Religious Liberty Week June 22-29

The Feast of Ss. Thomas More and John Fisher on June 22, 2022, marks the start of Religious Freedom Week, a call by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) for all Catholics across the United States to pray, reflect and take action in support of Religious Freedom.

It is appropriate that the week begins on such a day, as Ss. Thomas More and John Fisher are remembered for being martyred in 1535 for standing up for the Sanctity of Marriage and the Freedom of the Church in opposition to England’s King Henry VIII.

Continuing through the Solemnity of Ss. Peter & Paul the Apostles on June 29, the Religious Freedom Week theme is “Life and Dignity for All.”

“This year, as we approach the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is especially mindful of the debates around our country about abortion,” the Conference said in a June 2 statement promoting Religious Freedom Week 2022. “The Catholic Church plays a crucial role in bearing witness to the gospel of life and serving all who will be affected by these discussions and their outcomes.”

The USCCB provides “Pray-Reflect-Act” resources at, one for each day on different religious liberty topics. This year, the topics focus on themes that intersect with life issues, including – Walking with Moms in Need; Church Vandalism; Adoption and Foster Care; Taxpayer Funding for Abortion; Religious Freedom in China; Pregnancy Resource Centers; Health Care Workers; and Free Speech.

The Diocese of Venice joins with other Dioceses to promote Religious Freedom Week. Bishop Frank J. Dewane encourages the faithful of the Diocese to educate themselves about the issues of religious freedom but to be aware of the threats faced both domestically and abroad.

Jeanne Berdeaux, Diocese of Venice Respect Life Director, said that if the faithful don’t stand up for religious freedom, government officials at all levels will continue to try to erode the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. This will mean that practicing one’s faith will be regulated into a mere freedom to worship, confining the practice of faith and worship within the four walls of the Church, well outside of public discourse and the public square.

For this reason, the U.S. Bishops said in their statement that a major area of concern continues to be “freedom for Catholic institutions, such as schools, hospitals, and child welfare service providers, to carry out their missions with integrity. In particular, protecting Catholic adoption and foster care will become even more vital, as we take new steps in building a culture of life and dignity for all in the United States.”

“To build a culture of life and dignity for all, the Church must support women and children,” the U.S. Bishops said. “In 2020, the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities launched Walking with Moms in Need. This initiative ministers at the local level by having parishes be places where pregnant and parenting women can find support and accompaniment.”

“This is a critically important program as the overturning of Roe v Wade becomes a strong possibility by summer,” Berdeaux said. “Helping individuals facing an unexpected pregnancy and those who have had an abortion are what we do as Catholics. See for details on both Walking with Moms in Need and Project Rachel, the Church’s post-abortion healing program.”

Materials prepared by the USCCB for Religious Freedom Week are made available to help people understand religious liberty from a Catholic perspective, reflect on the application, pray about particular issues, and act on what they learn by advocating for policies that promote religious freedom.

Through prayer, reflection, and public action during Religious Freedom Week, the USCCB hopes to promote the essential right of religious freedom for Catholics and for those of all faiths.

The USCCB materials can be found in English ( and in Spanish (

Connect with the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty by texting “FREEDOM” or “LIBERTAD” to 84576 and sign up for the First Freedom News, the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty’s monthly newsletter.

A Sign of Hope: 15,756 years of Sacramental Commitment

More than 300 couples celebrating 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50 and 50+ years of marriage were recognized and honored by Bishop Frank J. Dewane during a Mass Feb. 19, 2022, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, the second of two such Masses within the Diocese of Venice.

The combined years married for the couples present in Venice was well over 15,756, with 57 couples present celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, and five couples each celebrating 70 or more years.

Bishop Dewane called it a beautiful sight when he looked out upon so many couples who give a fantastic witness of their sacramental commitment.

“All of you represent love, joy and commitment to each other in a sacramental way, as a sign of hope,” Bishop Dewane said. “You were called to make a sacrifice, to live out the sacramental commitment, the important vocation that contributes greatly to the Church and to society as a whole. You are an example to others, not just to your children and grandchildren but to society that looks to you for guidance, inspiration and hope.”

The longest couple married present in Venice were Donald and Nonna Rassier of Epiphany Cathedral, who will be celebrating 74 years together on Oct. 2, 2022. Four additional couples, celebrating 70 or more years, were present for the Mass including: Carl and Natalie Pensak, Raymond and Gayle Bickowski, both 70 years; Thomas and Dolores Martorana, 71 years, and Leon and Ann Reser, 73 years.

The first Anniversary Mass was held Feb. 12, at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs and included 180 couples. The couples present for the two Masses combined for a staggering 24,570 years of marriage. The Anniversary Mass is held in two locations each year to accommodate the large and growing number of participating couples and in recognition of the difficulty for some couples to travel great distances.

Marriage: A beautiful vocation

Love was in the air when 180 couples celebrating milestone wedding anniversaries stood united as a testament to commitment through the Grace of God just a few days before Valentine’s Day.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the first of two Masses on Feb. 12, 2022, at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, honoring the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and couples celebrating 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50 and 50+ years of marriage. A second Mass is scheduled for Feb. 19 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

“Today is, for me, one of the most personally uplifting and humbling experiences throughout the year,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane said. “Couples coming together in the Sacrament of Marriage is such a powerful image of God’s love in the world for the rest of us. You continue to live that commitment as the living ministers of the Sacrament and that is humbling to see and important that we celebrate it!”

Alphonse and Lottie Kuznicki, of St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers, celebrating their 75th anniversary in October, were recognized as the longest married couple present for the Bonita Springs Mass. The high school sweethearts from Detroit, Michigan, waited until after his service in the U.S. Army during World War II, before getting married in 1947. Al gave Lottie an engagement ring before he departed for his service, and she happily waited. They were married within a few months of his returning from overseas and have not spent a day apart since.

Al Kuznicki said their strong faith created a lasting bond during their courtship, and held them together as they were married and later had children. “We had our ups and downs, but we had a strong faith to keep us going. This is very important.”

Also present at the Mass were Norman and Doris Brinkman of Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers, celebrating 72 years; Frank and Lucia Sylvester of St. Agnes Parish in Naples celebrating 61 years the day of the Mass; and 26 couples who are celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2022. In total, the couples present combined for an impressive 8,820 years of marriage.

The Holy Father calls married couples the “Icon of God’s image,” speaking about the love and witness they give as the years pass and their sacramental commitment to each other deepens.

Pope Francis also says marriage is a “silent homily” by the life lived, by the commitment the spouses share, and by the nice things they do, one for the other.

Bishop Dewane agrees, saying that in our society, the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is threatened and challenged in so many ways. Therefore, the daily action of each sacramentally married man and woman, whether large and small, “gives a witness to those around you, in the love and commitment you have, one to the other… God has given you husbands and wives the grace to live within the context of this challenging time as God’s icon of love. Know that and live it each day, whether married for one year, 25 years or 75 years. What you witness each day matters as you continue to be that icon, that image for others to follow and find God’s love in your own life.”

During the Masses, the married couples renewed their wedding vows. In addition, each couple was presented with commemorative certificates, signed by the Bishop, for their enduring commitment to marriage. A reception followed with lunch and the opportunity to have complimentary pictures taken with the Bishop.

At the reception, George and Paula Wright of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples and who will be celebrating their 56th anniversary in June, said being part of a Mass honoring the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony was inspiring.

“We have had a good run and there is no slowing down,” Paula explained, “but being among these couples together for 70 or more years is wonderful because you know it hasn’t been easy, but it is still possible if you chose the right partner and allow the Lord to accompany you on your journey.”

The Anniversary Mass in held in two locations each year to accommodate the large and growing number of participating couples and in recognition of the difficulty for some couples to travel great distances.

Looking ahead to 2022 in the Diocese of Venice

Opportunities abound for the faithful of the Diocese of Venice to grow closer to the Lord as the new year begins while continuing to deal with the impacts of the global COVID-19 Pandemic. A variety of Diocesan events are scheduled or in the planning stages while at the same time numerous Parishes are in the process of either completing or beginning major construction work. Therefore, 2021 is sure to be an exciting year for Catholics across Southwest Florida.

In the coming months there will be the Ordination to the Priesthood of three men, the Diocesan Phase of the Synod on Synodality, Masses for couples celebrating significant wedding anniversaries, a first-time joint Men’s and Women’s Conference, a continuing initiative to curb the impacts of pornography on society, opportunities to promote the sanctity of life, and learning experiences of various types.

During the first half of 2022, taking center stage will be the Diocesan Phase of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.” Specifically, there will be a series of listening sessions which will take place in each part of the Diocese and to be announced in the next few weeks. The goal of these sessions is to discern the Word of God in Scripture, what those Words are saying to us while remembering the living Mission of the Church. This Diocesan Phase was inaugurated with an opening Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Oct. 17, 2021, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

Coming in March is one of the most valuable opportunities to grow in the Faith, a first-ever joint Women’s and Men’s Conference. This year, the Conference agenda has been supercharged with dynamic speakers addressing relevant topics within the Church for Catholic men, women and their families. The 2022 Diocese of Venice Men’s & Women’s Conference is Saturday, March 5, at the Charlotte Harbor Event Center, 75 Taylor Street, Punta Gorda. Speakers include Trent Horn, Matthew Leonard, Emily Wilson, Dr. Michael Dauphinais, and Nicole Caruso with several breakout sessions geared specifically toward men or women. The large venue is ideal for allowing all participants to grow closer to the Lord. In addition, there will opportunities to participate in the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Confession all day. Bishop Dewane will conclude the day by celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Doors open at 8 a.m. with the day beginning at 9 a.m. and concluding with the closing Mass at 4 p.m. To register, visit If you have any questions, contact the Diocesan Evangelization Office at 941-484-9543 or

For all couples celebrating a significant wedding anniversary (25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, or more than 50 years of marriage) in 2022, Bishop Dewane will be the celebrant of two Masses in your honor. The Masses will be celebrated at 11 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 12 at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs, and at 11 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 19 at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Avenue, Venice. The Masses will be followed with a lunch and include the opportunity for complimentary anniversary photos taken with Bishop Dewane. To register, please contact your local parish office for reservations no later than a week prior to the event you choose to attend.

The Office of Respect Life will be busy throughout 2022 with a variety of activities, all to raise awareness about important issues regarding the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. First up is the 24th annual Sarasota Prayer Walk for Life on Tuesday, Jan. 18, outside of the Planned Parenthood in downtown Sarasota. Bishop Dewane will celebrate Mass at 8:30 a.m. at St. Martha Parish, 200 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota. A bus will shuttle participants to the abortion center on Central Avenue to circle the block in prayer as many times as desired. The walk coincides with the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade court decision which paved the way for legalized abortion in the U.S.

In addition, there are two Parish-based prayer walks Saturday, Jan. 22. Members of the Ave Maria Parish Respect Life Outreach, along with Ave Maria University and Community Pregnancy Clinics Inc., will be hosting a March for Life from the Ave Maria University football field 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Special guests include Bishop Dewane and Pro-Life speaker Pam Stenzel. The same day, the St. Leo the Great Parish Respect Life Outreach in Bonita Springs is hosting its 3rd Annual Walk for Life on U.S. 41 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Participants are asked to park in the Parish parking lot at 28290 Beaumont Road and everyone will meet on nearby U.S. 41.

Later in the year, there will be an opportunity to participate in the national 40 Days for Life Spring Campaign during Lent in Fort Myers and Sarasota, then the Fall Campaign (October) at multiple locations in the Diocese.

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., will be hosting several events to support its more 30 than programs throughout the Diocese. First up on Wednesday, Jan. 19, is the “Celebration of Hope Luncheon” to benefit the programs in Lee, Hendry and Glades counties, The Luncheon begins at 11:30 a.m., at the Lexington Country Club, 16257 Willowcrest Way, Fort Myers. For tickets to this event, please contact Victoria Guevara at or call 239-334-4007 ext. 2100.

In the beginning of February, make plans for an elegant evening at the “Together Again” Catholic Charities Ball, which supports the programs of Catholic Charities in Sarasota, Manatee, Highlands, Glades, DeSoto and Hardee counties. The Ball is 6 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 5, at the Ritz-Carlton, 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Sarasota. For tickets or to sponsor the event, please visit or call 941-909-7817.

Coming later in February is the Our Mother’s House Annual Wine Tasting, Auction & Dinner Dance at 6 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 24, at the Venice Community Center, 326 Nokomis Ave. S., Venice. Funds raised by this event will ensure that Our Mother’s House is able to offer the support needed to the mothers and their children as they journey towards self-sufficiency. For more information, please contact Lisa Ventura at 941-485-6264 ext. 1500 at For tickets, please visit

Next among the Catholic Charities events in early 2022 is the Emerald Ball 2022. This evening supports the Catholic Charities programs in Collier County and will take place at 6 p.m., Thursday, March 10, at the Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort, 280 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples. For more information or to sponsor the event, please contact Rosa Aspilcueta 239-455-2655 ext. 3100 or, or visit

Continuing on the success of the first Safe Haven Sunday in 2021, the Diocesan Office of Family Life is working on developing the second phase of the initiative for the fall of 2022. This phase help to raise awareness about the harmfulness of pornography in the family and society. Pornography creates unsafe environments for children and confuses others about attitudes towards sex and marriage. This day of awareness describes the impacts pornography can have on marriages, families, and culture, while providing helpful resources for all. Detailed information will be shared with the faithful about how to combat this scourge in the weeks leading up to Safe Haven Sunday.

In the coming months, Bishop Dewane will preside over a variety of celebrations which occur each year, including the Rite of Election on the first Sunday of Lent, March 6, when Bishop Dewane welcomes those in Parish RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) programs from throughout the Diocese who will be fully entering the Church at the Easter Vigil; a Mass for Victims of Abuse will take place in April – National Child Abuse Awareness Month; later in the year a Veterans Day Mass at Sarasota National Cemetery, a Red Mass for legal professionals and more. As earlier mentioned, three men will be Ordained to the Priesthood by the Bishop this summer at Epiphany Cathedral.

Throughout 2021 there will be a variety of Parish-based celebrations coming in 20211. Among those is the 40th Anniversary of the founding of St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples, which is also going through an expansion project slated to begin in 2022. The dedication of new Parish Life Centers for Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande and St. William Parish in Naples will be happening in the first half of the year; and renovations to existing buildings as new Parish Life Centers at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee and Our Lady of the Angels Parish Lakewood Ranch are nearing completion. The coming year will be a big one at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Sarasota which is nearing the completion of a major Church renovation and ground will be broken on a new Ministry Center. There will also be a renovation of the baseball fields at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers as well as the expansion of the religious education building at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula. Additional smaller, but no less important, projects are slated throughout the Diocese in an effort to benefit current and future generations.

As 2022 moves forward, check the Diocesan website ( frequently for information about these and other upcoming events. As always, check the weekly Florida Catholic e-Edition to read stories and view photos from these and other happenings across the Diocese. If you would like to read the story looking back at life in the Diocese during 2021, please visit

Workshops promote authentic femininity

Each woman is uniquely beautiful and made according to God’s “image and likeness,” that is God’s design. With this in mind, the Diocese of Venice Office of Family Life hosted a series of workshops in late October to help instill a deeper appreciation for authentic femininity and the way God designed the female body as taught in the Theology of the Body from St. John Paul II.

Christina Valenzuela, a national speaker who provides lifelong learning and support for Body Literacy and Natural Family Planning, addressed three very different audiences using Sacred Scripture and the rich theology of the Catholic Church to help women develop a renewed appreciation for their unique role in God’s plan.

Valenzuela first spoke Oct. 21, 2021, to more than 150 young women at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, in a talk titled, “Language of the Body,” which was directed toward single women.

During the evening, she spoke about cycle charting and opened a window into Original Solitude and an opportunity to better understand what St. John Paul II calls the “mystery of woman? “That was done in the context of the liturgy, devotions, and rich theology of the Catholic Church.

Kateri Millword, President of Ave for Life, Ave Maria University’s Pro-Life Club, described the evening as a very enriching experience. This included hearing Valenzuela “talk about true femininity through the lens of fertility and cycles. She focused on their spiritual aspects, highlighting the dignity and beauty instilled in each woman by God. In the light of the “Theology of the Body” from St. Pope John Paul II. She explained how each woman can truly find herself through learning about her body in respect to what makes up her ‘feminine genius.’”

Then on Oct. 23 at St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers, she took time to train representatives from several Parishes to develop Natural Family Planning (NFP) “Ambassadors.” The idea was to build confidence by talking about NFP with others while gaining tools for expanding NFP support at the local level. Valenzuela also offered a perspective on discerning the unique role each Parish plays in supporting the family. And the importance of becoming well-versed in various types of NFP and resources.

Workshop participant Lori Crawford, of Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers, explained how Valenzuela guided the group to reflect on the “next steps for sharing the good and hard news about Natural Family Planning. I felt the call while we were there to minister to young girls as they grow into young women and navigate the difficult teen and young adult years. I appreciated the clarity that this workshop brought as well as the camaraderie – a network of people that feel love for this relevant and difficult, but true teaching of the Church.”

The third workshop by Valenzuela took place Oct. 24, also at St. John XXIII Parish and was for mothers with daughters (ages 9-12) and designed to teach the science behind a women’s cycle, and how to create a “Culture of Care” for one another as a woman’s body grows and changes. More than 50 attended the “Cycle Prep Workshop” which receive high praise from the mothers who attended.

Elizabeth Andrews, of St. John XXIII Parish said “the Cycle Prep class offered by our Diocese was exactly what mothers of young daughters needed! There was so much information that moms weren’t aware of prior to this session, given in a fun and relatable way, plus we were given tools to assist our daughters as they mature.

Andrews said she would highly recommend any of the Pearl and Thistle’s programs Valenzuela created, and she was grateful to Bishop Frank J. Dewane and the Office of Family Life for bringing the workshop to the Parish.

Lastly, Valenzuela recorded a presentation on “Pastoral Accompaniment and NFP”, which Carrie Harkey, Diocesan Office of Family Life Director, said would be shared with Parishes to provide an overview of various NFP methods, resources and accompaniment techniques to help couples through difficult fertility situations.

In addition, The Family Life Office offers pastoral planning packets “NFP in Our Parish: A Guide to Building Family Support in your Pastoral Plan” with the goal of building support in the family and where that falls in the parish plan

Harkey noted that the success of the presentations by Valenzuela does not end the efforts of the Diocese to help women develop a renewed appreciation for their unique role in God’s plan while also continuing to support families who strive to authentically live Church teaching.

Diocese to host Marriage Enrichment Conference Oct. 2

The Diocese of Venice recognizes the importance of forming married couples to live out their vocation in holiness and joy! As St. John Paul II famously said, “As goes the family, so goes the nation, and so goes the entire world in which we live.” It is of crucial importance that families in the Church are empowered to understand and live out their vocation.

To promote greater formation for couples, the Diocese of Venice Office of Family Life and the St. John Paul II Foundation (Houston, Texas) are working together to bring the first “Together in Holiness” Marriage Enrichment Conference to the Diocese on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

The Conference will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will be hosted at two locations: St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples and St. Thomas More Parish, 2506 Gulf Gate Drive, Sarasota. This one-day Conference includes dynamic presentations, vigil Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, Reconciliation, and on-site childcare.

This year’s theme is “Family, A School of Virtue” and the main speakers are Kevin and Lisa Cotter, who will speak at both locations.

“Together in Holiness” is unique in that it offers a place of encounter, where God’s plan for marriage and family is proclaimed and a desire for holiness is enkindled in the hearts of married couples. This is complemented by ongoing formation for spouses within a natural community of friends who accompany each other on the path to holiness by providing formation that will help learning take root in daily living.

Diocese Family Life Coordinator Carrie Harkey said the fall Conference is expected to be the first in a series of Diocesan conferences presented by the St. John Paul II Foundation and is open to all couples who desire to grow in holiness and strengthen their marriage and family life.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane has thrown his full support into this effort of promoting the vocation of marriage.

“All couples in the Diocese of Venice are encouraged to join us this fall as the Conference explores how your family can become its own ‘school of virtue’ through this marriage initiative,” Bishop Dewane said. “My hope is that each of you may be inspired to live out the beautiful vocation of marriage more fully and embrace the call to be missionary disciples. How blessed the Diocese is to offer this Conference.”

The following are just a few of the comments from past attendees across the country:

“[The] Together in Holiness Conference was wonderful. We don’t often have a lot of opportunities to sit together in a quiet room, so we really appreciated having a whole day set aside to be together. It’s important to invest time in a marriage so you can stay on the same page with your spouse. This Conferences is an investment that can continue to yield fruit for years to come!”

“We loved the good, practical information that we feel like we can apply right away.”

For those interested in attending the “Together in Holiness” Marriage Enrichment conference, the full schedule, list of speakers, and descriptions of the presentations are available at You can also contact the Conference Coordinators at or 832-779-1070 for more information.

If you have any other question, please contact Diocese Family Life Coordinator Carrie Harkey at 941-484-9543 or

News Briefs for the week of June 25, 2021

Ordination to the Priesthood July 31

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the faithful of the Diocese to the Ordination of Transitional Deacons Mark Harris and Alexander Pince to the Priesthood. This is to take place at 11 a.m., July 31, 2021, Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this important event in the lives of Deacons Harris and Pince as well as the Diocese of Venice. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall.

“Witnessing Faith with Bishop Dewane” available June 25

Join Bishop Frank J. Dewane, for his monthly radio program on Relevant Radio. “Witnessing Faith with Bishop Dewane” can be heard at 8:30 a.m., June 25, 2021 addressing the topic of Religious Freedom. Access to the program is available at

“Franciscan at Home” online workshops

The Diocese of Venice Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation presents “Franciscan at Home,” which offers online workshops for anyone who wants to grow deeper in the Catholic Faith. This is a program sponsored by your Parish at no cost to you. Workshops are available on parenting, youth ministry, prayer, Catholic social teaching, theology of the body, Scripture and much more. Many workshops are available in Spanish. For more information, please call the at 941-766-7334, or visit

Grove City Food Pantry open

The St. Francis of Assisi Parish Food Pantry, 5265 Placida Road, Grove City, is open and distributing food from 9:15 a.m. to 11:15 a.m., on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. For more information contact Megan at 941-697-4899, or by email at

ZOOM Surviving Divorce Facilitator Training July 8

Nationally known author Rose Sweet will be offering an online “Surviving Divorce” facilitator training via ZOOM 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., July 8, 2021. This is training for the Surviving Divorce: Hope and Healing for the Catholic Family program. Whether you’re a seasoned leader or considering starting a group, everyone can learn something of value to best love and support the divorced. This outreach goes to the deepest aches of the heart and the wounds are complex. While facilitators are not called to bring healing (that is God’s job) they are called to be as skilled as you can be at understanding minds, hearts, and the truth and power of the fullness of Catholic teaching. Sweet is a pioneer in the divorce healing world and will help integrate Catholic principles and practical realities into this outreach. To register, please visit For more information contact Carrie Harkey in the Family Life Office at

Institute starting new course in August

The Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation of the Diocese of Venice is offering a 16-week graduate level online course starting Aug. 24 that introduces students to the principles, practices, and sources of Catholic Theology. The course “What is Catholic Theology? (Ecclesial Nature and Mission of Theology)” counts as a pre-requisite for those beginning the online MA in Theology and Christian Ministry at Franciscan University of Steubenville. (Franciscan offers Diocese of Venice students discounted tuition for this online MA). This course is also available to those who wish to attend for their own personal enrichment. For cost and other information and to register for the course, visit the Institute website or call 941-766-7334.

Tele-Mental Health Counseling Services

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc. is offering Mental Health Counseling for adults and children provided by licensed mental health therapists. If you or someone you know is feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, depressed, or helpless, Catholic Charities can help. For more information, please call 239-455-2655. There is no charge for this service.

2021 Marriage Preparation Retreats

The Diocesan Office of Family Life is offering “Day of Reflection” retreats for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage. A specially prepared volunteer team of married couples and a priest will share their experiences and information with the intention of enabling couples to be more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of marriage. The retreats in English are from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., on the following Saturdays: July 10, August 7, and November 13. Please visit to register for the English retreats. Retreats in Spanish take place: 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., August 7 and October 30 at St. Jude Parish, 3930 17th Street, Sarasota, and 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., August 14 and December 4, at Our Lady Queen of Heaven, 355 S. Bridge Street, LaBelle. To register for a St. Jude retreat date please contact the parish at 941-955-3934. Please visit to register for a retreat at Our Lady Queen of Heaven, For further information contact Carrie Harkey at 941-484-9543 ext. 3019.

Public Prayer for God’s Mercy Upon America!

Join lay Catholics and others in public prayer asking for God’s Mercy for the United States the last Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. on the east side of U.S. 41, immediately north of Pine Ridge Road, Naples, and opposite the Waterside shops. This public witness of our Faith offers the opportunity to turn to God for His merciful help during this time of great need. The Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Rosary will be prayed. Please bring folding chairs, shade umbrellas, bottled water, and signs if you wish. Parking is available in adjacent lots. If you have questions or require additional information, please email

Ave Maria University 12th Annual Youth Conference

All high school age youth from incoming freshman to outgoing seniors are invited to join us for the 12th Annual Ave Maria University Youth Conference “FEARLESS” July 9-11. This incredible weekend will be full of faith, fellowship, music, and great speakers! The special rate for this year’s conference is only $130 per person and includes lodging, meals, and conference fee and a t-shirt. Call or email 239-348-4725 or or visit us at for more information.

Free Rosary Repair Service

Send your broken rosaries in a padded envelope to Betty and Dick Holden, 7930 Estero Blvd. #502, Fort Myers, FL 33931. Rosaries will be repaired and returned within the week of receipt. Donations of old rosaries are also accepted which will be repaired and sent to missions. Include a note indicating repair or donation. For more details, please call 239-463-3993 or email

Sacrament of Holy Matrimony a Beautiful Vocation

The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is a sacred bond between a man and a woman which reflects the honor, love, commitment and fidelity each demonstrates for the other.

In celebration of that commitment each year Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites couples married 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50+ years to a Mass in their honor as witnesses to a beautiful vocation for younger generations to see and admire.

“I stand before you truly joyful and truly humbled by the commitment you live each day,” Bishop Dewane said Feb. 6, 2021 at one of two Masses celebrated at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. “It is not just a celebration of the numbers you have accomplished, but of your presence here today and to your dedication, one to the other. You wouldn’t be here if Christ wasn’t at the center of your commitment to each other.”

As examples for others within their own family and society, the Bishop said that the life that married couples live, in kindness and fruitfulness, is unique in what it contributes to society.

“You have made society rich – with your forgiveness, compassion and love for one another,” Bishop Dewane added. “Know that the Lord sees that and gives you the strength to be that example; the silent preachers of something that is good and permanent.”

Masses are celebrated each year in the northern and southern sections of Diocese of Venice so as to accommodate those wanting to attend. In 2021, to allow for social distancing due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, two Masses were celebrated Feb. 6, 2021 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. An additional two Masses, at 10 a.m. and noon, on March 6, 2021, will be celebrated at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. (Registration is through your Parish.)

For the two Masses in Venice, there were 126 couples present – married a combined 6,571 years – with six celebrating 70 or more years of marriage. The longest married couple was Donald and Nonna Rassier of Epiphany Cathedral. On Oct. 2, 2021, they will celebrate their 73 years together.

During the Mass, the married couples renewed their wedding vows. In addition, each couple was presented with commemorative certificates, signed by the Bishop, for their enduring commitment to marriage.

Alex and Lynn Franklin of St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota have been married for 40 years and have four children and 12 grandchildren.  Lynn Franklin was thrilled to be present for such a beautiful Mass and thanked Bishop Dewane for ensuring the Mass took place even during the Pandemic.

The couple credits their longevity to their faith and communication. “We talk about everything, openly and honestly,” Lynn Franklin explained. “She means everything,” Alex Franklin quipped. Lynn quickly added that by communicating the couple remains focused on their life together. “It is a good life, grounded in our love of God and our whole family.”

A reception followed the Mass with lunch and the opportunity to have complimentary pictures taken with the Bishop.


Present for the Mass were six couples celebrating 70 or more years of marriage:

73 years

Donald and Nonna Rassier, Epiphany Cathedral;

71 years

James and Maria Nixon, Epiphany Cathedral;

Leon and Ann Reser, St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Grove City;

70 years

Thomas and Dolores Mortorana, Epiphany Cathedral;

John and Rita Riebel, Epiphany Cathedral;

Russell and Gianina Stanley, St. Bernard Parish, Holmes Beach.

Also present were two couples celebrating their anniversary on the day of the Mass:

Ken and Diane Neyer, Epiphany Cathedral, 50th Anniversary; and Guido and Sharon Leutem, Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish, Bradenton, 61st Anniversary.

Religious Freedom Week 2020

The Feast of Ss. Thomas More and John Fisher on June 22, 2020 marks the start of Religious Freedom Week, a national call for all Catholics across the United States to pray, reflect and take action in support of Religious Liberty in our country and abroad.

It is appropriate that the week begins on such a day, as Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher are remembered for being martyred in 1535 for standing up for the Sanctity of Marriage and the Freedom of the Church in opposition to England’s King Henry VIII.

Continuing through the Solemnity of Sts. Peter & Paul the Apostles on June 29, 2020, Religious Freedom Week is a call by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to unite Catholics across the country to pray, reflect and take action on religious liberty, both here in this country and abroad. The theme for Religious Freedom Week 2020 is “For the Good of All.”

Religious Freedom was founded to allow people of Faith to serve others in God’s love through ministries like education, adoption and foster care, health care, as well as migration and refugee services.

During the week, the USCCB encourages the faithful to reflect upon the importance of religious freedom so that we can carry out our mission of service and mercy. Everyone is invited to pray for our brothers and sisters who face intense persecution in other parts of the world.

Throughout the Religious Freedom Week, we are called to follow Christ as missionary disciples by seeking the truth, serving others, and living our Faith in all that we do. A number of resources, including daily prayers, reflections as well as action items related to issues in the U.S. and abroad, can be found at the USCCB website at

In Catholic teaching, the Second Vatican Council declared in Dignitatis Humanae, No. 2, that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means all men/women are immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power. In such ways that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his/her own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

Religious Liberty is protected in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well as in federal and state laws and reaches beyond our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the rosary at home; it also encompasses our ability to contribute freely to the common good of all Americans.

To stay up-to-date on current religious freedom issues, sign up for text messages from the USCCB. It’s easy. Just text the word “FREEDOM” or “LIBERTAD” to 84576.

Men’s Conference Fight the Good Fight of the Faith!

How can one be a good Catholic father, husband, brother, son or man in a modern world?

The answer to this and other questions was found Feb. 8 during the 2020 Diocese of Venice Men’s Conference at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. The Conference theme was: “Fight the Good Fight of the Faith!” (1 Timothy 6:12).

Hundreds of men gathered to hear from nationally known speakers Mark Hart, Chris Padgett and Father Donald Calloway, Marian Father of the Immaculate Conception.  The talks offered spiritual guidance and inspiration as well practical advice for the Catholic men.

Jim Burke of Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers enjoyed the day, saying the speakers touched on key points when talking about how to stay connected to the faith through the reading if Scripture, prayer and becoming more active in Parish life.

“As a father and almost a grandfather, I worry about my family more than ever, whether or not they are practicing the Catholic Faith,” Burke explained. “I heard things that resonated with me. It boils down to me knowing and understanding the Church better so I can share that knowledge.”

At the beginning of the day Joshua Mazrin, Diocese Director of Evangelization, told the men to have fun and enjoy a nice Saturday when they can be removed from all of their worldly obligations, but added the day was to be about taking “the time to encounter the Lord, to learn more about your Faith, and to grow in fellowship with one another.”

Charlie Vincenzo of St. Therese Parish in North Fort Myers found hope by being around other like-minded men who want the best for their own lives, the lives of their family and the life of Holy Mother Church. “Society seems to want to do away with all religion, when what it really needs are warriors to stand up and fight these battles for our Faith.”

Father Calloway, a convert who has a special affinity for the Holy Family, stressed that when we struggle to understand and overcome difficulties in our life, it is crucial to turn to the Lord for comfort and guidance. In our efforts to find the Lord, turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, through intercessions and following their example.

“We need the Lord in our lives now more than ever,” Father Calloway said. “One way the Church is stressing to do that is through Mary and one of the greatest saints, St. Joseph, step-father of Jesus. His is an example to us, someone we need in our life, for our family and household… Joseph was a spiritual warrior; the terror of demons, pillar of families, warrior of domestic life; guardian of virgins; patron of the Church; and your spiritual father.”

Padgett, a father of nine who is a native of the Diocese of Venice where he entered the Church in 1999, shared his own challenges and experiences in learning about the Catholic Church. Bringing a comedic aspect to his talk, Padgett stressed how being a man of God isn’t about athletics or power tools, it is that we are all called to greatness and this is best demonstrated in our willingness to sacrifice and serve.

Hart, executive vice president of Life Teen International, stressed that having a strong faith life begins with the study of Scriptures. “It is how we come to know God… Even if you just read the parts in the Mass (of Scripture read out as the first, second, responsorial psalm and Gospel), you have 167 hours of reading. That is a good place to start.”

Throughout the day the men enjoyed spiritual fellowship, a burger fest, food trucks and outdoor games. The day also included the opportunity for Eucharistic Adoration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The closing Mass was celebrated by Father Eric Scanlan, Administrator of Incarnation Parish in Sarasota, filling in for Bishop Frank J. Dewane who was unable to attend because he was participating in a “Ad Limina” visit to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican.