Mooney shines spotlight on pandemic frontline heroes

The students who attend Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota are formed with core Christian values. The students also learn that they are “called by name” by the Lord to be more – more a man or woman of God.

Responding to this call, some alumni of Cardinal Mooney choose to enter careers as first responders or in medicine. In a time when the world needs people to look up to, those working as doctors, nurses, paramedics, firefighters, law enforcement, as well as in various support services are stepping up to put themselves out there, to make everyone safe.

Many of these people on the front lines are graduates of Cardinal Mooney and the other Catholic high schools in the Diocese (Bishop Verot in Fort Myers and St. John Neumann in Naples).

This fact inspired Tara McClean, Cardinal Mooney Director of Development, to expand a segment of the Mooney social media presence ( called “Alumni Shoutout!!” to focus in April on alumni first responders.

Initially the shout-out posts were ‘spotlights’ showcasing one to two alumni a month; then the COVID-19 pandemic started and that changed everything.

Jennifer Rode Foscolos, Cardinal Mooney CAtholic High School class of 2007, is a Registered Nurse with Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

“One of my classmates is a current parent and a triage nurse here in Sarasota,” she said. “On March 30 I was texting with her and kept thinking that I wished there was a way to thank her, to let her know how worried yet proud I was of her. And then I thought what if we showcase only the medical alumni for April? What if that is the best and safest way to thank them for now?”

On March 31, 2020, McClean posted a thank you to the medical community and asked the alumni to leave them words of encouragement in the comments or for the alumni medical professionals to share photos of their “offices.”

“That is where this really took off! I almost instantly had the photos of the really intense, plexi-facemasks and ambulances. And from there it grew,” McClean said.

The first post recognized “rock star” Jennifer Rode Foscolos, Cougar class of 2007, a Registered Nurse with Sarasota Memorial Hospital. She works on a unit caring for non-COVID and COVID-positive patients. The post states: “Stay safe & well Jenn! Paws up!! Your Cougar pack salutes you!!”

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School class of 1997, Maggie Wessels Castro, BSN, RN, is a Clinical Manager for the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare System,  and oversees the Respiratory Progressive Care Unit.

Another post noted the work of Cougar class of 1997, Maggie Wessels Castro, BSN, RN, who is a Clinical Manager for the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare System and oversees the Respiratory Progressive Care Unit.

McClean posted: “As you can imagine respiratory care is front and center during the COVID-19 pandemic. Maggie has been working tirelessly to care for her patients and lead the specialized nursing team in charge of this unit, while also being a superhero wife, mom, daughter, and sister to her immediate and extended family… She is truly a superhero in scrubs and should be celebrated. Thank you, Maggie! Paws up!”

Kathleen Ross Hayden, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School class of 1983 is currently serving with Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Assistance Response team in one of the hardest hit areas in Italy.

Other alumni recognized included doctors and nurses working in New York City hospitals, as well as many working locally. Others highlighted were firefighters, paramedics and members of law enforcement.

Dr. Cristopher Cowart, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School alumni, anesthesiologist for Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

Through their own social media accounts, both Bishop Verot and St. John Neumann Catholic high schools recognized many of their own alumni working on the front lines of the pandemic.

Diocesan Interim Superintendent of Catholic Education and Cardinal Mooney Principal, Ben Hopper, joined in praising not just the Mooney alumni but all Catholic high school alumni by posting a video message of thanks on the Diocesan coronavirus response website and the DOV Catholic Schools Facebook page.

“To the men and women who are on the front lines of this pandemic, we thank you for your service and sacrifice” Hopper said. “The doctors, nurses, researchers, first responders, administrators, manufacturers and others in the field have put the health and wellbeing of others above their own. Our thoughts, hopes and prayers are with you during these trying times as you perform miracles much like what Jesus did to heal the injured and cure the sick.”

Hopper added thanks to the alumni who have worked tirelessly treating patients, researching vaccines and delivering life-saving equipment, “We thank you. We will never forget the good you bring during these grim days, and we hope you will remember that the Diocese of Venice is with you every step of the way.”

Reaching out to local heroes

Parishes and Catholic schools throughout the Diocese of Venice have been reaching out to recognize first responders, medical staff, sanitation workers and all who are tirelessly working on the front lines in the fights against the coronavirus outbreak.

Below are just a few of the recent examples of what is being done.

Our Loving Stitches

Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch is well known for giving back to the community. In the midst of stay-at-home orders, quarantines and the scarcity of masks, the Parish Our Loving Stitches outreach decided to do something about it. The group recently announced that they have made more than 700 masks which have been distributed to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg as well as to other hospitals, assisted living facilities, as well as to vulnerable parishioners and friends.






School initiative

St. Martha Catholic School teachers from kindergarten, first and third grades recently presented student-created cards, St. Martha Tervis Tumblers, donuts, and coffee for the nurses at Sarasota Memorial Hospital who are all working with COVID-19 patients. The nurses responded with a tearful thanks for the cards and extra prayers.

St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota has converted its first-class education to distance learning, but the teachers and students have not forgotten the need to give back to the community.

While teaching their students from afar, the teachers have encouraged their changes with making “Thank You!” cards for area nurses and doctors. Recently, teachers from kindergarten, first and third grades presented the student-created cards, St. Martha Tervis Tumblers, donuts, and coffee for the nurses at Sarasota Memorial Hospital who are all working with COVID-19 patients. The nurses responded with a tearful thanks for the cards and extra prayers.

This St. Martha Catholic School second grader shows off a gift package her created for the health care workers at a local nursing home in Sarasota.

In addition, a second grader created a gift basket for his mom to deliver to a local nursing home and a fourth grader created a care package for the sanitation workers.

Wall display

Max Weinberg, a parishioner St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers, of Empire Entertainment, recently created a video mapping wall display to honor healthcare workers at Gulf Coast Hospital in Fort Myers to help uplift spirits.

Max Weinberg, a parishioner St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers, of Empire Entertainment, recently created a video mapping wall display to honor healthcare workers at Gulf Coast Hospital in Fort Myers and to help uplift spirits.

Weinberg’s display and was projected onto the side of the hospital during shift change and included the insignia for the hospital as well as the patches and badges for area first responders and said “Heroes Work Here.” Weinberg also created a special video tribute for the hospital. Additional displays have also been made at other facilities.

These are just a few of the efforts being made to honor local heroes.

If you know of anyone or any Parish or school which is honoring local heroes, please email the information to Bob Reddy at

News Briefs from around the Diocese Jan & Feb 2020

Diocesan group enjoys Catholic Days at the Capitol

During the Jan. 28-30 Catholic Days at the Capitol, Bishop Frank J. Dewane gave a legislative briefing to participants from across Florida. A group of nearly 50, including students from each Diocesan Catholic high school traveled for this important lobbying opportunity.


Seminarian becomes Lector

Diocese of Venice Seminarian Daniel Scalan was among a group of first-year students at Pontifical North American College in Rome, to receive the Ministry of Lector on Jan. 11. Archbishop Bernard Hebda, of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, was the main celebrant and homilist. As part of the rite, the Archbishop placed the Holy Scriptures in the hands of each candidate and said, “Take this book of Holy Scripture and be faithful in handing on the word of God, so that it may grow strong in the hearts of his people.”

National Order of Malta leadership meets in Naples

The Order of Malta – American Association, held and Board of Counsellors meeting in Naples in late January. Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated a Mass for the group on Jan. 27 at St. William Parish.



Register now Mission Possible Immokalee 2020

The very popular Mission Possible Immokalee 2020 trip registration for high school students is NOW OPEN! Organized as a joint effort of the Diocese Mission Office and Office of Evangelization, students will work on service projects from June 8-12, assisting at Catholic Charities of Collier and Lee Counties sites, Guadalupe Social Services and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. The mission trip is $199 and includes meals, lodging and transportation to work sites. For more information, please contact the Diocese of Venice Mission Office at 239-241-2233. All registration must be through Youth Ministers at your local Parish or Catholic School.

Bishop recognizes Knights of Bikes

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass at St, Agnes Parish in Naples on Jan. 26, the Sunday of the Word of God. During the Mass, Bishop Dewane offered a special recognition for the Knights on Bikes, a club of Knights of Columbus which includes avid motorcycle enthusiasts. Members took part in the opening and closing processions of the Mass. At the conclusion, the Bishop blessed special key chains with a cross. Each member wears a vest with patches that read: “In God We Trust and Ride” and “In Service to One. Inservice to All.”

Parish honors first responders

St. Agnes Parish in Naples, honored Law Enforcement Officers, Fire Fighters, and First Responders, both active and retired with a Blue Mass on Jan. 25. Dozens of officers attended with their families to honor first responders who died in the line of duty and to pray for the safety of those still serving. The guest homilist was Father Sean Connor, Chaplain of the Boston Police Department. During the final blessing Father Michael Orsi, Parochial Vicar of St. Agnes, blessed medals of St. Michael the Archangel to give out to all the first responders for protection.

North Port Show of Shows

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. and the Knights of Columbus hosted The Goldtones Jan. 25 at the first ever North Port Sugar Bowl Show of Shows. Playing songs from 50s and 60s The Goldtones entertained an enthusiastic crowd at the North Port Performing Arts Center at North Port High School. The Sugar Bowl Fund helps support families in crisis, providing emergency financial assistance for low-income families in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties. The Sugar Bowl Fund is a community partnership between Catholic Charities and the local Knights of Columbus Councils. The goal of the fund is an attempt to keep families together, self-sufficient and relieved of some of the pressures that cause greater hardship. Financial assistance can include help for car repairs, medical bills, utilities, rent or mortgage payments as well as relocation fees. The North Port Show of Shows was the first in this part of the area, similar events have been taking place for several years in Venice each fall and in Bradenton each Spring.

Jammin’ for the Mamas a success

About 130 guests showed up at the Boca Royale Golf and Country Club in Englewood for a “jawsome” night of fun, food, music and fundraising with the Shark Sisters! The Jammin’ for the Mamas event featured the popular local music trio and all proceeds benefited Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities which serves homeless mothers and their children and helps them to achieve self-sufficiency.