Mary, the example for all to follow

When it comes time to reflect upon Mother’s Day, there is no greater example than the Mother of Jesus.

Pope Francis said to be a mother is a great treasure through an unconditional and sacrificial love for their children, which was shown so clearly when the Blessed Virgin Mary presented Jesus at Christmas, a gift to the world.

Mary’s example provides an opportunity for the Church to reflect on the role of all mothers in society and the Church, the Pope explained, noting how despite all of the “symbolic glorification” we give to motherhood, it is still under-valued.

To be a mother is a gift, the Pope said, and explained that through their sacrifices, mothers assist in helping society to overcome its self-centered tendencies, as well as its lack of openness, generosity and concern for others.

“In this sense motherhood is more than childbearing; it is a life choice entailing sacrifice, respect for life, and commitment to passing on those human and religious values which are essential for a healthy society,” he said.

Reflecting upon the motherhood of Mary, Bishop Frank J. Dewane recently devoted the April 2022 Relevant Radio show “Witnessing Faith with Bishop Dewane” to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“We must look to the faith of Our Lady,” Bishop Dewane said. “Our Blessed Mother had to do some very difficult things to stay under the cross as her Son hung there. I don’t know what more can be asked of a mother than to have to observe the death of her child.”

It is appropriate that Mother’s Day falls in the month of May, many of the Marian apparitions are linked to the month, which is one of the reasons why the Catholic Church opted to dedicate the month to Mary.

Bishop Dewane stressed that the Faithful must look at radically changing their life, but with a certain zeal, or fire, welling up from within, similar to how the Blessed Virgin answered “Yes!” to the call of the Lord at the Annunciation.

“Our human nature doesn’t always drive us to do these things,” the Bishop continued. “But when we take the time to spiritually reflect and allow the Lord to enter in, and allow Our Lady to be our guide, we can make a big difference.”

During the radio show, Bishop Dewane and special guest Father Tom Carzon, Oblate of the Virgin Mary, Parochial Vicar at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, reflected upon the different Marian apparitions.

“Our Lady is always calling us to repentance,” Father Carzon said. “She’s preparing us. She’s calling us back to the Gospel.  And in the midst of things – even when suffering comes – just as she was standing by Jesus at the Cross – she’s standing with us.”

Marian apparitions in the Ukraine, Rwanda and other places of conflict and oppression, serve as not just a warning, but a comfort that Our Lady is always present, Father added.

“It’s like these things, tragic as they are, they are not beyond God’s reach, or outside of God’s hands,” Father Carzon said. “Mary helps us by that presence. It is so powerful – she shows up as we need her.”

Bishop Dewane noted that some apparitions are witnessed by many or some are by a few, but the messages are clear, bringing comfort and healing. “When something brings people together in Faith, it has to be recognized that something good is happening.”

The Patroness of the Diocese of Venice is Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which is also the name of the Diocese’s primary retreat center in Venice. In addition, there are a dozen Parishes dedicated to Our Lady. In the coming weeks, there are two major celebrations of Mary, including the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima (May 13), as well as the newly instituted Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, on June 6, the Monday after Pentecost, which was recently created by Pope Francis.

If you would like to listen to the April “Witnessing Faith with Bishop Dewane” radio show, the program is available at

The monthly radio program on Relevant Radio can be heard at 8:30 a.m. on the last Friday of each month (May 27, 2022), at 106.7 FM and 1410 AM in Fort Myers and 93.3 FM and 1660 AM in Naples.

Leading up to the Fourth – a time to reflect on Religious Freedom

On a recent Saturday morning Frank and Maryann Lagonigro could be found in the oppressive heat holding up signs along U.S. 41 in Naples encouraging people to pray for our country.

The uncomfortable weather was no deterrent for the couple from St. John the Evangelist Parish, who, along with others, regularly prayer to God for the protection of the country but also have real fears about the state of religious freedom in the U.S. They gathered on U.S. 41 at Pine Ridge Road across from the Waterside Shops and have been doing so since March.

“This is one of the best ways we can spread the Word of God and Blessed Sacrament in prayers for our country,” Maryann Lagonigro said.

With American flags lining the sidewalk, the group held up images of the Divine Mercy, the Blessed Mother and Child Jesus, and St. Michael the Archangel as well as a variety of signs, which read; “Pray to Save the U.S.A.,” God Have Mercy on America” and “God Save Our Country.”

The prayer vigil included the Divine Mercy Chaplet and praying of the rosary and serve no political purpose except to raise awareness.

The prayer vigil occurred July 26, 2021, during the heart of national Religious Freedom Week which was designated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for June 22 to June 29.

The goal of Religious Freedom Week is for all Catholics across the United States to pray, reflect and take action in support of Religious Liberty in our country and abroad.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane dedicated his monthly radio show on Relevant Radio to the topic of Religious Freedom. The program debuted on June 25 and access to the program is available at

During the show, Bishop Dewane asked everyone to follow the USCCB’s lead in prayer, reflection and action by seeing “how it is the Lord calls each one of us to act on this issue central to our freedom. We need to look at recent events in our society. The rights of Catholics and other faith groups are being threatened. There are not beheadings, as was seen in Iraq, but it is still persecution. They are not so blatant, but they are there, and they are a real threat.”

The theme for Religious Freedom Week 2021 was “Solidarity in Freedom,” and stems from a Pope Francis quote: “Solidarity means much more than engaging in sporadic acts of generosity. It means thinking and acting in terms of community.” This quote is from the Pope Francis Encyclical “Fratelli tutti (On Fraternity and Social Friendship)” which was released in October 2020.

Bishop Dewane said that we do have to act when religious freedom is threatened for all faiths, not just Catholics. “It is all about solidarity; just because I am not of one particular faith does not mean I will not speak out when religious freedom is threatened anywhere…  It’s not just when it is on (Catholics), it is when it happens period.”

A recent area of concern was an effort to suppress a Catholic Charities entity in Philadelphia from allowing the agency a contract for adoption services. On July 17, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a unanimous decision stating that the city violated the First Amendment by refusing to contract with Catholic Social Services once it learned that the organization would not certify same-sex couples for adoption.

“The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, applicable to the States under the Fourteenth Amendment, provides that ‘Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise’ of religion,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

While this was a major victory for religious freedom, Bishop Dewane said there is much work to be done at every level of government and in the courts. Among items of ongoing concern includes seemingly never-ending battle between the Church and the HHS Mandate which requires entities to pay for abortion coverage in health care. This was actually the start of the modern religious freedom effort of the Catholic Church which dates to 2012 when massive “Religious Freedom Rallies” were held nationally and right here in the Diocese of Venice with Bishop Dewane on the front lines raising awareness.

Another example of religious freedom under attack has been the rampant acts of vandalism against Catholic Churches, synagogues and others houses of worship throughout the nation and around the world. This issue could once have been common only in developing countries, but examples here in the Diocese of Venice bring this issue home.

“This has been a trend in our society, when symbols of a faith community are attacked,” Bishop Dewane said on his radio show. “There used to be an unwritten rule of respect, but we must speak up for every House of God and faith that is disturbed or vandalized in an attempt to defame representations of faith.”

Bishop Dewane ended his remarks explaining that when it comes to having religious freedom, the Church “is not asking for something special. No, these rights were given. It is a right we do have, each one of us, as citizens of this country. We must all follow the USCCB formula – Pray – Reflect – Act – which demands the most of us, in a political way, to demonstrate and speak out for the protection of our rights.”

As we celebrate the Fourth of July, remember to pray that the freedoms celebrated on this day, including freedom of religion, continue to be respected and protected.

To learn about the what the USCCB is saying about religious liberty, please visit

 For anyone interested in participating the Naples prayer vigil, they will resume on the last Friday of October and continue monthly going forward. For more information, you can contact Patricia Bucola at

Bishop encourages mental health awareness

Susan Laielli – Special to the Florida Catholic

During the next edition ofWitnessing Faith with Bishop Dewane” airing at 8:30 a.m., May 28, 2021, Relevant Radio listeners will hear the sincere passion of Diocese of Venice Bishop Frank J. Dewane as he raises awareness for the importance of mental health across the Diocese of Venice.

“What do we hear, one in five people suffer from a mental health challenge in some way,” Bishop said during the show recorded at the Catholic Center in mid-May, which is also Mental Health Awareness Month.

Bishop Dewane welcomed Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., Family Counseling Center Program Director Geralyn Poletti, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), since 1998, to highlight the importance of helping our sisters and brothers who may suffer from a mental illness or find themselves in crisis as the result of the impacts of Hurricane Irma followed by a global Pandemic.

“We were a little office in Collier County before Hurricane Irma, and the Pandemic,” said Poletti, during the radio interview set to air on 1410 AM and 106.7 FM in Fort Myers and Naples.

Beginning with Hurricane Irma the American Red Cross provided a grant to Catholic Charities for free tele-mental health services for those who lived in Florida during the storm. According to Poletti, these services rolled right into the Pandemic making them busier than ever.

“We are now seeing the economic pitfalls between those who have financial security and those who do not,” said Poletti, referring to the amount of people not able to use tele-mental services because of the lack of phones, or simply the lack of privacy in the home while trying to obtain the services.”

Poletti says they were inundated with referrals from pediatricians and schools following the return to in-person learning. The social worker teams serve families, students and individuals who may be struggling with isolation, depression, and anxiety due to the fallout from having to stay home, alone, or with someone who might be ill.

Bishop Dewane encourages parishioners to reach out to neighbors and friends who might be struggling with mental health due to the stigma still attached and show them you care or are simply willing to listen. He said there is a crossover to some degree between Faith and mental health.

In terms of making a difference, Poletti says she knows Catholic Charities tele-mental health services and their counselors in the schools are having an impact because the families and schools provide feedback, as well as the clinical treatment plans and customer surveys which are measured against the goals and objectives.  They also rely on an evidenced based online tool which provides an overall score for success.

Bishop Dewane also spoke about the initiative to have Mental Health First Aid training offered throughout the Diocese. Initial Youth Mental Health First Aid training sessions took place on April 29 and May 1, 2021. This training was offered through the Diocese Department of Religious Education for priests, deacons, principals, teachers and catechists. Additional training sessions will be offered in the fall.

If you know someone struggling with mental health issues who might benefit from free tele-mental health or in-person counseling services from Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, contact Geralyn Poletti, at 239-455-2655, ext. 3107, or by email at

Since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., mental health outreach has been supporting people with tele-mental health calls and video therapy, and recently resumed in-person therapy.

2,311 COVID-19 video therapy since March 2020

967 COVID-19 telephone therapy since March 2020

610 COVID-19 in-person therapy since February 2021