Faithful line up for Confession

A steady stream of the faithful at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota waited patiently for their opportunity to take part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation on the last weekend before Holy Week.

This scene was repeated at Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice after Bishop Frank J. Dewane, with the agreement of the Presbyteral Council, designated the evening of March 26, 2021 (4-8 p.m.) and morning of March 27 (9 a.m.-noon) as universal times for Confession at each Parish. This was done to allow the faithful ample opportunity to receive God’s Mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Lenten Season.

Parishes reported a steady stream of people during both sessions with extra priests made available to ensure wait times were limited.

Brenda Forrester tries to go to Confession regularly but the Pandemic and a general fear of being around people had prevented her from availing herself of this healing Sacrament.

“I felt empty when I wasn’t going,” Forrester said. “After going tonight, I felt the burdens lifted from my shoulders and the Mercy of the Lord wash over me. I feel refreshed.”

Pope Francis often remarks about the healing power of the confessional and urges the faithful to go as often as possible. Parishes and Missions in the Diocese of Venice have regular reconciliation times throughout the year, please visit for contact information for the Parish or Mission nearest you.


Diocese-wide Opportunity for Sacrament of Reconciliation late March

Confessionals will open for extended hours throughout the Diocese of Venice in late March to allow everyone ample opportunity to receive God’s Mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

In consultation with the Diocesan Presbyteral Council, Bishop Frank J. Dewane has designated the following days and times for Confession at EACH Parish: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Friday, March 26, 2021, and 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Saturday, March 27.

This Diocesan-wide opportunity for Confession has been made available each Lent since 2012. These times are offered in addition to already scheduled Parish Confession times or planned Penance Services.

The precept of confessing grave sins and receiving Holy Communion at least once during the Lenten Season merits a reminder to all to take advantage of this opportunity.

Pope Francis often speaks about the healing benefits of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, saying that he goes about once every two weeks. “When I go to confession,” the Holy Father added,” it is in order to be healed, to heal my soul, to heal my heart and to be healed of some wrongdoing.”

The Pope also reminds us no one is free from sin and that feeling a little “ashamed before God is a grace… Going to confession is going to an encounter with the Lord who forgives us, who loves us and our shame is what we offer him… When one is in line to go to Confession, one feels all these things, even shame, but then when one finishes Confession one leaves free… forgiven, happy. This is the beauty of Confession! Jesus is there…and He receives you with so much love!”

As the Catechism teaches, the priest is acting in Persona Christi (in the person of Christ), within the confessional. So, like presenting oneself at the altar to be nourished by Christ in the Eucharist, a person going to Confession, is not ultimately confessing to a priest, but confessing to and receiving forgiveness from Jesus Christ.

It was Christ who desired that the faithful “receive forgiveness by means of the ministers of the community,” Pope Francis continued. And it is Christ “who gives this power.”

The Pope notes, through the presence and words of a priest, penitents have “the certainty of forgiveness in the name of the Church…this is having the surety that God forgives us always. He never tires of forgiving us and we must never tire of going to ask for forgiveness.”

Reconciliation in Schools

For the same reasons, Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools have been setting aside time to make the Sacrament of Reconciliation available for students.

For example, at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, the student, faculty and staff participated in a Lenten Penance Service on Feb. 23. Many of the students took advantage of the opportunity to go to confession with one of the several priests present.

Three priests were available to hear confessions from second and third graders March 4 at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral. In addition, numerous students from St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy in Sarasota received the Sacrament for the first time on March 7.

Ash Wednesday: Lenten Journey begins

The opening of the Lenten Season began with the traditional Ash Wednesday Mass, starting a journey which ends prior to the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, April 1, 2021.

During this journey, one must take time to live the Lenten Season in a particular way, looking internally and answering the question: What more can I do to respond to the goodness of the Lord in my life?

Bishop Frank J. Dewane addressed this issue at St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers where he celebrated Mass on Feb. 17, 2021. The Bishop spoke of the need to “up the personal spiritual ante” during Lent, with a renewed focus on the pillars of the Season, prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

“We have to take a look at our lives and do more,” Bishop Dewane said. “Am I acting in a prayerful spirit? Is my fasting more than just a diet or the elimination of something inconsequential, or are you changing the way you live your life in a meaningful way? Is my almsgiving more than giving money, because there are so many more things we can do now to help, especially in this time of the Pandemic?”

The Pandemic may make the Lenten Journey different in terms of how we live out that call of Christ, but is all about our response to the Lord, the Bishop continued.

“Yes, we live in a difficult time, but take that experience and let it make us be more demonstrative of the love from which we were created and called, by giving to those around us, reflecting the light of Christ in our lives,” Bishop Dewane concluded.

According to Pope Francis, Lent is about more than the little sacrifices we make, but about realizing where our hearts are oriented, and turning them back toward relationship with God.

“Lent is a journey that involves our whole life, our entire being,” the Holy Father said during an Ash Wednesday Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Pope advised people to reflect on stories of conversion in Sacred Scripture to know how to start the journey of the Lenten season.

Necessitated in response to the Pandemic, the distribution of ashes was changed to avoid direct contact. Therefore, ashes were sprinkled on the head of the penitents rather than in the sign of the cross on the forehead. This change was directed by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments and is a practice which is common in Europe.

Opportunity for Confession in Diocese

The precept of confessing grave sins and receiving Holy Communion at least once during the Lenten Season indeed merits recalling for all the Faithful. To facilitate this requirement, every Parish in the Diocese of Venice will be open with a confessor present from 4-8 p.m., Friday, March 26, and 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, March 27.

Additional times for the Sacrament are also offered so that the Faithful may find ample opportunity to receive God’s mercy. Parishes also could combine to have an evening prayer service with additional priests present to offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Check with your local Parish for additional reconciliation times.

Lenten journey begins Feb. 26

“Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death.”

These words from Pope Francis should resonate with all Catholics and serve to remind us that the coming Liturgical Season has great significance and meaning.

During Lent, we are asked to devote ourselves to seeking the Lord in prayer and reading Scripture, to service by giving alms, and to practice self-control through fasting.

Lent lasts for 40 days – excluding Sundays – from Ash Wednesday (Feb. 26) to the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, which this year falls on April 9. It is a reminder of Christ’s 40 days of temptation and fasting in the desert, and of Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the desert.

This penitential season of fasting, alms-giving, and special prayer is like a spiritual cleansing and renewal to draw closer to God.

The key to fruitful observance of these practices is to recognize their link to baptismal renewal. We recall those waters in which we were baptized into Christ’s death, died to sin and evil, and began new life in Christ.

Joshua Mazrin, Diocese of Venice Director of Evangelization, said Lent is the ideal time to focus on becoming “A Disciple of Christ.”

“Discipleship is truly following the Lord,” Mazrin explained. “For Lent Jesus gives us an example by first going to the desert to fast and pray.” Christ teaches us:

  • To fast in order to grow in physical discipline. Fast intentionally – not just because it’s an old written down tradition, but in order to grow in mastery over your flesh and your passions;
  • To give alms in order to have detachment. We don’t give alms just because it’s nice. We give alms to help those in need as well as to not have an inordinate attachment to physical possessions;
  • To pray. We pray to grow in our relationship with God and as an act of humility. Humility helps us imitate Christ and a great example of humility is Mary.

Mazrin went on to explain that there are some practical things one can do to be “A Disciple of Christ” during Lent.

“Give up something specific for Lent not just to give something up, but something that will challenge you to grow in an area that will be beneficial to you and your relationship with God;” he continued. “Pray more intentionally. Meditate on purpose.  Pray the rosary, go to Mass an extra time during the week, pick up your bible and actually try to go deeper in it! Give alms, volunteer your time, try to see things from the perspective of someone less fortunate than yourself.”

During Lent, it is common to participate in a retreat or the Stations of the Cross, allowing the opportunity for one to refocus on the Lord in different ways. Check with your local Parish for these and other Lenten activities.

The precept of confessing grave sins and receiving Holy Communion at least once during the Lenten Season merits a reminder to the Faithful. To facilitate this requirement, every Parish in the Diocese of Venice will be open with a confessor present 4 to 8 p.m., Friday, April 3, and 9 noon, Saturday, April 4. Additional times for the Sacrament are also offered so that the Faithful may find ample opportunity to receive God’s mercy. Parishes also combine to have an evening prayer service with many priests present to offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Again, check with your local Parish for additional reconciliation times.

During Lent, a group of catechumens and candidates will be coming into the full communion with the Church. Bishop Frank J. Dewane will preside over the Rite of Election, at 2:30 p.m., on the first Sunday of Lent, March 1, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

This annual tradition is a formal Rite during which catechumens are presented and their names are entered into the Book of Elect. This year, 112 catechumens will be joined by an additional 185 candidates who will also participate in the formal ceremony and be recognized during the celebration for answering the call to their continuing conversion.

Dates of note

In addition to Ash Wednesday, Feb. 26, where one can receive ashes, there are several other key dates of note on the Liturgical Calendar.

On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, March 19, Bishop Dewane will be celebrating 8 a.m., Mass at St. Joseph Parish, 3100 26th Ave. W., Bradenton, and then 12:30 p.m. Mass in Italian at Epiphany Cathedral, 3350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. The Mass in Venice is at the invitation of the Italian-American Club and will include a traditional blessing of the bread and procession.

On the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, March 25, many Parishes add additional Mass to accommodate this day. The day also marks the start of the annual Novena for Mass for Life, a special opportunity to meditate on the progressive development of Our Lord in His mother’s womb.  The hope is that this meditation will help people to reflect on the sanctity of all human life, from fertilization/conception to birth and throughout life until natural death, regardless of age or condition.

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, April 5, is the day the Church remembers Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem. The commemoration with the blessing of the palms and procession, is a ritual action that marks our own entry into Holy Week.

During Holy Week is the annual Chrism Mass, 10:30 a.m., April 7, at Epiphany Cathedral. The Chrism Mass is the largest gathering of priests in the Diocese and a time when they join Bishop Dewane in a celebration of the unity of the priesthood and when the holy oils used in the Sacraments are blessed and consecrated.

For more information about Lent and related activities taking place in the Diocese, or at local Parishes, please visit


Ash Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, and Good Friday, April 10, are days of fast and abstinence. All Fridays of Lent are also days of abstinence from meat.

Fasting is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday by all Catholics between the ages of 18 years and 59 years (inclusive). On a fast day one full meal is allowed. Two smaller meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to each one’s needs, but together they should not equal another full meal. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids are allowed. If possible, the fast on Good Friday is to continue until the Easter Vigil (on Holy Saturday night) as the “paschal fast” is to honor the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus, and to prepare ourselves to share more fully and to celebrate more readily His Resurrection.

Abstinence from meat is to be observed by all Catholics who are 14 years of age and older on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent, including Good Friday.

Note: If a person is unable to observe the above regulations due to ill health or other serious reasons, they are urged to practice other forms of self-denial that are suitable to their condition.