Sarasota Knights Council shines during pandemic

Knight of Columbus Council 15332 of Incarnation Parish in Sarasota has not let a pesky global pandemic cause the group to miss a step in fulfilling its obligation of service to the Church and community.

The Council was already actively using virtual meeting technology before the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the group went into “hyper-mode,” remaining ahead of the curve when everything shut down, explained Grand Knight Dr. Steven Wyer.

“We first worried about members having trouble adapting to the technology,” Wyer explained, “but these men embraced the new ‘toys’ and we now ‘meet’ several times each week.”

The virtual connection has been crucial for many members who have struggled with various impacts from the pandemic, Wyer said. This has included a “Leave no neighbor behind” initiative which directs those in need to resources which offer emotional and financial support.

Council meetings include a Saturday “Cocktail Hour” for socializing and Sunday praying the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary. Most other meetings take place virtually while some small gatherings of less than 10 members are held in large dining areas to ensure social distancing.

Council 15332 recently received the distinction of Star Council, the international organization’s top award for local councils. The Star Council Award recognizes excellence in the areas of membership, fraternal insurance benefits, faith formation programs, and service-oriented activities. Council 15332 has received this award every year since its founding in July 2011.

Incarnation Administrator, Father Eric Scanlan, said the recognition as a Star Council is well deserved. “The Knights have been a great support to our Parish during the last few months of the pandemic. They were quick to adjust to the changing reality of the COVID limitations… It has been a real witness to their strong faith and concern for one another, our Parish and the local community.”

The Knights recently organized a contactless food drive which brought in 2,000 pounds of food to help support the efforts of the St. Vincent de Paul Society Incarnation Conference. Wyer said the success of the food drive has encouraged the Council to begin planning for more.

In addition to the Star Council Award, the Knights were recognized as the top council in the 10-county Diocese of Venice. Earlier in the summer, the Council received eight major awards from the Florida State Council.

To earn these honors, during the past year alone, the Council participated in national and local prayer vigils for life; undertook construction, painting, and/or cleaning projects around the Parish; hosted monthly bingo, pancake breakfasts and trivia; conducted youth activities for Incarnation Catholic School students; and awarded a graduating eighth-grade student a scholarship to Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School. In spite of the pandemic, the Knights have been able to contribute nearly $25,000 to charitable organizations, begin a raffle program focused on raising $10,000 for the Incarnation School STREAM Program, provide financial support to two Diocesan Seminarians, and much more. While fund raising events are not taking place, Wyer said members have stepped-up to donate monthly to meet demand.

To learn more about or to join Knights of Columbus Council 15332, please contact Council Chancellor Matt Dowell at 941-504-6418 or visit www.kofc15332.org.

Calling All Volunteers!

Each Thursday nearly 200 vehicles line up to receive food from the Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. Food Pantry at St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston.

Six dedicated volunteers worked with masks and gloves in the heat for about three hours on Aug. 6, 2020 to ensure every family left with food. Afterwards was the clean-up, which included: breaking up boxes, storing tables, reviewing paperwork, planning for the next week, etc. That is also the time when supplies are checked so orders can be placed to ensure there will be enough to meet demand and the food on hand is organized and prepared for distribution the following week.

The line of vehicles has remained consistently long since March when the COVID-19 Pandemic began, and families started to lose work. Clewiston is a rural community on the southern shore of Lake Okeechobee which relies heavily on farming for work. However, that work is seasonal, and the next planting won’t begin for several months.

The Aug. 6 distribution was made more challenging when a delivery truck arrived just as the cars were lining up. This split volunteers into separate groups.

Yolanda Placencia checked families in, handed out bags of food and got more supplies from the storeroom. Determined to help as much as she could, she hopes more people volunteer, even if it is for an hour. “I know others would feel the same joy I have knowing what little I am doing is brightening the faces of these families.”

Mike Vega supervises the Catholic Charities Office in Clewiston and is based in Fort Myers, said the need for volunteers is growing. Volunteers are needed to safely distribute food, assist with the set-up, clean-up, organize donations, bag food, help with paperwork; and much more. Gloves and masks are provided to everyone.

“We have been at a breakneck pace, but many of the people we counted on in the past are not able to help because they are in at-risk categories,” Vega explained.

Catholic Charities CEO Philomena Pereira said that without volunteers the organization would be unable to continue to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic. The six food pantries throughout the Diocese distributed food to more than 20,000 individuals in July, and more than 75,000 since late March, more than triple the normal amount.

“There is no end in sight, and in fact the demand is growing,” Pereira said. “We are looking for volunteers at all locations. Loading cars, doing paperwork, we need help.”

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer with Catholic Charities is asked to contact Joan Pierce at 844-385-2407 or joan.pierce@catholiccharitiesdov.org.

News briefs for week of Aug. 24, 2020

New Parish DREs attend training session

Anne Chrzan, Diocese of Venice Director of Religious Education hosted a training session on Aug. 21, 2020 for new Parish directors at the Catholic Center in Venice. The seven new DRE’s have been with the Diocese for varying lengths of time, but the restrictions mandated by the COVID-19 Pandemic made meeting in person challenging. Previous sessions occurred through virtual meetings.  The meetings were intended to inform each of the new employees what is expected of them as they serve as part of their Parish, Diocese and Universal Church.

Neumann senior garners Key Club honor

Congratulations to Hector Fernandez, a senior at St. John Neumann Catholic High School, for being recognized by the Florida District of Key Club International with the “Leader of Leaders” award! Hector will serve as the Division 22 Lieutenant Governor for the 2020-21 school year and oversee the 11 Key Clubs in Collier County. He was chosen amongst the 72 other Lieutenant Governors from around the state to receive this award during their first Board Meeting with the Florida District.

VDCCW fundraiser supports seminarians

The Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women invites you to join them in celebrating Priesthood Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in a special and lasting way. Do this by sending the priests of your Parish a Vocation Fund “IN HONOR OF” card as proceeds will go toward the VDCCW Seminarian Fund. Please remember that this is a gift that keeps on giving! The Diocese of Venice is educating 16 men in various seminaries. A donation of any amount will be a great help. The donation amount will not be revealed to the recipient. To take part, please send $1.00, plus your donation, payable to “VDCCW Vocation Fund,“ to: Cornelia Zanetti, 5808 Gulf Drive, #204, Holmes Beach, FL 34217. Questions? Please email corniez@aol.com.

Virtual Laps For Life

The Sarasota Laps For Life is going Virtual for 2020! Join the Knights of Columbus of the Sarasota and Bradenton area for this special cause by completing a timed distance of 5K (3.1 miles) in your neighborhood, park, or other favorite outdoor location, anytime between Sept. 12 and Oct. 3, 2020. Proceeds from Laps For Life benefit My Choice Pregnancy Center, a women’s health support center. Sign up and submit your results at ww.srqLapsForLife.net then tag us in your pictures at #SarasotaLapsForLife on Facebook and Instagram. Life is NOT cancelled: Be Safe, Go Virtual!

Night in Havana Gala Auction

The St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School “Night in Havana” Gala scheduled for Sept. 26, 2020 is now a Streamlined Virtual Event! You can place bids on auction items remotely to win beautiful gift baskets, gift certificates, and other fabulous items in a week-long bidding fun Sept. 21-26. Please join us for this exciting event as together we overcome the challenges of the pandemic while supporting our great school. For more information, please contact Dr. Dianne Fabii at 239-455-2262 or fabii@seseton.org. Mobile bidding registration can be found at www.qtego.net/qlink/celebrateseton2020.

Online Directed Retreats at OLPH

During the current health crisis, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice offers online 3-day, 5-day, and 8-day retreats based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. In these online retreats, Father Mark Yavarone, OMV, or Father Lino Estadilla, OMV, trained spiritual directors, will meet with you for an hour each day via a link provided to help you to pray and to recognize how God is speaking to you. A Bible and journal should be available for your use. Participants will be emailed any additional materials needed as the retreat unfolds. The cost is: 3-day online retreat, $132.23; 5-day online retreat, $203.98; and 8-day online retreat, $306.48. All information will be confidential, and password protected. If you would like to participate in an online retreat, please email Denise Riley at riley@olph-retreat.org and a code will be provided for your online registration as well as an application. For planning purposes, please allow 7 days from your completed application until the beginning of your retreat.

St. Jude Food Pantry

The St. Jude Parish Food Pantry, 3930 17th St., Sarasota, is open and distributing food Wednesdays from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., following all social distancing protocols. Please bring an ID and do not exit your vehicle. Volunteers will load cars. Please call 941-955-3934 if you have any questions or visit: https://www.stjudesarasota.com/info/st-jude-food-pantry-schedule.

Wauchula Food Pantry

St. Michael Parish in Wauchula is home to a food pantry located at 408 Heard Bridge Road, Wauchula. The pantry has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 Pandemic response. To accommodate those who work, the food pantry is open Saturdays from 7:00 a.m. to 8:45 a.m.  If you need food at a different time or would like to support the efforts to assist the community, please call the Parish at 863-773-4089.

St Leo the Great “Shares”

When a Parish is focused on giving back to the community during a global pandemic it must get creative to connect with the faithful while also raising money for important causes.

To do this, the staff at St. Leo the Great Parish came up with “St. Leo Shares – A fundraiser event to make your mouth water.” Starting at 3 p.m. each Thursday afternoon there is a drive-thru for take-out food at the Parish Life Center in Bonita Springs. The menu regularly changes, therefore, on Aug. 6, 2020 the offerings from local caterer Frisco’s were a slice of Cuba with a cost of $15 per meal.

Part of the proceeds from the food directly supports the Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. Food Pantry located on the Parish property.

Father Jarek Snoisek, Pastor of St. Leo the Great, directs traffic and greets each vehicle when his schedule allows. He said the drive-thru food has generated excitement while addressing a real need in support of the food pantry.

“The people here at St. Leo Parish are very generous,” Father Sniosek said, as many of the vehicles coming through not only purchased dinners but dropped off canned goods and donated money.

The proceeds from the first few offerings have allowed the Parish to provide $25 Publix gift cards to those coming each week to the Catholic Charities food pantry. The goal is to distribute 600 within the coming months.

Anne Bellows, Assistant to the Pastor, said the success of the drive-thru has been overwhelming as the food often runs out by 4 p.m. with some vehicles lining up 30 minutes before. In addition, the interaction with faithful helps to build the connection to the Parish while also supporting the outreach efforts.

Bellows added that the Parish also supports food pantries at Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers, St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven and St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston.

“The people of St. Leo Parish have always been responsive to those in need,” Bellows explained while wearing festive hats decorated with flowers and fruits. “We all realize that now the need is greater than ever.”

St. the Great Parish is located at 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs and the drive-thru opens at 3 p.m. until the food lasts. For more information, call 239-992-0901.

News briefs for week of Aug. 10, 2020

Ordination to the Transitional Diaconate Aug. 29

Diocese of Venice Seminarian Alex Pince will be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Aug. 29, 2020, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. The Transitional Diaconate Ordination Mass will begin at 11 a.m., with a reception to follow. All are invited to attend.   

Diocesan Prayer Campaign begins Aug. 15

A Diocese of Venice Fall Prayer Campaign for Peace and Conversion in our country begins on Aug. 15, 2020 (the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and includes a 54-day Rosary Novena. These daily prayers and devotions are designed to help each of us truly encounter Christ and be transformed by His love. This transformation is that of true holiness. Each one of us is called to continuously offer ourselves to God, growing in holiness day by day. To learn more, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/prayer.

Voter Guides available

Please be advised that the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops Candidate Questionnaire is available at www.flaccb.org/cqp. Candidate responses are posted on the website and appear in two formats: 1) lists of all candidates on the primary and general election ballots; and 2) primary election candidates in table format by Diocese. If you have any questions, please contact Jeanne Berdeaux at Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068.

Religious sisters renew vows

Congratulations to Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco Katie Flanagan (Immaculata La Salle Catholic High School, Miami), April Cabaccang (St. John Neumann Catholic High School, Naples), April Hoffman (St. John Neumann) and  Maria Fe Tansioco (Immaculata La Salle) on the renewal of their vows on Aug. 4, 2020 at Our Lady of the Angels Chapel of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples. Father Bob Kantor, Pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Naples presided over the renewal of vows. The ceremony was witnessed by members of the student government. The temporary professed sisters usually renew their vows in Haledon, N.J., at their Mother House, but because of pandemic travel restrictions, the Salesian Sisters who minister in Florida renewed their vows in Our Lady of the Angels Chapel at Neumann.

1,800 books devoured in summer reading program

Congratulations to St. Joseph Catholic School summer readers who participated in the Patterson Summer Reading Challenge! These students read more than 1,800 books, completed Accelerated Reader goals, shared books weekly via Zoom, and completed book activities. Because of our new start date, our readers still have until Aug. 14, 2020, to achieve their High Points goals, and some are very close! Great work! Each student earned a wristband for completing books and achieving goals.

New windows being installed

The installation of stained-glass windows at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch is making excellent progress. The newly constructed Church was dedicated in 2019 but the stained-glass windows were not ready at the time. Since mid-June 2020, the new windows are being installed and adding greater beauty to the interior of the worship space.

Sarasota priest joins reading campaign

Pallottine Father Patrick Wilson, Parochial Vicar of St. Martha Parish in Sarasota recently took part in a webcast series of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading “This Book is Cool!” hosted by Director Beth Duda. The featured book on the July 12, 2020 episode, was “The Frogs Wore Red Suspenders” written by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Petra Mathers. The project is generously funded by The Patterson Foundation, is designed to encourage children, PreK- Gr. 3, to read, and includes a selected book, a special guest, new vocabulary words for the Word Bank, and a suggested activity that goes with the book.

Bradenton food pantry benefits from postal drive

The National Association of Letter Carriers headed up an employee food drive at all five post offices in Bradenton all to benefit the St. Joseph Parish Food Pantry, the largest such pantry in Manatee County.  The postal carriers.  collected food throughout the month of July 2020 and brought it, along with a monetary check in the amount of $1,000, to the food pantry on July 29, 2020.  This action took the place of a national food drive which was cancelled, impacting food banks through the country. Thank you, Bradenton letter carriers, for your generosity.

Charlotte County SVdP helps distribute food

A food distribution effort in Charlotte County helping more than 1,400 individuals and families in late July was boosted by support from local members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP).

The SVdP St. Charles Borromeo and Sacred Heart Conferences participated in a USDA Farms to Family Food Box giveaway on July 24, 2020 at Franz Ross Park in Port Charlotte. This effort included distributing 1,440 boxes of food (23,040 pounds) to the community through various non-profit agencies in the area response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The USDA program consists of refrigerated boxes of fresh produce (fruit and vegetables, dairy and meat), which were picked up by various non-profit organizations. In addition to SVdP Conferences, food was also distributed to Villa San Carlos, a low-income senior housing facility run by the Diocese of Venice.

The Charlotte County Food Assistance Task Force, currently chaired by SVDP member Joe Sabatino, is helping to provide a coordinated response to the crisis by organizing the outreach efforts of non-profit organizations throughout the county. The Task Force has different committees providing financial assistance, business recovery, youth and education opportunities, support for special populations, and food assistance, with the various SVdP conferences actively participating.

“This is a collaboration of community resources, county government, churches, along with leadership by St. Vincent de Paul,” Sabatino said.

It was a joy to behold, to watch everything come together,” Sabatino said. “After a few bumps, things worked very smoothly, and we were able to distribute all the food boxes by 11 a.m. The teamwork displayed by everyone was great to see. We were all united in our mission to provide food to those in need, and more importantly to let them know that they are valued, and we care about them and their families during these deeply stressful times.”

The SVdP Conferences in Charlotte County (Sacred Heart, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Maximilian Kolbe and San Antonio) each have food pantries and have remained opened throughout the crisis.

SVdP Conferences are also supporting the Harry Chapin Food Bank in Fort Myers with its distribution of food at least twice a month at Sacred Heart Parish, 211 W. Charlotte Ave., in Punta Gorda. The upcoming schedule is from 10 a.m. to noon, every other Thursday (Aug. 13, Aug. 27, Sept. 10, and Sept. 24).

For more information or to help support the needs of the SVdP Conferences in Charlotte County, please visit https://www.svdp-dov.org/charlotte/.

Catholic Charities response to Pandemic updated Aug. 3, 2020

In July Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. served more than 15,000 individuals and families at six area food pantries.

That brings the total to more than 60,000 assisted with food since the COVID-19 Pandemic began in March 2020.

Donations for individuals and area businesses have helped Catholic Charities meet the demand. For example, the Fort Myers Restaurant Depot donated several pallets of food to the Elizabeth K. Galena Center in Fort Myers.

If you need help

If you need assistance from Catholic Charities for food, financial assistance or tele-mental health counseling, please call the number for your area listed below 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday. Services have expanded to include assistance in applying for state and federal benefits if you have lost work due to the COVID-19 Pandemic:

  • Sarasota/Manatee/DeSoto/Hardee/Highlands counties: 844-385-2407,
  • Charlotte/Lee/Hendry/Glades counties: 844-385-2423,
  • Collier County: 844-385-2404.

Food distribution

Catholic Charities food distribution will take place only at the following times and locations. Please call the regional number for more information.

  • Monday-Friday, 9-11 a.m., Guadalupe Social Services, 211 S. 9th St., Immokalee, the Soup Kitchen is providing take-out/meals-to-go;
  • Tuesdays, 9-11:30 a.m., Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center, 3174 Tamiami Trail E., Naples;
  • Thursdays, 9 a.m.-noon, St. Margaret Parish, 208 Dean Duff St., Clewiston;
  • Fridays, 9-11 a.m., St. Leo the Great Parish, 28360 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs;
  • Fridays, 9 a.m.-noon, Elizabeth K. Galeana Pantry, 4235 Michigan Avenue Link, Fort Myers;
  • 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month, 8:30-10:30 a.m., St. Paul Parish, 1208 E. Oak St. Arcadia.

How to Help

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. is in urgent need of your financial support during its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To help, please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org/donate or send a check to: Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc., 5824 Bee Ridge Road, PMB 409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065.

News briefs from July 6 2020

Priest becomes U.S. Citizen

Father Rafal Ligenza, Administrator of St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton was sworn in as U.S. Citizen on July 6, 2020. A native of Poland, Father Ligenza was ordained to the priesthood in 2011 for the Diocese of Venice by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. Father Ligenza has been Administrator at St. Joseph Parish since January of 2019 and previously served as Parochial Vicar at St. William Parish in Naples and St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers. Congratulations Father!

CCW supports Catholic Charities

Representatives of the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women recently presented a check to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc. for their homeless prevention program. The presentation took place on June 23, 2020 at the Catholic Center in Venice. VDCCW President Brenda Dolan and Board Member Ellen Bachman presented the check for $7,000 to Philomena Pereira, CEO of Catholic Charities. Bishop Frank J. Dewane was also present as a show of support for both the VDCCW and Catholic Charities. The money is part of an annual effort of the VDCCW and will go toward the numerous programs that provide housing and also prevent people from becoming homeless.

Virtual Summer Reading Challenge

A Virtual Summer Reading Challenge is taking place for the students of St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton. Students were sent home books in early June and they are also encouraged to read more books on their own. Students in online reading sessions with guest readers via Zoom. For each book read, the students receive a wristband. During the first week of the reading challenge, the students read 197 books. With each book comes activities and projects. The group kicked off the Fourth of July Weekend by taking a virtual field trip to the Statue of Liberty in New York City, via Google Earth! The students learned the history of the statue and shared the book, “Emma’s Poem” by Linda Glaser. The group ended the morning by learning how to make “fireworks in a jar.” Some students have already completed up to 20 books. Well done!

If you need help

If you need assistance from Catholic Charities for food, financial assistance or tele-mental health counseling, please call the number for your area listed below 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday. Services have expanded to include assistance in applying for state and federal benefits if you have lost work due to the COVID-19 Pandemic:

  • Sarasota/Manatee/DeSoto/Hardee/Highlands counties: 844-385-2407,
  • Charlotte/Lee/Hendry/Glades counties: 844-385-2423,
  • Collier County: 844-385-2404.

Food distribution

Catholic Charities food distribution will take place only at the following times and locations. Please call the regional number for more information.

  • Monday-Friday, 9-11 a.m., Guadalupe Social Services, 211 S. 9th St., Immokalee, the Soup Kitchen is providing take-out/meals-to-go;
  • Tuesdays, 9-11:30 a.m., Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center, 3174 Tamiami Trail E., Naples;
  • Thursdays, 9 a.m.-noon, St. Margaret Parish, 208 Dean Duff St., Clewiston;
  • Fridays, 9-11 a.m., St. Leo the Great Parish, 28360 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs;
  • Fridays, 9 a.m.-noon, Elizabeth K. Galeana Pantry, 4235 Michigan Avenue Link, Fort Myers;
  • 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month, 9-11 a.m., St. Paul Parish, 1208 E. Oak St. Arcadia.

Prayer to Overcome Racism

Mary, friend and mother to all, through your Son, God has found a way to unite himself to every human being, called to be one people, sisters and brothers to each other.

We ask for your help in calling on your Son, seeking forgiveness for the times when we have failed to love and respect one another.

We ask for your help in obtaining from your Son the grace we need to overcome the evil of racism and to build a just society. We ask for your help in following your Son, so that prejudice and animosity will no longer infect our minds or hearts but will be replaced with a love that respects the dignity of each person.

Mother of the Church, the Spirit of your Son Jesus warms our hearts: pray for us. Amen.

Dispensation

While the celebration of public Mass resumed May 18, 2020, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announced that the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in effect through Sept. 1, 2020 for those who are at greater risk or anxious about returning at this time. The Faithful ought not to worry about remaining home if they are concerned for their wellbeing or that of other parishioners. Of course, those who are sick or have symptoms associated with COVID-19 are to stay home. Please check the Diocese of Venice website for any updates on any extension of the dispensation to attend Mass.

Livestreaming

The Diocese of Venice Mass will continue livestream through the Diocese website (www.dioceseofvenice.org) and Facebook pages from the Catholic Center in Venice 9:15 a.m. daily so long as the dispensation to attend Mass remains.

Sunday Televised Mass

The Televised Mass for the Homebound is available throughout the Diocese each Sunday. In northern parts of the Diocese (Manatee, Highlands, Hardee, Sarasota, DeSoto and Charlotte counties) the Mass airs on television at 9:30 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Collier, Lee, Glades, Hendry, Charlotte counties) the Mass airs at 10:30 a.m., on WFTX-TV (FOX-4). This same Mass can be found on the Diocese of Venice website at any time during the week, www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass. Please check local listings for channel information.

Parish donations

During this challenging time in the life and mission of the Diocese of Venice, our Parishes face increased risk of financial shortfalls due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and its effects on everyday life. Parishes depend on weekly financial gifts to continue their ministries, especially in this critical time of crisis. The Diocese of Venice is providing an online platform and encourages the Faithful to support their Parish. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/ways-to-give/parish-donations-online/ to donate to your Parish. The Faithful may also contribute through their usual channels (e.g., envelopes, and through the Parish online giving option). Together we will navigate through this crisis, provide assistance to those in need, and secure the road ahead for the Parishes within the Diocese of Venice.

Online Resources

A special coronavirus webpage is located on the Diocese of Venice website homepage at www.dioceseofvenice.org. Resources include links to the Mass, the prayer for Act of the Spiritual Communion, videos of the Stations of the Cross, Divine Mercy Chaplet and Pray the Rosary. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website, www.usccb.org, also posts the daily Mass readings.

Act of Spiritual Communion

It has long been a Catholic understanding that when circumstances prevent one from receiving Holy Communion, it is possible to make an Act of Spiritual Communion which is a source of grace. Spiritual Communion means uniting one’s self in prayer with Christ’s sacrifice and worshiping Him in His Body and Blood.

The most common reason for making an Act of Spiritual Communion is when a person cannot attend Mass, as is the case during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Acts of Spiritual Communion increase our desire to receive sacramental Communion and help us avoid the sins that would make us unable to receive Holy Communion worthily.

For all who will not be able to receive the Holy Eucharist in person, consider this special prayer, an Act of Spiritual Communion:

My Jesus,
I believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,

and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there

and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.
Amen.

Safety During Hurricanes

As the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season continues (June 1-Nov. 30), a prayer is presented here by which one asks God for protection and safety from the storms that often threaten Southwest Florida. With the formation of Tropical Storm Arthur in med-May, it promises to be another busy season of watching the tropics. We must all remember the devastating effect of Hurricane Irma from 2017 and what was witnessed when Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle in 2018, everyone in the Diocese of Venice knows and understands the power of these storms and the suffering which follows in their wake.

 

 

O God, Master of this passing world,

hear the humble voices of your children.

The Sea of Galilee obeyed Your order

and returned to its former quietude.

You are still the Master of land and sea.

We live in the shadow of a danger over which we have no control:

the Gulf, like a provoked and angry giant, can awake from its seeming lethargy,

overstep its conventional boundaries, invade our land, and spread chaos and disaster.

During this hurricane season we turn to You, O loving Father.

Spare us from past tragedies whose memories are still so vivid

and whose wounds seem to refuse to heal with passing of time.

O Virgin, Star of the Sea, Our beloved Mother, we ask you

to plead with your Son on our behalf,

so that spared from the calamities common to this area

and animated with a true spirit of gratitude,

we will walk in the footsteps of your Divine Son

to reach the heavenly Jerusalem,

where a stormless eternity awaits us. Amen.

Food demand remains high in Arcadia

Francisco Hernandez does not want to go to the food pantry run by Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. at St. Paul Parish in Arcadia, but he has little choice. “I have to feed my children.”

Hernandez was inside one of dozens of vehicles which stopped by the food pantry on the morning of June 12, 2020, which is open the second and fourth Fridays of each month to help families impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic. The food distribution efforts began in late May coinciding with drastic increases in local unemployment as farming in the area reduced or ceased operations.

“I was working 60-70 hours a week,” said Hernandez about his work on a nearby farm. “I worked 10 hours this week and was fortunate for that.”

The rural farming community relies on the agricultural industry for jobs but disruptions in nationwide demand caused farms to shorten or alter their production seasons leaving many with no work.

With five children, Hernandez said he knows of other assistance available in the community, but he trusts Catholic Charities. “The Church is here for us. We support the Church when we can. Now we can’t, so they are helping us. God bless you all,” he said as bags of food were loaded into the back of his vehicle.

Some of the vehicles which came through the distribution line were picking up food for multiple families which didn’t have transportation. The food, mostly dry goods – such as rice, beans and canned food – should support families for a few weeks.

Gloria Romero, the Catholic Charities Regional Director covering the programs in Sarasota, Manatee, and DeSoto counties, said the agency is meeting a specific need in the community.

“We know that this food makes a difference in the lives of the people we serve,” Romero explained. “Taking away the worry about whether or not they will be able to adequately feed their children is a big deal. We are in this for the long-haul.”

The food pantry at St. Paul Parish in Arcadia is one of six distribution points strategically located throughout the Diocese of Venice. Since mid-March thousands of individuals and families have been assisted with more than 450,000 pounds of food. That total does not even include the thousands of others who have received financial assistance for emergency bills or those who are seeking help through tele-mental health counseling.

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. is in urgent need of your financial support during its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To help, please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org/donate or send a check to: Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc., 5824 Bee Ridge Road, PMB 409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065.

If you need assistance from Catholic Charities for food, financial assistance or tele-mental health counseling, please call the number for your area listed below from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday. Services have expanded to include assistance in applying for state and federal benefits if you have lost work due to the COVID-19 Pandemic:

  • Sarasota/Manatee/DeSoto/Hardee/Highlands counties: 844-385-2407,
  • Charlotte/Lee/Hendry/Glades counties: 844-385-2423,
  • Collier County: 844-385-2404.

Food distribution

Catholic Charities food distribution will take place only at the following times and locations. Please call the regional number for more information.

  • Monday-Friday, 9-11 a.m., Guadalupe Social Services, 211 S. 9th St., Immokalee, Soup Kitchen providing take-out/meals-to-go;
  • Tuesdays, 9-11:30 a.m., Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center, 3174 Tamiami Trail E., Naples;
  • Thursdays, 9 a.m.-noon, St. Margaret Parish, 208 Dean Duff St., Clewiston;
  • Fridays, 9-11 a.m., St. Leo the Great Parish, 28360 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs;
  • Fridays, 9 a.m.-noon, Elizabeth K. Galeana Pantry, 4235 Michigan Avenue Link, Fort Myers;
  • 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month, 9-11 a.m., St. Paul Parish, 1208 E. Oak St. Arcadia.

Helping brothers and sisters in need

Crisis brings out best in people

“We would be here even if it was to help one family.”

This was the assertion made by Maria DeJesus the director of St. Jude Parish Food Pantry in Sarasota. In existence since the Parish was founded in 2006, the food pantry, which sits in a mobile home at the rear of the Parish property, normally assists a few dozen families each week. Most of these families are down on their luck or in need of emergency supplies because of other unexpected expenses.

The COVID-19 Pandemic changed the dynamics in the community as many families were struck with unforeseen job loss as well as an uncertain future. “We jumped to helping more than 120 families each week,” DeJesus explained. “It was shocking, but we responded in the best way we could; with prayers, hard work and the grace of God.”

Appeals for financial support went out and the faithful responded either with food or financial donations. With All Faith’s Food Bank – a primary source for supplies – nearly depleted because of the same demand, DeJesus and other volunteers purchased food at local stores – whatever they could get their hands on.

“It was tough,” she explained. “The stores didn’t have much, but we talked to the managers and they worked with us to get what we needed. They understood that our food was feeding people who might otherwise starve without our help.”

Starvation might seem like an extreme statement, but when families lose jobs and bills continued to come in, difficult choices must be made. Food becomes a luxury item and as the home cupboards emptied, they turned to the one place they trusted – the Parish.

Father Celestino Gutierrez, Pastor of St. Jude, said he is proud of the work being done through the food pantry and ensure they have what is needed to meet the demand.

“When we built the Church, I made sure we had this food pantry,” he explained. “I purchased this used mobile home (which holds the pantry) so that we had something when people came to us for help, we would always be there.”

Father Gutierrez said the Catholic Church is a beacon of hope for the world and in turn the Parish food pantry is an important part of that hope for the local community. “We are called by Jesus to help the least of our brothers (Matt 25:40). We must always remember to do that.”

As a vehicle approached on a recent Wednesday evening, the driver’s face was unfamiliar, but the story was not: job loss, hardship, worry, need.

Two overflowing bags of food were loaded into the back of the vehicle as the driver said she was thankful and wanted to get out and give them a hug. Of course, there are no hugs during social distancing, but the thanks and gesture were appreciated.

DeJesus said the peak demand has tapered off since mid-June as businesses are reopening and people go back to work, but there are still upwards of 60-80 families coming to the food pantry during the two distribution times each week (5-6:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 8:30-9:30 a.m. Saturdays). That translates to hundreds of mouths being fed. The pantry offers food that will last families for about two weeks, offering various dry good, and when available, meat, fruit and vegetables.

“No matter the demand, we will be here,” DeJesus said.

That same attitude is found at other Parishes which established emergency food pantries. St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples set up its emergency food pantry in the Spirit Center, a place where receptions and fun events normally take place. Directed by John Toti, the Parish Events Coordinator in other times, who noted that locally those working in service industries were particularly hard hit and requests for help came pouring in, even as the Parish offices were closed to visitors.

“In the past we would have either directed them to go to Catholic Charities or the St. Vincent de Paul Society, or even given them a gift card to a nearby store,” Toti explained. “But everyone was hit with demand all at once, so we knew we had to do something else.”

An emergency request was made to Catholic Charities and the response was positive as Toti previously volunteered at the nearby Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center, a facility run by Catholic Charities which includes a large food pantry. A general appeal to parishioners for donations generated its own overwhelming response and for the past eight weeks food has been made available to all.

“It is the right thing to do,” Toti said. “We are here every day (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) and provide a good mix of food that will last.”

While St. Jude and St. Peter the Apostle are not the only Parishes to step up during this crisis, either through their own food pantry or through donations from local organizations, the acts of generosity is not limited to these groups.

For example, St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota recently announced the generosity of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School student and St. Martha Alumnus, Mallory Albritton who heard about needy local families and decided to help.

Mallory, along with Total Tennis Sarasota owner, Phil Perrla and his wife, Epp Miller, donated the meat from their hogs. Mallory bought hers through the 4H Market Swine Project with her own money ($1,300) specifically to donate to families while Perrla and Miller won theirs in the 4H Foundation Raffle. Mallory also paid with her own money to process the meat that was donated.

These donations will help seven families in need from St. Martha Catholic School, St. Mary Academy and Incarnation Catholic School, all in Sarasota. The donation included multiple packages of sausage, pork chops, ham steaks, hams, hocks, picnic shoulder, Boston butt, roast, spareribs and bacon!

Siobhan Young, St. Martha Principal, said she was visiting Albritton Fruit Farms a few weeks ago and was approached about the business wanting to donate the pork and asked if she knew anyone who was in the school that needed help. The farming family has had children and now grandchildren attend St. Martha.

“There are families at the schools that have lost jobs and were regularly using food pantries to sustain them,” Young explained. “The meat they received is up to a 4-week supply.”

These are just a few examples of the action taking place throughout the Diocese of Venice, not just in Parishes but by individuals. The hard work taking place is often done without fanfare or recognition, but it is an effort that is making a difference to our brothers and sisters in need.

If you know of any acts of kindness during the COVID-19 Pandemic that you think should be recognized, please contact Bob Reddy at 941-486-4701 or reddy@dioceseofvenice.org.

 

How to help

St. Jude Parish Food Pantry

3930 17th St., Sarasota, FL 34235

941-955-3934

www.stjudesarasota.com/support-us

 

St. Peter the Apostle Parish

5130 Rattlesnake Hammock Road

Naples, FL 34113

www.stpeternaples.org

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