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.

Bishop Verot and St. John Neumann Graduation 2022

Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers held its 2022 Commencement Exercises May 21, 2022. There were 160 graduates heading to some of the top universities in the land.

The Verot graduation included 32 who were recognized as Summa Cum Laude. There were also six sets of twins. The Introductory Address was presented by Grace Marie Smith, a Summa Cum Laude graduate and recipient of the St. Francis Medal of Honor, the top award presented at graduation.

The Commencement Address was by Anna Latell, also a Summa Cum Laude graduate. The Baccalaureate Mass was May 20 at Resurrection Parish, with Father John Belmonte, SJ, Superintendent of Catholic Education, as the main celebrant.

The graduating class earned some $11 million in scholarship offers and had more than 16,000 service hours. Three families were recognized for having at least four children to graduate from Verot.

Meanwhile, the St. John Neumann Catholic High School Commencement Exercises were May 20. The 77 graduates are an impressive bunch earning millions in scholarships, with 34 students being offered more than $100,000 each.

The Class Valedictorian is Ella Bartels and Salutatorian is Madeline Vickers. The Baccalaureate Mass was May 19 at St. Ann Parish, with Father Belmonte, also serving as the main celebrant.

Perhaps just as impressive as the academic achievements, this class completed 12,630 hours of community service. There were three families recognized at graduation for having sent at least three children to Neumann. Due to storms in the area, the traditional cap toss was held inside.

Cardinal Mooney Graduation 2022

The Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Class of 2022 Commencement Exercises were held May 13, 2022 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on the Sarasota Bayfront.

There were 120 graduates who received their diploma. The Valedictorian was Halle Monserez and Salutatorian was Peter Etz. The Commencement Address was given by Leah Roddenberry, Mooney Class of 2017, and current Miss Florida.

The Baccalaureate Mass was celebrated May 11 at Incarnation Parish with Most Rev. Bernard Hebda, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, as the main celebrant (His nephew is a 2022 Mooney graduate).







The Class of 2022 are nearly all headed for college and among their group are 32 Honors diplomas, 3 National Merit Finalists, and $14.5 million plus in scholarship offers.

2021 Graduates urged to carry Faith with them forward

Three of the four Diocese of Venice Catholic high schools held their commencement exercises in mid-May, sending off their graduates well prepared for a bright future.

Ahead of each graduation, Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated a Baccalaureate Mass, sharing a hope-filled message that they must each “go forth with God as your guide and let Faith, hope and love be your path through life.”

Bishop Dewane praised the graduating seniors for their academic and athletic accomplishments through the years, having overcome the impact of a global pandemic, emerging ready to move on to the next phase in their lives. Thanks to the unrelenting encouragement of their parents and teachers, they have been guided through their time in high school.

“What you have done is an accomplishment,” Bishop Dewane stressed. “Your future may be uncertain, but your Faith is not uncertain. I say this to the Class of 2021, God goes with you. That is where your Faith resides. The house of hope in your life. The source of love that lasts forever. What is most important is who you are within. Your Faith can stay with you and make you strong. But it is you, the Class of 2021, that have to be the doers of your Faith. Your pastors can’t do it for you. Your parents can’t do it. Your teachers can’t do it. Graduation means all of that is up to you now.”

Encouraging the graduates to go forward with their Faith, Bishop Dewane reminded them that they need to continue to go to Mass, to live the Commandments, receive the Sacraments often, go to confession, to actualize the presence of God in their lives, and to witness it to those around them.

“Do all of those things, even though no one tells you. Use that opportunity to become more that man or woman of God you are called to be. Believe that the Lord is with you always.”

Bishop Dewane expressed his gratitude to the parents of the graduates for entrusting their children to Diocese of Venice Catholic high schools. He also publicly thanked the teachers and faculty for their commitment to the students and being their guides along their spiritual and academic journey.

The Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Baccalaureate Mass was May 12, at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota while the Commencement Exercises were held May 14 at LECOM Park in Bradenton. The Bishop Verot Catholic High School Baccalaureate Mass was May 14 at St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral and the Commencement was held May 15, in their Viking Stadium in Fort Myers. The St. John Neumann Catholic High School Baccalaureate Mass was May 17 at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples and Commencement was May 18 on their football field.

The Baccalaureate Mass and Commencement for Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria will be May 27.

Please check back with the Florida Catholic e-Edition in the coming weeks for more information about the resilient Diocese of Venice Catholic high school Class of 2021.

Cardinal Mooney graduation outdoors

The roar of the crowd at LECOM Park on July 31, 2020 was not for a Bradenton Marauders minor league baseball game but for the graduating seniors of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School.

The class of 133 is an impressive group, earning more than $10 million in scholarships and nearly all will be attending college in the coming weeks. Delayed from its original date in late May due to the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, some were not present for the graduation because of college or work commitments, but each was recognized during the Commencement Exercises.

The night before the commencement, on July 30, 2020, the Class of 2020 was given a proper send off for Catholic high school students, with a Baccalaureate Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane at Incarnation Parish.

“With the pandemic, so much has changed for all of us and we find ourselves in a very unique situation,” Bishop Dewane said. “As a class, likely all of you here have become closer while at the same time being 6-feet apart. It’s something unique and something you will always remember.”

While the Bishop noted that the graduates may feel they are a little less fortunate than some other classes because of opportunities lost and graduating during a global pandemic and economic crisis.

“At the same time, despite that difficulty, the Lord calls us together to celebrate in the way that we can celebrate who you are and who you are becoming as a man or woman of God,” Bishop Dewane continued. “You have to have the grace to respond to those changes in your life… Use the gifts you have gained, received and earned at Cardinal Mooney and go forward and build upon those to be your strength as you go forward facing life anew.”

During the graduation, masks were worn and social distancing occurred whenever possible as friends and family were spread out in the stands at LECOM Park. The graduates initially sat along the third base line. When their names were called, each graduate came forward crossing the infield to behind the pitcher’s mound where Principal Ben Hopper was there to hand out the diplomas. The graduates were also congratulated by Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Catholic Education and Father Eric Scanlan, Cardinal Mooney Chaplain and Administrator of Incarnation Parish. The Commencement Address was given by Dr. William Soscia, Mooney Class of 1984.

The loudest applause during the Commencement came when Hopper presented a diploma to graduate Michael Bavaro. Bavaro was a star lacrosse player who broke several vertebrae in a March 2020 boating accident and requires the use of a wheelchair.

Neumann Class of 2020 are ‘Celtics for life’

For the first time in months, and for the final time in their lives, the close-knit St. John Neumann Catholic High School Class of 2020 gathered as a group on July 16, 2020 for a Baccalaureate Mass and Commencement Exercises at St. Agnes Parish in Naples.

The celebration put a capstone on the high school lives of 80 graduates who are destined for futures unknown but grounded in a Christ-centered education. While the ceremonies were delayed two months because of the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, Sister Patricia Roche, Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco and Principal, declared at the conclusion of the evening events; “You have overcome much, but know you are loved by your Celtic family and always loved by God. Once a Celtic, always a Celtic.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the Mass and congratulated the graduates on their achievement and for the gifts bestowed upon them while at St. John Neumann.

“While some of those gifts can be defined as academic or athletic, it is the spiritual gifts which will truly carry you forward toward a brighter future,” Bishop Dewane said. “You are graduating in a challenging world, but with the gifts you have been given, your ability to hear God’s call, the ability to see God’s work, as well as the ability to feel in your heart the Lord in your life,” Bishop Dewane said. “Be motivated by the word of God and what you see and hear in your heart, go forward, be strong, always striving to be that ‘Man or Woman of God’ you are called to be.”

Guests at the Mass and commencement were limited to immediate family to ensure social distancing could be maintained. The graduates, wearing specially provided “Class of 2020” masks, were spread across the church and seated with their families versus clustered together.

While several of the new graduates were unable to attend the ceremonies, the evening was streamed live via the school social media accounts.

An emotional moment during the commencement came when a diploma was presented to the family of Brooke Rice. Brooke died in a vehicle crash in the summer of 2018 and would have been the fourth child in the family to have graduated from St. John Neumann.

After the evening concluded, the students said their farewells outside of the church, posing for pictures in their cap and gown.

Bishop Verot graduates outdoors

The 55th Commencement Exercises of Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers may have been more spread out than normal on July 18, 2020, but a delay of two months did little to spoil the significance the day meant for both the graduates and their proud families.

Entering down the middle of Viking Stadium, which is emblazoned with VEROT between the hash marks, the graduates sat on folding chairs six feet apart, on either side of the stage which was placed on the goal line. Folding chairs were set up on the field with family groups sitting together to best ensure social distancing. When social distancing was not possible, everyone was required to wear a mask.

The Verot Class of 2020 overcame the impacts of Hurricane Irma in 2017 which closed their school down for weeks and it took more than a year to complete repairs. Then, just as they were on the brink of the final quarter of their senior year in high school, the world changed. The COVID-19 Pandemic cancelled in-person classes and the resulting quarantine and online classes put a new and trying meaning to distance learning for the close-knit group of 157 graduates.

These students have achieved much, having been offered more than $22 million in scholarships and nearly all with plans for higher education. Because of the delay in graduation, a few students were unable to attend, therefore the graduation was streamed live through the Verot website.

Important commencement traditions remained, such as parents who are Verot alumni were invited to the stage to present their child with their diploma. Because of the pandemic, there were no handshakes when diplomas or awards were presented.

One moment which brought a spontaneous applause was when the father of Mateo Devito accepted the diploma on his behalf, the same day he was being inducted into the U.S. Navy at the U.S. Naval Academy. The closing benediction was given by Father John Belmonte, a Jesuit priest who is the new Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Education.

Graduating in a time of Pandemic

Each graduating class points to one moment or event during their senior year that will serve to inexorably unite the group for years to come.

A banner adorns the facade of Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, honoring the graduating Class of 2020.

For the Class of 2020, the COVID-19 Pandemic is obviously that event/moment. The impact not only caused schools to close and introduce new meaning to phrases like distance learning and quarantine, but it altered each graduating seniors’ perspective of themselves and the world in which they live.

The four Diocese of Venice Catholic high schools accommodated their students with Zoom classes and altered graduations plans.

The Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria held their graduation June 5, 2020, a week late. The graduation took place in the Parish Church, following the Baccalaureate Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. Each of the graduates sat with their immediate family only and were separated by at least one pew.

This Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School graduating senior proudly stands with her mother in front of a graduation sign delivered to their home on April 23, 2020.

Arrangements are being made to ensure local health and safety guidelines are followed for the in-person graduations at the other three Catholic high schools. For example, the Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers (Mass, July 17 and graduation, July 18), the graduation may be switched to the school’s stadium. St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples (Mass and graduation July 23), will hold both events in the church with limited access. Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota (Mass, July 30 and graduation July 31) is holding its graduation at LECOM Park, the Bradenton spring training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Because of social distancing requirements, each graduation will limit the number of guests, meaning some family members will not be able to attend. To help lessen the impact, each of the graduations will be streamed live on social media.

The graduates have expressed a feeling of loss or emptiness by missing key moments of the last semester. Whether it was the prom, class trips, awards ceremonies, even the last days and chances to say farewell in person. Delayed and social distancing graduations add to the unusual nature of the final months of their high school lives.

Inevitably, not all students will be present for graduation. In fact, one student watched her graduation from afar for the Donahue Academy ceremony.

Anne Klemeyer of Cardinal Mooney is not sure she will be able to watch her own graduation as she has reported to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. She is heartbroken to have missed out on many of the senior year traditions. Klemeyer really enjoyed going to school each day and said it was hard having a last day of school and not even knowing it would be the last.

The last few months of school for Spencer Ebenger of Bishop Verot were described as the most trying time in his young life. “We all worked so hard. we had goals, and it was hard to stay motivated. It really made me appreciate being at school, my friends and the teachers. But it was also a time when I saw the world experiencing the same thing. Everyone came together for the betterment of others. It showed that there is a lot of good in the world.”

The Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria commencement took place June 5, 2020 in the Ave Maria Parish church. Social distancing rules applied as only families sat together.

Distance learning taught the Class of 2020 what life will be like after high school, explained Abbey Lawe of Donahue. “The pandemic caused me to realize just how much of my character, personality and identity was formed by my Catholic school. It has given me a deeper gratitude and sentiment for all that Donahue has given me.”

The leadership of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, including the religious sisters, are on a school bus ready to deliver graduation presents to the Class of 2020 on April 30, 2020.

The most mundane and ordinary things, such as going to school, a restaurant, or simply hanging out with friends is something St. Neumann’s Ryan O’Connor will never take for granted again. “Things that seem so simple can easily be stopped, or come to an end, and because of that we should cherish every moment… I will definitely have this new mindset during the next chapter in my life.”

The Diocese of Venice Catholic High School Class of 2020 learned many lessons from the changing world, including adapting and preparing to face whatever challenges that come their way armed with a faith-based education centered in Gospel values.

Best and brightest of the Diocesan Class of 2020

Each year the four Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Venice send into the world some of the best prepared students.

The Class of 2020, which includes Bishop Verot in Fort Myers, Cardinal Mooney in Sarasota, Donahue Academy in Ave Maria, and St. John Neumann in Naples, has graduates who are going forth having received an excellent education based on Gospel values.

Among the graduating class, 97 percent have plans to go to college earning a combined $46.5 million in scholarship offers, all while dedicating thousands of hours of service in the community.

Of course, the Class of 2020 will likely be best remembered because their final semester was upturned by the impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic. An enforced quarantine and subsequent distance learning, as well as missing key events in their final months of school, did not dampen the excitement as they prepare for the next phase in their lives.

It should come as no surprise that at each school the students were nurtured in a supporting and spiritual environment to become life-long learners. The Pandemic did little to change that fact as some of the top graduates recently reflected upon their high school experiences and how well-prepared they are for college and beyond.

Alberto Macia, St. John Neumann Valedictorian, explained how the academics fully prepared him to be competitive for college applications and set him up to be successful. “However, it is so much more than academics,” the Cornell University-bound student said. “The faculty really cares about each student. The atmosphere is fun and really like a family. Some of my classmates have been my friends since I was three years old. They are more than classmates, they are family.”

Summa Cum Laude Bishop Verot graduate Connor Shovlin, who is a National Merit Scholarship Finalist and will be attending Duke University in the fall, said he is very prepared for college. “Verot delivers a superior quality education and has a great community and environment in which to learn. I have been very impressed with the support that Verot provides to its students. All of the teachers are passionate about their subject and about teaching.”

Donahue Catholic Academy Valedictorian Quinten Fairchild is heading to the University of Notre Dame and credits his school with providing each student the opportunity to do something great. “Catholic schools are able to speak about God in a way that public schools are not. Moreover, they are free to speak their minds, and that really manifests itself in great ways at Donahue.”

Graham Linehan, Cardinal Mooney Valedictorian, who is headed to the University of Florida Honors College, called his school a close-knit community. When asked what he would tell of prospective student, he said: “If you are looking for a specific personal experience, I would go for it… these schools are innovative and adaptive.”

The 13 years of Catholic education (St. Ann Catholic School and Neumann) provided to Salutatorian Ryan O’Connor, “truly instilled values I am thankful to have in my life.” The future University of Florida student continued: “By having a school deeply rooted in the Catholic Faith, I have been taught morals and principles that are hard to find in any other school community.”

Bishop Verot Summa Cum Laude graduate Spencer Ebenger is attending Vanderbilt University in the fall and while in school founded a non-profit to help improve literacy in rural areas as well as in Jamaica. He explained that Verot is a community of people who are there for each other. “It’s bigger than one person and has that extra personal touch. Everyone cares about each other. There is no censorship of other religions; there is an open dialogue. The culture is one big family. The people are there for you. They were there for me and (going) was easily the best decision of my young life.”

Anna Klemeyer, Cardinal Mooney Salutatorian, who recently reported to the U.S. Naval Academy, said she attended Mooney because her parents wanted her to go to a school with morality involved in the school culture. She also found the family atmosphere helped her succeed. “I will always cherish the relationships I built here, with not only my classmates, but the amazing faculty that help all students whether it be with math homework or supporting them in a time of need.”

The most valuable lesson Abbey Lawe, Salutatorian at Donahue, gained from her education was to learn how to think, not just what to think. Continuing her education at Providence College, she said Donahue was “more than just a school, it really was a community of teachers and students who so wanted us to succeed… allowed us to feel known, supported and loved by our teachers and classmates.”

These top graduates reflect well upon the entire Class of 2020 and serve as an example of the excellence found in the students of Bishop Verot, Cardinal Mooney, Donahue and St. John Neumann.

Below, please find more information on the top graduates from the Diocese of Venice Class of 2020.

Alberto Macia – St. John Neumann


Cornell University

Mechanical engineering

Clubs/sports: National Honors Society, Peer Ministry, House Captain, Beta Club, baseball for four years and football for senior year.

Ryan O’Connor – St. John Neumann


University of Florida

Biomechanical engineering

Clubs/sports: National Honors Society, Beta Club, four years of football.

Spencer Ebenger – Bishop Verot

Cumma Sum Laude

Vanderbilt University


Clubs/sports: National Honors Society, Model UN, Mock Trial, Spanish Club, Mu Alpha Theta Club, COSA (future health professionals).

Connor Shovlin – Bishop Verot

Summa Cum Laude

Duke University

Biomechanical engineering and computer science

Clubs/sports: National Honors Society, Math Honors Society, Spanish Honors Society, STEM Team, Academic Quiz Bowl, tutor, Verot Scholars Academy, National Merit Scholarship Finalist.

Quinten Fairchild – Donahue Academy


University of Notre Dame

History and political science

Clubs/sports: National Honors Society, Student Life, Model UN (founding member), Shakespeare in Performance, four-years basketball, three-years cross country.

Abbey Lawe – Donahue Academy


Providence College, R.I.


Clubs/sports: National Honors Society, Student Life, Model UN (founding member), Shakespeare in Performance, Yearbook Club, tutor, four-years-basketball.

Graham Linehan – Cardinal Mooney


University of Florida Honors College

International studies

Clubs/sports: National Honors Society, Junior Class President, Academic Olympics, Spanish Club, co-founder of Italian Club, four-year tennis player.

Anna Klemeyer – Cardinal Mooney


U.S. Naval Academy

Cyber Operations

Clubs/sports: National Honors Society, Academic Olympics, four-year volleyball player.