News Briefs for the week of December 12, 2023

Haitian Independence Mass

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites all to participate in the Annual Mass celebrating the 220th Anniversary of Haitian Independence on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. The 1:30 p.m. Mass, which takes place on the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, brings together the various Haitian communities within the Diocese of Venice for one celebration. Bishop Dewane and priests serving the Haitian Catholic community of the Diocese welcome Most. Rev. Charles Peters Barthelus, Bishop of the Diocese of Port-de-Paix, who will be the Principal Celebrant and Homilist. There is a reception after the Mass in the Parish Hall. For more information, please contact Father Fritz Ligondé at 239-210-1018.

WARNING – Text/Email SCAM Alert

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 clergy – including Bishop Frank J. Dewane – or Parish/school staff, requesting donations in the form of gift cards and/or wire transfers. These messages, which are more frequent during the Christmas Season, often come from text/emails that look similar to official Diocesan/Parish/school numbers or accounts and often greet the recipient by name and have the priest’s, Bishop’s, or staff member’s name in the “From” line and/or closing signature of the message. The SPAM often claims that the priest/Bishop/staff member is in need of gift cards or money to aid a sick child, relative, or parishioner. The message then asks the person to purchase gift cards/money and then to text/email the redemption code and PIN number. It is Diocesan policy that neither the Bishop, nor priests or staff request donations in the form of gift cards, PayPal, MoneyGram, etc. Without this awareness, some have responded to the spoofed messages, with consequences, including loss of funds. There is an established process in place on how parishioners can make donations and participate in the life of the Diocese, Parish, or school. If you receive such a SCAM text or email, please immediately contact the Diocesan/Parish/school directly!

Catholic Charities Annual Christmas Appeal needs your support!

The 22nd Annual Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal is underway and needs your support! The Christmas Appeal continues through January 2024 and is Catholic Charities’ largest annual fundraiser, critical to operating this social service organization. Gifts provide funding for the many Catholic Charities programs and services available throughout Southwest Florida. Your generosity enables Catholic Charities to serve those seeking help all year long. To donate please mail a contribution to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285, or visit https://catholiccharitiesdov.org/donate.

Christmas Luau in Naples

The staff and faculty of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples welcomed its generous 2022-23 donors to campus for a Christmas Luau on Dec. 13, 2023. From tiki torches to a roasted pig, the celebration in the school courtyard brought the magic of the islands to the celebration. Bishop Frank J. Dewane was present and gave the blessing and the Principal, Salesian Sister Patricia Roche, gave the State of the School address. Participants learned about the positive impact that their gifts have had on the school and the exciting news that the school is growing! The faculty and staff expressed their gratitude to those who were able to join them and to those who were unable to attend this year. There are already plans to do it again next year!

Midterm exam support offered in Sarasota and Fort Myers

The Senior Ministry Club of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota delivered hand-written notes to all freshmen on Dec. 14, 2023, wishing them good luck on their midterm exams. Along with the note came a “Smarties” candy. Meanwhile, at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, the student services faculty brought in furry friends on Dec. 15, to help alleviate the stress as students prepared for their exams. Petting a dog, or giving a few hugs, offered a break from the intensive studies and testing that takes place every year before the Christmas holiday break.

WARNING: text/email SCAM alert in the Diocese

Staff Report

4/9/19

The faithful of the Diocese of Venice need to be careful when responding to requests for financial help from Diocesan/Parish priests and staff.

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 clergy – including Bishop Frank J. Dewane – or parish staff, requesting donations in the form of gift cards and/or wire transfers.

These messages often come from text/emails that look similar to official Diocesan/Parish numbers or accounts and often greet the recipient by name and have the priest’s, Bishop’s, or staff member’s name in the from line and/or closing signature of the message. The recent SPAM claim that the priest/Bishop/staff member is in need of gift cards or money to aid a sick child or relative. The gift cards/money requested are often for gaming systems. The message then asks that the person purchase the gift card and text/email the redemption code and PIN number.

“This is a well-crafted and targeted attack on the Catholic Church across the country which continues to repeatedly affect our Diocese,” explained Diocese Information Technology Director Roger Navarro. “These text/email messages are fakes that should not be responded to. Whenever in doubt, people should call the parish or school and verify the validity of the request.”

It is Diocesan policy that neither the Bishop, nor priest or staff to request donations in the form of gift cards, PayPal, MoneyGram, etc. Without this awareness, some have responded to the spoofed messages, with bad consequences, including loss of funds.

It has been common that the email addresses used have been nearly identical to the actual Diocesan/parish email. but instead of being an ORG email it is from a gmail.com, yahoo.com or other common email service provider.

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.

“The best defense against this sort of serious scam is to raise awareness in the community,” Navarro said. “Do not respond to the messages; do not click links in these messages; and do not open any attachments in these messages,” Navarro said. Warning notifications have been sent out to all Diocesan parishes several times in the past year, he added.

It is recommended that this information is shared immediately, as this situation requires vigilance on everyone’s part before anyone else becomes victims of this crime.

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