Bishop helps Parish celebrate Feast Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News briefs for the week of Dec. 21, 2020

Bishop celebrates Mass for students in Bradenton

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

“A Seminarian Story” fourth installment available

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

Last Bishop radio show of 2020 available

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

Students participate in “Hour of Code’

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

Annual Mass for Catholic Haitian Community Jan. 1

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

Televised Christmas Day Mass for the Homebound

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

Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal

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

Year of Saint Joseph

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

Dispensation

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

News briefs for the week of Dec. 14, 2020

Bishop celebrates Mass for Sarasota Catholic school

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

Televised Christmas Day Mass for the Homebound

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

Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal

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

Annual Mass for Catholic Haitian Community Jan. 1

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

Students send get well cards to COVID patients

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

Toiletries added to food distribution

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

2021 Catechetical Conference Feb. 13

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

Sunday Mass In Spanish available on the radio

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

Misa Dominical En Español

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

Safe Haven Sunday coming to Diocese

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

Online “Introduction to Catholic Theology” offered by Diocesan Institute

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

Anniversary Masses coming soon

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

Bishop addresses men’s retreat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News briefs for the week of Dec. 7, 2020

Retired priest dies

Father Arthur Schute, a retired priest who served as Director of Pastoral Care at Bon Secours – St. Joseph Hospital in Port Charlotte from 1997-2005, died Dec. 5, 2020 at the age of 78. Father Schute was ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 21, 1967 to the Archdiocese of Newark. He was a graduate of Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Following his retirement in 2005, he continued to assist at Parishes in Charlotte County and was living in the area at the time of his death. Funeral services will be 11 a.m., Dec. 12, 2020, St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Port Charlotte. Please pray for the repose of the soul of Father Schute and for consolation of his family.

Christmas Day Television Mass for the Homebound

The televised Christmas Day Mass for the Homebound with Celebrant Bishop Frank J. Dewane will air for a full hour on Christmas Day. For viewers in the northern portions of the Diocese (DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Manatee, and Sarasota counties), the Mass will air at 9:30 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee counties), the Mass will air at 8:00 a.m. on WFTX-TV (FOX-4). Please check your cable provider for channel listings. Leaflet missals are available upon request by calling Gail Ardy at 941-486-4714 or by writing: TV Mass, Diocese of Venice, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285. For more information email ardy@dioceseofvenice.org.

“A Seminarian Story” third installment available

The Diocese of Venice in Florida Office of Vocations recently launched a video series titled, “A Seminarian Story,” to celebrate the 16 Seminarians currently in formation. The first three videos have been released and more will follow approximately every two weeks. The most recent video is about Seminarian James Gates who is discerning his vocation at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. 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 James Gates can be found at https://vimeo.com/445659054.

Prayer vigil held to halt executions

Members of all five Charlotte County parishes participated in a prayer service on Nov. 30, 2020, outside Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda. The event commemorated the worldwide “Cities for Life, Cities Against the Death Penalty” annual observance. Special prayers and a rosary were offered for an end to the use of the death penalty, for all those on death row and for victims of violent crime.

Students help serve meals

Some 20 Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School students helped set up, serve, and breakdown the 20th Annual Sarasota Ministerial Association Feed the Homeless Thanksgiving Lunch on Nov. 25, 2020. This was the ninth year during which students from Cardinal Mooney volunteered.

Parish helps spread Christmas cheer

Our Lady of Light Parish hosted its annual Service Morning on Nov. 22, 2020 with families and children gathering to make Christmas cards to send overseas for our military as well as Christmas candy jars for local foster children.

Door decorating contest

Sister April Hoffman, a Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco, is seen with a student in front of a decorated door at St. John Neumann Catholic School in Naples on Dec. 3, 2020. The door are decorated for the holidays and part of a school-wide competition.

Mass at Dawn (Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo)

The Mass at Dawn will take place at 6:00 a.m., December 15 – 23, and at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, December 20 at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, 1441 Spear St., Port Charlotte. All are welcome to attend each day or when you are able. This Mass comes from the Catholic custom of gathering for celebration of the Eucharist in predawn hours in the nine days before Christmas. Masks are required. Please call 941-661-8335 for further information.

“What is Catholic Theology?”

The Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation is offering a 16-week online course starting Jan. 11, 2020 that introduces students to the principles, practices, and sources of Catholic Theology. The course “What is Catholic Theology? [Ecclesial Nature and Mission of Theology]” counts as a pre-requisite for those beginning the online MA Program in Theology and Christian Ministry at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Anyone interested in a graduate-level introduction to Catholic Theology is welcome to attend for a discounted price. The course is taught by Dr. John Gresham, Executive Director of the Institute, who brings 20 years of experience teaching at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, and Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. For more information, or to register for the course, visit the website of the Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation https://institute-dov.org/ and click on the link to COURSES. For other information, contact Dr. Gresham by email john.gresham@institute-dov.org or phone (941) 766-7334.

Help Your Parish

Parishes face increased risk of financial shortfalls due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and its effects on everyday life. Parishes depend on weekly financial gifts to continue their ministries, especially in this critical time of crisis. Please prayerfully consider an online donation to your parish by visiting https://dioceseofvenice.org/ways-to-give/parish-donations-online/. You may also contribute through your usual channels (e.g., envelopes, and through the Parish online giving option). Together we will navigate through this Pandemic, aid those in need, and secure the road ahead for the Parishes within the Diocese of Venice. Please continue to pray for the repose of the souls of those who have died from Coronavirus, for the recovery of the sick, for the strength of healthcare workers and caregivers, as well as for an end to this health crisis. Thank you for your generosity.

Do You Need Help?

If you need assistance from Catholic Charities for food, financial assistance, or tele-mental health counseling, please call the number for your area listed below between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday:

*  Sarasota/Manatee/DeSoto/Hardee/Highlands counties: 844-385-2407

*  Charlotte/Lee/Hendry/Glades counties: 844-385-2423

*  Collier County: 844-385-2404.

Generosity abounds leading to Thanksgiving

The generosity of the faithful, whether they are part of a Diocese of Venice Catholic School or Parish, knows no limits.

With many people struggling because of the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Thanksgiving for some seemed as if it could be without the basic needs of food on the table.

Food and fundraising drives at Diocesan Catholic Schools and Parishes, as well as through a variety of other organizations, stepped up to answer the call for help with a late season surge of food and monetary donations.

Students from St. John Neumann Catholic School in Naples held their annual Thanksgiving Food Drive for Catholic Charities and collected 4,837 cans. The students and faculty then delivered the items on Nov. 20, 2020 to the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center.

St. Columbkille Parish members of the Knights of Columbus delivered donated turkeys to St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven and then to St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston.

The St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton was also the beneficiary of the Knight of Columbus. The Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish Council donated money from the annual Msgr. Moretti Memorial Golf Tournament, which was used to purchase 100 frozen turkeys. Kindergarteners at St. Martha Catholic School also collected more than 200 pounds of food for the food pantry.

On Nov. 23, and 24, the St. Joseph Food Pantry loaded 1,500 frozen turkeys for families in need in lieu of the normal bag of food. The demand for food at the pantry has risen dramatically since the start of the Pandemic and thanks to donations like those from the Knights and Diocesan Catholic schools, there was enough to provide turkeys this year, ensuring everyone a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, St. William Parish in Naples is reaching out to those who are alone this Thanksgiving by calling parishioners during Thanksgiving week. These calls, to those added to a list of those who are alone, are to offer prayers and conversation; a human touch for those who remain necessarily isolated out of caution and concerns due to the Pandemic.

These are just a few of the examples of what took place in the Diocese of Venice leading up to Thanksgiving, showing that the faithful are filled with holiday spirit while also caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are less fortunate than ourselves.

Schools celebrate Thanksgiving

While some Catholic Schools focused on collecting food for others, students also learned about and did a variety of activities in celebration of the holiday before the break.

For example, at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice the pre-kindergarten-4 class learned about friendship, built a teepee, made Native American clothing and turned corn into popcorn. Fifth-grade students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers, had a Thanksgiving Day Balloon Parade! After reading “Balloons Over Broadway,” by Melissa Sweet, students were challenged to make their own balloon to fly in a class parade. Kindergarten students at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral celebrated Thanksgiving a little early on Nov. 17 with a classroom feast with all the trimmings.

Again, these are just a sampling of the many activities which took place at Diocesan Catholic School leading up to Thanksgiving.

Bishop extends dispensation into 2021

Below is a letter from Bishop Frank J. Dewane letter to faithful regarding extension of dispensation”

November 20, 2020

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King and Advent approaches, please accept my pastoral greetings and concern for you, the good Faithful in the Diocese of Venice. My prayer is that the preparation for the Lord’s coming in the Advent Season will enliven our hope in the promises of Christ.

Allow me to update you regarding Masses as the Covid-19 Pandemic continues to impact the Diocese and all of us. In my October 9, 2020 letter, it was said that the General Dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass would remain in effect until November 28, 2020, and perhaps longer. Considering the present circumstances of the virus spread, the General Dispensation is extended into the New Year and I will advise regarding its conclusion at a future date.

There are some optimistic signs and there are increasing numbers of the Faithful returning to Church for Sunday Mass. Also, there is greater weekday attendance. Please continue to make every reasonable effort to return to in-person worship if you are able. With gratitude, I acknowledge all who have returned and commend those who continue to join the live streaming of Mass due to vulnerabilities and those who care for them. Further, let us all keep in prayer our brothers and sisters who have had the virus and their families.

As Christmas and the New Year approach, it is crucial to maintain vigilance regarding safety precautions in Parishes.  This will necessitate scaling back special Feast Day celebrations and holiday related events.  Unfortunately, it cannot be as it was in the past. Particularly, I underscore the need for the wearing of masks, maintaining appropriate distances, as well as cleaning and sanitizing measures. Parishes have been encouraged to schedule more Masses for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day than is customary. Having additional Masses, perhaps at different times or in different locations (Parish hall or gymnasium), will safely accommodate the potential numbers of Faithful who may attend Mass for Christmas.

At this challenging time, let us be united in prayer as we journey through the Advent Season in preparation for the Birth of Our Lord and Savior.  Be assured of my prayers for you and your family!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+ Frank J. Dewane

Bishop of the Diocese of

Venice in Florida

Youth Rally 2020 style!

The 2020 Diocese of Venice Youth Rally was a huge success, uniting young Catholics in Faith even though the youth were scattered at 20 different locations thanks to restrictions necessitated by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The central site for the Youth Rally was St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples. There, about 100 youth from St. John the Evangelist, St. William and St. Peter the Apostle parishes gathered in the Pulte Family Life Center, maintaining social distancing and wearing masks when possible. Some of the largest secondary sites were St. Michael Parish in Wauchula and St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral.

One young lady from St. John the Evangelist said she enjoyed the day because it provided her time to reflect upon her own spiritual journey while trying to find her place in the world. “It is easy to get lost, but if I listen to the call of the Lord, I will find my way.”

One young man from St. Peter the Apostle was at a previous Diocesan Youth Rally and missed the big crowd – nearly 2,000 in 2019. However, he enjoyed the smaller event because “everyone seemed to be personally talking to me. The speakers talked on my level and seemed to understand the struggle I have in living out my Faith.”

The Youth Rally theme was “Worthy,” from the opening of Chapter 4 of St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians which serves to remind the young men and women that they must “live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane greeted the youth stating, “I am convinced you were called by the Lord to be here (at the Rally), otherwise you would not be here or tuning in to this livestream. The idea of being called is not a one-sided conversation with God. The Lord makes known to you, and to me, the mission that He has for us. We must go out and live that call. Our response has to be worthy of the call we have been given.”

Bishop Dewane stressed that the response from each youth at the Rally will be different based on the gifts and talents they have been given. Because we are each called, in our own way, the Lord is patient with us in our response, never calling upon us to do something we are not capable of doing.

“God knows who we are,” the Bishop continued. “We have to work on turning away from sin and be willing to return to the Lord. Let that worthiness rise up within you and let it make you more!!! In living out that call, you become the witness – the leaven – you are called to speak up for the Lord. You must let the word ‘worthy’ remain with you; think about it in your mind, but more profoundly think about it in your heart and soul.”

The first speaker was Chris Mueller, of everydaycatholic.com, who explained that nothing you can do will be unworthy of God’s love. He added that one doesn’t earn God love, that is always there, even for those who sin, who have flaws or faults, because there is no one who does not have sin. “God says, “Bring them to Me, I will use every part of you, I will make you new, in Me.”

To hear that call, one must hear the call of God through prayer and through living an active Faith life. “By this active participation, God moves our hearts to in fact change us. He makes us new. And by having received that love, we are urge to live our lives in a manner worthy of that call.”

Jackie Angel spoke about the underlying call for all Catholics – to be saints. She explained that this does not mean one will be asked to perform miracles, but one must at least aspire to live in the manner of the saints by being the best Catholic possible.

“To live in the manner worthy of the call to be a saint, one must root out all evil in one’s life, whether it is to remove toxic friends, end destructive behavior, you have to move away from what took you away from the Lord,” Angel said. “You do this because Jesus died for you. The Lord loves you and wants you to be in a relationship with Him and to love you in return.”

Eucharistic Adoration took place in the Family Life Center before Bishop Dewane led the youth to the Parish Church in a Eucharistic Procession. Once in the Church there was additional time for adoration and a Benediction prior to the celebration of Mass.

The day also included a live performance by the band Zander, the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (available at all sites), as well as Catholic trivia.

News briefs for the week of Nov. 20, 2020

Vigil held for children killed by violence

A Candlelight Vigil was held Nov 7, 2020 at St. Joseph Church in Bradenton to honor the memory of the 1,080 children who have been killed by gun and domestic violence between Jan. 1, 2020 and Nov. 7, 2020. Each of the names of the children were read aloud, along with their age, city and state and a candle was lit for each and every child! Prayers were said by Father Shawn Roser and joined by both Deacon Ron Dains and Deacon Ron Ochner who read the names, while many joined in lighting candles for the lost children and their grieving families. A Manatee County Sheriff’s Deputy spoke on how hard this senseless loss of life is for law enforcement officers as well as all of us!

School supports charity, honors veterans

The National Junior Honor Society at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers collected more than 1,100 items of food to be delivered to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. This effort was made possible with the assistance of the Knights of Columbus. The school also delivered more than 150 Veteran’s Day cards made by students to Mission BBQ. Mission BBQ handed out free lunches to veterans on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2020, and with their lunch they each received a handmade card! The students were honored to make these cards and show their appreciation for our local community.

Student donates hair for third time

For the third time, Serafina Colonneso, a student at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, has donated 12 inches of her hair to Children With Hair Loss. Children With Hair Loss is a non-profit organization that provides human hair replacements at no cost to children and young adults facing medically-related hair loss. Way to go Serafina!

Online programming a blessing for Religious Education

Religious education programs in Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice have been embracing the need for more online content. This content can be both exciting and accessible to a more modern generation of young learners.

When the COVID-19 Pandemic struck, causing religious education classes to be taught virtually, the Diocese of Venice was blessed to have temporary free access to Formed.org, a product of the Augustine Institute which provides a trusted engaging entertainment alternative in support of a Catholic lifestyle so as to help users grow in understanding of their Faith. This is done through Catholic educational content, including Catholic movies, children’s programing, audio dramas and books. In addition, there are online Bible studies, sacramental prep materials, documentaries and talks from leading Catholic experts. All content is available through any electronic device, with much also available in Spanish.

Diocese of Venice Director of Religious Education Anne Chrzan explained that many Parishes already had subscriptions to the Formed.org content, while others were excited about the new access.

“Many people view Formed as a Catholic “Netflix,” but it really is a lot more than an on-demand movie service,” Chrzan added. “Formed provides educational content for children and adults. The material can be used by Catholic schools and Religious Education programs, youth, parent or senior education groups.  It is relatively easy to watch or learn using your smartphone or computer.”

Liliana Ronderos, Director Religious Education at St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton, began using Formed.org in April. “It was a God given opportunity that allowed us to continue to reach out to the families and parishioners, despite of the closing.”

Ronderos said the description of what Formed is and access/log in information was shared with parishioners through catechists. “As we were able to get familiarized with the content, we began to incorporate specific Formed materials into our programs.”

By June 2020, St. Joseph Parish was using the programming across the board in some way shape or form. The consistent positive feedback made the decision easy to get a permanent subscription.

The Augustine Institute made an offer to the Diocese to provide, at a discount, for continuing or renewed subscriptions. It was eventually negotiated that Parishes would receive a 50 percent reduction in cost for an annual subscription. This discount not only applied to a maximum of 20 Parishes with new subscriptions but offered a discount for those already registered.

“We were able to continue to enjoy Formed without interruption because of that,” Ronderos said. “We even have a fund towards next year’s subscription. “

At St. Joseph, the Formed content has been used to enhance existing religious education classes in a way that is fun and exciting for everyone. New classes for parishioners are being added. For example, in the coming weeks, the Parish will present an Advent series for adults and more content for children going through sacramental preparations.

One of the few challenges is helping older parishioners navigate the sign-in process and using the website to find desired content, Ronderos explained. Early in 2021, the Parish will be offering greater support for the seniors with the assistance of students in Confirmation classes.

Chrzan said the Diocese of Venice was blessed to come to this important agreement with the Augustine Institute for the benefit of all Parishes. Parishioners need only check with their home Parish to learn how to register and gain immediate access to the programming.

“In light of the Pandemic, this opportunity came about at a critical time, when the faithful needed to have continued, reliable access, to content about the Catholic Faith, all in a way that is safe for everyone,” Chrzan added.

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