Looking ahead to 2022 in the Diocese of Venice

Opportunities abound for the faithful of the Diocese of Venice to grow closer to the Lord as the new year begins while continuing to deal with the impacts of the global COVID-19 Pandemic. A variety of Diocesan events are scheduled or in the planning stages while at the same time numerous Parishes are in the process of either completing or beginning major construction work. Therefore, 2021 is sure to be an exciting year for Catholics across Southwest Florida.

In the coming months there will be the Ordination to the Priesthood of three men, the Diocesan Phase of the Synod on Synodality, Masses for couples celebrating significant wedding anniversaries, a first-time joint Men’s and Women’s Conference, a continuing initiative to curb the impacts of pornography on society, opportunities to promote the sanctity of life, and learning experiences of various types.

During the first half of 2022, taking center stage will be the Diocesan Phase of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.” Specifically, there will be a series of listening sessions which will take place in each part of the Diocese and to be announced in the next few weeks. The goal of these sessions is to discern the Word of God in Scripture, what those Words are saying to us while remembering the living Mission of the Church. This Diocesan Phase was inaugurated with an opening Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Oct. 17, 2021, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

Coming in March is one of the most valuable opportunities to grow in the Faith, a first-ever joint Women’s and Men’s Conference. This year, the Conference agenda has been supercharged with dynamic speakers addressing relevant topics within the Church for Catholic men, women and their families. The 2022 Diocese of Venice Men’s & Women’s Conference is Saturday, March 5, at the Charlotte Harbor Event Center, 75 Taylor Street, Punta Gorda. Speakers include Trent Horn, Matthew Leonard, Emily Wilson, Dr. Michael Dauphinais, and Nicole Caruso with several breakout sessions geared specifically toward men or women. The large venue is ideal for allowing all participants to grow closer to the Lord. In addition, there will opportunities to participate in the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Confession all day. Bishop Dewane will conclude the day by celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Doors open at 8 a.m. with the day beginning at 9 a.m. and concluding with the closing Mass at 4 p.m. To register, visit https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/2022-menswomens-conference. If you have any questions, contact the Diocesan Evangelization Office at 941-484-9543 or evangelization@dioceseofvenice.org.

For all couples celebrating a significant wedding anniversary (25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, or more than 50 years of marriage) in 2022, Bishop Dewane will be the celebrant of two Masses in your honor. The Masses will be celebrated at 11 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 12 at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs, and at 11 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 19 at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Avenue, Venice. The Masses will be followed with a lunch and include the opportunity for complimentary anniversary photos taken with Bishop Dewane. To register, please contact your local parish office for reservations no later than a week prior to the event you choose to attend.

The Office of Respect Life will be busy throughout 2022 with a variety of activities, all to raise awareness about important issues regarding the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. First up is the 24th annual Sarasota Prayer Walk for Life on Tuesday, Jan. 18, outside of the Planned Parenthood in downtown Sarasota. Bishop Dewane will celebrate Mass at 8:30 a.m. at St. Martha Parish, 200 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota. A bus will shuttle participants to the abortion center on Central Avenue to circle the block in prayer as many times as desired. The walk coincides with the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade court decision which paved the way for legalized abortion in the U.S.

In addition, there are two Parish-based prayer walks Saturday, Jan. 22. Members of the Ave Maria Parish Respect Life Outreach, along with Ave Maria University and Community Pregnancy Clinics Inc., will be hosting a March for Life from the Ave Maria University football field 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Special guests include Bishop Dewane and Pro-Life speaker Pam Stenzel. The same day, the St. Leo the Great Parish Respect Life Outreach in Bonita Springs is hosting its 3rd Annual Walk for Life on U.S. 41 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Participants are asked to park in the Parish parking lot at 28290 Beaumont Road and everyone will meet on nearby U.S. 41.

Later in the year, there will be an opportunity to participate in the national 40 Days for Life Spring Campaign during Lent in Fort Myers and Sarasota, then the Fall Campaign (October) at multiple locations in the Diocese.

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., will be hosting several events to support its more 30 than programs throughout the Diocese. First up on Wednesday, Jan. 19, is the “Celebration of Hope Luncheon” to benefit the programs in Lee, Hendry and Glades counties, The Luncheon begins at 11:30 a.m., at the Lexington Country Club, 16257 Willowcrest Way, Fort Myers. For tickets to this event, please contact Victoria Guevara at victoria.guevaranunez@catholiccharitiesdov.org or call 239-334-4007 ext. 2100.

In the beginning of February, make plans for an elegant evening at the “Together Again” Catholic Charities Ball, which supports the programs of Catholic Charities in Sarasota, Manatee, Highlands, Glades, DeSoto and Hardee counties. The Ball is 6 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 5, at the Ritz-Carlton, 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Sarasota. For tickets or to sponsor the event, please visit https://catholiccharitiesdov.org/event-on/ or call 941-909-7817.

Coming later in February is the Our Mother’s House Annual Wine Tasting, Auction & Dinner Dance at 6 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 24, at the Venice Community Center, 326 Nokomis Ave. S., Venice. Funds raised by this event will ensure that Our Mother’s House is able to offer the support needed to the mothers and their children as they journey towards self-sufficiency. For more information, please contact Lisa Ventura at 941-485-6264 ext. 1500 at lisa.ventura@catholiccharitiesdov.org. For tickets, please visit https://catholiccharitiesdov.org/event-on/.

Next among the Catholic Charities events in early 2022 is the Emerald Ball 2022. This evening supports the Catholic Charities programs in Collier County and will take place at 6 p.m., Thursday, March 10, at the Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort, 280 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples. For more information or to sponsor the event, please contact Rosa Aspilcueta 239-455-2655 ext. 3100 or emeraldball@catholiccharitiesdov.org, or visit https://catholiccharitiesdov.org/event-on/.

Continuing on the success of the first Safe Haven Sunday in 2021, the Diocesan Office of Family Life is working on developing the second phase of the initiative for the fall of 2022. This phase help to raise awareness about the harmfulness of pornography in the family and society. Pornography creates unsafe environments for children and confuses others about attitudes towards sex and marriage. This day of awareness describes the impacts pornography can have on marriages, families, and culture, while providing helpful resources for all. Detailed information will be shared with the faithful about how to combat this scourge in the weeks leading up to Safe Haven Sunday.

In the coming months, Bishop Dewane will preside over a variety of celebrations which occur each year, including the Rite of Election on the first Sunday of Lent, March 6, when Bishop Dewane welcomes those in Parish RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) programs from throughout the Diocese who will be fully entering the Church at the Easter Vigil; a Mass for Victims of Abuse will take place in April – National Child Abuse Awareness Month; later in the year a Veterans Day Mass at Sarasota National Cemetery, a Red Mass for legal professionals and more. As earlier mentioned, three men will be Ordained to the Priesthood by the Bishop this summer at Epiphany Cathedral.

Throughout 2021 there will be a variety of Parish-based celebrations coming in 20211. Among those is the 40th Anniversary of the founding of St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples, which is also going through an expansion project slated to begin in 2022. The dedication of new Parish Life Centers for Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande and St. William Parish in Naples will be happening in the first half of the year; and renovations to existing buildings as new Parish Life Centers at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee and Our Lady of the Angels Parish Lakewood Ranch are nearing completion. The coming year will be a big one at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Sarasota which is nearing the completion of a major Church renovation and ground will be broken on a new Ministry Center. There will also be a renovation of the baseball fields at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers as well as the expansion of the religious education building at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula. Additional smaller, but no less important, projects are slated throughout the Diocese in an effort to benefit current and future generations.

As 2022 moves forward, check the Diocesan website (www.dioceseofvenice.org) frequently for information about these and other upcoming events. As always, check the weekly Florida Catholic e-Edition to read stories and view photos from these and other happenings across the Diocese. If you would like to read the story looking back at life in the Diocese during 2021, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/looking-back-on-2021/.

Looking back on 2021

The continuing global pandemic did little to curb the important work of spreading the Good News of the Lord to the faithful throughout the Diocese of Venice in 2021.

While some events were modified, delayed or even postponed, the Diocese was blessed to have two men Ordained to the Priesthood; welcome hundreds into the Church at the Easter Vigil; start a massive robotics program in its Catholic schools; host a successful Youth Rally, as well as Women’s and Men’s Conferences; honor the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony; continue to pray for victims of abuse; honor our veterans; prayer walks for an end to abortion; assist tens of thousands with food and other support; evidence major enrollment gains in its Catholic schools; dedicate a new Parish Church and Retreat Center Shrine; continue to expand the outreach to the Hispanic Catholic community; inaugurate the Diocesan Phase of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” and conclude the “Year of St. Joseph.”

This list is just a small sample of what took place across the Diocese of Venice in 2021, all while the Diocese as well as the Parishes and Catholic schools modified operations to ensure that everyone remained safe. Each activity during the year was carefully planned to ensure participants would benefit from participating and ultimately working to the goal of helping the faithful grow ever closer to the Lord.

While taking time to look back covers many pivotal events in the life of the Diocese, the following is by no means a comprehensive listing of the initiatives and events which take place throughout the Diocese.

Priestly Ordination and Vocations

One of the most important building blocks of the Catholic Church is the ordination of men to the priesthood. The Diocese of Venice was blessed to have two men ordained in 2021 presided over by Bishop Frank J. Dewane at Epiphany Cathedral. Three other seminarians were ordained to the Transitional Diaconate in 2021 and are expected to be ordained to the priesthood in 2022.

Also encouraging is that there are currently 16 active seminarians in the Diocese, including the transitional deacons. The Vocation’s Office hosts several informational trips to the seminaries in Florida for prospective young men.

Chrism Mass and Celebration of Jubilarians

During Holy Week the priests of the Diocese gathered for the annual Chrism Mass; a powerful sign of unity with more than 100 priests on the altar with Bishop Dewane at the Cathedral. This annual Mass is one of the most critical and unifying moments for the Diocese during Holy Week. At the Chrism Mass, priests and deacons who celebrate milestone anniversaries were honored. To accommodate the latest guidance on social distancing and limiting the size of gatherings at the time, only priests and Permanent Deacons and their wives were present for the Mass. The public was able to view this Mass via livestream.

Catholic schools

The Diocese of Venice uniformly strengthened STREAM education in 15 Diocesan Catholics Schools through an investment in a partnership with FIRST®, a global robotics community, “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” placing students ahead of the curve in primary fields while continuing to promote core Catholic virtues. A gift of 500 robots and curricular resources were presented by Bishop Dewane to Diocesan Catholic Schools on March 10, 2021. Since that announcement Catholic schools throughout the Diocese have been enhancing STREAM-based learning and taking the time to continuously engage students through playful learning activities to think critically and solve complex problems, regardless of their learning level.

Also of good news, a report from the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCC) has revealed that the Diocese of Venice leads all other Arch/diocese in enrollment gains in the past year. This trend also wipes out enrollment losses that occurred due to the pandemic. The Diocesan numbers – a 15.2% enrollment increase in elementary schools and 8.9% percent increase in secondary schools – compare favorably to the rest of the state.

Throughout the year, many schools implemented programs to improve sustainability through water conservation and energy reduction effort all in the spirit of Laudato Si, an encyclical from Pope Francis on the care for our common home.

Respect Life Outreach

The Diocese of Venice had huge numbers participate in prayer vigils at abortion facilities throughout the Diocese of Venice. With this topic gaining national attention due to laws restricting access to abortion in Texas and Mississippi and pending decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court, the vigils took a renewed sense of urgency. A focused prayer walk takes place each January in Sarasota to coincide with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, while two 40 Days for Life campaigns take place at multiple locations each Lent and again in the fall to coincide with October, National Respect Life Month.

Honoring the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony

As the sanctity of marriage continues to be attacked from many different levels, Bishop Dewane takes time out each year to honor the men and women who have dedicated their lives to living the Sacrament of Marriage. Two Mass are held during the year which the Bishop celebrates for couples enjoying significant wedding anniversaries; many celebrating more than 50 years of marriage and some more than 70 years. These couples represent a shining example of this important Sacrament in the face of many attacks on this vital institution. In addition, the Diocese hosted the inaugural Marriage Enrichment Conference in October in Sarasota and Naples. The goal was to help form married couples to live out their vocation in holiness and joy.

Safe Haven Sunday

To help bolster the family, the Diocese also participated in the first ever Safe Haven Sunday in March 2021. Safe Haven Sunday was set aside so as to give focused time and resources to address the harmful effects of pornography on youth, marriages, and families. Resources to protect individuals, marriages and families were given to families attending Masses that weekend. This was followed up by a series of Cyber Safety workshops for parents, religious educators, and principals.

Catholic Charities

Each year the programs of Catholic Charities within the Diocese of Venice assists thousands of individuals and families and through the pandemic the numbers remained high as inflation has caused housing and food prices to skyrocket further impacting families. More than a million pounds of food was served to some 150,000 individuals at food pantries throughout the Diocese. Catholic Charities also hosted several volunteer vaccinations sites in rural communities with great success. An additional 2,000 received mental health counseling through in-person and tele-mental health programs. Nearly as many received some sort of emergency financial assistance. This support was in addition to the 30 other programs Catholic Charities has at locations throughout the region and ranges from afterschool tutoring to senior care.

Year of St. Joseph

Because St. Joseph is Protector of the Universal Church, Bishop Dewane consecrated the Diocese of Venice to a “Year of St. Joseph” in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic beginning March 19, 2020. The Diocesan dedication to a “Year of Saint Joseph” was extended to continue until Dec. 8, 2021. This was in direct support of Pope Francis creating a Universal “Year of Saint Joseph” from Dec. 8, 2020 to Dec. 8, 2021. Among the activities which took place to honor St. Joseph, the Diocesan Office of Family Life introduced a 30-day St. Joseph Devotional for the month of September 2021, as a way to continue to mark the ongoing “Year of St. Joseph,” as well as the celebration of the Year of Amoris Laetitia Family.

Synod on Synodality

Bishop Dewane inaugurated the beginning of the Diocesan Phase of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” with an afternoon Mass on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, at Epiphany Cathedral. Participating in the Mass were Diocesan priests, as well as some 300 people representing many Parishes, various movements, and many other groups. During the Diocesan Phase there will be a series of listening sessions which will take place in each part of the Diocese in the coming months. The goal of these sessions is to discern the Word of God in Scripture, what those Words are saying to us while remembering the living Mission of the Church. Two episodes of the Bishop radio show, “Witnessing Faith with Bishop Dewane,” were dedicated to covering the intricacies of the Synod.

Dedications

Two major dedications took place in the first half of 2021. First was the Dedication and Blessing of a new Parish Church for St. Paul Parish in Arcadia on March 21, 2021. The building more than quadrupled the capacity of the previous church and offers room for future Parish offices, classrooms and a Parish Hall. The project followed strict guidelines to ensure the building is energy efficient is the context of Laudato Si. A centerpiece feature of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice was dedicated and blessed by Bishop Dewane before an enthusiastic crowd on June 6, 2021. The Shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Help is a fitting memorial to the Blessed Virgin who serves as the exemplar for all to follow.

Other items of note

  • For the 14th consecutive year, during Child Abuse Awareness Prevention Month – April, the Diocese of Venice offered a Mass to pray for the victims of abuse at Epiphany Cathedral. Normally there are two Mass, but the pandemic necessitated only one Mass in 2021. So as to accommodate a larger audience, the Mass was live-streamed. The Diocese of Venice, and its entities, take very seriously the safety of all young people and vulnerable adults. To this end, the Diocese, with a zero-tolerance policy, works to prevent any instances of abuse, particularly against minors and vulnerable adults.
  • The 12th Annual Veterans Day Catholic Mass made a successful return to Sarasota National Cemetery as Bishop Dewane prayed for those currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, those who have died, and their families. More than 500 people attended the Mass which was celebrated in 2020 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice out of caution because of the pandemic and the threat of a hurricane.
  • For the past four years the Hispanic Ministries outreach of the Diocese of Venice has strived to meet the needs of those desiring to be better formed in their Faith. The Spanish-language Faith Formation Program recently distributed certificates of completion to 219 students who have completed an educational program to better understand the teachings of the Catholic Faith, bringing the four-year total to more than 1,500. Spanish Faith Formation Program sessions were developed following the local consultation process of the V Encuentro in 2016 and 2017.
  • The Diocese also hosted successful Women’s and Men’s Conferences as well as a full-scale Youth Rally with some 1,000 attendees. Each of these events was necessarily scaled back in 2020.
  • A Catechetical Conference, hosted by Diocese of Venice Department of Education and spearheaded by the Office of Religious Education, provided an understanding as to how to bring Jesus Christ into the classroom as a catechist according to Church teachings. The bilingual Conference was Sept. 25, 2021, and offered catechetical leaders, catechists, religion coordinators and religion teachers a training day aimed at helping them to grow spiritually and professionally.

While 2021 brought great challenges to many, including to the Diocese of Venice, the Catholic Church remains strong and 2022 looks to be a time of celebration and hope.

Stay tuned to learn about the events of 2022 coming in the Jan. 14, 2022 e-Edition of The Florida Catholic.

Christmas brings Light of Christ into Diocese

The Christmas Season is a time to celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ and an opportunity to let the Light of the Lord shine forth from within ourselves.

Celebrations abounded throughout the Diocese of Venice with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses bringing the faithful together in celebration of the Birth of the Christ Child – Our Savior Incarnate, the Word Made Flesh.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Masses on Christmas Eve and Day at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. He also recorded a Christmas Day Mass from St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota for broadcast on TV and online for the homebound.

The message of Bishop Dewane was that we must strive to be aware that Christ is in our lives. “He is the Word made Flesh and our Incarnate Savior. Let us fall in love again with the Christ Child this Christmas Season and be sent forward with the Light of Christ, magnifying it to the world.”

Aside from the decorated altars, behind the scenes it was the Faithful who magnified the Light of Christ through their generosity in supporting those in the community who are less fortunate.

Catholic Charities and Parish-based programs distributed thousands of toys and gifts to needy children throughout the region. Additionally, food was also collected in distributed to families who are struggling to make end meet.

One way this is made possible is through the support of the Parish religious education programs throughout the Diocese. These acts of kindness, great and small, made huge impacts on children and families who struggle to make ends meet.

New this year, Diocese of Venice Director of Religious Education Anne Chrzan had a special task for the Directors of Religious Education from each Parish. They were asked to participate in individual service opportunities outside of the one’s they were already coordinating at their Parish. The day of Dec. 16, 2021, was chosen because of the Gospel reading for the day stated: “Behold, I am sending a messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you.” (Luke 7:24-30).

Chrzan explained that this task was not intended to be an added burden, but rather an opportunity to focus on how “they” were preparing as individuals, not “what are they” preparing? This served to rediscover the joy of service on a personal level and not as just another task or part of their work.

Among the tasks, were stopping by a nursing home and bringing flowers, unused cards, and stamps; paying for someone’s groceries; helping a neighbor with setting up their Christmas lights and more.  The DREs exchanged ideas and smiles as they came up with each small and significant act.  Several DREs reported back to Chrzan sharing how much fun they had by coming up with something that they could do alone and not with 30 children.

The Filipino Catholic community at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Port Charlotte continued with the custom, in preparation for Christmas, of participating in a novena of Masses at Dawn, known as Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo, from Dec. 15, 2021, to Christmas Eve. This is an important and growing Catholic tradition as the faithful prepare their hearts waiting for that dawn when the sun rises. The sun rise is associated with Jesus Christ, bringing with it a new hope, new life. It is believed that participating in the novena of Masses brings many blessings, mostly for the family. Some also believe that if you attended the Simbang Gabi you would find your future spouse, which naturally increased the popularity of the tradition.

Of course, Christmas could not be celebrated without Nativity plays. One of the region’s largest takes place annually at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula. On Dec. 18, 2021, using live animals and including more than 100 children, the story of the Nativity is retold in both English and Spanish. The story includes a recreation of the town of Bethlehem and concludes with the arrival of the three kings on the Feast of the Epiphany. With the end of the program, the was a gift distribution for the children.

The celebration of the Epiphany was celebrated at Epiphany Cathedral with a Mass on Jan. 2, 2022, with Bishop Dewane as the celebrant. The trilingual Mass included the three primary language communities which the Cathedral serve – English, Spanish and Polish. Bishop Dewane explained how the three kings who sought out to pay homage to the Christ Child should serve as examples for all. We are all called, not just by the star the Magi followed, but by our heart, to hear the Message of Christ, but to understand who Jesus Christ truly was.

These are but a few examples of the spirit of Christmas which spread across the Diocese of Venice this Holiday Season.

 

Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrated in Diocese

The Patroness of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe, was honored across the Diocese of Venice with a variety of different celebrations including processions, prayer services and Masses on Dec. 11 and Dec. 12, 2021. Some Parish separated their celebration from the observance of the Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, while others incorporated the Feast Day into the traditional, more low-key Advent Mass.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most revered patronesses within the Catholic Faith, and this is particularly so in the Hispanic community. The Feast Day, Dec. 12, is often described as all other holidays wrapped up into one.

The Virgin of Guadalupe appeared in 1531 to St. Juan Diego on the Hill of Tepeyac, in what is now modern-day Mexico City, during a time of conflict between the Spanish and the indigenous peoples. Our Lady asked St. Juan Diego to appeal to the local Bishop to build a church on the site of the apparition, indicating how she wanted a place where she could reveal to the people the compassion of her Son. Initially turned away, Diego returned to the site asking Our Lady for a sign to prove the authenticity of her message.

The Blessed Virgin instructed St. Juan Diego to gather the Castilian roses that he found blooming on the hillside, despite the fact that it was winter, and present them to the Spanish Bishop. St. Juan Diego filled his cloak – known as a tilma – with the flowers. When he presented them to the Bishop and the roses spilled upon the floor, an image of Our Lady was miraculously imprinted upon his tilma. Nearly 500 years later, Diego’s tilma with the miraculous image is preserved in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and visited by millions of pilgrims each year.

The significance of the moment was crucial as Mary took the appearance of a pregnant native woman, wore clothing in the style of the indigenous community, and spoke to Juan Diego in his native language, Nahuatl. The subsequent encounters paved the way for the rapid conversion of the people of Mexico to Catholicism and a passionate devotion to Our Lady lasts to the present day.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane led the celebration at St. Paul Parish in Arcadia, where he had dedicated the new Parish Church on March 21. This Mass brought together a massive crowd which was followed by an 1/3-mile procession to an outdoor festival that lasted into the night.

Bishop Dewane noted how the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe personally resonates with him. Partially for having visited the Basilica in Mexico City, but also knowing what it is like as a Bishop to be asked to build a church and how difficult the process is, something the faithful heartily appreciated with laughter.

Explaining how Advent is about anticipating the second coming of Christ, the Bishop stressed the need to hold Jesus in our hearts. He remarked how strongly he could see that in the faithful of St. Paul Parish as evidence by their devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and to Her Son.

“The evidence you give to the love of Her Son, Jesus Christ. To carry Him with you. To be the Disciples of Christ. That is the beauty here in Arcadia. That discipleship you evidence by your presence here.”

Father Luis Pacheco, Pastor of St. Paul, delivered the homily in English and Spanish. He expressed the power that the image of Our Lady was for the people of Mexico, appearing as a pregnant indigenous princess bearing a message of love and hope for an oppressed people.

“Our Lady is a symbol of God’s love for us all,” said Maria Valenzuela of St. Paul. “God sent Mary to spread His Grace upon Mexico and the world. Beautiful Mary is a special gift to celebrate and honor.”

At Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee, a triduum of evening Masses preceded an overnight pray vigil, sunrise Mass and a larger Feast Day celebration.

St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples served as host for a combined celebration with the Hispanic faithful of St. Agnes Parish. Father Carlos Encinas was the celebrant and serves the Spanish-speaking population of both communities. The Mass was the largest in the history with an estimated 1,500 participating. Following Mass, youth participated in a play which retold the story of St. Juan Diego and Our Lady, something which takes place at many Parish celebrations. Outside, Aztec dancers performed under the lights in the parking lot while a festival of food took place.

Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers had two shrines to Our Lady. One was in the main church, below the permanent Our Lady of Guadalupe image on the wall, left of the altar. There, the faithful placed hundreds of flowers and other religious articles. A temporary shrine was constructed outside. The celebration began with singing in the church and continued overnight and into the next day.

The faithful at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula and Holy Child Mission in Bowling Green gathered at the Frontier Park pavilion in Zolfo Spring for a trilingual Mass (Spanish, Creole and English). The Mass was preceded by a procession of children and families behind a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Mass was followed by a crowning of Our Lady which led into a fiesta.

The events at the locations noted above were just a small sample of the many activities which took place in celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe throughout the Diocese.

Diocesan schools honor veterans

This Veterans Day the different Catholic schools in the Diocese of Venice honored those in the military (active and retired) with a variety of fun ways.

A Veterans Day tradition at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice is for the fifth graders to assist the preschool students and make cards for veterans at the James A. Haley Veteran’s Hospital in Tampa.

Meanwhile, several school hosted military veterans to come and visit and speak to students.  Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers held a school assembly, while nearby St. Francis Xavier Catholic School hosted an assembly which included participation from the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts as well as American Heritage Girls.

St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples had a Veterans Day Mass after which the students sang patriotic songs. Before the Mass, the middle school students brought forward individual small American Flags which were placed in a vase to the side of the altar.

St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral had a school Mass honoring veterans and then afterwards they lined up and greeted each student with a fist bump as they returned to class.

Tradition at Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota continued with a formal flag ceremony following a school Mass.

These were just a few of the ways Diocese of Venice Catholic schools honored the service and sacrifice of those in the military on Veterans Day.

Veterans Day Mass honors military service and sacrifice

The 12th Annual Veterans Day Catholic Mass made a successful return Sarasota National Cemetery as Bishop Frank J. Dewane prayed for those currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, those who have died, and their families.

More than 500 people attended the Mass which was celebrated in 2020 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice out of caution because of the global pandemic and a threat from a hurricane.

Bishop Dewane thanked the veterans for their service in defense of freedom, enjoyed to this day thanks to those who served and sacrificed throughout this nation’s history and those who will continue to answer the call in the future.

“We come here to say, ‘Thank you!’ to all veterans in a very particular way,” the Bishop said. “We remember them in our prayers and in the intentions of this Mass. We stand up and we speak out for liberties and the freedom that we enjoy; but we must remember at all times those who have made it all possible. You were called to serve that the rest of us may have a more secure a safer life.”

Reflecting on the sacrifice of veterans, some of whom are elderly, some young and still some actively serving in posts around the world, Bishop Dewane acknowledged that the lasting impact of their service – be it physical or mental injury – is something that cannot be ignored and must be supported. He also recognized the sacrifice of military family members who are left behind and offered prayers for their comfort.

Citing from a statement by St. John Paul II, the Bishop said the brave men and women who have served our country upholding the dignity of human life, of a freedom, of liberty – transforms them somehow into soldiers for Christ.

“Our veterans wear their faith and hearts on their sleeves,” Bishop Dewane continued. “Let us in acknowledging the valiant fight they have given our country… Pray each and every day that they always know that, with God, all of us will be victorious and we will have eternal life.”

Prior to the opening of the Mass, all veterans – active and retired – were asked to stand and be recognized. This was followed by the singing of the National Anthem.

The Sarasota National Cemetery celebration concluded with a procession, escorted by the Knights of Columbus Color Corps, to the nearby graves as those in attendance sang “God Bless America.” Priests, Deacons, and the Knights of Columbus Color Corps and all present, gathered in silent prayer before “Taps” was played on a bugle. Bishop Dewane also blessed the area with Holy Water.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. (Ret.) Scott Predmore, a 20-year veteran, expressed his gratitude for the Mass. “This means a great deal to me and really to all veterans. We served our country and would gladly do it again, but it’s a service that is not always appreciated,” Predmore said. “Having faith while serving in combat was something which helped me to get through some difficult times.”

There are about 25,000 veterans and eligible family members currently interred in the National Cemetery and more than 19 million military veterans in the United States.

The Diocese of Venice coordinates the Catholic Mass at the National Cemetery with the support of the Knights of Columbus. One of the graves is that of Father Robert G. Tierney, a former assistant at St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton, who served in the U.S. Navy. Father Tierney died in 2006 and was one of the first people buried in the National Cemetery.

Memorial Mass held for Deacons and their wives

Remembering those who have gone before, Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the annual Deacon Memorial Mass on Nov. 13, 2021, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice.

The Mass is held in November to coincide with the Month of All Souls. In addition to a number of Deacons and their spouses, also present were members of the Permanent Diaconate Formation Class of 2025, who, with their spouses, were on a weekend retreat in Sarasota.

Bishop Dewane said that we are all witnesses of hope. This comes from knowing that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and has promised us, all who believe in Him, the Way and the Truth and the Light. It is not only a hope but also a realization that those who have gone before us – they give us hope in the sharing of the Resurrection.”

That hope changes how we look at the world and points us to things that are heavenly, the Bishop continued. We have been promised eternal life and must live accordingly through the gifts we have been given, each in their own way lifting us up to be more than we can be on our own.

“As the Gospel of John said to us, ‘I shall raise him up on the last day.’ (John 6:40) That applies to each one of us, each deacon or spouse who has gone before us. Let it be our hope that joins us with them daily. It is our strength,” Bishop Dewane concluded.

The goal of the Memorial Mass is to bring together those Deacons, and their wives, serving today while honoring the memory of those who have served in the Diocese of Venice since its founding in 1984 while at the same time expressing gratitude to all for their answering the call of the Lord in a precise way.

As part of this annual tradition, during the Prayer Intentions, the names of those who have passed away during the previous year are solemnly read as candles are lit in their honor. Included in the list of names this year were Deacon George Doerr, Deacon Lin Pennypacker and Deacon John Henry Harrington.

A luncheon followed during which Deacon David Reardon, who is Diocesan Director of Diaconate Personnel, spoke on behalf of the Deacons and Diaconate aspirants present in thanking the Bishop for his support of the Permanent Diaconate program. Today, there are more than 75 Permanent Deacons, many seasonal, living and serving throughout the Diocese.

Inspired Diocesan Youth “Sent” – Rally draws 1,000 for rousing day

Amazing things happen when you put 1,000 teenage Catholics under one roof.

For some 8 hours on Nov. 6, 2021 teens heard from inspirational speakers, rocked to spiritual music, and participated in Eucharistic Adoration and the Mass. At the same time, they bonded with each other and learned how they are an important part of the Universal Church.

Judging by the smiling faces at the end of the day the impact was evidently strong. Most importantly was their instant reaction to the question: “How was the Youth Rally?”

The answers were simple and uncomplicated: “Powerful!” “Awesome!” “The Best!” “Inspiring!” “Impactful” “Unforgettable!” “Poignant!” “Overwhelming!” “Emotional!” “Prayerful!” “Memorable!”

The theme for 2021 Diocese of Venice Youth Rally was “Sent” which comes directly from the Bible – “As you sent me in the world, so I sent them in the world” (John 17:18).

Each speaker, each song, each moment encouraged and challenged the young men and women to examine how they are living out their Faith in their home, with their friends, in their Parish and in society. What they learned is that Jesus Christ does not expect anyone to be perfect in their Faith journey, but they must continue to work to live their Faith better. And when they inevitably face difficulty and may stumble along the way, the teens learned that they shouldn’t be discouraged but instead encouraged that Jesus will be there to accompany them. Many of the youth were inspired to the point that a large number received the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which was made available throughout the event.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane told the teens that above all else they must make room for the love of the Lord in their life.

“Allow that to be what fills you. Let that be what sends you out into the world,” Bishop Dewane continued. “And with that love of God, become the bearer of the Faith. Allow yourself to be the instrument that Christ has meant you to be… you have to make that happen. Use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to send you out; but know that it is you who has to then give of what you have to others. May you be filled ever more and learn to give because you have been sent out to communicate God’s Love.”

Bishop Dewane opened the Youth Rally to a rousing ovation from the young men and women. The Bishop said the Rally was the event he missed the most during the pandemic, reminding them how they are a blessed part of their Parish, the Diocese and the Universal Church and they should never forget their place.

“You are God’s gift to this Diocese,” the Bishop added. “You and the young people like yourself bring your talents and gifts, which are a reflection of the Lord. We celebrate those talents and gifts and call on all of you to use them in praise of Lord by the life you live.”

A key point of the day was the large group Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which refocused the teens on the Supreme Sacrifice Our Lord made for all of us. Bishop Dewane lead the Adoration before a temporary altar on the stage. He took time to process through the crowd with the monstrance, allowing each person to come up close and to be personal with Christ.

Other highlights of the day included inspirational music, games, and a chance for fresh air outside the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center. There were also lots of opportunities to take photos and selfies, many of which Bishop Dewane was a part. Displays from religious orders, the Diocesan Respect Life and Religious Education offices, and a Vocations table staffed by active Diocesan seminarians, were also present as well as several groups selling religious articles.

Throughout the day, the 2021 Youth Rally included an exciting line-up of speakers including David Calavitta and Kelly Colangelo. They each shared their unique Faith journey while also offering poignant advice to the teens as to how they can keep their focus on the Lord. Both stressed that the mid-teen years are a critical time as it is when the tumultuous world is trying to lure them down a darker path. At one point the young men were moved to a separate part of the facility thus allowing talks geared more personally toward the young women and men. The split sessions also included vocations talks.

The speakers were accompanied by inspirational music provided by the Francis Cabildo Band as the youth enthusiastically joined in singing each selection.

The 2021 Youth Rally is one of the largest gatherings in the Diocese of Venice each year. Parish and high school groups ranged in size from 4 to 140. The largest groups were from St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle, St. Paul Parish in Arcadia, and Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers.

Visit the www.dioceseofvenice.org for a link to a slideshow of more photos

School honors grandparents

Grandparents, a vital link to the past – most importantly as regard Faith – were welcomed to St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples for a special celebration.

That celebration on Nov. 5, 2021, opened with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane as students sat with their grandparents in Our Lady of the Angels School Chapel. Afterwards, everyone went to the Student Life Center for a luncheon.

During the Mass, Bishop Dewane praised the Grandparents Day event as reflecting the true nature of the school – a family of faith with no limits. He also spoke about how we are all called to live out goodness in our lives through the Holy Spirit.

“Grandparents sing the praises of God in the traditions they pass down and in how they live their life,” the Bishop said. “Let the light of the Holy Spirit make it more. More than visit roots, let it be the goodness that personifies who you are as more the man or woman of God you are called to be.

Bishop Dewane urged the students to listen to the grandparents more often, explaining that while they may not be as well versed in modern technology, they have the ability to understand the most difficult situations.

“You might say they are old, how can they know,” the Bishop continued. “That is why they know. They have faced the same difficulties. Get the experience; get the wisdom they offer. We can all learn something from each other by looking for the goodness within yourselves and within your grandparents. Bring generations together.”

Bishop Dewane concluded by praying for the grandparents, saying, “May the Lord bless each and every one of you grandparents and give you many more years allowing you to share the goodness the Lord has given you, to share your wisdom, to share your roots, and most of all, to share your Faith.”

Following the Mass, several grandparents, and their grandchildren, thanked the Bishop for his presence and for acknowledging the roles both have to play in building up the faith of each other.

One grandparent said he is proud that his grandchildren have all attended Catholic schools. “Of course, my grandson is now getting the best education. My wife and I passed on the faith along to my children and grandchildren, but it has to continue. We have more to share. We are so pleased to see that lesson being enhanced here at St. John Neumann.”

The Red Mass: Historic tradition dating back to 13th century celebrated in Diocese

Invoking the Holy Spirit, Bishop Frank J. Dewane recently called upon legal professionals to have insight and grace and above all be people of mercy.

Bishop Dewane made these remarks during two Red Masses in late October for legal professionals. The name for the Masses comes from the red vestments worn by the celebrants, and for the calling of grace and guidance from the Holy Spirit to come upon all who seek and serve justice.

The Diocesan Red Masses were celebrated on Oct. 21, 2021 at St. Martha Parish in Sarasota and Oct. 23 at St. Agnes Parish in Naples, but the history of the Red Mass dates to the mid-1200s when Pope Innocent IV celebrated a Mass in the Cathedral of Paris for the Ecclesiastical Judicial Court. Pope Innocence invoked the Holy Spirit as a source of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude and strength for the coming term of the court.

Bishop Dewane described the Red Mass as a cry from the heart for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the opportunity to pray for the strengthening of the link between the administration of our law and the ultimate justice that is the Gift of God.

“The Church is keenly aware of your promotion of the common good,” the Bishop stressed. “Your generous service is often a concrete manifestation to build a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive – to safeguard the right of individuals and communities and to reject any form of unjust discrimination.”

While the administration of the law is inevitably imperfect, legal professionals are often at the center of the debates facing a fierce passion of resentment.

“That debate must have a faith component,” Bishop Dewane added. “In essence, the contribution lies in the incessant proclamation of the transcendent dimension of the person; or the proof that every person is made in the image and likeness of God, comes from God, and is destined for God.”

“This truth of humanity is the source of our strong and unrelenting affirmation of the innate dignity of every human being,” the Bishop continued. “This is the witness of faith – this is that every person is endowed with the dignity that arises from our Creator.”

The Bishop reminded the legal professionals that mercy is personal and they only need to remember that there are good people at the heart of what they do and affected by the decisions they make.

“The law deals with codified rights rather than an innate human dignity which resides in every human person,” Bishop Dewane concluded. “Here lies the tension which we often bring ourselves before the Lord.”

The Catholic Lawyers Guild of the Diocese of Venice sponsored the Mass in Sarasota. It was this organization which brought the first Red Mass to the Diocese of Venice in 2008 in an effort to emulate similar, more well-known Masses which take place each year for the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., and by the Florida Bishops for the Florida Legislature in Tallahassee during the annual Catholic Days at the Capitol.

Guild members thanked the Bishop for his continued unfailing support and prayers for the legal community in the area. The Catholic Lawyers Guild of the Diocese is a not-for-profit corporation formed exclusively for charitable and educational purposes, to promote the spiritual, intellectual and social welfare of its members, who serve the cause of justice consistent with Roman Catholic moral teaching.

The Mass in Naples was celebrated as part of the Catholic Bar Association General Assembly and Annual Conference which took place from Oct. 22-23 at the Ave Maria School in Law.

Bishop Dewane was the main celebrant for the Conference’s Red Mass, with Most Rev. Felipe de Jesús Estévez, Bishop of St. Augustine, concelebrating and delivering the St. John Fisher Lecture during the closing Red Mass banquet.

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