‘Follow Me:’ Men’s Conference inspires

Each encounter with the Lord, whether through prayer, Mass or by attending a conference, must fundamentally change us in our hearts, minds and souls.

How we respond to the ‘Call of the Lord’ in our life was a central theme of the 2021 Diocese of Venice Men’s Conference, Feb. 20, 2021 at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers.

Larry Montreux of Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers left the Conference with a new perspective on how he lives his Faith.

“I think I am a good Catholic, but I know I can do more,” Montreux explained. “Christ needs to be at the forefront of my life. It is a struggle, but I know Jesus is there and that provides great comfort.”

The Conference featured speakers were Patrick Madrid, of Relevant Radio fame, and Joel Stepanek who is Vice President of Parish Services for Life Teen International. Both focused their talks about what it means to be a Catholic man and how to respond to the “Call of the Lord’ in their life as well as how to talk about their Faith with family members.

New to the Conference was a question and answer session with Bishop Frank J. Dewane joining Madrid and Stepanek. Questions covered a wide assortment of topics including how to respond to answer questions.

Bishop Dewane took direct questions about the impacts of the Pandemic on the Diocese including about when he would lift the dispensation of the obligation of attending Mass for those who are sick or vulnerable or have a fear of getting sick, something Bishop said was much closer than far away. “The reality is that some exceptions will still be necessary.”

Bishop Dewane celebrated the closing Mass for the Conference and stressed that he prays the men have grown closer to the Lord during the day and will leave the event with open hearts and minds to hear the message of Christ in their lives.

The Gospel Reading of the day, LK 5:27-32, was appropriate, the Bishop noted, for the Conference: “Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.”

“It is a command, more than a question,” Bishop Dewane added. “It is not by chance that you are here. You have answered a ‘Call of the Lord.’ Just as you and I have made mistakes, the disciples were sinners… The Lord didn’t come to just call the virtuous. He has you and I in mind, because we are sinners. Christ loves us all the same.”

Christ wants us to change our life for the better, the Bishop continued, but it’s not going to keep the Lord away from us. “It may keep us away from Christ. That is our problem and we must strive to overcome that… Let that ‘follow me’ be part of who we are as men of God. You have to hear it, because Christ is saying it over and over again throughout the day.”

The Conference opened with Eucharistic Adoration, which continued throughout the day in a nearby classroom. The opportunity for Confession was also available all day. Aspects of the Conference were adapted this year to comply with social distancing requirements necessitated by the Pandemic. These included extra space for seating during the talks and lunch, as well as limiting the total number of participants.

Women’s Conference March 13

Registration remains open for the 2021 Women’s Conference! The Conference will feature speakers Kimberly Hahn and Mary Ann Weisinger-Puig at Bishop Verot Catholic High School, 5598 Sunrise Drive, Fort Myers on Saturday, March 13. The day begins at 9:00 a.m. (doors open at 8:00 a.m.) and ends with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane at 2:00 p.m. Confession will be available all day. Register at www.dioceseofvenice.org/adultconferences.

A night with Jesus in the Eucharist

Every time one sits down to pray, the Lord is there. The encounter is new, filled with grace, love and mercy. It is a time to be healed, strengthened, and transformed.

This idea of creating new encounters with the Lord was the purpose behind a series of seven evening sessions in late January to mid-February called “All Things New: An evening of praise and worship, Eucharistic Adoration and Confession.”

Presented by the Diocese of Venice Office of Evangelization, the theme of the evenings was from the Book of Revelations, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev 21:5)

“This is the best place to be,” explained Joshua Mazrin, Director of Evangelization during the Feb. 11, 2021 gathering at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota. “Sitting here, before Our Lord and the Blessed Sacrament on the altar is the greatest place to be; save for the Holy Mass; it where we are supposed to be; where we are meant to be tonight.”

Noting that there are many obstacles in the world which can create distance in our relationship with the Lord, Mazrin said that opening our heart while in His Presence will allow the Holy Spirit to cultivate and till the soil so that His Graces will be accepted.

Father Eric Scanlan, Administrator of Incarnation Parish, hosted the Feb. 11 evening and said the theme was appropriate during a time when many see things that they feel are not right, make them angry or upset, they feel unjust or stressed, and they question where the Lord is in the world.

“Every time we join together the Lord comes to be with us,’ Father Scanlan said. “Our God is a God who makes all things new.”

He explained that every time we come together to pray with Him or receive the Eucharist, it’s a new encounter of God’s grace, love and mercy. Just as every time we go to the Sacrament of Confession, it is a new experience with God, never the same.

“Each prayer and time before the Lord are a new opportunity for the Lord to heals us, strengthen us and transform our hearts,” Father continued. “Allow the Lord to make your heart new. Allow Him to love you. Allow Him to take away the stress, anxiety, doubts, anger of the outside world… This is an opportunity for the Lord to love you and heal you.”

Brad Fournier was among the 75 or so who took part in the Feb. 11 “All Things New” and described how he tries to spend as much time in Adoration as he can. “This was a wonderful evening with so many focused on one spot in the church, the Lord present on the altar. That helped bring me into focus as well. I think we all need that once in a while. This happened just in time for Lent to begin and I feel refreshed and ready for that journey to begin.”

Each evening of Adoration included prayerful music from Zander, a musician who performed during the 2020 Diocese of Venice Youth Rally. The other six evenings took place at the following Parishes: St. Elizabeth Seton, Naples, Jan. 26; Ave Maria, Ave Maria, Jan. 29; Our Lady of Light, Fort Myers, Feb. 2; Our Lady of the Angels, Lakewood Ranch, Feb. 3; St. John the Evangelist, Naples, Feb. 4; St. Joseph, Bradenton, Feb. 16.

For more information about upcoming events sponsored by the Diocese Office of Evangelization, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/evangelization.

News briefs for week of February 26, 2021

Verot artists shine in chalk

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School Art Club members participated in the Chalk Block contest on Feb. 5-6, 2021 on the waterfront in Fort Myers. More than 40 Lee County high school teams participated in the Chalk Block event which was sponsored by Lee Health and Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

 

Verot seniors Angela Hopkinson, Letitia Tiranayake-Siriwardena, and Rachelle Hartig won the Golisano Children’s Hospital “Sunny and Sparkle” award in addition to taking third place overall. Ainsleigh Ellis, Sophie Purdue, and MacKenzie Housler won a judge’s award for their sun garden. The theme this year was CommUNITY. The girls are currently considering making their chalk block design into a t-shirt that will raise money for art therapy programs at the Children’s Hospital.

 

Sarasota Charity Ball a success

The 2021 Sarasota Charity Ball was a huge success on Feb. 13 at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in downtown Sarasota. The proceeds from the event will benefit the programs of Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice in Sarasota and Manatee counties including the St. Martha Early Learning Center, Bethesda House, Our Mother’s House, North Port Family Haven and more, all which help to serve the needy in the area.

The elegant evening included a live auction and dinner catered by Michael’s on East and was chaired by Bridget Speiss.

Mooney student medals in State Weightlifting

Congratulations to Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School student McKayla Cantrell who medaled and finished 4th in the 2021 Class 1A Girls Weightlifting State Championship on Feb. 12, 2021 at Suwanee High School in Live Oak. Her combined lift was 305 pounds (165 pounds in the bench press and 140 in the clean and jerk). McKayla is Mooney’s first state medalist in this event.

Parish adds spiritual touch to food distribution

St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples are now partnering with St. Matthew’s House for a weekly food distribution. This outreach began in January and more than 400 families are coming by for food each week. In addition to giving food, the Parish Prayer Team provides something different to help the recipients connect to the Lord. For example, the team recently provided rosaries along with information in the Divine Mercy Devotion. As the team prays with their guests, they also learn if there are any other needs, such as rent or utilities, which are then addressed by the Parish St. Vincent DePaul Society.

Migrant Care Grants deadline Feb. 28

Grant requests for funding of 2021 projects from the Foundation for the Care of the Migrant Poor are available and need to be submitted no later than Feb. 28, 2021. To be considered by the Board of Directors for 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 going to the Foundation page on the Diocese website at https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/organizations/foundation-for-the-care-of-the-migrant-poor/.

Volunteers needed

The St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift stores in Bonita Springs and Naples are in need of more volunteers. If you feel you can help, please contact Samantha Maturo, Program/Volunteer Coordinator, at smaturo@svdpnaples.org or 239-775-2907 ext. 1014.

Safe Haven Sunday

Pornography is one of the leading causes of addictions, abuse, adultery, divorce, and even human trafficking: it is, in short, a pervasive evil inflicting grave wounds on our families. Pornography creates unsafe environments for children and confuses others about attitudes towards sex and marriage. It is a moral issue. For this reason, March 7 has been designated as Safe Haven Sunday in the Diocese of Venice. This day for awareness will give an opportunity to address the harmfulness of pornography in marriages, families, and culture, while providing helpful resources for all. Detailed information about the implementation of this program will be shared in the coming weeks through your Parishes. If you have any questions, please contact Carrie Harkey, Diocesan Coordinator of Family Life at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543.

Women’s Conference March 13

Registration is now open for the 2021 Women’s Conference on March 13, which will feature speakers Kimberly Hahn and Mary Ann Weisinger-Puig. The Conference will be held at Bishop Verot Catholic High School, 5598 Sunrise Drive, Fort Myers. The Conference is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (doors open at 8 a.m.) with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. Confession will be available all day. For more information or to register, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/adultconferences.

40 Days for Life now until Palm Sunday

Join other Christians from now through March 28, for the Spring 40 Days for Life campaign. This Campaign encompasses 40 days of prayer and fasting for an end to abortion. Stand and peacefully pray during vigils in the public right-of-way outside Planned Parenthood in Fort Myers or Sarasota. For more information, go to www.40daysforlife.com and click on the location nearest you.

Sacrament of Holy Matrimony a Beautiful Vocation

The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is a sacred bond between a man and a woman which reflects the honor, love, commitment and fidelity each demonstrates for the other.

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 for younger generations to see and admire.

“I stand before you truly joyful and truly humbled by the commitment you live each day,” Bishop Dewane said Feb. 6, 2021 at one of two Masses celebrated at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. “It is not just a celebration of the numbers you have accomplished, but of your presence here today and to your dedication, one to the other. You wouldn’t be here if Christ wasn’t at the center of your commitment to each other.”

As examples for others within their own family and society, the Bishop said that the life that married couples live, in kindness and fruitfulness, is unique in what it contributes to society.

“You have made society rich – with your forgiveness, compassion and love for one another,” Bishop Dewane added. “Know that the Lord sees that and gives you the strength to be that example; the silent preachers of something that is good and permanent.”

Masses are celebrated each year in the northern and southern sections of Diocese of Venice so as to accommodate those wanting to attend. In 2021, to allow for social distancing due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, two Masses were celebrated Feb. 6, 2021 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. An additional two Masses, at 10 a.m. and noon, on March 6, 2021, will be celebrated at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. (Registration is through your Parish.)

For the two Masses in Venice, there were 126 couples present – married a combined 6,571 years – with six celebrating 70 or more years of marriage. The longest married couple was Donald and Nonna Rassier of Epiphany Cathedral. On Oct. 2, 2021, they will celebrate their 73 years together.

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

Alex and Lynn Franklin of St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota have been married for 40 years and have four children and 12 grandchildren.  Lynn Franklin was thrilled to be present for such a beautiful Mass and thanked Bishop Dewane for ensuring the Mass took place even during the Pandemic.

The couple credits their longevity to their faith and communication. “We talk about everything, openly and honestly,” Lynn Franklin explained. “She means everything,” Alex Franklin quipped. Lynn quickly added that by communicating the couple remains focused on their life together. “It is a good life, grounded in our love of God and our whole family.”

A reception followed the Mass with lunch and the opportunity to have complimentary pictures taken with the Bishop.

 

Present for the Mass were six couples celebrating 70 or more years of marriage:

73 years

Donald and Nonna Rassier, Epiphany Cathedral;

71 years

James and Maria Nixon, Epiphany Cathedral;

Leon and Ann Reser, St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Grove City;

70 years

Thomas and Dolores Mortorana, Epiphany Cathedral;

John and Rita Riebel, Epiphany Cathedral;

Russell and Gianina Stanley, St. Bernard Parish, Holmes Beach.

Also present were two couples celebrating their anniversary on the day of the Mass:

Ken and Diane Neyer, Epiphany Cathedral, 50th Anniversary; and Guido and Sharon Leutem, Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish, Bradenton, 61st Anniversary.

News Briefs for the week of Feb. 10, 2021

Men’s Conference Feb. 20 in Fort Myers

There is still time to register for the 2021 Diocese of Venice Men’s Conference on Feb. 20, at Bishop Verot Catholic High School, 5598 Sunrise Drive, Fort Myers. Featured speakers include Patrick Madrid and Joel Stepanek. Madrid hosts the “Patrick Madrid Show” radio program on Relevant Radio each weekday, is the author of 26 books, including “Why be Catholic?” and is a research fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Studies. Stepanek is also an author and the Vice President of Parish Services for Life Teen International where he guides several teams that support Catholic parishes in creating and sustaining vibrant youth ministries that form passionate Catholic evangelists and disciples. The Conference is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (doors open at 8 a.m.) with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. Confession will be available all day. For more information or to register visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/adultconferences.

“A Seminarian Story” seventh installment available

The Diocese of Venice in Florida Office of Vocations launched a video series titled, “A Seminarian Story,” to celebrate the 16 Seminarians currently in formation for the Diocese. The first seven videos have been released and more will follow approximately every few weeks. The most recent video is about Seminarian Alan Baldarelli who is in formation at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach and is currently serving a Pastoral Year at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. Developed with the assistance of the Diocese Communications Department, the goal of the series is to inspire others to follow in the path to the priesthood or religious life, as well as encourage the faithful to continue to support the seminarians as they continue their formation process at different seminaries. “A Seminarian Story” featuring David Alan Baldarelli can be found at https://vimeo.com/508944522.

Order of Malta holds retreat

The Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta took part in a retreat which began with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Feb. 5, 2021 at St. Ann Parish in Naples. The retreat was led by Father George Ratzmann, Pastor of St. William Parish in Naples.

40 Days for Life begins Ash Wednesday

Join other Christians from Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17 through March 28, for the spring 40 Days for Life campaign. This Campaign encompasses 40 days of prayer and fasting for an end to abortion. Stand and peacefully pray during vigils in the public right-of-way outside Planned Parenthood in Fort Myers or Sarasota. For more information, go to www.40daysforlife.com and click on the location nearest you.

Migrant Care Grants deadline Feb. 28

Grant requests for funding of projects in 2021 are available from the Foundation for the Care of the Migrant Poor now and need to be submitted no later than Feb. 28, 2021. To be considered by the Board of Directors for 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 going to the Foundation page on the Diocese website at https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/organizations/foundation-for-the-care-of-the-migrant-poor/.

Ash Wednesday Day of Prayer

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat and Spirituality Center, 3989 S. Moon Drive, Venice, is offering its Monthly Day of Prayer on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. The day begins at 9:30 a.m. and includes two conferences, a simple lunch, Eucharistic Adoration, Mass with distribution of ashes, and opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a safe, tranquil setting along the Myakka River. For more information or to register, please call 941-486-0233 ext. 3004, or visit the website at www.olph-retreat.org and click on “Schedule of Events.”

 

 

 

News Briefs for the week of February 3, 2021

Migrant Care Grants deadline March 1

Grant requests for funding from the Foundation for the Care of the Migrant Poor of projects in 2021 are available now and need to be submitted no later than March 1, 2021. To be considered by the Board of Directors for 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 going to the Foundation page on the Diocese website at https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/organizations/foundation-for-the-care-of-the-migrant-poor/.

Blue Mass held in Naples

St. Agnes Parish in Naples hosted a Blue Mass in honor of active and retired law enforcement, fire and emergency services and first responders on Jan. 30, 2021. The Mass honors the hard work and sacrifice of those who work to keep the community safe. The keynote talk was provided by Deacon Bill Schultz, who is a retired police officer.

 Men’s & Women’s Conferences 2021

Registration is now open for the 2021 Men’s & Women’s Conferences! The Men’s Conference will feature speakers Patrick Madrid and Joel Stepanek on Saturday February 20th. The Women’s Conference will feature speakers Kimberly Hahn and Mary Ann Weisinger-Puig on Saturday March 13. Both conferences will be held at Bishop Verot Catholic High School, 5598 Sunrise Drive, Fort Myers, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (doors open at 8:00 a.m.) with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Confession available all day. To register, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/adultconferences.

Safe Haven Sunday

Pornography is one of the leading causes of addictions, abuse, adultery, divorce, and even human trafficking: it is, in short, a pervasive evil inflicting grave wounds on our families. Pornography creates unsafe environments for children and confuses others about attitudes towards sex and marriage. It is a moral issue. For this reason, March 7 has been designated as Safe Haven Sunday in the Diocese of Venice. This day for awareness will give an opportunity to address the harmfulness of pornography in marriages, families, and culture, while providing helpful resources for all. Detailed information about the implementation of this program will be shared in the coming weeks through your Parishes. If you have any questions, please contact Carrie Harkey, Diocesan Coordinator of Family Life at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543.

Parish donations

During this challenging time in the life and mission of the Diocese of Venice, our Parishes face increased risk of financial shortfalls due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and its effects on everyday life. Parishes depend on weekly financial gifts to continue their ministries, especially in this critical time of crisis. The Diocese of Venice is providing an online platform and encourages the Faithful to support their Parish. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/ways-to-give/parish-donations-online/ to donate to your Parish. The Faithful may also contribute through usual channels (e.g., envelopes, and through the Parish online giving option). Together we will navigate through this crisis, provide assistance to those in need, and secure the road ahead for the Parishes within the Diocese of Venice.

Online Resources

A special coronavirus webpage is located on the Diocese of Venice website at www.dioceseofvenice.org. Resources include links to the Mass, the prayer for an Act of the Spiritual Communion, videos of the Stations of the Cross, Divine Mercy Chaplet and Pray the Rosary. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website, www.usccb.org, also posts the daily Mass readings.

Act of Spiritual Communion

It has long been a Catholic understanding that when circumstances prevent one from receiving Holy Communion, it is possible to make an Act of Spiritual Communion which is a source of grace. Spiritual Communion means uniting one’s self in prayer with Christ’s sacrifice and worshiping Him in His Body and Blood.

The most common reason for making an Act of Spiritual Communion is when a person cannot attend Mass, as is the case during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Acts of Spiritual Communion increase our desire to receive sacramental Communion and help us avoid the sins that would make us unable to receive Holy Communion worthily.

For all who will not be able to receive the Holy Eucharist in person, consider this special prayer, an Act of Spiritual Communion:

My Jesus,
I believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,

and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there

and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.
Amen.

News briefs for the week of Jan. 26, 2021

Children’s Festival held in Wauchula

The annual Children’s Festival was held at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula on Jan. 23, 2021. The Festival brings children from kindergarten through fifth grade to the Parish for a day of prayer and fun.

The day included Mass, a Eucharistic Procession, as well as presentations about how they can grow in their Faith. In addition, there were various games, many of which had a faith-based theme. The women religious who serve the Parish, Sisters Servant of Lord and the Virgin of Matara, organized the festival.

“A Seminarian Story” sixth installment available

The Diocese of Venice in Florida Office of Vocations launched a video series titled, “A Seminarian Story,” to celebrate the 16 Seminarians currently in formation. The first four videos have been released and more will follow approximately every few weeks. The most recent video is about Seminarian David Portorreal who is doing formation at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach.

Developed with the assistance of the Diocese Communications Department, the goal of the series is to inspire others to follow in the path to the priesthood or religious life, as well as encourage the faithful to continue to support the seminarians as they continue their formation process at different seminaries. “A Seminarian Story” featuring David Portorreal can be found at https://vimeo.com/443069438.

Men’s & Women’s Conferences 2021

Registration is now open for the 2021 Men’s & Women’s Conferences! The Men’s Conference will feature speakers Patrick Madrid and Joel Stepanek on Saturday February 20th.

The Women’s Conference will feature speakers Kimberly Hahn and Mary Ann Weisinger-Puig on Saturday March 13. Both conferences will be held at Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (doors open at 8:00 a.m.) with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Confession available all day. To register, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/adultconferences.

Anniversary Masses

All couples celebrating 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, or more than 50 years of marriage are invited by Bishop Frank J. Dewane to an Anniversary Mass in their honor to be celebrated in two locations. This year, considering the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, each location will have two Masses to allow for appropriate social distancing. The Masses are 10 a.m. and noon on Feb. 6, 2021, Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice, and 10 a.m. and noon, March 6, 2021, St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. All registration is being handled through your local Parish. Please reserve seats at least one week before the Mass you wish to attend.

Begin your year with Jesus in the Eucharist

What better way to begin 2021 than in the presence of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament? The Office of Evangelization will be hosting several evenings of Eucharistic Adoration with Confession available, music, reflection, and time for silent prayer. Jesus, who makes “All Things New” will bring a newness to your faith in this new year. Locations include Our Lady of Light Parish, Fort Myers, Feb. 2; Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Lakewood Ranch, Feb. 3; St. John the Evangelist Parish, Naples, Feb. 4; Incarnation Parish, Sarasota, Feb. 11; and St. Joseph Parish, Bradenton, Feb. 16. Adoration begins at 7 p.m. and goes until 8:30 p.m.

Bibles presented to Bradenton students

Father Rafal Ligenza, Administrator of St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton, presented bibles to each of the seventh and eighth graders at St. Joseph Catholic School on Jan. 21, 2021. Father Ligenza presented the bibles as gifts from the Parish and then prayed with the students.

Encountering God in Prayer: A Lenten Journey

Spend this Lent growing in prayer! “Encountering God in Prayer: A Lenten Journey” is a theological and practical online course offered by the Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation. The course will guide you through the rich and beautiful teaching on personal prayer found in part four of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Short video lectures, online discussions, prayer exercises and other learning activities will constitute the class content. Students log in each week at times most convenient to them. The instructor, Dr. John Gresham, Executive Director of the Institute, has extensive experience teaching on prayer in courses, workshops, and retreats. The course is $25 and runs from Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 to April 5. For more information, visit www.institute-dov.org, call 941-766-7334 or email john.gresham@institute-dov.org.

Water bottle stations make an impact

Each Diocesan Catholic school strives to be good steward of God’s creation, including making every effort to limit the amount of trash. At St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, water bottle filling station were installed to cut down on the waste caused by plastic water bottles. On Jan. 22, 2021 Neumann Senior Tommy Anderson was recognized as the 10,000th water bottle filler at one of the stations on campus. Principal Sister Patricia Roche, Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco, presented Anderson with a certificate during morning prayers/announcements. The stations were installed thanks to the Home and School Association. Since the start of the Academic Year, 31,609 water bottles have been saved from entering the landfill.

Verot student to attend Congress of Future Medical Leaders

Eric Avin, a ninth grader at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, will serve as a Delegate to the Congress of Future Medical Leaders this March. The Congress is an honors-only program for high school students striving for a career as a physician or in a medical research field. The event is designed to honor, inspire, motivate and direct some of the brightest students in the country and to provide a path, plan and resources to help them reach their goal. He was chosen based on the recommendations of a teacher and a Nobel laureate, and on his academic achievement, leadership potential and determination to serve humanity in the field of medicine. During the two-day virtual Congress, Eric will have the chance to hear Nobel Laureates and National Medal of Science Winners talk about leading medical research; learn about cutting-edge advances and the future in medicine and medical technology and much more.

Safe Haven Sunday

Pornography is one of the leading causes of addictions, abuse, adultery, divorce, and even human trafficking: it is, in short, a pervasive evil inflicting grave wounds on our families. Pornography creates unsafe environments for children and confuses others about attitudes towards sex and marriage. It is a moral issue. For this reason, March 7 has been designated as Safe Haven Sunday in the Diocese of Venice. This day for awareness will give an opportunity to address the harmfulness of pornography in marriages, families, and culture, while providing helpful resources for all. Detailed information about the implementation of this program will be shared in the coming weeks through your Parishes. If you have any questions, please contact Carrie Harkey, Diocesan Coordinator of Family Life at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543.

Faith and Wine Lee County Feb. 25

The next gathering of Faith and Wine Lee County will be a virtual Zoom event beginning at 7 p.m., Feb. 25, 2021. The speaker is Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, who will present “Small Things with Great Love: To Love like Mother Teresa.” To see the complete line-up of speakers, or to register, visit https://faithandwineleecounty.com.

 

Safe Haven Sunday March 7, 2021

Pornography is one of the leading causes of addictions, abuse, adultery, divorce, and even human trafficking: it is, in short, a pervasive evil inflicting grave wounds on our families. Pornography creates unsafe environments for children and confuses others about attitudes towards sex and marriage. It is a moral issue.

For this reason, Bishop Frank J. Dewane has designated March 7, 2021, Safe Haven Sunday in the Diocese of Venice. This day of awareness will provide the opportunity for the Diocese to directly address the problem of pornography in marriages, families, and in our culture. At the same time, resources will be made available to support individuals, married couples and families in making their homes safe from pornography.

Safe Haven Sunday was developed in direct response to the USCCB’s document “Create In Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography.” To aide Parishes in their preparation for educating the faithful about the importance of Safe Haven Sunday, the Diocesan Office of Family Life hosted a series of presentations for Diocesan Priests, Deacons, and lay leaders between Jan. 11 and Jan. 13, 2021.

The response to the presentations was overwhelmingly positive. Several priests noted that addiction to pornography is a common theme in troubled marriages and that the tools provided through the Safe Haven Sunday process are most welcome.

In addition, several lay leaders expressed their gratitude toward Bishop Dewane for having the courage to publicly address the issue of pornography. They are also grateful for the opportunity to take part in the presentations, while at the same time being provided real resources that can be disseminated to the entire Parish community.

More than 50 priests attended a presentation on Jan. 12 at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Port Charlotte, while another 140 attended separate sessions at St. Catherine Parish in Sebring, St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, and St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota.

“The goal of the sessions was to raise awareness among those who help advance the mission of the Church to foster and support holy families,” explained Carrie Harkey, Director of the Diocesan Family Life Office. “This is the introduction to a three-year process which will create awareness about this important issue while also providing key tools to create that safe haven in the home.”

The presentations were delivered by Ryan Foley, Vice President of Business Development for Covenant Eyes, a company that provides faith-based internet accountability and security software in support of families to protect them from internet pornography.

Foley covered current statistics, trends, the devastating impact pornography has on children’s developing brains, as well as offering resources and tools to aide in ministering to those struggling.

“First exposure to internet pornography is often during the elementary school years, often by accident with the search of a keyword on social media,” Foley explained to his stunned audiences. “When parents and guardians haven’t created an environment where it’s safe and welcome to talk about uncomfortable topics, children will often hide these experiences out of shame and embarrassment. This reality creates an impediment to obtaining deep and lasting relationships with Our Lord.”

The presentation for priests included an overview of the issue, enlightenments about accessibility of pornography for faithful of all ages, as well as also offering tools for future homilies, private discussions in marriage counseling, or in the confessional.

The first Safe Haven Sunday will have a theme of “Equipping the Family, Safeguarding Children,” a time when the Diocesan faith community joins in saying we want holy, healthy, and safe homes, free from pornography and other online threats that deprive the home of its role as a safe haven.

To help marriages and families, each home will be given a free copy of Covenant Eyes’ book, “Equipped: Smart Catholic Parenting in a Sexualized Culture.” This book includes a unique seven-day text-to-go-opt-in-program, the Safe Digital Family Challenge. This challenge provides practical tips any caring adult can take to create safer digital environments for themselves and our young people. To ensure that all families receive this book, the Diocese is supplementing half of the costs.

Additional information about Safe Haven Sunday will be shared in the coming weeks. If you have any questions, please contact Carrie Harkey, Diocesan Coordinator of Family Life at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543.

News briefs for the week of Jan. 20, 2021

Students learn about St. Joseph

During this “Year of St. Joseph,” St. Ann Catholic School 8th grade Junior Catechists Mariana Franco and Jack McGovern taught 1st grade students to create a shrine for St. Joseph during the week dedicated to the Saint. This is part of the ongoing St. Joseph Devotional Project taking place at all Diocesan elementary schools. The “Year of St. Joseph” was established by Bishop Frank J. Dewane in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic on March 19, 2020 and will continue through Dec. 8, 2021 as directed by Pope Francis. St. Joseph is the Protector of the Universal Church.

Marriage Prep Retreats for 2021

The Diocese Office of Family Life is offering a “Day of Reflection” retreats for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage. A specially prepared volunteer team of married couples and a priest will share their experiences and information with the intention of enabling couples to be more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of marriage. The retreats in English are from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., April 17, Aug. 7 and Nov. 13, 2021. Retreats in Spanish are at the same time and will be March 6, Aug. 7 and Oct. 30. To register for the English retreats, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/marriage-preparation-retreat-2021 and to register for the Spanish retreat, please contact St. Jude Parish in Sarasota at 941-955-3934. For more information or to inquire about a virtual option contact Carrie Harkey at 941-484-9543 ext. 3019.

St. Joseph student takes second place in state soccer competition

Emmanuel, a student at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton took second place in the state for his age division in the Knights of Columbus State Soccer Challenge held on Jan. 16, 2021, in Melbourne. Emmanuel, and classmate Connor, won at local, regional and district levels of the Knights Soccer Challenge qualifying for the state events. Well done!

Institute provides Lenten offering

Spend this Lent growing in prayer! “Encountering God in Prayer: A Lenten Journey” is a theological and practical online course offered by the Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation. The course will guide you through the rich and beautiful teaching on personal prayer found in part four of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Short video lectures, online discussions, prayer exercises and other learning activities which constitute the class content. Students log in each week at times most convenient to them. The instructor, Dr. John Gresham, Executive Director of the Institute, has extensive experience teaching on prayer in courses, workshops, and retreats. The course runs from Ash Wednesday Feb. 17, 2021 to April 5. For more information visit the Institute website www.institute-dov.org, call 941-766-7334 or email john.gresham@institute-dov.org.

Updated times for Sunday Mass on radio in Spanish

St. Jude Parish in Sarasota broadcasts the Holy Mass in Spanish, celebrated by Father Celestino Gutierrez, every Sunday at 8 a.m. on radio station FM 99.1 and 10 a.m. on FM 105.3. We are grateful to the sponsors and SOLMART Media for their collaboration in this effort.

“Child’s Play” virtual fundraiser Feb. 25

Our Mother’s House, a program of Catholic Charities which provides housing and support for homeless mothers and their infant children, is having a virtual fundraiser titled “Child’s Play.” This night of interactive fun begins at 7 p.m., Feb. 25, 2021 with funds raised used to ensure that the mothers and their children receive the suport they need as they strive for self-sufficiency. For information about the event, contact Lisa Ventura at Lisa.Ventura@CatholicCharitiesDov.Org or 941-485-6264. A generous donor has offered to match all donations up to a total of $125,000. Please participate and help make a difference.

Projector installed in school Chapel

The Our Lady of the Angels Chapel at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples has a new addition of a projector courtesy of the Salesian Sisters Education Fund. Installed on Jan. 11, 2021, the projector allows the text and music for the Mass to be seen by all, removing the need to print worship aids for each Mass or prayer service.

Surviving divorce program beginning in February

A 12-week program called “Surviving Divorce … Hope and Healing for the Catholic Family” will begin Feb. 16, 2021 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice. There will be monthly group gatherings and weekly on-line Zoom meetings. Content includes internet access to a weekly video, group sharing and discussion. Participants will be provided assurance that they are not alone and a place to tell one’s story and be heard. The cost of the program is $25 and includes a Participant’s Workbook and access to all videos. For more information and to register, contact Bob and Chris Smialek at bobandchrissmialek@icloud.com or 815-275-5305

Naples Catholic School Virtual Gala Feb. 3

The Saint Ann School Foundation is hosting its annual Heart for Education Gala, which will be a virtual event on Feb. 3, 2021. The Foundation is dedicated to ensuring a faith-based education remains accessible to all families desiring it for their children, regardless of income. Many of our families have experienced great hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The need is greater now as more families have asked for additional scholarship funds. To register to receive a link to the Virtual Gala, please visit www.stann.net/gala or contact Pamela Macia at 239-262-4110 ext. 307 or foundation@stann.net or pamelamacia@gmail.com.

Cathedral School Gala April 16

The Epiphany Gala is one of our most successful fundraisers for Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School and will take place April 16, 2021 at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice. The Gala theme is the Amalfi Coast and features both live and silent auctions as well as a dinner and dancing. This year’s Shining Stars are Troy and Joyce Sacco. For more detail, please contact Leah Mihm at 941-615-0284 or mihm@ecstigers.com. Note, this event may become a Virtual Gala if conditions require.

2021 to be busy across Diocese

Opportunities abound for the faithful of the Diocese of Venice to grow closer to the Lord as the new year begins while continuing to deal with the impacts of the global COVID-19 Pandemic. A variety of larger Diocesan events are scheduled or in the planning stages while at the same time numerous Parishes are in the process of either completing or starting major construction work. Therefore, 2021 is sure to be an exciting year for Catholics across Southwest Florida.

In the coming months there will be the Ordination to the Priesthood of two men, a new initiative to curb the impacts of pornography on society, small and large conferences, Masses for couples celebrating significant wedding anniversaries, opportunities to promote the sanctity of life, celebrations of all sorts, as well as the continuation of the “Year of St. Joseph.”

With the blessing of Bishop Frank J. Dewane, such activities will take place throughout the Diocese as part of the continuing effort to emerge with a new purpose in the wake of the darkest days of the Pandemic. All of this will be done while following the guidelines of social distancing, face coverings and extensive sanitizing (cleaning) which continues to take place. These measures remain, not only to ensure the safety of the public attending Mass or other events, but for priests, staff and volunteers who serve throughout the Diocese.

Two of the most important occasions to grow in the Faith are the annual Women’s and Men’s Conferences at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. Each year captivating speakers help bring focus to the faith-life of participants. The Conferences are from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and include Mass with Bishop Dewane, Adoration, the chance for Confession, listening to presenters and enjoying lunch. The Men’s Conference is Feb. 20, 2021, while the Women’s Conference is March 13, 2021. For more information please contact the Office of Evangelization at evangelization@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543..

For all couples celebrating a significant wedding anniversary in 2021, Bishop Dewane will be the celebrant of Masses in your honor. This year, to allow for appropriate social distancing, each location will have two Masses, 10 a.m. and noon on Feb. 6, 2021, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice, and 10 a.m. and noon on March 6, 2021, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. All registration is being handled through local Parishes with seating commitments confirmed at least one week before the Mass you wish to attend.

The Office of Respect Life will be busy throughout 2021 with a variety of in-person and virtual activities all to raise awareness about important issues regarding the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. First up is the 23rd annual Sarasota Prayer Walk for Life on Jan. 22, 2021 outside of the Planned Parenthood in downtown Sarasota. Bishop Dewane will celebrate Mass at 8:30 a.m. at St. Martha Parish, and immediately following, participants will gather for the prayer walk. Space is limited for Mass, so registration is required at www.dioceseofvenice.org/2021prayerwalk. The Mass will be livestreamed through the Diocesan Facebook page and will be shared with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s 9 Days for Life campaign.

Two weeks later, Feb. 2-3, 2021, the faithful will be able to participate in the Virtual Catholic Days at the Capitol courtesy of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops at flaccb.org/cdac. Finally, there will be an opportunity to participate in the national 40 Days for Life Spring Campaign during Lent in Fort Myers and Sarasota then for the Fall Campaign (October) at multiple locations in the Diocese.

New this year, the Diocese will be participating in Safe Haven Sunday, March 7, 2021, to raise awareness about the harmfulness of pornography in the family and society. Pornography creates unsafe environments for children and confuses others about attitudes towards sex and marriage. It is a moral issue, therefore this day of awareness will explain the impacts pornography can have on marriages, families, and culture, while providing helpful resources for all. Detailed information will be shared with the faithful about how to combat this scourge in the week leading up to Safe Haven Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Diocese continues to be dedicated to celebrating the “Year of St. Joseph,” which began on March 19, 2020, the Feast of St. Joseph. The prayers of the Diocese, as directed by Bishop Dewane, are focused on the Saint who is the foster-father of Jesus and the Protector of the Universal Church. In light of Pope Francis recently dedicating a “Year of St. Joseph,” the Diocesan celebration will continue through December 8, 2021. A “Year of St. Joseph,” webpage (https://dioceseofvenice.org/a-year-of-st-joseph/) was added to the Diocesan website for prayers, devotions and general information. Meanwhile, the Diocesan Department of Catholic Education started a St. Joseph Devotional Project to promote a dedication to the Saint while at the same time developing a devotional life of both children and adults into 2021.

In the coming months, Bishop Dewane will preside over a variety of celebrations which occur each year, including the Rite of Election in February when Bishop Dewane welcomes those in RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) who will be fully entering the Church at the Easter Vigil, a Mass for Victims of Abuse, and later in the year a Veterans Day Mass, the 25th anniversary celebration of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center, a Red Mass for legal professionals and more. It is also expected that two men will be Ordained to the Priesthood by the Bishop in early summer.

Throughout 2021 there will be a variety of Parish-based celebrations to include the 50th Anniversary of the founding of San Marco Parish on March Island; the opening of a new church for St. Paul Parish in Arcadia; the completion of roof repairs for Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish in Bradenton; groundbreakings for Parish Centers at St. William Parish in Naples and Our Lady of Mercy in Boca Grande; the renovation of property that previously functioned churches into Parish Centers at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee and Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch; and the completion of extensive audio-visual upgrades to Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers. These are just samples of the ongoing projects and work underway to support Parishes as they take action now for the benefit of future generations.

As 2021 moves forward, check the Diocesan website (www.dioceseofvenice.org) frequently for information about these and other upcoming events. As always, check the weekly Florida Catholic e-Edition to read stories and view images from these and other happenings across the Diocese. If you would like to read the story about life in the Diocese during 2020, please visit www. https://dioceseofvenice.org/looking-back-on-turbulent-2020/.

 

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