Solemnity of Christ the King Nov. 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating the saints and Halloween

The Catholic Solemnity of All Saints Day traces its origins in the Church to the year 609, and it was first celebrated in May. However, in the 9th century, Pope Gregory IV moved the holiday to Nov. 1, so that Oct. 31 would become the celebration of the vigil of the feast – All Hallow’s Eve.

With its roots in German, Halloween (Hallow’s Eve) actually translates to Holy/Saints Evening, or evening of All Saints’ Day.

Therefore, the tradition of dressing up for Halloween was taken with full gusto this year as many Parishes hosted Trunk-or-Treat events in their parking lots, while Diocesan Catholic Schools joined in the fun and the celebration of the saints in a variety of ways.

For example, in honor of All Saints’ Day, St. Joseph Catholic School 4th and 5th Graders in Bradenton researched the lives of their favorite saints, dressed as that Saint, and lead a procession into Mass on Nov. 1, 2022. After Mass, these students met in the Parish Center with families and parishioners to share details about their favorite Saint. Their costumes were impressive, and they did a great job with their presentations.

On Oct. 28, the St. Joseph second graders visited a nearby assisted living facility. In addition to trick-or-treating, the students performed Halloween poetry and songs for the residents. That same night, the school and Parish hosted a Truck-or-Treat where families went all out to come up with different themes.

St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers held a procession of saints before Mass on Oct. 30, as do many Parishes, allowing the young children the opportunity to get into the spirit of the special Feast Day.

Many children at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula participated in an All Hallow’s Eve celebration on Oct. 29. In addition to candy, there were fun games for all ages.

At St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring, the second-grade students carved out pumpkins in a lesson called “The Pumpkin Patch Parable” when they learned “Jesus takes our messy sins away so our light can shine all day and night.”

Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers hosted its own pumpkin decorating event on Oct. 28, bringing in young students from St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers and St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral. With guidance from the Verot students, their young charges enthusiastically decorated their pumpkins with all sorts of fun and colorful designs.

Incarnation Parish in Sarasota offered the veneration of First Class Relics in between each Mass on the vigil and solemnity. On display at the Parish were relics from St. Catherine of Siena, St. Dominic, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, St. John of the Cross, St. Faustina, St. Francis of Assisi and many more. The idea for this grew from a spring tour of the “Relics of the Vatican” which drew great interest.

Catholic News Service provided information for this report.

News Briefs for the week of October 28, 2022

Red Mass in Sarasota Nov. 10

The Catholic Lawyers Guild of the Diocese of Venice invites you to the 14th Annual Red Mass at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, St. Martha Parish, 200 N. Orange St., Sarasota. Bishop Frank J. Dewane will be principal celebrant. The Red Mass celebrates all who pursue justice in their daily lives as is the time-honored tradition dating back to the 13th century. Today, the tradition still stands as an invocation of God’s blessing upon the members of the bench, bar, legislature, law enforcement and governmental agencies, all protectors of and administrators of the law.  We welcome all who participate in the administration of justice. We hope that you will be able to come to pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and to strongly encourage and support the involvement of the legal community in spreading the Word of God. Kindly RSVP to Deacon Paul Consbruck at paul@adoptfla.com, or 941-966-6706.

 Students take action to prevent bullying

Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools participated in the annual Unity Day on Oct. 21, 2022, to take action in their world and stand up against bullying. For example, at St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring, students wore orange to school and took a pledge of acceptance, kindness, and inclusion.

Students wear pink to fight cancer

Pink, pink, and more pink. Once again Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota is making an impact and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer! More than 130 Cougars participated in the annual 5k walk on Oct. 22, 2022, at Nathan Benderson Park making Mooney the largest group to walk in the event. The Cougar team raised over $4,000 for breast cancer research.

Students get creative honoring saint

In anticipation of the Feast Day of St. John Paul II (Oct. 22, 2022), pre-kindergarten students at Ave Maria Catholic School and Donahue Academy in Ave Maria, made triptychs (a work of art divided into three panels) and miters (the headdress worn by the popes). What happy little saints-in-the-making!

Combining art and history

Students Advanced Placement Art History at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples took time out on Oct. 21, 2022, to created their own frescoes with plaster and tempera. Now, when they learn about Giotto’s Arena Chapel, they have a new appreciation for the amazing artwork of these masters.

STREAM project develops many skills

During a STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts, and Math) Class at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, on Oct. 24, 2022, second grade students have been learning to develop creative thinking skills by building an entrance to an amusement park ride. Through using innovative word block coding to program their project, when a photosensor sees a ticket of a specific color a light will turn green for “GO”!

 

 

Parish Mission and day camps bring delight

St. Michael Parish in Wauchula has been busy! For two weeks in mid-June, the Parish held day camps for children and evening missions for the adults all while hosting 28 men and women who are discerning a vocation to a religious life.

Daily, between June 13 and June 24, 2022, more than 100 children arrived at the Parish to take part in a camp which included Mass, prayer, and lots of fun indoor and outdoor activities. The evenings were for the parents who came to hear talks and take part in Mass as part of the “Holy Mission – Save Your Soul.” The response from the children and adults was overwhelmingly positive.

Present to assist were 13 novice sisters, who are discerning a vocation for the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, and 15 seminarians who are discerning for the Incarnate Word religious order in Washington, D.C. They were joined by the four women religious and the priests of the Parish.

The busy two weeks culminated on June 24, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is celebrated annually on the Friday after Corpus Christi Sunday. The closing evening Mass included prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and even a renewal of wedding vows for many couples.

A Sacred Heart Procession was held with a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus led in the rain around the Parish property as the faithful sang and prayed. The procession concluded in front of a new cross which was erected to commemorate the Holy Mission. The priests present led everyone in prayer and blessed the cross. All then took part in a farewell reception in the Parish Hall to thank the novice sisters and seminarians for being present at St. Michael Parish, and also to pray for them as they continue their discernment into a religious life.

Celebrating the Real Presence – Corpus Christi marked with processions

Mary Dwyer quietly wept as she took part in a Corpus Christi procession at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota on June 19, 2022, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

“The power of Our Lord, and His Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, brings me great comfort,” Dwyer said. “I feel so happy to be able to honor Jesus in this special way.”

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) is a celebration of the Eucharist and the Real Presence of Our Lord which is a tradition that dates back centuries and is often marked by a Eucharistic Procession. This year’s celebration fell on Father’s Day.

At Incarnation, the procession began with a flower girl, sprinkling rose petals onto the ground, then the cross bearer, altar servers and a Knights of Columbus Honor Guard ahead of Father Eric Scanlan, Pastor of Incarnation, carrying the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament while it was under a canopy, as the Parish Choir led everyone in song.

The procession made its way from the main church into the Parish courtyard and then into the parking lot, stopping at four temporary altars where Father Scanlan led everyone in prayer and readings from the Gospel. The procession concluded in the Parish Chapel where Father led the Benediction.

Participating in a procession is viewed as an opportunity to reflect on this gift of the Holy Eucharist as the faithful pause at four “stations” for a reading and prayer and then conclude with Benediction. It is an opportunity to remind ourselves how special we are that God should want to nourish us with the body and blood of His Son, and it is an opportunity to thank God for these wonderful gifts.

During the Mass, Father Scanlan reflected on the importance of approaching one’s faith by focusing on the Real Presence – the true body and blood of Christ – that is found in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

“Brothers and sisters, Our God dwells among us,” Father said during the Mass. “He comes to honor us. To strengthen and heal us… But, the Lord can only do so much, unless we open our hearts to Him. We can say Lord, help me to believe; help me to receive You with love and affection; help me to allow you to heal me and to transform me, this heart and soul of mine. He wants so much for us to encounter Him, here today, each one of us. Brothers and sisters, this Great Feast offers us the opportunity to rekindle our love and our wonder and our gratitude of the Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. He is here. He is here.”

The Corpus Christi celebration, and its associated Eucharistic Processions, which took place at Parishes within the Diocese, also marked the opening of the National Eucharistic Revival. This Eucharistic Revival is an effort by the U.S. Bishops to answer the call of Jesus Christ to return to the source and summit of Our Faith – the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist.

The Diocesan Year of the National Eucharistic Revival is from June 19, 2022, to June 11, 2023. During the Diocesan Year there will be a series of events and retreats that encourage the renewal of the Church “by rekindling a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.” Please check the Diocese website regularly for the plans for implementing this Revival in the Diocese at  https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/eucharistic-congress-2023/.

Instituted in 1264 by Pope Urban IV, Corpus Christi is also known as the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

The Feast Day is an important affirmation of our belief that Our Lord is really and truly sacramentally present in the form of bread and wine. When Our Lord instituted the Eucharist, He said this IS My Body and this IS My Blood; not this represents or is symbolic of my body and blood. The Sacrament was defined as “an outward sign” of inward grace given to us by Jesus Christ for our sanctification and salvation.

The Feast of Corpus Christi is observed two weeks after Pentecost. The Feast of Pentecost, which was on June 5 this year, is celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday, and commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem, as described in the Acts of the Apostles.

Mary, the example for all to follow

When it comes time to reflect upon Mother’s Day, there is no greater example than the Mother of Jesus.

Pope Francis said to be a mother is a great treasure through an unconditional and sacrificial love for their children, which was shown so clearly when the Blessed Virgin Mary presented Jesus at Christmas, a gift to the world.

Mary’s example provides an opportunity for the Church to reflect on the role of all mothers in society and the Church, the Pope explained, noting how despite all of the “symbolic glorification” we give to motherhood, it is still under-valued.

To be a mother is a gift, the Pope said, and explained that through their sacrifices, mothers assist in helping society to overcome its self-centered tendencies, as well as its lack of openness, generosity and concern for others.

“In this sense motherhood is more than childbearing; it is a life choice entailing sacrifice, respect for life, and commitment to passing on those human and religious values which are essential for a healthy society,” he said.

Reflecting upon the motherhood of Mary, Bishop Frank J. Dewane recently devoted the April 2022 Relevant Radio show “Witnessing Faith with Bishop Dewane” to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“We must look to the faith of Our Lady,” Bishop Dewane said. “Our Blessed Mother had to do some very difficult things to stay under the cross as her Son hung there. I don’t know what more can be asked of a mother than to have to observe the death of her child.”

It is appropriate that Mother’s Day falls in the month of May, many of the Marian apparitions are linked to the month, which is one of the reasons why the Catholic Church opted to dedicate the month to Mary.

Bishop Dewane stressed that the Faithful must look at radically changing their life, but with a certain zeal, or fire, welling up from within, similar to how the Blessed Virgin answered “Yes!” to the call of the Lord at the Annunciation.

“Our human nature doesn’t always drive us to do these things,” the Bishop continued. “But when we take the time to spiritually reflect and allow the Lord to enter in, and allow Our Lady to be our guide, we can make a big difference.”

During the radio show, Bishop Dewane and special guest Father Tom Carzon, Oblate of the Virgin Mary, Parochial Vicar at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, reflected upon the different Marian apparitions.

“Our Lady is always calling us to repentance,” Father Carzon said. “She’s preparing us. She’s calling us back to the Gospel.  And in the midst of things – even when suffering comes – just as she was standing by Jesus at the Cross – she’s standing with us.”

Marian apparitions in the Ukraine, Rwanda and other places of conflict and oppression, serve as not just a warning, but a comfort that Our Lady is always present, Father added.

“It’s like these things, tragic as they are, they are not beyond God’s reach, or outside of God’s hands,” Father Carzon said. “Mary helps us by that presence. It is so powerful – she shows up as we need her.”

Bishop Dewane noted that some apparitions are witnessed by many or some are by a few, but the messages are clear, bringing comfort and healing. “When something brings people together in Faith, it has to be recognized that something good is happening.”

The Patroness of the Diocese of Venice is Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which is also the name of the Diocese’s primary retreat center in Venice. In addition, there are a dozen Parishes dedicated to Our Lady. In the coming weeks, there are two major celebrations of Mary, including the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima (May 13), as well as the newly instituted Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, on June 6, the Monday after Pentecost, which was recently created by Pope Francis.

If you would like to listen to the April “Witnessing Faith with Bishop Dewane” radio show, the program is available at https://dioceseofvenice.org/our-bishop/relevant-radio-podcasts.

The monthly radio program on Relevant Radio can be heard at 8:30 a.m. on the last Friday of each month (May 27, 2022), at 106.7 FM and 1410 AM in Fort Myers and 93.3 FM and 1660 AM in Naples.

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 24, 2022, recalls the encounter between St. Thomas and Jesus after the Resurrection.

Dedicated by St. John Paul II, Divine Mercy Sunday honors St. Faustina’s vision of Jesus Christ – His message of love and peace for the world. 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.

Divine Mercy Sunday celebrates the mercy of Jesus as reminded 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 being canonized by St. John Paul II in 2000, who at that time declared the Second Sunday of Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday.

St. Faustina wrote in her diary what Jesus told her: “I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls but especially for poor sinners. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon these souls who approach the fount of My Mercy… let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be many.”

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.” 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, Jesus told St. Faustina.

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. The 2022 commemoration of Divine Mercy Sunday marked a return of the devotion to near its pre-pandemic peak.

At St. William Parish in Naples, Divine Mercy Sunday included the traditional afternoon prayer service. This opened with a procession with the Color Corps of the Knights of Columbus followed by children and adults who placed red and white flowers before the image, then the image was blessed with holy water. Next, was an Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, a reflection from Father Steven Clemente, a recitation of the Divine Mercy Litany, and singing of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The prayer service concluded with a veneration of the image of Divine Mercy. A large painting of the Divine Mercy image, created in 2019 for the Parish by Rosalie Polivika Ramstead, was on display during the prayer service.

During the prayer service, Father Clemente said we all need to show mercy to everyone in our lives, whether they are a family member, neighbor, friend, coworker, or a stranger.

“Are we looking at them as Jesus looks at them? Mercy enables us to forgive and to remember,” Father Clemente said. “Not merely to forgive and forget, but we must remember as we do Christ’s Resurrection, but we must also remember His persecution on the cross.”

Father Clemente added that we must all learn from our mistakes and take the past and “convert the garbage into compost” and let it grow into something new and good.

“It is the renewing process of Divine Mercy that enables each of us to grow,” Father continued. “View it as an opportunity to get better, to say ‘From this day forward I am going to show mercy and love that God is calling me to.’ To not point out imperfections. It’s all about mercy.”

During the prayer service at St. William Parish several reflections and passages from the diary of St. Faustina were read. At the conclusion, the faithful were invited to come forward and pray before the image of Divine Mercy.

Fred and Barb Goduti organized the St. William Parish observance and were pleased that people returned to this important prayer service after a long absence. The intentions for the prayer service were for the Lord’s Mercy to come upon all, as well as for peace in the troubled world.

From the Vatican, Pope Francis encouraged the faithful to remember in their lives when they have experienced God’s forgiveness and the joy and peace that forgiveness brings.

“It is good for us to remember those moments. Let us put the memory of God’s warm embrace before the memory of our own mistakes and failings. In this way, we will grow in joy,” Pope Francis said.

Noting the Gospel reading of the day, when Thomas demands to see proof of Christ’s Resurrection before he believes, Pope Francis said it is in those moments of crisis “when we need to touch and see. Like Thomas, it is precisely in those moments that we rediscover the heart of Christ, the Lord’s mercy. In those situations, Jesus does not approach us in triumph and with overwhelming proofs. He does not perform earth-shattering miracles, but instead offers us heartwarming signs of his mercy. He comforts us in the same way he did in today’s Gospel: He offers us His wounds.”

Community celebrates the Annunciation of the Lord

The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord is a day we celebrate when the Blessed Virgin Mary said “Yes!” to God.

Celebrated on March 25, 2022, the Solemnity marks the Angel Gabriel’s appearance to the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38), and his announcement that the Blessed Virgin has been chosen to be the Mother of Our Lord, and Mary’s willing acceptance of God’s Holy Plan.

To mark this Solemnity, Ave Maria Parish, Ave Maria University, as well as the entire town took part in various activities throughout the day.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane presided at the inauguration of the new Ave Maria University President Mark Middendorf, and was the principal celebrant for a Solemnity Mass.

Other events incorporated into the day included the Prayer of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, an outdoor barbecue dinner, concert and fireworks.

Bishop Dewane said during the Mass that the faithful should learn from the example of Mary and apply Her willingness to be open to the call of the Lord in our own lives; as it is inspiring to know the Blessed Virgin Mary had the courage to say “yes.”

“Take the grace that the Lord gives each of us, and live it and go forward,” the Bishop continued. “We learn the important lesson that ‘nothing will be impossible for God.’ Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her’ (Luke 1:37-38). Without God, we cannot fulfill His Mission. Our Lady understood that, so must each one of us. We have to radically change our inner selves and have that same strength to do the will of the Lord.”

President inauguration

As part of the inauguration of Middendorf as the fourth President of Ave Maria University, Bishop Dewane presided over the Oath of Fidelity and Profession of Faith.

Following the Oath of Fidelity and Profession of Faith, an Investiture Ceremony took place wherein Middendorf was bestowed with the Seal of the Office of the President of Ave Maria University by Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick Rainey. Prior to this, Father David Vidal, Pastor of Ave Maria Parish, and others representing the students, faculty, alumni and Board of Trustees, spoke highly of the appointment of Middendorf as the new President of the University.

A native of Chicago, Illinois, Middendorf was educated at Northern Illinois University and DePaul University and had a successful corporate marketing and management career before discerning a special call to the New Evangelization. Middendorf founded a lay apostolate, Lighthouse Catholic Media (LCM), then the largest producer of Catholic audio talks in the world, reaching millions. Upon its merger with the Augustine Institute in 2015, Middendorf became the Institute’s Executive Vice President for Mission Expansion, and led the launch of formed.org platform. Middendorf also serves on the boards of 5 Stones, Ignatius Press, and the Marian Missionaries of Divine Mercy, and has been a long-standing member of Legatus.

Middendorf and his wife, Christine, are the parents of four children, one already a graduate of Ave Maria University and another currently enrolled.

When asked what his first priority would be as University President, Middendorf stated that he will be inviting all staff, students, and friends of Ave Maria to join him in entrusting themselves and the University to the care of our Immaculate Mother. He then added, “The University belongs to her. It has her name on it. As President, I see this as foundational.”

Saints honored in varied ways

Not one word of St. Joseph is ever used in the Bible, yet the foster-father of Jesus is one of the most adored saints of the Church; in fact he is the Patron Saint of the Universal Church. On the other hand, St. Patrick was an iconic figure; through his words and actions, he brought Christianity to Ireland and used a shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity.

Both saints are celebrated in particular ways in mid-March, with the Feast Day of St. Patrick celebrated on March 17 and the Solemnity of St. Joseph on March 19. During that week, Parishes and schools throughout the Diocese of Venice held a variety of celebrations in honor of each saint.

A St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Naples featured participation from each Catholic School in Collier County. Other schools in the Diocese held Leprechaun Days and other fun events to honor the Irish saint who is credited with converting Ireland to Christianity.

Epiphany Cathedral in Venice hosted a Mass for the Solemnity of St. Joseph which was celebrated in Italian and included the active involvement of the Italian-American Club of Venice. Following the March 18, 2022 Mass, the statue of St. Joseph was carried to the Parish Hall in a procession led by the Knights of Columbus. There, Msgr. Patrick Dubois, Cathedral Rector, blessed the traditional St. Joseph’s table of bread and sweets, which was later distributed.

Msgr. Dubois explained that saints are made through living the fulfillment of God’s will on earth. This was affirmed by Jesus, who said: “Whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven, is my brother, my sister and my mother.”

It is a challenge for all to listen and respond to the call of the Lord in our own lives; the saints provide clear examples to follow.

Maria Russo said her devotion to St. Joseph comes from her family, who emigrated to the U.S. decades ago. Among their meager belongings were icons of St. Joseph, including several images.

“We always said our prayers and sought the intercessions of St. Joseph, in both times of joy and times of sorrow, always there to hear our prayers and thanks,” Russo said.

St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers got into the spirit of both Feast Days, first with a St. Patrick’s Dinner Dance and then an Italia Festa two days later. While the favored colors representing the two saints differed (green for St. Patrick and red and white for St. Joseph), both gatherings involved lots of tasty food, ethnic music and fun.

Filipino Catholics celebrate important Feast Day

The third Sunday of January is set aside in the Philippines to celebrate the “Santo Niño” (or Holy Child Jesus), a symbol of the birth of Catholicism in the Philippines more than 500 years ago.

Incarnation Parish in Sarasota was host to the first ever Diocese of Venice Santo Niño Festival on Jan. 16, 2022. Organized by the local Filipino Catholic Community and the Couples for Christ group, more than 250 people participated in the Mass and Festival which recounts an important conversion story.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the main celebrant for the Mass and said it was an honor to have the Santo Niño Mass and Festival in the Diocese of Venice. “This is a wonderful example of a faith and culture coming together beautifully.”

The Filipino devotion to the Santo Niño are connected to historical accounts which showed that explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived on the shores of Cebu on March 16, 1521. Soon, Magellan presented the image (a wooden statue about 12 inches tall that bears a golden crown and imperial regalia) of the Child Jesus to Queen Juana, the wife of Rajah Humabon as a baptismal gift, when she, together with other rulers and natives, converted to the Catholic Faith.

Conflict in the region soon followed during which Magellan was killed and his Spanish colleagues left. The next Spanish expedition occurred in 1565 by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi who conquered Cebu and after pillaging the villages, the original Magellan Santo Niño was found safe and unscathed from the fires. The Franciscan Friars who witnessed this proclaimed the statue miraculous and built a church on the site, which is now the “Basílica Menor del Santo Niño in Cebu.”

The Mass opened with the traditional presentation to the Bishop of the Santo Niño statue which was then placed on a flower-draped pedestal in front of the altar.

Father Lino Estadilla, OMV, of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice, gave the homily and explained that the presentation and dance is symbolic of the conversion of faith for the Filipino people. The presenter dances two steps forward and one step back. This symbolizes the initial conversion of the Filipino people to Catholicism, one step back representing the intervening turmoil, and finally the discovery of the Santo Niño statue which immediately solidified the conversion of the entire island nation nearly overnight.

It was explained that this Feast Day celebration reminds Filipinos of the Christianization of their homeland but also enables them to see the relevance this devotion to the Santo Niño has for people to this day. It forces us to focus on the children and youth, with all the problems they may pose and the hopes they raise.

Lars Sison, a youth from Bradenton, shared his devotion to Santo Niño by recounting the story of how his 1 ½ year old sister nearly drowned in a pool during a family get together on the Feast of the Epiphany (Jan. 6). While a nurse was present and helped as much as she could, while they waited for an ambulance to arrive a Santo Niño was brought from the house and placed next to the child, and everyone joined in prayer for the intervention of Santo Niño. The child was transported to the local hospital and then flown to All Children’s Hospital in Tampa. While she was in the pediatric ICU the family continued to pray for the intercession of Santo Niño for the girl. A Parish priest from Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish went at the request of the family to the hospital to bless the child and a Santo Niño prayer group based in Tampa was asked to pray for her recovery.

Lars explained how virtually overnight his sister began to make a miraculous recovery and was released from the hospital on the day before the third Sunday of January, the Vigil of the Feast of Santo Niño. While it was unclear how long the little girl was in the water, she was found floating face down, she survived and has thrived with no lasting impacts from the near-drowning.

As part of Festival tradition, the faithful are encouraged to bring their own Santo Niño statue, or one purchased in the past year, to be blessed. Father Estadilla did this at the conclusion of the Mass. This builds upon the tradition of Filipino immigrants who brought their Santo Niño statues with them to the United States to be their spiritual recourse, assistance and protector.

With the conclusion of the Mass, another part of the tradition was witnessed – the Sinulog procession. This is where the statue of Santo Niño was carried in a musical procession from the Church to the Parish Hall. At the conclusion of the day, each person and family present were given a rose from the temporary pedestal created for the Santo Niño statue.

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