More than 600 participate in NET retreats

Dynamic, Parish-based encounters for middle and high school teens took place between Feb. 3 and Feb. 11, 2024, throughout the Diocese of Venice.

The NET Ministries (National Evangelization Teams) retreats, visiting seven Parish and one Diocesan Catholic school between Feb. 3 and Feb. 11, 2024, challenged young Catholics, through relational ministry, to hear about, respond to and live for Jesus Christ.

“An absolutely beautiful evening with our Lord!” St. Michael Parish in Wauchula posted to social media. “NET Ministries you did awesome. Keep praying for our youth! Keep giving them opportunities or they will never experience His Love or get to know Him. May God bless all of our youth all over the world.”

The Diocesan Office of Evangelization sponsored the retreats which cumulatively reached more than 600 middle and high school students. The goal was to inspire young people to form personal and profound relationships with Jesus Christ and His Church.

The theme of the retreats in early February was “True Presence,” building upon the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival. The Revival is an initiative of the U.S. Bishops to encourage a greater passion for the Most Holy Eucharist, the Source and Summit of the Catholic Faith. Most of the retreats included the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and when that was not possible due to time constraints, there was Eucharistic Adoration.

The Diocesan retreats took place at the following locations, St. Thomas More, Sarasota; St. Catherine, Sebring; St. Joseph the Worker, Moore Haven; St. Michael, Wauchula; Our Lady of Light, Fort Myers; St. Paul, Arcadia; St. Agnes, Naples; and St. Joseph Catholic School, Bradenton. Several Parishes took the opportunity to use the NET visit as a Confirmation Retreat for youth.

The retreats included guided prayer time and a personal invitation to commit to Christ, as the NET members shared the message of God’s unending love for the youth. This was accomplished in small group discussions, games and activities, and live testimony presentations.

Sacrament of Marriage – A unique gift from God

God provides unique graces and gifts for married couples to spend their lives together, serving as examples of hope for following generations.

In celebration of that commitment, each year Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites couples married 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50+ years to a Mass in their honor as witnesses to a beautiful vocation. This first such Mass in 2024 was Feb. 3, at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. Present were 240 couples representing a combined 12,480 years of marriage.

“You have to feel a great accomplishment,” Bishop Dewane said. “Whether you are celebrating 25 years, 50 years or even 70 years of marriage, the grace you have lived out all those years continues to flow and be a sign of hope for many young people. It is the public intention of union and sacrifice given over, one to the other, where love is expressed, over and over again. That is the true reality of marriage.”

Bishop Dewane said in today’s culture there is a different mindset about the Sacrament of Marriage, but the example of the couples present, representing commitments lasting decades, are viewed by young people with awe.

“The grace that you have allowed to enter into you marriage reverberates God’s love within your relationship and is witnessed by others,” the Bishop said. “You give a silent homily by the life you live, day in and day out. It is a true vocation that is born through each of you, giving the gift of one’s self. It has endured and is admired.”

The 240 couples represented 25 Parishes and included 32 couples that have been married 50 years. The longest marriage by couples present was 70 years.

Steven and Violet (Vi) Hvasta, of St. William Parish in Naples, will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary on June 12. Thomas and Jane Brooks, of St. Leo the Great Parish, will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary on Dec. 4.

The Hvastas started out as great friends in high school. Steven dated Vi’s best friends, and she would date Steven’s friends, until the love bug hit! It seems they were made for each other. They spent their lives in Connecticut as small business owners, raising four daughters and are blessed with 11 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. They bought a home in Naples 13 years ago and now split their time between Naples and Connecticut.

Thomas and Jane Brooks met while attending Indiana University in Bloomington. They fell in love immediately and are still very much in love to this day. They married while Thomas was on leave from the U.S. Army, causing Jane to quit college and follow her new husband on deployment in Germany. After leaving the Army, the couple settled back in Indiana where he was a lawyer for 62 years as they raised a family that now includes seven children, seven grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren. They have been coming to Florida since the mid-1980s.

Thomas Brooks said the couple’s advice to their children was that “once they became married, it is very important to stay with God. Also, they should always love one another, and never go to bed at night without saying ‘I love you.’”

During the Diocesan Mass, the married couples renewed their wedding vows. In addition, each couple was presented a commemorative certificate, signed by the Bishop, for their enduring commitment to marriage.

Following the Mass, lunch was served and there was the opportunity to have complimentary pictures taken with the Bishop. At the luncheon, several couples remarked about how wonderful it is to have their lasting marriage recognized.

Masses are celebrated each year in the northern and southern sections of the Diocese of Venice so as to accommodate the large numbers of couples wishing to attend. The second Mass is 11 a.m., Feb. 24, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave., Venice (registration is through the Parishes and walk-ins are welcome).

News Briefs for February 9, 2024

Appointments

After broad consultation, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announces the following:

Father Joseph Binu, appointed as Parochial Vicar of St. Agnes Parish, Naples, effective January 19, 2024, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of Sacred Heart Parish, Bradenton.

Father Benjamin Casimir, appointed as Administrator of Jesus the Worker Parish, Fort Myers, effective February 5, 2024, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of St. Peter the Apostle Parish, Naples.

Order of Malta retreat

The Knights and Dames of Malta recently gathered in Naples for a retreat: a time of prayer, reflection and renewal. Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the opening Mass for the retreat at St. William Parish on Feb. 2, 2024, The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. During the Mass, the Bishop said that the message the Knights and Dames carry is one of preparing the way for the Lord. The Order of Malta is a lay religious order of the Catholic Church that seeks to glorify God by promoting the sanctification of each member through witness to the Catholic Faith and service to the sick and the poor. The retreat master was Msgr. Robert Dempsey of Chicago. The retreat is held ahead of Lent to help the Knights and Dames prepare spiritually for this important Liturgical Season.

Eucharistic Conference held at Ave Maria University

The Aquinas Center for Theological renewal and the Thomistic Institute hosted the “Thomas Aquinas and the Eucharist: Pathways to Revival” Conference from Feb. 1 to Feb. 3, 2024, at Ave Maria University. Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for the Conference on Feb. 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, in the Ave Maria Parish Church. Bishop Dewane praised the Conference organizers and the attendees for taking time to focus on the Holy Eucharist during the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year revival of devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist created by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The conference drew upon Saint Thomas for theological, spiritual, pastoral, and evangelistic pathways in the Eucharistic Revival. Concelebrating the Mass with Bishop Dewane was Archbishop Allen Vigneron, of Detroit, who was the conference keynote speaker.

40 Days for Life opens in Fort Myers, Sarasota and Naples

Show your support for life by simply praying for an end to abortion on the public sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood between Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, and March 24, 2024. For details and flier go to www.40daysforlife.com (add /sarasota or /fortmyers or /naples for a direct link to the location near you). Questions? Contact Jeanne at 941-374-1068 or Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org.

Theology on Tap Sarasota Feb. 15

Theology on Tap for young adults takes place on the third Thursday of each month at 7:00 p.m. at the Mandeville Beer Garden in Sarasota, 428 N. Lemon Ave, Sarasota. Join the gathering for food and refreshments, presentations, and discussions about the Catholic Faith. The next scheduled date is Feb. 15, 2024, and will feature Father Daniel Scanlan, Parochial Vicar at St. Thomas More Parish, Sarasota. The topic will be Lent. For any questions, please email Jim Gontis at gontis@dioceseofvenice.org.

Walk for the Poor Feb. 17 in Cape Coral

The St. Andrew Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) is hosting its 3rd Annual “Walk for the Poor” on Saturday, Feb 17, 2024, in the campus of St. Andrew Parish and Catholic School, 2628 Del Prado Blvd., Cape Coral. The event will begin at 10 a.m., and end at 1 p.m. The walk supports the outreach of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which answered 1,176 calls for assistance in 2023. Assistance includes food, transportation, clothing, household items, job resources, as well as financial support for prescriptions, housing and utilities. Anyone interested in walking or making a donation can visit https://go.rallyup.com/capesvdp, or contact Marlene Douglas at 239-772-3543.

Health Care Ethics Conference Feb. 17 in Bonita Springs

Medical professionals, students, and interested laypeople are invited to the first annual Converging Roads health care ethics conference on Feb. 17, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. This one-day conference will offer continuing education credits for health care professionals with presentations centered on the theme of Catholic Medicine in a Secular Society. For information, contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org, and to register, go to convergingroads.com/venice.

2024 Catholic Charities Ball Feb. 17 in Sarasota

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., invites all to the 2024 Catholic Charities Ball, 6 p.m., Feb. 17, 2024, at Michael’s On East Ballroom, 1212 S. East Ave., Sarasota. The theme is “Serving All,” and supports the programs of Catholic Charities in Sarasota and Manatee counties. This year also marks the launch of the new Long-term Recovery Program, which is actively helping families still recovering from Hurricane Ian and other natural disasters. Tickets are $400 a person. The evening will include a cocktail hour, live and silent auctions, fine dining, dancing, and live entertainment. Register at http://bidpal.net/ccb2024. For more information, 941-376-7845 or email ccball@catholiccharitiesdov.org.

 

 

Group learns about benefits of street evangelization

“Hi, I’m Adam, would you like a Miraculous Medal or a rosary? Can I pray for you?”

That introduction has served as a bridge of trust to welcome stray Catholics back to the Church through a program called St. Paul Street Evangelization. This was the focus of a training workshop on Jan. 27, 2024, at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples.

Adam Janke, from St. Paul Street Evangelization, led the workshop and guided the participants through the process of how to share their faith with anyone, at any time.

“In its basic form, this is the work of relational/prayer ministry,” Janke said. “It is about going out on the street – where the people are – and meeting people in their woundedness. This is where there are moments of healing, as you serve as a conduit of the Holy Spirit to help others gradually get to heaven.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane opened the workshop by celebrating Mass. The Bishop encouraged the participants to take what they are learning out to their Parishes and onto the street as a way to encourage others to share the Light of Christ.

“This is powerful. This can make a difference,” Bishop Dewane said. “We need to have people like you out there, showing God’s Mercy to others; showing that you care and will pray for them.”

At the end of the workshop, many of the group took part in a “live lab,” where they practiced what they learned at the Mercato, a shopping, dining and residential complex at U.S. 41 and Vanderbilt Beach Road.

In pairs, the new street evangelizers confidently approached strangers and offered rosaries and Miraculous Medals. It was quickly apparent that what they were doing was at the least an interesting curiosity to some, and intriguing to those who understood what was being handed out and what was being offered – prayers.

One woman who accepted a Miraculous Medal and was prayed for by two of the new street evangelizers went directly to her waiting friend with a broad smile and proclaimed, “Hey, you won’t believe it. I was just prayed for. Isn’t that great!”

The new evangelizers spent about an hour encountering people. The joy the participants felt afterward was infectious. “People were so wonderful,” one man said. “This was easier than I thought. Once you present them with a rosary, if they don’t know what it is you explain it and the conversation starts. You can immediately see that they are changed by that encounter. It was beautiful to be a part of this. I can’t wait to go out again.”

Sponsored by the Diocesan Department of Evangelization, a previous training workshop took place in Sarasota on Sept. 30, 2023. The goal of the training sessions is to form area St. Paul Street Evangelization teams, with groups set up in every major community in the Diocese going out monthly to evangelize.

While street evangelization is not for everyone, Janke explained that the lessons offered apply in everyday life. This can be with a family member who may have strayed from the Church, friends who are of another faith and might have questions about Catholicism, or a stranger at a store or on the street. “I want you to have the confidence to have that encounter. Let the Holy Spirit do the rest.”

If you are interested in learning more about the St. Paul Street Evangelization program with the Diocese, please contact Jim Gontis at 941-484-9543 or gontis@dioceseofevnice.org.

News Briefs for the Week of February 2, 2024

Mooney runner named Florida Gatorade Player of the Year

Addison Dempsey, a senior at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, has been named the 2023-24 Gatorade Florida Girls Cross Country Player of the Year. Dempsey is the first Gatorade Florida Girls Cross Country Player of the Year to be chosen from Cardinal Mooney.  The award, announced Jan. 22, 2024, celebrates the nation’s top high school athletes for excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community.   The 5-foot-5 senior capped her 2023 campaign by racing to 18th place at the Foot Locker South Regional Championships, clocking a time of 17:39.22 as the state’s top finisher at the event. Dempsey established four new course records this past season, breaking the tape with a personal-best 5K time of 17:20.20 at the North Port XC Invitational. She won eight races during the fall and was Florida’s top finisher at the prestigious Adidas XC Challenge, where she took third.  She earned a bronze in the November Florida High School Athletic Association Girls Class 2A 5K. She earned a silver in the same event in 2022. A volunteer on behalf of the Boys and Girls Club, which assists local, underserved kids and provides them a safe environment, Dempsey has also donated her time as a coach at youth soccer camps and as part of running trail clean-up projects. Dempsey has maintained an impressive 3.88 GPA in the classroom.

School holds memorable night in the “Scottish Highlands”

The annual Celtic Ball, supporting St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, took place at the school on Jan. 27, 2024. The theme of the night was the “Scottish Highlands.” Bishop Frank J. Dewane applauded the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco who serve at St. John Neumann for their unfailing commitment to education and for the example they are for their students and the entire school community. Bishop Dewane also thanked the parents for entrusting their children’s education and future to St. John Neumann. The evening included a live and silent auction, and guests were provided with Scottish cloaks, while some men wore traditional kilts.

Mass honors law enforcement, fire fighters and first responders

To honor and remember the service of active, retired and fallen law enforcement officers, firefighters and first responders who offer their lives in service to the community to keep us all safe and well, St. Agnes Parish in Naples hosted the annual Blue Mass on Jan. 27, 2023. The opening procession was led by music from the Southwest Florida Guns ‘n Hoses Pipes ‘n Drums corps with bagpipes and drums, the Knights of Columbus Color Corps, and Columbiettes. Msgr. Steven P. Hurley, of Wilmington, Delaware, was the homilist for the Mass. He was a policeman in Maryland for eight years before following a vocation to the priesthood. After the Mass, each active and retired first responder present was asked to come forward to receive a token of appreciation. Law enforcement officials received a St. Michael the Archangel Medal, firefighters a St. Florian Medal, and a special medal was also presented for all other first responders. A barbeque, hosted by the Knights of Columbus, followed in the Parish Hall.

National Marriage Week, and World Marriage Day!

The observances of National Marriage Week from Feb. 7 -14, 2024, and World Marriage Day, Sunday, Feb. 11, are opportunities to focus on building a culture of life and love that begins with supporting and promoting marriage and the family. The theme for 2024 is “Love Beyond Words.”  For resources from the USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth to help celebrate and live the great gift of married life, please visit Celebrate National Marriage Week 2024 – For Your Marriage. Resources are available in both English and Spanish.

Health Care Ethics Conference Feb. 17

Medical professionals, students, and interested laypeople are invited to the first annual Converging Roads health care ethics conference on Feb. 17, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs! This one-day conference will offer continuing education credits for health care professionals with presentations centered on the theme of Catholic Medicine in a Secular Society. For information, contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org, and to register, go to convergingroads.com/venice.

2024 Catholic Charities Ball Feb. 17 in Sarasota

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., invites all to the 2024 Catholic Charities Ball, 6 p.m., Feb. 17, 2024, at Michael’s On East Ballroom, 1212 S. East Ave., Sarasota. The theme is “Serving All,” and supports the programs of Catholic Charities in Sarasota and Manatee counties. This year also marks the launch of the new Long-term Recovery Program, which is actively helping families still recovering from Hurricane Ian and other natural disasters. Tickets are $400 a person. The evening will include a cocktail hour, live and silent auctions, fine dining, dancing, and live entertainment. Register at http://bidpal.net/ccb2024. For more information, 941-376-7845 or email ccball@catholiccharitiesdov.org.

Few spots remain for Eucharistic Congress pilgrimage with Bishop

Join Bishop Frank J. Dewane on a Pilgrimage to the 10th National Eucharistic Congress. Only eight spots remain! This once-in-a-lifetime 5-day gathering will take place in Indianapolis July 17 – 21, 2024. The National Eucharistic Congress represents the culmination of the Church’s three-year effort to put an emphasis on the Real Presence of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Eucharistic.  It is a pivotal moment in the Church, and a unique opportunity for participants to draw into a deeper, more intimate relationship with Our Lord. For pilgrimage details, please visit https://ctscentral.rezmagic.com/Booking/Reservation/Start?tripID=5394&CategoryId=52540. Questions? Contact Carrie Harkey, harkey@dioceseofvenice.org.

 

Hundreds hear speaker on National Eucharistic Revival

The importance of the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival was the focus of a talk on Jan. 18, 2024, at St. William Parish in Naples.

More than 600 people were inspired by Dr. Mary Healy, a theologian, best-selling author, and professor of Sacred Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, during her talk titled, “The Holy Spirit and the Eucharist.”

Healy talked about the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year movement of the U.S. Bishops, including Bishop Frank J. Dewane, to restore understanding and devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist here in the United States. The movement is currently in its Parish-phase, which includes organizing Catholic speakers, more time for adoration, Eucharistic processions, and other exciting events.

Importantly, for this movement, the Bishops chose the term revival over renewal, Healy said. A renewal is a human effort to do things better or to correct them, while revival means, bringing alive what was dead.

“What the Bishops are doing in this National Eucharistic Revival is an energetic, creative and fervent effort that is ultimately God’s work, because He wants to bring His Church alive,” Healy said. “The world needs to see the Church alive.”

This revival is also defined as a sovereign work of God in answer to sincere prevailing prayer – a divine visitation. Healy said this is what we all need to be praying for during these three years because the sovereign work of God is greater than any catechetical program or any Eucharistic Congress.

“During the Revival, God will fill His people with the Holy Spirit, and the graces of the Holy Spirit will awaken us,” Healy said. “Therefore, during the Revival, God awakens hunger in those who don’t know Him, or in those who have walked away from Him, and He awakes a hunger in His people to evangelize to bear witness to Christ. Hunger breeds hunger, and it’s explosive.”

The crowd at St. William Parish was captivated by Healy’s talk and responded enthusiastically when she called on each of them to carry the message of the National Eucharistic Revival in their heart and into the world.

The Diocese of Venice has been actively participating in the National Eucharistic Revival having hosted numerous events with the Most Holy Eucharist as a central theme, including a Diocesan Eucharistic Congress in 2023. The second Diocesan Eucharistic Conference is March 16, at Bishop Verot Catholic High School, 3398 Sunrise Drive, Fort Myers. All are invited to attend the all-day event of faith and fellowship, featuring inspirational Catholic speakers. English and Spanish sessions will be offered. The day will include the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as well as Eucharistic Adoration, and confessions. Space is limited so early registration is encouraged. For more information and to register, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/eucharistic-conference-2024/.

The National Eucharistic Revival will culminate in the first National Eucharistic Congress in the United States in almost 50 years. This historic gathering will take place in Indianapolis from July 17 to 21, 2024. Bishop Dewane is leading a pilgrimage to the National Congress. If you are interested in joining the pilgrimage, please learn more by visiting https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/evangelization/pilgrimage-to-national-eucharistic-congress/.

Leaders encouraged to live out the mission of the Church

The Diocese of Venice Office of Evangelization teamed up with the Augustine Institute to provide a day of formation and renewal for 120 Parish and Catholic school leaders.

This special day, with a theme “You Go into the Vineyard Too” (Matthew 20:7), took place Jan. 13, 2024, at Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda. Bishop Frank J. Dewane offered the opening prayer, and was the main celebrant at Mass.

Bishop Dewane said the Gospel reading for the day (Mark 2:13-17) was apropos for the gathering. This Gospel message related how Jesus saw Levi (the Apostle Matthew, the tax collector), sitting at the custom post. “Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me.’  And he got up and followed Jesus.” Later, when the Pharisees asked the disciples why Jesus was eating with sinners and tax collectors, “Jesus heard this and said to them, ‘Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.’”

Whether one serves the Catholic Church in a Diocesan Parish or Catholic school, Bishop Dewane said, the Lord says “Follow Me” to all of us.

“And the response we give is shown in the way we live our lives,” the Bishop said. “Jesus said two short words to Matthew, ‘Follow me.’ With a few words, Mathew is set free from self-hatred as a tax collector. These are words of mercy, because the Lord knows who Matthew is, and what he has done. Then the mercy washes over Matthew. It changed his world.”

While each of the leaders present at the training day have stepped forward to do the work of the Lord in the Parishes and schools, Bishop Dewane said they must each continue to answer that call in their daily lives.

“Find the forgiveness of the Lord; find the Mercy of the Lord, and appeal to Him,” the Bishop said. “We need to give that same mercy to others. In a sense, pass it on. We do it in faith; we do it in the love of the Lord; we do it in the hope of the promise of Salvation.”

Jim Gontis, Diocese of Venice Director of Evangelization, said the day was designed to assist those in Parish and Catholic school leadership to live out and convey the mission of the Church and the work of evangelization central to that mission.

Among those participating were priests, school principals, directors of religious education, youth directors, teachers, and religious education instructors.

The day focused on reminding the Parish and Catholic school leaders that as disciples of Christ, they must continue to learn through the reading of Sacred Scripture and be nourished by God’s word.

One school leader remarked how it is important to remember to always strive to grow closer to the Lord, and this can be done by gaining a better understanding of one’s place in Salvation History.

A Parish leader said it was good to reflect on the love and mercy that the Lord provides each of us, as it can fade into the background of daily life. Each speaker offered a step in the process of finding that love and mercy in the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and through the Sacraments.

“Being a disciple is not a static thing,” said Dr. James Prothro, of the Augustine Institute. “We must see ourselves as part of the ongoing story of Salvation History as told to us in the Bible. The Word of God must give us meaning. When we read the Bible, it must drive our life, in prayer, in service, and in love of God.”

Prothro also focused on the healing benefits of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which offers forgiveness and restoration for those who falter, “which is a category we each fall into.”

Dr. Sean Innerest, also of the Augustine Institute, spoke about reengaging in in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, explaining how the structure and content of the Catechism show us how a deeper engagement with our faith will yield an increase in hope and love for ourselves and those who we service.

Innerest also spoke about the “National Eucharistic Revival,” the ongoing initiative of the U.S. Bishops to build a greater appreciation for the Most Holy Eucharist, in the context of mystagogy. This ancient form of liturgical catechesis shows us how to build that appreciation effectively; to heighten Eucharistic faith by moving from mere “facts” to “fascination” in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

News Briefs for the week of January 19, 2024

Naples Catholic Street Evangelization training Jan. 23

Anyone interested in learning about Catholic Street Evangelization needs to register now for the Jan. 27, 2024, Saint Paul Street Evangelization (SPSE) training at St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Ave N, Naples. Registration deadline is January 23. SPSE is a response to the mandate of Jesus Christ to “preach the Gospel to all nations…” taking the Catholic Faith to the streets. The organization seeks to train the faithful to witness effectively to the truth, beauty, and goodness of Jesus and His Church in the public square in a non-confrontational way. Saint Paul Street Evangelization is supported and encouraged by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. All Catholics who are 18 years of age and older are cordially invited to participate. The daily Mass is at 8 a.m., and the workshops are from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. A “Live Lab” will follow. The cost is $15 per person and includes continental breakfast and lunch. To register, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/2024-st-paul-street-evangelization. For additional questions, please contact Jim Gontis at gontis@dioceseofvenice.org.

Health Care Ethics Conference Feb. 17

Medical professionals, students, and interested laypeople are invited to the first annual Converging Roads health care ethics conference on Feb. 17, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs! This one-day conference will offer continuing education credits for health care professionals with presentations centered on the theme of Catholic Medicine in a Secular Society. For more information or to register, visit convergingroads.com/venice. For information, contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org or call 941-484-9543.

Migrant Care Grants application period open

Grant requests for funding of projects in 2024 are available from the Foundation for the Care of the Migrant Poor Fund and need to be submitted no later than Monday, April 1, 2024. To be considered a grant, the project must clearly be seen as a service to the migrant poor or new immigrants. Preference will be given to those projects under Catholic auspices. Applications can be submitted by visiting https://www.grantinterface.com/Home/Logon?urlkey=ccfsf.

Religious sisters complete half marathon

Two Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, Sister Nicole Daly and Sister Juliana Alfonso, completed the BCC Naples Half Marathon on Jan. 14, 2024. The St. John Neumann Catholic High School teachers completed the 13 miles run while wearing their religious habits. Congratulations to Sisters Nicole and Juliana for their dedication, strength, endurance, and inspiration for all.

Blue Mass in Naples on Jan. 27

St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, is hosting the annual Blue Mass for Law Enforcement, Firefighters, and First Responders at 11 a.m., Jan. 27, 2024. The guest is Msgr. Steven P. Hurley, Pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Wilmington, Delaware. Before entering the seminary, Msgr. Hurley served a policeman and eventually detective for eight years in Ocean City, Maryland. This Mass is dedicated to honoring the sacrifice and service of all law enforcement, firefighters and first responders in the community. Hospitality will follow in the Parish Hall.

“Three Kings” Mass brings students together

Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers hosted a “Three Kings” Mass for first graders from St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers and St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral on Jan. 9, 2024. The Feast of the Three Kings, or the Epiphany (Jan. 7), represents the arrival of the three kings in Bethlehem to praise and honor the Baby Jesus. The Mass was celebrated by Jesuit Father John Belmonte, Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Catholic Education. The first graders serenaded everyone with numerous songs. Father Belmonte queried the young children about what they got for Christmas (and what they would give Jesus for Christmas), and made everyone smile the entire time. Following Mass, representatives from both schools were selected as the three “Kings” for this year.

 

National Eucharistic Revival continue

Placing a greater emphasis on the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist has been the ongoing focus of the National Eucharistic Revival, is an initiative called for in June 2022 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

In support of the National Eucharistic Revival, Bishop Frank J. Dewane directed that the resources of the Diocese of Venice focus on engaging the faithful through a series of events celebrating the Most Holy Eucharist.

Foremost of these events was the March 2023 Diocesan Eucharistic Congress. During the Congress, an estimated 4,400 (middle school students, youth and adults) participated in three unique events during the course of two days, at a venue on the Fort Myers riverfront. “What a wonderful time to be together celebrating our Faith in the Most Holy Eucharist,” Bishop Dewane said at the opening of the Congress.

The high point for the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress included the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass being celebrated each day (one for youth, one for adults).

There were also three group Eucharistic Adorations (two outdoors for the younger participants and one indoors for the adults); a 1,600-person-strong public Eucharistic Procession in the streets of Fort Myers; inspirational talks in both Spanish and English; live music; and fellowship as participants shared the beauty of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Other Diocesan activities throughout the year further supported efforts to celebrate the Source and Summit of our Faith, the Most Holy Eucharist. The Office of Evangelization promoted the Traveling Rosary Congress in October 2023. This Rosary Congress was a unique opportunity to place all prayers and the needs of the faithful into the loving arms of the Mother of God, including a the intention to recognize the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Hosted by 31 Parishes, many had 24 hours of adoration and prayer with different ministries scheduled each hour. Even when the Rosary Congress didn’t last 24 hours, the gatherings always included the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Eucharistic Adoration and the praying of the Holy Rosary.

Additionally, there was a concerted effort to expand the That Man Is You (TMIY) Catholic men’s program from its base of two Parishes. Training sessions throughout the summer bore fruit as 11 new Parishes signed on to start this important weekly outreach in September. At those Parishes, the number of participants has been well beyond what was expected and the effect on the Parish life has been noted by several Pastors. The resonance of the program stems from its focus to honestly address the pressures and temptations that men face in our modern culture, especially those relating to their roles as husbands and fathers. Each weekly session has a segment focused on the Most Holy Eucharist and often follows Mass.

Also, throughout 2023, the Office of Marriage and Family hosted a series of events promoting the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, each with a theme stressing the Most Holy Eucharist. This included the two annual anniversary Masses, celebrated by Bishop Dewane, held to honor couples who have dedicated their lives to God and their marriage. The Masses, held in the northern and southern parts of the Diocese to accommodate the large response, recognize couples enjoying significant wedding anniversaries; with many of those present celebrating more than 50 years of marriage while some marked more than 70 years. Between the two Masses, the 630 couples represented a combined 32,500+ years of marriage. Bishop Dewane stressed that the marriages of those present were bound by God, noting how these couples represent a shining example of the important Sacrament of the Eucharist. The 2024 Anniversary Masses will take place at 11 a.m. Feb. 3, at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, and 11 a.m. Feb. 24, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. A reception follows these free event. Registration is handled through local Parishes.

The Diocese of Venice hosted the third “Together in Holiness” Marriage Conference in Fort Myers in October. Again, the theme focused on the Most Holy Eucharist, and the important role in building, and strengthening, a holy marriage. More than 125 couples, representing 31 Parishes, took part in this event. The day included the Mass, celebrated by Bishop Dewane, the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and the availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The conference allowed couples to grow together in holiness and their closeness to the Lord; to learn to form their children in the Catholic Faith; to enjoy a day of quality time with their spouse; and to witness dynamic presentations. Plans are already underway for the 2024 conference to take place this fall.

In 2023, the focus of the National Eucharistic Revival switched to Parish outreach. Parishes throughout the Diocese organized Catholic speakers, adoration, Eucharistic processions, and other exciting events.

With the support of the Office of Evangelization and Department of Communications and the USCCB committee for the National Eucharistic Revival, a number or resources have been provided to Parishes. This was done to refresh the teaching of the faithful about the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist, and its history dating back to the Last Supper of Christ. Resources also include details about the importance of Eucharistic Adoration, and a list of speakers who are available to speak on this topic.

As a result, many Parishes have expanded their adoration time. Several Parishes have added new days, or extended existing hours, all with positive results. A few Parishes have even begun an adoration focused on teens and families, with participation correspondingly increasing. Through early 2024, several Parishes have brought in numerous high-profile guests to speak about the Most Holy Eucharist and Real Presence, with many more scheduled in the coming months. The attendance at these presentations has been impressive. Resources for this outreach can be found at https://dioceseofvenice.org/eucharistic-congress/year-of-parish-revival/.

Building on the success of the first Diocesan Eucharistic Conference, the second Conference is set for March 16, at Bishop Verot Catholic High School, 3398 Sunrise Drive, Fort Myers. All are invited to attend the all-day event of faith and fellowship, featuring inspirational Catholic speakers, including nationally acclaimed Catholic speaker and author Steven Ray, Crystalina Evert, Father Elvis Gonzalez, Katia Aranga, and Tim Glemkowski. English and Spanish sessions will be offered. The day will include the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as well as Eucharistic Adoration, and confessions. Space is limited so early registration is encouraged. For more information and to register, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/eucharistic-conference-2024/.

The National Eucharistic Revival will culminate in the first National Eucharistic Congress in the United States in almost 50 years. This historic gathering will take place in Indianapolis from July 17 to 21, 2024. Bishop Dewane is leading a pilgrimage to the National Congress which the Bishop describes as “a pivotal moment in the Church, and a unique opportunity for participants to draw into a deeper, more intimate relationship with Our Lord.”

The cost of the Diocese of Venice pilgrimage package is $1,049. With the package, pilgrims receive the National Eucharistic Congress 5-day pass, which provides access to all speakers and events, as well as four nights’ accommodations in a 4-star hotel within walking distance of the convention center. Please note, the pilgrimage package does not include transportation or meals. Space is limited! Learn more by visiting https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/evangelization/pilgrimage-to-national-eucharistic-congress/.

Please visit the Diocese of Venice website, https://dioceseofvenice.org/, to learn about any additional information about the Diocesan activities to promote the National Eucharistic Revival, and check with your Parish to learn more about local Eucharistic events!.

News Briefs for the week of January 12, 2024

Annual Mass held for circus and traveling show workers

Each year the circus and travelling show workers of the United States gather for three days to thank God for their continued blessings. This retreat was Jan. 5-7, 2024, at St. Martha Parish in downtown Sarasota, which is designated the “National Circus Parish.” The pastoral workers, who ensure that the Sacraments are available and maintained for travelling show people, function under the direction of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Cultural Diversity’s Subcommittee on the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers (PCMRT). Bishop Frank J. Dewane is the Episcopal Liaison for the Circus Ministry of the PCMRT. Bishop Dewane celebrated the closing Mass on Jan. 7, the Epiphany of the Lord, and he was assisted by several of the priests who serve the circus and traveling show workers. A special moment during the Mass occurred when Sister Joanna Okereke, a Handmaid of the Holy Child Jesus and assistant director of the PCMRT subcommittee, renewed her religious vows. This is done annually on the Epiphany of the Lord, and was presided over by Bishop Dewane, and witnessed by the faithful present.

9 Days for Life novena begins Jan. 16

The faithful are encouraged to pray “9 Days for Life,” an annual Respect Life novena starting Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. In the Catholic Church, a ‘novena’ consists of prayers over nine successive days, and this particular novena is an opportunity for prayer and reparation in observance of the annual Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children on Jan. 22. The overarching intention of the novena is the end to abortion. Each daily prayer intention highlights a related topic and is accompanied by a reflection, educational information, and suggested daily actions. Participants may access the novena and also subscribe to receive the daily prayers by email or text message in English at 9daysforlife.com or in Spanish at respectlife.org/9-dias-por-la-vida.

Migrant Care Grants application period open

Grant requests for funding of projects in 2024 are available from the Foundation for the Care of the Migrant Poor Fund and need to be submitted no later than Friday, March 31, 2024. To be considered a grant, the project must clearly be seen as a service to the migrant poor or new immigrants. Preference will be given to those projects under Catholic auspices. Applications can be submitted by visiting https://www.grantinterface.com/Home/Logon?urlkey=ccfsf.

New mural adorns Verot building

Students returned back from Christmas break at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers on Jan. 8, 2024, and were greeted by a new sight on campus! Eric Riemenschneider, a graphic design teacher, was busy during the past few weeks working on a new mural outside, in the cafeteria courtyard. The mural reads VEROT in bold letters on a blue background. Within the letters are symbols of school life, hands clasped together in prayer, caps tossed at graduation, St. Francis de Sales and Bishop Verot, patrons of the school, athletes in action, and the school Viking logo. Above the VEROT image is a large white cross. The mural is not complete, weather delayed the progress, but judging by its look so far, it will inspire Bishop Verot students for years to come.

Prayer Walk for Life Jan. 20 in Ave Maria

The Respect Life Ministry of Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria is hosting its 3rd annual Prayer Walk for Life, 10 a.m., Jan. 20. The walk begins with remarks from Bishop Frank J. Dewane and other dignitaries at the university football stadium and will then proceed through the university and conclude in the town square. More than 1,000 took part in 2023.

Knights on Bikes deliver toys to Clewiston mission

The Knights on Bikes, a motorcycle club of the Knights of Columbus, rode out to Santa Rosa de Lima Mission in Montura Ranch Estates, just south of Clewiston, on Jan. 6, 2024, the Feast of the Epiphany. There they delivered and distributed toys to migrant children in the community.  The Knights on Bikes mission is to promote and adhere to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, and evangelize through fellowship, charity, and service.

WARNING – Text/Email SCAM Alert

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 clergy – including Bishop Frank J. Dewane – or Parish/school staff, requesting donations in the form of gift cards and/or wire transfers. It is Diocesan policy that neither the Bishop, nor priests or staff request donations in the form of gift cards, PayPal, MoneyGram, etc. Without this awareness, some have responded to the spoofed messages, with consequences, including loss of funds. There is an established process in place on how parishioners can make donations and participate in the life of the Diocese/Parish/school. If you receive such a SCAM text or email, please immediately contact the Diocesan/Parish/school directly!

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