2019 Youth Rally – CALLED BY NAME

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

The superlatives from the nearly 2,000 high school Catholic teens who attended the 2019 Diocese of Venice Youth Rally helped to best describe the day.

“Absolutely incredible!” “Amazing!” “Inspirational!” “Awesome!” “Powerful!” “Wonderful!” “Uplifting!” “Moving!” “Spiritual!” These are just some of the reactions from the teens who participated in the Nov. 2 Youth Rally at the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center in Punta Gorda.

The theme for the 2019 Youth Rally was “Called by Name” (Isaiah 43:1), which served to remind the young women and men that the Lord knows them and calls each by name to become strong in the faith life.

Organized by the Diocese Office of Evangelization, the day was filled with talks, music, adoration, opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and a Eucharistic Procession through the streets of Punta Gorda. The lessons learned throughout the day were reinforced in the closing Mass, encouraging the teens to open their heart to the call of the Lord and receive the gift of faith.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane began the day asking the youth for a shout out to Jesus. The response of nearly 2,000 teens was inspiring.

“Let this Youth Rally be something that strengthens you in your faith,” Bishop Dewane added. “I want you to leave this day with a heart that is open to Jesus because you are each “Called by Name.” Jesus sees each of you as important. It is through that call that you are made to be a Disciple of Christ – created by your response to the call of the Lord, a response from the heart of each individual here.”

Appropriately, the Gospel reading for the closing Mass was from the Gospel of Luke, the story of Zacchaeus, a tax collector perched in a sycamore tree whom Jesus “Called by Name.”

“Zacchaeus received a gift of faith and accepted the Lord’s call with joy because he allowed his heart to be open,” Bishop Dewane said during the Mass. “You must respond to that gift of faith and act – be doers of your Faith. See Christ within yourselves and in those around you. Just as we know Zacchaeus was a sinner, so too are we. In this we are comforted knowing that the Lord calls us each by name – no matter our sins.”

The closing Mass was celebrated at nearby Sacred Heart Church. A time for Eucharistic Adoration led by the Bishop was followed by a public Eucharistic Procession through the streets of downtown Punta Gorda as the youth recited the Holy Rosary and sang hymns. At the church, to accommodate the vast number of participants, an overflow of youth was ushered into the Parish Hall where the Mass where the was live-streamed.

Throughout the day, the youth were encouraged to take selfie photos with Bishop Dewane and to post any images they took during the day to Instagram with the offer of a prize to two lucky people of Apple Air Pods.

Each participant received a Youth Rally t-shirt and during the dinner break there was time to go outside behind the Conference Center and relax with friends or enjoy several inflatables as well as a climbing wall.

The Youth Rally, which included young people from 9th through 12th grade, included talks from Noelle Garcia and D.J. Bernal as well as music from the Taylor Tripodi Band.

The first speaker of the day was Noelle Garcia, a Catholic recording artist and speaker, wife, and mom to five kids. She has travelled the country for more than 10 years sharing the faith through witness, Scripture, catechesis, and music. Her message was to explain how the love of the Lord can overcome any obstacle or feeling of loneliness that young people so often face today.

D.J. Bernal also speaks at conferences throughout the United States and works with young Catholics in the Archdiocese of San Antonio. He suggested to the youth that by opening one’s heart just a bit, life can be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The young men and women were spilt up for a time to hear specific messages directed toward them from Garcia and Bernal. During those sessions, the youth also heard about how to listen to God’s call and how they and sons and daughters of God.

In the split session, there was a special emphasis on answering one’s vocation in life, whether as a priest, religious, married or single.

Father Shawn Roser, the Diocese Vocations Director and Parochial Vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton, spoke to the men about his vocations journey. Also present for the Rally were 13 of the 17 active Diocesan seminarians. They manned a booth and answered questions from fascinated teens and were altar servers during the closing Mass.

Sister Gema Ruiz, S.S.V.M., of St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, spoke to the women. She shared a video of a woman who is from the Diocese and is currently working her way toward making her perpetual vows as a religious sister. Religious women from several parishes were present for the Rally and they each had a booth to generate interest in a vocation to the religious life.

The Taylor Tripodi Band performed throughout the day, opening the Youth Rally and then performing leading up to adoration. Taylor explained that she uses her talents as a singer and a musician to glorify the Lord and to inspire others to feel the same way she does about her faith. The band also served as musicians during the closing Mass.

The first Youth Rally was held in 2008 at the encouragement of Bishop Dewane and it has become so popular that the annual event has outgrown four previous venues. Organized by the Office of Evangelization and Office of Youth and Young Adults, planning for the 2019 Diocese of Venice Youth Rally is already taking place. See you all next year.

Diocese celebrates 35th with Mass at Holy Eucharistic Memorial

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

On a breezy day on the shore of the Manatee River in Bradenton, the faithful gathered for a Mass that not only commemorated the 35th Anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Venice in Florida but also celebrated each Catholic who came before and all who go forward serving as a Disciple of Christ.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane noted the Mass was celebrated at the historic location, in front of a Holy Eucharistic Memorial, which was built in the 1960s to commemorate the 1539 Spanish Expedition of Hernando de Soto. The group purportedly landed nearby and included 12 priests and two brothers. Appropriately, there were 12 concelebrating priests and two deacons present for the Mass.

Just as the Lord guided those priests to the shores of Florida nearly 500 years ago, today each of us is called to be more a man or women of God, Bishop Dewane explained. One way to accomplish this is to be a Disciple of Christ, something which is going to be a recurring theme of the Anniversary Celebration in the coming months. This call to a be a Disciple is an answer to Jesus asking, “Who do you say that I am?”

“You must publicly respond and live the answer as a Disciple,” the Bishop continued. “Do this by setting an example to those around you so that others – through your invitation, through your example, through your words, and through your deeds – can understand your answer.”

Being a Disciple of Christ is a response to the living God, who is in our midst, Bishop Dewane added. “We must respond in our soul and live out our answer to the question of who Jesus is in our lives. Our ancestors who came before answered, and this is why we gather here. We have been passed along the gift of Faith. We have been given the example and heard the call in our lives and continue to hear that call. It must be carried forward from this day.”

More than 200 people, including fifth- to eighth-grade students from St. Joseph Catholic School, participated in the Mass. A steady breeze helped off-set the heat. The response from those gathered was overwhelmingly positive.

“Everything was so wonderful and beautiful,” said Carolyn Reilly of Holy Cross Parish in Palmetto. “I felt a strong connection to the past. It was not just to those first priests who landed here, but to all of the priests who serve in this area.”

The beautiful setting on the river was on Diocesan property within Riverview Pointe Park, which is adjacent to DeSoto National Memorial Park.

The Holy Eucharistic Memorial was commissioned in 1960 by the Diocese of St. Augustine, which was the only Catholic Diocese in Florida at the time. The memorial was first exhibited at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid, Spain, and was at the 1965 World’s Fair in New York. It was later placed at its current location on the shores of the Manatee River.

The memorial includes two carved relief’s depicting a Mass and a Baptism, and a 20-foot obelisk which is figured with carved symbols of the Holy Trinity. A statue of Hernando de Soto was removed after being damaged. Replicas of the statue stand at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota and the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. The nearby 60-foot Memorial Cross was dedicated by then-Bishop John J. Nevins in 1996.

George Parker of St. Joseph Parish said he was inspired by the Mass and the history it represented. “I feel connected to those first priests, and I feel connected to those who were here when the Diocese was founded. We are blessed to still have the opportunity to celebrate the Mass. It is poignant that this Mass was here on this beach, just as they may have done so long ago.”

According to records, several Masses have taken place at the site. Most recently in 2009 when Bishop Dewane celebrated the Mass to coincide with both the 25th Anniversary of the founding of the Diocese and the “Year for Priests.”


A Walk in the Woods (and into the 16th Century)

After participating.in the 35th Anniversary Mass, teachers, staff and students from St. Joseph Catholic School took a short hike through the Florida wilderness to follow in the footsteps of the man in which the park is named – DeSoto National Memorial Park.

Members of the National Park Service welcomed their St. Joseph guests with a guided tour of the park’s museum, monument and life size reproductions. The students learned about of the 700-man Spanish expedition which was led by Hernando de Soto. His quest for gold and glory would transform into a four-year, 4,000-mile odyssey of warfare, disease and discovery that would shape the future of trade, religion and politics throughout North America.

The interactive tour included a video documentary about De Soto’s expedition as well as an introduction of the indigenous tribes who resided in Florida in the early 16th century.

Students also had the opportunity to don heavy helmets, armor and chainmail worn by conquistadors and they then stepped inside replicas of the native American living quarters.

John Carkeet contributed to this report.

Principal’s Corner – Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School

By Principal M.C. Heffner,

The Catechism of the Catholic Church confirms the need for Catholic schools for our families. It states, in part, “As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators. Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.”

As the principal of Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School, I am often asked – why Epiphany? Why Catholic education? My answer is rooted in the Catholic belief beautifully articulated in our Catechism.

Choosing a Catholic school ensures that parents are selecting educational partners who are unapologetically faithful to our Catholic identity. We ensure it is woven throughout our rigorous curriculum and extra-curricular offerings. We engage our students and families to live our Catholic faith through daily prayer gatherings to begin our school day in the courtyard, participation in weekly school Mass with student servers, live “Saints Alive” performances by our third graders, and by supporting our partner parishes’ sacramental preparation programs.

Our 3 Crowns recognition program – which honor the Feast of the Epiphany and the three kings – actively supports positive traits that build success for students and support family values. Recognizing student efforts to practice and live by the 3 Crowns is a critically important part of our culture.

Each crown – Academic, Character, and Spiritual – focuses on a given trait that changes with the months. For example, November’s Academic Crown trait is “punctual;” the Character Crown trait is “dependable;” and the Spiritual Crown’s trait is “forgiving.” Throughout the month, the teachers and I will discuss the meanings of these traits and what it looks like when we put them into practice. Teaching positive traits that support good citizenship and our Catholicity are integrated into who we are and what we do. This is done during morning prayers and integrated into classroom work throughout each school day during the month.

In my first two years of service at Epiphany I have been blessed to work with teachers and staff who are dedicated to ensuring that our students are prepared for any challenges of high school.  We provide a rigorous education without high stakes testing pressures.  Instead, we create an environment that fosters and develops analytical thinking skills through innovative educational practices.

One recent and exciting initiative is the installation of 23 new Cleartouch Interactive Boards throughout our campus. In addition to the 1-to-1 iPad program in grades K-5 and a 1-to-1 Chromebook program in middle school, these interactive boards are empowering both our students and teachers to instruct, research, collaborate, engage, and learn in ways that include traditional methods, but go beyond traditional means.

Students engage in both analytical and creative thinking while they solve real-world issues, determine the best ways to live out our faith’s works of mercy to serve others, and have fun guiding independent research projects. The excitement permeating our campus is truly motivating and inspires me to do all I can to support this wonderful Epiphany community.

So, why Epiphany? Why Catholic education? Catholic schools, especially Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School, are rooted in the Catholic belief of school choice. We partner with our parents to provide the best education for children; an education that supports positive emotional development, nurtures healthy young adults through games, exercise and athletics, and embraces a Faith that is unapologetically Catholic.

We are Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School, and we welcome you to join us.

Visit us online at www.ecstigers.com or www.facebook.com/EpiphanyTigers.

News briefs from the Diocese for late October 2019

Local pastor to serve in leadership role with national priest group

Father Jiobani Batista, Pastor of St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston, was elected secretary of The National Association of Hispanic Priests (ANSH) during the association’s 30th annual convention that was held in New York City from Oct. 7-10.

Priests from across the United States attended this year’s convention, entitled “Time for Priestly Reform and Renewal,” as part of a three-year program for the renewal, fraternity and continuing education of priests working in a variety of ministries in dioceses across the country.

Adopt a Family for Christmas

You can make Christmas brighter for a mother and her baby! Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities in Venice is looking for volunteers to Adopt a Family for Christmas. The program provides shelter and guidance for single mothers and their children who would otherwise be homeless. The mission is to offer single mothers and their children a safe and secure environment in which to achieve increased self-sufficiency through education, vocational training and personal growth. The resident families have provided a wish list of items they can use and wrapped gifts need to be returned to Our Mother’s House by Monday, December 9. For more information, please contact Case Worker Rita Millner at 941-485-6264, ext. 102.

Early Learning Center has special visitors

Officers from the Sarasota Police Department recently made a special visit to St. Martha’s Early Learning Center of Catholic Charities. The preschool students enjoyed a fun learning experience with the men and women in blue. Sarasota Police Officers discussed with the children what an emergency is and how to dial 911. They handed out Junior Police Officer badges and coloring books. “The officers also joined us for a dance party,” said Catholic Charities Program Director Jamie Van Dyke. “Every one of the students now plan on being a police officer when they grow up!”

International Festival held in Naples

St. Agnes Parish in Naples hosted the 10th Annual International Festival on Oct. 20. More than 20 nations were represented with food and music as well as many wearing traditional attire, and the entertainment for the day also had an international flavor. A parade of flags was one of the highlights.



Students wear orange for Unity Day

Students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers wore orange on Oct. 23, Unity Day, in support of bullying prevention. This event has students of all ages stand against bullying, while being united for kindness, acceptance and inclusion. The school has been participating in Unity Day for many years.



Knights support Honor Flight program

Representatives of the San Marco Knights of Columbus Assembly 2514 presented a check for $2,000 in October to Collier Lee Honor Flight. Collier Lee Honor Flight was established in 2013, its mission is to transport veterans from Collier and Lee counties to Washington, DC to visit the memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifices. A typical mission will visit the World War II Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Air Force Memorial, Marine Corps Memorial, and Arlington Cemetery. Top priority is given to World War II and Korean War era veterans, and to any veteran of any war that has a terminal illness. Veterans travel by a chartered commercial jet, and police escorted buses while on the ground. A typical mission will have 70 to 75 veterans. Trips are provided at no cost to the veterans.

Shoes donated to Catholic Charities program

Catholic Charities of Collier County is grateful to the Rotary Club of Naples Bay for supplying free shoes to clients at the Family Counseling Center and Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center. The Rotary Club sponsors their Kids Kicks for Shoes Program that provides shoes for needy children in Collier County.

Diocesan news briefs late October 2019

White Mass and lecture held for medical professionals

St. Agnes Parish held its annual White Mass for medical professionals in Naples, on Oct. 18, the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist and patron of doctors. A lecture titled “Spirituality and Health: Complete Doctoring” presented by Dr. Michael Gloth followed in the Parish Hall.



Mobile Medical Clinic blessed

Father Augustine Twum Obour, Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch, blesses the new Mobile Medical Clinic of Community Pregnancy Clinics on Oct. 20. The van, which offers free ultrasounds to pregnant moms, was made possible by a donation from the Knights of Columbus and will be used throughout the region.



Verot earns Apple Distinguished School Certification

Bishop Verot Catholic High School has earned Apple Distinguished School Certification for 2019-2022. According to Apple: “Apple Distinguished School leaders, faculty, and the extended community have a clear vision for how their technology-rich environments support learning goals. School leaders have established elements for continuous innovation that include culture, team, capacity, community, finance, and measurement. Supporting their school’s vision is an ongoing process that requires thoughtful planning, practice, and improvement along the way. They use iPad and Mac products to inspire student creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking. And they cultivate environments in which students are excited and curious about learning.”

St. Mary Academy named Best Special Needs School in region

St. Mary Academy in Sarasota has been named by Family Living Magazine as the Best Special Needs School in Sarasota, Bradenton and Venice. The schools provide skilled teaching to students with learning disabilities. To mark this achievement, the school had a celebration that included outdoor games, food and fun.



Junior high students have fun in Wauchula

St. Michael Parish in Wauchula hosted an Oct. 5 festival for junior high students. The day includes lots of fun and games, but also include speakers who stressed the need to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, time for prayer and the Mass.




Mooney featured on Tampa morning TV show

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota hosted FOX-13 Tampa Bay on Oct. 17. The honor coincides with the ongoing celebration of Mooney’s 60th Anniversary. The sports teams and cheerleaders led a pep rally, and the TV crew also showcased the newly renovated stadium and field.



Goldtones Tickets Now on Sale
San Antonio Parish Knights of Columbus announce that tickets are now on sale for Florida’s famous Doo-wop group the Goldtones’ concert. The concert will be 7 p.m.,  Jan. 31 in the Holy Trinity Hall, 24411 Rampart Blvd, Port Charlotte. General Admission tickets are $15. In addition to all the old familiar Doo-wop favorites, they will also be singing your favorite Motown hits. Last year sold out early, so get your tickets now at 800-838-3006, or online at: BrownPaperTickets.com

Putting aside distraction key to becoming a Disciple of Christ

Bob Reddy – Naples –

We are all called to be “Disciples of Christ.” The best way to achieve this goal is to put aside distractions such as cell phones and other devices so as to then focus on how best to serve the Lord.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane gave this message during separate Masses Oct. 3 in Naples for students at St. Ann Catholic School and St. John Neumann Catholic High School.

“You must put aside the distractions – cell phone, tablets, the internet – as these take your precious time and often moves you further from the Lord,” Bishop Dewane said. “I want you to work and concentrate on becoming a ‘Disciple of Christ.’ You can do this by making more room in your lives for Jesus. Sometimes this is easy to do and sometimes it is hard, but I know each of you can do it.”

The Bishop added that when Christ is with them, they are asked to be a certain kind of person. That is a person who strives to do what Christ asks of them, and in so doing, they become more a man or woman of God – a “Disciple of Christ.”

The theme of being a “Disciple of Christ” coincides with the commemoration of the 35th Anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Venice. Through the Diocese Education Office, students across the Diocese are being given lessons on how to become a “Disciple of Christ” through prayer as well as through their actions, particularly toward others. These building blocks will aide them in their spiritual journey.

The Masses for the students at St. Ann Catholic School and St. John Neumann Catholic High School were the last in a series of Mass at each Diocesan Catholic School to start the academic year. The Masses were delayed by a month because of the early September threat from Hurricane Dorian. Bishop Dewane made a note for the students to pray for the victims of the Hurricane.

Young students learn about vocations

Bob Reddy – Fort Myers –

Sixth graders from Catholic elementary schools across the Diocese of Venice have recently been challenged to recognize the presence of the Lord in themselves while also considering their vocation: possibly to religious life for the girls and the priesthood for the boys.

“God is calling each of us,” Diocesan Vocations Director Father Shawn Roser explained to the students at each of three Diocesan Vocations Days in late September. “You are old enough to understand the role Christ is having in your life and I know some of you are being called to a religious life or the priesthood.”

The Vocations Days took place Sept. 23 at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples for the Catholic schools in the Southern Deanery; Sept. 25 at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota for schools in the Northern Deanery, and Sept. 30 at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers for schools in the Central Deanery.

Students heard from priests and religious men and women about listening to God’s call for their vocation in life. No matter whether that vocation is as a priest or consecrated religious, married life, consecrated single life – the Lord will provide guidance.

The day focused on encouraging the young boys and girls to open their hearts and minds to develop their personal relationship with God while keeping open the possibility of a deeper calling for their vocation. The students were repeatedly told that their relationship with the Lord must always begin with prayer.

Throughout the day the students heard from priests and religious women who shared their stories of how they found a grace to serve God in a special way. There were separate sessions for boys and girls, when they were free to ask any questions.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass at the conclusion of each Vocations Day and reinforced what the students learned by stressing how they need to pray to the Lord about their vocation in life. He also shared his own vocation story.

“The Lord has a role for each one of us in life, and if it is not done, the community is all the less for it,” Bishop Dewane said. “Go forward in your lives and really consider religious life, consider the priesthood and pray about it. Pray that the Lord inspire you to that vocation. Pray to the Lord that you get clarity.”

Bishop Dewane, Father Roser and the religious sisters who assisted at the Vocations Days each stressed that God is never going to call the students to do something they are not going to want to do or cannot handle.

“You just have to open your mind and your heart to what God is calling you to do,” Father Roser said.

During the Vocations Days at Cardinal Mooney and Bishop Verot Father Roser was joined by Servant Sisters of the Virgin Matara from St. Michael Parish in Wauchula. At St. John Neumann, he was assisted by Sister April Hoffman, a Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco who teaches at the high school.

In addition, Sister Cathy Bonfield, School Sister of Notre Dame, escorted her students from St. Martha and St. Mary Academy to the Vocations Day at Cardinal Mooney, and spoke to the girls about her vocation journey as a teacher for more than 50 years.

Each day focused on encouraging the young boys and girls to open their hearts and minds to develop their personal relationship with God while keeping open the possibility of a deeper calling for their vocation.

Throughout the day the students participated in various activities and games with the priest and religious present while also carefully listening to the profound words they had to say as each shared their own personal spiritual journey to serve God in a special way.

Students from St. John Neumann, Cardinal Mooney and Bishop Verot shared their own faith story, noting the challenges to stay focused on the Lord with other distractions in life. However, no matter how far they strayed from their Faith, each noted that the one strength in their lives was the Lord, calling them back. This invariably brought comfort and stability to their lives.

Prior to the closing Mass, there was Eucharistic Adoration to allow the students a chance to focus and spend time in the presence of the Lord.

Father Roser said the goal was to let these young boys and girls know about the possibilities for the future and the greatness that comes as a servant of the Lord for priests and religious.

News briefs from Around the Diocese September 2019

Mooney Golfer No. 1 in Florida, ranked nationally

Noah Kumar is captain of the Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Golf Team in Sarasota and has now cracked the top 100 nationally and is ranked 90th with Junior Golf Scoreboard. The Florida High School Athletic Association ranks Kumar the No. 1 high school golfer in the State of Florida. During his senior season with Cardinal Mooney, Kumar has an 18-hole tournament stroke average of 67.33, with six straight low round first place medal wins in a row. His nine-hole stroke average is 35.5 with a career low of 31. Kumar has been playing tournament golf since he was 10-years-old. He qualified to play in the U.S. Junior Amateur this past July and came in 12th in stroke play. Keep up the good work Noah!

Bishop celebrates Mass for Ave Maria University

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated a Mass for the faculty and student of Ave Maria University in Ave Maria on Sept. 23, delayed from Sept. 2 when the Mass was cancelled because of Hurricane Dorian. During the mass the Bishop encouraged the students to grow in their faith and to carry the message of the Lord into the world. At the conclusion of the Mass, the Bishop presided over a commissioning ceremony for nine new theology professors, during which each took an oath and vowed to remain faithful to the teachings of the Church.

Scout 10 Commandment Hike held Sept. 21

Scouts from across the Diocese of Venice gathered Sept. 21 for a 10 Commandments Hike at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice. The more than 100 Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and American Heritage Girls learned about the 10 Commandments at different stations located along the internal road of the property. The Scouts were presented with an achievement badge for participation at the end of the day.

CCW Eastern Deanery holds retreat

The Council of Catholic Women of the Eastern Deanery took part in a bi-lingual retreat Sept. 21 at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park. More than 70 women from parishes Hardee, Highlands, Hardee, Glades and Hendry counties took part. The retreat included presentations by a number of priests as well as group prayers with the praying of the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Bishop celebrates Mass for NET retreat in Bradenton

A National Evangelization Team (NET) Ministries group held a one-day retreat for middle school students on Sept. 29 at St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton. The retreat included several talks by youth ministers who travel across the nation trying to inspire young people to open themselves up to the Lord. Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the Mass for the retreatants and offered words of encouragement to the middle-schoolers for participating in the day and to the NET team for coming to the Diocese.

Laps for Life held Sept. 28

The Our Lady of Victory Knights of Columbus Council 3358 welcomed more than 200 to the 2nd Annual Sarasota Laps for Life at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota. The event was opened by a blessing for Deacon William Ladroga and the runners and walkers followed a path for three laps to complete the 5K event. The top finishes finished in 17:35 minutes. The event helped to raise money to purchase for a new ultrasound for My Choice Pregnancy Center in Sarasota.

Bishop celebrates Red Mass

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the annual Red Mass on Oct. 2 at St. Martha Parish in Sarasota. The Mass is held in honor of all members of the legal profession and has a history which dates back centuries. The most famous such Mass is held for the U.S. Supreme Court on the first Sunday in October. The Florida Bishops also celebrate a Red Mass for lawmakers in Tallahassee during the annual legislative session.

Pets blessed on Feast of St. Francis

A variety of pets wait to be blesses on Oct. 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, at Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota.

Pets great and small were blessed Oct. 4 on the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi at Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota. Administrator Father Eric Scanlan blessed everything from hermit crabs, ferrets, fish, birds, snakes, lizards, dogs and cats brought in by the students and parishioners.

Principal’s corner – Bishop Verot

Dr. Denny Denison, Bishop Verot Catholic High School

Fort Myers – Bishop Verot Catholic High School first opened its doors in 1962 as the only Catholic school in southern Florida. Through the years much has changed – the installation of air-conditioned classrooms, construction of new buildings, the transition away from hardback books, notebooks and pencils, but our philosophy remains the same.

In today’s world, we understand the importance of change while standing firm on our core beliefs. Our motto, Non Excidet, translates as We Will Not Fail, and Verot is committed to this motto by empowering every student who walks through our doors to be the best they can be.

Parents throughout Southwest Florida have chosen Verot for a variety of reasons. Our mission exceeds expectations as we strive to build relationships centered on faith, learning and leadership devoted to educating the whole person, utilizing innovative technologies, empowering students through collaborative experiences, and cultivating a spirit of service grounded in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Our families have done their research and they know that four years at Bishop Verot High School will prepare their children well for what lies ahead.

In four short but memorable years, the student body of more than 700 students will learn diverse subjects at the honors, advanced placement (AP) and college prep levels. Courses such as engineering, marine biology, forensic science, computer science and video production aid students in discovering their passion.

As an Apple Distinguished School, both teachers and students embrace 1:1 iPad technology to take learning to new heights. With the integration of SARA – an intensive test preparatory program – into our faith-based curriculum, students perform at higher levels for the SAT and ACT. Our students’ positive experience and academic success inside and outside the classroom have resulted in 99 percent of graduates matriculating into four-year colleges and universities and more than 50 percent earning a Florida Bright Future Scholarship.

While rigorous academics are essential to future success, it is the development of the whole person that sets Verot apart from other schools in Lee County. New students, families and guests are introduced to the Viking commitment to selfless service, to one another, and to our Catholic Faith from the very moment they enter our campus. From the very first day freshmen step on the Bishop Verot Catholic High School campus, our Vikings know they are part of the Verot family. The excitement of starting a new school year is infectious as the Viking cheerleaders greet students on their first day and senior leaders offer a welcome making sure the newest family members are ready for success.

Ask any Verot alumni their favorite memory of Verot, and the number one response will be the Freshman Retreat. Led by Verot’s seniors, the Freshman Retreat solidifies our family by creating life-long bonds with fellow classmates and upperclassmen. Seniors and freshmen work side-by-side to serve meals, conduct hard labor and offer basic care and companionship to the most impoverished people in our community. The Retreat culminates with a candlelight gathering around the Most Blessed Sacrament in prayer.

Learn more about what it means to be a Viking by visiting bvhs.org or call 239-274-6700.

Dr. Denny Denison can be reached at denny.denison@bvhs.org.

Principals Corner – Incarnation

By Colleen Curlett – Principal of Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota

Sarasota’s lively history radiates pride, love, and joy thanks in part to awe-inspiring attractions such as the Ringling Museum and College of Art and Design, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and Sailor Circus Academy. These creative havens have paved a community of collaboration, as does Incarnation Catholic School (ICS), a lesser known but much celebrated entity. ICS is small in stature but not in accomplishments, recognition and inspiration. In fact, Sarasota’s SRQ magazine voted Incarnation Catholic School the Best Private School in 2018.

Incarnation has retained a rich, caring history from the day it opened its doors in 1961.  Much has changed in nearly 60 years, and ICS has made great leaps forward thanks to the many faculty, alumni, parents, grandparents and volunteers who for decades have invested enormous sums of time, talent and resources into the school and parish community.

Former parents and students continue to forge their legacy across the county. Danny Strzempka, a father of an involved ICS family, is celebrated as the creator of the prosthetic tail for Winter, an injured dolphin. The best-selling book, “Dolphin Tale,” and its award-winning feature film that recall Winter’s miraculous recovery has inspired millions to use their God-given talent to benefit all of His creatures. Strzempka, who has a prosthetic himself, often returns to Incarnation as a motivational speaker to address faith, charity and ingenuity.

I attribute the success of Incarnation Catholic school to our stellar staff and faculty and their collaboration with our students, parents, and community. As an aspiring STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) school, we have seamlessly integrated technology within our traditional curriculum and our Catholic faith. Many creative activities are an off-shoot of our STREAM initiatives. Our middle school students pushed their technological and artistic talents to new heights when they hosted a dinner theater extravaganza that enticed guests to solve a family-friendly mystery with a variety of hands-on forensics labs.

The love shared among our ICS family members also extends throughout Sarasota county. Our quarterly service project, “Keeping Sarasota Beautiful,” helps us bond with the community as we work together to clean our adopted roads.

ICS students can choose from a variety of extracurricular clubs and activities. The Incarnation Cheer team won the division title during the 2018-2019 All Out competition in Orlando. Middle school students have the options to take digital photography and guitar lessons offered by Florida Virtual School.

The Pre K-3 class is in its first year and is already a huge success. We are blessed to have these young, bright children join our ever-expanding family. Each and every addition to the ICS community offers another, unique perspective that inspires us to enhance our knowledge, embrace our faith, and empower our community to teach, love, and lead our disciples of the 21st Century.

Learn more about how you and your child can strengthen our foundation of faith at  https://incarnationschool.edu/.

You can reach Principal Colleen Curlett at ccurlett@incarnationschool.edu.