Christmas celebrated across the Diocese

The celebration of Christmas is a time to recognize the truth about Christ: our Incarnate Savior, the Son of God, both human and divine.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane stressed the importance of this reality when speaking about the meaning and symbolism that we must recognize and accept that on Christmas Day, “the Savior, the Messiah, is sent to us. In so doing, you and I become children of God.”

The true gift of Christmas is not the presents found under a tree, but the light God sent forth into the world, Jesus Christ and the example He provides, Bishop Dewane added.

“That gift of light is with you and me,” Bishop Dewane continued. “No matter where we find ourselves, that light of Christ rests with all of us. It is we who have to accept that, and when we do, we become that Child of God.”

For Christmas, Bishop Dewane celebrated the Televised Mass for Homebound which was recorded at St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota. As the Bishop has in the past, he made a point to celebrate the Mass for the incarcerated in the region. This was accomplished Christmas Eve at the DeSoto Correctional Facility in Arcadia and the day after Christmas at the Hardee Correctional Institute in Bowling Green.

Christmas throughout the Diocese reflected the generosity of the faithful toward those in need. The Advent tradition of having a Jesse Tree, with ornaments listing the wish of a needy child, was a common sight in churches in December. The result was that tens of thousands of gifts were distributed throughout the region to local children.

Also, part of the Christmas Season were concerts with carolers to help everyone get into the spirit of the coming Holiday. Christmas Eve was the time for children’s Masses with the younger faithful participating in the retelling of the Nativity story.

In what has become an annual tradition, St. Agnes Parish in Naples hosted a Living Nativity, complete with a recreation of the town of Bethlehem and live animals.

A common pre-Christmas celebration at several Parishes in the Diocese is “Las Posadas,” a tradition from Mexico and Central and South America where the Nativity story is retold over the course of nine days. The highlight of the novena is one larger centerpiece gathering. One of the more elaborate celebrations occurs at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula. This year, the celebration was postponed due to weather until Jan. 4. In the retelling of the Nativity story, more than 100 youth participated.

Before the Christmas Break, Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools joined in the fun of the season by giving back to those in need while also holding their own celebrations.

Each school held their own toy drives to benefit needy children in the area with the generous response reaching beyond what was expected. Other fun activities included decorating cookies and trees, gift making and wrapping, as well as pageants and concerts, each to showcase the talents of the students.

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School National Honors Society in Fort Myers hosted young students from St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral and St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers to build gingerbread houses and decorate cookies.

Kindergartners at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton visited a nearby nursing home to sing carols to spread holiday cheer. Students at the school also received a visit from Mrs. Santa Claus who delivered books as part of a reading initiative from the Early Learning Coalition.

The Key Club of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples hosted a “Holiday Gift Shop” for the Friends of Foster Children Forever. Families came to the campus to choose from thousands of new toys that went to some very deserving foster children in the area.

Neumann students also helped pack 150,000 meals to help feed the needy in the local community. Food and toys were also delivered to the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center of Catholic Charities.

The events and activities listed represent a mere fraction of what took place in December at Parishes and schools across the Diocese of Venice.

The Spirit is Alive at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School

By Maria Niebuhr

Nestled in the heart of Naples, within a modest neighborhood just off Golden Gate Parkway, lies St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School. Founded in 1981, the school bears the name of the first American-born saint and is in keeping with her spiritual gifts of courage, determination, faith and love.

Through hard work, dedication, and the support of parishioners and community partners, the school was handcrafted by the very families that wanted their children to have a quality, Catholic education. Since those humble beginnings, St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School carries on their legacy through rich traditions rooted in family values and faith in action. The tradition continues with the large number of alumni who have children enrolled in our school.

What sets St. Elizabeth Seton apart and makes us unique is our sense of closeness as a family community. Seton students know they are a part of the school family which is an extension of their own. You need only walk through the doors of the school to feel a difference, to experience the wholesome, loving personality of the school. In short, a presence of the spirit exists throughout its halls, courtyards and classrooms.

The spirit of St. Elizabeth Seton is alive and well. The school and Church’s dedication to children, education and the poor shone as a beacon of hope in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in 2017. Our campus suffered major damage, forcing us to close our doors for 18 days.

Thankful for technology and the digital age in which we live, our teachers taught remotely as best they could. However, all of us yearned to return to our beloved classrooms. Our prayers were answered when a family in the contracting business stepped up to expedite repairs and renovations. Donations poured in from across the country, making a reopening possible. When another school was hit by a hurricane, our community quickly came to their aid, just as they helped us in our time of need.

Our entire staff and faculty exemplify Faith in action. Maria Crowley, who has taught at St. Elizabeth Seton for 30 years, is just one of the many role models who lives our Faith! Teaching is more than a profession to Mrs. Crowley; it is her vocation, one inspired by her love of God’s unique creation, His children. She explains that on each child’s face, she sees the child Jesus. This feeling permeates throughout our faculty and staff, inspiring us to create a mutual sense of caring, closeness, and respect with our students and their families.

The school’s spirit is alive and continues to grow. We are small enough that teachers know all the students and their families though large enough to offer a full range of academic rigor and extra-curricular experiences. We offer a music program complete with beginner and concert bands, as well as a full range of competitive athletic offerings from volleyball to cross country. Our 1:1 iPad program in grades 5-8, and class iPads in grades K-4, allow us to create an engaging, technology-driven curriculum, while our diverse selection of after school activities such as Art Club, STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math) club, master gardening classes and theatrical performances embody the “whole child” concept.

I welcome you to visit St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School. We will gladly open our doors so you and your family may see firsthand the unique, uplifting spirit that inspires us to follow in the footsteps of our foundress. I will be happy to give you a tour of our special school, where academic excellence, faith, values and community come to life each day!

Please visit our website or call 239-455-2262. You are also welcome to attend our Open House from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Jan. 26 and experience the difference!

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.

How can I be more ‘A Disciple of Christ’ in my own life

Letter from Bishop Dewane:

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Just past the midpoint of Advent, we all have been provided an initial time of fruitful preparation for the coming of Christ into our hearts and homes. As we look toward the end of Advent and the coming of Christmas, the call to become “A Disciple of Christ” in a new way should come to mind each day. This Advent, the Diocese of Venice launched a campaign to be “A Disciple of Christ,” to invite Christ in a personal and transformative way into our hearts that leads us to follow Him intentionally and willfully.  At this time, it is fitting to find newness in our relationship with Christ, to ask oneself, “How can I be more ‘A Disciple of Christ’ in my own life’?”

This beginning allows each of us a fresh start as well as a focal point which, of course, is Christ Himself. In the words of St. Gregory of Nyssa, “He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.” This is what it means to both become and to be a disciple, since it is Christ that we desire and His love that we know. It is never too late to begin anew, to follow Christ and invite Him into our hearts.

The Season of Advent began with the focus on the Second Coming of Christ, when He comes in glory to judge the living and the dead. The portion of the Season which we are entering now sets its gaze on the first coming, the coming of the Christ Child. With roughly a week left of Advent and in view of the quickly approaching Christmas Season, why not up our game? Make the most of the opportunity of preparation for the coming of the Christ Child into our own lives. Our beginning points may be different, as St. Gregory told us, but we continue to move from beginning to beginning so that Christ may be born in our hearts again and again.

The Gospel of Luke tells us of the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement of the coming of Christ. Mary, in a special way, displays what it means to be a disciple, and she is, in fact, the first “Disciple of Christ.” When she hears the Word of God spoken to her, she responds in faith, exclaiming, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word” (cf. Luke 1:38). This is the essence of living the Gospel: “may it be done to me according to your word”; it is an acceptance and a response to God.  In this way, all ought to be “A Disciple of Christ,” eager to receive His call and respond with love and faith. Then let us act and boldly allow Christ to take precedence in our lives in every respect.

Another example to be taken from this is the hearing and listening to God’s Word. How often do we allow the Bible to collect dust on the coffee table or on a bookshelf? Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice, He knows them, and they follow Him (cf. John 10:27). In this Season of preparation and in the following Season of Christmas, open your Bible with your family. “Take and read” as the Lord spoke to St. Augustine.  In this you will find the “words of eternal life” (cf. John 6:68) present in Our Lord who is “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” (cf. John 14:6) and you will know what it means to be “A Disciple of Christ.”

Looking toward the end of Advent and preparing for the coming of the Christ Child, be always aware of His Second Coming; be prepared to meet Christ as a disciple. Recognize the ways that He gives His love and respond to that love!

I wish you a fruitful remainder of the Advent Season and indeed a very Blessed and Merry Christmas! Know that you are in my prayers and please keep me in your prayers as we prepare for the coming of Christ into our hearts so as to be “A Disciple of Christ.”

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+Frank J. Dewane

Principal’s Corner – St. Andrew Catholic School

By Principal David Nelson

St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral has a rich tradition of fostering some of the finest students in Southwest Florida. While rooted in academic excellence, St. Andrew is far more than just an academic institution. For the past 30 years, through Catholic traditions and Gospel values, dedicated faculty and staff help to develop students who are growing into principled, caring and balanced individuals; respected as Children of God.

St. Andrew Catholic School Principal David Nelson.

This year marked the school’s 10th annual “Make a Difference Day.” This special day allows groups of students to venture out into the Southwest Florida community to improve the lives of others. On November 8, middle school students and parent volunteers served in diverse capacities at six different non-profit organizations which serve the local community in a variety of ways. The students visited Healthy Start, Special Populations, Hearts and Homes, Lifeline Family Center, Cape Coral Caring Center, Ronald McDonald House and the Gulf Coast Humane Society. Students made sandwiches, created art, comforted those at nursing homes, helped clean an animal shelter and so much more.

Each location provided students a priceless opportunity to work together for the common good. Throughout the day, the students experienced compassion, empathy and empowerment by enhancing the community and enriching the lives of their neighbors.

Service to others is part of the philosophy at St. Andrew Catholic School, and “Make a Difference Day” is just one of many service projects completed each academic year. Whether collaborating in the classroom or through community service, students open their hearts, demonstrating open-mindedness and a connection to others. Students having an impact in our school and in the community is what makes St. Andrew a special place.

In addition, St. Andrew, as well as other Diocesan schools, implemented a new Diocesan initiative of becoming “A Disciple of Christ.” This calling promotes students to do more within his or her school and community. They are being recognized for their care, integrity, and commitment to do the right thing.

I welcome you to visit our website – – or stop by for a tour of our fabulous school and see firsthand our students as they learn to become “A Disciple of Christ.”

News and photos from across the Diocese

Christmas Day Television Mass for the Homebound

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 9:30 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee counties), the Mass will air at 8 a.m. on WFTX-TV (FOX-4). Please check your cable provider for channel listings. 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

Student artwork nationally recognized

Two St. Martha Catholic School students named as 2018-2019 Missionary Childhood Association (MCA) Christmas Artwork Contest winners earlier in the year, were recognized locally on Dec. 13 for their achievement. Sixth grader Collier Moser, and seventh grader Charlotte Thompson were two of only 24 students nationwide to be recognized with this honor. Additionally, Charlotte’s artwork was named one of two grand prizes and was reproduced as the Christmas Card of the national office of the Missionary Childhood Association. On Dec. 13, Father Bob Kantor, Director of the Diocese Office of the Propagation of the Faith (Missions Office), went to the Sarasota school for a presentation and to personally congratulate the winners and their art teacher, Mary Jo Salomone. Earlier in December, Charlotte attended a Mass in celebration for winners and their families at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The artwork of all 24 student winners is on display there until mid-January.


The St. John Neumann Catholic High School YACHT club hosted a spectacular Salesian day at the circus for students from SJN and Cristo Rey Tampa in Naples.

Mass Honoring Widows and Widowers in Naples Jan. 26

Bishop Frank J. Dewane will celebrate a Mass for all widows and widowers beginning at 3 p.m., Jan. 26, St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th N. Ave., Naples. Dinner will follow in the Parish Hall. A display of photos will be available for viewing during the reception; should you wish to participate with a photo of you and your deceased spouse, please email Gail at, or send a copy in advance to Diocese of Venice, ATTN: Widows and Widowers Mass, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, Florida 34285. There is no cost to attend. Registration is required to plan for food. To register visit For more details contact Gail at 941-484-9543 or


Cheerleaders from Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers performed in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

Christmas Appeal continues

The annual Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal occurs now through January. The goal is to raise $565,000 and your gifts are much appreciated! The Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal is the agency’s largest fundraiser and critical to operating the social service organization. Your donation will benefit Catholic Charities programs and services available throughout Southwest Florida that assist individuals, families, and seniors all year long. Thank you for your giving spirit! To donate please visit or mail a donation to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., 5824 Bee Ridge Road PMB 409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065.

Venice Mayor Ron Feinsod speaks to students at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in early December. He visited the school in thanks to their response to a Mayors Feed the Hungry Campaign.

Mass Celebrating Haitian Independence

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites everyone to participate in the Annual Mass celebrating Haitian Independence at 2 p.m., New Year’s Day, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. The Mass, which is on the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, brings together the various Haitian communities within the Diocese of Venice for one celebration. There is a reception after the Mass in the Parish Hall.

Students at Bishop Verot Catholic High School gather for the lighting of a candle on the Advent Wreath on Dec. 9 in Fort Myers.

Apologetics Conference Jan. 16-17

The Diocese Office of Evangelization is offering three opportunities to attend an Apologetics Conference with Mike Aquilina. An award-winning author of more than fifty books on Catholic history, doctrine, and devotion, Anguilla will speak at 5:30 p.m., Jan. 16, Resurrection Parish, 8121 Cypress Lake Drive, Fort Myers; and then 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., Jan. 17, 2020, Epiphany Cathedral, 310 Sarasota St., Venice. The topics is “Defend Youth Faith: Finding answers to modern problems in the early Church.” There is no cost, and all are welcome. For information, please call 941-484-9543, email, or visit

Card party in Englewood Jan. 8

The St. Francis Assisi Parish Women’s Guild card party will be held at 11 a.m., Jan. 8, in the Parish Hall, 5265 Placida Road, Grove City. Play cards or games until 2:30 p.m.. Please make your reservations by Jan. 6 by visiting to – Parish Forms – Card Party – Reservation form, or by calling 941-697-4899 ext. 6 and leave a message with your name, phone number and number of people at your table. Tickets are $8 and includes your lunch, drinks, playing time and door prizes. All are welcome to attend.



Marriage Prep Retreat Jan. 11

St. Charles Borromeo Parish, 21505 Augusta Ave., Port Charlotte, is offering a pre-Cana retreat called for by the Witness to Love Marriage Preparation program from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Jan.11. Engaged couples attend this retreat before their 5th meeting with their mentor couples, the Theology night with the priest or deacon. Mentor couples and couples preparing for convalidation through the Witness to Love Civil Marriage Initiative are also welcome to attend if they wish. The retreat will be held in the Saint Charles Parish Center from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.  The cost is $25 per couple.  Couples should register with Michael Barrett at (941) 585-0668 or by January 4th.

Our 4th Annual St. Nicholas Celebrates Advent event took place recently at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers and included volunters from nearby Bishop Verot Catholic High School.

St. Ann Catholic School honored

The Naples Award Program has selected St. Ann Catholic School for the 2019 Best of Naples Award in the School category. The program is an annual awards outreach honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local business throughout the Naples area. Recognition is given to those that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate advantages of long-term value.

Dinner for St. Vincent de Paul Society Jan. 14

The Knights of Columbus San Marco Council 6344 will sponsor the St. Vincent de Paul Society Dinner, 5:30 p.m., Jan. 14, in the San Marco Parish Center, 851 San Marco Road, Marco Island.  The barbeque dinner includes pulled pork or fried chicken, baked potato, baked beans, salad, rolls and butter, coffee, tea, and dessert. Soda, Wine and Beer are available at a cash bar. The cost will be $25 per person. Credit cards accepted.  Reserve a table. No take-out is available.  This event is open to the public and everyone is invited. Buy your tickets at the Church Office or by calling Joe Granda at 239-389-2823, Mickey Flynn 609-335-2458, Joe Swaja at 239-269-7033, Gene Consolo at 248-321-2204 or John DeRosa at 239-272-0816. For more information, contact 239-389-5633 or visit our website at

Principal’s Corner – St. Catherine Catholic School 

By Nicole Loseto, St. Catherine Catholic School, Sebring

St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring has enjoyed an AMAZING start to the new year. We worked tirelessly preparing the school for the upcoming year by continuing to improve both the facility and academic programs. Many students participated in a fun and interactive Vacation Bible School that explored our Catholic Faith through art, sports, music and literature. We also offered the first STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Education, Arts, Mathematics) camp which provided many hands-on activities for students to explore and research science and math concepts.

Nicole Loseto, Principal of St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring.

Kick-off for the new school year was a Welcome Back BBQ. Guests were delighted by the new improvements we made to the main school building and the promise of a challenging and rewarding year ahead. The students were also excited to meet their teachers and looked forward to joining newly established clubs such as the Rosary Club, the National Junior Honor Society, and Student Council, which launched a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society called Pennies for Patients. We are so grateful for all the support received from our families and community to make it a great success.

The eighth graders were recently surprised with a Senior Sunrise Breakfast to begin their graduation year. It is an exciting year for them as this is the first graduating class from St. Catherine’s since the school’s inception in 2008, the first Catholic School located in the Eastern Deanery. Several of these students have been with the school since it opened when they were in preschool. This is also the first year of the VPK program.

For our efforts, the school was rewarded with the Gold Seal Accreditation as a Gold Seal Quality Care program. This Seal is awarded when a preschool demonstrates a high level of educational professionalism and commitment to quality standards and excellence. This year also saw the introduction of academic coaches who meet regularly with students for extra help with their coursework. The guidance and mentorship the coaches provide builds our students’ confidence and self-esteem.

The Fall Season was dedicated to the people who serve our country. In September, we conducted a Constitution Day where the children had a chance to meet a Constitutional Scholar. In October, we held a Red Mass to honor judges, lawyers, law school professor, and other members of the legal profession. On Veterans Day, we paid tribute to those who served in all branches of the military. Our students were honored and delighted to meet such amazing individuals who are role models in their community. Celebrating their service and sacrifice helps our young men and women aspire to greatness and a life of service.

In this 35th Anniversary year of the Diocese of Venice, we have been actively teaching about the history of the Diocese and the concept of how to be “A Disciple of Christ,” using resources provided by the Diocese of Venice. Everything we see, hear and do at St. Catherine shows our children how they can live as “A Disciple of Christ” and it is our mission to demonstrate how they can live in God’s image and serve others.

Learn more about what makes St. Catherine Catholic School such a special and rewarding place to help your child grow in their faith as a Disciple of Christ at

You may reach Principal Nicole Loseto at

Turning Your Annual Support into Forever Support

By Michael Morse, Executive Director of the Catholic Community Foundation of Southwest Florida Inc.

Throughout the Diocese of Venice, generous parishioners provide ongoing annual support for their Parish by way of their offertory gifts and for the Diocese by way of the Catholic Faith Appeal. This annual support is so appreciated and so critical to the Catholic Church’s mission of spreading the Gospel, educating the faithful and serving those in need.

However, on multiple occasions, devoted Catholics have expressed concern about what would happen to their Parish, school or favorite Diocesan program after they have passed away. They have worried about whether or not the next generation will be as devoted to their Catholic Faith, whether they will attend Mass, send their children to Catholic School or be willing to support the programs and ministries of the Church.

Unfortunately, this concern may be well-founded. According to the Pew Research Religious Landscape Study, 35% of Baby Boomers and 28% of Generation X identify as Catholics, however, only 11% of Millennials identify as Catholics. This trend is not unique to the Catholic Church. Every major religion included in the Pew Research Study showed similar declines in religious participation by subsequent generations.

To help address their concerns as they look to the future of the Church, Catholic families and individuals are now looking to blend their current annual giving with a future gift in their will or trust to establish an endowment. An endowment fund provides a perpetual source of revenue to the Catholic organization of their choice. This helps ensure the long-term sustainability of their Parish, school or Diocesan program about which they care most.

For example, Susan donates $1,000 per year to her Parish through the offertory and would like to continue this support after she is gone. Susan works with her estate planning attorney to include a provision in her will to fund an endowment with the Catholic Community Foundation of Southwest Florida with a gift of $25,000.

When Susan passes away and the endowment is funded, the Foundation will use a portion of the endowment each year to replace her $1,000 annual support to her Parish. The remainder is invested in Catholic-screened investments, which allows it to grow and support annual payouts to the Parish forever. By establishing her endowment, Susan has helped ensure that her Parish can serve as the hands and feet of Christ to those in need for generations to come.

In addition to endowment funds, the Catholic Community Foundation offers a wide range of gifting options for Catholics including scholarship funds, donor advised funds, charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts and more. The Foundation works with each donor individually to first understand what they want to accomplish and then determine how best to accomplish it.

To learn more about the Catholic Community Foundation, please contact Michael Morse at 941-441-1124 or by email at You can also visit the Foundation website at


Thanksgiving brings out best in people

Thanksgiving is all about gathering family together and a time to reflect and give thanks for all the gifts and graces the Lord has bestowed on one’s life.

For those who struggle paycheck to paycheck or are on the brink of homelessness, thanksgiving has a different meaning. It can mean loneliness, despair and hunger as most places that would offer a caring meal are closed for the holiday weekend.

Several efforts throughout the Diocese helped to bring a bit of joy into the lives of many.

To meet the need in Manatee County, the St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton uses the first three days of Thanksgiving Week to distribute special bags of food to more than 1,200 individuals and families.

On the first day, Nov. 25, a long line stretched around the building as people patiently waited to receive their bags of food. Each of those receiving a bag was already on a list of eligible recipients. The St. Joseph Food Pantry serves as the central distribution hub for the needy in the entire county and operates year-round.

St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School students.

A huge team of volunteers sorted donated food and packed the bags while others checked in families and still others passed out the bags of food. The bags came in sizes for individuals, small families, medium-sized families, and large families.

Barb Ricalzone has been helping at the food pantry for years and handed out the larger bags of food on the first and busiest distribution day. “It gives me a good feeling to be able to help. The smiles and kind words from everyone is rewarding. I love to help people and I know this really makes a difference.”

One of the recipients of the bags, Christine, who fell on hard times when she was laid off several months ago and feared that she would not be able to have a real Thanksgiving dinner for her family. As she held a big bag of food, and her oldest son held the bag with the turkey, she smiled and thanked as many of the volunteers as she could as tears rolled down her cheeks. “Thank you so much! Happy Thanksgiving! Bless you all!”

“I never thought I would ever need to come to a food pantry in my life,” Christine said. “What these people are doing is incredible. They put a smile on the face of my whole family.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was in Sarasota on Thanksgiving Day where he joined the Knights of Columbus Council 3358 for the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner for the community.

The Bishop gave the opening blessing and praised the Knights for their outstanding annual outreach to the community. Bishop Dewane then helped on the food line. This annual event is in its third decade and provides about 600 hot meals for many people who have nowhere else to go on Thanksgiving. An additional 200 meals were delivered to the homeless in the area. Earlier, Bishop Dewane celebrated Mass at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch.

In Immokalee, the faithful of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples offered “Thanksgiving in the Park” which provided more than 2,000 hot meals. Some 100 volunteers helped prepare the meal and even more served the food on Thanksgiving Day in a spot adjacent to the Immokalee Airport.

Several other parishes had Thanksgiving dinners for the faithful who had no family in the area, including at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples which served about 300.

Catholic Schools throughout the Diocese participated in these efforts with food drives that benefited Catholic Charities, the St. Joseph Food Pantry and other community feeding programs.

For example, the students at St. John Neumann Catholic High School donated more than 11,500 cans of food to help the working poor families of Collier County to the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center of Catholic Charities in Naples.

“As a result of their generosity, our families will be supported in a very big way,” said Mary Shaughnessy, District Director Catholic Charities of Collier County.

Meanwhile, the students from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota delivered food to Bethesda House, a Catholic Charities program for people impacted by HIV/AIDS, as well as to the Incarnation Parish St. Vincent de Paul Society. Students, parents, faculty members and administrators also helped to feed more than 200 homeless residents of Sarasota on Nov. 27 at the 19th Annual Sarasota Downtown Ministerial Association Day Before Thanksgiving Luncheon.

Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School Student Council in Venice motivated the students to donate nearly 2,000 items for the Mayors’ “Feed the Hungry” campaign.

These are just a few of the examples of how Catholics across the Diocese of Venice turned their personal thanks into giving to others.

Gala celebrates 30 years of academic excellence in Cape Coral

During this 30th Anniversary of the founding of St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral there has been an ongoing effort to celebrate the achievements of the school and its students.

Part of that celebration was the Nov. 23, “Enchanted Sea – Second Annual Saints and Sinners Gala” at the Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village which brought together parents, faculty, staff and supporters of the school for an evening of fun and relaxation.

Principal David Nelson welcomed everyone and spoke about how St. Andrew Catholic School is more than just providing a quality education for its more than 325 students with a strong STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) component.

“St. Andrew’s is about its Catholic Identity. It is part of everything we do, and it is why we are here,” Nelson said. “We also do great in technology, with iPads in all classes sixth grade and older, and we are one of only nine STREAM-certified Catholic Schools in Florida. We have so much to be thankful for and so much to celebrate.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who offered the blessing before the meal, congratulated the school for its continued growth and success. The Bishop also thanked the parents for choosing to send their children to St. Andrew Catholic School. “You are entrusting your children to us and we take this responsibility very seriously. I hear of the many good things happening here and you should all be proud of St. Andrew Catholic School. I know I am proud of you. Congratulations!”

The event was supported by priests from several local parishes as well as the principals from Bishop Verot Catholic High School and St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, both in Fort Myers.

The event had an underwater motif decoration, complete with an ice sculpture, balloons that looked like coral and much more. In addition to an elegant meal, there was a live band, as well as silent and live auctions along with casino games.

St. Andrew Catholic School was founded in 1989 and was led by women religious of the Sinsinawa Dominican Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary for about half of its history.

The School Mission Statement reads: “We, the community of St. Andrew Catholic School, are called by God as a family, dedicated to Building Faith, Hearts and Minds, through Catholic traditions, academic excellence and respect for God’s earth and its cultures.”