Gathering focuses on promoting youth outreach

Representatives from 33 Parishes and two Diocesan Catholic high schools took part in a gathering to help bolster youth outreach.

Marthamaria Morales, Diocese of Venice Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry organized the gathering Sept. 8 and 9, 2023, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice. The 60 participants were those who serve youth at the Parish level, and included women religious, youth ministers, directors of religious education, and committed volunteers from Parishes that don’t have staff but serve youth and young adults.

Morales said this meeting was an opportunity for those active in youth outreach across the Diocese to get to know each other, build community, share best practices, dream together, and accompany one another in this amazing journey serving young people.

“This is the first time this wider group has gathered in one place in several years,” Morales said. “It is important for them to get together because we have a few new youth ministers and some other ‘seasoned’ ministers serving in different Parishes. We want them to feel value and all the support not just to survive but to thrive.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane offered words of encouragement to the group and expressed his gratitude for the important role they play in the Church within the Diocese of Venice.

“These young people are the Church of today, and they need our attention,” Bishop Dewane said. “It takes a certain type of individual who can rise up to answer the call to serve our young people, forming them into the person they are becoming in response to a call from God.”

A youth minister’s responsibility is to be the leaven in the Parish, the Bishop added, nurturing those who are present and working to help those who are absent to want to return and grow closer to the Lord.

The experience of the youth ministers in the Diocese who were present for the meeting ranged from 42 years to less than a week.

To assist, Morales brought in representatives from Project YM, a national outreach which helps youth ministers navigate the complicated world with the goal that the participants leave the gathering with a practical action plan to help bolster their young ministries.

Michael Marchand, president and co-founder of Project YM, offered sobering statistics about the current generation and how 42% of high school students are persistently sad or hopeless and approximately 22% have seriously considered suicide.

Marchand, who has more than 20 years of experience serving Catholic youth, said “it is vitally important to reach out to the youth at every level because it is about saving lives, both spiritually and literally.”

Another concerning number is that 80 percent of high schoolers who are active in their faith leave the Church before they graduate from college. Of those youth who remain in the Church after college, they overwhelmingly stated that having upwards of five adult mentors (outside of family) connected to the faith made a difference in their staying active in the faith.

“This really stresses the importance of investing in serving young people as much as possible, because the reality is that no Parish will ever have a 5-1 adult to youth ratio,” Marchand said.

Participants left the gathering with advice and action plans that are intended to help outreach programs increase participation and retention of youth of all ages.

One youth minister who has less than a year’s experience said she greatly benefitted from the gathering, noting that she learned the importance of mentoring as well as gaining insights into what activities work the best.

Jim Brantner, of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Grove City, who has more than four decades of serving young people, said, ”Genuinely love what you do and the young people you are responsible for, and Jesus will guide you through the rest.”

Marriage conference to focus on the Church in your home

For the third consecutive year, the Diocese of Venice’s Office of Marriage and Family Life is partnering with the St. John Paul II Foundation to present the “Together in Holiness” conference for couples.

The conference is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, at St. John XXIII Parish, 13060 Palomino Lane, Fort Myers.

This year’s conference theme is “Family, the Church in Your Home” and will feature national speakers Haley Stewart and Greg Schutte, as well as local speakers Michael and Nancy Dauphinais.

“It is with great joy that I invite all engaged and married couples to join me at the third annual “Together in Holiness” conference” writes Bishop Frank J. Dewane. He continues, “It is my hope that you and your spouse will join us for the conference to discover practical tips on how a life of prayer and devotion strengthens you, your marriage, and your family to live out an evangelizing mission.”

“‘Together in Holiness’ is offered in collaboration with dioceses, parishes and schools that desire to strengthen their evangelizing efforts to couples and complement their existing marriage and family programs,” said Susie Saenz, Vice President of Operations for the St. John Paul II Foundation. “The conference series provides an experience of encounter for spouses that inspires them to grow together in holiness and empowers them to form their children in the Catholic Faith.”

The “Together in Holiness” conference made its debut in 2021. More than 100 couples participated in 2022 and the conference has received rave reviews from participants who remarked not only how wonderful the speakers were but also the supportive atmosphere the entire day offered.

Couples will enjoy a day of quality time with their spouse accompanied by dynamic presentations and the availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, along with access to on-site childcare.

The focus of the day is on the centrality of the Eucharist as a source of grace in married life, which fits well with the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival initiative of the U.S. Bishops.

Bishop Dewane will celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to open the conference. This will include a special marriage blessing from the Bishop for all couples present.

The first talk is “The Eucharistic Form of Life,” with Michael and Nancy Dauphinais of Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria, who have been married for more than 29 years. The Dauphinais’ are big fans of Catholic marriage and family life and have worked with couples in marriage preparation for many years. In addition, Michael Dauphinais has taught Catholic theology for more than 20 years, is a published author, and has a podcast called “The Catholic Theology Show.”

Next on the schedule is a talk from Haley Stewart titled “How to Live Out the Liturgical Year.” Stewart is an award-winning writer and editor of Word on Fire Spark, a new imprint for young readers.

The final talk will be by Greg Schutte and is titled “The Eucharistic Mission of the Family.” Schutte is the director of “Marriage Works! Ohio” which is a department of Elizabeth’s New Life Center in Dayton, Ohio. He is also a marriage therapist and author who has spoken at numerous national marriage events.

Cost is $64 per couple or $40 per individual. On-site childcare will be available for $5 per child. Full and partial scholarship opportunities are available.

For more information and to register for the conference, visit

Continuing the journey

For couples who wish to continue enriching their marriage – whether or not they attend the conference – a “Together in Holiness” Formation series is offered. Susie Saenz, Vice President of Operations for the St. John Paul II Foundation describes the series as small groups of four to six couples gathering “to explore a particular theme based on the life, teaching and witness of St. John Paul II.” At the local gatherings, couples share a meal, watch a brief video and have guided prayer, Scripture and discussion lead by a St. John Paul II Foundation-trained couple. If you would like to participate in or learn more about the “Together in Holiness” Formation series, contact


Street Evangelization training coming: Taking the Gospel to the Public Square

Want to know what authentic, non-confrontational, joyful evangelization looks and sounds like? Then make sure to attend the upcoming Diocesan workshop conducted by St. Paul Street Evangelization on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, at Incarnation Parish, 2929 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota.

This workshop, which begins at 8:30 a.m. with the Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, has mobilized thousands of ordinary Catholics to get out on the streets and help God save souls.

Presented by the Diocese of Venice Office of Evangelization, this one-day Basic Evangelization Training with St. Paul Street Evangelization (SPSE) is for every practicing Catholic and includes a workshop led by Adam Janke from SPSE, and a “live lab” on the sidewalks of Sarasota.

Janke explained that the goal of SPSE is “to train, equip and mobilize Catholics for the urgent work of evangelization. It is an open invitation for those who have never shared faith before and will equip them with the basics on how to do that in their everyday life.”

The workshop is about learning how to share your faith in everyday life, with family, friends, fallen away children, people you meet in the grocery store or anywhere, Janke said.

“This is a program for the beginner,” he continued. “It is designed for all. You don’t have to know apologetics or quote from the Bible. It is for those who want to share Jesus with other people.”

The day will include a formula called “One Good Reason” which will empower the participants to provide basic answers to questions which cover about 90 percent of what they will encounter.

“It is all about having a friendly conversation,” Janke said. “In the 10 years I have been doing this, there are very few times when someone has approached me with a direct question or have argued. It is usually curiosity, and then it goes from there.”

It is expected that SPSE training will develop Parish-based groups. Each new group will have a team leader who will coordinate when and where the next local street evangelization opportunity will take place. Some Parishes may have several groups depending upon local interest.

As part of a group, people can take part as often as their schedule permits, which allows those who have other plans when a gathering is called, the flexibility to take part when they can.

“You can go out each week, or just a few times a year,” Janke said. “The beauty is in participating in the first place, having those positive encounters and sharing Jesus with others.”

SPSE was founded in Warren, Michigan, as a response to the mandate of Jesus Christ to “preach the Gospel to all nations…” taking the Catholic faith to the streets in a non-confrontational way.  The organization seeks to train others to witness effectively to the truth, beauty, and goodness of Jesus and His Church in the public square.

Diocesan Evangelization Director Jim Gontis said he has worked with the St. Paul Street Evangelization program in the past and said the results were extraordinary.

Following Mass, the day transitions into an informative workshop that will give participants the knowledge and skills necessary to evangelize.

Through St. Paul Street Evangelization, the goal is not to just stand in a public square and preach to no one in particular. It’s more like the “Woman at the Well,” where you are out and about and you encounter somebody, like Jesus did with the woman. And then you engage her and you’re very intentional.

Janke explained that one way to begin a conversation when an opportunity arises, is through sacramentals, the offering of free gifts, such as a Miraculous Medal or rosary.

This approach has proven effective as sacramentals can initiate a conversation. From there the conversation can broaden and take on whatever form God is calling you to do at that moment.

Registration is $15 for lay people and free for priests and religious. A light breakfast and box lunch and all training materials are included. You can register online at For additional questions, please contact Jim Gontis at

News Briefs for the week of August 25, 2023

World Youth Day topic at recent Theology on Tap

World Youth Day 2023 was the topic of discussion at the most recent Theology on Tap on Aug. 17, 2023, at the Mandeville Beer Garden in Sarasota. An outreach of the Diocese Young Adult Ministry, Theology on Tap takes place on the third Thursday of each month with a variety of speakers addressing topics relevant to the Catholic Faith. In August, the guest speakers were Transitional Deacon Thomas Gregory Dougherty, a Diocesan seminarian in his final year of studies at St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts; and Stephanie Lovetere, the Youth Ministry Coordinator at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. Each shared their experiences on the trip to Portugal with a group of 52 from the Diocese, including Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Marthamaria Morales, Diocesan Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry who also organizes Theology on tap. The monthly gathering also includes food and refreshments. The next scheduled date is Sept. 21, and will feature Father Christian Chami, Parochial Vicar at St. Jude Parish, Sarasota.  For any questions, please email Marthamaria Morales at

Second Collection for Maui, Hawaii Aug. 26-27

Devastating wildfires swept through the Maui region of Hawaii on Aug. 8, 2023, causing much destruction and a loss of life for a large number of residents, particularly in Lahaina.  As we are all called to help our brothers and sisters in need, a second collection will take place in the Diocese of Venice the weekend of August 26 and 27. The proceeds of the collection will be sent to Catholic Charities Diocese of Honolulu to assist in their efforts to address the needs of the citizens in the affected area. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.

Decline to Sign Petition for dangerous Pro-Abortion ballot initiative

An extremely grave initiative is underway in Florida that seeks to erase pro-life protections by inserting language into the Florida State Constitution banning regulation of abortion. Abortion activists are working to gather petition signatures to have a pro-abortion constitutional amendment placed on the statewide ballot in the November 2024 election. To do so, they need nearly 900,000 signatures and are working right now in communities across Florida to collect them. Floridian Catholics should not sign the petition. Please also continue your prayers for the protection of the unborn and spread the word to your spheres of influence.

High school retreat serves community

Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers hosted its annual Freshman Retreat on Aug. 17, 2023. Freshmen, along with senior leaders, enjoyed a great morning getting settled into their rooms, listening to discussions, and enjoying breakfast. They then headed out to various service sites throughout the community in order to give back and appreciate the Christian Service aspect of the freshmen retreat.

STREAM skills used in school project

Fifth-grade students at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples used engineering, teamwork, math and technology skills in their first STREAM activity of the school year on Aug. 22, 2023. Each student was amazed to learn their handmade rubberband/yarn device was an actual tool! The objective was to build a tower first using only their dominant hand, then building the tower with their non-dominant hand. Students learned, smiled, and worked together as disciples of Christ.

Vocabulary “treasure hunt”

Using “Christ is Us” books, second grade students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers practiced their vocabulary words on Aug. 18, 2023. The lesson was a “treasure hunt” as the students try to find and define key “gem” words in the text of the books. When finished with their search, they presented to their groups and used cooperative learning structures for added reading lessons.

“Heart of Discipleship” retreat helps ministry students

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School ministry students in Sarasota attended a retreat on Aug. 22, 2023, at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch. The students spent the day exploring the “Heart of Discipleship” while coming together as a team.  Students heard from various speakers including teacher, alum and Deacon Jack Milholland of Our Lady of the Angels Parish. The lesson learned was: “God is good! All the time!”

Day of Reflection for Sacramental Marriage Sept. 9 in Naples

The Office of Marriage and Family Life will be hosting a Day of Reflection for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church.  A specially prepared team will share their experiences and information enabling couples to be more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of marriage.  This event will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sept. 9, 2023, at St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Avenue, Naples. The cost of $50/couple covers all retreat materials and lunch.  Pre-registration is required at Should you have questions or require additional information contact Carrie Harkey at, or call 941-484-9543 ext. 4748.

Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal coming to an end

Every day, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., serves its most vulnerable population by feeding, housing, empowering, and helping all in need. This summer, you can be the one that makes a difference. Your acts of kindness have the power to transform lives and leave a positive impact in our community. The Catholic Charities Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal is coming to a conclusion soon. Your gift will make a positive impact on our less fortunate brothers and sisters! Please visit or mail a check to Catholic Charities, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

Formation Program in Spanish

The next session of the Hispanic Apostolate’s Formation Program is scheduled to begin on Sept. 29, 2023. The topic of study will be focused on the “National Eucharistic Revival” and there will be a total of seven classes held from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 pm. on Fridays. (During Lent classes will move to Thursdays beginning February 15th.). The cost for all the classes is $35 including the book. Those who register and attend a minimum of 6 classes either at one of the participating parishes or online using our APP ( will receive a Diocesan Certification.

Programa de Formación en Español

La próxima sesión del Programa de Formación a cargo del Apostolado Hispano comenzará el 29 de setiembre del 2023. El tema de estudio estará enfocado en el “Avivamiento Eucarístico Nacional” y habrá un total de 7 clases que se darán los viernes por la noche de 7:00 pm a 9:00 pm. (Durante la Cuaresma las clases se trasladan al jueves a partir del 15 de febrero). El costo de todas las clases es de $35 incluyendo el libro. Las personas que se registren y atiendan un mínimo de 6 clases ya sea en una de las parroquias participantes o vía online usando nuestro APP ( recibirán una Certificación Diocesana.

Help available for Hurricane Ian survivors

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice, Inc. has partnered with St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services in the Disaster Case Management Program to offer services to individuals and families impacted by Hurricane Ian. For additional information or to schedule an appointment, visit, email, or call 941-799-6779.

That Man is You program expanding in September

14 Parishes to host men’s program

A summer initiative to promote the That Man is You (TMIY) Catholic men’s program bears fruit as 11 new Parishes have signed on to start this important outreach starting in September.

TMIY is a program which honestly addresses the pressures and temptations that men face in our modern culture, especially those relating to their roles as husbands and fathers. The program harmonizes current social and medical science with the teachings of the Church and the wisdom of the saints to develop the vision of man fully alive.

Since its inception, more than 100,000 men have been involved in TMIY. The transformative effects in participants have been most evident in helping men become better husbands and fathers, strengthening them in virtue, and in increased Parish participation.

The program began in the Diocese several years ago at Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria and expanded afterward at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Parrish and St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Grove City.

James Gontis, Diocesan Director of Evangelization, hosted 11 information sessions early in the summer to spread the word to more Parishes with the full support of Bishop Frank J. Dewane.

“This program has a proven track record throughout the country,” Gontis said. “We had three Parishes with active programs and the result speak for themselves.”

The information nights consisted of prayer and then a presentation from the TMIY program representatives at Ave Maria Parish, including Dominic Micillo, the Core Team Leader, and Deacon Jeffrey Ball.

The response was overwhelmingly positive, with men committing to participate in the program once it arrives at their home Parish. In one Parish alone, at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch, more than 40 made that commitment during the June 29, 2023, session.

TMIY program has Core Teams at each host Parish who will serve as the guide through the weekly sessions. Organized around a central theme for each program year and presented through the lens of seven steps that make it simple for men to follow, this engaging content is delivered in 13 sessions.

Each week is divided into three roughly equal parts: 30 minutes for a meal; 30 minutes for the presentation; and 30 minutes for small group discussions.

The 13-week program is free, with no pre-registration required. Participants are not required to attend every week and can drop in at any time during the length of the program. You also do not need to be a registered member of the host Parish to attend.

For more information about the program, and to find a host Parish nearest you, please visit, or contact Jim Gontis, Diocesan Director of Evangelization, at 941-486-4754, or



That Man Is You locations

Parishes that will be starting TMIY programs beginning in September are listed below. Please note that the 13-week program is free, with no pre-registration required. Participants are not required to attend every week and can drop in at any time during the length of the program.


Epiphany Cathedral, Venice

Saturday mornings 6:30 a.m. – 8 a.m., beginning Sept. 9

Core Team Leader: Deacon Scott Little –


St. Frances Cabrini, Parrish

Saturday mornings 6:30 a.m. – 8 a.m., beginning Sept. 9

Core Team Leader: Paul Dadowski –


St. Patrick, Sarasota

Fridays 6 a.m.–7:30 a.m., beginning Sept. 15

Core Team Leader: Joe Gomez –


St. Charles Borromeo, Port Charlotte

Saturday mornings 9:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m., beginning Sept. 9

Core Team Leader: Michael Barrett –


St. Agnes, Naples

Saturday mornings 6:30 a.m. – 8 a.m., beginning Sept. 16

Core Team Leader: Isaac Mejias –


St. Joseph, Bradenton

Saturday mornings 7 a.m. – 8:15 a.m., beginning Sept. 16

Core Team Leader: Miguel Rodriguez –


Our Lady of the Angels, Lakewood Ranch

Saturday mornings 6:30 a.m. – 8 a.m., beginning Sept. 16

Core Team Leader: Mike Gonzales –


San Pedro, North Port

Saturday mornings 6:30 a.m. – 8 a.m., beginning Sept. 16

Core Team Leader: Mike Lyons –


St. Paul the Apostle, Arcadia

Sunday mornings 7 a.m. – 8:30 a.m., beginning Sept. 17

Core Team Leader: Brad Dixon –


St. Katharine Drexel, Cape Coral

Thursday evenings 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., beginning Sept. 21

Core Team Leader: Timothy Altieri –


St. Francis of Assisi, Grove City

Thursday mornings 7 a.m. – 8:15 a.m., beginning Sept. 21

Core Team Leader: John Coyne –


Ave Maria, Ave Maria

Saturday mornings 7 am – 8:30 a.m., beginning Sept. 23

Core Team Leader: Dominic Micillo –


St. John the Evangelist, Naples

Saturday mornings (Times TBD), beginning Sept. 23

Core Team Leader: Brandon Karas –


Incarnation, Sarasota

Saturday mornings 6:30 a.m. – 8 a.m., beginning Sept. 23

Core Team Leader: Steve Jendrysik –


For more information about individual Parish session, please contact the Core team Leader.

World Youth Day 2023 – Universal Church inspires Diocesan teens

We are all part of one Universal and one Local Church – that is the Mother Church that spans the globe and the Diocese in which you reside. This was a profound lesson learned by the Diocese of Venice pilgrims as they took part in an epic journey to World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal.

From July 29 to Aug. 8, 2023, Bishop Frank J. Dewane was joined by 52 Diocesan pilgrims who were able to take in the culture of this European country while also seeing the Lord in many things great and small.

Highlights for the young pilgrims included being among people from all corners of the world, Mass with Pope Francis and, most importantly, truly feeling God’s presence in all they were doing, seeing and hearing.

Bishop Dewane met with the group at their hotel each morning and saw a change in them as the week progressed. At a dinner following the Mass that closed World Youth Day 2023, the Bishop realized that the young men and women had grasped the sacredness of the moment and had a new realization of the idea of the Universal and Local Church (Diocese).

“It was wonderful to see how excited everyone was,” Bishop Dewane said. “The young people shared how they felt, which can be difficult. However, this showed how immersed they were in the experience of this holy journey and being among friends who they could trust.”

The young people heard the message of Pope Francis who said they are an important part of society and their gifts from the Lord are not to be used later, but now.

Videos of the brief encounter with Pope Francis showed the pure joy of the moment for the youth. For example, Antonio LaPorta, of St. Agnes Parish in Naples, said it was a surreal and awesome experience seeing the Holy Father. “You see him on TV and you don’t think he is a real person. Then you see him in real life, and everyone is cheering and jumping because the Pope is there… I loved the joy and praise he gets.”

Luke Dalton of Epiphany Cathedral in Venice was similarly impressed by the Holy Father. “It was cool being that close to the earthly leader of the Church. I got a video and was pretty close.”

Tatiana Lopez, of Our Lady of the Angels in Lakewood Ranch, said seeing and hearing the message of Pope Francis and being part of the whole World Youth Day pilgrimage was a “very unique experience. We got involved with all the different countries and getting to know the different people. Being here with my mom (Krista Lopez) was special. Then we heard Pope Francis at the (closing) Mass. Hearing him speak and seeing him in person was incredible.”

In addition to Epiphany Cathedral, St. Agnes, Our Lady of the Angels, the Diocesan group represented nine parishes including: Jesus the Worker in Fort Myers, St. Martha in Sarasota, Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria, Our Lady Queen of Heaven in LaBelle, Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda, and St. Joseph in Bradenton. Leading them throughout the week was Marthamaria Morales, the Diocesan Director for Youth and Young Adult Ministry. The group also included several priests, seminarians and other adults.

Morales said the entire journey brought the Diocesan group closer together as they shared incredible spiritual experiences from Mass, to prayer, to Eucharistic Adoration, to listening to amazing speakers and musicians and finally the closing Vigil and Mass with Pope Francis.

First, they were united by a long flight, and a shared adventure as they visited key religious sites in Coimbra, Fatima, Santarem before arriving in Lisbon. The group participated in the Opening Ceremony and Mass in Colina de Econtro (Parque Eduardo VII), and took part in a daily “Rise Up” catechesis.

During the catechesis, which took place Aug. 2-4, the youth learned about how they are loved by the Lord and because of this they were challenged to put Jesus first in their lives above outside distractions.

Speakers at the English-language catechesis included Bishop Robert Barron, of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Christopher West, who spoke on the Theology of the Body. Morales was one of the presenters for the Spanish-language catechesis.

Each afternoon of WYD, a Youth Festival took place throughout the city. In Cidade da Alegria, there was a Vocational Fair and Reconciliation Park. During the Vocational Fair, young pilgrims encounter various movements, associations, communities, religious orders, and projects of social nature. The Reconciliation Park is where pilgrims encountered the Merciful Christ through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The group was present at the welcoming ceremony for Pope Francis on Aug. 2, and for the Stations of the Cross on Aug. 3. In their “down time” the pilgrims were able to explore the historic city and waterfront while also meeting and exchanging small gifts and tokens with pilgrims from across the globe.

Daisy Trejo, of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle, started the pilgrimage as a generally “shy” person, but throughout the journey she opened up, getting signatures on her Diocesan T-shirts from people from around the world.

Meanwhile, Jesus Ismael Hernandez of Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers, traded bracelets with dozens of others.

A special moment occurred when Father Krzysztof “Chris” Piotrowski, Parochial Vicar at Epiphany Cathedral, crossed paths with the Agata Kornhauser-Duda, the First Lady of Poland. Father is a native of Poland and the two spoke briefly and posed for photos.

The World Youth Day Vigil was Aug. 5 at “Campo de Grace” (Parque Tejo). This was an evening and overnight celebration for the pilgrims which included speakers, musicians, adoration and much more. Diocesan priests celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the pilgrims in the field before the celebration began. The pilgrims then spent the night on air mattresses and in sleeping bags ahead of the Closing Mass with the Holy Father the following morning.

Bishop Dewane and the Diocesan priests concelebrated the Closing Mass. Pope Francis’ message to the youth was to shine, to listen, and to be unafraid.

“To all of you, dear young people, who are the present and the future, yes to all of you, Jesus now says: ‘Have no fear,’ ‘Do not be afraid!’ Pope Francis said.

“Now, in a brief moment of silence, (I ask) each of you repeat these words, in your own heart: ‘Do not be afraid!’

“Dear young people, I would like to look into the eyes of each of you and say: Do not be afraid. I will tell you something else, also very beautiful: it is no longer I, but Jesus Himself who is now looking at you. He knows each of your hearts, each of your lives; He knows your joys, your sorrows, your successes and failures. He knows your heart. Today, He says to you, here in Lisbon, at this World Youth Day: ‘Have no fear, take heart, do not be afraid!’”

Donna Kuo, of Our Lady of the Angels and mother of two of the Diocesan WYD pilgrims (Bryce and Lindsay), was one of several parents who travelled with their children. Kuo explained how it was such an honor to be a part of the Diocesan pilgrimage.

“We are walking away changed for life. With memories for life. What I will treasure the most is the time to reflect and pray with my children and grow in our faith together” Kuo said.

Following the closing Mass, Bishop Dewane and pilgrims went out for a final meal in Lisbon as a group. The next day, they travelled to Porto, Portugal (where they arrived and departed from) and had a tour of the city.

There, Bishop Dewane celebrated Mass for the group for the final time at the Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto in Portuguese), which is the most important religious edifice in the city and dates from 1110.

Perhaps Christian DiGioia of Epiphany Cathedral said it best about his experience: “It feels great to be part of a giant Catholic community. People from everywhere united by God.”

The pilgrims returned to the U.S. on Aug. 8, ready to live out what they learned. As they reflect upon their journey, they can start to make plans for World Youth Day 2027 in Seoul, South Korea.

Excited Diocesan pilgrims take on World Youth Day

Bishop Frank J. Dewane and 52 Diocese of Venice pilgrims are growing closer to Our Lord along with hundreds of thousands from across the globe during World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal.

The pilgrims, led by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, have been on a whirlwind trip with multiple stops at important religious sites enroute to Lisbon that included the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, candlelight processions, as well as visits to shrines, monasteries, churches, sacred sites and more.

Bishop Dewane told the pilgrims upon arrival in Portugal that he wants each to take time to focus on what it is Lord wants them to gain from this spiritual journey of discovery. “You have to come to an understanding of what Jesus is saying to you, and calling each of you to do. The Lord does this because He knows and loves you and wants you to become the best version of yourself, reflecting Jesus’ love and light into the world.”

Trinity Shipe of St. Martha Parish in Sarasota said that this pilgrimage was her first international travel, and she was excited “to be able to be with a bunch of other people who are our age and who are Catholic; as well as to see everyone here all together while I grow in my faith journey.”

Daisy Tejo, of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle, said after just one day in Portugal that the pilgrimage had “been such an amazing experience.” She said that being with so many young people from around the world was life-changing and she prayed the rosary and visited key sites while in Fatima, the location of multiple Marian apparitions. “I look forward to the days to come at Lisbon. I’m very excited.”

One pilgrim, Bryce Kuo of Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch, said the early part of the journey had been an incredible experience. He is traveling with his sister and mother, which has added to the experience. What struck Bryce most was the unifying nature of the World Youth Day experience. “We are speaking in different languages, but we are all united by the same faith… It’s a very moving experience. After this, it will give me the guidelines to live my life in the best way I can.”

Bishop Dewane has been with the Diocesan pilgrims every step of the way, celebrating Mass for the group several times, including during their first stop in Portugal, at a Carmelite monastery in Coimbra.

While in Fatima the group visited several sacred sites. The city, which is located in central Portugal, is famous for Marian apparitions which took place in 1917 when three children saw a series of visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The visit there included taking part in Stations of the Cross and visiting the church where the three children, St. Lucia dos Santos and her cousins, Sts. Francisco and Jacinto Marto, were baptized.

Bishop Dewane was the main celebrant for a Mass for the Diocesan pilgrims and others on July 31 in the Chapel of the Apparitions, built to mark the exact location of the apparitions. The Chapel is part of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima which is visited by at least 6 million each year.

On the evenings of July 30 and 31, the pilgrims took part in rosary and candlelight processions. During the July 31 procession, Diocesan pilgrims Ryan Cody of Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch, and Christian DiGioia, of Epiphany Cathedral, had the honor of carrying the American Flag, while Transitional Deacon Timothy “Greg” Dougherty was among the leaders of the procession.

While in Fatima the pilgrims also visited the Cenacolo Community (Fraternity Angel of Peace), which has houses around the world which help young men and women overcome addictions and depression through a program of encountering Jesus and centering their lives on prayer and service. Bishop Dewane and the Diocesan pilgrims heard powerful testimonies of the 13 men who are currently being helped by the community.

The pilgrims departed Fatima on Aug. 1, and while enroute to Lisbon, they made a stop at St. Stephen’s Church in Santarem, to see and learn about the Eucharistic Miracle of Santarem, which occurred on Feb. 16, 1274. Bishop again celebrated Mass for the Diocesan group.

Once the pilgrims checked into the hotel that they would call home for the following week, the pilgrims attended the WYD 2023 Opening Mass at Colina de Encontro (Parque Eduardo VII), which was celebrated by Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, Manuel Clemente.

Domenico Cricchio Jr. of Our Lady of the Angels summed up what many of the Diocesan pilgrims thought of the first main event at WYD. “What an experience. Amazing. It’s hard to explain these things and to prepare for them. When you are there, it’s a whole new feeling – the whole world is with you and the solidarity and community you feel for the love of Christ is unlike anything I have ever experienced. I look forward to so many more great things here in Lisbon.”

The Diocesan pilgrimage was organized by Marthamaria Morales, Diocesan Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. Morales said the group includes several priests, seminarians as well as youth and young adults from nine different Parishes.

During the main part of WYD in Lisbon, the pilgrims are taking part in daily catechesis called “Rise Up” meetings Aug. 2-4, which are intended to help the young people have an experience of faith and an encounter with Christ in an atmosphere of community and participation.

The Marian themes for the catechesis are linked to the general theme of WYD 2023 which is “Mary arose and went with haste” Luke 1:39. The biblical phrase opens the account of the Visitation (Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth). The overall goal of the catechesis is to give the young people a mission that now is the time to dream and work for a new world, just as Mary did as a young woman.

Pope Francis is scheduled to join the pilgrims on Aug. 3, for a welcome ceremony in the city center. He is also expected to preside at a Way of the Cross on Aug. 4, a prayer vigil on Aug. 5, and the WYD Closing Mass, with an anticipated crowd of a million or more, on Aug. 6. The Diocesan pilgrims are expected to be at each of these key moments at WYD 2023.

Please pray for the WYD pilgrims from the Diocese of Venice and around the world, that they may have a safe and fruitful journey and a meaningful encounter with Jesus Christ.

To follow along on the journey of the Diocesan pilgrims, please visit the Diocese Facebook page @dioceseofvenice or on Instagram @dioceseofveniceinfl, or the Diocese website,

Early highlights of Diocesan pilgrimage to WYD 2023

The following is a list of highlights for the 52 Diocesan pilgrims who are joining Bishop Frank J. Dewane for World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal.

July 30

Arrival in Porto, Portugal and bus ride to Fatima, with a stop in Coimbra. Visited Carmelite Monastery of Coimbra, where Bishop Dewane celebrated Mass. Arrived in Fatima. That evening the group participated in a candlelight procession at the Shrine.

July 31

Mass at the Chapel of Apparitions with Bishop Dewane as the main celebrant. The small chapel is located in Cova da Iria, to mark the exact location where the three children Sts. Lucia dos Santos and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinto Marto, reported having received the famous apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Bus ride to the outskirts of Fatima in the countryside where the Aug. 19, 1917, apparition of Our Lady of Fatima took place. Pilgrims took part in two-mile Estação da Via Sacra (Stations of the Cross), or Caminho dos Pastorinhos (path of the little shepherds), which included 14 chapels that represent the different stations of the Way of the Cross. Father Alex Pince, Parochial Vicar at Epiphany Cathedral led the Diocesan group through the stations on the second anniversary of his priestly ordination.

This visit also included a stop at the Cenacolo Community (Fraternity Angel of Peace) which ministers to those suffering from addictions, as well as the Parish Church of Fatima where Sts. Lucia, Francisco and Jacinto, were baptized, as well as to the Shrine Museum. St. Francisco died in 1919 at the age of 10, Jacinto died in 1920, at the age of 9, both from the 1919 global influenza outbreak. They are the Church’s youngest saints who did not die as martyrs, with Jacinta the youngest.

Upon return to the center of Fatima, the group visited the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, the tombs of the saints, and participated in a rosary and candlelight procession.

Aug. 1

departed from Fatima to Lisbon with a stop at St. Stephen Church in Santarem, to see and learn about the Eucharistic Miracle of Santarem, which occurred on Feb. 16, 1274. Bishop again celebrated Mass for the Diocesan group.

Arrival in Lisbon included checking into hotel and getting credentialed for the main WYD 2023 activities throughout the city. The group then participated in the WYD opening Mass at Colina de Econtro (Parque Eduardo VII), celebrated by Cardinal Patriarch Lisbon, Manuel Clemente.

Aug. 2

Bishop Dewane met the pilgrims for breakfast before they headed out to their Rise Up catechism. This catechism took place the mornings of Aug. 2-4. Bishop Dewane celebrated Mass for the group at St. Joseph Parish.

Each afternoon of WYD a Youth Festival is taking place throughout the city. In Cidade da Alegria, is a Vocational Fair and Reconciliation Park. During the Vocational Fair, young pilgrims encounter various movements, associations, communities, religious orders, and projects of social nature. Reconciliation Park is where pilgrims encounter the Merciful Christ through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

That evening the Diocesan group joined in the WYDUSA National Gathering in Parque da Quinta das Conches. The program featured prayer, music, testimony, networking, and a Holy Hour with the Lord, led by Bishop Robert Barron of Winona-Rochester and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.

Aug. 3

Rise Up catechesis continues. Evening welcoming ceremony for Pope Francis at Colina de Econtro (Parque Eduardo VII). Youth Festival.

Aug. 4

Rise Up catechesis concludes. Evening includes Stations of the Cross at Colina de Econtro (Parque Eduardo VII). Youth Festival.

Aug. 5

World Youth Day Vigil at “Campo de Grace” (Parque Tejo). This is an evening and overnight celebration for the pilgrims which includes speakers, musicians, adoration and much more. Pilgrims typically spend the night at the vigil.

Aug. 6

World Youth Day 2023 closing Mass with Pope Francis at “Campo de Grace.” The Mass concludes with the announcement of where the next World Youth Day will be held. That evening, the Diocesan pilgrims will have dinner as a group with Bishop Dewane.

Aug. 7

The pilgrims leave Lisbon for Porto, Portugal, and upon arrival they will tour one of Europe’s oldest cities. Bishop Dewane will celebrate Mass for the group at the Cathedral there. Last night in Portugal.

Aug. 8

Fly from Porto to Zurich, Switzerland, with a connection to Miami, arriving in the evening. Welcome Home!!!

Totus Tuus benefits 1,000+

Impact reaches beyond young participants

Hearts are on fire for Jesus Christ for the more than 1,000 young faithful who took part in the Totus Tuus weekly sessions throughout the summer.

In its second, year, Totus Tuus – which means “totally yours” – taught the children of all ages to put a spotlight on sharing the Gospel and promoting the Catholic faith through evangelization, catechesis, Christian witness, and Eucharistic worship. The goal of the week is to help the children develop a true and lasting longing for holiness.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who personally visited the Totus Tuus session on June 22, 2023, at Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria, was impressed by the response each child had to the uplifting program.

“In each classroom everyone was so excited and alive about their love of the Lord,” Bishop Dewane said.

The goal of the Totus Tuus program is to inspire young people to long for holiness, develop a deep desire for conversion and personally renew their faith with a stronger prayer life. Through evangelization and catechesis, Totus Tuus seeks to foster openness to the sacrifices and blessings of the various Christian vocations.

Carrie Harkey, Diocesan Coordinator of Family Life and co-coordinator of the Totus Tuus program, was impressed by the response not only from the children, from the youngest to the teens, but from the Parish staff and volunteers as well as the parents.

“We saw the participants take to heart the message of developing a true and lasting longing for holiness,” Harkey said. “Then they shared that joy with their priests, staff, volunteers, and whole family. This is having a beautiful and lasting impact for the Parishes. We had many children and parents come to us and ask us to extend the program to a second week and if not please return next year. That is so wonderful.”

Totus Tuus works to complement what the children learn from their parents, who are the first and best educators of the faith. This is something Bishop Dewane has stressed since the program had its trial run in the Diocese in the summer of 2022 at eight Parishes with four missionaries.

This summer, there were 12 missionaries who worked in two teams, though for Parishes with large groups of children the teams merged for the week. The expansion meant that 11 Parishes served as hosts through the seven-week program. The weeklong program was divided into two sessions, with the day component for students grades 1 – 6, and the evening session for middle school and high school students grades 7 – 12.

The younger children participate in four classes each day, attend daily Mass, learn the parts and liturgical songs of Mass, and participate in games, skits, songs, recess and prayer. The older students participate in instruction, small group discussions, quiet meditations, adoration, prayer and fellowship.

The Totus Tuus missionaries (six men and six women plus two Diocesan seminarians who served in a supportive role) went through an intensive training session in early June in preparation for the summer. From there, they were split into teams. Each team had a weekly leader with the missionaries rotating amongst themselves which grade level they taught each week to better enhance the experience for them and the children.

Each missionary leaves the Diocese feeling blessed by the experience.

Missionary Victoria Cardona, who is a student at Ave Maria University, said the Totus Tuus program was an amazing experience as she quickly connected with students and saw them grow in their faith on a daily – and sometimes hourly – basis. She hopes to become a teacher and this experience reinforced her desire to impart knowledge, particularly about the faith.

“It was rewarding to see when a young person begins to understand the beauty of the faith through the Most Holy Eucharist. This is seen at Mass and at adoration. They come to understand what the Real Presence of Christ means to them in their heart. Just beautiful to witness and be a part of them learning this for the first time,” Cardona said.

Fellow missionary Andres Jimenez, also of Ave Maria University, agreed, saying seeing Jesus in a new way for the children, and helping them grow closer in their understanding and love for the Lord, was rewarding.

“It helped reinvigorate my faith as this process opened my eyes to the wonders of the the Church and revealed how the Lord works in each of us, from the youngest child, through the teens and to us as missionaries. I am leaving this experience having learned myself, how to better listen to the Lord and understand that He has a plan for me,” Jimenez said.

The Parishes which hosted the Totus Tuus team this summer were: St. Katherine Drexel in Cape Coral, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Parrish, St. Agnes in Naples, Ave Maria in Ave Maria, St. Peter the Apostle in Naples, St. Catherine in Sebring, Our Lady Queen of Heaven in La Belle, St. John XXIII in Fort Myers, St. Patrick in Sarasota, Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and Our Lady of the Angels in Lakewood Ranch.

Harkey said the praise from priests, religious education leaders and parents has been overwhelmingly positive. The only negative reaction was the request that the camp be longer than one week at a Parish.

“With the feedback we have received, we are going to bring the camp back for the summer of 2024,” Harkey said. “The enthusiasm is contagious and that is a good thing. After two summers, we now have an established program which directly engages young people, from kindergarten through high school, about their faith. That is very special.”

52 pilgrims from Diocese going to World Youth Day

More than 1,300 groups, 28,600 individuals, from across the United States will travel to Lisbon, Portugal, for the International World Youth Day (WYD) gathering with Pope Francis, from Aug. 1-6, 2023.

Among the American contingent are 52 pilgrims from the Diocese of Venice. This group is led by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, and includes youth, young adults, seminarians, priests, and a few others representing nine different Parishes.

Marthamaria Morales, Diocesan Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministry, helped organize the pilgrimage for the Diocese, saying that this is not a vacation but a spiritual journey for every participant, in that they will be challenged to open their hearts to the Lord and carry the lessons learned back home.

The Diocese group includes representatives from Parishes including: Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, St. Agnes in Naples, Ave Maria in Ave Maria, Jesus the Worker in Fort Myers, Our Lady of the Angels in Lakewood Ranch, Our Lady Queen of Heaven in LaBelle, Sacred Heart in Punta Gorda, St. Joseph in Bradenton, and St. Martha in Sarasota.

Among the pilgrims is Bishop Dewane, who is attending his fifth World Youth Day as Bishop of Venice. He is one of only 60 U.S. Bishops attending.

Morales explained that each morning is spent in catechesis called “Rise Up Encounters,” with time for prayer and liturgies, concerts, presentations, dialogue, service, and networking with youth from around the world.

According to the official WYD website, the theme for WYD Lisbon is: “Mary arose and went with haste.” (Luke 1:39). The biblical phrase opens the account of the Visitation (Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth).

Pope Francis will join the pilgrims on Aug. 3, for a welcome ceremony in the city center. He will also preside at a Way of the Cross on August 4, a prayer vigil on Aug. 5, and the WYD Closing Mass, with an anticipated crowd of a million or more, on Aug. 6.

To stay connected with the Diocesan group while in Lisbon, Bishop Dewane will be attending many of the activities with the pilgrims. He will also celebrate Mass for them several times, including the afternoon of Aug. 2, at St. Joseph Church, prior to a WYD USA National Gathering, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, at Parque da Quinta das Conchas, an open park in the city.

This national gathering will include music and testimony by young adults, as well a keynote address from Bishop Robert E. Barron, Winona-Rochester, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, which oversees the U.S. involvement in WYD. Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas will lead a Holy Hour as part of the National Eucharistic Revival initiative.

While the main World Youth Day events are Aug. 1-6, the Diocesan group departs from Florida on July 29. A bus with more than half of the pilgrims leaves Epiphany Cathedral in the early morning hours for Miami International Airport and will meet the rest of the group in Miami for their flight overseas.

Upon arrival, the pilgrims head directly to Fatima, where the Angel of Peace appeared to the little shepherds, preparing them to receive the visits of Our Lady. There will also be an opportunity to see and learn about the Eucharistic Miracle of Santarem, which occurred on Feb. 16, 1274. Bishop Dewane will be celebrating Mass for the pilgrims at the Carmelite Monastery, Carmelo Santa Teresa in Coimbra, on July 30.

In a message to the Diocesan pilgrims, Bishop Dewane noted it was providential that the WYD closing Mass with the Holy Father will take place on the Feast of the Transfiguration, Aug. 6. “The experience of Peter, James, and John at the Transfiguration was a pivotal moment of transformation for them. Let this pilgrimage be similarly transformative for us.”

“During our journey to WYD, we will be able to experience the joy of encountering Christ and our brothers and sisters. Let us be open to seeing the ‘Face of Christ’ in all from different lands and cultures, but together center on celebrating our Faith,” the Bishop continued. “Now is the time to arise! Like Mary, let us ‘arise and go in haste.’ I pray for a safe and joyful journey.”

The Diocesan U.S. pilgrims will be staying in a hotel in Lisbon and will mostly use trains to get to the main WYD activities, Morales explained. Fortunately, the hotel is very close to the closing Vigil and Mass. The evening of the closing Mass, the Diocesan pilgrims will share a final group meal in Portugal with Bishop Dewane before they begin their journey back to the U.S. in the following days.

WYD officials state the biblical episode of the Visitation, the action of standing up presents Mary as both a woman of charity and a missionary woman. Leaving in haste represents the attitude depicted in Pope Francis’ indications for WYD Lisbon 2023: “may young people’s evangelization be active and missionary, for this is how they will recognize and witness the presence of the living Christ.”

Please pray for the WYD pilgrims from the Diocese of Venice and around the world.

To follow along on the journey of the Diocesan pilgrims, please visit the Diocese Facebook page @dioceseofvenice or on Instagram @dioceseofveniceinfl.