Feast Day celebration in Clewiston

St. Margaret of Scotland, patroness and eponym of the Catholic Parish in Clewiston, was canonized for her concern with and ministry to the poor, the orphaned, the widowed, and the sick. She built schools and hospitals and spent time each day listening to the needs of the people in the outer court of the castle where she reigned as queen with her husband, Malcolm III.

“The history of St. Margaret Parish has continued the witness of St. Margaret,” Bishop Dewane said during a Mass honoring the Saint on Nov. 19, 2023. “I am pleased and honored to be here with all of you today as you honor your patroness, someone who lived a long time ago and far away. You do honor St. Margaret today, but you also do this in how you live your lives, responding to the needs of the community with compassion.”

The celebration included a bilingual Mass (English and Spanish), and this was followed in the Parish Hall with a feast.

Father Jean Woady Louis, Administrator of St. Margaret Parish, expressed his gratitude for the presence of Bishop Dewane and explained that the Parish is proud of its heritage, serving the faithful in Hendry County since 1932.

The Feast of St. Margaret is celebrated on Nov. 16, and honors a Saint who was born in Hungary in 1045 and died in 1093. She was canonized in 1250 by Pope Innocent IV as a Saint, acknowledging her life of holiness and extraordinary virtue. She was honored for her work for reform of the Church and her personal holiness.

St. Margaret is best remembered for her love of the poor. When she walked or rode out in public, crowds of the needy flocked to her, and none left her without being comforted.

Although very generous with material gifts, St. Margaret also visited the sick and nursed them with her own hands. She and her husband were also renowned for serving orphans and the poor on their knees during Advent and Lent.

News Briefs for the week of November 24, 2023

Bishop to speak at Theology on Tap in December

Each month, on the third Thursday, young adults gather for faith, fellowship and fun at the Mandeville Beer Garden in Sarasota. Theology on Tap is presented by the Diocese Office of Evangelization, and the Dec. 21, 2023, guest speaker will be Bishop Frank J. Dewane. The Mandeville Beer Garden is located at 428 N. Lemon, Ave., and the gathering begins at 7 p.m. The Nov. 16, presentation was led by Father Anthony Armstrong, O. Carm., Pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Osprey. Father Armstrong spoke to the group of young adults about “Prayer and Practicing the Presence of God.”

Families clean up neighborhood road

Incarnation Catholic School families from Sarasota took to the streets as part of an Adopt-A-Road cleanup crew on Nov. 18, 2023. The team helped clear the streets of garbage between Tuttle Avenue and Bahia Vista Street, just north of the school. This was a great way to give back to the community and help keep Sarasota clean.

Junior Thespians compete regionally

Junior Thespians from St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton competed in nine performance events and one technical event at the District Jr. Thespians Competition at Blake High School in Tampa on Nov. 18, 2023. The St. Joseph students received seven “Superiors” and three “Excellents.” This is outstanding! What an amazing accomplishment. A special thanks goes to Paul Mahoney who coaches these young artists.

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is Holy Day of Obligation

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, observed Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, is the patronal feast day of the United States and is a Holy Day of Obligation. The Solemnity celebrates the Immaculate Conception of Mary in her mother, St. Anne. The Immaculate Conception does not refer to the original conception and birth of Christ, as is often thought, but rather to the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was conceived without inheriting original sin. Note that Holy Days of Obligation are feast days on which Catholics are required to attend Mass and to avoid (to the extent that they are able) servile work. The observance of Holy Days of Obligation is part of the Sunday Duty, the first of the Precepts of the Church. To accommodate this obligation, many Parishes throughout the Diocese will offer vigils or extra Masses on the Solemnity.

Bereavement Outreach and Training coming in December

The Diocese of Venice Office of Family Life is holding two bereavement events in early December. One is a bereavement outreach, and the second is a training session for individuals or Parishes wishing to form bereavement volunteers.

The outreach is from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Dec. 4 at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, 5265 Placida Road, Grove City; and again from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Dec. 5 at St. William Parish, 601 Seagate Drive, Naples. Entitled, “There is Hope”, these workshops focus on surviving the holidays after the loss of a loved one. There is no cost to attend, and registration is not required. Deacon Henry DeMena will facilitate the workshops.

The training is focused on forming and educating Parish bereavement volunteers and those who speak with the bereaved. This training takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Dec. 6 and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 7 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1301 Center Road, Venice. The cost is $35.00 and includes lunch and materials. Registration is required at Bereavement Training (regfox.com). For further information please contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org or call 941-484-9543.

News Briefs for the Week of November 10, 2023

Parish joins Knights in supporting vocations

The 25th anniversary of the priestly ordination of Father Bob Kantor, Pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Naples, was a cause for celebration on the weekend of Oct. 28-29, 2023. The celebration served the dual purpose of supporting vocations as well as honoring Father Kantor. A special second collection was held to raise funds for the Florida Knights of Columbus Charities Vocations Fund. The fifth Sunday of a month is used for charitable causes outside of the Parish. More than $8,000 was collected. The monies will be designated for use in support of seminarians studying for the Diocese of Venice. Father Kantor serves as State Chaplain for the Knights’ Florida State Council. The timing of the support coincides with National Vocations Awareness Week which was Nov. 5-11.

Students learn computer coding

Sixth-grade students at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral had an incomparable opportunity on Nov. 7, 2023, delving into the world of computer coding with the help of Jason Castaldo, a teacher from Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. Under the guidance, inspiration, and expertise of Castaldo, the students explored the fascinating realm of programming and problem-solving. It was a journey filled with creativity, logical thinking, and the excitement of building digital wonders. Enthusiastically delving into the “Hour of Code” is paving the way for the future of these talented students.

Tasting the World!

Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park hosted its annual International Food Festival on Nov. 5, 2023, in the Parish Center. Participants had the opportunity to “taste the world” in this culinary journey, sharing the flavors of their culture with food from many different countries, such as Colombia, Germany, Haiti, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Philippines, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and more. There were even hot dogs, ice cream, and popcorn for the little ones.

Students gather in the form of a Cross

Students at St. Ann Catholic School in Naples gathered Nov. 6, 2023, on the soccer field to stand in the form of a cross. This is an annual tradition at the school which is a fun day outside for the students as they gather in the form of an important symbol of the faith. The school has experienced rapid growth in recent years with enrollment topping 425, up 40 percent since 2020.

Parish celebrates All Saints’ Day with relics

For the second year in a row, Incarnation Parish in Sarasota had a special display set up for All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1, 2023). Saint relics, on loan from parishioners, were put on display for people to visit between Masses on the Solemnity. Many lined up to view the relics, touch rosaries to them, and pray for the powerful intercession of the Saints. The Second Vatican Council recalls that “the Saints have been traditionally honored in the Church, and their authentic relics and images held in veneration.” The term “relics of the Saints” principally signifies the bodies – or notable parts of the bodies – of the Saints who, as distinguished members of Christ’s mystical Body and as Temples of the Holy Spirit in virtue of their heroic sanctity, now dwell in Heaven, but who once lived on earth. Objects which belonged to the Saints, such as personal objects, clothes and manuscripts are also considered relics, as are objects which have touched their bodies or tombs such as oils, cloths, and images.

Equestrian Order reflects on Feast Day, violence in the Holy Land

The Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem are entrusted with an important mission from the Holy Father – to serve as witnesses to the Christian faith, and as supporters and protectors of the Church and the living Christian communities in the Holy Land.

While always important, this mission has a renewed urgency as violence in the Holy Land has increased since terrorists attacked Israel in early October, putting the entire region, including Christians and sacred sites, in peril.

Given the war in the Holy Land, the timing of the annual gathering of the Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order within the Diocese of Venice for the Order’s Patroness Feast Day, Our Lady of Palestine, was particularly poignant.

The Mass took place Oct. 28, 2023, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice, with Jesuit Father John Belmonte, Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Catholic Education, standing in for Bishop Frank J. Dewane who was unable to participate.

Bishop Dewane did send his regrets for being unable to attend and shared a message of fraternity and support to the Knights and Dames and their continued mission through Father Belmonte.

Father Belmonte opened the Mass with a Prayer for Peace in the Holy Land, following the example of Pope Francis, who called the entire world to pray for peace in the Holy Land. In his message, Pope Francis called upon Catholics to take the side of peace in the conflict, not with words, but with “prayer and total dedication.”

“War solves no problems,” said Pope Francis. “It only sows death and destruction, increases hatred, multiplies revenge. War erases the future.”

During this time of shocking atrocities, Father Belmonte said the solitary voice of Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa OFM, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, made an incredible gesture of sacrifice. Cardinal Pizzaballa, who is Grand Prior of the Equestrian Order, in an act of “moral courage, in a living witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, offered himself as a living ransom for the children who are being held captive in Gaza by terrorists.”

“It is at a time like this when we turn to Our Lady for peace and comfort, as our devotion to Our Lady is truly limitless,” Father Belmonte said.

The Mass concluded with Father Belmonte leading the Knights and Dames in an additional Prayer for Peace in the Holy Land, written by fellow Jesuit Father David Neuhaus, Vicar of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, for Migrants and Hebrew-speaking Catholics.

Following the Mass, the Knights and Dames attended a luncheon which included an informal meeting.

Sir John J. DeStefano, KGCHS, the President of the Diocese of Venice Section of the Equestrian Order, who helped organize the gathering, expressed his gratitude to Father Belmonte for celebrating the Mass, and to Bishop Dewane for his continued support of the Knights and Dames of the Order.

DeStefano also updated the Knights and Dames about the ongoing mission to support those in need in the Holy Land. This is a shift from the direct support of building schools and maintaining churches in the region, as the humanitarian crisis is something that requires immediate attention.

The Order’s mandate originates from the time of the crusader knights who were responsible for protecting the Christian pilgrims traveling to the sacred sites. Today the Order’s members continue to aid the Church in the Holy Land and to strengthen the practice of Christian life amongst its members.

The Equestrian Order exists within the local Dioceses and works closely with the Universal Church in unity of prayer and communion of purpose. Members are chosen from “among persons of a deep and practical Catholic Faith and of unblemished moral conduct, who are particularly worthy of merit in respect to the Order and Catholic good works in the Holy Land.” The Order is present in nearly 40 countries worldwide and there are about 30,000 Knights and Dames of the Order.

The religious character of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre is obvious not only in its objectives and requirements for membership but also in the ceremonial investiture of its newly elected Knights. This ceremony combines a profession of faith with the ancient ritual used for the conferral of knighthood. The candidates do not take monastic vows but promise to live an upright Christian life in accordance with the commandments of God and the precepts of the Church, in absolute loyalty to the Supreme Pontiff, as true soldiers of Christ.

Prayer for Peace in the Holy Land

Our Lady, Queen of Palestine, extend your hand over the Holy Land and over all who live there: Jews, Muslims, Druze and Christians, Palestinians, Israelis, migrant workers and refugees.

Our Lady, intercede for us all and especially for the Church, the Body of your Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord. We have been sent to preach Good News to all in the land that is yours and His, the land of the patriarchs, kings, prophets, apostles and of the first community formed to walk in the way of your Son, the Mother Church of Jerusalem. This mission needs the courage and the perseverance, the wisdom and the faith that were yours, pray for us.

On your knees He, who was your Lord and Master, learnt to speak and to pray, to act and to obey. We ask you to teach us to speak and to pray, to act and to obey today in the land called to be holy.

In the midst of war and hatred, walls, occupation and discrimination, fear and rejection, instruct us how to be instruments of justice and peace, pardon and reconciliation.

We affirm with you that he is our peace. Show us the way to incarnate in our life as Church both fidelity to your Son and an embracing love for all in this land, especially for those who are the poorest and the most excluded, the homeless, the refugees, the prisoners, those who are maltreated, oppressed and are victims of injustice.

Our Lady, Queen of Palestine, you are our mother, given to us by your Son on the Cross. With you, we are called to be witnesses to the Resurrection that already heralds His Kingdom. Modeling ourselves on you, we ask Him to anoint us as Spirit filled proclaimers of the Good News that He has vanquished death by His death on the Cross and has given life to those in the tombs. May we, members of His Body the Church, be living signs that point to the Kingdom that is already among us.



Mother Mary, Queen of Palestine, pray for us.
Father David Neuhaus, SJ, Vicar of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, for Migrants and Hebrew-speaking Catholics.

News Briefs for the week of November 3, 2023

Seminarian Admitted to Candidacy

Diocese of Venice Seminarian Joseph Bao Quoc Nguyen took a significant step in his vocation journey with his Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders. He was one of four men to be admitted to candidacy on Oct. 25, 2023, at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts. The Rite was presided over by Most Rev. Earl K. Fernandes, Bishop of the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio. During the Rite, each man expressed his intention to complete his preparation for Holy Orders and his resolve to dedicate himself to that goal. To be admitted to candidacy, Seminarian Nguyen had to have been first approved by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, and will continue his studies to become a Catholic priest.

Bishop celebrates Mass for students on All Saints’ Day

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for students at both St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers and St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral on All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1, 2023. In his message to the students, Bishop Dewane said it is important to learn about these Saints who are described as ordinary people of faith who lived extraordinary lives. They lived their lives in response to a call to holiness from the Lord. The Bishop asked the students at both Masses to respond to a call to holiness in their own lives.

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 place a pro-abortion constitutional amendment, titled “Amendment to Limit Government Interference with Abortion” on the November 2024 ballot. This amendment would allow abortion up until birth, including when the baby is capable of feeling pain, and would eliminate laws requiring parental consent and safety protocols for women. Floridians should not sign the petition. Please spread the word to your spheres of influence and continue to pray for the protection of the unborn.

All Saints’ Day Party held in Wauchula

Saints of all ages participated in the annual All Saints’ Day Party at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula on Oct. 28, 2023. Children dressed as the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Michael the Archangel were the most common costumes. Others dressed as St. Joseph, angels, popes, bishops and even superheroes. The evening included food, games and lots of candy. Prior to the party, there was an All Saints’ Day procession, led by a statue of St. Michael the Archangel and directed by the Servant Sisters of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará who serve the Parish.

Veteran’s Day Ball in Ave Maria

The Knights of Columbus of Ave Maria invite all to a Veteran’s Day Grand Ball, on Saturday, November 11, in the del Webb Grand Hall. The keynote speaker is Most Rev. Joseph L. Coffey, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of the Military Services, USA. The evening begins with a 6:00 p.m. cocktail hour/cash bar, with a 7:00 p.m. program, dinner and dancing. Black tie is optional for civilians, active duty military and veterans are asked to wear dinner dress or Class A Uniform. Tickets are $125 per person and seating is limited. For tickets, go to https://www.avemariakofc.org/.

National Night of Prayer for Life

The 2023 Annual National Night of Prayer for Life marks its 34th anniversary of people across the country praying to convert America’s heart to cherish life and encourage living the Gospel of Life.  It unites the Feast of the Immaculate Conception with the Feast of St. Juan Diego from Friday, December 8, at 9:00 p.m. to Saturday, December 9, at 1:00 a.m., with a national hour of unity across all time zones from midnight to 1:00 a.m.  People are invited to join in unity of prayer to restore the protection of life, the family, and the church, establish peace and inspire courage in our nation.  For more information, see www.nationalnightofprayerforlife.org, or contact Jeanne Berdeaux at Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068.

Gloria Concert in Naples

St. Peter the Apostle Parish, 5130 Rattlesnake Hammock Road, Naples, is hosting a free Gloria Concert at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, December 14. The concert will include all the Parish choirs of various languages (English, Spanish and Creole) as well as a children’s pageant. For further details, please contact Nancy Spolsino at 239-774-3037.

Feasts of All Saints and All Souls: their special meaning for Catholics

During the month of November, the Church remembers in a particular way all those who have died, as She celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints and that of All Souls’ Day.

All Saints’ Day is celebrated each year on Nov. 1, a day on which we honor all the Saints in heaven, both those known and unknown. All Saints’ Day is also a Holy Day of Obligation, meaning all Catholics are required to attend Mass on that day.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane said, “the celebration of All Saints’ Day reminds us that we are all called to holiness, to become Saints, and we can accomplish that by striving to follow God’s commands and being united with Him in love. To be holy, to be a Saint, means allowing God ‘to live his life in us’ as Mother Teresa taught.”

Pope Francis said the Saints were not “starched,” picture-perfect conformists, but were “countercultural and revolutionary.” The Holy Father added that the multitude of men and women honored on the feast of All Saints lived according to the Eight Beatitudes, which made them decidedly out of place in the world.

Having a Saint to pray to is an important component of one’s faith life, Bishop Dewane said. One can pray to the Saint after whom you are named, but if someone is not named after a Saint, praying to the Saint of one’s chosen middle, or even the Saint of one’s Confirmation is appropriate. An alternative is to pray to the Saint after which your Parish is named, or even one who is a patron of a particular profession or interest you are pursuing.

There are four Diocesan Parishes which have Feast Days in November. First, Nov. 4 is the Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Parish and School in Port Charlotte); Nov. 10 is the Memorial of St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Parish in Bonita Springs); Nov. 13 is the Memorial of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (Parish in Parrish); and Nov. 22 is the Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Parish in Fort Myers).

“Learn about these Saints that are a part of your life,” Bishop Dewane said. “Read about the extraordinary story behind their being named a Saint. As Pope Francis often states, the Saints can offer examples for our lives. This greater accessibility to a particular Saint can help enhance one’s prayer life and opens our hearts to seek their intercession when we are lost in the world.”

The commemoration of the Feast of All Souls, or the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, is celebrated on Nov. 2, for all the souls who await the joys in heaven.

“It is encouraged that you pray for immediate family members, those closest to you, who have gone before us. Continue to pray for them as they make their way to Heaven, to be with Jesus Christ, Our Lord,” Bishop Dewane said. “Through the prayers of the faithful on earth, the dead are cleansed of their sins so they may enter into heaven. May all those who have died in faith share the joys and blessings of the life to come.”

During November, it is encouraged to have a Mass offered for the intention of the soul of someone who has died. In addition, an indulgence is granted the faithful who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the dead. This indulgence is applicable only to the souls in purgatory. This indulgence is a plenary one from Nov. 1 through Nov. 8 and can be gained on each one of these days.

‘Blessing of Animals’ delights

As the school day wound down at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers the sounds of barking, meowing and the stir of critters small and large echoed across the sports field.

It was Oct. 4, 2023, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, which has become synonymous with the “Blessing of Animals.” According to history, the 12th century patron saint of animals and the environment spoke to the animals and treated them as members of his family.

Students at St. Francis Xavier brought their dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, frogs and much more. These creatures were well loved and an important part of each family but also part of God’s creation, explained Parish Administrator Father Steven Clemente.

Father Clemente led a brief prayer service and read a special prayer which recalls the words of the Old Testament Books of Genesis, Exodus, Kings and Jonah.

As Father Clemente went through the crowd of students, parents and parishioners, each animal was blessed with Holy Water. The students shrieked with delight when the Holy Water blessed their animals, one student with a toothy grin said, as she hugged her furry dog, “So happy!”

At St. Ann Catholic School in Naples, Pastor Father William Davis, OSFS, blessed a wide assortment of animals, including a horse.

Similar animal blessings took place throughout the Diocese, with many Parishes opting to host the blessings during the preceding or following weekend.

For example, at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples, Pastor Father Gerard Critch led a blessing on Oct. 7, with a large crowd of people, as well as their furry, feathery and scaled companions.

At Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice, for the Feast Day, kindergarteners made bird feeders in honor of St. Francis.

In addition, at Bishop Verot Catholic School in Fort Myers, members of the St. Francis of Assisi House were allowed to have a “dress out” day, where they wore the house colors in place of their regular school uniform. The house system allows students in each grade to foster a sense of community while participating in various school activities as a unified group.

Mission celebrates Bishop visit, Feast Day

A joyful celebration of faith and culture took place Aug. 27, 2023, at Santa Rosa de Lima Mission in Montura Ranch Estates, a small farming community in Hendry County, some 15 miles south of Clewiston.

The occasion, the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. Add a Feast Day of Santa Rosa de Lima and nothing could quell the excitement of the small community. The day also included a banquet featuring food from many different cultures.

Bishop Dewane was grateful for the kind welcome and praised the faithful for their strong faith in making Santa Rosa de Lima Mission such a vibrant Catholic community, shown in how they respond to the call of the Lord in their lives.

“Your presence here each Sunday is a testament to that,” Bishop Dewane said. “But it cannot just be on Sundays. You must declare that you are a follower of Jesus Christ. Choose to say who Jesus is in your life, in the way you live each day.”

Following the Mass, Bishop Dewane praised the pastoral work of Father Jean Woady Louis, Administrator of the Mission and St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston, and the two women religious from the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Light (MHML) who serve in numerous roles.

Father Woady, as well as a parishioner representing the community, thanked Bishop Dewane publicly for his support of the people of Santa Rosa de Lima Mission and of Hendry County. They both noted how it was an honor and blessing to have the Bishop celebrate the Mass for the community.

In honor of the Feast Day aspect of the celebration, a temporary shrine of roses with a statue of Santa Rosa de Lima was on display in front of the chapel, which Bishop Dewane incensed during the Mass.

Many in the community sought special blessings from Bishop Dewane following the Mass as he took time to greet as many people as was possible. One woman said she could not remember ever meeting a Bishop in person and was honored Bishop Dewane took the time to speak with her and even bless her mother.

While there was a driving rainstorm after Mass, this did not deter a lavish potluck banquet which took place under tents and other shelter, and included cuisine from Mexico, Peru, Cuba and elsewhere.

Also present for the celebration was concelebrating Father Marcial Garcia, Pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven. He previously served the Mission, as did Father Jiobani Batista, Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle, who joined the group for the banquet.

Assumption: a beautiful reflection on Mary Most Holy

Holy day of obligation on Aug. 15

“At the conclusion of Her earthly life, the Mother of Christ was raised in soul and body to Heaven, that is, in the glory of eternal life, in the full communion with God,” said Pope Francis when describing why on Aug. 15 the Church celebrates one of the most important feasts dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary: the Solemnity of Her Assumption.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the Assumption as follows: “The Immaculate Virgin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of death.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane stated, “Since death and the corruption of the human body are consequences of sin, it would not be right that the Virgin Mary – who is free from sin – should be affected by this natural law. It is a privilege granted to Mary, and closely connected to her being the Mother of Jesus.”

Pope Francis said that “Mary’s Assumption is a great mystery that concerns each one of us; it concerns our future. Mary, in fact, precedes us on the way in which all those go that, through baptism, have bound their life to Jesus, as Mary bound her life to Him. (This) Feast pre-announces the ‘new heavens and the new earth,’ with the risen Christ’s victory over death and the definitive defeat of the Evil One.”

While the Blessed Virgin has entered into heavenly glory, the Holy Father added that it does not mean that She is distant or detached from us. “The Assumption should bring eternal hope to the faithful… Mary is always there… She accompanies them, suffers with them, and sings of hope with them and brings victory over death.”

This Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the oldest celebration of Our Lady. The original celebration, known as the “Memory of Mary” or “Falling Asleep of Mary” for it initially centered on the end of her earthly existence, is commonly known as her “dormition.”

Soon the name was changed to the “Assumption of Mary,” since there was much more to the feast than the end of her earthly life. The belief that Mary had been taken up, body and soul, into heaven dates back to the Apostles themselves.

Clear from the beginning was that there were no relics of Mary to be venerated, and that an empty tomb stood on the edge of Jerusalem near the site of the end of her earthly existence or dormition. That location also soon became a place of pilgrimage. (Today, the Benedictine Abbey of the Dormition of Mary stands on the spot.)

In 1950, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Assumption of Mary a dogma of the Catholic Church, therefore, an ancient belief became Catholic Doctrine and the Assumption was declared a truth revealed by God.

The declaration of the dogma was to “make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective,” Pope Pius XII stated in a proclamation.

The proclamation went on to say that the definition of the Assumption “will contribute in no small way to the advantage of human society, since it (reflects and builds up) the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity, to which the Blessed Mother of God is bound by such singular bonds.”

It was also expected that the faithful would be stirred up to a stronger piety toward their heavenly Mother and that those who meditate upon the glorious example Mary offers, be more convinced of the value of a human life entirely devoted to carrying out the heavenly Father’s will and to bringing good to others.

Pope Francis said that the current devotion the faithful throughout the world have toward the Blessed Virgin confirms the earlier expectations of Pope Pius XII. “We pray to Mary in a particular way, through the Rosary. This prayer brings us closer to the Blessed Mother and to her Son. We join in her suffering and her glory and rejoice looking to eternity and giving us hope that we, too, will follow Our Lady when our life is ended.”

All the feast days of Mary mark the great mysteries of her life and her part in the work of redemption. The central mystery of her life and person is her divine motherhood, celebrated both at Christmas and a week later (Jan. 1) on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8) marks the preparation for that motherhood, so that she had the fullness of grace from the first moment of her existence, completely untouched by sin. The Assumption completes God’s work in her since it was not fitting that the flesh that had given life to God himself should ever undergo corruption.

Our Sunday Visitor contributed to this report.

Holy day of obligation

The Solemnity of the Assumption of the blessed Virgin Mary is a Holy Day of obligation this year. Holy days of obligation are feast days on which Catholics are required to attend Mass and to avoid (to the extent that they are able) servile work. The observance of Holy Days of Obligation is part of the Sunday Duty, the first of the Precepts of the Church. To accommodate this obligation, many Parishes throughout the Diocese offer vigils or extra Masses on the Solemnity. Every Sunday, the Lord’s Day, is recognized as a holy day of obligation and Catholics are bound to participate in Mass on Sunday or at an anticipated Mass on Saturday in the late afternoon or evening. In the United States, the following feasts are considered Holy Days of obligation: Mary, Mother of God (Jan. 1), Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Aug. 15), All Saints (Nov. 1), Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8), Nativity of the Lord Jesus (Christmas – Dec. 25). All Saints, Mary, Mother of God and the Assumption are not days of obligation if they fall on a Saturday or Monday.

Divine Mercy Sunday – “Jesus, I Trust in You”

The Second Sunday of Easter, or Divine Mercy Sunday, completes the Octave of Easter, a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the blessing of His continuing presence in our midst. The Gospel reading for Divine Mercy Sunday, April 16, 2023, recalls the encounter between St. Thomas and Jesus after the Resurrection.

Divine Mercy Sunday celebrates the mercy of Jesus as reminded to us by St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a religious sister who lived a humble life, to whom Jesus appeared. St. Faustina was born in Krakow, Poland and lived from 1905-1938. She was canonized by St. John Paul II in 2000, who at that time declared the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday, which honors St. Faustina’s vision of Jesus Christ – His message of love and peace for the world.

St. Faustina wrote in her diary what Jesus told her through private revelation: “I want to grant a complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My Mercy (1109). The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion will obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment (699).”

The image of the Divine Mercy was created by St. Faustina who was told to paint the image of Jesus as she saw Him. The painting has the saying at the bottom: “Jesus, I Trust in You.” Jesus told St. Faustina the rays emanating from the Sacred Heart of Jesus represent water (white) – which makes souls righteous — and blood (red) — which is the life of souls.

Many Parishes throughout the Diocese hold Divine Mercy services and several have novenas of prayer leading up to the Sunday. The popularity of Divine Mercy has been embraced by many diverse communities throughout the Diocese. For many in the Diocese of Venice, the Feast of Divine Mercy takes on a powerful meaning when they participate in a private or public prayer called the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

At Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers, Divine Mercy Sunday included the traditional afternoon prayer service. As is usual for such services, the Divine Mercy image was placed on a stand in front of the altar.

The service included an introductory rite, prayer of entrustment, the Liturgy of the Word, followed by a reflection from Deacon Rip Ripperton. Next, was the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy.

Also called the Divine Mercy Chaplet, this prayer is recited using ordinary rosary beads of five decades. The Chaplet is preceded by two opening prayers from the diary of Saint Faustina. At Our Lady of Light, this portion was accompanied by music.

On the traditional “Our Father” beads, the following was recited: “Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.” On the 10 small beads of each decade, the following was sung: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

Following the Chaplet, faithful who had completed a “33 Days to Mercy Retreat” recited a special prayer. Then came the Litany of the Divine Mercy and the veneration of the Blessed Sacrament. The prayer service concluded with Benediction and a final reflection on Divine Mercy.

During this reflection, it concluded with the following:

“As a gift of humanity, which sometimes seems bewildered and overwhelmed by the power of evil, selfishness, and fear, the Risen Lord offers His love that pardons, reconciles, and reopens hearts to love. It is a love that converts hearts and gives peace. How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy! Lord, who reveals the Father’s love by Your death and Resurrection, we believe in You and confidently repeat to You today: Jesus, I trust in You, have mercy upon us and upon the whole world.”

Following the prayer service, the faithful were invited to come forward and pray before the image of Divine Mercy.

In a Divine Mercy Sunday address from the Vatican, Pope Francis encouraged the faithful to ask themselves if in the name of Jesus’ wounds, they are willing to open their arms to others, especially the wounded, so that no one is excluded from God’s mercy.