Bishop Confirms four inmates

A group of men recently completed their final step of Christian initiation by being “sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” during their Confirmation by Bishop Frank J. Dewane at Avon Park Correctional Institute in Avon Park on April 10, 2024.

Bishop Dewane, who has stressed the importance of prison outreach since his 2006 appointment as Episcopal leader of the Diocese of Venice, shared with the Confirmandi the message of God’s Mercy as reflected in the readings from Divine Mercy Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter.

In those readings, Jesus appears to the apostles in the Upper Room, but St. Thomas is not present and doubts the story. When Jesus returns, Thomas is present and Jesus questions his faith, telling him to touch his wounds so that he can believe in the Resurrection of the Lord.

“This is an important lesson to learn for all of us,” Bishop Dewane said. “Jesus gives Thomas, and all of us, a path toward believing in Him and trusting in His Mercy.”

Bishop Dewane used the example of the “Doubting Thomas” painting by Carravaggio, an Italian Renaissance painter whose image shows a close-up image of Thomas sticking his fingers into Jesus’ wounds. The Bishop asked the Confirmandi to imagine themselves in that scene, standing before Jesus and to think of how they would react and if they would believe.

When celebrating the Mass for the incarcerated, Bishop Dewane emphasized that he is bringing the forgiveness, mercy, compassion, peace, love and joy of the Lord to others. Each year, the Bishop celebrates Mass for inmates at different facilities throughout the 10-county Diocese, and has conferred the Sacraments of Confirmation, First Communion and Baptism for dozens of inmates since 2006.

The Confirmation Mass was witnessed by about 30 people, including sponsors and other inmates. Volunteers Toni and Tom Cruz Wiggins help lead the formation program.

Also participating in the Mass were Father Vincent Clemente of St. James Parish in Lake Placid, and Father Sean Mulcahy, of the Diocese of Orlando, who rotate celebrating Mass and hearing confessions. In addition, Deacon Sam Knight, of the Diocese of Orlando, regularly ministers and teaches and coordinates the volunteers.

During the Sacrament of Confirmation, the candidates renew their baptismal promises and then the Bishop, the attending priests, and all the faithful, pray that the Holy Spirit descend upon and remain on the Confirmandi. The Bishop then recites a prayer. Finally, the candidates are presented to the Bishop with their sponsor placing his/her hand on the candidates’ right shoulder. Then with his right thumb, the Bishop makes the sign of the cross on their forehead with the Holy Chrism oil and says “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” The newly confirmed replies: “Amen.” The Rite concludes when the Bishop says “Peace be with you,” and the new Confirmandi replies, “And with your Spirit.”

Bob Hiniker, who helps to coordinate the prison outreach throughout the Diocese of Venice, helped facilitate Bishop Dewane’s visit to Avon Park Correctional Institute. While four men received the Sacrament of Confirmation, four others were unable to participate due to a security lockdown at the facility. The Bishop vowed to return to confirm those men at a future date.

The Diocesan Prison Ministry provides a variety of services, including Bible study, religious education and assistance with receiving the Sacraments.

Hiniker stressed the importance of continuing to expand the number of people who volunteer in the five state prisons, 10 county jails and one civil commitment program. There are approximately 15,000 incarcerated within the Diocese; meaning the need for priests and volunteers is great.

“In particular, we are in dire need of priests to hear confessions in the jails and to Celebrate Mass in the prisons,” Hiniker said. “Also, we have several jails and prisons where we can utilize more volunteers. With more volunteers, we can reach and minister to more.”

All volunteers participate in an orientation program before entering a correctional facility and “shadow” experienced volunteers until they feel comfortable. Times and days vary by facility.

If you are interested in learning more about the Diocesan Prison Ministry, please contact Bob Hiniker at or Joe Mallof at

News Briefs for the week of April 19, 2024

Bishop celebrates Mass for Cathedral students

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the students at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice on April 12, 2024. The Gospel reading for the day was from John and describes the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. In this miracle, Jesus not only provides the nourishment of food, but more importantly spiritual nourishment. “Be mindful when you come here to the Church, to receive the strength from Jesus Christ, like he gave to all of those people on the side of the mountain. Each Sunday, He makes it possible to receive our strength to live our spiritual life.” Following the Mass, the Bishop blessed the pre-kindergarten students in the narthex of the Cathedral.

Three from one Catholic high school accepted into service academies

St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples has announced that three of its Class of 2024 have been accepted into military academies. Mason Ceccarelli will be attending the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; Sloane Janopoulos will be attending the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Sophia McCartney will be attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. This remarkable achievement reflects the outstanding academic formation of the students at Neumann. The appointments are also a testament to each student’s exceptional leadership qualities, academic prowess, and unwavering patriotism.

Biomedical students show off senior projects

Senior biomedical students at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers had the opportunity to put their year-long research projects on display April 11, 2024, to showcase their innovations that could, one day, shape the future of medicine. Each student created a display/poster which was a window into their hard work, critical thinking, and dedication to pushing the boundaries of biomedical science. Each of these seniors will be graduating as biomedical honors students and will be distinguished at their upcoming graduation with a stole. From groundbreaking treatments to revolutionary healthcare solutions, these bright minds have proven that the spirit of discovery is thriving at Bishop Verot.

Sarasota students excel at Model UN conference

Three Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School students from Sarasota dominated the Ave Maria University Model UN Conference on April 13, 2024, in Ave Maria. There were 44 delegates who participated in the event which is an educational simulation where students can learn about diplomacy, international relations and the UN General Assembly and its other multilateral bodies. Cecelia Cosgrove was named best delegate, while Karel Dib took second place, Tyler Ruben took third. The students were judged by Naples Council of World Affairs.

Parable Project coming to Naples

St. Agnes Parish in Naples is welcoming the Magic Carpet Theatre for “The Parable Project,” a presentation of the stories Jesus told using drama, humor and audience participation. The event is 7 p.m., April 25, 2024, in the Parish Hall, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples. There are no reservations needed and no charge for this event; donations will be accepted to offset the cost to the Parish. For questions, contact Ivy O’Malley at 239-307-4264 or

Calling all Pro-Life Advocates! 

If you’d like to volunteer to help educate people on the truth about the pro-abortion amendment on the November ballot, plan to attend a training opportunity within the Diocese of Venice in May (one of two). The first training is Monday, May 13, 2024, from 11:45 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Leadership Institute, 2163 Main Street (downtown), Sarasota.  The second session is also from 11:45 a.m., Wednesday, May 15, at St. John XXIII Parish Center, 13060 Palomino Lane, Fort Myers. Lunch will be included at both sessions.  Register online at for either session by May 8. If you have questions, please contact Jeanne Berdeaux at 941-374-1068 or

Eucharistic Adoration for Life

You are invited to spend time with Our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration anytime between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (abortion days at Planned Parenthood) at Mary’s House (next to Community Pregnancy Clinic, 1419 7th Street, Sarasota) to pray for an end to abortion. Questions?  Contact Ginger at or 941-224-0662.

Annual Mass held to remember victims of child abuse

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass April 5, 2024, the Friday within the Octave of Easter, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, with the specific intention of praying for victims of child abuse.

This was the 16th year the Diocese has held a Mass to pray for the victims of abuse, which takes place in April to coincide with National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“We pray for those who carry the deep and unrelenting pain of the wounds of sexual abuse,” Bishop Dewane said. “The Church must be part of the solution in addressing the scourge of sexual abuse, not a source of the problem. Unfortunately, those roles were reversed in the past, and the gravity of that is well known to all.”

Pope Francis said the actions of those who scandalized and wounded innocent lives have put Holy Mother Church in a suffering position.

While the Church’s credibility has suffered in light of the abuse scandal, Bishop Dewane cited Pope Francis in saying that the first priority must be the victims who showed great courage in speaking out and telling the truth by shedding light on what is a darkness in society, that they may find comfort in the Lord’s healing grace.

“Before God, and you good people, I express sorrow for the sins and for the great crime of clerical abuse committed,” Bishop Dewane said. “For as your Bishop, I humbly ask forgiveness of those who have been abused and of you the faithful.”

While it is a Bishop’s pastoral responsibility to provide utmost care in fostering the protection of minors through his actions and through the comprehensive Diocesan Safe Environment program, we are all called to be vigilant. The Diocese of Venice has a zero-tolerance policy, and works to prevent any instances of abuse, particularly against minors and vulnerable adults.

“I only have one pair of eyes and ears,” Bishop Dewane said. “Between all of us, there are many eyes and many ears. It is better to act, because if we don’t speak, maybe someone will walk through the rest of their life in despair and scarred terribly by what has happened – not because of anything they did but it was something that was thrust upon them. I understand my responsibility, but we must all be vigilant.”

The Safe Environment Program was established to protect the most vulnerable from  abuse while raising awareness to prevent abuse from happening. The program, educates thousands each year, working to provide education for all employees (clergy, religious and laity), those volunteers and others regularly working with minors and vulnerable adults. The program provides information on the issue of abuse of children, including the detection, prevention, and reporting of child abuse. The Safe Environment Program has a component which includes training sessions for children and young people in Catholic schools. A key component of the Safe Environment initiative is that it includes a background check for all employees and volunteers.

The Diocese of Venice annually undergoes a comprehensive audit by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection to ensure that the Diocese is in compliance with current directives.

Report any abuse against minors to the Florida Department of Children and Families at 800-962-2873. Further, if Diocesan personnel or volunteers are involved, also notify the Diocesan Victims Assistance Coordinator, Susan Benton, at 941-416-6114.

For more detailed information about what the Diocese of Venice does to prevent abuse and the Safe Environment program, please visit


During April, the Secretariat of the USCCB encourages the faithful to recite the following Prayer for Healing Victims of Abuse.

God of endless love, ever caring, ever strong, always present, always just: You gave your only Son to save us by his blood on the cross.

Gentle Jesus, shepherd of peace, join to your own suffering the pain of all who have been hurt in body, mind, and spirit by those who betrayed the trust placed in them.

Hear the cries of our brothers and sisters who have been gravely harmed, and the cries of those who love them. Soothe their restless hearts with hope, steady their shaken spirits with faith. Grant them justice for their cause, enlightened by your truth.

Holy Spirit, comforter of hearts, heal your people’s wounds and transform brokenness into wholeness. Grant us the courage and wisdom, humility and grace, to act with justice. Breathe wisdom into our prayers and labors. Grant that all harmed by abuse may find peace in justice.

We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Courtesy of the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


Dios del amor infinito, Siempre presente, siempre justo;

Tú nos cuidas y nos proteges Y nos diste a tu único Hijo Para salvarnos con su sangre en la cruz.

Jesús manso, pastor de la paz, Dígnate unir a tu propio sufrimiento El dolor de todos los que han sido heridos De cuerpo, mente y espíritu

Por parte de aquellos que traicionaron la confianza puesta en ellos.

Escucha el clamor de nuestros hermanos y hermanas Que han sido lastimados gravemente, Así como el clamor de aquellos que los aman. Dales la esperanza que mitigue el desosiego de sus corazones, Dales la fe que calme sus espíritus perturbados. Concédeles justicia para su causa, Ilumínalos con tu verdad.

Espíritu Santo, consolador de corazones, Cura las heridas de tus hijos e hijas Y devuelve la integridad a lo que ha sido quebrantado. Concédenos el valor y la sabiduría, La humildad y la gracia, para actuar con justicia. Sopla tu sabiduría en nuestras oraciones y empeños. Que todos los que han sido heridos por el abuso encuentren paz y justicia.

Te lo pedimos por Cristo, nuestro Señor. Amén.

Annunciation of the Lord celebrated in Ave Maria

The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord is when we celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary saying “Yes!” to God.

Usually celebrated on March 25, the Solemnity was transferred to April 8, 2024, because the original date fell during Holy Week. The Solemnity marks the Angel Gabriel’s appearance to the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38), and his announcement that the Blessed Virgin had been chosen to be the Mother of Our Lord, and Mary’s willing acceptance of God’s Holy Plan.

For the faithful at Ave Maria Parish, Ave Maria University, as well as the entire town, the Solemnity marks an important occasion as it is the Feast Day of the community and was celebrated this year on April 6.

The focus of the day was on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, with Bishop Frank J. Dewane as the principal celebrant.

Bishop Dewane said during the Mass that the faithful should learn from the example of Mary and apply Her willingness to be open to the call of the Lord in our own lives; as it is inspiring to know the Blessed Virgin Mary had the courage to say “yes.”

“Take the grace that the Lord gives each of us, and live it and go forward,” the Bishop said. “We learn the important lesson that nothing is ‘impossible for God.’ Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her’ (Luke 1:37-38). Without God, we cannot fulfill His Mission. Our Lady understood that, so must each one of us. We have to radically change our inner selves and have that same strength to do the will of the Lord.”

At the conclusion of Mass, the faithful recited a Prayer of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, followed by a public Eucharistic Procession through the university and town. Later in the day was an outdoor barbecue dinner and concert.

Legion of Mary group renews promises

The Annual Acies of the Manasota Curia of the Legion of Mary took place March 23, 2024, at Incarnation Parish in Venice.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the Mass for the gathered members which represented nine different Legion of Mary praesidiums (chapters) from across the region.

Bishop Dewane praised the Legion of Mary for its commitment to carrying the message of the Blessed Virgin Mary to others. That message includes giving oneself over to the Lord by doing what He asks without question.

Annually, during the Acies ceremony, the members reconsecrate themselves to Mary by renewing their Legionary Promise, so that they may better work in union with the Blessed Virgin as they do their Legionary battle against the evils of this world. In this consecration, the members open their hearts to Mary, so that Our Lady may guide them and bless them throughout the year.

Kathy Bragdon said the annual Acies serves to rededicate each member of the Legion of Mary to Our Lady, providing the strength and guidance to continue forward with their work. Following the Mass, the Legionaries enjoyed a luncheon.

The Legion of Mary is a worldwide organization of lay Catholics focusing on Marian spirituality and apostolic works in more than 180 countries. The Legion has been active in the United States since 1931 and was endorsed by the Second Vatican Council. The main purpose of the Legion of Mary is to give glory to God through the sanctification of its members.

Members of the Legion of Mary become instruments of the Holy Spirit through a balanced program of prayer and service in a family atmosphere. Works include door-to-door evangelization, parishioner visitation, visitation of the sick or aged, Catholic education, visiting the newly baptized, visiting families, and meeting the other spiritual needs of the Parish community.

Legionaries are under the guidance of a spiritual director who is appointed by the Pastor. Members meet once a week for prayer, planning and discussion in a family setting. They do two hours of work each week in pairs and under the guidance of their spiritual director.

A main apostolate of the Legion is activities directed towards Catholics and non-Catholics, encouraging them in their faith or inviting them to become Catholic. This is usually done by encouraging prayer, attending Mass, and learning more about the Catholic Faith.

For a list of Parish praesidia (chapters) in the Diocese of Venice, please visit

Diocesan Eucharistic Conference deepens faith, brings joy

Renewed with a passion for the Most Holy Eucharist, nearly 1,400 of the faithful participated in the Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Conference in Fort Myers on March 16, 2024.

“We gather for a special occasion in the life of the Diocese – to acknowledge the presence of Christ in our midst, but particularly always present with us in the form of His Body and His Blood,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane said during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which opened the Conference.

“Know the Lord sees your desire to come to know Him more profoundly, to seek refuge in Him during difficult times in our lives,” Bishop Dewane said. “He knows you already; He knows why you are here today.”

Bishop Dewane called upon the faithful to summon the Grace of the Lord from within to become a true disciple of the Lord and let the Bread and Wine we receive at Communion remind us of the presence of Christ.

“Let us pray that this day will be an opportunity for you to be reached ever more by the Lord. Let us reach down deeper within ourselves, to become that full blown disciple of Jesus Christ. To go forward in our lives, proclaiming and evidencing Jesus Christ, His Presence, His Body and His Blood, as truly part of the lives we live,” the Bishop concluded.

The event, part of a nationwide effort called for by all the Catholic Bishops of the United States to revive belief in, and reverence for, the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist, began with Mass, celebrated by Bishop Dewane at St. Cecilia Parish – and the church was at capacity, before continuing at neighboring Bishop Verot Catholic High School.

The day included private and group Adoration, the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and thought-provoking talks by nationally known Catholic speakers, in both English and Spanish. The reaction from Conference participants was inspiring.

“What a wonderful day,” said Sharon Brown from Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers. “My love for Jesus has never been greater.”

“We are one Church, united in Christ through the Most Holy Eucharist,” said Anita Thompson of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Port Charlotte. “You couldn’t ask for a more perfect day to celebrate the Catholic Faith.”

Corina Sanchez of Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers said the entire day was a beautiful experience, which included the opening Mass, celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, inspirational talks, the opportunity to be among the faithful from across the Diocese, and the concluding group Eucharistic Adoration.

“Everything was perfect,” Sanchez said. “Jesus was with us all today.”

The keynote speaker for the Conference was acclaimed author Steven Ray, who presented on “Defending the Eucharist: Baptists Accept the Real Presence.” Ray spoke to all attendees, with a simultaneous Spanish translation offered, sharing his story of awakening from mocking the Catholic belief in the Real Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist to the awakening and now vigor with which he has defended the Catholic Faith, and the Real Presence, for the past 25 years.

Crystalina Evert, founder of Women Made New Ministries and the co-founder of Chastity Project, and guest and the host on TV programs for EWTN, spoke on “How the Eucharist Can Heal, Restore, and Protect You, Your Family, and Your Parish,” while Tim Glemkowski, CEO of the National Eucharistic Congress, spoke on “What God Did and What God is Doing: The Need for a Eucharistic Revival and Your Place in One.”


Father Elvis Gonzalez, a National Eucharistic Revival preacher based in Miami, presented “The Eucharist: Source and Transforming Force of Family Life.” Kathia Aranga, Director of the Office for Hispanic Catholics in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and President of the National Hispanic Committee for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the United States and Canada, spoke on “Holy Eucharist as the Center of Parish and Family Life.” Both of these talks were presented in Spanish.

Each speaker offered the faithful the opportunity to become part of the greater National Eucharistic Revival and to leave with their hearts and minds aflame for the love of Jesus, His Catholic Church, and especially His Real Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist.

The Diocesan Eucharistic Conference drew upon the success of the 2023 Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Congress which brought more than 4,000 Catholic school students, youth, and adults together for two days of events. What’s next? The National Eucharistic Revival will hold a National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in July. Bishop Dewane will be leading a pilgrimage group from the Diocese.

For more information, please visit

Bishop to students: It’s not too late to finish Lent strong!

In the final few weeks of Lent, leading to Holy Week and the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter, Bishop Frank J. Dewane has been encouraging Catholic school students to refocus their faith lives and finish the Lenten Season strong.

Bishop Dewane has celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for students at seven Diocesan Catholic schools in the past few weeks, with more to come before Holy Week. His message has been to pay attention to the lessons found in the Gospel of practicing their faith as Jesus did, in their prayers, in their interactions with family and friends, and in the community where they must seek the face of Christ in others.

“It is my prayer for the remainder of the Lenten Season that all of you students recommit yourselves, as you did at the time of Ash Wednesday, to live faithfully, to make the sacrifices that Jesus calls forth from you, and to take time during the rest of Lenten Season to improve your prayer life,” Bishop Dewane said during a Mass on March 13, 2024, for students at St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy in Sarasota. “Focus on your prayers for the remainder of the Lenten Season, whether alone, in school or at home; in that way you will better come to know Jesus Christ.”

It is the call of all the faithful to work to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and live as Jesus calls us to be as men and women of God. Bishop Dewane said there are basic features of being a Catholic, such as attending Mass every Sunday, having an active prayer life, knowing and living the 10 Commandments, and doing acts of charity or service.

“There is nothing stagnant in being a faithful Catholic,” Bishop Dewane said on March 11, to students at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota. “Being Catholic is not merely a state of being, because understanding our faith necessarily makes us people of action. This originates through Baptism and when we live our faith, we do it for the Lord and we become a conduit of God’s grace in the world.”

While we are all called to live our faith daily, as humans, we are not perfect and will sometimes stumble, Bishop Dewane continued.

“We need healing in the spiritual sense, because we are all sinners,” Bishop Dewane said. “You must open yourselves to being healed by Christ through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As you practice your faith, being men and women of God, it is how you respond; do you stand before the Lord and seek the healing you need?  The Lord calls us to respond to His call, if we stumble, the Lord heals us.”

Masses celebrated by Bishop Dewane in the past week were at St. John Neumann Catholic High School, Naples, March 7; St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School and St. Ann Catholic School, Naples, March 8; and St. Catherine Catholic School, Sebring, March 12. Additional Masses will be celebrated prior to Easter.

When time permitted, Bishop Dewane spoke with eighth grade students while also answering their questions. In addition, at St. Catherine Catholic School, the Bishop was presented with a large birthday card signed by the students. The students also sang “Happy Birthday” to him. At St. Martha Catholic School, the Bishop blessed Lenten crosses made by the sixth grade students.


Sacrament of Marriage – A unique gift from God

God provides unique graces and gifts for married couples to spend their lives together, serving as examples of hope for following generations.

In celebration of that commitment, each year Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites couples married 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50+ years to a Mass in their honor as witnesses to a beautiful vocation. This first such Mass in 2024 was Feb. 3, at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. Present were 240 couples representing a combined 12,480 years of marriage.

“You have to feel a great accomplishment,” Bishop Dewane said. “Whether you are celebrating 25 years, 50 years or even 70 years of marriage, the grace you have lived out all those years continues to flow and be a sign of hope for many young people. It is the public intention of union and sacrifice given over, one to the other, where love is expressed, over and over again. That is the true reality of marriage.”

Bishop Dewane said in today’s culture there is a different mindset about the Sacrament of Marriage, but the example of the couples present, representing commitments lasting decades, are viewed by young people with awe.

“The grace that you have allowed to enter into you marriage reverberates God’s love within your relationship and is witnessed by others,” the Bishop said. “You give a silent homily by the life you live, day in and day out. It is a true vocation that is born through each of you, giving the gift of one’s self. It has endured and is admired.”

The 240 couples represented 25 Parishes and included 32 couples that have been married 50 years. The longest marriage by couples present was 70 years.

Steven and Violet (Vi) Hvasta, of St. William Parish in Naples, will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary on June 12. Thomas and Jane Brooks, of St. Leo the Great Parish, will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary on Dec. 4.

The Hvastas started out as great friends in high school. Steven dated Vi’s best friends, and she would date Steven’s friends, until the love bug hit! It seems they were made for each other. They spent their lives in Connecticut as small business owners, raising four daughters and are blessed with 11 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. They bought a home in Naples 13 years ago and now split their time between Naples and Connecticut.

Thomas and Jane Brooks met while attending Indiana University in Bloomington. They fell in love immediately and are still very much in love to this day. They married while Thomas was on leave from the U.S. Army, causing Jane to quit college and follow her new husband on deployment in Germany. After leaving the Army, the couple settled back in Indiana where he was a lawyer for 62 years as they raised a family that now includes seven children, seven grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren. They have been coming to Florida since the mid-1980s.

Thomas Brooks said the couple’s advice to their children was that “once they became married, it is very important to stay with God. Also, they should always love one another, and never go to bed at night without saying ‘I love you.’”

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

Following the Mass, lunch was served and there was the opportunity to have complimentary pictures taken with the Bishop. At the luncheon, several couples remarked about how wonderful it is to have their lasting marriage recognized.

Masses are celebrated each year in the northern and southern sections of the Diocese of Venice so as to accommodate the large numbers of couples wishing to attend. The second Mass is 11 a.m., Feb. 24, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave., Venice (registration is through the Parishes and walk-ins are welcome).

Students encouraged to welcome Christ into their lives

Every Catholic Schools Week is an opportunity to recognize the value and contributions of Catholic education to individual students, the Church, and the world.

During the week of Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, 2024, the more than 6,200 students enrolled in the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools celebrated their schools, their Parishes, the nation, vocations, their families, and their teachers in a variety of ways.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated a Mass for Catholic school students in Collier County at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples on Jan. 31. The Mass, which included several concelebrating priests from Parishes throughout Collier County, involved the eighth graders from St. Elizabeth Seton and St. Ann Catholic schools in Naples, Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria, and affiliated Royal Palm Academy in Naples. In addition, the entire student body of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples participated, having walked from their nearby campus to the Mass, and afterward escorted the younger students back for a day of food and fun.

The Mass fell on the Memorial of St. John Bosco, priest, founder of a religious order and supporter of youth and Catholic education. The students at St. John Neumann are very familiar with St. John Bosco, as the school is led by religious women who are Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco.

Bishop Dewane noted that the Gospel reading for the day (Mark 6:1-6), which recounts Jesus’ return to his hometown accompanied by His disciples was most appropriate. The locals, having known Jesus since childhood, were astonished by the wisdom the Lord had, and with a lack of faith, dismissed and took offense of Him.

“Do we dismiss Christ from our life?” the Bishop asked. “As Catholic students, you know the good works and miracles Jesus performed. How faithful are you of placing God before all others? That first Commandment. How faithful are you about going to Sunday Mass? It is a concern that I have. Is that not being dismissive of Christ in your life?”

No matter what disconnection they have from Christ, Bishop Dewane told the students that they need to set about to correct any dismissiveness they may have of Christ.

“When we sin, that is exactly what we do,” the Bishop continued. “Don’t be controlled by others. Have Christ be the influence. We all need to hear that call of the Lord and not dismiss Jesus Christ. Listen to what He has to say. You have been blessed with the graces to be more the young men and women of God you are called to be.”

Sponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), Catholic Schools Week provides an annual opportunity to celebrate and share the good news about Catholic Schools. The theme, “Catholic Schools: United in Faith and Community,” focuses on the important spiritual, academic, and societal contributions provided by a Catholic education firmly rooted in the Truth of the Gospel. The weekend of Jan. 27-28, ahead of Catholic Schools Week, students spoke at many Parish Masses to explain the benefits of their education.

On Jan. 29, St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy celebrated their community through a Living Rosary Prayer Service. Students joined together as a community, prayed the rosary, and read special intentions throughout the service. Sr. Limeteze Pierre Gilles, School Sister of Notre Dame, was introduced to the school community, as throughout the week she taught the students how they can live out the promise of the Pope Francis Encyclical, Laudato Si, in helping the earth, specifically for those less fortunate living in Haiti without electricity and running water.

At Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice, the morning prayer service and assembly on Jan. 29, included a “Catholic Schools Week” proclamation from the Venice Vice Mayor. In addition, the students collected and donated more than 300 sets of pajamas which were donated to a local charity.

At Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, the week kicked off with a school Mass at neighboring St. Cecilia Parish. Following the Mass, there was the traditional announcement of the “Christ The Teacher” award winner, Mary Dakin, chair of the English department. When announcing the honoree, it was noted that Dakin’s voice and personality are transcendent; and to know her is to love her. Dakin was able to enjoy the moment with her family and was rewarded with the afternoon off.

On Jan. 30, the student body of St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School celebrated with a beautiful Eucharistic Procession. Led by Father Casey Jones, Pastor and school Chaplain, the Most Blessed Sacrament was carried in a monstrance through the public streets surrounding the school before concluding with Benediction in Saint Elizabeth Seton Church. Before the procession began, the students were told that a Eucharistic Procession and Benediction is a special way of proclaiming to the world, as well as reminding themselves, that Jesus Christ is their King and that they believe in His Real Presence in the Eucharist.


These are just a few examples of some of the activities which took place in the first part of Catholic Schools Week 2024. Please check back in the Florida Catholic next week to learn about more of the festivities!

News Briefs for the Week of February 2, 2024

Mooney runner named Florida Gatorade Player of the Year

Addison Dempsey, a senior at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, has been named the 2023-24 Gatorade Florida Girls Cross Country Player of the Year. Dempsey is the first Gatorade Florida Girls Cross Country Player of the Year to be chosen from Cardinal Mooney.  The award, announced Jan. 22, 2024, celebrates the nation’s top high school athletes for excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community.   The 5-foot-5 senior capped her 2023 campaign by racing to 18th place at the Foot Locker South Regional Championships, clocking a time of 17:39.22 as the state’s top finisher at the event. Dempsey established four new course records this past season, breaking the tape with a personal-best 5K time of 17:20.20 at the North Port XC Invitational. She won eight races during the fall and was Florida’s top finisher at the prestigious Adidas XC Challenge, where she took third.  She earned a bronze in the November Florida High School Athletic Association Girls Class 2A 5K. She earned a silver in the same event in 2022. A volunteer on behalf of the Boys and Girls Club, which assists local, underserved kids and provides them a safe environment, Dempsey has also donated her time as a coach at youth soccer camps and as part of running trail clean-up projects. Dempsey has maintained an impressive 3.88 GPA in the classroom.

School holds memorable night in the “Scottish Highlands”

The annual Celtic Ball, supporting St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, took place at the school on Jan. 27, 2024. The theme of the night was the “Scottish Highlands.” Bishop Frank J. Dewane applauded the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco who serve at St. John Neumann for their unfailing commitment to education and for the example they are for their students and the entire school community. Bishop Dewane also thanked the parents for entrusting their children’s education and future to St. John Neumann. The evening included a live and silent auction, and guests were provided with Scottish cloaks, while some men wore traditional kilts.

Mass honors law enforcement, fire fighters and first responders

To honor and remember the service of active, retired and fallen law enforcement officers, firefighters and first responders who offer their lives in service to the community to keep us all safe and well, St. Agnes Parish in Naples hosted the annual Blue Mass on Jan. 27, 2023. The opening procession was led by music from the Southwest Florida Guns ‘n Hoses Pipes ‘n Drums corps with bagpipes and drums, the Knights of Columbus Color Corps, and Columbiettes. Msgr. Steven P. Hurley, of Wilmington, Delaware, was the homilist for the Mass. He was a policeman in Maryland for eight years before following a vocation to the priesthood. After the Mass, each active and retired first responder present was asked to come forward to receive a token of appreciation. Law enforcement officials received a St. Michael the Archangel Medal, firefighters a St. Florian Medal, and a special medal was also presented for all other first responders. A barbeque, hosted by the Knights of Columbus, followed in the Parish Hall.

National Marriage Week, and World Marriage Day!

The observances of National Marriage Week from Feb. 7 -14, 2024, and World Marriage Day, Sunday, Feb. 11, are opportunities to focus on building a culture of life and love that begins with supporting and promoting marriage and the family. The theme for 2024 is “Love Beyond Words.”  For resources from the USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth to help celebrate and live the great gift of married life, please visit Celebrate National Marriage Week 2024 – For Your Marriage. Resources are available in both English and Spanish.

Health Care Ethics Conference Feb. 17

Medical professionals, students, and interested laypeople are invited to the first annual Converging Roads health care ethics conference on Feb. 17, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs! This one-day conference will offer continuing education credits for health care professionals with presentations centered on the theme of Catholic Medicine in a Secular Society. For information, contact Carrie Harkey at, and to register, go to

2024 Catholic Charities Ball Feb. 17 in Sarasota

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., invites all to the 2024 Catholic Charities Ball, 6 p.m., Feb. 17, 2024, at Michael’s On East Ballroom, 1212 S. East Ave., Sarasota. The theme is “Serving All,” and supports the programs of Catholic Charities in Sarasota and Manatee counties. This year also marks the launch of the new Long-term Recovery Program, which is actively helping families still recovering from Hurricane Ian and other natural disasters. Tickets are $400 a person. The evening will include a cocktail hour, live and silent auctions, fine dining, dancing, and live entertainment. Register at For more information, 941-376-7845 or email

Few spots remain for Eucharistic Congress pilgrimage with Bishop

Join Bishop Frank J. Dewane on a Pilgrimage to the 10th National Eucharistic Congress. Only eight spots remain! This once-in-a-lifetime 5-day gathering will take place in Indianapolis July 17 – 21, 2024. The National Eucharistic Congress represents the culmination of the Church’s three-year effort to put an emphasis on the Real Presence of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Eucharistic.  It is a pivotal moment in the Church, and a unique opportunity for participants to draw into a deeper, more intimate relationship with Our Lord. For pilgrimage details, please visit Questions? Contact Carrie Harkey,