News Briefs for the week of March 17, 2023

Bishop celebrates Mass for students in Fort Myers, Ave Maria

Bishop Frank J. Dewane continued his series of Masses for Diocesan Catholic Schools during Lent at Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria on March 13, 2023, and then on March 14 at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. The Bishop encouraged the students at both schools to make the most of the remainder of Lent by attending Mass, going to confession and focusing on the three pillars of the Lenten Season (prayer, fasting, and almsgiving).

Verot Gala celebrates 60 years

The Vintage Verot Diamond Jubilee celebrated 60 years of premiere Catholic education at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. The celebration was March 10, 2023, in the school gymnasium which was decorated with photos and items from the six decades of the school. Many of the attendees wore Verot garb as generations of students have earned a Catholic education there. Bishop Frank J. Dewane was present and praised the school for being a beacon of light in the community by producing students who have made a real impacts in the world and in the Catholic Church.

Bradenton student wins state essay contest

St. Joseph Catholic School seventh grade student Catherine Johnsen from Bradenton won the Florida DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) Historical Essay Contest, March 4, 2023, in Orlando. Students were given the challenge of researching the Second Continental Congress which met from May 10, 1775, to March 1, 1781, and included delegates from all 13 colonies. Students were asked to imagine they were a delegate during the Congress, and to write an essay from a first-person perspective, indicating what would be important to accomplish for their colony. Two other St. Joseph students reached the finals after winning the Manatee County Chapter of the DAR contest in January. In addition to claiming the top prize in the state competition, Catherine had the opportunity to present her essay in Orlando. She now advances to the Division Level competition where she will the compete for the right to go to the National Finals. Well done and good luck!

Students serve jury duty in “3 Little Pigs Trial”

Second graders at St. Mary Academy in Sarasota recently received a fun introduction to the judicial system on March 8, 2023. The students took part in a jury trial based on the book “The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs.” The students each received a summons to appear for jury duty. At the end of the “trial,” the wolf was acquitted. The jury deemed the wolf to not be at fault for huffing and puffing and blowing the little pigs’ houses down.

Taking reading to a new level

While reading the George Orwell novella “Animal Farm,” English I students at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples also learned about dictators. The students applied that knowledge to modern day dictators, creating displays which became a temporary “Dictator Museum.” The “Museum” displays were revealed on March 8, 2023, and included artifacts left behind by the citizens who were imprisoned, tortured, or killed by their dictator. This type of learning requires a variety of skills and learning techniques to master, thus enabling the students to receive a more complete lesson versus reading and taking a quiz.

School shines during Naples St. Patrick’s Day Parade

St. Ann Catholic School in Naples had a large group participate in the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. There was a float which carried school musicians, a banner, and many participants. Principal Michael Buskirk and St. Ann Pastor Father William Davis, OSFS, rode in style in a seafoam green vehicle.

Student places strong in science fair

Congratulations to Sephora Esperance from St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, who was first-runner up for the Best-In-Fair (Junior Division) at the Edison Science and Engineering Fair on March 11, 2023, at Florida Gulf Coast University in Estero. Sephora will be presenting her science project at the Florida State Science & Engineering Fair next month. St. Andrew Catholic School also earned the prestigious Edison Cup. This award recognizes the best performing middle school in Regional Science Fair for achieving excellence in science and pursuing the spirit of Thomas Edison.

Collier Sheriff speaks to middle schoolers

Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk visited St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in early March to speak to middle school students. Sheriff Rambosk spoke about his experience as Sheriff, challenges of keeping our growing community safe, careers in law enforcement, civic duties and responsibilities, building good character, and being leaders. Students had the opportunity to ask lots of questions and get a few autographs.

A “biting” lesson

Lee County Mosquito Control visited St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers on March 13, 2023. The kindergarten students learned about the lifecycle of a mosquito. The students were also able to used their artistic skills to draw their own colorful mosquitoes.

Students encouraged to grow closer to Christ during Lent

During their Lenten Journey the students who attend the Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Venice are being reminded to take seriously the call for prayer, fasting and almsgiving while not forgetting the ashes they received on Ash Wednesday.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the first in a series of Masses for students in all Diocesan Catholic schools on March 2, 2023, for St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy in Sarasota. This was followed on March 3, with a Mass for students at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charlotte. Additional Masses are scheduled throughout March.

Bishop Dewane said the ashes the students received on Ash Wednesday may have faded or been washed away but the mark is still there.

“It is a reminder of the journey we are all on during this Lenten Season, and how we are to live a righteous life – a good life – according to the way the Lord taught,” the Bishop said. “It is about how do you treat others, day in and day out. Do it with a goodness, righteousness and with mercy in your hearts. Know that the way you were signed with a cross in ashes must stay with you throughout this Lenten Season. This is a sign of goodness grown out the Lord’s sacrifice.”

In addition, Bishop Dewane reminded the students how the three pillars of Lent – prayer, fasting and almsgiving – are not exclusive for parents and other adults to act upon and consider. These pillars are a guidepost for everyone to follow in his or her own way, from the youngest child to the oldest grandparent.

“Prayer, for example, should not be confined to school. Find time at home, before meals, or at bedtime, or when you get up,” the Bishop continued. “In that way you are growing in your relationship with the Lord.”

While fasting for many might mean going without food, there are plenty of options for younger students to make a true sacrifice for God. Giving up a favorite television show, video game, a favorite candy, or even all candy, is taking a step in the right direction, but it must be a true sacrifice to achieve a greater closeness with Christ.

Almsgiving is traditionally associated with giving money, but Bishop Dewane explained that the students can use this discipline as an opportunity to do good things for others.

“Helping or doing for others – be it a brother or sister, a parent, or a friend – being a good person is about giving a part of oneself for the other, doing what is right in the eyes of Jesus.”

The Lenten Season, Bishop Dewane said, is about responding to the call of Christ with goodness, righteousness, and justice in our hearts.

Following the Masses, the Bishop spoke with the eighth graders during which he inquired how they were progressing in school and encouraged them to remain the leaders of their respective school and to seriously consider attending a Diocesan Catholic High School next year, with many saying they would.

The eighth graders were then allowed to question the Bishop on any topic. Some questions focused on the unique clothing he wears during Mass, while others centered on learning about his personal spiritual journey to the priesthood and ultimately a Bishop. Bishop Dewane explained how his first internal call to the priesthood started about when he was in eighth grade. From that point he put off that call to focus on school, university and then work in the business world. Finally, he decided he needed to follow the call of the Lord and has never looked back. “It felt right.”

News Briefs for the week of March 10, 2023

St. Patrick’s Day Dispensation

With St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Friday (March 17) during the Lenten Season, Bishop Frank J. Dewane is granting a one-day dispensation of abstaining from meat on that Friday alone. The Faithful are encouraged to choose another day in the same week to abstain from meat and to perform some other penance or work of charity on March 17 to assist in their spiritual Lenten journey. Abstinence from meat is to be observed by all Catholics who are 14 years of age or older. Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent (including Good Friday) are days of abstinence. Fasting, almsgiving, and prayer are the three traditional disciplines of Lent.

Seminarian receives Ministry of Acolyte

Diocese of Venice Seminarian, Joseph Corboy Doherty was one of 19 seminarians to enter into the Ministry of Acolyte on March 5, 2023, in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at the Pontifical North American College, Vatican City State. Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre of Louisville was the main celebrant and spoke the following words as he handed the paten to each candidate: “Take this vessel with bread for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of his Church.” In his homily, Archbishop Fabre encouraged the seminarians, saying, “The ministry of an acolyte has a special connection to the altar and to the Eucharist. It is the duty of the acolyte to assist in serving the altar during liturgical celebrations and to attend to the Eucharist in certain functions and capacities. This is certainly an important ministry since it involves service to some of the most important elements of our Catholic faith, if not the most central element.” Representing the Diocese of Venice were Father Christian Chami and Transitional Deacon Daniel Scanlan.

Verot send two to state wrestling championships

The first ever wrestling state qualifiers from Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers competed in the State Championships on March 3-4, 2023, in Kissimmee. Gabriella Vasquez, who wrestles at 105 pounds, and became the first female wrestler in Verot history to make states, placed third in the regionals on Feb. 21. At the state competition, Gabby fell in the first round and was injured and unable to finish in the consolation round of the double-elimination tournament. The second Verot wrestler to make states is Jack Benaitis who won the regionals to qualify for the 1A 285 competition.  Jack won his open match, but fell in the second round, and again in the consolation round. These two worked hard all season long to earn a spot in the state championships, and Verot couldn’t be prouder!

Medical professionals meet with Bishop

The leadership of the Southwest Florida Guild of the Catholic Medical Association met with Bishop Frank J. Dewane on March 2, 2023, at the Catholic Center in Venice. The group provided Bishop Dewane with their annual report on their latest activities, including plans for a Catholic medical educational seminar in the fall.

Support children this Easter

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice, Inc. in Arcadia is seeking help in giving the gift of an Easter Basket for children of Casa San Juan Bosco farmworkers housing, local families, and migrant farm workers. Supporters can donate Easter Basket supplies, gift cards, or check to help the program bless children this Easter! Drop off or deliver items ordered online to Catholic Charities, 1210 East Oak St., Arcadia, FL 34266, by April 5.

First graders show off reading skills

First graders at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral showed off their reading skills in February by completing 225 books in one month. Laurie Pistorio’s students were recognized for their hard work on March 6, 2023. Well done young readers!!

Verot grad returns to Jeopardy!  

Claire Sattler, a Bishop Verot Catholic High School 2019 graduate, recently joined 27 former teen Jeopardy! contestants as they faced off in the Jeopardy! High School Reunion Tournament. The players competed for a $100,000 grand prize and a spot in the next Tournament of Champions. Sattler, now a senior at Yale University, won the 2018 Teen Tournament of Champions. In the opening quarterfinal round, which aired Feb. 27, 2023, Sattler was able to secure her win in the Final Jeopardy round because of a research paper topic that was given to her by her freshman English teacher – Lynn Chervenok Knox. In honor of her former teacher, Sattler drew a smiley face next to the winning question and wrote, “Thanks, Mrs. Knox!” With her victory, the native of Bonita Springs next appeared in the semifinals on March 6. Sattler, who had been in the lead with $8,600 going into Final Jeopardy. All three contestants failed to get the correct solution, so when Sattler bet $8,201, and dropped to $399, she ended up in third place. Well done as she continues to proudly represent Bishop Verot.

High schoolers pray “Living Rosary”

On March 3, 2023, the Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School community gathered in the gymnasium to pray the “Living Rosary,” led by Father Eric Scanlan, Mooney Chaplain and Pastor of Incarnation Parish in Sarasota. During the “Living Rosary,” students stood in the form of a rosary, each standing for a bead, with each class represented in a decade, including one in Spanish. This beautiful prayer was brought to life by involving everyone – body and soul.

Grandparents recognized in Ave Maria

Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria took time on March 3, 2023, to recognize grandparents with a special day. This event included a delicious breakfast, talk from principal Dr. Daniel Guernsey, high school choir performance, Mass with grandkids, Eucharistic Adoration, and classroom visits. Whew! See more in our stories today.

Field Day fun at Cathedral school

A day filled with indoor and outdoor fun made for a great field day on March 3, 2023, at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice. There were many different games and contests between individual students, between different classrooms and even between different grades. A great time was had by all.

Fort Myers students learn about Everglades

The Environmental Studies classes at Bishop Verot Catholic High School have been working on a course component with the Florida Everglades Foundation. Students recreated a diagram of the Everglades to show the impact of water levels and what we, as humans, are doing to the surrounding environment. The foundation’s mission is to work to restore and protect America’s Everglades through science, advocacy & education.

Lent, a New Beginning

Pope Francis has described Lent as a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death.

The message from the Holy Father is clear; we must take time out of our busy schedules to renew our encounter with Christ, living in His Word, in the Sacraments and in our neighbors. During this season we are invited to hear and ponder more deeply the Word of God, which is the foundation for the Faith.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, and ends with the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, April 6. The Lenten Season is a time for fasting, praying and almsgiving – the three pillars of Lent – as we prepare to celebrate the Paschal Mystery.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane said it is important to remember that throughout the Lenten Season, the faithful must break out of indifference and enter into the unwavering love and mercy of God and become more energized about their Faith.


“Fasting and abstinence is not only about food, or the lack of it, it is also about sacrifice for the benefit of our spiritual lives. Sacrifice and self-denial should not be viewed as something to lament, but instead should be viewed as an opportunity to remove anything that distracts us from Jesus Christ,” Bishop Dewane said

For early Christians, fasting was an important and meaningful Lenten practice in commemoration of Christ’s Passion and Death. During these earlier days of the Church, the observance of fasting was very strict with one meal was allowed per day.

The current Lenten discipline, set forth by the Roman Catholic Church, consists of both fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday as well as abstaining from meat each Friday of Lent.

“These small sacrifices should just be the beginning of one’s Lenten journey as we are all called to grow closer to Christ. Fasting is not solely about food, and abstinence is not about meat; rather, both are about spiritual conversion and renewal,” Bishop Dewane said.


The second Lenten discipline is prayer. All Catholics are called to a prayer life that is both diverse and rich. A diverse prayer life includes personal and communal prayer, in which the faithful grow closer to Christ Himself – as well as to the Church Christ founded.

“During Lent our prayer life should not only grow but should focus upon the areas of life in which we might have fallen short of God’s expectation – in other words, where we have sinned. Prayer is an indispensable component of the Catholic Faith. Therefore, by growing and maturing in that Faith, prayer becomes much more – it becomes an act of worship,” the Bishop said.

It must be understood that as life progresses and one receives more of the Sacraments, prayer is recognized as a critical act of public worship in the Church, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

“Prayer is an ongoing conversation with God, expressed through both words and actions. Thus, it can be easily understood that to grow in deeper communion with God, one must pray daily and this does not have to be in a Church.”

The five basic forms of prayer are blessing, petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise. When someone prays in any one of these forms, they are expressing a different emotion, need, concern or appreciation. No two prayers are the same, just as no two conversations are the same.

“In prayer, all grow in the love of God and greater appreciation of who God is and what God does. In a world so full of uncertainty and loneliness, great comfort should be taken in knowing that by praying, God will offer His blessings and grace. By offering blessings back to God in prayer, the blessing is returned to Him. What a beautiful exchange of love that becomes!”


The third and final discipline traditional pillars of the Lenten observance is almsgiving. Often misunderstood, as with fasting and abstinence, almsgiving is an act of self-denial and is an expression of charity and assistance extended to the needy.

“By almsgiving during Lent, one not only expresses care for those in need, but also expresses a sign of gratitude for all God has provided in one’s life. These acts of charity are connected to the responsibilities of living the Faith that begins with Baptism and is reignited in the Sacrament of Confirmation. Each of us bear responsibility in helping our brothers and sisters in Christ, but it takes prayer and reflection to understand how God is calling individuals to give of themselves.”

The Catechism defines almsgiving as, “Money or goods given to the poor as an act of penance or fraternal charity… Almsgiving, together with prayer and fasting, are traditionally recommended to foster the state of interior penance.”

This definition gives clarity as to how we are guided into the deep theological journey of Lent, and how these observances help to lift human beings out of their sinfulness toward a closer, more holistic relationship with the Lord. In a sense, almsgiving is a type of prayer. Because almsgiving requires sacrifice, it is also a sort of fasting from the material world.

“By uniting fasting, prayer and almsgiving, one seeks to become a better person, more than he or she has ever been before,” Bishop Dewane said.

In addition to these observances, the Lenten Season is an ideal opportunity to confess grave sins. To facilitate this requirement, all Parishes in the Diocese of Venice will be open with a confessor present so that the faithful will find ample opportunity to receive God’s Mercy in the Sacrament of Confession from 4-8 p.m., Friday, March 31, and 9 a.m.-noon, Saturday, April 1. Please check with your local Parish for additional reconciliation times.

Bishop Dewane reiterated the need to understand the way in which these Lenten observances can work in concert with one another. “Each is indispensable in its own way and offers the faithful an opportunity to grow in greater love and appreciation of God. The Lord calls each person to total commitment. By practicing these observances together, even when the Lenten Season ends, they become more than the sum of their parts. They become part of a faith that flourishes and a heart that is increasingly dedicated to the Lord.”

Lent transforms into Holy Week

In the waning days of Lent and at the opening of Holy Week, the faithful across the Diocese of Venice prepared for the Easter Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil.

On Palm Sunday, April 10, 2022, the Mass opened with a blessing of the Palms and entrance into the Church, reminiscent of the Lord’s Messianic entrance into Jerusalem.

Some Parishes, such as Our Lady of Guadalupe in Immokalee and St. Michael in Wauchula, to name a few, started the opening of the Mass outdoors with an empty Church. This opening included a reading from the Gospel of Luke (19-28-40) and was followed by a procession of the palms.

The Passion of the Lord is a key component of the Palm Sunday Mass. During the 40 Days of Lent, Parishes and Diocesan Catholic schools actively learn about and recite the Stations of the Cross, typically on the Fridays of Lent.

Each Diocesan Catholic school offered a “Living Stations of the Cross,” typically with older students leading the reenactment of the Passion of Our Lord.

Students at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples created a Stations of the Cross for the Prayer Garden.

At Incarnation Catholic School and Parish in Sarasota, the outdoor Stations received an upgrade with staining, bronzing, and rebuilding some of the parts that were needed. The “new” Stations were completed just in time for the Passiontide.

At Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda, the religious education program had their young charges (grades 1-5) participate in an interactive Stations of the Cross. Students were selected to portray key characters bringing the stations “to life,” while Msgr. Phil Hill, an assisting priest, provided the narration and background for each Station. This enabled the children to better understand Jesus’ journey to Calvary. Catechists and parents were on hand to listen to the story leading to Christ’s crucifixion.

Using Legos to create the Stations

Eighth grade students at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota benefitted from using multiple skills, including thousands of Lego bricks, to build the 14 Stations of the Cross.

Maria Beall, St. Martha’s religion teacher and technology integration specialist, challenged her students to develop innovative ideas to celebrate Holy Week.

“My students worked on this project four days a week for six weeks,” Beall said. “The class broke into smaller groups to give each Station a three-dimensional aspect that offered viewers a deeper appreciation of Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice.”

The students used existing Lego bricks they have as part of an ongoing STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art and Math) initiative. In addition, the Zuniga family donated thousands more Lego pieces from their own collection which offered enough of a variety of bricks to allow the project to succeed.

“My family was very excited to support this creative collaboration in honor of Holy Week,” said Emma Zuniga, an eighth grader who helped build the ninth Station, Jesus Falls for the Third Time. “(My classmates) and I enjoyed mixing Lego pieces from various collections to create realistic depictions of every Station.”

Students supplemented their masterpieces with a pair of QR codes. These codes can be scanned from a phone or smart device which then automatically links to numerous articles, images and videos that offered the history and reflections for each Station. For each Station, one QR code contained resources tailored to kindergarten through third grade, while the other code offered information for fourth through eighth grade.

“This was the biggest challenge for the class,” Beall said. “They had to think back to their days in elementary school on how they taught and understood the Stations. They also needed to show the connection between how an event so sad and painful could turn out to be the most joyful event in Christianity.”

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese Superintendent of Catholic Education, and Jennifer Falestiny, Curriculum Coordinator, visited St. Martha Catholic School on April 11, 2022, to see the results of the project and how it integrated several key many STREAM components into the project.

The Lego Stations of the Cross were on display at St. Martha Catholic School throughout Holy Week. After Easter, the students will preserve the collection in shadow boxes, while the QR codes will be placed on display in the school prayer garden.

“This was something more than a class project,” Emma Zuniga said. “We created a legacy by presenting the Stations of the Cross that inspired our school to pray, reflect, and share Catholic values and teachings with their friends and family.”

The activities listed above are just a fraction of the examples of how Diocesan Parishes and Catholic schools not only transitioned from the Lent Season into Holy Week, but also instilled lasting memories and lessons that build Catholic values.

John L. Carkeet IV, contributed information to this story.

Easter Sunday Televised Mass

The Diocese of Venice in Florida will air the televised Easter Sunday (April 17) Mass, for a full hour. The Mass can be viewed at 9 a.m. on the CW Network in Sarasota, Manatee, Desoto, Charlotte, Hardee and Highland counties, and at 10:30 a.m. on FOX-4 in Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Hendry, Glades and Desoto counties. The Mass is also available on the Diocese of Venice website at

Parish Easter Mass times online

The Easter Sunday Mass times at Parishes and Missions throughout the Diocese of Venice are available online. Please visit

News Briefs for the week of April 8, 2022

Parish hosts 40-hour Devotion

St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral hosted a 40-hour Devotion April 2, to April 4, 2022. This devotion included Adoration, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, praying the Holy Hour and concluded with a Mass. Father Ricky Varner, Pastor at St. Katharine Drexel, stressed the importance of focusing on the Lord through Eucharistic Adoration. The 40-hour Devotion was spilt into blocks of time throughout the three days to allow for more people to participate and benefit from spending prayerful time in the presence of the Lord.

 Candlelight Vigil to close 40 Days for Life in Sarasota

Everyone is invited to participate in the closing Candlelight Vigil of the 40 Days for Life spring campaign in Sarasota on Saturday, April 9, 2022. The Vigil will begin at 7:45 p.m. in front of the regional Planned Parenthood abortion facility at 736 Central Ave. in Sarasota. The 40 Days for Life spring campaign began on Ash Wednesday in thousands of communities, including Sarasota and Fort Myers. During 40 Days, at all of these sites, the faithful stood as peaceful witnesses for life. While the 40 Days for Life campaign is concluding, there are year-round opportunities to pray at abortion facilities in the Diocese. For more information, please contact Jeanne Berdeaux at 941-484-9543 or

 Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Televised Mass

The Diocese of Venice in Florida will air the televised Palm Sunday (April 10) and Easter Sunday (April 17) Masses, each for a full hour. The Masses can be viewed at 9 a.m. on the CW Network in Sarasota, Manatee, Desoto, Charlotte, Hardee and Highland counties, and at 10:30 a.m. on FOX-4 in Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Hendry, Glades and Desoto counties. The Mass is also available on the Diocese of Venice website at

Chrism Mass April 12

The Diocese of Venice Chrism Mass, which takes place during Holy Week every year, will be held at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, April 12 at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., in Venice. During this Mass, the faithful of the Diocese join the Priests, Deacons and Bishop Frank J. Dewane for the blessing of 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.

The 2022 Priest and Deacon Jubilarians are:

  • 50 years – Msgr. Joseph Stearns, Father Adrian Wilde, O. Carm., Father David Foley, and Deacon Ray Barrett.
  • 25 years – Father Hugh McGuigan, OSFS, Father Patrick O’Connor, OSFS, Father Leszek Sikorski, Deacon Henry de Mena, and Deacon Mark Miravalle.

Holy Week Mass times online

To learn about the times for the Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday Mass and service times at Parishes and Missions throughout the Diocese of Venice, please visit

Students visit biomed business

Bishop Verot Catholic High School students in “Medical Interventions,” a third-year course in the Biomedical Sciences program in Fort Myers, visited Neogenomics on April 1, 2022, to better understand the application of the research they are doing in class and learn about potential career paths.

Young students study DNA

Catholic schools in the Diocese of Venice pride themselves on offering programs in all areas of study including science. Seventh graders at St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring were studying DNA and genetics on March 30, 2022. As part of the lesson, they extracted their own DNA, using dried skin, and observed it in the school’s STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) lab. Classes like this enable students to learn more about not only the world around them, but also about themselves: students identify themselves as unique through their DNA and, in particular, as children of God.

Field trip teaches about Florida wildlife

A March 31, 2022, field trip to Florida Gulf Coast University in Estero by fifth graders from St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers helped the young students learn about wildlife that is native to Florida. The program, called the “Panther Posse,” brings in wildlife experts to share images and research that is ongoing about the Florida panther as well as other wildlife, including black bears. The presentation is a mix of fun and hands-on science. Students learned to identify trail markings of different wildlife as well as what dangers the wildlife face from pollution and interaction with people. The students left the program as newly launched naturalists and scientists.

Cyber safety education

Students at the different schools in Lee County heard from a specialist the week of March 29, 2022, about how to navigate technology and social media in today’s world. Robert Hackenson Jr. of Dynamic Influence spoke with students at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers as well as at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. These lessons provided basic tips on the pitfalls of providing too much information about yourself online. The safety aspects could not be overstated as online predators try to manipulate people of all ages to endanger the users in different ways. Hackenson used age-appropriate examples to ensure the students understood these dangers. One of the focuses was on Social Media Land Mines, which included never revealing your location, details about your home or private life and much more.

Sneak preview wows young students

Student groups from St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral and St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers were given a sneak peek of the musical “Cinderella” at Bishop Verot Catholic High School on April 1, 2022. Two special previews were offered for the younger students who saw the elaborate production by the Verot Theater Department. Afterwards, the students were able to meet some of the cast and people who worked behind-the-scenes to make the show happen. Full performances were offered throughout the subsequent weekend.

Lenten journey begins

Fasting, almsgiving, and prayer are the three traditional disciplines of Lent, but we are reminded to do these things privately because the Lord knows us and what we are doing.

Grand displays are not what the Lord wants, explained Father Robert Tatman, Parochial Vicar of St. Jude Parish in Sarasota. The clear example of this is represented in the ashes marked on one’s forehead to open Lent on Ash Wednesday, March 2, 2022.

“They don’t last very long, but it is not something we want to wear on the outside, just to be seen,” Father Tatman said. “We want it to cleanse and purify our inner heart.”

In addition to opening the Lenten Season, which concludes on Holy Thursday, April 14, on Ash Wednesday the faithful across the Diocese of Venice joined in fasting and prayer for peace in Ukraine as called for by Pope Francis.

As Bishop Frank J. Dewane noted in a letter to the faithful on March 1, “Our Catholic Faith calls each of us to care for those in need, and, at this time in particular, for those who are suffering in the wake of this terrible tragedy.”

In the letter, Bishop Dewane stated that donations made to the collection on Ash Wednesday will support charitable relief for the Ukraine and assist in providing humanitarian aid, as well as necessary recovery efforts.

For those not prepared for the collection, donations may be sent to the Diocese of Venice, with “Ukraine” indicated in the memo or note line at the following address: Diocese of Venice in Florida, Ukraine Relief, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

As the Lenten Season progresses, the precept of confessing grave sins and receiving Holy Communion at least once during the Lenten Season merits a reminder to all. To facilitate this requirement, every Parish in the Diocese of Venice will be open with a confessor present from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., on Friday, April 8, and from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, April 9. Check with your local Parish for additional confession times or the availability of a Penance Service. These opportunities are made available so that the faithful may find ample opportunity to receive God’s Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the Lenten Season.

Lent – a time of preparation

The Lenten Season is a time for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as we prepare to celebrate the Paschal Mystery of our Faith.

The 40-day Season begins on Ash Wednesday, March 2, 2022, ending at sundown on Holy Thursday, April 14, and is an opportunity for the faithful to undertake the practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving as a means to know Christ better and follow His will more faithfully.

“By uniting the three pillars of Lent – prayer, fasting and almsgiving – one seeks to become a better person, more than he or she has ever been before,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane said.

In his Lenten message for 2021, Pope Francis reflected, “In our Lenten journey towards Easter, let us remember the One who ‘humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross’ (Phil 2:8). During this season of conversion, let us renew our faith, draw from the ‘living water’ of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence from meat for Catholics from the age of 18 to 59, meaning only one full meal and two smaller meals not equal to a full meal are permitted. The Church asks that, if possible, the fast on Good Friday, the “Paschal fast,” be continued until the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday to honor the suffering and death of Jesus and prepare more fully for His resurrection. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence from meat from the age of 14.

Lent is also the time for the baptized to renew their baptismal commitment, while those who desire to become Catholics enter a process of learning and discernment, the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), in preparation for baptism during the Easter Vigil. An important part of the RCIA process is the Rite of Election, when those hundreds from across the Diocese who seek to enter the Church present themselves to the Bishop. This occurs on the first Sunday of Lent, March 6, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

The precept of confessing grave sins and receiving Holy Communion at least once during the Lenten Season merits a reminder to all. To facilitate this requirement, every Parish in the Diocese of Venice will be open with a confessor present from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., on Friday, April 8, and from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, April 9. Check with your local Parish for additional confession times or the availability of a Penance Service. These opportunities are made available so that the faithful may find ample opportunity to receive God’s Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

It must be remembered that the three pillars of Lent – prayer, fasting and almsgiving – are not simply things to do during Lent, but much more. Instead, prayer, gives us humility rather than pride, relying on God rather than ourselves; fasting from those things that interfere in strengthening a relationship with God; and almsgiving with compassion for those in need, will make the Lenten journey a fruitful period of renewal.

Students encouraged to sacrifice during Lent

In order to sit at the table of the Lord, we must all make sacrifices.

“The challenge is to do what Christ asks,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane told students during a number of Lenten Masses he celebrated at schools throughout the Diocese of Venice in early March. “We need to take seriously our prayers, fasting, and almsgiving, following the example of Christ.”

Just as Christ served as our Savior, so must we all go out and serve our brothers and sisters in need. “It is the Lord who asks you to respond to this call,” Bishop Dewane continued. “It is not always easy, but this is a time of sacrifice, and Lent is the perfect opportunity to respond and live out that call to serve others as Children of God. Can you do that?” The students at each Mass gave a resounding: “Yes!”

Each Lent, Bishop Dewane takes the time to celebrate Mass at as many Diocesan Catholic schools as possible. The goal is not only to highlight the importance of the Lenten Season, but to also show support for the students and schools as they continue through their academic year.

After each Mass for elementary schools, the Bishop met privately with the eighth graders. First encouraging the group to continue their education at a Diocesan Catholic high school, and then Bishop Dewane also fields any and all questions from the students.

The Bishop celebrated Masses for students at St. John Neumann Catholic High School and St. Ann Catholic School in Naples on March 3, 2021; for St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples on March 4; and then for St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charlotte on March 5. Additional Masses will take place later in March.


Diocese-wide Opportunity for Sacrament of Reconciliation late March

Confessionals will open for extended hours throughout the Diocese of Venice in late March to allow everyone ample opportunity to receive God’s Mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

In consultation with the Diocesan Presbyteral Council, Bishop Frank J. Dewane has designated the following days and times for Confession at EACH Parish: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Friday, March 26, 2021, and 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Saturday, March 27.

This Diocesan-wide opportunity for Confession has been made available each Lent since 2012. These times are offered in addition to already scheduled Parish Confession times or planned Penance Services.

The precept of confessing grave sins and receiving Holy Communion at least once during the Lenten Season merits a reminder to all to take advantage of this opportunity.

Pope Francis often speaks about the healing benefits of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, saying that he goes about once every two weeks. “When I go to confession,” the Holy Father added,” it is in order to be healed, to heal my soul, to heal my heart and to be healed of some wrongdoing.”

The Pope also reminds us no one is free from sin and that feeling a little “ashamed before God is a grace… Going to confession is going to an encounter with the Lord who forgives us, who loves us and our shame is what we offer him… When one is in line to go to Confession, one feels all these things, even shame, but then when one finishes Confession one leaves free… forgiven, happy. This is the beauty of Confession! Jesus is there…and He receives you with so much love!”

As the Catechism teaches, the priest is acting in Persona Christi (in the person of Christ), within the confessional. So, like presenting oneself at the altar to be nourished by Christ in the Eucharist, a person going to Confession, is not ultimately confessing to a priest, but confessing to and receiving forgiveness from Jesus Christ.

It was Christ who desired that the faithful “receive forgiveness by means of the ministers of the community,” Pope Francis continued. And it is Christ “who gives this power.”

The Pope notes, through the presence and words of a priest, penitents have “the certainty of forgiveness in the name of the Church…this is having the surety that God forgives us always. He never tires of forgiving us and we must never tire of going to ask for forgiveness.”

Reconciliation in Schools

For the same reasons, Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools have been setting aside time to make the Sacrament of Reconciliation available for students.

For example, at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, the student, faculty and staff participated in a Lenten Penance Service on Feb. 23. Many of the students took advantage of the opportunity to go to confession with one of the several priests present.

Three priests were available to hear confessions from second and third graders March 4 at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral. In addition, numerous students from St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy in Sarasota received the Sacrament for the first time on March 7.