Bishop celebrates milestones

There are two dates in July which hold a special place in the heart of Bishop Frank J. Dewane, July 16 and July 25.

July 16, the Feast Day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, is the day in which he received the Sacrament of Holy Orders 32 years ago in 1988 for the Diocese of Green Bay. In addition, it was 14 years ago, on July 25, 2006, when he was Ordained to the Episcopate, becoming a Bishop and eventual Spiritual Leader of the Diocese of Venice in Florida.

“I have been blessed and humbled to be in the Diocese of Venice in Florida,” Bishop Dewane said. “The duty of a Bishop is as Shepherd of a Diocese and to serve the pastoral needs of the faithful. It is the People of God and serving them that defines me as their Bishop.”

In those 14 years as Bishop, there has been unprecedented growth in the 10-county, 10,000 square-miles Diocese. This has necessitated the establishment of seven new parishes, and a chapel for the Latin Mass, as well as the expansion of many other facilities. This growth has all been done to address the pastoral dimension for the people of God.

Impacts from Hurricane Irma in 2017 and the ongoing response to the COVID-19 Pandemic have challenged the workings of the Diocese in different ways, but Bishop Dewane noted that, as in the aftermath of the hurricane, the Diocese and the Catholic Church remains strong.

“It is at times of great peril when people seek comfort from their Faith,” Bishop Dewane said. “As the impacts of the Pandemic linger, the Diocese is committed to continuing to serve the faithful in every way possible.”

Before the outbreak and quarantines, Bishop Dewane took part in the Ad Limina visit to Rome in February 2020, with the Bishops of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The highlight of the visit included a Feb. 13, 2020 audience with Pope Francis, after which Bishop Dewane was presented with a medal and rosary.

In addition, during the past year the Bishop has led two Diocesan initiatives which endeavored to encourage the faithful to grow closer to the Lord. First was the “Disciples of Christ,” campaign, which taught students in Catholic Schools and in Parish religious education programs what it means to follow Christ and to be a Disciple of the Lord.

Most recently, Bishop Dewane announced that the Diocese would celebrate a “Year of St. Joseph” from March 19, 2020 through March 19, 2021. On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, 2020, the Bishop, in the context of the coronavirus, consecrated the Diocese of Venice to the care and protection of St. Joseph. “Particularly in this time of uncertainty in light of the Pandemic, it is appropriate to seek the intercessions of the saints for guidance and protection,” Bishop Dewane said when announcing the “Year of St. Joseph.” The Bishop encouraged the faithful to join in heartfelt prayer and devotion, using the life of St. Joseph as our model for fulfilling our personal call to holiness. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/a-year-of-st-joseph/ for links to prayers, devotions and the latest announcements related to the ongoing ‘Year of St. Joseph.”

Happy Anniversaries Bishop and best wishes for the coming year.

Bishop Letter: What it means to be ‘A Disciple of Christ’

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

After receiving the blessings of the Christmas Season, celebrating the birth of Christ Our Lord, many return to their ordinary schedules of prayer, work or family obligations.  So too, the Church enters a portion of Ordinary Time.  Throughout Advent and Christmas, we placed the emphasis of our prayers and attention on welcoming Christ into our hearts and homes while ever awaiting His triumphant return with the Second Coming.  Now in this Ordinary Time, we take Christ with us and go forth living what it means to be A Disciple of Christ.  Call to mind the lives of Christ’s early Disciples, of the Saints who lived heroically, and even of those great examples of holiness in our own lives.  How might we follow these examples in everyday life in order to be A Disciple of Christ?

First let us recall Christ’s words to His Disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:19-20).  Jesus gives them a mission!  What mission has the Lord called you to do with your life?  Do you help at a food pantry, volunteer at your Parish, work to counter Human Trafficking or the pornography industry that thrives in our society?  Yes, it can get messy.  How are you deepening your journey in becoming A Disciple of Christ?  These are all great ways to take what you have received and to give back in some way in the name of Christ.

To each one of us Christ says, “Without cost you have received, without cost you are to give.” (Matthew 10:8).  In order to live as A Disciple of Christ, this mission must be embraced like the Cross itself.  Of course, this may be difficult at times, there may be the temptation to think, “What am I able to give?” along with thoughts of inadequacy or tepidness.  It is important to know that it is not always big things that the Lord asks of us.  St. Mother Teresa, whom I had the pleasure of speaking with on several occasions, taught that, “Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love.”  These words of hers are an encouragement to me as they may be for you as well.

In the Gospel of Mark Jesus tells the parable of the sower.  If we focus on the sower he seems absolutely mad. Why? Throwing seed just everywhere with no regard for the soil where the seeds land. The farmer could be thought to be crazy for not targeting the placement of the seed, seeding only the good soil.  However, God asks you and I to go out and sow His Word and His love – not only on receptive soil, not only to those who will respond but also on the path, on the rocks and into the thorn bushes.  God’s love is irrational, extravagant, embarrassing, even unreasonable and over the top.

So, do not be afraid to do even the big things at the prompting of God on the journey of becoming A Disciple of Christ; the extravagant action that some see as over the top may be what Christ calls you to do as a Disciple.  Take the risk, make the move, take even the smallest step and do not worry about who notices.  Sow His Word as A Disciple of Christ and leave the rest to the providence of God.  Do not be afraid!

In times where the Lord may be asking more of us, the words spoken to St. Paul offer consolation wherein Christ says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Whether something small is being asked of you or something great, there are always more opportunities to respond to this mission; to go forth in the Name of the Lord as A Disciple of Christ.  Pope Francis has taught us that “In virtue of […] baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples” and continues by saying all the faithful are called to a personal involvement in the work of evangelization.

Have courage in knowing the Lord desires to use you, your particular skills and abilities, your gifts and talents.  Continue to invite Christ into your home and your heart, then take Him out into the streets, into your communities.  They may not be pretty but as St. Mother Teresa told us, “Yesterday is gone.  Tomorrow has not yet come.  We have only today.  Let us begin.”  Be encouraged to continue the ways you are already living as A Disciple of Christ in your life and to begin new ways, new actions today.

As we continue this portion of Ordinary Time, let us work together in this mission that Christ has given us to go forth and to spread the Gospel and be A Disciple of Christ.  To be people of action!!

Thank you for responding to His call in your life.  Rest assured of my prayers that you would continue to allow Christ into your life in new ways, big or small each day and go forth in action.  Please keep me in your prayers as well.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Frank J. Dewane

Winners announced in ‘Disciple of Christ’ showcase

To celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Venice in Florida students at Catholic middle schools were asked to answer the question: “What does it mean to be ‘A Disciple of Christ?’” Each student could respond in one of three ways, through language arts, visual arts or video production.

The response from the students to the 35th Anniversary Student Showcase Competition was impressive and overwhelming as a select committee went through 277 submissions to choose the winners. Announced in mid-January, the winners and honorable mention for each category were as follows:

  • Visual Arts – Winner: Sara Blandon, 8th grader, St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School, Naples; Honorable mention: Taylor Copeland, 8th grade, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, Fort Myers;
  • Language Arts (Essay) – Winner: Ava Irion, 8th grade, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, Fort Myers; Honorable mention: Christopher Wasdin, 8th grade, St. Mary Academy, Sarasota;
  • Video Production – Winner: Jasmine Aviles, 8th grade, St. Catherine Catholic School, Sebring; Honorable mention: Theresa Harwell, 7th grade, St. Martha Catholic School, Sarasota.

As Ava Irion says to start her winning essay: “There are many ways in which a person can be a disciple of Christ.”

This was true with the essay, art and video submissions, reflecting the different ways in which Catholic middle school-aged students view this important idea.

The select committee reviewed each submission and struggle to come up with the winners. The criteria that helped to narrow the choice was based on who most closely related their submission to the contest guidelines and prompt: “What does it mean to be ‘A Disciple of Christ?’”

Jennifer Falestiny, Diocesan Curriculum Specialist, was one of the judges and said the quality of the submissions was impressive. “It was difficult, but we were able to narrow it down to know that we made the right choice.”

Each of the winners will receive a $100 gift card and be presented with a certificate a ribbon and later an ice cream truck will come for a formal celebration. The honorable mention recipients will each receive a ribbon and certificate.

Ave Irion’s essay states that using the traits of Jesus as an example in one’s life is critical to becoming “A Disciple of Christ.” These include kindness, acceptance to others and a strong character. Each can turn an ordinary person into someone who loves Jesus with all of their heart, mind, and soul.

In her video submission, Jasmin Aviles cited the Gospel of Matthew 28: 19-20, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Jasmin went on to say that disciples “are called to love, obey, keep an eye on heaven, and carry crosses. Discipleship has to start somewhere.” (Scan QR code to watch the video, or visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/become-a-disciple-of-christ/ and follow the links to the contest.)

Bishop Frank J. Dewane initiated the idea of being a “Disciple of Christ at the start of the academic year when he went to each Catholic School in the Diocese and celebrated Mass. It was then that he noted how 2019 was the 35th Anniversary of the Diocese so it was appropriate to initiate a new initiative, that they learn how to become “A Disciple of Christ.”

Sara Blandon, winner of the Visual Arts category drew a stunning image of St. Teresa of Calcutta holding a malnourished baby along with an accompanying poem. She wrote that her mind went directly went to the saint when thinking of “A Disciple of Christ.”

The image represents “the love that she put in caring for those who were in need. St. Mother Teresa has exerted a great influence on all individuals. She loved people with all her heart, even those with the worst diseases… With the devotion she gave, she became that true reflection of our Lord. A true disciple is one who gives up everything and helps those who truly need help. But most importantly, a true disciple is one who leads people closer to God.”

The Honorable Mention artwork by Taylor Copeland, 8th grade, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, Fort Myers, is a drawing of St. Dorcas, also known as St. Tabitha, who is noted by scholars as the first woman disciple. Known for helping the sick and poor, when St. Dorcas died, St. Peter came to her and said “Tabitha, get up.” She then opened her eyes.

Beginning with the Advent Season of 2019 and to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the Diocese of Venice, the Diocese formally launched a campaign for all to become “A Disciple of Christ.” The campaign is running through the Liturgical Seasons; it began with Advent, then Christmas, and now a portion of Ordinary Time, to be followed by Lent, Easter, and concluding with Pentecost. A Bishop Dewane wrote in a letter to the faithful, these Seasons allow each of us to discover and experience what it means to be A Disciple of Christ. The Liturgical Calendar provides an emphasis on how to live during each Season with its special focus; how to personally follow Jesus and become more united to Him in the daily life of each Liturgical Season.

The call to be “A Disciple of Christ” requires a response from everyone. It may involve speaking out, giving up certain things in your life, or even taking on extra responsibilities, Bishop Dewane wrote. “To be ‘A Disciple of Christ’ does not mean only to follow Him in external practices and the traditions of the Church, but to respond to Jesus from the heart in loving obedience and trust.”

In this regard, Pope Francis said, “We cannot be tepid disciples. The Church needs our courage in order to give witness to truth.”

As Bishop Dewane stated: “You may think, ‘I am already following Christ’ but the call is to intentionally choose to become ‘A Disciple of Christ’ each and every day. Every moment provides an opportunity to be filled with Christ’s love. Allow it to transform your heart and life. Then bring this love to your family, your friends, and as well to your enemies.”

To learn more about being “A Disciple of Christ” and to see more of the winners from the 35th Anniversary Student Showcase Competition please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/become-a-disciple-of-christ/.

Disciple of Christ: Student Showcase Essay

The Diocese of Venice in Florida congratulates Ava Irion, 8th grader St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers for taking 1st Place (ESSAY) in the Disciple of Christ Diocese of Venice 35th Anniversary Student Showcase! This was chosen by a select committee out of 106 submission based on the content and its closeness to relating to the theme: “What does it mean to be a Disciple of Christ.” The complete essay is here:

By Ava Irion, 8th grade, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School

There are many ways in which a person can be a disciple of Christ. If someone is a disciple of Christ, he or she respects and loves all humankind no matter the circumstance. Even more importantly, a disciple of Christ loves God more than their possessions and even more than their family. For example, John 8:31 states that, “A disciple loves others as Jesus has loved him.” By following the Ten Commandments, by helping others in everyday life, and by evangelizing, anyone can become a wonderful disciple of Christ. This is not an easy task, but someone who is a true disciple will surrender everything for God. The following will focus on traits that true disciples display: kindness, acceptance, and character.

To begin, kindness is one of the prime traits that someone needs in order to be a discipline of Christ and to live the way Jesus did. Kindness was displayed by Jesus in many ways throughout his life. He did this by healing, caring, and showing mercy for others. He never judged nor thought that he was better than others. Instead, he helped those who were different. No matter who they were or where they came from, Jesus showed kindness to everyone he came across. Some might think that this would be easy to do, however Jesus even showed immense kindness toward his enemies. Matthew 5:44 explains, “I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Jesus followed these words and was kind to those who persecuted him and to those who cursed him. So the challenge is to live and act the way that Jesus did in his life. If we use kindness towards our neighbors, loved ones, and enemies more often in our everyday lives, we will be closer to living as a disciple of Christ.

Next, Jesus showed acceptance to others in his life. Acceptance of those who may look or act differently is very hard to do. However, all people need to be treated with human dignity and respect. Jesus showed acceptance many times in the Bible. One example is in Matthew 8:14 when Jesus touched the untouchable. Back in the time of Jesus, people who were visibly ill were outcasts. They were the “scraps” of the society. However, Jesus still loved them very much. In Matthew 8:14, a leprous man approached Jesus as he was walking up a mountain side. The man begged Jesus to be healed. Jesus broke all of the laws and boundaries as he walked up to the leper man and touched him. In one small, single touch, the leper was healed and was free to live the rest of his life. The man was cast out from society because of his differences but Jesus accepted him. Jesus was the only one who still saw this man as a human and not as some sort of monster. This acceptance from Jesus changed the man’s life. Jesus chose to see him as a real person and not as a plague. This enabled the man to be cured. Acceptance was powerful and life-changing, as it can be in each person’s daily life.

Finally, character is a trait that can turn an ordinary person into someone who loves Jesus with all of their heart, mind, and soul. Character can mean that someone is a role model, and that this person cares for others. Parents are a great example of this, as they are role models to their children. Parents can teach lifelong lessons such as, “Treat others how you want to be treated.” Parents model behavior for their children to learn and to act upon as the children grow into adults. Parents show their children how to treat others with respect. No matter what life throws at someone, that person can look to the character of their parents and think about what they would do in that situation. Another role model with strong character is Jesus. Jesus displayed character by showing forgiveness, love, and compassion. To act like Jesus means to not hold a grudge, to never wish harm to anyone, and to never try to one up someone to feel superior. Jesus forgave the people that killed him. Forgiveness in today’s world might not have to be that extreme, but one should never hold a grudge and should learn to love those who hurt them. The love of Jesus is the most radiant and powerful love ever. People need to love as he does. They need to love their neighbors and love him, with all of their hearts, minds, and souls. Finally, Jesus always had compassion for everyone he came across. Instead of worrying for himself, he thought of others and how he could help them. If humans learn from their parents and demonstrate the great character of Jesus, anyone can become a disciple of Christ.

Overall, a disciple of Christ needs to have the traits of kindness, acceptance, and character. If someone can demonstrate these virtues to others the way that Jesus did, they are becoming a disciple of Christ. The core of being a disciple of Christ is interesting and complex, but, ultimately, it means living like Jesus did. If people truly love Jesus and act with kindness, acceptance, and character, they can be one of the strongest and most amazing disciples of Christ. How will you use these traits to become a disciple of Christ?

 

To see more about the contest and the overall Disciple of Christ campaign, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/become-a-disciple-of-christ/.

Cardinal Mooney gives back

St. Mother Teresa once said, “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota loves taking part in giving back to the community from serving meals to the homeless to food and toy drives.

To kick off the giving season, Mooney students and staff participated in a Thanksgiving   food drive that provided over 65 families with a full Thanksgiving meal as well as served over 200 homeless lunch in the downtown Sarasota area on Nov. 27.

The Cardinal Mooney chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society collected new toys to support Andrew’s Toybox and delivered them Dec. 19, just in time for Christmas, to the pediatric wards of Sarasota and Manatee Memorial Hospitals.

The 60 residents of Sunshine Meadows Nursing Home in Sarasota received items on their Christmas list Dec. 13, as part of an effort by the Cardinal Mooney staff as well as by different members of clubs on campus.

Also taking part of the giving season was the Cardinal Mooney Cougar Band which performed at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and University Town Center mall to help bring cheer to those travelling and shopping during the holidays.

Service in the community

Every student at Cardinal Mooney participates in giving back through community service and is required to complete 100 hours of service during their four years at the college preparatory school.

Most students have well over the 100 hours including senior Aaron Dhanhai who has 612 hours, with 550 of those hours as a volunteer at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Junior Mallory Allbritton has more than 440 hours with Sarasota Disaster Relief Services, 4H and Future Farmers of America (FFA).  Allyson Galvin, a sophomore, has 330 hours working on various service projects with Our Lady of Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch. Cooper Flerlage, a freshman, already has over 330 community service hours, mostly with the Sarasota County Summer Camp Program.

The family environment of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School fosters spiritual growth and prepares all students to become servant leaders in the world by performing over 30,000 community service hours a year.

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, a Christ-centered, college preparatory institution is celebrating its 60th Anniversary. The school prepares students to serve and lead by nurturing spiritual growth, cultivating the talent of all students, and challenging them to pursue academic excellence.

As a nationally accredited school, Mooney is now offering the new rigorous AP Capstone diploma; as well as a full honors curriculum; Advanced Placement courses; dual enrollment; and learning strategies programs. Student-athletes participating in over 30 athletic teams have won district, sectional, and regional titles with three state titles this year. With a 100 percent acceptance rate to college, Cardinal Mooney graduates earned more than $9 million in scholarships in 2019.

Letter from Bishop: You are called to be ‘A Disciple of Christ’

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

With Advent on the horizon, we ought to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus. This Season of anticipation and longing allows all of us to welcome God’s invitation to become A Disciple of Christ. This brings to mind the disciples in the early Church and the great sacrifice that they lived day in and day out.

The call to be A Disciple of Christ thus requires a response from you!  It may involve speaking out, giving up certain things in your life, or even taking on extra responsibilities. But the reality is, and Pope Francis has said this well, “We cannot be tepid disciples. The Church needs our courage in order to give witness to truth.”

Beginning with the Advent Season of 2019 and to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the Diocese of Venice, the Diocese is launching a campaign for all to become A Disciple of Christ. The campaign will run through the Liturgical Seasons beginning with Advent, then Christmas, a portion of Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter, and concluding with Pentecost. These Seasons allow each of us to discover and experience what it means to be A Disciple of Christ. The Liturgical Calendar provides an emphasis on how to live during each Season with its special focus; how to personally follow Jesus and become more united to Him in the daily life of each Liturgical Season.

To be A Disciple of Christ does not mean only to follow Him in external practices and the traditions of the Church, but to respond to Jesus from the heart in loving obedience and trust. We remember the rich young man who approached Jesus asking what must be done to inherit eternal life. Although he had followed the commandments since his youth, Jesus extols him to make sacrifices, sell his things, give to the poor, and follow Him (Cf. Matthew 19:21). This is more than just money, Jesus is calling the young man to rid himself of distractions and attachments in order to be A Disciple of Christ. The young man goes away sad, but that is the last heard of him in the Gospel.  To be a disciple, one must respond willfully and daily to Christ’s call and follow not only His teaching, but His example as well. Don’t go away sad, become A Disciple of Christ!

There is also an emphasis on that period of “becoming.” You may think, “I am already following Christ” but the call is to intentionally choose to become A Disciple of Christ each and every day. Every moment provides an opportunity to be filled with Christ’s love. Allow it to transform your heart and life. Then bring this love to your family, your friends, and as well to your enemies.

Opportunities to deepen your relationship with Christ, and thus to begin the journey to be a Disciple, are all around us. There are different prayer and/or study groups with which to be involved. There are areas of outreach to families, to the homeless, to the marginalized and those on the peripheries, as Pope Francis would tell us. Many Diocesan programs, conferences, and resources are also available to accompany you and enrich your journey.

It is understood that programs do not make disciples, but sometimes they are needed to help us become more, to live the Gospel. This “more” is meant to bring you deeper in your personal relationship with Christ in such a way that it becomes not merely a part of your life but frames you in all that you do.

In this Advent Season, be encouraged to take advantage of these steps, programs, and opportunities that lead you to be A Disciple of Christ. Take Christ into your home; take Christ into your heart! Prepare to receive Him in a new and transformative way this Season as we also look forward to His Second Coming, for in this life there is nothing of greater importance for us.

Rest assured of my prayers for you and your family and please keep me in your prayers as we continue our journey together to be evermore A Disciple of Christ.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Frank J. Dewane

Bishop of Venice in Florida

 

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