News Briefs for the Week of March 15, 2024

Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Televised Mass schedule

The Diocese of Venice in Florida will air the televised Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Masses, each for a full hour. The Masses for the homebound can be viewed at noon on the CW Network in Sarasota, Manatee, Desoto, Charlotte, Hardee and Highland counties, and at 10:30 a.m. on FOX4 in Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Hendry, Glades and Desoto counties. The Mass is also available on the Diocese of Venice website at

Student wins prestigious essay contest

Congratulations to Hunter Wehle from St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charotte who was honored as the 2023 Florida Daughters of the American Revolution Essay Contest winner in Orlando on March 9, 2024. This year, the essay theme was “John Phillip Sousa.” Hunter was one of three St. Charles students who had their essay win a regional competition. Well done everyone!

Student wins state Knights free throw challenge

Maddy Mitchell of Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice placed first in her age group at the Knights of Columbus State Free Throw Championship in Melbourne on March 9, 2024. Maddy was one of two students from Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School to reach the state championships.

First Communion retreat held in Wauchula

First Communion candidates at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula took part in a retreat on March 9, 2024. The boys and girls spent time in Eucharistic Adoration, learning about the different parts of Mass, and praying the rosary. While praying the Holy Rosary, each boy and girl placed a white rose before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This retreat helps clear the way for the youth to take part in their First Sacrament of Reconciliation on March 20. They will receive their first Holy Communion in May.

Students take part in weekly Lenten prayer service

Each Friday of this Lenten Season, St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring has been taking part in a morning prayer service. During the prayer service, students gather around the Blessed Mother for prayers, petitions, Pledge of Allegiance, and mission statement. Each class takes a turn leading the school in this special prayer time.

Gala to celebrate Community Pregnancy Clinics 50th anniversary

Community Pregnancy Clinics Inc. (CPCI) is celebrating its 50th Anniversary with a Gala.  “A Legacy of Life” will take place beginning at 5:00 p.m., on Saturday, April 6 at the Ritz-Carlton Tiburon, 600 Tiburon Drive, Naples. Tickets start at $500 and include cocktail social hour, silent auction, elegant 3-course dinner, keynote speech from The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles, and after party with live music and dancing. For further information and to purchase tickets, please contact Joel Chute at or 239-328-7547.

Chrism Mass at Cathedral on March 26

The Chrism Mass, which takes place during Holy Week every year, will be held at 10:30 a.m., March 26, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. During this Mass, Bishop Frank J. Dewane will bless the Holy Oils which are used in the administration of the Sacraments at each parish throughout the year. Priests and Deacons celebrating 25 and 50 years of Ordination are recognized at this Mass. All are encouraged to attend in support of our clergy and to participate in this important Holy Week celebration.


Relic of St. Jude visits Naples Parish

A nationwide pilgrimage of a unique first-class relic of St. Jude Thaddeus – patron saint of lost causes and desperate situations – visited the Diocese of Venice on Feb. 27, 2024.

The relic – the forearm of St. Jude, encased in a wooden reliquary carved into the shape of an upright arm imposing a blessing – was on display at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples. This ancient relic of St. Jude – often called the “Apostle of the Impossible” – is currently traveling in the U.S. for the first time. The tour started in Sept. 2023 and concludes in May 2024. Making stops in 100 cities, its mission is to bring comfort and hope to those in need.

Fourth through eighth-grade students from St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School were given the privilege of being the first to be in the presence of the relic. Displays noting the history of St. Jude and of the relic, were placed at the back of the church as each students awaited their turn to approach the display case. Fourth grade teachers used the opportunity to take have a mini retreat for the students, doing a deeper dive into the life of St. Jude, the apostles, and of relics of saints in general.

Father Casey Jones, Pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton, said it was a privilege to have the relic at the Parish. He was afforded the opportunity to touch the relic to a statue of St. Jude on the east side of the church. “This was a great honor to be able to handle the reliquary. This is allowed only in this special circumstance.”

Father Jones was unsure of whether people would participate in the visitation, but before the official public display began at 2 p.m., more than 100 were waiting patiently by the front doors and the line never diminished throughout the afternoon and into the evening. Confessionals were open prior to a 7 p.m. Mass. The display visit concluded at 10 p.m. The Fourth Degree members of the Knights of Columbus stood as an honor guard throughout the display of the relic.

As the faithful proceeded forward, some paused while others knelt before the relic, pressing their hand to the case, or touching a rosary or other religious article to the case.

Catherine Jackson of Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers said she was near tears being so close to the relic. “St. Jude was someone who knew Jesus personally. And to be that close to even a part of that person is incredible. I feel so blessed.”

The nationwide tour of the St. Jude relic was presented by Treasures of the Church, a traveling ministry of evangelization that brings a host of relics to various Catholic churches nationwide. Father Carlos Martins, Director of Treasures of the Church, is accompanying the St. Jude relic on the tour. Treasures of the Church is a Vatican-sponsored ministry utilizing the saints’ relics which has visited the Diocese of Venice in the past with groupings of relics of more than 150.

Father Jones and Father Martins concelebrated a Mass in honor of the visiting relic at 7 p.m.  Father Martins, a priest of the Companions of the Cross, was the homilist and spoke of St. Jude’s close family relationship to Jesus, and his missionary work as an apostle.

Speaking to a packed church filled with diverse pilgrims, Father Martins described how St. Jude was Jesus’s first cousin, whose mother, Mary of Cleophas, was a sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He told the congregation that the relic was actually bones from the arm of St. Jude, documenting how and where the saint died and that he was buried where he was martyred with his body undisturbed, due to Roman law and superstition.

St. Jude suffered martyrdom in Beruit during the first century together with another Apostle, St. Simon the Zealot, with whom he is usually connected. St. Jude’s body was transferred from Beirut to Rome during the time of Emperor Constantine and placed in a crypt within St. Peter’s Basilica. His remains are under the main altar of St. Joseph, in a tomb along with those of St. Simon. The arm was removed from Saint Jude’s tomb centuries ago and placed into the reliquary. Its permanent residence is the Church of San Salvatore in Lauro, in central Rome.

Pilgrims were able to receive an extraordinary Plenary Indulgence issued by Pope Francis for attending this event.

The tour of the relic continues with additional stops in Florida before going on to Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Texas.

News Briefs for the week of February 16, 2024

Large group goes to Catholic Days

More than 50 people from the Diocese of Venice, including Bishop Frank J. Dewane and two dozen Catholic school students, took part in Catholic Days at the Capitol in Tallahassee from Feb. 7 to Feb. 8, 2024. This is an annual opportunity for the faithful to voice opinions directly to lawmakers from Southwest Florida on key pieces of legislation which are under consideration during this session. Primary focus was on ensuring the continued limitation on access to abortion. The students from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota and Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers also met with lawmakers and received a tour of the State Capitol.

40 Days for Life opens in Fort Myers, Sarasota and Naples

Show your support for life by simply praying for an end to abortion on the public sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood throughout the Lenten Season until March 24, 2024. For details and flier go to (add /sarasota or /fortmyers or /naples for a direct link to the location near you). Questions? Contact Jeanne at 941-374-1068 or

Two Diocesan teams participate in Model UN conference

Teams from St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples and Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Sarasota were delegates to the 23rd Boston University Model United Nations Conference (BosMUN) Feb. 2 to Feb. 4, 2024. The Model UN is a three-day simulation of the United Nations hosted by Boston University for high school students. Jake Marks and Alessio Cirino, of Neumann, took home the prestigious title of Outstanding Delegates, showcasing their exceptional diplomatic skills and commitment to global problem-solving. Fellow delegates Hunter Lund and Kale Van Wart received Verbal Commendations. Congratulations to all the delegates who listened, engaged, and contributed to this wonderful conference of intelligent minds who hope to help guide the world to a better tomorrow.

Bishop welcomes priests, deacons to his home

Ahead of the Lenten Season, Bishop Frank J. Dewane hosted the priests of the Diocese of Venice to his home for a dinner and reception on Feb. 9, 2024. The next evening the Permanent Deacons of the Diocese visited with Bishop for their own dinner and reception. The evenings were intended to create an opportunity for the clergy to gather together in an relaxing atmosphere ahead of busy Lenten Season.

Vocation talk inspires

Sharing her vocations journey, Sister Juliana Alfonso, Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco, and teacher at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, inspired eighth grade girls during a vocation talk at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers. Sister Juliana spoke about her vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and encouraged the young girls to think about their own relationship with Christ. Sister offered tips about growing closer to the Lord through prayer, reading the Sacred Scriptures, participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and most importantly by being at Mass each Sunday. The girls found Sister Julian engaging and loved having her visit.

Knights on Bikes promotes its Diaper Ride

The Knights on Bikes, a motorcycle club of the Knights of Columbus, took part in the first-ever Diaper Ride to Thrive Pregnancy Clinic in Cape Coral on Feb. 10, 2024. In addition to bringing diapers, they also donated $500. Thrive is a maternity home (formerly known as Lifeline), that brings Christ to women who have chosen life, The Knights on Bikes mission is to promote and adhere to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, and evangelize through fellowship, charity, and service. For more information about the Knights on Bikes please contact Pete Battle at 239-601-6061 or email

Scholarship application deadline approaching

The Catholic Community Foundation of Southwest Florida has opened the 2024-25 online scholarship applications. There are currently five different scholarships available from the Foundation. Applications close on Feb. 29, 2024. The majority of the scholarships are for residents of Sarasota County. These scholarships are for graduating seniors (class of 2023 or 2024), or for non-traditional students who have been out of school for 3+ years and wish to pursue a higher education. To find out which Catholic Community Foundation scholarship you qualify for, please visit

Our Mother’s House Wine Tasting Feb. 29

All are invited to attend the Our Mother’s House Wine Tasting, 5:30 p.m., February 29, 2024, at the Venice Community Center, Venice, 326 Nokomis Ave. S. The event will benefit the mothers and children at Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. This is a 2-year transitional living program, dedicated to empowering single mothers and their young children. Tickets are $90. Register online at For more information, 941-485-6264 or email

Carrying Pro-Life message to the world

Made in the image and likeness of God, every life matters.

That is the simple, yet overpowering message carried by the faithful during two marches for life in mid-January – one nationally in Washington, D.C., the other locally in Ave Maria.

Unified in their support for life, both rallies brought forth people both young and old, but mostly young people of high school and college ages. The enthusiasm of the participants in the marches was not diminished by the weather, during a Jan. 19, 2024, snowstorm in D.C., or on Jan. 20, a chilly and blustery day in Florida.

All who took part in the marches (tens of thousands in D.C., and more than 1,300 in Ave Maria) returned home invigorated to carry the Pro-Life message out into the world.

“We have the obligation to be that witness, and give that testimony for life,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane during the Ave Maria march, which included faithful from throughout the Diocese, as well as groups from the Archdiocese of Miami and Diocese of Orlando. “We gather as people for a culture of life. The struggle to address abortion is often dragged into the political arena, but it is not a political problem; it is a moral problem – a deep and serious one. It is deeply a moral problem in our society today. That is the arena from which we must address abortion.”

Bishop Dewane said we must continue to speak up for life, even while there have been positive gains, such as the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court Dobbs decision which overturned Roe V. Wade. Even in Florida, with a 15-week ban on abortion, scheduled to soon become a 6-week ban, the gains are threatened by those who don’t cherish the value of life.

The Bishop explained that the positive gains previously noted are being directly threatened by a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution which would essentially allow abortions, for any reason, until birth.

“This is a very dangerous amendment and something we must all be aware of and watch out for if it ends up on the November ballot,” Bishop Dewane said. “We need to rise up as one voice and say no to this amendment.”

Meanwhile, more than 200 from the Diocese of Venice took part in the National March for Life in Washington. The crowd was so large that the procession to the National Mall lasted more than three hours, in a snowstorm.

Among the larger groups in D.C. were representatives from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, Ave Maria University and the Ave Maria School of Law. Diocesan seminarians from St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach and Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts, also participated with their respective schools.

Several of the Diocesan high school students remarked upon their return that they were proud to be part of the National March for Life and they will continue to support the Pro-Life movement going forward until abortion is no more. They say they would also tell their friends about their experiences of being among so many like-minded teens who all have a passion about promoting a Culture of Life.

Father Eric Scanlan, Pastor at Incarnation Parish, went to Washington with students from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School. There, the group prayed outside the national headquarters of Planned Parenthood, the largest group of abortionists in the U.S. They also participated in a Vigil Mass, Jan. 18, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The morning of the National March, the group participated in the Life Fest at the D.C. Armory.

“It is always an emotional experience to participate in the March for Life,” said Father Scanlan, having participated for the past several years. “The best part is how the students respond. They are among thousands of others their own age who are also passionate about life. They carry the Pro-Life message home with them in their heart.”

The effort to protect life does not end with the marches. Starting Feb. 14, Ash Wednesday, and continuing through Lent, there will three 40 Days for Life spring campaign locations within the Diocese (Fort Myers, Naples, and Sarasota). During the campaign, the faithful will stand in peaceful prayer to end abortion. For more details, please visit

If you would like to learn more about the Respect Life issues and how you can be a witness for life, please visit

News Briefs for the week of January 26, 2024

Ordination to the Priesthood Feb. 10

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the faithful to the Ordination to the Priesthood of Transitional Deacon Alan Baldarelli.  The Ordination will take place at 11 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this important event in the life of Deacon Alan as well as the Diocese of Venice. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall. The ordination will be livestreamed at

Youth make sandwiches for homeless

Middle schoolers who are part of the Our Lady of Light Parish religious education program in Fort Myers made more than 400 sandwiches during their Jan. 18, 2024, gathering. These sandwiches were donated for distribution by the Lee County Homeless Coalition. The simple act of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches provided the youth a valuable lesson about giving back to the community, as we are all “Called to Serve” our brothers and sisters in Christ. Well done!

Fort Myers Knights have successful “Coats for Kids” drive

The Knights of Columbus Council 2596 at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Fort Myers conducted a “Coats for Kids” program by purchasing a number of jackets and hoodies for children in need. This was done to provide children with nice outerwear during the winter months to not only ward off the chill but to give them something new that they are happy to wear. On Jan. 22, 2024, the Knights were able to provide more than 120 new fleece-lined zip-up jackets for distribution with their partner, Child Care SWFL, a local non-profit that provides a myriad of support and educational services to families in need and at-risk children. Coats were supplied to Child Care’s five learning centers in Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres, and LaBelle. The Knights also presented Child Care with $500 to assist with their ongoing efforts.

Charismatic Day of Renewal and Formation Feb. 3

The Diocese of Venice Catholic Charismatic Renewal Commission invites all to the “Come Holy Spirit, Come” day of renewal from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, 1441 Spear St., Port Charlotte. There is a $10 fee, which includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Seating is limited and the deadline to register is Jan. 31.  Please register at Questions, please contact Theresa Salvo at 804-387-8282 or, or Margie DeFrancesca at 239-595-1938 or

National Marriage Week, and World Marriage Day!

The observances of National Marriage Week from Feb. 7 -14, 2024, and World Marriage Day, Sunday, Feb. 11 are opportunities to focus on building a culture of life and love that begins with supporting and promoting marriage and the family. The theme for 2024 is “Love Beyond Words.”  For resources from the USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth to help celebrate and live the great gift of married life, please visit Celebrate National Marriage Week 2024 – For Your Marriage. Resources are available in both English and Spanish.

Wedding Anniversary Masses in February

All couples celebrating 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, or more than 50 years of marriage are invited by Bishop Frank J. Dewane to an Anniversary Mass in their honor. The Diocese hosts two Anniversary Masses each year (one in the northern part of the Diocese and the second in the southern part) to accommodate the demand. The first Mass is 11 a.m., Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. The second Mass is 11 a.m., Feb. 24 at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. A luncheon follows each Mass. Free pictures with Bishop Dewane will also be available for the couples. To register for either Mass, please contact your local Parish office for reservations no later than one week before the event you choose to attend. For additional information, please contact the Diocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life at 941-484-9543.

Health Care Ethics Conference Feb. 17

Medical professionals, students, and interested laypeople are invited to the first annual Converging Roads health care ethics conference on Feb. 17, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs! This one-day conference will offer continuing education credits for health care professionals with presentations centered on the theme of Catholic Medicine in a Secular Society. For information, contact Carrie Harkey at, and to register, go to


After consultation, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announces the following:

Father Michael P. Orsi, is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of St. Agnes Parish and Chaplain of St. John Neumann Catholic High School, in Naples, effective January 17, 2024. Father Orsi requested retirement and thus, was granted, while retaining priestly faculties.


News Briefs for the week of January 12, 2024

Annual Mass held for circus and traveling show workers

Each year the circus and travelling show workers of the United States gather for three days to thank God for their continued blessings. This retreat was Jan. 5-7, 2024, at St. Martha Parish in downtown Sarasota, which is designated the “National Circus Parish.” The pastoral workers, who ensure that the Sacraments are available and maintained for travelling show people, function under the direction of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Cultural Diversity’s Subcommittee on the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers (PCMRT). Bishop Frank J. Dewane is the Episcopal Liaison for the Circus Ministry of the PCMRT. Bishop Dewane celebrated the closing Mass on Jan. 7, the Epiphany of the Lord, and he was assisted by several of the priests who serve the circus and traveling show workers. A special moment during the Mass occurred when Sister Joanna Okereke, a Handmaid of the Holy Child Jesus and assistant director of the PCMRT subcommittee, renewed her religious vows. This is done annually on the Epiphany of the Lord, and was presided over by Bishop Dewane, and witnessed by the faithful present.

9 Days for Life novena begins Jan. 16

The faithful are encouraged to pray “9 Days for Life,” an annual Respect Life novena starting Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. In the Catholic Church, a ‘novena’ consists of prayers over nine successive days, and this particular novena is an opportunity for prayer and reparation in observance of the annual Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children on Jan. 22. The overarching intention of the novena is the end to abortion. Each daily prayer intention highlights a related topic and is accompanied by a reflection, educational information, and suggested daily actions. Participants may access the novena and also subscribe to receive the daily prayers by email or text message in English at or in Spanish at

Migrant Care Grants application period open

Grant requests for funding of projects in 2024 are available from the Foundation for the Care of the Migrant Poor Fund and need to be submitted no later than Friday, March 31, 2024. To be considered a grant, the project must clearly be seen as a service to the migrant poor or new immigrants. Preference will be given to those projects under Catholic auspices. Applications can be submitted by visiting

New mural adorns Verot building

Students returned back from Christmas break at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers on Jan. 8, 2024, and were greeted by a new sight on campus! Eric Riemenschneider, a graphic design teacher, was busy during the past few weeks working on a new mural outside, in the cafeteria courtyard. The mural reads VEROT in bold letters on a blue background. Within the letters are symbols of school life, hands clasped together in prayer, caps tossed at graduation, St. Francis de Sales and Bishop Verot, patrons of the school, athletes in action, and the school Viking logo. Above the VEROT image is a large white cross. The mural is not complete, weather delayed the progress, but judging by its look so far, it will inspire Bishop Verot students for years to come.

Prayer Walk for Life Jan. 20 in Ave Maria

The Respect Life Ministry of Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria is hosting its 3rd annual Prayer Walk for Life, 10 a.m., Jan. 20. The walk begins with remarks from Bishop Frank J. Dewane and other dignitaries at the university football stadium and will then proceed through the university and conclude in the town square. More than 1,000 took part in 2023.

Knights on Bikes deliver toys to Clewiston mission

The Knights on Bikes, a motorcycle club of the Knights of Columbus, rode out to Santa Rosa de Lima Mission in Montura Ranch Estates, just south of Clewiston, on Jan. 6, 2024, the Feast of the Epiphany. There they delivered and distributed toys to migrant children in the community.  The Knights on Bikes mission is to promote and adhere to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, and evangelize through fellowship, charity, and service.

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. 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/school. If you receive such a SCAM text or email, please immediately contact the Diocesan/Parish/school directly!

Christmas celebrated across Diocese

The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:10-14

Passed through generations, the retelling of the coming of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in such a humble way, born in a manger to reign over the world, should cause everyone to pause and reflect on the gifts of grace that have come to each one of us through His birth.

This pause and time of reflection is at the heart of what Christmas is all about. This moment was celebrated throughout the Diocese of Venice in a variety of ways, most significantly through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated a pre-recorded TV Mass for the Homebound from St. Bernard Parish in Holmes Beach. This hour-long Christmas Mass reaches thousands of those who are unable to attend Mass for a variety of reasons.

Bishop Dewane also celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Mass at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. At the Midnight Mass, the Bishop brought forth the Child Jesus and placed Him in the manger as “O Come All Ye Faithful” was sung.

During the Midnight Mass, Bishop Dewane reminded the faithful that we are all part of Salvation History, and as such, we are called to a life within the Church, a Church not like the Roman Empire of Jesus’ time, but the new Kingdom built for us all.

“We are part of a new Kingdom, which started in a humble manger, with the Baby Jesus dressed in swaddling clothes,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is a different type of Kingdom from the time of Caesar Augustus when the individual meant little. The new Kingdom was built for us all. Jesus Christ does care about each one of us.”

Because of this new Kingdom, which is the Church on earth, led by the successors of Peter, we each have an obligation and responsibility to stand and speak up for the Church, the Bishop said.

“Jesus Christ has built for us a Church, a home for you and for me, and for many of our brothers and sisters. We are blessed to receive the goodness of the Lord by the love we express to Him, by our presence and active participation as we live our lives within the Church; being a full member; going to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each week; and praying to the Lord. This is who we are all called to be,” Bishop Dewane said.

The manger, or Nativity scene, is a celebratory focus of the Christmas Season. Several Diocesan Parishes and each Catholic school took time to have a retelling of the birth of Jesus with young children and in some cases with live animals.

For example, St. Michael Parish in Wauchula held a living Nativity play on Dec. 17, 2024, included a donkey, horses and many angels and shepherds. This community celebration is organized by the religious sisters who serve the Parish, the Sister Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, and includes a festival and the distribution of gifts for the children in the area.

Epiphany Cathedral Parish in Venice and St. William Parish in Naples hosted meals for those in need, the homeless, and the lonely. Epiphany hosted a Christmas Day dinner in the Parish Hall. The St. William luncheon took place at the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., on Dec. 26, and was coordinated with nearby St. Peter the Apostle Parish and Catholic Charities. Many volunteers supported each effort, including Bishop Dewane who worked the serving line at the Cathedral dinner, bringing smiles to the faces of those who came for a hot meal.

Christmas is also a time to help others so donations for the needy were piled high and distributed. The most common form of collecting items for needy children is through an Angel Tree, where the ornaments are a wish list item for a child or family.

The Angel Tree at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Parrish brought in a massive number of toys of all types, as well as more than $4,000 in gift card donations.

In Naples, at St. Ann Parish, the annual Council of Catholic Women Family 2 Family Christmas Gift Giving Program was a huge success, as it is each year. The effort collected more than 600 gift bags filled with needed items and then were distributed to several local charities.

As was the case at each Parish, many gave from their heart and brought bags of items well beyond what was sought. Naturally, no donated item was turned away and it just meant more people were granted a Merry Christmas.

Catholic schools spent much of the month in preparation for Christmas with pageants, recitals, concerts, parties, and other fun, such as creating handmade presents for family members or building and decorating gingerbread houses. At the same time, the schools teach students the true meaning of Christmas, including needing to spread the love of Christ, that is in their hearts, out to the world.

Young carolers from schools throughout the Diocese visited nearby assisted living facilities to spread holiday cheer by singing Christmas carols.

In addition, each school has a service component where students do work, volunteer or obtain funds or gifts to give back to the community. This effort goes into high gear during the Christmas Season.

At St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, the students collected canned goods for the St. Joseph Food Pantry, and toys and other goodies for needy children in the area.

The Knights on Bikes, a motorcycle club of the Knights of Columbus, donated more than 300 unwrapped Christmas presents for the more than 100 children at the Golisano Childrens Hospital in Fort Myers. Following their drop-off, the Knights gathered around the flagpole in front of the hospital and prayed a rosary for the children.

The “Good News of great joy” was widely celebrated throughout the Diocese of Venice during the Christmas Season, which continues through Jan. 8, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This year, many of the Diocesan faithful thought not only of their own family and friends but also of others, especially those most in need.

Thanksgiving celebrated across the Diocese

The idea of giving thanks, knowing that we are here because of gifts given to us by God, is at the core of what Thanksgiving is all about.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane described the holiday this way while celebrating Mass at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch on Nov. 23, 2023.

As hard as we try, Bishop Dewane added, “being who God called us to be is difficult, and we will fail along the way. But, the Bible records the wonderful gifts of God, which we can find within ourselves and in others who are all made in the image and likeness of God.”

The Gospel reading of the day (Luke 17:11-19) was the parable of the 10 lepers, when only one returned to thank Jesus upon being cured of the debilitating illness. Jesus asks where the other nine were. Bishop Dewane stressed how we are all among the missing nine at certain points in our life, but we must always strive to be among the ones who return.

“By your presence at Mass on Thanksgiving, you are counted among those who returned to Jesus, just as you came to give thanks to God today. Know the Lord sees the goodness in you and thanks you,” Bishop Dewane said.

Meanwhile, Bishop Dewane went from the Mass in Lakewood Ranch to take part in a free community Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the Knights of Columbus Our Lady of Victory Council 3358 at their Hall on Fruitville Road in Sarasota.

The Knights delivered more than 200 meals to the elderly and homebound and then served hundreds more meals to those who needed a hot meal or didn’t have anywhere to go for the holiday. Guests were also encouraged to take meals home. Those meals included turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, roll, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

Bishop Dewane offered the opening prayer for the Knights and other volunteers before the dining room was opened. Then, the Bishop took his traditional spot in charge of serving the corn and later assisted with the stuffing and gravy.

Being grateful for what they have was a strong theme during Traditional Thanksgiving events throughout the Diocese of Venice.

St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral hosted a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for the second year in a row with 144 meals served. The first dinner in 2022 came about when many were still recovering from Hurricane Ian and Father Ricky Varner, Pastor at St. Katherine Drexel, organized different Parishes groups to make certain dishes to help people. It is now an annual tradition cherished by many.

In Naples, at St. Peter the Apostle, Pastor Father Gerard Critch started the Parish Thanksgiving dinner more than 10 years ago to ensure “no one will spend Thanksgiving alone.” Following a trilingual Mass (English, Spanish, Creole), the dinner served 300.

On Nov. 22, students from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota volunteered and served food at the 23rd Annual Sarasota Ministerial Association Thanksgiving Dinner at St. Martha Parish in Sarasota. This was the fifteenth year Mooney students helped support this event.

At St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway happened on Nov. 18, in conjunction with the weekly Saturday Food Pantry. More than 200 turkeys with all the fixings were given away. On the same day, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., in Immokalee, delivered meals with all the trimmings to more than 150 families.

Gratitude for the many blessings enjoyed by the Diocese of Venice was widespread, and heartfelt!

Veterans Day Catholic Mass honors military service and sacrifice

The 14th Annual Catholic Mass on Veterans Day made a successful return to Sarasota National Cemetery as Bishop Frank J. Dewane prayed for those currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, those who have died, and their families.

More than 850 people attended the Mass which was celebrated in 2022 at St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota due to the threat of a tropical storm.

Bishop Dewane thanked the veterans for their service in defense of freedom, a freedom enjoyed to this day thanks to those who served and sacrificed throughout this nation’s history and for those who continue to serve, answering the call of their country.

“We gather here today at this National Cemetery in a unique expression of the Church of the Diocese of Venice,” Bishop Dewane said. “To those who came before us, may God bless them all. They are remembered deeply in this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”

Reflecting upon the vocation of servicemen and servicewomen who give themselves “for the love of their country and the love of others, seeking peace, protecting, and cherishing the common good,” the Bishop continued. “We become even more sensitive to the role of those in the military as well as live in a time when there are a number of touchpoints throughout the world that are in great conflict.”

“It is a vocation of both patriots and peacemakers,” Bishop Dewane said. “We have to acknowledge that and respect it. They give their lives so that you and I today live in a relative peace, and so that generations into the future will live in that peace.”

Bishop Dewane said the prayers of the Mass are offered in gratitude for what the veterans have sacrificed for, the greater good of society, noting that it is important that we be attuned to this, as we owe them. In some cases, these men and women in uniform do not return home, leaving a void and sadness in someone’s heart.

“Let us remember those who serve us and have served us, asking the Lord to care for them and their families,” Bishop Dewane concluded.

Prior to the opening of the Mass, all veterans – active and retired – were asked to stand and be recognized. This was followed by the singing of the National Anthem.

Before the concluding prayer of the Mass, Bishop Dewane led everyone in reciting a Prayer for Peace. The Sarasota National Cemetery celebration concluded with a procession, escorted by the Knights of Columbus Color Corps, to the nearby graves as those in attendance sang “God Bless America.”

Priests, Deacons, the Knights of Columbus Color Corps, and all present, gathered in silent prayer before “Taps” was played on a bugle.

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. (Ret.), Charles Voight, a 5-year veteran who served tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq and is a parishioner at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish in Sarasota, expressed his gratitude for the Mass.

“This means a great deal to me, and to all veterans,” Voight said. “We each served our country and would gladly do it again, but it’s a service that is not always recognized. Serving in combat was an experience which deepened my faith. My trust in God helped me to get through some difficult times.”

There are more than 25,000 veterans and eligible family members currently interred in the National Cemetery and some 18.5 million military veterans in the United States.

The Diocese of Venice coordinates the Catholic Mass at the National Cemetery with the backing of the Knights of Columbus and is grateful for the help and support of Sarasota National Cemetery.

Prayer for Peace

Lord of all, in this time of strife and suffering, we come before you with heavy hearts, seeking your divine intervention. We lift up to you the victims of the Holy Land conflict, asking for your mercy and healing touch.

Prince of Peace, grant solace to those who are in pain, strength to those who are weary and hope to those who are in despair. Let your guiding light shine upon all, that they may find a path to reconciliation and understanding.

Mary, Mother of Mercy, wrap your mantle of love around those who are suffering, and intercede for them before your Son. May your gentle compassion be a source of comfort and consolation.

We implore you, O God, to inspire leaders and all involved to seek avenues of peace and dialogue. Soften hearts that are hardened by hatred and division, and instill in them a desire for unity and harmony.

St. Francis of Assisi, patron of peace, pray for us. Help us to be instruments of your peace in this troubled world. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, we pray.


News Briefs for the Week of November 10, 2023

Parish joins Knights in supporting vocations

The 25th anniversary of the priestly ordination of Father Bob Kantor, Pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Naples, was a cause for celebration on the weekend of Oct. 28-29, 2023. The celebration served the dual purpose of supporting vocations as well as honoring Father Kantor. A special second collection was held to raise funds for the Florida Knights of Columbus Charities Vocations Fund. The fifth Sunday of a month is used for charitable causes outside of the Parish. More than $8,000 was collected. The monies will be designated for use in support of seminarians studying for the Diocese of Venice. Father Kantor serves as State Chaplain for the Knights’ Florida State Council. The timing of the support coincides with National Vocations Awareness Week which was Nov. 5-11.

Students learn computer coding

Sixth-grade students at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral had an incomparable opportunity on Nov. 7, 2023, delving into the world of computer coding with the help of Jason Castaldo, a teacher from Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. Under the guidance, inspiration, and expertise of Castaldo, the students explored the fascinating realm of programming and problem-solving. It was a journey filled with creativity, logical thinking, and the excitement of building digital wonders. Enthusiastically delving into the “Hour of Code” is paving the way for the future of these talented students.

Tasting the World!

Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park hosted its annual International Food Festival on Nov. 5, 2023, in the Parish Center. Participants had the opportunity to “taste the world” in this culinary journey, sharing the flavors of their culture with food from many different countries, such as Colombia, Germany, Haiti, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Philippines, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and more. There were even hot dogs, ice cream, and popcorn for the little ones.

Students gather in the form of a Cross

Students at St. Ann Catholic School in Naples gathered Nov. 6, 2023, on the soccer field to stand in the form of a cross. This is an annual tradition at the school which is a fun day outside for the students as they gather in the form of an important symbol of the faith. The school has experienced rapid growth in recent years with enrollment topping 425, up 40 percent since 2020.

Parish celebrates All Saints’ Day with relics

For the second year in a row, Incarnation Parish in Sarasota had a special display set up for All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1, 2023). Saint relics, on loan from parishioners, were put on display for people to visit between Masses on the Solemnity. Many lined up to view the relics, touch rosaries to them, and pray for the powerful intercession of the Saints. The Second Vatican Council recalls that “the Saints have been traditionally honored in the Church, and their authentic relics and images held in veneration.” The term “relics of the Saints” principally signifies the bodies – or notable parts of the bodies – of the Saints who, as distinguished members of Christ’s mystical Body and as Temples of the Holy Spirit in virtue of their heroic sanctity, now dwell in Heaven, but who once lived on earth. Objects which belonged to the Saints, such as personal objects, clothes and manuscripts are also considered relics, as are objects which have touched their bodies or tombs such as oils, cloths, and images.