Students encouraged to grow closer to Christ during Lent

During their Lenten Journey the students who attend the Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Venice are being reminded to take seriously the call for prayer, fasting and almsgiving while not forgetting the ashes they received on Ash Wednesday.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the first in a series of Masses for students in all Diocesan Catholic schools on March 2, 2023, for St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy in Sarasota. This was followed on March 3, with a Mass for students at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charlotte. Additional Masses are scheduled throughout March.

Bishop Dewane said the ashes the students received on Ash Wednesday may have faded or been washed away but the mark is still there.

“It is a reminder of the journey we are all on during this Lenten Season, and how we are to live a righteous life – a good life – according to the way the Lord taught,” the Bishop said. “It is about how do you treat others, day in and day out. Do it with a goodness, righteousness and with mercy in your hearts. Know that the way you were signed with a cross in ashes must stay with you throughout this Lenten Season. This is a sign of goodness grown out the Lord’s sacrifice.”

In addition, Bishop Dewane reminded the students how the three pillars of Lent – prayer, fasting and almsgiving – are not exclusive for parents and other adults to act upon and consider. These pillars are a guidepost for everyone to follow in his or her own way, from the youngest child to the oldest grandparent.

“Prayer, for example, should not be confined to school. Find time at home, before meals, or at bedtime, or when you get up,” the Bishop continued. “In that way you are growing in your relationship with the Lord.”

While fasting for many might mean going without food, there are plenty of options for younger students to make a true sacrifice for God. Giving up a favorite television show, video game, a favorite candy, or even all candy, is taking a step in the right direction, but it must be a true sacrifice to achieve a greater closeness with Christ.

Almsgiving is traditionally associated with giving money, but Bishop Dewane explained that the students can use this discipline as an opportunity to do good things for others.

“Helping or doing for others – be it a brother or sister, a parent, or a friend – being a good person is about giving a part of oneself for the other, doing what is right in the eyes of Jesus.”

The Lenten Season, Bishop Dewane said, is about responding to the call of Christ with goodness, righteousness, and justice in our hearts.

Following the Masses, the Bishop spoke with the eighth graders during which he inquired how they were progressing in school and encouraged them to remain the leaders of their respective school and to seriously consider attending a Diocesan Catholic High School next year, with many saying they would.

The eighth graders were then allowed to question the Bishop on any topic. Some questions focused on the unique clothing he wears during Mass, while others centered on learning about his personal spiritual journey to the priesthood and ultimately a Bishop. Bishop Dewane explained how his first internal call to the priesthood started about when he was in eighth grade. From that point he put off that call to focus on school, university and then work in the business world. Finally, he decided he needed to follow the call of the Lord and has never looked back. “It felt right.”

Sacrament of Holy Matrimony – Icons of God

The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is a sacred bond between a man and a woman which reflects the honor, love, commitment and fidelity each demonstrates for the other.

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 for younger generations to see and admire. This first such Mass in 2023 was Feb. 4 at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. Present were 270 couples representing a combined 14,002 years of marriage.

“What a beautiful sight from up here,” Bishop Dewane said. “We are here to celebrate the love and commitment you and your spouse made all those years ago. We gather here to give thanks to the Lord, and we gather to recognize all of you at the table of the Lord, for the marriage that you have, for your fidelity, as well as for your entering into the Sacrament accompanied by God.”

Bishop Dewane noted how Pope Francis described married couples as Icons of God – neither being more than the other, but only together do they combine to make the image of God complete. For this reason, the Bishop said it is right that the Mass is celebrated and acknowledges the couples for the life and commitment they made before God, to each other.

“You are a gift to the Diocese, to your children, to your grandchildren and to the younger people in the Diocese, you offer them great hope,” Bishop Dewane said. “You offer them a future. You are an example for others to follow. The life that you as married couples live – in kindness and fruitfulness – is unique in what it contributes to society. What a wonderful gift you give to the world.”

The couple recognized as being present with the longest marriage were David and Peggy Hiller, who will be marking 72 years on May 4. They attend Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in Fort Myers and grew up in Ohio, first meeting on an ice rink. They spent their life working together in farming: cows, chickens, pigs.  Peggy helped David drive the tractors so now he says he returns the favor by washing the dishes. They raised four children and eventually bought a home in Fort Myers 40 years ago and now split their time between Florida and Ohio.

The 270 couples present for the Mass represented 25 Parishes and included 30 couples which have been married 50 years. Three couples celebrated their actual anniversary on the day of the Mass. They included: Gerald and Sharon Allen, 62 years, St. Therese Parish, North Fort Myers; Morris and Christina Cirlincione, 56 years, St. Ann Parish, Naples; and Charles and Colleen Faris, 50 years, St. Finbarr Parish, Naples.

John and Paulette Donlon of St. Leo the Great Parish have been married 63 years. They met in high school and built a life together in Michigan. They said the ability to have Christ at the heart of their marriage has helped them overcome any challenges.

“Marriage is about being there for each other, no matter what,” Paulette Donlon said. “You love each other. You get through struggles because you remember that you made a commitment at your wedding before God. That is real. That is serious. That puts everything in perspective.”

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

A reception followed the Mass with lunch and the opportunity to have complimentary pictures taken with the Bishop.

Masses are celebrated each year in the northern and southern sections of the Diocese of Venice so as to accommodate those wanting to attend. The second Mass is 11 a.m. Feb. 18, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave., Venice (registration is through your Parish and walk-ins are welcome).

Prayer Walk held in Sarasota

The Prayer Warriors who stand vigil in front of the Planned Parenthood Regional Headquarters on Central Avenue in Sarasota were recently joined by dozens of like-minded people who stood as witnesses for life during the 25th Annual Prayer Walk for Life on Feb. 7, 2023.

Prior to the Prayer Walk, Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated a Mass at nearby St. Martha Parish, stressing the importance of protecting life from conception to natural death and encouraging everyone to speak out for life.

“Life has so much value,” Bishop Dewane said. “Respect the life of the unborn. Respect all life. Continue to be the voice in the wilderness. Let us speak out for life and be the witness the Lord calls us to be.”

Being a witness for life is the duty of all, the Bishop added, it is not just for those who were at the Sarasota Mass or who participated in the Prayer Walk or who are a weekly Prayer Warrior.

“We need to be sensitive; we need to evangelize; and we all need to be out speaking up for the issue of life,” Bishop Dewane said. “If you claim to be a person of love, but don’t honor the gift of life, you stand against all that Christ teaches… going against what the Church has taught for centuries. We all need to be witnesses to life.”

Among those participating was a group of young men from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School. Bishop Dewane was impressed with the participation and encouraged them to share with their classmates what it meant to be a witness for life.

The Mooney group participated in the Mass and Prayer Walk while also receiving a tour of the Community Pregnancy Clinics, Inc. offices which sit in the shadow of Planned Parenthood. CPCI is a crisis pregnancy center and the students were shown an ultrasound image of an unborn child in 4-D while learning that when a woman sees their child, they almost always choose life.

The Prayer Walk took place on a Tuesday because that is the day surgical abortions are done. It has been well documented that the presence of people praying in front of abortion facilities makes a difference. Because of the presence of these people, women change their mind comforted in the knowledge that someone cares about their unborn child. Others take the literature or listen to the Prayer Warriors who offer counseling and when convinced to choose life the necessary support is just a few feet away.

This was the 25th Annual Prayer Walk for Life in Sarasota, which had traditionally taken place in late January to correspond to the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision which paved the way for the legalization of abortion in the U.S. While Roe was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2022, the issue is now based on state law, where in Florida abortion is legal up to 15 weeks. Much more work needs to be done in Florida and beyond to ensure each child is protected.

As one regular Prayer Warrior explained to someone participating in the Prayer Walk: “This won’t be over until we save every child.”

Anne Clifford participates in the 40 Days for Life campaigns in the spring and fall with her Parish (Incarnation in Sarasota), but is now compelled to do more.

“Being here on ‘Abortion Day’ is different and heartbreaking,” Clifford said. “My heart goes out to each woman who enters that monstrosity of a building. These women need to know we love them. That Jesus loves them. Knowing our presence can help mothers choose life is an awesome opportunity and I will be here as often as I can.”

To help get a strong start for the spring 40 Days for Life prayer campaign in Sarasota (Feb. 22 to April 2), a special kickoff event is taking place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Feb. 18, at the Church of Saint Patrick, 7900 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota. The day begins with Mass and Holy Hour followed by speakers. The cost to attend is $10 and includes lunch. Registration is required at by Feb. 10 as space is limited. Please email for further information.

For more information about the Sarasota 40 Days for Life spring campaign, please check with your local Parish, or visit

Faith – Excellence – Service Catholic schools celebrated across Diocese

Mass, proclamations, service, and fun are just a few elements of Catholic Schools Week 2023 across the Diocese of Venice.

The week (Jan. 29 to Feb. 4) kicked off with Catholic school students speaking at weekend Masses. There, they spoke about the benefits of a Catholic education and the continuing need to support Diocesan schools to ensure the Church of tomorrow has leaders who are well formed. Many of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools held open houses for prospective students and their families on Jan. 29, kicking off the annual enrollment period.

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.

One of the readings was from the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus is asked what is the greatest Commandment? “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind… You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Bishop Dewane said the reading was appropriate for Catholic Schools Week as it notes the keys of faith, excellence and service.

“Faith is about knowing who God is,” Bishop Dewane said. “It’s about loving God; obeying the Commandments God has given to us. Loving the neighbor is certainly about loving God and obeying God. From this we are called to serve others as we see the image and likeness of God in all. Each of you (students) are old enough to understand this and take on that responsibility. That begins at home, and the environment in Catholic school helps that idea grow within you. It is by following these two great Commandments that you can achieve excellence in your life by continuing to grow closer in your relationship with the Lord.”

Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice opened Catholic Schools Week with a blessing of new benches for the playground by Father John Belmonte, SJ., Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, and Msgr. Patrick Dubois. This was followed by the reading of a Proclamation about Catholic Schools Week by Venice Mayor Nick Pachota, an Epiphany graduate.

St. Joseph Catholic School students in Bradenton celebrated their neighbors on Jan. 31, by having second and fifth graders prepare “Thank You” cards, while third graders created special potted plants. The plants and cards were delivered to the 26 homes which border the school as a thank you to show gratitude for being a part of this neighborhood. Many of the neighbors commented that they love living by the school and hearing the sounds of joy each day.

Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers held their annual Quiz Bowl on Jan. 31. Five brave souls from both the student body and faculty, bravely put their trivia knowledge on display for the entire school. While the game went back and forth, the faculty ended up winning – much to the students’ displeasure. A shot of redemption was given, in the form of a 1-on-1 match, which came down to the final question, and faculty trivia extraordinare, English teacher Clayton Atkins, sealed the deal again for the faculty.

St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers started their first day of the week with Mass. The day was also “Twin Day” and included a teacher swap for one class period. Finally, there was a school assembly which included a variety of fun games.

The above is just a small sample of the wide variety of activities the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools took part in throughout Catholic Schools Week.

Sponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), the week provides an annual opportunity to share the good news about Catholic Schools. The theme, “Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service.” focuses on the important spiritual, academic, and societal contributions provided by a Catholic education firmly rooted in the Truth of the Gospel.

Diocesan Schools have a unique kindergarten through 12 STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and mathematics) curriculum using robotics as a catalyst for success. This program, an initiative started and supported by Bishop Dewane, prepares students for today and the future, providing a core set of essential skills needed for success and leadership in the challenging world.

The 15 Diocesan Catholic Schools, serving 5,837 students, is an investment in the future and they serve as the heart of the Diocese, building the Catholic leadership of tomorrow. Schools are in Bradenton, Sarasota, Venice, Port Charlotte, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples, Ave Maria and Sebring.

To learn more about Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools, please visit

Vespers led by Bishop at Ave university chapel

Students participating in Mass Jan. 29, 2023 (Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time) at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel on the campus of Ave Maria University were given a special treat with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane.

Bishop Dewane was invited to celebrate the Mass in St. Francis Xavier Hall (a dormitory) by students who are part of a new Blessed Carlos Acutis Robotics Club. From that invitation grew an opportunity for the students to not only have the Bishop present for Mass, but to lead the students in Evening Vespers.

The reading for the Sunday was the Beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew (5:1-12a), and Bishop Dewane stressed the need to dive deeply into what the Lord is telling us, as Children of God.

“We need to hunger a thirst for holiness,” the Bishop said. “It about your relationship with the Lord. How are you doing there? That is what Christ is talking about in the Beatitudes. It wasn’t about success in a job or in the academic world – it was about how was our relationship with our Creator, God. This covers a lot of things. Do we see the presence of God in others? Is there some sin that we repeatedly commit to offend the Lord? We must move out of that – it’s not holiness. There is no room for sin in our relationship with God.”

Bishop Dewane complimented the college students for being present for the Mass and prayed they attend each Sunday and strive to go daily.

“You are working on that relationship with the Lord, but each one of us likely needs to go deeper than showing up at a Liturgy on Sunday. How do you live the rest of the week? How do you carry that Mass with you throughout the day? Think about it in your own lives.”

Following the Mass, many of the students remained for Vespers, or Evening Prayer. Vespers is part of the Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office. In the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church fulfills Jesus’ command to “pray always” (Luke 18:1; see also 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Through this prayer, the people of God sanctify the day by continual praise of God and prayers of intercession for the needs of the world.

The Liturgy of the Hours includes several specified times of prayer. The most important times are Morning Prayer (which takes place upon rising) and Evening Prayer (which takes place as dusk begins to fall). Evening Prayer also gives thanks for the day just past and makes an evening sacrifice of praise to God (see Psalm 141:1).

Bishops, priests, Deacons, and many men and women in consecrated life pray the Liturgy of the Hours each day. Often, their work is organized around this prayer, keeping God always at the center of their days.

Bishop Dewane said he was impressed by the effort to begin regular Vespers at Ave Maria University, specifically because it was a student-led effort.

Ian Avila, who is a member of the robotics club and helped organize the Mass and Vespers, said it was an honor to have Bishop Dewane support this effort at the University.

“Vespers is something that has grown in interest among students and having the Bishop present really helped everyone focus on this important need to pray always,” Avila said. “The Vespers is the perfect way to do this.”

All are encouraged to pray the Liturgy of the Hours as well, especially Morning and Evening Prayer. Many Parishes schedule communal Morning and Evening Prayer on a regular basis, please check with your local Parish for details on participating. Please visit for additional resources.

Celebrating independence and fraternity

On the 219th Anniversary of Haiti as the first Independent Republic in the Caribbean, the Diocese of Venice, in conjunction with the Haitian Catholic Community, a Mass was celebrated at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs on Jan. 1, 2023, Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.

The faithful from throughout the Diocese of Venice attended the Mass which was celebrated by Most Rev. Jacques Fabre-Jeune, CS, Bishop of the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, with Bishop Frank J. Dewane concelebrating. In addition, there were numerous priests from the Diocese who also concelebrated.

Bishop Fabre was appointed to Charleston in May 2022, having been ordained to the priesthood in 1986 as a Missionary of St. Charles, Scalabrinian. The Mass was a homecoming for Bishop Fabre, as his first priestly assignment upon ordination was as Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee from 1986 to 1990. “I remember this area well. It is where I learned to become a priest.”

Bishop Fabre offered a powerful message of community, stressing how each individual is important to the foundation of Holy Mother Church, and should be celebrated each day. During his homily, the Bishop encouraged everyone to greet each other and express this importance to one another.

The Bishop also spoke about the celebration of the independence of Haiti and how it importantly falls upon a major celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the World Day of Peace. He encouraged everyone to remember their roots in Haiti but also accept that they are part of the Universal Church, united in Christ.

Bishop Dewane thanked Bishop Fabre for accepting his invitation to be a guest of the Diocese and for sharing his time, wisdom and faith with the Haitian Catholic Community in their native language. He also said it was an honor and privilege to participate in such an important cultural and religious celebration for the growing Haitian Catholic Community in the Diocese of Venice.

Impressed by Bishop Fabre’s positive message, Bishop Dewane stressed how important the Haitian Catholic Community is to the very fabric of the Diocese of Venice.

“You are important not only because you are here today; but because you come from the Diocese of Venice; you represent the various Parishes; because of the richness you bring from your culture and share with us. We are grateful for that,” Bishop Dewane said. “Our Church here in the Diocese is all the more blessed to have you here as the richness of your Faith is evident to all.”

Crediting the priests who serve the Haitian Catholic Community in the Diocese, many from Haiti, Bishop Dewane thanked them for the dedication to the Church, to the Diocese and to the people of God. “They are a richness for also our larger clergy. Thank you.”

Father Jean-Marie Fritz Ligonde, Diocesan Haitian Ministry Director and Parochial Vicar at St. Columbkille Parish, thanked Bishop Dewane for his unyielding support of the Haitian Catholic Community including for the annual New Year’s Day celebration. At the conclusion of the Mass, and following the lead of Bishop Fabre, Father Ligonde led everyone in singing the Haitian National Anthem.

There are currently Masses celebrated each weekend in Haitian Creole at the following Parishes: St. Charles Borromeo in Port Charlotte; St. Francis Xavier in Fort Myers; St. Michael in Wauchula; Sacred Heart in Bradenton; Our Lady of Guadalupe in Immokalee; and St. Peter the Apostle in Naples. The New Year’s Day celebration is one of the few times the entire community can gather in one place.

For the Haitian community, Jan. 1 is both a spiritual day, and an emotional day commemorating such an important day in their homeland. The Haitians defeated the largest and most powerful army at the time, the army of Napoleon, in Cap-Haitien, and Haiti became the second country in the Americas to declare its Independence on Jan. 1, 1804.

A cultural celebration and dinner took place in the Parish Hall.

2022 Christmas Mass times for the Diocese of Venice

The 2022 Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Mass times for Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice are listed below. The listings are in alphabetical order by the city the Parish is located.

For details on youth choirs or musical accompaniment, please contact the Parish via the phone number or website listed for further information.

As a reminder, the televised Christmas Day Mass for the Homebound with Celebrant Bishop Frank J. Dewane will air for a full hour on Christmas Day. For viewers in the northern portions of the Diocese (DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Manatee, and Sarasota counties), the Mass will air at 9 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee counties), the Mass will air at 10 a.m. on WFTX-TV (FOX-4). Please check your cable provider for channel listings.

The Mass will also be available on the Diocesan website at

Leaflet missals are available upon request by calling Gail Ardy at 941-486-4714 or by writing: TV Mass, Diocese of Venice, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285. For more information email


■ St. Paul, 1208 E. Oak St.,, 863-494-2611

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 6 p.m. (Spanish)

CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m., noon (Spanish)


■ Ave Maria, 5078 Pope John Paul II Blvd.,, 239-261-5555

CHRISTMAS EVE 5 p.m., midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. (Latin), 5 p.m. (Spanish)


■ Our Lady of Grace, 595 E. Main St.,, 863-453-4757

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 7 p.m., 10:30 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon (Spanish)


■ Our Lady of Mercy. 240 Park Ave., 941-964-2254

CHRISTMAS EVE 5 p.m., 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m.


■ Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, 12175 Stringfellow Road,, 239-283-0456

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 6 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m.


■ St. Leo the Great, 28290 Beaumont Road,, 239-992-0901

CHRISTMAS EVE 3:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 9 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 5 p.m. (Spanish)


■ Holy Child; 4315 Chester Ave.; 863-773-4089;

CHRISTMAS DAY  2 p.m. (Spanish)


■ Sacred Heart, 1220 15th St. W.,, 941-748-2221

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 6 p.m. (Spanish), 9 p.m. (bilingual)

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon (Spanish), 1:30 p.m. (Spanish)

■ Ss. Peter and Paul, 2850 75th St. W.,, 941-795-1228

CHRISTMAS EVE 4:30 p.m., 7 p.m., 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m.

■ St. Joseph, 3100 26th St. W.,, 941-756-3732

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 7 p.m., 10:30 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m., 11 a.m.


■ St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, 1027 Chobee Loop, 863-946-0696




■ St. Andrew, 2628 Del Prado Blvd. S.,, 239-574-4545

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 4:15 p.m., 6 p.m., 8 p.m. (Spanish), 10:30 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon (Spanish)

■ St. Katharine Drexel, 1922 S.W. 20th Ave.,, 239-283-9501

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 6 p.m., midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m.


■ Santa Rosa de Lima, 835 N. Mayoral St., Montura Ranch Estates, 863-983-8585

CHRISTMAS EVE 7 p.m. (Spanish)

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m. (Spanish)

■ St. Margaret, 208 N. Deane Duff Ave., , 863-983-8585

CHRISTMAS EVE 5:30 p.m., 8 p.m. (Spanish)

CHRISTMAS DAY 10 a.m., noon (Spanish)


■ St. Raphael, 770 Kilbourne Ave.,, 941-474-9595

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m.


■ Holy Family, 200 Datura Ave.,, 239-394-5181

CHRISTMAS DAY 10:30 a.m.


■ Jesus the Worker, 881 Nuna Ave.,, 239-693-5333 (All Masses in Spanish)


CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m., noon

■ Our Lady of Light, 19680 Cypress View Drive,, 239-267-7088

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 6 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m.

■ Resurrection of Our Lord, 8121 Cypress Lake Drive,, 239-481-7172

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m. (Latin)

■ Sagrada Familia, 4235 Michigan Ave. Link, 239-657-2666

CHRISTMAS DAY 6 p.m. (Portuguese)

■ St. Cecilia, 5632 Sunrise Drive,, 239-936-3635

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 9 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m., 11 a.m.

■ St. Columbkille, 12171 Iona Road,, 239-489-3973

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 7 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 5:30 p.m.

■ St. Francis Xavier, 2157 Cleveland Ave.,, 239-334-2161

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m. (Polish), 4 p.m. (Creole)

■ St. John XXIII, 13060 Palomino Lane,, 239-561-2245

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 9 p.m., 11 p.m. (Vietnamese)

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:15 a.m., 9:15 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 1:30 p.m. (Spanish)

■ St. Vincent de Paul, 13031 Palm Beach Blvd.,, 239-693-0818


CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m., 11 a.m.


■ Ascension, 6025 Estero Blvd., 239-463-6754

No Masses due to Hurricane Ian


■ St. Francis of Assisi, 5265 Placida Road,, 941-697-4899

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m.


■ St. Bernard, 248 S. Harbor Drive,, 941-778-4769

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m.


■ Our Lady of Guadalupe, 219 S. 9th St., 239-657-2666

CHRISTMAS EVE 6 p.m., 8 p.m. (Spanish)

CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m., 10 a.m. (Creole), noon (Spanish)


■ Holy Martyrs, 4290 Crescent Ave. S.W.,, 863-675-0030

CHRISTMAS EVE 5 p.m. (Spanish)

■ Our Lady Queen of Heaven, 355 S. Bridge St., 863-675-0030

CHRISTMAS EVE 5 p.m., 7 p.m. (Spanish)

CHRISTMAS DAY 10 a.m., noon (Spanish)


■ St. James, 3380 Placid View Drive,, 863-465-3215

CHRISTMAS EVE 5:30 p.m., 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m.

■ Santiago Apostol, 685 County Road 621 E., 863-385-0049

CHRISTMAS EVE 8 p.m. (Spanish)

CHRISTMAS DAY 10 a.m. (Spanish)


■ Our Lady of the Angels, 12905 State Road 70 E.,, 941-752-6770

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 6 p.m., 8 p.m., 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m.


■ St. Raphael, 2514 Lee Blvd.,, 239-369-1831

CHRISTMAS EVE 5 p.m., 7 p.m. (Spanish), 10 p.m., midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m. (Spanish), noon


■ St. Mary, Star of the Sea, 4280 Gulf of Mexico Drive,, 941-383-1255

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 9 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m.


■ San Marco, 851 San Marco Road, www., 239-394-5181

CHRISTMAS EVE 3:45 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 9 a.m., 10:45 a.m.


■ St. Joseph the Worker, 1800 N. U.S. Highway 27, 863-946-0696

CHRISTMAS EVE 7 p.m. (Spanish)



■ Corpus Christi, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road,, 402-659-5531, (All Masses in Latin)

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:15 a.m., 8:45 a.m.

■ St. Agnes, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road,, 239-592-1949

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 7 p.m., midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 10 a.m. (Palmetto Ridge High School), 11 a.m., 1 p.m. (Spanish)

■ St. Ann, 985 Third St. S., www., 239-262-4256

CHRISTMAS EVE 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m., 11 a.m.

■ St. Elizabeth Seton, 5225 Golden Gate Parkway,, 239-455-3900

CHRISTMAS EVE 5 p.m., 7 p.m. (Spanish), midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m.

■ St. Finbarr, 13520 Tamiami Trail E.,, 239-417-2084


CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m. (Spanish), 10 a.m.

■ St. John the Evangelist, 625 111th Ave. N.,, 239-566-8740

CHRISTMAS EVE 3 p.m., 5 p.m., 7 p.m., midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m.

■ St. Peter the Apostle, 5130 Rattlesnake Hammock Road,, 239-774-3337

CHRISTMAS EVE 3:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 9 p.m. (Spanish), 10 p.m. (Creole)

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. (Spanish), 3:45 p.m. (Creole)

■ St. William, 750 Seagate Drive,, 239-261-4883

CHRISTMAS EVE 2:45 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 6:15 p.m., 10 p.m., midnight (Latin)

CHRISTMAS DAY 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m.


■ St. Therese, 20155 N. Tamiami Trail,, 239-567-2315


CHRISTMAS DAY 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m.


■ San Pedro, 14380 Tamiami Trail,, 941-426-2500

CHRISTMAS EVE 5:30 p.m., midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 10:45 a.m.


■ Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 425 S. Tamiami Trail,, 941-966-0807

CHRISTMAS EVE 3 p.m., 5 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m.


■ Holy Cross, 505 26th St. W.,, 941-729-3891

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 9 p.m. (Spanish)

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m. (Spanish)


■ St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, 12001 69th St. E.,, 941-776-9097

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 6 p.m., midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 10:30 a.m.


■ San Antonio, 24445 Rampart Blvd.,, 941-624-3799

CHRISTMAS EVE 3:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m., 11 a.m.

■ St. Charles Borromeo, 2500 Easy St.,, 941-625-4754

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 6 p.m., midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. (Creole)

■ St. Maximilian Kolbe, 1441 Spear St.,, 941-743-6877

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon


■ Sacred Heart, 211 W. Charlotte Ave.,, 941-639-3957

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 9 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m.


■ St. Isabel, 3559 Sanibel Captiva Road,, 239-472-2763




■ Christ the King, 1900 Meadowood St.,, 941-924-2777, (All Masses in Latin)


CHRISTMAS DAY 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m.

■ Incarnation, 2901 Bee Ridge Road,, 941-921-6631

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 7 p.m., 10 p.m., 10 p.m. (Polish)

CHRISTMAS DAY 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m.

■ Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, 6600 Pennsylvania Ave.,, 941-755-1826

CHRISTMAS EVE 3 p.m., 5 p.m., 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m.

■ St. Jude, 3930 17th St.,, 941-955-3934

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 11 p.m. (Spanish)

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m. (Spanish), 10:30 a.m., noon (Spanish)

■ St. Martha, 200 N. Orange Ave.,, 941-366-4210

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 8 p.m. (Vietnamese), midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon, noon (Vietnamese), 6:30 p.m.

■ St. Michael the Archangel, 5394 Midnight Pass Road,, 941-349-4174

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 7 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m.

■ St. Patrick, 7900 Bee Ridge Road,, 941-378-1703

CHRISTMAS EVE 4:15 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 7 p.m., 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m.

■ St. Thomas More, 2506 Gulf Gate Drive,, 941-923-1691

CHRISTMAS EVE 3 p.m., 5 p.m., 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 10 a.m., noon


■ St. Catherine, 820 Hickory St.,, 863-385-0049

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 7 p.m., (Spanish), 9 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon (Spanish)


■ Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W.,, 941-484-3505

CHRISTMAS EVE 3:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 9 p.m. (Polish), midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. (Spanish)

■ Our Lady of Lourdes, 1301 Center Road,, 941-497-2931

CHRISTMAS EVE 3 p.m., 5 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon


■ St. Michael, 408 Heard Bridge Road,, 863-773-4089

CHRISTMAS EVE 5 p.m., 9 p.m. (Spanish)

CHRISTMAS DAY 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m. (Spanish, noon, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish)

Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrated across Diocese

Throughout the Diocese of Venice tradition, prayer, reverence, and music marked the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, of the New Evangelization, and of unborn children.

Celebrated on Dec. 12, the Feast is often linked to the Dec. 9 Feast of St. Juan Diego, the day in 1531 when Our Lady first appeared to the Saint near modern day Mexico City.

Parishes throughout the Diocese celebrated this special day with a variety of events including Masses, overnight vigils, large processions, early morning prayer celebrations, and outdoor festivities. Many of the activities included traditional music with elaborately dressed dancers, as large numbers of small children also dressed as our Our Lady or St. Juan Diego.

“Our Lady of Guadalupe means so much to me and so many others,” said Olivia Gomez of Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers who participated in the Dec. 11, 2022, Mass and an outdoor festival. “My family has a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin. We pray to her each day. This gives us great comfort.”

That gratitude was magnified this year as the Fort Myers community was hard hit on Sept. 28 by Hurricane Ian. Gomez, whose home had roof and water damage, was out of work until just recently because the business where she worked was badly damaged.

“On this Feast Day, in a special way, we all join together to give thanks to Mary and to honor Her for the blessings we have received throughout the year, but especially since Ian,” Gomez said. “We have been truly blessed by the love and kindness of everyone in the community who have come together to rebuild.”

Carlos Diaz, of St. Paul Parish in Arcadia, also had home damage from river flooding after Ian and had to replace nearly the entire contents of his home.

“We needed clothes for the children and furniture,” Diaz said during the Parish outdoor celebration. “The Parish was our lifeline as Our Lady of Guadalupe shined Her light upon us all. We are doing great now. We really are blessed that it wasn’t worse. We are still in our home, which is better than many of our family and friends.”

At Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the Feast Day Mass. The Mass there was preceded by a procession around the church. Afterwards, the Bishop blessed a variety of religious articles and then everyone enjoyed a celebration in the Parish Hall.

Bishop Dewane expressed joy at the commemoration and how it represented the Universal nature of the Church, with Our Lady taking on a special meaning for all. “We honor Our Lady of Guadalupe and Her presence among us as this is an important moment that deserves our prayerful thanks and a true celebration.”

Celebrations also took place in many Parishes and schools throughout the Diocese. Huge crowds took part in a large procession from Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish through the streets of Immokalee, while at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples the procession wound its way to the Parish from U.S. 41.

A smaller procession preceded a trilingual (English, Spanish, Creole) Mass which took place Dec. 11 at Frontier Park in Zolfo Springs for the faithful of St. Michael Parish in Wauchula and Holy Child Mission in Bowling Green.

Each Diocesan Catholic elementary school held a variety of celebrations to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe, many taking the opportunity to create a teaching lesson about the Universal Church and devotions to Our Lady.

Our Lady appeared, dressed like an Aztec princess, to St. Juan Diego, a poor widower who was on his way to Mass. She asked, in his native language, to have the Bishop of Mexico build a church in Her honor. Skeptical, the Bishop asked for a sign. Our Lady again appeared to St. Juan Diego who shared the request of the Bishop. So, Our Lady provided a sign, beautiful roses in the middle of winter which were placed in the tilma, a cloak made of cactus fibers, which St. Juan Diego wore. Upon his return to the Bishop, when Juan Diego opened the tilma, the roses fell to the floor, and an impression of Our Lady appeared on the tilma in the form of an indigenous woman. The image amazed the Bishop and all those present and word of this miracle quickly spread.

This apparition led to the conversion of Mexico almost overnight, when up to that time Catholic missionaries from Europe had made very little headway. The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City was built on the site of the apparitions and is one of the most visited religious shrines in the world. It is also home of the actual tilma of St. Juan Diego, which can still be seen, with the image clearly visible, nearly 500 years later.

Welcome Home! Mass returns to Sanibel

The Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday or Joyful Sunday, was an appropriate time for the Catholic Mass to return to St. Isabel Parish on Sanibel, after it was forced to close due to damage from Hurricane Ian

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the Mass at 10 a.m., Dec. 11, 2022, expressing his prayers that all continue to recover with the grace of the Lord giving them strength. The Bishop added that since the hurricane passed, “Sanibel, and all in Southwest Florida, have been in my prayers. The church is a building, you are the Church, all of you. What is strong is the people who make up the Church.”

The barrier island and the Parish were overwhelmed by storm surge and wind damage from Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28, 2022. During the intervening 74 days it was impossible for the Mass to be celebrated, but due to perseverance as the mitigation and recovery proceeded, the “All Clear” was given to open.

Father Edward Martin, Pastor of St. Isabel, concelebrated and was outside of the church as the faithful arrived, greeting many with a heartfelt, “Welcome Home!”

Bishop Dewane cited the “desert experience” which is a theme of the readings for the day, recounting saints and prophets who lived in parched lands, with everyday things stripped away. This “desert experience” is being lived daily at the Parish and throughout the island as every building has some form of damage and is in different stages of recovery and/or repair while the landscape is only now slowly returning to its glorious splendor. Simple conveniences are sparse with little open and access to the barrier island still restricted.

“This bleak and dry period will end,” Bishop Dewane said. “Though we will all struggle for a time and our energy will be sapped, we have to allow ourselves to know that the Lord will have us bloom once again.  The joy, the energy; all of it will return. It’s an experience that is very Scriptural.”

It is during these difficult times, the Bishop added, that the faithful come to understand and appreciate a radical dependence on God, who gives us the good things in life; the very life we have.

“In that radical dependence, we pay attention, we might get angry, no doubt, but are we grateful for who is still with us and what we still have,” Bishop Dewane said. “Sometimes the healing that takes place following the desert experience takes time. It takes patience to have the desert bloom again around us. It’s only yourselves who can make that happen as instruments of the Lord. It is through the strength I see by your being here this morning as we journey through this desert experience and rely upon the Lord for His goodness and His Grace.”

The smiles on the faces were genuine as many were relieved to have the important faith component as part of the Sanibel recovery.

“It’s so wonderful to be back,” one woman told Father Martin after Mass. “Every part of the world at this latitude is a desert. We are the blooming desert. It was so moving to be here!”

While the parish property is mostly free of debris, evidence of the damage caused by Ian was clear once people entered the church. Mats cover a floor which was stripped bare to the concrete base. The drywall is cut at about the 4-foot level throughout. All the damaged pews were removed, and folding chairs were in their place.

That aesthetic didn’t matter to Phil and Laurie Jansen who were among the several dozen to attend the first Mass.

“We are so pleased to be back,” Laurie Jansen said. “It is a big first step in the recovery for everyone.”

The Jansens, and nearly everyone at the Mass on Dec. 11, had visited the Parish in the intervening weeks, monitoring the progress of the mitigation and cleanup, ever confident the Parish would reopen for Mass in a timely manner. “This is a great day. It means so much,” Laurie Jansen said.

While the number of people present for the first Mass was not large, a large number of islanders lost their homes and are living on the mainland or had not heard of the reopening. Father Martin is confident word will spread quickly and the people will come back.

Weekly updates have been sent to parishioners with photos to show the progress of the mitigation as well as prayers and words of encouragement as each person deals with their own recovery.

“Knowing we all face a long recovery ahead, it is important for our wonderful community to have a place of worship on the island once again,” a Dec. 6 announcement about the reopening stated.

Weekend Masses will continue while work at the Parish moves forward.

Thanksgiving across the Diocese

The idea of giving thanks, knowing that we are here because of gifts given to us by God, is at the core of what Thanksgiving is all about.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane described the holiday this way while celebrating Mass at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch on Nov. 24, 2022.

As hard as we try, Bishop Dewane added, “being who God called us to be is difficult, and we will fail along the way. But, the Bible records the wonderful gifts of God, which we can find within ourselves and in others who are all made in the image and likeness of God.”

The Gospel reading of the day was the parable of the 10 lepers, when only one returned to thank Jesus upon being cured of the debilitating illness. Jesus asks where the other nine were, and Bishop Dewane said that we are all among the nine at certain points in life, but must always strive to be among the one’s who return.

“Our appreciation and gratitude of thanksgiving increases over the years as we realize how much is done for us by those around us and by God Himself.” Bishop Dewane said. “By your presence at Mass on Thanksgiving, you are counted among those who returned to Jesus, just as you came to give thanks to God. Know the Lord sees the goodness and thanks you express.”

Being grateful for what they have was a strong theme during a Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner at St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral.

The community was devastated by Hurricane Ian and is still recovering, which encouraged Father Ricky Varner, Pastor at St. Katharine Drexel, to host a Parish Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner.

Father Varner sent a request to the Parish staff and leaders of the different outreach groups (Knights of Columbus, Council of Catholic Women, Legion of Mary, Youth Outreach, Cursillo and more) to organize the dinner in an effort to help continue the healing process in support of families who are still displaced or rebuilding. Each group would be responsible for providing a designated dish.

“Since the wrath of Hurricane Ian on September 28th, I have had the privilege to see the best of all of you and to work alongside this incredible community… as we continue to support our brothers and sisters here and beyond to rebuild their lives and strive to get back to some form of normalcy,” Father Varner wrote in his appeal.

The results were glorious as more than 200 people came to enjoy a holiday meal.

Father Varner bussed the tables during the dinner pleased at the response to the meal by individuals and families, many still traumatized by the hurricane eight weeks later. “You people of St. Katharine Drexel – You Rock!”

One couple present were the Tremble’s who thought they would have to forgo a traditional Thanksgiving meal this year because their kitchen was destroyed in storm surge. The Tremble’s had hosted family from across the country each Thanksgiving since they moved to the area in 2010. That was not an option this year. They could have taken up any number of offers to go north for the holiday, but there is too much work to do in Cape Coral.

“Our life has been one long microwave dinner since Ian,” said June Tremble. “We are so thankful to Father Ricky and to everyone at the Parish for doing this. This is the best turkey I have ever had, because I know it was made with love.”

Other families had similar stories to share, with one person expressing their thanks for having a chance to put the recovery from Ian at the back of their mind, if only for a few hours.

“I have smiled and laughed more in the hour I have been here than in the two months since Ian,” said one man. “I really needed this. I think we all did.

The response by the staff and volunteers, as well as by the Parish families meant that Father Varner is already planning on making the dinner an annual tradition.

Meanwhile, Bishop Dewane went from the Mass in Lakewood Ranch to take part in a free community Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the Knights of Columbus Our Lady of Victory Council 3358 at their Hall on Fruitville Road in Sarasota.

The Knights delivered more than 200 meals to the elderly and homebound and then served hundreds more to those who needed a hot meal or didn’t have anywhere to go for the holiday. Guests were also encouraged to take meals home. Those meals included turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, roll, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

Bishop Dewane offered the opening prayer for the Knights and other volunteers before the dining room was opened. Then, the Bishop took his traditional spot in charge of serving the corn and assisted in serving potatoes as well.

On Nov. 24, students from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota volunteered and served food at the 23rd Annual Sarasota Ministerial Association Thanksgiving Dinner at Sarasota First Baptist Church. Students and families participate each year this event is held.

For those who watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from New York, they might have caught a glimpse of two cheer teams from the Diocese.

The National Champion Cheer Squad from Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota were part of the larger “Spirit of America Production!” group.

Joining them was a group of senior cheerleaders from Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Sarasota. The participation of both groups is by invitation only and it is considered a great honor to be selected.