School honors law enforcement during National Faith & Blue Weekend

By John Carkeet, Special to the Florida Catholic

The words resonated across the Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School’s recreation field as hundreds of students, faculty, and their guests in dark blue uniforms recited the prayer to St. Michael:

St. Michael the Archangel,

defend us in battle.

Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.

May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,

and do thou,

O Prince of the heavenly hosts,

by the power of God,

thrust into hell Satan,

and all the evil spirits,

who prowl about the world

seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

The prayer concluded the opening ceremony for Epiphany Cathedral School’s (ECS) celebration of National Faith and Blue Weekend conducted Oct. 7, 2021 on its campus in Venice. The event recognized Faith and Blue’s campaign to develop safer and stronger communities across the nation by unifying law enforcement professionals with their local faith-based organizations.

“Faith and Blue helps the Venice community understand that the values of its police officers are aligned with the people they have sworn to serve and protect,” said Lt. Andy Leisenring, director of the Venice Police Department’s special operations bureau. “The department is grateful for the opportunity to visit Epiphany Cathedral School and celebrate a common culture of service and respect.”

Organized by ECS third grade teacher Erin Phillips, in conjunction with the Venice and North Port police departments, the event showcased a myriad of crime fighting tools, gadgets, vehicles and equipment. The officers invited every student to sit in a police car, climb aboard a patrol boat, and activate their sirens. The students also learned about crime scene investigation and met one of Venice PD’s K9s. Even McGruff the Crime Dog earned his 15 minutes of fame as dozens of students showered him with hugs and high fives.

“Giving children a hands-on experience is the best way to show that (we) are here for their safety,” said Sgt. Scott Smith with the North Port Police Department. “It’s important to show them firsthand that we do a lot more than what they see in the media.”

Smith, whose daughter, Reagan, entered her fourth year at ECS, believes the connection between ECS and the Venice law enforcement community is made stronger by their shared values and beliefs.

“Both the Epiphany Cathedral School and the local law enforcement community build stronger relationships by striving to do what’s right,” said Smith, a 25-year veteran of the North Port and Bradenton Police Departments. “We share God’s word through good deeds that promote peace and respect. ECS infuses these values in its curriculum. That’s why I enrolled Reagan here … so that she may excel academically and grow in the Catholic faith.”

Nicole Loseto, Principal of Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School, punctuated Smith’s observations that faith and service form the foundation of safe and vibrant communities.

“This event shows students that service and our Catholic identity extends beyond the ECS campus,” said Loseto. “Epiphany Cathedral School is part of a larger community that supports and safeguards them. One day this same community will look to these same students for their service and leadership as Disciples of Christ.”

Concluding on a note of gratitude, students gave handwritten thank you cards to every man and woman wearing a badge that day. Usually stoic faces gave way to smiles as the officers opened and read the cards aloud to one another.

“That’s how Epiphany Cathedral School and the Diocese of Venice cares for those who care for the community,” said Loseto. “Faith and Blue Weekend is just one example of how service is rooted in the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church and its schools.”

In addition to Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School, many Diocesan Catholic Schools and Parishes celebrated National Faith and Blue Weekend from Oct. 7-10 with recognition coming in the form of prayers, formal ceremonies. and many to the men and women who are dedicated to protecting and serving the community.

St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral hosted a ceremony honoring local members of law enforcement. Students gave each guest a St. Michael the Archangel pin and greeted them with fist bumps and “Thank You’s!”

St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton had a visit from the Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue. The students shared the tradition at the school of praying for first responders, and when they hear a siren, they stop what they are doing and immediately pray for the victims and the first responders. The firefighters were very touched to learn that the students remember them in prayer.

John Carkeet is the Marketing Coordinator for the Diocese of Venice Office of Catholic Education, and he can be reached at 

Students share their support forlaw enforcement

“Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called Children of God” Mat 5:9

Students at each of the Diocese of Venice Catholic schools recently took part in a special event, Faith and Blue Weekend, a public-private partnership to show law enforcement officers appreciation from Faith communities nationwide, and an effort to build a united community for all.

Letters of appreciation from students were presented to officers and deputies across the Diocese during prayer services and Masses. In addition, other care packages were presented. The notes thanked the deputies and officers “for their service, for keeping everyone safe and for their safety as they put their life on the line for others.”

The Sarasota Police Department received a package of notes from students at St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy. Each of these included the “Police Office Prayer.” The Department posted their thanks along with several images on social media: “THANK YOU to the incredible students & staff at St. Martha (and Mary) Catholic School for the outpouring of cards, notes and treats for National Faith and Blue – Each note is so uplifting to our Officers and Civilians. We can’t thank you enough!”

The two schools also honored the Sarasota County Deputy Sheriff who serves as security at the two schools. Deputy Bauer was treated with a gift package as well as a lawn sign which read: “Honk! Honk! for Deputy Bauer – Faith and Blue.”

Several other Diocesan Catholic schools also held ceremonies honoring local law enforcement.

At St. Ann Catholic School in Naples, officers from the Naples Police Department were invited for Mass on Oct. 9, 2020. Afterwards, students personally handed the officers their letters of support and encouragement.

St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral included a St. Michael the Archangel pin and prayer card with the notes from students in deliveries to members of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and Cape Coral Police Department. Current and/or retired members of law enforcement who are family members of students at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice were invited to the school for a special presentation.

In addition to Diocesan Catholic school activities, Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice were encouraged to offer special prayer petitions and blessings to law enforcement in attendance at Masses throughout the weekend of Oct. 9-12.

Here are some of the messages written by students to law enforcement officers:

  • “Thank you for helping others and saving people’s lives, for teaching them how to better people.”
  • “Thank you for always taking care of us and keeping us safe… Remember God is always with you and keeping you safe.
  • “Thank you for all you do for us. You risk your life to protect us. You keep us safe and I hope you stay safe.”
  • “You are a hero to our community, and I admire you very much for that.”
  • “You inspire many of us to be more helpful, strong, giving and brave.”
  • “Thank you for your bravery and service to the community!”
  • “There are 6,500 spoken languages today so… there are 6,500 different ways to say thank you. Thank you, 6,500 times, for risking your life every day to keep us safe. Thank you, 6,500 times, for catching the people who may not keep us as safe as you do.”
  • “Each day you go to work not knowing if you will return to your family and friends. Even during these crazy times, your sacrifice to this country is what will make us prevail as a unified country. As a son of a police officer I would like to thank you for your service to this country and community.”
  • “Thank you for protecting us even during this tough time. I really appreciate all the things you have done to protecting your community.”
  • “Thank you for standing by our side and I hope you are safe and to know that God is always next to you. Stay Blessed!”
  • “I know that you put your life on the line for our protection and I want to thank you for that.”
  • “The world needs more people like you, so thank you!”
  • “Thank you for keeping our community safe, we give you thanks for everything you do for us, some of you may not be treated well, but still thank you. LOVE POLICE!”