutka of Holy Cross Parish in Palmetto.

Deacon Long has been studying at St. John XXIII National Seminary in Massachusetts which specializes in formation for later vocations. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, but raised in Sarasota, the second of six children, Deacon Pat is a graduate of St. Martha Catholic School and Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota. He graduated with a degree from Florida State. While pursuing a marketing career in the health care industry, he kept ties to the faith as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, religious education teacher, youth group leader and in Pro-Life work. Feeling God was calling him to the priesthood, with the help of a spiritual director he opted to enter seminary. As a seminarian for the Diocese of Venice, Deacon Long served at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota, St. Martha Parish in Sarasota, attended the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Nebraska, and participated in the Spanish Summer Immersion Program in Guatemala. During his ordination, Deacon Long was vested by Deacon Stephen Beck of Incarnation Parish.

Please pray for these men as they continue their spiritual journey.

Bishop Confirms four inmates

A group of men recently completed their final step of Christian initiation by being “sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” during their Confirmation by Bishop Frank J. Dewane at Avon Park Correctional Institute in Avon Park on April 10, 2024.

Bishop Dewane, who has stressed the importance of prison outreach since his 2006 appointment as Episcopal leader of the Diocese of Venice, shared with the Confirmandi the message of God’s Mercy as reflected in the readings from Divine Mercy Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter.

In those readings, Jesus appears to the apostles in the Upper Room, but St. Thomas is not present and doubts the story. When Jesus returns, Thomas is present and Jesus questions his faith, telling him to touch his wounds so that he can believe in the Resurrection of the Lord.

“This is an important lesson to learn for all of us,” Bishop Dewane said. “Jesus gives Thomas, and all of us, a path toward believing in Him and trusting in His Mercy.”

Bishop Dewane used the example of the “Doubting Thomas” painting by Carravaggio, an Italian Renaissance painter whose image shows a close-up image of Thomas sticking his fingers into Jesus’ wounds. The Bishop asked the Confirmandi to imagine themselves in that scene, standing before Jesus and to think of how they would react and if they would believe.

When celebrating the Mass for the incarcerated, Bishop Dewane emphasized that he is bringing the forgiveness, mercy, compassion, peace, love and joy of the Lord to others. Each year, the Bishop celebrates Mass for inmates at different facilities throughout the 10-county Diocese, and has conferred the Sacraments of Confirmation, First Communion and Baptism for dozens of inmates since 2006.

The Confirmation Mass was witnessed by about 30 people, including sponsors and other inmates. Volunteers Toni and Tom Cruz Wiggins help lead the formation program.

Also participating in the Mass were Father Vincent Clemente of St. James Parish in Lake Placid, and Father Sean Mulcahy, of the Diocese of Orlando, who rotate celebrating Mass and hearing confessions. In addition, Deacon Sam Knight, of the Diocese of Orlando, regularly ministers and teaches and coordinates the volunteers.

During the Sacrament of Confirmation, the candidates renew their baptismal promises and then the Bishop, the attending priests, and all the faithful, pray that the Holy Spirit descend upon and remain on the Confirmandi. The Bishop then recites a prayer. Finally, the candidates are presented to the Bishop with their sponsor placing his/her hand on the candidates’ right shoulder. Then with his right thumb, the Bishop makes the sign of the cross on their forehead with the Holy Chrism oil and says “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” The newly confirmed replies: “Amen.” The Rite concludes when the Bishop says “Peace be with you,” and the new Confirmandi replies, “And with your Spirit.”

Bob Hiniker, who helps to coordinate the prison outreach throughout the Diocese of Venice, helped facilitate Bishop Dewane’s visit to Avon Park Correctional Institute. While four men received the Sacrament of Confirmation, four others were unable to participate due to a security lockdown at the facility. The Bishop vowed to return to confirm those men at a future date.

The Diocesan Prison Ministry provides a variety of services, including Bible study, religious education and assistance with receiving the Sacraments.

Hiniker stressed the importance of continuing to expand the number of people who volunteer in the five state prisons, 10 county jails and one civil commitment program. There are approximately 15,000 incarcerated within the Diocese; meaning the need for priests and volunteers is great.

“In particular, we are in dire need of priests to hear confessions in the jails and to Celebrate Mass in the prisons,” Hiniker said. “Also, we have several jails and prisons where we can utilize more volunteers. With more volunteers, we can reach and minister to more.”

All volunteers participate in an orientation program before entering a correctional facility and “shadow” experienced volunteers until they feel comfortable. Times and days vary by facility.

If you are interested in learning more about the Diocesan Prison Ministry, please contact Bob Hiniker at hinbob5@hotmail.com or Joe Mallof at mallofjt@comcast.net.

2024 Priest and Deacon Jubilarians

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

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

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

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

Jubilarian Bios

50 years

Father Richard A Bondi

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

Father Brian Manning

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



Msgr. Mark Svarczkopf

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

25 years

Father Victor A. Caviedes

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

Father Anthony Hewitt

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

Father Anthonio Jean

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

Father Jayabalan (Jay) Raju

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


Permanent Deacons

50 years

Deacon Michael Leahy

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

25 years

Deacon Edward J. Gwiazda

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


Deacon William Lawrence Hickey

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

Deacon Alfred J. Mauriello II MD

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

Deacons encouraged to increase outreach to Hispanic Catholic youth

Several dozen Permanent Deacons of the Diocese of Venice recently gathered to learn how to better serve young Hispanic Catholics, the fastest-growing population both in the Diocese and the nation.

Dr. Hosffman Ospino of Boston College shared practical examples for growth and success in this important demographic in the domestic Catholic Church. He was brought to speak to the Deacons through an invitation from Bishop Frank J. Dewane.

Bishop Dewane said he was pleased Ospino could talk to the Deacons about the needs of Hispanic youth, and tear down some of the misconceptions some have about the Hispanic community in general.

“The Hispanic presence, especially the young people, is not a threat to anyone,” Ospino said. “This is an opportunity, because they are of the same Church. The Church exists to evangelize and right now there is an urgency to evangelize these young men and women so they can become the next generation of evangelizers.”

Ospino praised the Permanent Deacons for answering the call to serve the Church “to go joyfully into the world to proclaim the Good News of the Lord. Because of this, you are the wisdom figure in your Parish communities. Deacons and their spouses are called to evangelize, not to preserve the past, but to ensure the future of our Parish communities.”

Offering a dizzying array of statistics, Ospino said that of the 32 million Roman Catholic Hispanics living in the U.S., about 19 million are 30 or younger. Of those 18 and younger, 94 percent were born in the U.S. and can speak English.

“There is pressure from elders for the younger generation to keep their immigrant roots, versus being Americanized,” Ospino said. “It is a question of cultural background. The only difference is their cultural background,” Ospino said. This means the programs that have worked for the last 25 years won’t work, because the families will pull their children out of any program once the families feel they are not being engaged.”

The answer is to form a partnership with the Hispanic families at the Parish, creating a spirit of cooperation to preach, teach and advocate for the children.

“The idea is to create a welcoming and affirming environment, giving the youth and parents a sense of agency,” Ospino said. “We don’t need state-of-the-art equipment in the classrooms. We need to reach them on the level where they will be engaged and have fun while growing in their relationship with Christ. You must listen to the community and ask for their needs. When you learn what the community wants, focus on one effort, and respond to that well. Know this, if you try to address everything, no outreach exists to do it all.”

Citing a dozen different programs from across the country that have had success in reaching Hispanic youth, Ospino said each serves a niche need within their communities. Some programs offer painting, cooking, music, and poetry classes alongside religious education, while others work on how to grow a relationship with Christ, starting with building better relationships in the household and in the community.

“This can be overwhelming when you are not even sure what will work, but you need to start somewhere,” Ospino said. “Pray together. Eat together. Serve together.”

Praying together can include a community Liturgy of the Hours or praying of the rosary. Eating together means having a Parish fair or festival that celebrates all cultures. The serving together is working in a unified effort to meet need in the community such as feeding the hungry or a clothing drive.

“These are simple, but this approach can work,” Ospino said. “It is you, the Deacons and your spouses, that can make it happen. This can be something that takes place four times a year, and it will grow because these are opportunities to grow as a community together, in the Glory of God.”

The Deacons were impressed by the presentation and noted how the reality of the increasing numbers of Hispanic Catholics in the Church is important to know and information they learned from Ospino will help outreach to this important population.

Bishop Dewane and Ospino encouraged the Deacons to return to their home Parish armed with inspiration and information on how to better connect to Hispanic Catholic youth. The potential to engage and attract more young people to grow in the faith was inspiring!

News Briefs for the week of February 16, 2024

Large group goes to Catholic Days

More than 50 people from the Diocese of Venice, including Bishop Frank J. Dewane and two dozen Catholic school students, took part in Catholic Days at the Capitol in Tallahassee from Feb. 7 to Feb. 8, 2024. This is an annual opportunity for the faithful to voice opinions directly to lawmakers from Southwest Florida on key pieces of legislation which are under consideration during this session. Primary focus was on ensuring the continued limitation on access to abortion. The students from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota and Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers also met with lawmakers and received a tour of the State Capitol.

40 Days for Life opens in Fort Myers, Sarasota and Naples

Show your support for life by simply praying for an end to abortion on the public sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood throughout the Lenten Season until March 24, 2024. For details and flier go to www.40daysforlife.com (add /sarasota or /fortmyers or /naples for a direct link to the location near you). Questions? Contact Jeanne at 941-374-1068 or Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org.

Two Diocesan teams participate in Model UN conference

Teams from St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples and Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Sarasota were delegates to the 23rd Boston University Model United Nations Conference (BosMUN) Feb. 2 to Feb. 4, 2024. The Model UN is a three-day simulation of the United Nations hosted by Boston University for high school students. Jake Marks and Alessio Cirino, of Neumann, took home the prestigious title of Outstanding Delegates, showcasing their exceptional diplomatic skills and commitment to global problem-solving. Fellow delegates Hunter Lund and Kale Van Wart received Verbal Commendations. Congratulations to all the delegates who listened, engaged, and contributed to this wonderful conference of intelligent minds who hope to help guide the world to a better tomorrow.

Bishop welcomes priests, deacons to his home

Ahead of the Lenten Season, Bishop Frank J. Dewane hosted the priests of the Diocese of Venice to his home for a dinner and reception on Feb. 9, 2024. The next evening the Permanent Deacons of the Diocese visited with Bishop for their own dinner and reception. The evenings were intended to create an opportunity for the clergy to gather together in an relaxing atmosphere ahead of busy Lenten Season.

Vocation talk inspires

Sharing her vocations journey, Sister Juliana Alfonso, Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco, and teacher at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, inspired eighth grade girls during a vocation talk at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers. Sister Juliana spoke about her vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and encouraged the young girls to think about their own relationship with Christ. Sister offered tips about growing closer to the Lord through prayer, reading the Sacred Scriptures, participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and most importantly by being at Mass each Sunday. The girls found Sister Julian engaging and loved having her visit.

Knights on Bikes promotes its Diaper Ride

The Knights on Bikes, a motorcycle club of the Knights of Columbus, took part in the first-ever Diaper Ride to Thrive Pregnancy Clinic in Cape Coral on Feb. 10, 2024. In addition to bringing diapers, they also donated $500. Thrive is a maternity home (formerly known as Lifeline), that brings Christ to women who have chosen life, The Knights on Bikes mission is to promote and adhere to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, and evangelize through fellowship, charity, and service. For more information about the Knights on Bikes please contact Pete Battle at 239-601-6061 or email konbflvenice@gmail.com.

Scholarship application deadline approaching

The Catholic Community Foundation of Southwest Florida has opened the 2024-25 online scholarship applications. There are currently five different scholarships available from the Foundation. Applications close on Feb. 29, 2024. The majority of the scholarships are for residents of Sarasota County. These scholarships are for graduating seniors (class of 2023 or 2024), or for non-traditional students who have been out of school for 3+ years and wish to pursue a higher education. To find out which Catholic Community Foundation scholarship you qualify for, please visit www.ccfdioceseofvenice.org/scholarships.

Our Mother’s House Wine Tasting Feb. 29

All are invited to attend the Our Mother’s House Wine Tasting, 5:30 p.m., February 29, 2024, at the Venice Community Center, Venice, 326 Nokomis Ave. S. The event will benefit the mothers and children at Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. This is a 2-year transitional living program, dedicated to empowering single mothers and their young children. Tickets are $90. Register online at http://bidpal.net/2024omh. For more information, 941-485-6264 or email omh@catholiccharitiesdov.org.

New group of Permanent Diaconate Aspirants studying hard

There are currently 12 men who are off and running in their studies as part of the Permanent Diaconate Formation Class of 2028.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane selected the aspirants after each was nominated and vetted through an extensive screening process. A key characteristic of those selected is that each has a deep understanding of the Faith.

The 12 aspirants come from a variety of personal and professional backgrounds, representing all areas of the Diocese of Venice, forming one of the largest aspirant classes in Diocesan history, explained Diocesan Permanent Diaconate Director of Formation Deacon Bob Gaitens.

Bishop Dewane said of the men chosen: “Each has answered his own call to serve Our Lord and Holy Mother Church in a particular way, as a Permanent Deacon. The Class of 2028 is on a journey of Faith that will bring each of them, and their family, closer to the Lord.”

The aspirants began their five-year formation process in September 2023, with classes taking place at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota. They have already completed their first semester of classes (Old Testament Part 1 and Theology of Orders).  Now they will start on Psychology Part II, Eschatology and Morality.

An added benefit for the Class of 2028 is that they are being formed alongside the Class of 2025. This allows both groups to draw on each other’s strengths to enhance their formation process. Gaitens explained how the Class of 2025 has taken a mentor role with the Class of 2028 and have embraced the responsibility of taking a leadership position with their newer classmates.

“The class has begun to feel comfortable with the program” Deacon Gaitens said. “When classes started in the fall, there was some trepidation about speaking up in Class. But with the encouragement of the Class of 2025, we have seen the Class of 2028 engage in classroom participation. Their interaction has been invaluable and has shown that the class has a very keen understanding and acumen. They are a diverse group and will expand the Diocese’s ability to help in Spanish speaking communities.”

There are currently more than 65 active Permanent Deacons serving in Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice. The most recent Permanent Deacon group was ordained in August 2021. The mission of the Permanent Deacons of the Diocese is to serve as ministers of the Word, where they proclaim the Gospel, preaching and teaching in the name of the Church; helping the needy; serving the faithful; ministering the Sacrament of Baptism; leading the faithful in prayer; witnessing marriages; and conducting wake and funeral services.

Reflecting on the comments from many of his fellow members of the Class of 2028, Matthew Harkness, St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Cape Coral, said it is a blessing to be part of the Diaconate Candidate program and feels honored to be among so many other worthy men who are committed to serving the Lord in a unique way.

The following constitute the Permanent Diaconate Class of 2028:

  • Aldo Boldi, St. Patrick Parish, Sarasota;
  • William (Oscar) Gamble, St. Raphael Parish, Lehigh Acres;
  • Kyle Goneau, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish, Sarasota;
  • Ted Harb, St. John the Evangelist Parish, Naples;
  • Matthew Harkness, St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Cape Coral;
  • Matthew Lesak, St. Joseph Parish, Bradenton;
  • Roberto Lewis, St. Agnes Parish, Naples;
  • George Smith, Incarnation Parish, Sarasota;
  • Alex Tsai, Ave Maria Parish, Ave Maria;
  • Daniel Vasquez, St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Fort Myers;
  • David Wallace, St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Fort Myers;
  • Ed Watson, Ave Maria Parish, Ave Maria.

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.