Religious Freedom Week 2020

The Feast of Ss. Thomas More and John Fisher on June 22, 2020 marks the start of Religious Freedom Week, a national call for all Catholics across the United States to pray, reflect and take action in support of Religious Liberty in our country and abroad.

It is appropriate that the week begins on such a day, as Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher are remembered for being martyred in 1535 for standing up for the Sanctity of Marriage and the Freedom of the Church in opposition to England’s King Henry VIII.

Continuing through the Solemnity of Sts. Peter & Paul the Apostles on June 29, 2020, Religious Freedom Week is a call by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to unite Catholics across the country to pray, reflect and take action on religious liberty, both here in this country and abroad. The theme for Religious Freedom Week 2020 is “For the Good of All.”

Religious Freedom was founded to allow people of Faith to serve others in God’s love through ministries like education, adoption and foster care, health care, as well as migration and refugee services.

During the week, the USCCB encourages the faithful to reflect upon the importance of religious freedom so that we can carry out our mission of service and mercy. Everyone is invited to pray for our brothers and sisters who face intense persecution in other parts of the world.

Throughout the Religious Freedom Week, we are called to follow Christ as missionary disciples by seeking the truth, serving others, and living our Faith in all that we do. A number of resources, including daily prayers, reflections as well as action items related to issues in the U.S. and abroad, can be found at the USCCB website at

In Catholic teaching, the Second Vatican Council declared in Dignitatis Humanae, No. 2, that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means all men/women are immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power. In such ways that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his/her own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

Religious Liberty is protected in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well as in federal and state laws and reaches beyond our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the rosary at home; it also encompasses our ability to contribute freely to the common good of all Americans.

To stay up-to-date on current religious freedom issues, sign up for text messages from the USCCB. It’s easy. Just text the word “FREEDOM” or “LIBERTAD” to 84576.

Prison Outreach adds new religious education component

A huge challenge faced the Diocese of Venice Prison Outreach when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) to limit outside contact with prisoners.

This limited contact to restriction of group gatherings in the prisons themselves for fear of the spread of virus. This left the men and women with no access to religious education programs or materials.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane speaks during a recorded Mass from the Santa Maria Chapel at Epiphan Cathedral in Venice on May 13, 2020, to be made available to inmates in state prisons.

Thanks to a cooperative effort between the Diocese of Venice and the FDOC, work has been done to facilitate a new virtual religious education program focused in support of the prisoners. This was facilitated by Diocesan Prison Outreach Co-Coordinators Bob Hiniker and Joe Mallof with the full support of Bishop Frank J. Dewane.

With no prisoner access to religious programs, Hiniker and Mallof reached out to Anne Chrzan, Diocese Director of Religious Education, seeking materials or courses that are in a format which can be uploaded onto individual tablets. Each state inmate is provided with a tablet through a program called JPAY which provides controlled access for content such as emails, video visitation and other services without wireless services.

This meant that any effort would have to be developed and uploads to the tablets through the FDOC. This religious education programming is part of a larger effort to increase access to Catholic content for prisoners in the state facilities during the pandemic and beyond.

Chzran explained that offering courses on the Catechism of the Catholic Church are a good first step in providing a strong foundation for growing in the Faith while the inmates have many hours of free time while confined in their cells.

“Each of the four pillars of the Catechism are being developed into short minicourses and uploaded onto the JPAY tablets for all Catholic inmates,” Chzran said. “These courses will provide the inmates with reading and reflection on scripture and prayer, sacraments, the Creed and morality. The first pillar of the Catechism, ‘Scripture and Prayer,’ has been developed over the past month and will be uploaded onto the JPAY tablets soon. “

An effort is being made to ensure these programs will also be made available in Spanish.

When the prisons are open to Prison Outreach, about 150 volunteers, including 25 priests and 10 deacons, are providing a variety of religious programs, such as Bible study, religious education and assistance with formation before receiving the Sacraments such as Baptism, First Holy Communion and Confirmation, as well as the Mass. Bishop Dewane regularly celebrates more than a dozen Masses in state correctional facilities each year also conferring the Sacraments on numerous inmates.

When Hiniker and Mallof realized the access to the prisoners was not going to be a temporary issue, they approached Bishop Dewane to propose an new outreach program for inmates. This effort was made with the encouragement and support of Father Severyn Kovalyshin, Region 3 Chaplain, and the State Chaplain Johnny Frambo.

The first part of the outreach included a donation of televisions, made possible with private support. These TVs were installed in state prison dormitories with the agreement that they would air the Diocesan-produced TV Sunday Mass for the Homebound.

Mallof said FDOC officials were so grateful for the donation that they were willing to allow the Diocese to provide content through the JPAY system, including the religious education courses.

The other content includes the Mass. This came about because even with the televisions, not everyone would be able to see the Mass in ideal conditions. The FDOC agreed to allow the Diocese to also produce the Mass for upload to the JPAY tablets at the start of each month. Hiniker and Mallof reasoned that this would allow the inmates viewing and reference access to the Mass at any time, making it an ideal situation.

Because Bishop Dewane is known to the inmates at many of the state correctional facilities, he agreed to be the celebrant for the first four Masses which will be available for viewing in June. Going forward, the Masses will be identical to what will air each Sunday for the homebound.

Adapting to the changing nature of access to the state prisons has allowed the Diocesan Prison Outreach to be at the forefront in ensuring that this important program reaches the people in need.

“The relationship we have and continue to build with the chaplains, by strengthening their position within the FDOC, will bear additional future fruits in ways yet to be seen,” Mallof said.

If you are interested in learning more about the Diocesan Prison Outreach, or perhaps becoming a volunteer, please contact Bob Hiniker at or Joe Mallof at

Online Bible Study series begins

Due to the restrictions people have been going through, the Diocese of Venice Office of Evangelization has sought to offer easy and effective ways to reach out to the faithful in their homes.

Joshua Mazrin, Diocesan Director of Evangelization, recently began offering a 12-part online Bible Study series from 2-3 p.m., Tuesdays through the Diocese of Venice Facebook page. The weekly offering is live, and participants can ask questions of Mazrin and other experts. For those unable to watch live, the videos will remain on the Diocese Facebook page

“There is no reason we cannot still bring about the beautiful teachings of the Faith to everyone and create an opportunity for people to still interact,” Mazrin explained. “Since our relationship with God is both communal and individual, the Bible Study offered aims to provide a resource to those who participate and aid them in their personal understanding of Scripture, by placing it in the context of the whole Church. The element of participation is also integral here; it allows those taking part from home the ability to interact with one another as the Church normally does in gatherings.”

The Bible Study is built upon the “Genesis to Jesus” video series from the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, which has been previously offered in the Diocese. The video series is hosted by Matthew Leonard and was created by Scott Hahn and Franciscan University of Steubenville.

“’Genesis to Jesus’ is a great streamlined program that outlines the ‘big picture’ of the Bible,” Mazrin said. “It is a quick walkthrough of all of Scripture, hitting on the major figures and events, and then connecting the dots. This study provides a sort-of framework for people to follow – especially if they desire to pick up the Bible themselves later  It will give them a context to understand what they are reading and at which point in the story of Salvation History it occurred.”

Joining Mazrin in the interactive Bible Study are Father Shawn Roser, Diocese of Venice Vocations Director and Parochial Vicar of St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton; Natalie Campbell, Director of Religious Education at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples; Aileen Vasquez, Director of Religious Education at St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral;  and Spence McSorley, Director of Religious Education at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch.

The structure of the Bible Study offers a weekly introduction, prayer and then jumps into the weekly video. After the video is concluded, the viewers are challenged to answer thought-provoking questions related to what they learned.

For example, questions included “Can you think of a time in your life when you experienced a “burning heart” encountering Jesus in a personal way?”

The response has been very positive, the first Bible Study had 115 live viewers and nearly 1,800 people have viewed the session since it was posted.

Comments included: “Thank you God for giving us this technology to stay connected and keep discovering how much You love us.” “Wonderful summary… discussion and panel very helpful. Faith sharing builds up the Body… again thank you.” “The blessing of this pandemic is that we have been given the time to turn to God. He again has come to us on our level through technology.”

Mazrin said he is very pleased with the turn out from the first live-stream and the interaction of those who participated live or viewed later.

“The Bible often feels like a difficult text to approach, which it may be without help,” Mazrin continued. “But it is also the inspired living written Word of God, and we are a religion of the Word! This Bible Study is an easy and straightforward way to become more comfortable with Scripture in a way that is stress-free, informative, and entertaining. The personal reading of Scripture will bring great blessings to your life, but the personal reading of Scripture understood through the Church’s interpretation will entirely transform your life!”

Fort Myers Parish gives “Words of Encouragement”

Fort Myers Parish gives “Words of Encouragement”

The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down social gatherings within Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice, but through the initiative of staff and the faithful, with a little help from technology (social media and Parish websites), alternative ways of reaching out have been developed.

One example of this can be found at St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers, which began an online video series called “Words of Encouragement.” This series of short videos – one minute or less – include reflections from leaders of various Parish outreach programs as well as everyday parishioners who wanted to share their thoughts about staying strong in the Faith during the pandemic.

Jennifer Engelman, Coordinator of Parish Engagement, who compiles and edits the videos for length, said the first “Words of Encouragement” video was posted in mid-April, and the response has been great.

“We sent out a request for videos asking parishioners to share a prayer that strikes them; what they are doing when anxious or concerned; how they shelter in place with Faith,” Engelman explained. “We based it on how people were coping while staying at home. It is a whole new life away from Church, but also away from each other.”

The video series content generated a great deal of interest among the parishioners. Some videos include prayers, others offer music or information about a devotion to find comfort in difficult times, such as to Our Lady, Christ or a specific saint.

Judy Siegel of St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers speaks during a segment of the “Words of Encouragement” video series online.

One video message was from Judy Siegel, a sacristan and member of the Crafty Ladies. She encouraged everyone to focus on the Light of Christ, the Good Shepherd, who will help everyone get through these dark times. “He will do it. He will never leave us. He chose each and every one of us, and His love is eternal.” Siegel concluded her video by reminding everyone to wash their hands and wear a mask when they go out.

“We are thrilled with those who stepped forward,” Engelman said. “They range in age from 8 ½-years-old to 90. We’ve had such a good response that some days we’ve posted videos in the morning and afternoon. Much of what is being shared is relevant and timely. Initially the comments were people recognizing friends, but it really has opened an avenue to comment. It’s a nice way to keep the parishioners engaged when we are not coming to Mass or being together and socializing.”

The idea of the video series came out of the regular Parish strategic planning committee and is a spin-off of the regular spiritual reflections from Pastor Father Bob Tabbert.

“The response to the Father Tabbert videos made people feel good about the Church and gave comfort in knowing that the priests were praying for them,” Engelman said. “People felt very good seeing their Pastor and from that the idea of having others share their ideas was born.”

To view the “Words of Encouragement” video messages, go to Facebook and search for St. John XXII Catholic Church in Fort Myers.

This is just another example of the many ongoing outreach efforts from Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice as they try to keep the faithful engaged while most Parish activities are indefinitely suspended.

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.

Divine Mercy in Our Souls

By Joshua Mazrin – Special to the Florida Catholic

Divine Mercy Sunday has been celebrated since April 20, 2000, after being instituted as a Solemnity by Pope St. John Paul II. The day marks the octave of Easter and is focused on the tremendous gift of God’s Mercy for all of mankind.

This beautiful message of Mercy for the whole world was given to St. Faustina Kowalska, a Sister of Our Lady of Mercy from Poland in the 1920s and 30s. God chose to use a humble little sister, a young girl with only a second-grade education, to bring about a devotion that would open the floodgates of heaven so that more souls would come to know God’s love.

“Proclaim that mercy is the greatest attribute of God. All the works of My hands are crowned with mercy,” (Divine Mercy in My Soul: Diary of St. Faustina, 301), the Lord told St. Faustina when charging her to spread this message even to the ends of the earth. This was quite the task to ask of the Saint-to-be.

“Oh, if sinners knew My mercy, they would not perish in such great numbers. Tell sinful souls not to be afraid to approach Me; speak to them of My great mercy” (Diary, 1396). These words spoken by Our Lord were not meant for St. Faustina alone, but for each one of us. The Lord calls each of us to proclaim this Mercy to all we encounter.

This calls to mind the words of St. Paul, who in his letter to the Romans said, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more” (Romans 5:20). There is no question that the world is filled with sin and each one of us is tempted in some way toward it. But now is not a time to abandon hope.

Just like the Cross itself, the Lord’s Mercy seems scandalous. It is scandalous the amount of love with which God loves us.

“I perform works of mercy in every soul. The greater the sinner, the greater right he has to My mercy. My mercy is confirmed in every work of My hands. He who trusts in My Mercy will not perish, for all his affairs are Mine” (Diary, 723).

There are no exclusions here. This Mercy is available for every soul. The necessary response is to simply repent and to trust. No sin is too big for God’s Mercy.

Alongside the teachings of Divine Mercy, the Lord gave also the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Novena of Divine Mercy. These are simple ways to live the Lord’s call to trust in His Mercy and bring it to those around us.

The Divine Mercy Chaplet comes with the promise of great graces. It is prayed using the same beads of the rosary and consists of the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Apostles Creed with short prayers focused on obtaining mercy.

“The souls that say this chaplet will be embraced by My mercy during their lifetime and especially at the hour of their death” (Diary, 754).

These words which God spoke to St. Faustina say it all:

“Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy. I desire that the whole world know My infinite mercy. I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My mercy” (Diary, 687).

To understand the message of Divine Mercy requires a look at the Passion of Christ.  The glory is tied to the suffering. Yes, this is a strange concept, but even spouses know the sacrifice made for one another. Parents know the great love in sacrificing for their children.

The way in which we are united to Christ is through suffering, death, and resurrection. “…if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified in him” (Romans 8:17).

On this 20th anniversary of the institution of Divine Mercy Sunday, there is certainly no shortage on suffering and the world is indeed in great need of God’s Mercy. The faithful must turn to God in their own homes with Churches still closed due to the current state of affairs.

“O soul steeped in darkness, do not despair. All is not yet lost. Come and confide in your God, who is love and mercy… My child, listen to the voice of your merciful Father” (Diary, 1486).

God has not abandoned His Church; Christ has not abandoned His flock. We are with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, we are with Him at the Cross on Calvary, but we are also with Him leaving the tomb on the morning of Easter Sunday and standing in His blessing of Divine Mercy, healing, and forgiveness this coming Divine Mercy Sunday.

What you can do:

  • Say the Divine Mercy Chaplet with your family;
  • Finish the Divine Mercy Novena;
  • Meditate on and thank the Lord for His Incarnation, Passion, Death, and Resurrection;
  • Read the Diary of St. Faustina (and Scripture, of course!);
  • Go to Confession as soon as you are able.

Do not be afraid to approach the Lord and His Mercy. Do not be afraid to make a change in your life to grow in holiness. It is the Lord’s delight “to act in a human soul and to fill it with [His] mercy” (Diary, 1784). It is the Lord’s delight to fill you with His Mercy.

“My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world. Who can measure the extent of my goodness? For you I descended from heaven to earth; for you I allowed myself to be nailed to the cross; for you I let my Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come, then, with trust to draw graces from this fountain. I never reject a contrite heart. Your misery has disappeared in the depths of My mercy” (Diary, 1485).

Joshua Mazrin is the Diocese of Venice Director of Evangelization. He can be reached at

Lenten journey begins Feb. 26

“Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death.”

These words from Pope Francis should resonate with all Catholics and serve to remind us that the coming Liturgical Season has great significance and meaning.

During Lent, we are asked to devote ourselves to seeking the Lord in prayer and reading Scripture, to service by giving alms, and to practice self-control through fasting.

Lent lasts for 40 days – excluding Sundays – from Ash Wednesday (Feb. 26) to the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, which this year falls on April 9. It is a reminder of Christ’s 40 days of temptation and fasting in the desert, and of Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the desert.

This penitential season of fasting, alms-giving, and special prayer is like a spiritual cleansing and renewal to draw closer to God.

The key to fruitful observance of these practices is to recognize their link to baptismal renewal. We recall those waters in which we were baptized into Christ’s death, died to sin and evil, and began new life in Christ.

Joshua Mazrin, Diocese of Venice Director of Evangelization, said Lent is the ideal time to focus on becoming “A Disciple of Christ.”

“Discipleship is truly following the Lord,” Mazrin explained. “For Lent Jesus gives us an example by first going to the desert to fast and pray.” Christ teaches us:

  • To fast in order to grow in physical discipline. Fast intentionally – not just because it’s an old written down tradition, but in order to grow in mastery over your flesh and your passions;
  • To give alms in order to have detachment. We don’t give alms just because it’s nice. We give alms to help those in need as well as to not have an inordinate attachment to physical possessions;
  • To pray. We pray to grow in our relationship with God and as an act of humility. Humility helps us imitate Christ and a great example of humility is Mary.

Mazrin went on to explain that there are some practical things one can do to be “A Disciple of Christ” during Lent.

“Give up something specific for Lent not just to give something up, but something that will challenge you to grow in an area that will be beneficial to you and your relationship with God;” he continued. “Pray more intentionally. Meditate on purpose.  Pray the rosary, go to Mass an extra time during the week, pick up your bible and actually try to go deeper in it! Give alms, volunteer your time, try to see things from the perspective of someone less fortunate than yourself.”

During Lent, it is common to participate in a retreat or the Stations of the Cross, allowing the opportunity for one to refocus on the Lord in different ways. Check with your local Parish for these and other Lenten activities.

The precept of confessing grave sins and receiving Holy Communion at least once during the Lenten Season merits a reminder to the Faithful. To facilitate this requirement, every Parish in the Diocese of Venice will be open with a confessor present 4 to 8 p.m., Friday, April 3, and 9 noon, Saturday, April 4. Additional times for the Sacrament are also offered so that the Faithful may find ample opportunity to receive God’s mercy. Parishes also combine to have an evening prayer service with many priests present to offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Again, check with your local Parish for additional reconciliation times.

During Lent, a group of catechumens and candidates will be coming into the full communion with the Church. Bishop Frank J. Dewane will preside over the Rite of Election, at 2:30 p.m., on the first Sunday of Lent, March 1, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

This annual tradition is a formal Rite during which catechumens are presented and their names are entered into the Book of Elect. This year, 112 catechumens will be joined by an additional 185 candidates who will also participate in the formal ceremony and be recognized during the celebration for answering the call to their continuing conversion.

Dates of note

In addition to Ash Wednesday, Feb. 26, where one can receive ashes, there are several other key dates of note on the Liturgical Calendar.

On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, March 19, Bishop Dewane will be celebrating 8 a.m., Mass at St. Joseph Parish, 3100 26th Ave. W., Bradenton, and then 12:30 p.m. Mass in Italian at Epiphany Cathedral, 3350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. The Mass in Venice is at the invitation of the Italian-American Club and will include a traditional blessing of the bread and procession.

On the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, March 25, many Parishes add additional Mass to accommodate this day. The day also marks the start of the annual Novena for Mass for Life, a special opportunity to meditate on the progressive development of Our Lord in His mother’s womb.  The hope is that this meditation will help people to reflect on the sanctity of all human life, from fertilization/conception to birth and throughout life until natural death, regardless of age or condition.

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, April 5, is the day the Church remembers Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem. The commemoration with the blessing of the palms and procession, is a ritual action that marks our own entry into Holy Week.

During Holy Week is the annual Chrism Mass, 10:30 a.m., April 7, at Epiphany Cathedral. The Chrism Mass is the largest gathering of priests in the Diocese and a time when they join Bishop Dewane in a celebration of the unity of the priesthood and when the holy oils used in the Sacraments are blessed and consecrated.

For more information about Lent and related activities taking place in the Diocese, or at local Parishes, please visit


Ash Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, and Good Friday, April 10, are days of fast and abstinence. All Fridays of Lent are also days of abstinence from meat.

Fasting is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday by all Catholics between the ages of 18 years and 59 years (inclusive). On a fast day one full meal is allowed. Two smaller meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to each one’s needs, but together they should not equal another full meal. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids are allowed. If possible, the fast on Good Friday is to continue until the Easter Vigil (on Holy Saturday night) as the “paschal fast” is to honor the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus, and to prepare ourselves to share more fully and to celebrate more readily His Resurrection.

Abstinence from meat is to be observed by all Catholics who are 14 years of age and older on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent, including Good Friday.

Note: If a person is unable to observe the above regulations due to ill health or other serious reasons, they are urged to practice other forms of self-denial that are suitable to their condition.

Men’s Conference Fight the Good Fight of the Faith!

How can one be a good Catholic father, husband, brother, son or man in a modern world?

The answer to this and other questions was found Feb. 8 during the 2020 Diocese of Venice Men’s Conference at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. The Conference theme was: “Fight the Good Fight of the Faith!” (1 Timothy 6:12).

Hundreds of men gathered to hear from nationally known speakers Mark Hart, Chris Padgett and Father Donald Calloway, Marian Father of the Immaculate Conception.  The talks offered spiritual guidance and inspiration as well practical advice for the Catholic men.

Jim Burke of Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers enjoyed the day, saying the speakers touched on key points when talking about how to stay connected to the faith through the reading if Scripture, prayer and becoming more active in Parish life.

“As a father and almost a grandfather, I worry about my family more than ever, whether or not they are practicing the Catholic Faith,” Burke explained. “I heard things that resonated with me. It boils down to me knowing and understanding the Church better so I can share that knowledge.”

At the beginning of the day Joshua Mazrin, Diocese Director of Evangelization, told the men to have fun and enjoy a nice Saturday when they can be removed from all of their worldly obligations, but added the day was to be about taking “the time to encounter the Lord, to learn more about your Faith, and to grow in fellowship with one another.”

Charlie Vincenzo of St. Therese Parish in North Fort Myers found hope by being around other like-minded men who want the best for their own lives, the lives of their family and the life of Holy Mother Church. “Society seems to want to do away with all religion, when what it really needs are warriors to stand up and fight these battles for our Faith.”

Father Calloway, a convert who has a special affinity for the Holy Family, stressed that when we struggle to understand and overcome difficulties in our life, it is crucial to turn to the Lord for comfort and guidance. In our efforts to find the Lord, turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, through intercessions and following their example.

“We need the Lord in our lives now more than ever,” Father Calloway said. “One way the Church is stressing to do that is through Mary and one of the greatest saints, St. Joseph, step-father of Jesus. His is an example to us, someone we need in our life, for our family and household… Joseph was a spiritual warrior; the terror of demons, pillar of families, warrior of domestic life; guardian of virgins; patron of the Church; and your spiritual father.”

Padgett, a father of nine who is a native of the Diocese of Venice where he entered the Church in 1999, shared his own challenges and experiences in learning about the Catholic Church. Bringing a comedic aspect to his talk, Padgett stressed how being a man of God isn’t about athletics or power tools, it is that we are all called to greatness and this is best demonstrated in our willingness to sacrifice and serve.

Hart, executive vice president of Life Teen International, stressed that having a strong faith life begins with the study of Scriptures. “It is how we come to know God… Even if you just read the parts in the Mass (of Scripture read out as the first, second, responsorial psalm and Gospel), you have 167 hours of reading. That is a good place to start.”

Throughout the day the men enjoyed spiritual fellowship, a burger fest, food trucks and outdoor games. The day also included the opportunity for Eucharistic Adoration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The closing Mass was celebrated by Father Eric Scanlan, Administrator of Incarnation Parish in Sarasota, filling in for Bishop Frank J. Dewane who was unable to attend because he was participating in a “Ad Limina” visit to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Bishop Letter: What it means to be ‘A Disciple of Christ’

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

After receiving the blessings of the Christmas Season, celebrating the birth of Christ Our Lord, many return to their ordinary schedules of prayer, work or family obligations.  So too, the Church enters a portion of Ordinary Time.  Throughout Advent and Christmas, we placed the emphasis of our prayers and attention on welcoming Christ into our hearts and homes while ever awaiting His triumphant return with the Second Coming.  Now in this Ordinary Time, we take Christ with us and go forth living what it means to be A Disciple of Christ.  Call to mind the lives of Christ’s early Disciples, of the Saints who lived heroically, and even of those great examples of holiness in our own lives.  How might we follow these examples in everyday life in order to be A Disciple of Christ?

First let us recall Christ’s words to His Disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:19-20).  Jesus gives them a mission!  What mission has the Lord called you to do with your life?  Do you help at a food pantry, volunteer at your Parish, work to counter Human Trafficking or the pornography industry that thrives in our society?  Yes, it can get messy.  How are you deepening your journey in becoming A Disciple of Christ?  These are all great ways to take what you have received and to give back in some way in the name of Christ.

To each one of us Christ says, “Without cost you have received, without cost you are to give.” (Matthew 10:8).  In order to live as A Disciple of Christ, this mission must be embraced like the Cross itself.  Of course, this may be difficult at times, there may be the temptation to think, “What am I able to give?” along with thoughts of inadequacy or tepidness.  It is important to know that it is not always big things that the Lord asks of us.  St. Mother Teresa, whom I had the pleasure of speaking with on several occasions, taught that, “Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love.”  These words of hers are an encouragement to me as they may be for you as well.

In the Gospel of Mark Jesus tells the parable of the sower.  If we focus on the sower he seems absolutely mad. Why? Throwing seed just everywhere with no regard for the soil where the seeds land. The farmer could be thought to be crazy for not targeting the placement of the seed, seeding only the good soil.  However, God asks you and I to go out and sow His Word and His love – not only on receptive soil, not only to those who will respond but also on the path, on the rocks and into the thorn bushes.  God’s love is irrational, extravagant, embarrassing, even unreasonable and over the top.

So, do not be afraid to do even the big things at the prompting of God on the journey of becoming A Disciple of Christ; the extravagant action that some see as over the top may be what Christ calls you to do as a Disciple.  Take the risk, make the move, take even the smallest step and do not worry about who notices.  Sow His Word as A Disciple of Christ and leave the rest to the providence of God.  Do not be afraid!

In times where the Lord may be asking more of us, the words spoken to St. Paul offer consolation wherein Christ says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Whether something small is being asked of you or something great, there are always more opportunities to respond to this mission; to go forth in the Name of the Lord as A Disciple of Christ.  Pope Francis has taught us that “In virtue of […] baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples” and continues by saying all the faithful are called to a personal involvement in the work of evangelization.

Have courage in knowing the Lord desires to use you, your particular skills and abilities, your gifts and talents.  Continue to invite Christ into your home and your heart, then take Him out into the streets, into your communities.  They may not be pretty but as St. Mother Teresa told us, “Yesterday is gone.  Tomorrow has not yet come.  We have only today.  Let us begin.”  Be encouraged to continue the ways you are already living as A Disciple of Christ in your life and to begin new ways, new actions today.

As we continue this portion of Ordinary Time, let us work together in this mission that Christ has given us to go forth and to spread the Gospel and be A Disciple of Christ.  To be people of action!!

Thank you for responding to His call in your life.  Rest assured of my prayers that you would continue to allow Christ into your life in new ways, big or small each day and go forth in action.  Please keep me in your prayers as well.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Frank J. Dewane

News Briefs from around the Diocese Jan & Feb 2020

Diocesan group enjoys Catholic Days at the Capitol

During the Jan. 28-30 Catholic Days at the Capitol, Bishop Frank J. Dewane gave a legislative briefing to participants from across Florida. A group of nearly 50, including students from each Diocesan Catholic high school traveled for this important lobbying opportunity.


Seminarian becomes Lector

Diocese of Venice Seminarian Daniel Scalan was among a group of first-year students at Pontifical North American College in Rome, to receive the Ministry of Lector on Jan. 11. Archbishop Bernard Hebda, of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, was the main celebrant and homilist. As part of the rite, the Archbishop placed the Holy Scriptures in the hands of each candidate and said, “Take this book of Holy Scripture and be faithful in handing on the word of God, so that it may grow strong in the hearts of his people.”

National Order of Malta leadership meets in Naples

The Order of Malta – American Association, held and Board of Counsellors meeting in Naples in late January. Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated a Mass for the group on Jan. 27 at St. William Parish.



Register now Mission Possible Immokalee 2020

The very popular Mission Possible Immokalee 2020 trip registration for high school students is NOW OPEN! Organized as a joint effort of the Diocese Mission Office and Office of Evangelization, students will work on service projects from June 8-12, assisting at Catholic Charities of Collier and Lee Counties sites, Guadalupe Social Services and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. The mission trip is $199 and includes meals, lodging and transportation to work sites. For more information, please contact the Diocese of Venice Mission Office at 239-241-2233. All registration must be through Youth Ministers at your local Parish or Catholic School.

Bishop recognizes Knights of Bikes

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass at St, Agnes Parish in Naples on Jan. 26, the Sunday of the Word of God. During the Mass, Bishop Dewane offered a special recognition for the Knights on Bikes, a club of Knights of Columbus which includes avid motorcycle enthusiasts. Members took part in the opening and closing processions of the Mass. At the conclusion, the Bishop blessed special key chains with a cross. Each member wears a vest with patches that read: “In God We Trust and Ride” and “In Service to One. Inservice to All.”

Parish honors first responders

St. Agnes Parish in Naples, honored Law Enforcement Officers, Fire Fighters, and First Responders, both active and retired with a Blue Mass on Jan. 25. Dozens of officers attended with their families to honor first responders who died in the line of duty and to pray for the safety of those still serving. The guest homilist was Father Sean Connor, Chaplain of the Boston Police Department. During the final blessing Father Michael Orsi, Parochial Vicar of St. Agnes, blessed medals of St. Michael the Archangel to give out to all the first responders for protection.

North Port Show of Shows

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. and the Knights of Columbus hosted The Goldtones Jan. 25 at the first ever North Port Sugar Bowl Show of Shows. Playing songs from 50s and 60s The Goldtones entertained an enthusiastic crowd at the North Port Performing Arts Center at North Port High School. The Sugar Bowl Fund helps support families in crisis, providing emergency financial assistance for low-income families in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties. The Sugar Bowl Fund is a community partnership between Catholic Charities and the local Knights of Columbus Councils. The goal of the fund is an attempt to keep families together, self-sufficient and relieved of some of the pressures that cause greater hardship. Financial assistance can include help for car repairs, medical bills, utilities, rent or mortgage payments as well as relocation fees. The North Port Show of Shows was the first in this part of the area, similar events have been taking place for several years in Venice each fall and in Bradenton each Spring.

Jammin’ for the Mamas a success

About 130 guests showed up at the Boca Royale Golf and Country Club in Englewood for a “jawsome” night of fun, food, music and fundraising with the Shark Sisters! The Jammin’ for the Mamas event featured the popular local music trio and all proceeds benefited Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities which serves homeless mothers and their children and helps them to achieve self-sufficiency.