Respect Life opportunities for 2022

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.


Catholics nationwide are preparing to pray 9 Days for Life, the annual pro-life novena beginning this year on January 19. In the Catholic Church, a ‘novena’ consists of prayers or actions over nine successive days. This pro-life novena is an opportunity for recollection and reparation in observation of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade—the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal throughout the United States.

Sponsored by the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 9 Days for Life began in 2013 in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. This is the tenth year the novena is taking place. The overarching intention of the novena is the end to abortion. Each daily intention highlights a related topic and is accompanied by a reflection, educational information, and suggested daily actions. The novena encompasses the annual Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children on January 22. All are invited to sign up at Participants can receive the novena in English or Spanish via email or text message or access it online. Participants can share their pro-life witness and invite their social networks to pray on social media with the hashtag #9DaysforLife.

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.


Novena to Christ the King begins today

For the nine days leading up to the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is suggesting that the faithful pray a novena to Christ the King.

“Let us offer our prayers to Christ the King for the freedom of the Church,” the USCCB urges. Religious freedom allows the Church, and all religious communities, to live out their faith in public and to serve the good of all.

The novena begins Nov. 12, 2021 and concludes on the eve of the Solemnity, Nov. 20. To participate in the novena visit

The idea behind the novena is that religious freedom is under attack in many places. Worldwide, it is estimated that upwards of 4 billion people (51% of the global population) live in countries that have intense violations of religious freedom.

Domestically, a major area of concern continues to be freedom for Catholic institutions, such as schools, hospitals, and child welfare service providers, to carry out their missions free from government intervention

If anyone wonders why Religious Freedom needs to be defended in the U.S., they need look no further than the frequent headlines about religious institutions being forced to pay for abortions in health care coverage, going against the teachings of the faith in defense of life from conception to natural death. Individuals have faced lawsuits for refusing to perform a service (bake a wedding cake, host an event) for same-sex couples because that violates their personally held faith-based beliefs.

Religious freedom is a human right, essential to the dignity of the human person and the flourishing of all that is noble in us. It should be noted that religious freedom does not exist to protect the government from religion, but religion from government intervention.

Another form of suppressing religious freedom is the disturbing trend in the past 18 months of overt acts of vandalism at Catholic sites globally and in the U.S. Since May 2020, the USCCB stated that more than 100 incidents of vandalism have been reported, including within the Diocese of Venice.

On Oct. 10, 2021, the USCCB responded to the latest such incident in Denver, Colorado, when satanic and other hateful graffiti was scrawled on the walls before Sunday Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

In a statement from the USCCB condemning the incident in Denver, it was noted in part: “These incidents of vandalism have ranged from the tragic to the obscene, from the transparent to the inexplicable. There remains much we do not know about this phenomenon, but at a minimum, they underscore that our society is in sore need of God’s grace… where the motive was retribution for some past fault of ours, we must reconcile; where misunderstanding of our teachings has caused anger toward us, we must offer clarity; but this destruction must stop. This is not the way… These are not mere property crimes – this is the degradation of visible representations of our Catholic faith. These are acts of hate.”

The Solemnity of Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius XI in his 1925 encyclical Quas primas (In the first), setting aside a special day so that “the Catholic Church, which is the kingdom of Christ on earth, destined to be spread among all men and all nations, should with every token of veneration salute her Author and Founder in her annual liturgy as King and Lord, and as King of Kings” [Quas primas 12].

Celebrated on the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year, this year the Solemnity is Nov. 21. The USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty has urged “that the Solemnity of Christ the King – a feast born out of resistance to totalitarian incursions against religious liberty – be a day specifically employed by bishops and priests to preach about religious liberty, both here and abroad.”

“For Christians, when our faith is repeatedly marginalized in public life, we can fall into the habit of compartmentalizing our lives,” the USCCB website states in its article “About Christ the King.” “We love Jesus in our private lives, but we shrink from acknowledging the kingship of Christ in social life. When we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King, we declare to the world and remind ourselves that Jesus is the Lord of the Church and of the entire universe.”

Once again, if you wish to participate in the novena to the Christ the King, please visit

Diocesan Catholic Schools to participate in Healing Novena

For nine school days, all the grade school students, teachers and administrators in the Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools will be praying a Novena for Healing. The novena begins May 11, 2021 and will conclude on May 21.

This novena will seek the intercessions of Venerable Antonietta Meo, a 6-year-old from Rome known by the nickname “Nennolina.” She also is the youngest person in the history of the Church to have a beatification process opened.

“We will be over 4,000 strong praying this novena,” wrote Father John Belmonte, SJ, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, in a letter to parents and guardians.

As part of the letter about the novena, Father Belmonte requested that families submit the names of students, especially those with serious illnesses, for whom the novena will be prayed. Of course, other family members and friends can go on the list as well.

Once the names are compiled, Father Belmonte will submit them to Father Gino Amicarelli, the Pastor at the Basilica of Santa Croce in Rome, where Venerable Antonietta Meo went to the Catholic school and is buried.

“Father Amicarelli graciously agreed to place the list of names at the tomb of ‘Nennolina’ for us,” Father Belmonte wrote. The letter also included an attached prayer booklet for the families which included the novena as well as a detailed background on the life of “Nennolina,” These booklets will be distributed to each student for use in the classroom.

“I know that the people for whom we will pray, their families and our schools will find great spiritual benefit in this novena. May Venerable Antonietta Meo intercede for all of us, especially those children and their families who ask for healing,” the letter from Father Belmonte concluded.

Born in Rome on December 15, 1930, “Nennolina” attended her early schooling with religious sisters and during this time developed an osteosarcoma and her left leg had to be amputated. At that young age she had a concept of the value of suffering that was incomprehensible without the grace of God. She attended elementary school with a prosthesis that bothered her greatly. However, she offered it all to Jesus, “May each step that I take be a little word of love.” Tumors spread throughout her body and both the illness itself and the treatments intended to heal her caused her great pain.

She liked to attend school and catechism class; she wrote to Jesus, “I go enthusiastically, because I learn so many beautiful things about You and Your saints.” Having not yet reached the age of seven, she died in the midst of terrible pain on July 3, 1937. On December 17, 2007 Pope Benedict XVI declared Antonietta Meo, “Venerable.” Her life has been a witness of sanctity for children who suffer.

Prayer to obtain graces through the intercession of Venerable Antonietta Meo

O God, Father of the humble, we thank You because with Antonietta Meo You gave us the gift of a living image of Your Love and Wisdom, revealed to the young. You, who gave her the grace of being joined to the Cross of Our Lord Jesus and of suffering with fortitude and joy, make her glorious even now on earth, so that everyone can look to her as a shining example of loyalty to the Gospel. Grant us her simple and passionate love for the Eucharist and the Church; draw near to us in our need and, by her intercession, according to Your Holy Will, give us the grace which we request in faith.


News briefs for week of Aug. 10, 2020

Ordination to the Transitional Diaconate Aug. 29

Diocese of Venice Seminarian Alex Pince will be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Aug. 29, 2020, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. The Transitional Diaconate Ordination Mass will begin at 11 a.m., with a reception to follow. All are invited to attend.   

Diocesan Prayer Campaign begins Aug. 15

A Diocese of Venice Fall Prayer Campaign for Peace and Conversion in our country begins on Aug. 15, 2020 (the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and includes a 54-day Rosary Novena. These daily prayers and devotions are designed to help each of us truly encounter Christ and be transformed by His love. This transformation is that of true holiness. Each one of us is called to continuously offer ourselves to God, growing in holiness day by day. To learn more, please visit

Voter Guides available

Please be advised that the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops Candidate Questionnaire is available at Candidate responses are posted on the website and appear in two formats: 1) lists of all candidates on the primary and general election ballots; and 2) primary election candidates in table format by Diocese. If you have any questions, please contact Jeanne Berdeaux at or 941-374-1068.

Religious sisters renew vows

Congratulations to Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco Katie Flanagan (Immaculata La Salle Catholic High School, Miami), April Cabaccang (St. John Neumann Catholic High School, Naples), April Hoffman (St. John Neumann) and  Maria Fe Tansioco (Immaculata La Salle) on the renewal of their vows on Aug. 4, 2020 at Our Lady of the Angels Chapel of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples. Father Bob Kantor, Pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Naples presided over the renewal of vows. The ceremony was witnessed by members of the student government. The temporary professed sisters usually renew their vows in Haledon, N.J., at their Mother House, but because of pandemic travel restrictions, the Salesian Sisters who minister in Florida renewed their vows in Our Lady of the Angels Chapel at Neumann.

1,800 books devoured in summer reading program

Congratulations to St. Joseph Catholic School summer readers who participated in the Patterson Summer Reading Challenge! These students read more than 1,800 books, completed Accelerated Reader goals, shared books weekly via Zoom, and completed book activities. Because of our new start date, our readers still have until Aug. 14, 2020, to achieve their High Points goals, and some are very close! Great work! Each student earned a wristband for completing books and achieving goals.

New windows being installed

The installation of stained-glass windows at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch is making excellent progress. The newly constructed Church was dedicated in 2019 but the stained-glass windows were not ready at the time. Since mid-June 2020, the new windows are being installed and adding greater beauty to the interior of the worship space.

Sarasota priest joins reading campaign

Pallottine Father Patrick Wilson, Parochial Vicar of St. Martha Parish in Sarasota recently took part in a webcast series of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading “This Book is Cool!” hosted by Director Beth Duda. The featured book on the July 12, 2020 episode, was “The Frogs Wore Red Suspenders” written by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Petra Mathers. The project is generously funded by The Patterson Foundation, is designed to encourage children, PreK- Gr. 3, to read, and includes a selected book, a special guest, new vocabulary words for the Word Bank, and a suggested activity that goes with the book.

Bradenton food pantry benefits from postal drive

The National Association of Letter Carriers headed up an employee food drive at all five post offices in Bradenton all to benefit the St. Joseph Parish Food Pantry, the largest such pantry in Manatee County.  The postal carriers.  collected food throughout the month of July 2020 and brought it, along with a monetary check in the amount of $1,000, to the food pantry on July 29, 2020.  This action took the place of a national food drive which was cancelled, impacting food banks through the country. Thank you, Bradenton letter carriers, for your generosity.

Filipino tradition has deep roots

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic


Filipino Catholics participated in a novena of Masses as a form of spiritual preparation in the nine days leading up to Christmas.

This tradition was introduced to the Philippines by Spanish friars to allow the farmers to hear Mass before going to the fields early in the morning. Simbang Gabi is also known by its popular Spanish name as the Misa de Gallo, or “Mass of the Rooster,” commonly indicating the pre-dawn Christmas Eve Mass.  The novena serves as spiritual preparation for Christmas, in commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. The celebration is also seen as a way of requesting blessings from the Lord, as most people believe that if one completes the whole series of nine dawn Masses, wishes will be granted.

The complete novena was held at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Port Charlotte, with the opening Mass celebrated by Pastor Father Teofila Useche and Father Kristian Villafana, Parochial Vicar of St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. Celebrated in Tagalog, the language known by most Filipinos, Masses were also celebrated on one day of the novena period at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota (Dec. 16), St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral (Dec. 16), and at St. Leo the Great Parish (Dec. 21).

Although this tradition is not exclusive to Filipinos, its observance is very much highlighted and distinctive of the Philippine Catholic culture.

Father Villafana explained that the Vatican allows the Simbang Gabi Masses to differ from the traditional Advent Season readings and requirements. This exception allows the readings to be directly associated with the Christmas Season and the Church is also decorated while the priests wear white vestments.

“Time changes during this celebration of the Holy Mass,” Father said. “It is no longer the same moment of Advent that you celebrate during the day, everything is Simbang Gabi, but when the sun rises it returns to the Advent Season. It is because we are living that magical moment that is before the sun rises.”

This is an important and growing Catholic tradition as the faithful prepare their hearts waiting for that dawn when the sun rises, Father Villafana added. The sun rise is associated with Jesus Christ, bringing with it new hope, new life.

“We are living that moment in joyful and hopeful anticipation,” Father continued.

Father Villafana added that it is believed that participating in the novena of Masses brings many blessings. Some believe that if you attended the Simbang Gabi you would find your future spouse, which naturally increased the popularity of the tradition.

The best prayer is about family,” Father concluded. That God would take care of our family and help us remain united in that great love that the Lord has given us in the form of a child born on Christmas Day. That child shows us the value of sacrifice and the value of true love in our life.”

Following the daily Masses, a reception is held serving traditional Filipino delicacies including rice cakes, pastries, coffee and breakfast rolls.