Longtime Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs dies

Father Joseph F. Connolly, Third Order Regular Franciscan (TOR), Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish in Sarasota, died Jan. 16, 2021, at the age of 79.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane said the death of Father Connolly was a loss for the Diocese and in particular Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish, where he served as Pastor for 24 years.

“Father Connolly was a priest who had a passion for his ministry,” Bishop Dewane said. “Please pray for the repose of the soul of Father Connolly, for the people of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs who found inspiration by his good work, and for his family for whom this loss is particularly personal.”

Born on Aug. 9, 1941, in Springfield, Mass., Father Joe, as most called him, entered the Third Order Regular community in September 1959. He professed first vows on July 1, 1962. Educated at St. Francis College (now university) and St. Francis Seminary in Loretto, Pa., Father Connolly was ordained May 18, 1968 in Loretto.

After ordination he was assigned to a teaching position in Fairless Hills, Pa., where he eventually became principal. While teacher and principal he served on weekends in parishes in the Diocese of Trenton, N.J., including in Willingboro, and for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia at a parish in Fairless Hills. From there, Father Connolly served at a parish in Cinnaminson, N.J.

It was in 1994 when Father Connolly was assigned to the Diocese of Venice where he was Parochial Vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton from 1994-1996. Father was then appointed as Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish in Sarasota in late 1996 where he served until his death.

While at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, Father Connolly was instrumental in forming the Mission of what became Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch and was on the Fundraising Board for Bethesda House of Catholic Charities in Sarasota. A special Padre Pio Shrine was dedicated on parish property February 23, 2006, at the direction of Father Connolly and funded by the Saint Padre Pio Society. This Shrine has since become nationally recognized.

For the Diocese of Venice, Father served on the Presbyteral Council, the College of Consultors, and was the longtime Spiritual Advisor of the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women.

Known for making fettucine alfredo for guests, something he said was the only dish his fellow seminarians liked while he was in formation. In a 2004 interview with the Florida Catholic, Father Connolly was asked what person, other than Christ, he admires most. His reply was, “St. Francis of Assisi, although I don’t measure up to him, either.”

He was honored as a Golden Jubilarian at the 2018 Chrism Mass and on that occasion, Father noted with time he had gained a renewed perspective on his sacramental ministry. Reflecting on his own years as priest, Father said that “after 50 years of faithful service we jubilarians come to realize just how much God loves us; how Jesus works through us; and how the Holy Spirit still inspires us.”

In his final months of ministry, Father Connolly had a serious illness and was unable to celebrate Mass publicly out of health concerns and he regularly posted video messages to the faithful about his progress in recovery and how his prayers were always focused on the faithful and their spiritual wellbeing.

The Funeral arrangements for Father Connolly T.O. R., are as follows:

Viewing – 4-7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish, 833 Magellan Drive, Sarasota;

Mass of Christian Burial – 11 a.m., Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, at the Parish.

2021 to be busy across Diocese

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

In the coming months there will be the Ordination to the Priesthood of two men, a new initiative to curb the impacts of pornography on society, small and large conferences, Masses for couples celebrating significant wedding anniversaries, opportunities to promote the sanctity of life, celebrations of all sorts, as well as the continuation of the “Year of St. Joseph.”

With the blessing of Bishop Frank J. Dewane, such activities will take place throughout the Diocese as part of the continuing effort to emerge with a new purpose in the wake of the darkest days of the Pandemic. All of this will be done while following the guidelines of social distancing, face coverings and extensive sanitizing (cleaning) which continues to take place. These measures remain, not only to ensure the safety of the public attending Mass or other events, but for priests, staff and volunteers who serve throughout the Diocese.

Two of the most important occasions to grow in the Faith are the annual Women’s and Men’s Conferences at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. Each year captivating speakers help bring focus to the faith-life of participants. The Conferences are from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and include Mass with Bishop Dewane, Adoration, the chance for Confession, listening to presenters and enjoying lunch. The Men’s Conference is Feb. 20, 2021, while the Women’s Conference is March 13, 2021. For more information please contact the Office of Evangelization at evangelization@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543..

For all couples celebrating a significant wedding anniversary in 2021, Bishop Dewane will be the celebrant of Masses in your honor. This year, to allow for appropriate social distancing, each location will have two Masses, 10 a.m. and noon on Feb. 6, 2021, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice, and 10 a.m. and noon on March 6, 2021, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. All registration is being handled through local Parishes with seating commitments confirmed at least one week before the Mass you wish to attend.

The Office of Respect Life will be busy throughout 2021 with a variety of in-person and virtual activities all to raise awareness about important issues regarding the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. First up is the 23rd annual Sarasota Prayer Walk for Life on Jan. 22, 2021 outside of the Planned Parenthood in downtown Sarasota. Bishop Dewane will celebrate Mass at 8:30 a.m. at St. Martha Parish, and immediately following, participants will gather for the prayer walk. Space is limited for Mass, so registration is required at www.dioceseofvenice.org/2021prayerwalk. The Mass will be livestreamed through the Diocesan Facebook page and will be shared with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s 9 Days for Life campaign.

Two weeks later, Feb. 2-3, 2021, the faithful will be able to participate in the Virtual Catholic Days at the Capitol courtesy of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops at flaccb.org/cdac. Finally, there will be an opportunity to participate in the national 40 Days for Life Spring Campaign during Lent in Fort Myers and Sarasota then for the Fall Campaign (October) at multiple locations in the Diocese.

New this year, the Diocese will be participating in Safe Haven Sunday, March 7, 2021, to raise awareness about the harmfulness of pornography in the family and society. Pornography creates unsafe environments for children and confuses others about attitudes towards sex and marriage. It is a moral issue, therefore this day of awareness will explain the impacts pornography can have on marriages, families, and culture, while providing helpful resources for all. Detailed information will be shared with the faithful about how to combat this scourge in the week leading up to Safe Haven Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Diocese continues to be dedicated to celebrating the “Year of St. Joseph,” which began on March 19, 2020, the Feast of St. Joseph. The prayers of the Diocese, as directed by Bishop Dewane, are focused on the Saint who is the foster-father of Jesus and the Protector of the Universal Church. In light of Pope Francis recently dedicating a “Year of St. Joseph,” the Diocesan celebration will continue through December 8, 2021. A “Year of St. Joseph,” webpage (https://dioceseofvenice.org/a-year-of-st-joseph/) was added to the Diocesan website for prayers, devotions and general information. Meanwhile, the Diocesan Department of Catholic Education started a St. Joseph Devotional Project to promote a dedication to the Saint while at the same time developing a devotional life of both children and adults into 2021.

In the coming months, Bishop Dewane will preside over a variety of celebrations which occur each year, including the Rite of Election in February when Bishop Dewane welcomes those in RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) who will be fully entering the Church at the Easter Vigil, a Mass for Victims of Abuse, and later in the year a Veterans Day Mass, the 25th anniversary celebration of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center, a Red Mass for legal professionals and more. It is also expected that two men will be Ordained to the Priesthood by the Bishop in early summer.

Throughout 2021 there will be a variety of Parish-based celebrations to include the 50th Anniversary of the founding of San Marco Parish on March Island; the opening of a new church for St. Paul Parish in Arcadia; the completion of roof repairs for Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish in Bradenton; groundbreakings for Parish Centers at St. William Parish in Naples and Our Lady of Mercy in Boca Grande; the renovation of property that previously functioned churches into Parish Centers at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee and Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch; and the completion of extensive audio-visual upgrades to Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers. These are just samples of the ongoing projects and work underway to support Parishes as they take action now for the benefit of future generations.

As 2021 moves forward, check the Diocesan website (www.dioceseofvenice.org) frequently for information about these and other upcoming events. As always, check the weekly Florida Catholic e-Edition to read stories and view images from these and other happenings across the Diocese. If you would like to read the story about life in the Diocese during 2020, please visit www. https://dioceseofvenice.org/looking-back-on-turbulent-2020/.

 

Long-time Pastor in Avon Park dies

Father Gerald P. Grogan, Pastor for 27 years at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park, died Jan.10, 2021. He was 82.

Father Grogan was born March 8, 1938 in County Cork, Ireland, the third of seven children. He graduated from St. John’s College Seminary in Waterford, Ireland, and then St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach before being Ordained to the Priesthood on Sept. 11, 1960 in Birr, County Offaly, Ireland, for the Diocese of Miami. Father served in parishes in Coral Gables, Fort Lauderdale, North Miami, Miami Beach, Homestead, Port St. Lucie and Cocoa Beach, as well as at schools in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. He also later received an advanced degree from Barry University in Miami.

Before the Diocese of Venice was established in 1984, Father Grogan was named Pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park on March 16, 1979 and remained there, overseeing expansions of the Church and additional construction, before retiring on March 8, 2007.

For the Diocese of Venice, Father Grogan was a member of the Presbyteral Council and Priest Personnel Board and coordinator of the pre-Cana program in the Eastern Deanery. After his retirement, Father continued to assist at Our Lady of Grace, as well as at St. James Parish in Lake Placid and St. Catherine Parish in Sebring.

A Funeral Mass for Father will be 11 a.m., Jan. 18, 2021, Our Lady of Grace Parish, 595 E. Main St., Avon Park.

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Father Gerald P. Grogan 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.

News briefs for the week of Jan. 15, 2020

Fort Myers school installs new floors

Thanks to the contributions of generous donors, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers recently started implementing Phase 2 of its “Health and Safety Initiatives.” During the Christmas break carpet was replaced in seven Middle School classrooms, with laminate wood floors. In addition, the school added flexible classroom furniture which support collaborative learning within recommended social distancing parameters.

All-school Mass held for high schoolers in Fort Myers

The entire student body of Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers gathered for Mass in the Viking Stadium on Jan. 6, 2021, the Feast of the Epiphany. The outdoor Mass, with students sitting in the stands or on the football field, was the first time all students were able to gather together for Mass since the start of the Academic Year. Previous Masses had been divided by classes or grades, due to the need for social distancing. During the Mass, students took time to remember Joe Ilnitzki, an English teacher, who joined the faculty in the fall and died during the Christmas break.

Knights collect shoes and socks for homeless vets

The Knights of Columbus Council 11425 of St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers had a successful Shows and Socks for Homeless Veterans drive. This was the fourth such annual collection, which brought in more than 200 pairs of shoes and 500 pairs of socks and will be distributed to area agencies which support homeless veterans. Socks are one of most requested items for the homeless.

Students plant and maintain garden

Returning from Christmas vacation, second graders from Ms. Binky Ravazzoli’s class at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota worked hard on Jan. 6, 2021, assisting in the cleaning of the school Garden Beds and in planting new lettuce, beans, corn, carrots and rosemary. The fresh herbs and vegetables from the garden are eaten by the students throughout the year. The garden is also used as a hands-on learning tool to teach environmental awareness while having the responsibility of maintaining and later benefitting from their hard work.

Catholic Charities Ball Feb. 13

Please join us Feb. 13, 2021, for an elegant evening at one of Sarasota’s beautiful Jewels on the Bay, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. Bring your valentine to an elegant evening featuring exquisite cuisine and wine pairing by Michael’s on East. The beautiful and unique setting of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens reminds us that, despite this pandemic, we are surrounded by God’s majesty and Mother Nature’s glory. The event begins at 6 p.m. with cocktails. Tickets are $350 with a limit of 150 guests. For more information call 941-909-7817 or email hilles.hughes@catholiccharitiesdov.org.

Faith & Wine Lee County Virtual Event Jan. 21

Faith & Wine of Lee County will hold its next Virtual Zoom Event at 7 p.m., Jan. 21, 2021. The guest speaker is Kitty Cleveland on the topic “Beloved: Finding My Identity in Christ.” Registration is now open for this free event at faithandwineleecounty.com.

Dispensation

As Bishop Frank J. Dewane continues to listen to public health data and hear from Priests and Parishioners about the experiences at Diocesan Parishes, the dispensation given to attend Sunday Mass has been extended indefinitely. At the same time, Bishop Dewane invites the Catholic Faithful who are able, to return to their Parish for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Please check the Diocese of Venice website for any updates.

Livestreaming

The Diocese of Venice will continue livestreaming the Mass through the Diocese website (www.dioceseofvenice.org) and Facebook pages from the Catholic Center in Venice at 9:15 a.m. daily as the dispensation to attend Mass remains.

Act of Spiritual Communion

It has long been a Catholic understanding that when circumstances prevent one from receiving Holy Communion, it is possible to make an Act of Spiritual Communion which is a source of grace. Spiritual Communion means uniting one’s self in prayer with Christ’s sacrifice and worshiping Him in His Body and Blood.

The most common reason for making an Act of Spiritual Communion is when a person cannot attend Mass, as is the case during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Acts of Spiritual Communion increase our desire to receive sacramental Communion and help us avoid the sins that would make us unable to receive Holy Communion worthily.

For all who will not be able to receive the Holy Eucharist in person, consider this special prayer, an Act of Spiritual Communion:

My Jesus,
I believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,

and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there

and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.
Amen.

Online Resources

A special coronavirus webpage is located on the Diocese of Venice website at www.dioceseofvenice.org. Resources include links to the Mass, the prayer for an Act of the Spiritual Communion, videos of the Stations of the Cross, Divine Mercy Chaplet and Pray the Rosary. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website, www.usccb.org, also posts the daily Mass readings.

Parish donations

During this challenging time in the life and mission of the Diocese of Venice, our Parishes face increased risk of financial shortfalls due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and its effects on everyday life. Parishes depend on weekly financial gifts to continue their ministries, especially in this critical time of crisis. The Diocese of Venice is providing an online platform and encourages the Faithful to support their Parish. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/ways-to-give/parish-donations-online/ to donate to your Parish. The Faithful may also contribute through usual channels (e.g., envelopes, and through the Parish online giving option). Together we will navigate through this crisis, provide assistance to those in need, and secure the road ahead for the Parishes within the Diocese of Venice.

Looking back on turbulent 2020

Blessings and joy, which come with each New Year, offer the opportunity to reflect upon what has passed in the previous year with a new perspective.

While 2020 was filled with challenges, suffering and sadness from the impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic, it was also a time of amazing kindness, compassion and an opportunity for spiritual renewal as the faithful found new ways to grow closer to the Lord.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane guided the Diocese of Venice initially through the normal busy times of seasonal activities in the first two months of 2020 before quickly adapting to and addressing the changing realities of the Pandemic and its impact on the faithful for the balance of the year.

Parishes ceased operations temporarily and all reopened two months later under stringent health and safety guidelines. Livestreaming Masses, including with Bishop Dewane, became the norm and many are still available to this day.

The inability to gather physically Church impacted many, in particular the elderly, and efforts were made to reach out (via the mail, email, phone or socially distanced visits) to keep people connected. After Parishes were closed for public Mass on March 20, 2020, there were offerings of outdoor Sacrament of Reconciliation and Holy Communion, and, following the lead of Bishop Dewane, many offered a livestreamed Mass. The dispensation for the obligation to attend Sunday Mass for those who were ill, or fearful of illness, was extended into 2021.

While many events were cancelled during 2020, key Holy Week Masses were celebrated by Bishop Dewane and livestreamed from Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. Bishop Dewane expressed sadness of having these celebrations without the Faithful. In addition, many Diocesan offices, within their area of specialization, reached out with online programming and content which included prayers, devotions, links to information about saints and much more.

The nationwide shutdown threw many out of work creating a crisis, which Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. had never seen before, and responded with its full capacity. In addition to opening six emergency food pantries, Catholic Charities established hotlines to expedite the process of getting help (food, emergency funds or tele-mental health) for the community. From late March through December, Catholic Charities distributed more than 2 million pounds of food and helped more than 170,000 individuals. The generosity of the faithful shined forth during the crisis as requests for donations were answered.

When the restrictions caused by the Pandemic struck, the Diocese of Venice Prison Outreach quickly facilitated virtual access to Mass, which continued throughout the year. In addition, digital religious education programming and other materials on the teachings of the Catholic Church, were made available to prisoners statewide.

Following the lead of the State of Florida, Parishes reopened for public Mass on May 18, 2020. This was accomplished by implementing a variety of guidelines (social distancing, face coverings and extensive sanitizing) not only to ensure the safety of the public attending Mass, but for those priests, staff and volunteers who serve at the Parishes. All of those guidelines remain in effect.

Celebrations, which would have brought large crowds, together were held with all dignity and tradition respected while distancing precautions were taken. Included among these events were the Ordination to the Priesthood of Father Franckel Fils-Aime on June 27, 2020; the Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate for the Diocese of Venice of seven men on Aug. 15, 2020; and the Ordination to the Transitional Diaconate of Diocesan Seminarian Alexander Pince on Aug. 29, 2020.

Other liturgical celebrations by Bishop Dewane which were made available through a livestream included the Mass for Victims of Abuse, Veterans Day Mass, Red Mass for legal professionals and more.

The annual Diocesan Youth Rally was different from its usual gathering of nearly 2,000. On Nov. 14, 2020, about 100 gathered at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples to hear music, talks and then participate in Mass with Bishop Dewane. At the same time, youth joined virtually from 20 satellite locations across the Diocese.

Diocesan Catholic Schools closed for an extended Spring Break before classes resumed virtually in late March 2020 for the balance of the academic year as everyone adapted to the ever-changing situation.

All Diocesan Catholic Schools successfully reopened for the new 2020-2021 Academic Year in August to both in-classroom and online instruction, including a full slate of athletics. This was accomplished by using lessons learned in the spring, combined with the implementation of comprehensive health and safety protocols. The success of this effort is reflected in the reality that nearly 90 percent of all students are learning in the classroom.

Bishop Dewane declared a “Year of St. Joseph,” effective March 19, 2020, the Feast of St. Joseph, the Protector of the Universal Church. This happened to be the last day of public Masses before the temporary suspension. “Particularly in this time of uncertainty in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is appropriate to seek the intercessions of the saints for guidance and protection,” Bishop Dewane stated. It should be noted that Pope Francis declared a global “Year of St. Joseph” from Dec. 8, 2020 through Dec. 8, 2021. Considering this notice, Bishop Dewane extended the Diocesan year to conclude Dec. 8, 2021.

A “Year of St. Joseph,” page (https://dioceseofvenice.org/a-year-of-st-joseph/) was added to the Diocesan website so as to provide prayers, devotions and general information about the foster-father of Jesus. Meanwhile, in December 2020, the Diocesan Department of Catholic Education started a St. Joseph Devotional Project to promote a devotion to the saint while at the same time developing a devotional life of both children and adults.

Before the Pandemic, activities which took place as usual included: a Widows and Widowers Mass on Jan. 26, 2020; a Men’s Conference on Feb. 8, 2020; a Women’s Conference on Feb. 22, 2020; two Wedding Anniversary Masses in February; as well as a Prayer Walk for Life in January. Parish activities slowly restarted in August and have been adjusted to ensure the health and safety of all.

While 2020 brought great challenges to many, including to the Diocese of Venice, the Catholic Church remains strong and 2021 looks to be a time of celebration and hope.

Stay tuned to learn about the events of 2021 coming in the Jan. 15, 2021 edition of The Florida Catholic.

Celebrating Christmas during a Pandemic

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

Celebrations abounded throughout the Diocese of Venice with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses bringing in the number of faithful not seen since before the start of the global COVID-19 Pandemic.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane recorded a Christmas Day Mass for broadcast on TV to the homebound and also offered a livestream Mass from the Catholic Canter in Venice on Christmas Day.

The message of Bishop Dewane was of hope, not only of the news that vaccines are being distributed, but the “hope that God gave us in sending His Son into the World. That is what we celebrate today… Allow Christ to be the light in your life.”

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

To reach as many children as possible, while still staying safe, St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston, distributed gifts during smaller celebrations throughout December. Each child also received a t-shirt with an image of Jesus embracing a child and the name of the Parish. In all, some 500 children received gifts.

At St. Jude Parish in Sarasota, Pastor Father Celestino Gutiérrez helped to distribute toys and food for 58 families at the Myakka Mission for Migrants brings smiles to the faces of 118 children.

Donors from across the Diocese brought holiday cheer to children at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, where gifts were distributed following an outdoor Nativity Play on Dec. 19, 2020. In addition to the gifts, the young children of the Parish also received jackets, donated by the Knights of Columbus from Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch.

Those in religious education classes at Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda, who usually visited nearby assisted living facilities, turned their disappointment into activities which included handmaking Christmas cards and creating gift bags for residents. The youth created videos of Christmas Carols that were shared with the residents and posted to social media.

Donations not only came from Parishes and the faithful, but from inspiring children who wanted to help kids like themselves.

For example, Renata, Milena and Tyler, along with their friends, all from the Vilano Community in Sarasota, pooled their lemonade stand money to buy necessities and donate them to the mothers at Our Mother’s House in Venice, a residential and support program of Catholic Charities which assists single mothers and their children who might otherwise be homeless.

One young girl from Fort Myers, 5-year-old Chandler Ciccarello, first went to friends and then went on social media to raise money so she could use the money, with the help of her mom, to buy gifts for area needy children. In the end, more than $4,000 was raised and gifts were purchased for 400 children and donated to Catholic Charities of Lee County. Originally the idea was to buy bicycles for children and enough was raised that all children who asked receive a bicycle for Christmas courtesy of Chandler.

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

Bishop helps Parish celebrate Feast Day

While the faithful sang music proclaiming the arrival of Jesus Christ at Christmas and the three kings at the Epiphany, a Eucharistic Procession circled the property of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish and Catholic School in Naples.

This procession took place on the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Jan. 3, 2021), with Bishop Frank J. Dewane carrying the monstrance, and served as the opening of two days of celebrations in honor of the Feast Day of St. Elizabeth Seton on Jan. 4, 2021.

Carey Ford said it was wonderful to take part in a traditional Eucharistic Procession, bringing her back to her youth when her home Parish in Ohio had such public displays of Faith several times a year. “We are out here to honor Christ, something St. Elizabeth Seton did in the way she lived her own life. Also, everyone can see who we are as Catholics, particularly at a time when many are staying away, whether from the pandemic or for other reasons.”

St. Elizabeth Seton is patroness of Catholic schools, seafarers, those rejected or persecuted for their faith, orphans and widows and was the first native-born American to be canonized by the Catholic Church. Bishop Dewane noted that the Lord spoke to her at different points in her life as a wife, mother, widow, religious and teachers.

“The Lord called her through different moments of her life and despite many hardships which could have turned her attention away she didn’t forget about the call of the Lord,” the Bishop said. “Just as the three kings followed a star at the Epiphany, she followed a star and once she received the gift of Faith, it was Christ and the Lord who brought her through the stages in her life to ever more profoundly encounter Him. As St. Elizabeth Seton did, we must open ourselves up to be accessible for an encounter with the Lord.”

St. Elizabeth Seton Parish Administrator Father Casey Jones led adoration in the church following the Eucharistic Procession. For the Feast itself, a relic of St. Elizabeth Seton was on display and the church was open to silent prayer.

St. Elizabeth Seton was born before the American Revolution and grew up in New York as part of a prominent Episcopalian family. She married in 1794 and had five children. Discovering Catholicism while in Italy, where her husband died, she eventually returned to the U.S. and entered the Catholic Church in 1805. Later, she moved to Emmitsburg, Maryland, where she entered religious life and founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, the first community for religious women established in the U.S. She also began the first free Catholic girl’s school in the country, which formed the foundation for the modern Catholic education system. She died in 1821 and was canonized on Sept. 14, 1975.

News briefs for the week of Dec. 21, 2020

Bishop celebrates Mass for students in Bradenton

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for students at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton on Dec. 17, 2020. The fifth through eighth graders were present in the Church, while the younger students, and students who a learning virtually, participated via a livestream to ensure social distancing was maintained. Afterwards, the Bishop spoke to the eighth graders.

“A Seminarian Story” fourth installment available

The Diocese of Venice in Florida Office of Vocations launched a video series titled, “A Seminarian Story,” to celebrate the 16 Seminarians currently in formation. The first four videos have been released and more will follow approximately every few weeks. The most recent video is about Seminarian Juan Contreras who is doing formation at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. Developed with the assistance of the Diocese Communications Department, the goal of the series is to inspire others to follow in the path to the priesthood or religious life, as well as encourage the faithful to continue to support the seminarians as they continue their formation process at different seminaries. “A Seminarian Story” featuring Juan Contreras can be found at https://vimeo.com/456677189.

Last Bishop radio show of 2020 available

The December edition of the “Witnessing Faith with Bishop Dewane,” his monthly radio program on Relevant Radio, will be available to listen on at 8:30 a.m., Dec, 26. The show focuses upon reflections on the incredible year that was 2020 while at the same time looking forward to what is coming next in the Diocese of Venice in 2021. The December program is available at https://dioceseofvenice.org/our-bishop/relevant-radio-podcasts. You can also find links to previous broadcasts at the same location.

Students participate in “Hour of Code’

The week of Dec. 7-13, 2020, the students at St. Martha Catholic School participated in the “Hour of Code,” a national effort to make computer science fun and takes place annually during Computer Science Education Week. It started as a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify “code,” to show that anybody can learn the basics, and to broaden participation in the field of computer science. It has since become a worldwide effort to celebrate computer science, starting with one-hour coding activities but expanding to all sorts of community efforts. Participation in the “Hour of Code” is just one of many aspects of STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts, mathematics), which is part of the comprehensive education available in all Diocese of Venice Catholic schools.

Annual Mass for Catholic Haitian Community Jan. 1

The annual Mass celebrating the 217th anniversary of the independence of Haiti will take place at 2 p.m., Jan. 1, 2021, the Solemnity of Holy Mary, Mother of God, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. The Main Celebrant is Bishop Frank J. Dewane. There is ample seating available at the Parish with social distancing and masks required. A drive-thru dinner will follow in lieu of a reception. For more information, please contact Father Fritz Ligondé at 239-210-1018.

Televised Christmas Day Mass for the Homebound

The televised Christmas Day Mass for the Homebound, with Celebrant Bishop Frank J. Dewane, will air for a full hour on Christmas Day. For viewers in the northern portions of the Diocese (DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Manatee, and Sarasota counties), the Mass will air at 9:30 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee counties), the Mass will air at 8 a.m. on WFTX-TV (FOX-4). You will also be able to find the Christmas Day Mass on the Diocese of Venice website at www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass. Please check your cable provider for channel listings. Leaflet missals are available upon request by calling Gail Ardy at 941-486-4714 or by writing: TV Mass, Diocese of Venice, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285. For more information email ardy@dioceseofvenice.org.

Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal

The annual Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal is happening now through January. A donation to the 19th Annual Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal will give those struggling the means to move beyond their battles and strengthen our communities during these times of high unemployment and despair. During this season of sharing, please consider a contribution to Catholic Charities so we can continue to provide help, create hope, and serve all. Thank you for your giving spirit! To donate, please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org or mail a donation to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., 5824 Bee Ridge Road PMB 409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065.

Year of Saint Joseph

On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, in the context of the Coronavirus, consecrated the Diocese of Venice to the care and protection of St. Joseph. The Bishop announced a “Year of St. Joseph” beginning March 19, 2020. In light of Pope Francis recently dedicating a “Year of St. Joseph,” the Diocesan celebration will continue through Dec. 8, 2021. St. Joseph, often referred to as the Protector, can be our protector during this time of the pandemic. To pray a Novena to St. Joseph please visit the Year of St. Joseph webpage at https://dioceseofvenice.org/a-year-of-st-joseph/.

Dispensation

As Bishop Frank J. Dewane continues to listen to public health data and hear from Priests and Parishioners about the experiences at Diocesan Parishes, the dispensation given to attend Sunday Mass has been extended into 2021. At the same time, Bishop Dewane invites the Catholic Faithful who are able, to return to their Parish for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Please check the Diocese of Venice website for any updates.

News briefs for the week of Dec. 14, 2020

Bishop celebrates Mass for Sarasota Catholic school

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass on Dec. 10, 2020, Thursday of the Second Week of Advent, for the students at Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota. Bishop Dewane reminded the students to not only prepare for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas but for the Second Coming of Christ. Following the Mass, the Bishop spoke to the eighth graders and fielded questions from the group.

Televised Christmas Day Mass for the Homebound

The televised Christmas Day Mass for the Homebound, with Celebrant Bishop Frank J. Dewane, will air for a full hour on Christmas Day. For viewers in the northern portions of the Diocese (DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Manatee, and Sarasota counties), the Mass will air at 9:30 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee counties), the Mass will air at 8 a.m. on WFTX-TV (FOX-4). You will also be able to find the Christmas Day Mass on the Diocese of Venice website at www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass. Please check your cable provider for channel listings. Leaflet missals are available upon request by calling Gail Ardy at 941-486-4714 or by writing: TV Mass, Diocese of Venice, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285. For more information email ardy@dioceseofvenice.org.

Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal

The annual Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal is happening now through January. A donation to the 19th Annual Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal will give those struggling the means to move beyond their battles and strengthen our communities during these times of high unemployment and despair. During this season of sharing, please consider a contribution to Catholic Charities so we can continue to provide help, create hope, and serve all. Thank you for your giving spirit! To donate, please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org or mail a donation to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., 5824 Bee Ridge Road PMB 409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065.

Annual Mass for Catholic Haitian Community Jan. 1

The annual Mass celebrating the 217th anniversary of the independence of Haiti will take place at 2 p.m., Jan. 1, 2021, the Solemnity of Holy Mary, Mother of God, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. The Main Celebrant is Bishop Frank J. Dewane. There is ample seating available at the Parish with social distancing and masks required. A drive-thru dinner will follow in lieu of a reception. For more information, please contact Father Fritz Ligondé at 239-210-1018.

Students send get well cards to COVID patients

St. Martha Catholic School second-graders in Sarasota made “Get Well Cards” for the patients on the COVID-19 Floor of Sarasota Memorial Hospital, as well as “Thank You Cards” for the staff which were delivered the week of Dec. 7, 2020. The students also collected treats to make Gift Baskets.

Toiletries added to food distribution

Thanks to a generous donation, toiletries were included in the Dec. 11, 2020, food pantry distribution by Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. in Arcadia. The items allow the recipients to focus on the purchasing of other more urgent needs without having to pay for toiletries and food as they struggle to become more financially stable.

2021 Catechetical Conference Feb. 13

The 2021 Catechetical Conference, “Encountering Christ in the Classroom” will be held Feb. 13, 2021, at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. The day will begin with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. This will be followed by keynote addresses and workshops in English and Spanish. All workshops will be geared around how to engage both catechists and students the lesson about the Faith while having Jesus Christ at the center. Exhibitors will be present, making possible the viewing new and creative ideas on using technologies, resources and teaching techniques. The cost for the day is $25 a person and includes lunch. Registration for this event can be found at https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/2021-catechetical-day

Sunday Mass In Spanish available on the radio

St. Jude Parish in Sarasota broadcasts the Holy Mass in Spanish, celebrated by Pastor Father Celestino Gutiérrez, every Sunday at 9 a.m. on radio station 99.1 and at 11 a.m. on 105.3. We thank the sponsors for this Mass and SOLMART Media for their collaboration in this effort.

Misa Dominical En Español

La Iglesia de San Judas en Sarasota transmitirá la Santa Misa en español, oficiada por su Párroco, el Padre Celestino Gutiérrez, todos los domingos a las 9 a.m. por la emisora de radio 99.1 y a las 11 a.m. por la 105.3. Agradecemos a los Patrocinadores para esta Misa y a SOLMART Media por su colaboración en este esfuerzo.

Safe Haven Sunday coming to Diocese

Pornography is one of the leading causes of addictions, abuse, adultery, divorce, and even human trafficking: it is, in short, a pervasive evil inflicting grave wounds on our families. Pornography creates unsafe environments for children and confuses others about attitudes towards sex and marriage. It is a moral issue. For this reason, March 7, 2021, has been designated as Safe Haven Sunday in the Diocese of Venice. This awareness day will give us an opportunity to address the harmfulness of pornography in marriages, families, and culture, while providing helpful resources for all. Detailed information about the implementation of this program will be shared in the coming weeks through your Parishes. If you have any questions, please contact Carrie Harkey, Diocesan Coordinator of Family Life at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org.

Online “Introduction to Catholic Theology” offered by Diocesan Institute

The Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation is offering a 16-week online course starting Jan. 11, 2021, that introduces students to the principles, practices, and sources of Catholic Theology. The course “What is Catholic Theology? (Ecclesial Nature and Mission of Theology)” counts as a pre-requisite for those beginning the online MA in Theology and Christian Ministry at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Anyone interested in a graduate-level introduction to Catholic Theology is welcomed to access the course for half-price. The course is taught by Dr. John Gresham, Executive Director of the Institute. For cost and other information and to register for the course, visit https://institute-dov.org/ and click on the link to COURSES. For more information, contact Dr. Gresham at 941-766-7334 or john.gresham@institute-dov.org.

Anniversary Masses coming soon

All couples celebrating 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, or more than 50 years of marriage are invited by Bishop Frank J. Dewane to an Anniversary Mass in their honor to be celebrated in two locations. This year, considering the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, each location will have two Masses to allow for appropriate social distancing. The Masses are 10 a.m. and noon on Feb. 6, 2021, Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., and 10 a.m. and noon, March 6, 2021, St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. All registration is being handled through your local Parish. Please reserve your seats at least one week before the Mass you wish to attend.

Bishop addresses men’s retreat

A diverse group gathered Dec. 5, 2020 at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples to participate in the “No Man Left Behind Men’s Retreat.”

The retreat included participants from each of the three different men’s groups at the Parish. The groups are language-based (Creole, English and Spanish) and had never had the opportunity to gather for a retreat. Some 80 men participated in Adoration, Mass, dinner, a talk from Bishop Frank J. Dewane, as well as round-table discussions. Bishop Dewane celebrated the Parish Mass for the Second Sunday of Advent prior to joining the retreat.

The men were thrilled to have the Bishop present to address the different groups and to share his reflections on the role men play in society.

For a beginning, the Bishop cited the example of Pope St. John Paul II, stressing how the role of men is not only to DO things but to model their life on Christ and BE a witness for others.

“Be the witness by building a foundation in prayer,” Bishop Dewane continued. “Being a Catholic man living in the world today is not easy. Work to be a model for others to follow. In this time of moral and culture confusion, it is the role model that is needed. Sainthood follows later.”

Bishop Dewane noted that in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic, he consecrated the Diocese of Venice on March 19, 2020, to the protection of St. Joseph. A prayer card was provided for everyone and the Diocesan Prayer to St. Joseph was recited by the group.

“This foster-father of Jesus Christ is the Patriarch of the Universal Church,” Bishop Dewane said. “He is also guardian and protector of the Church and Her Faithful. St. Joseph is a figure who led by example, while also offering powerful prayer and protection. His example is something that can be followed by us all.”

When speaking of best practices for a Catholic man, Bishop Dewane cited a document written by Bishop Thomas J. Olsmsted of Phoenix, called “Into the Breach.”

This document was directed toward Catholic men in that Diocese, but Bishop Dewane said that the best practices offered were worth repeating. Best practices included praying every day, examining one’s conscience before going to sleep, attending daily Mass, reading the Bible and keeping the Sabbath. In addition, on a monthly basis they are encouraged to go to Confession while also focusing on the building of fraternity with other Catholic men.

“Each of these examples help to center you on your Faith,” Bishop Dewane said. “You are likely doing some of these already but strive to do more. These are easy steps on how to live one’s Faith and be the example.”

Following his talk, Bishop Dewane fielded a variety of questions. The first related to how one can encourage family/friends to return to their Faith. Bishop Dewane noted how this is question which often arises and how so much is dependent on a specific person on what is needed to bring ‘that individual’ back into the Faith.

“Much of what I have been speaking about, that is being the witness and magnifying the Light of Christ in the world is the most important thing you can DO.” Bishop Dewane went on to added, “Also, know your Faith and know the teachings of the Church; arm yourself with knowledge… Don’t ever judge or criticize, because there is likely more of a reason as to why they are away from the Church than what they might express. Be the light and love of Christ by being that example for others to follow.”

The retreat was organized by Father Franckel Fils Aime, Parochial Vicar at St. Peter the Apostle, and Moise Stael Dantes, Parish Communications and Youth Director. Group discussions and reflections were also shared.

Father Gerard Critch, Pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Parish, addressed the group and thanked the Bishop for addressing the retreat. Father Critch said it was wonderful to have all three men’s groups in one place and that they reflected the spiritual quote which served as a guidance for the retreat.  “Where one alone may be overcome, two together can resist. A three-ply cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12.

“We have the three-ply cord together in this room, and it is strong,” Father added.

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