“Jesus, I trust in You”- Divine Mercy Sunday celebrated

The Second Sunday of Easter, or Divine Mercy Sunday, completes the Octave of Easter, a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the blessing of His continuing presence in our midst. The Gospel reading for Divine Mercy Sunday, April 7, 2024, recalls the encounter between St. Thomas (the doubting Apostle) and Jesus after the Resurrection.

Divine Mercy Sunday celebrates the mercy of Jesus as reminded to us by St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a religious sister who lived a humble life, to whom Jesus appeared. St. Faustina was born in Krakow, Poland and lived from 1905-1938. She was canonized by St. John Paul II in 2000, who at that time also declared the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. This celebration also honors St. Faustina’s vision of Jesus Christ, and His message of love and peace for the world.

St. Faustina wrote in her diary from private revelation that Jesus told her: “I want to grant a complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My Mercy (1109). The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion will obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment (699).”

The image of the Divine Mercy was created by St. Faustina who was told to paint the image of Jesus as she saw Him. The painting has the saying at the bottom: “Jesus, I Trust in You.” The rays emanating from the Sacred Heart of Jesus represent water (white) – which makes souls righteous — and blood (red) — which is the life of souls, Jesus told St. Faustina.

Many Parishes throughout the Diocese hold Divine Mercy services and several have novenas of prayer leading up to the Sunday. The popularity of Divine Mercy has been embraced by many diverse communities throughout the Diocese.

At St. Paul Parish in Arcadia, Divine Mercy Sunday included the traditional afternoon prayer service in English and Spanish. This included the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, a reflection from Father Pawel Kawalec, a recitation of the Divine Mercy Litany, singing of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and Solemn Benediction.

The prayer service concluded when the faithful were invited to come forward and venerate the image of Divine Mercy which adorns the wall to the right of the altar and was decorated with flowers.

Alicia Torres attended the Divine Mercy prayer service with her two children and said her prayers were focused on seeking help for family members who need to have Christ in their life more. “This day is about seeking Jesus’ Mercy for ourself and our family and the whole world.”

At St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples, the Divine Mercy celebration included a presentation by Sister Teresa de la Fuente, Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy (St. Faustina’s religious order).

Pope Francis, during the Regina Caeli on Divine Mercy Sunday, noted that the “fullness of life” comes not from the pursuit of transitory pleasure but is “realized in Jesus.”

In his address, Pope Francis drew upon the disciples, who were despondent and secluded in the Upper Room, “going through the most tragic moment in life,” to showcase how Christ’s coming to them was a deeply transformative moment, one that not only reveals His mercy but also promises a new life.

“The Risen One comes to them and shows them His wounds,” the Pope said. “They were the signs of suffering and pain, they could stir feelings of guilt, yet with Jesus they become channels of mercy and forgiveness.”


Diocesan Eucharistic Congress deepens faith, brings joy

4,400 youth and adults brought closer to the Lord

During the span of two days and three unique events, the Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Congress in Fort Myers was a massive success.

An estimated 4,400 (middle school students, youth and adults) participated from March 24 to March 25, 2023, at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center and Luminary Hotel on the Fort Myers riverfront.

Over the span of two days, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated twice (one for youth, one for adults), there were three Eucharistic Adorations (two outdoors for the younger participants and one indoors for the adults), and there was a 1,600-person strong public Eucharistic Procession in the streets of Fort Myers.

Additional high points included inspirational talks in both Spanish and English, live music, and fellowship as participants shared the beauty of our Catholic Faith, and its Sacraments, together.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane called for the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress as part of a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year revival of devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The U.S Bishops want the National Eucharistic Revival to serve as a reminder that Catholics around the world are raised to be aware of the transforming power and mercy of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist – the Source and Summit of the Faith.

“What a wonderful time to be together celebrating our Faith in the Most Holy Eucharist,” Bishop Dewane said at the opening of the main conference on Saturday morning, addressing both the English and Spanish language groups. “Let the Blessed Sacrament guide you, may you go forth in a deeper relationship with Our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

The Eucharistic Congress, with a theme “The Word Became Flesh,” encompassed several parts, including three unique sessions. The first was for 1,300 Diocesan Catholic middle school students; the second was a Youth Rally for 1,500 high-school aged teens (both on March 24); and the showcase event on March 25 was for 1,600 adults which featured special breakout sessions for men and women, and offerings in both English and Spanish.

The response to the Eucharistic Congress was enthusiastic with calls for this type of gathering to become an annual event.

“It was so glorious to be together for Christ,” said Amy Trask of St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers. “I can’t stop smiling. Everything was so wonderful!”

The public Eucharistic Procession circled the Luminary Hotel and stretched around the block as people prayed and sang while curious onlookers took photos, videos and asked questions about what was taking place.

“It was so great to be a part of such a public display of our faith,” said Joanne Collins of St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. “It gave me goosebumps to be with everyone, accompanied by Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.”

Rosalia Hernandez of St. Paul Parish in Arcadia loved the entire day, from the message of the speakers to the procession and closing Mass.

“Beautiful,” Hernandez said. “I was brought to tears during adoration with everyone silently together in the room coming from the procession and properly honoring Our Lord as He was displayed before us in that beautiful monstrance. I will never forget this day.”

The inspirational talks throughout the Eucharistic Congress were presented by several well-known Catholic speakers with offerings in English and Spanish.

First up on the English track was Father Donald Calloway, MIC, who was a keynote, spoke on “Conversion and the Holy Eucharist,” and then on “St. Joseph and the Eucharist.” Teresa Tomeo focused her talks on “Rediscovering the Eucharist on my Journey,” and on “Becoming a True Daughter of the King by Way of the Eucharist.” Mallory Smith spoke about a “Eucharistic Faith in a Broken World,”

Speaking to both the English and Spanish participants was Hector Molina who focused on “The Eucharist as a Sacrifice, Real Presence, and Holy Communion,” and then “Men of the Eucharist: Taken, Blessed, Broken & Given.”

Also speaking to the Spanish track, was Joel de Loera, who focused on “The Eucharist: Strength and Joy of the Family,” and then “Men as Spiritual Leaders and Defenders of the Faith.” Mary Ann Weisinger-Puig spoke on the topic, “This is My Body Given Up for You,” and then on “Drawing Close to Jesus in the Eucharist: Meditations on Sacred Art.” Meanwhile, Martha Fernandez-Sardina talked about “The Eucharist and the Feminine Genius.”

Each speaker offered the faithful the opportunity to become part of the greater National Eucharistic Revival and to leave with their hearts and minds aflame for the love of Jesus, His Catholic Church, and especially the Most Holy Eucharist.

For additional photos from the Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Congress, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/eucharistic-congress/.



High schoolers from Diocese rally to focus of the Lord

The superlatives from the 1,500 high school-aged Catholic teens who attended the Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Congress Youth Rally helped to best describe the day.

“Absolutely incredible!” “Amazing!” “Spiritual!” “Inspirational!” “Awesome!” “Powerful!” “Wonderful!” “Uplifting!” “Moving!” These are just some of the reactions from the teens who participated in the March 24, 2023, Youth Rally in Fort Myers.

The theme for the Eucharistic Congress was “The Word Became Flesh” (John 1:14), which served to remind the young women and men of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and that the Lord knows them and calls each by name to follow Him.

The evening Youth Rally was bracketed by two high points, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and an outdoor Eucharistic Adoration by candlelight in a neighboring amphitheater.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane said he was humbled by the presence of so many youth representing dozens of Parishes and each Diocesan Catholic high school.

“You have to know, the Lord works through you,” Bishop Dewane said. “You can be a sign for people. You have to know that you can’t just aimlessly fumble through life. The Lord prompts you in any number of positive ways. The Lord does that for you in a very powerful way, demonstrated by all of you being here. But, do you respond?””

When coming up with the National Eucharistic Revival (the impetus of the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress), the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wanted to encourage the faithful to devote time to getting to know better Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, the Bishop explained.

“It is in a precise way, in the Eucharist, the Lord is given to us, and we receive Him,” Bishop Dewane said. “We must have the strength to spend time in front of the Eucharist – in Adoration – to learn precisely what it is the Lord asks of you.”

“Put yourself in a relationship with Jesus Christ, through the Eucharist,” the Bishop continued. “It is Christ. It is His Body and Blood. It is His Real Presence! What better place to go and spend some time with the Lord? Let the strength that Jesus Christ is, Let His presence, in the Eucharist, fill your heart, fill your mind, fill your soul with His indication of what it is He wants from you and for you to do in your life.”

The Mass, was for the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, appropriately as the Blessed Virgin is known as Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

Organized by the Diocese Office of Evangelization, the day was filled with inspiring talks, worship music, opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and an outdoor Eucharistic Adoration.

Prior to the opening Mass, the youth were uplifted by the music of The Vigil Project, which also performed inspirational music during the outdoor adoration where the teens knelt in the dark, holding candles and reciting prayers. Bishop Dewane concluded the Eucharistic Adoration by leading everyone in reciting the Divine Praises.

The featured speaker was Father Timothy Anastos, one of only 50 Eucharistic Preachers in the U.S. He reminded the youth how the Eucharist reveals that Jesus wants to be close to each of us, delights in us for all of our flaws and uniqueness, and He wants to be helped by us in spreading His glory into the world.

“So often we can think that Jesus is really far away, He’s up in heaven, he doesn’t really care about us, He’s doubted us,” Father Anastos said. “But in the Eucharist, the Lord reveals Himself. He comes down to us. At every single Mass He is present in the tabernacle. He is there waiting for us. He is there. He will never abandon us. You will always have access to Him.”

After a dinner break, the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and breakout sessions took place. The youth were split into men and women sessions offered in English or Spanish. The men heard from Jimmy Mitchell and Joel de Loera, with a talk themed “Men as Defenders of the Faith.” Meanwhile the women heard a talk titled, “The Eucharist and Authentic Womanhood,” presented by Andrea Thomas and Mary Ann Weisinger-Puig.


The success of the day was apparent in the smiles and delight of the teens as they departed from the closing adoration with their friends preparing for their journey home.

“What can I say, but WOW! That was great! I wish all of my friends had been here. I want them all to experience something like this!” said one young lady before heading home from Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park. She was overcome with emotion during the adoration, being among so many other teens who thought about Jesus in the same way that she did.

Middle school students come together

In colorful shirts, students from each of the 12 Diocese of Venice middle schools gathered as one group for the first time to pray, to sing, to praise Jesus, and to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament.

The more than 1,000 middle school students were part of the kick-off event to the Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Congress on March 24, 2023, in Fort Myers.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was there to greet the students as they arrived and said a special effort was made to ensure the middle schoolers were a part of this important moment in the Diocese, this Eucharistic Congress. The Congress is itself part of the larger U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops three-year National Eucharistic Revival.

“I have a beautiful view (from the stage), standing here, knowing you are ready to open your hearts to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament,” Bishop Dewane said. “Each one of us here has an obligation to recognize the Eucharist, and to pray to the Lord in our life.”

In addition to music and inspirational speakers, the day concluded with an outdoor Eucharistic Adoration in the nearby amphitheater with live music by The Vigil Project.

There, the students, wearing their designated colored t-shirts were a sight to behold as they knelt in silence as the Blessed Sacrament was brought forward as music played in the background.

Bishop Dewane then led the closing Benediction, which included leading everyone in praying the Divine Praises.

“It was neat to see a bunch of students in other Catholic schools come together for a good message, love Jesus more through the Most Holy Eucharist,” said Cora, a student at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charlotte, who was impressed by the entire day.

Meanwhile, Blake, a student at Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota said, “I liked being there with my class to learn about everything.”

Students from other schools used words to describe their experience with phrases such as: “Fun!” “Cool!” “Awesome!” “Incredible!” “Great!”

One of the highlights for the students was seeing Shevin McCullough, of Studio 3:16, a multi-media Catholic curricular program promoting the Gospel and biblical themes to students in an engaging and relatable way.

McCullough, who has a popular social media channel geared toward middle school students, energized the students with music and key phrases to get the students excited about God, the Church and the Most Holy Eucharist. He used easy-to-remember tips to keep the youth focused on the Lord in their lives, specifically trust, honesty, prayer, and truth.

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese Superintendent of Catholic Education, opened by asking the students: “Do you love Jesus?” and the students responded with a resounding “Yes!” When asked “Do you love Our Lady?” the hall reveberated with a “Yes!” and finally they were asked “Do you love our Church?” and the hall boomed with “Yes!”

“That is what today is all about,” Father Belmonte said.

After hearing from McCullough, the students were split into smaller groups for breakout sessions. There they took part in a rotation of presentations, including: Catholic trivia; a talk from the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Diocese of Venice seminarians; and finally they heard from the Sister Servants of the Pierced Heart of Jesus and Mary of Miami.

The day also included hearing music and worship from The Vigil Project.

Earlier in the day, Bishop Dewane recognized an ongoing Devotional Project taking place this academic year in the Diocesan Catholic Schools. This project calls for an increased understanding of the Most Holy Eucharist, which has a component that encourages students to visit the Blessed Sacrament.

“So far, 50,073 is the number of times you and your classmates have visited the Blessed Sacrament in all of your schools,” the Bishop said. “I’m proud of that number, and I’m proud of you.”

Bishop Dewane said the students were “a late addition” to the Eucharistic Congress, but No. 1 in his book, as they were the first group to participate and the first to carry the power of what they learned about the Most Holy Eucharist forward in their daily life.

Diocesan Eucharistic Congress March 24-25

“A renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ”

Catholics around the world are raised to be aware of the transforming power and mercy of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist – the Source and Summit of the Faith.

To this end, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops developed National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year revival of devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The U.S Bishops believe that God wants to see a movement of Catholics across the United States, healed, converted, formed, and unified by an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist—and sent out in mission “for the life of the world.”

The response of Bishop Frank J. Dewane and the Diocese of Venice is to host a special Eucharistic Congress from March 24 to March 25, 2023, at the Conference Center and Luminary Hotel on the riverfront of downtown Fort Myers. (More details and registration can be found at https://dioceseofvenice.org/eucharistic-congress/.)

The Eucharistic Congress, with a theme “The Word Made Flesh,” will encompass several parts, including three unique sessions. The first is for Diocesan Catholic middle school students; the second part is a Youth Rally for high-school aged teens; and the showcase event is for adult men and women and features special breakout sessions in English and Spanish as well as for both genders.

“The Diocesan Eucharistic Congress is an opportunity for the faithful of the Diocese to come together as one to jointly rekindle a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist,” Bishop Dewane said. “This is a time to grow deeply in your faith, along with others from the Diocese, accompanied by Jesus Christ.”

Elements of the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress include a procession with the Eucharist in a public setting, a significant amount of time for Eucharistic Adoration, substantial availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, talks and catechesis on important matters of faith, and the Holy Mass with Bishop Dewane.

“This is an opportunity for Catholics to bring those things which usually happen behind closed doors, in our Parishes, out into the wide open with the larger community,” explained James Gontis, Diocesan Director of Evangelization.

The schedule for the Congress and line-up of internationally acclaimed speakers will provide each participant the opportunity to become part of the great National Eucharistic Revival.

Gontis said it is expected that those who attend the Congress – be it middle schoolers, high schoolers, or adults – will leave “with their hearts and minds aflame for the love of Jesus, His Catholic Church, and especially the Most Holy Eucharist. Don’t miss the grace!”

Being part of the National Eucharistic Revival and Diocesan Congress is an invitation to the faithful from God to go on a mission, grow in faith, and be compelling witnesses of our Jesus’ love.

Everyone is invited to be a part of this exciting journey as the timing of this movement and the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress come at a critical moment for the Universal Church. The National Eucharistic Revival explains, this effort comes now, because the Church needs healing, and the world needs the Church.

“Scandal, division, disease, doubt. The Church has withstood each of these throughout our very human history. But today we confront all of them, all at once. Our response in this moment is pivotal,” National Eucharistic Revival documents state. “In the midst of these roaring waves, Jesus is present, reminding us that He is more powerful than the storm. He desires to heal, renew, and unify the Church and the world.”

As Pope Francis has stated, each time we are present before the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ it is “a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ.”

Don’t let this opportunity pass you by!

For more information about the schedule, and to register for the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress on March 24-25, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/eucharistic-congress/.

Parishes participate in the National Night of Prayer for Life

On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the 33rd annual National Night of Prayer for Life took place within the Diocese of Venice at four Parishes.

The National Night of Prayer for Life is an effort to unite people across the country, establishing a bridge between the Solemnity and the Feast of St. Juan Diego, to protect our culture, our Church and our land. Participating Parishes included San Pedro in North Port, St. Agnes in Naples, St. James in Lake Placid, and Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles in Bradenton.

The faithful were encouraged to make reparations for all the lives lost in this nation to abortion and to pray that parents may be conscious of their calling as they share in God’s creative power. Prayers were also made that those who have acted against human life experience forgiveness.

The National Night of Prayer for Life includes adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the holy rosary, prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, silent prayer and hymns.

The goal is to be united with churches across the country in prayer to end abortion and restore God’s blessings of Life and Religious Liberty in America.

At San Pedro Parish in North Port, the prayer vigil was led by Deacon Richard Frohmiller and corresponded with overlapping times across the different times zones in the country between 9 p.m. through 1 a.m. The unifying time when all major times zones in the country participated was between midnight and 1 a.m. (9 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the west coast).

During the San Pedro vigil, the faithful were able to complete each of the Mysteries of the Rosary, participate in an Act of Consecration, prayers to St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Pius XII Prayer to Our Queen (reign Prayer).

Deacon Frohmiller said the importance of participating in the National Night of Prayer was not diminished by the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, but is actually now more important than ever as many states are focusing on allowing abortions until birth, and/or forcing more taxpayer funding for this evil act.

To learn more about abortion and respect life issues in general, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/respectlife.

Eucharistic Adoration brings one closer to Christ

The First Friday of September was a spiritually emotional day for Bonnie Coyle as it was the first time since March that she participated in Eucharistic Adoration.

Coyle has been a devotee of adoration for many years, finding great comfort in spending quiet time with the Lord in addition to attending Mass. The COVID-19 Pandemic physically separated her, and many others, from the Lord for an extended period and this distressed her greatly.

“I love coming to Mass, but adoration has always been special for me,” Coyle explained. “I just never realized how special it was and how much I would miss it when it wasn’t available. I was worried about coming back for health reasons, so I stayed away even longer. But I am back, and I feel a great relief to again be able to quietly pray before the Lord!”

Coyle was not alone, as many stayed for adoration on Sept. 4, 2020 following the Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice.

While public Mass resumed in the Diocese of Venice in late May, adoration followed more slowly as Parishes figured out the best way to do so while still ensuring health and safety protocols were being followed.

Instead of taking place in the Parish Chapel, the Mass and adoration at Our Lady of Lourdes took place in the main Church, thus allowing the 100 or so present plenty of space to participate in both without concern.

The Blessed Sacrament is carried in the back of a pickup truck as part of a vehicle procession from St. Michael Parish in Wauchula to nearby Missions on Sept. 29, 2020 in celebration of the fifth anniversary of the Perpetual Adoration Chapel.

At Parishes throughout the Diocese, the offering of Eucharistic Adoration has required some changes. Most parishes have designated days and times for adoration with many including the First Friday of each month. When possible, Parishes with small Adoration Chapels have created a reservation system for adorers.

The occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Perpetual Adoration Chapel at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula during the ongoing Pandemic led to a unique celebration Aug. 29, 2020.

Parish Administrator Father Oscar Mendoza Moya led a procession of vehicles, while riding in the bed of a pickup truck with the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance. The procession went from the Parish to Holy Child Mission in Bowling Green, then on to San Alfonso Mission in Zolfo Springs, before returning to the Parish. At each location, Father Moya offered a special blessing. The celebration concluded with a Mass of Thanksgiving in the main Church.

Lucinda Perez described the entire evening as amazing. “What a beautiful way to honor Jesus Christ and celebrate the Adoration Chapel and for the Parish and Missions to come together.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane encouraged the expansion and availability of Adoration in an Aug. 5, 2020 letter to the priests of the Diocese. “This will be of great help and consolation to the Faithful during these turbulent times, when the People of God long to be close to the Lord,” Bishop Dewane wrote.

Pope Francis is a strong proponent of participating in Eucharistic Adoration, describing it as a way of putting the Lord at the center of one’s life. The Holy Father includes adoration in many public celebrations. Most notably, on March 27, 2020 Pope Francis presided over the Eucharistic Adoration before he imparted the “Urbi et Orbi” blessing from outside St. Peter’s Basilica, before the empty square where he usually has the general audience.

Please contact your local Parish for the latest Eucharistic Adoration schedule.