May Crownings Honor Mary

Historically, May is a month dedicated by the Catholic Church to Mary, Mother of God. As is well known, Mary plays an important and irreplaceable role in the spiritual life of the Church.

For hundreds of years, the lovely words and melody of the hymn “Bring Flowers of the Rarest,” by Mary E. Walsh in 1871, has been gracing the beautiful traditional crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of May. This special devotion to Mary goes back officially to the 3rd century and continues today in countless Catholic churches, schools and homes throughout the world, and is a moving tribute of faith and love to the mother of God, and our heavenly mother.

Singing “Bring flowers of the rarest. Bring blossoms of the fairest. … O Mary! We crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May,” a procession and crowning ceremony at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Grove City, on May 5, 2024, was led by Father Cory Mayer, the Pastor, and he was joined by children in the religious education program.

Prayer intentions were that all Catholics have “Mary’s soul to magnify the Lord and Mary’s spirit to exult in God!” This is the favor granted us in the noblest way in every Holy Communion. The crowned statue of Mary will be specially venerated in the sanctuary throughout May.

Similar May Crownings took place across the Diocese, using the same hymn, in honor of the Blessed Virgin seeking her intercessions from her Son, the Lord, on our behalf.

Last days of school a time of reflection for graduating seniors

As the calendar changed from April into May 2024 the graduating seniors at the four Diocese of Venice Catholic high schools embarked on a series of events leading up to graduation.

The students at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Fort Myers, Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, and Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria, were treated to several different rites of passage.

First was the final all-school Mass which included the seniors. This is when the outgoing seniors hand-off their leadership roles to the rising juniors who will be part of the class of 2025. Special blessings were offered at these Masses, praying for the continued health, safety, success of the men and women, but most important was a prayer for their growing in a deeper relationship with the Lord.

At the Cardinal Mooney Mass on May 7, school Chaplain Father Eric Scanlan blessed the class rings, and graduating altar servers and Senior Student Ministry students were recognized. Those ministry students earlier signed the school processional cross in honor of their legacy of leadership and faith. The next day, on May 8, the Mooney seniors took part in a traditional “Clap-Out” day wherein the student body lined up at the exits of the school and clapped as the graduates, wearing clothes signed by their classmates, departed the campus for the final time.

At Bishop Verot the class of 2024 took part in the annual “Senior Sunset” on May 8. As the sun set on the night before their final day of classes, the seniors gathered on the football field for a memorable evening filled with laughter, nostalgia, and heartfelt goodbyes. The highlight of the night was the distribution of yearbooks, where memories were relived and reminisced by everyone. Seniors signed each other’s shirts, leaving their mark as a lasting reminder of their shared journeys. Another great part of the night was when each senior received the letter they wrote to themselves during their Freshman Retreat. Reading these letters, they reflected on their growth, dreams, and the incredible journeys they’ve experienced together at Verot.

In a similar tradition, St. John Neumann hosted a “Senior Sunrise,” on April 30.  As the sun peeked over the horizon, illuminating the new dawn with its golden rays, the students shared laughter, reminisced about cherished memories, and looked ahead excitedly to the adventures awaiting them. The event takes place at sunrise to symbolize the dawn of a new chapter in the graduates’ lives, filled with endless possibilities and bright opportunities.

The events for the graduating class at Donahue Academy are more traditional with each senior receiving special acknowledgement for their part in building the legacy of the school. The school’s Catholic, classical education culminates with its annual Senior Thesis Defense. Students research and write a 15-page paper on a difficult, relevant question answered according to principles of right reason and divine truth, which they must defend in a public forum.

Next up for all graduates is a Baccalaureate Mass, celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. During this Mass, their last as a class, the Holy Spirit is invoked, and prayers of thanksgiving are offered to God for the many blessings received by the graduating students and their families. Finally comes their Commencement Exercises, officially marking the students as alumni of their respective Diocese of Venice Catholic school.

News Briefs for the week of May 17, 2024

First Holy Communion celebrated across Diocese

During the month of May, more than 3,000 young boys and girls throughout the Diocese of Venice will take part in the Sacrament of the Eucharist for the first time, their First Holy Communion. Young girls in white dresses and boys in suits, having prepared in their religious studies to reach this important milestone in their spiritual journey of faith, the beginning of a long and intimate relationship with the Lord. This Sacrament comes this year during a time of a National Eucharistic Revival. This revival is a three-year effort of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to reinforce devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Bishop Frank J. Dewane said the Most Holy Eucharist is important for all, from the youngest who receive their First Communion to the oldest. “It is in a precise way in the Eucharist, that the Lord gives to us, and we receive Him… Put yourself in a relationship with Jesus Christ, through the Eucharist. It is Christ. It is His Body and Blood. It is His Real Presence!” Bishop Dewane said. “Let His Real Presence in the Eucharist fill your heart, fill your mind, fill your soul with His indication of what it is He wants from you and for you to do in your life.” Please pray for all children receiving their First Holy Communion during May, that they love the Lord with all their hearts and forever live faithfully.

Bishop celebrates Baccalaureate Mass for Ave Maria School of Law graduates

The graduates of the Ave Maria School of Law in Naples were told by Bishop Frank J. Dewane to go forward and allow the Holy Spirit to inspire them in their life, during a Baccalaureate Mass at St. Agnes Parish in Naples on May 10, 2024. Bishop Dewane also told them to follow the path of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the patroness of the school, who accepted in faith what the Lord asked. “Faith is a virtue – a welcoming and cherishing bond with Jesus Christ,” the Bishop said. “That is what makes us men and women of faith. Let it grow in your heart as you launch into a new life after having been given this tremendous opportunity and experience here at Ave Maria School of Law.” The commencement was April 12, Ascension Sunday and Mother’s Day, at Artis-Naples.

Seminarians visit ship during Miami Fleet Week

A total of 23 seminarians from St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach had the unique opportunity to participate in Fleet Week Miami on May 10, 2024. Over the course of two days, separate groups from the seminary were welcomed aboard the USS Bataan, an amphibious assault ship. The visit was organized by Transitional Deacon Jacob Gwynn, a seminarian for the Diocese of Venice, and a co-sponsored seminarian for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and led by the ship’s Command Chaplain, Father Benton Garrett. The two seminarian groups toured the ship and attended Mass in the ship’s chapel, witnessing firsthand the intersection of faith and service within the military context. Among the attendees were Seminary Rector/President, Father Alfredo I. Hernandez, and Midshipman Spencer Dominguez, a relative of Father Hernandez.

Retreat For Mothers Grieving the Loss of a Child

Red Bird Ministries, a non-profit Catholic grief support ministry, is hosting a Grieving Mother’s Retreat from June 7 – 9, 2024, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center, 3989 South Moon Drive, Venice. This retreat is for women who have experienced the loss of a child from pregnancy through adulthood.  Mothers will be helped in addressing the profound healing that needs to happen while also honoring the memory of the child throughout their grief journey. Please visit for information and registration.

Ordination to the Priesthood June 8

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the faithful to the Ordination to the Priesthood of Transitional Deacon Thomas Gregory Dougherty. The Ordination will take place at 11 a.m., Saturday, June 8, 2024, at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1301 Center Road, Venice. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this important event in the life of Deacon Greg as well as the Diocese of Venice. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall.

Totus Tuus, Parish Catechetical Summer Program coming soon

The Totus Tuus Parish Catechetical Summer Camp program, open to grades 1-12, will be available in the Diocese of Venice again this summer beginning in June 2024. Totus Tuus aims to inspire young people to long for holiness, develop a deep desire for conversion and personally renew their faith with a stronger prayer life. All camps are one-week day camps, and programs are divided according to age. Youth are welcome to attend any of the Totus Tuus camps, but registration is requested ahead of time. Parishes hosting Totus Tuus this year are: St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Parrish, and Our Lady of Grace, Avon Park (June 2-7); Ave Maria, Ave Maria (June 9-14); St. Finbarr, Naples, and St. Paul, Arcadia (June 16-21); Epiphany Cathedral, Venice, and St. Katharine Drexel, Cape Coral (June 23-28); Our Lady Queen of Heaven, LaBelle (July 7-12); Our Lady of Light, Fort Myers, and St. Cecilia, Fort Myers (July 14-19); Our Lady of the Angels, Lakewood Ranch, and St. Peter the Apostle, Naples (July 21-26). To register, contact the hosting Parish directly. Parish contact information can be found at  For general questions about the Diocesan Totus Tuus program, please visit, or contact Jim Gontis at

Ave Maria Youth Conference registration open

All high school age youth from incoming freshman to outgoing seniors are invited to attend the 15th Annual Ave Maria University High School Youth Conference, “CALLED,” from July 12 – 14, 2024. This faith-filled weekend will be full of fellowship, music, and great speakers, including Father Timothy Anastos from the Diocese of Chicago who is currently serving as a National Eucharistic Preacher and featured regularly on “Reel Homilies”, Noelle Garcia a Catholic recording artist who shares her faith through scripture and music, nationally known chastity speaker Pam Stenzel, and Father Joseph Lugalambi, Adjunct Professor of Theology at Ave Maria University. Music will be provided by EPIC Music Ministries. The cost is $190 per person, which includes lodging in the dorms, meals, conference fee, and a cool t-shirt! Register now by visiting For more information call 239- 348-4725, or email

Bishop celebrates Baccalaureate Mass for university

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the main celebrant at the Baccalaureate Mass for Ave Maria University on May 3, 2024, The Feast of Sts. Philip and James, the Apostles, in Ave Maria.

A Baccalaureate Mass is a Mass of Thanksgiving for God’s many blessings upon the graduates.

During the Mass, Bishop Dewane encouraged the graduates to place themselves into the hands of God as they move forward, remembering the virtue of faith as they live their lives. To do that, they must know who God is in their own lives.

“Faith is an act by which a human being freely commits him/herself to God,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is a gift that should never be taken lightly. Being Catholic is about cherishing the bond that you can develop with God and with His Son, Jesus; a bond that will make you ever more Catholic and hopefully deepen your faith.”

The Bishop noted that St. Irenaeus, a 2nd century bishop in France, teacher, leader, martyr, saint, and Doctor of the Church, said, “The Glory of God is the human being fully alive.” That fullness is meant in terms of striving to fulfill a new dimension of our own humanity.

“Knowledge is always good in itself; it can fill our minds and souls,” Bishop Dewane continued. “Knowledge has many uses which will bear much fruit in your life in choices you make, allowing you to live the fullness of the Lord, being more that man or woman of God you are called to be.”

St. Irenaeus also said, “The glory of the human person is the vision of God.”

“That groundwork was prepared for you by the accumulated knowledge you received here at Ave Maria University,” Bishop Dewane said. “Seek God in your lives. Let that be the glory of life for you as graduates.”

Following the Mass, Bishop Dewane greeted the graduates outside of the church and many complimented him on his words and support of the university.

Ave Maria University is celebrating its largest graduating class in its 25-year history, with more than 250 students receiving their diplomas during Commencement Exercises on May 4.

The commencement speaker was Father Mike Schmitz, of the Diocese of Duluth who is director for youth and young adult ministry and is well-known for his online content such as weekly videos from Ascension Presents, as well as podcasts “The Bible in a Year” and “The Catechism in a Year.”

Receiving honorary doctorates during the commencement exercises were Father Schmitz, Nicholas Healy, the first president of Ave Maria University, and Father Richard Martignetti, OFM, who is departing as Chaplain of Ave Maria University to a new assignment after six years.

Father Joseph Lugalambi is the new Chaplain at Ave Maria University, effective May 4, 2024.

News Briefs for the week of May 10, 2023

Catholic Center hosts prayer service for Blessed Virgin

The staff of the Diocese of Venice Catholic Center took part in a prayer service, led by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary on May 8, 2024. Bishop Dewane noted how the month of May is dedicated to Our Lady and it is appropriate to honor her seeking the Blessed Virgin’s intercession on our behalf. During the prayer service, the Catholic Center staff prayed Litany of Our Lady of Loretto, the Hail Mary, and sang the Salve Regina.


Pro-Life training sessions May 13 and 15 

If you’d like to volunteer to help educate people on the truth about the pro-abortion amendment on the November ballot, plan to attend a training opportunity within the Diocese of Venice in May (one of two). The first training is Monday, May 13, 2024, from 11:45 a.m. to 3 p.m., at St. Patrick Parish Hall (new location), 7900 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota.  The second session is also from 11:45 a.m., Wednesday, May 15, at St. John XXIII Parish Center, 13060 Palomino Lane, Fort Myers. Lunch will be included at both sessions.  Register online at for either session. If you have questions, please contact Jeanne Berdeaux at 941-374-1068 or

Students learn about business and finances

Fourth and fifth grade students from St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota took part in a school trip to experience a day in the workplace at JA BizTown in Tampa on April 30, 2024. JA BizTown combines in-class learning with a day-long visit to a simulated town where students receive hands-on experience as both employees and consumers, paying rent, taxes and utilities, purchasing insurance, depositing paychecks and buying other business products, handling customer service, and more. The interactive, project-based program not only teaches students how to manage their own personal finances and the importance of becoming a successful professional within the community, but it also empowers them to take responsibility for their professional and educational futures.

Fort Myers Catholic youth to participate in national Spelling Bee

The faithful of St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers will be cheering on one of their own during the 96th Scripps National Spelling Bee from May 28-30, 2024. David Nicasio, 13, who is an active member of St. Cecilia, as an altar server, lector, as well as in the middle school and youth groups, won a series of local competitions to qualify as one of 245 students from across the nation to reach the national Spelling Bee. The competition has four levels: preliminaries, quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals. The competition will air on the ION network from 8-10 p.m. May 29 and 30. The earlier rounds will be available on ION Plus, a digital platform. Just for making the National Spelling Bee, David will receive a number of gifts and prizes related to learning. Prizes increase to a top prize of $50,000 and a championship trophy for the winner.

Retreat For Mothers Grieving the Loss of a Child

Red Bird Ministries, a non-profit Catholic grief support ministry is hosting a Grieving Mother’s Retreat from June 7 – 9, 2024, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center, 3989 South Moon Drive, Venice. This retreat is for women who have experienced the loss of a child from pregnancy through adulthood.  Mothers will be helped in addressing the profound healing that needs to happen while also honoring the memory of the child throughout their grief journey. Please visit for information and registration.

Ordination to the Priesthood June 8

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the faithful to the Ordination to the Priesthood of Transitional Deacon Thomas Gregory Dougherty.  The Ordination will take place at 11 a.m., Saturday, June 8, 2024, at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1301 Center Road, Venice.  All are welcome and encouraged to attend this important event in the life of Deacon Greg as well as the Diocese of Venice. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall.

Schools’ Marian Devotional Project concludes

The more than 6,200 Diocese of Venice Catholic school students have spent the past six months taking part in a special devotional project wherein they learned more about the Blessed Virgin Mary and the importance of praying the Most Holy Rosary, all in a continued effort to grow closer to Jesus Christ.

The “Cause of Our Joy: Marian Devotional Project” concluded with a Mass and celebration on April 24, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

The focus on the devotion to the Blessed Mother through the Most Holy Rosary was supported by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. In 2017, Bishop Dewane consecrated the Diocese of Venice to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and he has frequently cited the importance of praying the Rosary to grow closer to Jesus Christ.

Junior catechists, representing the 12 Diocesan elementary schools and who trained to promote the Marian Devotional message to their schoolmates, were invited to participate in the celebration. Also taking part were principals, teachers and parents. Six artists who received the top prize in a related devotional art contest were also invited.

During the Mass, Jesuit Father John Belmonte, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, stressed the importance of Our Lady of Mercy, Patroness of the Diocese of Venice, an image used to inspire the student artists.

Father Belmonte said the goal of this year’s Marian Devotional Project was to bring students a deeper awareness of the mercy Our Lady brings into our lives and her love for all humanity.

“We are taught, through the example of Our Lady, that when we live our lives, it is not for ourselves, but for others,” Father Belmonte said. “She is the merciful Mother who saves us from ourselves and from the world.”

The Mass concluded with everyone present reciting a Marian Prayer of Consecration.

To ensure the devotional project’s success, in October 2023, the Education Department trained the junior catechists, eighth grade leaders from each of the Diocese’s 12 elementary schools. The training stressed the importance for the junior catechists to be leaders in faith, evangelization, and discipleship. These junior catechists then went into the classroom to teach their schoolmates about Our Lady, the Most Holy Rosary and how to grow closer to the Lord.

For their hard work, the junior catechists each received a gift bag which included a special 3D lighted display with Our Lady.

This is the fourth year the Diocesan Catholic schools have had a devotional project, with 2022-2023 focused on the Most Holy Eucharist (which coincided with the Diocesan Year of the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival); 2021-2022 on the Saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Saints; and 2020-2021 on St. Joseph.

Devotional Art Contest

During the Mass, Father Belmonte cited the excellent work of the devotional art contest participants, which included six 1st place winners. The artists used vivid colors and imagery in their work and were selected from among more than 200 entries from Diocesan Catholic students. Honorees were selected by representatives from the Diocesan Department of Catholic Education.

The central artwork placed in front of the altar during the Mass was a piece by Grace Breen, of Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. Elements of the image include Mary, with people are shown seeking shelter under her garments. At her feet is a chain and pieces of gold.

“They are under her mantle – the mantle of Our Lady of Mercy, also known as Our Lady of Ransom. She is saving us from sin and from hell; saving us for eternity,” Father Belmonte said. “Her mantle is an example of her protection and love for us.”

The chain represents the different things that hold us back from Our Lord; while the gold “represents her willingness to free us, saving us from sin and death. That is because she will help all get to heaven. She does this by introducing us to her son Jesus. This means we can go to her for mercy as we try to live our lives under her mantle.”

Hailey Renner, of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, who was recognized for the second year in a row for her artistic talents, portrayed Mary in prayer with the halo blazing behind her head.

“It is such an honor to be recognized again,” Renner said. “I pictured Mary in a contemplative pose because that is how I see her as she prays for all of us.”

As part of the recognition, the artists received an enlarged framed and printed version of their winning artwork with a ribbon and cards with the artwork on the front and the reverse including the Marian Consecration Prayer. While some of the cards were for family members, the cards were also distributed for use at each Diocesan Catholic school.

Marian Devotion Project art winners

The winning artists are: Marina Dolan, St. Ann Catholic School, Naples; Peyton Bass, St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School, Naples; Tien Doan, St. Andrew Catholic School, Cape Coral; Mary Guernsey, Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish, Ave Maria; Grace Breen, Bishop Verot Catholic High School, Fort Myers; and Hailey Renner, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, Sarasota.

Diocesan Catholic Schools to participate in Novena

For nine school days, all the grade school students, teachers and administrators in the Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools will be praying a Novena for Healing. The novena begins May 7, 2024, and will conclude on May 17.

This novena will seek the intercessions of Venerable Antonietta Meo, a 6-year-old from Rome known by the nickname “Nennolina,” the youngest person in the history of the Church to have a beatification process opened.

“We will be over 4,200 strong praying this novena,” wrote Jesuit Father John Belmonte, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, in a letter to parents and guardians. “I know that the people for whom we will pray, their families and our schools, will find great spiritual benefit in this novena during the Easter Season. May Venerable Antonietta Meo intercede for all of us, especially those children and their families who ask for healing.”

Father Belmonte requested that families submit the names of students, especially those with serious illnesses, for whom the novena will be prayed. Father will submit them to Rector at the Basilica of Santa Croce in Rome, where Venerable Antonietta Meo went to the Catholic school and is buried.

Born in Rome on December 15, 1930, “Nennolina” attended her early schooling with religious sisters and during this time developed an osteosarcoma and her left leg had to be amputated. She attended elementary school with a prosthesis that bothered her greatly. However, she offered it all to Jesus, “May each step that I take be a little word of love.”

She liked to attend school and catechism class; she wrote to Jesus, “I go enthusiastically, because I learn so many beautiful things about You and Your saints.” Having not yet reached the age of seven, she died in the midst of terrible pain on July 3, 1937. On December 17, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI declared Antonietta Meo, “Venerable.” Her life was a witness of sanctity for children who suffer.

Prayer to obtain graces through the intercession of Venerable Antonietta Meo:

O God, Father of the humble, we thank You because with Antonietta Meo You gave us the gift of a living image of Your Love and Wisdom, revealed to the young. You, who gave her the grace of being joined to the Cross of Our Lord Jesus and of suffering with fortitude and joy, make her glorious even now on earth, so that everyone can look to her as a shining example of loyalty to the Gospel. Grant us her simple and passionate love for the Eucharist and the Church; draw near to us in our need and, by her intercession, according to Your Holy Will, give us the grace which we request in faith.


News Briefs for the week of May 3, 2024

Ascension Solemnity moved to Sunday, May 12

The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, Sunday, will be celebrated in the Diocese of Venice on May 12, 2024 (moved from May 9). The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops voted in the year 2000 to transfer the Solemnity of the Ascension from the Thursday, 40 days after Easter, to the Seventh Sunday of Easter, in accord with an indult granted to the US. Conference of Catholic Bishops by the Holy See. Therefore, for the Catholic Churches in the State of Florida, the Seventh Sunday of Easter is replaced by the Solemnity of the Ascension.

Retired Venice priest dies

Father Richard John Beligotti, a retired priest who has served at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice for the past eight years, died April 26, 2024, at the age of 81. Born as an identical twin in Montour Falls, New York, on Sept. 8, 1942, Father Beligotti attended St. Andrew Minor Seminary and St. Bernard Major Seminary, Rochester.  He was Ordained to the Priesthood June 1, 1968, for the Diocese of Rochester. Later, Father Richard earned an advanced degree from St. Bernard Major Seminary and took two different sabbaticals, first at American College in Louvain, Belgium, and then at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. For the Diocese of Rochester, he served as a Parochial Vicar, Administrator or Pastor at Parishes in Irondequoit, Apalachin, Ithaca, Charlotte, Avon, Horseheads, Rochester, Newark, Chili, Elmira Heights, Leicester, Retsof, Bloomfield, Lima and Honeoye Falls. Father also served as a hospital chaplain in Auburn. Retired in 2013, Father Richard had been assisting at Epiphany Cathedral since 2016 alongside his twin brother, Father Robert Beligotti. A Memorial Mass was celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on May 1, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral. A Mass of Christian Burial is scheduled for May 8, 2024, at St. Mary’s of the Lake Parish in Watkins Glen, New York, with burial to follow. Please pray for the repose of his soul and for the consolation of his family. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in eternal peace.

Students gets colorful during fun run

The St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School Color Run fundraiser took place April 19, 2024, in Naples. Students (and volunteers) had a wonderful time while helping raise funds for school improvements. During the event, students ran on the field and every lap they took, volunteers “colored” them with chalk. The top three participating classes won an ice cream party. The event was organized by the Home and School Association.

Donations of baby supplies needed

Community Pregnancy Centers Inc. is seeking donations of diapers and clothing to support the children of the women that are served each day. Items sought include new or gently used clothes (size 12 months to 3T); baby wipes; diapers (size 4-6); baby shampoo/lotion; new clothes for babies (0-3 months); pacifiers; pull ups/training diapers. Community Pregnancy Clinics has offices in Naples, Fort Myers and Sarasota. Please call 239-326-0453 or visit for locations.

Vocation Discernment Retreat May 11 in Cape Coral

A Vocations Discernment Retreat is taking place beginning at 10:30 a.m., May 11, 2024, at St. Katherine Drexel Parish, 1922 SW 20th Avenue, Cape Coral.  If you are of high school or college age, or a young adult, and wish to discover more about different vocations, plan to attend this one-day Retreat. The day will include breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and presentations regarding the different Vocations. Priests, as well as religious men and women will be present throughout the day. This retreat is co-sponsored by the Diocese of Venice Vocations Office and St. Katharine Drexel Parish. The cost for the day is $25. To register, visit, or for additional information, please contact or

Calling all Pro-Life Advocates! 

If you’d like to volunteer to help educate people on the truth about the pro-abortion amendment on the November ballot, plan to attend a training opportunity within the Diocese of Venice in May (one of two). The first training is Monday, May 13, 2024, from 11:45 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Leadership Institute, 2163 Main Street (downtown), Sarasota.  The second session is also from 11:45 a.m., Wednesday, May 15, at St. John XXIII Parish Center, 13060 Palomino Lane, Fort Myers. Lunch will be included at both sessions.  Register online at for either session by May 8. If you have questions, please contact Jeanne Berdeaux at 941-374-1068 or

Lion Cup III Diocesan Robotics Tournament a huge success

With a blast of confetti canons, the third annual Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools Lion Cup III Robotics Tournament kicked off April 20, 2024, at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers.

The Lion Cup – a STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts, Math) middle and high school round-robin tournament, included 240 competitors and 30 teams representing many of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools and was a success.

The competition was fierce, and the intensity built as the day progressed and the participants became laser-focused on being the best.

Emotions ran high as teams raced to program their robots to accomplish various tasks in a specific order in a limited amount of time. “Fun!” “Amazing!” “Awesome!” “Intense!” “Wonderful!” were just some of the emotions the student competitors had at the end of the day.

St. Joes 8 team from St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton topped the middle school competition, while the Verot Bots of host Bishop Verot took the top prize in the high school tournament.

Members of the Verot Bots Jocelyn Sweeney, Jaxon Kurio, Tobias Gomez, and Caden Kellum, were overjoyed that their hard work, time and effort paid off with a victory. With big smiles, the students said the entire competition was stressful, however the teamwork and preparation and perseverance paid off.

“This is sweet. We worked so hard,” said Caden Kellum.

Utilizing the First Lego League Masterpiece challenge set, the middle school robots were made from Lego pieces and traversed an obstacle course, attempting to pick up items along the way. Teamwork came into play in design, construction and strategy. Students coded their robots to autonomously complete missions for points.

The high school robots are 10 times larger and are both autonomous and have a remote control as they complete assigned tasks. In the case of the competition, the robots needed to pick up and place discs on a slanted board with slots, and the discs would journey to the bottom for points (different colored discs were worth different points). Bonus points were added for shooting a paper airplane out of the competition zone, as well as for being able to hang the robot from support bars.

The teams participated in a round robin format with each team getting the chance to have their robot compete at least twice. The top teams made the semifinals, and an eventual winner was crowned. In between the intense competition the teams had pizza and sweets.

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, said the few hours of competition brought out the best from the students and reflected their core Catholic virtues.

“The Lion Cup is a celebration of learning, friendship, and fun,” Father Belmonte said.

Jennifer Falestiny, Diocese Curriculum Specialist, organized the event and was pleased to see so many competitors. “This is so wonderful to see everyone get so involved and excited about STREAM and robotics.”

The Lion Cup honors St. Mark, one of the patron saints of the Diocese of Venice, whose symbol features a winged lion. The competition also pays homage to Leonardo da Vinci, inventor of many of the first robots, one of which resembles a lion.

Da Vinci’s works incorporate three design attributes developed by Vitruvius, a famous Roman architect and engineer: Firmitas (strength), Utilitas (utility) and Venustas (beauty). Special awards were presented to the teams that reflected the attributes of Firmitas, Utilitas, and Venustas. These superlative awards were based on the review of undercover judges.

The day opened with a prayer led by Father Belmonte and then a blasting off of dozens of confetti canons. Many parents, family members, principals and teachers attended the competition, cheering on the various students teams.



The winning teams were:

Middle school

1st – St. Joes 8 – St. Joseph Catholic School, Bradenton

2nd – Tech Tigers 2 – Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School, Venice

3rd – CTRL+ALT+WIN 1 – St. Andrew Catholic School, Cape Coral


High School

1st – Verot Bots – Bishop Verot Catholic High School, Fort Myers

2nd – Tito Bots – St. John Neumann Catholic High School, Naples

3rd – Steel Cats 1 – Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, Sarasota


Firmitas – Strength – St. Mark – Co-Patron of the Diocese of Venice – positive Catholic strength, culture and character

Middle school – CTRL+ALT+WIN 2 – St. Andrew Catholic School

High school – Neumann 4 – St. John Neumann Catholic High School


Utilitas – Utility – St. Marcina – Patron Saint of Robots – robotic design and function

Middle school – Tech Tigers 2 – Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School

High school – Verot Bots – Bishop Verot Catholic High School


Venustas – Beauty – Our Lady – robotic design, innovation and creativity

Middle school – Falcon 2024 – St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, Fort Myers

High school – Steel Cats 1 – Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School


Congratulations to the winners, and to all who participated in this challenging competition!

Young ladies honored with “Golden Rose” award

There are 23 high school girls who now have the distinct honor of being named Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (VDCCW) Golden Rose Leadership Award recipients.

The Golden Rose Awards were presented during an April 21, 2024, Mass and reception at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice. The Golden Rose Award seeks to recognize the tenets of the Council of Catholic Women – spirituality, leadership and service.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Father Jay Jancarz, VDCCW Spiritual Advisor and Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, presented the awards while Katie Morris, VDCCW President, gave each young lady a rose.

Bishop Dewane congratulated the young ladies for living out a particular call in their lives and encouraged them to carry that call forward into the future, and thanked the members of the VDCCW for recognizing these women for their contributions to the Church, their school, and the community.

“The Lord sees the accomplishments in what you do and what you continue to do in your life going forward,” Bishop Dewane said. “Your willingness to be a part of the Golden Rose Award will have a ripple effect going forward. Be proud of who you are as women of faith. You can speak about that and be an example to others – putting your foot forward and saying, ‘I am proud of who I am as a child of God.’”

Morris, the VDCCW President, told the young ladies that they are “the Church of today. We need to tap into your service and leadership. You are powerful, service-oriented, rooted in friendship, in love and service. Thank you! We need you!”

Ellen Bachman, VDCCW Past-President, helped bring the Golden Rose Award to Venice after having learned about similar recognition taking place by CCW groups in other Dioceses. Bachman said the nomination write-ups on the young ladies were inspiring. “You will make a difference in the world, as we all pray God walks closely with you on your journey.”

Nominees must currently be in high school, active in their Parish, and a practicing Catholic who regularly attends Sunday Mass, while also completing a meaningful service project. They were nominated by the respective Parishes and Catholic schools.

Brenda Dolan, the Florida CCW President and VDCCW Past-President, said that the young ladies were not randomly honored. “You are here because God chose you to be here before you were in your mother’s womb. Never forget that. Remember this day in your heart. Remember why you are here and continue to open your heart to the Holy Spirit so that He leads you and directs where you need to be in your lives.”

Dolan concluded by also recognizing the parents for their years of love and support of their daughters. “It has all come to fruition. Remember the basis is your faith and the Holy Spirit that you hold in your hearts.”

Each Golden Rose Award recipient was presented with a certificate and golden rose, as well as a membership into the National Council of Catholic Women.

The Golden Rose Award was first awarded in 2020 following the example of CCW affiliates, with the first in-person Venice Diocesan ceremony held in April 2021.

Those receiving 2024 VDCCW Golden Rose Leadership Awards were: Grace Breen, Resurrection of Our Lord Parish, Fort Myers; Abigail Rose Buckley, St. Cecilia Parish, Fort Myers; Ally Amalia Buckley, St. Cecilia Parish, Fort Myers; Ambrielle Calixte, St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Cape Coral; Abigail Crawford, Our Lady of Light Parish, Fort Myers; Addyson Domain, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Venice; Sofia Droullard, St. Agnes Parish, Naples; Valerie Gonzalez, St. Michael Parish, Wauchula; Kaela Harrington, St. Joseph Parish, Bradenton; Sloane Janopoulos, St. John the Evangelist Parish, Naples; Madelyn Jessup, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School and St. Thomas More Parish, Sarasota; Teresa Kucik, Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish, Ave Maria; Genesis Lemus, Holy Cross Parish, Bradenton; Sophia McCartney, St. John Neumann Catholic High School, Naples; Isabella Marulanda, St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Fort Myers; Fatima Munoz, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish, Sarasota; Marissa Peck, Bishop Verot Catholic High School and St. John XXIII Parish, Fort Myers; Valerie Rettig, St. Joseph Parish, Bradenton; Asha Sallapudi, Epiphany Cathedral Parish, Venice; Lauren Sawczyn, St. John XXIII Parish, Fort Myers; Kennedy Trompler, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, Sarasota, and Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Lakewood Ranch; Gabriela Vasquez, Bishop Verot Catholic High School, Fort Myers, St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Cape Coral; Jasmine Yamashita, St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Port Charlotte.