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.

Patronal Feast of U.S. celebrated

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Thursday, December 8, 2022, is the patronal feast day of the United States, and was celebrated throughout the Diocese of Venice.

Father David Portorreal celebrated Mass for the students at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. Part of his message was a gentle reminder that 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.

Part of the confusion comes from the Gospel reading of the day, which is from Luke and recounts the Annunciation (March 25), when the Archangel Gabriel appeared before the Virgin Mary and told her she was carrying the Child Jesus.

Pope Francis publicly visited a statue dedicated to the Immaculate Conception near Rome’s Piazza di Spagna, a tradition of Popes since 1953, which was preempted the past two years because of the global pandemic.

“You, from heaven where God has received you, see the things of Earth far better than we do; but as Mother you listen to our invocations to present them to your Son, to his heart full of mercy,“ Pope Francis prayed Dec. 8.

The Holy Father invited the faithful to entrust themselves to Our Lady. He reminded Catholics that “Mary, the only human creature without sin in history, is with us in the battle, she is our sister and above all Mother.”

Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, Father John Belmonte, SJ, celebrated the Solemnity Mass for students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers.

Father Belmonte brought roses for our Blessed Mother and presented them with help from one of the students. His homily included ‘show and tell’ with a life vest representing how to save your body from drowning as a symbol of how our Faith is a life vest for our soul.

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.”