Marian Devotional Project begins in schools

Each year, one of the initiatives of the Diocese of Venice Department of Education is the development of the devotional and prayer lives of its students through a Diocesan-wide devotional project.

For 2023-2024 the project is, “Cause of Our Joy: Marian Devotional Project” which focuses on teaching the more than 6,200 Diocesan Catholic school students about Our Lady, and the importance of praying the Most Holy Rosary, all in a continued effort to grow closer to Jesus Christ.

The focus on the devotion to the Blessed Mother through the Most Holy Rosary was supported by Bishop Frank J. Dewane who has frequently cited the importance of praying the Rosary to grow closer to Jesus Christ.

Jesuit Father John Belmonte, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, conducted a Junior Catechist Training session on Oct. 13, 2023, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. This brought together selected eighth grade leaders from each of the Diocese’s 12 elementary schools, who will in turn go into the classroom to teach their schoolmates about Our Lady, the Most Holy Rosary and how to grow closer to the Lord.

“We are all called to answer the invitation of the Lord in our hearts,” Father Belmonte told the Junior Catechists. “When Our Lord and Our Lady come and knock on the door to your heart, you should open the door. Your task as Junior Catechists is to knock on the doors of the hearts of your classmates, classroom-to-classroom, teaching them about Our Lady. This will help them answer the question: Are you committed to dedicating your life to God?”

The training stressed the importance for the Junior Catechists to be leaders in the faith, evangelization, and discipleship. The group met in Epiphany Cathedral for a prayer service in honor of Our Blessed Mother.

The student training session was led by Diocesan Curriculum Director, Jennifer Falestiny, while Father Belmonte spoke to the parents who brought their children to the meeting in a separate presentation on the devotional project.

Falestiny explained to the Junior Catechists what is expected of them and how a lesson was created for them to follow. This plan is a guideline for the students as there is a differentiation in learning based on the age of the student.

“We created two lessons. One geared toward the older students and the other toward the little kiddos,” Falestiny said. “The resources provided will help bring the students through learning about the Rosary and the individual prayers, as well as the decades and the Mysteries of the Rosary. This was set up so that it can be interactive and engaging for students of all ages.”

Several teachers were present for the Junior Catechist Training and each school was also provided additional digital resources, including suggested devotional projects and lesson plans to reinforce what the Junior Catechists will teach. The students were also provided prayer cards with The Memorare prayer to Our Lady. This prayer will be said to open each lesson.

The introduction of the devotional project at each school will depend on the available schedule. The Junior Catechists will work closely with teacher advisors to make sure each classroom is visited and that all necessary resources are available to ensure success. The goal is to begin the in-classroom lessons as soon as possible and continuing the project and its supporting elements throughout the balance of the academic year.

In addition, Falestiny said there is a Digital Rosary Prayer Tracker, a website where teachers can track each time the children pray the Rosary in class, as well as if they pray it at home. The school with the most prayed Rosaries will be recognized at the end of the devotional project.

Finally, there is an art competition. As in previous years, students will be encouraged to produce artwork based on our Catholic artistic tradition around the Most Holy Rosary. The Junior Catechists and art contest winners will gather at Epiphany Cathedral in the spring for a Mass with Bishop Dewane.

The Junior Catechist Training was timed to coincide with the final apparition of Our Lady of Fatima. Our Lady of Fatima first appeared to three shepherd children – Venerable Lucia, and Ss. Jacinta and Francisco – on May 13, 1917, as a radiant light in a bush. Our Lady told the children to do penance and to make sacrifices to save sinners. Our Lady also stressed the importance of praying the Most Holy Rosary to bring peace to the world.

Many refused to believe the children, but Our Lady promised to perform a miracle on Oct. 13, 1917. On that day, during Our Lady’s sixth and final appearance, more than 70,000 witnessed the “Miracle of the Sun,” as the sun danced in the sky and changed colors. The Blessed Virgin then identified herself as “Our Lady of the Rosary.”

This is the fourth year Diocesan Catholic schools have had a devotional project, with 2022-2023 focused on the Most Holy Eucharist, 2021-2022 on the Saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Saints, and 2020-2021 on St. Joseph.

Sebring third graders publish first book

Third graders at St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring have authored their first book.

The book, which includes illustrations from the students and their own reflections on the Most Holy Eucharist, was a part of a class effort inspired by the 2022-2023 Diocesan Catholic Schools Devotional Project on the “The Most Holy Eucharist: The Riches of His Glorious Inheritance.”

The devotional project theme was approved and encouraged by Bishop Frank J. Dewane as it supports the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival, led by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which began in 2022 and continues through 2024.

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese Superintendent of Catholic Education, said the goal of this year’s devotional project was to bring “students a deeper awareness and more ardent love of our Lord’s Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist.”

Another element of the devotional project was to encourage students to get into the habit of visiting the Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist by going to Mass or attending adoration.

As part of that project, the students at each school, including St. Catherine, learned from trained eighth-grade Junior Catechists about the Most Holy Eucharist.

St. Catherine third-grade teacher Frances Shipman said, “In listening to my students’ beautiful answers during this class discussion (with the Junior Catechists) on the body, blood, soul, and divinity of the Most Holy Eucharist, I thought that their understanding and answers needed to be shared in the form of a book.”

The illustrations were completed in their art class with teacher Mary Alexander. Then, Shipman partnered with Studentreasures Publishing for the publication.

“This project was a culmination of the foundation that parents and teachers, past and present, have set for our students on the greatest gift of the body and blood of Jesus Christ,” Shipman said.

Students shared what the Most Holy Eucharist means to them as they shared their deep understanding of the power of receiving the body of Christ.

Here is a sample:

“I like the Eucharist because it gives me eternal life. The Eucharist means Jesus’ life and Jesus’ body. Jesus is always with us. Eucharist is important because it leads us to holiness, courage and goodness. It is the bread of life and the greatest story of love, it represents Jesus’ body and Jesus’ blood.” – Ismael

“The Eucharist means healing and eternal life to me.” – Catalina

“We cannot see God, but he is always with us. It is the most holy thing I have ever seen, when I see the Eucharist. I feel the Lord’s presence. The Eucharist is extremely precious to me.” – Anastacia

“I believe the Eucharist is how Jesus gave us very special holy gifts… The Eucharist means so much to me. People gather to accept the sacrifice that Jesus and God did for me. It makes my heart feel so good that the holiness and love felt during Communion makes so many people feel togetherness and praise in joy. The Eucharist is Jesus’ way to say I will always be with you in body and spirit, and this makes me so happy.” – Asia

“The Eucharist is the hidden baby Jesus. To me the Eucharist is like a baby in a mom’s tummy, you can’t see the baby, but the baby is there. You can’t see Jesus in the Eucharist, but He is there.” – Pia

“The Eucharist means that Christ is with me. It also means that Jesus and God are present through the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Sophia

“When we receive the Eucharist, our hearts are overcome with knowing that Jesus loves us. This means we belong to God forever.” – Elsa

“When we receive the Eucharist, we become pure in heart.” James

“When we celebrate the Eucharist at Mass, we remember Jesus’ sacrifice. The Eucharist makes me have courage.” – Jadelynn

“When I receive the Eucharist, I feel faith and affability and I can get along with everyone.” – Elena

“The Eucharist is how I can connect with Jesus Christ… The Eucharist is how you and me can be better people too. God wants us to be kind and loving to each other, so when we eat the Eucharist God can help our words and our actions to unite and be kinder.” Owen

St. Catherine Principal Dr. Christine Higgins said she is proud of the students for their reflections on the Holy Eucharist and their artwork, “We are grateful to Bishop Dewane and Father Belmonte, and our Pastor Father Jose Gonzalez for their leadership and inspiration of Faith to our students and teachers.”

Father Belmonte visited the third-grade students on May 9, 2023, and was presented a copy of the illustrated book.

“It is incredible how well these students grasp what they learned through this devotional project in the classroom about the Most Holy Eucharist and turned it into something beautiful,” Father Belmonte said. “The words and the artwork are outstanding.”

At the back of the book, Shipman wrote a note to the parents: “Thank you for entrusting your most precious treasures to me this school year. We have laughed, learned, lived, loved, studied, played, prayed, and even enriched our lives together this year. It was an honor to guide your children in writing a book on the Most Holy Eucharist and I want to thank you for raising Disciples of Christ.”

Devotion to Most Holy Eucharist promoted in Catholic schools

When students create an image of the Most Holy Eucharist, the results can be inspirational.

Using vivid colors and inspiring imagery, seven Diocesan Catholic schools students were recently honored for their artwork as part of “The Most Holy Eucharist: The Riches of His Glorious Inheritance” devotional project. The theme was approved and encouraged by Bishop Frank J. Dewane as it supports the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival, led by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The recognition came on April 20, 2023, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, where a Most Holy Eucharist Devotional Mass was celebrated by Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese Superintendent of Catholic Education.

Father Belmonte said the goal of this year’s devotional project was to bring students a deeper awareness and more ardent love of our Lord’s Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist.

Invited to the Mass were the artists and their families (see below for winning artwork), as well as principals, art teachers and junior catechists from each of the 12 Diocese elementary schools who helped deliver the devotional message to their respective classmates. High school students were taught about the 15 Eucharistic miracles during their theology classes.

Another element of the devotional project was to encourage students to get into the habit of visiting the Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist by going to Mass or attending adoration. The Blessed Sacrament visitation tracker was created to allow schools to log their progress from November through April. In the first five months, more than 50,000 visits to the Most Holy Eucharist had been made by the students.

For the art project, seven winning artists were selected from among more than 200 entries from Diocesan Catholic students and were recognized at a reception in the Parish Hall following the Mass. Honorees were selected by representatives from the Diocesan Department of Catholic Education.

Emmanuel Ronquillo, a 6th grader at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, created an image of Christ crucified with the Most Holy Eucharist emanating from behind the cross to shine its light on the world. “This is what the Most Holy Eucharist is all about – Christ dying on the cross for us all.”

As part of the recognition, the artists received an enlarged framed and printed version of their winning artwork with a ribbon and holy cards. The cards were distributed for use at each school and on the reverse includes the prayer: “Devotional Prayer to the Most Holy Eucharist.”

The Diocesan devotional project during the 2021-2022 academic year was the Saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Saints, and during the 2020-2021 academic year it was St. Joseph.

The art contest winners are:

Rosalie Bartsch, kindergarten, Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School, Ave Maria;

Owen Wessal, 3rd grade, St. Catherine Catholic School, Sebring;

Gabriela Wilk, 5th grade, St. Martha Catholic School, Sarasota;

Emmanuel Ronquillo, 6th grade, St. Joseph Catholic School, Bradenton;

Vance Byrd, 9th grade, Bishop Verot Catholic High School, Fort Myers;

Grace Breen, 10th grade, Bishop Verot;

Hailey Renner, 11th grade, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, Sarasota.

News Briefs for the Week of December 16, 2022

2022 Christmas Mass times for the Diocese of Venice

The 2022 Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Mass times for Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice can be found at www.dioceseofvenice.org/news. The listings are in alphabetical order by the city the Parish is located. The complete listing will appear in the Dec. 23, 2022, e-edition of The Florida Catholic. For details on youth choirs or musical accompaniment, please contact the Parish via the phone number or website listed for further information.

As a reminder, the televised Christmas Day Mass for the Homebound with Celebrant Bishop Frank J. Dewane will air for a full hour on Christmas Day. For viewers in the northern portions of the Diocese (DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Manatee, and Sarasota counties), the Mass will air at 9 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee counties), the Mass will air at 10 a.m. on WFTX-TV (FOX-4). Please check your cable provider for channel listings.

The Mass will also be available at www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass. Leaflet missals are available upon request by calling Gail Ardy at 941-486-4714 or by writing: TV Mass, Diocese of Venice, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285. For more information email ardy@dioceseofvenice.org.

Learning about the Holy Eucharist

St. Joseph Catholic School Jr. Catechists shared their faith Dec. 9, 2022, as they taught their younger classmates about the Holy Eucharist in Bradenton. The Jr. Catechists were promoting a Diocesan-wide devotional project “The Most Holy Eucharist: The Riches of His Glorious Inheritance.” The theme corresponds with the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival, led by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as a promotion ahead of the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress and Youth Rally on March 24-25, 2023. The 15-week project is intended to bring to our students a deeper awareness and more ardent love of our Lord’s Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist.

Earthquake testing in Sebring

St. Catherine Catholic School seventh graders in Sebring have been learning about tectonic plate movement and earthquakes. Students worked in groups on Dec. 13, 2022, to create a structure that would withstand an earthquake for 10, 20 and 30 seconds. They did an amazing job demonstrating their knowledge!

Neumann hosts Salesian students from across Florida

The St. John Neumann Catholic High School YACHT Club welcomed the representatives from the Salesian high schools in Florida (Immaculata-LaSalle High School in Miami and Cristo Rey Tampa Salesian High School in Tampa) to  the Naples campus on Dec. 10, 2022, for the annual Salesian DEC Retreat – Day Everyone Connects! The theme was Home for the Holidays! The YACHT Club (Youth And Christ Helping Together) is an instrumental component of the Neumann Campus Ministry Program. The mission of the club is to invite all students to the fullness of Christ’s love through service to others. Students plan and implement retreats, prayer services, liturgies, and more.

 

 

Students clean up

Students and parents at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota got some fresh air and worked up a sweat on Dec. 6, 2022, when they volunteered to help clean-up a section of McIntosh Road, from Fruitville Road to Bahia Vista, as part of the Keep Sarasota County Beautiful program.

Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal continues

The 21st Annual Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal is continuing through 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.

Eucharistic Devotional Project begins in schools

Each year, one of the annual initiatives of the Diocese of Venice Department of Education is the development of the devotional lives of our students through a Diocesan-wide devotional project.

The 2022-2023 devotional project is “The Most Holy Eucharist: The Riches of His Glorious Inheritance.” Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, said the theme was approved and encouraged by Bishop Frank J. Dewane as it supports the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival, led by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress and Youth Rally on March 24-25, 2023. The devotional project during the 2021-2022 academic year was the Saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Saints, and during the 2020-2021 academic year it was St. Joseph.

To get the devotional project off the ground, a training session took place Nov. 4, 2022, at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota. The training included two eighth graders (a boy and girl) from each school who will act as Junior Catechists for this project. Just as they did in previous years, these student leaders will catechize their classmates with a classroom lesson and go classroom to classroom, teaching about our Catholic devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist.

“At our training day, we highlighted the importance of leadership in the faith, evangelization and discipleship,” Father Belmonte said. “We met for Benediction and Adoration, a training session with the students led by our Diocesan Curriculum Director, Jennifer Falestiny. I led the parents who brought their children to the meeting in a presentation on devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist.”

Father Belmonte started the training session for the Junior Catechists with the words of St. John Vianney, “There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us.”

“The 15-week project is intended to bring to our students a deeper awareness and more ardent love of our Lord’s Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist,” Father Belmonte said.

The junior catechists were trained and received a Catholic Altar kit complete with miniature chalice, paten, cruets, ciborium, as well as all the elements for learning about the Mass. These eighth-grade leaders will visit classrooms at their schools to teach their classmates about the Most Holy Eucharist. They will teach on how to visit the Blessed Sacrament, encourage their classmates to learn about Eucharistic miracles and track their visits to the Blessed Sacrament.

High school students will be learning about the 15 Eucharistic miracles during their theology classes.

As part of the devotional project, Bishop Dewane gave each school a Lego Mass set, pocket prayer cards and informational cards relating to visiting the Blessed Sacrament.

“Our efforts are part of the National Eucharistic Revival initiated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to rejuvenate belief in the Real Presence among U.S. Catholics,” Bishop Dewane said.

The Catechism teaches us that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). It is the sanctifying grace which is the point of everything in our Catholic religion. “By learning about the Most Holy Eucharist and teaching how to visit our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, our junior Catechists will help their classmates to participate in the very life of God. St. John Vianney would be very pleased indeed,” Father Belmonte said.

In addition to the student-led classroom lessons, there will be weekly teacher-led classroom activities.

Outside of Mass times, students are encouraged to visit Our Lord in the Tabernacle. With each visit during the 15 weeks, students are asked to say the Devotional Prayer to the Most Holy Eucharist which was provided in a pocket-sized card.

In addition to the classroom aspects, this devotional project has several other components.

There is also a Digital Blessed Sacrament Visit Tracker, a website where teachers can help students keep count of each visit to Our Lord (at Mass, during Adoration, in the school or Parish Chapel) from Nov. 15, 2022, to April 10, 2023. The school with the most visits will be recognized at the end of the devotional project.

Each school also received a Catholic Altar Learning Set for a differentiated STREAM project. In December, the schools will learn about CAD/CAM 3D modeling challenge for students.

Finally, there is an art competition. As in previous years, students will be encouraged to produce art work based on our Catholic artistic tradition around the Most Holy Eucharist.

“With Bishop Dewane, it is my hope that our emphasis on devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist and the study of these various Eucharistic miracles will bring us closer to Our Lord as we visit Him truly present in the Blessed Sacrament,” Father Belmonte said. “May He inspire all of us to emulate the love He has for us to others in our schools and in the world.”

For more information about this Diocesan devotional project, please visit www.dovblessedsacrament.com.

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