Last days of school a time of reflection for graduating seniors

As the calendar changed from April into May 2024 the graduating seniors at the four Diocese of Venice Catholic high schools embarked on a series of events leading up to graduation.

The students at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Fort Myers, Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, and Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria, were treated to several different rites of passage.

First was the final all-school Mass which included the seniors. This is when the outgoing seniors hand-off their leadership roles to the rising juniors who will be part of the class of 2025. Special blessings were offered at these Masses, praying for the continued health, safety, success of the men and women, but most important was a prayer for their growing in a deeper relationship with the Lord.

At the Cardinal Mooney Mass on May 7, school Chaplain Father Eric Scanlan blessed the class rings, and graduating altar servers and Senior Student Ministry students were recognized. Those ministry students earlier signed the school processional cross in honor of their legacy of leadership and faith. The next day, on May 8, the Mooney seniors took part in a traditional “Clap-Out” day wherein the student body lined up at the exits of the school and clapped as the graduates, wearing clothes signed by their classmates, departed the campus for the final time.

At Bishop Verot the class of 2024 took part in the annual “Senior Sunset” on May 8. As the sun set on the night before their final day of classes, the seniors gathered on the football field for a memorable evening filled with laughter, nostalgia, and heartfelt goodbyes. The highlight of the night was the distribution of yearbooks, where memories were relived and reminisced by everyone. Seniors signed each other’s shirts, leaving their mark as a lasting reminder of their shared journeys. Another great part of the night was when each senior received the letter they wrote to themselves during their Freshman Retreat. Reading these letters, they reflected on their growth, dreams, and the incredible journeys they’ve experienced together at Verot.

In a similar tradition, St. John Neumann hosted a “Senior Sunrise,” on April 30.  As the sun peeked over the horizon, illuminating the new dawn with its golden rays, the students shared laughter, reminisced about cherished memories, and looked ahead excitedly to the adventures awaiting them. The event takes place at sunrise to symbolize the dawn of a new chapter in the graduates’ lives, filled with endless possibilities and bright opportunities.

The events for the graduating class at Donahue Academy are more traditional with each senior receiving special acknowledgement for their part in building the legacy of the school. The school’s Catholic, classical education culminates with its annual Senior Thesis Defense. Students research and write a 15-page paper on a difficult, relevant question answered according to principles of right reason and divine truth, which they must defend in a public forum.

Next up for all graduates is a Baccalaureate Mass, celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. During this Mass, their last as a class, the Holy Spirit is invoked, and prayers of thanksgiving are offered to God for the many blessings received by the graduating students and their families. Finally comes their Commencement Exercises, officially marking the students as alumni of their respective Diocese of Venice Catholic school.

News Briefs for the week of May 17, 2024

First Holy Communion celebrated across Diocese

During the month of May, more than 3,000 young boys and girls throughout the Diocese of Venice will take part in the Sacrament of the Eucharist for the first time, their First Holy Communion. Young girls in white dresses and boys in suits, having prepared in their religious studies to reach this important milestone in their spiritual journey of faith, the beginning of a long and intimate relationship with the Lord. This Sacrament comes this year during a time of a National Eucharistic Revival. This revival is a three-year effort of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to reinforce devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Bishop Frank J. Dewane said the Most Holy Eucharist is important for all, from the youngest who receive their First Communion to the oldest. “It is in a precise way in the Eucharist, that the Lord gives to us, and we receive Him… Put yourself in a relationship with Jesus Christ, through the Eucharist. It is Christ. It is His Body and Blood. It is His Real Presence!” Bishop Dewane said. “Let His Real Presence in the Eucharist fill your heart, fill your mind, fill your soul with His indication of what it is He wants from you and for you to do in your life.” Please pray for all children receiving their First Holy Communion during May, that they love the Lord with all their hearts and forever live faithfully.

Bishop celebrates Baccalaureate Mass for Ave Maria School of Law graduates

The graduates of the Ave Maria School of Law in Naples were told by Bishop Frank J. Dewane to go forward and allow the Holy Spirit to inspire them in their life, during a Baccalaureate Mass at St. Agnes Parish in Naples on May 10, 2024. Bishop Dewane also told them to follow the path of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the patroness of the school, who accepted in faith what the Lord asked. “Faith is a virtue – a welcoming and cherishing bond with Jesus Christ,” the Bishop said. “That is what makes us men and women of faith. Let it grow in your heart as you launch into a new life after having been given this tremendous opportunity and experience here at Ave Maria School of Law.” The commencement was April 12, Ascension Sunday and Mother’s Day, at Artis-Naples.

Seminarians visit ship during Miami Fleet Week

A total of 23 seminarians from St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach had the unique opportunity to participate in Fleet Week Miami on May 10, 2024. Over the course of two days, separate groups from the seminary were welcomed aboard the USS Bataan, an amphibious assault ship. The visit was organized by Transitional Deacon Jacob Gwynn, a seminarian for the Diocese of Venice, and a co-sponsored seminarian for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and led by the ship’s Command Chaplain, Father Benton Garrett. The two seminarian groups toured the ship and attended Mass in the ship’s chapel, witnessing firsthand the intersection of faith and service within the military context. Among the attendees were Seminary Rector/President, Father Alfredo I. Hernandez, and Midshipman Spencer Dominguez, a relative of Father Hernandez.

Retreat For Mothers Grieving the Loss of a Child

Red Bird Ministries, a non-profit Catholic grief support ministry, is hosting a Grieving Mother’s Retreat from June 7 – 9, 2024, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center, 3989 South Moon Drive, Venice. This retreat is for women who have experienced the loss of a child from pregnancy through adulthood.  Mothers will be helped in addressing the profound healing that needs to happen while also honoring the memory of the child throughout their grief journey. Please visit www.redbird.love/revival for information and registration.

Ordination to the Priesthood June 8

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the faithful to the Ordination to the Priesthood of Transitional Deacon Thomas Gregory Dougherty. The Ordination will take place at 11 a.m., Saturday, June 8, 2024, at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1301 Center Road, Venice. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this important event in the life of Deacon Greg as well as the Diocese of Venice. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall.

Totus Tuus, Parish Catechetical Summer Program coming soon

The Totus Tuus Parish Catechetical Summer Camp program, open to grades 1-12, will be available in the Diocese of Venice again this summer beginning in June 2024. Totus Tuus aims to inspire young people to long for holiness, develop a deep desire for conversion and personally renew their faith with a stronger prayer life. All camps are one-week day camps, and programs are divided according to age. Youth are welcome to attend any of the Totus Tuus camps, but registration is requested ahead of time. Parishes hosting Totus Tuus this year are: St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Parrish, and Our Lady of Grace, Avon Park (June 2-7); Ave Maria, Ave Maria (June 9-14); St. Finbarr, Naples, and St. Paul, Arcadia (June 16-21); Epiphany Cathedral, Venice, and St. Katharine Drexel, Cape Coral (June 23-28); Our Lady Queen of Heaven, LaBelle (July 7-12); Our Lady of Light, Fort Myers, and St. Cecilia, Fort Myers (July 14-19); Our Lady of the Angels, Lakewood Ranch, and St. Peter the Apostle, Naples (July 21-26). To register, contact the hosting Parish directly. Parish contact information can be found at https://dioceseofvenice.org/find-a-parish/.  For general questions about the Diocesan Totus Tuus program, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/totustuus2024/, or contact Jim Gontis at gontis@dioceseofvenice.org.

Ave Maria Youth Conference registration open

All high school age youth from incoming freshman to outgoing seniors are invited to attend the 15th Annual Ave Maria University High School Youth Conference, “CALLED,” from July 12 – 14, 2024. This faith-filled weekend will be full of fellowship, music, and great speakers, including Father Timothy Anastos from the Diocese of Chicago who is currently serving as a National Eucharistic Preacher and featured regularly on “Reel Homilies”, Noelle Garcia a Catholic recording artist who shares her faith through scripture and music, nationally known chastity speaker Pam Stenzel, and Father Joseph Lugalambi, Adjunct Professor of Theology at Ave Maria University. Music will be provided by EPIC Music Ministries. The cost is $190 per person, which includes lodging in the dorms, meals, conference fee, and a cool t-shirt! Register now by visiting https://www.aveconferences.com/called-youth-conference-july-2024. For more information call 239- 348-4725, or email aveconferences@gmail.com.

Bishop celebrates Baccalaureate Mass for university

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the main celebrant at the Baccalaureate Mass for Ave Maria University on May 3, 2024, The Feast of Sts. Philip and James, the Apostles, in Ave Maria.

A Baccalaureate Mass is a Mass of Thanksgiving for God’s many blessings upon the graduates.

During the Mass, Bishop Dewane encouraged the graduates to place themselves into the hands of God as they move forward, remembering the virtue of faith as they live their lives. To do that, they must know who God is in their own lives.

“Faith is an act by which a human being freely commits him/herself to God,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is a gift that should never be taken lightly. Being Catholic is about cherishing the bond that you can develop with God and with His Son, Jesus; a bond that will make you ever more Catholic and hopefully deepen your faith.”

The Bishop noted that St. Irenaeus, a 2nd century bishop in France, teacher, leader, martyr, saint, and Doctor of the Church, said, “The Glory of God is the human being fully alive.” That fullness is meant in terms of striving to fulfill a new dimension of our own humanity.

“Knowledge is always good in itself; it can fill our minds and souls,” Bishop Dewane continued. “Knowledge has many uses which will bear much fruit in your life in choices you make, allowing you to live the fullness of the Lord, being more that man or woman of God you are called to be.”

St. Irenaeus also said, “The glory of the human person is the vision of God.”

“That groundwork was prepared for you by the accumulated knowledge you received here at Ave Maria University,” Bishop Dewane said. “Seek God in your lives. Let that be the glory of life for you as graduates.”

Following the Mass, Bishop Dewane greeted the graduates outside of the church and many complimented him on his words and support of the university.

Ave Maria University is celebrating its largest graduating class in its 25-year history, with more than 250 students receiving their diplomas during Commencement Exercises on May 4.

The commencement speaker was Father Mike Schmitz, of the Diocese of Duluth who is director for youth and young adult ministry and is well-known for his online content such as weekly videos from Ascension Presents, as well as podcasts “The Bible in a Year” and “The Catechism in a Year.”

Receiving honorary doctorates during the commencement exercises were Father Schmitz, Nicholas Healy, the first president of Ave Maria University, and Father Richard Martignetti, OFM, who is departing as Chaplain of Ave Maria University to a new assignment after six years.

Father Joseph Lugalambi is the new Chaplain at Ave Maria University, effective May 4, 2024.

DOV Class of 2023 impressive

The four Diocese of Venice Catholic high schools graduated 416 into the world during a three-week span in May 2023.

This group, as they are each year, is impressive for their accomplishments earned through sacrifice, hard work and commitment in mind, body and soul.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the four different Baccalaureate Masses and noted how the Diocese is proud of the graduates and made a point to recognize the role of parents and grandparents of the graduates as well as gratitude for entrusting their children to Diocesan Catholic high schools for their education.

“It is my prayer that the academic and spiritual education you each received will serve to guide you into the future as men and women of God,” Bishop Dewane said.

An astounding 99 percent of the graduates are heading off to higher education at some of the top colleges and universities in the land. Dozens were recognized for their academic prowess with many graduating with honors. Of note, four have opted to join the military and one accepted an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.

As a group, these graduates gave back to the community with more than 52,000 service hours while also garnering more than $43.2 million in scholarship offers.

In addition to academic awards, many of these students were scholar athletes with several earning state titles in a variety of sports. More than 50 of the graduates were offered scholarships to continue their athletic career at the next level.

These results are even more striking when you realize the Class of 2023 was completing its freshman year in high school when the Covid-19 global pandemic struck. In addition, these students also endured the impacts of Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28, 2023. The storm damaged the homes of the families of many students throughout the region, with the worst impacts in Lee, Collier, Charlotte and Sarasota counties.

At Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, the graduation was May 12, and the Valedictorian was Michael Ramsamooj and Salutatorian was Michael Yencik. The Baccalaureate Mass was celebrated at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota on May 11.

The St. John Neumann Catholic High School Commencement Exercises were May 21 at the Naples school, with the Baccalaureate Mass at St. William Parish on May 20. The Class Valedictorian was David Schummer and the Salutatorian was Isabella Fernandez.

The graduation for Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers was May 22, with the Baccalaureate Mass at St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral. Verot had 38 students recognized as top graduates, and among those, Caroline O’Halloran presented the introductory address, and the commencement address was by Cameron Caangay.

The Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School graduation was May 26 at the school in Ave Maria, with the Baccalaureate Mass at Ave Maria Parish. Andrew Graham was the class Valedictorian and Michael Long was the Salutatorian.

High school students graduate from Ave Maria Parish school

The Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish celebrated the Baccalaureate Mass and 16th Commencement Exercises for its 18 graduating seniors on May 26, 2023. Donahue Principal Dr. Daniel Guernsey opened the procession of graduates before the Mass, celebrated at Ave Maria Parish, by playing the bagpipes, a yearly tradition. The graduates then processed in, each carrying a white rose which was then placed in a vase before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the main celebrant.

Following Mass, the festivities moved to the nearby school, with the graduation taking place in the gymnasium. In addition to family and friends, students from the middle and high school were present for the presentation of diplomas. Andrew Graham was the class Valedictorian and Michael Long was the Salutatorian. Father David Vidal, Ave Maria Parish Pastor, offered the opening prayer. In addition, Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Catholic Education, offered the final blessing. The group earned an impressive $1.9 million in scholarship offers and each is going on to attend a Catholic university in the fall.

Neumann and Verot Class of 2023

St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples and Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers held their commencement exercises in mid-May. Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the Baccalaureate Mass for both schools, with the Neumann Mass celebrated on May 18, 2023, at St. William Parish, while the Verot Mass was May 19, at St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral.

The Neumann commencement exercises were May 19, with 75 graduates receiving their diplomas. The class, which accumulated more than 12,350 service hours, also earned $12 million in scholarship offers and nearly all are going off to college. The Valedictorian was David Schumer and Salutatorian was Isabella Fernandez.

The Verot commencement exercises were May 20, with 182 graduates. Again, nearly every student will be going off to college, including Summa Cum Laude Stephen Penderville, who was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy. The class earned $23.5 million in scholarship offers and completed more than 21,000 service hours.

The graduating Class of 2023 went through a disrupted end of their freshman year with the Covid-19 pandemic and then this year dealt with the devastating impacts of Hurricane Ian. Please pray for these new graduates.

 

 

 

 

Cardinal Mooney Graduation 2023

The Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Class of 2023 Commencement Exercises were held May 12, 2023, at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on the Sarasota Bayfront. There were 141 graduates who received their diploma.

The Valedictorian was Michael Ramsamooj and Salutatorian was Michael Yencik. The Commencement Address was given by Patrick Del Medico, former parent of three Mooney graduates and school Advisory Board Chair.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the main celebrant at the Baccalaureate Mass on May 10 at Incarnation Parish, with priests of the Diocese assisting.

Nearly every graduate is going on to higher education, with one opting for military service and another for a gap year.

The Class of 2023 (141 graduates) earned $15.8 million in scholarship offers and among the graduates are four who received Commended Recognition from the National Merit Scholarship Program, and three who received National Hispanic Scholar Recognition from the PSAT National Merit Scholarship Program. Congratulations Cougar Alumni!

Bishop celebrates Baccalaureate Mass for university

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the main celebrant at the Baccalaureate Mass for Ave Maria University on May 5, 2023, in Ave Maria.

A Baccalaureate Mass is a Mass of Thanksgiving for God’s many blessings upon the graduates.

During the Mass, Bishop Dewane encouraged the graduates to use what they have learned, combined with the gifts God has bestowed upon them, to bring the light of Christ and the message of the Good News that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, into the world.

Citing the missionary spirt of the Second Vatican Council and its transformational document Lumen Gentium, the Bishop said each graduate is called to live out that document which calls upon all Catholics to evangelize. They must do this accompanied by Christ, that includes opening up to the Lord in their daily life, their family, their job, in public and in private.

“Your parents sacrificed for you to be here. The faculty has educated and formed you so that as graduates you can realize your potential,” Bishop Dewane continued. “You have been prepared to enter the world. It is my prayer that you will use your influence of faith to make the light of Christ present in whatever position you achieve or vocation you follow as you move forward. That is what being a graduate of a Catholic university is about.”

Bishop Dewane concluded his remarks by telling the new graduates that now that they have received the necessary skills during their time at Ave Maria University, to “go forth as agents of that evangelization; willing to instill that into others during a time when it is ever more necessary. My prayer is that you are blessed to take up the challenge to render the light of Christ wherever you may find yourself.”

Following the Mass, Bishop Dewane greeted the graduates outside of the church and many complimented him on his words and support of the university.

Ave Maria University is celebrating its largest graduating class in its 25-year history, with 297 students receiving their diplomas during Commencement Exercises on May 6.

The commencement speaker was Patrick Lencioni, president of Table Group and bestselling author of 13 books, including The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

DOV Class of 2022 impressive

The four Diocese of Venice Catholic high schools graduated 371 into the world during a four-week span from early May to early June 2022.

This group, as they are each year, is an impressive bunch. Among these graduates, 99 percent are heading off to higher education at some of the top colleges and universities in the land.

As a group, these graduates earned more than 40,000 services hours and $42 million in scholarship offers. Seven were identified as National Merit Scholars and many others graduated with honors.

In addition to academic awards, many of these students were scholar athletes with several earning state titles in a variety of sports. More than 50 of the graduates were offered scholarships to continue their athletic career at the next level.

At Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, the graduation was May 13, and the Valedictorian was Halle Monserez and Salutatorian was Peter Etz. The Baccalaureate Mass was celebrated at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota.

The St. John Neumann Catholic High School Commencement Exercises were May 20 at the Naples school, with the Baccalaureate Mass at St. Ann Parish. The Class Valedictorian is Ella Bartels and Salutatorian is Madeline Vickers.

The graduation for Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers was May 21, with the Baccalaureate Mass at Resurrection Parish. Verot had 32 students recognized as top graduates. Grace Marie Smith offered the introductory address, and the commencement address was by Anna Latell.

Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish graduation was June 1, with the Baccalaureate Mass at the Parish church. Catherine Graham was the class Valedictorian and Winston Fairchild was the Salutatorian.

Students graduate from Ave Maria school

The Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish celebrated the Baccalaureate Mass and 15th Commencement Exercises of its 14 graduating seniors on June 1, 2022.

Donahue Principal Dr. Daniel Guernsey opened the procession of graduates before the Mass, celebrated at Ave Maria Parish, by playing the bagpipes, a tradition he does each year.

The graduates then processed in, each carrying a white rose to be placed in a vase before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Catholic Education, was the main celebrant.

Following Mass, the festivities moved to the nearby school, with the graduation taking place in the gymnasium. In addition to family, students from the upper grades were present for the presentation of diplomas. Catherine Graham was the class Valedictorian and Winston Fairchild was the Salutatorian, both of whom were National Merit Scholarship Finalists.

Check back in the June 17, 2022, e-edition of The Florida Catholic for a wrap-up of graduation season in the Diocese of Venice.