Totus Tuus – Faith is Fun!

What do you get when dozens of children gather for a special summer camp – a deeper understanding of their faith and lots of fun.

In just its first week, the Totus Tuus Summer Camp for children and teens is already a huge success as St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral, and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Parrish, hosted campers June 4-9, 2023.

The goal of the Totus Tuus Summer Camp is to help young people develop in their understanding of the faith and strengthen their relationship with Jesus Christ.

Totus Tuus is a Latin phrase meaning “Totally Yours.” It was a motto of St. John Paul II, taken from St. Louis de Montfort’s “True Devotion to Mary.” It signifies our desire to give ourselves entirely to Jesus Christ through Mary.

The week-long camps are divided into two sessions, with the day camp for students entering grades 1 – 6, and the evening camp for middle school and high school students entering grades 7 – 12. Led by two teams of six missionaries each, the camps also have the Parish staff and volunteers augmenting the team, together they make the week one to remember for all who participate.

Unlike in 2022, this year has two teams of six missionaries each to reach as many children as possible. This means 11 Parishes will host the summer camp in June and July. The missionaries are supported by two Diocesan seminarians.

Lessons build throughout the week as the children learn about the importance of prayer, and ways to pray, which includes the basics of the Our Father and Hail Mary through the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.

By the end of the camp, it is anticipated that the children learn about the importance of the Eucharist and how Jesus walks with them all the time, explained Carrie Harkey, Diocesan Coordinator of Marriage and Family Life. The Totus Tuus summer camp is the work of several Diocesan offices, including Evangelization, Catholic Education and Youth Outreach.

The camp for the younger children begins with music to pump the children up and get them ready for the full day ahead with a focus on learning key lessons about their faith. In addition to dancing, music and prayer, the children have time for activities such as crafts and games.

A focal point of each day is participation in daily Mass. The Mass portion of the day is more than participating in the important celebration of the Holy Eucharist. It is at this time during the camp when the children not only learn the various hymns but also learn about the different parts of the Mass and why they are so key to this important celebration.

For example, when entering the Church, the children are brought to the Holy Water Font and taught how and why they are to respectfully dip their finger in the water and bless themselves. They also learn about the need to genuflect before entering and when leaving the pew as they face the tabernacle where Jesus is present.

Throughout the week, there is also quiet reflective time in Eucharistic Adoration and the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The teen aspect of the summer camp is confined to the evenings and focuses on allowing the Totus Tuus missionaries and seminarians to share their stories and lead discussions on topics that are important to young people today. The teens also take part in Adoration and are offered the opportunity to go to confession. Throughout the week, there is a special focus on fostering a prayer life and deepening their relationship with the Lord.

Both day and evening camps conclude with fun and games.

Rose Talbot-Babey, Director of Religious Education at St. Katharine Drexel, which hosted the first week of Totus Tuus in 2022, said this year is building upon the success of 2022. “It is a great program for children of all ages as everyone gets something out of the week. These missionaries are great!”

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Pastor Father Joseph Gates was pleased by the camp, viewing it as an opportunity to build up the religious education program at the Parish.

The 12 missionaries arrived in late May to begin a training regimen which prepared them for the Totus Tuus program and the rigors of teaching young children and teens for the entire summer.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who helped bring the Totus Tuus program to the Diocese in 2022, had lunch with the missionaries on June 1. He learned about their backgrounds and offered encouragement to them, stressing the importance of their work within the Diocese and how they needed to be guided by Christ in the work they are doing this summer.

The Parishes hosting Totus Tuus this summer are: St. Katherine Drexel, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini; St. Agnes in Naples, June 11-16; Ave Maria in Ave Maria and St. Peter the Apostle in Naples, June 18-23; St. Catherine in Sebring, June 25-30; Our Lady Queen of Heaven in La Belle, July 9-14; St. John XXIII in Fort Myers and St. Patrick in Sarasota, July 16-21; and Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and Our Lady of the Angels in Lakewood Ranch, July 23-28.

While many of the Parish Totus Tuus camps are full, some openings are available. To inquire, please contacting the individual Parish religious education office which can be found by visiting For further information regarding this program please visit

Information sessions for men’s outreach coming in June

The Diocese of Venice Office of Evangelization is hosting a series of information sessions throughout June 2023 to help spread the word about a growing outreach to men called “That Man is You (TMIY).”

That Man is You is a Catholic men’s program that 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.

TMIY currently exists at several Diocesan Parishes right now, with more coming online in the fall. To help spread the word, and to encourage more Parishes to adopt this program, the Office of Evangelization is hosting one-hour TMIY information sessions in June 2023.

The information session scheduled is as follows:

  • Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish, 335 S. Bridge Street, LaBelle, 7 p.m., June 7 (also in Spanish).
  • Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Avenue West, Venice, 6 p.m., June 8.
  • Peter the Apostle Parish, 5130 Rattlesnake Hammock Road, Naples, 7 p.m., June 14 (also in Spanish).
  • Katharine Drexel Parish, 1922 SW 20th Avenue, Cape Coral, 6 p.m., June 19.
  • Incarnation Parish, 2929 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota, 6:30 p.m., June 20.
  • Charles Borromeo Parish, 21505 Augusta Ave., Port Charlotte, 7 p.m., June 26.
  • John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Avenue North, Naples, 7 p.m., June 27.
  • Our Lady of the Angels Parish, 12905 E. State Road 70, Lakewood Ranch, 7 p.m., June 28.

For an updated listing of locations for TMIY information sessions in the coming weeks, please visit or contact James Gontis, Diocese of Venice Director of Evangelization at 941-484-9543 or

News Briefs for the week of April 28, 2023

Mooney Beach Volleyball state Champs

Congratulations to the Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School girls Beach Volleyball Team! They are the Sunshine State Class AA Beach Volleyball champs for the second straight year having competed at the Game Point Event Center in Orlando on April 22, 2023. In addition, the Mooney girls second team were the Silver Champions. Way to go Lady Cougars!

Theology on Tap reaches young adults

Fun, faith and fellowship were part of the monthly Theology on Tap outreach to young adults on April 20, 2023, at the Mandeville Beer Garden in Sarasota. The featured speaker in April was Father Shawn Monahan, Oblate of the Virgin Mary, assistant director of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice. The relaxed atmosphere takes place in the garden for food and refreshments, presentations, and discussions about the Catholic Faith. Theology on Tap takes place at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month The next gathering will be May 18, with special guest Father Alex Pince, a priest who was ordained in 2021 and is Parochial Vicar at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. For more information, please contact Mathamaria Morales at

Teacher recognized for service

Coach Krys Kolbe has been teaching physical education at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton for 23 years. She’s also the school’s athletic director. She was nominated as a Bay News 9 A+ Teacher in early April for always striving to inspire her students. “Krys is one of those teachers that if I had the ability to duplicate her I would,” said Deborah Suddarth, the St. Joseph principal. “She is incredible.” Kolbe said initially she wanted to be a doctor but quickly learned she was meant to be a teacher. She said she has always loved to play and being a physical education teacher allows her to do that every day.

School Adopt-a-Road crews in action

Caring for God’s Creation is one of the fundamental lessons taught at each of the 15 Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools. One way to care for the planet is participating in local Adopt-a-Road programs, which is what Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota did on April 22, 2023. The service project crew adopted the stretch of South Tuttle Avenue from Bee Ridge Road to Webber Street. They spent the day cleaning up items, supervised by teachers and parents who also participated. The group did their part to keep Sarasota, and God’s creation, clean.

Neumann basketball team excelled academically

The St. John Neumann Catholic High School Varsity Boys Basketball Team finished the season with a 3.655 cumulative team GPA. This GPA is based on an unweighted 4.0 scale and earned the team the #3 rank in Florida Class 2A and #7 overall. Way to go Celtics!

Fort Myers students share biomed projects

Bishop Verot Catholic High School senior biomedical students gathered in Fort Myers as four young scholars each presented their capstone projects to the student body on April 18, 2023. This presentation is a culmination of everything they have learned in the four-year program. The seniors researched a topic of interest in science and had to pursue a project that had a gap in understanding or research that had not been done before.

Author reads book to students

Young students at St. Ann Catholic School in Naples had a great lunch hour on April 21, 2023, with children’s book author, Anya Beltsina. She visited St. Ann and read from her book “Smiley, Happy Planet Earth.” The visit and reading was both educational and engaging for students.

Students create artwork to celebrate planet

Psalm 24:1 states – “The Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” To celebrate God’s creation, fourth grade students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers did a wonderful job on their Earth Day coffee filter art projects on April 21, 2023. Using the filters and watercolors, the students were able to create their own Earth, each unique, just like the students.



Diocesan Eucharistic Congress deepens faith, brings joy

4,400 youth and adults brought closer to the Lord

During the span of two days and three unique events, the Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Congress in Fort Myers was a massive success.

An estimated 4,400 (middle school students, youth and adults) participated from March 24 to March 25, 2023, at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center and Luminary Hotel on the Fort Myers riverfront.

Over the span of two days, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated twice (one for youth, one for adults), there were three Eucharistic Adorations (two outdoors for the younger participants and one indoors for the adults), and there was a 1,600-person strong public Eucharistic Procession in the streets of Fort Myers.

Additional high points included inspirational talks in both Spanish and English, live music, and fellowship as participants shared the beauty of our Catholic Faith, and its Sacraments, together.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane called for the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress as part of a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year revival of devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The U.S Bishops want the National Eucharistic Revival to serve as a reminder that Catholics around the world are raised to be aware of the transforming power and mercy of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist – the Source and Summit of the Faith.

“What a wonderful time to be together celebrating our Faith in the Most Holy Eucharist,” Bishop Dewane said at the opening of the main conference on Saturday morning, addressing both the English and Spanish language groups. “Let the Blessed Sacrament guide you, may you go forth in a deeper relationship with Our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

The Eucharistic Congress, with a theme “The Word Became Flesh,” encompassed several parts, including three unique sessions. The first was for 1,300 Diocesan Catholic middle school students; the second was a Youth Rally for 1,500 high-school aged teens (both on March 24); and the showcase event on March 25 was for 1,600 adults which featured special breakout sessions for men and women, and offerings in both English and Spanish.

The response to the Eucharistic Congress was enthusiastic with calls for this type of gathering to become an annual event.

“It was so glorious to be together for Christ,” said Amy Trask of St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers. “I can’t stop smiling. Everything was so wonderful!”

The public Eucharistic Procession circled the Luminary Hotel and stretched around the block as people prayed and sang while curious onlookers took photos, videos and asked questions about what was taking place.

“It was so great to be a part of such a public display of our faith,” said Joanne Collins of St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. “It gave me goosebumps to be with everyone, accompanied by Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.”

Rosalia Hernandez of St. Paul Parish in Arcadia loved the entire day, from the message of the speakers to the procession and closing Mass.

“Beautiful,” Hernandez said. “I was brought to tears during adoration with everyone silently together in the room coming from the procession and properly honoring Our Lord as He was displayed before us in that beautiful monstrance. I will never forget this day.”

The inspirational talks throughout the Eucharistic Congress were presented by several well-known Catholic speakers with offerings in English and Spanish.

First up on the English track was Father Donald Calloway, MIC, who was a keynote, spoke on “Conversion and the Holy Eucharist,” and then on “St. Joseph and the Eucharist.” Teresa Tomeo focused her talks on “Rediscovering the Eucharist on my Journey,” and on “Becoming a True Daughter of the King by Way of the Eucharist.” Mallory Smith spoke about a “Eucharistic Faith in a Broken World,”

Speaking to both the English and Spanish participants was Hector Molina who focused on “The Eucharist as a Sacrifice, Real Presence, and Holy Communion,” and then “Men of the Eucharist: Taken, Blessed, Broken & Given.”

Also speaking to the Spanish track, was Joel de Loera, who focused on “The Eucharist: Strength and Joy of the Family,” and then “Men as Spiritual Leaders and Defenders of the Faith.” Mary Ann Weisinger-Puig spoke on the topic, “This is My Body Given Up for You,” and then on “Drawing Close to Jesus in the Eucharist: Meditations on Sacred Art.” Meanwhile, Martha Fernandez-Sardina talked about “The Eucharist and the Feminine Genius.”

Each speaker offered the faithful the opportunity to become part of the greater National Eucharistic Revival and to leave with their hearts and minds aflame for the love of Jesus, His Catholic Church, and especially the Most Holy Eucharist.

For additional photos from the Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Congress, please visit



High schoolers from Diocese rally to focus of the Lord

The superlatives from the 1,500 high school-aged Catholic teens who attended the Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Congress Youth Rally helped to best describe the day.

“Absolutely incredible!” “Amazing!” “Spiritual!” “Inspirational!” “Awesome!” “Powerful!” “Wonderful!” “Uplifting!” “Moving!” These are just some of the reactions from the teens who participated in the March 24, 2023, Youth Rally in Fort Myers.

The theme for the Eucharistic Congress was “The Word Became Flesh” (John 1:14), which served to remind the young women and men of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and that the Lord knows them and calls each by name to follow Him.

The evening Youth Rally was bracketed by two high points, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and an outdoor Eucharistic Adoration by candlelight in a neighboring amphitheater.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane said he was humbled by the presence of so many youth representing dozens of Parishes and each Diocesan Catholic high school.

“You have to know, the Lord works through you,” Bishop Dewane said. “You can be a sign for people. You have to know that you can’t just aimlessly fumble through life. The Lord prompts you in any number of positive ways. The Lord does that for you in a very powerful way, demonstrated by all of you being here. But, do you respond?””

When coming up with the National Eucharistic Revival (the impetus of the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress), the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wanted to encourage the faithful to devote time to getting to know better Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, the Bishop explained.

“It is in a precise way, in the Eucharist, the Lord is given to us, and we receive Him,” Bishop Dewane said. “We must have the strength to spend time in front of the Eucharist – in Adoration – to learn precisely what it is the Lord asks of you.”

“Put yourself in a relationship with Jesus Christ, through the Eucharist,” the Bishop continued. “It is Christ. It is His Body and Blood. It is His Real Presence! What better place to go and spend some time with the Lord? Let the strength that Jesus Christ is, Let His presence, in the Eucharist, fill your heart, fill your mind, fill your soul with His indication of what it is He wants from you and for you to do in your life.”

The Mass, was for the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, appropriately as the Blessed Virgin is known as Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

Organized by the Diocese Office of Evangelization, the day was filled with inspiring talks, worship music, opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and an outdoor Eucharistic Adoration.

Prior to the opening Mass, the youth were uplifted by the music of The Vigil Project, which also performed inspirational music during the outdoor adoration where the teens knelt in the dark, holding candles and reciting prayers. Bishop Dewane concluded the Eucharistic Adoration by leading everyone in reciting the Divine Praises.

The featured speaker was Father Timothy Anastos, one of only 50 Eucharistic Preachers in the U.S. He reminded the youth how the Eucharist reveals that Jesus wants to be close to each of us, delights in us for all of our flaws and uniqueness, and He wants to be helped by us in spreading His glory into the world.

“So often we can think that Jesus is really far away, He’s up in heaven, he doesn’t really care about us, He’s doubted us,” Father Anastos said. “But in the Eucharist, the Lord reveals Himself. He comes down to us. At every single Mass He is present in the tabernacle. He is there waiting for us. He is there. He will never abandon us. You will always have access to Him.”

After a dinner break, the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and breakout sessions took place. The youth were split into men and women sessions offered in English or Spanish. The men heard from Jimmy Mitchell and Joel de Loera, with a talk themed “Men as Defenders of the Faith.” Meanwhile the women heard a talk titled, “The Eucharist and Authentic Womanhood,” presented by Andrea Thomas and Mary Ann Weisinger-Puig.


The success of the day was apparent in the smiles and delight of the teens as they departed from the closing adoration with their friends preparing for their journey home.

“What can I say, but WOW! That was great! I wish all of my friends had been here. I want them all to experience something like this!” said one young lady before heading home from Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park. She was overcome with emotion during the adoration, being among so many other teens who thought about Jesus in the same way that she did.

Middle school students come together

In colorful shirts, students from each of the 12 Diocese of Venice middle schools gathered as one group for the first time to pray, to sing, to praise Jesus, and to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament.

The more than 1,000 middle school students were part of the kick-off event to the Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Congress on March 24, 2023, in Fort Myers.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was there to greet the students as they arrived and said a special effort was made to ensure the middle schoolers were a part of this important moment in the Diocese, this Eucharistic Congress. The Congress is itself part of the larger U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops three-year National Eucharistic Revival.

“I have a beautiful view (from the stage), standing here, knowing you are ready to open your hearts to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament,” Bishop Dewane said. “Each one of us here has an obligation to recognize the Eucharist, and to pray to the Lord in our life.”

In addition to music and inspirational speakers, the day concluded with an outdoor Eucharistic Adoration in the nearby amphitheater with live music by The Vigil Project.

There, the students, wearing their designated colored t-shirts were a sight to behold as they knelt in silence as the Blessed Sacrament was brought forward as music played in the background.

Bishop Dewane then led the closing Benediction, which included leading everyone in praying the Divine Praises.

“It was neat to see a bunch of students in other Catholic schools come together for a good message, love Jesus more through the Most Holy Eucharist,” said Cora, a student at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charlotte, who was impressed by the entire day.

Meanwhile, Blake, a student at Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota said, “I liked being there with my class to learn about everything.”

Students from other schools used words to describe their experience with phrases such as: “Fun!” “Cool!” “Awesome!” “Incredible!” “Great!”

One of the highlights for the students was seeing Shevin McCullough, of Studio 3:16, a multi-media Catholic curricular program promoting the Gospel and biblical themes to students in an engaging and relatable way.

McCullough, who has a popular social media channel geared toward middle school students, energized the students with music and key phrases to get the students excited about God, the Church and the Most Holy Eucharist. He used easy-to-remember tips to keep the youth focused on the Lord in their lives, specifically trust, honesty, prayer, and truth.

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese Superintendent of Catholic Education, opened by asking the students: “Do you love Jesus?” and the students responded with a resounding “Yes!” When asked “Do you love Our Lady?” the hall reveberated with a “Yes!” and finally they were asked “Do you love our Church?” and the hall boomed with “Yes!”

“That is what today is all about,” Father Belmonte said.

After hearing from McCullough, the students were split into smaller groups for breakout sessions. There they took part in a rotation of presentations, including: Catholic trivia; a talk from the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Diocese of Venice seminarians; and finally they heard from the Sister Servants of the Pierced Heart of Jesus and Mary of Miami.

The day also included hearing music and worship from The Vigil Project.

Earlier in the day, Bishop Dewane recognized an ongoing Devotional Project taking place this academic year in the Diocesan Catholic Schools. This project calls for an increased understanding of the Most Holy Eucharist, which has a component that encourages students to visit the Blessed Sacrament.

“So far, 50,073 is the number of times you and your classmates have visited the Blessed Sacrament in all of your schools,” the Bishop said. “I’m proud of that number, and I’m proud of you.”

Bishop Dewane said the students were “a late addition” to the Eucharistic Congress, but No. 1 in his book, as they were the first group to participate and the first to carry the power of what they learned about the Most Holy Eucharist forward in their daily life.

Diocesan Eucharistic Congress March 25

The Diocese of Venice will host a historic Eucharistic Congress March 25, 2023, at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center and Luminary Hotel, 1375 Monroe St., Fort Myers, and time is running out to register.

Organizers with the Diocese Office of Evangelization said that the venue is nearing capacity, with few spots left, so if you are planning to attend, but haven’t registered yet, do so today! Registration can be found at

The Eucharistic Congress, with a theme “The Word Became Flesh,” will encompass several parts, including three unique sessions. The first is for Diocesan Catholic middle school students; the second part is a Youth Rally for high-school aged teens (both on March 24); and the showcase event is for men and women and features special breakout sessions in English and Spanish as well as for both genders.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane called for the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress as part of a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year revival of devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The U.S Bishops believe that God wants to see a movement of Catholics across the United States, healed, converted, formed, and unified by an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist—and sent out in mission “for the life of the world.”

The National Eucharistic Revival is to serve as a reminder that Catholics around the world are raised to be aware of the transforming power and mercy of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist – the Source and Summit of the Faith.

“The Diocesan Eucharistic Congress is an opportunity for 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,” Bishop Dewane said. “This is a time to grow deeply in your faith, along with others from the Diocese, accompanied by Jesus Christ.”

Elements of the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress include a procession with the Eucharist in a public setting, time for Eucharistic Adoration, availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, talks and catechesis on important matters of faith – especially the Holy Eucharist – and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with Bishop Dewane.

The schedule for the Congress and line-up of internationally acclaimed speakers, which includes – Father Donald Calloway, MIC; Teresa Tomeo; Hector Molina; Mallory Smith; Mary Ann Weisinger-Puig; Joel de Loera; and Martha Fernandez-Sardina, can be found at

Each speaker will allow the faithful the opportunity to become part of the greater National Eucharistic Revival and to leave with their hearts and minds aflame for the love of Jesus, His Catholic Church, and especially the Most Holy Eucharist.

As Pope Francis has stated many times during his Papacy, each time we are present before the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ it is “a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ.”

Don’t let this opportunity pass you by! Register today.

For more information about the schedule, and to register for the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress, please visit

Hundreds of couples recognized for giving hope to society

During a time when society is trying to redefine what marriage is, hundreds of couples were honored during a Feb. 18, 2023, Diocese of Venice celebration of their lasting witness to Sacramental Marriage.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated a Mass at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice recognizing 360 couples, who were celebrating a combined 18,403 years of marriage, for their accomplishment which brings hope to their families, to the community, to society and to the Universal Church.

“Think of the accomplishment of who you are as a group; but also think of it as individuals and couples, as children of God, made in the image and likeness of God,” Bishop Dewane said. “You were the minister of the Sacrament – one to the other. You stood there together then and are here together today. The number of years you have lived by the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage is a real achievement. See yourselves as the goodness that you are.”

The Bishop described the couples as both radical and countercultural, but also a true inspiration for others to follow and emulate.

“You don’t see it, but your commitment to each other is seen by younger generations, perhaps by your grandchildren or great-granchildren,” Bishop Dewane said. “That is a lasting testimony to the vows you took, committing to each other before God those many years ago.”

The 360 couples present for the Mass represented 41 Parishes and included 58 couples which have been married for 50 years. One of those couples, John and Janet Johannsen, celebrated their 50th on the day of the Mass. Also celebrating their 45th anniversary during the Mass were Louis and Maria Gomes. Both of these couples are from San Pedro Parish in North Port.

The couple recognized as being present with the longest marriage was John and Rita Riebel, who celebrate 72 years of marriage on April 7. They moved to Florida 27 years ago and attend Epiphany Cathedral. They met in New Jersey on a blind date. As newlyweds, John served in the Army and later in construction, sometimes working three jobs to provide for their 5 children, a true testimony to their love and commitment to each other and as a family.

Other couples recognized during the Mass were Thomas and Dolores Martorana, 72 years, from Epiphany Cathedral; Carl and Natalie Pensak, 71 years, from Epiphany Cathedral; and Marvin and Carol Peschel, 70 years, from St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Port Charlotte.

The Peschel’s met in high school when she was a junior and he a senior needing a tutor so he could graduate. “She was always smarter than me,” Marvin Peschel explained. “That is why it was always easy to just say “Yes dear” whenever we had a discussion.”

Of course, the couple credits their strong faith and belief in a commitment to loving each other through good times and bad. This is particularly true now that he is 90 and she is 89. “We have something special,” Carol Peschel said.

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

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

Masses are celebrated each year in the northern and southern sections of the Diocese of Venice to accommodate those wanting to attend. The first Mass was Feb. 11 at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, bringing together 270 couples representing a combined 14,002 years of marriage.

Teresa Tomeo, a featured speaker at Diocesan Eucharistic Congress

Teresa Tomeo, author and Catholic talk show host, is one of the featured 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. Tomeo is scheduled to speak twice during the Eucharistic Congress. The first talk is titled, “Rediscovering the Eucharist on my Journey,” and the second is “Becoming a True Daughter of the King by Way of the Eucharist.”

In addition to being an author and syndicated Catholic talk show host, Tomeo is also motivational speaker with decades of experience in TV, radio, and newspapers. In the year 2000, Teresa left the secular media to start her own speaking and communications company, Teresa Tomeo Communications, LLC. Her weekday morning radio program, Catholic Connection, is heard on over 500 Catholic radio stations worldwide and on the Sirius Satellite Network.

Many may know Tomeo from her frequent appearances on the EWTN TV network, where she co-hosts the series, The Catholic View for Women. Tomeo has written more than 10 books and is an international speaker, where she addresses media awareness and activism, as well as sharing her reversion to the Catholic Church. She resides in Southeastern Michigan with her husband, Deacon Dominick Pastore. They travel the world giving marriage and diaconate couples’ retreats.

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 be in English and Spanish. 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 requested by March 3 at

Sacrament of Holy Matrimony – Icons of God

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

In celebration of that commitment, each year Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites couples married 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50+ years to a Mass in their honor as witnesses to a beautiful vocation for younger generations to see and admire. This first such Mass in 2023 was Feb. 4 at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. Present were 270 couples representing a combined 14,002 years of marriage.

“What a beautiful sight from up here,” Bishop Dewane said. “We are here to celebrate the love and commitment you and your spouse made all those years ago. We gather here to give thanks to the Lord, and we gather to recognize all of you at the table of the Lord, for the marriage that you have, for your fidelity, as well as for your entering into the Sacrament accompanied by God.”

Bishop Dewane noted how Pope Francis described married couples as Icons of God – neither being more than the other, but only together do they combine to make the image of God complete. For this reason, the Bishop said it is right that the Mass is celebrated and acknowledges the couples for the life and commitment they made before God, to each other.

“You are a gift to the Diocese, to your children, to your grandchildren and to the younger people in the Diocese, you offer them great hope,” Bishop Dewane said. “You offer them a future. You are an example for others to follow. The life that you as married couples live – in kindness and fruitfulness – is unique in what it contributes to society. What a wonderful gift you give to the world.”

The couple recognized as being present with the longest marriage were David and Peggy Hiller, who will be marking 72 years on May 4. They attend Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in Fort Myers and grew up in Ohio, first meeting on an ice rink. They spent their life working together in farming: cows, chickens, pigs.  Peggy helped David drive the tractors so now he says he returns the favor by washing the dishes. They raised four children and eventually bought a home in Fort Myers 40 years ago and now split their time between Florida and Ohio.

The 270 couples present for the Mass represented 25 Parishes and included 30 couples which have been married 50 years. Three couples celebrated their actual anniversary on the day of the Mass. They included: Gerald and Sharon Allen, 62 years, St. Therese Parish, North Fort Myers; Morris and Christina Cirlincione, 56 years, St. Ann Parish, Naples; and Charles and Colleen Faris, 50 years, St. Finbarr Parish, Naples.

John and Paulette Donlon of St. Leo the Great Parish have been married 63 years. They met in high school and built a life together in Michigan. They said the ability to have Christ at the heart of their marriage has helped them overcome any challenges.

“Marriage is about being there for each other, no matter what,” Paulette Donlon said. “You love each other. You get through struggles because you remember that you made a commitment at your wedding before God. That is real. That is serious. That puts everything in perspective.”

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

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

Masses are celebrated each year in the northern and southern sections of the Diocese of Venice so as to accommodate those wanting to attend. The second Mass is 11 a.m. Feb. 18, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave., Venice (registration is through your Parish and walk-ins are welcome).