Founding Pastor of Venice Parish dies

Father Vincent J. Sheehy, founding Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice and priest for 63 years, died June 13, 2024, at the age of 89.

Father Sheehy was born in Chicago, Illinois, and first had the idea of becoming a priest at the age of 13. His family moved to Florida when he was 17 before he decided to enter the seminary. As a seminarian, he studied at St. Columbans College in Milton, Massachusetts, and St. Bernard Seminary in Rochester, New York. He was Ordained to the Priesthood on May 14, 1961, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Miami by the ordaining prelate Bishop Coleman Francis Carroll.

For the Archdiocese of Miami he served at parishes in Miami, West Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Miami Beach, North Miami Beach and Riviera Beach. For the Archdiocese, Father also served as the treasurer, chairman of the building commission, Chaplain to the Miami Dolphins (1969-1984, including their perfect season in 1972), and consultor to the Archbishops.

When the Diocese of Venice was erected in 1984, Father Sheehy was incardinated and first served as Parochial Vicar at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Sarasota before becoming founding Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice in July 1986.

While at Our Lady of Lourdes, Father Sheehy oversaw the construction of a new Church, education building, Parish Hall, and other buildings on the property, and a rectory. During his 21 years at Our Lady of Lourdes the Parish grew to serve more than 2,000 registered families.

Upon retirement in 2007, Father Sheehy continued to assist at Our Lady of Lourdes, and at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Port Charlotte, and during the summer months at a Parish in Newport Beach, California.

A strong supporter of the Pro-Life movement, Father Sheehy set up several scholarships, through the Catholic Community Foundation of Southwest Florida Inc., for Catholic school students from families who are actively involved in the Pro-Life outreach at their home Parishes.

Father Sheehy was a Knight Commander of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre and member of the Knights of Columbus.

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on June 18, 2024, at Our Lady of Lourdes with Bishop Frank J. Dewane as the principal celebrant. The burial will occur on Monday, June 24, 2024, at 2:30 p.m., at Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery in Doral, Florida.

Bishop Dewane said that Father Sheehy put the Gifts of God he was given into the work he did but much of what he did was not visible to all.

“By being the example, being the doer, he radiated that presence of the Lord in the concern he had for the people of the Parish and the Diocese,” Bishop Dewane said. “We are in debt to Father Vincent and give thanks for the gift he has given and life he lived.”

Father Janusz “Jay” Jancarz, Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, described Father Sheehy as someone who lived the Gospel in all he said and did. “He did not seek anything to profit himself. He was humble, he was obedient, and he was meticulous in guarding the truth.”

Father Sheehy is survived by several nieces and nephews and many friends.

Please pray for the repose of his soul and consolation of his family. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in eternal peace.

News Briefs for the week of May 3, 2024

Ascension Solemnity moved to Sunday, May 12

The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, Sunday, will be celebrated in the Diocese of Venice on May 12, 2024 (moved from May 9). The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops voted in the year 2000 to transfer the Solemnity of the Ascension from the Thursday, 40 days after Easter, to the Seventh Sunday of Easter, in accord with an indult granted to the US. Conference of Catholic Bishops by the Holy See. Therefore, for the Catholic Churches in the State of Florida, the Seventh Sunday of Easter is replaced by the Solemnity of the Ascension.

Retired Venice priest dies

Father Richard John Beligotti, a retired priest who has served at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice for the past eight years, died April 26, 2024, at the age of 81. Born as an identical twin in Montour Falls, New York, on Sept. 8, 1942, Father Beligotti attended St. Andrew Minor Seminary and St. Bernard Major Seminary, Rochester.  He was Ordained to the Priesthood June 1, 1968, for the Diocese of Rochester. Later, Father Richard earned an advanced degree from St. Bernard Major Seminary and took two different sabbaticals, first at American College in Louvain, Belgium, and then at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. For the Diocese of Rochester, he served as a Parochial Vicar, Administrator or Pastor at Parishes in Irondequoit, Apalachin, Ithaca, Charlotte, Avon, Horseheads, Rochester, Newark, Chili, Elmira Heights, Leicester, Retsof, Bloomfield, Lima and Honeoye Falls. Father also served as a hospital chaplain in Auburn. Retired in 2013, Father Richard had been assisting at Epiphany Cathedral since 2016 alongside his twin brother, Father Robert Beligotti. A Memorial Mass was celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on May 1, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral. A Mass of Christian Burial is scheduled for May 8, 2024, at St. Mary’s of the Lake Parish in Watkins Glen, New York, with burial to follow. Please pray for the repose of his soul and for the consolation of his family. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in eternal peace.

Students gets colorful during fun run

The St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School Color Run fundraiser took place April 19, 2024, in Naples. Students (and volunteers) had a wonderful time while helping raise funds for school improvements. During the event, students ran on the field and every lap they took, volunteers “colored” them with chalk. The top three participating classes won an ice cream party. The event was organized by the Home and School Association.

Donations of baby supplies needed

Community Pregnancy Centers Inc. is seeking donations of diapers and clothing to support the children of the women that are served each day. Items sought include new or gently used clothes (size 12 months to 3T); baby wipes; diapers (size 4-6); baby shampoo/lotion; new clothes for babies (0-3 months); pacifiers; pull ups/training diapers. Community Pregnancy Clinics has offices in Naples, Fort Myers and Sarasota. Please call 239-326-0453 or visit for locations.

Vocation Discernment Retreat May 11 in Cape Coral

A Vocations Discernment Retreat is taking place beginning at 10:30 a.m., May 11, 2024, at St. Katherine Drexel Parish, 1922 SW 20th Avenue, Cape Coral.  If you are of high school or college age, or a young adult, and wish to discover more about different vocations, plan to attend this one-day Retreat. The day will include breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and presentations regarding the different Vocations. Priests, as well as religious men and women will be present throughout the day. This retreat is co-sponsored by the Diocese of Venice Vocations Office and St. Katharine Drexel Parish. The cost for the day is $25. To register, visit, or for additional information, please contact or

Calling all Pro-Life Advocates! 

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

Retired Monsignor dies

The Diocese of Venice is mourning the loss of Msgr. Joseph Stearns, a retired priest of the Diocese, who passed away Thursday, March 14, 2024, at the age of 79, in Sarasota, Florida.

Born in 1945 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Msgr. Stearns was the youngest of five children. He studied at Eymard Prep Seminary of Blessed Sacrament Fathers in Hyde Park, New York, and St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida.

Msgr. Stearns was ordained to the Priesthood on May 20, 1972, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Miami. He served as Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of the Lakes in Miami Lakes, Little Flower Parish in Coral Gables, and Sacred Heart Parish in Homestead. Monsignor was serving as Pastor of St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston in 1984 when the Diocese of Venice was established and into which he was incardinated.

Within the Diocese of Venice, Msgr. Stearns’ next assignment was as Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda, then as Pastor of St. William Parish in Naples, and finally, in 2007 as Pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish on Siesta Key before retiring in 2015.

As announced from the Office of the Bishop on June 11, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI bestowed Papal Honors on Msgr. Stearns, along with four other Diocesan Priests, in recognition of their dedication and exemplary service to the Church. This Papal Honor elevated him to the rank of Monsignor, as Chaplain to His Holiness. This group of priests was the first to receive this honor in the history of the Diocese of Venice.

Through the years, Msgr. Stearns served as Diocesan Vocations Director, as well as on numerous advisory boards, including the College of Consultors and the Presbyteral Council. Having retired in March 2015, Monsignor assisted at several Parishes including Incarnation Parish in Sarasota and most recently at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch. He was also a Secular Franciscan.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the main celebrant at a Mass of Christian Burial for Msgr. Stearns, Thursday, March 21, 2024, at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch. Father Jack Costello was the homilist.

Bishop Dewane expressed his sorrow over the death of Msgr. Stearns, noting that his service to the faithful of the Diocese never faltered, even in his retirement years.

“He was a true servant of God,” Bishop Dewane stated.

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Msgr. Stearns and the consolation of his family. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in eternal peace.

Priest Chaplain at Ave Maria School of Law dies

The Diocese of Venice is mourning the passing of Msgr. Frank C. McGrath, who had been serving as Chaplain at Ave Maria School of Law in Naples since 2014. He died June 10, 2023, in Naples. He was 78.

Born in 1944 in New Britain, Connecticut, and raised in Stratford, and he attended St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, Connecticut, and St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Maryland. He was Ordained to the Priesthood for the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, on May 9, 1970. For Bridgeport, the newly ordained priest served at several Parishes before being granted a leave of absence in 1977 to become Chaplain to the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Brussels, Belgium. Msgr. McGrath then served at the Word of God Community and as Pastor of a Parish in Ann Arbor, Michigan, within the Diocese of Lansing, before returning to the Diocese of Bridgeport in 1993. There, he served in two additional Parishes and as Director of Clergy Personnel. In 2007, he was named Chaplain to His Holiness.

Msgr. McGrath had a particular devotion to providing spiritual support to the men and women firefighters. He served as a Chaplain to fire departments in Michigan and Connecticut, as well as to Rescue 1 of the Fire Department of New York in New York City. After the collapse of the Twin Towers in 2001, he spent many hours providing spiritual consolation to those working at the site.

Upon arrival in the Diocese of Venice, Msgr. McGrath served as the Chaplain of the Ave Maria School of Law where he remained until his death.

Msgr. McGrath is survived by several aunts and cousins.

Locally, a Memorial Mass was held for Msgr. McGrath on June 16, 2023, at St. Agnes Parish in Naples. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated June 20, at St. Matthew Church in Norwalk, Connecticut, with Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, as the principal celebrant. Interment will be in the Priests’ Circle of St. John Cemetery in Norwalk.

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Msgr. Frank McGrath and the consolation of his family as well as the students of the Ave Maria School of Law who will miss him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in eternal peace.

Retired Pastor of three Parishes dies

Father Eugene J. McCarthy, a retired priest of the Diocese of Venice, passed away Monday, May 15, 2023, at the age of 89, in Venice. He is a former Pastor of San Marco Parish on Marco Island, Ascension Parish in Fort Myers Beach, and St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres.

Born in Skibbereen, Ireland, Father McCarthy was ordained to the priesthood on June 19, 1960, in Dublin, Ireland, and served in the Diocese (later Archdiocese) of Miami. In his early years as a priest, Father McCarthy served as Parochial Vicar at Parishes in North Miami Beach, Hialeah, Boca Raton and Lake Worth.

In 1967, Father McCarthy was assigned as Administrator of St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres (then part of the Miami Archdiocese) and then as Pastor from 1968-1971.

For the next 19 years (1971-1990), Father McCarthy served as Pastor of Ascension Parish on Fort Myers Beach. There he oversaw the renovation and expansion of the church, and the construction of a Retirement Center for Priests, which later became a convent for the Poor Clare Nuns. During this same time, the Diocese of Venice was established, and Father McCarthy was incardinated as a priest of the Diocese.

Next, Father McCarthy was assigned to San Marco Parish on Marco Island where he served from 1990 until his retirement in April 2004. While at San Marco, Father oversaw the construction of a new rectory for the priests and the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. In addition, Holy Family Chapel (1993) in Everglades City and then St. Finbarr Mission (2000) in East Naples were both established under the control of San Marco Parish. St. Finbarr has since become an independent Parish.

Visitation is at 11:45 a.m., Monday, May 22, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. A Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 1:30 p.m. Burial will follow in Venice Gardens Cemetery, 1950 Center Road, Venice.

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Father McCarthy and the consolation of his family. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in eternal peace.



News Briefs for the week of May 5, 2023

Religious sister, longtime educator, dies

Sister Gloria Hillman (Sister Rita Joseph), of the Dominican Sisters of Hope, died on April 10, 2023. She was 88 years old. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Sister Gloria entered the novitiate of the Dominican Sisters of Newburgh, N.Y., in September 1953. She made her First Profession in June 1955, and Final Profession in August 1958. Sister Gloria earned degrees from Nazareth College, Rochester, N.Y., Catholic University, Washington D.C., and Fairfield University, Connecticut. Sister Gloria’s ministries included education and pastoral care. She taught at schools in Paterson and Camden, New Jersey; New Haven and Danbury, Connecticut; and Raleigh, North Carolina. It was in 1975 when she started teaching religious education at a Parish in Hawthorne, N.Y., before moving to Florida. Sister Gloria was Director of Religious Education at St. Thomas More Parish in Sarasota from 1981 to 1991, and Religious Education Teacher at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande from 1991 to 1994, as well as a substitute teacher at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota from 1992 to 1994. She served as Director at Manasota S.O.L.V.E. Inc. pregnancy resource center in Bradenton from 1994 to 1998, before returning to assist at St. Thomas More Parish from 1998 to 2001. In her later years, Sister Gloria ministered to the elderly in the Sarasota area. Sister Gloria is survived by her sister, several nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews. A funeral took place April 22, 2023, at St. Thomas More Parish in Sarasota.

Students pack meals for needy

National Honor Society & Key Club members from St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples participated in the annual Meals of Hope Packing Drive on April 29, 2023. Club moderators Susan Cavness and Denise Szedely led the students during the packing event. Meals of Hope operates 15 food pantries in Southwest Florida and their packing events help bring food to the needy both locally, nationally and globally.

Students build cathedrals in science class

The total learning experience was on display in the 8th grade science class of Cindy Neunder at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota. During late April 2023, students put in a lot of time, effort and teamwork to create their beautiful Gothic cathedrals. The objective of this project was to foster a love of our Church history, incorporate fortitude and beauty as Gifts of Christ, and nurture a better understanding of the engineering process. The results were impressive.

Rocky science project surprises

It is amazing what one can find when walking around outside. As part of the rocks and minerals units for the St. Joseph Catholic School 4th grade class of Blaire Hamric the students took a rock walk on April 28, 2023. While on the walk, the students collected rocks and then later washed and sorted them into categories. Using tools like sandpaper, the students then examined each rock’s texture and appearance and then reported on their findings.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week

The Home and School Association at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice kicked-off “Teacher Appreciation Week” with welcoming signs and refreshments on May 1, 2023. This was also Principal Appreciation Day, so Principal Nicole Loseto was give the royal treatment.


Retired religious sister who served Diocese, dies

Sister Mary Regis (Constance) Krusniewski, School Sister of Notre Dame, a former longtime Diocese of Venice Director of Catechetical Ministries and later Vicar for Religious, died in Baltimore on March 26, 2023, at the age of 92.

Sister Regis was born in Baltimore to Agnes and Benjamin Krusniewski on Aug. 12, 1930. After 12 years of education in School Sisters of Notre Dame schools, she earned a degree in English from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. She went on to earn two advanced degrees, first in history from Villanova University and then in administration of religious education from La Salle University. She made her vows as a School Sister of Notre Dame in 1952.

Sister Regis had nearly 20 years of experience as teacher and principal in Catholic schools in Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Beginning in 1971, she focused her work in Diocesan catechetical ministry (religious education), serving in New Jersey and Maryland before coming to the Venice Diocese in 1985.

Named Diocese of Venice Director of Catechetical Ministries in 1985, one year after the founding of the Diocese of Venice, she remained in that capacity until 2001, when she went on sabbatical for a year. Upon her return in 2002, she was appointed to serve as Vicar for Religious in the Diocese before retiring in 2007. Sister Regis remained active in promoting the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Baltimore.

Upon reaching her 50th anniversary of consecrated life in 2002, Sister Regis said, “I was attracted to the School Sisters of Notre Dame because of the women who taught me. I have always wanted to share my gifts in an educational setting… I have had wonderful experiences in ministry and as a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane said the Diocese of Venice has been blessed to have had Sister Regis serve within its boundaries.

“May Almighty Lord reward her for hard work and complete dedication to serving others. Her valuable contribution in the Diocese of Venice Education Department and later in the Office for Religious will always be remembered,” Bishop Dewane said. “Please pray for the family of Sister Regis and the repose of her soul.”

Funeral arrangements will be in the Baltimore area and have not been finalized.



News Briefs for the Week of Feb. 10, 2023


After consultation, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announces the following appointments:

Father John Nghia Hoang, as Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish, Sarasota, effective Feb. 6, 2023, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Administrator of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish, Sarasota.

Father Robert M. Murphy, as Pastor of St. Raphael Parish, Englewood, effective Feb. 6, 2023, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Administrator of St. Raphael Parish, Englewood.

Father Paul Nguyen, as Pastor of Church of St. Patrick Parish, Sarasota, effective Feb. 6, 2023, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Administrator of Church of St. Patrick Parish, Sarasota.

Father Sebastian Szczawinski, as Pastor of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Lakewood Ranch, effective Feb. 6, 2023, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Administrator of Church of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Lakewood Ranch.

Father Michal Szyszka, as Pastor of St. Raphael Parish, Lehigh Acres, effective Feb. 6, 2023, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Administrator of St. Raphael Parish, Lehigh Acres.

Father Luis Albarracin, retired as Parochial Vicar of St. Leo the Great, Bonita Springs, effective Jan. 1, 2023, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of St. Leo the Great Parish.

Retired Sarasota priest dies

Father R. Patrick Wilson, Society of Catholic Apostolate (Pallottines), who served in the Diocese of Venice for 17 years, passed away Feb. 2, 2023, in Sarasota at the age of 76. Father Wilson was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and graduated from Pittsburg State University in Kansas and upon graduation in 1973 he joined the Brothers of Christian Service. As a religious brother, Father Wilson served adult men with special needs in Ohio. He earned advanced degrees from the University of Cincinnati before he was relocated to Sarasota in 1992. In Sarasota, he served as Director of Religious Education at St. Martha Parish and later sought to join the Pallottine religious order. He was ordained to the priesthood on Nov. 27, 2005, into the Society of the Catholic Apostolate in Rome. From that point, Father Wilson served as a Parochial Vicar until his retirement on July 1, 2022. Father Wilson continued to assist at St. Martha Parish after his retirement. Father Wilson was active in his support of the youth outreach, going to several World Youth Days and National Marches for Life, and was active in prison outreach as well. He loved traveling, tap dancing and musical theater and was a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. A Mass of Christian Burial is 10 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 9, at St. Martha Church, 200 N. Orange St., Sarasota. Please pray for the family of Father Wilson and the repose of his soul.

Seminarian instituted as Lector

William Patrick Long, a Diocese of Venice Seminarian studying at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary, Weston, Massachusetts, was among 11 men who were instituted to the Ministry of Lector on Feb. 1, 2023. Bishop William D. Byrne, Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, presided over the Mass. Those who are in formation to be ordained as Catholic priests must serve in the Ministry of Lector in order to prepare them for their future role as proclaimers of the Word of God through their work in the community and through the celebration of Mass and other Liturgical Rites. The principal duties of the lector at a Sunday Mass are to proclaim the first and/or second readings. In the absence of a deacon, the lector may carry the Gospel Book to the altar in the entrance procession and proclaim the petitions for the Universal Prayer. The lector may also lead the responsorial psalm in the absence of a cantor. Please pray for Seminarian Long as well as for all seminarians as they further prepare to become priests and serve the faithful.

2022 Sarasota Charity Ball

The Catholic Charities Ball “Creating Hope” took place Feb. 4, 2023, at the Ritz Carlton Sarasota. The event benefitted the programs of Catholic Charities in Sarasota and Manatee Counties including the continuing recovery from Hurricane Ian, as well as support for Our Mother’s House, Bethesda House, and the St. Martha Early Learning Center. The Ball Chairperson was Bridget Spiess, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the guest of honor. A success story was shared about a family that overcame many heartbreaks and setbacks only to be aided by the staff and volunteers of Catholic Charities in finding housing that provided a room for each of their children. The elegant evening included a wine pull, silent auction, live auction, and live music. If you would like to support the programs of Catholic Charities, please visit

Annual Mass held for circus and traveling show workers

Each year the circus and travelling show workers of the United States gather for three days to thank God for their continued blessings. This retreat was Feb. 3 to 5, 2023, at St. Martha Parish in downtown Sarasota, which is designated the “National Circus Parish.” The pastoral workers, who ensure that the Sacraments are available and maintained for travelling show people, function under the direction of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Cultural Diversity’s Subcommittee on the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers (PCMRT). Bishop Frank J. Dewane is the Episcopal Liaison of the PCMRT. Bishop Dewane celebrated the closing Mass on Feb. 5, and he was assisted by several of the priests who serve the circus and traveling show workers.

Regional Order of Malta retreat held in Naples

Regional members of the Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta took part in a retreat which began with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Feb. 3, 2023, at St. William Parish in Naples. Also known as the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, the Order is a lay religious order of the Roman Catholic Church that seeks to glorify God by promoting the sanctification of each member through witness to the Catholic Faith and service to the sick and the poor. Bishop Dewane lauded the Knights and Dames for their continued charity and service to the Universal Church.

Eucharist Conference held at Ave Maria University

The Aquinas Center and the St. Paul Center hosted “The Holiness of God and the Mystery of the Eucharist” Conference from Feb. 2 to Feb. 4, 2023, at Ave Maria University. Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for the Conference on Feb. 3, in the Ave Maria Parish Church. Bishop Dewane praised the Conference organizers and the attendees for taking time to focus on the Holy Eucharist during the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year revival of devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist created by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. As part of the effort, the Diocese of Venice is hosting a Eucharistic Congress on March 25, 2023, in Fort Myers. This daylong event will include nationally renowned speakers, breakouts for men and women, sessions in English and Spanish. There will be a Eucharistic Procession and the day will conclude with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Registration is requested at

Blessing of the throats

On the Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, Feb. 3, 2023, the Blessing the Throats is common. This is done by a Bishop or Priest who holds a pair of crossed candles held by a red ribbon (representing the blood of martyrs), which are placed at the throat and a prayer of healing is recited. Bishop Frank J. Dewane joined other priests in offering this prayer following a Mass at Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria and then later at St. William Parish in Naples. St. Blaise, who was martyred in 316, saved the life of a boy who had a fishbone stuck in his throat by ordering the child to cough it up.

Parish hosts international food festival

To celebrate the varied backgrounds of the faithful at St. Agnes Parish in Naples, the 11th Annual International Festival made a tasty return on Feb. 5, 2023, after a hiatus of several years. Unique cuisine of more than 20 countries was represented. In addition to the food and drink, there was entertainment that included music and dance from a number of countries.

Migrant Care Grants application period open

Grant requests for funding of projects in 2023 are available from the Foundation for the Care of the Migrant Poor and need to be submitted no later than Friday, March 31, 2023. To be considered by the Board of Directors for a Grant, the project must clearly be seen as a service to the migrant poor or new immigrants. Preference will be given to those projects under Catholic auspices. Applications can be submitted by visiting

Bishop Dewane reflects on Pope Benedict XVI

The passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has brought a time of mourning and reflection among the Catholics of the world.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane issued a statement within hours of the passing of Pope Benedict to the faithful of the Diocese of Venice: “The Catholic Church throughout the world mourns the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who died today, December 31, 2022. We are saddened by the loss of such a renowned, humble scholar and Shepherd, who gave his life to the service of the Universal Church. The longest living Pope, he was a giant of faith and reason.”

Bishop Dewane celebrated a Mass for the repose of the soul of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice on January 4, 2023.

The Bishop noted how he was blessed to know then-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and later Pope Benedict XVI. The two first met when Bishop Dewane was a seminarian at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. This encounter took place while Cardinal Ratzinger was crossing St. Peter’s Square and paused to speak to a group of four U.S. seminarians, with the future Bishop Dewane among them. Cardinal Ratzinger recognized the group as Americans and took the time to speak with them.

The two also met while then-Msgr. Dewane was working at the Vatican and then during several brief meetings since being ordained as Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in 2006.

“I had the opportunity to speak with him on a number of occasions and was particularly touched by his kindness and humility as well as the warmth and encouragement he imparted to all,” Bishop Dewane said. “Appointed by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI as Bishop of the Diocese of Venice, I have always had a special place for him in prayer and indeed will continue to remember him.”

Bishop Dewane worked at the Vatican starting in 1995 at the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” and was later appointed Under Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, a time when Cardinal Ratzinger was Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and through his election to the Papacy in April 2005, for which then-Msgr. Dewane was present in St. Peter’s Square for the announcement of the new Pope, Benedict XVI.

The pair met for Vatican related matters but were engaged in very different matters and at different levels. “He always recognized me as an American saying, ‘I know you, you work here,’ and we would share comments on that.”

Following his appointment as Co-Adjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in 2006, the meetings became less frequent, but still impactful. Such encounters included Bishop Dewane during his tenure as a member of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” as well as other working visits to the Vatican through the years. Other interactions occurred during the 2008 visit to the U.S. by the Holy Father as well as World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney and World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid.

In what would be their final meeting, Bishop Dewane was part of a group of Bishops from Florida who were at the Vatican in May 2012 as part of their Ad Lumina visit. During that gathering, the Bishops presented their quinquennial reports on the status of their respective Dioceses, which included an audience with the Holy Father.

Bishop Dewane described the encounter at the time: “It is an exciting and moving experience. The Successor of Peter is a profoundly holy man and you see that in him. Each personal audience is a special occasion.”

During the visit, Pope Benedict presented each Bishop with a gift of a pectoral cross, known as a Benedictine cross. The gold-plated cross is a replica of a 14th Century crucifix that hangs in the Benedictine mother-church at St. Anselm in Rome. On the reverse side of the cross is the Papal Coat of Arms. It is a gift Bishop Dewane treasures to this day and wears during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

“It was an unusual gift and something that came from the heart of the Pontiff to the Bishops of the world,” Bishop Dewane said.

In his statement following the death of Benedict XVI, the Bishop concluded: “While we mourn the death of this holy man, we continue to pray: ‘Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.’”

News Briefs for the Week of Jan. 6, 2023

Retired religious priest dies

Father Joseph P. Jocco, Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, a retired priest who assisted at St. Ann Parish in Naples and Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, died on Dec. 24, 2022. Father was born in Chicago and served in the U.S. Navy as corpsman prior to entering the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, professing his first vows in 1977.  He was ordained a priest on June 9, 1984. Father Jocco worked in a variety of ministries in secondary education in Philadelphia, Wilmington, Delaware, Daytona Beach, and at Bishop Verot in Fort Myers. He was also the Vocation Director for the Wilmington-Philadelphia Province and Superior of the Salesian community at Parishes in Philadelphia, Robesonia, Pennsylvania and St. Ann Parish in Naples. Father Jocco is survived by several brothers and sisters, as well as many nieces and nephews. A Mass of Christian Burial was held Jan. 3, in Childs, Maryland, with burial following in the Oblate Cemetery.

Bishop celebrates Feast Day Mass in Naples

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass on the Feast of St. Elizabeth Seton (Jan. 4, 2023), at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples. The Mass included the participation of the students from St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School. Bishop Dewane encouraged the students to learn about their patroness who served as an example to follow in how she answered a call from the Lord and helped launch Catholic education in the United States.

Mooney starts equestrian club

Adventure awaits students in Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School’s newest club! The first outing for the Equestrian Club was Dec. 10, 2022, at a local dressage stable, where students learned about horse safety, grooming, and horse care. Members saddled up the beautiful horses at Rosaire’s Riding Academy to learn the basics of riding so that they can go on future trail rides together. The Equestrian Club also had fun hearing presentations by fellow Mooney students that compete in horse shows on the events that comprise equestrian sports – show jumping, hunter trails, and dressage. The next goal is a ride at the beach! The new Equestrian Cub was founded by sophomore Marianna Cardona Ortiz.

Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal continues

The 21st Annual Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal is continuing through January 2023. A donation to the Appeal strengthens Catholic Charities ability to provide much-needed support, for those recovering from Hurricane Ian, or who need any type of assistance in the region. This outreach is accomplished through more than 35 programs in locations throughout the 10-county Diocese. These programs annually support more than 100,000 individuals and families in ways both large and small. To support the Christmas Appeal, please visit or mail a contribution to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

Time running out for hotel rooms for Eucharistic Congress

The two-part Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Congress and Youth Rally is coming March 24 and 25, 2023, to the Conference Center and Luminary Hotel on the riverfront of downtown Fort Myers. The Eucharistic Congress Youth Rally is 5 to 10 p.m., Friday, March 24, 2023, while the main Eucharistic Congress for adults is Saturday March 25. Exciting speakers and musicians are scheduled for these two events. Both events will include Eucharistic Processions and the opportunity to grow closer to the Lord through the Blessed Sacrament. Visit to register and for additional details. For those wishing to spend the evening of the 24th or 25th at the Luminary Hotel, the deadline to obtain a special rate is closing soon, please make your reservation by visiting