First phase of reopening Churches implemented

Churches throughout the Diocese of Venice have opened for private prayer in what is the first phase of a process toward reopening Churches for all liturgical celebrations and access to the Sacraments. This was done in response to the State of Florida announcement of the relaxation of stay-at-home order and the reopening of some businesses and lays the groundwork for the eventual opening of Churches for Mass.

“The Diocese is planning so that Parishes are able to move gradually and prudently towards resumption of public celebrations of Mass as soon as local conditions permit this to be done safely,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane in an April 28 letter to the priests of the Diocese explained the planning process for this first phase.

In the letter, the Bishop noted that each Parish would have its own procedures for opening based on a multiple of factors. The factors included, but were not limited to, the size/layout of the worship space, the ability to do regular cleaning, the availability of volunteers and ultimately to have the confidence that the health and safety of the Faithful and the Parish staff and volunteers are maintained at all times.

The Bishop added that he understood and appreciated the extra effort required by the priests and Parishes to facilitate the opening, but “because the Faithful are hungry for a return to the Church and for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, this desire is worthy of the extra effort.” It is expected this first phase will allow for a growing reassurance by the Faithful that it will be safe to return for Mass once it is possible to do so.

Throughout this process, Bishop Dewane has been consulting with priests from across the Diocese while following guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Florida Department of Health.

Naturally concerned about the health and well-being of all, Bishop Dewane said his focus is also on the spiritual health of the Faithful. “I am confident that these visits will yield abundant spiritual fruit in personal holiness and the communion of our Parishes. This will eventually lead to being able to offer the access to all of the life-giving Sacraments in the near future.”

At the Church of the Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers caution tape was laid over the various pews to mark off where to sit. This has been a common solution for several Parishes. For example, at Resurrection every third pew was partially open on each side to ensure a minimum 6-foot spacing for adequate social distancing. A volunteer was present in the narthex to offer hand sanitizer and to direct people to available places for prayer. Once a person departed, the volunteer would then wipe down the pew. All are always required to wear a mask.

Caroline Herbert said it was good to be able to prayer in the Church for the first time since early March. “I felt lost with my Church closed, but it is comforting to know it is now open for private prayer.”

Herbert said she was hopeful the Mass would be offered soon, but understood the complicated logistics involved in making that happen. “The way they have the Church blocked off now, there would only be room for 30 or so people. That really isn’t enough, but if it is what is needed to make it safe, then that is what it will be. I pray for a solution that is best for everyone.”

Visitors for private prayer at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice are greeted in the narthex and shown a seating chart for the Church. The faithful selects the spot from where they wish to pray and given a number that corresponds to that spot. A volunteer escort is provided as a guide. Upon leaving the Church, through a different door, the faithful are asked to drop their number off in a basket. The Parish cleaning staff later uses those numbers as guidance for deeper cleaning. This system works well as only between 20 and 50 people are coming for prayer throughout each day.

Bishop Dewane as well as priests across the Diocese are now in the process of determining the best way to open for Mass, noting that maximum 25 percent capacity and 6-foot distancing of unrelated individuals creates challenges for all Churches.

No matter when the public Mass resumes, the faithful should expect changes. Church capacities will be greatly reduced and seating restricted. Face masks will be required, no worship aides, holy water fonts will be empty, no choirs, no Precious Blood, and Communion should be taken in the hand.

The general dispensation for the obligation to attend Mass will continue even when the offering of public Mass resumes. Those who are vulnerable, elderly, caregivers to the vulnerable, or just not comfortable going to a public Mass, should continue to participate in live-streamed Masses being offered and make a “Spiritual Communion.”

“The Faithful will need to have patience and understanding during this process as well as to take personal responsibility in their actions when they return to ensure the health and safety of themselves and of their brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Clewiston Parish reaches into community

The Parish Hall at St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston is always a bustling place, filled with people celebrating events or taking religious education classes. In recent weeks, the building has been converted into a makeshift storage and packing area.

The Parish Hall is where donated food is stored and bagged in preparation for distribution into the community to the growing number of needy families who would normally be in the fields as migrant farm workers. The food is mostly courtesy of Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc., as well as from St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. Donations from the parishioners of St. Margaret are also a big help.

Father Jiobani Batista, Pastor of St. Margaret Parish and Santa Rosa de Lima Mission serving nearby Montura Ranch Estates, is overseeing the work. Father Batista has the help of two religious sisters and a few volunteers, all systematically sorting through what food they have and then deciding what goes in the bags for distribution.

On April 25, 2020, Sister Maria Mercedes Rodríguez-Gomes, Missionary Sister of Our Lady of the Light, and Roxana Paniagua loaded several vans and went into the neighborhoods to distribute bags of food. The families assisted in this manner do not have access to transportation and most have been out of work for several weeks.

The bags were filled with rice, beans and pasta, FEMA supplied Meals Ready to Eat, maseca (corn meal to make tortillas), and whatever canned food they might have. Cereal, dried milk and snacks are added for the children. When fresh vegetables and fruits are available, they are included in the distribution. The food is selected to offer families staples that can be stretched to feed families for an extended period of time.

At each stop, families receiving the food shared stories about how they had no warning before losing their work as pickers in nearby vegetable fields. Several families said they were running out of money and rent was due.

Most of the recipients wanted to give hugs to Paniagua and Sister Mercedes but, while wearing a mask and gloves, they explained that the smiling faces and words of gratitude offered were enough thanks.

One mother said she is heartbroken having to accept the offered food, something she has never done. She is worried about her young children who don’t understand what is happening and ask why they cannot have treats from the store.

Meanwhile, some refused the offered food. One mother said her husband was still working in the sugar fields so they had money and the food should go elsewhere. Sister Mercedes was grateful for their honesty but told each of these families to reach out if things changed as the field work was scheduled to end in the coming weeks.

Father Batista explained that most of the community consists of migrant farm workers who toil in vegetable and sugar fields. Nearly all the vegetable farms shut down operations by late April while the sugar field would be closed by mid-May as happens every year.

However, because of the pandemic, the migrant farm workers have nowhere to go. Most would travel north to work in fields in New England or the Midwest. Travel restrictions are preventing them from going. Another group of workers, who are in Clewiston on temporary work visas, normally would return to their home country after the growing season, but this year, there is no international travel allowed, leaving them with an uncertain future.

“All of these workers have to stay here, without jobs, paying rent and buying food, consuming what they earned this season,” Father Batista explained, noting that migrant farm workers do not qualify for any of the assistance being offered by the state or federal governments. “This is going to be very tough on the families. I’m not sure what is going to happen.”

Catholic Charities, which has a small office at St. Margaret Parish, has been offering a Thursday morning outdoor food distribution. Staff and volunteers load vehicles and in just a few weeks Father Batista said the number of people seeking help has quadrupled.

“I have never seen it this bad,” Father Batista said. “The number of people impacted is so high and growing. There is no relief in sight until these farm workers can find work somewhere else and that might not be until the next growing season here in Clewiston in the fall. If that happens, it would be devastating.”

If you would like to help St. Margaret Parish, the Diocese of Venice is providing an online platform. Please visit and select St. Margaret Parish in the drop-down box (please disable you pop-up blockers).

Reaching out to local heroes

Parishes and Catholic schools throughout the Diocese of Venice have been reaching out to recognize first responders, medical staff, sanitation workers and all who are tirelessly working on the front lines in the fights against the coronavirus outbreak.

Below are just a few of the recent examples of what is being done.

Our Loving Stitches

Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch is well known for giving back to the community. In the midst of stay-at-home orders, quarantines and the scarcity of masks, the Parish Our Loving Stitches outreach decided to do something about it. The group recently announced that they have made more than 700 masks which have been distributed to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg as well as to other hospitals, assisted living facilities, as well as to vulnerable parishioners and friends.






School initiative

St. Martha Catholic School teachers from kindergarten, first and third grades recently presented student-created cards, St. Martha Tervis Tumblers, donuts, and coffee for the nurses at Sarasota Memorial Hospital who are all working with COVID-19 patients. The nurses responded with a tearful thanks for the cards and extra prayers.

St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota has converted its first-class education to distance learning, but the teachers and students have not forgotten the need to give back to the community.

While teaching their students from afar, the teachers have encouraged their changes with making “Thank You!” cards for area nurses and doctors. Recently, teachers from kindergarten, first and third grades presented the student-created cards, St. Martha Tervis Tumblers, donuts, and coffee for the nurses at Sarasota Memorial Hospital who are all working with COVID-19 patients. The nurses responded with a tearful thanks for the cards and extra prayers.

This St. Martha Catholic School second grader shows off a gift package her created for the health care workers at a local nursing home in Sarasota.

In addition, a second grader created a gift basket for his mom to deliver to a local nursing home and a fourth grader created a care package for the sanitation workers.

Wall display

Max Weinberg, a parishioner St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers, of Empire Entertainment, recently created a video mapping wall display to honor healthcare workers at Gulf Coast Hospital in Fort Myers to help uplift spirits.

Max Weinberg, a parishioner St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers, of Empire Entertainment, recently created a video mapping wall display to honor healthcare workers at Gulf Coast Hospital in Fort Myers and to help uplift spirits.

Weinberg’s display and was projected onto the side of the hospital during shift change and included the insignia for the hospital as well as the patches and badges for area first responders and said “Heroes Work Here.” Weinberg also created a special video tribute for the hospital. Additional displays have also been made at other facilities.

These are just a few of the efforts being made to honor local heroes.

If you know of anyone or any Parish or school which is honoring local heroes, please email the information to Bob Reddy at

Updated Prayers and Resources from Diocese May 5 2020

Masses Temporarily Suspended Due to Coronavirus

While Masses and liturgical events in the Diocese of Venice remain suspended, Churches are beginning to open for individual prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  Public gatherings for Mass or other Liturgical Services will still not be possible.  Restrictions regarding social distancing, sanitizing of hands and often-touched surfaces, as well as protective masks by visitors must be followed.  Please check with your Parish for details.

Act of Spiritual Communion

Bishop Frank J. Dewane raises the host during the Mass at St. Ann Parish in Naples in January, 2020.

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

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

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

My Jesus,
I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.

Resources online

A special coronavirus webpage is located on the Diocese of Venice website homepage at

Resources include links to the Mass, the prayer for Act of the Spiritual Communion, videos of the Stations of the Cross, Divine Mercy Chaplet and Pray the Rosary by following the links for the Diocese response to Coronavirus included on the Diocese homepage.  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website,, also posts the daily Mass readings.

The Diocese of Venice Mass is streamed live at 9:15 a.m. daily from the Catholic Center in Venice. Meanwhile, Mass is being streamed live from many Parishes daily (some on weekends only) throughout the Diocese of Venice (See updated list on Diocese website). Most streams are available with links through the Parish websites or through Facebook (to watch a live stream on Facebook, you do not need an account) or YouTube. Check with your Parish if you are having trouble finding the Mass or for more details.

Additionally, Magnificat is offering the online version of this devotional free at

The Televised Mass for the Homebound is available throughout the Diocese each Sunday. In northern parts of the Diocese (Manatee, Highlands, Hardee, Sarasota, DeSoto and Charlotte counties) the Mass airs on television at 9:30 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Collier, Lee, Glades, Hendry, Charlotte counties) the Mass airs at 10:30 a.m., on WFTX-TV (FOX-4). This same Mass can be found on the Diocese of Venice website, Please check local listings for channel information.

Parish donations

During this challenging time in the life and mission of the Diocese of Venice, our Parishes face increased risk of financial shortfalls due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its effects on everyday life. Parishes depend on weekly financial gifts to continue their ministries, especially in this critical time of crisis.

The Diocese of Venice is providing an online platform and encourages the Faithful to support their Parish. Please visit to donate to your Parish.

The Faithful may also contribute through their usual channels (e.g., envelopes, and through the Parish online giving option). Together we will navigate through this crisis, provide assistance to those in need, and secure the road ahead for the Parishes within the Diocese of Venice.

Please continue to pray for the repose of those who have died, for the recovery of those who are sick, for the strength of healthcare workers and caregivers, as well as for an end to this health crisis. Thank you for your generosity.


Prayer Against Coronavirus

Cover of Diocese of Venice prayer card praying against coronavirus.

Lord Jesus Christ, our Divine physician, we ask you to guard and protect us from Coronavirus COVID-19 and all serious illness. For all that have died from it, have mercy; for those that are ill now, bring healing. For those searching for a remedy, enlighten them; for medical caregivers helping the sick, strengthen and shield them. For those working to contain the spread, grant them success; for the afraid, grant peace. May your precious blood be our defense and salvation. By your grace, may you turn the evil of disease into moments of consolation and hope. May we always fear the contagion of sin more than any illness. We abandon ourselves to you infinite.  Amen

By Pedro de la Cruz

Oración contra el Coronavirus

Señor Jesucristo, nuestro Médico Divino, te pedimos que nos guardes y protejas del Coronavirus COVID-19 y de toda enfermedad grave. Por todos los que han perdido la vida por causa del virus, ten piedad; por los que están enfermos ahora, sánalos. Por los que buscan su cura, ilumínalos; por el personal médico que cuida de los enfermos, fortalécelos y protéjelos. Por los que trabajan para contener al virus, que sean existosos; por los que temen dáles la paz. Que tu preciosa sangre sea nuestro escudo y salvación. Por tu gracia, convierte a la maldad de esta enfermedad en momentos de consuelo y esperanza. Que siempre temamos más al contagió del pecado que al de cualquier enfermedad. Nos entregamos a tu infinita misericordia. Amén.

By Pedro de la Cruz

Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe for Protection from the Coronavirus

Holy Virgin of Guadalupe,
Queen of the Angels and Mother of the Americas.
We fly to you today as your beloved children.
We ask you to intercede for us with your Son,
as you did at the wedding in Cana.

Pray for us, loving Mother,
and gain for our nation and world,
and for all our families and loved ones,
the protection of your holy angels,
that we may be spared the worst of this illness.

For those already afflicted,
we ask you to obtain the grace of healing and deliverance.
Hear the cries of those who are vulnerable and fearful,
wipe away their tears and help them to trust.

In this time of trial and testing,
teach all of us in the Church to love one another and to be patient and kind.
Help us to bring the peace of Jesus to our land and to our hearts.

We come to you with confidence,
knowing that you truly are our compassionate mother,
health of the sick and cause of our joy.

Shelter us under the mantle of your protection,
keep us in the embrace of your arms,
help us always to know the love of your Son, Jesus.


Courtesy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Oración a Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe para la Protección del Coronavirus

Virgen Santísima de Guadalupe,

Reina de los Ángeles y Madre de las Américas.

Acudimos a ti hoy como tus amados hijos.

Te pedimos que intercedas por nosotros con tu Hijo,

como lo hiciste en las bodas de Caná.

Ruega por nosotros, Madre amorosa,

y obtén para nuestra nación, nuestro mundo,

y para todas nuestras familias y seres queridos,

la protección de tus santos ángeles,

para que podamos salvarnos de lo peor de esta enfermedad.

Para aquellos que ya están afectados,

te pedimos que les concedas la gracia de la sanación y

la liberación.

Escucha los gritos de aquellos que son vulnerables y temerosos,

seca sus lágrimas y ayúdalos a confiar.

En este tiempo de dificultad y prueba,

enséñanos a todos en la Iglesia a amarnos los unos a los otros

y a ser pacientes y amables.

Ayúdanos a llevar la paz de Jesús a nuestra tierra y a nuestros


Acudimos a ti con confianza, sabiendo que realmente eres

nuestra madre compasiva,

la salud de los enfermos y la causa de nuestra alegría.

Refúgianos bajo el manto de tu protección, mantennos

en el abrazo de tus brazos,

ayúdanos a conocer siempre el amor de tu Hijo, Jesús.


Cortesía de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de EE. UU.


Long serving religious priest dies

Father Onorio Benacchio, Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles (Scalabrinians), who was a priest for nearly 70 years and served in the Diocese of Venice for 25 years, died April 23, 2020, in Kingston, Rhode Island. He was 95.

Father Benacchio served as Pastor of St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston from 1994 to 1996 and then as a Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee from 1996 to 2019.

Born April 15, 1925 in South Nazario, Vicenza, Italy, to Gaetano and Caterina Benacchio, it was at the age of 12 when he entered the Scalabrinian Seminary in his hometown. Father Benacchio took his first religious vows on Sept. 4, 1943, and was ordained to the priesthood, June 18, 1950 in Piacenza, Italy, when he was 25.

Following his ordination, Father was appointed to serve the poor in missions in South America in accordance with the Scalabrinian Charism. He spent 36 years attending to the needs of the missions in Brazil and then eight years in Venezuela.

He came to the United States and the Diocese of Venice in 1994. He was 69 at the time. He served as Pastor of St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston before being transferred for the final time in his long ministry to Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee. There he celebrated Mass is English, Spanish and Creole, while also celebrating Mass for the Portuguese-language Catholic community each weekend in Fort Myers.

During a Mass marking the occasion of his 65th anniversary of his Ordination to the Priesthood, Father Benacchio estimated he had celebrated Mass more than 25,000 times. “But celebrating Mass today, after so many years, still feels like it is the first time… It is what I do, what I always do and what I will always do. It is at the heart of what a priest is all about, that moment when you are closest to Jesus Christ.”

His favorite memories included his extensive time and travels in South America. To help relax, he liked to write poetry.

A memorial Mass will be held at a later date while the public celebration of Mass has been suspended in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bradenton food pantry works to meet demand

With increased demand and regular sources of food unable to meet requests, the St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton has been having to find creative ways to get the word out that they need donations.

Ellen Staubach, a Food Pantry Board member, said an appeal in mid-March helped fill in the gap for the immediate increase in demand once the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy started being felt. Since early March, demand has steadily increased as many people were thrown out of work. Before the pandemic, 1,888 individuals and families visited the food pantry each month. In the past seven weeks, nearly 500 new individuals and families have registered for assistance.

“We were so amazed at how many of our donors not only came through but also spread the word to organizations such as Thunder Road and Knights of Columbus as well as many others,” said Staubach about the response to the appeal for food in March. “We made it through March and have enough to feed all those coming in through April.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane visited the food pantry on April 23, 2020, receiving a tour and  learning about the demand the pantry has been facing and the efforts to help as many people with whatever food is available.

Feeding Tampa Bay set up a mobile pantry in the parking lot one day a week, which is helping to a point, but one normal source of food, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Stamp Out Hunger food drive, has been indefinitely postponed.

“That food drive generally provided us with two to three months of food,” Staubach explained. “We hoped that this drive would carry us through until our suppliers would be able to once again take our orders.”

A new supplier, which unfortunately charges more, has been able to meet short-term needs, but that will only be sustainable if monetary donations increase. A regional giving challenge in late April was expected to help, but more assistance is needed as the demand continues to grow.

If someone would like to make a donation, please by visit and click on “Giving Opportunities” to donate directly to the pantry, or mail a check to the St. Joseph Food Pantry, 2704 33rd Ave W., Bradenton, FL 34205. Donors can also bring food such as canned corn, canned green beans, 1lb box spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, boxed macaroni and cheese, cheese, cereal, as well as peanut butter and jelly. Volunteers are always welcome. For more information, call 941-756-3732 or email

April 17, 2020 letter from Bishop Dewane to the Faithful

April 17, 2020

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

During Easter Season, as the Church rejoices in Our Lord’s Resurrection, my prayer is that you and your family are safe and strengthened by God’s grace in these uncertain times. You will recall that I promised to give an update regarding the Coronavirus and our efforts in the Diocese of Venice to ensure the health, safety, and the spiritual wellbeing of all our Catholic Faithful.

The decision to suspend public celebrations of the Liturgy was among the most difficult I have had to make as your Bishop. The decision required the Diocese to weigh the needs of public health in a time of pandemic against the great sacrifices that a suspension would require of the Christian Faithful and our Priests. Knowing it would be difficult for you not to fully participate in the Holy Mass or gather with your fellow Parishioners for other activities, was something I sincerely understood. It was also on my mind that your Priests would need to labor strenuously and find innovative ways to compassionately care for Parishioners.

It has been edifying to see how the Catholic Faithful, led by their Priests, have embraced these challenges and found creative ways to give witness to our spiritual communion in Christ. Throughout these days, I have been privileged to hear many stories from Parishioners about how they have, in their homes, remained Faithful to their life of prayer and worship of God. The efforts of parents, caregivers, Catholic School teachers, catechists, Parish staff and so many of our people, have made the difficulties being experienced an opportunity for heroic acts of Christian Charity and love. Priests are to be acknowledged for the pastoral ways in which the Holy Mass and the Sacraments have been offered to the Faithful; at the same time, placing themselves at risk to attend the sick and dying. Likewise, I am grateful to the Parishioners who have continued their generous stewardship towards the Parishes and Schools of the Diocese which face financial challenges in these present circumstances.

In a particular way, let me express my appreciation to the many families who, from home, united in their Parish Holy Week and Easter Liturgies. All the Faithful can be proud of the efforts made during these difficult days to maintain spiritual communion and practice their Catholic Faith. Trusting in Our Lord who abides with us, we have found hope and strength to weather the hardships.

No matter how difficult this time has been for many of us, I ask you to prayerfully intercede for those who have died from the Coronavirus and for their family and loved ones who grieve. Likewise, please lift-up in prayer healthcare workers and others, who, with dedication, are combating this disease and compassionately caring for the sick and dying. Pray also for wisdom for our public officials that they may guide us with competence and concern.

Please know that the Diocese appreciates the sacrifices you have made and is looking forward to the time when public celebrations of Holy Mass can resume. With me, Diocesan Officials are monitoring public health data as a process of planning begins. It is necessary to determine how and when your Parish can resume normal operations safely, while maintaining careful vigilance to protect those at greater risk of serious illness. The upcoming weeks will indeed require patience. Only after necessary steps are taken, can there be certainty regarding when to begin a phased return to normal Parish activities and public gatherings.

Likely, the present circumstances regarding public Masses will last for the near future. Celebrations of Confirmation, First Communion, and reception into the Church for Catechumens and Candidates will continue to be postponed until it is feasible to reschedule them with some certainty. Parishes will keep the Faithful updated as greater clarity regarding Diocesan plans is possible.

Let us remember that with Faith, our sufferings and sacrifices can be a source of redeeming grace. If we offer our sufferings to God and unite them with the Passion of Our Lord, we will be made stronger in Faith and greater witnesses to the hope that is ours in the Risen Christ.

As we commemorate Divine Mercy Sunday, let each one of us put aside our doubts and united as a believing people, express with new resolve: “Jesus, I trust in You!”

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

+ Frank J. Dewane

Bishop the Diocese of

Venice in Florida

Pandemic Resources from Catholic Charities

Catholic Charities Response to Pandemic

If you need help

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

  • Sarasota/Manatee/DeSoto/Hardee/Highlands counties: 844-385-2407,
  • Charlotte/Lee/Hendry/Glades counties: 844-385-2423,
  • Collier County: 844-385-2404.

Food distribution

Catholic Charities food distribution will take place ONLY at the following locations.  Please call above numbers to confirm.

Mondays: 9–11 a.m.

  • Guadalupe Social Services – 211 South 9th Street, Immokalee,
  • Margaret Catholic Church – 208 Dean Duff Street, Clewiston,

Tuesdays: 9–11:30 a.m.

  • Judy Sullivan Center – 3174 Tamiami Trail East, Naples,

Fridays: 9-11 a.m.

  • Bonita Springs – 28360 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs,

Fridays: 9 a.m.–1 p.m.

  • Elizabeth K. Galeana Pantry – 4235 Michigan Avenue Link, Fort Myers,

Saturdays: 7–8:45 a.m.

  • St. Michael Catholic Church, 408 Heard Bridge Road, Wauchula.

How to Help

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. needs your financial support during its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To help, please visit or send a check to: Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc., 5824 Bee Ridge Road, PMB 409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065.

News briefs from around the Diocese the week of April 20

Diocese to continue distance learning through end of academic year

The Diocese of Venice will continue virtual instruction for PreK-12 schools through the end of the current school year. Ben Hopper, Diocese Interim Superintendent of Catholic Education, sent a letter to Diocesan Catholic school families on April 20, 2020, announcing the extension of distance learning, which began March 30 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. “We are so pleased with the efforts and achievement of our students and teachers during this time of e-learning,” Hopper wrote. “WE are also grateful for the ongoing support of our pastors, administrators and parents. There have been some challenges along the way, but our teachers and schools remain committed to working with you and your students to overcome these issues.” Additional details regarding graduations and other events at schools are being evaluated at each school and will be announced in the coming week.

Neumann juniors help at risk students

When the pandemic closed everything, St. John Neumann Catholic High School Juniors Tyler Stamerro and Hector Fernandez sat down to discuss the future of the Fernandez Stamerro Foundation for At Risk Students, which they had formed themselves last year. Through their foundation, they have accomplished over 50 hours of tutoring and assistance to students. They realized that with the closure of schools, many of the students in they help in Naples who rely on the public-school lunch program wouldn’t have access to their meals. Tyler and Hector then reached out to a local restaurant, Sophia’s Ristorante Italiano, to help them make a difference! With the generous help of owner Jay Cherr, they were able to donate 200 meals to the Boys and Girls Club of Collier County! Way to go, Celtics!

Bradenton Food Pantry

The St. Joseph Parish Food Pantry, 2704 33rd Ave. W., Bradenton, is open and distributing food 9:00 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, and 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Wednesdays, following all social distancing protocols. Cars will be directed through the parking lot and trunks will be loaded by volunteers in protective gloves and masks. Call if you have any questions 941-756-3732. You do not need to be a regular client to receive food. To make a donation of money or food, please visit

Naples school virtual retreat yields letters

The St. John Neumann Catholic High School Y.A.C.H.T. Club (Youth and Christ Helping Together) students hosted a virtual retreat for their peers Holy Thursday and Good Friday. This retreat, which included prayer and adoration, was opened to non-students as well. The virtual retreat students wrote more than 20 letters to send to hospitals thanking local medical personnel for their service during this time! The mission of the YACHT Club is to invite all students to the fullness of Christ’s love through service to others.

Making an appeal for others

St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers is collecting canned goods, which will be donated to local food pantries, from parishioners who have extra so as to help others less fortunate. With grocery stores restocking and some realizing they may have bought too much, the appeal comes at a time when thousands were unexpectedly thrown out of work and the demand for food is high. To learn more about the need, please visit

News briefs for Week of April 13 2020

Mass for Victims of Child Abuse

April is Child Abuse Awareness Prevention Month, and in conjunction with the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Diocese of Venice has held a Mass for Victims of Child Abuse for the past 12 years. The Mass this year will be celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane via a live stream at 9:15 a.m. on April 21 from the Catholic Center.

Parish connects with faithful through Blessed Sacrament

With Mass suspended until further notice, priests across the Diocese of Venice have struggled to remain connected to the faithful. Father Bob Kantor, Pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Naples, chose to bless the Parish with the Blessed Sacrament.

Following the live streaming of the Palm Sunday liturgy, Father Kantor processed through the Parish grounds, pausing at key locations for a prayer and lifting the monstrance in a sign of the Cross blessing to the north, south, east and west. Stops included the Columbarium, the Prayer Garden, the main parking lot, and finally on the main walkway to the main entrance of the church.

“At each of the stops I prayed an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be and then asked our Lord to bring the healing that only He can give, praying a spontaneous prayer quietly,” Father Kantor wrote. Each stop included prayers for specific groups of people, such as seeking comfort and eternal peace for all those who have died from Covid-19 and consolation and peace for their families.

Holy Oils switched out

On Holy Saturday, Father Augustine Twum Obour, Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch, buries the Sacred oil remaining from last year, according to the guidelines for disposing of such oils, after they were replaced with newly blessed and consecrated oils during Holy Week. The oils were blessed and consecrated during the April 7, 2020, Chrism Mass at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. and is reloading with new Oil of the Infirmed in his travel containers.


Confessions while staying safe

Pallottine Father Fausto Stampiglia, Pastor of St. Martha Parish in Sarasota, is protected while waiting to hear confessions-by-appointment from a make-shift window in the offices of the Parish.

Parish recognizes medical professionals

St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Port Charlotte sits near two hospitals and shares a parking lot with one. Therefore, it was logical that a sign which reads: “God Bless All of Our Healthcare Professionals!” was placed at the entrance to the employee parking lot Bayfront Heath Port Charlotte. On the sign is an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary which shows a baby in the womb of Mary surrounded by a field of flowers.

Prayer continues at schools

St. Francis Xavier Catholic School students of third grade Teacher Debra Hawkins are still saying prayers to begin and end their days. The Fort Myers students are among thousands who are currently taking part in distance learning.

Verot students show school spirit – virtually

Bishop Verot Catholic High School students in Fort Myers were asked to share images of them wearing school colors on April 8, 2020, to show their school spirit. Images shared included students hard at work, lounging around and having fun.

Naples school hosts virtual retreat

The St. John Neumann Catholic High School Y.A.C.H.T. Club (Youth and Christ Helping Together) students hosted a virtual retreat for their peers Holy Thursday and Good Friday. This retreat, which included prayer and adoration, was opened to non-students as well. The mission of the YACHT Club is to invite all students to the fullness of Christ’s love through service to others.

Catholic Schools offering virtual tours

With Catholic school campuses closed, many are now offering new families an opportunity to “tour” their school through Virtual Open Houses. During these open houses, parents and students will be able to ask questions and interact with faculty and staff online and register for the upcoming school year. For a link to all of the Diocesan Catholics Schools, please visit

Virtual Stations of the Cross

Each year hundreds from two dozen churches in the Sarasota Ministerial Association take part in the Stations of the Cross in downtown Sarasota. This year, the outdoor event was cancelled due to the restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. However, representatives from the different churches and denominations created a virtual program. The video event included music and messages from different religious leaders, including remarks from Bishop Frank J. Dewane as well as other priests of the Diocese, all in celebration of the 14 “stations” that chronicle Christ’s crucifixion.