Cardinal Mooney graduation outdoors

The roar of the crowd at LECOM Park on July 31, 2020 was not for a Bradenton Marauders minor league baseball game but for the graduating seniors of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School.

The class of 133 is an impressive group, earning more than $10 million in scholarships and nearly all will be attending college in the coming weeks. Delayed from its original date in late May due to the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, some were not present for the graduation because of college or work commitments, but each was recognized during the Commencement Exercises.

The night before the commencement, on July 30, 2020, the Class of 2020 was given a proper send off for Catholic high school students, with a Baccalaureate Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane at Incarnation Parish.

“With the pandemic, so much has changed for all of us and we find ourselves in a very unique situation,” Bishop Dewane said. “As a class, likely all of you here have become closer while at the same time being 6-feet apart. It’s something unique and something you will always remember.”

While the Bishop noted that the graduates may feel they are a little less fortunate than some other classes because of opportunities lost and graduating during a global pandemic and economic crisis.

“At the same time, despite that difficulty, the Lord calls us together to celebrate in the way that we can celebrate who you are and who you are becoming as a man or woman of God,” Bishop Dewane continued. “You have to have the grace to respond to those changes in your life… Use the gifts you have gained, received and earned at Cardinal Mooney and go forward and build upon those to be your strength as you go forward facing life anew.”

During the graduation, masks were worn and social distancing occurred whenever possible as friends and family were spread out in the stands at LECOM Park. The graduates initially sat along the third base line. When their names were called, each graduate came forward crossing the infield to behind the pitcher’s mound where Principal Ben Hopper was there to hand out the diplomas. The graduates were also congratulated by Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Catholic Education and Father Eric Scanlan, Cardinal Mooney Chaplain and Administrator of Incarnation Parish. The Commencement Address was given by Dr. William Soscia, Mooney Class of 1984.

The loudest applause during the Commencement came when Hopper presented a diploma to graduate Michael Bavaro. Bavaro was a star lacrosse player who broke several vertebrae in a March 2020 boating accident and requires the use of a wheelchair.

News Briefs for week of July 13 2020

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.

CCW supports Catholic Charities

Representatives of the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women recently presented a check to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc. for their homeless prevention program. The presentation took place on June 23, 2020 at the Catholic Center in Venice. VDCCW President Brenda Dolan and Board Member Ellen Bachman presented the check for $7,000 to Philomena Pereira, CEO of Catholic Charities. Bishop Frank J. Dewane was also present as a show of support for both the VDCCW and Catholic Charities. The money is part of an annual effort of the VDCCW and will go toward the numerous programs that provide housing and also prevent people from becoming homeless.

Support After Abortion Virtual Conference

Join the Support After Abortion Healing Network Virtual Conference 2020: Building and Strengthening Abortion Healing Worldwide – Thursday, July 30 to Saturday, August 1.  See and hear online over 40 presenters: clergy, authors, curriculum leaders and those who have been impacted by abortion as they share their wisdom, insights and personal stories. Don’t be surprised that Support After Abortion resides in the Diocese of Venice and some of the presenters live here as well. There is no charge to watch any of the presentations during the three-day virtual conference by visiting www.supportafterabortionvirtualconference.com/home. See the website for a premium upgrade for access to each of the presentations for 90 days. (NOTE: Any priest interested in a free 90-day premium pass – a $49.99 value – can request one by e-mailing Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or calling 941-374-1068.)

Online Master’s in Bioethics Offered

St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens is offering a new Master’s in Bioethics to be earned in four semesters. The comprehensive program is designed for graduates to be equipped to address all relevant bioethical issues of our time; to serve as consultors; to give workshops; develop Parish programs; and to train others to do the same. All courses are taught according to the teachings of the Catholic Church. The program is four consecutive semesters (fall, spring, short summer, fall and students who start in the fall of 2020 will be graduating in December of 2021. The program consists of two courses per semester for a total of 30 credits and are fully available online. For more information, contact Father Alfred Cioffi, Director of the Institute for Bioethics, St. Thomas University, at 786-489-9369 or acioffi@stu.edu.

Year of Saint Joseph

On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, in the context of the Coronavirus, consecrated the Diocese of Venice to the care and protection of St. Joseph. The Bishop announced a “Year of St. Joseph” beginning March 19, 2020 through March 19, 2021. St. Joseph, often referred to as the Protector, can be our protector during this time of the pandemic. To pray a Novena to St. Joseph please visit the Year of St. Joseph webpage at www.dioceseofvenice.org.

Wauchula Food Pantry

St. Michael Parish in Wauchula is home to a food pantry which has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 Pandemic response. To accommodate those who work, the food pantry is open Saturdays from 7:00 a.m. to 8:45 a.m., at 408 Heard Bridge Road, Wauchula. If you need food at a different time or would like to support the efforts to assist the community, please call the Parish at 863-773-4089.

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 holdenbnd@gmail.com.

Dispensation

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.

Livestreaming

The Diocese of Venice will continue livestreaming 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.
Amen.

News briefs from July 6 2020

Priest becomes U.S. Citizen

Father Rafal Ligenza, Administrator of St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton was sworn in as U.S. Citizen on July 6, 2020. A native of Poland, Father Ligenza was ordained to the priesthood in 2011 for the Diocese of Venice by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. Father Ligenza has been Administrator at St. Joseph Parish since January of 2019 and previously served as Parochial Vicar at St. William Parish in Naples and St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers. Congratulations Father!

CCW supports Catholic Charities

Representatives of the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women recently presented a check to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc. for their homeless prevention program. The presentation took place on June 23, 2020 at the Catholic Center in Venice. VDCCW President Brenda Dolan and Board Member Ellen Bachman presented the check for $7,000 to Philomena Pereira, CEO of Catholic Charities. Bishop Frank J. Dewane was also present as a show of support for both the VDCCW and Catholic Charities. The money is part of an annual effort of the VDCCW and will go toward the numerous programs that provide housing and also prevent people from becoming homeless.

Virtual Summer Reading Challenge

A Virtual Summer Reading Challenge is taking place for the students of St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton. Students were sent home books in early June and they are also encouraged to read more books on their own. Students in online reading sessions with guest readers via Zoom. For each book read, the students receive a wristband. During the first week of the reading challenge, the students read 197 books. With each book comes activities and projects. The group kicked off the Fourth of July Weekend by taking a virtual field trip to the Statue of Liberty in New York City, via Google Earth! The students learned the history of the statue and shared the book, “Emma’s Poem” by Linda Glaser. The group ended the morning by learning how to make “fireworks in a jar.” Some students have already completed up to 20 books. Well done!

If you need help

If you need assistance from Catholic Charities for food, financial assistance or tele-mental health counseling, please call the number for your area listed below 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday. Services have expanded to include assistance in applying for state and federal benefits if you have lost work due to the COVID-19 Pandemic:

  • Sarasota/Manatee/DeSoto/Hardee/Highlands counties: 844-385-2407,
  • Charlotte/Lee/Hendry/Glades counties: 844-385-2423,
  • Collier County: 844-385-2404.

Food distribution

Catholic Charities food distribution will take place only at the following times and locations. Please call the regional number for more information.

  • Monday-Friday, 9-11 a.m., Guadalupe Social Services, 211 S. 9th St., Immokalee, the Soup Kitchen is providing take-out/meals-to-go;
  • Tuesdays, 9-11:30 a.m., Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center, 3174 Tamiami Trail E., Naples;
  • Thursdays, 9 a.m.-noon, St. Margaret Parish, 208 Dean Duff St., Clewiston;
  • Fridays, 9-11 a.m., St. Leo the Great Parish, 28360 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs;
  • Fridays, 9 a.m.-noon, Elizabeth K. Galeana Pantry, 4235 Michigan Avenue Link, Fort Myers;
  • 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month, 9-11 a.m., St. Paul Parish, 1208 E. Oak St. Arcadia.

Prayer to Overcome Racism

Mary, friend and mother to all, through your Son, God has found a way to unite himself to every human being, called to be one people, sisters and brothers to each other.

We ask for your help in calling on your Son, seeking forgiveness for the times when we have failed to love and respect one another.

We ask for your help in obtaining from your Son the grace we need to overcome the evil of racism and to build a just society. We ask for your help in following your Son, so that prejudice and animosity will no longer infect our minds or hearts but will be replaced with a love that respects the dignity of each person.

Mother of the Church, the Spirit of your Son Jesus warms our hearts: pray for us. Amen.

Dispensation

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 on any extension of the dispensation to attend Mass.

Livestreaming

The Diocese of Venice Mass will continue livestream through the Diocese website (www.dioceseofvenice.org) and Facebook pages from the Catholic Center in Venice 9:15 a.m. daily so long 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 their 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 homepage at www.dioceseofvenice.org. Resources include links to the Mass, the prayer for 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.
Amen.

Safety During Hurricanes

As the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season continues (June 1-Nov. 30), a prayer is presented here by which one asks God for protection and safety from the storms that often threaten Southwest Florida. With the formation of Tropical Storm Arthur in med-May, it promises to be another busy season of watching the tropics. We must all remember the devastating effect of Hurricane Irma from 2017 and what was witnessed when Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle in 2018, everyone in the Diocese of Venice knows and understands the power of these storms and the suffering which follows in their wake.

 

 

O God, Master of this passing world,

hear the humble voices of your children.

The Sea of Galilee obeyed Your order

and returned to its former quietude.

You are still the Master of land and sea.

We live in the shadow of a danger over which we have no control:

the Gulf, like a provoked and angry giant, can awake from its seeming lethargy,

overstep its conventional boundaries, invade our land, and spread chaos and disaster.

During this hurricane season we turn to You, O loving Father.

Spare us from past tragedies whose memories are still so vivid

and whose wounds seem to refuse to heal with passing of time.

O Virgin, Star of the Sea, Our beloved Mother, we ask you

to plead with your Son on our behalf,

so that spared from the calamities common to this area

and animated with a true spirit of gratitude,

we will walk in the footsteps of your Divine Son

to reach the heavenly Jerusalem,

where a stormless eternity awaits us. Amen.

Bishop celebrates Masses at Parishes throughout Diocese

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the main celebrant for the Vigil Mass on June 6, 2020 at the Church of St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota,

This visit was the latest in a series of Masses being celebrated by Bishop Dewane throughout the Diocese of Venice since public Masses resumed May 18, 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The Bishop celebrated Mass on the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord and Pentecost at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, as well as on May 31, 2020 at St. Isabel Parish in Sanibel. In addition, the Bishop presided over a Baccalaureate Mass at Ave Maria Parish for the graduating students of the Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria on June 5, 2020.

“Since we have begun existing the way we do now I try to be out and about in the Diocese at various Parishes,” Bishop Dewane explained. “We certainly have a new normal.”

Public Masses resumed in the Diocese of Venice on May 18, 2020 and now Parishes are functioning at up to 50 percent capacity while also ensuring parishioners are wearing face coverings and maintaining appropriate social distancing. In addition to other safety and health precautions, extra sanitizing is taking place between Masses.

“The good thing is that we gather as a community when we come to Mass – or are watching via livestream – and know that the Lord sees the good that you do,” Bishop Dewane said at St. Patrick Parish. “It’s not ideal to have masks on and not being able to see people as they are, but we need to do that right now.”

During this time of Pandemic, the Bishop said the faithful must acknowledge that Christ calls us to be a people of hope. “We must remain believers and hope for the best – for one another, for ourselves, but most of all for our Faith. We have to have hope in Jesus Christ.”

For those who are older, are vulnerable to illness. or they are not fully comfortable to return to Mass, the dispensation of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass continues through June 28, 2020.

The live streaming Masses from the Diocese of Venice will continue (available on Facebook or at www.dioceseofvenice.org) from the Catholic Center at 9:15 a.m. daily through June 28, 2020.

First public Sunday Mass since mid-March brings joy, hope

As the faithful left Mass at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice on May 24, 2020, there was a feeling of joy and hope. The joy came from the return to public Sunday Mass after a two-month absence. The hope was that this small step means that lives are closer to returning to normal in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Therefore, it was fitting that the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord was the moment the faithful returned to the regular Sunday Mass for the first time since March 15, 2020. The Solemnity includes the reading from the conclusion of the Gospel of Matthew called the “Great Commissioning” – when the Lord gives instructions and sends forth the Disciples into the world to spread the Good News.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who lifted the suspension of public Mass effective May 18, 2020, celebrated the 11 a.m. Mass on May 24, 2020 at the Cathedral, noting it was a pleasure to be back before the faithful after such a long absence.

“It is gift from the Lord that we are able to come back to our churches and our Parishes,” Bishop Dewane said. “At the same time, we have to acknowledge that Christ calls us to be a people of hope. During this time of the pandemic we must remain believers and hope for the best – for one another, for ourselves, but most of all for our Faith. We have to have hope in Jesus Christ.”

Brad Gaines attended the Vigil Mass at Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers and was very happy to be back.

“It is such a blessing to be here for Mass,” Gaines said. “It brings me great comfort, just like I had been every weekend since I was born, at least until the pandemic hit. I never realized how much I would miss being at Mass, in the presence of the Lord and singing hymns with others.”

The reopening of public Mass came with some restrictions as churches were only allowed to accommodate up to 50 percent of normal capacity while maintaining appropriate social distancing. As expected, many decided to remain home because they are older, are vulnerable to illness. or they are not fully comfortable to return. For this reason, Bishop Dewane extended the dispensation of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass through June 28, 2020.

For those who did go to Mass, signs were posted reminding everyone of social distancing regulations. Greeters kept doors propped open and ushers directed people to available seating as half of the pews in churches were blocked off. All Parishes required that masks be worn. There were no missals in the pews, thus the music selections were more common, making it easier for people to participate. Hand sanitizer was readily available and between Masses extra cleaning took place.

Many Parishes also created instructional videos to prepare the faithful for what to expect when coming to Mass, such as which entrances would be open and providing directions on receiving Holy Communion while wearing a mask.

Fran Kingman admitted she was wary about going to Mass until she saw the instructional video on the precautions being taken at Epiphany Cathedral.

“I so wanted to come back and was very worried,” Kingman said. “I soon realized that the Cathedral was taking this situation seriously. For me, wearing a mask at church is strange but a small price to pay. Honestly, I would rather do that from now on if it meant keeping the churches open for Mass.”

At the Cathedral, and many other Parishes, Holy Communion was made available in the afternoon for those who watched the Mass through a live stream and did not feel comfortable being at Mass in the church. Such accommodations were made to ensure the Sacrament remained available to all during these unique times.

During the pandemic, the live streaming of Mass became commonplace. While some Parishes have opted to stop or reduce the number of live streaming Masses, the Diocese of Venice will continue to offer its live stream service (available on Facebook or at www.dioceseofvenice.org) from the Catholic Center at 9:15 a.m. daily through June 28, 2020.

Welcome Home! Public Mass returns to Diocese with maximum 50% capacity

There was an expectant atmosphere for the 8 a.m. daily Mass on May 18, 2020 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. It was an extraordinary day; the first public Mass at the Cathedral of the Diocese of Venice since March 19, 2020. The social distancing and the wearing of masks reflected the unique circumstances necessary in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lines mark the floor of Epiphany Cathedral in Venice to ensure appropriate social distancing on May 18, 2020, the first day of the return of public Mass.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane announced the reopening of the Mass to the public, in a letter to the faithful dated May 12, 2020. Each church will have a maximum capacity of 50 percent while ensuring 6-foot social distancing. The announcement marked the end of a 59-day hiatus from the celebration of public Masses throughout the Diocese. This was preceded by the opening of churches for private prayer on May 11, 2020.

Therefore, it was no surprise when the 130 in attendance for the first Mass at the Cathedral applauded when Parochial Vicar Father Sebastian Szczawinski said “welcome.”

“I feel like I’m home,” said Roberta Cartwright. “I felt empty from being away for so long. I watched the daily Mass online, but it just wasn’t the same. I am so grateful to the Bishop for allowing everyone to return home and once more be close to Our Lord.”

Frank Paget said he was overjoyed to be back for the Mass and comforted to be among others who share his Faith. “I understood why the (public) Mass was suspended in the first place; it just had to happen. I am so grateful to be back and that everyone is following the restrictions for being safe and out in public – wearing a mask and sitting apart. I know it is temporary, but it is important for all of us to do our part.”

Public health officials have repeatedly advised wearing masks in public in order to reduce the risk of unknowingly transmitting the virus through droplets emitted from one’s mouth when speaking, coughing or sneezing. Many individuals who are infected with the virus do not develop symptoms, meaning even people who do not feel sick could spread the virus. For this reason, masks – along with social distancing – are an important tool in fighting the spread of the disease.

Prominent signs and markings in the pews throughout the Cathedral were in place to ensure social distancing. Lessons learned throughout the week will be used to prepare for the Saturday Vigil and Sunday Masses when more people are expected to return to Mass. Immediately following the Mass, volunteers wiped down the pews and areas where people may have touched exposed surfaces. All Parishes throughout the Diocese have taken similar steps as they reopen and adjust to the necessary requirements to ensure the health and safety of the faithful, volunteers, Parish staff and clergy.

The letter from Bishop Dewane notes that the faithful should expect that churches will be limited in capacity (maximum 50 percent) while the faithful maintain social distancing and wear a mask. At the same time, Bishop Dewane noted that the dispensation of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in effect through June 28, 2020. The Bishop also encouraged those who are most vulnerable or in fear of being in public to remain at home. “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.”

For this reason, the first public Mass at Epiphany Cathedral was live streamed on Facebook, as Masses have been since late March. As with other Parishes, the online service from the Cathedral initially ensured everyone could remain connected to the Mass during quarantine and now as restrictions are eased, it will remain for those who still need to stay away for the time being.

If you are unable to find a Mass online, the Diocese of Venice will continue to provide the daily Mass at 9:15 a.m. from the Catholic Center in Venice through June 28, 2020. This is available through the Diocese Facebook account or website (www.dioceseofvenice.org. The Mass remains available for viewing throughout the day.

Parishes work to ensure safety for all during Mass

When Bishop Frank J. Dewane announced that May 18, 2020 would be the resumption of public Mass at churches in the Diocese of Venice, a deadline for Parishes to be ready was set. At the same time directives and guidelines for reopening were provided to the Parish.

Planning sessions took place at Parishes across the Diocese and included all who are involved in preparing the Mass for the Sacred Liturgy, including the priests, deacons, sacristans, lectors, cantors, musicians and members of the maintenance team.

A hose stretches across pews at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice on May 13, 2020, as part of an effort to clean the church for the resumption of Mass on May 18, 2020.

These groups typically gather ahead of major Church celebrations such as Advent, Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Week and the Easter Season, to name a few. The gatherings the week of May 11 were quite different. Instead of preparing for a festive celebration with large crowds, the planning included figuring out how to keep individuals and families separated and safe while preserving the dignity of the Sacred Liturgy.

Following Florida Department of Health guidelines – calling for 50 percent capacity and 6-foot separation – the planners had to reimagine how best to use the worship space to balance between safety and the needs of the faithful. Parish have been open for prayer with enforced separation since early May. Thus, the planning for private prayer laid the groundwork for opening for public Mass.

In a note to parishioners, which was followed by a video message, Administrator of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish Father Joseph Gates explained what was happening: “Over the past few weeks during the coronavirus pandemic I stated several times that when we resume public Masses, the way in which we “Gather to Worship’ was going to be different. At the same time, I did not know what that ‘difference’ was going to be, but I knew change was coming. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass would be the same, but the way we “Gather to Pray” would have some unique modifications. Some of you may not like the changes but know that I respect your opinion.”

This is a proposed configuration to ensure social distancing at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Parrish for the reopening of public Mass on May 18, 2020.

Father Gates noted that an honest conversation took place between the priests of the Diocese and Bishop Dewane where many thoughts, concerns and ideas were shared, but it was agreed to have this transitory stage of gathering in public as a community once again. “Please keep that in mind and let us be thankful we can open our doors to worship once again. Because if we are not careful, our doors could close once more due to a second swell in the pandemic.”

Ahead of reopening for Mass, Parishes went through a deep cleaning and put up signs, as well as floor markings throughout churches to indicate the flow of people, available pews and even spacing for when the faithful come forward to receive Holy Communion. Parishes have also committed to doing a cleaning between each Mass.

Several Parishes have also posted notices and instructional videos indicating procedures for the faithful to follow to ensure everyone’s health and safety including how to receive Holy Communion in the hand while wearing a mask. These notices are asking for patience from the faithful as each Parish adapts to the changes and work to ensure Mass is available for as many people as possible, but all within safety guidelines.

“How temporary this transitory stage will be is unclear,” Father Gates said. “But we are blessed to gather once again to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and in that we should Rejoice!”

Parish messages also include notices about changes to the seating, with some noting the maximum capacity of spaces (some as few as 30 and as high as 300). These are at maximum one-half of capacity of the respective Church and reflect the need to maintain distancing based on the specific layout of the worship space. In Parishes where there are several priests, overflow Masses will be offered in the Parish Hall.

Other items of interest indicated in notices included: masks must be worn; bring your own hand sanitizer; stay home if you are sick or are in a “greater risk” category per the Centers for Disease Control (the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday has been lifted until June 28, 2020); space will be limited and you may have to attend Mass at a different time; entering only through the main doors; follow all directions of greeters and ushers; maintain distancing and limit socializing in the church; in some Parishes, Holy Communion will be distributed in the pews (a Eucharistic minister going row by row); Communion to be received only in the hand; a central location for the offertory; orderly dismissal by rows; and all other Parish activities remain suspended until further notice.

In his May 12, 2020 letter to the faithful announcing the celebration of Holy Mass with a congregation present, Bishop Dewane concluded by writing: “The Faithful of the Diocese of Venice have remained resolute in their faith during these unprecedented times, vibrantly expressing their Spiritual Communion with Christ and His Church. Still, I am aware that there is a hunger for the Eucharist. My prayerful hope is that, strengthened by the Bread come down from Heaven, you will emerge from these times with stronger faith.  As we return to Holy Mass, let us with the psalmist, raise our voices in praise of God:  I rejoiced when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’”

Bishop reaching out to prisoners

Bishop Frank J. Dewane has stressed the importance of prison outreach since his 2006 appointment as Episcopal leader of the Diocese of Venice, making a point to celebrate Mass at many prisons and jails each year while also conferring the Sacraments on numerous inmates.

Therefore, it was distressing for Bishop Dewane to learn that the prison outreach effort came to a halt when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) to close chapels and stop all programming and prohibited visitors. This extended to county jails and impacted some 150 volunteers, including 25 priests and 10 deacons, providing a variety of services, such as Bible study, religious education and assistance with receiving the Sacraments such as Baptism, First Holy Communion and Confirmation.

This screen grab of a televised Mass by Bishop Frank J. Dewane for the Prison Outreach from the Santa Maria Chapel in Venice on May 13.

This new reality motivated Diocese of Venice Prison Outreach volunteer and program coordinators Bob Hiniker and Joe Mallof to find a practical solution in a complicated and challenging situation. With the assistance and support of Bishop Dewane, Hiniker and Mallof developed a multi-pronged solution targeting the inmates in the state prisons. This effort was made with the encouragement and support of Father Severyn Kovalyshin, Region 3 Chaplain, and the State Chaplain Johnny Frambo.

The first part of the solution included, thanks in part to private assistance, donating televisions to the state prisons, Mallof explained.

“In return for donating the TVs, we were able to leverage this to get a guarantee from prison leadership that the TVs would be used on Sunday to show the Catholic Mass from the Diocese of Venice, and for any other religious programming at that time,” Mallof said. “The TVs would be another source of entertainment for inmates confined to their dorms at other times to keep them occupied. This was a good solution for the chaplains to get religious content to the inmates despite the chapel closures and other restrictions. And this was a huge concession by prison management, to mandate religious programming in the dorms on Sunday morning.”

The large TV donation also allowed the chaplains to leverage this with their prison management superiors, to get religious content put on JPAY, a program which provides each state inmate with a tablet with controlled access for content such as emails, video visitation and other services.

“This would be for all inmates state-wide, not just in the three prisons with the TVs,” Mallof explained. “I believe this is the first-time religious content other than the St. James Bible is on JPAY.”

The state chaplains chose to work with the Diocese of Venice because of the TV donation, and the great respect and trust they have in the Diocesan Prison Outreach program. This will provide the inmates additional religious content at a time when the chapel and its programs, including all ministry, were suspended.

That content will include the Mass celebrated by Bishop Dewane for the prisoners for the month of June, which are recorded in advance at Santa Maria Chapel at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. This is needed because a month of recorded Masses are uploaded at one time, Hiniker said.

“This allows those who did not have an opportunity to watch on TV on a particular Sunday, or those who want to watch again, the chance to watch at their leisure,” Hiniker said.

Additional religious educational material is also being prepared to be loaded onto the tablets. This material will be available in English and Spanish and will be periodically updated. This part of the outreach is made possible through Anne Chzran, Diocesan Director of Religious Education, and Father Claudio Stewart, Diocesan Director of Hispanic Outreach.

The cataclysmic and sudden stoppage of spiritual efforts at the prisons, generated new opportunities as the Prison Outreach in the Diocese of Venice was correctly positioned to capitalize on, Mallof said.

“It is truly a win-win for the inmates, the chaplains, and our Diocese,” he said. “The relationship we have continues to build with the chaplains, by strengthening their position within the FDOC, and will bear additional future fruits in ways yet to be seen.”

If you are interested in learning more about the Diocesan Prison Outreach, please contact Bob Hiniker at hinbob5@hotmail.com or Joe Mallof at mallofjt@comcast.net.

Please check back with the Florida Catholic to learn more about the religious education aspect of the ongoing Prison Outreach effort.

Public celebration of Mass resumes May 18

The following is a letter from Bishop Dewane to the faithful, dated May 12, 2020: 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Bishop Frank J. Dewane raises the host during the Mass at St. Ann Parish in Naples in January, 2020. The public celebration of the Mass in the Diocese resumes May 18, 2020.

As we rejoice in our Easter Faith, my prayer is that the new life we have in Christ will bring you and your family hope and comfort. The Coronavirus has brought numerous challenges. Our common efforts to mitigate the disease have asked us to sacrifice and adjust to new realities for the good of all. United in Christ, we continue to face the present difficulties with courage and compassion. So many have persevered in faith and charity and our Parishes have remained beacons of God’s love and grace. For this, I am profoundly grateful to God and to the Priests and Faithful of the Diocese of Venice.

After much prayer and discernment, and having consulted with the priests on the Presbyteral Council, it has been determined that public celebration of the Mass in the Diocese of Venice can resume. Therefore, I am announcing that the celebration of Holy Mass with a congregation present, will begin on May 18, 2020 and moving forward.  All other non-liturgical activities at Parishes remain suspended until it is determined that these activities can safely resume; thank you for your understanding on this point.

Out of concern for the safety of all involved, our Pastors have been asked to follow established directives and guidelines. These limit the size of the congregation to 25% of occupancy, maintain social distancing guidance, and ask the Faithful’s cooperation to wear facemasks and bring with them hand sanitizer for their use. The Faithful are also asked to receive communion in the hand. These are extraordinary times and I ask for your patience and good will as Parishes reopen for public celebrations. Further, schedules may need to be adjusted and some Priests or liturgical ministers may not be able to participate publicly because of age or health conditions.

As Parish churches reopen for Mass, I remind those who are at greater risk or anxious about returning at this time, that the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in effect until June 28, 2020. Parishes have been asked to continue livestreaming until the dispensation is lifted. 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.

The Faithful of the Diocese of Venice have remained resolute in their faith during these unprecedented times, vibrantly expressing their Spiritual Communion with Christ and His Church. Still, I am aware that there is a hunger for the Eucharist. My prayerful hope is that, strengthened by the Bread come down from Heaven, you will emerge from these times with stronger faith. As we return to Holy Mass, let us with the psalmist, raise our voices in praise of God: I rejoiced when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+ Frank J. Dewane

Bishop of the Diocese of

Venice in Florida

 

First phase of reopening Churches implemented

Churches throughout the Diocese of Venice have opened for private prayer in what is the first phase of a process toward reopening Churches for all liturgical celebrations and access to the Sacraments. This was done in response to the State of Florida announcement of the relaxation of stay-at-home order and the reopening of some businesses and lays the groundwork for the eventual opening of Churches for Mass.

“The Diocese is planning so that Parishes are able to move gradually and prudently towards resumption of public celebrations of Mass as soon as local conditions permit this to be done safely,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane in an April 28 letter to the priests of the Diocese explained the planning process for this first phase.

In the letter, the Bishop noted that each Parish would have its own procedures for opening based on a multiple of factors. The factors included, but were not limited to, the size/layout of the worship space, the ability to do regular cleaning, the availability of volunteers and ultimately to have the confidence that the health and safety of the Faithful and the Parish staff and volunteers are maintained at all times.

The Bishop added that he understood and appreciated the extra effort required by the priests and Parishes to facilitate the opening, but “because the Faithful are hungry for a return to the Church and for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, this desire is worthy of the extra effort.” It is expected this first phase will allow for a growing reassurance by the Faithful that it will be safe to return for Mass once it is possible to do so.

Throughout this process, Bishop Dewane has been consulting with priests from across the Diocese while following guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Florida Department of Health.

Naturally concerned about the health and well-being of all, Bishop Dewane said his focus is also on the spiritual health of the Faithful. “I am confident that these visits will yield abundant spiritual fruit in personal holiness and the communion of our Parishes. This will eventually lead to being able to offer the access to all of the life-giving Sacraments in the near future.”

At the Church of the Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers caution tape was laid over the various pews to mark off where to sit. This has been a common solution for several Parishes. For example, at Resurrection every third pew was partially open on each side to ensure a minimum 6-foot spacing for adequate social distancing. A volunteer was present in the narthex to offer hand sanitizer and to direct people to available places for prayer. Once a person departed, the volunteer would then wipe down the pew. All are always required to wear a mask.

Caroline Herbert said it was good to be able to prayer in the Church for the first time since early March. “I felt lost with my Church closed, but it is comforting to know it is now open for private prayer.”

Herbert said she was hopeful the Mass would be offered soon, but understood the complicated logistics involved in making that happen. “The way they have the Church blocked off now, there would only be room for 30 or so people. That really isn’t enough, but if it is what is needed to make it safe, then that is what it will be. I pray for a solution that is best for everyone.”

Visitors for private prayer at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice are greeted in the narthex and shown a seating chart for the Church. The faithful selects the spot from where they wish to pray and given a number that corresponds to that spot. A volunteer escort is provided as a guide. Upon leaving the Church, through a different door, the faithful are asked to drop their number off in a basket. The Parish cleaning staff later uses those numbers as guidance for deeper cleaning. This system works well as only between 20 and 50 people are coming for prayer throughout each day.

Bishop Dewane as well as priests across the Diocese are now in the process of determining the best way to open for Mass, noting that maximum 25 percent capacity and 6-foot distancing of unrelated individuals creates challenges for all Churches.

No matter when the public Mass resumes, the faithful should expect changes. Church capacities will be greatly reduced and seating restricted. Face masks will be required, no worship aides, holy water fonts will be empty, no choirs, no Precious Blood, and Communion should be taken in the hand.

The general dispensation for the obligation to attend Mass will continue even when the offering of public Mass resumes. Those who are vulnerable, elderly, caregivers to the vulnerable, or just not comfortable going to a public Mass, should continue to participate in live-streamed Masses being offered and make a “Spiritual Communion.”

“The Faithful will need to have patience and understanding during this process as well as to take personal responsibility in their actions when they return to ensure the health and safety of themselves and of their brothers and sisters in Christ.”

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