Pine Island residents seek solace at Parish

No structure in Matlacha or on Pine Island – home to fishermen, farmers, artists, and retirees – was spared the wrath of Hurricane Ian. The southern region was inundated with storm surge and had high winds, while the northern sections still had wind gusts more than 130 mph.

Fortunately, Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Parish in Bokeelia was spared the surge and catastrophic damage. While the church and Parish Hall had damaged tiles and some water inside both buildings, the Parish chapel and education building suffered the most severe impacts. The chapel, which was the original church, had an air conditioning unit torn out, exposing the building to heavy rain which damaged the interior.

However, having been spared the worst damage, Father Jacek Mazur, Miraculous Medal Pastor, had the church open for Mass on Sept. 29, 2022, the day after the storm. In attendance in the darkened church was one family of four. Masses remained in the dark for two weeks before power to the island was restored.

“And from there the numbers have steadily grown,” Father Mazur said. “It has been beautiful.”

Each Mass is filled with reunions of friends, with lots of hugs and smiles as everyone is asked how they fared during the storm.

The destruction to some parts of the community has brought a profound sadness to many, but all feel blessed and grateful to be alive and safe.

“The church is a place of reflection and comfort,” said Mary Davis, whose roof was partially torn off. “I feel so happy to be here and to see that the church is here and not badly damaged. It’s going to be okay. God was with us.”

Our Lady of Miraculous Medal is also the location of the Pine Island Food Pantry, which serves about 150 families a month and is supported by all of the churches on the island with additional assistance from Publix and Winn-Dixie, as well as the regional Harry Chapin Food Bank in Fort Myers.

Since Ian, the food pantry has been open nearly every day, with supplies going out almost as fast as relief was coming in from the outside, explained Diane Gleason, longtime resident and former Parish bookkeeper who now helps run the pantry.

“People have brought us everything from cleaning supplies and food and everything in between,” Gleason said. “We were running five days a week and have reduced to three days a week (effective Oct. 24) in person, and two days delivering to families who can’t get to the food pantry. These are the elderly, and the many who lost vehicles to the water.”

About a third of those seeking help were regulars before the storm, the rest are those in dire situations after. Donated items that have been dispersed beyond food and water include air mattresses, sheets, pillows, diapers, tarps, blankets, fans and cleaning supplies of all sorts.

Father Mazur, who remained on the island in the rectory during the storm, said during a Mass on Oct. 23, that Sacred Scriptures must remind us of the trust, love, mercy, and healing of the Lord.

“It is at this moment that we take a moment to examine our conscience; having been so touched by grace,” Father said, noting that many strangers came bringing all kinds of food and supplies; or offered help cleaning up or putting a tarp on a roof. “The Lord’s goodness toward the people He created is very beautiful and very tender, attentive to their needs and their condition.”

The Gospel reading for the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Luke 18: 9-14, the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee, was appropriate for those recovering from Ian, Father Mazur explained.

“The Lord hears the cry of the poor,” Father Mazur continued. “He rescues His people from all pain and distress. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, He saves those who are crushed. He’s not deaf to the widow when she pours out her complaint. All of us will be rescued, will be helped, will be comforted. Therefore, we proclaim, ‘I will praise the Lord at all times; His grace shall ever be in my mouth.’ Today’s Scripture calms our hearts and our spirits, reminding us to trust in God; to hope in His providence, in His protection and in His healing… We have been tried, but we are not abandoned.”


Diocese receives gift of solar-powered generators

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice, Inc. (CCDOV), the charitable arm of the Diocese of Venice in Florida, received a significant contribution from Geneverse Energy, Inc., valued at $235,000. To help with the aftermath left behind by Hurricane Ian in the Diocese of Venice, Geneverse has donated more than 100 solar-powered generators for those in need.

Many of these generators were distributed by Catholic Charities to families who suffered catastrophic damage from the hurricane in some of the hardest hit areas of the Diocese including Fort Myers Beach, Pine Island, Estero, Fort Myers, Cape Coral and beyond.

On Oct. 24, 2022, a team from Geneverse met with some of the recipients of their solar generators and heard harrowing stories of fear and desperation as the howling winds and rising storm surge from Ian encircled their homes.

Symantha Campagnolo, and her daughter Olivia, a 7th grader at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, were among the recipients of a new solar generator and shared their experience during and after Ian.

They live in Fort Myers, close to the Caloosahatchee River, but felt they were prepared for Ian, until they saw the water rise and their gas-powered generator fail early in the storm. Their home was flooded, and they had a lot of damage and lived without electricity for nearly two weeks. The donation of a solar-powered generator offers peace of mind for the future.

“Thank you so much for this solar-powered generator,” Campagnolo said. “I was afraid to operate what we had; and it turns out it didn’t work at all. This is so easy. And I can charge it and not worry about the danger of having to fill it with gas.”

Olivia was impressed by the technology that comes in the compact-sized generators and how a few solar panels, laid out in the yard, will charge to full capacity in about two hours. “That is amazing. It is perfect for what we needed in the days after the storm when you can’t find gas anywhere.”

Geneverse provided several types of solar-powered generators, each valued between $1,300 and $6,000, depending on size. The generators are quiet, safe for indoor use, and designed to help homeowners run their essential electrical items – such as refrigerators and cell phones — on their own power in the event of a power failure.

Anson Liang, Chief Executive Officer of Geneverse, Inc., said he was pleased and proud the company was able to help.

Liang, who founded Geneverse after a severe power outage in his San Francisco Bay Area neighborhood, said “Our product is designed to help in emergency situations like the Diocese of Venice has just experienced, in the aftermath of hurricanes like Ian. Solar panels capture the sun’s energy, convert it into electricity, and store it in a backup battery power station for immediate or later use. It’s perfect for people who live in Florida, with all the sun.”

Eddie Gloria, Catholic Charities CEO, said the organization has been at the forefront of the disaster response and said he is thrilled to have this generous and much-needed help from Geneverse.

“We still have clients that are displaced or in the beginning stages of rebuilding, and these generators will go a long way to help ease the burden and help them on their journey to recovery,” Gloria said.

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, was impressed by the solar-powered generators as well, and grateful that several Catholic school teachers and families received the generators.

Father Belmonte also witnessed a demonstration at St. Andrew as a science teacher set a generator out in a field and very quickly was able to have enough of a charge to run a toaster and charge an iPad, impressing his students, but they also wanted assurances that the generator was capable of running a gaming console. It can, plus many other items all at once.

Rivals battle on field, united in the Lord

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School Viking football team from Fort Myers defeated the Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Cougar football team from Sarasota on the gridiron 27-24 on Oct. 21, 2022.

The final score of the hard-fought game was irrelevant as the two schools put aside their rivalry and came together in the wake of the devastating impacts of Hurricane Ian. The Fort Myers region was hard hit by Ian and many students, staff and faculty lost their homes. The Sarasota area did not have near as much damage, but impacts were felt, and the homes of several families were badly impacted.

Although sorrowed by their own losses, the realization by the Cougar football team that their rivals were hurting even worse caused them to spring into action. This included a school-wide effort to collect much needed disaster relief items. On Oct. 20, Mooney players and coaches loaded up a truck with these donations and delivered them to Fort Myers where they were given to needy members of the Verot community.

This gesture did not go unnoticed. Just prior to the opening kick-off, the entire Verot football team and cheer squad, accompanied by their coaches, crossed the field carrying a banner which read “Thank You for Supporting our Bishop Verot Community.” The banner included the school logos as well as the signatures and individual “Thank you” messages from each player, cheerleader, coach and support staff.

This act of Christian character and class brought a roar of approval from the Mooney grandstands as the banner was brought forward and the two head coaches shook hands. As a Cardinal Mooney social media post after the game stated: “Sometimes it is so much more than football.”

The game served as the Mooney homecoming and included honoring multiple graduating classes, with a special emphasis on the class of 1962, the first graduating class at Cardinal Mooney. At various moments before the game and during breaks, these special alumni were recognized.

Ongoing stories of recovery

Progress being made in removing debris on Fort Myers Beach

Debris removal at Ascension Parish and the San Damiano Monastery of Saint Clare on Fort Myers Beach is well underway. The property was inundated with more than 12 feet of storm surge from Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28, 2022.

Contractors are working hard to mitigate any further damage by removing the large debris from the interior of the church, rectory, Parish Hall, and monastery which were all wrecked. Plywood was placed over each broken window while destroyed equipment, furniture and pews were removed, clearing the way so mitigation from further damage could take place. This mitigation includes drying out each building.

The property has no power or running water, so contractors brought their own generators to run some equipment. Additionally, crews are actively removing the remains of nine houses which littered the property after being pushed by the surge. The clearing of this debris will allow better access to the property which has been limited.

In addition, Knights of Columbus disaster response members from several Diocesan Councils, including from Ave Maria where the Poor Clare nuns are temporarily residing, have been assisting in retrieving and salvaging religious and personal items from the debris of each of the buildings. Items that could be saved but cannot remain on the property during the rebuilding process were taken to secure locations to be cleaned and stored before they are returned to the Parish and monastery at a later date.

To learn more about the plight of the priests and Poor Clare Nuns who were in the monastery during the hurricane, please read the previously published articles at or

Therapy dogs visit Diocesan Catholic schools in Lee County

Furry friends are making special visits to the three Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools in Lee County following Hurricane Ian. The therapy dogs are visiting St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers, as well as Bishop Verot Catholic High School, also in Fort Myers.

The first visit was to Bishop Verot on Oct. 19, 2022, where the dogs were brought to the school courtyard where students were able to pet and hug the dogs to their hearts content. These dogs also visited the elementary schools and are returning several days a week to ensure each student has time with the dogs.

These therapy dogs are specially trained to be around large groups of people and are a good way for the students to have smiles and laughter even though dozens of students and staff lost homes or had significant damage during the hurricane. One teacher at Bishop Verot said everyone in the school suffered some sort of emotional trauma from the hurricane and having the therapy dogs visit was a time to allow everyone to forget, even for a moment, what they have been enduring during the past month.

Students help to package meals

Members of the St. John Neumann Catholic High School Key Club joined students from other Naples-area schools to package 50,000 meals with the group Meals of Hope on Oct. 22, 2022. Typically, these packaged meals would be sent off to needy countries around the world, but because of the impact of Hurricane Ian, the food will remain in Collier County to help victims of the hurricane. The Key Club at Neumann is a service club which participates in a variety of projects helping people in need throughout the community.



Newest disaster relief site now open

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. is now providing water, ready-to-eat meals, baby items, hygiene kits, tarps, and other essential supplies for distribution in the parking lot behind the Ministry Center of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, 21505 Augusta Ave., Port Charlotte. The disaster distribution point opened on Oct. 19, 2022, and is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday to Saturday, in the parking lot behind the Parish school, at Augusta Avenue and Gates Avenue. Catholic Charities is currently operating six disaster distribution sites, down from a peak of 10 in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Ian. The locations change as the needs of the community and the response transitions to more of a recovery mode in different areas.

If you need help

Please visit There you will find an updated list of disaster distribution points for supplies. This list is updated at the end of each day and will change often as the focus of the recovery shifts and the different needs are understood.

How to Help

If you would like to support the Diocesan response to Hurricane Ian, please visit, or send a check to Diocese of Venice in Florida, ATTN: Hurricane Ian Relief, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.


If you are interested in volunteering, please visit to find a list of disaster distribution points where volunteers are needed for loading vehicles, sorting supplies and additional assistance.

Additional help

The Diocese will hold a special second collection for Hurricane Ian relief on the weekend of Oct. 22-23 in all Parishes. Also, please contact your local Parish to learn about collection drives for hurricane supplies.

The Diocese of Venice extends its thanks to everyone for their continued prayers and outpouring of support as the recovery from Hurricane Ian continues.

State CCW Conference held in Sarasota

The 25th Biennial Conference of the Florida Council of Catholic Women (FCCW), took place Oct. 20-22, 2022, at the Embassy Suites in downtown Sarasota. The theme for the Conference was “Love One Another.”

Members of Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (VDCCW) hosted the event just three weeks after Hurricane Ian struck the Diocese on Sept. 28.

FCCW President and Province Director Tammy Farr and Brenda Dolan, Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women Conference Coordinator, and FCCW Province Director Elect, said there was some doubt the Conference would take place when the hurricane struck, but everyone from the Diocese of Venice and across the state rallied to ensure the conference would come off without a hitch. In the end, more than 120 attended the event.

“We came together and persevered to have a joyous, resourceful and humorous gathering,” Farr said. “Council sisters, WE DID IT!!”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane offered the invocation and blessing at the closing banquet. The Bishop later remarked about how the CCW embodies what St. John Paul II called the “feminine genius” or “genius of women.”

“You, as women, have a very special place and purpose,” Bishop Dewane said. “Your impact on the life of the Church and in society is of inestimable value.”

During the banquet, FCCW President Farr presented Bishop Dewane and the Diocese of Venice with approximately $10,000, raised in just three weeks since the hurricane, to go toward disaster relief. The Bishop expressed his gratitude saying the money would go toward the ongoing work of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., which has been on the front lines responding in the hardest hit communities since the storm struck.

Farr also announced that the FCCW members had collected and donated a number of disaster relief supplies which were directed to help CCW members who were severely impacted by the hurricane.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski, of Miami, was the principal celebrant at the closing liturgy on Oct. 22 at St. Martha Parish, with Bishop Dewane concelebrating.

Both Archbishop Wenski and Bishop Dewane spoke at the closing banquet, praising the work of the FCCW and the role the women play in their home Dioceses, as well as in their legislative activism at the local, state, and national levels on issues that include life, and the death penalty.

All Diocesan Catholic schools open

Bishop celebrates Mass in two hardest hit areas

Just three weeks after Hurricane Ian left destruction in its wake on Sept. 28, 2022, students at all 15 Diocese of Venice Catholic schools had returned to the classroom.

The coordination necessary to get each school opened in a safe and timely manner was the work of countless staff and volunteers who banded together, focused on a singular goal. The final four schools to reopen were in the hardest hit areas of Lee and Charlotte County – St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charlotte, St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, and St. Francis Xavier Catholic School and Bishop Verot Catholic High School, both in Fort Myers.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, both complimented the outstanding work of the schools’ faculty and staff to get the schools open. While many schools had damage, some of the delays included a lack of electricity or drinkable water, as well as allowing time for families in some areas time to recover from the destruction of their homes. Another factor caused by the storm was the issue of space. Diocesan enrollment is at an all-time high at many schools, meaning where there was damage, a reimagining of the use of remaining space was necessary. With the first phase of hurricane recovery completed, all schools were open by Oct. 18.

At Bishop Verot Catholic High School, where awnings were torn away, portable classrooms damaged and bleachers twisted like pretzels, the return to school on Oct. 17 was met with joy and sorrow as many students and faculty had severe damage to homes, some losing everything to Ian’s wrath.

On the first day back, Bishop Dewane celebrated Mass for the school. The Bishop acknowledged everyone had been suffering through a difficult time in some way or another. This suffering varied greatly from destroyed homes or the total disruption of lives as whole neighborhoods and businesses became unrecognizable while there was an ongoing struggle to attain the basic necessities of food, power and drinkable water.

“We need to keep them in our prayers,” Bishop Dewane said. “To lift up these individuals to the Lord; so that He place His healing hands upon them.”

The Bishop called upon the Holy Spirit to enter into the people of Bishop Verot, particularly those who suffered the most from the hurricane. “Let us be united with them in the difficulty they face.”

Mass was also celebrated by Bishop Dewane on Oct. 19 for St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charlotte, the day after their return to the classroom. The school had some roof and fencing damage, but the region had extreme impacts. Again, the Bishop spoke about the impacts of Hurricane Ian, stressing that the tragedy and difficulty many have faced is something that we can recover from and must not let it deter one’s faith and trust in God.

Schools helping schools

As impressive as it has been to get the schools back open so quickly, Bishop Dewane and Father Belmonte have also said the schools are reflecting their Christian core by their continued outreach into the community, helping not only their own school communities but others who have been in need.

Teams from nearly every Catholic school in Collier, Lee, Charlotte and Sarasota counties have helped families clear out debris from wrecked homes. Others have brought emergency supplies into neighborhoods.

Bishop Verot served as a temporary clearing house for getting donated emergency supplies to impacted families for the three Catholic schools in Lee County. More than two dozen faculty and staff lost homes, and more than 150 student families had similar destruction; so, the need was great. Donations from other Diocesan Catholic schools, as well as from Catholic schools from across Florida and beyond have flowed into the region. Since some families lost the entire contents of homes, the donations did not go to waste and were much appreciated.

Students from St. Ann Catholic School in Naples have been very busy. First, they held a food and emergency relief drive, which was combined with an effort by St. John the Evangelist Parish to benefit the St. Vincent de Paul Society Naples food pantry. The school then collected thousands in gift cards to give to needy families. Finally, the students sent handmade “Thank You” notes to local first responders, including the Naples Police Department, in gratitude for their work in protecting the community during and after the hurricane.

The girls’ basketball team from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota took advantage of a day off to do service work at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula on Oct. 14. The players organized the food pantry and cleaned the property of debris. They are making a difference on, and off, the court!

Student and parents from St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota used a day off from school on Oct. 17 to volunteer at All Faiths Food Bank, the regional supplier for food pantries in Sarasota and DeSoto counties.  The volunteers filled 160 boxes of food and 1,500 backpacks for local families and students.

At St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, where the storm impacts were relatively less severe, Oct. 14, a day usually used for training for teachers, turned into an opportunity to volunteer at St. Paul Parish in Arcadia. The community was hard hit by the hurricane with severe wind damage and later river flooding. The faculty and staff volunteered at a Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. Disaster Response Distribution site helping to load vehicles with disaster relief.

These are just a few examples of the ongoing outreach and service being done by Diocesan Catholic schools in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

Small Boca Grande church stands tall

The people of Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island are no stranger to hurricanes, so when Hurricane Ian approached, they prepared and prayed for the best.

Father Jerome Carosella, Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande, stayed at the rectory during Hurricane Charley in 2004 and thought about staying this time until a deputy Sheriff told him to leave. So, Father Carosella put the storm shutters in place and took the Blessed Sacrament, the consecrated Communion hosts, to St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Grove City for safekeeping. Then he went to stay with parishioner-friends in South Gulf Cove.

He returned to Boca Grande on Sept. 30, 2022, two days after the storm struck, having to wait until the waters on the island receded enough to allow passage of trucks.

Unsure what he would find, Father was saddened to see widespread damage on the island but was relieved the church made it through Ian okay.

“Not too bad,” Father Carosella said, recalling that day. “Lots of roof damage and some water, but we were blessed.”

The interior of the small church, built in 1950, is reminiscent of Spanish missions erected in the 17th Century with interior artwork dating to as early as the 15th Century. Nothing inside suffered irreparable damage, even though half of the roof was peeled back. Fortunately, part of the old roof, which was damaged during Hurricane Charley, was left on the building, and provided enough protection to avoid catastrophe. The howling winds of the storm forced water around the old wood doors at the front and rear of the church, but the damage was limited.

The hurricane winds of Ian did shred part of the rectory roof, along with three storm shutters, and water poured into three rooms there. In addition, a section of the roof of the Boca Grande Pre-School, operated by Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., had similar roof and water intrusion, while the newly built Parish Hall had only superficial damage.

Father Carosella said friends and strangers were quick to assist in cleaning up the property, putting temporary tarps on the damaged roofs, mitigating against further damage from the water intrusion.

“It’s hard work, but it has had a good benefit; I’ve lost 7 pounds,” Father Carosella said.

Father has celebrated Mass every day since Sept. 30, and the congregation has slowly increased from two the first day to several dozen by Oct. 16 as access to the barrier island improved and coincided with the restoration of power and water on Oct. 11.

A wedding, scheduled for Oct. 15, was relocated to a “distant second-option,” St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. “She was baptized here 30 years ago, and it would have been beautiful. I guess the back-up had to do in a pinch.”

Carol and Laurence Hall, who have been on Boca Grande for 60 years, had damage to their home, but nothing that cannot be fixed. When the couple returned to the town after evacuating, Carol Hall said Our Lady of Mercy “was one of the first things we checked up on. Not too bad. So blessed that it wasn’t worse, and we were able to be here for Mass this morning.”

Father Carosella knows the Parish was fortunate as no storm surge inundated the island. Others had severe damage with some losing homes. Within a block of Our Lady of Mercy, a cellular tower collapsed and cut a bakery in half, while a Baptist church had its roof, steeple and a wall blown out, and nearly every home in view had tarps or other obvious damage.

Father credits the lack of damage from Ian to the repairs done after Hurricane Charley and pointed out two olive trees which were trimmed way back not long before the storm.

“Who knows where they would have ended up or what damage that huge tree would have done. Unfortunately, we did lose the best mango tree on the island; it and its two companions are no more.”

While sorry to see the damage, Father Carosella pointed out that the leaves on the hibiscus were coming back fast, a sign that eventually, everything will come back, and the island paradise will be restored again.

Ascension Parish and monastery clean-up begins

With Hurricane Ian long gone, the cleanup is only just beginning on Fort Myers Beach at Ascension Parish and the Poor Clare Monastery of San Damiano.

Until Oct. 15, 2022, access to the property was by foot from Estero Boulevard, the main road which passes in front of the property. A parishioner who lives on Fort Myers Beach was able to clear a path onto the property, pushing debris and sand into piles, similar to how plows move snow.

This access will allow Diocesan contractors to come in and clear the larger debris, such as the wrecked contents of the Parish church, Parish Hall, rectory, and sheds, as well as the monastery offices, garages, and Chapel.

The debris removal includes nine homes, and their contents, that ended up on the property due to storm surge. Some of the debris lays scattered next to the church, in the driveway and in front of the monastery, as well as inside the 8-foot walls of the monastery compound.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane remarked on the plight of the priests and nuns on Fort Myers Beach who were stranded for three days before they were rescued.

“The Sisters and Father (William) Adams went through a harrowing time with Hurricane Ian and are now dealing with its aftermath, like so many in Southwest Florida and in the Diocese of Venice,” Bishop Dewane said.  “In the midst of total destruction, the Sisters are already worrying about how to get their next monthly shipment of hosts out! Their faith comes first, and they are thankful to God for their safety.”

Bishop Dewane went on to state that the safety and well-being of all in Southwest Florida is the first concern of the Diocese, and to address this issue Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. has established many Points of Distribution (PODS) throughout the region “to assist with basic human needs like food and water. The Diocese is working to assess the possibilities of repairing and rebuilding churches and schools, and we continue to ask for your prayers for all who have lost so much.”

Father Adams, Pastor of the Ascension Parish, first returned to the property on Oct. 10. Although he had been there for 72 hours following the destruction brought by Ian, the return was heartbreaking. He spoke about the property on Oct. 14.

“Everything is gone,” Father Adams said. “Seeing the destruction in person is nothing like seeing it on TV or in pictures. The Diocese had people out inspecting the damage… and my thought is that if they can get the Parish Hall fixed – that is the original church – we can have Mass for whoever is left on the island. That will be quicker to fix than the church because everything in the church needs to be repaired and replaced. We are starting from scratch.”

Father Adams said the monastery ground floor is gutted, and the Chapel is a mess. “But the building is three stories and sturdy. I know because when the surge breached the walls the building didn’t move and everything above the surge is fine. So as soon as we have power, we will be back.”

Abbess Sister Mary Frances and the three other nuns have also returned to the property several times as well to salvage a few personal items, do some minor cleaning and take inventory of what needs to be replaced.

“Everyone is being so helpful but there is only so much we can do right now,” Sister Mary Frances said on Oct. 15. “We’ll pick up the pieces.”

Ever with a positive outlook, Sister said, the nuns “want to go back. We have to go back and clean it up and go on… We will take it one day at a time. It’ll be okay.”

Members of the Knights of Columbus trekked to the property on Oct. 19 to retrieve missing monastery items from under some of the debris before the heavy equipment arrives. This included a large statue of Mary which stayed in place but was surrounded by several feet of metal, wood, glass, and other items from two homes.

Father Adams is currently staying at his sister’s home in Lee County, while Parochial Vicar Father Grzegorz Klich is staying at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Port Charlotte. The Poor Clare nuns are temporarily staying at a home in Ave Maria and are looking for a place to stay closer to their monastery to save time as they go back each day to clean up a little bit more.

With the prayers of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi, and to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Her Son, Jesus Christ, there is no doubt the Parish and monastery will return to their former glory as a beacon of faith for an island community that is working to rise from the ruins of destruction wrought by Hurricane Ian.

A Go Fund Me page has been set up on behalf of the Poor Clare Nuns on Fort Myers Beach.

To read the previous story about Ascension Parish and the Poor Clare Nuns, please visit

More stories from Hurricane Ian

Making progress

Just a few days after the Myakka River receded from record flooding, work crews were at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice doing mitigation in each of the buildings. By Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, just days after the waters receded enough to allow access to the property, crews had emptied the contents of each of the Villas and were working on removing the flooring in the St. Joseph Chapel.

During the river flooding after Hurricane Ian, at least 18 inches or more of river water entered each building. Because the waters remained high for more than a week after the buildings were breeched, more damage occurred. In fact, the cleanup crews were forced to cut about four feet of dry wall in the Chapel as the water had made the bottom parts unsalvageable.

While OLPH is closed for repairs, some of the activities and retreats have been moved to new locations. For a complete list and more updates, please visit

Cross straightened

The cross on the roof of St. Cecilia Parish church in Fort Myers was knocked askew and left dangling by the fierce winds of Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28, 2022. On Oct. 14, a large cherry-picker lifted workers up to straighten the cross and make it stand tall once again. The church property had other minor damage, but the restoration of the cross was a symbol of progress toward a full recovery not only for the Parish but for the entire Fort Myers community which suffered great losses during the hurricane.


Roof sealed

A long strip of the high-pitched roof of St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers was peeled off during Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28, 2022. This and other roof damage caused by the winds allowed water to enter into the church, causing extensive damage in the narthex, chapel and main sanctuary. Contractors for the Diocese were able to place sealing tarps over the holes in the roof by Oct. 10 which will be in place until repairs can take place preventing any further damage.


Pine Island Parish open for Mass

Daily Mass returned on Oct. 17, 2022, to Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Parish in Bokeelia, Pine Island, an area hard hit by Hurricane Ian. Mass is being celebrated although there is still no power, internet or phones at the church. Daily Mass is at 8:30 a.m., and the weekend schedule (4 p.m. Saturday, and 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. Sunday) remains the same. The buildings on the property suffered damage, with major water into the Parish Hall and some into the church. Many trees were knocked down and there was water intrusion in the church and Parish Hall, but otherwise the church had no damage from storm surge which impacted the southern section of the island. Parish staff is posting updates as needed, please visit

Knights feed 1,000

Members of the Knights of Columbus from multiple Councils converged on Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, to host a cookout for the Fort Myers community which was hard hit by Hurricane Ian. Many parishioners lost homes while others lost work. The Knights grilled up more than 1,000 hamburgers and hot dogs so everyone had a hearty meal. Whatever food that was leftover was sent home with the parishioners.

The Knights were primarily from Collier County, including from Parishes such as Ave Maria, St. William, St. Agnes, St. John the Evangelist and St. Elizabeth Seton as well as others representing the Knights Florida State Council. Father Patrick O’Connor, Oblates of St. Frances de Sales, said the food was greatly appreciated by the many families at this Spanish-speaking Parish. Many were hit doubly hard by the storm with home damage and those in the service industry being thrown out of work for an unknown length of time.

Community rallies after Ian brings winds then flooding

DeSoto County took a double hit from Hurricane Ian. First, the hurricane brought battering winds that tore roofs off and caused a great deal of damage causing many to lose their homes and business. Then, two days later, the Peace River, normally a tranquil strip of water that meanders through the heart of the county, overspilled its banks and kept rising to an all-time record crest. The flood waters rose so fast that many fled with what was on their back.

St. Paul Parish in Arcadia was not immune to the wind damage, suffering losses of the offices, classrooms and hall and leaks in the church. “Blessed be God we are alive!” said Father Luis Pacheco, St. Paul Administrator. “Despite the devastation that we all have encountered with Hurricane Ian, some more than others, we have a lot to be grateful for. It could have been much worse.”

St. Paul has become the epicenter of the recovery effort for the region with Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., setting up a Disaster Response site to give out, food, water, tarps, blankets, and cleaning supplies. Many other organizations have rallied at the property to offer clothing, bedding, diapers, medical check-ups and free hot meals. Among the supporting organizations were several from Diocesan Parishes, such as the Emmaus group from St. Joseph the Worker Parish in LaBelle, or a team from Our Lady of Grace in Avon Park, seminarians from St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, and many more.

“We will continue to strive and come out stronger,” Father Pacheco said. “I hope this hurricane has centered us and given us a new perspective in life. It is all about our relationship with God and with one another.”

Ian Relief second collection Oct. 22-23, 2022

As a result of Hurricane Ian’s destructive path, lives have been tragically lost and many properties, homes, and businesses have been severely damaged or destroyed. The suffering and widespread damage in the storm’s wake are staggering. No part of the Diocese has been untouched by the storm’s destruction.

“Several Parishes have lost church buildings, and others have had facilities severely damaged by the storm,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane said in a letter to the faithful. “Many people throughout the region have endured significant damage and loss, still others have come together to provide help in the face of significant suffering. Many Parishes in the worst impacted areas have been the center of immediate response. Catholic Charities, as well as other agencies, have been working tirelessly to provide humanitarian assistance.”

To respond to these recent calamities, Parishes in the Diocese of Venice will take up a special collection the weekend of Oct. 22-23.

“This collection will help provide for the pastoral and reconstruction needs of the Church, as well as the efforts of Catholic Charities in providing both immediate and long-term assistance to those impacted,” Bishop Dewane wrote. “Thank you for your kindness and profound generosity towards all impacted by the hurricane. Your compassion towards those in need fulfills the Lord’s command to ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Hurricane Ian recovery

As the recovery from Hurricane Ian continues, Bishop Frank J. Dewane and the Diocese of Venice continue to facilitate helping those in need. Because of the scope of the devastation, with coastal communities destroyed, widespread wind damage and inland flooding, there is great need.

If you need help

Please visit There you will find an updated list of disaster distribution points for supplies. This list is updated at the end of each day and will change often as the focus of the recovery shifts and the different needs are understood.

How to help

If you would like to support the Diocesan response to Hurricane Ian, please visit, or send a check to Diocese of Venice in Florida, ATTN: Hurricane Ian Relief, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.


If you are interested in volunteering, please visit to find a list of disaster distribution points where volunteers are needed for loading vehicles, sorting supplies and additional assistance.

Additional help

The Diocese will hold a special second collection for Hurricane Ian relief on the weekend of Oct. 22-23 in all Parishes. Also, please contact your local Parish to learn about collection drives for hurricane supplies.

The Diocese of Venice extends its thanks to everyone for their continued prayers and outpouring of support as the recovery from Hurricane Ian continues.