Diocesan Hispanic lay group leaders gather

Staff Report


Representatives from seven different Hispanic lay movements within the Diocese of Venice met with Bishop Frank J. Dewane on June 23 at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota.

The goal of the meeting was to update the Bishop on the activities of the different groups and to figure out ways to work together and with their local parishes, while always encouraging the faithful to keep a strong connection with Holy Mother Church.

Among the 23 attendees, Bishop Dewane was joined by Father Claudio Stewart, Director of the Hispanic Apostolate, and Father Jiobani Batista, Pastor of St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston and Spiritual Director of Emmaus.

The movements, represented were: Padres y Madres Orantes (Praying Fathers and Mothers); Council of Catholic Women (CCW); Cursillos de Cristiandad (Cursillo); Renovación Carismática (Charismatic Renewal); Marriage Renewal (MDS); Juan XXIII (St. John XXIII); and Emaús (Emmaus).

Representatives of each movement shared with the Bishop aspects of their particular charism and what they do locally to encourage more people to participate. A common theme of the movements is that each has a charism that is deeply spiritual with a stress on evangelization and key elements that include reaching out to those who are unchurched and perhaps marginalized.

Bishop Dewane said these movements serve an important role in the Church and the Parishes in which they exist. While some of the groups focus on individualized evangelization, the Bishop also encouraged them to seek to reach out to others and share their knowledge of the faith.

Praising the lay movement leaders, the Bishop said the Diocese is blessed to have them as they keep the charisms alive through a commitment and faith that is inspiring to others. However, he explained that they have a solemn duty to encourage participation and involvement at all levels, including those who might not be as active in the movement as others. “Reach out to them! Let them see the Spirit alive in you!!”

As movements leaders, they need to do more than organize retreats or larger gatherings for a select few, but to be open to bringing in new people to experience the richness of the Holy Spirit that emanates from each group.

During the meeting, Bishop Dewane also emphasized the need to communicate with parish priests to let them know about the group, their charism and to invite them to become involved.

Father Stewart spoke to the group about organizing events that include each chapter of a respective movement. “We have to remember the way of the Church, is a human service. It is very important to organize an event, but we organize events because of people.”

The meeting also covered the issue of finances and the need to improve Campo San Jose retreat center in Lake Placid.

Spiritual enrichment + fun and games

Staff Report

It was more than fun and games at the St. Michael Parish summer camps for boys and girls in Wauchula. During back-to-back weeks in early June, young boys, and then young girls, converged on the Parish grounds and participated in eight hours of daily spiritual enrichment mixed in with fun and outdoor games.

Each summer, the Parish Religious Education team organizes the camps for the boys (June 4-8) and the girls (June 11-15). The camps are for children from first through sixth grade and offer a chance for the Parish staff to keep connected with the young people when regular religious education programs are closed for the summer.

The children described the week in the simplest of terms: “Fun!” “Awesome!” “Great!” “Perfect!” Beautiful!” “Terrific!” If the smiles and excitement for each day were not enough, the impact of the camp was the lively participation of everyone in each of the activities throughout each week.

The theme for the camps this year was “Obedience!” At daily Mass, Parish Administrator Father Timothy van Zee, Institute of the Incarnate Word, stressed the importance of obedience, trying to explain the concept on a level the young children could clearly understand.

“The best reason is because Jesus gave us that example. We need to be like Jesus if we want to be happy and if we want to get to heaven,” said Father van Zee. “Even when you are asked to do something you don’t want to do; it is better to obey. If you do that, you become a better person, more like Jesus.”

Each camp day had a serious religious and spiritual element, including prayer and an examination of conscience. The early part of the schedule included a talk about the Holy Mass with a presentation covering different aspects of full, active and conscious participation in the Mass. This encompassed the proper way to use a holy water font when entering the Church; the need to genuflect facing the tabernacle and the altar; and a review of the prayers and music.

A key component of the preparation was a daily reinforcement of how to behave when going forward for Holy Communion. For the youngest children, this meant crossing their arms indicating they were not of age to receive the Eucharist and bowing their head to be blessed by Father van Zee. For older children, it was a reminder to respond clearly when the Holy Eucharist is presented to them.

Following Mass, there were additional prayers lead by a religious sister and then they were free to head to a breakfast of pancakes, fruit, milk and juice.

Other parts of the day included some fun and games as well as productive team-building exercises. Small teams competed in the various activities throughout the week with an emphasis on support and teamwork. Points were accumulated for various token prizes.

This was important in helping the young boys and girls realize that they can accomplish much more with the help of others than if they tried to do the same thing alone. Because it is the summer, many of the outdoor activities included water, providing some of the funnier moments of the week.

In the afternoons, different activities included learning about the life of different saints, presentations on the stage in the Parish Hall, and more indoor games. The girls also had the opportunity to bake. Days concluded with snack time, singing and then a recitation of the Holy Rosary. Each week also included a field trip to the Tampa Bay area where they went to indoor amusement facilities.

Each week culminated in a celebration for the parents with presentations from each team. The girls also served fresh baked pizza.

The camps were organized by Sister Maria Gema de Jesus Ruiz, a Servant of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, Director of Religious Education at St. Michael Parish. However, they would not have been possible without the support of the other religious women at the Parish and the hard work by the entire Parish community, including the parent and teen volunteers. Among those volunteers were several Diocesan seminarians who helped with the boys, and an extra religious sister from Washington, D.C., who assisted with the girls.

Retreat opens eyes of students

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

When a group of 21 St. John Neumann Catholic High School students talk about what they did for their summer vacation, they will each have compelling stories to tell.

For one week they opted to start their summer by being part of the Immokalee Service Week. This is the fourth year that a group from St. John Neumann has journeyed to Immokalee for a service retreat.

The service trip was organized by Sister Katie Flanagan, Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco on the faculty of at St. John Neumann. She prayed each student would gain a renewed sense of Christian Service from their experience.

One student reflected on the week as a revelation for her that even doing the smallest act of kindness can bring joy to others. “I had no idea I would be able to impact people in such a way. The smiles we have been getting have been incredible. Everyone is so grateful for us being here. We are here representing St. John Neumann; but we are also representing Jesus in our presence. That is very powerful.”

Students from St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples took part in a retreat in Immokalee the week of May 29-June 1. Here they are seen listening to an inspirational talk.

Immokalee is about a 40-minute drive from St. John Neumann Catholic High School, but the difference between Naples and Immokalee can be shocking for anyone who has never travelled off the main roads. The Collier County city is home to many farms and food processing facilities and is one of the poorest communities in the State of Florida.

During their retreat, the students worked and assisted in a variety of tasks at several locations. Of particular focus was helping at Guadalupe Social Services, a program run by Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. The men and women helped at the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen, serving hot meals. They also assisted in loading bags of food for distribution and organizing the storage rooms. The group brought their own food donations and later assisted in the mobile food program by going out into a nearby neighborhood to knocked on doors with offers of a bag of groceries for each family.

It was in the neighborhood and the soup kitchen that the students saw the true face of Immokalee. They learned that the food provided at lunch is often the only food many of those individuals have all day, and it is certainly the only hot food they will have.

The week for the St. John Neumann students was not limited to the one location. In fact, the students toured Immokalee and learned about the struggle of the families who work and live there and heard a presentation from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers about the plight of farm workers in the region. Other service activities for the students included helping to rehabilitate a house for Habitat for Humanity, assisting at Collier Parks and the Salvation Army.

The activities were a mix of manual labor and interaction with local residents. The thanks received from those they encountered were what filled their hearts with joy. The overall experience was a true encounter of seeing Christ in others, one student explained.

Each day included daily prayer, time for reflection, and Mass celebrated at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish by Fathers Ignatius Reddy Yeruva and Tobias Sabariar, Missionaries of Compassion from India who assist with Catholic Charities.

The students were in awe and wonder at the conditions people live in throughout the area and the poverty the young children are forced to live in, particularly compared to their nearby hometown of Naples. Each student noted how powerful and rewarding the experience was for them, something they will carry forward for the rest of their lives.

For more information about St. John Neumann Catholic High School, please call 239-455-3044 or visit www.sjnceltics.org.

For more information about Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities please call 239-657-6242, e-mail peggy@catholiccharitiescc.org or visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org.