Celtic Ball supports St. John Neumann

There was a Bourbon Street for the annual Celtic Ball which was held on Feb. 21 at Club Pelican Bay in Naples benefiting St. John Neumann Catholic High School.

The event included a Mardis Gras theme and décor which added to the festive atmosphere. There were live and silent auctions, an elegant dinner and live music.

Neumann Senior Rhea Hussey spoke on behalf of her fellow Celtics. She shared her journey of overcoming obstacles from being seriously ill and bed ridden as a freshman, to now being one of four House Captains, a leader of not just the senior class, but the entire school.

“I have been given the chance to participate in numerous service activities, to learn in an environment of unparalleled academics and thrive in a place where I formed irreplaceable friendships; there is no place I would rather be,” Rhea said. ”I will always be grateful to the Neumann family for allowing me to learn, grow and truly shape myself into the person I always wanted to be.”

The Celtic Ball Honorary Chairs were Jo and Tom O’Reilly. Tom O’Reilly praised the school for forming students not just academically, but spiritually, noting that his children and now grandchildren are students at Neumann.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane applauded the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco who serve at St. John Neumann for their unfailing commitment to education and for the example they are for their students and the entire school community.

“Neumann is a bright star in Naples,” Bishop Dewane said. “To the parents and benefactors of St. John Neumann; I thank you for recognizing the good work that is happening here. A Catholic School is more than its faculty and staff, it is about coming together and supporting a program that helps to grow the next generation of leaders in the community and in the faith.”

Three February events support Catholic Charities programs

Three distinctive events took place during February to help support the programs of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc.

First up on Feb. 15 was the always fun Boots and Bandannas at Kingsway Golf and Country Club in Lake Suzy. This western-themed evening includes plenty of cowboy hats, boots and lots of bandannas. This was 18th year for this event, which was held to support of the Catholic Charities programs in DeSoto County including Casa San Juan Bosco farmworker housing, St. John Paul II Villas senior housing and much more. Father Jerome Carosella, Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish on Boca Grande and who serves on the Catholic Charities Board, provided the invocation. There were live and silent auctions and The Kollections performed toe-tapping country and western music that brought many to the dance floor.

The following weekend was the annual Mardis Gras Madness at Art Ovation in Sarasota. The evening reflected its namesake as many guests wore colorful masks and jewelry. The proceeds went to Bethesda House, a comprehensive program in Sarasota which supports people living with HIV/AIDS.

Next up was the annual Our Mother’s House Wine Tasting and Dinner Dance on Feb. 27 at the Venice Community Center. The event included live and silent auctions, music and fun all to help support the Catholic Charities program which has been providing housing to homeless mothers and their children since 1987. The mission of the program is to offer single mothers and their children a safe and secure environment in which to achieve increased self-sufficiency through education, vocational training, and personal growth.

The highlight of the evening came when a former resident, Joanna, who lived at Our Mother’s House from 2009-2011, shared her story. She credited Our Mother’s House for helping to overcome great personal obstacles to now having a better life, raising her daughter while working as a surgical assistant. Following a standing ovation, the lively “Gift from the Heart” portion of the evening generated excitement and raised lots of money for the program.

To learn more or to support these and other programs of Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc, please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org.

School Gala recognizes legacy of Sister Frances

For the past 25 years Sister Frances Lolar, Religious Sister of Mercy, has been a steady and commanding presence at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. The Cathedral Director of Religious Education (DRE) since 1994, Sister Frances will be retiring in the coming months leaving behind a lasting legacy.

That legacy was recognized with her being bestowed as the 2020 Shining Star Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient during the Feb. 15 Epiphany Gala at Plantation Golf and Country Club. The event benefited Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School; a place held dear to the heart of Sister Frances.

In announcing the award, it was noted that Sister Frances is a tireless presence within Epiphany Parish while helping it live out its mission to be the heart and hands of Christ. She has deeply influenced and significantly contributed to the mission and vision of Catholic education – even serving for a time as acting-Principal. “She has faithfully demonstrated a lifetime of servant leadership through the giving of her time, talent and treasure.”

Born and raised in the farming country of County Laois, Ireland, it was appropriate that a bagpiper escorted her into the Gala.  Hearing the call to a religious life while still in high school, Sister Frances professed her vows on September 8, 1957 in Bally Mahon, as a Sister of Mercy.

In 1960, she moved to the U.S. to become a Catholic school teacher in Columbia, Mo., then later she went on to a position as a Catholic principal in Lake Worth, Fla. It was in 1994 when she was appointed DRE at the Cathedral, a position that covers a wide range of responsibilities. Her work includes coordinating the teaching of the Sacraments, especially Confirmation, First Confession and First Communion, thus providing her opportunities to get to know the parents as well as students, dozens each year. Beyond this, she also coordinates the Parish Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) formation classes, which bring new Catholics into the Church. Adults, she says, never finish learning about their faith.

Everyone attending the Gala knew that Sister Frances, a quiet, humble and unassuming woman was a deserving recipient of the Shining Star award. They also know she is much more than a DRE; she is someone who lives her life of faith to its fullest in all her words and actions, an example for all to follow. Congratulations Sister Frances!