Pro-Life fight continues, 51 years post-Roe

In the 51 years since the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for legalized abortion in the United States in the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, more than 65 million innocent lives have been lost. However, since Roe was overturned by the Supreme Court by the Dobbs decision in 2022, great progress has been made to protect women and their preborn children in Florida.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane joined the Florida Conference of Catholics Bishops in releasing a statement ahead of Jan. 22, 2024, the Roe v. Wade anniversary, and now known as the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. In the statement, the Florida Bishops call on the faithful to pray for the protection of the unborn while emphasizing the gains made since the 2022 Dobbs decision which put all abortion regulation in the states.

Since 2022, Florida established a 15-week abortion limit, which remains in effect as the Florida Supreme Court considers a challenge to it. The State Legislature’s passage of a bill to further limit abortion to six-weeks of gestation during the 2023 session, and its approval by Governor Ron DeSantis, is a momentous achievement. This legislation also increases resources to pregnant women and young families, almost six-fold, through the Florida Pregnancy Care Network. If the 15-week law is upheld, the further limit to six weeks will go into effect 30 days later, ushering in a new era.

“Much remains to be done to properly recognize the dignity of the child in the womb, but this marks tremendous progress in the legal protection of preborn children in Florida,” the Florida Bishops stated.

The Florida Bishops warn, “This progress, as well as gains made over the past several decades to protect women and their preborn children from the harms of abortion, is at significant risk.”

An extreme ballot initiative proposing to amend the state constitution to legalize full-term abortion is viewed with grave concern. If passed, the amendment will legalize abortion up until birth, including when the baby is capable of feeling pain. The proposed amendment would eliminate the current law requiring parental consent for a minor daughter to receive an abortion while permitting notification.

“As is required of the petition initiative process, the proposed ballot language is under review by the Florida Supreme Court. In our briefs to the Court, we contend that the ballot title and summary are misleading, which should preclude its placement on the ballot,” the Florida Bishops stated. “The title states the amendment ‘limits’ government interference with abortion when the amendment actually prohibits all regulation before viability. Neither does the language provide fair notice of its impact on existing statutory protections for women. If this extreme amendment ultimately appears on the November 2024 ballot, we urge all Floridians to ‘vote no.’”

Even with the overturning of Wade, the Diocese of Venice is actively involved in seeking an end to abortion of any kind.

Each year, huge numbers of people participate in prayer vigils at abortion facilities throughout the Diocese of Venice while many others participate in larger local, state, and national prayer walks.

For example, a group of students from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota and Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers will be participating in the Jan. 19, 2024, National March for Life in Washington, D.C. This March began in the wake of the Roe decision and remains a key rallying point for the Pro-Life movement in the U.S.

Locally, the Ave Maria Parish Respect Life Ministry is hosting its third annual March for Life, at 10 a.m., Saturday Jan. 20, in Ave Maria. The walk begins with remarks from Bishop Dewane and other dignitaries at the Ave Maria University football stadium. From there, participants will recite the rosary as the walk proceeds through the university on its way to the town square. There, closing remarks and additional prayers will take place prior to a light lunch provided by the Knights of Columbus. This event has grown each year.

“The necessary work to build a culture of life in this great Nation is far from finished,” said Sharon Levesque, Ave Maria Parish Respect Life Coordinator. “Pro-lifers must continue to steadfastly stand together to fight for the lives of all the vulnerable among us in all 50 states of this great Nation. Florida Pro-Lifers are committed to continue in the fight for the protection of the lives of the unborn.”

The opportunity to actively participate in Pro-Life activities is not limited to single marches or events.

For example, each year a large group from the Diocese, including Catholic high school students, takes part in Catholic Days at the Capitol. This trip brings people to meet state legislators to speak about the Pro-Life agenda of the Florida Bishops. The 2024 trip will take place February 6-9, with Bishop Dewane accompanying the group.

The 40 Days for Life campaign takes place each Lent (starting Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14), and again in the fall to coincide with October, National Respect Life Month.

The 2024 spring 40 Days for Life prayer vigil will take place in Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples. The kickoff event for the Sarasota vigil is 10 a.m., Feb. 10, at St. Patrick Parish, 7900 Bee Ridge Road. In Fort Myers, the opening event will take place Feb. 11, at the Planned Parenthood abortion facility at 6418 Commerce Park Drive.

Each day throughout the 40 Days, prayer warriors will be outside the Fort Myers facility, as well as the Planned Parenthood at 736 Central Ave., in Sarasota, and at 1425 Creech Road, in Naples, daily through March 23. Those interested in participating can attend at any time, or check with their home Parish for designated time slots. For more details, please visit https://www.40daysforlife.com/en/.

The Diocese of Venice is a proud partner in the “Walking with Moms in Need” initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This program educates the Parish staff and ultimately the faithful on where to send a pregnant woman for assistance. This program is crucial, as, for years, the Diocese has partnered with pregnancy help centers throughout the 10-county region. This is to ensure that pregnant moms have access to the support and resources needed to encourage them to choose life; it is important that they know they are not alone.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, to which Bishop Dewane is a consultant, aid in a statement ahead of the Roe anniversary, that “each of us is called to radical solidarity with women facing an unexpected or challenging pregnancy.”

Bishop Burbidge reminded all that the most immediate way to protect babies and mothers from abortion is to thoroughly surround mothers in need with loving support in programs such as “Walking with Moms in Need” in their journey of motherhood.

For women or men who have been scarred by abortion, the Diocese offers “Project Rachel,” an outreach of the Catholic Church to those who are suffering and in need of healing following an abortion. This program offers help through the sacraments, retreats, and referrals for professional counseling, all confidentially. For assistance, please contact, Sylvia Jimenez, Project Rachel Coordinator, at 941-412-5860 (English and en Español), or project.rachel@dioceseofvenice.org. The Diocese also works with “Support After Abortion,” a national outreach to provide individualized care for individuals impacted by abortion. For details, visit https://supportafterabortion.com/.

The Florida Bishops concluded their communications on the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, by stating, “A healthy society can only continue to flourish if based on a consistent recognition of the rights of each individual, especially the weakest and most defenseless. With this in mind, we remain committed to pursuing full legal protection of preborn children and continue to support efforts to offer practical assistance and accompaniment to women and their families experiencing difficulties during pregnancy and beyond. We invite all people of good will to join us in these endeavors.”

For more information on Respect Life issues, or to participate in Respect Life events or initiatives, please contact Diocesan Respect Life Director Jeanne Berdeaux at Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068.

News Briefs for the week of January 19, 2024

Naples Catholic Street Evangelization training Jan. 23

Anyone interested in learning about Catholic Street Evangelization needs to register now for the Jan. 27, 2024, Saint Paul Street Evangelization (SPSE) training at St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Ave N, Naples. Registration deadline is January 23. SPSE is a response to the mandate of Jesus Christ to “preach the Gospel to all nations…” taking the Catholic Faith to the streets. The organization seeks to train the faithful to witness effectively to the truth, beauty, and goodness of Jesus and His Church in the public square in a non-confrontational way. Saint Paul Street Evangelization is supported and encouraged by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. All Catholics who are 18 years of age and older are cordially invited to participate. The daily Mass is at 8 a.m., and the workshops are from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. A “Live Lab” will follow. The cost is $15 per person and includes continental breakfast and lunch. To register, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/2024-st-paul-street-evangelization. For additional questions, please contact Jim Gontis at gontis@dioceseofvenice.org.

Health Care Ethics Conference Feb. 17

Medical professionals, students, and interested laypeople are invited to the first annual Converging Roads health care ethics conference on Feb. 17, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs! This one-day conference will offer continuing education credits for health care professionals with presentations centered on the theme of Catholic Medicine in a Secular Society. For more information or to register, visit convergingroads.com/venice. For information, contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org or call 941-484-9543.

Migrant Care Grants application period open

Grant requests for funding of projects in 2024 are available from the Foundation for the Care of the Migrant Poor Fund and need to be submitted no later than Monday, April 1, 2024. To be considered a grant, the project must clearly be seen as a service to the migrant poor or new immigrants. Preference will be given to those projects under Catholic auspices. Applications can be submitted by visiting https://www.grantinterface.com/Home/Logon?urlkey=ccfsf.

Religious sisters complete half marathon

Two Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, Sister Nicole Daly and Sister Juliana Alfonso, completed the BCC Naples Half Marathon on Jan. 14, 2024. The St. John Neumann Catholic High School teachers completed the 13 miles run while wearing their religious habits. Congratulations to Sisters Nicole and Juliana for their dedication, strength, endurance, and inspiration for all.

Blue Mass in Naples on Jan. 27

St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, is hosting the annual Blue Mass for Law Enforcement, Firefighters, and First Responders at 11 a.m., Jan. 27, 2024. The guest is Msgr. Steven P. Hurley, Pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Wilmington, Delaware. Before entering the seminary, Msgr. Hurley served a policeman and eventually detective for eight years in Ocean City, Maryland. This Mass is dedicated to honoring the sacrifice and service of all law enforcement, firefighters and first responders in the community. Hospitality will follow in the Parish Hall.

“Three Kings” Mass brings students together

Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers hosted a “Three Kings” Mass for first graders from St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers and St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral on Jan. 9, 2024. The Feast of the Three Kings, or the Epiphany (Jan. 7), represents the arrival of the three kings in Bethlehem to praise and honor the Baby Jesus. The Mass was celebrated by Jesuit Father John Belmonte, Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Catholic Education. The first graders serenaded everyone with numerous songs. Father Belmonte queried the young children about what they got for Christmas (and what they would give Jesus for Christmas), and made everyone smile the entire time. Following Mass, representatives from both schools were selected as the three “Kings” for this year.

 

National Eucharistic Revival continue

Placing a greater emphasis on the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist has been the ongoing focus of the National Eucharistic Revival, is an initiative called for in June 2022 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

In support of the National Eucharistic Revival, Bishop Frank J. Dewane directed that the resources of the Diocese of Venice focus on engaging the faithful through a series of events celebrating the Most Holy Eucharist.

Foremost of these events was the March 2023 Diocesan Eucharistic Congress. During the Congress, an estimated 4,400 (middle school students, youth and adults) participated in three unique events during the course of two days, at a venue on the Fort Myers riverfront. “What a wonderful time to be together celebrating our Faith in the Most Holy Eucharist,” Bishop Dewane said at the opening of the Congress.

The high point for the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress included the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass being celebrated each day (one for youth, one for adults).

There were also three group Eucharistic Adorations (two outdoors for the younger participants and one indoors for the adults); a 1,600-person-strong public Eucharistic Procession in the streets of Fort Myers; inspirational talks in both Spanish and English; live music; and fellowship as participants shared the beauty of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Other Diocesan activities throughout the year further supported efforts to celebrate the Source and Summit of our Faith, the Most Holy Eucharist. The Office of Evangelization promoted the Traveling Rosary Congress in October 2023. This Rosary Congress was a unique opportunity to place all prayers and the needs of the faithful into the loving arms of the Mother of God, including a the intention to recognize the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Hosted by 31 Parishes, many had 24 hours of adoration and prayer with different ministries scheduled each hour. Even when the Rosary Congress didn’t last 24 hours, the gatherings always included the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Eucharistic Adoration and the praying of the Holy Rosary.

Additionally, there was a concerted effort to expand the That Man Is You (TMIY) Catholic men’s program from its base of two Parishes. Training sessions throughout the summer bore fruit as 11 new Parishes signed on to start this important weekly outreach in September. At those Parishes, the number of participants has been well beyond what was expected and the effect on the Parish life has been noted by several Pastors. The resonance of the program stems from its focus to honestly address the pressures and temptations that men face in our modern culture, especially those relating to their roles as husbands and fathers. Each weekly session has a segment focused on the Most Holy Eucharist and often follows Mass.

Also, throughout 2023, the Office of Marriage and Family hosted a series of events promoting the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, each with a theme stressing the Most Holy Eucharist. This included the two annual anniversary Masses, celebrated by Bishop Dewane, held to honor couples who have dedicated their lives to God and their marriage. The Masses, held in the northern and southern parts of the Diocese to accommodate the large response, recognize couples enjoying significant wedding anniversaries; with many of those present celebrating more than 50 years of marriage while some marked more than 70 years. Between the two Masses, the 630 couples represented a combined 32,500+ years of marriage. Bishop Dewane stressed that the marriages of those present were bound by God, noting how these couples represent a shining example of the important Sacrament of the Eucharist. The 2024 Anniversary Masses will take place at 11 a.m. Feb. 3, at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, and 11 a.m. Feb. 24, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. A reception follows these free event. Registration is handled through local Parishes.

The Diocese of Venice hosted the third “Together in Holiness” Marriage Conference in Fort Myers in October. Again, the theme focused on the Most Holy Eucharist, and the important role in building, and strengthening, a holy marriage. More than 125 couples, representing 31 Parishes, took part in this event. The day included the Mass, celebrated by Bishop Dewane, the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and the availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The conference allowed couples to grow together in holiness and their closeness to the Lord; to learn to form their children in the Catholic Faith; to enjoy a day of quality time with their spouse; and to witness dynamic presentations. Plans are already underway for the 2024 conference to take place this fall.

In 2023, the focus of the National Eucharistic Revival switched to Parish outreach. Parishes throughout the Diocese organized Catholic speakers, adoration, Eucharistic processions, and other exciting events.

With the support of the Office of Evangelization and Department of Communications and the USCCB committee for the National Eucharistic Revival, a number or resources have been provided to Parishes. This was done to refresh the teaching of the faithful about the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist, and its history dating back to the Last Supper of Christ. Resources also include details about the importance of Eucharistic Adoration, and a list of speakers who are available to speak on this topic.

As a result, many Parishes have expanded their adoration time. Several Parishes have added new days, or extended existing hours, all with positive results. A few Parishes have even begun an adoration focused on teens and families, with participation correspondingly increasing. Through early 2024, several Parishes have brought in numerous high-profile guests to speak about the Most Holy Eucharist and Real Presence, with many more scheduled in the coming months. The attendance at these presentations has been impressive. Resources for this outreach can be found at https://dioceseofvenice.org/eucharistic-congress/year-of-parish-revival/.

Building on the success of the first Diocesan Eucharistic Conference, the second Conference is set for March 16, at Bishop Verot Catholic High School, 3398 Sunrise Drive, Fort Myers. All are invited to attend the all-day event of faith and fellowship, featuring inspirational Catholic speakers, including nationally acclaimed Catholic speaker and author Steven Ray, Crystalina Evert, Father Elvis Gonzalez, Katia Aranga, and Tim Glemkowski. English and Spanish sessions will be offered. The day will include the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as well as Eucharistic Adoration, and confessions. Space is limited so early registration is encouraged. For more information and to register, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/eucharistic-conference-2024/.

The National Eucharistic Revival will culminate in the first National Eucharistic Congress in the United States in almost 50 years. This historic gathering will take place in Indianapolis from July 17 to 21, 2024. Bishop Dewane is leading a pilgrimage to the National Congress which the Bishop describes as “a pivotal moment in the Church, and a unique opportunity for participants to draw into a deeper, more intimate relationship with Our Lord.”

The cost of the Diocese of Venice pilgrimage package is $1,049. With the package, pilgrims receive the National Eucharistic Congress 5-day pass, which provides access to all speakers and events, as well as four nights’ accommodations in a 4-star hotel within walking distance of the convention center. Please note, the pilgrimage package does not include transportation or meals. Space is limited! Learn more by visiting https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/evangelization/pilgrimage-to-national-eucharistic-congress/.

Please visit the Diocese of Venice website, https://dioceseofvenice.org/, to learn about any additional information about the Diocesan activities to promote the National Eucharistic Revival, and check with your Parish to learn more about local Eucharistic events!.

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 www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass. 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.

ARCADIA

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

CHRISTMAS EVE 7 p.m. (bilingual)

CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m. (bilingual)

AVE MARIA

■ Ave Maria, 5078 Pope John Paul II Blvd., www.avemariaparish.org, 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)

AVON PARK

■ Our Lady of Grace, 595 E. Main St., www.ologap.org, 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)

BOCA GRANDE

■ 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.

BOKEELIA

■ Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, 12175 Stringfellow Road, www.miraculousmedalch.org, 239-283-0456

CHRISTMAS EVE 5 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m.

BONITA SPRINGS

■ St. Leo the Great, 28290 Beaumont Road, www.stleocatholicchurch.org, 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)

BOWLING GREEN

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

CHRISTMAS DAY  2 p.m. (Spanish)

BRADENTON

■ Sacred Heart, 1220 15th St. W., www.sacredheartbradenton.org, 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., www.sspeterandpaul.org, 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., www.sjcfl.org, 941-756-3732

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

CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m., 11 a.m.

BUCKHEAD RIDGE

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

CHRISTMAS DAY 10 a.m.

CAPE CORAL

■ St. Andrew, 2628 Del Prado Blvd. S., www.standrewrcc.org, 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., saintkatharinedrexelparish.org, 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.

CLEWISTON

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

CHRISTMAS EVE 6 p.m. (Spanish)

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

CHRISTMAS EVE 8 p.m. (Spanish)

CHRISTMAS DAY 10 a.m., noon (Spanish)

ENGLEWOOD

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

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 8 p.m.

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

EVERGLADES CITY

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

CHRISTMAS DAY 10:30 a.m.

FORT MYERS 

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

CHRISTMAS EVE 7 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY noon

■ Our Lady of Light, 19680 Cypress View Drive, www.ourladyoflight.com, 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, www.ResurrectionCh.org, 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, www.saintcecilias.org, 239-936-3635

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m., 11 a.m.

■ St. Columbkille, 12171 Iona Road, www.stcolumbkille.com, 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., www.stfrancisfm.org, 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, www.johnxxiii.net, 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., www.stvincentfortmyers.org, 239-693-0818

CHRISTMAS EVE 7 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m., 11 a.m.

FORT MYERS BEACH

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

No Masses – Parish temporarily closed.

GROVE CITY

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

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m.

HOLMES BEACH

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

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

CHRISTMAS DAY 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m.

IMMOKALEE

■ 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)

LABELLE

■ Holy Martyrs, 4290 Crescent Ave. S.W., www.olqhhmm.org, 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)

LAKE PLACID

■ St. James, 3380 Placid View Drive, www.stjameschurchlp.com, 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)

LAKEWOOD RANCH

■ Our Lady of the Angels, 12905 State Road 70 E., www.olangelscc.org, 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.

LEHIGH ACRES

■ St. Raphael, 2514 Lee Blvd., www.saintraphaelcc.net, 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

LONGBOAT KEY

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

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 9 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m.

MARCO ISLAND

■ San Marco, 851 San Marco Road, www. sanmarcochurch.org, 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.

MOORE HAVEN

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

CHRISTMAS EVE 7 p.m. (Spanish)

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m.

NAPLES

■ Corpus Christi, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, www.corpuschristifssp.com/, 402-659-5531, (All Masses in Latin)

CHRISTMAS EVE 4:30 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8:45 a.m.

■ St. Agnes, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, www.stagnesnaples.org, 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. naplesstann.org, 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, www.stelizabethseton.org, 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., www.stfinbarr.org, 239-417-2084

CHRISTMAS EVE 5 p.m.

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

■ St. John the Evangelist, 625 111th Ave. N., www.saintjohntheevangelist.com, 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, www.stpeternaples.org, 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, www.stwilliam.org, 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.

NORTH FORT MYERS

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

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m.

NORTH PORT

■ San Pedro, 14380 Tamiami Trail, www.sanpedrocc.org, 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)

OSPREY

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

CHRISTMAS EVE 3 p.m., 5 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m.

PALMETTO

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

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

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

PARRISH

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

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

CHRISTMAS DAY 10 a.m.

PORT CHARLOTTE

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

CHRISTMAS EVE 3:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 9 a.m.

■ St. Charles Borromeo, 2500 Easy St., www.stcharlespc.org, 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., Stmaxcatholic.org, 941-743-6877

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

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon

PUNTA GORDA

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

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m.

SANIBEL

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

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 6 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 10 a.m.

SARASOTA

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

CHRISTMAS EVE midnight

CHRISTMAS DAY 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m.

■ Incarnation, 2901 Bee Ridge Road, www.incarnationchurch.org, 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., www.olqm.net, 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., www.stjudechurchsarasota.com, 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., www.stmartha.org, 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, www.stmichaelssiesta.com, 941-349-4174

CHRISTMAS EVE 4 p.m., 7 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 10 a.m.

■ St. Patrick, 7900 Bee Ridge Road, www.churchofstpatrick.org, 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, www.stthomasmoresrq.org, 941-923-1691

CHRISTMAS EVE 3 p.m., 5 p.m., 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 10 a.m., noon

SEBRING

■ St. Catherine, 820 Hickory St., www.stcathe.org, 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)

VENICE

■ Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., www.epiphanycathedral.org, 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, www.ollvenice.org, 941-497-2931

CHRISTMAS EVE 3 p.m., 5 p.m., 8 p.m.

CHRISTMAS DAY 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon

WAUCHULA

■ St. Michael, 408 Heard Bridge Road, www.stmichaelwauchula.org, 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.

Holidays

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.

Training

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 harkey@dioceseofvenice.org.

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.

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