2021 to be busy across Diocese

Opportunities abound for the faithful of the Diocese of Venice to grow closer to the Lord as the new year begins while continuing to deal with the impacts of the global COVID-19 Pandemic. A variety of larger Diocesan events are scheduled or in the planning stages while at the same time numerous Parishes are in the process of either completing or starting major construction work. Therefore, 2021 is sure to be an exciting year for Catholics across Southwest Florida.

In the coming months there will be the Ordination to the Priesthood of two men, a new initiative to curb the impacts of pornography on society, small and large conferences, Masses for couples celebrating significant wedding anniversaries, opportunities to promote the sanctity of life, celebrations of all sorts, as well as the continuation of the “Year of St. Joseph.”

With the blessing of Bishop Frank J. Dewane, such activities will take place throughout the Diocese as part of the continuing effort to emerge with a new purpose in the wake of the darkest days of the Pandemic. All of this will be done while following the guidelines of social distancing, face coverings and extensive sanitizing (cleaning) which continues to take place. These measures remain, not only to ensure the safety of the public attending Mass or other events, but for priests, staff and volunteers who serve throughout the Diocese.

Two of the most important occasions to grow in the Faith are the annual Women’s and Men’s Conferences at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. Each year captivating speakers help bring focus to the faith-life of participants. The Conferences are from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and include Mass with Bishop Dewane, Adoration, the chance for Confession, listening to presenters and enjoying lunch. The Men’s Conference is Feb. 20, 2021, while the Women’s Conference is March 13, 2021. For more information please contact the Office of Evangelization at evangelization@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543..

For all couples celebrating a significant wedding anniversary in 2021, Bishop Dewane will be the celebrant of Masses in your honor. This year, to allow for appropriate social distancing, each location will have two Masses, 10 a.m. and noon on Feb. 6, 2021, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice, and 10 a.m. and noon on March 6, 2021, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. All registration is being handled through local Parishes with seating commitments confirmed at least one week before the Mass you wish to attend.

The Office of Respect Life will be busy throughout 2021 with a variety of in-person and virtual activities all to raise awareness about important issues regarding the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. First up is the 23rd annual Sarasota Prayer Walk for Life on Jan. 22, 2021 outside of the Planned Parenthood in downtown Sarasota. Bishop Dewane will celebrate Mass at 8:30 a.m. at St. Martha Parish, and immediately following, participants will gather for the prayer walk. Space is limited for Mass, so registration is required at www.dioceseofvenice.org/2021prayerwalk. The Mass will be livestreamed through the Diocesan Facebook page and will be shared with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s 9 Days for Life campaign.

Two weeks later, Feb. 2-3, 2021, the faithful will be able to participate in the Virtual Catholic Days at the Capitol courtesy of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops at flaccb.org/cdac. Finally, there will be an opportunity to participate in the national 40 Days for Life Spring Campaign during Lent in Fort Myers and Sarasota then for the Fall Campaign (October) at multiple locations in the Diocese.

New this year, the Diocese will be participating in Safe Haven Sunday, March 7, 2021, to raise awareness about the harmfulness of pornography in the family and society. Pornography creates unsafe environments for children and confuses others about attitudes towards sex and marriage. It is a moral issue, therefore this day of awareness will explain the impacts pornography can have on marriages, families, and culture, while providing helpful resources for all. Detailed information will be shared with the faithful about how to combat this scourge in the week leading up to Safe Haven Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Diocese continues to be dedicated to celebrating the “Year of St. Joseph,” which began on March 19, 2020, the Feast of St. Joseph. The prayers of the Diocese, as directed by Bishop Dewane, are focused on the Saint who is the foster-father of Jesus and the Protector of the Universal Church. In light of Pope Francis recently dedicating a “Year of St. Joseph,” the Diocesan celebration will continue through December 8, 2021. A “Year of St. Joseph,” webpage (https://dioceseofvenice.org/a-year-of-st-joseph/) was added to the Diocesan website for prayers, devotions and general information. Meanwhile, the Diocesan Department of Catholic Education started a St. Joseph Devotional Project to promote a dedication to the Saint while at the same time developing a devotional life of both children and adults into 2021.

In the coming months, Bishop Dewane will preside over a variety of celebrations which occur each year, including the Rite of Election in February when Bishop Dewane welcomes those in RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) who will be fully entering the Church at the Easter Vigil, a Mass for Victims of Abuse, and later in the year a Veterans Day Mass, the 25th anniversary celebration of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center, a Red Mass for legal professionals and more. It is also expected that two men will be Ordained to the Priesthood by the Bishop in early summer.

Throughout 2021 there will be a variety of Parish-based celebrations to include the 50th Anniversary of the founding of San Marco Parish on March Island; the opening of a new church for St. Paul Parish in Arcadia; the completion of roof repairs for Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish in Bradenton; groundbreakings for Parish Centers at St. William Parish in Naples and Our Lady of Mercy in Boca Grande; the renovation of property that previously functioned churches into Parish Centers at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee and Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch; and the completion of extensive audio-visual upgrades to Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers. These are just samples of the ongoing projects and work underway to support Parishes as they take action now for the benefit of future generations.

As 2021 moves forward, check the Diocesan website (www.dioceseofvenice.org) frequently for information about these and other upcoming events. As always, check the weekly Florida Catholic e-Edition to read stories and view images from these and other happenings across the Diocese. If you would like to read the story about life in the Diocese during 2020, please visit www. https://dioceseofvenice.org/looking-back-on-turbulent-2020/.

 

News briefs for the week of Jan. 15, 2020

Fort Myers school installs new floors

Thanks to the contributions of generous donors, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers recently started implementing Phase 2 of its “Health and Safety Initiatives.” During the Christmas break carpet was replaced in seven Middle School classrooms, with laminate wood floors. In addition, the school added flexible classroom furniture which support collaborative learning within recommended social distancing parameters.

All-school Mass held for high schoolers in Fort Myers

The entire student body of Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers gathered for Mass in the Viking Stadium on Jan. 6, 2021, the Feast of the Epiphany. The outdoor Mass, with students sitting in the stands or on the football field, was the first time all students were able to gather together for Mass since the start of the Academic Year. Previous Masses had been divided by classes or grades, due to the need for social distancing. During the Mass, students took time to remember Joe Ilnitzki, an English teacher, who joined the faculty in the fall and died during the Christmas break.

Knights collect shoes and socks for homeless vets

The Knights of Columbus Council 11425 of St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers had a successful Shows and Socks for Homeless Veterans drive. This was the fourth such annual collection, which brought in more than 200 pairs of shoes and 500 pairs of socks and will be distributed to area agencies which support homeless veterans. Socks are one of most requested items for the homeless.

Students plant and maintain garden

Returning from Christmas vacation, second graders from Ms. Binky Ravazzoli’s class at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota worked hard on Jan. 6, 2021, assisting in the cleaning of the school Garden Beds and in planting new lettuce, beans, corn, carrots and rosemary. The fresh herbs and vegetables from the garden are eaten by the students throughout the year. The garden is also used as a hands-on learning tool to teach environmental awareness while having the responsibility of maintaining and later benefitting from their hard work.

Catholic Charities Ball Feb. 13

Please join us Feb. 13, 2021, for an elegant evening at one of Sarasota’s beautiful Jewels on the Bay, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. Bring your valentine to an elegant evening featuring exquisite cuisine and wine pairing by Michael’s on East. The beautiful and unique setting of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens reminds us that, despite this pandemic, we are surrounded by God’s majesty and Mother Nature’s glory. The event begins at 6 p.m. with cocktails. Tickets are $350 with a limit of 150 guests. For more information call 941-909-7817 or email hilles.hughes@catholiccharitiesdov.org.

Faith & Wine Lee County Virtual Event Jan. 21

Faith & Wine of Lee County will hold its next Virtual Zoom Event at 7 p.m., Jan. 21, 2021. The guest speaker is Kitty Cleveland on the topic “Beloved: Finding My Identity in Christ.” Registration is now open for this free event at faithandwineleecounty.com.

Dispensation

As Bishop Frank J. Dewane continues to listen to public health data and hear from Priests and Parishioners about the experiences at Diocesan Parishes, the dispensation given to attend Sunday Mass has been extended indefinitely. At the same time, Bishop Dewane invites the Catholic Faithful who are able, to return to their Parish for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Please check the Diocese of Venice website for any updates.

Livestreaming

The Diocese of Venice will continue livestreaming the Mass through the Diocese website (www.dioceseofvenice.org) and Facebook pages from the Catholic Center in Venice at 9:15 a.m. daily as the dispensation to attend Mass remains.

Act of Spiritual Communion

It has long been a Catholic understanding that when circumstances prevent one from receiving Holy Communion, it is possible to make an Act of Spiritual Communion which is a source of grace. Spiritual Communion means uniting one’s self in prayer with Christ’s sacrifice and worshiping Him in His Body and Blood.

The most common reason for making an Act of Spiritual Communion is when a person cannot attend Mass, as is the case during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Acts of Spiritual Communion increase our desire to receive sacramental Communion and help us avoid the sins that would make us unable to receive Holy Communion worthily.

For all who will not be able to receive the Holy Eucharist in person, consider this special prayer, an Act of Spiritual Communion:

My Jesus,
I believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,

and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there

and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.
Amen.

Online Resources

A special coronavirus webpage is located on the Diocese of Venice website at www.dioceseofvenice.org. Resources include links to the Mass, the prayer for an Act of the Spiritual Communion, videos of the Stations of the Cross, Divine Mercy Chaplet and Pray the Rosary. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website, www.usccb.org, also posts the daily Mass readings.

Parish donations

During this challenging time in the life and mission of the Diocese of Venice, our Parishes face increased risk of financial shortfalls due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and its effects on everyday life. Parishes depend on weekly financial gifts to continue their ministries, especially in this critical time of crisis. The Diocese of Venice is providing an online platform and encourages the Faithful to support their Parish. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/ways-to-give/parish-donations-online/ to donate to your Parish. The Faithful may also contribute through usual channels (e.g., envelopes, and through the Parish online giving option). Together we will navigate through this crisis, provide assistance to those in need, and secure the road ahead for the Parishes within the Diocese of Venice.

Looking back on turbulent 2020

Blessings and joy, which come with each New Year, offer the opportunity to reflect upon what has passed in the previous year with a new perspective.

While 2020 was filled with challenges, suffering and sadness from the impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic, it was also a time of amazing kindness, compassion and an opportunity for spiritual renewal as the faithful found new ways to grow closer to the Lord.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane guided the Diocese of Venice initially through the normal busy times of seasonal activities in the first two months of 2020 before quickly adapting to and addressing the changing realities of the Pandemic and its impact on the faithful for the balance of the year.

Parishes ceased operations temporarily and all reopened two months later under stringent health and safety guidelines. Livestreaming Masses, including with Bishop Dewane, became the norm and many are still available to this day.

The inability to gather physically Church impacted many, in particular the elderly, and efforts were made to reach out (via the mail, email, phone or socially distanced visits) to keep people connected. After Parishes were closed for public Mass on March 20, 2020, there were offerings of outdoor Sacrament of Reconciliation and Holy Communion, and, following the lead of Bishop Dewane, many offered a livestreamed Mass. The dispensation for the obligation to attend Sunday Mass for those who were ill, or fearful of illness, was extended into 2021.

While many events were cancelled during 2020, key Holy Week Masses were celebrated by Bishop Dewane and livestreamed from Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. Bishop Dewane expressed sadness of having these celebrations without the Faithful. In addition, many Diocesan offices, within their area of specialization, reached out with online programming and content which included prayers, devotions, links to information about saints and much more.

The nationwide shutdown threw many out of work creating a crisis, which Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. had never seen before, and responded with its full capacity. In addition to opening six emergency food pantries, Catholic Charities established hotlines to expedite the process of getting help (food, emergency funds or tele-mental health) for the community. From late March through December, Catholic Charities distributed more than 2 million pounds of food and helped more than 170,000 individuals. The generosity of the faithful shined forth during the crisis as requests for donations were answered.

When the restrictions caused by the Pandemic struck, the Diocese of Venice Prison Outreach quickly facilitated virtual access to Mass, which continued throughout the year. In addition, digital religious education programming and other materials on the teachings of the Catholic Church, were made available to prisoners statewide.

Following the lead of the State of Florida, Parishes reopened for public Mass on May 18, 2020. This was accomplished by implementing a variety of guidelines (social distancing, face coverings and extensive sanitizing) not only to ensure the safety of the public attending Mass, but for those priests, staff and volunteers who serve at the Parishes. All of those guidelines remain in effect.

Celebrations, which would have brought large crowds, together were held with all dignity and tradition respected while distancing precautions were taken. Included among these events were the Ordination to the Priesthood of Father Franckel Fils-Aime on June 27, 2020; the Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate for the Diocese of Venice of seven men on Aug. 15, 2020; and the Ordination to the Transitional Diaconate of Diocesan Seminarian Alexander Pince on Aug. 29, 2020.

Other liturgical celebrations by Bishop Dewane which were made available through a livestream included the Mass for Victims of Abuse, Veterans Day Mass, Red Mass for legal professionals and more.

The annual Diocesan Youth Rally was different from its usual gathering of nearly 2,000. On Nov. 14, 2020, about 100 gathered at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples to hear music, talks and then participate in Mass with Bishop Dewane. At the same time, youth joined virtually from 20 satellite locations across the Diocese.

Diocesan Catholic Schools closed for an extended Spring Break before classes resumed virtually in late March 2020 for the balance of the academic year as everyone adapted to the ever-changing situation.

All Diocesan Catholic Schools successfully reopened for the new 2020-2021 Academic Year in August to both in-classroom and online instruction, including a full slate of athletics. This was accomplished by using lessons learned in the spring, combined with the implementation of comprehensive health and safety protocols. The success of this effort is reflected in the reality that nearly 90 percent of all students are learning in the classroom.

Bishop Dewane declared a “Year of St. Joseph,” effective March 19, 2020, the Feast of St. Joseph, the Protector of the Universal Church. This happened to be the last day of public Masses before the temporary suspension. “Particularly in this time of uncertainty in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is appropriate to seek the intercessions of the saints for guidance and protection,” Bishop Dewane stated. It should be noted that Pope Francis declared a global “Year of St. Joseph” from Dec. 8, 2020 through Dec. 8, 2021. Considering this notice, Bishop Dewane extended the Diocesan year to conclude Dec. 8, 2021.

A “Year of St. Joseph,” page (https://dioceseofvenice.org/a-year-of-st-joseph/) was added to the Diocesan website so as to provide prayers, devotions and general information about the foster-father of Jesus. Meanwhile, in December 2020, the Diocesan Department of Catholic Education started a St. Joseph Devotional Project to promote a devotion to the saint while at the same time developing a devotional life of both children and adults.

Before the Pandemic, activities which took place as usual included: a Widows and Widowers Mass on Jan. 26, 2020; a Men’s Conference on Feb. 8, 2020; a Women’s Conference on Feb. 22, 2020; two Wedding Anniversary Masses in February; as well as a Prayer Walk for Life in January. Parish activities slowly restarted in August and have been adjusted to ensure the health and safety of all.

While 2020 brought great challenges to many, including to the Diocese of Venice, the Catholic Church remains strong and 2021 looks to be a time of celebration and hope.

Stay tuned to learn about the events of 2021 coming in the Jan. 15, 2021 edition of The Florida Catholic.

Catholic schools celebrate Christmas early in a variety of ways

The modern struggles facing all of society of trying to inject the Christmas spirit into the season dominated harrowing by COVID-19 Pandemic news, can be viewed in a microcosm at Diocese of Venice Catholic schools.

Appropriate time was taken out to have pre-Christmas festivities to ensure some light and festive moments took place in a socially distanced manner. At the same time, service projects took special meaning as items collected and distributed provided holiday cheer and kindness to others who may be alone or struggling this year.

St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School celebrated “The Reason for the Season” at an outdoor Family Christmas Event on Dec. 11, 2020. There was a live student nativity, Christmas story narration, student decorated Christmas tree, lights, hot chocolate, goodies and fellowship. Donated gifts were gathered under the Christmas tree, destined for children at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee.

St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota had students collect snacks and treats which were sent to military serving oversees in mid-December. Just before their holiday vacation, the youngest students participated in a special Christmas prayer service with religious songs before a large Nativity scene and concluded with a Christmas carol singalong. Meanwhile, some of the older students thought they were having a pop spelling quiz when instead the quiz papers became part of an outdoor “snowball” fight.’

Also taking place in Sarasota, the Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society collected new toys which students delivered just in time for Christmas to the pediatric ward of Manatee Memorial Hospital, Mothers Helping Mothers and Sarasota Memorial Hospital Center for Behavior Health. Stuffed animals were collected and delivered to the Sarasota Department of Children and Families. Meanwhile, the Cardinal Mooney students also provided gifts for the 60 residents of the Sunshine Meadows Nursing Home in Sarasota.

The students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School National Junior Honor Society in Fort Myers helped to organize the collection of more than 700 gifts as part of the annual St. Nicholas Gift Drive to benefit Catholic Charities of Lee County. Students, along with help from the Knights of Columbus, provided warm coats for children in Bonita Springs. The children. in pre-kindergarten. had a special visit from Mary, Joseph and the Three Wise Men as they learned about the Miracle of the Christ Child.

Meanwhile, at St. Ann Catholic School in Naples, a pajama dress-up day helped to collect new pajamas for local children. Early in December, the students received a visit from St. Nicholas for a view of Santa’s workshop as well as for fun and games.

Decorating is a big part of Christmas, so students at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral decorated their own “Christmas trees” in art class using various materials to create their tree and decorations.

Construction was on the minds of students at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton as they were asked to build their own crèche.

In lieu of in-person holiday concerts or presentations, many schools opted to pre-record performances and later shared the results for all to hear and see online.

News briefs for the week of Dec. 21, 2020

Bishop celebrates Mass for students in Bradenton

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for students at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton on Dec. 17, 2020. The fifth through eighth graders were present in the Church, while the younger students, and students who a learning virtually, participated via a livestream to ensure social distancing was maintained. Afterwards, the Bishop spoke to the eighth graders.

“A Seminarian Story” fourth installment available

The Diocese of Venice in Florida Office of Vocations launched a video series titled, “A Seminarian Story,” to celebrate the 16 Seminarians currently in formation. The first four videos have been released and more will follow approximately every few weeks. The most recent video is about Seminarian Juan Contreras who is doing formation at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. Developed with the assistance of the Diocese Communications Department, the goal of the series is to inspire others to follow in the path to the priesthood or religious life, as well as encourage the faithful to continue to support the seminarians as they continue their formation process at different seminaries. “A Seminarian Story” featuring Juan Contreras can be found at https://vimeo.com/456677189.

Last Bishop radio show of 2020 available

The December edition of the “Witnessing Faith with Bishop Dewane,” his monthly radio program on Relevant Radio, will be available to listen on at 8:30 a.m., Dec, 26. The show focuses upon reflections on the incredible year that was 2020 while at the same time looking forward to what is coming next in the Diocese of Venice in 2021. The December program is available at https://dioceseofvenice.org/our-bishop/relevant-radio-podcasts. You can also find links to previous broadcasts at the same location.

Students participate in “Hour of Code’

The week of Dec. 7-13, 2020, the students at St. Martha Catholic School participated in the “Hour of Code,” a national effort to make computer science fun and takes place annually during Computer Science Education Week. It started as a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify “code,” to show that anybody can learn the basics, and to broaden participation in the field of computer science. It has since become a worldwide effort to celebrate computer science, starting with one-hour coding activities but expanding to all sorts of community efforts. Participation in the “Hour of Code” is just one of many aspects of STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts, mathematics), which is part of the comprehensive education available in all Diocese of Venice Catholic schools.

Annual Mass for Catholic Haitian Community Jan. 1

The annual Mass celebrating the 217th anniversary of the independence of Haiti will take place at 2 p.m., Jan. 1, 2021, the Solemnity of Holy Mary, Mother of God, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. The Main Celebrant is Bishop Frank J. Dewane. There is ample seating available at the Parish with social distancing and masks required. A drive-thru dinner will follow in lieu of a reception. For more information, please contact Father Fritz Ligondé at 239-210-1018.

Televised Christmas Day Mass for the Homebound

The televised Christmas Day Mass for the Homebound, with Celebrant Bishop Frank J. Dewane, will air for a full hour on Christmas Day. For viewers in the northern portions of the Diocese (DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Manatee, and Sarasota counties), the Mass will air at 9:30 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee counties), the Mass will air at 8 a.m. on WFTX-TV (FOX-4). You will also be able to find the Christmas Day Mass on the Diocese of Venice website at www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass. Please check your cable provider for channel listings. Leaflet missals are available upon request by calling Gail Ardy at 941-486-4714 or by writing: TV Mass, Diocese of Venice, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285. For more information email ardy@dioceseofvenice.org.

Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal

The annual Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal is happening now through January. A donation to the 19th Annual Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal will give those struggling the means to move beyond their battles and strengthen our communities during these times of high unemployment and despair. During this season of sharing, please consider a contribution to Catholic Charities so we can continue to provide help, create hope, and serve all. Thank you for your giving spirit! To donate, please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org or mail a donation to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., 5824 Bee Ridge Road PMB 409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065.

Year of Saint Joseph

On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, in the context of the Coronavirus, consecrated the Diocese of Venice to the care and protection of St. Joseph. The Bishop announced a “Year of St. Joseph” beginning March 19, 2020. In light of Pope Francis recently dedicating a “Year of St. Joseph,” the Diocesan celebration will continue through Dec. 8, 2021. St. Joseph, often referred to as the Protector, can be our protector during this time of the pandemic. To pray a Novena to St. Joseph please visit the Year of St. Joseph webpage at https://dioceseofvenice.org/a-year-of-st-joseph/.

Dispensation

As Bishop Frank J. Dewane continues to listen to public health data and hear from Priests and Parishioners about the experiences at Diocesan Parishes, the dispensation given to attend Sunday Mass has been extended into 2021. At the same time, Bishop Dewane invites the Catholic Faithful who are able, to return to their Parish for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Please check the Diocese of Venice website for any updates.

St. Joseph Devotional Project begins in schools

Beginning on Dec. 7, 2020, Junior Catechists at each of the Diocesan primary Catholic schools began the task of sharing classroom lessons about St. Joseph and a Catholic devotion to him.

The Diocese Department of Catholic Education St. Joseph Devotional Project new initiative is intended to promote a devotion to the Saint while at the same time developing a devotional life of both children and adults. This project will also create leadership opportunities for students and faculty and cultivate the “Catholic School Culture” of classrooms, schools and the Diocese.

Regina Rettig, of St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, was selected as one of two Junior Catechists at her school. “When my teacher told me that she had chosen me to be the female Junior Catechist for Saint Joseph School, I was so delighted.”

Regina has been a student at St. Joseph for 10 years and is grateful to be able to give back to the school. “I am very glad that I can go teach others about St. Joseph and what a great saint he is and share my devotion with (my classmates). St. Joseph is an important Patron for our school because he is… watching over us and making sure that we do our best.”

The St. Joseph Devotional Project coincides with the ongoing “Year of St. Joseph” in the Diocese of Venice. Bishop Frank J. Dewane consecrated the Diocese to St. Joseph on March 19, 2020, in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese Superintendent of Catholic Education, said the consecration and “Year of St. Joseph” provided the ideal platform to introduce the devotion and begin developing a stronger Catholic culture in each of the Diocesan schools.

The foster-father of Jesus Christ, the Patriarch of the Universal Church, is an ideal saint to have a devotion, Father Belmonte explained. St. Joseph is also guardian and protector of the Church and Her Faithful. He is a figure who led by example, while also offering powerful prayer and protection.

The goal of the St. Joseph Devotional Project is to provide age-appropriate catechesis for students so that they can carry with them a life-long devotion to St. Joseph, Father added.

“This is not something students will just learn about for a few months, but we will build a devotion they will carry with them for a lifetime,” Father Belmonte continued. “When you teach students early on to have a devotion to St. Joseph, Our Lady or any other saint, the result is you gain a devotion to the Church.”

Each primary school selected two eighth grade Junior Catechists (boy and girl) to spearhead the devotion in the classroom. Training took place through a November Zoom virtual conference with Diocese Curriculum Specialist Jennifer Falestiny. The Junior Catechists started entering the classrooms the week of Dec. 7 to catechize their schoolmates with lessons. The pair will visit each classroom teaching about St. Joseph and promoting a Catholic devotion to him.

For the 12 weeks of the project, each week will have a new theme centered on the role of St. Joseph. The first week consisted of teaching about the saint and learning a Prayer to St. Joseph. Later themes include “Delight of Saints,” “Our Spiritual Father,” “Young Husband of Mary,” and more. This will build up to a March 19, 2021, Consecration Mass celebrated by Bishop Dewane. Still in the planning stages, the Mass will be livestreamed to each school to ensure total participation. The announcement by Pope Francis on Dec. 8, 2020, celebrating a “Year of St. Joseph” will be incorporated into the Devotional Project.

Meanwhile, each school will receive a custom plaque of the Most Chaste Heart of St. Joseph with the Child Jesus which are being custom made for the Diocese. Father Belmonte explained how the plaques will be made available for use and handled in the classroom before being permanently displayed at the schools after this project is completed.

An art contest, at the direction of the art teachers, will also focus on children creating their own artwork related to the Most Chaste Heart of St. Joseph. A friendly competition will showcase some of the works with prizes for the best works.

While this project is centered on primary school students, each Diocesan Catholic high school will incorporate pieces of the project into their curriculum.

Father Belmonte concluded that the St. Joseph Devotional Project is the beginning of what he plans to become annual devotions to be promoted at each of the Diocesan Catholic schools. “Our responsibility to our students is to promote a Catholic Culture in our schools. This is one way that is proven to work.”

Bishop to students: Advent a time to prepare

There is still plenty of time to prepare for the birth of Christ at Christmas as well as for His anticipated Second Coming. The Advent Season is an ideal opportunity to pray and ask Christ to help us in areas of life that need improving.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane shared this wisdom on Dec. 4, 2020, during Mass for students at St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring.

While the Church must look different during the Advent Season – with a wreath and purple the dominant color – the Bishop told the students that they need to be different in their hearts during this Season.

“You have to ask the Lord for mercy and healing,” Bishop Dewane said. “We have to have the belief in our lives that Jesus Christ will do for us what we need. This is done through prayer. We can all live a better life with the guidance and support of Jesus Christ.  We are asking Christ, through prayer, to help us in areas of our life where we need improvement. By praying, you remain faithful in Christ.”

The Bishop reminded the students that; as with any friendship, the more one communicates, the closer they will become. This is particularly true with one’s relationship with the Lord.

With that in mind, the Bishop challenged the students to call out to Jesus in prayer for direction and comfort as they prepare for Christmas and the Second Coming. “You need to pray more often. Can you do that this Advent Season?” An enthusiastic “Yes!!!” was the response.

This was the latest in a series of Masses Bishop Dewane is celebrating at Diocesan Catholic Schools. In a normal year, these Masses are focused on the beginning of the academic year, but Bishop Dewane told the students in Sebring that circumstances of the COVID-19 Pandemic forced his schedule to be altered.

“My visit is usually to encourage you in the coming year,” Bishop Dewane said. “However, it is an honor to be here during the Advent Season, when the Church Year begins, and we joyfully prepare for the arrival of Jesus Christ.”

News briefs for the week of Dec. 7, 2020

Retired priest dies

Father Arthur Schute, a retired priest who served as Director of Pastoral Care at Bon Secours – St. Joseph Hospital in Port Charlotte from 1997-2005, died Dec. 5, 2020 at the age of 78. Father Schute was ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 21, 1967 to the Archdiocese of Newark. He was a graduate of Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Following his retirement in 2005, he continued to assist at Parishes in Charlotte County and was living in the area at the time of his death. Funeral services will be 11 a.m., Dec. 12, 2020, St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Port Charlotte. Please pray for the repose of the soul of Father Schute and for consolation of his family.

Christmas Day Television Mass for the Homebound

The televised Christmas Day Mass for the Homebound with Celebrant Bishop Frank J. Dewane will air for a full hour on Christmas Day. For viewers in the northern portions of the Diocese (DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Manatee, and Sarasota counties), the Mass will air at 9:30 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee counties), the Mass will air at 8:00 a.m. on WFTX-TV (FOX-4). Please check your cable provider for channel listings. Leaflet missals are available upon request by calling Gail Ardy at 941-486-4714 or by writing: TV Mass, Diocese of Venice, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285. For more information email ardy@dioceseofvenice.org.

“A Seminarian Story” third installment available

The Diocese of Venice in Florida Office of Vocations recently launched a video series titled, “A Seminarian Story,” to celebrate the 16 Seminarians currently in formation. The first three videos have been released and more will follow approximately every two weeks. The most recent video is about Seminarian James Gates who is discerning his vocation at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. Developed with the assistance of the Diocese Communications Department, the goal of the series is to inspire others to follow in the path to the priesthood or religious life, as well as encourage the faithful to continue to support the seminarians as they continue their formation process at different seminaries. “A Seminarian Story” featuring James Gates can be found at https://vimeo.com/445659054.

Prayer vigil held to halt executions

Members of all five Charlotte County parishes participated in a prayer service on Nov. 30, 2020, outside Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda. The event commemorated the worldwide “Cities for Life, Cities Against the Death Penalty” annual observance. Special prayers and a rosary were offered for an end to the use of the death penalty, for all those on death row and for victims of violent crime.

Students help serve meals

Some 20 Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School students helped set up, serve, and breakdown the 20th Annual Sarasota Ministerial Association Feed the Homeless Thanksgiving Lunch on Nov. 25, 2020. This was the ninth year during which students from Cardinal Mooney volunteered.

Parish helps spread Christmas cheer

Our Lady of Light Parish hosted its annual Service Morning on Nov. 22, 2020 with families and children gathering to make Christmas cards to send overseas for our military as well as Christmas candy jars for local foster children.

Door decorating contest

Sister April Hoffman, a Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco, is seen with a student in front of a decorated door at St. John Neumann Catholic School in Naples on Dec. 3, 2020. The door are decorated for the holidays and part of a school-wide competition.

Mass at Dawn (Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo)

The Mass at Dawn will take place at 6:00 a.m., December 15 – 23, and at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, December 20 at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, 1441 Spear St., Port Charlotte. All are welcome to attend each day or when you are able. This Mass comes from the Catholic custom of gathering for celebration of the Eucharist in predawn hours in the nine days before Christmas. Masks are required. Please call 941-661-8335 for further information.

“What is Catholic Theology?”

The Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation is offering a 16-week online course starting Jan. 11, 2020 that introduces students to the principles, practices, and sources of Catholic Theology. The course “What is Catholic Theology? [Ecclesial Nature and Mission of Theology]” counts as a pre-requisite for those beginning the online MA Program in Theology and Christian Ministry at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Anyone interested in a graduate-level introduction to Catholic Theology is welcome to attend for a discounted price. The course is taught by Dr. John Gresham, Executive Director of the Institute, who brings 20 years of experience teaching at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, and Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. For more information, or to register for the course, visit the website of the Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation https://institute-dov.org/ and click on the link to COURSES. For other information, contact Dr. Gresham by email john.gresham@institute-dov.org or phone (941) 766-7334.

Help Your Parish

Parishes face increased risk of financial shortfalls due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and its effects on everyday life. Parishes depend on weekly financial gifts to continue their ministries, especially in this critical time of crisis. Please prayerfully consider an online donation to your parish by visiting https://dioceseofvenice.org/ways-to-give/parish-donations-online/. You may also contribute through your usual channels (e.g., envelopes, and through the Parish online giving option). Together we will navigate through this Pandemic, aid those in need, and secure the road ahead for the Parishes within the Diocese of Venice. Please continue to pray for the repose of the souls of those who have died from Coronavirus, for the recovery of the sick, for the strength of healthcare workers and caregivers, as well as for an end to this health crisis. Thank you for your generosity.

Do You Need Help?

If you need assistance from Catholic Charities for food, financial assistance, or tele-mental health counseling, please call the number for your area listed below between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday:

*  Sarasota/Manatee/DeSoto/Hardee/Highlands counties: 844-385-2407

*  Charlotte/Lee/Hendry/Glades counties: 844-385-2423

*  Collier County: 844-385-2404.

Generosity abounds leading to Thanksgiving

The generosity of the faithful, whether they are part of a Diocese of Venice Catholic School or Parish, knows no limits.

With many people struggling because of the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Thanksgiving for some seemed as if it could be without the basic needs of food on the table.

Food and fundraising drives at Diocesan Catholic Schools and Parishes, as well as through a variety of other organizations, stepped up to answer the call for help with a late season surge of food and monetary donations.

Students from St. John Neumann Catholic School in Naples held their annual Thanksgiving Food Drive for Catholic Charities and collected 4,837 cans. The students and faculty then delivered the items on Nov. 20, 2020 to the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center.

St. Columbkille Parish members of the Knights of Columbus delivered donated turkeys to St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven and then to St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston.

The St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton was also the beneficiary of the Knight of Columbus. The Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish Council donated money from the annual Msgr. Moretti Memorial Golf Tournament, which was used to purchase 100 frozen turkeys. Kindergarteners at St. Martha Catholic School also collected more than 200 pounds of food for the food pantry.

On Nov. 23, and 24, the St. Joseph Food Pantry loaded 1,500 frozen turkeys for families in need in lieu of the normal bag of food. The demand for food at the pantry has risen dramatically since the start of the Pandemic and thanks to donations like those from the Knights and Diocesan Catholic schools, there was enough to provide turkeys this year, ensuring everyone a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, St. William Parish in Naples is reaching out to those who are alone this Thanksgiving by calling parishioners during Thanksgiving week. These calls, to those added to a list of those who are alone, are to offer prayers and conversation; a human touch for those who remain necessarily isolated out of caution and concerns due to the Pandemic.

These are just a few of the examples of what took place in the Diocese of Venice leading up to Thanksgiving, showing that the faithful are filled with holiday spirit while also caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are less fortunate than ourselves.

Schools celebrate Thanksgiving

While some Catholic Schools focused on collecting food for others, students also learned about and did a variety of activities in celebration of the holiday before the break.

For example, at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice the pre-kindergarten-4 class learned about friendship, built a teepee, made Native American clothing and turned corn into popcorn. Fifth-grade students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers, had a Thanksgiving Day Balloon Parade! After reading “Balloons Over Broadway,” by Melissa Sweet, students were challenged to make their own balloon to fly in a class parade. Kindergarten students at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral celebrated Thanksgiving a little early on Nov. 17 with a classroom feast with all the trimmings.

Again, these are just a sampling of the many activities which took place at Diocesan Catholic School leading up to Thanksgiving.

Bishop celebrates Mass for students in Venice

The students at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice have an important homework assignment, one given by Bishop Frank J. Dewane during Mass on Nov. 20, 2020.

Bishop Dewane assigned the task of praying more. This, of course, includes the prayers said during Mass but to go beyond that. Prayer, the Bishop said, is a way to talk with the Lord, “Tell God what you are concerned about. Share your fears and worries. But also share what you are happy about and be sure to give thanks to the Lord so as to acknowledge the gifts you have been given by God.”

The Bishop stressed the importance of prayer as a way to grow closer to the Lord, particularly now, during the time of a global Pandemic.

“We need to be praying that the pandemic will come to an end,” Bishop Dewane added. “We need to pray for members of our family, our class, and our school that all will be kept safe from the Pandemic.”

While prayer in Church is easy, the challenge comes when one leaves the “Temple of the Lord.” This is why the Bishop explained that “with the presence of our souls and Jesus within us, we too are ‘Temples of the Lord.’ As we would give respect to the Lord to pray in His church, we also need to pray to the Lord out of respect for having created each one of us.”

After the Mass, there was a ceremony to induct students into the National Junior Honors Society. After which the Bishop spoke to the eighth graders and answered their questions.

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