News Briefs for the week of September 22, 2023

Bishop celebrates Mass for students in Venice, Ave Maria and Sarasota

Bishop Frank J. Dewane recently celebrated Mass for students at three Diocesan Catholic schools, visiting Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School on Sept. 14, 2023, Dohue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria on Sept. 18, and Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, Sept. 19. Bishop Dewane continues to be impressed by the increased enrollment at each of the schools as the students’ filled churches, auditoriums, and gymnasiums. The Bishop is also continuing to invoke the Holy Spirit to descend upon the students as they go forth into the 2023-2024 Academic Year. When eighth graders are present, Bishop Dewane takes time to speak to this group, offering words of encouragement and taking questions. At Ave Maria Catholic School, the Bishop visited a few classrooms and spoke to students, while also inspecting the results of a recently completed expansion project.

Mass celebrated to honor first responders

Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers hosted a Blue Mass on Sept. 16, 2023, to honor all first responders for their sacrifice and service to the community. Among those honored were law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics, emergency managers, and more. The opening ceremony, prior to the Mass, included music from the Guns & Hoses Pipes & Drums of Southwest Florida, a Lee County Sheriff’s Office Color Guard, and the singing of the National Anthem. Also present was the Knights of Columbus Honor Guard and members of the Knights on Bikes. This Mass takes place annually and occurs as close to Sept. 11 as is practical, being an appropriate moment to honor first responders. At the conclusion of the Mass, medals and rosaries were blessed. For the firefighters and paramedics present, there were St. Florian medals and red rosaries, while St. Michael the Archangel medals and blue rosaries were given to law enforcement officers. A reception followed in the Parish Hall.

Prospective students visit high school

Eighth grade students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers had fun during a visit to Bishop Verot Catholic High School on Sept. 14, 2023. Students who were interested in going to Bishop Verot next year had the opportunity to see what a day is like being a Viking. Students were able to sit in on a class, see campus by way of a scavenger hunt (led by some freshmen students from St. Francis), get a first-hand look at what being a student at Verot is really like. All of that was topped off with pizza for lunch.

Mooney athlete clocks fast time

Addison Dempsey, a senior at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, clocked the fastest time in the state of Florida for this cross-country season, so far, with her third-place finishing time of 17:38 at the Adidas XC Challenge on Sept. 16, 2023, in Cary, North Carolina. Considered one of the top distance runners in Florida, as a junior, Addison took the silver medal in the November 2022 Class 2A girls Florida High School Athletic Association Cross Country State Championship in Tallahassee.

Scientific method taught in Naples classroom

The students who attend Diocese of Venice Catholic schools are ensured of a well-rounded education where they have the opportunity to mix science experiments with lessons on the faith and the virtues. At St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples, eighth graders learned to use the scientific method to gain knowledge by designing fun experiments in class on Sept. 18, 2023. The students investigated how different brands of soap make bubbles with larger diameters. Catholic schools offer a comprehensive STREAM  (science, technology, religion, engineering, art and math) learning model which is combined with the Diocesan curriculum called, “The Gifts of Christ: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Affability, Fortitude, Humility, and Prudence,” creating students equipped to succeed in the world of today.

Service club makes impact on community

Members of the St. John Neumann Catholic High School Key Club took time out of their busy schedules on Sept. 16, 2023, to volunteer their time packing food for Meals of Hope in Naples. The 47 students packed 12,096 healthy meals that will make a real impact on the life of many people. Key Club moderator Susan Cavness organized the project, and the participation reflected the willingness of the students to improve the world.

“Wow!” School retreat unites Diocesan educators

Starting the new school year with a focus on the spirituality of the faculty and staff, as well as developing a strong Catholic school culture, served as the focus of a special “Back-to-School Retreat” on Sept. 11, 2023.

The goal of the day was to start the school year with a spiritual message by incorporating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Then the retreat pivoted to focus on creating a daily prayer life for the faculty and staff, before then looking at ways to build a stronger Catholic culture into each of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools.

Jesuit Father John Belmonte, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, said at its heart, the retreat was a professional learning day with the rare opportunity for all faculty and staff to be together.

“We wanted to create an environment where everyone had time to reflect on the faith that we teach and to be inspired by our Bishop while ultimately perfecting our teaching craft,” Father Belmonte said.

A spiritual message was delivered by Bishop Frank J. Dewane during Mass, when he thanked the educators for following their vocation to impart their knowledge and faith upon their students.

Bishop Dewane told the educators that by following the example of Christ, they are helping their students “to live a better life. You are helping them to hear who the Lord is calling them to be. You help them to become more than they think they can. You are their inspiration.”

While each Diocesan Catholic school has experienced tremendous growth in the past three years (up 30% with more than 6,200 enrolled), the quality of the education and the spiritual aspect has also grown stronger, the Bishop noted.

“It is that spiritual aspect that I am most concerned about,” Bishop Dewane continued. “No matter whether you teach theology, science – or whatever subject – you are their introduction to Christ. It all comes down to virtues and values as you are called to live your life responsibly because your students follow your example. It is through how you teach, how you act, and how you live your lives that they find Jesus Christ. Take that role seriously. I know that you do this, and I am grateful for your choosing to serve, enhancing the Catholic schools here in the Diocese of Venice.”

Father Belmonte spoke to the educators about how they need to focus on the Mission of the Catholic schools, introducing the students to the Lord.

“This is what we are about, every day in every classroom in the Diocese of Venice, we introduce the world to our Savior,” Father continued. “Aside from the administration of the Sacraments of the Church, this is the greatest thing, in my opinion, the Church does every day. If you go into any one of our Catholic schools, you will see the mission of the Church in living color. That is why we are here.”

Father also introduced the faculty and staff to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, something they are encouraged to incorporate into their daily lives. Father Belmonte provided a handout which included the daily reflections covering 25 weeks, encompassing the remainder of the school year. The goal was to enable the staff and faculty to promote their daily prayer life in an easy and straightforward way.

During the presentation, Father included responses from students at the different schools to a homework assignment he gave them: What advice do you have for your teacher as he or she goes on retreat? And the responses were entertaining and insightful. The message Father found most profound was the simplest: “Do good,” something he said all educators are called to do each day. “If they can do that, they will be able to impact students in a meaningful and overwhelmingly positive way.”

The day concluded with a presentation by Elisabeth Sullivan, Executive Director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education. The institute inspires and equips Catholic educators to renew today’s Catholic schools by drawing on the Church’s tradition of education, which allows teachers and students the joyful pursuit of faith, wisdom, and virtue.

Sullivan shared the success of 225 different schools who have incorporated a Catholic classical liberal arts education when “Catholic identity” is not just added on, but is instead woven through the school culture, curriculum, content, and pedagogy.

Schools which have incorporated this approach are emerging as engines for evangelization in the Church, by integrating faith, culture, and life.

Beginning with the 2023-2024 Academic Year, Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota began to implement this program. In a letter to parents, it was explained that this new classical approach will educate students in a way that combines Catholic faith with academic excellence and help students become more aware of the transcendent realities of Truth, Beauty and Goodness. This begins a new chapter to better prepare the students to pursue excellence while growing in faith, knowledge, and love. Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria has used this classical approach since its founding.

The retreat also included a special recognition of Mike Gill, a teacher at Bishop Verot Catholic High School for the past 52 years. Bishop Dewane presented Gill with a special legacy award for his commitment to Catholic schools.

Also recognized were the teachers who are new to education and new to teaching in Catholic schools.

Diaconate candidates instituted as Lector

One by one, the 10 Permanent Diaconate candidates placed their hands on a Bible, promising to live out and share the powerful message of its ancient, holy words.

“Take this Book of Holy Scripture, be faithful in handing on the Word of God, so that it may grow strong in the hearts of His people,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane instructed during the Rite of Installation into the Ministry of Lector, Sept. 9, 2023, at a Vigil Mass at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota.

Installation to the Ministry of Lector is part of the candidate’s journey to ordained ministry in the Church, as the 10 are on track for ordination as Permanent Deacons in 2025.

According to the Church’s Law and practice, the instituted lector is charged with proclaiming the readings from the Sacred Scriptures (except for the Gospel), announcing the intentions in the Prayer of the Faithful (in the absence of a deacon), and reciting or singing the responsorial psalm if there is no cantor. As distinct from the typical Parish reader, these men will now exercise this ministry in a permanent way.

The following constitute the Permanent Diaconate Class of 2025:

  • Richard E. Dahn, St. Agnes Parish, Naples;
  • Richard A. Hellenbrand, St. Andrew Parish, Cape Coral;
  • Thomas A. Januszka, St. Francis Cabrini Parish, Parrish;
  • Stephen L. Jendrysik, Incarnation Parish, Sarasota,
  • James N. Jenkins, St. William Parish, Naples;
  • Ramon R. Kanacheril, St. Vincent DePaul Parish, Fort Myers;
  • Mark A. Osterhaus, St. Agnes Parish, Naples;
  • Orlando A. Rubiano, St. Vincent DePaul Parish, Fort Myers;
  • Jeffrey P. Tenbarge, St. Peter the Apostle Parish, Naples;
  • John-William M. Trainer III, St. Peter the Apostle Parish, Naples.

As part of the Rite, the deacon candidates were individually called forth to be presented to the Bishop. Following the homily, the Bishop continued the Rite by reciting a prayer of blessing on the men – granting that, as they meditate on the Word of God, they may grow in its wisdom and faithfully proclaim it to His people. Then each candidate came forward to be presented the Holy Scriptures by the Bishop.

“Be conscious of what it is you do,” Bishop Dewane said. “In proclaiming God’s word to others, it is key that you accept it yourselves, and do it in obedience to the Holy Spirit.”

The diaconate candidates were told by the Bishop that this new responsibility is more than just reading Sacred Scriptures; it is about their understanding the text, and also revealing the Word of God to those around them.

Deacon Bob Gaitens, the Director of Formation for the Permanent Diaconate, said the deacon candidates have worked hard to get to this point.

“This is an important milestone as the candidates are very busy with ongoing intellectual study through the formation program,” Deacon Gaitens said.

Deacon candidates admit that their journey can feel like a marathon at times, and it can be a challenge to fit the many requirements along with their ongoing daily life requirements of marriage, family, and work. Installation rites offer a much-needed boost as they continue on their path.

John-William Trainer III, of St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples, was overjoyed to have reached this important moment in his formation journey. He credited the support of his wife, Angela, their three children, and Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary with his reaching this point. “I feel so blessed,” Trainer said.

Present for the installation were the wives of the candidates, who also take part in the formation process attending several of the formation weekends each year with their husbands. The wives are an integral part of the diaconate program as they support their husbands through prayer, sacrifice, and by assuming added duties of home and family.

Also present were children of the candidates, other supporters and friends as well as the recently selected Permanent Diaconate Class of 2028, who were taking part in their first formation weekend.

Upon completion of their formation program and Ordination to the Diaconate, Permanent Deacons may officiate at baptisms, weddings and funerals, read the Gospel and preach at Mass, and help with the canonical process for marriage and baptism. One of their greatest priorities, however, is service to the poor and marginalized.

Please keep the 10 Permanent Deacon candidates and their families in your prayers.

Schools commemorate 9/11 Anniversary

Diocese of Venice Catholics schools commemorated the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on the U.S. in a variety of ways, ensuring that while time has passed since the tragic events took place and nearly 3,000 were lost in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, their memory lives on.

At St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charlotte the school held a prayer service in the courtyard on Sept. 8, 2023. The guest of honor was retired New York City Fire Department Lt. Scott Hawkins, who shared his memories of that tragic day when 343 of his fellow firefighters were killed when the World Trade Center collapsed as they tried to evacuate the building and rescue those who were hurt and trapped inside.

The ceremony included a prayer service with readings, music, petitions for peace and prayers for all who were lost on that tragic day. While none of the students were alive at the time of the attacks, they were told that it is important to remember that day and to pray that all of us remain safe from terror. Also present for the ceremony were parents, and first responders including representatives of the Charlotte County Fire Department, Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Highway Patrol, and Drug Enforcement Agency.

Students and families from St. Francis Xavier Catholic School took part in the annual Tunnels to Towers 5k on Sept. 9, 2023, in support of first responders and the Tunnels to Towers Foundation. The run took place from College Parkway, and along McGregor Boulevard in south Fort Myers. During the race, St. Francis Xavier student Eli Benvi placed first in his age group and Coach Janelle Massing also placed first in her age group.

The Tunnel to Towers Run & Walk Series was created to honor the heroic life and death of Stephen Siller, a New York City firefighter (FDNY) who lost his life on September 11, 2001, after strapping on his gear and running through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers.

Also on Sept. 9, 12 students from St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples donated their time to the “Take a Soldier Fishing” event. It was held at the Hamilton Harbor Yacht Club in East Naples. This three-day event has been in existence since 2011 and focuses on providing a free weekend of fun and fishing for active-duty military, retired and wounded veterans.

Diocese of Venice Catholic schools made a strong effort to honor all of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and support first responders and military who make extraordinary sacrifices in the line of duty, as we all should.

News Briefs for the week of September 15, 2023

Bishop celebrates mass for two Sarasota schools

On Sept. 12, 2023, Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for the students at St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy. Bishop Dewane encouraged the students to improve their prayer life as a way to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Following Mass, the Bishop spoke with the eighth graders, the oldest students in their schools, encouraging them to be the leaders of their school. The eighth graders were also given the opportunity to ask the Bishop questions.  At the conclusion, a photo was taken with the Bishop and the group.

Students earn “Do the Right Thing” award

Three students at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples were presented with the “Do the Right Thing” award by the Naples City Council on Sept. 7, 2023. This program recognizes school-aged children within our community who are doing good things. Students Megan Ayan, Sophia Van Wyk, and Kaleigh Kouloheras created a two-week Cheer Camp Session for special needs children. They had around 25 kids participate and then they put on a show for families, friends, and the community. The Do The Right Thing program is a community-based initiative that brings the Naples Police Department together with the community, local businesses, local schools, community organizations, city recreational centers, and most importantly, our youth.

Students receive their Bibles

Students at Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota took part in a special ceremony following Mass on Sept. 8, 2023. Sixth graders received their Bibles, which were blessed by Pastor Father Eric Scanlan. In addition, students from eighth, fifth, and second grades also provided presentations on the saints that had been assigned to them for research.

Scoreboard comes down during renovation

The scoreboard at Viking Stadium on the campus of Bishop Verot Catholic High School was taken down on Sept. 7, 2023. Countless memories, nail-biting finishes, and triumphant victories were displayed on that board. It was able to survive Hurricane Ian last year, but not without blemishes and is being replaced as part of ongoing renovations and upgrades to the sports facilities at the Fort Myers school.

Penny War taking place in Naples

St. Ann Catholic School in Naples is the sight of an ongoing “Penny War.” Each grade is given its own coin jug to collect money and all funds raised will go toward the Home and School Association. The “Penny War” began on Sept. 6, 2023, and will continue for a few weeks. Points are earned by adding pennies, or dollar bills, but if nickels, dimes or quarters are included, the points are subtracted, helping to reach a grand total for each grade. The winning grade will win a pizza party.

News Briefs for the week of September 8, 2023


Father Patrick O’Connor, OSFS, is relieved of his duties as Pastor of Jesus the Worker Parish and San Jose Mission in Fort Myers, effective Sept. 1, 2023, and thus has returned to his Religious Community.

Father Carlos Encinas, is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of St. Agnes Parish and St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, Naples, effective Aug. 1, 2023. Father Encinas, for health reasons, has taken an assignment in the Diocese of Oakland, California.

Bishop Dewane celebrates Mass in Bradenton

Students at St. Joseph Catholic School were blessed to have Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for them on Sept. 1, 2023. Bishop Dewane encouraged the students to follow Christ’s example at home, in school and in the community. Following the Mass, the Bishop joined the eighth graders for breakfast where he took time to speak to them and encourage them to be the leaders of their school.

Day focuses on STREAM learning

The third through eighth grade students at St. Mary Academy had a fun STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts, and math) day on Aug. 31, 2023, hands-on exercises in small groups. The students worked on the following: Natural Disasters – created structures to withstand high winds of a Category 1-4 hurricane, where a blow dryer created much excitement; Hurricane Escape Room – an activity where they researched the season, cause, formation, naming, and wind scale of a hurricane; Create a Structure to Survive the Storm: with the use of pilings, flood barrier walls and absorbent materials students created a dog house to keep their pet dog dry. These were great activities using all aspects of STREAM and the students learned so much, instilling a love of science, while also working together as disciples of Christ.

Fort Myers schools give back

Two Diocesan Catholic schools which received many gestures of kindness from the impact of two hurricanes are returning the favor. St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers and St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral had special “Dress Down Days” on Aug. 31, and Sept. 1, 2023, respectively. Money raised on these days will go to help Sacred Hearts Catholic School in Lahaina, Hawaii. The school, which has been serving the community for more than 150 years, was destroyed during an Aug. 8, 2023, wildfire which killed at least 115 and left thousands homeless. The school website states: “The flames destroyed our physical structures, but they cannot extinguish the Holy Spirit in us and our strong will to rebuild and rescue the students of the Lahaina community.” By providing a donation, the students at St. Andrew and St. Francis Xavier were able to forgo wearing their school uniform for the day. The result was that thousands were raised between the two schools in a single day. Both of the Lee County schools received donations from across the country following Hurricanes Irma (2017) and Ian (2022), which severely impacted the schools and surrounding communities, thus this was a great opportunity to give back to a Catholic school in need.

Service and community focus of school retreat

Middle school students at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota took part in a special Retreat Day Sept. 1, 2023, which focused on service and community. The students created cards for those who are sick in the hospital and placemats to be used at Thanksgiving for those less fortunate. They concluded with a Prayer Service with Pallotine Fr. George Suszko, Pastor of St. Martha Parish.

Patriotic theme for first game of season

The stands of the St. John Neumann Catholic High School football field were a sea of red, white, and blue on Sept. 1, 2023, during the first home game of the season in Naples. The Patriotic Night brought out many inspiring outfits as everyone cheered the Celtic team on to a 16-8 victory against Gateway Charter of Fort Myers.

Teachers take part in professional development

Each year Diocesan Catholic school teachers have special days set aside to help them grow in their work and receive updates on new policies and programs. At St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton on Sept. 5, 2023, the teachers learned about a new program for faith formation, followed by working in committees to begin a self-study that will lead to long range planning, goal setting, and preparation for school re-accreditation. During the day, the staff lived their mission statement: “rooted in Catholic faith and committed to academic excellence.”

Volunteers help fill backpacks

Volunteers from St. Martha Catholic School and Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota helped fill 1,200 backpacks for children in the region on Sept. 5, 2023, at All Faiths Food Bank. There were 18 volunteers who joined in this outreach.

Vocational Retreat draws dozens of men and women

Priesthood, religious life, sacramental marriage, and consecrated single life are the four vocational options for young people today. This was the core message of a one-day Vocational Retreat “Encounter with Christ” on Aug. 26, 2023, at St. Paul Parish in Arcadia.

Father Luis Pacheco, Administrator of St. Paul, organized the retreat as a way to encourage the youth to start thinking about a vocation, regardless of which one, but in all cases, in service to the Lord.

The response was overwhelmingly positive as 52 young men and women attended the retreat representing four different regional Parishes. During the day, the youth heard from Bishop Frank J. Dewane, priests, religious women, a married couple and a single woman; all shared how they are living their response to the call of the Lord in their lives.

Bishop Dewane, who spoke to the group and celebrated Mass at the close of the retreat, said “We are each called to open our hearts and our ears to hear the call of the Lord in our own life. That call will be different for each one of you. It is how you respond to that call, by the life you live, where you will find the joy that happens as you give yourself to the Lord.”

Sharing his own vocation story, Bishop Dewane explained how he first thought about the priesthood in his early teens, but kept putting it off to do other things, before finally realizing it was time.

“There was angst over the decision, but once I decided to go for it, I never looked back. I even reflect that I should have done this (discerned the priesthood) years earlier. The Lord has been good to me. You are called to do what the Lord asks,” the Bishop said.

Answering a call to a vocation is not about what anyone wants, it is about surrendering yourself to the Lord because He knows what you need, Bishop Dewane continued.

“Society tells you that you have to decide. Don’t let anybody tell you what to do and the Lord gets lumped into that. Don’t let that happen. When you leave this retreat, it’s my prayer that you will pray about what you are going to do, and about what you learned today. Know that you will forever be in my prayers,” the Bishop concluded.

The retreat began with an opening prayer and then a presentation by Father Pacheco themed “Jesus the Great Doctor.” There were then group discussions followed by a short vocational video. The second talk was by Father Nathan Marzonie, Oblate of the Virgin Mary, and Parochial Vicar at San Pedro Parish in North Port, on discernment and his journey to becoming a priest with a religious order.

Following lunch, there were games and songs before a vocational film and time for personal reflection on the following questions: What vocation do you think God could be calling you to? What questions should I ask myself to find out what vocation I am being called to? What is the difference between a vocation and a profession? Prior to Mass, the youth had the opportunity to go to confession while the group took part in a Holy Hour with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

A key moment of the day was when the youth heard from a panel of presenters, with representatives of each vocation. On the panel were Father Alex Pince, Parochial Vicar at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, Sister Martha Flores, Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Light (MHML), Director of Religious Education at St. Paul, Mr. and Mrs. Dixon, and Lupita Galaviz.

The Dixon’s shared how they entered their marriage as the pure sacrament it is meant to be, keeping God first in everything they do. The couple has been blessed with 12 children and one on the way. “We have been blessed in so many ways. Sacramental marriage is a beautiful vocation when you live it with the support of God to help you through any challenges,” Mrs. Dixon said.

Galaviz, 23, explained how she chose to remain single for now because it is how the Lord has guided her through her life. While she does have a boyfriend, the two live a pure life; she is taking the time to grow deeper in her relationship with the Lord, through prayer and by living her life as an example for others to follow. This has allowed her to mentor and support others while sharing what she has learned from the Lord.

Father Pince spoke about how he also delayed his vocation to the priesthood for several years until he finally heard the call of the Lord clearly while on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France. “I was overpowered with God’s incredible love. I had a sense God would never abandon me if I said ‘Yes!’ I knew I wouldn’t be afraid in my life because He would be with me every day.”

By saying “Yes!” Father Pince said he finds great joy in the priesthood each day. “It is not like my life is over. God has surpassed any expectations because God had a plan for me from the beginning.”

Offering advice to the youth, Father Pince said they need to attend Mass regularly and to receive the Blessed Sacrament at Communion, using this time to be close to the Lord, in His Church. They must also go to the confessional regularly to receive the Lord’s loving mercy, and to be in a state of grace, the vessel that can clearly hear the Lord’s voice. Finally, the youth must trust God — this comes from His unwavering love, which, when accepted, will lead them to ultimate happiness.

Sister Martha took a different approach to her talk to the youth as many in the group have known her for many years.

“It’s exciting to be a religious,” she said. “It is not a boring life; it is an extreme life. It is fun, always fun. I entered the convent at 18 so I could go out and share the Love of God with others, announcing Him and to be passionate for His Kingdom, all to make sure everyone can hear the Good News of the Lord.”

A religious for 40 years, Sister Martha said it seems like she entered the convent and made her vows of chastity, poverty and obedience yesterday.

“I have the same love of God, and I am here to share it with all of you. I gave myself freely, and it is the best experience to give all of yourself in what you are doing and thinking and sharing it with so many people. A vocation is a gift from the Lord. You say, ‘Here I am Lord’ and you answer that call every day.”

Sister Martha concluded by adding, “Don’t be afraid. When you answer your vocation, it will be the most joyful and happy life. But you must listen because He is always talking to you, and He wants you to be happy and enjoy life and be able to share His life with others. A vocation is always in motion,” she said with a laugh and big smile.

Each panelist shared what it was like to live their vocation and then responded to anonymous but poignant questions from the retreatants.

If you are interested in a vocation to the priesthood, or religious life (men or women), please contact Father Shawn Roser, Diocesan Director of Vocations, at 941-484-9543 or, or visit

Mission celebrates Bishop visit, Feast Day

A joyful celebration of faith and culture took place Aug. 27, 2023, at Santa Rosa de Lima Mission in Montura Ranch Estates, a small farming community in Hendry County, some 15 miles south of Clewiston.

The occasion, the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. Add a Feast Day of Santa Rosa de Lima and nothing could quell the excitement of the small community. The day also included a banquet featuring food from many different cultures.

Bishop Dewane was grateful for the kind welcome and praised the faithful for their strong faith in making Santa Rosa de Lima Mission such a vibrant Catholic community, shown in how they respond to the call of the Lord in their lives.

“Your presence here each Sunday is a testament to that,” Bishop Dewane said. “But it cannot just be on Sundays. You must declare that you are a follower of Jesus Christ. Choose to say who Jesus is in your life, in the way you live each day.”

Following the Mass, Bishop Dewane praised the pastoral work of Father Jean Woady Louis, Administrator of the Mission and St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston, and the two women religious from the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Light (MHML) who serve in numerous roles.

Father Woady, as well as a parishioner representing the community, thanked Bishop Dewane publicly for his support of the people of Santa Rosa de Lima Mission and of Hendry County. They both noted how it was an honor and blessing to have the Bishop celebrate the Mass for the community.

In honor of the Feast Day aspect of the celebration, a temporary shrine of roses with a statue of Santa Rosa de Lima was on display in front of the chapel, which Bishop Dewane incensed during the Mass.

Many in the community sought special blessings from Bishop Dewane following the Mass as he took time to greet as many people as was possible. One woman said she could not remember ever meeting a Bishop in person and was honored Bishop Dewane took the time to speak with her and even bless her mother.

While there was a driving rainstorm after Mass, this did not deter a lavish potluck banquet which took place under tents and other shelter, and included cuisine from Mexico, Peru, Cuba and elsewhere.

Also present for the celebration was concelebrating Father Marcial Garcia, Pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven. He previously served the Mission, as did Father Jiobani Batista, Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle, who joined the group for the banquet.

Bishop inspires students to follow Jesus’ example

Each of the more than 6,200 students enrolled in the 15 Diocese of Venice Catholic schools has been blessed to be called to follow the example of Christ in their lives.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane stressed to students at St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring how Christ’s example must be followed at home, in school and in the community.

This was the message Bishop Dewane delivered during a Mass for the students on Aug. 28, 2023, the first of what will be a series of Masses the Bishop will celebrate in the coming months at each Diocesan Catholic school.

“You have to make a real effort, because human nature isn’t enough,” Bishop Dewane said. “You can do this through having a prayer life – perhaps morning prayer or evening prayer with your family. Just be sure to pray every day. You can also follow the example of saints, or you can listen to your teachers and parents.”

Along the way, Bishop Dewane said, the students can follow the 10 Commandments – something each is learning about – using the commandments as a guidepost to make sure they are living their life in the right way.

Bishop Dewane remarked that he knows that the students are doing this, as he hears about how well-mannered and polite the students are in school and in the community.

When Bishop Dewane asked the students if they can live this year as a school community, following Jesus Christ’s example, the response was a resounding “Yes!!”

“Go and do that. Treat each other well. Remember that you are each made in the image and likeness of God. Find the good and love of God not just in yourselves but also in others,” Bishop Dewane said.

Following Mass, the Bishop continued his tradition by meeting and speaking with the eighth graders, the oldest students in their schools. It was at this time he asked them to be the leaders of their school and to take that role seriously and give a good example as they set the tone for the entire school.

The eighth graders were also given the opportunity to ask the Bishop any question they chose. Most questions focused on his background and inquiries about what it is like to be a Bishop. At the conclusion of their talk, a photo was taken with the Bishop and the group.

Hispanic Emmaus group holds annual Congress

More than 800 people spent a recent Saturday growing and better rooting their love for the Lord while also building up their profound sense of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

The Congress of Emmaus took place Aug. 19, 2023, at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. The event, which was in Spanish, was for those who have completed an Emmaus weekend retreat in the past and served as an opportunity to renew and recapture the fire that grew in them during their first retreat.

During that retreat , participants learned a new way to live their life, as Jesus taught in the Gospel of Luke with a particular emphasis on the story about the Road to Emmaus.

“Beautiful!” “Amazing!” “Powerful” “I felt Christ’s love!” were some of the reactions of people as they finished the day. Between the speakers, the music and the community that everyone felt, the day was a huge success. Many commented on how uplifting and unifying the day was, bringing them closer to Jesus Christ in ways they did not expect.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the closing Mass for the day and said he was very pleased to see such an enthusiastic group dedicating an entire day to growing closer to the Lord through the Blessed Sacrament.

The Bishop specifically credited the Diocesan Spiritual Directors for Hispanic Emmaus, Fathers Jiobani Batista and Luis Pacheco, for their commitment in supporting the Emmaus retreats and for bringing everyone together for the gathering to celebrate the Lord in a special way.

Father Pacheco, Administrator of St. Paul Parish in Arcadia, said the goal of the gathering was to encourage all to grow in their love for the Lord through the Most Holy Eucharist. This initiative comes during a three-year National Eucharistic Revival promoted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“We also wanted to convey a renewed and deep devotion to the Eucharist,” Father Pacheco said. “After going on an Emmaus retreat, the powerful impact can fade over time. This gathering is a renewal so that everyone will carry this message and bring their excitement back to their Parishes, spreading the message of the Lord to others.”

Each of the talks focused on the Eucharist. During the day, there was Eucharistic Adoration, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and music all building upon the theme. This led everyone toward the climatic conclusion of the day, the celebration of the Eucharist during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The Emmaus retreat program is a Diocesan-approved retreat weekend that takes place three times a year in both English and Spanish. It’s open to all men and women ages 20 or older seeking to grow in their relationship with Christ regardless of their present level of faith and practice. The purpose of the weekend is to give adults the opportunity to reflect upon themselves, their relationship with God and their community.

To learn more about Emmaus retreats across the Diocese, contact your local parish or email