News Briefs for the week of May 17, 2024

First Holy Communion celebrated across Diocese

During the month of May, more than 3,000 young boys and girls throughout the Diocese of Venice will take part in the Sacrament of the Eucharist for the first time, their First Holy Communion. Young girls in white dresses and boys in suits, having prepared in their religious studies to reach this important milestone in their spiritual journey of faith, the beginning of a long and intimate relationship with the Lord. This Sacrament comes this year during a time of a National Eucharistic Revival. This revival is a three-year effort of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to reinforce devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Bishop Frank J. Dewane said the Most Holy Eucharist is important for all, from the youngest who receive their First Communion to the oldest. “It is in a precise way in the Eucharist, that the Lord gives to us, and we receive Him… Put yourself in a relationship with Jesus Christ, through the Eucharist. It is Christ. It is His Body and Blood. It is His Real Presence!” Bishop Dewane said. “Let His Real Presence in the Eucharist fill your heart, fill your mind, fill your soul with His indication of what it is He wants from you and for you to do in your life.” Please pray for all children receiving their First Holy Communion during May, that they love the Lord with all their hearts and forever live faithfully.

Bishop celebrates Baccalaureate Mass for Ave Maria School of Law graduates

The graduates of the Ave Maria School of Law in Naples were told by Bishop Frank J. Dewane to go forward and allow the Holy Spirit to inspire them in their life, during a Baccalaureate Mass at St. Agnes Parish in Naples on May 10, 2024. Bishop Dewane also told them to follow the path of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the patroness of the school, who accepted in faith what the Lord asked. “Faith is a virtue – a welcoming and cherishing bond with Jesus Christ,” the Bishop said. “That is what makes us men and women of faith. Let it grow in your heart as you launch into a new life after having been given this tremendous opportunity and experience here at Ave Maria School of Law.” The commencement was April 12, Ascension Sunday and Mother’s Day, at Artis-Naples.

Seminarians visit ship during Miami Fleet Week

A total of 23 seminarians from St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach had the unique opportunity to participate in Fleet Week Miami on May 10, 2024. Over the course of two days, separate groups from the seminary were welcomed aboard the USS Bataan, an amphibious assault ship. The visit was organized by Transitional Deacon Jacob Gwynn, a seminarian for the Diocese of Venice, and a co-sponsored seminarian for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and led by the ship’s Command Chaplain, Father Benton Garrett. The two seminarian groups toured the ship and attended Mass in the ship’s chapel, witnessing firsthand the intersection of faith and service within the military context. Among the attendees were Seminary Rector/President, Father Alfredo I. Hernandez, and Midshipman Spencer Dominguez, a relative of Father Hernandez.

Retreat For Mothers Grieving the Loss of a Child

Red Bird Ministries, a non-profit Catholic grief support ministry, is hosting a Grieving Mother’s Retreat from June 7 – 9, 2024, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center, 3989 South Moon Drive, Venice. This retreat is for women who have experienced the loss of a child from pregnancy through adulthood.  Mothers will be helped in addressing the profound healing that needs to happen while also honoring the memory of the child throughout their grief journey. Please visit for information and registration.

Ordination to the Priesthood June 8

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the faithful to the Ordination to the Priesthood of Transitional Deacon Thomas Gregory Dougherty. The Ordination will take place at 11 a.m., Saturday, June 8, 2024, at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1301 Center Road, Venice. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this important event in the life of Deacon Greg as well as the Diocese of Venice. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall.

Totus Tuus, Parish Catechetical Summer Program coming soon

The Totus Tuus Parish Catechetical Summer Camp program, open to grades 1-12, will be available in the Diocese of Venice again this summer beginning in June 2024. Totus Tuus aims to inspire young people to long for holiness, develop a deep desire for conversion and personally renew their faith with a stronger prayer life. All camps are one-week day camps, and programs are divided according to age. Youth are welcome to attend any of the Totus Tuus camps, but registration is requested ahead of time. Parishes hosting Totus Tuus this year are: St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Parrish, and Our Lady of Grace, Avon Park (June 2-7); Ave Maria, Ave Maria (June 9-14); St. Finbarr, Naples, and St. Paul, Arcadia (June 16-21); Epiphany Cathedral, Venice, and St. Katharine Drexel, Cape Coral (June 23-28); Our Lady Queen of Heaven, LaBelle (July 7-12); Our Lady of Light, Fort Myers, and St. Cecilia, Fort Myers (July 14-19); Our Lady of the Angels, Lakewood Ranch, and St. Peter the Apostle, Naples (July 21-26). To register, contact the hosting Parish directly. Parish contact information can be found at  For general questions about the Diocesan Totus Tuus program, please visit, or contact Jim Gontis at

Ave Maria Youth Conference registration open

All high school age youth from incoming freshman to outgoing seniors are invited to attend the 15th Annual Ave Maria University High School Youth Conference, “CALLED,” from July 12 – 14, 2024. This faith-filled weekend will be full of fellowship, music, and great speakers, including Father Timothy Anastos from the Diocese of Chicago who is currently serving as a National Eucharistic Preacher and featured regularly on “Reel Homilies”, Noelle Garcia a Catholic recording artist who shares her faith through scripture and music, nationally known chastity speaker Pam Stenzel, and Father Joseph Lugalambi, Adjunct Professor of Theology at Ave Maria University. Music will be provided by EPIC Music Ministries. The cost is $190 per person, which includes lodging in the dorms, meals, conference fee, and a cool t-shirt! Register now by visiting For more information call 239- 348-4725, or email

Bishop celebrates Baccalaureate Mass for university

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the main celebrant at the Baccalaureate Mass for Ave Maria University on May 3, 2024, The Feast of Sts. Philip and James, the Apostles, in Ave Maria.

A Baccalaureate Mass is a Mass of Thanksgiving for God’s many blessings upon the graduates.

During the Mass, Bishop Dewane encouraged the graduates to place themselves into the hands of God as they move forward, remembering the virtue of faith as they live their lives. To do that, they must know who God is in their own lives.

“Faith is an act by which a human being freely commits him/herself to God,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is a gift that should never be taken lightly. Being Catholic is about cherishing the bond that you can develop with God and with His Son, Jesus; a bond that will make you ever more Catholic and hopefully deepen your faith.”

The Bishop noted that St. Irenaeus, a 2nd century bishop in France, teacher, leader, martyr, saint, and Doctor of the Church, said, “The Glory of God is the human being fully alive.” That fullness is meant in terms of striving to fulfill a new dimension of our own humanity.

“Knowledge is always good in itself; it can fill our minds and souls,” Bishop Dewane continued. “Knowledge has many uses which will bear much fruit in your life in choices you make, allowing you to live the fullness of the Lord, being more that man or woman of God you are called to be.”

St. Irenaeus also said, “The glory of the human person is the vision of God.”

“That groundwork was prepared for you by the accumulated knowledge you received here at Ave Maria University,” Bishop Dewane said. “Seek God in your lives. Let that be the glory of life for you as graduates.”

Following the Mass, Bishop Dewane greeted the graduates outside of the church and many complimented him on his words and support of the university.

Ave Maria University is celebrating its largest graduating class in its 25-year history, with more than 250 students receiving their diplomas during Commencement Exercises on May 4.

The commencement speaker was Father Mike Schmitz, of the Diocese of Duluth who is director for youth and young adult ministry and is well-known for his online content such as weekly videos from Ascension Presents, as well as podcasts “The Bible in a Year” and “The Catechism in a Year.”

Receiving honorary doctorates during the commencement exercises were Father Schmitz, Nicholas Healy, the first president of Ave Maria University, and Father Richard Martignetti, OFM, who is departing as Chaplain of Ave Maria University to a new assignment after six years.

Father Joseph Lugalambi is the new Chaplain at Ave Maria University, effective May 4, 2024.

Diocese Council of Catholic Women gather

A group of dedicated Catholic women has answered the call of Christ as they imitate Him in how they live their lives each day.

These women are represented by the Venice Diocese Council of Catholic Women (VDCCW) serving as an example of a heartfelt commitment to serve the Church while dedicating themselves to being open to the Holy Spirit.

Each year members gather for a convention with the goal of unifying their efforts to do good for the benefit of all. With a theme of “Following Jesus Through Mary,” the 38th annual Convention took place April 26, 2024, at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice.

A central part of the gathering was the women participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which was celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. The Mass was concelebrated by Father Janusz “Jay” Jancarz, who is the VDCCW Spiritual Advisor and Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, as well as Father Gordon Zanetti, Pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Sarasota, and son of VDCCW Seminarian Fund Chair Cornelia Zanetti.

Bishop Dewane praised the VDCCW for coming together and giving witness to the Faith by how they are believers and followers of Jesus Christ who are called forth to reach out to others.

“You respond to the question Jesus often asks of His disciples, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ by what you do each day, promoted by the Holy Spirit,” Bishop Dewane said. “You strive to follow the Lord, not always knowing where the Lord is sending you, but you do it because you follow Jesus Christ and you good ladies have let that following of Christ be a foundation as a group and as individuals. Let that guide your life and continue to be your strength as you come to know who Christ is in your lives.”

The Bishop specifically thanked the members of the VDCCW for the important role they play in the Diocese and in the Parishes.

Following the Mass, Bishop Dewane installed VDCCW President Katie Morris, and President-Elect Karen Verveer. As part of the ceremony, Florida Council of Catholic Women President Brenda Dolan presented Morris a candle with a purple-colored ribbon, symbolizing clarity of thought and action; and a candle with a blue-colored ribbon symbolizing loyalty and dedication.

The VDCCW acts through its membership to support, empower, and educate all Catholic women in spirituality, leadership and service. Council programs exude Gospel values and serve the needs of the Church and society in the modern world. To exemplify this, the VDCCW is a strong supporter of the Diocesan seminarians and presented a check of more than $16,250 to Bishop Dewane for the Diocesan Seminarian Fund, the largest amount collected from the Priesthood Sunday campaign.

VDCCW President Morris said the Convention serves to unify and inspire members as they work throughout the year in support of the Catholic Church at the Parish, Diocese and national levels.

The women also learned about a variety of topics related to Blessed Virgin Mary, including the keynote presentation, “To Jesus Through Mary,” from Diocesan Evangelization Director James Gontis. A check was also presented to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., from the VDCCW Hugs for Homeless Fund.

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.

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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.