Father Calloway a keynote at Diocesan Eucharistic Congress

Father Donald Calloway, a convert to Catholicism, and a member of the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, is one of the keynote speakers at the Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Congress on March 25, 2023, at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center and Luminary Hotel, 1375 Monroe St., Fort Myers. Father Calloway is scheduled to speak twice during the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress. The first talk is titled, “Conversion and the Holy Eucharist,” and the second is “St. Joseph and the Eucharist.”

Before his conversion, Father Calloway was a high school dropout who had been kicked out of a foreign country, institutionalized twice, and thrown in jail multiple times. After his radical conversion, he earned a BA in philosophy and theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio; MDiv and STB degrees from the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.; and an STL in Mariology from the International Marian Research Institute in Dayton, Ohio. He leads pilgrimages to Marian Shrines around the world and is the author of 15 books. His latest best-selling book is “Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father.”

The theme for the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress is: “The Word Became Flesh” John 1:14. Bishop Frank J. Dewane said the “Congress is an opportunity for all the faithful of the Diocese to come together as one to jointly rekindle a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.”

The event corresponds to the larger, 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.

Doors open at 8 a.m. with the opening prayer at 9 a.m. A portion of this event will have English and Spanish tracks. In addition, the afternoon will include breakout sessions geared toward men and women. There will be a Eucharistic Procession and the day will conclude with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at 5 p.m. Registration is required at https://dioceseofvenice.org/eucharistic-congress/.

Advent: Season of Preparation and Expectation

Ordinary Time has come to an end and the Season of Advent is upon us. This Season, which marks the beginning of the Liturgical Year of the Church, commences on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, and will come to an end on Christmas Eve.

Advent is a time of preparation and expectation, a time leading to Christmas which Pope Francis calls beautiful when we repeatedly pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

“It is a time where we have to live by that phrase, not just say it,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is the essence of the Season which is truly an invitation to pause in silence to recognize the signs of the coming of the presence of the Lord.”

The Advent Season has a two-fold characteristic, the First Coming of the Son of God, which we know as Christmas or the Nativity, and we prepare for that, Bishop Dewane explained. Also, in this Advent journey we prepare for the Second Coming of Our Lord.

“Advent is a time of devout and expectant delight,” the Bishop added. “We don’t usually think of it as delight, we have delight in who the Lord is as our Savior comes into our life.”

The Advent Season in the Church is different from the Christmas Season. The Advent Season is from Nov. 27 through the vigil of the Nativity of the Lord. The Christmas Season in the Church runs from First Vespers of the Nativity of the Lord up to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on Jan. 9, 2023.

After the annual celebration of the Paschal Mystery, the Church has no more ancient custom than celebrating the memorial of the Nativity of the Lord and his first manifestations.

The main focus of the Advent Season is preparation through prayer, quiet reflection, weekday Mass attendance and even fasting, Bishop Dewane explained. Taking time to quietly reflect and grow in Faith can be a challenge, but we are called to put distractions aside, even for a few minutes a day, which allows the love of God to fill one’s life with joy.

One key symbol in Churches for this Season is the Advent Wreath. The lights of the candles on the Advent Wreath serve to break through the darkness, reminding us of the Light of Christ that we anticipate during this Holy Season. The liturgical color of Advent is a particular shade of purple, a color which is most often associated with royalty. This color is used to symbolize the anticipation of the birth of Christ, who is our King and Savior.

Each Sunday of Advent, an additional candle of the wreath is lit, with the rose-colored candle lit on the Third Sunday of Advent. Best known as Gaudete Sunday, this celebration derives its name from Scripture: “Gaudete in Domino semper” (“Rejoice in the Lord always”) and marks the mid-point in the Season. Bishop Dewane said that the change in color provides encouragement to rejoice during a Season of penance, as we continue our spiritual preparation for Christmas.

Aside from the Sundays of Advent, the Church also celebrates two important Marian feasts, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, which is observed as a Holy Day of Obligation, and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, on Dec. 12. We are also called to seek the intercession of the saints as we make this journey towards Christmas, particularly those saints whose feasts we celebrate during Advent, such as St. Francis Xavier, St. Nicholas, St. Juan Diego, St. Lucy, and St. John of the Cross. They modeled for us the way to salvation and assist us in our own pilgrimage to Heaven.

The First Sunday of Advent also marks the start of the new Liturgical Year of the Church. In it, the Church marks the passage of time with the celebration of the main events in the life of Jesus and the story of Salvation. In so doing, Pope Francis said the Church illuminates the path of our existence, which supports us in our daily occupations and guides us towards the final encounter with Christ.

The Pope invites everyone to live this time of preparation in the Season of Hope with “great sobriety” and simple moments of family prayer. “Advent is a continuous call to hope: it reminds us that God is present in history to lead it to its ultimate goal, to lead it to its fullness, which is the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Bishop Dewane said, “Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas. Let us resolve to help bring Him into the hearts of those we encounter throughout each day. Let us take advantage of what is new in the Advent Season as the Universal Church prepares for the birth of Christ. And let us grow in Faith during this portion of the Liturgical Year on our journey toward Salvation.”

Solemnity of Christ the King Nov. 20

On the last Sunday of each liturgical year, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, or Christ the King.

Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925 with his encyclical Quas primas (“In the first”) to respond to growing secularism and atheism. He recognized that attempting to “thrust Jesus Christ and His holy law” out of public life would result in continuing discord among people and nations. This solemnity reminds us that while governments come and go, Christ reigns as King forever.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops notes that this Solemnity is a fitting moment in the liturgical year to promote the Church’s teaching on religious freedom. The USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty “urge[d] that the Solemnity of Christ the King – a feast born out of resistance to totalitarian incursions against religious liberty – be a day specifically employed by Bishops and priests to preach about religious liberty, both here and abroad.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane said this year’s commemoration of Christ the King Sunday has a special meaning for the people of the Diocese of Venice.

“On the Solemnity of Christ the King, in these trying times in which so many still suffer from the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, let us be mindful of hope,” Bishop Dewane said. “Hope, like faith, is a gift from God. On this day, we can ask Christ the King, the first to rise from the dead and head of the Church, to strengthen in us the hope that is essential to our faith, the hope that pushes us forward even when facing difficulty. In prayer, let us acknowledge that Christ is our King, and with Christ all things are possible. By truly knowing that our origin and end is in Jesus Christ Our King, we find hope, peace, justice, freedom, and happiness.”

Pope Francis said in a 2021 address about Christ the King, “His kingship is truly beyond human parameters. We could say that he is not like other kings, but he is a King for others.”

The Holy Father said that Jesus was a king who liberated His followers, freeing us from being subject to evil.

“His Kingdom is liberating, there is nothing oppressive about it,” Pope Francis continued. “He treats every disciple as a friend, not as a subject… Christ wants to have brothers and sisters with whom to share His joy… We do not lose anything in following Him — nothing is lost, no — but we acquire dignity because Christ does not want servility around Him, but people who are free.”

As stated by Pope Pius XI, Christ’s kingship is rooted in the Church’s teaching on the Incarnation. Jesus is fully God and fully man. He is both the divine Lord and the man who suffered and died on the Cross. One person of the Trinity unites Himself to human nature and reigns over all creation as the Incarnate Son of God. “From this it follows not only that Christ is to be adored by angels and men, but that to him as man angels and men are subject, and must recognize his empire; by reason of the hypostatic union Christ has power over all creatures” (Quas primas, 13).

For more information and resources about the Solemnity of Christ the King, please visit https://www.usccb.org/christtheking.

Diocesan Synod report available, synthesized into national report

By Karen Barry Schwarz, Special to the Florida Catholic

The faithful talked; the Diocese of Venice listened. From January to May of 2022, the Diocese of Venice hosted 12 Listening Sessions, including 11 live sessions at various Parishes throughout the Diocese and one virtual session. The events, most of which were attended by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, were fruitful, and inspiring.

These sessions were part of the Diocesan Phase of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” as requested by His Holiness Pope Francis.

The passion expressed during the Listening Sessions for the Catholic Faith was ubiquitous, as was the enthusiasm for the synodal process.

Some were surprised that the Church was asking for their input, as this has not been the case historically. Some were even, at first, reluctant to share, feeling it was not their place to do so.  But Pope Francis has called on the faithful to come forward, explaining synodality as “a way of being the Church today according to the will of God, in a dynamic of discerning and listening together to the voice of the Holy Spirit.”

“The Diocese found the participating faithful to be inspired and thoughtful in their responses to questions posed during the Listening Sessions, and in the open forum discussions when time allowed,” said Bishop Dewane.  “Many also participated via the Diocese’s dedicated synod email address, sending in their thoughts. All comments were heard and appreciated.”

Overall, more than 1,000 of the faithful participated in the synodal process, including both young and old, women and men, English and Spanish-speaking. Findings were compiled in a detailed report shared with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in June. Similar sessions to those held in the Diocese of Venice were held around the country and around the globe; a synthesis of all Diocesan reports will be shared with the Vatican.

The Diocesan Synthesis Synod Report (a brief version of the full report) and the U.S. National Synthesis Synod Report were both made available in September 2022 and are available for review on the Diocese website at https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/evangelization/diocesan-phase-of-the-synod-on-synodality/.

Diocesan Synod Synthesis

Within the Diocese of Venice, several themes emerged during the synodal process.

Participants were happy to report that they are proud to be Catholic and are eager to evangelize, but many felt they lacked the tools to do so. There was a general hunger for more catechesis and formation among all.  Great interest was expressed in more detailed “refresher course” type information surrounding the celebration of the Mass, and many expressed great interest in the celebration of the Latin Mass, especially as it relates to reverence. Some saw the traditional Latin Mass as a “way back to reverence,” which many saw as missing from the Church today.

Concern was also shared regarding the centrality of and belief in the Holy Eucharist, and it was expressed that this tenet of the Church needs to be reinvigorated. Many also expressed the need for powerful homilies during Mass, explaining that a good homily can provide inspiration for the week ahead. Some put forth the idea that priests ought to marry, as this may spark more interest in the vocation among young men. Others expressed a concern that this would present a dilemma for priests, as they are already married to the Church. Some suggested that women play more of a role in the Mass, and the Church in general, raising the question of women as deacons, or even priests. Many pointed out that women already play a large role in the Church, leading many ministries.

There was concern expressed about several groups who likely feel marginalized by the Church, including women. Other groups identified as possibly being marginalized by the Church included those who identify as LGBT, those who are divorced, those who work full-time, and those who are not necessarily part of any well-established “group” or “clique” in their local parish. It was suggested, for example, that the process for welcoming divorced Catholics back to the Church be made clearer, and that there be more convenient daily Mass times for working people.

Although some felt those living in poverty were marginalized by the Church, the majority felt that the Catholic Church does a good job helping the poor, mentioning Catholic Charities and the fact that the Catholic Church is the largest private social service organization in the country.

The need to reach and engage young people was identified, with many feeling that young people drift away from the Church sometime between the Sacrament of Confirmation and the Sacrament of Marriage. Many felt that young people do not come back until it is time to baptize their own children, and then it may be too late to get them back.

There was a repeated call for continued and increased transparency in the Church, especially as it relates to sexual abuse and the wounds of the past.

Of interest, the U.S. Synthesis also had many of the same findings the Diocese found in its sessions/feedback and many of the same things emerged worldwide.

The Vatican recently published a document that highlights the results of the Synod worldwide and will guide the next stage of discussions in the Synod on Synodality.

The working document, titled “Enlarge the space of your tent,” covers issues across a broad spectrum, from the clergy sexual abuse crisis to Christian unity. The text calls for “a Church capable of radical inclusion” and says that many Synod reports from around the world raised questions about the inclusion and role of women, young people, the poor, people identifying as LGBTQ, and the divorced and remarried.

The 44-page working document is officially called the DCS (Document for the Continental Stage). It summarizes the reports shared with the Vatican by bishops’ conferences, religious congregations, departments of the Roman Curia, lay movements, and other groups and individuals.

Published on Oct. 27, the document aims to be “the privileged instrument through which the dialogue of the local Churches among themselves and with the universal Church can take place during the Continental Stage.”

Catholic News Service provided information for this report.

Marriage conference draws rave reviews

The Diocese of Venice, “Together in Holiness” Marriage Conference, presented in partnership with the Diocese Office of Family Life and the St. John Paul II Foundation, took place Oct. 22, 2022, at St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers and was a huge success.

More than 100 couples took part in this event which was intended to allow couples to grow together in holiness, learn to form their children in the Catholic Faith, enjoy a day of quality time with their spouse, and witness dynamic presentations.

The day also included the Mass, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and the availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

One couple from Naples said they were impressed not only by the speakers, but by the supportive atmosphere the conference offered. “This was such a nourishing environment for us and a great boost for our marriage.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane addressed the couples, impressed by the numbers and encouraged by their enthusiasm in a society in which the very definition of marriage is under attack and calls for a modern form of spiritual battle as a response.

“Know that the Lord sees the good you have set out to do this day by being here as a couple, as spouses,” Bishop Dewane said. “You continue to do that spiritual battle – against everything that is around us in society that really attacks your very vocation – that concerns me a great deal. I do believe the vocation of marriage is under attack which is destroying the moral fabric of society. This conference is present so that you, together, can work on building this beautiful vocation back up.”

The first presenter was Father Shawn Monahan, OMV, Associate Director of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice, whose talk was titled, “The Holy Eucharist: The Source and Summit of Marriage and Family Life.”

Father Monahan explained how when a couple gets married, Christ also makes a promise to them to help live out that vocation and to empower them to mirror His love for His bride the Church profoundly through the Eucharistic embrace which is both at the heart of Christian life and the Sacrament of Marriage. “It takes three to get married, Father said. “And God is the third person.”

Christopher J. Stravitsch, Chair of the St. John Paul II Foundation, talked about “A Family that Prays Together.” Building upon what St. John Paul II taught, Strevitsh said families have a “priestly mission” that includes living a life of prayer together in the home – husband and wife together.

Damon and Melanie Owens, cofounders of Joyful Ever After, also spoke and their topic was “To Love and to Cherish: Deepening Love and Intimacy in Marriage.” Their presentation focused on the significance of cherishing the most important person in one’s life, their spouse, even in the face of the challenges and demands of daily family life.

What’s Next

Couldn’t make the conference? Looking for other opportunities for marriage enrichment? As a complement to the conference, the St. John Paul II Foundation and the Diocese of Venice invite all married couples to participate in the Together in Holiness Formation series: year-round marriage enrichment for small communities of spouses.

Highlights of the Formation series include short and beautifully-made videos with national speakers, themes that are based on the life, teaching, and witness of St. John Paul II, and Bring it Home activities that translate learning into living. The series is also available for Spanish-speaking couples through captioned videos and translated materials. Click here to view a trailer!

To get involved, please complete an interest form here. For questions, please email Program Coordinator Charlotte Sacco at charlotte@forlifeandfamily.org.



Spiritual bouquet for the people of the Diocese of Venice

In the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Ian we have seen an outpouring of much heroism and charity throughout the 10 counties of the Diocese of Venice.

Many have responded to the disaster by coming forward to perform Corporal Works of Mercy by either donating items to help support our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ, or by volunteering to distribute essential food and water, or helping to clean out destroyed homes.

Moved by the heartbreaking images of destroyed homes and ruined lives as families cry out in despair, many have also turned to prayer in response to the impacts of Hurricane Ian.

With this fundamental tenet of the Catholic Faith at the fingertips of all, the Church has a beautiful tradition of offering what is called a “spiritual bouquet.”

James Gontis, Diocese of Venice Director of Evangelization, said the tradition of a “spiritual bouquet” likely came from the origin of the rosary, from the Latin rosarium, or a garden of roses. For example, St. Louis Marie de Montfort compared each Hail Mary in the rosary as a rose given to Our Lady in prayer. The roses form a bouquet to lay at her feet.

“The devotion of the ‘spiritual bouquet’ has grown to include the flowers of traditional and devotional prayers and spiritual offerings,” Gontis said. “These are offered up to God for a person, an intention, or in this case for the many people affected by the hurricane.”

The practice is for a person to commit or pledge a “flower” of prayer to offer in union with others doing the same.

“Together, those flowers form a bouquet of prayer that rises as a sweet fragrance to God,” Gontis added. “These flowers of prayer can take a wide variety of forms, such as a Rosary, a Divine Mercy Chaplet, a Holy Hour, litanies, novenas, or Holy Communion.  This is a tremendous spiritual work of mercy that can be done in families, schools, and Parishes.”

The Diocese of Venice asks all to join others in a special “spiritual bouquet” for the people of Southwest Florida, so all prayers for those suffering in the wake of Hurricane Ian may powerfully rise to the throne of Christ Our King.

You can add a flower to the Diocese’s “spiritual bouquet” by simply visiting https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/evangelization/spiritual-bouquet-prayers-for-the-people-of-the-diocese-of-venice/.

Once on the website, a visitor can indicate which spiritual offerings they are pledging from the options listed or create your own. Don’t forget to click “Submit” when you are done! The “Spiritual Bouquet” will be available through Nov. 30, 2022, the end of the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

News Briefs for the week of Oct. 14, 2022

Special Hurricane Ian collection to be held Oct. 22-23

Bishop Frank J. Dewane is calling on to continue to support the efforts of the Diocese of Venice and Catholic Charities in response to the destruction of Hurricane Ian. Several Parishes have lost Church buildings, and others have facilities severely damaged by the storm. In addition, many people throughout the region have endured significant suffering. To respond to these calamities, Parishes in the Diocese of Venice will take up a special collection the weekend of Oct. 22-23, 2022. The collection will help provide for the pastoral and reconstruction needs of the Church, as well as the efforts of Catholic Charities in providing both immediate and long-term assistance to those impacted. It is asked that, in face of such significant loss, those who are able consider donating to help our brothers and sisters in Christ in their time of great need.

Retired priest dies in Avon Park

Father Leo Frechette, who was a retired priest that assisted at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park since 2007, died at the age of 93 in Sebring on Oct. 5, 2022. Father Frechette was ordained to the priesthood on June 4, 1955, and was a priest of the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire where he served for 40 years until his retirement in 1995. A Mass of Christian Burial was held Oct. 13, 2022, at Our Lady of Grace Parish.


Diocesan Rosary Congress a success

The 2022 Diocesan Rosary Congress was a huge success, even with Hurricane Ian causing a few Parishes to cancel or alter their participation. Initially, 19 Parishes were registered to offer a 24-hour period of Eucharistic Adoration, hourly praying of the rosary and the celebration of the Mass. Diocesan Evangelization Director James Gontis said that while five of 19 Parishes were forced to cancel their participation because of Ian, the balance enthusiastically stayed a part of the Congress. “It was a beautiful outpouring of Faith at each location,” Gontis said, noting several had large groups while others ensured that each hour of the 24 was covered by at least one person.

Last chance to register for Oct. 22 Diocesan Marriage Conference

Recognizing that this is a time of suffering and trial for many, we continue to pray for those affected by Hurricane Ian. As we move forward with the mission of Christ in the Diocese of Venice, we hope you will join us at the “Together in Holiness” Marriage Conference, presented in partnership with the Diocese of Venice Office of Family Life and the St. John Paul II Foundation, is Saturday, Oct. 22. To register for the conference , please visit https://forlifeandfamily.org/events/th22-vnfl/. This marriage enrichment conference will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at St. John XXIII Parish, 13060 Palomino Lane, Fort Myers. All Catholic married and engaged couples throughout the Diocese of Venice and beyond are welcome. Grow together in holiness, learn to form your children in the Catholic Faith, enjoy a day of quality time with your spouse and witness dynamic presentations! The day will include Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This special event is for all couples, engaged, newlywed or long married! On-site childcare will be provided. For further information, please contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseovenice.org.

Veterans Day Mass

On Veterans Day, Friday, November 11, the Diocese of Venice will hold a Memorial Mass in honor of the men and women who have served our country and continue to serve and protect us today. This is the 13th year the Diocese has held a Mass on Veterans Day. Bishop Frank J. Dewane will celebrate the Mass at 3:00 p.m. at the Sarasota National Cemetery, 9810 State Road 72/Clark Road, approximately five miles east of I-75. The priests, deacons and Knights of Columbus in the Diocese will join Bishop Dewane for this important event. All are invited to attend, and active military personnel are asked to wear their uniform. Attendees are also encouraged to wear sunscreen and bring a hat. There is ample seating and parking at the cemetery. Please contact Gail Ardy at ardy@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-486-4714 for further information.

World Youth Day 2023 Registration Open

Registration is now open for World Youth Day 2023 to Lisbon, Portugal. You are invited to join Bishop Frank J. Dewane for the trip to Lisbon with two nights in Fatima. This 11-day pilgrimage is from July 29 to August 8, 2023. The theme for World Youth Day 2023 is “Mary arose and went with haste”. (Luke 1:39) Travel arrangements are facilitated by Peter’s Way Tours. Space is limited and registration must be completed by Monday, October 31. For more information, travel and registration details, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/evangelization/world-youth-day-2023/.

General Election

Be an informed voter on November 8, 2022. Catholic Faithful are urged to see beyond party politics, to analyze political campaigns critically, and to choose political leaders according to principle, not just self-interest. The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB) has created a guide offering information about Catholic teaching on moral and social concerns facing our nation and state. The guide includes questions to help voters evaluate candidate positions on key issues for the 2022 general election. Consider using this tool for prayer and reflection before casting your ballot. Click FCCB Voter Guide/Guía de la FCCB para el Votante – Diocese of Venice for the FCCB Voter Guide and the Florida Gubernatorial Candidate Comparison.

 Elecciones Generales

Sea un votante informado el 8 de noviembre de 2022. Se insta a los Fieles Católicos a ver más allá de la política partidista, a analizar críticamente las campañas políticas y a elegir a los líderes políticos de acuerdo con los principios, no solo con el interés propio. La Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Florida (FCCB) ha creado una guía que ofrece información sobre la enseñanza católica sobre las preocupaciones morales y sociales que enfrenta nuestra nación y estado. La guía incluye preguntas para ayudar a los votantes a evaluar las posiciones de los candidatos sobre temas clave para las elecciones generales de 2022. Considere usar esta herramienta para la oración y la reflexión antes de emitir su voto. Haga clic en FCCB Voter Guide/Guía de la FCCB para el Votante – Diocese of Venice para la FCCB Guía del Votante y comparación de Candidatos a Gobernador de Florida.

Scam Alert

In the wake of Hurricane Ian, the possibility of being contacted by someone posing to be a contractor or offering aid is heightened. There are those who will take advantage of the vulnerable during a crisis such as seen with the hurricane. Please be diligent that you are corresponding with a legitimate person or business before handing over any money or personal information. You may also be contacted with a request for money and the email will appear as though it is from one of our priests or Diocesan employees. Please make direct contact with the person by calling the Parish and asking to speak with the priest or sender of the email, and do not reply to the email or text.

Diocesan Rosary Congress Oct. 1 to 7

20 Parishes hosting opportunity to pray as a community

The month of October each year is dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary. On Oct. 7 each year we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in honor of the Blessed Mother. October was also the month in which Mary appeared for the last time to shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, urging them to “say the rosary every day to obtain peace for the world.”

In celebration of the month, 19 Parishes in the Diocese of Venice will be participating in a Rosary Congress from Oct. 1, to Oct. 8, 2022. During the Rosary Congress, the host Parishes (at least two in each Deanery) will provide the hourly praying of the Holy Rosary as well as Eucharistic Adoration. Many of the Parishes taking part will also have the celebration of the Mass at the opening and closing of a 24-hour period of Adoration. Several Parishes will make the Sacrament of Reconciliation available during specific times of the Rosary Congress.

Initiated in 2021, the Rosary Congress is encouraged by the Diocesan Office of Evangelization as a way to present a unique opportunity to place all prayer intentions and the needs of all the faithful into the loving arms of the Mother of God.

“The Rosary Congress offers a great means of grace, combining many aspects of our Faith,” explained Jim Gontis, Diocesan Director of Evangelization. “Each Parish session will include Eucharistic Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the hourly praying the Our Lady’s Rosary, and most importantly, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is an opportunity to experience a river of grace coming from the infinite ocean of God’s Mercy.”

Each hour the Rosary will be said for intentions such as the Church, the Faithful of the Diocese of Venice, our country, and difficulties for all throughout the world. The faithful are encouraged to renew themselves to the Blessed Mother and for a renewed love for Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist.

This is of particular relevance as there is an ongoing National Eucharistic Revival which continues through to 2024. The Revival is an initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to reaffirm a devotion to, and belief in, the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

“What better way to do this than through praying to Mary, Mother of God, in the way She taught us, through the Holy Rosary,” Gontis said.

The Diocese of Venice has continually fostered its devotion to the Blessed Mother. Our Lady of Mercy is the Patroness of the Diocese. Under this patronage, the Diocese was formally consecrated to Our Lady during Advent of 2017.

Pope Francis frequently describes praying the rosary as armor to be used in the spiritual battle we all face each day.

“The recitation of the rosary is the most beautiful prayer we can offer to the Virgin Mary; it is a contemplation on the stages of the life of Jesus the Savior with his Mother Mary and is a weapon that protects us from evils and temptations,” the Holy Father said in 2021.

Pope Francis said that the Blessed Virgin Mary has urged the recitation of the Holy Rosary in her apparitions, “especially in the face of the threats looming over the world.”

In May 2022 Pope Francis invited all Catholics and led the world in praying the Holy Rosary for peace in Ukraine and around the world from Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major.

As part of his prayer, the Holy Father said, “Today we raise our hearts to You, Queen of Peace: intercede for us with Your Son, reconcile hearts filled with violence and vengeance, straighten thoughts blinded by the desire for easy enrichment, on all the earth may Your enduring peace reign.”

Some host Parishes have announced additional aspects of their Rosary Congress. For example: St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral (Oct. 1 to 2), will host a Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m. on Oct. 2; Ss. Peter & Paul the Apostles Parish in Bradenton, (Oct. 5 to 6) will host its Congress in the Chapel; Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria (Oct. 6 to 7) will conclude their Congress with a Eucharistic Procession throughout the community following 5 p.m. Mass on Oct. 7; St. Agnes Parish in Naples (Oct. 6 to 7) will be having its Congress in an Adoration Chapel and those wishing to participate in the overnight hours need to contact the Parish for details about accessibility; and finally, Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in Fort Myers is hosting an abbreviated Rosary Congress from noon to 7 p.m., on Oct. 7, the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.

More information regarding the Diocesan Rosary Congress may be found at www.dioceseofvenice.org or by contacting Jim Gontis at 941-484-9543 or gontis@dioceseofvenice.org.

Diocese of Venice Rosary Congress

Oct. 1 to 7, 2022


Saturday, Oct. 1 to Sunday, Oct. 2

  • 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. – St. Katharine Drexel Parish, 1922 S.W. 20th Ave., Cape Coral, 239-283-9501

Sunday, Oct. 2 to Monday, Oct. 3

  • 10:30 a.m. to noon – Christ the King Parish, 1900 Meadowood St., 1900 Meadowood St., Sarasota, 941-924-2777.

Monday, Oct. 3 to Tuesday, Oct. 4

  • 8 a.m. to 8 a.m. – Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave., Venice, 941-484-3505,
  • 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. – St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, 5225 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples, 239-455-6895,
  • 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. – St. Francis Xavier Parish, 2157 Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers, 239-334-2161,
  • 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. – St. Charles Borromeo Parish, 21505 Augusta Ave., Port Charlotte, 941-625-4754.

Tuesday, Oct. 4 to Wednesday, Oct. 5

  • 8 a.m. to 8 a.m. – Our Lady of the Angels Parish, 12905 E. SR 70, Lakewood Ranch, 941-752-6770,
  • 6 p.m. to 6 p.m. – St. Peter the Apostle, 5130 Rattlesnake Hammock Road, Naples, 239-774-3337.

Wednesday, Oct. 5 to Thursday, Oct. 6

  • 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. – St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Ave. N.. Naples, 239-566-8740,
  • 11 a.m. to 8 a.m. – Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish, 2850 75th St. W., Bradenton, 941-795-1228.

Thursday, Oct. 6 to Friday, Oct. 7

  • 5 p.m. to 5 p.m. – Ave Maria Parish, 5068 Annunciation Circle, Ave Maria, 239-261-5555,
  • 11 a.m. to 11 a.m. – Incarnation Parish, 1901 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota, 941-921-6631,
  • 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. – Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish, 355 S. Bridge St., LaBelle, 863-675-0030,
  • 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. – San Pedro Parish, 14380 Tamiami Trail, North Port, 941-426-2500,
  • 8 a.m. to 8 a.m. – St. Catherine Parish, 882 Bay St., Sebring, 863-385-0049,
  • 10 a.m. to 10 a.m. – St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, 239-592-1949,
  • 2 p.m. to 2 p.m. – St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish, 12001 69th St. E., Parrish, 941-776-9097,
  • 8 a.m. to 8 a.m. – Holy Cross Parish, 505 26th Palmetto, 941-729-3891.

Friday, Oct. 7

  • Noon to 7 p.m., Resurrection of Our Lord Parish, 8121 Cypress Lake Drive, Fort Myers, 239-481-7171 (*Not 24 hours).

Friday, Oct. 7 to Saturday, Oct. 8

  • 8 a.m. to 8 a.m., St. Patrick Parish, 7900 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota, 941-378-1703.

New Evangelization Director brings extensive experience

James F. Gontis cherishes the opportunity to multiply the good of the Catholic Faith in his new position as Diocese of Venice Director of Evangelization.

Starting his new role on Aug. 1, 2022, Gontis brings to the Diocese his diverse experience in the evangelization and catechetical field. Most recently Gontis served in the Diocese of Harrisburg, first as Director of Religious Education and then for the last five years as Director of Evangelization and Catechesis.

In Harrisburg, he oversaw classes, workshops and presentations on theological and Catholic teachings, evangelization and much more and previously directed Adult Religious Education and related programs and workshops.

Gontis explained that his role as Director of the Department of Evangelization – which includes the Office of Family Life and the Office of Youth and Young Adult Outreach – is to draw people closer to God.

“Faith cannot be in the abstract but has to be lived out in the here and now,” he said. “I am grateful to serve the Church in this beautiful area, helping to remind everyone the role we all have – as the baptized – to live our Faith as God calls. We do this through the way we live, what we say, and what we do. It is easy to say and hard to do. But we must respond, confident that the Lord gives us sufficient grace to do what He asks; to live for the Glory of God and get into heaven, while bringing with us as many others as possible.”

Gontis earned a M.A. in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and before that a degree from Adams College (University) in Colorado. He was a teacher in Farmington, New Mexico and Fountain Springs, Pennsylvania, before taking a Diocesan position in Harrisburg.

Married for 25 years and counting, Gontis has eight children. Three are still in school, while the five oldest children are in college or working. His parents live in Punta Gorda, and a sister is also nearby, so he was not unfamiliar with the area before recently moving his family to the Sarasota area.

The Office of Evangelization is currently organizing a Diocesan Eucharistic Congress and Youth Rally for March 24-25, 2023, a large event in Fort Myers that is part on the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival. The Revival is an initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to reaffirm a devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

In addition, the office is also hosting a “Together in Holiness” Marriage Conference on Oct. 22 in Fort Myers as well as planning a Diocesan pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2023 in Portugal. Please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org for information about these and other events.

“As important as those events are, evangelization is not just about these mountaintop experiences,” Gontis explained. “The Parish is the primary focus of our work, building up the Faith – this is done through programs that reach out to support marriage, as well as youth and young adults. We know the family is a foundation of the Church, but at the same time we will work hard to keep youth and young adults engaged in the Faith, reminding them that they are not only the future of the Church, but they are also the present of the Church, crucial to the renewal of the Faith.”

James Gontis is the Diocesan Director of Evangelization and can be reached at 941-484-9543 or gontis@dioceseofvenice.org.

News Briefs for the week of August 9, 2022

School Masses with Bishop continue


Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for students at Ave Maria Catholic School and Donahue Academy in Ave Maria on Aug. 31, 2022, and at St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy in Sarasota on Sept. 1. Bishop Dewane encouraged the students to use the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to grow closer to the Lord. These Masses are part of a series the Bishop will celebrate to open the 2022-2023 Academic Year at the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools from mid-August into October.

Verot Football reaches win milestone

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School football team reached 300 wins with a home victory on Sept. 2, 2022, over Lehigh 33-16. The Viking milestone appropriately comes as the Fort Myers school is in the midst of celebrating 60 years since its founding in 1962. Congratulations to all of the players, coaches and staff who have contributed to this program’s success.

School has STREAM Day

St. Mary Academy in Sarasota held a STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) Day on Sept. 2, 2022. The students had projects that reinforced the seven “Gifts of Christ” – truth, beauty, goodness, humility, prudence, fortitude, affability. Students participated in a variety of activities that both challenged their minds, but also built up their love for God.

Kristallnacht Commemorative Program Nov. 6 in Naples

The Catholic-Jewish Dialogue of Collier County invites the community to a commemorative Program of the 84th Anniversary of Kristallnacht, recognized by most historians as “the Night the Holocaust began.” The event is free and will take place at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, at Temple Shalom, 4630 Pine Ridge Road, Naples. The guest speaker is Dr. Suzanne Brown-Fleming, Director of the International Academics Programs Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and her topic will be “November 1938: Perspective from the Vatican Archives. The event is sponsored by the Diocese of Venice, Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Federation of Greater Naples, GenShoah of SWFL, and the Holocaust Museum and Janet G. and Harvey D. Cohen Education Center. Please register at www.jewishnaples.org, or call 239-263-4205 to allow for adequate refreshments. For additional information please email cjdialogue@naples.net.

Club helps those in need

The St. John Neumann Catholic High School YACHT Club spent their Labor Day holiday helping to distribute food at nearby St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples. The food distribution is every Monday and is part of Naples community effort led by St. Matthews House. The YACHT Club (Youth And Christ Helping Together) is an instrumental component of the Neumann Campus Ministry Program. The mission of the club is to invite all students to the fullness of Christ’s love through service to others. Students plan and implement retreats, prayer services, liturgies, and more. They also take “cruises” to perform service in the community. The students were joined by two Sisters of St. John Bosco who serve at St. John Neumann.

Students donate blood

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School students in Sarasota rolled up their sleeves and gave back to the community in a special way on Aug. 30, 2022, when they donated blood during a visit to the school by the SunCoast Blood Centers bus. There is a regional and national blood shortage and every pint donated helps to save lives.

Marriage Conference coming in October

Registration is now open for the Diocese of Venice Oct. 22, 2022, “Together in Holiness” Marriage Conference, presented in partnership with the Diocese of Venice Office of Family Life and the St. John Paul II Foundation. The theme of this year’s Conference is “Family: A Community of Prayer.” To register, please visit https://forlifeandfamily.org/events/th22-vnfl/. A video message from Bishop Frank J. Dewane can be found at www.dioceseofvenice.org/together-in-holiness-marriage-conference-october-22-2022. This marriage enrichment conference will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at St. John XXIII Parish, 13060 Palomino Lane, Fort Myers. Grow together in holiness, learn to form your children in the Catholic Faith, enjoy a day of quality time with your spouse, witness dynamic presentations! The day will include the Mass and the availability of the Sacrament of Reconcilliation. This special event is for all couples, engaged, newlywed or long-married! On-site childcare will be provided. For more information, please contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseovenice.org.

Viking Class golf tournament in Fort Myers

The annual Bishop Verot Catholic High School Athletic Booster Viking Golf Classic is Oct. 15, 2022, at Stoneybrook Golf Club, 21251 Stoneybrook Gold Blvd., Estero. There is an 8 a.m. shotgun start. Take your best shot on a few holes, as there will be some mini-games: hole-in-one contest, longest drive, and closest to the pin. After the tournament, enjoy a luncheon at the clubhouse, complete with raffles and a silent auction! Tickets are $150/person or $600/group. Sponsorships at multiple tiers are available. Reach out to Jason Baumgardner for more information at either jason.baumgardner@bvhs.org or 239-274-6711.

5K Walk/Run for Life Oct. 8 in Naples

The 8th Annual St. Agnes 5K Walk/Run for Life will be held Oct. 8, 2022, with the goal of promoting a respect life message and raising funds for pro-life causes while encouraging healthy living (body and soul). Registration is at the Parish at 6 a.m., with the race at 7:15 a.m., at 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road in Naples. Only those registering by Oct. 2 will receive a race shirt. Registration is open at www.stagnesnaples.org. For more information, please call 239-592-1949 or email deaconroberto@stagnesnaples.org.

Priest appreciation dinners coming soon

The Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women invites all to one of two Priest Appreciation Dinners the group is hosting. The dinners are intended to honor all priests serving in the Diocese. The first dinner is 6 p.m. – 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 16, at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Hall, 1301 Center Road, Venice, while the second is at the same time on Friday, October 7, at Our Lady of Light Parish, 19680 Cypress View Drive, Fort Myers. The dinner is $45. For those interested in attending either dinner, please contact Ellen Bachman at 941-721-7393 or pennyln99@aol.com.

White Mass for Healthcare Professionals in Naples

Registration is now open for the annual White Mass for health care professionals at 8:30 a.m., Oct. 15, 2022, at St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples. A blessing of the stethoscopes will also be held. Physicians are asked to wear their white coats. There will be a breakfast and lecture in the Parish Center with guest speaker Dr. Christina Puchalski, a pioneer and international leader in the movement to integrate spirituality into healthcare in clinical settings and medical education. Physicians and nurses may qualify for continuing education credit. For more information, and to register, please visit www.stagnesnaples.org.

Registration Open for golf tournament

The registration is open for the Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School 2022 Annual Golf Tournament on Monday, October 10 (rain date, October 17) at the Laurel Oak Country Club in Sarasota. Registration starts at 10:00 a.m., with a shotgun start at 12:00 p.m. The cost is $775 per foursome (early bird registration by September 12, is $725 per foursome). The cost includes golf, a boxed lunch, cocktails, buffet dinner and prizes. There will also be a 50/50 helicopter ball drop ($10 per chance/open to all). The tournament benefits the CMHS Adopt-A-Student Financial Assistance Program. For tickets and sponsorships, please contact Amy Gorman at agorman@cmhs-sarasota.org or visit www.cmhs-sarasota.org.