News briefs for the week of May 4, 2020

Neumann delivers cheer to seniors

The leadership of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples spent two days on “Operations: Celebrate Our Seniors” delivering cheer from the school van to the homes of graduating seniors. Each student received their cap and gown, yard sign, a t-shirt and personalized cookie. If the seniors can’t come to school, the goal was to bring the school to them. Each senior was asked to sign a graduation poster as they received words of encouragement from the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco who run the school.


Online Bible Study LIVE beginning May 12

A Bible Study will be offered online through the Diocese of Venice Facebook Live on Tuesdays May 12 through July 28 using the program “Genesis to Jesus” from the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. Each session will begin at 2:00 p.m. Join by going to and simply watch the live-stream video on the page. You will also be able to type in your questions and comments in real-time to participate from your own home (you do not need to have a Facebook account to watch the video but you do need to have an account to comment and ask questions)!  With so much great Catholic content out there now, here is something you can participate in yourself!

Scam Alert targeting parishioners

It has once again been brought to the attention of the Diocese of Venice that parishioners have received text/email messages from people pretending to be priests and requesting donations in the form of gift cards and/or wire transfers. The messages often greet the person by name and have the priests name in the closing signature of the message; this is a well-crafted and targeted attack on the Church across the country which has hit our Diocese again. These text/email messages are ‘spoofed’ fakes that should not be responded to or taken seriously by anyone. The best defense against this sort of scam is to raise awareness in the community and not respond or open any worrying attachments. It is Diocesan policy that no priest or staff within the Diocese request donations in the form of gift cards, PayPal, MoneyGram, etc

There is already an established process in place on how parishioners can make donations and participate in the life of the Parish. Whenever a parishioner is worried about any request for money from the parish or a priest, they should immediately call their parish and under no circumstances should they respond to these scam requests.

Year of St. Joseph resources online

On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, Bishop Frank J. Dewane consecrated the Diocese of Venice to the care and protection of Saint Joseph in the context of the Coronavirus and announced a “Year of St. Joseph” beginning March 19, 2020 through March 19, 2021.  St. Joseph is the Patron Saint of the Universal Church, fathers, workers and the sick and dying. A number of resources, including a Novena to St. Joseph, have been made available on the Diocesan website –

Bradenton Food Pantry

The St. Joseph Parish Food Pantry, 2704 33rd Ave. W., Bradenton, is open and distributing food from 9 a.m. to noon Monday-Friday, 5-7 p.m. Wednesdays, following all social distancing protocols. Cars will be directed through the parking lot and trunks will be loaded by volunteers in protective gloves and masks. Call 941-756-3732 if you have any questions. You do not need to be a regular client to receive food. To make a donation of money or food, please visit

Music lessons continue

St. Francis Xavier Catholic School first grade student learns to play an instrument with the virtual assistance of Music Teacher Jeffery Jodice using ‘Google Meet’ in Fort Myers.

Graduating seniors given hope

The graduating seniors at the Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Venice have experienced a turbulent final few months before they head off to college in the fall.

The coronavirus pandemic forced their Spring Break to be spoiled, then when they returned from two weeks away from the classroom, they didn’t physically return to their respective campus for in-classroom learning but instead began distance learning.

For the senior classes at Cardinal Mooney in Sarasota, Bishop Verot in Fort Myers, St. John Neumann in Naples, and the Donahue Academy in Ave Maria, some of the best parts of being a senior – prom, senior class trips, awards banquets, Baccalaureate Mass and finally graduation – were impacted.

These events were first postponed when it was hoped that in-class schooling could resume in early May, and then cancelled when it was announced that distance learning would continue through the end of the academic year.

While it seemed that all hope was lost that the seniors would miss out on everything, the respective school leaders have been working behind-the-scenes to find alternative, albeit tentative, solutions.

Diocese of Venice Interim Superintendent of Schools Ben Hopper, who is also Principal at Cardinal Mooney, explained that each school is working on a plan to hold traditional graduation events – Baccalaureate Mass, awards banquet, graduation, and possibly even prom – sometime in July.

“Although the Class of 2020 had many of its events postponed or canceled this spring, we wanted to acknowledge all of their hard work for the past four years, and we believe that they will be stronger for having to deal with so much change,” Hopper said. “We have been working behind the scenes trying to make sure that we can all celebrate their graduation at a later date.”

Dates for events for Cardinal Mooney and Bishop Verot seniors have been tentatively announced, while the Neumann and Donahue Academy events are still in the planning stages. Everything being planned for July is in the preliminary stages and will be conducted following all state and CDC health and safety guidelines. Of course, the events are all subject to postponement based upon health and safety conditions at the time.

In the meantime, the schools are celebrating their seniors in special ways.

On April 17, there was a Bishop Verot Live event for Seniors in which the school turned on the Stadium lights for 20 minutes and had a video with pictures and shout outs to the Class of 2020.

Cardinal Mooney “planted” graduation signs in the yards of graduating seniors, letting them know Mooney is proud of their achievements since schools will conclude the academic year with virtual instruction. The Mooney Class of 2020 comprises 133 students living in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, and DeSoto counties.

Bishop Verot delivered personalized signs to every senior, along with their caps and gowns, on April 24. Neuman was scheduled to do so on April 30.

Schools briefs week of April 27

Happy to see the teacher

St. Martha Catholic School teacher Jane Greenamoyer recently delivered Learning Packets to her kindergartners. The students were excited to see her as she was greeted from afar by her students and their parents. One student even wrote in chalk on the driveway of their home “Thank You! Mrs. Greenamoyer!”

Art projects reflect masters

Art students at two Diocesan Catholic schools were recently tasked with a fun distance learning project: recreate a work of art using props from home. The AP Art History class at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers and the fifth through eighth graders at St. Ann Catholic School in Naples, were into the creative spirit of the projects and the results were impressive.


Verot senior builds signs to encourage others

Bishop Verot Catholic High School Senior Christian Kearns has been using his time away from school in Fort Myers to encourage others. The words Faith, Hope, and Love on the corner of McGregor and Colonial Boulevards were designed, cut, painted, and delivered by Christian.

Teacher in the spotlight

St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples has been highlighting the work of its teachers to share with the community is an online effort called “Teachers in the Spotlight.” One recent example showed just how dedicated and committed the Seton teachers are to stay connected to their students. One of the families in Naples does not have Wi-Fi at their home which presents many difficulties during this time of Distance Learning. To help this family, 2nd grade teacher Dolores Martin travels to her student’s home to drop off packets with assignments and needed materials. She drove over on a Sunday (April 19, 2020), to give a weekly spelling assessment in the student’s driveway. Talk about going the extra mile to help your student.

News briefs from around the Diocese the week of April 20

Diocese to continue distance learning through end of academic year

The Diocese of Venice will continue virtual instruction for PreK-12 schools through the end of the current school year. Ben Hopper, Diocese Interim Superintendent of Catholic Education, sent a letter to Diocesan Catholic school families on April 20, 2020, announcing the extension of distance learning, which began March 30 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. “We are so pleased with the efforts and achievement of our students and teachers during this time of e-learning,” Hopper wrote. “WE are also grateful for the ongoing support of our pastors, administrators and parents. There have been some challenges along the way, but our teachers and schools remain committed to working with you and your students to overcome these issues.” Additional details regarding graduations and other events at schools are being evaluated at each school and will be announced in the coming week.

Neumann juniors help at risk students

When the pandemic closed everything, St. John Neumann Catholic High School Juniors Tyler Stamerro and Hector Fernandez sat down to discuss the future of the Fernandez Stamerro Foundation for At Risk Students, which they had formed themselves last year. Through their foundation, they have accomplished over 50 hours of tutoring and assistance to students. They realized that with the closure of schools, many of the students in they help in Naples who rely on the public-school lunch program wouldn’t have access to their meals. Tyler and Hector then reached out to a local restaurant, Sophia’s Ristorante Italiano, to help them make a difference! With the generous help of owner Jay Cherr, they were able to donate 200 meals to the Boys and Girls Club of Collier County! Way to go, Celtics!

Bradenton Food Pantry

The St. Joseph Parish Food Pantry, 2704 33rd Ave. W., Bradenton, is open and distributing food 9:00 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, and 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Wednesdays, following all social distancing protocols. Cars will be directed through the parking lot and trunks will be loaded by volunteers in protective gloves and masks. Call if you have any questions 941-756-3732. You do not need to be a regular client to receive food. To make a donation of money or food, please visit

Naples school virtual retreat yields letters

The St. John Neumann Catholic High School Y.A.C.H.T. Club (Youth and Christ Helping Together) students hosted a virtual retreat for their peers Holy Thursday and Good Friday. This retreat, which included prayer and adoration, was opened to non-students as well. The virtual retreat students wrote more than 20 letters to send to hospitals thanking local medical personnel for their service during this time! The mission of the YACHT Club is to invite all students to the fullness of Christ’s love through service to others.

Making an appeal for others

St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers is collecting canned goods, which will be donated to local food pantries, from parishioners who have extra so as to help others less fortunate. With grocery stores restocking and some realizing they may have bought too much, the appeal comes at a time when thousands were unexpectedly thrown out of work and the demand for food is high. To learn more about the need, please visit

News briefs for Week of April 13 2020

Mass for Victims of Child Abuse

April is Child Abuse Awareness Prevention Month, and in conjunction with the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Diocese of Venice has held a Mass for Victims of Child Abuse for the past 12 years. The Mass this year will be celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane via a live stream at 9:15 a.m. on April 21 from the Catholic Center.

Parish connects with faithful through Blessed Sacrament

With Mass suspended until further notice, priests across the Diocese of Venice have struggled to remain connected to the faithful. Father Bob Kantor, Pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Naples, chose to bless the Parish with the Blessed Sacrament.

Following the live streaming of the Palm Sunday liturgy, Father Kantor processed through the Parish grounds, pausing at key locations for a prayer and lifting the monstrance in a sign of the Cross blessing to the north, south, east and west. Stops included the Columbarium, the Prayer Garden, the main parking lot, and finally on the main walkway to the main entrance of the church.

“At each of the stops I prayed an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be and then asked our Lord to bring the healing that only He can give, praying a spontaneous prayer quietly,” Father Kantor wrote. Each stop included prayers for specific groups of people, such as seeking comfort and eternal peace for all those who have died from Covid-19 and consolation and peace for their families.

Holy Oils switched out

On Holy Saturday, Father Augustine Twum Obour, Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch, buries the Sacred oil remaining from last year, according to the guidelines for disposing of such oils, after they were replaced with newly blessed and consecrated oils during Holy Week. The oils were blessed and consecrated during the April 7, 2020, Chrism Mass at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. and is reloading with new Oil of the Infirmed in his travel containers.


Confessions while staying safe

Pallottine Father Fausto Stampiglia, Pastor of St. Martha Parish in Sarasota, is protected while waiting to hear confessions-by-appointment from a make-shift window in the offices of the Parish.

Parish recognizes medical professionals

St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Port Charlotte sits near two hospitals and shares a parking lot with one. Therefore, it was logical that a sign which reads: “God Bless All of Our Healthcare Professionals!” was placed at the entrance to the employee parking lot Bayfront Heath Port Charlotte. On the sign is an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary which shows a baby in the womb of Mary surrounded by a field of flowers.

Prayer continues at schools

St. Francis Xavier Catholic School students of third grade Teacher Debra Hawkins are still saying prayers to begin and end their days. The Fort Myers students are among thousands who are currently taking part in distance learning.

Verot students show school spirit – virtually

Bishop Verot Catholic High School students in Fort Myers were asked to share images of them wearing school colors on April 8, 2020, to show their school spirit. Images shared included students hard at work, lounging around and having fun.

Naples school hosts virtual retreat

The St. John Neumann Catholic High School Y.A.C.H.T. Club (Youth and Christ Helping Together) students hosted a virtual retreat for their peers Holy Thursday and Good Friday. This retreat, which included prayer and adoration, was opened to non-students as well. The mission of the YACHT Club is to invite all students to the fullness of Christ’s love through service to others.

Catholic Schools offering virtual tours

With Catholic school campuses closed, many are now offering new families an opportunity to “tour” their school through Virtual Open Houses. During these open houses, parents and students will be able to ask questions and interact with faculty and staff online and register for the upcoming school year. For a link to all of the Diocesan Catholics Schools, please visit

Virtual Stations of the Cross

Each year hundreds from two dozen churches in the Sarasota Ministerial Association take part in the Stations of the Cross in downtown Sarasota. This year, the outdoor event was cancelled due to the restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. However, representatives from the different churches and denominations created a virtual program. The video event included music and messages from different religious leaders, including remarks from Bishop Frank J. Dewane as well as other priests of the Diocese, all in celebration of the 14 “stations” that chronicle Christ’s crucifixion.

Year of St. Joseph proclaimed

Bishop Frank J. Dewane has announced that the Diocese of Venice will celebrate a “Year of St. Joseph” from March 19, 2020 to March 19, 2021.


Stained glass window at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven.

“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 said. “St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus Christ, is the Patriarch of the Universal Church. He is also guardian and protector of the Church and Her faithful. Therefore, I declare that the next year be a ‘Year of St. Joseph’ as we join in heartfelt prayer and devotion, encouraging all to take his life as our model for fulfilling our personal call to holiness.”

This “Year of St. Joseph” also coincides to commemorate the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph being solemnly declared Patron of the Catholic Church by Pope Pius IX in his decree Quemadmodum Deus.

“St. Joseph is a figure who lead by example, while also offering powerful prayer and protection,” Bishop Dewane said.

In the coming months there will be announcements as events are planned, as well as prayer petitions, and other items. A prayer card will also be distributed students in the Diocesan Catholic Schools, encouraging the students seek the intercession of St. Joseph to pray for all fathers.

Masses and special events will also take place at each of the locations in the Diocese named after the saint: St. Joseph Parish and Catholic School in Bradenton; St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven; San Jose Mission in Fort Myers and Campo San Jose Retreat Center in Lake Placid.

Distance learning off to strong start in Diocese

The terms virtual instruction and distance learning are becoming part of the lexicon of everyday language as the Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools joined the growing number of education institutions offering learning online.

Ben Hopper, Diocesan Interim Superintendent of Catholic Education, sent a letter to families of Catholic School students describing the exhilarating experience of getting both the teachers and the students prepared for the new learning experience which began on March 31, 2020.

“The enthusiasm and spirit of engagement was palpable,” Hopper wrote. “I am sure that there will need to be some adjustments along the way, but our teachers and students are resilient and willing to adapt as needed. Thank you for the love and support that you have given to our schools during this challenging time. Please be assured of our prayers and support in the coming weeks.”

Hopper expressed his gratitude to the students and families who were eager to learn in some new and exciting ways and to the talented people working in our schools.

He also thanked the students for waiting patiently to get back to learning; the teachers, who demonstrated incredible creativity, collegiality, and compassion as they have prepared for the resumption on instruction and for the weeks ahead; the school counselors and student support staff, for remaining positive source of support, love, and concern for our students, their families, and our teachers; the technology teachers and coordinators, who jumped right in to find resources, offer tech support, and be available; and finally to the administrators and their support staff, who worked day and night to ensure that the schools and teams were prepared to launch eLearning.

In the same letter, Hopper announced that in the wake of Gov. DeSantis’ March 30 announcement about public schools, all activities and classes on the campuses of the Catholic schools throughout the Diocese will remain suspended through May 1, 2020. Diocesan schools will continue to deliver instruction through distance learning through this date.

The new distance learning provided the students and teachers an opportunity to be creative as everyone adapted to the new educational experience.

Computer screens were filled with smiling faces as students logged onto virtual classroom links. Teachers were creative in setting up their at-home classroom, some with backgrounds that were familiar, bulletin boards with calendars and announcements. Teachers of the youngest students were the most imaginative with colorful props to brighten and personalize the learning experience.

To include a reassuring component to the new experience, many of the schools provide a daily morning prayer service which includes the Pledge of Allegiance and announcements. The days are also structured just like a school day with breaks between classes, lunch and even time for exercise. Gym teachers have become inventive in encouraging their students to stay active from the confines of their home.

Before the classes began at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota, several of the teachers did a drive-by tour of student homes, waving from the car while students held up “We Miss You!” signs. This was a fun way to stay personally connected while remaining responsible.

Religious Education and School news briefs from the week of April 6

Religious Education resources online

Anne Chrzan, Diocesan Director of Religious Education, offers hope and comfort to those who feel cut off from teaching and practicing our Faith. She reminds us that no one is alone. Through phone, email, live streaming and social media, we can reconnect with the faithful and remain committed to serve others by serving our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For a detailed list of free and highly discounted online resources for catechetical leaders and families, visit and click on the link to the Coronavirus response page, where a link to a Schools & Coronavirus page is located.

Homemade cards for religious sisters

The Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco run St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples and use the teachings of St. John Bosco as the core basis for learning. Students are selected each year to attend retreats and leadership programs to help them learn the Salesian way.

Neumann Key Club students used their extended Spring Break to make homemade cards for the Salesian Sisters at the Provincial House in New Jersey. Hundreds of cards were created and were sent as a sign of gratitude and love during this time of uncertainty in the world. Many of the cards included key Salesian messages and Bible quotes, as well as many smiles and notes that the students in Naples were thinking of the religious sisters in New Jersey.

Tree planting going on

As with every Diocese of Venice Catholic School, the Donahue Academy of Ave Maria began distance learning in March. While there are no students on campus it was decided that this is the perfect time to install some big trees. The installation of the new trees planned months ago and they will provide needed shade for the students in the play area and be something for them to enjoy when in-school classes resume.




Students helping out at home

At St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota Teacher Sheila Coffey had her Math Class complete a survey about how they were helping at home during their extended Spring Break and now distance learning from home. The top responses included washing dishes, making their beds, helping to take care of pets, dusting, mopping and cleaning. “We’re very proud of them for helping their parents and doing their schoolwork!”

Bishop responds to pandemic crisis

Bishop Frank J. Dewane has been at the forefront in responding to the ever-evolving coronavirus pandemic within the 10-county Diocese of Venice.

The announcement to suspend all Masses and Parish activities effective March 20, and continuing through at least Easter, was the culmination of a series of meetings, conference calls and consultation from the priests of the Diocese and other advisors, while also following guidance from local, state and federal officials. The dramatic limitations of all public gatherings ultimately affected the decision to suspend Mass.

In a March 18 letter to the faithful, Bishop Dewane explained his decision noting that it “was made after prayer and discernment, as well as hearing from the priests and the Faithful.” The decision to suspend the Mass came several days after Bishop Dewane dispensed all of the obligation to attend Mass during the same period.

“This is acknowledged as a sacrifice for the Catholic Faithful, who have a great love for the Holy Eucharist and depend on the Most Blessed Sacrament for their spiritual lives,” the Bishop wrote in his letter. “Do recall that Faithful Catholics, throughout the history of the Church, have kept the faith alive through trying times. By prayer and devotion, as well as spiritual solidarity with each other, the life of faith continued to be a source of strength and perseverance during persecutions and other times of public crisis.  Tomorrow, on the Feast of St. Joseph, I will dedicate the Diocese of Venice to the care of the Foster Father of Jesus. Let us be united in prayer to St. Joseph for his intercession and protection.”

In the same March 18 letter, Bishop Dewane announced the suspension of all activities in Parishes, including events and religious education programs. Parish offices will have limited staff and it is requested that, when possible, business be conducted by phone or email. Funerals will be limited to immediate family only, weddings – if they cannot be postponed – are to have limited participation, and baptisms will only be celebrated in cases of emergency. Priests are required to take all necessary precautions, so the Anointing of the Sick is being limited to a genuine need for the dying. Diocesan Catholic Schools were placed on an extended Spring Break, returning to virtual learning beginning March 31 for the foreseeable future.

Bishop Dewane has called upon the priests to draw upon the Church’s rich tradition of prayer and devotion to ensure that the spiritual life of parishioners is nourished and remains vibrant through means which are prudently adapted to the current circumstances.

Leading the way, Bishop Dewane recorded a video message to the Faithful encouraging everyone to turn toward prayer. In addition, Mass has aired daily at 9:15 a.m., live from the Catholic Center in Venice, with the Bishop as the celebrant. This Mass in available through Facebook and links to this and many other resources are available through the Diocesan website.

Encouraged by the leadership of Bishop Dewane, most Parishes within the Diocese have begun to live stream the daily Mass on their websites and social media accounts. Many also responded to suggestions to begin offering the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation by car beginning March 21, and then late in the week of March 23, outdoor Communion was being offered at some Parishes.

Bishop Dewane also reassured the Faithful that the Diocese will continue to function and serve the community through the outreach of Catholic Charities and other ministries.

“Through prayer and trust be confident in the belief that God does not abandon us in times of peril, in fact, the Lord will draw us close and protect us,” Bishop Dewane said.

“Please continue to pray for everyone impacted by this pandemic – the sick, their caregivers, courageous medical personnel, and those reaching out in charity to help our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

“Seeking the intercessions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and in particular, her spouse, St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, pray for protection and guidance through these troubling times,” the Bishop continued. “Through the Word of the Lord, that is Sacred Scripture, it is possible to overcome fear and courageously face the challenging days ahead.”

Catholics Schools online education ramps up

An unexpected two-week Spring Break for the thousands of Catholic School students across the Diocese of Venice, because of the pandemic, caused a dramatic pivot to online learning.

Donahue Academy of Ave Maria began distance learning on March 24, 2020, for middle and high school students.

Ben Hopper, Diocesan Interim Superintendent of Catholic Education, working closely with Bishop Frank J. Dewane and the Diocesan School Board, acted decisively in early March when restrictions limiting gatherings larger than 10 people went into effect.

The first move came when the state extended a planned Spring Break scheduled to end March 20 to end March 30. It was decided that is was appropriate for Diocesan Catholic Schools, which had a long weekend, March 13-16, to turn the week into an early Spring Break and then to use the extra week to prepare to transition to online instruction.

This concept was reinforced when on-campus classes for all Florida schools were suspended until at least April 15.

Each Diocesan Catholic School provided students and families with specific details and expectations for the distance learning and virtual instruction.

St. Andrew Catholic School Math Teacher Thomas James prepares lessons for distance learning from his Cape Coral classroom.

Hopper noted in a March 19 letter announcing the extension of the campus closure that, “this is an ever-evolving situation” and updates would be provided as necessary.” He continued by noting “these actions were taken to ensure the safety of faculty, staff, students and families, which is always a top priority at Diocesan schools.”

“Our schools and their teachers have put in countless hours to ensure that we provide a rigorous Catholic education as we transition to distance learning,” Hopper said. “We have seen extraordinary collaboration and creativity from our faculty and administrators. The eagerness and excitement of our students and teachers are palpable.”

Acknowledging that there may be some anxiousness about the unknown of this transition, Hopper added “we will embrace this challenge as we do every day in our schools with an open mind, a willing heart, and a trusting soul.  We must believe, as it is written in Philippians 4:13, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.  Let the adventure begin.”

Hopper praised and thanked the teachers for their selfless service as they worked days, nights and even weekends to modify their lesson plans for fun and memorable virtual learning experiences. He also thanked the school staff and administrators for reallocating precious time and resources to effectively respond to the challenges. To aid in the transition from live classroom instruction to a distance learning environment, books, handouts and other learning material were collected for parents to pick up throughout the break.

Spring break was not yet over, but St. Joseph Catholic School 4th graders held a math review session March 27, 2020, with their teacher for online class practice! Reviewing mixed fractions with classmates was fun!

Teachers conducted a number of collaborative sessions to help create online lesson plans that adhere to the high academic standards and immersive interactive activities that our students enjoy, and parents expect. Sessions such as these took place throughout the Diocese, with each one developing an effective strategy to help students and teachers stay connected to their Catholic school community.

Hopper thanked parents, guardians and families for their patience, understanding and support during this transition. Finally, he added, “I thank the students for their courage and confidence to stand united in mind, body and spirit and for their willingness to learn in new and exciting ways.”

The upper grades of Donahue Academy of Ave Maria had a head start on the rest of the Diocesan schools by returning to the virtual classroom on March 23.  This occurred because the school Spring Break started earlier, allowing the faculty and staff the time needed to accomplish the necessary work and training for virtual learning.

One parent noted: “What Donahue is doing, having the classes in real time, live, is great. It allows the kids to get out of isolation and be with their classmates virtually, in real time. This is so much better than what Collier (County schools) is doing which is just posting assignments. Thank you. Everything has been so well organized and proactive also. Kudos to you and your staff! Thank you again!”

Stories from across the Diocese

The Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples review student submissions from a pandemic quarantine challenge from the comfort of their convent.

During the unexpected break, the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, which run St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, initiated an #sjnquarantinechallenge. Each day the Sisters will post a challenge for students to complete. Students were then asked to post themselves doing the challenge by 7 p.m. each day. Chosen winners will receive a $10 Amazon gift card and each participant for the day earned 10 points for their House.

This is important as Neumann is structured in a House system of student government, where students are assigned Houses at the beginning on the year. As the year progresses, they can earn points for participation in a variety of activities. The first challenge was to post a video of themselves doing an Irish jig in honor of St. Patrick’s Day or post a photo of where they are finding beauty in the midst of this uncertain time.

St. Mary Academy in Sarasota has a regular ceremony honoring its students as Rising Stars. The faculty and staff of the school for students with special learning needs decided that a cancelled ceremony was an excuse for a drive-by parade. Visits were made to students and the teacher-of-the-month.

This student from St. Ann Catholic High School in Naples dressed as a hero Publix worker and firefighter as part of an homeschool challenge during an extended Spring Break.

St. Ann Catholic School in Naples encouraged students to participate in a Homeschool Spirit Week COVID-19 style. Each day students were encouraged to be creative, such a superhero day – when students were to dress as a hospital worker, first responder, grocery worker or other essential personnel. One dressed as a scientist, another dressed as a Publix employee and firefighter combined, and still another dressed as an anti-coronavirus, and much more.

These were just a few examples of the effort take on by the Diocese of Venice Education Department, as well as by the faculty and staff at the 15 schools who worked tirelessly to ensure that the quality education expected continues in the best way possible.