‘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.

Message from Bishop Dewane on Feast of St. Mark, the Evangelist 2023

Tuesday, April 25, 2023, is the Feast of St. Mark, the Evangelist, Patron Saint of the Diocese of Venice in Florida!

St. Mark was chosen as a Patron Saint of the Diocese because of the connection between Venice, Florida, and Venice, Italy, where St. Mark is also the Patron Saint of the city. The magnificent St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice is dedicated to him and is the home of his relics.

St. Mark the Evangelist was one of the 70 Disciples sent out by Christ (Luke 10:1), and one of only four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). The four Evangelists are depicted beautifully on the walls of the Diocese’s Epiphany Cathedral in wood relief: St. Mark’s depiction carries a relic of St. Mark inside it, a gift of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice to the Cathedral!

It is known that St. Mark authored the Second Gospel and was a disciple of St. Peter. We read in the Opening Prayer of the Mass that God “gave St. Mark the privilege of proclaiming your gospel,” and traditionally St. Mark is considered to be the interpreter and mouthpiece of St. Peter. St. Mark was likely baptized by St. Peter, as St. Peter refers to St. Mark as “my son” (1 Peter 5:13).

Following His Resurrection, Jesus appeared at the home of St. Mark where the disciples were gathered (John 20), and the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples at Pentecost in the same house. Many depictions of St. Mark show him as a man with a book or scroll, accompanied by a winged lion. The lion is often associated with Jesus’ Resurrection, because lions were believed to sleep with open eyes, thus a comparison to Christ in his tomb.

The Gospel of St. Mark was written not only to give historical documentation concerning the life of Christ, but also to urge the followers of Christ to be so committed to Him that they would be willing to lay down their life for the sake of the good news (Mark 8:35-38).

St. Mark, through the grace of God our Father, became a great Evangelist, preaching the good news of Christ. May St. Mark continue to help us to know Him well so that we may faithfully live our lives as followers of Christ, our Lord.

News Briefs for the week of March 24, 2023


 After consultation, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announces the following:

Father Robert D. Tabbert, retired as Pastor of St. John XXIII Parish, effective March 4, 2023, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Pastor of St. John XXIII Parish, Fort Myers.

 Father Emmanuel R. Saint-Hilaire, is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, effective February 13, 2023, and thus has returned to his native country of Haiti.

Lenten school Masses continue

Following the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Bishop Frank J. Dewane continued to celebrate Mass for students at each of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools during the Lenten Season. The most recent Masses were March 21, 2023, at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers and St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, and then on March 22 at Cardinal Mooney Catholic School in Sarasota.


St. Joseph Feast celebrated in Italian

Epiphany Cathedral in Venice hosted a Mass for the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was celebrated in Italian on March 20, 2023, and included the active involvement of the Italian-American Club of Venice. Following the 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 were later distributed. While usually celebrated on March 19, the Solemnity was transferred to March 20 since the liturgy of the Lenten Sundays take precedence.


Students “Make A Difference”

Service to others is part of St. Andrew Catholic School’s mission and vision. “Make A Difference Day” is an example of putting the mission and vision of service to others into practice. The school was able to partner with community businesses and individuals to assist. This year, the 8th grade students were fortunate to assist in a Hurricane Ian clean-up on Pine Island. They cleaned out a damaged kitchen, moved construction materials, created a yard debris pile to be removed from the property, just to name a few of the jobs that were completed. Seventh grade students were split into groups and worked at various locations including St. Katherine Drexel Parish, Bishop Verot High Catholic School in Fort Myers, Ronald McDonald House, Thrive Therapy Mental Health & Wellness, and Cape Coral Caring Center. Students participated in campus clean-ups, cleaning vehicles, stocking food items for the community at large and general cleaning maintenance as needed. Sixth grade remained on the school campus and provided a car wash for teachers and made Easter cards for those who are in a nearby rehabilitation facility. Way to go!


Leprechaun traps and house built in Bradenton

St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton offers a comprehensive STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts, math) curriculum at all grade levels. In time for St. Patrick’s Day, the pre-kindergarten students have been studying building construction, as well as using “imagination” to create in their “Creative Me” unit. In their STREAM class, the students put construction and imagination together to create leprechaun traps and leprechaun houses!


Naples Model UN team shines in New York

The St. John Neumann Catholic High School Model UN team from Naples took on New York during their spring break from March 13-17, 2023. The team competed against thousands of other high school delegations from around the world and got to experience diplomacy in a global way. A huge congratulations to Jake Marks and Hunter Lund for winning Best Delegates and to Connor Shea and Alessio Cirino for winning the Award of Merit. While in New York, the students visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Times Square, Rockefeller Center and even got to hear a speech on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly!

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 Diocese of Venice Santo Niño Festival on Jan. 15, 2023, the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time. 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. This was the second year for this festival in the Diocese.

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 is 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 of the Santo Niño statue to Bishop Dewane; the statue was then placed on a flower-draped pedestal in front of the altar.

Bishop Dewane said the Diocese is richer for those who come from various countries and bring their faith and culture, and how celebrating the various important feast days serves as a bridge in one’s faith, connecting to their homeland.

The Santo Niño celebration calls us to go forward as individuals to behold the Holy Child, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ who was there to save the world, the Bishop added.

“We must celebrate that, but not be caught in the role of the child; we must mature, as Christ did,” Bishop Dewane continued. “In doing so, we are called to be instruments of the Lord within the world, calling others to come and learn about why the Holy Child, the Incarnate Savior, had to be sent into the world. May each one of you be blessed in your devotion to the Santo Niño.”

The 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 places a special emphasis on the children and youth, with all the hopes they raise.

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. This was done 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, assistant and protector.

News Briefs for the Week of Jan. 13, 2022

Cathedral celebrates Feast Day

Epiphany Cathedral in Venice celebrated its Feast Day, the Epiphany of the Lord, with a trilingual (English, Spanish, Polish) Mass on Jan. 8, 2023. Msgr. Patrick Dubois, Cathedral Rector, said the Feast Day is an important moment for the Parish community as well as for the Universal Church. The day marks the moment when the three magi come to pay homage to the Child Jesus, something we must do each day as we celebrated the love of the Lord in our lives. Readings and music alternated between the three languages and at the conclusion of Mass, Msgr. Dubois asked all to wish one another a “Happy Feast of the Epiphany.” A multicultural celebration followed in the Parish Hall.

Basketball player reaches milestone

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School basketball player Olivia Davis reached the 1,000-point milestone during a game on Jan. 6, 2023. After the home game in Sarasota, the star player was honored and recognized for this remarkable achievement, something that is rare in high school basketball.

Opportunities upcoming to support life

There are several opportunities for the faithful to support life in the coming months. First, one can Pray for the protection of all human life during the 9 Days for Life campaign from Jan. 19-27, 2023. Sign up now at www.9daysforlife.com to receive each day’s intention and reflection via email or text message. Second, the annual Ave Maria March for Life will take place at 10 a.m., Jan 21, at the Ave Maria University football field. The walk is held in recognition of the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death, and will conclude in front of Ave Maria Parish Church. Bishop Frank J. Dewane is the featured speaker. A lunch of hot dogs, chips and drink will follow the march.  For more information including registering for small or large groups, please contact Sharon Levesque at amprespectlifeminstry@gmail.com. Next, join others for the 25th Annual Sarasota Prayer Walk for Life on Feb. 7. The event begins with the 8:30 a.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane at St. Martha Parish, 200 N. Orange Ave. A bus will shuttle people from the church to 7th Street where walkers will circle the block around Planned Parenthood in prayer. Lastly, join others from around the state for the annual Catholic Days at the Capitol in Tallahassee from March 7-9. The three-day trip includes a legislative briefing on important bills relating to human life and dignity, a breakfast with legislators and the Florida Bishops, tours of the capitol and museum, scheduled visits with legislators and the annual Red Mass of the Holy Spirit with the Florida Bishops and public officials. Bus transportation is provided at no cost as long as space is available. The registration deadline is February 6. For further details contact Jeanne Berdeaux at 941-374-1068 or Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org.

World Youth Day 2023 Deadline EXTENDED

The deadline to register is open for the Diocesan 11-day pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal, has been extended to Jan. 15, 2023. You are invited to join Bishop Frank J. Dewane for the trip to Lisbon with two nights in Fatima. This pilgrimage is from July 29 to August 8, 2023. The theme for World Youth Day 2023 is “Mary arose and went with haste”. (Luke 1:39) Travel arrangements are facilitated by Peter’s Way Tours. Space is limited and registration must be completed by January 15. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/evangelization/world-youth-day-2023/ for registration and further information.

Lee County schools gather for joint Mass

Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers welcomed students from St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers and St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral for Mass on Jan. 10, 2023. The younger students led everyone in song and afterwards Principal Suzie O’Grady invited students to participate in the “Three Kings” celebration. Following the Mass, the “Three Kings” went around campus writing the following on every door: 20 + C + M + B + 23. For centuries, faithful Catholics have marked the entrance to their homes with a symbol of faith, asking that Jesus bless all who live within the home. The message is as follows: [the first two digits of the year] + C + M + B + [the last two digits of the year]. The “C”, “M”, and “B” stand for the names of the three Magi – Caspar, Malchior & Balthazar, and the “+” represents the cross. The message also abbreviates the Latin phrase, Christus Mansionem Benedicat, meaning “May Christ bless the house.”

Parish marks Three Kings celebration

St. Paul Parish in Arcadia held a special “Three Kings” celebration on the Feast of the  Epiphany of Our Lord, Jan. 8, 2023.

News Briefs for the Week of Jan. 6, 2023

Retired religious priest dies

Father Joseph P. Jocco, Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, a retired priest who assisted at St. Ann Parish in Naples and Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, died on Dec. 24, 2022. Father was born in Chicago and served in the U.S. Navy as corpsman prior to entering the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, professing his first vows in 1977.  He was ordained a priest on June 9, 1984. Father Jocco worked in a variety of ministries in secondary education in Philadelphia, Wilmington, Delaware, Daytona Beach, and at Bishop Verot in Fort Myers. He was also the Vocation Director for the Wilmington-Philadelphia Province and Superior of the Salesian community at Parishes in Philadelphia, Robesonia, Pennsylvania and St. Ann Parish in Naples. Father Jocco is survived by several brothers and sisters, as well as many nieces and nephews. A Mass of Christian Burial was held Jan. 3, in Childs, Maryland, with burial following in the Oblate Cemetery.

Bishop celebrates Feast Day Mass in Naples

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass on the Feast of St. Elizabeth Seton (Jan. 4, 2023), at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples. The Mass included the participation of the students from St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School. Bishop Dewane encouraged the students to learn about their patroness who served as an example to follow in how she answered a call from the Lord and helped launch Catholic education in the United States.

Mooney starts equestrian club

Adventure awaits students in Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School’s newest club! The first outing for the Equestrian Club was Dec. 10, 2022, at a local dressage stable, where students learned about horse safety, grooming, and horse care. Members saddled up the beautiful horses at Rosaire’s Riding Academy to learn the basics of riding so that they can go on future trail rides together. The Equestrian Club also had fun hearing presentations by fellow Mooney students that compete in horse shows on the events that comprise equestrian sports – show jumping, hunter trails, and dressage. The next goal is a ride at the beach! The new Equestrian Cub was founded by sophomore Marianna Cardona Ortiz.

Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal continues

The 21st Annual Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal is continuing through January 2023. A donation to the Appeal strengthens Catholic Charities ability to provide much-needed support, for those recovering from Hurricane Ian, or who need any type of assistance in the region. This outreach is accomplished through more than 35 programs in locations throughout the 10-county Diocese. These programs annually support more than 100,000 individuals and families in ways both large and small. To support the Christmas Appeal, please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org or mail a contribution to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

Time running out for hotel rooms for Eucharistic Congress

The two-part Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Congress and Youth Rally is coming March 24 and 25, 2023, to the Conference Center and Luminary Hotel on the riverfront of downtown Fort Myers. The Eucharistic Congress Youth Rally is 5 to 10 p.m., Friday, March 24, 2023, while the main Eucharistic Congress for adults is Saturday March 25. Exciting speakers and musicians are scheduled for these two events. Both events will include Eucharistic Processions and the opportunity to grow closer to the Lord through the Blessed Sacrament. Visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/eucharistic-congress/ to register and for additional details. For those wishing to spend the evening of the 24th or 25th at the Luminary Hotel, the deadline to obtain a special rate is closing soon, please make your reservation by visiting https://www.marriott.com/event-reservations/reservation-link.mi?id=1658159545793&key=GRP&app=resvlink.

Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrated across Diocese

Throughout the Diocese of Venice tradition, prayer, reverence, and music marked the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, of the New Evangelization, and of unborn children.

Celebrated on Dec. 12, the Feast is often linked to the Dec. 9 Feast of St. Juan Diego, the day in 1531 when Our Lady first appeared to the Saint near modern day Mexico City.

Parishes throughout the Diocese celebrated this special day with a variety of events including Masses, overnight vigils, large processions, early morning prayer celebrations, and outdoor festivities. Many of the activities included traditional music with elaborately dressed dancers, as large numbers of small children also dressed as our Our Lady or St. Juan Diego.

“Our Lady of Guadalupe means so much to me and so many others,” said Olivia Gomez of Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers who participated in the Dec. 11, 2022, Mass and an outdoor festival. “My family has a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin. We pray to her each day. This gives us great comfort.”

That gratitude was magnified this year as the Fort Myers community was hard hit on Sept. 28 by Hurricane Ian. Gomez, whose home had roof and water damage, was out of work until just recently because the business where she worked was badly damaged.

“On this Feast Day, in a special way, we all join together to give thanks to Mary and to honor Her for the blessings we have received throughout the year, but especially since Ian,” Gomez said. “We have been truly blessed by the love and kindness of everyone in the community who have come together to rebuild.”

Carlos Diaz, of St. Paul Parish in Arcadia, also had home damage from river flooding after Ian and had to replace nearly the entire contents of his home.

“We needed clothes for the children and furniture,” Diaz said during the Parish outdoor celebration. “The Parish was our lifeline as Our Lady of Guadalupe shined Her light upon us all. We are doing great now. We really are blessed that it wasn’t worse. We are still in our home, which is better than many of our family and friends.”

At Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the Feast Day Mass. The Mass there was preceded by a procession around the church. Afterwards, the Bishop blessed a variety of religious articles and then everyone enjoyed a celebration in the Parish Hall.

Bishop Dewane expressed joy at the commemoration and how it represented the Universal nature of the Church, with Our Lady taking on a special meaning for all. “We honor Our Lady of Guadalupe and Her presence among us as this is an important moment that deserves our prayerful thanks and a true celebration.”

Celebrations also took place in many Parishes and schools throughout the Diocese. Huge crowds took part in a large procession from Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish through the streets of Immokalee, while at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples the procession wound its way to the Parish from U.S. 41.

A smaller procession preceded a trilingual (English, Spanish, Creole) Mass which took place Dec. 11 at Frontier Park in Zolfo Springs for the faithful of St. Michael Parish in Wauchula and Holy Child Mission in Bowling Green.

Each Diocesan Catholic elementary school held a variety of celebrations to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe, many taking the opportunity to create a teaching lesson about the Universal Church and devotions to Our Lady.

Our Lady appeared, dressed like an Aztec princess, to St. Juan Diego, a poor widower who was on his way to Mass. She asked, in his native language, to have the Bishop of Mexico build a church in Her honor. Skeptical, the Bishop asked for a sign. Our Lady again appeared to St. Juan Diego who shared the request of the Bishop. So, Our Lady provided a sign, beautiful roses in the middle of winter which were placed in the tilma, a cloak made of cactus fibers, which St. Juan Diego wore. Upon his return to the Bishop, when Juan Diego opened the tilma, the roses fell to the floor, and an impression of Our Lady appeared on the tilma in the form of an indigenous woman. The image amazed the Bishop and all those present and word of this miracle quickly spread.

This apparition led to the conversion of Mexico almost overnight, when up to that time Catholic missionaries from Europe had made very little headway. The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City was built on the site of the apparitions and is one of the most visited religious shrines in the world. It is also home of the actual tilma of St. Juan Diego, which can still be seen, with the image clearly visible, nearly 500 years later.