Emerald Ball celebrates 40th

The 40th Annual Emerald Ball was a great success! Held on March 14, 2024, at the Ritz Carlton Tiburon in Naples, proceeds from the elegant evening will go to support the many programs of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., in Collier County.

The enthusiastic crowd was dressed in elegant eveningwear and the Ball included fine dining, lots of dancing, upbeat music, and a spirited live auction with the “Gift from the Heart” bringing in many enthusiastic bidders. The theme, “Believe the incredible and you can do the impossible,” was inspired by a quote from Venerable Fulton J. Sheen.

Peggy Rodriguez, District Director, welcomed everyone to the evening and explained the different outreach work Catholic Charities is doing and continues to do for the community daily. This work includes helping families in need cope with food or housing insecurity, as well as continuing to assist those who are recovering from Hurricane Ian which caused severe damage in 2022.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane said the 40th Emerald Ball marks a significant milestone in the collective journey of compassion and generosity for those in need in Collier County, recognizing Ball Committee Chair Barbara L. Siniscalchi and other dedicated volunteers and staff who tirelessly worked to make the evening a huge success.

Programs supported by the Ball include the Judy Sullivan Family Resources Center and Family Counseling Center in Naples, and Guadalupe Social Services in Immokalee, each offering a variety of targeted outreaches to help those in need.

If you would like to support the programs of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org.

News Briefs for the week of January 12, 2024

Annual Mass held for circus and traveling show workers

Each year the circus and travelling show workers of the United States gather for three days to thank God for their continued blessings. This retreat was Jan. 5-7, 2024, at St. Martha Parish in downtown Sarasota, which is designated the “National Circus Parish.” The pastoral workers, who ensure that the Sacraments are available and maintained for travelling show people, function under the direction of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Cultural Diversity’s Subcommittee on the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers (PCMRT). Bishop Frank J. Dewane is the Episcopal Liaison for the Circus Ministry of the PCMRT. Bishop Dewane celebrated the closing Mass on Jan. 7, the Epiphany of the Lord, and he was assisted by several of the priests who serve the circus and traveling show workers. A special moment during the Mass occurred when Sister Joanna Okereke, a Handmaid of the Holy Child Jesus and assistant director of the PCMRT subcommittee, renewed her religious vows. This is done annually on the Epiphany of the Lord, and was presided over by Bishop Dewane, and witnessed by the faithful present.

9 Days for Life novena begins Jan. 16

The faithful are encouraged to pray “9 Days for Life,” an annual Respect Life novena starting Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. In the Catholic Church, a ‘novena’ consists of prayers over nine successive days, and this particular novena is an opportunity for prayer and reparation in observance of the annual Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children on Jan. 22. The overarching intention of the novena is the end to abortion. Each daily prayer intention highlights a related topic and is accompanied by a reflection, educational information, and suggested daily actions. Participants may access the novena and also subscribe to receive the daily prayers by email or text message in English at 9daysforlife.com or in Spanish at respectlife.org/9-dias-por-la-vida.

Migrant Care Grants application period open

Grant requests for funding of projects in 2024 are available from the Foundation for the Care of the Migrant Poor Fund and need to be submitted no later than Friday, March 31, 2024. To be considered a grant, the project must clearly be seen as a service to the migrant poor or new immigrants. Preference will be given to those projects under Catholic auspices. Applications can be submitted by visiting https://www.grantinterface.com/Home/Logon?urlkey=ccfsf.

New mural adorns Verot building

Students returned back from Christmas break at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers on Jan. 8, 2024, and were greeted by a new sight on campus! Eric Riemenschneider, a graphic design teacher, was busy during the past few weeks working on a new mural outside, in the cafeteria courtyard. The mural reads VEROT in bold letters on a blue background. Within the letters are symbols of school life, hands clasped together in prayer, caps tossed at graduation, St. Francis de Sales and Bishop Verot, patrons of the school, athletes in action, and the school Viking logo. Above the VEROT image is a large white cross. The mural is not complete, weather delayed the progress, but judging by its look so far, it will inspire Bishop Verot students for years to come.

Prayer Walk for Life Jan. 20 in Ave Maria

The Respect Life Ministry of Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria is hosting its 3rd annual Prayer Walk for Life, 10 a.m., Jan. 20. The walk begins with remarks from Bishop Frank J. Dewane and other dignitaries at the university football stadium and will then proceed through the university and conclude in the town square. More than 1,000 took part in 2023.

Knights on Bikes deliver toys to Clewiston mission

The Knights on Bikes, a motorcycle club of the Knights of Columbus, rode out to Santa Rosa de Lima Mission in Montura Ranch Estates, just south of Clewiston, on Jan. 6, 2024, the Feast of the Epiphany. There they delivered and distributed toys to migrant children in the community.  The Knights on Bikes mission is to promote and adhere to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, and evangelize through fellowship, charity, and service.

WARNING – Text/Email SCAM Alert

It has once again been brought to the attention of the Diocese of Venice that parishioners have received text/email messages from people pretending to be clergy – including Bishop Frank J. Dewane – or Parish/school staff, requesting donations in the form of gift cards and/or wire transfers. It is Diocesan policy that neither the Bishop, nor priests or staff request donations in the form of gift cards, PayPal, MoneyGram, etc. Without this awareness, some have responded to the spoofed messages, with consequences, including loss of funds. There is an established process in place on how parishioners can make donations and participate in the life of the Diocese/Parish/school. If you receive such a SCAM text or email, please immediately contact the Diocesan/Parish/school directly!

22nd Annual Christmas Appeal comes at critical time

“Providing Help, Creating Hope, Serving All!” – the mission statement of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc.

Catholic Charities continues to bring hope to families and people in need in Southwest Florida, thanks to the generosity of benefactors who support the many programs of Catholic Charities throughout the year.

Catholic Charities assisted more than 335,000 people in need, providing a wide range of services throughout the 10-county Diocese of Venice this year. Service included emergency assistance, food and housing assistance, counseling and mental health services, and programs for seniors and children. For example: $3,000,000 provided financial assistance to keep families housed and fed in the post-pandemic period and recovery; 1,000 families and seniors were provided housing assistance; disaster relief continued for more than 100,000 impacted by Hurricane Ian; 5,000 services were provided to victims of human trafficking; and more than 270,000 hungry children and individuals were assisted at numerous food pantries.

To enable Catholic Charities to continue to do its vital work, the 22nd Annual Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal is taking place now through January 2024. A donation strengthens Catholic Charities to provide this much-needed support.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane noted that the support of Catholic Charities by the faithful of Southwest Florida is inspiring and critical to ensure “our brothers and sisters in Christ continue to receive the help and support they need. Please remember that every number represents a child, family or individual who relied on the support of Catholic Charities to get through a crisis. Catholic Charities does a wonderful job in providing programs that not only help in a crisis but assist in improving daily the lives of those they reach. Your support is appreciated, and critical!”

In an appeal letter to supporters, Eddie Gloria, CEO of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, and Rita Cavuto, Chair of the Board of Directors, wrote, “This Christmas, help us to continue to bring the message of God’s hope. Your donation this Season holds the power to uplift the lives of people in need. Each person and family seeking assistance faces unique challenges. Your help allows Catholic Charities to develop the programs and services to meet these diverse needs.”

Perhaps the personal testimony of beneficiaries says it best:


  • Judith of Cape Coral, a victim of Hurricane Ian, said of Catholic Charities, “I was granted a place to live, and they helped me pay my bills and it was a tremendous blessing. May God continue to bless their heart and their mind and the good work that they’re doing for people. They helped me to put myself back on my feet.”


  • Nicolas of Naples said, “I was struggling financially with my health. I reached out to Catholic Charities, and they assisted me with a medical bill and a portion of my rent. I’m truly grateful for the help and can’t thank you enough.”


  • Alexa, a graduate of the Our Mother’s House program for homeless moms and their children, said, “Our Mother’s House provided me with the help I needed to get back on my feet and care for my son. Now I feel joy, and I am hopeful about the future – because now I have one.”

This is just a small sampling of the many positive outcomes Catholic Charities has been privileged to support during the past year and they are prepared for the possibilities of tomorrow because of donations to the annual Christmas Appeal.

To support the 22nd Annual Christmas Appeal, please mail a contribution to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285, or visit https://catholiccharitiesdov.org/donate.

“No matter the amount of your gift, when combined with others, it will make a significant difference for those who turn to us for help!” the appeal letter concluded.

Thanksgiving celebrated across the Diocese

The idea of giving thanks, knowing that we are here because of gifts given to us by God, is at the core of what Thanksgiving is all about.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane described the holiday this way while celebrating Mass at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch on Nov. 23, 2023.

As hard as we try, Bishop Dewane added, “being who God called us to be is difficult, and we will fail along the way. But, the Bible records the wonderful gifts of God, which we can find within ourselves and in others who are all made in the image and likeness of God.”

The Gospel reading of the day (Luke 17:11-19) was the parable of the 10 lepers, when only one returned to thank Jesus upon being cured of the debilitating illness. Jesus asks where the other nine were. Bishop Dewane stressed how we are all among the missing nine at certain points in our life, but we must always strive to be among the ones who return.

“By your presence at Mass on Thanksgiving, you are counted among those who returned to Jesus, just as you came to give thanks to God today. Know the Lord sees the goodness in you and thanks you,” Bishop Dewane said.

Meanwhile, Bishop Dewane went from the Mass in Lakewood Ranch to take part in a free community Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the Knights of Columbus Our Lady of Victory Council 3358 at their Hall on Fruitville Road in Sarasota.

The Knights delivered more than 200 meals to the elderly and homebound and then served hundreds more meals to those who needed a hot meal or didn’t have anywhere to go for the holiday. Guests were also encouraged to take meals home. Those meals included turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, roll, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

Bishop Dewane offered the opening prayer for the Knights and other volunteers before the dining room was opened. Then, the Bishop took his traditional spot in charge of serving the corn and later assisted with the stuffing and gravy.

Being grateful for what they have was a strong theme during Traditional Thanksgiving events throughout the Diocese of Venice.

St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral hosted a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for the second year in a row with 144 meals served. The first dinner in 2022 came about when many were still recovering from Hurricane Ian and Father Ricky Varner, Pastor at St. Katherine Drexel, organized different Parishes groups to make certain dishes to help people. It is now an annual tradition cherished by many.

In Naples, at St. Peter the Apostle, Pastor Father Gerard Critch started the Parish Thanksgiving dinner more than 10 years ago to ensure “no one will spend Thanksgiving alone.” Following a trilingual Mass (English, Spanish, Creole), the dinner served 300.

On Nov. 22, students from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota volunteered and served food at the 23rd Annual Sarasota Ministerial Association Thanksgiving Dinner at St. Martha Parish in Sarasota. This was the fifteenth year Mooney students helped support this event.

At St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway happened on Nov. 18, in conjunction with the weekly Saturday Food Pantry. More than 200 turkeys with all the fixings were given away. On the same day, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., in Immokalee, delivered meals with all the trimmings to more than 150 families.

Gratitude for the many blessings enjoyed by the Diocese of Venice was widespread, and heartfelt!

Food drives support needy during holidays

Throughout November, students at the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools rallied to collect thousands of food items which were donated to local food pantries just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.

At St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers, the Junior National Honor Society organized the food drive with more than 4,000 items collected in during a two-week period. Meanwhile, at St. Andrew Catholic School students in Cape Coral donated 1,540 pounds of food. A similar food drive at St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring garnered some 2,000 canned goods. These are just some of the impressive responses to a call for need in the area.

The Diocesan high schools were not to be outdone by their younger counterparts. Huge deliveries of food from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School went out on Nov. 17, 2023, to four local food pantries. In addition, the school donated more than $1,200 in gift cards for use at area grocery stores. Similar scenes played out at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, and Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School includes all grades and held a similar food drive.

Beneficiaries of the food collected by the students throughout the Diocese included the regional Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., food pantries, the Harry Chapin Food Bank in Fort Myers, All Faiths Food Bank in Sarasota, as well as individual Parish food pantries.

For example, one of the beneficiaries of the items collected at Cardinal Mooney was the St. Joseph Food Pantry, which distributes needed food to more than 1,800 families each month in Manatee County, or about 6,500 individuals.

Pantry Director Dan Friedrich said the demand from needy families for food has increased in the past year as the cost of items has skyrocketed. While donations go up during the holidays, the demand is there year-round.

The generosity of the families at the Diocesan Catholic schools will go a long way in helping those in need this holiday season.

While dry food donations are accepted at all food pantries, monetary donations are greatly appreciated as this money can be leveraged to purchase more items from regional food banks. To support Catholic Charities, please visit https://catholiccharitiesdov.org/donate. To support the St. Joseph Food Pantry, please visit https://stjoepantry.com/donate.

Boots and Bandanas helps support Ian recovery

Nearly a year ago the winds and flooding rains of Hurricane Ian displaced many families in DeSoto, Hardee and Highlands counties. Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., was on the front lines helping desperate people get the basics necessary for survival.

Today, the recovery is ongoing but the need to support families in the region remains. Large swaths of these counties had severe wind damage compounded by river flooding that washed away homes and displaced thousands of families.

In support of the ongoing recovery efforts in the region, the Boots and Bandanas Gala took place on Sept. 23, 2024, at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch. On hiatus for the past few years, the event has a country-western theme which reflects the rural communities.

Catholic Charities programs is this region includes food pantries, farmworker housing, financial assistance, after school programming, and much more.

“Your support will go a long way to helping these needy families get the help they need,” said Eddie Gloria, CEO of Catholic Charities. “There continues to be a tremendous need in this area even a year after Ian.”

Gloria said that Catholic Charities helped more than 100,000 in the first months following the hurricane on Sept. 28, 2022, but that the demand for continued assistance in the rural communities of DeSoto, Hardee, and Highlands counties remains high.

After Ian, St. Paul Parish in Arcadia and St. Michael Parish in Wauchula served as distribution points for food and water and other emergency supplies, even while floodwaters surrounded the communities.

In fact, at both Parishes, people rallied to bring fresh food and hot meals to help feed their neighbor in need. In Wauchula, the religious sisters hosted an evening barbeque for two weeks after the storm passed. In addition, at both Parishes, donated clothing was also made available for those families who lost everything to flooding. Later, donated furniture and other necessities for rebuilding lives were donated and distributed. That work continues one year later.

In addition, Catholic Charities, helped by volunteers, organized a point of distribution of food, water, tarps, cleaning supplies and more, with the assistance of the National Guard and FEMA.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was one of many who volunteered his time at both locations in the days following Ian and saw the need in the area. While Bishop Dewane was unable to be at the Boots and Bandanas Gala due to a prior commitment, a message of gratitude for the ongoing support of Catholic Charities was shared.

The Boots and Bandanas event was on hiatus because of Hurricane Ian and other logistical issues, before Father Sebastian Szczawínski, Pastor of Our Lady of the Angels, enthusiastically offered to host the gala for the first time.

The evening included a live auction item of dinner with Father Szczawínski, which two bidders won, as well as a wide assortment of silent auction items. The meal was provided by Mission BBQ, while the music was from Arcadia native Andy Pursell and his band.

“We’re happy that all these people came out, and we’re loving the fact that we can wear these boots and bandanas and make it a fun night for everyone,” Gloria said.

If you would like to support Catholic Charities in its mission to help those in need, please visit https://catholiccharitiesdov.org/.

Many work to make Thanksgiving joyful

Thanksgiving is an annual national holiday to praise and give thanks to God for our blessings of food and life.

In preparation for the holiday, many volunteered to help those who are less fortunate or who are struggling in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

Parishes and Diocesan Catholic school students collected thousands of cans of food and other items to help fill local food pantries. Many also volunteered to distribute food as lines of vehicles twisted through parking lots in hopes of getting items for a hearty meal this year. Some Parishes hosted pre-Thanksgiving dinners to bring holiday cheer wherever they could.

For example, St. Andrew Catholic School students in Cape Coral donated 1,630 pounds of food to a local food pantry while at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, the student there collected 1,253 items. Similarly, St. John Neumann Catholic School students in Naples held their own food drive to benefit Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., collecting and delivering 6,423 canned goods.

The beneficiary of the St. John Neumann food drive was the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center of Catholic Charities in Naples. The Thanksgiving food distribution there took place on Nov. 22, 2022.

Allegra Belliard, Program Director, supervised as a steady stream of grateful families came and received a turkey and ham as well as bags of food. The turkey and ham meals were courtesy of Publix Charities.

Belliard said the demand is higher in 2022 as compared to the height of the COVD-19 pandemic. This is because the cost of food is much higher due to inflation combined with many people being out of work because of Ian. The hurricane damaged or destroyed many homes, businesses, and resorts, dramatically impacting those in the service industry. Among the places damaged was the Family Resource Center itself. Storm surge flowed through the building and surrounding neighborhood, but the food pantry part of the building was open within a few weeks as the demand remained high.

Cordelia Fulton felt blessed to have Catholic Charities provide food for her family. “Bless you all,” the mother of three who has been unemployed since Ian said. “It will be a happy Thanksgiving in our home.”

Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities in Immokalee did their own food distribution on Nov. 19. This area had some damage during Hurricane Ian, but the greatest impacts were to the crops which are an important resource for work in the rural community.

Peggy Rodriguez, Catholic Charities Regional Director for Collier County, said teams of volunteers packed more 700 bags of food ahead of Thanksgiving, above what is normally distributed each week. About 200 of those bags were dispersed directly from the Guadalupe Social Services food pantry. Meanwhile, several agencies worked together to deliver the balance of the food to 500 more families who were unable to arrive during regular hours.

Students from St. Joseph Catholic School show off the items collected during a Thanksgiving food drive on Nov. 18, 2022, to benefit the St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton.

In Manatee County, where hurricane damage was scattered, the demand for food ahead of Thanksgiving was still very high at the St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton.

A line of vehicles filled with families seeking a turkey with all the trimmings, twisted its way through the parking lot of St. Joseph Parish on Nov. 21. In a three-day period, the pantry expected to distribute food to 800 families. A generous donation of 2,000 turkeys the week before Thanksgiving enabled the pantry to give every family a turkey, something that isn’t always possible.

Sylvia Trotter said she has been struggling to feed her family while juggling expenses such as caring for two children and her parents. “We combine our money for important things, and we doubted that we would celebrate Thanksgiving this year,” Trotter said. “Everything is a luxury now, which makes these wonderful (volunteers) my heroes.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane offered the following Thanksgiving message to the faithful of the Diocese:

“Greetings to all and a Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving! In this season of gratitude, let us remember to give thanks to God who has given many great gifts to all. The greatest gift God has given is the body and blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, in the Eucharist. The word “Eucharist” actually means “an act of thanksgiving to God”. By participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we are united as one body, one human family, in Christ.

On Thanksgiving Day, I extend my gratitude to all here in the Diocese of Venice, and to the many around the country, who so generously have provided aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. Know that you remain in my prayers.

Happy Thanksgiving! Have a Blessed Advent Season!”

If you would like to support Catholic Charities, please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org or if you would like to support the Diocesan effort to recover from Hurricane Ian, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/hurricaneian.

Catholic Charities continues response to Ian

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., has worked tirelessly to care for the most vulnerable, since Hurricane Ian struck Southwest Florida on Sept. 28, 2022. The numbers are astounding; Catholic Charites has served 107,000+ people, organized 1,900+ volunteers, provided 21,000+ hot meals, and distributed 2,500+ tons of supplies.

The demand was great,” said Eddie Gloria, CEO of Catholic Charities DOV. “Catholic Charities stepped up to do what had to be done even as many of our staff and volunteers suffered losses from Ian.”

While there were 10 official Hurricane Ian Disaster Response distribution points, a few other locations received supplies as the needs in additional areas became apparent. By early November, the number of Catholic Charities disaster response sites had dropped to six (three in Lee County, and one each in Charlotte, DeSoto, and Hardee counties), as the response has transitioned more to recovery and support.

“When new needs arose, there was a call for help and the response was outstanding,” Gloria said. “The generosity of people in times of crisis never ceases to amaze me.”

The basics of food and water were available at each site, some from donations of individuals, families, Parishes, non-profit groups and even corporations. The majority of what was distributed was in the form of FEMA Disaster Relief supplies, which included cases of bottled water and boxes of meals-ready-to-eat.

Nearly 127 semis, and an unknown number of other supply vehicles, brought the basics to sites in Bonita Springs, Fort Myers, Port Charlotte, Arcadia, Wauchula, Naples, North Port, Cape Coral and Venice.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane said Catholic Charities in the Diocese has been “doing a yeoman’s job in striving to get to those who are most severely impacted by the hurricane.”

Bishop Dewane and Gloria both expressed their gratitude for the influx of donations of supplies and money in the wake of Ian, knowing that this support is making a difference on the ground each day.

While the initial crisis has passed and the demand for food and water has dropped, the work of Catholic Charities is far from over, in fact it is really just beginning.

Clint Branam, Catholic Charities COO, said that as people got power back and water became safe to drink again, the needs of those most severely impacted by Ian changed.

“We are past the first phase, which is responding to the immediate aftermath of this disaster,” Branam said. “Now we are focusing on helping people rebuild their lives. This means case management and support with getting people back into their homes whenever possible. Even if a family didn’t have serious damage in the storm, many had time off from work that they really could not afford. Others had damage they cannot afford to take care of, and still others need to relocate.”

These unexpected expenses are difficult in the best of times but can be more devastating than the winds of Ian for low-income families. The added destruction of many businesses means the number of people out of work is immense. Combine a damaged home and possible long-term unemployment and the second disaster from Hurricane Ian is not far behind.

For this reason, all Catholic Charities offices within the Diocese are offering disaster support in the form of financial assistance for those who lost their home or work, or both.

While Catholic Charities will always accept donations of cleaning supplies and food such as rice, beans and cooking oil, the real need is for financial donations, Gloria said.

“There is no doubt about it, if someone wants to help now, and for the foreseeable future, monetary donations are desperately needed,” he said. “We are transitioning into intensive long-term disaster case management. This helps people get back on their feet and has a heavier financial component. Catholic Charities will be helping people recover until there is no longer a need.”

If you need help:

For those in need of help, please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org. There you will find an updated list of distribution points for food, water, and supplies, and how to receive other help.

To donate:

For those interested in making a financial donation to the Diocesan response to Hurricane Ian, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/hurricaneian, or send a check to Diocese of Venice in Florida, ATTN: Hurricane Ian Relief, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

Scam Alert:

In the wake of Hurricane Ian, there are those who will take advantage of the vulnerable or those who seek the vulnerable during a crisis. When corresponding with someone – whether a contractor, an agency or person in need – be diligent and make sure the person or business is legitimate before handing over any money or personal information. In addition, if you are contacted with a request for money via email or text, and the message appears as though it is from a Diocesan priest or employee, do not reply. Instead, make direct contact with the person by calling the Parish and asking to speak with the priest or employee.

News Briefs for the Week of November 4, 2022

Diocesan Seminarian admitted to candidacy

Bishop Frank J. Dewane presided over the Admission to Candidacy of 14 seminarians at Pope St. John XXIII Seminary, in Weston, Massachusetts, on Oct. 26, 2022. Among those admitted to candidacy was Diocese of Venice Seminarian Carlos Galeso. Each of the seminarians have been approved by their respective Bishops and will continue in their studies to become Catholic priests. Each man publicly expressed his intention to complete his preparation for Holy Orders and his resolve to fully invest himself to that calling.

World Youth Day 2023 Registration extended to Nov. 30!

Registration for World Youth Day 2023 to Lisbon, Portugal and has been extended to Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022. You are invited to join Bishop Frank J. Dewane for the trip to Lisbon with two nights in Fatima. This 11-day 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. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/evangelization/world-youth-day-2023/ for registration and further information.

Food pantry needs help ahead of Thanksgiving

The St. Joseph Food Pantry, 2704 33rd Ave. W., Bradenton, is seeking food donations ahead of Thanksgiving. Specifically needed are canned green beans, canned corn, canned sweet potatoes/yams, corn muffin mix, and boxed dressing. Donations can be delivered to to the Food Pantry Monday thru Friday 9 a.m. until noon. Please call 941-756-3732 or email directors@stjoepantry.com if you have any questions or need to make arrangements for drop off.  Year round, the pantry needs full-sized toiletries, cereal and oatmeal, canned tuna, peanut butter & jelly (in plastic containers only), spaghetti in boxes and canned tomato sauce (no glass), boxed macaroni & cheese, ketchup and mustard (in plastic containers only), salad dressing (in plastic containers only), shelf stable milk or dry milk, and breakfast bars. During the cooler months, there is also a need for clean, gently used or new, blankets or throws. NO clothing. The St. Joseph Food Pantry does not accept fresh or frozen food from donors. All such items are shipped from stores with which the pantry has a professional relationship, or from the Feeding Tampa Bay Food Bank. This policy follows USDA food safety guidelines. For more information, please visit www.stjoepantry.com.

Freshmen retreat shows off Mooney

What makes Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota different? The community of caring students. The freshmen class had their first retreat on Oct. 27, 2022, where the senior ministry students led them in prayer, played games, and provided a safe place to talk about their faith. The class of 2026 is the future of Mooney and spent the day together bonding. The theme of the day: “Called By Name” came from Isaiah 43:1, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”


Talents shine at Science Fair

The Incarnation Catholic School middle schoolers took part in a Science Fair in Sarasota on Oct. 28, 2022. The students did an amazing job impressing the judges, teachers and each other. Each student, or team, did various experiments and documented their results, including the purpose of the project, a hypothesis, materials and procedures to conduct the experiment, data collected and the results. This was all displayed, including various graphs and images, to be judged and available for others to learn.


Children join in celebrating World Mission Sunday

St. Paul Parish in Arcadia celebrated World Mission Sunday, on Oct. 23, 2022, with a procession of children wearing traditional clothing representing the different regions of the world. The children then sat on the steps of the altar while World Mission Sunday was explained. World Mission Sunday is celebrated in all the local Churches as the feast of Catholicity and universal solidarity so Christians the world over will recognize their common responsibility with regard to the evangelization of the world.

Pine Island residents seek solace at Parish

No structure in Matlacha or on Pine Island – home to fishermen, farmers, artists, and retirees – was spared the wrath of Hurricane Ian. The southern region was inundated with storm surge and had high winds, while the northern sections still had wind gusts more than 130 mph.

Fortunately, Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Parish in Bokeelia was spared the surge and catastrophic damage. While the church and Parish Hall had damaged tiles and some water inside both buildings, the Parish chapel and education building suffered the most severe impacts. The chapel, which was the original church, had an air conditioning unit torn out, exposing the building to heavy rain which damaged the interior.

However, having been spared the worst damage, Father Jacek Mazur, Miraculous Medal Pastor, had the church open for Mass on Sept. 29, 2022, the day after the storm. In attendance in the darkened church was one family of four. Masses remained in the dark for two weeks before power to the island was restored.

“And from there the numbers have steadily grown,” Father Mazur said. “It has been beautiful.”

Each Mass is filled with reunions of friends, with lots of hugs and smiles as everyone is asked how they fared during the storm.

The destruction to some parts of the community has brought a profound sadness to many, but all feel blessed and grateful to be alive and safe.

“The church is a place of reflection and comfort,” said Mary Davis, whose roof was partially torn off. “I feel so happy to be here and to see that the church is here and not badly damaged. It’s going to be okay. God was with us.”

Our Lady of Miraculous Medal is also the location of the Pine Island Food Pantry, which serves about 150 families a month and is supported by all of the churches on the island with additional assistance from Publix and Winn-Dixie, as well as the regional Harry Chapin Food Bank in Fort Myers.

Since Ian, the food pantry has been open nearly every day, with supplies going out almost as fast as relief was coming in from the outside, explained Diane Gleason, longtime resident and former Parish bookkeeper who now helps run the pantry.

“People have brought us everything from cleaning supplies and food and everything in between,” Gleason said. “We were running five days a week and have reduced to three days a week (effective Oct. 24) in person, and two days delivering to families who can’t get to the food pantry. These are the elderly, and the many who lost vehicles to the water.”

About a third of those seeking help were regulars before the storm, the rest are those in dire situations after. Donated items that have been dispersed beyond food and water include air mattresses, sheets, pillows, diapers, tarps, blankets, fans and cleaning supplies of all sorts.

Father Mazur, who remained on the island in the rectory during the storm, said during a Mass on Oct. 23, that Sacred Scriptures must remind us of the trust, love, mercy, and healing of the Lord.

“It is at this moment that we take a moment to examine our conscience; having been so touched by grace,” Father said, noting that many strangers came bringing all kinds of food and supplies; or offered help cleaning up or putting a tarp on a roof. “The Lord’s goodness toward the people He created is very beautiful and very tender, attentive to their needs and their condition.”

The Gospel reading for the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Luke 18: 9-14, the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee, was appropriate for those recovering from Ian, Father Mazur explained.

“The Lord hears the cry of the poor,” Father Mazur continued. “He rescues His people from all pain and distress. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, He saves those who are crushed. He’s not deaf to the widow when she pours out her complaint. All of us will be rescued, will be helped, will be comforted. Therefore, we proclaim, ‘I will praise the Lord at all times; His grace shall ever be in my mouth.’ Today’s Scripture calms our hearts and our spirits, reminding us to trust in God; to hope in His providence, in His protection and in His healing… We have been tried, but we are not abandoned.”