Generosity abounds leading to Thanksgiving

The generosity of the faithful, whether they are part of a Diocese of Venice Catholic School or Parish, knows no limits.

With many people struggling because of the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Thanksgiving for some seemed as if it could be without the basic needs of food on the table.

Food and fundraising drives at Diocesan Catholic Schools and Parishes, as well as through a variety of other organizations, stepped up to answer the call for help with a late season surge of food and monetary donations.

Students from St. John Neumann Catholic School in Naples held their annual Thanksgiving Food Drive for Catholic Charities and collected 4,837 cans. The students and faculty then delivered the items on Nov. 20, 2020 to the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center.

St. Columbkille Parish members of the Knights of Columbus delivered donated turkeys to St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven and then to St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston.

The St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton was also the beneficiary of the Knight of Columbus. The Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish Council donated money from the annual Msgr. Moretti Memorial Golf Tournament, which was used to purchase 100 frozen turkeys. Kindergarteners at St. Martha Catholic School also collected more than 200 pounds of food for the food pantry.

On Nov. 23, and 24, the St. Joseph Food Pantry loaded 1,500 frozen turkeys for families in need in lieu of the normal bag of food. The demand for food at the pantry has risen dramatically since the start of the Pandemic and thanks to donations like those from the Knights and Diocesan Catholic schools, there was enough to provide turkeys this year, ensuring everyone a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, St. William Parish in Naples is reaching out to those who are alone this Thanksgiving by calling parishioners during Thanksgiving week. These calls, to those added to a list of those who are alone, are to offer prayers and conversation; a human touch for those who remain necessarily isolated out of caution and concerns due to the Pandemic.

These are just a few of the examples of what took place in the Diocese of Venice leading up to Thanksgiving, showing that the faithful are filled with holiday spirit while also caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are less fortunate than ourselves.

Schools celebrate Thanksgiving

While some Catholic Schools focused on collecting food for others, students also learned about and did a variety of activities in celebration of the holiday before the break.

For example, at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice the pre-kindergarten-4 class learned about friendship, built a teepee, made Native American clothing and turned corn into popcorn. Fifth-grade students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers, had a Thanksgiving Day Balloon Parade! After reading “Balloons Over Broadway,” by Melissa Sweet, students were challenged to make their own balloon to fly in a class parade. Kindergarten students at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral celebrated Thanksgiving a little early on Nov. 17 with a classroom feast with all the trimmings.

Again, these are just a sampling of the many activities which took place at Diocesan Catholic School leading up to Thanksgiving.

Parish Outreach Center dedicated, blessed in Wauchula

The mission of the new St. Michael Outreach Center in Wauchula is to develop each person’s recognition of their individual dignity and worth through the cultivation of their emotional, spiritual, intellectual and social development. The Center’s supportive economic, therapeutic, and educational resources are designed to provide a healthy framework for personal and social growth within families and the community.

That mission was celebrated with a dedication and blessing ceremony of the Outreach Center by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Nov. 21, 2020. Participating in the ceremony were staff, volunteers, supporters and local government officials (including Hardee County Manager Lawrence McNaul), as well as the Servant Sisters of the Virgin Matara, the religious sisters who serve at St. Michael Parish. Among the supporters’ present were members of the Our Lady of the Angels Knights of Columbus.

The Outreach Center, purchased and remodeled by the Diocese of Venice, is designed for community outreach to low-income individuals/families and the migrant community. This includes overseeing a food bank and thrift store as well as having afterschool programming, immigration services, mental health counseling from Catholic Charities, and other classes for both children and adults.

As part of the ceremony, a prayer service, which included Bishop Dewane first incensing the exterior and interior of the building as well as blessing the building with holy water. The was followed by comments for key people involved in the Outreach Center.

Bishop Dewane praised everyone for their hard work noting that they are making a real difference in reaching out and providing needed services in this poor economically challenged community.

The blessing was delayed because of the COVID-19 Pandemic and participants wore masks as a precaution. Programming at the Center began several months ago but are limited due to social distancing requirements as well as the ongoing urgent need for supplies.

The afterschool program for kindergarten through fifth grade is supplementing the student’s education by providing small group teacher-led instruction to bring them up to grade level. This is necessary because many are simultaneously learning a second language. Teen helpers assist with homework and provide other guidance for the younger children. Included in the afterschool effort is handwriting and cursive instruction, character formation, as well as outdoor developmental playtime.

Chantelle Garcia, who is an elementary school teacher, assists with the afterschool program as tutor and program coordinator. Garcia explained that in the first three weeks of the program the children made great strides. “It is amazing to see the difference that was made in such a short period of time. Imagine how they will be in three months or longer. There is a wait list because families are learning how well those in the program are doing.”

While the Outreach Center is making a positive impact, there are urgent needs. These include basic school supplies (construction paper, card stock, paints/pastels, crayons, educational games, books) for younger children (K-5). There is also a demand for children’s underwear, socks, shoes and sneakers to help the poorer families provide necessities. Another need is for metal supply cabinets with locks, as well as shelves for storage.

“We are just getting started and we don’t have a lot of money in the community, so our needs are great,” explained Erika Wood, Outreach Center Coordinator.

Another example of a need is that of musical instruments. Thanks to a donation of a grand piano, the Outreach Center does offer piano lessons. However, only a few children are learning to play, while other music lessons are limited to teaching basic notes and rhythm. The wish list includes Yamaha electric pianos (with headphones) as well as other instruments, so as more children can learn at the same time.

Sister Gema Ruiz, who is the Director of Religious Education at St. Michael Parish, said it is a blessing to have the Outreach Center and for Bishop Dewane to be present for a blessing and dedication.

“We are providing needed services in this community and it is good to have the Bishop here to see our work and to inform the Diocese of the blessed work we are doing here in Wauchula,” Sister Gema said.

To learn more about how you can help the St. Michael Outreach Center, you can reach Erika Wood at 863-832-6904, Erika.wood@stmichaelwauchula.org, or you can send donations to: St. Michael Outreach Center, 317 N. 6th Ave., Wauchula, FL 33873.

News briefs for the week of Nov. 20, 2020

Vigil held for children killed by violence

A Candlelight Vigil was held Nov 7, 2020 at St. Joseph Church in Bradenton to honor the memory of the 1,080 children who have been killed by gun and domestic violence between Jan. 1, 2020 and Nov. 7, 2020. Each of the names of the children were read aloud, along with their age, city and state and a candle was lit for each and every child! Prayers were said by Father Shawn Roser and joined by both Deacon Ron Dains and Deacon Ron Ochner who read the names, while many joined in lighting candles for the lost children and their grieving families. A Manatee County Sheriff’s Deputy spoke on how hard this senseless loss of life is for law enforcement officers as well as all of us!

School supports charity, honors veterans

The National Junior Honor Society at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers collected more than 1,100 items of food to be delivered to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. This effort was made possible with the assistance of the Knights of Columbus. The school also delivered more than 150 Veteran’s Day cards made by students to Mission BBQ. Mission BBQ handed out free lunches to veterans on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2020, and with their lunch they each received a handmade card! The students were honored to make these cards and show their appreciation for our local community.

Student donates hair for third time

For the third time, Serafina Colonneso, a student at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, has donated 12 inches of her hair to Children With Hair Loss. Children With Hair Loss is a non-profit organization that provides human hair replacements at no cost to children and young adults facing medically-related hair loss. Way to go Serafina!

Catholic Charities programs seeking help during holidays

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. is in urgent need of donations ahead of the extended holiday season. With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, and Christmas not long afterwards there are thousands of families who are facing economic hardships this year exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic.

Since the Pandemic began, Catholic Charities has been on the front lines operating six food pantries and supporting several others. In seven months, between March 24 and Oct. 31, 2020, more than 1.5 million pounds of food have been distributed. In total, Catholic Charities has helped more than 150,000 with food and meals since the crisis began. Those numbers are double what the organization typical does in a full year.

Catholic Charities CEO Philomena Pereira said the organization has been meeting the demand, but more help is needed as the holidays approach. One big factor is the looming expiration at the end of 2020 of all built-in protections against foreclosure and eviction.

“Traditionally this is a time when Catholic Charities steps up to provide a bright holiday for families and children in need,” Pereira said. “Unfortunately, some our usual sources of support were equally impacted by the Pandemic, while the need for outside help is greater than ever.”

Pereira stressed that donations of food from individuals is needed, now more than ever, to supplement what Catholic Charities must purchase from outside sources.

The basic needs right now are for the following: canned vegetables, fruits, meats and soups; beans; rice; flour; maseca; pasta; tomato sauce; cereal; baby food; diapers (size 4 in greatest demand); as well as peanut butter and jelly.

As expected, the holidays have massively increased the demand for frozen turkeys and chickens, as well as other traditional holiday trimmings such as instant mashed potatoes, stuffing and more.

In addition, as Christmas approaches there is an urgent need for toys and clothing, specifically for babies and young children. For those looking to assist older children, there is always a demand for bicycles with appropriate helmets and pads.

For those unable to donate food or other items in person, donations of gifts cards to be used at Publix, Winn-Dixie, Walmart, Amazon or other local retailers are accepted. As always, financial donations are appreciated and will be used to support the ongoing effort of Catholic Charities to respond to the crisis caused by the global Pandemic. Leave the shopping to us if that is better for you!

To learn how to donate items and where to drop them off, please visit https://catholiccharitiesdov.org/how-you-can-help/, or contact the number for your area below between 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday:

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

“The UnBall” auction bidding now open

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice, Inc. invites all to participate in “The UnBall,” a Virtual Charity Ball to stop human trafficking at 7 p.m., Nov. 12, 2020.

During the 45-minute virtual event, you will not only hear a survivor share her inspirational story and learn how you can make an impact, but you will also have the opportunity to support victims of human trafficking regain their lives and dignity. Please consider a donation or bid on some of the great auction items at https://ccdov.afrogs.org.

Florida, unfortunately, is one of the top three states for human trafficking meaning this form of slavery is right before our eyes. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a magnifying glass that has highlighted the inequality and injustices that make some people easy prey for traffickers. Sadly, Catholic Charities is seeing an increased number of human trafficking victims in all 10 counties of the Diocese.

Bidding is open now through 9 p.m., Nov. 12 at https://ccdov.afrogs.org for auction items which include: a private Villa Vacation in Southern Italy; wine pull’; tickets to the 2021 Final Four; a 5-star getaway to Napa Valley wine country; and a sing-along Zoom with a Broadway star. In addition, a generous donor is providing a matching gift of $50,000 for “The UnBall.”

For more information, please contact Janet Pavelack at 239-334-4007 ext. 2101, janet.paverlack@catholiccharitiesdov.org, or by visiting www.catholiccharitiesdov.org.

News briefs for the week of Nov. 3, 2020

Virtual Diocesan Concert Series begins Nov. 6

The Diocese of Venice is proud to announce that a virtual concert series will be offered to the faithful at noon on the first three Fridays of November 2020. The concerts will be livestreamed from select Parishes in the Diocese and offer a broad selection of Catholic music. This is being offered as many remain home due to the ongoing global pandemic and miss the richness of music. The series begins at noon, Nov. 6, 2020 and will return on Nov. 13 and Nov. 20. Each segment will be live and last approximately 30 minutes. Anyone can view the live stream through the Diocese of Venice Facebook page at www.facebook.com/dioceseofvenice. You do not need to register to view live events on Facebook. For more information, please contact Gail Ardy at 941-484-9543 or ardy@dioceseofvenice.org.

40 Days for Life concludes with Jericho Walk

The close of the 40 Days for Life fall prayer vigil campaign to end abortion concluded as the sun set on Nov. 1, 2020, All Saints Day. More than 125 took part in a symbolic Jericho Walk around the regional headquarters of Planned Parenthood in downtown Sarasota. The walk concluded with prayers, singing and the announcement that during the Sarasota 40 Days campaign at least two unborn children were saved, and possibly more. Another fall campaign also concluded in Fort Myers. The spring campaign takes place during Lent.

“A Seminarian Story” video series begins

National Vocation Awareness Week, celebrated Nov. 1-7, 2020 is an annual week-long celebration of the Catholic Church in the United States dedicated to promote vocations to the Priesthood, Diaconate and Consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations.  This week, the Diocese of Venice in Florida launches a new series titled, “A Seminarian Story,” to celebrate the 16 Seminarians currently in formation. These will be their stories found at https://vimeo.com/dioceseofvenice.

Seminarian admitted to Candidacy

Diocese of Venice Seminarian Michael Young has been admitted to candidacy at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts on Oct. 28, 2020. This rite is celebrated as a public commitment by a seminarian to proceed to the Diaconate and Priesthood. Bishop Ronald W. Gainer, Bishop of Harrisburg, presided over the Rite which admitted 15 men from across the U.S. The Rite of Admission to Candidacy is celebrated when it has been established that the intention of those aspiring to Holy Orders is supported by the necessary qualifications. In the presence of the Bishop, each seminarian publicly expresses his intention to complete his preparation for Holy Orders and his resolve to fully invest himself to that end, so that he will serve Christ and the Church. Please pray for Michael Young, and all of these men, as they continue their spiritual journey on the road to ordination.

Local Emmaus prayer groups mourn loss of founder

On the weekend of Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2020, Emmaus prayer groups across the Diocese of Venice took time to mourn the passing of Myrna Gallagher, the person who encouraged the formation of Emmaus prayer groups and developed the current retreat format some 42 years ago in Miami. That movement spread throughout world and has influenced many to accompany others on their faith journey, explained Father Jiobani Batista, Diocesan Spiritual Advisor for Emmaus. Father said the passing of Gallagher comes at a time when the movement is at its strongest point here in the Diocese. Special prayer services were held at more than dozen Diocesan Parishes in honor of Gallagher.

St. Andrew students initiate pet supply drive

Students in seventh grade at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral worked collaboratively to organize a school-wide “Pet Supply Drive,” which kicked off on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (Patron Saint of Animals). The initial goal of collecting 350 items was well exceeded upon the final count of 747 items. Some of the requested items included: no-pull freedom harnesses, four-inch heavy-duty carabiners, wet food for cats and dogs, cat litter, dog potty pads, dog and cat toys, black trash bags and many other items. All were donated to the Gulf Coast Humane Society.  hroughout the drive, students collected, sorted, and counted the supplies, then helped pack the van on the day of pick up.

Blessings and cards for law enforcement officers

Father Phil Scheff, School Chaplain at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charlotte blessed local law enforcement officers on Oct. 28, 2020, National First Responders Day. Meliquor Jean, School President, and Maya Ramdhan, Vice President, presented the law enforcement officers with more than 300 cards to share. The students were able to participate in the prayer service virtually through video conferencing in their classrooms.

Adopt a family for Christmas

Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities is looking for people who want to make Christmas special for single mothers and their babies by providing gifts from their wish list. If you are interested in adopting a family for Christmas or want to donate a gift, please contact Rita Millner, Case Worker for Our Mother’s House at 941-485-6264, or email rita.millner@catholiccharitiesdov.org. All wrapped gifts must be delivered before Dec. 9, 2020. Our Mother’s House is committed to helping homeless mothers and their children achieve self-sufficiency.

Catholic Charities Response to Pandemic

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 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, 9-10:30 a.m., St. Paul Parish, 1208 Oak St., Arcadia;
  • 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.

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 week of October 26, 2020

Virtual Diocesan Concert Series begins Nov. 6

The Diocese of Venice is proud to announce that a virtual concert series will be offered to the faithful at noon on the first three Fridays of November 2020. The concerts will be livestreamed from select Parishes in the Diocese and offer a broad selection of Catholic music. This is being offered as many remain home due to the ongoing global pandemic and miss the richness of music. The series begins at noon, Nov. 6, 2020 and will return on Nov. 13 and Nov. 20. Each segment will be live and last approximately 30 minutes. Anyone can view the live stream through the Diocese of Venice Facebook page at www.facebook.com/dioceseofvenice. You do not need to register to view live events on Facebook. For more information, please contact Gail Ardy at 941-484-9543 or ardy@dioceseofvenice.org.

Equestrian Order celebrates Feast Day

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for the Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem on Oct. 27, 2020 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. The annual Mass is held as close as possible to the Order’s Patroness Feast Day, Our Lady of Palestine, which is Oct. 25 and was approved by the Holy See in 1933. Following the Mass, two Knights and two Dames were presented with honors from the Order by Bishop Dewane. The Feast Day asks all to join in praying to the Virgin Mary for special protection of Palestine and the holy city of Jerusalem. The Equestrian Order is the only lay institution of the Vatican State charged with the task of providing for the needs of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and for all the activities and initiatives which are necessary to support the Christian presence in the Holy Land. The Order is present in nearly 40 countries worldwide.

Adopt a family for Christmas

Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities is looking for people who want to make Christmas special for single mothers and their babies by providing gifts from their wish list. If you are interested in adopting a family for Christmas or want to donate a gift, please contact Rita Millner, Case Worker for Our Mother’s House at 941-485-6264, or email rita.millner@catholiccharitiesdov.org. All wrapped gifts must be delivered before Dec. 9, 2020. Our Mother’s House is committed to helping homeless mothers and their children achieve self-sufficiency.

Students take action to prevent bullying

An Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School student makes a pledge to promote unity during a rally to end bullying on Oct. 21, 2020 in Venice.

Diocese of Venice Catholic School participated in the annual Unity Day on Oct. 21, 2020, to take action in their world and stand up against bullying. At Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice, students wore orange to school and took a pledge of acceptance, kindness, and inclusion.

Students in this second grade class at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers write positive, kind and thoughtful notes about their classmates as part of Unity Day, a effort to promote kindness and stop bullying.

In addition to wearing orange, at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers students in a second-grade class wrote a positive, kind and thoughtful thing about each student in the class and placed it in their kindness buckets. These were just a few of the activities which took place at Diocesan Catholic schools.

If you need help from Catholic Charities

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 from Catholic Charities

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 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, 9-10:30 a.m., St. Paul Parish, 1208 Oak St., Arcadia;
  • 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.

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.

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 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.

 Dispensation

As Bishop Frank J. Dewane continues to listen to public health data and hear from Priests and Parishioners about the experiences at Diocesan Parishes, the dispensation given to attend Sunday Mass has been extended through Nov. 27, 2020, and depending on conditions, perhaps longer. At the same time, Bishop Dewane invites the Catholic Faithful who are able, to return to their Parish for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Please check the Diocese of Venice website for any updates.

Livestreaming

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

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.

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