New bleachers installed at Mooney

The gymnasium at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota has seen many feats of athleticism and the students in the bleachers have been witnesses to times of great joy and triumph.

Therefore, the replacement of the bleachers was considered a key part of a 10-year strategic plan to upgrade various academic and athletic facilities at Cardinal Mooney.

In early September, the manually operated bleachers installed in 1994 were torn out and replaced with electric one’s. This is just the latest in a series of exciting work being done at Cardinal Mooney, explained Director of Development Tara McLean.

Within the past several years there have been numerous upgrades to infrastructure at Mooney not just to athletic fields but to classrooms. This effort improved access to the latest technology in the classroom and has enhanced the academic opportunities for all students, helping to prepare them for the modern world. Meanwhile, there was a full renovation of the south classroom building and Learning Center (formerly the library), as well as the addition of a new regulation track and turf athletic field. Currently under construction is a new batting and training facility for the softball and baseball teams.

The students have responded to the upgrades and new facilities with excitement and grateful hearts. The fields on which an athlete competes are a source of pride for the entire Mooney community. The improvements to the home court/field create an advantage making it truly “Cougar Country.”

“The upgrades and new additions made to our athletic facilities over the last three years affects all of our student athletes” said Athletic Director Larry Antonucci. “With the improvements, our student athletes are afforded the opportunity to practice and compete in top notch facilities, which in turn will help propel them to reach their goals as individuals and teams.”

Principal Ben Hopper credits the commitment of the entire Cardinal Mooney community for helping to make the vision of the strategic plan become a reality. These efforts are ensuring that all students receive a rigorous academic experience and that the facilities, whether classrooms or fields, are of the highest quality.

“We are always grateful to have the continued support of our current families, our alumni and the generous benefactors in our community,” Hopper said. “Their generosity continually reinforces our commitment to excellence in service, academics, athletics and the arts that would otherwise not be possible without their support.”

While the bleachers are completed and the baseball/softball facility work continues, next on the agenda are renovations of the theatre and music hall building as well as new roofs on three other classroom buildings.

To learn more about the ongoing strategic upgrades taking place at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, please visit www.cmhs-sarasota.org or call 941-379-2647 ext. 2.

Respect Life Sunday Collection Focuses on Youth

By Jeanne Berdeaux, Diocese of Venice Respect Life Director,

For the past few years some of the funds received from generous parishioners in the annual Respect Life Sunday (Oct. 4, 2020) special collection have been used to give students from Catholic high schools the unique experience of participating in Catholic Days at the Capitol. This annual three-day trip to Tallahassee draws hundreds of participants from all seven Dioceses in Florida to our state capitol during the two months of the annual legislative session.

They attend a briefing to learn about the bills that are the top priorities for Catholics before visiting their legislators and attending sessions and committee hearings. Finally, they join all the Bishops of Florida for the Red Mass to pray that the Holy Spirit guides and directs members of the legislative, judicial and executive branches of state government in their service to the people of Florida. Many public officials join the Bishops and Catholic Days participants in this special Red Mass, in keeping with a tradition that dates back to the 13th century.

Bishop Verot 2020 graduating senior Anna Latell said, “I gained a lot of knowledge on how the Florida government system functions, and I felt like as Catholics we were able to have a lot of influence in just a few days.” She added, “You should go because it is an eye-opening experience in learning about Florida legislature and the important topics concerning Catholic values.” Another student said, “I enjoyed getting to be on the Senate floor and use the Senate seating.”

Thanks to Senate President Bill Galvano’s staff, the students were able to sit in the Senators’ chairs, conduct a mock debate and vote, giving them a first-hand experience of how the legislative process works.  When asked what they would say to someone thinking about going next year, one student said, “Do it; it was a blast!”

Another important use of funds is to support the Collier Community Abstinence Program (CCAP) which provides free workbooks and materials that impact our Catholic school students in the Diocese of Venice as well as those attending public school. This program promotes abstinence from risky behavior (sexual activity, alcohol and drug use) as the healthiest lifestyle. Parent components help open dialogue within the family. CCAP is developing new video programs for home and school use and a new website (www.AuthenticAbstinence.org). It’s a virtual world these days!  As news spread about the program and the statistics on the program’s success rate in Collier County, teachers across the country began clamoring for the four workbooks. Continuing to provide these resources free of charge to schools is a funding challenge. We are blessed to have funds from this special collection to help with the expansion of this program.

An agreement was made with world renowned “sexual risk avoidance” trainer Pam Stenzel to speak at our three Catholic high schools and the Donahue Academy in Ave Maria. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, this year’s events had to be cancelled, but Pam made a special video for graduating seniors and plans are underway for the current school year.

In his message on Diocesan World Youth Day, Palm Sunday 2020, Vatican News reported that Pope Francis said, “I would like to join you, young people, in calling for a cultural change, based on Jesus’ command to ‘arise.’  He calls us to embrace a reality that is so much more than virtual.”

“Arise!” he adds, is also an invitation to “dream”, to “take a risk”, to be “committed to changing the world, to rekindle your hopes and aspirations, and to contemplate the heavens, the stars and the world around you.”  The Pope then invited young people to “give their passions and dreams free rein, “and, through them, offer the world, the Church and other young people something beautiful, whether in the realm of the spirit, the arts or society… Make your voices heard.” Your generosity enables us to help our young people to answer that call.

The annual Respect Life collection in the Diocese of Venice is the weekend of Oct. 3-4, 2020. Thank you for your generosity in supporting this important collection.

To learn more about the Respect Life activities of the Diocese of Venice, you can contact Jeanne Berdeaux at 941-484-9543 or berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org.

 

 

 

Schools, Parish mark 9/11 anniversary

A global pandemic could not diminish the memories of Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists struck in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, leaving behind thousands of dead while showing the world the face of true heroism.

The 19th Anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks was marked throughout the Diocese of Venice at Parishes and Catholic schools. Toned-down a bit because of the pandemic, the commemorations still had powerful meaning for those who participated.

An annual 9/11 Memorial Mass took place at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples, where retired New York Police and Fire Department members participated at the home of the 9/11 Cross, a cross rendered out of the steel of the collapsed South Tower of the destroyed World Trade Center.

Father Gerard Critch, Pastor of St. Peter the Apostle, worked at Ground Zero for several weeks following the terror attacks and spoke about the vivid memories and scars people carry from that day, both externally and internally.

“We gather not in a spirit of vengeance and anger, but in a spirit of hope,” Father Critch said. “We pay tribute and remember what was lost, but we also remember what we are all called to be; the light of Christ in the world.”

At St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota, third graders in Christina Via-Reque’s class learned about and honored the memory of September 11th with several different activities. One included reading Heroes mini-book which focuses on specific heroes, such as police, firefighters, doctors and nurses, military, teachers and more. The students also created an Agamograph, which is a colored foldable art piece that looks different when you look at it at different angles. The message on one side was “9-11” and the other side read “We Remember.”

“The kids were totally engaged all day and loved learning about 9/11 and seeing how America came together to help one another during such a tragic time,” Via-Reque said. “They had many questions that led to long discussions about what it means to be a Hero in our society and that even they themselves can be Heroes in their communities.”

Students at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers were invited to dress in red, white, and blue, in observance of Patriot Day, a national day of service and remembrance. This annual tradition serves to remind students about the significance of the day, as none of the students were born in 2001, and the wearing of different clothes than the school uniform also serves as a fundraiser. Combined, the students raised more than $2,000 in support of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which provides a mortgage free home to families of fallen soldiers and first responders with small children.

A 9/11 Tribute ceremony took place following Mass for students at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples. Led by grades 5-8, the Tribute honored and remembered those who lost their lives on that fateful day while also recognizing the ongoing efforts of local first responders to keep everyone safe. During the ceremony, students placed several items beside a red, white and blue wreath, including scrolls printed with the names of 9-11 victims; roses; and flags. The school also dedicated an inscribed brick to be placed at the Collier County Freedom Memorial located on Golden Gate Parkway. Present for the ceremony were several local dignitaries and first responders.

These were just a sample of the many commemorations which took place across the Diocese.

News Briefs from the week of Sept. 18 2020

Verot student named National Merit Semifinalist

Congratulations to Bishop Verot Catholic High School senior Xavier Caangay who has been named a 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program Semifinalist. This makes Caangay one of 16,000 students nationwide to be recognized among the 1.5 million juniors who entered the competition by taking the 2019 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. To become a Finalist, the Semifinalist and his or her high school must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about their academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. Finalists are announced in the spring and have the opportunity to compete for some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million. All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from this group of Finalists.

Naples Catholic school recognized

St. Ann Catholic School has been selected for the 2020 Best of Naples Award in the Schools category by the Naples Award Program. This is the 2nd consecutive year the school has won the award. Each year, the Naples Award Program identifies entities that it believes have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local entities that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and the community. These exceptional companies help make the Naples area a great place to live, work, and play. The Naples Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Naples area.  Recognition is given to those entities that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value. The school was also the runner-up for best school in Collier County in Gulfshore Life magazine For more information on St. Ann Catholic School, please call 239-262-4110 or visit www.stann.net.

Teens consecrated to Jesus through Mary

Five teens from Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers were consecrated to Jesus through Mary on Aug. 16, 2020, after six weeks of learning about the lives of different saints. This consecration is part of 33 Days to Morning Glory. One teen said of the achievement: “The Marian Consecration has helped me, because Mary is like the voice in your head that steers you away from what’s wrong and gives you a road to what’s right. I also learned that when Mary is present in your life you can tell her all your worries knowing she is listening which gives me a sense of peace.”

 

7th season of Faith & Wine coming virtually in October

Faith & Wine is returning to Lee County with its first ever virtual event on Oct. 22, 2020 featuring Liz Larson, a nurse and parishioner at Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers, presenting “Lessons from Emma: A Walk in Faith.” Larson will share her life-changing experience following the devastating diagnosis of her unborn child. To learn more and to register, please visit www.faithandwineleecounty.com.

Verot football season opens

The atmosphere was charged with excitement as the Bishop Verot Catholic High School Viking Football Team kicked off its season on Sept. 4, 2020 at home in Fort Myers.

The crowd roared as the players run through a tunnel and onto the field for the first time, flanked by cheerleaders and looking eager and excited to play after an off season which had many wondering whether football would happen.

“I can’t believe this day has finally come,” one player shouted as he hopped up and down with excitement on the sideline as he prepared to play Tampa Jesuit. “Incredible.”

With stadium capacity limited to less than 25 percent, the crowd was not as rowdy as usual, but players, coaches and fans didn’t seem to mind and really appreciated the sense of doing something normal – enjoying Friday night football.

Parents in the stands were easily heard giving advice to players, coaches and referees alike. One parent noted that she was so happy the Bishop Verot staff was able to get the season started. “These boys worked so hard all summer and it almost seemed as if games would not happen, but here we are. I can’t say enough how well everyone communicated and prepared to be safe. I just hope for the next game there are more fans in the stadium. The boys love the big crowds.”

Temperatures were taken of everyone entering, all of whom needed a pre-distributed ticket. This was accomplished as each player, cheerleader and band member was given three tickets to the game. The only other students present were those who received tickets.

Masks were required when moving about the stadium, but fans could take them off while seated. The home side of the stadium was divided into sections and every other row was empty all to ensure social distancing. It is unclear when students will be allowed to attend the games as Athletic Director Jason Baumgardner explained that the situation will be reevaluated before each home game.

The opening prayer was given by Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese Superintendent of Catholic Education.

Those present saw a battle between the two schools that ended in a disappointing 28-21 loss for Verot. Senior wide receiver Malik Curtis wowed the crowd with blazing speed and dazzling plays and nine receptions for 226 yards and three touchdowns. Verot was down 22-0 early but fought hard to make it 22-13 at halftime. The battle continued with Verot coming up short on its final attempts to get in the end zone.

News briefs for week of Aug. 31 2020

New Online Course

The Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation is launching a new online course entitled “Ecclesial Nature and Mission of Theology” beginning Sept. 7. This is a required background course for an online Master’s Degree in Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville. The 15-week course provides a basic introduction to the study of Catholic Theology and is being offered at a substantial discount. For more information on the course please visit the website at https://institute-dov.org/new-course-coming-this-fall-ecclesial-nature-and-mission-of-theology/, contact Dr. John Gresham, Director of the Institute john.gresham@institute-dov.org or call 941-766-7334.

40 Days for Life Sept. 23-Nov. 1

The 40 Days for Life national fall campaign begins on Wednesday, Sept. 23, and runs until Sunday, Nov. 1. The Diocese of Venice will host this important peaceful prayer vigil at two locations, Sarasota and Fort Myers, seeking an end to abortion in the U.S. You can protect mothers and children by joining this worldwide mobilization to pray and fast for an end to abortion! The Sarasota vigil is 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily outside the regional headquarters of Planned Parenthood, 736 Central Ave. For details, contact Rich at 941-923-0752 or 40DFLSarasota@gmail.com and sign up at 40daysforlife.com/Sarasota. The Fort Myers vigil is 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 6418 Commerce Park Drive. Contact Paula and Rick at 40DaysforLifeFM@gmail.com or visit www.40DaysforLife.com/FortMyers. For additional information about Respect Life activities with the Diocese of Venice, please contact Jeanne Berdeaux at 941-374-1068 or Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org.

Virtual Laps For Life Sept. 12-Oct. 3

The Sarasota Laps For Life is going Virtual for 2020! Join the Knights of Columbus of the Sarasota and Bradenton area for this special cause by completing a timed distance of 5K (3.1 miles) in your neighborhood, park, or other favorite outdoor location, anytime between Sept. 12 and Oct. 3. Proceeds from Laps For Life benefit My Choice Pregnancy Center, a women’s health support center. Sign up and submit your results at ww.srqLapsForLife.net then tag us in your pictures at #SarasotaLapsForLife on Facebook and Instagram. Life is NOT cancelled: Be Safe, Go Virtual!

 

Night in Havana Gala Auction

The St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School “Night in Havana” Gala scheduled for Sept. 26 is now a Streamlined Virtual Event! You can place bids on auction items remotely to win beautiful gift baskets, gift certificates, and other fabulous items in a week-long bidding fun from Sept. 21 to Sept. 26. Please join in for this exciting event as together to help overcome the challenges of the pandemic while supporting this great school. For more information, please contact Dr. Dianne Fabii at 239-455-2262 or fabii@seseton.org. Mobile bidding registration can be found at www.qtego.net/qlink/celebrateseton2020.

Priesthood Sunday fundraiser

The Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women invites you to join in celebrating Priesthood Sunday, September 27, in a special and lasting way by supporting the VDCCW Seminarian Fund. Do this by sending the priests of your Parish a Vocation Fund “IN HONOR OF” card. Please remember that this is a gift that keeps on giving! The Diocese of Venice is educating 16 men in various seminaries. A donation of any amount will be a great help. The donation amount will not be revealed to the recipient. To take part, please send $1.00, plus your donation, payable to “VDCCW Vocation Fund” to Cornelia Zanetti, 5808 Gulf Drive, #204, Holmes Beach, FL 34217. Please email corniez@aol.com with any questions.

Diocesan Catholic schools get into swing of new year

A few rain showers, rainbows, a power outage, Mass, an eye on the tropics and thousands of students filing into the classrooms were just some of the highlights of the first week in the Diocese of Venice Catholic schools academic year.

Opening the schools amid a global Pandemic posed many challenges, but the comprehensive planning, hard work and the dedication of the staff at the Diocesan and local levels made the transition to in-person instruction proceed smoothly, explained Father John Belmonte, SJ, Superintendent of Catholic Education.

“It has been a great success,” Father Belmonte exclaimed. “We couldn’t be happier with how everything is going. There were typical first-week-of-school issues that were easily resolved.”

Students adapted to the new morning routines of temperature checks, and the need for lots of hand washing, social distancing as well as the wearing of face coverings. Whenever parents or students had concerns, faculty and staff were quick to provide answers with most questions focusing on the new policies implemented because of the pandemic.

Diocesan Catholic schools began instruction on Aug. 17, 2020, with more than 85 percent choosing in-classroom versus online options. Throughout the first week, Father Belmonte said many who first opted to learn from home have returned to school. At Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers about half of the 70 students who initially intended online instruction, returned to the school by the end of the first week.

Some of the morning car lines were impacted by rain which then brightened with sunshine and a rainbow, with a bonus double rainbow near Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota.

The opening of St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral was going well until a local power outage made the beginning of school on Aug. 20, 2020 exciting. Power was quickly restored and then everyone went to participate in the first Mass of the academic year. Parish Administrator Father Eduardo Coll celebrated Mass for the students, which was live streamed for the students who have chosen virtual instruction.

At St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, Our Lady of the Angels Chapel was opened for Adoration, something that is available throughout the day for students. The lunch period, which is usually in the student center, was spread throughout much of the campus to allow for spacing while students ate without their face coverings.

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota was creative in the classroom layout with some rooms utilizing half the desks for one group of students, and the other half for use by different students later in the day. Large tents were also set up during the week and will be used for academic or dining areas as needed.

With social distancing necessary, morning prayers have taken on a new look. At St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers, the teachers meet in the school courtyard, spread apart before going out to greet the incoming students. When students arrive in their classrooms, announcements and prayers are broadcast throughout the school and streamed live for those learning from home.

To learn more about Diocese of Venice Catholic schools, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/education.

Bishop celebrates outdoor Mass at university

The Ave Maria University 2020-2021 Academic Year opened with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Aug. 24, 2020.

Mass was celebrated outdoors on the Academic Mall in front of the Thomas & Shelby Prince Building, home of the St. Mother Teresa Museum, on the Feast of St. Bartholomew, an original Apostle who was brought to Jesus by the Apostle St. Philip.

As students and faculty spread out in the grass on the sunny and breezy evening, Bishop Dewane offered practical advice to the students on how they can follow a path which will allow them to grow closer to the Lord.

The advice from the Bishop included following the 10 Commandments, attend Mass, prayer to the Lord, and to engage in the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Combined, if they were to do these few things in their lives will help them to become more the man or woman of God they are called to be.

For example, “It isn’t about picking and choosing the Commandments you wish and dismissing the others; it is a guidepost on how to live your life,” Bishop Dewane continued. “You are also called to go to Mass because you are children of God. You need to be there.”

The Bishop suggested that they students could increase their prayer time when walking to class or when they are alone and calling upon the Holy Spirit to guide them. Finally, completing the Corporal Works of Mercy are done to serve others in a direct response to the call of Jesus, while the Spiritual Works will help sustain their Faith life.

Citing the daily reading from the Gospel of John 1:45-51, when St. Philip invited St. Bartholomew to meet Jesus, Bishop Dewane told the students that St. Bartholomew is an example of how one must respond to the Lord. “He recognized the Lord, proclaiming ‘you are the Son of God and King of Israel.’ Open your heart to the Lord. Recognize the Son of God.”

The students must also follow the example of St. Philip by inviting their friends to meet the Lord by attending Mass. “We are all called to be evangelists. We do this by the example in how we live your lives in celebration of Our Savior.”

At the conclusion of Mass, new Ave Maria University President Christopher P. Ice took an Oath of Fidelity and gave a Profession of Faith before Bishop Dewane and the entire school community.

Ice thanked Bishop Dewane afterwards for supporting the university and ensuring that the Sacraments would be made available during the fall semester.

“Thank you,” Ice concluded. “Your leadership and support is inspiring.”

News briefs for week of Aug. 24, 2020

New Parish DREs attend training session

Anne Chrzan, Diocese of Venice Director of Religious Education hosted a training session on Aug. 21, 2020 for new Parish directors at the Catholic Center in Venice. The seven new DRE’s have been with the Diocese for varying lengths of time, but the restrictions mandated by the COVID-19 Pandemic made meeting in person challenging. Previous sessions occurred through virtual meetings.  The meetings were intended to inform each of the new employees what is expected of them as they serve as part of their Parish, Diocese and Universal Church.

Neumann senior garners Key Club honor

Congratulations to Hector Fernandez, a senior at St. John Neumann Catholic High School, for being recognized by the Florida District of Key Club International with the “Leader of Leaders” award! Hector will serve as the Division 22 Lieutenant Governor for the 2020-21 school year and oversee the 11 Key Clubs in Collier County. He was chosen amongst the 72 other Lieutenant Governors from around the state to receive this award during their first Board Meeting with the Florida District.

VDCCW fundraiser supports seminarians

The Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women invites you to join them in celebrating Priesthood Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in a special and lasting way. Do this by sending the priests of your Parish a Vocation Fund “IN HONOR OF” card as proceeds will go toward the VDCCW Seminarian Fund. Please remember that this is a gift that keeps on giving! The Diocese of Venice is educating 16 men in various seminaries. A donation of any amount will be a great help. The donation amount will not be revealed to the recipient. To take part, please send $1.00, plus your donation, payable to “VDCCW Vocation Fund,“ to: Cornelia Zanetti, 5808 Gulf Drive, #204, Holmes Beach, FL 34217. Questions? Please email corniez@aol.com.

Virtual Laps For Life

The Sarasota Laps For Life is going Virtual for 2020! Join the Knights of Columbus of the Sarasota and Bradenton area for this special cause by completing a timed distance of 5K (3.1 miles) in your neighborhood, park, or other favorite outdoor location, anytime between Sept. 12 and Oct. 3, 2020. Proceeds from Laps For Life benefit My Choice Pregnancy Center, a women’s health support center. Sign up and submit your results at ww.srqLapsForLife.net then tag us in your pictures at #SarasotaLapsForLife on Facebook and Instagram. Life is NOT cancelled: Be Safe, Go Virtual!

Night in Havana Gala Auction

The St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School “Night in Havana” Gala scheduled for Sept. 26, 2020 is now a Streamlined Virtual Event! You can place bids on auction items remotely to win beautiful gift baskets, gift certificates, and other fabulous items in a week-long bidding fun Sept. 21-26. Please join us for this exciting event as together we overcome the challenges of the pandemic while supporting our great school. For more information, please contact Dr. Dianne Fabii at 239-455-2262 or fabii@seseton.org. Mobile bidding registration can be found at www.qtego.net/qlink/celebrateseton2020.

Online Directed Retreats at OLPH

During the current health crisis, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice offers online 3-day, 5-day, and 8-day retreats based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. In these online retreats, Father Mark Yavarone, OMV, or Father Lino Estadilla, OMV, trained spiritual directors, will meet with you for an hour each day via a link provided to help you to pray and to recognize how God is speaking to you. A Bible and journal should be available for your use. Participants will be emailed any additional materials needed as the retreat unfolds. The cost is: 3-day online retreat, $132.23; 5-day online retreat, $203.98; and 8-day online retreat, $306.48. All information will be confidential, and password protected. If you would like to participate in an online retreat, please email Denise Riley at riley@olph-retreat.org and a code will be provided for your online registration as well as an application. For planning purposes, please allow 7 days from your completed application until the beginning of your retreat.

St. Jude Food Pantry

The St. Jude Parish Food Pantry, 3930 17th St., Sarasota, is open and distributing food Wednesdays from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., following all social distancing protocols. Please bring an ID and do not exit your vehicle. Volunteers will load cars. Please call 941-955-3934 if you have any questions or visit: https://www.stjudesarasota.com/info/st-jude-food-pantry-schedule.

Wauchula Food Pantry

St. Michael Parish in Wauchula is home to a food pantry located at 408 Heard Bridge Road, Wauchula. The pantry has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 Pandemic response. To accommodate those who work, the food pantry is open Saturdays from 7:00 a.m. to 8:45 a.m.  If you need food at a different time or would like to support the efforts to assist the community, please call the Parish at 863-773-4089.

Diocesan Catholic Schools open

The first day for Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Venice was Aug. 17, 2020 and encompassed the usual mix of excitement, tears (children and parents) and reunions among friends. The necessary differences for the 2020-2021 Academic Year also included wellness checks, face coverings, hand washing and social distancing.

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Catholic Education, was present at the Incarnation carline and introduced himself to students and families wishing all a blessed year as a passing rain shower created a double rainbow over the school.

“Welcome back to school,” Father Belmonte said. “Thank you for choosing Incarnation, the best education for your child.”

Unlike previous opening days, parents were not allowed to escort the youngest children to the classroom, causing a few anxious moments. However, even the most upset student calmed as they took in the colorful surroundings of their new home.

At St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, Principal Deborah Suddarth was proud of the work her faculty and staff did to guarantee the opening of the school went smoothly. To ensure everyone is following and understanding the new rules, traffic patterns and other changes, St. Joseph, as with many other Diocesan Catholic schools, opted to split the opening over two or three days.

For example, the first day for each classroom included a group tour of the school and comprised of locating all hand sanitizing stations; finding and learning how to use the hands-free hand washing stations; locations of new hands-free drinking fountains; and practicing how to walk as a group standing six feet apart. To aide this process, decals of eagle claws are spaced in neat rows throughout the campus with inspirational messages to live by, such as: Pray, Learn, Give, Obey, Forgive, and more.

“It is a learning process for everyone, but the students will adapt quickly,” Suddarth said. “When the little ones came in, you could see behind the masks and in their eyes how excited everyone was to be back. This is a great day. I got two thumbs up from many of the young ones who said they were excited and ready for school.”

When asked, students were universally glad to be back after being out of the classroom since mid-March. All said they missed their friends and teachers.

Approximately 85 percent of Diocesan Catholic school students returned to in-classroom instruction while the balance have opted for synchronous at-home instruction. This means what is taught in the classroom is also accessible to students learning from home.

The new student cohort model implemented in the Diocesan Catholic schools keeps students in one classroom most of the day while teachers switch classes. This also limits large group interactions and will make it easier if quarantining is necessary.

With the need to maximize social distancing, each school is using its indoor and outdoor space differently. This includes smaller classroom sizes; individual desks versus shared desks; spreading out as much a practical; and instruction outside or in gymnasiums as needed. Where six feet of distance is not possible, face coverings are always required.

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