Christmas celebrated across Diocese

The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:10-14

Passed through generations, the retelling of the coming of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in such a humble way, born in a manger to reign over the world, should cause everyone to pause and reflect on the gifts of grace that have come to each one of us through His birth.

This pause and time of reflection is at the heart of what Christmas is all about. This moment was celebrated throughout the Diocese of Venice in a variety of ways, most significantly through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated a pre-recorded TV Mass for the Homebound from St. Bernard Parish in Holmes Beach. This hour-long Christmas Mass reaches thousands of those who are unable to attend Mass for a variety of reasons.

Bishop Dewane also celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Mass at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. At the Midnight Mass, the Bishop brought forth the Child Jesus and placed Him in the manger as “O Come All Ye Faithful” was sung.

During the Midnight Mass, Bishop Dewane reminded the faithful that we are all part of Salvation History, and as such, we are called to a life within the Church, a Church not like the Roman Empire of Jesus’ time, but the new Kingdom built for us all.

“We are part of a new Kingdom, which started in a humble manger, with the Baby Jesus dressed in swaddling clothes,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is a different type of Kingdom from the time of Caesar Augustus when the individual meant little. The new Kingdom was built for us all. Jesus Christ does care about each one of us.”

Because of this new Kingdom, which is the Church on earth, led by the successors of Peter, we each have an obligation and responsibility to stand and speak up for the Church, the Bishop said.

“Jesus Christ has built for us a Church, a home for you and for me, and for many of our brothers and sisters. We are blessed to receive the goodness of the Lord by the love we express to Him, by our presence and active participation as we live our lives within the Church; being a full member; going to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each week; and praying to the Lord. This is who we are all called to be,” Bishop Dewane said.

The manger, or Nativity scene, is a celebratory focus of the Christmas Season. Several Diocesan Parishes and each Catholic school took time to have a retelling of the birth of Jesus with young children and in some cases with live animals.

For example, St. Michael Parish in Wauchula held a living Nativity play on Dec. 17, 2024, included a donkey, horses and many angels and shepherds. This community celebration is organized by the religious sisters who serve the Parish, the Sister Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, and includes a festival and the distribution of gifts for the children in the area.

Epiphany Cathedral Parish in Venice and St. William Parish in Naples hosted meals for those in need, the homeless, and the lonely. Epiphany hosted a Christmas Day dinner in the Parish Hall. The St. William luncheon took place at the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., on Dec. 26, and was coordinated with nearby St. Peter the Apostle Parish and Catholic Charities. Many volunteers supported each effort, including Bishop Dewane who worked the serving line at the Cathedral dinner, bringing smiles to the faces of those who came for a hot meal.

Christmas is also a time to help others so donations for the needy were piled high and distributed. The most common form of collecting items for needy children is through an Angel Tree, where the ornaments are a wish list item for a child or family.

The Angel Tree at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Parrish brought in a massive number of toys of all types, as well as more than $4,000 in gift card donations.

In Naples, at St. Ann Parish, the annual Council of Catholic Women Family 2 Family Christmas Gift Giving Program was a huge success, as it is each year. The effort collected more than 600 gift bags filled with needed items and then were distributed to several local charities.

As was the case at each Parish, many gave from their heart and brought bags of items well beyond what was sought. Naturally, no donated item was turned away and it just meant more people were granted a Merry Christmas.

Catholic schools spent much of the month in preparation for Christmas with pageants, recitals, concerts, parties, and other fun, such as creating handmade presents for family members or building and decorating gingerbread houses. At the same time, the schools teach students the true meaning of Christmas, including needing to spread the love of Christ, that is in their hearts, out to the world.

Young carolers from schools throughout the Diocese visited nearby assisted living facilities to spread holiday cheer by singing Christmas carols.

In addition, each school has a service component where students do work, volunteer or obtain funds or gifts to give back to the community. This effort goes into high gear during the Christmas Season.

At St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, the students collected canned goods for the St. Joseph Food Pantry, and toys and other goodies for needy children in the area.

The Knights on Bikes, a motorcycle club of the Knights of Columbus, donated more than 300 unwrapped Christmas presents for the more than 100 children at the Golisano Childrens Hospital in Fort Myers. Following their drop-off, the Knights gathered around the flagpole in front of the hospital and prayed a rosary for the children.

The “Good News of great joy” was widely celebrated throughout the Diocese of Venice during the Christmas Season, which continues through Jan. 8, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This year, many of the Diocesan faithful thought not only of their own family and friends but also of others, especially those most in need.

2023 Diocese of Venice Christmas Eve and Day Mass times

The 2023 Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Mass times for Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice are listed below. The listings are in alphabetical order by the city the Parish is located.

For details on youth choirs or musical accompaniment, please contact the Parish via the phone number or website listed for further information.

As a reminder, 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 8 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). Please check your cable provider for channel listings.

The Mass will also be available on the Diocesan website at 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


■ St. Paul, 1208 E. Oak St.,, 863-494-2611

CHRISTMAS EVE 7 p.m. (bilingual)

CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m. (bilingual)


■ Ave Maria, 5078 Pope John Paul II Blvd.,, 239-261-5555

CHRISTMAS EVE 5 p.m., 7 p.m. (Spanish), midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. (Latin), 5 p.m. (Spanish)


■ Our Lady of Grace, 595 E. Main St.,, 863-453-4757

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 7 p.m. (Spanish), 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon (Spanish)


■ Our Lady of Mercy. 240 Park Ave., 941-964-2254

CHRISTMAS EVE 5 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m.


■ Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, 12175 Stringfellow Road,, 239-283-0456


CHRISTMAS DAY 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m.


■ St. Leo the Great, 28290 Beaumont Road,, 239-992-0901

CHRISTMAS EVE 3:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 9 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 3 p.m. (Spanish)


■ Holy Child; 4315 Chester Ave.; 863-773-4089;

CHRISTMAS DAY  2 p.m. (Spanish)


■ Sacred Heart, 1220 15th St. W.,, 941-748-2221

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 4:30 p.m. (Creole), 11 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon (Spanish), 1:30 p.m. (Spanish)

■ Ss. Peter and Paul, 2850 75th St. W.,, 941-795-1228

CHRISTMAS EVE 4:30 p.m., 7 p.m., 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m.

■ St. Joseph, 3100 26th St. W.,, 941-756-3732

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 7 p.m., 10:30 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m., 11 a.m.


■ St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, 1027 Chobee Loop, 863-946-0696



■ St. Andrew, 2628 Del Prado Blvd. S.,, 239-574-4545

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 4:15 p.m., 6 p.m., 8 p.m. (Spanish), 10:30 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon (Spanish)

■ St. Katharine Drexel, 1922 S.W. 20th Ave.,, 239-283-9501

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 6 p.m., midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m.


■ Santa Rosa de Lima, 835 N. Mayoral St., Montura Ranch Estates,, 863-983-8585

CHRISTMAS EVE 6 p.m. (Spanish)

■ St. Margaret, 208 N. Deane Duff Ave., , 863-983-8585

CHRISTMAS EVE 8 p.m. (Spanish)

CHRISTMAS DAY 10 a.m., noon (Spanish)


■ St. Raphael, 770 Kilbourne Ave.,, 941-474-9595

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m.


■ Holy Family, 200 Datura Ave.,, 239-394-5181

CHRISTMAS DAY 10:30 a.m.


■ Jesus the Worker, 881 Nuna Ave.,, 239-693-5333 (All Masses in Spanish)



■ Our Lady of Light, 19680 Cypress View Drive,, 239-267-7088

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 6 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m.

■ Resurrection of Our Lord, 8121 Cypress Lake Drive,, 239-481-7172

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. (Latin)

■ St. Cecilia, 5632 Sunrise Drive,, 239-936-3635

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m., 11 a.m.

■ St. Columbkille, 12171 Iona Road,, 239-489-3973

CHRISTMAS EVE 5:30 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 5:30 p.m.

■ St. Francis Xavier, 2157 Cleveland Ave.,, 239-334-2161

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m. (Creole), 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m. (Polish)

■ St. John XXIII, 13060 Palomino Lane,, 239-561-2245

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 9 p.m., 11 p.m. (Vietnamese)

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:15 a.m., 9:15 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 1:30 p.m. (Spanish)

■ St. Vincent de Paul, 13031 Palm Beach Blvd.,, 239-693-0818


CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m., 11 a.m.


■ Ascension, 6025 Estero Blvd., 239-463-6754

No Masses – Parish temporarily closed.


■ St. Francis of Assisi, 5265 Placida Road,, 941-697-4899

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m.


■ St. Bernard, 248 S. Harbor Drive,, 941-778-4769

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m.


■ Our Lady of Guadalupe, 219 S. 9th St., 239-657-2666

CHRISTMAS EVE 6 p.m., 8 p.m. (Spanish), 10:30 p.m. (Creole)

CHRISTMAS DAY 10 a.m., noon (Spanish)


■ Holy Martyrs, 4290 Crescent Ave. S.W.,, 863-675-0030

CHRISTMAS EVE 5 p.m. (Spanish)

■ Our Lady Queen of Heaven, 355 S. Bridge St., 863-675-0030

CHRISTMAS EVE 5 p.m., 7 p.m. (Spanish)

CHRISTMAS DAY 10 a.m., noon (Spanish)


■ St. James, 3380 Placid View Drive,, 863-465-3215

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m.

■ Santiago Apostol, 685 County Road 621 E., 863-385-0049

CHRISTMAS EVE 8 p.m. (Spanish)

CHRISTMAS DAY 10 a.m. (Spanish)


■ Our Lady of the Angels, 12905 State Road 70 E.,, 941-752-6770

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 6 p.m., 8 p.m., 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 10:45 a.m., 12:30 p.m.


■ St. Raphael, 2514 Lee Blvd.,, 239-369-1831

CHRISTMAS EVE 5 p.m., 7 p.m. (Spanish), 10 p.m., midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m. (Spanish), noon


■ St. Mary, Star of the Sea, 4280 Gulf of Mexico Drive,, 941-383-1255

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 9 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m.


■ San Marco, 851 San Marco Road, www., 239-394-5181

CHRISTMAS EVE 3:45 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 10:45 a.m.


■ St. Joseph the Worker, 1800 N. U.S. Highway 27, 863-946-0696

CHRISTMAS EVE 7 p.m. (Spanish)



■ Corpus Christi, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road,, 402-659-5531, (All Masses in Latin)



■ St. Agnes, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road,, 239-592-1949

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 7 p.m., midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. (Spanish)

■ St. Ann, 985 Third St. S., www., 239-262-4256

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 7 p.m., 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m., 11 a.m.

■ St. Elizabeth Seton, 5225 Golden Gate Parkway,, 239-455-3900

CHRISTMAS EVE 5 p.m., 7 p.m. (Spanish), midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m.

■ St. Finbarr, 13520 Tamiami Trail E.,, 239-417-2084


CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m. (Spanish), 10 a.m.

■ St. John the Evangelist, 625 111th Ave. N.,, 239-566-8740

CHRISTMAS EVE 3 p.m., 5 p.m., 7 p.m., midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 5 p.m.

■ St. Peter the Apostle, 5130 Rattlesnake Hammock Road,, 239-774-3337

CHRISTMAS EVE 3:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 9 p.m. (Spanish), 9:30 p.m. (Creole)

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. (Spanish), 3:45 p.m. (Creole)

■ St. William, 750 Seagate Drive,, 239-261-4883

CHRISTMAS EVE 2:45 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 6:15 p.m., 10 p.m., midnight (Latin)

CHRISTMAS DAY 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m.


■ St. Therese, 20155 N. Tamiami Trail,, 239-567-2315


CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m.


■ San Pedro, 14380 Tamiami Trail,, 941-426-2500

CHRISTMAS EVE 6 p.m., midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 8 a.m., 10:45 a.m., 1 p.m. (Spanish)


■ Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 425 S. Tamiami Trail,, 941-966-0807

CHRISTMAS EVE 3 p.m., 5 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m.


■ Holy Cross, 505 26th St. W.,, 941-729-3891

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 7 p.m. (Spanish)

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon (Spanish)


■ St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, 12001 69th St. E.,, 941-776-9097

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 6 p.m., midnight



■ San Antonio, 24445 Rampart Blvd.,, 941-624-3799

CHRISTMAS EVE 3:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.


■ St. Charles Borromeo, 2500 Easy St.,, 941-625-4754

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 6 p.m., midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. (Creole)

■ St. Maximilian Kolbe, 1441 Spear St.,, 941-743-6877

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 4:05 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon


■ Sacred Heart, 211 W. Charlotte Ave.,, 941-639-3957


CHRISTMAS DAY 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m.


■ St. Isabel, 3559 Sanibel Captiva Road,, 239-472-2763

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 6 p.m.



■ Christ the King, 1900 Meadowood St.,, 941-924-2777, (All Masses in Latin)


CHRISTMAS DAY 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m.

■ Incarnation, 2901 Bee Ridge Road,, 941-921-6631

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 7 p.m., 10 p.m., 10 p.m. (Polish)

CHRISTMAS DAY 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m.

■ Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, 6600 Pennsylvania Ave.,, 941-755-1826

CHRISTMAS EVE 3 p.m., 5 p.m., 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m.

■ St. Jude, 3930 17th St.,, 941-955-3934

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 11 p.m. (Spanish)

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m. (Spanish), 10:30 a.m., noon (Spanish)

■ St. Martha, 200 N. Orange Ave.,, 941-366-4210

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 8 p.m. (Vietnamese), midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 7:45 a.m. (Spanish), 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon, noon (Vietnamese)

■ St. Michael the Archangel, 5394 Midnight Pass Road,, 941-349-4174

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 7 p.m.


■ St. Patrick, 7900 Bee Ridge Road,, 941-378-1703

CHRISTMAS EVE 4:15 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 7 p.m., 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m.

■ St. Thomas More, 2506 Gulf Gate Drive,, 941-923-1691

CHRISTMAS EVE 3 p.m., 5 p.m., 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 10 a.m., noon


■ St. Catherine, 820 Hickory St.,, 863-385-0049

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 7 p.m. (Spanish), 9 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon (Spanish)


■ Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W.,, 941-484-3505

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 6 p.m., 9 p.m. (Polish), midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. (Spanish), 12:30 p.m. (Polish)

■ Our Lady of Lourdes, 1301 Center Road,, 941-497-2931

CHRISTMAS EVE 3 p.m., 5 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon


■ St. Michael, 408 Heard Bridge Road,, 863-773-4089

CHRISTMAS EVE 5 p.m., 9 p.m. (Spanish)

CHRISTMAS DAY 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m. (Spanish), 1:30 p.m. (Creole)

Our Lady of Guadalupe feast celebrated throughout Diocese

Prayer, reverence, and music marked the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, throughout the Diocese of Venice.

Celebrated on Dec. 12, the Feast is often linked to the Dec. 9 Feast of St. Juan Diego, the day in 1531 when Our Lady first appeared to the saint near modern day Mexico City.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast Day celebrations are a longstanding tradition in the Diocese of Venice. Parishes throughout the Diocese celebrated this special day with Masses. In addition, there were a variety of other events, including overnight vigils, large processions, early morning prayer celebrations, as well as outdoor festivities. Many of these celebrations included a variety of dancers dressed in elaborate costumes or traditional garb.

“Our Lady of Guadalupe means so much to me and for so many others,” said Isabella Cruz of St. Paul Parish in Arcadia who brought a large image of Our Lady to be blessed after Mass on Dec. 10, 2023. “It is a devotion I grew up with and learned about from my grandparents and parents. My mother prayed to the Blessed Virgin when I was sick as a child, and she told me to do so every day. I do pray to her all the time. Our Lady gives me great comfort. On this Feast Day, in a special way, we all join together to give thanks to Her and to honor Her.”

For Diego Reyes, of St. Peter the Apostles Parish in Naples, the celebration is “every holiday wrapped into one. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the acceptance of the Hispanic people into the Universal Catholic Church. We were welcomed by the Blessed Virgin Mary with open arms. What an honor and important moment that deserves our prayerful thanks and a true celebration.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass in a field behind the religious education building at St. Paul Parish in Arcadia on Dec. 10. Concelebrating the Mass were Parish Administrator Father Luis Pacheco and Parochial Vicar Remigious Ssekiranda. The Mass was celebrated ahead of the Feast Day to accommodate the maximum number of families. As a result, more than 1,500 took part in the St. Paul Mass and celebration.

At the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Dewane blessed a large number of religious articles which were placed before a rose-laden statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  A festival followed the Mass with a wide variety of food as well as dancers. Many of the young girls were dressed as Our Lady, while the young boys dressed as St. Juan Diego, the peasant who saw the apparitions of Our Lady in Mexico City.

A large gathering of the faithful from St. Michael Parish in Wauchula and Holy Child Mission in Bowling Green also took place Dec. 10 at Pioneer Park in Zolfo Springs. The Mass was in three languages, Spanish, English, and Creole, representing the diversity of the Parish. Before Mass, a procession with a statue of Our Lady followed by children carrying flowers led to the park pavilion. A large cultural celebration followed.

Similar scenes were repeated at Parishes throughout the Diocese. Many Parishes held vigils, some lasting until dawn. These included a retelling of the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, mariachi bands, the singing of songs to Our Lady as well as prayer and contemplation before the image of Our Lady.

Our Lady appeared, dressed like an Aztec princess, to St. Juan Diego, a poor widower who was on his way to Mass. She asked, in his native language, to have the Bishop of Mexico build a church in Her honor. Skeptical, the Bishop asked for a sign. Our Lady again appeared to St. Juan Diego who shared the request of the Bishop. So, in the middle of winter Our Lady provided beautiful roses to wrap in St. Juan Diego’s tilma, a cloak made of cactus fibers. When he opened the tilma for the Bishop, the roses fell to the floor and an impression of Our Lady appeared on the tilma in the form an indigenous woman.

This apparition led to the conversion of Mexico almost overnight, when up to that time Catholic missionaries from Europe had made very little headway. The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City was built on the site of the apparitions and is one of the most visited religious shrines in the world. It is also home of the actual tilma of St. Juan Diego, which can still be seen, with the image clearly visible, nearly 500 years later.

Our Lady of Guadalupe was first declared “Patroness of the Americas” by Pope Pius XII in 1946, a title later reaffirmed by Saint John Paul II in 1999.

Bereavement workshops held in Diocese

The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone but more so for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. The rush of memories can make it feel as if the loss is happening all over again.

To help the bereaved, in early December 2023, the Office of Marriage & Family Life offered a series of events themed “There is Hope!” First was a multi-day retreat titled, “A Walk with Jesus for Grieving Parents,” then a workshop, “There is Hope: Surviving the Holidays.” Lastly was a two-day training session titled, “There is Hope: Giving Hope to the Grieving.”

These gatherings were led by Deacon Henry deMena, of the Diocese of Charleston and formally of the Diocese of Venice, who has extensive training experience as a bereavement counselor.

“There has been a need for these type of bereavement workshops throughout the Diocese and this was an initial effort to judge the demand,” said Carrie Harkey, Coordinator of the Office of Marriage & Family Life.

Deacon deMena said his work is to try to help the bereaved make sense out of what doesn’t make sense: grief.

Grieving parents

The retreat for grieving parents took place Dec. 1-3 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice.

“The main theme was walking with Jesus during our suffering as did the disciples on the walk to Emmaus,” Deacon deMena said of the retreat, which included 20 adults who were remembering 11 adult children who had died. “There was a mixture of prayer services, including a beautiful Adoration/Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, education, sharing and social activities. During an opening ceremony, candles were lit for each of the deceased to represent the Light of Christ.”

The retreat focused upon ensuring each parent understood that they were not alone in their grief, they are always accompanied by Jesus. Facilitators were also present to encourage sharing. The retreat concluded with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.


One aspect of the grieving parents retreat is how to cope with loss during the holidays. Along this theme, Deacon deMena led two presentations on this topic for the public on Dec. 4 at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Grove City and then Dec. 5 at St. William Parish in Naples.

“As humans we might feel God has abandoned us when trying to deal with the loss of a loved one,” Deacon deMena said. “It’s OK, because God has broad shoulders. He can handle you being upset with Him. The more you can pray and talk to the Lord, the easier it will be to help Him find you. God wants to share His love and comfort with us.”

The holidays are difficult because anxiety and stress levels are running high for everyone. Anything that can be done to reduce the effort and stress of the season is recommended.

Deacon deMena offered a variety of suggestions on how to get through the holidays, such as early planning for any activities to help avoid surprises, making sure not to pretend that everything is the same or fine, or to not talk about the loved one, as this can be more painful for the bereaved.


The Bereavement Training workshop took place Dec. 6-7 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice. There, Deacon deMena spoke to more than 20, representing multiple Parishes, to facilitate establishing strong Parish-based bereavement groups. He provided participants with the tools needed to establish a structured program that follows a 6-week schedule, allowing participants to fully benefit from the process.

Ginny Nolan, of St. Peter Parish in Naples, was among a group of three who took part in the training, eager to expand the bereavement outreach at the Parish. “The information we learned and the process and program we will follow will help many people,” Nolan said. “This is exactly what is needed.”

Throughout each of the workshops and retreats, Deacon deMena said prayer and faith are keys to living with grief, stressing that grieving never really ends but is something that is coped with in a non-destructive way.

With the positive response and a clear need shown by the amount of participation from the bereavement retreat, workshops, and training, Harkey said that additional sessions will be planned throughout the Diocese in the not-too-distant future.

For more information, please contact Carrie Harkey at

Celebrating 50 years on Longboat Key

St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish is commemorating its 50 years of service to the Catholic community on Longboat Key.

The first celebration took place on Dec. 8, 2023, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is the actual date of the establishment of the Parish on Dec. 8, 1973.

Mass was celebrated by Father Robert Dziedziak, St. Mary Pastor, and concelebrated by Father Phillip Schweda, Administrator of St. Bernard Parish in neighboring Holmes Beach, and who also previously served as Temporary Administrator and Parochial Vicar at St. Mary, Star of the Sea.

Following the Mass, a 50th Anniversary Luncheon was held in the Parish Hall. A 50th Anniversary Dinner is scheduled to take place on Feb. 23, 2024.

During the Luncheon, Father Dziedziak led everyone in prayer, first praising God for the blessings and gifts He bestows on the Parish community.

“We thank you Lord for all of the people who came here at the very beginning, in 1973, who built up this Parish Church as a wonderful community of believers. We thank you God for Father (Edward) Pick and Msgr. (Gerard) Finegan, and all other priests who have served here. We pray for all of those forefathers who were part of this wonderful Parish and who have gone before us, we hope and pray that they are enjoying their eternal life in the Father’s Kingdom.”

Father Dziedziak also called upon the Heavenly Father to inspire the faithful of St. Mary, Star of the Sea with the Holy Spirit to serve His people to the best of their abilities.

The prayer concluded with Father entrusting all to the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was honored on that day, before everyone joined in praying the “Hail Mary.”

St. Mary, Star of the Sea had humble beginnings, with Masses first celebrated in a youth center and then a firehouse on the north end of the island between 1969 and 1973. The needs of the faithful were then administered by priests from St. Bernard Parish in Holmes Beach.

When it became a Parish, St. Mary, Star of the Sea was in the Diocese of St. Petersburg. Bishop Charles McLaughlin presided over the Parish dedication Mass on Dec. 8, 1973, with Father Pick named as the first Pastor. The current Parish church was dedicated in 1978 and the hall, now named after Father Pick, was dedicated in 1991.

Following Father Pick’s retirement in 2008, Msgr. Gerard Finegan was appointed second Pastor, serving until 2019. Father Dziedziak was appointed as third Pastor in 2020.

Thanksgiving celebrated across the Diocese

The idea of giving thanks, knowing that we are here because of gifts given to us by God, is at the core of what Thanksgiving is all about.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane described the holiday this way while celebrating Mass at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch on Nov. 23, 2023.

As hard as we try, Bishop Dewane added, “being who God called us to be is difficult, and we will fail along the way. But, the Bible records the wonderful gifts of God, which we can find within ourselves and in others who are all made in the image and likeness of God.”

The Gospel reading of the day (Luke 17:11-19) was the parable of the 10 lepers, when only one returned to thank Jesus upon being cured of the debilitating illness. Jesus asks where the other nine were. Bishop Dewane stressed how we are all among the missing nine at certain points in our life, but we must always strive to be among the ones who return.

“By your presence at Mass on Thanksgiving, you are counted among those who returned to Jesus, just as you came to give thanks to God today. Know the Lord sees the goodness in you and thanks you,” Bishop Dewane said.

Meanwhile, Bishop Dewane went from the Mass in Lakewood Ranch to take part in a free community Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the Knights of Columbus Our Lady of Victory Council 3358 at their Hall on Fruitville Road in Sarasota.

The Knights delivered more than 200 meals to the elderly and homebound and then served hundreds more meals to those who needed a hot meal or didn’t have anywhere to go for the holiday. Guests were also encouraged to take meals home. Those meals included turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, roll, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

Bishop Dewane offered the opening prayer for the Knights and other volunteers before the dining room was opened. Then, the Bishop took his traditional spot in charge of serving the corn and later assisted with the stuffing and gravy.

Being grateful for what they have was a strong theme during Traditional Thanksgiving events throughout the Diocese of Venice.

St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral hosted a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for the second year in a row with 144 meals served. The first dinner in 2022 came about when many were still recovering from Hurricane Ian and Father Ricky Varner, Pastor at St. Katherine Drexel, organized different Parishes groups to make certain dishes to help people. It is now an annual tradition cherished by many.

In Naples, at St. Peter the Apostle, Pastor Father Gerard Critch started the Parish Thanksgiving dinner more than 10 years ago to ensure “no one will spend Thanksgiving alone.” Following a trilingual Mass (English, Spanish, Creole), the dinner served 300.

On Nov. 22, students from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota volunteered and served food at the 23rd Annual Sarasota Ministerial Association Thanksgiving Dinner at St. Martha Parish in Sarasota. This was the fifteenth year Mooney students helped support this event.

At St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway happened on Nov. 18, in conjunction with the weekly Saturday Food Pantry. More than 200 turkeys with all the fixings were given away. On the same day, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., in Immokalee, delivered meals with all the trimmings to more than 150 families.

Gratitude for the many blessings enjoyed by the Diocese of Venice was widespread, and heartfelt!

Feast Day celebration in Clewiston

St. Margaret of Scotland, patroness and eponym of the Catholic Parish in Clewiston, was canonized for her concern with and ministry to the poor, the orphaned, the widowed, and the sick. She built schools and hospitals and spent time each day listening to the needs of the people in the outer court of the castle where she reigned as queen with her husband, Malcolm III.

“The history of St. Margaret Parish has continued the witness of St. Margaret,” Bishop Dewane said during a Mass honoring the Saint on Nov. 19, 2023. “I am pleased and honored to be here with all of you today as you honor your patroness, someone who lived a long time ago and far away. You do honor St. Margaret today, but you also do this in how you live your lives, responding to the needs of the community with compassion.”

The celebration included a bilingual Mass (English and Spanish), and this was followed in the Parish Hall with a feast.

Father Jean Woady Louis, Administrator of St. Margaret Parish, expressed his gratitude for the presence of Bishop Dewane and explained that the Parish is proud of its heritage, serving the faithful in Hendry County since 1932.

The Feast of St. Margaret is celebrated on Nov. 16, and honors a Saint who was born in Hungary in 1045 and died in 1093. She was canonized in 1250 by Pope Innocent IV as a Saint, acknowledging her life of holiness and extraordinary virtue. She was honored for her work for reform of the Church and her personal holiness.

St. Margaret is best remembered for her love of the poor. When she walked or rode out in public, crowds of the needy flocked to her, and none left her without being comforted.

Although very generous with material gifts, St. Margaret also visited the sick and nursed them with her own hands. She and her husband were also renowned for serving orphans and the poor on their knees during Advent and Lent.

Bishop breaks ground for a Parish Activity Center in Lakewood Ranch

With hundreds looking on and cheering their support, ground was broken on Nov. 4, 2023, for the new Our Lady of the Angels Parish Activity Center and rectory in Lakewood Ranch.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane led a brief prayer service and blessing before picking up a shovel to take part in the ceremonial groundbreaking.

“This Parish Activity Center is something that could not have been imagined just a few years ago, and now it is something that is needed for your growing, faith-filled Parish,” Bishop Dewane said.

Father Sebastian Szczawínski, S.A.C., Pastor of Our Lady of the Angels, remarked that he was very grateful for the support and prayers for the campaign which made the groundbreaking possible.

“This is for children and adults who are going to learn about Jesus – how to live a good life, how to live a proper life, connected to Christ,” Father Szczawínski said.

The new 12,580-foot Parish Activity Center will be located on the west side of the Parish property. In addition, there will be a duplex rectory constructed for the Pastor and Parochial Vicar in the northwest corner of the property. The project is expected to take 12-16 months to complete.

Under the guidance of Bishop Dewane and Father Szczawínski, the Parish ran a “Building Our Future” capital campaign during the past two years to help make the Parish Activity Center and rectory a reality.

The new activity center will more than double the existing facilities and will service the needs of an ever-growing community. The activity center will be a one-story building and will house 10 rooms of various sizes for use in ministries and programs. The new structure will serve the needs of the nearly 500 1st – 12th grade Faith Formation students and support the more than 40 outreach ministries and groups of the Parish. The current Parish Hall, which was recently renovated, will remain, and be used for meetings and events as needed.

The construction of a rectory will bring the clergy from off-campus living arrangements to be on-campus and within walking distance of Our Lady of Angels. The new duplex will be a two-bedroom, two-bathroom structure.

The architect for the project is PRA Plunkett Raysich Architects, LLP – John Holtz, partner, and the general contractor is ME&S general Contractors, Inc.

Joining Bishop Dewane and Father Szczawínski in the groundbreaking were priests and Deacons who serve the Parish. Members of the Parish Finance Council also turned dirt, as well as many others who were pivotal in making the project a reality.

Our Lady of the Angels serves 3,138 registered families in the growing Lakewood Ranch community with up to seven weekend Masses offered during the peak season.

For more information about Our Lady of the Angels, visit

Thousands attend Hispanic Fall Festival

Beautiful weather accompanied a day filled with food, fun, entertainment and lots of smiling faces for the 19th Annual Hispanic Festival at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota.

An estimated 10,000 people gathered at St. Jude for this event on Nov. 4, 2023, a celebration of both the individual nations and the unified culture of a diverse Parish.

Held annually in early November this annual Festival is the oldest one in Sarasota County to feature authentic Latino food, music and culture. The day includes musical performances and ethnic dancers as well as food from many nations. Throughout the Parish grounds were tents full of a wide variety of foods that left many mouths watering. People attend the event annually from as far away as Naples and Clearwater. It has become a much anticipated and beloved event for the ethnically diverse Sarasota Parish.

The celebration of more than a dozen countries lasted from morning until sunset. Throughout the day, there were performances, offering folk and modern music, and dance. Many proudly wore clothing representing their country of origin.

Martha Perez, 11, enjoyed trying a variety of foods, including papas rellenas from the Cuban food tent, which is a meat-filled potato ball. The highlight of the day for the young girl was the various dancers who wore colorful dresses. “It was so wonderful to see them dancing to such beautiful songs.”

The Hispanic Festival opened with prayer, followed by a “Parade of Flags” as each country represented at the festival was announced, and the respective flags brought forth cheers.

As a bilingual Parish, the members of both the English and the Spanish speaking congregation at St. Jude participated and volunteered to staff the booths.

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

The proceeds of the Hispanic Festival go to support the various outreach efforts of St. Jude Parish, including a food pantry and other programs which help countless families throughout the year.

News Briefs for the Week of November 10, 2023

Parish joins Knights in supporting vocations

The 25th anniversary of the priestly ordination of Father Bob Kantor, Pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Naples, was a cause for celebration on the weekend of Oct. 28-29, 2023. The celebration served the dual purpose of supporting vocations as well as honoring Father Kantor. A special second collection was held to raise funds for the Florida Knights of Columbus Charities Vocations Fund. The fifth Sunday of a month is used for charitable causes outside of the Parish. More than $8,000 was collected. The monies will be designated for use in support of seminarians studying for the Diocese of Venice. Father Kantor serves as State Chaplain for the Knights’ Florida State Council. The timing of the support coincides with National Vocations Awareness Week which was Nov. 5-11.

Students learn computer coding

Sixth-grade students at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral had an incomparable opportunity on Nov. 7, 2023, delving into the world of computer coding with the help of Jason Castaldo, a teacher from Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. Under the guidance, inspiration, and expertise of Castaldo, the students explored the fascinating realm of programming and problem-solving. It was a journey filled with creativity, logical thinking, and the excitement of building digital wonders. Enthusiastically delving into the “Hour of Code” is paving the way for the future of these talented students.

Tasting the World!

Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park hosted its annual International Food Festival on Nov. 5, 2023, in the Parish Center. Participants had the opportunity to “taste the world” in this culinary journey, sharing the flavors of their culture with food from many different countries, such as Colombia, Germany, Haiti, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Philippines, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and more. There were even hot dogs, ice cream, and popcorn for the little ones.

Students gather in the form of a Cross

Students at St. Ann Catholic School in Naples gathered Nov. 6, 2023, on the soccer field to stand in the form of a cross. This is an annual tradition at the school which is a fun day outside for the students as they gather in the form of an important symbol of the faith. The school has experienced rapid growth in recent years with enrollment topping 425, up 40 percent since 2020.

Parish celebrates All Saints’ Day with relics

For the second year in a row, Incarnation Parish in Sarasota had a special display set up for All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1, 2023). Saint relics, on loan from parishioners, were put on display for people to visit between Masses on the Solemnity. Many lined up to view the relics, touch rosaries to them, and pray for the powerful intercession of the Saints. The Second Vatican Council recalls that “the Saints have been traditionally honored in the Church, and their authentic relics and images held in veneration.” The term “relics of the Saints” principally signifies the bodies – or notable parts of the bodies – of the Saints who, as distinguished members of Christ’s mystical Body and as Temples of the Holy Spirit in virtue of their heroic sanctity, now dwell in Heaven, but who once lived on earth. Objects which belonged to the Saints, such as personal objects, clothes and manuscripts are also considered relics, as are objects which have touched their bodies or tombs such as oils, cloths, and images.