Sarasota Prayer Walk commemorates dark anniversary

Support of the unborn is a moral stance, not a political one. This was the message shared during the 23rd Annual Prayer Walk for Life in Sarasota Jan. 22, 2021.

This walk coincided with the National Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. The day also marked the 48th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision which cleared the way for the legalization of abortion in the U.S. Since legalization, some 60 million babies have been aborted.

A Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane began the day at St. Martha Parish, putting the activities in their proper context of prayer, resolve and hope. This Mass was livestreamed and shared via the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities social media accounts and was available for viewing by those outside of the Diocese.

“Respecting life is not a political issue, but a moral one,” Bishop Dewane stated. “Failing to protect life is a moral evil that threatens the dignity of each and every human being in the world today.”

For this reason, the Catholic Church, U.S. Bishops, priests and the faithful are obligated to continue to speak out for the voiceless because the right to life is God-given, the Bishop added.

“It has to be all of us together,” Bishop Dewane continued. “Abortion is of preeminent priority and we need to continue to be a voice for life in our country. The position of the Church and that of the U.S. Bishop Conference is unchanging and publicly well known. The sacredness of human life must be defended and has been the position of the Conference and Church since the beginning.”

The prayer walk took place in front of the regional headquarters for Planned Parenthood on Central Avenue in Sarasota, the largest abortionist in the nation.

Circling the facility in prayer, approximately 100 took part in the walk with some holding signs seeking the closure of the facility, others calling for all to pray for the unborn.

Carmella Roberts of Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch said she was pleased that there were so many people participating in the walk because of many factors that could have prevented participation.

“I’m so glad people didn’t use the excuse of the cold weather, the Pandemic or even a new president to stop coming out for this important walk for life,” Roberts said. “We are out here to raise awareness about what happens here, but also to educate others about the sacredness of all life. Jesus calls us to be here, in His place, to pray for the unborn and for the mothers that they choose life.”

The faithful of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Grove City took part in their own Prayer Walk for Life on Jan. 23, 2021. Participants circled the Parish Church while praying the rosary as witnesses to the dignity of the human person.

In addition, a Prayer Life Chain took place on Jan. 24, 2021 on U.S. 41 in front of San Pedro Parish in North Port. Dozens of faithful, led by Deacon Richard Frohmiller, held up signs for passing motorists to see that read “Jesus Forgives and Heals,” “Adoption is a Loving Option, “Pray to End Abortion,” “Abortion Hurts Women,” and more.

Beginning Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, the faithful will have the additional opportunity to stand up as witnesses for life. There will be two Diocesan locations for the Spring Campaign of 40 Days for Life. Stand and peacefully pray during vigils in the public right-of-way outside Planned Parenthood in Fort Myers or Sarasota. For more information, go to and click on the location nearest you.

For more information about the Diocese of Venice Respect Life Office, please visit, or contact Jeanne Berdeaux at 941-484-9543 or

New tabernacle blessed in Cape Coral

A focal point of the sanctuary of a Catholic Church is the tabernacle, a place reserved for the Eucharist which serves as a reminder of Christ’s presence that comes about in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The installation of a new tabernacle is an important moment for a Parish and was so at St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral on Jan. 23, 2021. For the occasion, Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass, during which he blessed the new tabernacle and a new monstrance.

“The tabernacle is the real center of what the Church building is and becomes, with the Real Presence of the Lord there outside of Mass,” Bishop Dewane explained. “It is appropriate, from time to time, to replace the tabernacle. Therefore, it is vital for all to recognize its significance as a dwelling place which the Lord, in the Blessed Sacrament, is reserved for worship.”

A tabernacle serves as a place to reserve those hosts that have been previously consecrated at Mass and therefore are now the true “Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity” of Jesus. Any consecrated hosts that remain after Communion are then put in a ciborium and placed in the tabernacle and locked to ensure that no one can profane the Blessed Sacrament.

In addition to the blessing of the tabernacle, the Bishop also blessed the new monstrance, which is used on a display stand to present the Blessed Sacrament to the people during Eucharistic Adoration. Both items were made by artisans in Mexico and shipped to Cape Coral. The blessing was intended to take place in mid-2020, but the COVID-19 Pandemic cause delays in shipping.

St. Andrew Administrator, Father Eduardo Coll, thanked Bishop Dewane for his presence as part of this important blessing of the new tabernacle and monstrance.

“I also want to thank all of the people we had behind the replacement of the tabernacle,” Father Coll added. “It was one large donor and a chain of good hearts who came together in support of this change. These beautiful items are part of a dream that became a reality, placing a renewed focus on the Real Presence in our Church.”

The tabernacle is gold plated with silver inlay. It has an image of the Resurrected Christ on the front, angels on the side, and a symbol of the Holy Trinity on the reverse. The two-sided tabernacle is needed as the Church is designed with the main worship space on one side of a glass wall, and a Chapel on the other side. The tabernacle is at the center of the wall behind the main altar. This dividing wall displays frosted glass images of various saints. A custom glass partition will be installed soon to complete the work in the sanctuary.

The monstrance, which is 4 feet tall, is also gold plated, with silver inlay and stones on a radiated background. The monstrance is styled as the Blessed Mother holds the Blessed Sacrament evoking the reality of Mary as the first Tabernacle to carry Jesus. Father Coll explained that this image is based upon one shared with the people of Poland in honor of Our Lady of Fatima.

Since its installation, the faithful have taken the opportunity to take images of the new tabernacle.

Gina Barnes said the new tabernacle is beautiful. She noticed during the Mass how the sun came through a side window and glowed on the tabernacle, illuminating it is such a way that nearly brought her to tears.

“It is so wonderful,” Barnes said. “It is a true dwelling place worthy of Our Lord.”

News briefs for the week of Jan. 26, 2021

Children’s Festival held in Wauchula

The annual Children’s Festival was held at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula on Jan. 23, 2021. The Festival brings children from kindergarten through fifth grade to the Parish for a day of prayer and fun.

The day included Mass, a Eucharistic Procession, as well as presentations about how they can grow in their Faith. In addition, there were various games, many of which had a faith-based theme. The women religious who serve the Parish, Sisters Servant of Lord and the Virgin of Matara, organized the festival.

“A Seminarian Story” sixth installment available

The Diocese of Venice in Florida Office of Vocations launched a video series titled, “A Seminarian Story,” to celebrate the 16 Seminarians currently in formation. The first four videos have been released and more will follow approximately every few weeks. The most recent video is about Seminarian David Portorreal who is doing formation at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach.

Developed with the assistance of the Diocese Communications Department, the goal of the series is to inspire others to follow in the path to the priesthood or religious life, as well as encourage the faithful to continue to support the seminarians as they continue their formation process at different seminaries. “A Seminarian Story” featuring David Portorreal can be found at

Men’s & Women’s Conferences 2021

Registration is now open for the 2021 Men’s & Women’s Conferences! The Men’s Conference will feature speakers Patrick Madrid and Joel Stepanek on Saturday February 20th.

The Women’s Conference will feature speakers Kimberly Hahn and Mary Ann Weisinger-Puig on Saturday March 13. Both conferences will be held at Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (doors open at 8:00 a.m.) with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Confession available all day. To register, please visit

Anniversary Masses

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

Begin your year with Jesus in the Eucharist

What better way to begin 2021 than in the presence of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament? The Office of Evangelization will be hosting several evenings of Eucharistic Adoration with Confession available, music, reflection, and time for silent prayer. Jesus, who makes “All Things New” will bring a newness to your faith in this new year. Locations include Our Lady of Light Parish, Fort Myers, Feb. 2; Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Lakewood Ranch, Feb. 3; St. John the Evangelist Parish, Naples, Feb. 4; Incarnation Parish, Sarasota, Feb. 11; and St. Joseph Parish, Bradenton, Feb. 16. Adoration begins at 7 p.m. and goes until 8:30 p.m.

Bibles presented to Bradenton students

Father Rafal Ligenza, Administrator of St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton, presented bibles to each of the seventh and eighth graders at St. Joseph Catholic School on Jan. 21, 2021. Father Ligenza presented the bibles as gifts from the Parish and then prayed with the students.

Encountering God in Prayer: A Lenten Journey

Spend this Lent growing in prayer! “Encountering God in Prayer: A Lenten Journey” is a theological and practical online course offered by the Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation. The course will guide you through the rich and beautiful teaching on personal prayer found in part four of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Short video lectures, online discussions, prayer exercises and other learning activities will constitute the class content. Students log in each week at times most convenient to them. The instructor, Dr. John Gresham, Executive Director of the Institute, has extensive experience teaching on prayer in courses, workshops, and retreats. The course is $25 and runs from Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 to April 5. For more information, visit, call 941-766-7334 or email

Water bottle stations make an impact

Each Diocesan Catholic school strives to be good steward of God’s creation, including making every effort to limit the amount of trash. At St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, water bottle filling station were installed to cut down on the waste caused by plastic water bottles. On Jan. 22, 2021 Neumann Senior Tommy Anderson was recognized as the 10,000th water bottle filler at one of the stations on campus. Principal Sister Patricia Roche, Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco, presented Anderson with a certificate during morning prayers/announcements. The stations were installed thanks to the Home and School Association. Since the start of the Academic Year, 31,609 water bottles have been saved from entering the landfill.

Verot student to attend Congress of Future Medical Leaders

Eric Avin, a ninth grader at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, will serve as a Delegate to the Congress of Future Medical Leaders this March. The Congress is an honors-only program for high school students striving for a career as a physician or in a medical research field. The event is designed to honor, inspire, motivate and direct some of the brightest students in the country and to provide a path, plan and resources to help them reach their goal. He was chosen based on the recommendations of a teacher and a Nobel laureate, and on his academic achievement, leadership potential and determination to serve humanity in the field of medicine. During the two-day virtual Congress, Eric will have the chance to hear Nobel Laureates and National Medal of Science Winners talk about leading medical research; learn about cutting-edge advances and the future in medicine and medical technology and much more.

Safe Haven Sunday

Pornography is one of the leading causes of addictions, abuse, adultery, divorce, and even human trafficking: it is, in short, a pervasive evil inflicting grave wounds on our families. Pornography creates unsafe environments for children and confuses others about attitudes towards sex and marriage. It is a moral issue. For this reason, March 7 has been designated as Safe Haven Sunday in the Diocese of Venice. This day for awareness will give an opportunity to address the harmfulness of pornography in marriages, families, and culture, while providing helpful resources for all. Detailed information about the implementation of this program will be shared in the coming weeks through your Parishes. If you have any questions, please contact Carrie Harkey, Diocesan Coordinator of Family Life at or 941-484-9543.

Faith and Wine Lee County Feb. 25

The next gathering of Faith and Wine Lee County will be a virtual Zoom event beginning at 7 p.m., Feb. 25, 2021. The speaker is Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, who will present “Small Things with Great Love: To Love like Mother Teresa.” To see the complete line-up of speakers, or to register, visit


News briefs for the week of Jan. 20, 2021

Students learn about St. Joseph

During this “Year of St. Joseph,” St. Ann Catholic School 8th grade Junior Catechists Mariana Franco and Jack McGovern taught 1st grade students to create a shrine for St. Joseph during the week dedicated to the Saint. This is part of the ongoing St. Joseph Devotional Project taking place at all Diocesan elementary schools. The “Year of St. Joseph” was established by Bishop Frank J. Dewane in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic on March 19, 2020 and will continue through Dec. 8, 2021 as directed by Pope Francis. St. Joseph is the Protector of the Universal Church.

Marriage Prep Retreats for 2021

The Diocese Office of Family Life is offering a “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.-5 p.m., April 17, Aug. 7 and Nov. 13, 2021. Retreats in Spanish are at the same time and will be March 6, Aug. 7 and Oct. 30. To register for the English retreats, please visit and to register for the Spanish retreat, 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.

St. Joseph student takes second place in state soccer competition

Emmanuel, a student at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton took second place in the state for his age division in the Knights of Columbus State Soccer Challenge held on Jan. 16, 2021, in Melbourne. Emmanuel, and classmate Connor, won at local, regional and district levels of the Knights Soccer Challenge qualifying for the state events. Well done!

Institute provides Lenten offering

Spend this Lent growing in prayer! “Encountering God in Prayer: A Lenten Journey” is a theological and practical online course offered by the Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation. The course will guide you through the rich and beautiful teaching on personal prayer found in part four of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Short video lectures, online discussions, prayer exercises and other learning activities which constitute the class content. Students log in each week at times most convenient to them. The instructor, Dr. John Gresham, Executive Director of the Institute, has extensive experience teaching on prayer in courses, workshops, and retreats. The course runs from Ash Wednesday Feb. 17, 2021 to April 5. For more information visit the Institute website, call 941-766-7334 or email

Updated times for Sunday Mass on radio in Spanish

St. Jude Parish in Sarasota broadcasts the Holy Mass in Spanish, celebrated by Father Celestino Gutierrez, every Sunday at 8 a.m. on radio station FM 99.1 and 10 a.m. on FM 105.3. We are grateful to the sponsors and SOLMART Media for their collaboration in this effort.

“Child’s Play” virtual fundraiser Feb. 25

Our Mother’s House, a program of Catholic Charities which provides housing and support for homeless mothers and their infant children, is having a virtual fundraiser titled “Child’s Play.” This night of interactive fun begins at 7 p.m., Feb. 25, 2021 with funds raised used to ensure that the mothers and their children receive the suport they need as they strive for self-sufficiency. For information about the event, contact Lisa Ventura at Lisa.Ventura@CatholicCharitiesDov.Org or 941-485-6264. A generous donor has offered to match all donations up to a total of $125,000. Please participate and help make a difference.

Projector installed in school Chapel

The Our Lady of the Angels Chapel at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples has a new addition of a projector courtesy of the Salesian Sisters Education Fund. Installed on Jan. 11, 2021, the projector allows the text and music for the Mass to be seen by all, removing the need to print worship aids for each Mass or prayer service.

Surviving divorce program beginning in February

A 12-week program called “Surviving Divorce … Hope and Healing for the Catholic Family” will begin Feb. 16, 2021 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice. There will be monthly group gatherings and weekly on-line Zoom meetings. Content includes internet access to a weekly video, group sharing and discussion. Participants will be provided assurance that they are not alone and a place to tell one’s story and be heard. The cost of the program is $25 and includes a Participant’s Workbook and access to all videos. For more information and to register, contact Bob and Chris Smialek at or 815-275-5305

Naples Catholic School Virtual Gala Feb. 3

The Saint Ann School Foundation is hosting its annual Heart for Education Gala, which will be a virtual event on Feb. 3, 2021. The Foundation is dedicated to ensuring a faith-based education remains accessible to all families desiring it for their children, regardless of income. Many of our families have experienced great hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The need is greater now as more families have asked for additional scholarship funds. To register to receive a link to the Virtual Gala, please visit or contact Pamela Macia at 239-262-4110 ext. 307 or or

Cathedral School Gala April 16

The Epiphany Gala is one of our most successful fundraisers for Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School and will take place April 16, 2021 at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice. The Gala theme is the Amalfi Coast and features both live and silent auctions as well as a dinner and dancing. This year’s Shining Stars are Troy and Joyce Sacco. For more detail, please contact Leah Mihm at 941-615-0284 or Note, this event may become a Virtual Gala if conditions require.

Longtime Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs dies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2021 to be busy across Diocese

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Long-time Pastor in Avon Park dies

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

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

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

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

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

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Father Gerald P. Grogan and for the consolation of his family. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God Rest in Eternal Peace.

News briefs for the week of Jan. 15, 2020

Fort Myers school installs new floors

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

All-school Mass held for high schoolers in Fort Myers

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

Knights collect shoes and socks for homeless vets

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

Students plant and maintain garden

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

Catholic Charities Ball Feb. 13

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

Faith & Wine Lee County Virtual Event Jan. 21

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


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


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

Act of Spiritual Communion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Online Resources

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

Parish donations

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

Looking back on turbulent 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating Christmas during a Pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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