Many work to make Thanksgiving joyful

Thanksgiving is an annual national holiday to praise and give thanks to God for our blessings of food and life.

In preparation for the holiday, many volunteered to help those who are less fortunate or who are struggling in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

Parishes and Diocesan Catholic school students collected thousands of cans of food and other items to help fill local food pantries. Many also volunteered to distribute food as lines of vehicles twisted through parking lots in hopes of getting items for a hearty meal this year. Some Parishes hosted pre-Thanksgiving dinners to bring holiday cheer wherever they could.

For example, St. Andrew Catholic School students in Cape Coral donated 1,630 pounds of food to a local food pantry while at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, the student there collected 1,253 items. Similarly, St. John Neumann Catholic School students in Naples held their own food drive to benefit Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., collecting and delivering 6,423 canned goods.

The beneficiary of the St. John Neumann food drive was the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center of Catholic Charities in Naples. The Thanksgiving food distribution there took place on Nov. 22, 2022.

Allegra Belliard, Program Director, supervised as a steady stream of grateful families came and received a turkey and ham as well as bags of food. The turkey and ham meals were courtesy of Publix Charities.

Belliard said the demand is higher in 2022 as compared to the height of the COVD-19 pandemic. This is because the cost of food is much higher due to inflation combined with many people being out of work because of Ian. The hurricane damaged or destroyed many homes, businesses, and resorts, dramatically impacting those in the service industry. Among the places damaged was the Family Resource Center itself. Storm surge flowed through the building and surrounding neighborhood, but the food pantry part of the building was open within a few weeks as the demand remained high.

Cordelia Fulton felt blessed to have Catholic Charities provide food for her family. “Bless you all,” the mother of three who has been unemployed since Ian said. “It will be a happy Thanksgiving in our home.”

Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities in Immokalee did their own food distribution on Nov. 19. This area had some damage during Hurricane Ian, but the greatest impacts were to the crops which are an important resource for work in the rural community.

Peggy Rodriguez, Catholic Charities Regional Director for Collier County, said teams of volunteers packed more 700 bags of food ahead of Thanksgiving, above what is normally distributed each week. About 200 of those bags were dispersed directly from the Guadalupe Social Services food pantry. Meanwhile, several agencies worked together to deliver the balance of the food to 500 more families who were unable to arrive during regular hours.

Students from St. Joseph Catholic School show off the items collected during a Thanksgiving food drive on Nov. 18, 2022, to benefit the St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton.

In Manatee County, where hurricane damage was scattered, the demand for food ahead of Thanksgiving was still very high at the St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton.

A line of vehicles filled with families seeking a turkey with all the trimmings, twisted its way through the parking lot of St. Joseph Parish on Nov. 21. In a three-day period, the pantry expected to distribute food to 800 families. A generous donation of 2,000 turkeys the week before Thanksgiving enabled the pantry to give every family a turkey, something that isn’t always possible.

Sylvia Trotter said she has been struggling to feed her family while juggling expenses such as caring for two children and her parents. “We combine our money for important things, and we doubted that we would celebrate Thanksgiving this year,” Trotter said. “Everything is a luxury now, which makes these wonderful (volunteers) my heroes.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane offered the following Thanksgiving message to the faithful of the Diocese:

“Greetings to all and a Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving! In this season of gratitude, let us remember to give thanks to God who has given many great gifts to all. The greatest gift God has given is the body and blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, in the Eucharist. The word “Eucharist” actually means “an act of thanksgiving to God”. By participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we are united as one body, one human family, in Christ.

On Thanksgiving Day, I extend my gratitude to all here in the Diocese of Venice, and to the many around the country, who so generously have provided aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. Know that you remain in my prayers.

Happy Thanksgiving! Have a Blessed Advent Season!”

If you would like to support Catholic Charities, please visit or if you would like to support the Diocesan effort to recover from Hurricane Ian, please visit

Mooney swimmer takes State title for fourth consecutive year

A Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School senior repeated as Class 1A State Champion Nov. 18, 2022, at Sailfish Splash Park and Aquatics Center in Stuart.

Michaela Mattes took the State Championships in the 500 Freestyle for the fourth year in a row and came in second in the 200 Individual Medley, proudly representing her Sarasota school. Michaela completes her swimming career as the most decorated Mooney athlete and will go on to swim for the University of Florida in the fall.

Michaela took the 500 Freestyle with a dominating time of 4:43.80, more than 9 seconds faster than her nearest competitor. Her winning time earned her automatic All-American status with the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association (NISCA). She was also State Champ in the same event as a freshman, sophomore and junior.

In the 200 individual medley, Michaela took silver with a time of 1:59.27, again earning All-American status. This was also the fourth consecutive year Michaela medaled in the event, taking gold in 2020 and silver in 2019 and 2021. On her own, Michaela took 15th in the team competition.

The Mooney boys qualified for States in the 200 medley relay with swimmers Alexander Mitten, Daniel Krajewski, Michael Navarro-Lenza, and Turner Mitten. Turner Mitten finished 12th in the 500 free, while Krajewski qualified for the 200 individual medley, and Alexander Mitten in the 100 backstroke.

At the same event, Bishop Verot Catholic High School swimmers Alexander Price, Stephen Prendiville, Nicolas Scripcariu and Daniel Perez also qualified for the 200 medley relay. Meanwhile, Eleanor Bonds, finished 11th in the 1 meter diving competition, while her teammate Kaylie Cunniff finished 14th in the same event.

The 1A State competition was delayed one week due to impacts from Hurricane Nicole.

News Briefs from the week of Nov. 25, 2022

Fort Myers Rabbi given Papal Knighthood

Rabbi A. James Rudin, co-founder of the St. Leo University’s Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies, became only the third American rabbi in history to be honored with the Papal Knighthood of the Order of St. Gregory for his work in interfaith relations at St. Leo University on Nov. 20, 2022. Rabbi Rudin, who is from Fort Myers, received the medal of the Order of St. Gregory from Auxiliary Bishop Mark O’Connell, of the Archdiocese of Boston. The investiture ceremony was conducted on behalf of Pope Francis in recognition of Rudin’s decades of work in building positive Catholic-Jewish relations throughout the world, fostering interreligious dialogue and understanding. Rabbi Rudin has spoken several times at interreligious gatherings within the Diocese of Venice, including the annual Yom HaShoah commemoration in Venice, as well as the Kristallnacht commemoration in Naples. Bishop Frank J. Dewane was among the honored guests for the investiture. Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston, originally was to conduct the ceremony on behalf of Pope Francis, but was unable to attend. The Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies was co-founded by Bishop John J. Nevins, founding Bishop of the Diocese of Venice.

“Blessings Bags” for Our Mother’s House

Girl Scout Troop 71404, which is located in North Royalton, Ohio, and is composed of 16 kindergarten girls who recently had a lesson on hurricanes, made “Blessings Bags” for moms and kids in the Diocese of Venice after hearing about Hurricane Ian.  The girls made 46 bags including 13 bags for moms with personal hygiene items, six bags for babies including items such as pacifiers, rattles, and hooded bath towels, and 27 bags for children, which included toys, writing pads, and crayons. The “Blessings Bags” were distributed to moms, babies and kids at Our Mother’s House in Venice on Nov. 17, 2022. The Catholic Charities programs provides residential support for new mothers who might otherwise be homeless. Upon receiving the “Blessing bags,” Shannon Hoyt, Our Mother’s House Program Manager said, “What an amazing, thoughtful thing for them to do! Thank you so much!”

Giving Tuesday, Nov. 29

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving (Nov. 29, 2022) has been traditionally recognized as Giving Tuesday, when people switch from their frenetic Christmas shopping to give back to local charities. Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. (, as well as each of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools ( are participating in this Giving Tuesday. Many of these organizations have challenges which can multiply your donation and better benefit a school or program. Please consider giving on Giving Tuesday.

Parish celebrates cultural diversity

St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers celebrated a multicultural Mass on Nov. 20, 2022, the Solemnity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Prior to the Mass, women of the Vietnamese Catholic community performed a ceremonial dance in honor of Christ the King. The Mass included readings in Spanish, Filipino, and English, and music from each of the cultures. This Mass was originally scheduled for early October but was delayed due to the destruction caused to the Fort Myers area during Hurricane Ian. The celebration was one way to mark the ongoing recovery as well the diversity and unity of the Universal Church.

Students make blankets for the homeless

As part of a Reverse Advent Calendar Project, eighth graders at St. Martha Catholic spent the week before their Thanksgiving break making blankets for the homeless. A special thank you to the local JoAnn Fabric stores for making the fabric for the blankets available.

Science, art and food enhance classroom lesson

As part of a biology class at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples on Nov. 16, 2022, students created a 3-D representative of a eukaryotic and prokaryotic cell, with a twist. The goal of the project was to develop and use the model to describe the function of a cell as a whole and showed ways that parts of cells contribute to the function. Then they ate the cells which were created out of a variety of food. This unique project was developed by teacher Elaina Gianello who used various aspects of the STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, art, and math) curriculum to make the lesson more engaging for the students.

Safety patrol recognized for hard work

The Safety Patrol team at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton received a surprise visit on Nov. 16, 2022, from deputies from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. Each Safety Patrol member was presented with a Junior Deputy Badge and AAA Certificate. A Sheriff’s representative spoke to the Safety Patrol member to recognize the hard work and commitment these fourth-grade students have put into their positions.

Students make prayer ropes

Bishop Verot Catholic High School theology students in Fort Myers recently learned about prayer ropes and made them during an outdoor lesson on Nov. 15, 2022. These ropes are typically made with intricate knots, 33 of them to be specific – one for each year of Jesus’ life. A prayer rope is a loop made up of complex woven knots formed in a cross pattern, usually out of wool or silk. The students learned a little more about this tradition and got to enjoy some time outside of the classroom in the process during their theology class. Most commonly part of the practice of Eastern Orthodox monks and nuns, the prayer ropes are used to count the number of times one has prayed to Jesus.

Diocese honors veterans with Mass

The Diocese of Venice continued its tradition by celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for veterans who have served and continue to serve our country in the armed forces.

The annual Veterans Day Catholic Mass, celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, is in its 13th year, with the 2022 Mass celebrated at St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota. The Mass, which has been traditionally held at the nearby Sarasota National Cemetery, was relocated out of an abundance of caution for the safety of participants due to rains caused by Hurricane Nicole.

“We honor our veterans in a very clear way,” Bishop Dewane said. “They fought to promote justice and to defeat tyranny… They had a faith that what they were doing was right and needed to be done; they were fighting not just for one nation, but for all of humanity. In the end, they had faith that a just God would grant them mercy.”

The Bishop noted that more than 41 million Americans have served in the armed forces over the course of the nation’s history and more than 1.2 million died in combat, causing everyone to pause and remember the sacrifice of not just the soldiers but of the families and friends whom they left behind.

“We celebrate the goodness, and the grace of each one of those individuals who serve their country and their God,” Bishop Dewane said, adding that veterans teach everyone “how to give totally of ourselves for one another to lay down one’s life in charity and love – our dear veterans have contributed all that they had, their whole life, many of them, for the sake of our greater good.”

The Veterans Day celebration opened with the singing of the National Anthem, and a presentation of a ceremonial wreath by one retired and two active members of the military.

Adding to the dignity and ceremony of the day were active and retired veterans who were asked to stand and be recognized as part of the opening ceremonies. The Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus formed a Color Corps, and many other Knights were also present to support the veterans.

Following the conclusion of the Mass, everyone joined in reciting a Veterans Day prayer before singing God Bless America. The Diocese of Venice coordinates the Veterans Day Catholic Mass with the support of the Knights of Columbus and plans to return to the Sarasota National Cemetery in 2023.

In the schools

Each of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools celebrated Veterans Day in different ways.

At St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples, students processed to church with patriotic art projects for a Veterans Day Mass and tribute. The eighth graders led the tribute with a special flag folding ceremony, and hand-made wreaths were given to each veteran present, and prayers were offered for those not present.

St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton had a special flag raising ceremony led by the fourth graders, while at St. Ann Catholic School in Naples the students attended Mass where veterans were recognized and honored. Meanwhile, the Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School Young Marines faith program from Venice participated in the Sarasota Veterans Day parade.

These are just a few examples of how Catholic school students honored our veterans.

Veterans Day began as an informal celebration to mark the conclusion of World War I (Nov. 11, 1918), before being designated as a national holiday in 1954 to honor all military men and women who have sacrificed so much in their service to this country.


Eucharistic Devotional Project begins in schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about this Diocesan devotional project, please visit

Exciting sports news from around the Diocese

It was a busy time the past week for athletes at Diocese of Venice Catholic high schools between competitions and signings.

First up, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Sophomore Nico Bencomo fired a -1 (71) to tie for 2nd in Florida High School 1A Golf State Championship, Nov. 12, 2022, at Mission Inn Resort and Country Club in Howey-in-the-Hills. Bencomo led Mooney to a team bronze medal.

Mooney’s Tommy Tyler fired an even par 72, one shot out of the medals to tie for 6th. Other Mooney golfers included Joe Pike, Lukas Wahlstrom, and Finley Murphy. This is the best team finish in school history for the Sarasota boys.

At the same competition, the Bishop Verot Catholic High School team finished 5th overall. The golfers were Christian Allen, Michael Bevins, Zachary Loninger, Kevin Kelly, and Dalton Payne. In addition, Connor Shea, of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples was the only boy to qualify for States.

In the girls’ golf competition, the Verot team finished 12th overall. Golfers included Amelia Loninger, Samantha Loninger, Morgan Franklin, Caroline Kelly, and Ava Aloia. Due to the impacts of the Hurricane Nicole, the State Championship was delayed and then shortened a single 18-hole event.

Meanwhile, on National Signing Day, Nov. 9, 2022, 13 student-athletes from across the Diocese signed their letters of intent to play at the collegiate level.

At Mooney, five student-athletes made their announcements. They include: Jordyn Byrd, University of Texas (volleyball, the 6-foot-5 senior outside hitter is part of the 1,000 Kills Club and was the 2021-2022 Gatorade Florida Volleyball Player of the Year); Michaela Mattes, University of Florida (swimming, ranked as the No. 5 recruit in the country and No.1 out of Florida according to College for the Class of 2023); Jack McKinnon, University of South Florida, (baseball, also a standout varsity football player); Olivia Davis, University of Tampa (basketball, four year starter at Mooney); and Caity Patterson, Florida Gulf Coast University (softball).

At Bishop Verot, six students signed their letter of intent. They are: Victoria Ash, Stetson University (softball); Camryn Feast, Florida Gulf Coast University (softball), Andrew Hanlon, Brown University (baseball); Aidan Knaak, Clemson University (baseball); Sarah Yamrick, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania (softball); and Gigi Malik, University of Piedmont (lacrosse).

At St. John Neumann in Naples, Carter White and Tyler Kozera both signed to play baseball at the University of Central Florida.

Congratulations and good luck to each student-athlete!


News Briefs for Nov. 18, 2022

Family Day in Wauchula

The 2022 St. Michael Parish Family Day on Nov. 12, 2022, in Wauchula, welcomed more than 130 families (over 250 participants to include parents and their children) for a beautiful day filled with guest speakers about parenting, a young adult guest speaker, and children learning about the Eucharist and how to have a stronger relationship with Jesus. There were family games and raffles. The day ended with a Eucharistic Procession and Holy Mass, and dinner. The day focused on prayer for the conversion of all, that they may seek God in the Eucharist to guide them as a united family.

Naples Scout recognized

Luke P. Rubino, a senior at Naples High School and St. Ann Catholic School Class of 2019, achieved Eagle Rank from the Boy Scouts of America-Southwest Florida Council/Alligator District with Troop 165, now affiliated with St. Ann Parish in Naples. Luke was also awarded the Good Citizenship Award presented by the Marine Corps League (E.T. Brisson Detachment #063) of Naples on Nov. 13, 2022, in the Parish Hall.

New altar servers blessed

Father Luis Pacheco, Pastor of St. Paul Parish in Arcadia, recently welcomed and blessed a new group of altar servers. The blessing took place Nov. 13, 2022, for the boys and girls who completed a training program. These servers will now be able to serve at Masses each week.

Naples students build bikes

More than 30 St. John Neumann Catholic High School students came together with Key and Kiwanis clubs from around the county to build bikes with the Bikes for Tykes Organization at Palmetto Ridge High School in Naples on Nov. 12, 2022. Students worked in teams of two assembling new bikes that were donated to local families. During the event, some of the students entertained the waiting children with face painting and games.

Fort Myers robotics team gains experience

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School robotics program hosted two local robotics teams to work on their designs and programming in Fort Myers on Nov. 5, 2022. The “Java the Hutt” team was incredibly helpful, as they brought their robot and helped the Verot teams get their bots built and programmed to move. The students learned about the latest version of a competition robot. The Cypress Lake team shared ideas and were instrumental in getting a playing field constructed, while advising about which materials to purchase and use to help construct future Verot robots. Events like this are vital to the growth of robotics in Southwest Florida.

Thanksgiving festival delights children

St. Martha Catholic School National Junior Honor Society hosted a Thanksgiving Festival for students in kindergarten through second grade in Sarasota on Nov. 14, 2022. The students decorated their own cookies, colored placemats, created turkeys, wrote what they are thankful for, played Thanksgiving Bingo and completed Thanksgiving Math.


Generosity overwhelms Catholic schools in Lee County

Cards, rosaries, prayer cards and much more have flowed into the Diocese of Venice from Catholic schools around the country as they send their prayers and support following Hurricane Ian.

The most recent delivery of backpacks full of supplies came from Immaculate Conception Catholic School and Immaculata Catholic High School in Somerville, New Jersey. Officials from the schools, whose own communities were impacted by Hurricane Ida in 2021, saw a request for assistance through social media and offered to help.

Their contact in the Diocese of Venice was Siobhan Young, Principal at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota. Young explained to the New jersey school officials how only five of 15 Diocesan Catholic schools were spared damage and that many Catholic school faculty, staff and families suffered devastating impacts.

Colleen Paras, director of campus ministry for Immaculata High School, told Young that the Somerville school communities were impacted by Hurricane Ida. Their experience with Ida, combined with witnessing the images of catastrophe from Ian, made a lasting impression on the students. “Our students had so much exposure to it – how could we not give them an invitation to respond? We know how important it is for anybody and everybody to offer acts of love, so even though we are not there with them, this is our opportunity to pay back what we were given (after Ida).”

Fifteen boxes of backpacks, each with school supplies and a handmade card, were shipped to Young at St. Martha. The cost for shipping was generously underwritten by an alum of Immaculata.

Some 100 backpacks were delivered to Sarasota and then transferred to St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers on Nov. 8, 2022. The backpacks will be split amongst needy students and children in the St. Francis Xavier religious education program which also had many families overwhelmed by the hurricane.

“Our families have been hit hard,” St. Francis Xavier Principal Gulley said, noting several faculty and staff also suffered. “Many lost everything, and even more had major damage. It has been very difficult for everyone.” Gulley was overwhelmed by the generosity of the New Jersey schools.

The items sent from Catholic schools across the country, including care packages, notes of encouragement, and school supplies, are going a long way to assist students and families who are struggling.

One item received was class artwork from St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in the Bronx, N.Y. The artwork includes a hand-rainbow, or a rainbow with the outline of the hands of each student displayed in a colorful rainbow. Gulley wrote back to the school in New York saying, “Thank you so much for sending your class artwork and including us in your prayers in the wake of Hurricane Ian. I can’t tell you how amazing and overwhelmingly the outpouring of support has been.”

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, has been forwarding many expressions of support to St. Francis Xavier, as well as to St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral and Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers.

“The outpouring of generosity from Catholic schools all over the country is truly humbling,” Father Belmonte said. “It’s in moments of crisis and need like this, when we see our Catholic schools at their best. Students and teachers around the country have prayed and been very generous in helping hurricane victims.”

The generosity first came from Catholic schools in the Diocese of Venice, in areas less hard hit by Ian. The initial focus was on immediate needs of the local community, and once addressed, and the extent of the devastation in Fort Myers and Cape Coral became clear, the outreach pivoted to helping the Catholic schools in Lee County.

Several truckloads of goods were shipped from Diocesan Catholic schools in Sarasota, Venice, Bradenton, Sebring, Ave Maria and Naples to the hardest hit areas in Lee and Charlotte counties.

St. Andrew Principal David Nelson said the gifts have ranged from prayers, cards for students, financial support to school supplies.

“They have been a huge blessing,” Nelson said. “We still have families who are just trying to get through each day. We are finding supplies and materials which will assist them now and even a few months down the road. Knowing others around the country are wanting to support our school and families has meant so much to our community. While Southwest Florida has gone through a horrific event, we are blessed to be back in school and have the support of so many generous individuals and institutions.”

Bishop Verot Principal Suzie O’Grady said each new arrival of a donation, whether cards, school supplies, generators, or other items, helps in the healing process.

“Knowing so many people are praying for us has a deeply profound meaning as we continue to recover from the devastation,” O’Grady said.

Father Belmonte added that many other schools across the country embarked upon various fundraising efforts, such as school dress-down days or other activities, and have sent checks to the Diocese to be used in the recovery efforts from Ian.

“Truly wonderful to see this far-reaching response,” Father said. “These Catholic schools recognized a need and did not hesitate to act to help their brothers and sisters in Christ.”

School, Bishop honors grandparents

Grandparents, a vital link to the past – most importantly regarding Faith – were welcomed to St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples for a special celebration.

On Nov. 4, 2022, the celebration opened with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane as students sat with their grandparents in Our Lady of the Angels School Chapel. Afterwards, everyone went to the Student Life Center for a luncheon.

During the Mass, Bishop Dewane praised the Grandparents Day event saying it reflects the sense of family the school projects, honoring a vital part of that community.

“In the role of mentors of the family, of tradition of faith, of patience, of love, it’s you grandparents who are in a unique position to have a positive influence,” Bishop Dewane said. “You carry the traditions of your families, the Church and the society we live in. I ask that you take that role seriously. Students, you owe a great deal to your grandparents. Recognize that, and express gratitude often.”

Bishop Dewane cited Pope Francis who often speaks about grandparents. The Holy Father established the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly in 2021, which is celebrated in late July each year.

“The Holy Father calls you to teach family roots, where it is they come from,” Bishop Dewane said. “Have boldness, take action in the role of holiness. Give that example by being the light of Christ, as we are all called to be. By your granddaughter or grandson being here at St. John Neuman, I say to all of you – congratulations for the role you have performed.”

Following the Mass, several grandparents, and their grandchildren, thanked the Bishop for his presence and for acknowledging the roles both have to play in building up the faith of each other.

One grandparent, Charlotte Noelke, travelled from Minnesota to attend the event with her granddaughter, Sophie Boos. “As soon as I received the invitation, we made the plans. I am so happy she is at a Catholic high school. It is a great education and a wonderful opportunity for her to grow in her faith.”

The luncheon concluded with a slideshow of the students with their grandparents and a request that the families take selfies to share for next year’s slideshow.

News Briefs for the week of Nov. 11, 2022


After consultation, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announces the following:

Father Kristian Villafaña is relieved of his duties as Temporary Administrator of Holy Cross Parish, Palmetto, effective October 18, 2022.

Father Nicholas Thompson, as Parochial Vicar at St. John the Evangelist Parish, Naples, effective November 1, 2022.

Father Binu Joseph, as Parochial Vicar at Sacred Heart Parish, Bradenton, effective November 3, 2022.

Catholic Mass to Honor Veterans Moved Due to Weather

The Diocese of Venice in Florida will celebrate its 13th annual Veterans Day Catholic Mass to honor veterans on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022. The Mass, originally scheduled to be held at The Sarasota National Cemetery, has been moved due to weather constraints. The Mass will now be celebrated at the nearby St. Patrick Parish, 7900 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota. The Mass will begin at 3:30 p.m., with opening ceremonies at 3:15 p.m. All are encouraged to arrive early. Bishop Frank J. Dewane will be the principal celebrant of the Mass.

Mooney runner finishes second in States

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School junior Addison Dempsey took the silver medal in the Class 2A girls Florida High School Athletic Association Cross Country State Championship on Nov. 5, 2022, in Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee. Dempsey crossed the 5,000-meter (or 3.1 mile) race in 17:54, just 11 seconds behind the winner. The Mooney girls’ team came in 25th overall, with Kate Ruaona placing 11th. The Sarasota boys finished in 20th, with the top runner, Christian Kline placing 37th. At the same event, the Bishop Verot Catholic High School runners from Fort Myers also participated, with sophomore Mackenzie De Lisle placing fifth. The boy’s team took fifth place overall, with the top runner, Grayson Tubbs, placing 16th. Congratulations everyone!

Students learn to fold American Flag

The Veterans of Foreign War Golden Gate Post 7721 visited St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples on Nov. 4, 2022, to teach the eighth graders how to properly fold the American flag in advance of the school’s Veterans Day Tribute on Nov. 11.

Key Club members help neighboring school

More than 40 St. John Neumann Catholic High School students and Key Club members came together Nov. 7, 2022, to help with a beautification project at St. Elizabeth Seton. Students laid mulch on the playground and painted parking lot curbs and stops. Lots of fun was had amidst the hard work.

Tiger Trot a success

The annual Tiger Trot at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice was a huge success. Held on Nov. 4, 2022, the event raised funds and everyone had a great time. Msgr. Patrick Dubois was in attendance to observe and blessed the Tiger Trot and cheer everyone on.

Thermal energy class was HOT!

Fourth grade science students at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota learned all about Thermal Energy the week of Nov. 1, 2022. The students each constructed their own solar oven and placed the components for s’mores in them before bringing them outside to cook. The result: the ovens worked, and everyone had a delicious snack created in their own oven!

Parish holds food fest

Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park held its annual International Food Festival on Nov. 6, 2022. Delectable cuisine from around the world was up for selection including from countries such as Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Ireland, Mexico, Italy and many more. Parish pastor Father Ronnie Sison, who is originally from the Philippines, took time to visit each table and sampled many selections.

 Fun day in Bradenton

A fun time was had during “Silly String” festivities at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton on Nov. 4, 2022. The fun was a follow-up celebration to the successful annual Eagle Run fundraiser held earlier in the month. The seventh-grade class, which had great success during the Eagle Run, also celebrated with a McDonald’s party.