EASTER: The Summit of the Catholic Faith

Throughout the Universal Church the faithful gathered for a joyous celebration on Easter; that is the Resurrection of Our Lord, the Summit of the Catholic Faith.

This celebration comes after the holiest of weeks which began with the entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and included the suffering and death of Our Lord. The Resurrection on Easter completes the journey for Jesus when death was conquered but also the beginning of a new journey of belief and hope for the faithful, Bishop Frank J. Dewane explained during the Easter Vigil Mass, April 3, 2021 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

The Easter Vigil which takes place on Holy Saturday night, “is the greatest and most noble of all solemnities and it is to be unique in every single Church,” according to the Roman Missal. The Vigil began in darkness before the Easter fire was kindled and the Paschal (Passover) Candle was lit and brought into the darkened church with the proclamation that Christ is our Light.

During this Mass, the faithful hear the story of Salvation proclaimed in numerous Scripture readings. It is also at this time when priests confer the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation for the Catechumens and Candidates. At Parishes throughout the Diocese, there were 330 women and men who entered fully into the Catholic Church.

Two of these candidates were sisters Martha Lee McGuffin Mahoney (St. Teresa of Avila) and Valerie Ann McGiffin Amundson (St. Teresa of Calcutta), and they both first received the Sacrament of Confirmation and then the Sacrament of First Holy Communion from Bishop Dewane at Epiphany Cathedral.

Mahoney said she felt gratitude in her heart and became emotional when Bishop Dewane made the sign of the cross with Holy Oil on her forehead. “I feel blessed and loved.”

Amundson said she was drawn to the Catholic Faith by commitment of the Church to never waver in what is taught and passed down through the centuries. “It was also the Catholic spirit that drew me in. I had concerns about falsehoods I heard about Catholics, but those quickly went away when I realized that we are all called to live out the teachings of Christ.”

Bishop Dewane explained how the Easter Candle, flickering at the foot of the altar, represents Jesus Christ, a light that shatters the darkness, a darkness more profound than what was inside the Cathedral, but within one’s life and heart.

“We have to take this opportunity to carry home with us these words from Scripture; to place them into our hearts and into your heart and to be the light, often in the midst of darkness,” the Bishop continued. “Be attentive in your life to the economy of Salvation as you are to the economy of finances.”

We are all called to be that voice and that witness. Take this opportunity at Easter to recognize the joy of the resurrected Lord, Bishop Dewane stressed. The resurrection is the restoration of the covenant the Jewish people had with God and is now restored.

“Salvation is here for you and me,” the Bishop concluded. “Go forward with shouts of joy. It has to be who you are, going forward with the Risen Christ who is within our midst, who is with us as a community of believers to keeps us safe.”

Easter is the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection from the dead, culminating in his Ascension to the Father and sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. There are 50 days of Easter from the first Sunday to Pentecost.

The first eight days make up the Octave of Easter and are celebrated as Solemnities of the Lord. On the 40th day of the Easter Season, Catholics celebrate the Ascension of the Lord (May 13, which is moved to the following Sunday on May 16), and for the nine days following, prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (May 23).

Paschal Triduum celebrated throughout the Diocese

Faithful gather at Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice for a celebration of the Paschal Triduum (April 1-4, 2021).

The Paschal Triduum of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Thursday), has its center in the Easter Vigil, and closes with Vespers (Evening Prayer) of the Sunday of the Resurrection (Easter).

Through the implementation of health and safety precautions, including social distancing and the wearing of masks, the 2021 celebrations were a stark difference from the Triduum of 2020 when churches were closed to public Mass during the early days of the global Pandemic.

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper at St. William Parish in Naples included the commemoration when Jesus Christ established the Sacrament of Holy Communion prior to His arrest and crucifixion. It also observes His institution of the priesthood. This Liturgy included the presentation of the oils blessed and consecrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane during the March 30 Chrism Mass which will be used for the Sacraments in the Parish throughout the year.

Later, was the traditional washing of the feet. A procession with the Holy Eucharist to transfer the Eucharist to the place of reposition in the Parish Hall followed the Prayer after Communion. This procession led out the main doors of the church and then around to the rear where the hall is located. Along the way were tiki torches to light the path.

On Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, the faithful at St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston participated in the Stations of the Cross prior to the Liturgy which included the reading of the Passion from the Gospel of John.

Stations of the Cross at a few Parishes were led by children and in many cases the presentation was scaled-back due to the Pandemic. For example, thousands typically participate in the Stations at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee. The Liturgy was celebrated in English, Spanish and Creole and still drew a large crowd. Different in 2021, health and safety precautions required that the Veneration of the Cross took place without physically touching the crucifix.

An Easter Triduum Retreat at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice drew more than 30 people. Led by Director of Spirituality Father Mark Yavarone, Oblate of the Virgin Mary, the retreat started with supper on Holy Thursday and ended with breakfast on Easter Sunday following the celebration of a Sunrise Easter Liturgy.

On Easter, to accommodate the expected crowds and to ensure social distancing, Parishes throughout the Diocese added extra Masses and some even set up tents outside.

Chrism Mass: A Sign of Unity

The Chrism Mass is a Holy Week tradition when Holy Oils are blessed and consecrated while priests from across the Diocese stand united with the Bishop.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, joined by the priests of the Diocese of Venice, celebrated the Chrism Mass on March 30, 2021, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. To accommodate the latest guidance on social distancing and limiting the size of gatherings, only priests and Permanent Deacons and their wives were present for the Mass. The public was able to view this Mass via a livestream.

“Gather here for this Chrism Mass, quite different from a year ago for all of us, indeed a much better vision for me seeing all of you,” Bishop Dewane remarked at the opening of the Mass as seeing more than 120 priests present. “We gather here for an important reason, to bless and consecrate the oils to be used throughout the Diocese in the sacramental life of the Church.”

The Chrism Mass marks a celebration and is an expression of unity of the priests with their Shepherd, the Bishop of the Diocese. By having all the priests of the Diocese come together on the eve of the Easter Triduum, reminds each of their calling to act in the person of Christ – in persona Christi.

During the Renewal of Priestly Promises the priests stood as one, and spoke with one voice saying, “I am,” three times in response to questions asked by Bishop Dewane. These same questions were asked of them during their Ordination to the Priesthood.

Bishop Dewane publicly thanked the priests for their continued service to the People of God throughout the Diocese of Venice for what they do each day, and in particular during the ongoing response to the Pandemic. “Reflect that a year ago we were not able to gather – and not able to do many things because we simply didn’t know. We have come to realize there are things we can do. We can gather to give glory and praise to God.”

While addressing the priests directly, Bishop Dewane cited the readings of the day from the Prophet Isaiah, Book of Revelation, and the Gospel of Luke, which identify those who are called to be priests.

“The idea of being made is something that is truly ongoing, a work in progress,” the Bishop continued. “The strength of Christ is given to you and it has made your identity as a priest. It makes you new in the Lord, over and over again.”

At Dioceses around the world, Pope Francis and local Bishops carry out the annual Chrism Mass, which is celebrated during Holy Week, on or before Holy Thursday. In the Diocese of Venice, the Chrism Mass is traditionally celebrated on the Tuesday of Holy Week to accommodate the priests who need to travel great distances. This year was no different.

The Chrism Mass takes its name from the Sacred Chrism oil, which the Bishop blesses and consecrates for use by Parish priests of the Diocese throughout the coming year.

The Order of the Blessing of the oils and consecration of the Sacred Chrism takes place at different times during the Mass. Vested in white, Bishop Dewane, raised hands over the urns on a table near the altar and first blessed the Oil of the Sick at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer. Following the Prayer After Communion, the Bishop blessed the Oil of the Catechumens.

Before the final blessing, the final portion is the consecration of the Sacred Chrism oil. First balsam is poured into the oil and then mixed. The balsam is added so that it gives the oil a sweet smell intended to remind those who encounter it of the “odor of sanctity” – the faithful are called to strive for sanctity. The Bishop then extended his hands toward the vessel containing the oils and said the prayer of consecration. The celebration is brought to a close with a final blessing.

The Oil of the Sick is used for those who seek the Anointing of the Sick, and the Oil of the Catechumens, which is imposed on those preparing for Sacrament of Baptism, are simply “blessed,” by the Bishop, while the Sacred Chrism is “consecrated.” The Sacred Chrism is used for Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders as well as the consecration of altars and dedication of churches.

The Chrism Mass brings together the entire Presbyterate (all active priests in the Diocese) and would normally be witnessed by more than 1,000 people, including religious, student representatives from each of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools, Knights of Columbus Color Corps and Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta as well as the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher.

Recognized during the Chrism Mass were priests and deacons celebrating 50 and 25 years since their ordination. The priest Golden Jubilarians were: Father Roger L. Charbonneau; Father Donald H. Henry; Father Paul F. McLaughlin; Father Patrick C. Organ; and Father Patrick Oliver Toner. The priest Silver Jubilarians were: Father John M. Belmonte, SJ; Father John F. Costello; and Father Pawel Kawelec. The deacon Silver Jubilarians were: Deacon Gary Christoff; Deacon Michael F. Cristoforo; and Deacon David R. Jerome. A complete biography of each jubilarian can be found at https://dioceseofvenice.org/news/.

Bishop encourages students in Cape Coral to pray

When Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrates Mass at Diocese of Venice Catholic schools he challenges the students to take upon a task during the coming year to help them grow closer to the Lord. This year, he asked them to pray more often.

This was the challenge given to the students at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral on Oct. 21, 2020.

To introduce the concept of an increased prayer life, Bishop Dewane first asked the students how many of them want to be friends with Jesus. After a bit of a hesitation they all raised their hands.

“When you want to be friends with someone, you talk to them, you speak to them often and you come to know them and become friends,” the Bishop explained. “With cell phones you communicate a lot. Well, one way is to communicate with the Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints, is through prayer.”

Prayer is important, particularly during the time of a global pandemic, Bishop Dewane continued. Signs of the pandemic were everywhere, as students wore masks and were seated apart and the Mass was livestreamed to the students who were learning virtually from home.

“Do you think you can pray more this year?” “Yes!!” the students enthusiastically replied.

“I accept that. I know you can. During this time, we need to remain united in prayer. Sometimes we must keep a distance to be safe, but that doesn’t have to mean we are distant from the person. Jesus is in Heaven but also close to us. We can be close to Him in a different way, through prayer.”

The Bishop said he will ask the teachers to encourage more daily prayer and that the students should include not only each other but also the people of the Parish who sacrifice to support the school.

“I never ask you anything I think you can’t do,” Bishop Dewane concluded. “You all have to discipline yourselves when you might not feel like praying. Take the time to talk to Jesus. Talk to His Mother Mary. Pray to the Patron Saint of your School, St. Andrew. Know that I pray for you daily. Be young men and women of prayer.”

After the conclusion of Mass, the eighth graders were brought forward to take an oath of leadership. Following the oath, Bishop Dewane presented each with a pin marking them as St. Andrew Catholic School Leaders.

When they were dismissed to returned to school, Bishop Dewane wished them each a blessed day and school year. They also did elbow bumps in lieu of handshakes.

After the younger students left, Bishop Dewane spoke with the eighth graders and encouraged them to consider choosing Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers where he assured them that they would excel. He also answered their questions which ranged from what the Bishop does, likes and dislikes, to in-depth inquiries which focused on the Church teachings on a variety of subjects. Before returning to the classroom, Bishop Dewane stood for a group photo with the eighth graders.

Confirmation held in outdoor pavilion

Bishop Frank J. Dewane bestowed the Sacrament of Confirmation on a group of more than 90 young men and women on Oct. 17, 2020 at the Pioneer Park Pavilion in Zolfo Springs.

The youth were from St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, San Alfonso Mission in Zolfo Springs and Holy Child Mission in Bowling Green.

The alternate location was used to ensure that not only the youth and their sponsors could attend, but also family members. The facility is also used for the annual celebration of Our Lady of a Guadalupe.

News briefs for week of July 28 2020

VDCCW presents Bishop with check

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was honored at a special gathering of the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women on July 25, 2020 at Epiphany Cathedral Parish Hall in Venice. The meeting coincided with the 14th anniversary of Bishop Dewane’s Episcopal Ordination as Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in Florida in 2006. The VDCCW leadership presented the Bishop with a check for $9,000 to be used to support the Diocesan seminarians.

Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate Aug. 15

Bishop Frank J. Dewane will ordain to the Permanent Diaconate seven men at 11 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020 at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. The candidates are: Jeffrey Ball of Ave Maria Parish, Ave Maria; Enrique (Rick) Castro of St. Cecilia Parish, Fort Myers; Ramiro Hernandez of St. Michael Parish, Wauchula; Jack W. Milholland Jr. of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Lakewood Ranch; Roberto Pagán of Jesus the Worker Parish, Fort Myers; Vern W. Smith of St. Martha Parish, Sarasota; and Dr. William Soscia of St. Joseph Parish, Bradenton. A reception in the Parish Hall will follow. All are invited and encouraged to attend.

Online master’s degrees offered through Ave Maria University

There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, but one thing is clear: an online master’s degree from Ave Maria University will distinguish you from the competition when companies start hiring again. Online degrees available include a Master of Business Administration. For more information, contact Elizabeth.ODonnell@avemaria.edu or visit https://avemariauniversity.lpages.co/gradprograms-r2/.

Virtual Vacation Bible School a success

St. Joseph Church completed their virtual Vacation Bible School July 23, 2020 with a special Zoom celebration. The online sessions provided inspiration for the children who participated and performed different activities related to inspirational Bible messages. Parish Administrator Father Rafal Ligenza provided a lesson on the Eucharist and lead everyone in prayer for the final celebration.

First Communion face masks donated by sewing group

The Sewing Group of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples donated 200 white masks for use at Mass by First Communicants and their families on July 11, 2020. The Faith Formation team facilitated the distribution of the masks for the boys and girls as well as their families. Two Mass were scheduled for all of the children as all social distancing rules were followed.

3D face shield project update

The first phase of a STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts, math) 3D printing project to provide face shields to frontline workers has been a success. So far 100 face shield have been delivered for use by Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. staff and volunteers at food pantry distribution sites as well as for children participating in summer camps. The project was the idea of Jennifer Falsetiny, Curriculum Specialist for the Diocese Department of Education. The goal is to turn the Camillus Project, as it is called, into an ongoing club for schools that may wish to participate so as to give back to the community while providing solutions to a real-world problem. The plan is to re-launch the program again in the new school year to hopefully get more schools involved in the hands-on STREAM 3D printing service project.


While the celebration of public Mass resumed May 18, 2020, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announced that the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in effect through Sept. 1, 2020 for those who are at greater risk or anxious about returning at this time. The Faithful ought not to worry about remaining home if they are concerned for their wellbeing or that of other parishioners. Of course, those who are sick or have symptoms associated with COVID-19 are to stay home. Please check the Diocese of Venice website for any updates.


The Diocese of Venice will continue live-streaming the Mass through the Diocese website (www.dioceseofvenice.org) and Facebook pages from the Catholic Center in Venice 9:15 a.m. daily as the dispensation to attend Mass remains.

Sunday Televised Mass

The Televised Mass for the Homebound is available throughout the Diocese each Sunday. In northern parts of the Diocese (Manatee, Highlands, Hardee, Sarasota, DeSoto and Charlotte counties) the Mass airs on television at 9:30 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Collier, Lee, Glades, Hendry, Charlotte counties) the Mass airs at 10:30 a.m., on WFTX-TV (FOX-4). This same Mass can be found on the Diocese of Venice website at any time during the week, www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass. Please check local listings for channel information.

Parish donations

During this challenging time in the life and mission of the Diocese of Venice, our Parishes face increased risk of financial shortfalls due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and its effects on everyday life. Parishes depend on weekly financial gifts to continue their ministries, especially in this critical time of crisis. The Diocese of Venice is providing an online platform and encourages the Faithful to support their Parish. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/ways-to-give/parish-donations-online/ to donate to your Parish. The Faithful may also contribute through usual channels (e.g., envelopes, and through the Parish online giving option). Together we will navigate through this crisis, provide assistance to those in need, and secure the road ahead for the Parishes within the Diocese of Venice.

Online Resources

A special coronavirus webpage is located on the Diocese of Venice website at www.dioceseofvenice.org. Resources include links to the Mass, the prayer for an Act of the Spiritual Communion, videos of the Stations of the Cross, Divine Mercy Chaplet and Pray the Rosary. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website, www.usccb.org, also posts the daily Mass readings.

Act of Spiritual Communion

It has long been a Catholic understanding that when circumstances prevent one from receiving Holy Communion, it is possible to make an Act of Spiritual Communion which is a source of grace. Spiritual Communion means uniting one’s self in prayer with Christ’s sacrifice and worshiping Him in His Body and Blood.

The most common reason for making an Act of Spiritual Communion is when a person cannot attend Mass, as is the case during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Acts of Spiritual Communion increase our desire to receive sacramental Communion and help us avoid the sins that would make us unable to receive Holy Communion worthily.

For all who will not be able to receive the Holy Eucharist in person, consider this special prayer, an Act of Spiritual Communion:

My Jesus,
I believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,

and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there

and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.


Bishop Verot graduates outdoors

The 55th Commencement Exercises of Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers may have been more spread out than normal on July 18, 2020, but a delay of two months did little to spoil the significance the day meant for both the graduates and their proud families.

Entering down the middle of Viking Stadium, which is emblazoned with VEROT between the hash marks, the graduates sat on folding chairs six feet apart, on either side of the stage which was placed on the goal line. Folding chairs were set up on the field with family groups sitting together to best ensure social distancing. When social distancing was not possible, everyone was required to wear a mask.

The Verot Class of 2020 overcame the impacts of Hurricane Irma in 2017 which closed their school down for weeks and it took more than a year to complete repairs. Then, just as they were on the brink of the final quarter of their senior year in high school, the world changed. The COVID-19 Pandemic cancelled in-person classes and the resulting quarantine and online classes put a new and trying meaning to distance learning for the close-knit group of 157 graduates.

These students have achieved much, having been offered more than $22 million in scholarships and nearly all with plans for higher education. Because of the delay in graduation, a few students were unable to attend, therefore the graduation was streamed live through the Verot website.

Important commencement traditions remained, such as parents who are Verot alumni were invited to the stage to present their child with their diploma. Because of the pandemic, there were no handshakes when diplomas or awards were presented.

One moment which brought a spontaneous applause was when the father of Mateo Devito accepted the diploma on his behalf, the same day he was being inducted into the U.S. Navy at the U.S. Naval Academy. The closing benediction was given by Father John Belmonte, a Jesuit priest who is the new Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Education.