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.

Together again: Bradenton school reunites to congratulate the Class of 2020

By John L. Carkeet IV – Special to the Florida Catholic

Friends and loved ones gathered at St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton June 17, 2020 to honor the Class of 2020. The graduation Mass and ceremony marked the first official occasion where students, faculty and families could meet face-to-face since March 13.

“This is the first time we have shared the same space since classes were suspended from the (COVID-19) Pandemic,” said Deborah Suddarth, principal at St. Joseph Catholic School. “I’m grateful we could make this happen in a safe and special manner.”

With facemasks mandatory and social distancing strictly enforced, 20 eighth grade graduates and their families were given the opportunity to celebrate the next chapter in their life’s journey under one roof.

Before the pandemic, all St. Joseph students would have been invited to attend the graduation, Suddarth explained. “One of this year’s graduates told me she would watch her older peers walk down the aisle and receive their diplomas year after year, and she couldn’t wait for the day it would be her turn… That’s when I knew we had to do our best to make this day special for the Class of 2020.”

The celebration opened with a Mass celebrated by Parish Administrator Father Rafal Ligenza. “One of the customary things to say during graduation is ‘believe in yourselves,’” Father Ligenza added. “If you only put faith in yourself, you will wind up disappointed. Believe in God instead. He will take care of you… You will succeed if you trust in the Lord.”

Mass was followed by a ceremony that recognized the achievements and accolades of the graduates. Joshua P. Ogline received several awards including highest honors in sports, science, religion and language arts.

“But I’m most proud of the St. Joseph Spirit Award,” said Joshua, who also served as the School’s Student Council President. “It recognizes the time and effort our school dedicated to service projects. It recognizes how we incorporated our faith by working together and having fun in everything we did.”

A luncheon followed the ceremony, giving graduates and their families something that most people once took for granted: authentic, in person communication.

“This is a mature class blessed with a supportive network of families,” Suddarth said. “They put the needs of others before their own, and they took every opportunity to lead by example… Although this may be the last time we meet as a group, it will not be the last we’ve heard of the Class of 2020.”

Eighth grade graduations 2020-style

Catholic Schools pride themselves in providing students with a well-rounded faith-filled education all with a little fun in the mix.

A scene from the outdoor eighth grade graduation st St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral on May 20, 2020.

It should come as no surprise that when it came to the eighth-grade graduation ceremonies and events recognizing these students, fun affairs complete with caps and gowns were organized.

For example, St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, where a formal graduation is tentatively planned for July, it was decided that a socially distanced parade would be a good way to honor the eighth graders.

On May 21, 2020, with Bradenton Police, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and Manatee County Fire Rescue vehicles in the lead, the sirens and honking horns of dozens of vehicles brought smiles from the students and their proud parents. Alumni, schoolmates, teachers, community members and family members were invited to participate. Vehicles were decorated with messages recognizing the school, students and teachers alike. Several vehicles were covered in balloons or had colorful writing on windows, while others had cheering adults and children waving signs.

As the vehicles passed the students, with their family, stood about 10 feet apart along the fence line, next to a sign with their formal class portrait. The eighth graders reciprocated by waving and cheering when they saw their schoolmates and teachers with whom they have been apart these past two months.

Principal Deborah Suddarth said the parade was a huge success and was pleased with the turnout of supporters. “You feel bad for these students to have lost out on some of the best parts of being an eighth grader. This was a gift to them because they truly were a special group of students that made St. Joseph Catholic School a great place. We are going to miss them.

This car is decorated for the May 21, 2020, eighth grade parking lot graduation at St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy in Sarasota.

A few days earlier, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers held a drive-thru graduation which began as a tailgate party in the school parking lot on May 20, 2020. Once the official ceremony began, the vehicles worked their way through the parking lot and before exiting onto Heitman Street, across from the main entrance to the school, the vehicles stopped, and each new graduate was presented with their diploma.

Other Diocesan elementary schools did variations of graduations and recognitions. Graduations at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, and St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy in Sarasota, were held in the parking lot, with only students coming forward and receiving their diplomas.

Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School was the first to have a graduation ceremony that was closest to what would have been expected pre-pandemic. The biggest difference in the event inside the Cathedral was that there was no Mass and the ceremony May 22, 2020 was limited to immediate family only.

Graduations loom as school-year winds down

The Diocese of Venice Catholic school 2020 graduating class, whether seniors in high school or eighth graders finishing up elementary school, are soon departing their respective schools in a way like no other. Not with a huge celebration and graduation but with fond wishes and prayer through a computer screen.

Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria put is lawn signs recognizing their graduating seniors in early May 2020 in Ave Maria.

To make this end of year special for the 2020 graduates, each Diocesan school made a special effort to reach out to their graduates, delivering lawn signs, cap and gowns and gift baskets, all as a sign to show these students that their time in school made an impact, in particular on the faculty and staff.

this graduating eight grader from St. Mary Catholic Academy in Sarasota makes her choice from the Purple Belle Ice Cream Truck in Sarasota in early May 2020.

St. Mary Academy in Sarasota not only delivered a cap and gown but offered sweet treats from the Purple Belle Ice Cream Truck which was there to sweeten the moment. At the Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria, signs of the graduating seniors lined the street in front of the school. During the delivery to his students, Donahue Catholic Academy Principal Dr. Dan Guernsey played the bagpipes for each.

This proud parents stands with their eighth grade student in front a lawn signs announcing his graduation from St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples.

The gift baskets to the eighth graders from St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples included a note from their homeroom teacher, which read in part: “Congratulations on graduating from SES! We are so glad you came to SES. You have helped make this one of the Best 8th grade classes. It has been a pleasure to teach you and I am really going to miss you.”

While the graduates are missing out on some time-honored traditions such as dances, field days, trips, sports and academic awards, as well as graduations, the special, in-person deliveries from teachers and principals helped lessen the disappointment of the students as they transition on to the next phase of their life.

For the graduates of the high schools, contingency plans to offer a proper in-person graduation are in place, but some are two months away and will only take place if the health and safety of all can be guaranteed.

Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria play the bagpipes for this graduating senior in early May 2020.

That is some consolation to make up for the lost months of in-class instruction and building of lasting friendships before moving on with their lives. This experience is being viewed by many as a bonding experience, something that unites the 2020 group for having overcome an actual pandemic to graduate.

In addition to the lawn signs, each school made an effort to post information about their graduates online and through social media. For Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples and the Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria, the postings have included personal, academic and sports achievements as well as their plans for the future – university, military, first responders, and a few becoming professional athletes.

The photos shared with the high school postings were taken before the outbreak of the pandemic and subsequent suspension of in-classroom instruction. The images show happy young men and women with their entire future before them. Their future is still there and as bright as ever as they leave with a quality Christ-filled education from a Diocese of Venice Catholic high school and each student is prepared and ready to face the next challenge.

The eight graders have also been receiving social media attention. In addition, the schools shared some background, favorite memories and reflections of the students.

So, when the last exam was taken, through distance learning online, instead of a party atmosphere with hugs, slaps on the back and fond farewells; this year it was a quick good-bye and a click of a button as the computer is disconnected, ending years of a quality faith-forming education.

There is little doubt that in the future the 2020 Catholic school graduates will be able to look back fondly upon a most unusual and memorable final year of school.

News briefs for the week of May 11 2020

Seminarians graduate

Deacon Franckel Fils Aime graduated from St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach on May 7, 2020, while Seminarian Jacob Gywnn graduated May 5, 2020, from St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. Deacon Fils Aime will soon be ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Venice while Gwynn will be given a pastoral assignment at a Parish within the Diocese for the summer. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both graduations were low-key events with minimal participation and no family present.

May Crownings

St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish hosted a May Crowning on May 10, 2020, Mother’s Day, on Longboat Key. Social distancing protocals were in place as some sitting in their vehicles, others of chairs.

In a time of social distancing the traditional May Crownings have taken on a different form this year. St. Joseph Catholic School students Wesley and Cecilia were able to honor Mary on May 2, 2020, for an unofficial May Crowning at the St. Bernard Catholic Church grotto in Holmes Beach. On May 10, 2020, Father Robert Dziedziak, Pastor of St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish on Longboat Key, led a May Crowning prayer service in the Parish prayer garden with the faithful able to be present while still maintaining appropriate social distancing.

These two St. Joseph Catholic School students from Brandenton pray during a May Crowning at St. Bernard Parish in Holmes Beach in early May.


Retreat Center offering online Preached Retreats

During the current health crisis, many people who would like to make a retreat must remain at home for an extended period of time. As long as the crisis lasts, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice will offer online 3-day, 5-day, and 8-day retreats based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Like Father Lanteri, we can all use this time for our spiritual growth.

In these online retreats. Father Mark Yavarone, OMV, or Father Lino Estradilla, OMV, trained spiritual directors, will meet with you for an hour each day via a link provided to you, to help you to pray and to recognize how God is speaking.  You should already have a Bible and journal available for your use. Participants will be emailed any additional materials needed as the retreat unfolds.

The cost, which has been significantly discounter, will be as follows: 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 make an online retreat, please email Denise Riley at and a code will be provided for your online registration.  You will need to fill out an application for approval. Please allow 7 days to arrange from your completed application until the beginning of your retreat.

Scam Alert targeting parishioners

It has once again been brought to the attention of the Diocese of Venice that parishioners have received text/email messages from people pretending to be priests and requesting donations in the form of gift cards and/or wire transfers. The messages often greet the person by name and have the priests name in the closing signature of the message; this is a well-crafted and targeted attack on the Church across the country which has hit our Diocese again. These text/email messages are ‘spoofed’ fakes that should not be responded to or taken seriously by anyone. The best defense against this sort of scam is to raise awareness in the community and not respond or open any worrying attachments. It is Diocesan policy that no priest or staff within the Diocese request donations in the form of gift cards, PayPal, MoneyGram, etc.

There is already an established process in place on how parishioners can make donations and participate in the life of the Parish. Whenever a parishioner is worried about any request for money from the parish or a priest, they should immediately call their parish and under no circumstances should they respond to these scam requests.

Year of St. Joseph resources online

On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, Bishop Frank J. Dewane consecrated the Diocese of Venice to the care and protection of Saint Joseph in the context of the Coronavirus and announced a “Year of St. Joseph” beginning March 19, 2020 through March 19, 2021.  St. Joseph is the Patron Saint of the Universal Church, fathers, workers and the sick and dying. A number of resources, including a Novena to St. Joseph, have been made available on the Diocesan website –

Bradenton Food Pantry

The St. Joseph Parish Food Pantry, 2704 33rd Ave. W., Bradenton, is open and distributing food from 9 a.m. to noon Monday-Friday, 5-7 p.m. Wednesdays, following all social distancing protocols. Cars will be directed through the parking lot and trunks will be loaded by volunteers in protective gloves and masks. Call 941-756-3732 if you have any questions. You do not need to be a regular client to receive food. To make a donation of money or food, please visit

Venice Catholic School Community project

Jennifer Falestiny, Curriculum Coordinator at the Diocese of the Venice, created the Camillus Project, a STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and mathematics) oriented campaign to print and deliver face shields and ear savers to those serving on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis. Named after the patron saint of hospitals, nurses and the sick, the design files were shared to each school with 3D printer in hopes of being to deliver these shields to local medical professionals.

Graduating seniors given hope

The graduating seniors at the Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Venice have experienced a turbulent final few months before they head off to college in the fall.

The coronavirus pandemic forced their Spring Break to be spoiled, then when they returned from two weeks away from the classroom, they didn’t physically return to their respective campus for in-classroom learning but instead began distance learning.

For the senior classes at Cardinal Mooney in Sarasota, Bishop Verot in Fort Myers, St. John Neumann in Naples, and the Donahue Academy in Ave Maria, some of the best parts of being a senior – prom, senior class trips, awards banquets, Baccalaureate Mass and finally graduation – were impacted.

These events were first postponed when it was hoped that in-class schooling could resume in early May, and then cancelled when it was announced that distance learning would continue through the end of the academic year.

While it seemed that all hope was lost that the seniors would miss out on everything, the respective school leaders have been working behind-the-scenes to find alternative, albeit tentative, solutions.

Diocese of Venice Interim Superintendent of Schools Ben Hopper, who is also Principal at Cardinal Mooney, explained that each school is working on a plan to hold traditional graduation events – Baccalaureate Mass, awards banquet, graduation, and possibly even prom – sometime in July.

“Although the Class of 2020 had many of its events postponed or canceled this spring, we wanted to acknowledge all of their hard work for the past four years, and we believe that they will be stronger for having to deal with so much change,” Hopper said. “We have been working behind the scenes trying to make sure that we can all celebrate their graduation at a later date.”

Dates for events for Cardinal Mooney and Bishop Verot seniors have been tentatively announced, while the Neumann and Donahue Academy events are still in the planning stages. Everything being planned for July is in the preliminary stages and will be conducted following all state and CDC health and safety guidelines. Of course, the events are all subject to postponement based upon health and safety conditions at the time.

In the meantime, the schools are celebrating their seniors in special ways.

On April 17, there was a Bishop Verot Live event for Seniors in which the school turned on the Stadium lights for 20 minutes and had a video with pictures and shout outs to the Class of 2020.

Cardinal Mooney “planted” graduation signs in the yards of graduating seniors, letting them know Mooney is proud of their achievements since schools will conclude the academic year with virtual instruction. The Mooney Class of 2020 comprises 133 students living in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, and DeSoto counties.

Bishop Verot delivered personalized signs to every senior, along with their caps and gowns, on April 24. Neuman was scheduled to do so on April 30.

Coseglia Scholarships awarded

Staff Report


The Catholic Community Foundation of Southwest Florida awarded four outstanding Diocese of Venice Catholic high school graduates with the 2019 Frank & Florence Coseglia Scholarship. The winners were recognized for their academic standing, service to their Parish and school, as well as an essay on what their Catholic Education has meant to them.

The scholarship recipients are Samuel Berjarano of Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers; Scholastica Egwakhide of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples; Christopher Twargoski of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota; and Olivia Burke of Donahue Academy in Ave Maria.

The Catholic Community Foundation Coseglia Scholarship was established in 2012 to fulfill the dreams of Frank and Florence Coseglia. The Coseglias wanted to provide financial support to deserving Catholic high school graduates pursuing degrees at accredited colleges or universities, and they wanted that financial support to last far beyond their lifetimes. For these reasons, the Coseglias chose to create a Catholic Legacy by establishing an endowed scholarship fund with the Catholic Community Foundation of Southwest Florida.

The winners were nominated by their high schools and approved by the Catholic Community Foundation Board of Directors. Each will receive a one-time scholarship of $1,117 toward the cost of their college/university studies. This is the eighth year the Catholic Community Foundation Coseglia Scholarship has been awarded.

Egwakhide, who will be studying to become a nurse at Regis College, wrote in her essay that: “I believe that a Catholic education changed my life for the better and helped me to come to a better understanding of myself. This scholarship will enable me to continue my search in life and give me the opportunity to continue my Catholic education at Regis College in the fall.”

With plans to study computer science at the University of Central Florida, Berjarano wrote: “I have been blessed to be raised in a Catholic family where faith plays an important role in our lives. By receiving the Coseglia Scholarship, I would be given a ticket to my own future; a way to attend university without worrying about needing to get into debt just to pursue my goals.”

Catholic Community Foundation Executive Director Michael Morse said the Coseglia Scholarship is a wonderful example of how one family chose to support the good works of the Catholic Church by investing in the education of our youth.

Those interested in learning how to set up an annual scholarship in their name, or the name of a loved one, should contact the Catholic Community Foundation at 941-441-1124.