Parish helps dreams come true for youth

Over the years the parishioners of St. Leo the Great Parish have forged a strong bond with Catholic Charities programs in Bonita Springs.

“We proudly host their presence on our campus in the Juan Diego Center and constantly witness and support the good works provided by their staff and volunteers, many of whom are our own parishioners,” said Anne Bellows, Assistant to the Pastor.  “We partner in providing donations from our St. Leo Food Bank, as well as annual holiday food and gift drives at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. We receive the most delight in this relationship when it impacts our area children.”

The Positive Youth Development Program is one such Catholic Charities resource which helps area children and operates after-school tutoring and summer camps, explained Jose A. Perez, Positive Youth Development Program Manager.

Each of the 40 children who participated in the Program’s Summer Enrichment Camp received scholarships from parishioners of St. Leo the Great Parish. During the summer the children received tutoring in math and reading, as well as enjoying enriching activities during their seven weeks on campus including a number of day trips.

“This year we wanted to do something special for the youth we have the privilege of working with,” Perez said. “The last two years have been hard on everyone, but especially on youth who will look back and remember the Pandemic as a significant life event, and it has not been a very positive one.”

Perez figured that perhaps the Program could do something that will leave a positive memory for these challenging times in all this sadness.

“After much thought, I decided to reach out to the most magical place on earth (Disney World) since the kids have always asked about visiting since none had ever been,” Perez said. “Looking back on my first time at Disney, I remember what a fantastic experience it was, but it was also expensive.”

With this goal in mind, Perez worked tirelessly to put the pieces together to make this marvelous adventure happen within budget and without a hitch. The effort included reaching out to Disney for discounted tickets and to a local company for economical transportation.

“St. Leo Parish has always been there for our Positive Youth Development Program,” Perez said. “They help us with whatever comes up. Once the time came for us to meet about scholarships, they asked if we’re doing anything different this year, and I said ‘Yes!’ I explained what we were trying to accomplish making a lasting memory for the students, and they were on board. So, we came up with what we wanted to call the trip: ‘Making Dreams That Last Forever.’”

St. Leo the Great Parish covered the cost of nearly everything, including additional funding for t-shirts and money for souvenirs, Bellows noted. “’Making Dreams That Last Forever’ became a joyful reality made possible through the generosity of our parishioners.”

The parents were as excited as the kids were when they learned about the trip, Perez explained. One mother said: “Thank you for giving our children an opportunity we could never give them.”

Therefore, on the July 31, 2021, the group, including 40 youth, nine high school-aged volunteers, and Catholic Charities staff went on a trip of lifetime.

Upon entering the Magic Kingdom, a girl named Arianna said to Perez: “Mr. Jose, look, it’s the Castle! It’s real!”

Camper Briana described her experience this way: “This was amazing. I had always dreamed of going to Disney. I am so glad I was able to come to summer camp. Thank you!”

Other campers had similar reactions: “It was such a magical feeling when we entered the park.” “This is so cool!” “Thank you for making my dream come true!”  “This was the most fun I have ever had!”

Perez said the trip was “beyond what I thought possible, the kids had a fantastic time. Getting to see their faces as we entered the park as they were greeted with the sight and sounds was priceless.”

To learn more about the Catholic Charities Positive Youth Development Program please contact Lose Perez at 239-390-2928 ext. 2302 or email To support the Program, visit

To learn about St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, please visit or call 239-992-0901.

Parish holds dual celebration

An installation of a new Pastor is a punctuation in the life of a Parish, and a recent one was made more memorable because it also coincided with the Parish Feast Day.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane installed Father Elbano Muñoz as Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton on June 11, 2021, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. The installation was within the context of the Mass, celebrated in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole, reflecting the different cultural members of the community.

A Pastor is someone who serves the faithful but at the same time leads them in a closer relationship to Christ, Bishop Dewane said. A Pastor needs the support of the faithful in order to succeed in his task, which is to call on people to be true disciples, evangelizers and messengers of their Faith.

“You are all witnesses of the Faith,” the Bishop continued. “Your presence here in support of your new Pastor shows that Father has the support he will need to succeed… Let this moment be a new chapter in the history of Sacred Heart Parish here in Bradenton.”

Father Muñoz expressed his gratitude to Bishop Dewane for having the confidence in him as the new Pastor. He thanked the faithful for their support and understanding since his arrival. Father also recognized his fellow priests, nine of whom concelebrated Mass with several having had connections to the Parish.

The history of the Parish dates to the post-Civil War era, when in 1868 Jesuit missionaries established a mission in Bradenton dedicated the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Eventually, when a new church, St. Joseph, was built nearby, Sacred Heart became a Chapel at its current location on 12th Avenue. It was not until 1968 when it was elevated to Parish status. The Parish Center and administration building were built in the following years while the Parish Church received several upgrades to include new stained glass and a renovation of the sanctuary. A Grotto of Our Lady of Guadalupe was added in 2004. There are approximately 800 families with Mass celebrated in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole.

As part of the installation process, Bishop Dewane first introduces the priest as Pastor to the parishioners. The priest later recites a profession of faith for all to hear, including an additional part solely for him. The new Pastor then recites an Oath of Fidelity and promises to “adhere to the teachings, which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise authentic magisterium.” The installation also includes prayers to provide the new Pastor the wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit to lead the Parish.

The ceremony concluded with the signing of documents by the Bishop, the new Pastor, and two official witnesses of the Parish community, who serve as witnesses for all of the parishioners.

A celebratory reception was held in the Parish Hall with dinner and several cakes honoring both Father Muñoz and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

2021 Graduates urged to carry Faith with them forward

Three of the four Diocese of Venice Catholic high schools held their commencement exercises in mid-May, sending off their graduates well prepared for a bright future.

Ahead of each graduation, Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated a Baccalaureate Mass, sharing a hope-filled message that they must each “go forth with God as your guide and let Faith, hope and love be your path through life.”

Bishop Dewane praised the graduating seniors for their academic and athletic accomplishments through the years, having overcome the impact of a global pandemic, emerging ready to move on to the next phase in their lives. Thanks to the unrelenting encouragement of their parents and teachers, they have been guided through their time in high school.

“What you have done is an accomplishment,” Bishop Dewane stressed. “Your future may be uncertain, but your Faith is not uncertain. I say this to the Class of 2021, God goes with you. That is where your Faith resides. The house of hope in your life. The source of love that lasts forever. What is most important is who you are within. Your Faith can stay with you and make you strong. But it is you, the Class of 2021, that have to be the doers of your Faith. Your pastors can’t do it for you. Your parents can’t do it. Your teachers can’t do it. Graduation means all of that is up to you now.”

Encouraging the graduates to go forward with their Faith, Bishop Dewane reminded them that they need to continue to go to Mass, to live the Commandments, receive the Sacraments often, go to confession, to actualize the presence of God in their lives, and to witness it to those around them.

“Do all of those things, even though no one tells you. Use that opportunity to become more that man or woman of God you are called to be. Believe that the Lord is with you always.”

Bishop Dewane expressed his gratitude to the parents of the graduates for entrusting their children to Diocese of Venice Catholic high schools. He also publicly thanked the teachers and faculty for their commitment to the students and being their guides along their spiritual and academic journey.

The Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Baccalaureate Mass was May 12, at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota while the Commencement Exercises were held May 14 at LECOM Park in Bradenton. The Bishop Verot Catholic High School Baccalaureate Mass was May 14 at St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral and the Commencement was held May 15, in their Viking Stadium in Fort Myers. The St. John Neumann Catholic High School Baccalaureate Mass was May 17 at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples and Commencement was May 18 on their football field.

The Baccalaureate Mass and Commencement for Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria will be May 27.

Please check back with the Florida Catholic e-Edition in the coming weeks for more information about the resilient Diocese of Venice Catholic high school Class of 2021.

Bishop lifts face covering and distancing requirements

The following is a letter from Bishop Frank J. Dewane to the faithful dated May 14, 2021 regarding the face covering and distancing policy at Mass and Parish gatherings in the Diocese of Venice.




May 14, 2021


My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Greetings in the Risen Lord! As Holy Mother Church approaches the Solemnity of Pentecost, it is my prayer that you, the Faithful of the Diocese of Venice, may be filled with the graces of the Holy Spirit.

With this letter, I wish to address the face covering and distancing policy at Mass and Parish gatherings in the Diocese of Venice. As you are aware, on May 13, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided updated guidance for vaccinated individuals with regards to face masks and distancing. Under the new guidance, those who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to wear masks or physically distance except where required by law.

In accordance with the new CDC guidance and effective immediately, masks and distancing will no longer be required at Mass in the Diocese of Venice. Masks remain encouraged and certainly permitted, particularly for those who are not yet vaccinated. Masks will no longer be required for Parish group activities or other Parish gatherings.

For those who have children in a Catholic School or Parish religious education program, and due to only recent age eligibility for vaccines for some of these age groups, the CDC has said that masking is a key strategy to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools. Thus, for the remainder of this academic year, masks will continue to be required. This will be reviewed with the close of the school year.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we all try to live in the context of the Pandemic and to be evermore mindful of our brothers and sisters around us who may be vulnerable, for whatever reason.

This opportunity is taken to extend to you the assurances of my continued consideration, as well as my prayers for you and your family.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+Frank J. Dewane

Bishop of the Diocese of

Venice in Florida

Scouting religious awards presented

Participation in Catholic Scouting is an act of discipline which strengthens body, mind, and soul, but it is also a powerful tool of evangelization and service.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane recognized all Catholic Scouts and members of comporable groups in the Diocese of Venice during the annual presentation of Religious Awards on May 16, 2021 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. Prior to the awards presentation about 100 Scouts, Scout leaders and family members, took part in Mass for the Ascension of the Lord Sunday which was celebrated by Bishop Dewane and concelebrated by Father Lawton Lang, Diocesan Scout Chaplain.

During the awards ceremony Bishop Dewane recognized the challenges faced by all during the Pandemic as they worked to earn the various religious awards offered by different Scouting or similar groups. During the ceremony 154 awards were presented to 75 Scouts, some receiving multiple awards. Emily Black of American Heritage Girls Troop 1203 of St. Francis Xavier was the recipient of 17 different awards.

“Your hard work was commendable and identifies your dedication to the Catholic Faith as lived out through Catholic Scouting in the Diocese,” Bishop Dewane said before personally congratulating and presenting each award. “I hope that as you continue to experience the many varied lessons of Scouting, you will also continue to grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ and share that experience with others.”

The National Catholic Committee on Scouting awards included: the Rosary Series, the Marian Series, the Faith Series, Footsteps of American Saints, Modern Saints, Light of Christ, Parvuli Dei, St. John the Baptist, Our Lady, and Pope Pius XII. National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry awards included the Women in Scripture series. Diocesan Scout awards included Priesthood Sunday and Pillars of Faith. American Heritage Girls awards included Tenderheart and Explorer.

Of note at the awards ceremony was the presentation of the Pillars of Faith award to Bartosz Fabinski, of Boy Scout Troop 777 of St. Francis Xavier Parish. This award provides special recognition for youth in Scouting who earn all traditional Catholic Religious Medals: Light of Christ, Parvuli Dei, Ad Altare Dei and Pope Pius XII. This is the first time this award has been presented to a Scout in many years as it requires earning key awards at various stages in beginning at the age of 6 or 7 and continuing to age 15 or older. To make this recognition possible this year, Bartosz was able to earn the Pope Pius XII award, the final award in the sequence.

The Pius XII award is also rarely presented and requires a Scout to be 15 or older and educated on different vocations (single, married, religious, ordained). This also incorporates a discussion on current issues facing the Church and society and included an overnight camping retreat at St. Agnes Parish in Naples. In all, 10 Boys Scouts earned this award which was presented in the Diocese for the first time in 10 years.

In addition, American Heritage Girls Troop FL 1203 of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Fort Myers earned the National Catholic Quality Unit Excellence Award – Pope Paul VI. Adult recognition included the presentation of the following awards: St. Elizabeth Seton, St. Anne, Companions of the Journey, Light of the World, Bronze Pelican, and St. George Emblem.

Near the conclusion of the ceremony, Bishop Dewane was presented with the “Quality Diocese Award,” earned by only 40-50 percent of Dioceses nationally, for meeting certain requirements in supporting Catholic Scouting. This was the eighth year in a row the Diocese has earned this important award. The Bishop noted that while the award is given to the Diocese specifically, it is truly a reflection of the hard work and commitment of Scouts and Scout leaders throughout the Diocese.

Bishop encourages mental health awareness

Susan Laielli – Special to the Florida Catholic

During the next edition ofWitnessing Faith with Bishop Dewane” airing at 8:30 a.m., May 28, 2021, Relevant Radio listeners will hear the sincere passion of Diocese of Venice Bishop Frank J. Dewane as he raises awareness for the importance of mental health across the Diocese of Venice.

“What do we hear, one in five people suffer from a mental health challenge in some way,” Bishop said during the show recorded at the Catholic Center in mid-May, which is also Mental Health Awareness Month.

Bishop Dewane welcomed Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., Family Counseling Center Program Director Geralyn Poletti, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), since 1998, to highlight the importance of helping our sisters and brothers who may suffer from a mental illness or find themselves in crisis as the result of the impacts of Hurricane Irma followed by a global Pandemic.

“We were a little office in Collier County before Hurricane Irma, and the Pandemic,” said Poletti, during the radio interview set to air on 1410 AM and 106.7 FM in Fort Myers and Naples.

Beginning with Hurricane Irma the American Red Cross provided a grant to Catholic Charities for free tele-mental health services for those who lived in Florida during the storm. According to Poletti, these services rolled right into the Pandemic making them busier than ever.

“We are now seeing the economic pitfalls between those who have financial security and those who do not,” said Poletti, referring to the amount of people not able to use tele-mental services because of the lack of phones, or simply the lack of privacy in the home while trying to obtain the services.”

Poletti says they were inundated with referrals from pediatricians and schools following the return to in-person learning. The social worker teams serve families, students and individuals who may be struggling with isolation, depression, and anxiety due to the fallout from having to stay home, alone, or with someone who might be ill.

Bishop Dewane encourages parishioners to reach out to neighbors and friends who might be struggling with mental health due to the stigma still attached and show them you care or are simply willing to listen. He said there is a crossover to some degree between Faith and mental health.

In terms of making a difference, Poletti says she knows Catholic Charities tele-mental health services and their counselors in the schools are having an impact because the families and schools provide feedback, as well as the clinical treatment plans and customer surveys which are measured against the goals and objectives.  They also rely on an evidenced based online tool which provides an overall score for success.

Bishop Dewane also spoke about the initiative to have Mental Health First Aid training offered throughout the Diocese. Initial Youth Mental Health First Aid training sessions took place on April 29 and May 1, 2021. This training was offered through the Diocese Department of Religious Education for priests, deacons, principals, teachers and catechists. Additional training sessions will be offered in the fall.

If you know someone struggling with mental health issues who might benefit from free tele-mental health or in-person counseling services from Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, contact Geralyn Poletti, at 239-455-2655, ext. 3107, or by email at

Since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., mental health outreach has been supporting people with tele-mental health calls and video therapy, and recently resumed in-person therapy.

2,311 COVID-19 video therapy since March 2020

967 COVID-19 telephone therapy since March 2020

610 COVID-19 in-person therapy since February 2021

News Briefs for Week of May 21, 2021

Wear Red on Pentecost Sunday

The great feast that marks the birth of the Christian Church by the power of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost Sunday, is May 23, 2021. Pentecost means “fiftieth day” and is celebrated 50 days after Easter. Red is the liturgical color for this day and the Faithful are encouraged to wear red to Mass that day. Red is symbolic of the love of the Holy Spirit and recalls the tongues of fire in which the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles that first Pentecost. The color red also reminds us of the blood of the martyrs. These are the believers of every generation who by the power of the Holy Spirit hold firm to the true faith, even at the cost of their lives.

Diocesan CCW Convention June 4-5

The Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s 34th Annual Convention, with a theme of “What have you done for the least of my people?” (Matt 25:40), will be held June 4 and June 5, 2021 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1301 Center Road, Venice. The cost of the two-day convention is $75, or $65 for one day (lunch included). Each day will include personal development time, dynamic speakers and workshops, as well as providing the opportunity to meet women from around the Diocese along with the President of the Florida Council of Women. For registration information, please contact Bernadette Raftery at 704-968-9580 or or Ellen Bachman at 941-721-7393 or Please register by May 25.

Young students learn the xylophone

PreK-4 and kindergarten students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers enjoyed time learning a new instrument, the xylophone, in class on May 11, 2021. There were different instruments that could play different ranges of notes. Students at Diocesan Catholic schools have access to music programs where they learn both music appreciation and have the opportunity learn to play many different instruments.

Religious Freedom Week coming soon

Solidarity in Freedom takes place from June 22 to 29. The Week begins with the Feast of Ss. John Fisher and Thomas More, ends with the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul and includes the Feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist. During Religious Freedom Week, Catholics are encouraged to pray and act each day for religious freedom. The (USCCB) United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Pray-Reflect-Act Series aims to help Catholics build solidarity with people of faith who are persecuted and find strength to carry out the mission of the Church here in the United States. For resources and reflections each day of this week, please visit

Verot Gifts of Christ Art Show winners announced

Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers announced the winners of the 1st Annual Gifts of Christ Art Show on May 11, 2021. The Gifts of Christ is a Diocesan-wide Catholic Schools initiative to integrate Catholic values and virtues into the curriculum including in the Arts. Best in Show: Cameron Schockling; First Place, Kerry Dowdle; Second Place, Tanner Filla; Third Place, Ainsleigh Ellis; Principal’s Award, Camila Luna; Honorable Mention, Anna Latell, Ava Lewis and Bridget Holbreck.

Fire truck cools off students

The City of Naples Fire Department Station No. 1 brought one of their ladder trucks to St. Ann Catholic School on May 12, 2021 to help cool off pre-K students on the soccer field. The water canon on the end of a ladder truck doused the students who dashed under the flowing water over and over again. There were also small inflatable pools set up for those seeking less excitement.

Many learn about porn myths

Combining scientific research, statistics, humor as well as personal testimony Australian-born speaker Matt Fradd addressed the difficult topic of pornography to a variety of different audiences during a two-day visit to the Diocese of Venice in early May.

Fradd stressed that he didn’t want to tell his audiences what to do, but to provide information about behaviors and the negative consequences that result.

“We live in a pornified culture,” Fradd said to a group of adults and teens on May 4, 2021 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. “Instead of seeing pictures and reading articles in magazines and books, children can now access hard-core pornography in the home on the internet.”

At the invitation of the Diocese Office of Religious Education and Office of Family Life, Fradd spoke to middle school students at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charlotte and Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota before appearing at the public event at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice on May 4, 2021. The next day, he spoke to freshmen and sophomores at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota in the morning, was the keynote at a Luncheons for Life gathering in Venice, and in the evening, he addressed some 300 teens at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch.

These talks grew out of the recent Safe Haven Sunday (March 7, 2021) within the Diocese of Venice which was a day of awareness that provided the opportunity for the Diocese to directly address the problem of pornography in marriages, families, and in our culture. At the same time, resources were made available to support individuals, married couples and families in making their homes safe from pornography.

During his talks, Fradd used age-appropriate language to deliver his powerful message. He began each session facing the issue head-on, saying: “The problem with porn is not that it shows too much but instead it shows too little of the human person. Porn reduces the complexity, the individuality and the uniqueness of the man or woman. It creates a two-dimensional thing for consumption and dehumanizes them in that way.”

Citing scientific research, Fradd spoke about the effects of excessive pornography on the brain, causing changes not unlike addictions to drugs. This addiction can cause users to become dissatisfied with their partner because realistic expectation is replaced by a two-dimensional fantasy.

When asked by his own young son about what pornography is, Fradd admittedly struggled to find a clear answer but shared his view on how to approach the topic.

He told his son, “Pornography is pictures or videos of people who are showing parts of their body that their bathing suit should cover. If you ever see that, or if someone shows that to you, or you see it on a billboard, or in a magazine, internet, tv show; you should always tell mommy and daddy and we will always be very proud of you. You might think you were in trouble, but I promise you, we will be proud of you for telling us that.”

He suggested that parents should sit down with their kids and let them know that they are aware that pornography is available everywhere, and that they are comfortable having discussions about it. “It’s important to let kids know that technology is amoral, neither good nor evil,” he added, “but, it’s how we use technology that is important.”

During a talk to students at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School on May 5, Fradd shared a story about how un-adult-like porn really is, noting that a friend refused to enter a strip club with the rest of the group by simply stating, “I just don’t think it’s manly to have to pay a woman to pretend to like you.”

Fradd said the consequences of accessing pornography, even as teens, can follow them for the rest of their life. “Human sexuality is so powerful and in contrast pornography is hellish mockery of heavenly reality.”

Fradd concluded each talk stressing that even if someone in the audience looks at porn on a regular basis or they feel it is impossible to stop, it does not mean healing cannot occur. He offered two websites as excellent resources to assist in this process – (for men), (for women). If additional help is needed, he recommended seeking a spiritual advisor, a certified sexual therapist and going to a 12 step program.

For parents, Fradd also recommended the use of internet accountability software such as Covenant Eyes, which monitors and filters computers, hand-held devices and phones can be found at This site was promoted during Diocesan Safe Haven Sunday.

News Briefs for the Week of May 14 2021

Catholic Schools receive Year of St. Joseph plaque

Diocese of Venice Catholic schools were recently presented with a three-dimensional St. Joseph plaque courtesy of Bishop Frank J. Dewane as part of the ongoing celebration of the “Year of St. Joseph.” Teaching the lessons of St. Joseph, Protector of the Universal Church, has been a priority in the Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Venice for the past year. The schools took part in a St. Joseph Devotional Project to introduce the devotion and to strengthen Catholic culture in each of the Diocesan schools. Bishop Dewane marked the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, 2021, by celebrating Mass at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton with invited guests and winners of the Devotional Project Art Contest. The Mass was livestreamed and at its conclusion the Bishop led the students (both in person and viewing online) in the Act of Consecration to the Most Chaste Heart of St. Joseph.

Wear Red on Pentecost Sunday

The great feast that marks the birth of the Christian Church by the power of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost Sunday, is May 23. Pentecost means “fiftieth day” and is celebrated 50 days after Easter. Red is the liturgical color for this day and the Faithful are encouraged to wear red to Mass that day. Red is symbolic of the love of the Holy Spirit and recalls the tongues of fire in which the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles that first Pentecost. The color red also reminds us of the blood of the martyrs. These are the believers of every generation who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, hold firm to the true faith even at the cost of their lives.

Lakewood Ranch woman receives lay Franciscan honor

Marie Rizzi, of Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch, is the winner of the 2021 Franciscan Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Award, from the Secular Franciscan Order Five Franciscan Martyrs Region (Florida, Alabama and South Georgia). Rizzi practices Catholic Social Justice daily by feeding the hungry, shopping for the homebound, calling to see if people need company or a ride to an appointment. She has directed her Parish efforts to support Casa San Juan Bosco Farm Worker Housing of Catholic Charities in Arcadia. In addition, she is active in devising ways to involve youth in Parish outreach. Rizzi was presented the award at the Five Franciscan Martyrs Region Annual Meeting in Winter Park on May 7, 2021.

St. Martha golf team league champs

Congrats to the St. Martha Catholic School Golf Team on finishing an undefeated season on May 5, 2021. The Sarasota team capped off their season with a 6 shot victory to earn the League Championship.

Fort Myers students collect items for Catholic Charities

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School National Honor Society members collected needed items for the Fort Myers Food Pantry of Catholic Charities in early May 2021. The collection included more than 750 diapers, socks, toothbrushes, and soap.

New dean announced for Ave Maria Law

The Ave Maria School of Law in Naples recently announced that John Czarnetzky, a professor of law at the University of Mississippi, will become the new dean of the law school effective June 1, 2021. In addition to teaching courses at the University of Mississippi School of Law, Czarnetzky also works as a legal advisor to the Holy See’s Mission to the United Nations, and has represented the Holy See in various negotiations and in international treaties. Czarnetzky also is a lay Dominican and a Third Degree member of the Knights of Columbus. He was unanimously selected for the position by the school’s board of governors. Czarnetzky replaces Kevin Cieply, who resigned at the end of February due to personal reasons.

Updated Catholic Charities food pantry hours

The hours have been updated for the Catholic Charities efforts toward food distribution at the following times and locations:

  • Guadalupe Social Services – 211 South 9th St., Immokalee – Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon. The Soup Kitchen dining room is now open daily for dine-in and meals-to-go.
  • Judy Sullivan Center – 3174 Tamiami Trail E., Naples – Monday-Friday, 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. and Tuesday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
  • Margaret Parish – 208 Dean Duff St., Clewiston – Thursday, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Bonita Springs – 28360 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs – Friday, 9 a.m.-11 a.m.
  • Elizabeth K. Galeana Pantry – 4235 Michigan Avenue Link, Fort Myers – Friday, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Paul Parish – Parish Hall, 1208 E Oak St., Arcadia – Fridays, 8:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m.

English Catholic Charismatic Renewal

The Diocese of Venice English Charismatic Renewal will hold a Pentecost Celebration on May 23 beginning at 2:30 p.m. at Sacred Heart Parish, 211 W. Charlotte Ave., Punta Gorda. No registration is required. For more information, please email or contact Renee Mazaron at 419-343-1604. Reminder: Bring your prayer group banner and stand to the event.

Diocesan CCW Convention

The Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s 34th Annual Convention, with a theme of “What have you done for the least of my people?” (Matt 25:40), will be held June 4 and June 5, at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1301 Center Road, Venice. The cost of the two-day convention is $75, or $65 for one day (lunch included). Each day will include personal development time, dynamic speakers and workshops, as well as providing the opportunity to meet women from around the Diocese along with the President of the Florida Council of Women. For registration information, please contact Bernadette Raftery at 704-968-9580 or or Ellen Bachman at 941-721-7393 or Please register by May 25.

Vaccination clinic in Arcadia successful

When Olivia Fernandez received her first of two Covid-19 vaccination shots on May 1, 2021 she was very happy, having a new piece of mind that her whole family will be safe.

Fernandez was one of about 100 who received their vaccinations at Casa San Juan Bosco, a farm worker housing community in Arcadia built and operated by Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc.

“I’m am so happy to be here,” Fernandez said. “I worry about my little ones and this is one way to make sure I do what is right for them.”

The clinic was free and open to anyone in the community and administered by the DeSoto County Health Department. The event was scheduled from 1-4 p.m., but some arrived as early as 9 a.m. The effort was to encourage the large local Hispanic population to get vaccinated, a part of the community that has been reluctant to receive their vaccines because of worries over side-effects and misunderstandings about possible costs and documentation requirements.

Heather Smith of the DeSoto and Highlands County Health Departments praised Catholic Charities for the effort, explaining how the community members were receptive to take part in a clinic held at a property run by the Catholic Church.

“This made a big difference,” Smith said. “Thank you, Catholic Charities for doing this.”

Philomena Pereira, CEO of Catholic Charities, said the support of Bishop Frank J. Dewane allowed the most recent effort to happen. An initial vaccination clinic was held in late April but limited to the adult residents of Casa San Juan Bosco. They will be receiving their second shots in two weeks.

“This is just the next phase of our response to the pandemic,” Pereira said. “Part of that is being the conduit to help more and more people get vaccinated.”

There are plans to have additional vaccination clinics soon at other Catholic Charities sites, she explained. These will be promoted to the local communities as was the clinic in Arcadia. Fliers were set up throughout DeSoto County helping get the word out and ensuring success. Another Catholic Charities site in Arcadia, the food pantry adjacent to St. Paul, will host a vaccine clinic May 16.

The Arcadia clinic had some extra perks for those who were able to take part. People received a gift bag which included donated sandwiches from Market360 in Naples, fresh vegetables, coloring books and crayons from the faithful of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Fort Myers, as well as undergarments for adults and children.

Father Anthony Hewitt, Pastor of St. Francis Xavier assisted throughout the day, helping people check in and fill out the necessary health forms. Also present were representatives from the Patterson Foundation promoting their summer reading program, and information was provided about how to apply for free or low-cost health services. Catholic Charities representatives were also there to answer any questions, translate when necessary and to share information about other programs that are offered at two Arcadia locations.

Those who received their first vaccine on May 1 will be able to return for their second vaccine at Casa San Juan Bosco on May 29.

Please visit to learn more about Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc.