Principal’s Corner – St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School


Tonya Peters, Principal, St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School

Many have told me that St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School is a little gem buried in the heart of Port Charlotte, and that it’s a welcoming environment where students are well educated, nurtured in the Catholic Faith and formed to be Disciples of Christ. I couldn’t agree more.

St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School opened in 1960. Therefore, as the school approaches its 60th Anniversary, it is a good time to reflect on what St. Charles has meant to the students, families and parishioners over the decades.

Firstly, many of our alumni are now doctors, attorneys, teachers, veterinarians, entrepreneurs, or are pursuing other prestigious professions, many focused on serving others, a lesson learned well at St. Charles.

In addition, the impact of the school is revealed in that many alumni remain active members of St. Charles Borromeo Parish. It is also a demonstration of the quality of the Catholic education (spiritual, academic and physical) being offered over the years at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School that these same alumni think so highly of the school to which they choose to send their.

This is a further illustration that the school continues to live up to its Mission Statement: “St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School is a place where every child is spiritually and academically nurtured to their fullest potential, creating lifelong learners who value and live our Catholic Faith.”

An example of the lasting legacy of the school can be demonstrated in the story one family, the Stone-Smiths, which has demonstrated their strong devotion towards St. Charles Catholic School and Parish.

Paul and Beth Stone are part of the first generation of parishioners at St. Charles Borromeo Parish, which was established in 1959. The school opened a year later, and the Stone’s daughter, Kim, became one of the first students to attend the school for all eight grades. Meanwhile. Paul Stone was a Home and School Association President and member of the Parish Council. Years later, Beth Stone worked in the school as a teacher’s assistant.

Kim Stone-Smith received her various Sacraments and eventually was married at the Parish in 1983. She later worked for several years at the school as an early childhood and kindergarten teacher. All three of her children attended St. Charles as well. And now, some of the next generation are in school at St. Charles Borromeo while others are destined to be Crusaders.

Earlier this year, Kim Stone-Smith returned once again to St. Charles, this time as a kindergarten teacher.  When asked how it was going back after a 13-year absence from the classroom, she simply said, “It is nice to be home.”

St. Charles is currently home to 24 students with at least one parent who attended St. Charles. Having alumni sending their children to the school and bringing them to Mass and other Parish events is an enormous compliment to the school.

St. Charles continues to provide academic excellence for every one of our students. From the 2019 eighth grade class, the recent St. Charles Borromeo alumni are presently ranked high academically as freshman at their local high school. In addition, public high school teachers often say they know which students attended St. Charles Borromeo due to their good behavior, great work ethic and outstanding academic performance.

The story of the Stone-Smith family is just one example of how St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School and Parish work together to prepare children for social, personal, intellectual and spiritual fulfillment. This school is a gem waiting to be discovered by parents who seek noting but the the best for their children’s future.

It would be an honor and a pleasure if St. Charles could be a part of your family’s story. Please call at 941-625-5533 or visit to schedule a tour and learn more about how St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charlotte prepares children for life here on Earth and life eternal.

Catholic Schools Week: Embracing Inevitable Change with Universal Truth


“The mission of schools is to develop a sense of truth, of what is good and beautiful.” ~ Pope Francis

Ben Hopper

I am humbled and honored to welcome the new decade as the interim Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Venice in Florida. Like our 324 teachers and 4,638 students returning to their classrooms eager to continue their journey of faith, knowledge and fellowship, so too am I ready to join them on their path to academic success, professional enrichment and spiritual fulfillment.

Like every new year, 2020 offers each of us a fresh start. It’s a perfect time to reject bad habits, announce admirable goals and initiate innovative ideas. Although many people and organizations shun the inherent challenges of change, Catholic schools welcome them with open hearts and minds.

The 15 schools at the Diocese of Venice constantly seek ways to enhance their curriculum, improve their facilities and serve their communities in ways that develop the whole child—mind, body and spirit. This holistic approach to education requires collaboration far beyond our campuses. Cardinal Mooney High School in Sarasota, for example, recently raised $2 million in donations to renovate a classroom building and its media center and to upgrade its sports fields. The Mayor of Venice visited Epiphany Cathedral School to personally thank its students for collecting thousands of items to help the victims of Hurricane Dorian. St. John Neumann High School in Naples boasts nearly a dozen seniors who each received more than $100,000 in college scholarship offers, while St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton attracted hundreds of people to participate in its first ever 5K race that raised funds and awareness for the school while demonstrating the benefits of physical fitness.

These success stories stem from our schools’ ability and willingness to change. Gone are the days where dry textbooks, dusty chalkboards and rigid lectures dominated the classroom. In their place are tablets, smartboards and interactive lesson plans developed through cutting edge technology and dynamic teaching methods. These advancements provide a more seamless infusion of art, science, language and mathematics with our Catholic teachings.

The National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) offers a forum for America’s Catholic Schools to showcase their contribution to society: Catholic Schools Week. Beginning Sunday, Jan. 26, the Diocese of Venice will join more than 6,000 Catholic Schools across America in this annual, seven-day celebration of our Faith-based education. Our schools and parishes have been busy planning fun and dynamic events to commemorate the week with open houses, special masses and community engagements. Although themes and presentations vary, the focus of Catholic School Week never wavers: to promote the value of Catholic education for our youth, our communities and our nation.

Statistics support our bold claim. According to the NCEA, 99 percent of Catholic School students graduate from high school, and nearly 87 percent attend a four-year university. Approximately 40 percent of Catholic Schools are found in urban and rural communities, with the remainder residing in suburban and inner-city areas. Catholic Schools save the country more than $21 billion in public school funding, while Catholic school students and faculty enjoy a 12:1 student to staff ratio.

But numbers only tell part of the story. Although we champion change, we also proudly uphold the principles of Christ’s teachings laid out more than two millennia ago. As stated in Proverbs (22:6), “Start children off on the way they should go and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

Our schools are dedicated to show every student the way. A way that leads them to the truth. A truth so good, so beautiful, so irrefutable, that it has inspired thousands of families to entrust the Diocese of Venice to provide their children a Catholic education. Visit the to learn more about Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools.

Ben Hopper can be reached at

The Spirit is Alive at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School

By Maria Niebuhr

Nestled in the heart of Naples, within a modest neighborhood just off Golden Gate Parkway, lies St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School. Founded in 1981, the school bears the name of the first American-born saint and is in keeping with her spiritual gifts of courage, determination, faith and love.

Through hard work, dedication, and the support of parishioners and community partners, the school was handcrafted by the very families that wanted their children to have a quality, Catholic education. Since those humble beginnings, St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School carries on their legacy through rich traditions rooted in family values and faith in action. The tradition continues with the large number of alumni who have children enrolled in our school.

What sets St. Elizabeth Seton apart and makes us unique is our sense of closeness as a family community. Seton students know they are a part of the school family which is an extension of their own. You need only walk through the doors of the school to feel a difference, to experience the wholesome, loving personality of the school. In short, a presence of the spirit exists throughout its halls, courtyards and classrooms.

The spirit of St. Elizabeth Seton is alive and well. The school and Church’s dedication to children, education and the poor shone as a beacon of hope in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in 2017. Our campus suffered major damage, forcing us to close our doors for 18 days.

Thankful for technology and the digital age in which we live, our teachers taught remotely as best they could. However, all of us yearned to return to our beloved classrooms. Our prayers were answered when a family in the contracting business stepped up to expedite repairs and renovations. Donations poured in from across the country, making a reopening possible. When another school was hit by a hurricane, our community quickly came to their aid, just as they helped us in our time of need.

Our entire staff and faculty exemplify Faith in action. Maria Crowley, who has taught at St. Elizabeth Seton for 30 years, is just one of the many role models who lives our Faith! Teaching is more than a profession to Mrs. Crowley; it is her vocation, one inspired by her love of God’s unique creation, His children. She explains that on each child’s face, she sees the child Jesus. This feeling permeates throughout our faculty and staff, inspiring us to create a mutual sense of caring, closeness, and respect with our students and their families.

The school’s spirit is alive and continues to grow. We are small enough that teachers know all the students and their families though large enough to offer a full range of academic rigor and extra-curricular experiences. We offer a music program complete with beginner and concert bands, as well as a full range of competitive athletic offerings from volleyball to cross country. Our 1:1 iPad program in grades 5-8, and class iPads in grades K-4, allow us to create an engaging, technology-driven curriculum, while our diverse selection of after school activities such as Art Club, STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math) club, master gardening classes and theatrical performances embody the “whole child” concept.

I welcome you to visit St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School. We will gladly open our doors so you and your family may see firsthand the unique, uplifting spirit that inspires us to follow in the footsteps of our foundress. I will be happy to give you a tour of our special school, where academic excellence, faith, values and community come to life each day!

Please visit our website or call 239-455-2262. You are also welcome to attend our Open House from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Jan. 26 and experience the difference!

Principal’s Corner – St. Andrew Catholic School

By Principal David Nelson

St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral has a rich tradition of fostering some of the finest students in Southwest Florida. While rooted in academic excellence, St. Andrew is far more than just an academic institution. For the past 30 years, through Catholic traditions and Gospel values, dedicated faculty and staff help to develop students who are growing into principled, caring and balanced individuals; respected as Children of God.

St. Andrew Catholic School Principal David Nelson.

This year marked the school’s 10th annual “Make a Difference Day.” This special day allows groups of students to venture out into the Southwest Florida community to improve the lives of others. On November 8, middle school students and parent volunteers served in diverse capacities at six different non-profit organizations which serve the local community in a variety of ways. The students visited Healthy Start, Special Populations, Hearts and Homes, Lifeline Family Center, Cape Coral Caring Center, Ronald McDonald House and the Gulf Coast Humane Society. Students made sandwiches, created art, comforted those at nursing homes, helped clean an animal shelter and so much more.

Each location provided students a priceless opportunity to work together for the common good. Throughout the day, the students experienced compassion, empathy and empowerment by enhancing the community and enriching the lives of their neighbors.

Service to others is part of the philosophy at St. Andrew Catholic School, and “Make a Difference Day” is just one of many service projects completed each academic year. Whether collaborating in the classroom or through community service, students open their hearts, demonstrating open-mindedness and a connection to others. Students having an impact in our school and in the community is what makes St. Andrew a special place.

In addition, St. Andrew, as well as other Diocesan schools, implemented a new Diocesan initiative of becoming “A Disciple of Christ.” This calling promotes students to do more within his or her school and community. They are being recognized for their care, integrity, and commitment to do the right thing.

I welcome you to visit our website – – or stop by for a tour of our fabulous school and see firsthand our students as they learn to become “A Disciple of Christ.”

Principal’s Corner – St. Catherine Catholic School 

By Nicole Loseto, St. Catherine Catholic School, Sebring

St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring has enjoyed an AMAZING start to the new year. We worked tirelessly preparing the school for the upcoming year by continuing to improve both the facility and academic programs. Many students participated in a fun and interactive Vacation Bible School that explored our Catholic Faith through art, sports, music and literature. We also offered the first STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Education, Arts, Mathematics) camp which provided many hands-on activities for students to explore and research science and math concepts.

Nicole Loseto, Principal of St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring.

Kick-off for the new school year was a Welcome Back BBQ. Guests were delighted by the new improvements we made to the main school building and the promise of a challenging and rewarding year ahead. The students were also excited to meet their teachers and looked forward to joining newly established clubs such as the Rosary Club, the National Junior Honor Society, and Student Council, which launched a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society called Pennies for Patients. We are so grateful for all the support received from our families and community to make it a great success.

The eighth graders were recently surprised with a Senior Sunrise Breakfast to begin their graduation year. It is an exciting year for them as this is the first graduating class from St. Catherine’s since the school’s inception in 2008, the first Catholic School located in the Eastern Deanery. Several of these students have been with the school since it opened when they were in preschool. This is also the first year of the VPK program.

For our efforts, the school was rewarded with the Gold Seal Accreditation as a Gold Seal Quality Care program. This Seal is awarded when a preschool demonstrates a high level of educational professionalism and commitment to quality standards and excellence. This year also saw the introduction of academic coaches who meet regularly with students for extra help with their coursework. The guidance and mentorship the coaches provide builds our students’ confidence and self-esteem.

The Fall Season was dedicated to the people who serve our country. In September, we conducted a Constitution Day where the children had a chance to meet a Constitutional Scholar. In October, we held a Red Mass to honor judges, lawyers, law school professor, and other members of the legal profession. On Veterans Day, we paid tribute to those who served in all branches of the military. Our students were honored and delighted to meet such amazing individuals who are role models in their community. Celebrating their service and sacrifice helps our young men and women aspire to greatness and a life of service.

In this 35th Anniversary year of the Diocese of Venice, we have been actively teaching about the history of the Diocese and the concept of how to be “A Disciple of Christ,” using resources provided by the Diocese of Venice. Everything we see, hear and do at St. Catherine shows our children how they can live as “A Disciple of Christ” and it is our mission to demonstrate how they can live in God’s image and serve others.

Learn more about what makes St. Catherine Catholic School such a special and rewarding place to help your child grow in their faith as a Disciple of Christ at

You may reach Principal Nicole Loseto at

Principal’s Corner – Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School

Ben Hopper, Principal Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School

Sarasota –

In front of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, there is a sign that reads – “You belong here!” This simple yet captivating phrase is an invitation for students to become part of the Mooney community.

From humble beginnings in 1959 in the Beall Plaza in downtown Sarasota to the evolving vibrant campus at its location today, Cardinal Mooney has provided a college-preparatory education centered on Gospel values for thousands of students over the past sixty years. Embracing the uniqueness of each student entrusted to our care, we provide an educational experience which culminates with graduates who are committed life-long learners ready for college and active examples of their Catholic faith ready for service to the community.

During the journey through Mooney, students encounter teachers, advisors, coaches, and counselors who help them to realize their God-given potential and to pursue their passions. One of these individuals is Ann LaFemina, the school’s college advisor.  Navigating the college application and admission process is not an easy task.

LaFemina assists the seniors and their families through this daunting challenge by personalizing the college and scholarship application process, hosting more than seventy colleges and universities at the college fair and for admission visits, and taking students on a 3-day bus tour of 11 colleges in Florida.

According to Sarah Averbeck, a 2019 Mooney graduate, “Mrs. LaFemina is a lifesaver. I would not be where I am today without her. Her endless support, kindness, and love for her job does not go unnoticed. She wants to see all of her students succeed in life, therefore she goes above and beyond for the community with which she works.”

Sarah and the other 103 graduates in the Class of 2019 earned an impressive $9 million in scholarship offers. The collective success of the Mooney community is represented by our 100 percent graduation rate and 98 percent of graduates attending college while the other 2 percent pursue the military or workforce.

In addition to college readiness, students are taught to embrace the school’s motto – “Serving God in the Community.” On any given Saturday during the school year, many of our students who are members of The Miracle League Club can be found on the baseball diamond helping differently-abled individuals hit the ball, run the bases, and have a sense of belonging. Under the direction of English teacher and club advisor Betty Rogers, our students have partnered with the Miracle League Manasota. The club’s mission is to instill in all students the respect and dignity for all individuals and to help create an environment in which all people will be treated equally. There are Miracle Leagues throughout the United States, but Cardinal Mooney has the only high school club affiliated with the league.

According to Beaver Shriver, Miracle League Manasota Board Member, “Miracle League Manasota is blessed and honored to have such a selfless group of caring young adults give their time and hearts to our remarkable differently-abled athletes. We couldn’t do what we do without the Cardinal Mooney High School Miracle League Club.”  Not only do these students serve as models of our faith through their service, but they also belong to a student body that completes more than 20,000 service hours each year.

Whether students are studying in the classroom, playing on the field, singing on stage, or praying in the chapel, a sense of belonging is the common theme for the Mooney community which extends well after graduation.  We are Mooney and want you to be a part of us too.

For more information about Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, please visit

Principal’s Corner – Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School

By Principal M.C. Heffner,

The Catechism of the Catholic Church confirms the need for Catholic schools for our families. It states, in part, “As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators. Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.”

As the principal of Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School, I am often asked – why Epiphany? Why Catholic education? My answer is rooted in the Catholic belief beautifully articulated in our Catechism.

Choosing a Catholic school ensures that parents are selecting educational partners who are unapologetically faithful to our Catholic identity. We ensure it is woven throughout our rigorous curriculum and extra-curricular offerings. We engage our students and families to live our Catholic faith through daily prayer gatherings to begin our school day in the courtyard, participation in weekly school Mass with student servers, live “Saints Alive” performances by our third graders, and by supporting our partner parishes’ sacramental preparation programs.

Our 3 Crowns recognition program – which honor the Feast of the Epiphany and the three kings – actively supports positive traits that build success for students and support family values. Recognizing student efforts to practice and live by the 3 Crowns is a critically important part of our culture.

Each crown – Academic, Character, and Spiritual – focuses on a given trait that changes with the months. For example, November’s Academic Crown trait is “punctual;” the Character Crown trait is “dependable;” and the Spiritual Crown’s trait is “forgiving.” Throughout the month, the teachers and I will discuss the meanings of these traits and what it looks like when we put them into practice. Teaching positive traits that support good citizenship and our Catholicity are integrated into who we are and what we do. This is done during morning prayers and integrated into classroom work throughout each school day during the month.

In my first two years of service at Epiphany I have been blessed to work with teachers and staff who are dedicated to ensuring that our students are prepared for any challenges of high school.  We provide a rigorous education without high stakes testing pressures.  Instead, we create an environment that fosters and develops analytical thinking skills through innovative educational practices.

One recent and exciting initiative is the installation of 23 new Cleartouch Interactive Boards throughout our campus. In addition to the 1-to-1 iPad program in grades K-5 and a 1-to-1 Chromebook program in middle school, these interactive boards are empowering both our students and teachers to instruct, research, collaborate, engage, and learn in ways that include traditional methods, but go beyond traditional means.

Students engage in both analytical and creative thinking while they solve real-world issues, determine the best ways to live out our faith’s works of mercy to serve others, and have fun guiding independent research projects. The excitement permeating our campus is truly motivating and inspires me to do all I can to support this wonderful Epiphany community.

So, why Epiphany? Why Catholic education? Catholic schools, especially Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School, are rooted in the Catholic belief of school choice. We partner with our parents to provide the best education for children; an education that supports positive emotional development, nurtures healthy young adults through games, exercise and athletics, and embraces a Faith that is unapologetically Catholic.

We are Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School, and we welcome you to join us.

Visit us online at or

Diocese Principal’s Corner

Dr. Benjamin H. Moore, Ed.D. – Superintendent of Catholic Education

Every family has the fundamental right to choose the best school for their child. I am thrilled and humbled to welcome over 4,500 students whose families have made Catholic education their choice when the 2019-2020 school year begins on August 12.

The start of the school year is a time of excitement, hope, perhaps some anxiety, and always an opportunity for new beginnings. This school year we are introducing the “Principal’s Corner” to highlight the wonderful things happening in all our schools.

Each issue of the “Principal’s Corner” will focus on the unique attributes and accomplishments of one of our schools and offer readers the opportunity to learn more about how our schools pursue our mission of educating the whole child – mind, body, and spirit. The fifteen schools of the Diocese of Venice are vibrant faith communities where academic rigor is infused with Catholic values, teachings, and traditions.

Our goal is to prepare our students for a life of service to family, community, and Christ. Beyond academic excellence, athletic and extra-curricular success, accreditation and accolades Catholic schools continue traditions of discipline and reverence. The school’s partner with parents, as the primary educators of their children, to instill character and promote respect for oneself and others. Through the support of generous donors, multiple state scholarship programs, and a variety of financial resources a Catholic education remains an accessible and affordable option.

Throughout this school year, I invite you to continue to check on the “Principal’s Corner,” or take the opportunity to schedule a visit at one of schools and learn more about the Catholic schools of the Diocese of Venice. I wish all of our students, parents, administrators, faculty and staff a blessed and successful 2019-2020 school year.

From the Principal’s Corner:

Mr. Michael Buskirk – St. Ann Catholic School, Naples

Mrs. Coleen Curlett – Incarnation Catholic School, Sarasota

Dr. Denny Denison – Bishop Verot High School, Fort Myers

Dr. Dan Guernsey – Rhodora J. Donahue Academy, Ave Maria

Mr. John Gulley – St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, Fort Myers

Mrs. M.C. Heffner – Epiphany Cathedral School, Venice

Mr. Ben Hopper – Cardinal Mooney High School, Sarasota

Mrs. Nicole Loseto – St. Catherine Catholic School, Sebring

Mr. David Nelson – St. Andrew Catholic School, Coral Gables

Mrs. Maria Niebuhr – St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School, Naples

Mrs. Tonya Peters – St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School, Port Charlotte

Mrs. Rebecca Reynolds – St. Mary Academy, Sarasota

Sister Patricia Roche, Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco – St. John Neumann High School, Naples

Ms. Deborah Suddarth – St. Joseph Catholic School, Bradenton

Mrs. Siobhan Young – St. Martha Catholic School, Sarasota