Parish unites for neighbors

By Larissa Rodriguez, Special to the Florida Catholic

A volunteer meal packing event was hosted by Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers on March 16, 2024, just as the darker days of the Lenten Season were winding down and the bright hope of Easter was on the horizon.

The Parish’s collaboration with Meals of Hope was the idea of Deacon Ripperton “Rip” Riordan, who wanted to see increased involvement in the Parish community.

“With the large population during the winter season, I had an idea or dream of getting the Parish Community involved in an outreach project outside of the Parish walls,” Deacon Riordan said. “So, I spoke with a few leaders of the Parish and local community and asked what special project needed to be done that could involve 200 volunteers?”

From there, the idea was kickstarted into becoming a reality. Deacon Riordan enlisted the help of two parishioners, Steve and Vicki Pierson, who suggested partnering with Meals of Hope, pouring their heart and soul into planning the event.

Meals of Hope is a nonprofit based in Naples with 15 food pantries throughout Southwest Florida and one more opening this month. It was founded in 2007 by its president and CEO, Stephen Popper, to provide hunger relief to people in the U.S.

Popper learned from his mother and aunts, who were trying to take care of poor children in Haiti, that the children had trouble learning because they didn’t have enough food to eat.

Popper and his wife organized their first meal packing event, and grew from there, packing a million meals in the first year. Though the company started with the goal of shipping meals overseas, it now largely focuses on providing meals locally.

The goal at the Our Lady of Light event was to pack 50,000 meals of cinnamon sugar diced apple oatmeal for distribution by the Harry Chapin Food Bank and other mobile food pantries throughout Southwest Florida. This number was surpassed with about 52,000 meals packed and shipped out by the end of the day.

“We really have quite a large impact. But we can’t do it without the support of Our Lady of Light and other churches and groups,” Popper said.

This event provided a profound impact to the community especially because it took place during Lent, as it created a practical way for parishioners to exercise their Lenten obligation of almsgiving and service, while also having fun.

Volunteers danced to the music as they were packing their meals and cheered once their group finished packing a full box. Their biggest cheerleaders were Deacon Riordan and Father Hugh McGuigan, Pastor of Our Lady of Light.

“Being of service to others is an important aspect of a strong community. Our faith community here at Our Lady of Light is an active group that desires to live their faith by sharing their love and resources for the needs of our brothers and sisters,” Deacon Riordan said.

In Deacon Riordan’s Holy Thursday homily, he compared Jesus washing the feet of his disciples to everyday acts of service modern Christians can perform. The Deacon said this event was one of the ways the community was able to share their witness as “foot washers” to others.

“One of the things I love about Meals of Hope is how inclusive it is, people from all ages can do it,” Popper said. “There are not many things that can do that, where people of all ages and abilities can participate and really have a strong impact in the community.”

The staff and volunteers of Our Lady of Light Parish are already planning another Meals of Hope event in November.

“Jesus, I trust in You”- Divine Mercy Sunday celebrated

The Second Sunday of Easter, or Divine Mercy Sunday, completes the Octave of Easter, a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the blessing of His continuing presence in our midst. The Gospel reading for Divine Mercy Sunday, April 7, 2024, recalls the encounter between St. Thomas (the doubting Apostle) and Jesus after the Resurrection.

Divine Mercy Sunday celebrates the mercy of Jesus as reminded to us by St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a religious sister who lived a humble life, to whom Jesus appeared. St. Faustina was born in Krakow, Poland and lived from 1905-1938. She was canonized by St. John Paul II in 2000, who at that time also declared the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. This celebration also honors St. Faustina’s vision of Jesus Christ, and His message of love and peace for the world.

St. Faustina wrote in her diary from private revelation that Jesus told her: “I want to grant a complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My Mercy (1109). The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion will obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment (699).”

The image of the Divine Mercy was created by St. Faustina who was told to paint the image of Jesus as she saw Him. The painting has the saying at the bottom: “Jesus, I Trust in You.” The rays emanating from the Sacred Heart of Jesus represent water (white) – which makes souls righteous — and blood (red) — which is the life of souls, Jesus told St. Faustina.

Many Parishes throughout the Diocese hold Divine Mercy services and several have novenas of prayer leading up to the Sunday. The popularity of Divine Mercy has been embraced by many diverse communities throughout the Diocese.

At St. Paul Parish in Arcadia, Divine Mercy Sunday included the traditional afternoon prayer service in English and Spanish. This included the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, a reflection from Father Pawel Kawalec, a recitation of the Divine Mercy Litany, singing of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and Solemn Benediction.

The prayer service concluded when the faithful were invited to come forward and venerate the image of Divine Mercy which adorns the wall to the right of the altar and was decorated with flowers.

Alicia Torres attended the Divine Mercy prayer service with her two children and said her prayers were focused on seeking help for family members who need to have Christ in their life more. “This day is about seeking Jesus’ Mercy for ourself and our family and the whole world.”

At St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples, the Divine Mercy celebration included a presentation by Sister Teresa de la Fuente, Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy (St. Faustina’s religious order).

Pope Francis, during the Regina Caeli on Divine Mercy Sunday, noted that the “fullness of life” comes not from the pursuit of transitory pleasure but is “realized in Jesus.”

In his address, Pope Francis drew upon the disciples, who were despondent and secluded in the Upper Room, “going through the most tragic moment in life,” to showcase how Christ’s coming to them was a deeply transformative moment, one that not only reveals His mercy but also promises a new life.

“The Risen One comes to them and shows them His wounds,” the Pope said. “They were the signs of suffering and pain, they could stir feelings of guilt, yet with Jesus they become channels of mercy and forgiveness.”

 

Easter meal shared with homeless in Naples – Parish partners with Catholic Charities

Partnering with Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., the parishioners of St. William Parish provided a hot Easter meal for area homeless on April 4, 2024, the Thursday within the Octave of Easter.

Father George Ratzmann, Pastor at St. William, offered the prayer before the meal, “We pray that our time together, company we keep, and food we eat will nourish us both physically and spiritually.”

The meal took place outside of the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center of Catholic Charities, as more than 100 were served a hot meal which included chicken, potatoes, salad and cake for dessert. The Parish also hosted a similar dinner just after Christmas.

The meal was prepared by volunteers as some served the meals on tables set up in the parking lot in a relaxed atmosphere.

The gratitude of those being served was expressed in many ways, from “God Bless you,” and “Thank you” ringing out, as well as many handshakes and even a few hugs.

Mary, who has been homeless since 2021 when an illness caused her to have huge bills while also losing her job, said the people of Catholic Charities are very kind and supportive of her needs, providing food and clothes when needed. “This Easter meal was very delicious, and I can tell that everyone here is doing it because they want to help. That means so much.”

Father Ratzmann said it is wonderful to be able to offer a hot meal to those in need, and noted the benefits to the homeless are as great as to those who offer their time to volunteer. “We all gain from helping the children of God, in whatever circumstance we find them.”

The homeless outreach of Catholic Charities includes assistance from caseworkers, and essentials such as food, clothing, and toiletries.

In addition, with transportation being one of the greatest obstacles for the homeless population in Collier County, St. William Parish has partnered with the Knights of Columbus, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and Bikes for Tykes, to purchase tricycles for distribution by Catholic Charities.

The goal is to provide every homeless person with a recognizable (bright yellow), non-saleable adult tricycle. Each can carry a heavy load and has two baskets to secure personal items.

As it has been recognized that the need for reliable and safe transportation for the homeless exists throughout the region, it is the goal of the St. William Parish to expand the tricycle outreach to additional communities in partnership with Catholic Charities.

Annunciation of the Lord celebrated in Ave Maria

The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord is when we celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary saying “Yes!” to God.

Usually celebrated on March 25, the Solemnity was transferred to April 8, 2024, because the original date fell during Holy Week. The Solemnity marks the Angel Gabriel’s appearance to the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38), and his announcement that the Blessed Virgin had been chosen to be the Mother of Our Lord, and Mary’s willing acceptance of God’s Holy Plan.

For the faithful at Ave Maria Parish, Ave Maria University, as well as the entire town, the Solemnity marks an important occasion as it is the Feast Day of the community and was celebrated this year on April 6.

The focus of the day was on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, with Bishop Frank J. Dewane as the principal celebrant.

Bishop Dewane said during the Mass that the faithful should learn from the example of Mary and apply Her willingness to be open to the call of the Lord in our own lives; as it is inspiring to know the Blessed Virgin Mary had the courage to say “yes.”

“Take the grace that the Lord gives each of us, and live it and go forward,” the Bishop said. “We learn the important lesson that nothing is ‘impossible for God.’ Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her’ (Luke 1:37-38). Without God, we cannot fulfill His Mission. Our Lady understood that, so must each one of us. We have to radically change our inner selves and have that same strength to do the will of the Lord.”

At the conclusion of Mass, the faithful recited a Prayer of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, followed by a public Eucharistic Procession through the university and town. Later in the day was an outdoor barbecue dinner and concert.

EASTER: Spreading the Good News of the Risen Lord

Throughout the Universal Church the faithful gathered for a joyous celebration on Easter; that is the Resurrection of Our Lord, the Summit of the Catholic Faith.

This celebration comes after the holiest of weeks which began with the entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and included the suffering and death of Our Lord. The Resurrection on Easter completes the journey for Jesus when death was conquered. This moment marks the beginning of a new journey of belief and hope for all the faithful, Bishop Frank J. Dewane said during the Easter Vigil Mass, March 30, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

“Humanity has never really known a single night so powerful as tonight, during this Easter Vigil – so majestic, so holy – the greatest night, when the power of death is conquered,” Bishop Dewane said. “This is the night of keeping vigil as we wait for the Lord. This is the night of the new Adam, and of the New Covenant.”

The Easter Vigil, which takes place on Holy Saturday night, “is the greatest and most noble of all solemnities and it is to be unique in every single Church,” according to the Roman Missal. The Vigil began in darkness before the Easter fire was kindled and the Paschal (Passover) Candle was lit, and then proceeded down the main aisle, carried by a Deacon, into the darkened church with the proclamation that Christ is our Light.

The Gospel reading tells of the three women who went to the tomb of Jesus to complete the anointing of Jesus’ body properly, even though they knew a great stone was in their way, they were carried by their faith, hope and love for Jesus Christ because following a great darkness, the sun had risen that Easter morning.

“We must continually grow closer to the Lord, seeking His help, and proclaiming that He is risen,” Bishop Dewane said. “By living faith, hope, and love, in our own lives, just as those women did, the stones which keep us from the Lord will be moved out of our way, because we are each called to enter into the tomb and be with Christ, seeing, understanding and believing.”

During this Mass, the faithful hear the story of Salvation proclaimed in numerous Scripture readings. It is also at this time when the Bishop/priests confer the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation for the Catechumens and Candidates. At Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice, there were 662 women and men who entered fully into the Catholic Church, a record number for the Diocese.

One of these candidates was Shawn Marren, who first received the Sacrament of Confirmation and then the Sacrament of First Holy Communion from Bishop Dewane at Epiphany Cathedral.

Marren was emotional when he received his First Holy Communion. He explained that this moment meant a great deal to him having studied and learned the origin of the Real Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist. His journey toward becoming Catholic started a few years ago while filling in as an organist at the Cathedral. Marren was fascinated by the Most Holy Eucharist and the homilies offered during Masses. He then asked questions of Cathedral Rector Msgr. Patrick Dubois and was directed to read early Church teachings.

“I had never read pre-Reformation texts and my eyes were opened to the Catholic faith, and how the Real Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist lives to this day,” Marren said. “I feel truly blessed.”

The celebration of Easter is not confined to a single day, in fact, throughout the next 50 days the Easter Season is celebrated “in joyful exultation as one Feast Day, or better as one ‘great Sunday.’”

The first days make up the Octave of Easter and are celebrated as solemnities of the Lord. On the 40th day of the Easter Season, Catholics celebrate the Ascension of the Lord (May 9, which is moved to the following Sunday on May 12 in most Diocese in the U.S., including the Diocese of Venice), and for the nine days following, prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (May 19).

Easter Triduum celebrated in Diocese

The summit of the Liturgical Year is the Easter Triduum (March 28-31, 2024) — from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday. Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery.

The single celebration of the Triduum marks the end of the Lenten Season, and leads to the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord at the Easter Vigil.

The liturgical services that take place during the Triduum are:

  • Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Thursday)
  • Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Good Friday)
  • Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord (Easter Vigil)

Thousands of the faithful of the Diocese of Venice gathered at Parishes for the celebration of the Triduum.

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park 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 26 Chrism Mass, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, which will be used for the Sacraments in the Parish throughout the year. Later was the traditional washing of the feet, reenacting Jesus washing the feet of the Disciples. Following the Prayer after Communion, the Mass concluded with a procession to transfer the Holy Eucharist to a place of repose in the Parish Hall. This action left the tabernacle vacant until the Easter Vigil.

On Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, the faithful at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples participated in the Liturgy which included the reading of the Passion from the Gospel of John. Next was the presentation of the cross, brought forth by the priest and unveiled as the priest sang: “This is the wood of the cross, on which hung the salvation of the world,” and the congregation responded: “Come let us adore.” The faithful were then encouraged to come forward to venerate the cross. This was done by either touching, bowing, or genuflecting.

Either prior to, or after, the Good Friday Liturgy, many Parishes hosted the Stations of the Cross, sometimes led by children or including a dramatic retelling.

For example, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee, the Living Stations began in a field behind the Parish church, and then travelled through the neighborhood. The Stations were inclusive to include the languages of the Parish (Spanish, English and Creole). By the time the procession returned to the Parish the crowd had swelled into the thousands.

For the first time, a public Stations of the Cross took place in downtown Venice, starting at Epiphany Cathedral and proceeding into nearby Centennial Park and then down Venice Avenue. Approximately 800 took part, including members of the youth group, as streets were temporarily blocked.

On Holy Saturday, the only Mass of the day is the Easter Vigil

On Easter Sunday, several Parishes celebrated Mass at sunrise while extra Masses were added to accommodate the increased numbers common for this holiest of days.

Many Parishes also hosted fun for children which often included Easter egg hunts either on the Saturday or following a Children’s Liturgy on Sunday.

Diocesan Eucharistic Conference deepens faith, brings joy

Renewed with a passion for the Most Holy Eucharist, nearly 1,400 of the faithful participated in the Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Conference in Fort Myers on March 16, 2024.

“We gather for a special occasion in the life of the Diocese – to acknowledge the presence of Christ in our midst, but particularly always present with us in the form of His Body and His Blood,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane said during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which opened the Conference.

“Know the Lord sees your desire to come to know Him more profoundly, to seek refuge in Him during difficult times in our lives,” Bishop Dewane said. “He knows you already; He knows why you are here today.”

Bishop Dewane called upon the faithful to summon the Grace of the Lord from within to become a true disciple of the Lord and let the Bread and Wine we receive at Communion remind us of the presence of Christ.

“Let us pray that this day will be an opportunity for you to be reached ever more by the Lord. Let us reach down deeper within ourselves, to become that full blown disciple of Jesus Christ. To go forward in our lives, proclaiming and evidencing Jesus Christ, His Presence, His Body and His Blood, as truly part of the lives we live,” the Bishop concluded.

The event, part of a nationwide effort called for by all the Catholic Bishops of the United States to revive belief in, and reverence for, the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist, began with Mass, celebrated by Bishop Dewane at St. Cecilia Parish – and the church was at capacity, before continuing at neighboring Bishop Verot Catholic High School.

The day included private and group Adoration, the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and thought-provoking talks by nationally known Catholic speakers, in both English and Spanish. The reaction from Conference participants was inspiring.

“What a wonderful day,” said Sharon Brown from Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers. “My love for Jesus has never been greater.”

“We are one Church, united in Christ through the Most Holy Eucharist,” said Anita Thompson of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Port Charlotte. “You couldn’t ask for a more perfect day to celebrate the Catholic Faith.”

Corina Sanchez of Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers said the entire day was a beautiful experience, which included the opening Mass, celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, inspirational talks, the opportunity to be among the faithful from across the Diocese, and the concluding group Eucharistic Adoration.

“Everything was perfect,” Sanchez said. “Jesus was with us all today.”

The keynote speaker for the Conference was acclaimed author Steven Ray, who presented on “Defending the Eucharist: Baptists Accept the Real Presence.” Ray spoke to all attendees, with a simultaneous Spanish translation offered, sharing his story of awakening from mocking the Catholic belief in the Real Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist to the awakening and now vigor with which he has defended the Catholic Faith, and the Real Presence, for the past 25 years.

Crystalina Evert, founder of Women Made New Ministries and the co-founder of Chastity Project, and guest and the host on TV programs for EWTN, spoke on “How the Eucharist Can Heal, Restore, and Protect You, Your Family, and Your Parish,” while Tim Glemkowski, CEO of the National Eucharistic Congress, spoke on “What God Did and What God is Doing: The Need for a Eucharistic Revival and Your Place in One.”

 

Father Elvis Gonzalez, a National Eucharistic Revival preacher based in Miami, presented “The Eucharist: Source and Transforming Force of Family Life.” Kathia Aranga, Director of the Office for Hispanic Catholics in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and President of the National Hispanic Committee for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the United States and Canada, spoke on “Holy Eucharist as the Center of Parish and Family Life.” Both of these talks were presented in Spanish.

Each speaker offered the faithful the opportunity to become part of the greater National Eucharistic Revival and to leave with their hearts and minds aflame for the love of Jesus, His Catholic Church, and especially His Real Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist.

The Diocesan Eucharistic Conference drew upon the success of the 2023 Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Congress which brought more than 4,000 Catholic school students, youth, and adults together for two days of events. What’s next? The National Eucharistic Revival will hold a National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in July. Bishop Dewane will be leading a pilgrimage group from the Diocese.

For more information, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org.

Retired Monsignor dies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Briefs for the week of March 22, 2024

Seminarian installed as Acolyte

Congratulations to Diocese of Venice Seminarian Joseph Bao Quoc Nguyen was one of five men installed to the ministry of Acolyte on March 15, 2024, at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, OFM Cap., Archbishop of Boston, presided over the Mass of Institution which plays a significant role in the formation of these men as they journey towards their ordination to the priesthood. As an Acolyte, the primary responsibility will be assisting the Deacon and priest during Mass, with a focus on ensuring the altar is prepared. They may also serve as Extra-ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at Mass and bringing the Holy Eucharist to the sick.

Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Televised Mass schedule

The Diocese of Venice in Florida will air the televised Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Masses, each for a full hour. These special Masses for the homebound can be viewed at noon 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 www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass.

Chrism Mass at Cathedral on March 26

The Chrism Mass, which takes place during Holy Week every year, will be held at 10:30 a.m., March 26, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. During this Mass, Bishop Frank J. Dewane will bless the Holy Oils which are used in the administration of the Sacraments at each parish throughout the year. Priests and Deacons celebrating 25 and 50 years of Ordination will also be recognized. All are invited and encouraged to attend in support of our clergy and to participate in this important Holy Week celebration.

Lenten school Masses continue

Following the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Bishop Frank J. Dewane continued to celebrate Mass for students at each of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools during the Lenten Season. The most recent Masses were March 14, 2024, at Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota, St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton on March 19 (the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary), and Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria, on March 20. Bishop continued to encourage the students to finish the Lenten Season strong in preparation for Holy Week.

St. Joseph Feast celebrated in Italian

Epiphany Cathedral in Venice hosted a Mass for the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was celebrated in Italian on March 19, 2024, and included the active involvement of the Italian American Club of Venice. Following the Mass, the statue of St. Joseph was carried to the Parish Hall in a procession led by the Knights of Columbus. There, Msgr. Patrick Dubois, Cathedral Rector, blessed the traditional St. Joseph’s table of bread and sweets, which were later distributed.

School Gala has a Roaring 20’s theme

The St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School Roaring 20’s Gala & Auction took place on March 16, 2024, at the Vineyards Golf and Country Club in Naples. A vintage Duesenberg was on display as guests arrived, many of the woman in sequined flapper-style dresses with feather headbands, while the men dressed in 20’s style tuxedoes, complete with fedoras. Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the guest of honor and thanked the parents for entrusting their children’s education to St. Elizabeth Seton. In addition, Bishop Dewane praised the faculty and staff for consistently delivering a quality education centered on faith, while also managing rapid growth and improvement of the school facilities.

Cars blessed at Sarasota Parish

Priests at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota blessed about 70 vehicles on March 14, 2024. The blessing follows the tradition in Rome, Italy, where cars line up outside the Colosseum in front of the Monastery of St. Frances of Rome (the patron saint of drivers) for a blessing. This was observed by Incarnation Pastor Father Eric Scanlan and shared with drivers who drove under the church portico for their blessing and then made way for the next vehicle.

Diocesan-wide opportunity for Confession March 21-22

With Holy Week fast approaching, it is not too late to ponder how well prepared we are for the Resurrection of the Lord on Easter Sunday.

One way to help in this effort is through participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation as the precept of confessing grave sins and receiving Holy Communion at least once during the Lenten Season merits a reminder to all.

To facilitate this requirement, the Diocese of Venice will have the Sacrament of Reconciliation available at the same time at ALL Parishes to allow the faithful ample opportunity to receive God’s Mercy. To make this opportunity as convenient as possible, in consultation with the Diocesan Presbyteral Council, Bishop Frank J. Dewane has designated the following days and times for Confession at Each Parish: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., on Friday, March 22, 2024, and from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, March 23, 2024.

Bishop Dewane said that many people view the idea of confessing one’s sins as so unbearable that they either completely avoid the Sacrament or go infrequently.

“It is heartbreaking to hear from those who have avoided confession for many years after carrying around a burden,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is heartwarming to talk to people of all ages who go to confession and are relieved and overjoyed at the benefits. Some even scold themselves for missing such a beautiful Sacrament for so long.”

Throughout the Lenten Season, Parishes have offered extended hours for the Sacrament, in addition to offering Penance Services, where multiple priests from the region were made available to hear confessions.

Pope Francis often speaks about the healing benefits of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, explaining that he goes about once every two weeks.

“In Confession, let’s give God first place,” the Holy Father said. “Once He is in charge, everything becomes beautiful and confession becomes the Sacrament of joy, not of fear and judgement, but of joy.”

As the Catechism teaches, the priest is acting in Persona Christi, that is in the person of Christ, within the confessional. So, like presenting oneself at the altar to be nourished by Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist, a person going to confession is not ultimately confessing to a priest, but confessing to and receiving forgiveness from Jesus Christ.

“The Lord comes to us when we step back from our presumptuous ego… He can bridge the distance whenever, with honesty and sincerity, we bring our weaknesses before him,” Pope Francis said. “He holds out his hand and lifts us up whenever we realize we are ‘hitting rock bottom’ and we turn back to him with a sincere heart. That is how God is. He is waiting for us, deep down, for in Jesus he chose to ‘descend to the depths.’”

The Pope emphasized that God waits for us, especially in the Sacrament of Penance, where he said the Lord touches our wounds, heals our hearts, and leaves us with inner peace.

Please contact your local Parish for additional available confession times.