Hispanic Festival draws thousands

Staff Report

The 17th Annual Hispanic Festival at St. Jude Parish was another rousing success as an estimated 14,000 descended on the Sarasota Parish on Nov. 9 for a day filled with food, fun and entertainment.

The annual festival is a celebration of both the individual nations and the unified culture of a diverse people. Held annually in early November, the day includes musical performances, ethnic dancers and food from many nations. Throughout the parish grounds were tents full of a wide variety of food that left many mouths watering.

Cooler temperatures energized everyone as the celebration of more than a dozen countries lasted from morning until after sunset. Many wore shirts proclaiming to everyone their country of origin.

Throughout the day, there were performances from a variety of countries, offering both modern and traditional music and dance.

Isabella Rios, 12, enjoyed her papas rellenas from the Cuban food tent, which is a meat-filled potato ball, while listening to one of the rock bands before watching flamenco dancers perform. “The food is great, but I like the music and the dancers best.”

Father Celestino Gutierrez, Pastor of St. Jude, officially opened the Hispanic Festival with a prayer. This followed a “Parade of Flags” when each country represented at the festival was announced, and the respective flags brought forward to cheers from the crowd.

Whether it was the food, the music, the dancing or the joy of being around so many happy people, the Hispanic Festival was rated a massive success by any measure.

Thousands attend the event annually from as far away as Naples and Clearwater. It has become a much-anticipated event for the ethnically diverse Sarasota Parish. All of the proceeds of the Hispanic Festival go to support the various outreach efforts of the Parish, including helping countless families throughout the year.

As a bilingual Parish, the members of both the English and the Spanish speaking congregation participated and volunteered to staff the booths.  This annual Festival is the oldest one in Sarasota County to feature authentic Latino food, music and culture.

News briefs from Nov. 20, 2019

Two women profess first vows as religious

Two women from St. Michael Parish in Wauchula recently professed their first vows as Sister Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara. Maria Esposa de San Jose Miramontes and Maria Ancilla Crucis Torres (former secretary in the Parish), joined 12 others in professing their first vows with the religious order. The ceremony took place Nov. 1, All Saints Day, at Holy Comforter St Cyprian Church in Washington, D.C. The order noted upon the occasion: “May the love and grace of the Most Holy Trinity help (them) to be faithful to the work that has already begun.”

Student ‘Make a Difference’

Middle School students from St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral recently took a day off from their studies, but not to play hooky! Instead, on Nov. 8 they scattered throughout the local community for a day of service and reflection. Parent volunteers accompanied the over 100 students to area businesses and nonprofits to live out their faith through service. Participants worked to clean up landscaping, stock pantry items, help in the kitchen and with office tasks among other things. their jobs were completed, the students, teachers, and parent volunteers joined together for lunch and retreat time at the Cape Coral Yacht Club. The takeaway of the day is that Make-a-Difference Day can be every day!

School 5K promotes fitness

Light rain and a cool breeze did not deter the St. Joseph Catholic School community more than 250 of students, teachers, families and sponsors gathered at the Riverwalk in downtown Bradenton Nov. 9 for its inaugural Run Like an Eagle Fit 4 Life 5K. Cohosted by St. Joseph Catholic School and New Balance, the Fit 4 Life event was a culmination of a five-week training program that introduced students to the value of a healthy lifestyle through the joy of running. On race day, some students showed off their speed and endurance by participating in a 100-yard dash, a quarter mile run and a half-mile run. The school raised more than $10,000 through event registrations, corporate sponsorships and individual donations.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Father Shawn Monahan, OMV, lead a “World Day of the Poor” candlelight prayer service in front of the ‘Homeless Jesus’ statue outside of Epiphany Cathedral on Nov. 17.

Parish Respect Life Conference covers full range of issues

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

“Don’t give up, God is working with us,” was the clear message of a Respect Life Conference on Oct. 26 at St. Agnes Parish in Naples. The theme for the conference was “From Conception to Natural Death,” and inspirational speakers provided critical information on how to create a culture of life.

St. Agnes Pastor Father Bob Kantor said the parish conference, organized by the Justice and Peace Committee and Respect Life Coordinator Rosemary Dresch, was inspired by the 2018 Florida Respect Life Conference which was hosted by the Diocese of Venice and held in Punta Gorda.

Father Kantor added that while not many were able to attend the 2019 state conference in St. Augustine, the local conference was able to reach out to more in the parish and serve as a compliment for the efforts of Respect Life in the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Venice in hope and unity with the society and the world.

The Conference opened with Father George Ratzmann, Pastor of St. William Parish in Naples, who spoke about Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life). This 1995 encyclical of St. John Paul II which set the standard for the Church Teaching on the value and sacredness of all human life from conception to natural death.

“Anytime life is threatened or there is an assault on human life, it is also an assault on God, and God’s dignity, since we share in God’s dignity,” Father Ratzmann explained.

This culture of life is not only about biological life, Father Ratzmann stressed, but also about spiritual, economic, emotional life; including any act that diminishes any human dignity. This means that it is not enough to ensure that the unborn is saved, but that the child has access to nutrition, clean water, education and more, because that combines to assist them to become the person God intended.

Other conference speakers included Pamela Wood Stenzel on developing a culture of life among youth; Deacon Henry DeMena on healing following a loss through miscarriage; Dr. Deacon Al Mauriello on the Catholic perspective of end of life issues; Marietta Jaeger Lane on the death penalty while sharing her personal story of loss, fury and forgiveness; and Father Michael Orsi, Parochial Vicar at St. Agnes and host of local pro-life show Action for Life, on how to make a difference on pro-life issues.

News briefs from the Diocese for late October 2019

Local pastor to serve in leadership role with national priest group

Father Jiobani Batista, Pastor of St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston, was elected secretary of The National Association of Hispanic Priests (ANSH) during the association’s 30th annual convention that was held in New York City from Oct. 7-10.

Priests from across the United States attended this year’s convention, entitled “Time for Priestly Reform and Renewal,” as part of a three-year program for the renewal, fraternity and continuing education of priests working in a variety of ministries in dioceses across the country.

Adopt a Family for Christmas

You can make Christmas brighter for a mother and her baby! Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities in Venice is looking for volunteers to Adopt a Family for Christmas. The program provides shelter and guidance for single mothers and their children who would otherwise be homeless. The mission is to offer single mothers and their children a safe and secure environment in which to achieve increased self-sufficiency through education, vocational training and personal growth. The resident families have provided a wish list of items they can use and wrapped gifts need to be returned to Our Mother’s House by Monday, December 9. For more information, please contact Case Worker Rita Millner at 941-485-6264, ext. 102.

Early Learning Center has special visitors

Officers from the Sarasota Police Department recently made a special visit to St. Martha’s Early Learning Center of Catholic Charities. The preschool students enjoyed a fun learning experience with the men and women in blue. Sarasota Police Officers discussed with the children what an emergency is and how to dial 911. They handed out Junior Police Officer badges and coloring books. “The officers also joined us for a dance party,” said Catholic Charities Program Director Jamie Van Dyke. “Every one of the students now plan on being a police officer when they grow up!”

International Festival held in Naples

St. Agnes Parish in Naples hosted the 10th Annual International Festival on Oct. 20. More than 20 nations were represented with food and music as well as many wearing traditional attire, and the entertainment for the day also had an international flavor. A parade of flags was one of the highlights.



Students wear orange for Unity Day

Students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers wore orange on Oct. 23, Unity Day, in support of bullying prevention. This event has students of all ages stand against bullying, while being united for kindness, acceptance and inclusion. The school has been participating in Unity Day for many years.



Knights support Honor Flight program

Representatives of the San Marco Knights of Columbus Assembly 2514 presented a check for $2,000 in October to Collier Lee Honor Flight. Collier Lee Honor Flight was established in 2013, its mission is to transport veterans from Collier and Lee counties to Washington, DC to visit the memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifices. A typical mission will visit the World War II Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Air Force Memorial, Marine Corps Memorial, and Arlington Cemetery. Top priority is given to World War II and Korean War era veterans, and to any veteran of any war that has a terminal illness. Veterans travel by a chartered commercial jet, and police escorted buses while on the ground. A typical mission will have 70 to 75 veterans. Trips are provided at no cost to the veterans.

Shoes donated to Catholic Charities program

Catholic Charities of Collier County is grateful to the Rotary Club of Naples Bay for supplying free shoes to clients at the Family Counseling Center and Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center. The Rotary Club sponsors their Kids Kicks for Shoes Program that provides shoes for needy children in Collier County.

Fort Myers Guatemalan community celebrates Patroness

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers is home to a diverse and faithful Hispanic Catholic community and there are often celebrations to mark significant occasions.

From Oct. 5-7 a celebration of Our Lady of the Rosary, Patroness of Guatemala, took over the community with a vigil, prayers, procession, food, music, dancing and even a few fireworks.

Consuela de Lara, who dressed in traditional clothing from her home province for the procession and Mass on Oct. 6, said Our Lady of the Rosary is an important religious figure for the Guatemalan people and nation. “It is a celebration for all.”

The main celebration at Jesus the Worker Parish began a gathering in front of a temporary outdoor shrine to Our Lady of the Rosary. The shrine included a statue that was placed on a platform which was adorned with flowers. The faithful prayed the Holy Rosary before the platform was carried throughout the parking lot as music reflecting the community’s strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin was sung.

The ceremony was led by children dressed in traditional Guatemalan clothing and carrying flowers. Many of the adults also carried flowers and wore traditional clothing, each color and design representing their hometown.

Father Patrick O’Connor, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, Pastor of Jesus the Worker, passed out blessed rosaries to the younger children before the procession.

A small hand-carved and painted statue of Our Lady was also carried during the procession and placed in the Church at the beginning of the Mass. This statue was brought back from Guatemala by Father O’Connor during a recent mission trip. Like the larger statue, the image has a large rosary in her right hand and in her left she holds the Child who seems to be trying to free himself from her embrace. There is a popular tradition that the Virgin Mary went out to travel throughout the Americas and that the Child fell asleep when they reached Guatemala, which is why she stayed there.

Of special significance to this year’s celebration was the recent announcement that Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini Imeri, from the Diocese Huehuetenango, Guatemala, was elevated to Cardinal on Oct. 5 by Pope Francis. Father O’Connor noted that many are from that very poor region of Guatemala, which has a strong Mayan Indian population.

“It is exciting for them, and all of the people of Guatemala,” Father O’Connor explained.

After the Mass, the celebration continued in the Parish Hall with traditional Guatemalan foods and dancing. There was also the selection of a Mayan princess from among the young ladies of the parish. The celebration concluded with a traditional Guatemalan community dance with music from the national instrument of Guatemala, the marimba. A more subdued celebration took place on Oct. 7, the Feast Day of Our Lady of the Rosary.

While Our Lady of the Rosary is the Patroness of Guatemala, and there was a special emphasis to recognize the specific community, the celebration was welcoming to the entire community which includes faithful from across the Americas. Other days honoring Our Lady are celebrated at the parish with equal enthusiasm throughout the year.

Diocesan news briefs late October 2019

White Mass and lecture held for medical professionals

St. Agnes Parish held its annual White Mass for medical professionals in Naples, on Oct. 18, the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist and patron of doctors. A lecture titled “Spirituality and Health: Complete Doctoring” presented by Dr. Michael Gloth followed in the Parish Hall.



Mobile Medical Clinic blessed

Father Augustine Twum Obour, Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch, blesses the new Mobile Medical Clinic of Community Pregnancy Clinics on Oct. 20. The van, which offers free ultrasounds to pregnant moms, was made possible by a donation from the Knights of Columbus and will be used throughout the region.



Verot earns Apple Distinguished School Certification

Bishop Verot Catholic High School has earned Apple Distinguished School Certification for 2019-2022. According to Apple: “Apple Distinguished School leaders, faculty, and the extended community have a clear vision for how their technology-rich environments support learning goals. School leaders have established elements for continuous innovation that include culture, team, capacity, community, finance, and measurement. Supporting their school’s vision is an ongoing process that requires thoughtful planning, practice, and improvement along the way. They use iPad and Mac products to inspire student creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking. And they cultivate environments in which students are excited and curious about learning.”

St. Mary Academy named Best Special Needs School in region

St. Mary Academy in Sarasota has been named by Family Living Magazine as the Best Special Needs School in Sarasota, Bradenton and Venice. The schools provide skilled teaching to students with learning disabilities. To mark this achievement, the school had a celebration that included outdoor games, food and fun.



Junior high students have fun in Wauchula

St. Michael Parish in Wauchula hosted an Oct. 5 festival for junior high students. The day includes lots of fun and games, but also include speakers who stressed the need to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, time for prayer and the Mass.




Mooney featured on Tampa morning TV show

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota hosted FOX-13 Tampa Bay on Oct. 17. The honor coincides with the ongoing celebration of Mooney’s 60th Anniversary. The sports teams and cheerleaders led a pep rally, and the TV crew also showcased the newly renovated stadium and field.



Goldtones Tickets Now on Sale
San Antonio Parish Knights of Columbus announce that tickets are now on sale for Florida’s famous Doo-wop group the Goldtones’ concert. The concert will be 7 p.m.,  Jan. 31 in the Holy Trinity Hall, 24411 Rampart Blvd, Port Charlotte. General Admission tickets are $15. In addition to all the old familiar Doo-wop favorites, they will also be singing your favorite Motown hits. Last year sold out early, so get your tickets now at 800-838-3006, or online at: BrownPaperTickets.com

Celebrate Respect Life Sunday & Month!

Jeanne Berdeaux, Diocese Respect Life Director

Venice – “Christ Our Hope in Every Season of Life” is the theme of the new Respect Life annual program from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. Each year American Catholics recognize the first Sunday in October as Respect Life Sunday and the entire month of October as Respect Life Month. A theme is chosen for reflection throughout the year until the next Respect Life Month. As the Respect Life Reflection for the year states, “While every season of life brings its own challenges and trials, each season also gives us new opportunities to grow in our relationship with God.”

This year the Diocese of Venice has its own special poster, beautifully depicting the “seasons” of life, from beginning to end. Go to https://dioceseofvenice.org/diocese-of-venice-respect-life-image-gallery/ to download a copy to post on your refrigerator or other convenient place to remind yourself to pray for a greater respect for all human life, from conception to natural death, regardless of age or condition.

Take some time to explore the resources which are available at www.respectlife.org. There you will find 10 articles on various topics and 5 Action Guides with activities that can be done in the parish, classroom or home, centered on dates with special significance throughout the year. For example, do you have an ultrasound of your child, grandchild or great-grandchild? Has that child ever seen it? Show your loved one that “It’s me” in the womb just as much as it’s “Still me!” after birth. Do you have a collection of prayer cards from funerals of family members or friends?  Why not put them together in a tribute to your loved ones?

Remember that our Diocese has a special collection on Respect Life Sunday to supplement the work that the Respect Life Office does and assist other pro-life organizations. These funds help to bring the respect life message to young people and adults through various learning opportunities such as Catholic Days at the Capitol, the annual statewide Respect Life Conference and chastity presentations in our Catholic schools. Please share your financial blessings to keep this message in front of our youth.

The international 40 Days for Life fall campaign runs throughout October (Sept. 25-Nov. 3). Join others from your church or bring a friend to pray and witness to life in front of Planned Parenthood in Sarasota, Fort Myers or Naples this fall. For details, go to www.40daysforlife.com and look for the location nearest you.

There are pregnancy help centers, maternity homes and after-birth homes throughout the Diocese offering hope and help to women and children in need. Go to www.dioceseofvenice.org/respectlife and click on the “Pregnancy Resources” box for an agency near you that could use a few hours of your time or whatever help you can provide.

On the same website, under the “Project Rachel” tab, you can learn more about how anyone touched by abortion in any way can seek help and healing, or call Sylvia at 941-412-5860 for confidential help, whether it is a retreat or just someone to listen to your story.

As the USCCB reflection for the year says, “May we hold fast to Christ our hope, from the beginning of life to its very end.”

If you have questions, comments or ideas, contact Jeanne Berdeaux at the Diocesan Respect Life Office, Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-441-1101.

Upcoming “UNPLANNED” Movie Showings

Thanks to the support of the Diocese Respect Life Office, many local parishes will be hosting screenings of the blockbuster movie “UNPLANNED” about an abortion industry worker who stepped away when she saw a live abortion. The film will be shown at the following parishes:

7 p.m., Oct. 8, St. Raphael Parish, 2514 Lee Blvd., Lehigh Acres, 239-369-1831;

9:30 a.m., Oct. 9, or 6:30 p.m., Oct. 16, St. William Parish, 750 Seagate Drive, Naples, 239-261-5831;

7 p.m., Oct. 9, St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, 239-592-1949;

6 p.m., Oct. 9, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish, 12175 Stringfellow Road, Bokeelia, 239-898-0687;

7 p.m., Oct. 11, St. Jude Parish, 3930 17th St., Sarasota, 941-955-3934;

6:30 p.m., Oct. 10 and 12:30 p.m., Oct. 13, Resurrection Parish, 8121 Cypress Lake Dr., Fort Myers, 239-481-7171;

10:00 a.m. Oct. 10  and 7 p.m., Oct. 29, Our Lady of Light Parish, 19680 Cypress View Dr., Fort Myers, 239-267-7088;

7 p.m., Oct. 11, and Oct. 18, St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, 1441 Spear St., Port Charlotte, 941-284-2388;

3 p.m., Oct. 17, St. Therese Parish, 20115 N. Tamiami Trial, North Fort Myers, 239-567-2315;

6 p.m., Oct. 18, St. Charles Borromeo Parish, 21505 Augusta Ave., Port Charlotte, 941-585-0668;

1:30 p.m., Oct. 20, Ave Maria Parish, 5068 Annunciation Circle, Ave Maria, 918-355-2319;

6:30 p.m., Oct. 25, Epiphany Cathedral, 310 Sarasota St., Venice, 941-485-2325;

6 p.m., Oct. 3, San Marco Parish, 851 San Marco Road, Marco Island, 239-259-0936;

3 p.m., Nov. 3, St. Joseph Parish, 3100 26th St. W., Bradenton, 941-345-6833;

6 p.m., Nov. 5, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1301 Center Road, Venice,  941-408-6072;

7 p.m., Nov. 8, St. Isabel Parish, 3559 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel, 239-395-2975.


Solemn Mass commemorates 9-11

Bob Reddy – Naples – It has been eighteen Septembers since the terrorist attacks on the U.S. shocked the world. Images of destruction, death and fear were seared into the minds of those who watched from afar and are felt deeply in the souls of those who were there in person.

St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples hosted an annual Mass on Sept. 11 to commemorate the 18th anniversary since the terror attacks on the U.S. It was in 2001 when terrorist hijacked four airliners and ultimately destroyed the World Trade Center in New York, damaged the Pentagon and caused another airliner to crash in Pennsylvania killing nearly 3,000 and bringing horror to the nation and world.

The main celebrant for the Mass was Father Gerard “G” Critch, Pastor of St. Peter the Apostle, who served as a chaplain next to the fallen towers during the recovery operations. “For those of us who were on the rescue and recovery mission, like myself, this is a very difficult Mass,” Father Critch said as he struggled to continue. “Let’s face it – even after 18 years it doesn’t get easier.”

The opening procession was led by bagpipers playing “Amazing Grace,” followed by retired officers of the New York Police Department and members of the Fire Department of New York.

Propped on the steps of the altar was a display of the 9-11 Cross, made from the steel of the World Trade Center which is normally in the Parish Chapel. In addition, there was a piece of rubble from the Pentagon.

During the Mass, Father Critch asked all to pray for those who lost their lives in 2001, and all those in the past 18 years who have suffered in different ways in the aftermath of that horrific day and seek comfort in their lives. “We cry out to the God of healing love to give us His mercy,” Father added.

Even 18 years later, Father Critch noted that to endure we must have a solid foundation upon which to draw strength, to draw consolation, and underpinning all of this foundation “is Love, which Jesus offers to all of us.”

After the conclusion of the Mass, a retired New York City firefighter spoke about how when a member of the Fire Department of New York dies, the code 5-5-5-5 is broadcast to all stations over the radio. A fire bell was subsequently rung in this manner to not only honor 343 firefighters who died on Sept. 11, 2001, but to all who died.

A display in the narthex from the Gulf Coast Retired Firefighters Association included a beam from the World Trade Center as well as posters which showed the faces of all first responders who were killed in New York City on 9-11. Outside was a fire engine from New York City with an emblem from 9-11 noting the attacks in New York, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

The annual Mass at St. Peter the Apostle Parish came about when Father Critch was assigned to the Parish in 2008 and some of the retired first responders from New York renewed old friendships. The 9-11 Cross was donated to the Parish soon afterwards and the Masses on Sept. 11, now known nationally as Patriot’s Day, have become a central piece of the annual commemorations for many in Collier County.

Father Critch was serving at Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton in 2001 when a doctor in New York City asked that he come to serve as a chaplain for the triage team. The team comforted and supported the first responders who were actively searching for survivors from the collapse of the Twin Towers. The team was based in the historic St. Paul’s Chapel, which had sat in the shadow of the World Trade Center.

As a young priest, Father Critch served in missions in the Caribbean in the aftermath of earthquakes, hurricanes and volcanoes and thought he could handle any disaster. Those experiences did little to prepare him for his time in New York City following 9-11.

For two weeks, the Chapel was his home, sleeping in the pews when he could with the sound of heavy equipment reverberating outside 24-hours-a-day. During this time, Father blessed the workers as they entered the disaster site, provided the Sacrament of Reconciliation, presided over funerals for victims, and was also called on to bless the remains of those recovered at a nearby Brooks Brothers clothing store which served as a temporary morgue.

Janet Springer knew several people who died in the World Trade Center attacks and is always moved to tears during the annual commemorative Mass. “It is a beautiful Mass in honor of those who were taken away so needlessly,” Springer said. “I always take time to touch the 9-11 Cross because it helps connect me to that day, because I don’t ever want to forget.”

Undy Sunday near one million mark

Naples – Nearly a million packages of underwear have been collected for needy children in Collier County since 1996 as part of the annual “Undy Sunday” campaign.

In its 24th year, the campaign garnered enough donations of new underwear and socks for boys and girls in Collier County Public Schools who would otherwise go without and still had enough extra to help additional programs, including sending donations to the hurricane ravaged Bahamas.

The chairpersons of the “Undy Sunday” campaign, Mike Egan, Tim Corcoran and Paola Pinillos, sent a letter of thanks to the more than 30 houses of worship (including all Catholic Parishes) that participated in the special collection in early August.

In that letter, the lofty goals of the campaign were met with a collection of an ample supply of underwear, socks and miscellaneous clothing and school supplies for the many needy elementary and pre-school children within Collier County.

Volunteers with Catholic Charities of Collier County sorted, labeled and packaged 35,000 items for delivery to 35 local schools, plus several social service organizations, including Catholic Charities, that assist needy women and children in our community. That roughly translates to more than 350,000 pounds of items collected and distributed. Each school has a program to identify students in need and confidentially provides the items throughout the school year.

In addition, the campaign was blessed with receiving an overwhelming number of socks again this year, allowing a donation of several hundred pairs to the “Laces of Love” Foundation to supplement their Shoes for Needy Kids Program. Adult items were split between several agencies. Additionally, 158 pounds of items were sent to the Bahamas through the Meals for Hope program.

Mary Shaughnessy, Catholic Charities District Director, explained that financial donations help support Catholic Charities programs which target children, including the weekend power pack, school supply distribution as well as Christmas gifts for children.

It is an annual struggle to remind people of the specific need for undergarments for children. The shocking reality is that poor families, even in Collier County, must choose between food and other bills over new clothing.

“We did not have any goals this year, but everyone came through and it is wonderful to have extra,” explained Mike Egan of St. William Parish in Naples. “We were quite pleased that what was donated could reach so many in need.”

One Collier County School administrator said that having access to new items such as “a clean pair of socks or underwear can make all difference in a child’s life.”

For those interested in continuing to support the efforts of “Undy Sunday,” donations of underwear and gift cards are accepted throughout the year at Catholic Charities of Collier County, 2210 Santa Barbara Blvd., Naples, 34116, or call 239-455-2655.

Dorian reminds faithful to pray and be aware

A watchful eye is kept on developing storms that can form and potentially threaten Florida in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico from June through November during Hurricane Season. During Labor Day Weekend Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas before going on to lash the east coast of the U.S. with winds and rain while spreading fear from Florida to the Carolinas and beyond.

In preparation for Hurricane Dorian, the Diocese of Venice Hurricane Committee met daily as the monster storm loomed in the Caribbean Sea and menaced Florida with some early forecasts ominously aiming directly at Southwest Florida with impacts as early as Sunday, Sept. 1. This committee included leaders of Catholic Charities, which would have led the post-disaster humanitarian response.

The Catholic Center, as well as parishes and schools and other entities, took appropriate measures to secure facilities should the storm approach. Everything that could be done to prepare was done. At the Catholic Center, as a precaution, the hurricane shutters were put up and sensitive electronic devices were covered.

In anticipation of the storm, and out the abundance of caution, parishes were forced to cancel many Labor Day Weekend activities and most delayed the start of religious education programs by one week. While these were an inconvenience, the need for caution and vigilance outweighed all else.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who also closely monitored the storm throughout, remained in contact with pastors and administrators throughout the Diocese addressing individual needs as required.

Dr. Ben Moore, Diocesan Superintendent of Schools, was the main contact for the schools in the Diocese, while Philomena Pereira, CEO of Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc., helped to coordinate storm preparations for Catholic Charities entities and set up a plan to respond immediately following the storm with emergency supplies to designated areas.

The challenge in Dorian was that there were many unknowns, and each notification in the forecast changed the potential impacts to different parts of the region. At certain points the storm was expected to cross Florida on top of the Diocese. Such a path would have been crippling, so preparations and plans had to be put in place.

Thankfully, prayers were answered, and the Diocese was spared. The last area to have any type of impacts from Dorian was Highlands County which was under a Tropical Storm Warning for two days. There St. Catherine School in Sebring was closed on Sept. 3 and 4 and parish activities and hours were limited. Schools in Collier County were also closed Sept. 3, while other schools remained open.

Because of the storm, Bishop Dewane postponed Masses for students at St. Ann Catholic School and St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples on Sept. 3, as well as a Mass on Labor Day for the students and faculty of Ave Maria University. These are in the process of being rescheduled as quickly as possible.

Many still have fresh memories of Hurricane Irma from 2017. That storm struck Marco Island and went up the center of the state, leaving in its wake a trail of destruction.  Thousands of families were left with damaged homes and many without power for weeks and dozens of Diocesan buildings were damaged or destroyed. Similar impacts occurred after Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and Hurricane Charley in 2004.

With those memories in mind, as Dorian struck the Bahamas and the U.S. coastline, the focus of many switched for preparation to wanting to help. Residents of the area remember the generosity of outsiders following Hurricane Irma, so the faithful were quick to ask for somewhere to send donations in support of those impacted by Dorian. A Hurricane Dorian fund was created and can be found on the Diocese of Venice website at www.dioceseofvenice.org. Financial donations will be given to organizations assisting the victims of the storm. No Diocesan collections of goods was established given the difficulty in logistics.

While Hurricane Dorian ultimately only inconvenienced the region, it served as a stark reminder for all to remain vigilant throughout the remainder of the Hurricane Season and always have plenty of emergency supplies on hand ahead of time before supplies run out. We all must be vigilant and take action should a storm threaten.