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.

Parish Center breaks ground in Naples

A cleared lot will soon become the Parish Center for St. William Parish in Naples.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane led a blessing and groundbreaking ceremony on April 28, 2021 with a group of about 25 parishioners present to cheer on the project.

St. William Pastor Father George Ratzmann was delighted to get the project moving forward and thanked the support of the faithful and specifically for their understanding the vision of the Parish Center built not only for current parishioners but for future generations.

“I am so grateful for everyone who got behind this project,” Father Ratzmann said. “It has been a long process, but we are one big step closer to reaching our dream.”

The new Parish Center will be approximately 30,000 square-feet, include two auditoriums and a pre-function space, classrooms, offices, conference rooms, catering kitchen and elevator. The project is expected to take a year.

Parishioner Debbie Brunel was present for the groundbreaking and thrilled to see that work is beginning. “This is so exciting. We can’t wait for a whole year before it is complete. Plus, it is something the whole Parish community will be able use and enjoy but a wonderful legacy for those who will follow.”

Bishop Dewane began the groundbreaking with a brief prayer service, as well as blessing the construction site with holy water. As a continuation of the groundbreaking, Bishop joined Father Ratzmann, as well as representatives of the contractors and a few dignitaries, to turn dirt with special shovels.

The Parish Center is located on the north side of Seagate Avenue, just west of U.S. 41 and diagonal from the Parish church and across from the Waterside Shop. The former Parish Hall was torn down a few months ago and the Parish offices just a few days before the groundbreaking ceremony. The Parish Offices are temporarily located in the Parish Hall, which is at the rear side of the Church.

The project contractor is Abraham Construction Group, Inc., and the architect is BSSW Architects Inc.

Paschal Triduum celebrated throughout the Diocese

Faithful gather at Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice for a celebration of the Paschal Triduum (April 1-4, 2021).

The Paschal Triduum of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Thursday), has its center in the Easter Vigil, and closes with Vespers (Evening Prayer) of the Sunday of the Resurrection (Easter).

Through the implementation of health and safety precautions, including social distancing and the wearing of masks, the 2021 celebrations were a stark difference from the Triduum of 2020 when churches were closed to public Mass during the early days of the global Pandemic.

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper at St. William Parish in Naples included the commemoration when Jesus Christ established the Sacrament of Holy Communion prior to His arrest and crucifixion. It also observes His institution of the priesthood. This Liturgy included the presentation of the oils blessed and consecrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane during the March 30 Chrism Mass which will be used for the Sacraments in the Parish throughout the year.

Later, was the traditional washing of the feet. A procession with the Holy Eucharist to transfer the Eucharist to the place of reposition in the Parish Hall followed the Prayer after Communion. This procession led out the main doors of the church and then around to the rear where the hall is located. Along the way were tiki torches to light the path.

On Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, the faithful at St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston participated in the Stations of the Cross prior to the Liturgy which included the reading of the Passion from the Gospel of John.

Stations of the Cross at a few Parishes were led by children and in many cases the presentation was scaled-back due to the Pandemic. For example, thousands typically participate in the Stations at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee. The Liturgy was celebrated in English, Spanish and Creole and still drew a large crowd. Different in 2021, health and safety precautions required that the Veneration of the Cross took place without physically touching the crucifix.

An Easter Triduum Retreat at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice drew more than 30 people. Led by Director of Spirituality Father Mark Yavarone, Oblate of the Virgin Mary, the retreat started with supper on Holy Thursday and ended with breakfast on Easter Sunday following the celebration of a Sunrise Easter Liturgy.

On Easter, to accommodate the expected crowds and to ensure social distancing, Parishes throughout the Diocese added extra Masses and some even set up tents outside.

News Briefs for the Week of April 2, 2021

Palm Sunday opens Holy Week

The opening of Mass on the Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, begins with the Procession with Palms and a reading of the Gospel of Mark (11:1-10), describing the scene of the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem days before He was put to death and resurrected . This opening is followed by the blessing of the palms and marks the start of Holy Week with the Easter Triduum beginning at sunset on Holy Thursday and continuing until the Great Easter Vigil.

Easter Sunday Televised Mass

The Diocese of Venice in Florida will air the televised Easter Sunday Mass, for a full hour. The Mass can be viewed at 9 a.m. on the CW Network in Sarasota, Manatee, Desoto, Charlotte, Hardee and Highland counties, and at 10:30 a.m. on FOX4 in Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Hendry, Glades and Desoto counties. The Mass is also available on the Diocese of Venice website at

Livestream moves from Catholic Center to Epiphany Cathedral Parish

After more than a year of livestreaming the Mass from the Catholic Center, beginning April 1, 2021 the livestream of the daily and weekend Masses will be broadcast at 8 a.m. from Epiphany Cathedral Parish. You will still be able to find the Masses on the Diocese of Venice Facebook page found or at

Bishop celebrates Mass for students in Fort Myers

Bishop Frank J. Dewane finished his round of celebrating Mass for students in Diocese of Venice Catholic schools with the latest stops on March 25, 2021, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, at Bishop Verot Catholic High School and St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers.

During these Masses, Bishop Dewane stressed how the Lenten Season is a time for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as we prepare to celebrate the Paschal Mystery of our Faith. He also fielded questions from the eighth graders at St. Francis Xavier.

Divine Mercy Sunday Prayer Service

On Sunday, April 11, all are invited to join Bishop Frank J. Dewane in a Prayer Service for Forgiveness and Healing from pregnancy loss from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Avenue West, Venice. The Prayer Service will also be livestreamed at Contact Sylvia at 941-412-5860 or for any questions.

Bishop celebrates Mass for students at Ave Maria University

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass on the Vigil of Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, March 27, 2021, for the students and faculty of Ave Maria University. Following Mass was a community celebration of the Feast Day of the University, the Annunciation of Our Lord, moved from March 25 to the weekend to allow everyone to participate. The outdoor festivities included a barbeque dinner as well as musical entertainment.

Mass for Victims of Child Abuse April 16

April is Child Abuse Awareness Prevention Month, and in conjunction with the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Diocese of Venice will hold a Mass for Victims of Child Abuse for the 14th consecutive year. Bishop Frank J. Dewane is the Celebrant of the Mass at 8 a.m. on April 16, 2021 at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. The Mass will be livestreamed through, and all are welcome to attend as we come together to pray for the victims of abuse.

Evangelizing Catechesis: Survey of the new Directory for Catechesis

The Diocese Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation is offering an online course surveying the new how-to guide, the Directory for Catechesis, published by the Vatican in 2020. This new edition of the Directory emphasizes how to incorporate evangelization throughout the entire process of catechesis. This course is for Directors and Coordinators of Religious Education, catechists, schoolteachers, adult faith formators, RCIA teams, parents — anyone who teaches the Faith. Co-teachers of the course are Dr. John Gresham, Director of the Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation, Anne Chrzan, Director of Religious Education for the Diocese of Venice, and Joshua Mazrin, Director of Evangelization for the Diocese of Venice. The six-week course starts April 19, 2021. There is a $25 fee to take the course. Visit the Institute website for more information and to register at or contact the director for more information:

Parent Cyber Security Presentation

The Offices of Family Life and Religious Education are hosting a free parent event “Protecting God’s Children Online in a Hyper Digital Age.” Cyber security expert Liz Repking will cover keeping kids safe from cyber bullying, online predators, sexting, online gaming, and how to help children create an escape plan when trouble arises. There are two opportunities to attend: April 14, 2021 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1301 Center Road, Venice, and April 15 at St. Francis Xavier Parish, 2057 Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers. Both presentations are from 6:30-8 p.m. Registration by April 10 is required for planning purposes at



Built of Living Stones – New Church Dedicated in Arcadia

A Church building, dating from the ancient times, has been given the name – the Temple of the Lord. Because of this, a Dedication of a new Parish Church permanently makes the building a Sacred and Holy place where the faithful come to hear the Word of God, to pray together, to celebrate and receive the Sacraments, and to most precisely celebrate the Eucharist at the Table of the Lord.

The Church, as a building, is destined solely and permanently for the gathering of the faithful to give Glory and Praise to God, Bishop Frank J. Dewane stressed when he dedicated the new St. Paul Parish Church during a Mass on March 21, 2021 in Arcadia before a joyous assemblage.

While the Church is a visible building, Bishop Dewane said it is nothing without the faith-filled people of Arcadia. “You are the ‘living stones.’ You are the why we build this Church – to come to gather as a community to adore Christ… It fills my heart with joy to see so many here for this important moment.”

Fittingly, the dedication began in the old church, which lies a short distance to the west of the new worship space and was built more than 50 years ago. Present for the dedication were Father Pablo Ruani, IVE, Administrator of St. Paul Parish, and Father Remigious Ssekiranda, Parochial Vicar.  In addition, also present were Father Jose Gonzalez, Dean of the Eastern Deanery and Pastor of St. Catherine Parish in Sebring, as well as several priests who previously served at St. Paul and others serving in the Deanery.

Bishop Dewane began the Rite by proclaiming: “Beloved brothers and sisters, we have gathered with joy to dedicate a new church by celebrating the Lord’s Sacrifice. Let us take part in these sacred rites with loving devotion, listening to the Word of God with faith, so that our community, reborn from the one font of Baptism and nourished at the same table, may grow into a spiritual temple and, brought together at one altar, may advance in the love from on high.”

Led by the cross bearer, the priests and Bishop then processed from the old church to the front doors of the new church. Accompanying the procession were members of the Parish youth group dressed in festive Mexican garb as they led the singing of a chant. Once at the new church, the building was symbolically handed over to the Bishop and he said: “Enter the gates of the Lord with thanksgiving, his courts with songs of praise.” Father Ruani then opened the door.

The next part of the Rite began with the opening process and with Bishop arriving in the sanctuary and blessing of the water. Then he, along with Father Ruani, blessed the people with Holy Water as a symbol of the spiritual Temple of the Lord so as to recall their Baptismal promises. This was followed by the sprinkling of the walls of the Church, marking the Church as a holy place from that day forward – before finally blessing the altar and the sanctuary.

During his homily, Bishop Dewane emphasized the importance behind the new church by citing the Gospel of Matthew (16:13-19), which was proclaimed during the Mass. In Matthew, Jesus questions the disciples about who other people say He is. When their answers were unsatisfactory or seem to fall short, Jesus challenges Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” The Bishop noted that each one of those present is called to answer that question by the life that they live.

“Here in Arcadia, we set about to build this new Church to assist everyone in answering that question,” Bishop Dewane continued. “It is not just for the Fathers to answer it, or for those who are here often…  We put up this Church so that no one will have the chance to say: ‘Let someone else enter there.’ Let it be – in this Church of St. Paul – where everyone begins their response to the Lord, the question of ‘Who do you say that I am?’ and they end with their response by carrying the Lord with them throughout their daily life.”

After the homily, as part of the Rite, the Litany of Saints replaced the general intercessions, and was the followed by the placing in the altar a relic of St. Juan Diego.

Bishop Dewane then gave the Prayer of Dedication, which was followed by the anointing, when he spread Sacred Chrism Oil – blessed at the Chrism Mass during Holy Week – first on the altar and then in the sign of the cross at four points on the walls of the Church. This is done to mark, through sacred designation, the altar and Church. Next was the incensation, symbolic of the “prayers rising up to the Lord, not just for today, but for generations to come” of the altar and then of the nave of the Church.

The formal lighting of the altar and the Church began with the Bishop presenting Father Ruani with a lighted candle, who then proceeded to light the candles on the newly anointed altar while the lights of the building were turned on. With the Rite concluded and the altar prepared, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass continued.

Bishop Dewane thanked the many people who worked behind the scenes in getting the new church ready and open and acknowledged the local dignitaries from Arcadia who were present. After the Mass, there was a celebratory reception.

Leticia Flores said she cried during the Mass of Dedication, noting how beautiful the new worship space is and how important this day is for the Parish community. Following the Mass, she stayed with her family in the Church to not only pray but to admire the beautiful worship space.

“What a wonderful day,” Flores said. “Bishop Dewane has blessed this community with this new church. We are so grateful. Incredible!”

Manuel Rojas has only been at St. Paul for two years, but said he was in shock when he entered the new church and saw its massive size and bright interior.

“Stunning!” Rojas said while examining the altar which is flanked by statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Paul. “You could fit several of our old churches in here. It is the perfect place to pray and worship to Our Lord.”

The new Church addresses the Pastoral needs of the growing and vibrant multicultural community and greatly increases the seating capacity from the existing worship space. The new Church was previously a supermarket and the necessary liturgical and canonical features were included in the redesign. The front façade is in a traditional style that borrows from Spanish Mission Revival archetypes. The central entrance features fusion glass windows with a rose window above the triple arched entrance. On the roofline is a large cross as well as 11-foot-tall bronze statues of St. Paul and St. Peter. Baker Liturgical Arts, LLC of Plantsville, Connecticut, was the contractor; Prime Design Professional was the architect and engineer.

The remaining space at the new location will be improved in the coming years to eventually accommodate the Parish offices, space for religious education instruction, as well as a Parish Hall.

St. Paul Parish has a rich history in Arcadia that dates back to the 1880s. The first permanent priest arrived in 1910 and the first Church was built in 1915. St. Paul was canonically erected as a Parish on July 25, 1958 in the Diocese of St. Augustine which then covered the entire state of Florida. Currently, St. Paul serves more than 3,100 individuals and 600 families.

As necessitated by the Pandemic, the number of people inside the church for the dedication and blessing was limited to ensure appropriate social distancing.

Catholic Schools St. Joseph Devotional Project concludes

Teaching the lessons of the St. Joseph, Protector of the Universal Church, has been a priority in the Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Venice for the past year.

Therefore, Bishop Frank J. Dewane marked the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, 2021, with a Mass in Bradenton at the Catholic school named for the Saint.

Streamed live to all Diocesan Catholic schools, the Bishop took the time to recognize the work that went into the Diocese Department of Catholic Education St. Joseph Devotional Project and the students who made the initiative a success. The concept promoted a devotion to St. Joseph, while at the same time encouraging an ongoing devotional life of both children and adults to St. Joseph.

One of the most beloved of all saints who is featured in countless works of art, Bishop Dewane reflected on how on March 19, 2020, he consecrated the Diocese of Venice to a “Year of St. Joseph” in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“I dedicated the Diocese to St. Joseph, the Protector, so that that faithful, including the students throughout the Diocese, would be safe,” the Bishop continued. “One year later we are here to give honor and Glory to God to commemorate the Solemnity of St. Joseph together.”

A model of obedience of what God asks of him, Bishop Dewane said St. Joseph freely and willingly accepted a vision he was given in life… “to be the foster father of Jesus but also the head of the Holy Family; the provider and the Protector. In this season of Lent, we must all strive to follow the example of St. Joseph and his love of Christ that he magnified so clearly.”

At the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Dewane led the students (both in person and viewing online) in the Act of Consecration to the Most Chaste Heart of St. Joseph.

Noting that Pope Francis created a Universal “Year of St. Joseph from Dec. 8, 2020 to Dec. 8, 2021, Bishop Dewane said that like St. Joseph, “we must continue to devote ourselves to living a life that is dedicated to Jesus. Take St. Joseph as a role model going forward.”

More about the Schools St. Joseph Devotional Project

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Superintendent of Diocese Catholic Education, said the Diocesan consecration and “Year of St. Joseph” provided the ideal platform to introduce the devotion and to strengthen Catholic culture in each of the Diocesan schools.

The foster-father of Jesus Christ is an ideal Saint to whom to have a devotion, Father Belmonte explained. St. Joseph is also guardian and protector of the Church and Her Faithful. He is a figure who led by example, while also offering powerful prayer and protection.

The goal of the St. Joseph Devotional Project was to provide age-appropriate catechesis for students so that they can carry with them a life-long devotion to St. Joseph, Father added.

Praising the effort to teach students about St. Joseph, Bishop Dewane recognized the Junior Catechists – students who served as leaders in their respective Catholic schools, sharing classroom lessons about St. Joseph and a Catholic devotion to him. Many were present for the Solemnity Mass in Bradenton and were accompanied by parents, grandparents, teachers and principals.

Each primary school selected two eighth grade Junior Catechists, a boy and a girl, to spearhead the devotion in the classroom. For the 12 weeks of the project, each week had new themes centered on the role of St. Joseph. The first week consisted of teaching about the saint and learning a Prayer to St. Joseph. Later themes included “Delight of Saints,” “Our Spiritual Father,” “Young Husband of Mary,” and more.

An art contest was incorporated into the St. Joseph Devotional Project, which Father Belmonte noted had more than 500 entries and ultimately six winners. The students were asked to express their idea of who St. Joseph was according to his respective titles – Protector of the Universal Church, foster father of Christ, Most Chaste Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and many others.

Veronika Bateneva, sixth grade, Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice was one of the art contest winners and brought her grandfather to the Mass. “It was such an honor to be recognized. I tried to incorporate what I know of St. Joseph into what I created.” Her artwork was of St. Joseph protectively holding the Child Jesus. St. Joseph is also holding a lily, the symbol of the Most Chaste Heart, on his chest.

The winning artists were recognized with an award and the honor of having their artwork used on prayer cards for the students of the Diocese. On the reverse of the cards is either an “Act of Consecration to the Most Chaste Heart of St. Joseph,” or a “Consecration to St. Joseph of Children by their Parents.”

Art award winners are: Ian Morales, second grade, St Catherine Catholic School, Sebring; Emmanuel Ronquillo, fourth grade, St. Joseph Catholic School, Bradenton; Emareen Ramirez, fourth grade, Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School, Venice; Veronika Bateneva, sixth grade, Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School; Eleanora Del Sole, seventh grade, Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School; and Emma Underwood, eighth grade, Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School.

Feast of St. Joseph Mass in Italian

On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Bishop Dewane also celebrated Mass at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. The Mass was celebrated in Italian and was organized by the Italian American Club of Venice and is an annual tradition.

Following the conclusion of the Mass, the Bishop blessed a “St. Joseph Table,” piled with wrapped bread. The tradition of the “St. Joseph Table” of food (“la tavala di San Giuseppe”) has its origins in Sicily as part of a Middle Ages celebration of the ending of a drought where food – bread in particular – is brought to be shared among the townsfolk. The Mass was livestreamed and is available for viewing at


Holy Week is Here – Paschal Triduum is the heart and summit of our liturgical year

As the Lenten Season draws to a close, now more than ever we must prepare for the Easter Triduum which bespeaks the suffering, death and Resurrection, rendering visibly that God’s love has no bounds.

Through the blessings of the Lord, it is possible to physically attend Mass during this holiest of weeks as compared to 2020 when Parish services were suspended. For those who still have concerns about coming to Mass, each of the major celebrations will be livestreamed from Epiphany Cathedral in Venice (also check your local Parish livestreaming availability).

Either way, it is essential to stay truly connected to your Faith at this critical time. As we slowly emerge from the darkness and sorrow brought forth by the global pandemic, it is also a time to reflect on the past year.

“The Universal Church remains,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane said. The importance of the Paschal Triduum is enhanced as the celebration of these important moments in the suffering, death and Resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ are what unite us, bringing light in the face of darkness.”

Pope Francis describes Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday as enabling us to enter increasingly in the great mystery of our Faith: the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Holy Father said “The Mystery we adore in this Holy Week is a great story of love that knows no obstacles. Jesus’ Passion lasts until the end of the world, because it is a story of sharing with the sufferings of the whole of humanity and a permanent presence in the events of the personal life of each one of us.”

Pope Francis also noted how the Triduum represents God’s service, love, and silence, and that we, as His disciples, are called to live out these characteristics in our lives.

Ahead of the Paschal Triduum is Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord. On Palm Sunday, the Church remembers Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem. The commemoration, with the blessing of the palms and procession, is a ritual action that marks our own entry into Holy Week.

The Paschal Triduum begins at the conclusion of Lent, which ends at sunset on Holy Thursday. “The Paschal Triduum of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, has its center in the Easter Vigil, and closes with Vespers (Evening Prayer) of the Sunday of the Resurrection. Triduum means “three days.” During these three days, we keep one festival that points toward Easter. These feasts are the heart of the entire liturgical year, not one feast among others.

Holy Thursday is April 1 and celebrated as an evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. A component often present on Holy Thursday is the Washing of the Feet. The washing of the feet is an optional practice, which may or may not be done, depending on pastoral circumstance.

Following the Holy Thursday liturgy, the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the Church to a place of repose to remain there until the Easter Vigil.

Good Friday is April 2 and includes the celebration of the Lord’s Passion. This day is a good time to reflect on the Stations of the Cross, with many Parishes offering the Stations on this day.

The Good Friday Liturgy is comprised of the celebration of the Lord’s Passion, Veneration of the Cross and reception of Eucharist. Veneration of the Cross is the climax of our response to the Passion. The faithful are called to behold Christ in his great act of love and we respond with loving veneration. For Christians, veneration – whether in person or remotely – means loving service to the cross and taking up one’s cross and following Christ crucified. For 2021, the veneration will be limited to a respectful bow before the cross, versus the traditional practice of touching or kissing the cross, for obvious safety reasons in the wake of the pandemic.

The Easter Vigil, on that holy night when the Lord rose again, is considered the “mother of all holy Vigils,” in which the Church, keeping watch, awaits the Resurrection of Christ and celebrates it in the Sacraments. The liturgy is begun in darkness, the Easter fire is kindled, the Paschal Candle is lit and brought into the darkened church with the proclamation that Christ is our Light. During the liturgy, the faithful hear the story of our salvation proclaimed in numerous Scripture readings. During this celebration, a Renewal of Baptismal Promises is made. In addition, 330 catechumens and candidates from across the Diocese of Venice will enter fully into the Catholic Faith through the reception of the Sacraments at the Easter Vigil celebration.

This Great Vigil opens the Easter Season which will continue for 50 days and finds its conclusion in the Solemnity of Pentecost, May 23, 2021. The 50 days from the Sunday of the Resurrection to Pentecost Sunday are celebrated “in joyful exultation as one Feast Day, or better as one ‘Great Sunday.’”

Holy Week livestream with Bishop Dewane

The key celebrations of Holy Week (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter) with Bishop Frank J. Dewane as the celebrant will be available via livestream from Epiphany Cathedral in Venice through the Diocese of Venice and Cathedral Facebooks pages. The Holy Thursday evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper is at 7 p.m.; the Good Friday Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion is at 3 p.m.; the Easter Vigil is at 8:30 p.m.; and Easter Sunday Mass are at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.


Future bright in Diocese One Year into Pandemic

What a difference a year makes.

It was on March 19, 2020 that the celebration of public Masses was suspended within the Diocese of Venice. On that day, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, sadness and worry prevailed for an occasion normally set aside to celebrate and honor the foster-father of Jesus Christ, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Patron of the Universal Church who is also guardian and protector of the Church and Her faithful.

It was also on that day the Diocese of Venice began its celebration of a “Year of St. Joseph.” “Particularly in this time of uncertainty in light of the coronavirus Pandemic,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane said at the time: “It is appropriate to seek the intercession of St. Joseph, a saint whom we look for guidance and protection.”

One year later, the Solemnity in 2021 takes on a new meaning of hope as the Diocese has made great strides in the effort to return to all pre-pandemic activities. Numerous successful events, including conferences, Masses and prayer walks, have brought an approach of normalcy to people of the Diocese, through spreading the “Good News of the Lord.”

For the Solemnity this year, the Bishop is celebrating a traditional Mass in Italian. Diocesan school children who have been taking part in a St. Joseph Devotional Project will also be recognized at a special event. The Diocesan “Year of St. Joseph” has been extended to Dec. 8, 2021 to coincide with a Universal Year dedicated by Pope Francis.

The Diocese resumed public Masses on May 18, 2020 with up to 50 percent capacity, social distancing, and mask requirements, as well as enhanced cleaning protocols, all of which remain in place to this day. While visiting any Parish within the Diocese of Venice there are signs requiring all to wear masks and maintain social distancing. The ubiquitous hand sanitizer is also there. Behind the scenes are dedicated people who do deep cleaning.

Catholic schools and Parish religious education programs went to virtual learning in the spring and summer of 2020 before a massive effort was made to enable in-person instruction by August at all schools and for most religious education students.

The results have been inspiring during a time of great sorrow and struggle as everyone was impacted by the Pandemic in some way. There have been no outbreaks linked to the celebration of Mass in the Diocese, in-person instruction or for that matter at Diocesan or Parish events. Therefore, confidence has built in the effectiveness of the Diocesan safety precautions. Therefore, the number of people returning to Sunday Mass has steadily increased while at the same time the number of students learning virtually has correspondingly dropped for the same reason. In fact, only 3.4 percent of all Diocesan Catholic school students are currently remote learning.

This success has come about through the leadership of Bishop Dewane, in conjunction and consultation with the priests, principals, Chancery and numerous internal and external professionals, in coordinating the Diocesan efforts during this evolving process while implementing these policies across 61 Parishes and 15 schools.

As we celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph, let us reflect upon the past year in remembrance of those we have lost and those who have struggled in any way.

The Holy Father in declaring the Universal Year of St. Joseph against the backdrop of the Pandemic, which, he stated, has helped us see more clearly the importance of “ordinary” people who, though far from the limelight, exercise patience and offer hope every day. In this, they resemble St. Joseph, “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence, who nonetheless played an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”

News Briefs for the Week of March 19, 2021

Bishop celebrates Mass at Donahue Academy

Bishop Frank J. Dewane continued celebrating Mass for students in Diocese of Venice Catholic schools with the latest stop on March 16, 2021, at the Donahue Academy of Ave Maria. During these Masses, Bishop Dewane stressed how the Lenten Season is a time for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as we prepare to celebrate the Paschal Mystery of our Faith.

Religious education group makes lunches for homeless

The St. Martha Parish religious education program and service club in Sarasota took part in a “It takes and village – Made with love,” project on March 9, 2021 to make bag lunches for the homeless in the area.

Each bag included a colored drawing and inspirational message, as well as a sticker that read: “Made with love & care by the St. Martha Service Club.”

Divine Mercy Sunday Prayer Service

On Divine Mercy Sunday, April 11, 2021, everyone is invited to participate in a Prayer Service for Forgiveness and Healing from Pregnancy Loss. The service will take place from 2:30-3:30 p.m. at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice, and will be available for viewing online at Contact Sylvia at 941-412-5860 or for any questions.

Divine Mercy Sunday in Naples

Come to the Feast of Divine Mercy as St. William Parish, 601 Seagate Drive, Naples, celebrates with a special service from 2:15-3:30 p.m., Divine Mercy Sunday, April 11. The service will start with the rosary, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, chanting of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, a reflection on Divine Mercy followed by Benediction. All are welcomed. For information, please contact Fred or Barb Goduti at 239-261-4810

Parent cyber security event in April

The Diocese of Venice Offices of Family Life and Religious Education are hosting a free parent event “Protecting God’s Children Online in a Hyper Digital Age.” Cyber security expert Liz Repking will cover keeping kids safe from cyber bullying, online predators, sexting, online gaming, and how to help children create an escape plan when trouble arises. Two opportunities to attend: April 14, 2021 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1301 Center Road, Venice, and April 15 at St. Francis Xavier Parish, 2057 Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers. Both presentations are from 6:30-8 p.m. There is no cost. Registration is required for planning purposes by April 10 at

Marriage prep retreat for couples over 55 in April

The Diocese Office of Family life is hosting a one-day sacramental marriage preparation retreat for those couples over 55 years of age preparing for marriage or convalidation from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., April 24 Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1301 Center Road, Venice. Lunch is included. Preregistration is required at The program builds an appreciation for the joy of sacramental marriage while offering insight and tools to address the unique challenges and responsibilities.

Shifting from Condemnation to Compassion

Do you know someone who has had an abortion?  Chances are they don’t know where to go for help.  Have you ever heard someone condemning a person for having an abortion?  The Church does not condemn them; we welcome them and want to help them with compassion and healing that will change their lives.  In our diocese, Project Rachel, the Church’s healing after abortion outreach, is partnering with Support After Abortion, a new worldwide networking organization that sees healing as a necessary part of ending the demand for abortion. Change the way you see Pro-Life.  Go to to read an article that will give you a new perspective. Questions?  Contact Sylvia at 941-412-5860 or

News Briefs for the week of March 12, 2021

“A Seminarian Story” eighth 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 for the Diocese. The first eight videos have been released and more will follow approximately every few weeks. The most recent video is about Seminarian Carlos Rodriguez who is in formation at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach and is currently serving a Pastoral Year at Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton.

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 Carlos Rodriguez can be found at

Solidarity with seafarers as key essential workers

Each year, the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking (CCOAHT) launches a Campaign that begins during Lent to raise Catholic awareness of forced labor in the fishing industry. This year, due to the global pandemic, a new humanitarian crisis has emerged that is severely impacting all men and women who work at sea. Thus in 2021, CCOAHT – together with Stella Maris and the Apostleship of the Sea of the United States of America (AOS-USA) – are urging Catholics and all people of good will to pay witness to the life of the seafarer and to leverage their voices as community members and consumers to uplift the safety and wellbeing of one of the world’s most invisible group of essential workers.

Feast of St. Joseph Mass in Venice

On the Feast of Saint Joseph, a Mass in Italian will be celebrated by Bishop Frank Dewane at 12:30 p.m., March 19, 2021 at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. The Italian American Club of Venice is providing the bread for the St. Joseph Table. The bread will be blessed following Mass and all items will be individually wrapped. All are welcome to attend following social distancing and mask requirement protocols.

Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Televised Mass

The Diocese of Venice in Florida will air the televised Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Masses, each for a full hour. The Masses can be viewed at 9:00 a.m. on the CW Network in Sarasota, Manatee, Desoto, Charlotte, Hardee and Highland counties, and at 10:30 a.m. on FOX4 in Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Hendry, Glades and Desoto counties. The Mass is also available on the Diocese of Venice website at

Divine Mercy Novena

The Divine Mercy Novena begins on Good Friday, April 2, 2021 and concludes Saturday, April 10. In private revelations to St. Faustina, Jesus asked that the Feast of Divine Mercy be preceded by a novena praying for nine intentions with the Divine Mercy Chaplet. It is particularly appropriate for anyone who has been touched by abortion or is nearing death. The novena can be accessed online at For more details, contact Sylvia at 941-412-5860 or

2021 Marriage Preparation Retreats

The Diocesan Office of Family Life is offering “Day of Reflection” retreats for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage. A specially prepared volunteer team of married couples and a priest will share their experiences and information with the intention of enabling couples to be more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of marriage. The retreats in English are from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., on the following Saturdays: April 17, August 7, and November 13. Retreats in Spanish are at the same time and will be the following Saturdays: March 6, August 7, and October 30. Please visit to register for the English retreats. To sign up for the retreat in Spanish, please contact St. Jude Parish in Sarasota at 941-955-3934. For more information or to inquire about a virtual option contact Carrie Harkey at 941-484-9543 ext. 3019.

Faith and Wine Lee County

The next gathering of Faith and Wine Lee County will be a virtual Zoom event beginning at 7 p.m., March 18, 2021. The speaker is Cy Kellett, the host of Catholic Answers Live, who will present “Whatever Happened to the Modern World?” Advanced registration is required by visiting

Easter Triduum Retreat at OLPH

The Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat and Spirituality Center in Venice continues to offer single days of prayer and overnight retreats in a safe, tranquil setting along the Myakka River. The Easter Triduum retreat begins with supper on Holy Thursday (April 1, 2021) and ends with breakfast on Easter Sunday (April 4).  The liturgies of the Lord’s Supper, Way of the Cross, Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion, Easter Vigil, and Sunrise Easter Liturgy are celebrated. Confessions are available. For more info or to register, call Denise Riley at 941-486 0233, ext. 3004, or visit and click on “Schedule of Events.”