Briefs for the week of June 2, 2023

Students meet pen-pals

During the school year, students at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton practice their writing and cursive skills by becoming pen-pals with a group from Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish. To celebrate, and to finally meet their pen pals, students enjoyed an end-of-year Cursive Party on May 25, 2023, at the school.

Sarasota Parish hosts men’s Emmaus retreat

St. Jude Parish in Sarasota hosted a men’s Emmaus retreat which concluded on Pentecost Sunday, May 28, 2023, with Mass celebrated by Pastor Father Celestino Gutiérrez. An Emmaus retreat consists of a weekend (Friday evening to Sunday afternoon) consisting of lay faithful who present personal testimonies and experiences. These presentations are shared with those attending the retreat. The testimonies and presentations portray a “new way of life” in the Lord, according to the Gospel of St. Luke: 24, 13-35; “The Road to Emmaus.” The ultimate goal of the retreat is an invitation for participants to seek God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit at all times in their life.

Scout cleans Naples school, upgrades prayer garden

The flower and vegetable garden at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples was in need of some help. An initial project for the garden renovation had fallen through, creating a perfect opportunity for 17-year-old, Kale Van Wart, a junior at St. John Neumann Catholic High School, to complete his Eagle Scout Project. Kale, son of Seton middle school Science teacher, Megan Van Wort, has been a scout since first grade. Completing an Eagle Scout service project would help him earn the highest achievement in the Scouts. A Seton parent assisted in the initial plans and layout for the garden and several other Seton families generously donated and delivered the needed materials. The renovation was no easy task, requiring a complete tear out of the old garden and relocation of existing memorial pavers to implement the new design. Kale worked five weekends to complete the project with over 24 hours of service. The new garden now includes a rosary walk surrounded by lovely placement of plants and flowers, creating a peaceful environment for students and staff to visit and pray. The prayer garden will be cared for by future Seton students as they learn about nature and growing plants and vegetables.



Emmaus leaders gather

The advisory council of Emmaus Retreats in the Diocese of Venice recently organized a daylong meeting for more than 100 Parish retreat leaders.

The meeting was Feb. 19, 2022, at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle, and the focus was on finding ways to reenergize the Emmaus Retreats within the Diocese of Venice in the wake of the global pandemic. Emmaus Retreats are offered in numerous Parishes and available in both English and Spanish.

The advisory council includes three spiritual directors – Father Jiobani Batista, Father Luis Pacheco, and Father Luis Albarracin – as well as 10 lay faithful. Meeting topics also included refresher presentations on “The vision and mission of Emmaus,” “What does Emmaus mean?” as well as updates on Diocesan regulations and guidelines. It has been more than two years since Emmaus retreat leadership met.

“We can truly say the day was filled with the love of God and the Holy Spirit,” said Diana De La Fuente, Diocesan Coordinator for Emmaus Retreats. “We shared discussions of how we can bring our groups back to the way we were prior to the pandemic. We have noticed a great reduction in participation in our groups and we all want to regain what we had before.”

As disciples of Jesus, the Emmaus Retreat provides an opportunity for lay faithful to bring the Word of God to others, so they too might recognize Jesus, experience burning in their hearts, and invite Jesus to stay with them and with their families (Lk 24: 32). Lay faithful present their personal experiences and offer a new way of life, an open invitation for participants to seek God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit at all times in their life.

“As we are now able to invite parishioners once again to experience for themselves this retreat, we are faithful that with the guidance of the Holy Spirit we will be able to foster Evangelization and faithful involvement in the life of the church in a very special and unique manner,” De La Fuente said.

The basis of the Emmaus Retreat is taken from Luke 24:13-35. This is an account of the profound encounter of Jesus with the two disciples on the road of Emmaus. In a similar way, retreatants are invited to enter into the same journey with its summit in the breaking of the bread. This experience offers participants the tools they need to return to their daily lives, with their hearts burning within them as they walk with the Risen Lord.

“With the help from our Lord, Jesus Christ, we are confident that we will be able to serve the Church as enthusiastically as this movement was prior to the pandemic,” De La Fuente said.

To learn more about Emmaus Retreats, please email

Hispanic Emmaus group holds gathering

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

For about 1,000 people a recent Sunday was spent growing and better rooting their love for the Lord while also gaining a profound sense of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

These were some of the things learned during the 2nd Diocese of Venice Congress of Emmaus (Emaus) which took place May 19 at the Lee Civic Center in North Fort Myers. The event, which was in Spanish, was for those who have completed an Emmaus weekend retreat in the past and served as an opportunity to renew and recapture the fire that grew in them during their first retreat.

It was during that retreat during where they learned a new way to live their life, as Jesus taught in the Gospel of Luke with a particular emphasis on the story about the Road to Emmaus.

“Beautiful!” “Amazing!” “Powerful” “I felt Christ’s love!” These were just some of the reactions of people as they finished a 10-hour day. Between the speakers, the music and the community that everyone felt, the day was a huge success. Many commented on how uplifting and unifying the day was, bringing them closer to Jesus Christ is ways they did not expect.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the closing Mass for the day and said he was very pleased to see such an enthusiastic group dedicating an entire day to growing closer to the Lord through the Blessed Sacrament.

The Bishop specifically credited the Diocesan Spiritual Directors for Hispanic Emmaus, Fathers Jiobani Batista, Luis Pacheco and Luis Albarracin, for their commitment in supporting the Emmaus retreats and for bringing everyone together for the gathering to celebrate the Lord in a special way.

Father Batista, Pastor of St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston, said the goal of the gathering was to inflame the participants with the miracle of Risen Lord as we continue our spiritual journey during this Easter Season.

“We also wanted to convey a renewed and deep devotion to the Eucharist,” Father Batista said. “After going on an Emmaus retreat, the powerful impact can fade over time. This gathering is a renewal so that everyone will carry this message and bring their excitement back to their parishes, spreading the message of the Lord to others.”

Each of the talks focused on the Eucharist. During the say, there was Eucharistic Adoration, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and music all building upon the theme. This led everyone toward the climatic conclusion of the day, the celebration of the Eucharist during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Speakers included Father Emilio Acevedo, Father Jose Asuncion Briones Barrientos, and Sister Maria Mercedez Rodriguez-Gomez, MHML, of St. Margaret Parish. Music was provided by the Custodia de Cristo and Son del Senor del Miami. The featured music was provided by Catholic singer-songwriter Jon Carlo.

The Emmaus retreat program is a Diocesan-approved retreat weekend that takes place three times a year in both English and Spanish. It’s open to all men and women ages 20 or older seeking to grow in their relationship with Christ regardless of their present level of faith and practice. The purpose of the weekend is to give adults the opportunity to reflect upon themselves, their relationship with God and their community.

The next full gathering of Emmaus retreatants will be April 25, 2020 at the Lee Civic Center. To learn more about Emmaus retreats across the Diocese, contact your local parish or email or