Looking back on 2021

The continuing global pandemic did little to curb the important work of spreading the Good News of the Lord to the faithful throughout the Diocese of Venice in 2021.

While some events were modified, delayed or even postponed, the Diocese was blessed to have two men Ordained to the Priesthood; welcome hundreds into the Church at the Easter Vigil; start a massive robotics program in its Catholic schools; host a successful Youth Rally, as well as Women’s and Men’s Conferences; honor the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony; continue to pray for victims of abuse; honor our veterans; prayer walks for an end to abortion; assist tens of thousands with food and other support; evidence major enrollment gains in its Catholic schools; dedicate a new Parish Church and Retreat Center Shrine; continue to expand the outreach to the Hispanic Catholic community; inaugurate the Diocesan Phase of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” and conclude the “Year of St. Joseph.”

This list is just a small sample of what took place across the Diocese of Venice in 2021, all while the Diocese as well as the Parishes and Catholic schools modified operations to ensure that everyone remained safe. Each activity during the year was carefully planned to ensure participants would benefit from participating and ultimately working to the goal of helping the faithful grow ever closer to the Lord.

While taking time to look back covers many pivotal events in the life of the Diocese, the following is by no means a comprehensive listing of the initiatives and events which take place throughout the Diocese.

Priestly Ordination and Vocations

One of the most important building blocks of the Catholic Church is the ordination of men to the priesthood. The Diocese of Venice was blessed to have two men ordained in 2021 presided over by Bishop Frank J. Dewane at Epiphany Cathedral. Three other seminarians were ordained to the Transitional Diaconate in 2021 and are expected to be ordained to the priesthood in 2022.

Also encouraging is that there are currently 16 active seminarians in the Diocese, including the transitional deacons. The Vocation’s Office hosts several informational trips to the seminaries in Florida for prospective young men.

Chrism Mass and Celebration of Jubilarians

During Holy Week the priests of the Diocese gathered for the annual Chrism Mass; a powerful sign of unity with more than 100 priests on the altar with Bishop Dewane at the Cathedral. This annual Mass is one of the most critical and unifying moments for the Diocese during Holy Week. At the Chrism Mass, priests and deacons who celebrate milestone anniversaries were honored. To accommodate the latest guidance on social distancing and limiting the size of gatherings at the time, only priests and Permanent Deacons and their wives were present for the Mass. The public was able to view this Mass via livestream.

Catholic schools

The Diocese of Venice uniformly strengthened STREAM education in 15 Diocesan Catholics Schools through an investment in a partnership with FIRST®, a global robotics community, “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” placing students ahead of the curve in primary fields while continuing to promote core Catholic virtues. A gift of 500 robots and curricular resources were presented by Bishop Dewane to Diocesan Catholic Schools on March 10, 2021. Since that announcement Catholic schools throughout the Diocese have been enhancing STREAM-based learning and taking the time to continuously engage students through playful learning activities to think critically and solve complex problems, regardless of their learning level.

Also of good news, a report from the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCC) has revealed that the Diocese of Venice leads all other Arch/diocese in enrollment gains in the past year. This trend also wipes out enrollment losses that occurred due to the pandemic. The Diocesan numbers – a 15.2% enrollment increase in elementary schools and 8.9% percent increase in secondary schools – compare favorably to the rest of the state.

Throughout the year, many schools implemented programs to improve sustainability through water conservation and energy reduction effort all in the spirit of Laudato Si, an encyclical from Pope Francis on the care for our common home.

Respect Life Outreach

The Diocese of Venice had huge numbers participate in prayer vigils at abortion facilities throughout the Diocese of Venice. With this topic gaining national attention due to laws restricting access to abortion in Texas and Mississippi and pending decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court, the vigils took a renewed sense of urgency. A focused prayer walk takes place each January in Sarasota to coincide with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, while two 40 Days for Life campaigns take place at multiple locations each Lent and again in the fall to coincide with October, National Respect Life Month.

Honoring the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony

As the sanctity of marriage continues to be attacked from many different levels, Bishop Dewane takes time out each year to honor the men and women who have dedicated their lives to living the Sacrament of Marriage. Two Mass are held during the year which the Bishop celebrates for couples enjoying significant wedding anniversaries; many celebrating more than 50 years of marriage and some more than 70 years. These couples represent a shining example of this important Sacrament in the face of many attacks on this vital institution. In addition, the Diocese hosted the inaugural Marriage Enrichment Conference in October in Sarasota and Naples. The goal was to help form married couples to live out their vocation in holiness and joy.

Safe Haven Sunday

To help bolster the family, the Diocese also participated in the first ever Safe Haven Sunday in March 2021. Safe Haven Sunday was set aside so as to give focused time and resources to address the harmful effects of pornography on youth, marriages, and families. Resources to protect individuals, marriages and families were given to families attending Masses that weekend. This was followed up by a series of Cyber Safety workshops for parents, religious educators, and principals.

Catholic Charities

Each year the programs of Catholic Charities within the Diocese of Venice assists thousands of individuals and families and through the pandemic the numbers remained high as inflation has caused housing and food prices to skyrocket further impacting families. More than a million pounds of food was served to some 150,000 individuals at food pantries throughout the Diocese. Catholic Charities also hosted several volunteer vaccinations sites in rural communities with great success. An additional 2,000 received mental health counseling through in-person and tele-mental health programs. Nearly as many received some sort of emergency financial assistance. This support was in addition to the 30 other programs Catholic Charities has at locations throughout the region and ranges from afterschool tutoring to senior care.

Year of St. Joseph

Because St. Joseph is Protector of the Universal Church, Bishop Dewane consecrated the Diocese of Venice to a “Year of St. Joseph” in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic beginning March 19, 2020. The Diocesan dedication to a “Year of Saint Joseph” was extended to continue until Dec. 8, 2021. This was in direct support of Pope Francis creating a Universal “Year of Saint Joseph” from Dec. 8, 2020 to Dec. 8, 2021. Among the activities which took place to honor St. Joseph, the Diocesan Office of Family Life introduced a 30-day St. Joseph Devotional for the month of September 2021, as a way to continue to mark the ongoing “Year of St. Joseph,” as well as the celebration of the Year of Amoris Laetitia Family.

Synod on Synodality

Bishop Dewane inaugurated the beginning of the Diocesan Phase of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” with an afternoon Mass on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, at Epiphany Cathedral. Participating in the Mass were Diocesan priests, as well as some 300 people representing many Parishes, various movements, and many other groups. During the Diocesan Phase there will be a series of listening sessions which will take place in each part of the Diocese in the coming months. The goal of these sessions is to discern the Word of God in Scripture, what those Words are saying to us while remembering the living Mission of the Church. Two episodes of the Bishop radio show, “Witnessing Faith with Bishop Dewane,” were dedicated to covering the intricacies of the Synod.


Two major dedications took place in the first half of 2021. First was the Dedication and Blessing of a new Parish Church for St. Paul Parish in Arcadia on March 21, 2021. The building more than quadrupled the capacity of the previous church and offers room for future Parish offices, classrooms and a Parish Hall. The project followed strict guidelines to ensure the building is energy efficient is the context of Laudato Si. A centerpiece feature of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice was dedicated and blessed by Bishop Dewane before an enthusiastic crowd on June 6, 2021. The Shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Help is a fitting memorial to the Blessed Virgin who serves as the exemplar for all to follow.

Other items of note

  • For the 14th consecutive year, during Child Abuse Awareness Prevention Month – April, the Diocese of Venice offered a Mass to pray for the victims of abuse at Epiphany Cathedral. Normally there are two Mass, but the pandemic necessitated only one Mass in 2021. So as to accommodate a larger audience, the Mass was live-streamed. The Diocese of Venice, and its entities, take very seriously the safety of all young people and vulnerable adults. To this end, the Diocese, with a zero-tolerance policy, works to prevent any instances of abuse, particularly against minors and vulnerable adults.
  • The 12th Annual Veterans Day Catholic Mass made a successful return to Sarasota National Cemetery as Bishop Dewane prayed for those currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, those who have died, and their families. More than 500 people attended the Mass which was celebrated in 2020 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice out of caution because of the pandemic and the threat of a hurricane.
  • For the past four years the Hispanic Ministries outreach of the Diocese of Venice has strived to meet the needs of those desiring to be better formed in their Faith. The Spanish-language Faith Formation Program recently distributed certificates of completion to 219 students who have completed an educational program to better understand the teachings of the Catholic Faith, bringing the four-year total to more than 1,500. Spanish Faith Formation Program sessions were developed following the local consultation process of the V Encuentro in 2016 and 2017.
  • The Diocese also hosted successful Women’s and Men’s Conferences as well as a full-scale Youth Rally with some 1,000 attendees. Each of these events was necessarily scaled back in 2020.
  • A Catechetical Conference, hosted by Diocese of Venice Department of Education and spearheaded by the Office of Religious Education, provided an understanding as to how to bring Jesus Christ into the classroom as a catechist according to Church teachings. The bilingual Conference was Sept. 25, 2021, and offered catechetical leaders, catechists, religion coordinators and religion teachers a training day aimed at helping them to grow spiritually and professionally.

While 2021 brought great challenges to many, including to the Diocese of Venice, the Catholic Church remains strong and 2022 looks to be a time of celebration and hope.

Stay tuned to learn about the events of 2022 coming in the Jan. 14, 2022 e-Edition of The Florida Catholic.

Inspired Diocesan Youth “Sent” – Rally draws 1,000 for rousing day

Amazing things happen when you put 1,000 teenage Catholics under one roof.

For some 8 hours on Nov. 6, 2021 teens heard from inspirational speakers, rocked to spiritual music, and participated in Eucharistic Adoration and the Mass. At the same time, they bonded with each other and learned how they are an important part of the Universal Church.

Judging by the smiling faces at the end of the day the impact was evidently strong. Most importantly was their instant reaction to the question: “How was the Youth Rally?”

The answers were simple and uncomplicated: “Powerful!” “Awesome!” “The Best!” “Inspiring!” “Impactful” “Unforgettable!” “Poignant!” “Overwhelming!” “Emotional!” “Prayerful!” “Memorable!”

The theme for 2021 Diocese of Venice Youth Rally was “Sent” which comes directly from the Bible – “As you sent me in the world, so I sent them in the world” (John 17:18).

Each speaker, each song, each moment encouraged and challenged the young men and women to examine how they are living out their Faith in their home, with their friends, in their Parish and in society. What they learned is that Jesus Christ does not expect anyone to be perfect in their Faith journey, but they must continue to work to live their Faith better. And when they inevitably face difficulty and may stumble along the way, the teens learned that they shouldn’t be discouraged but instead encouraged that Jesus will be there to accompany them. Many of the youth were inspired to the point that a large number received the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which was made available throughout the event.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane told the teens that above all else they must make room for the love of the Lord in their life.

“Allow that to be what fills you. Let that be what sends you out into the world,” Bishop Dewane continued. “And with that love of God, become the bearer of the Faith. Allow yourself to be the instrument that Christ has meant you to be… you have to make that happen. Use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to send you out; but know that it is you who has to then give of what you have to others. May you be filled ever more and learn to give because you have been sent out to communicate God’s Love.”

Bishop Dewane opened the Youth Rally to a rousing ovation from the young men and women. The Bishop said the Rally was the event he missed the most during the pandemic, reminding them how they are a blessed part of their Parish, the Diocese and the Universal Church and they should never forget their place.

“You are God’s gift to this Diocese,” the Bishop added. “You and the young people like yourself bring your talents and gifts, which are a reflection of the Lord. We celebrate those talents and gifts and call on all of you to use them in praise of Lord by the life you live.”

A key point of the day was the large group Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which refocused the teens on the Supreme Sacrifice Our Lord made for all of us. Bishop Dewane lead the Adoration before a temporary altar on the stage. He took time to process through the crowd with the monstrance, allowing each person to come up close and to be personal with Christ.

Other highlights of the day included inspirational music, games, and a chance for fresh air outside the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center. There were also lots of opportunities to take photos and selfies, many of which Bishop Dewane was a part. Displays from religious orders, the Diocesan Respect Life and Religious Education offices, and a Vocations table staffed by active Diocesan seminarians, were also present as well as several groups selling religious articles.

Throughout the day, the 2021 Youth Rally included an exciting line-up of speakers including David Calavitta and Kelly Colangelo. They each shared their unique Faith journey while also offering poignant advice to the teens as to how they can keep their focus on the Lord. Both stressed that the mid-teen years are a critical time as it is when the tumultuous world is trying to lure them down a darker path. At one point the young men were moved to a separate part of the facility thus allowing talks geared more personally toward the young women and men. The split sessions also included vocations talks.

The speakers were accompanied by inspirational music provided by the Francis Cabildo Band as the youth enthusiastically joined in singing each selection.

The 2021 Youth Rally is one of the largest gatherings in the Diocese of Venice each year. Parish and high school groups ranged in size from 4 to 140. The largest groups were from St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle, St. Paul Parish in Arcadia, and Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers.

Visit the www.dioceseofvenice.org for a link to a slideshow of more photos

The ‘CASE’ to Educate About Cyber Awareness

With the proliferation of digital devices in everyday life, the Diocese of Venice has taken proactive measures to protect children from the online world’s moral pitfalls by giving its education professionals the knowledge and resources to teach cyber awareness to elementary and middle school students.

On Oct. 20-21, 2021, principals, teachers and directors of religious education (DRE) and catechists across the Diocese participated in an in-depth “train the trainers” course on how to apply the Cyber Awareness Safety Education (CASE) curriculum in their classrooms.

Led by Liz Repking, founder of Cyber Safety Consulting, the course teaches students about internet safety in a fun, interactive way. CASE encourages small group discussions of real-life internet experiences with a feedback loop to school parents. This approach provides greater retention and understanding among students and enables them to effectively apply these lessons to their online life.

The classes for DREs and catechists were held on Oct. 20, 2021 at St. Martha Parish in Sarasota and at Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers on Oct. 21, 2021. During the evening of both days the training by Repking was tailored for principals and teachers and took place at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota and St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers. The training was part of the Virtus Protecting God’s Children lesson plans for Diocesan religious educators.

The presentations were a follow-up of the Safe Haven Sunday workshops presented by Repking in April 2021. Those presentations to principals, DREs and parents and were titled, “Protecting God’s Children Online in a Hyper Digital Age.” Repking spoke about keeping children safe from cyber bullying, online predators, sexting, online gaming, and how to help children create an escape plan when trouble arises.

Safe Haven Sunday (March 6-7, 2021) was presented by the Diocese Office of Family Life and Department of Catholic Education to provide families with basic tools and practical tips for adults to create a safer digital environment for themselves and their children.

John Carkeet provided information to this report.

Catechetical Day Conference inspires

The Church calls all who are baptized to be catechists within their families and their communities. Catechesis is a critical way in which we use our Faith to empower one another to learn more about Jesus Christ.

A Catechetical Conference, hosted by Diocese of Venice Department of Education and spearheaded by the Office of Religious Education, provided an understanding as to how to bring Jesus Christ into the classroom as a catechist according to Church teachings.

The bilingual Conference was Sept. 25, 2021 at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, and offered catechetical leaders, catechists, religion coordinators and religion teachers a training day aimed at helping them to grow spiritually and professionally. There were nine workshops and several keynote addresses led by renowned speakers presenting a variety of topics rooted in the theme, “Encountering Christ in the Classroom.”

The response from the more than 300 participants throughout the day was overwhelmingly positive. Many cited the variety of options for workshops, the bilingual nature of the event; as well as the enthusiasm of the speakers as reasons for their enjoyment of the day.

“This is great,” said Sister Rosemary Le, FMI, Director of Religious Education at Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers.

Anne Chrzan, Diocesan Director of Religious Education, expressed her prayers that the Conference was an opportunity for catechists to learn how to better share the Good News of the Lord in their classrooms.

“We broadly define the ‘classroom’ to include our homes, churches and workplaces to show that we catechists can empower our communities to love Jesus, emulate his teachings and embrace our Catholic faith at any time and place,” Chrzan said.

The Conference opened with Mass at neighboring St. Cecilia Parish, celebrated by Msgr. Stephen E. McNamara, Vicar General of the Diocese and Pastor of Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers, who was filling in for Bishop Frank J. Dewane. Bishop Dewane was unable to attend the Conference until later in the day.

Workshops ranged from “How to Pray with Children in the Classroom” and “How to Use E-learning Platforms in Religious Education” to “Disciples Making Disciples.” Among the featured speakers were Jared Dees, creator of the website, The Religion Teacher; Ricardo Grzona, founder of Fundación Ramón Pané, a nonprofit organization dedicated to evangelization and spiritual formation; and Dr. Amy Roberts, a classroom methodology professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.

The day also included the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Eucharistic Adoration.

In addition to the Catechetical Conference, Chrzan also hosted a workshop on Sept. 23, at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) Workshop was led by Dr. Bill Keimig of Franciscan University of Ohio. Kiemig spoke to about 40 catechists regarding the need to follow the proven formal structure of the RCIA process. He noted that by following the process in the way it was created, it ensures that a greater number of new Catholics will remain active in the Faith beyond the first year following the Sacrament Confirmation at the Easter Vigil.

News Briefs for the week of Sept. 24, 2021

Bishop radio show addresses faith and science

Join Bishop Frank J. Dewane, for his monthly radio program on Relevant Radio. “Witnessing Faith with Bishop Dewane,” which can be heard at 8:30 a.m., on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. This month will feature part one of a two-part show on Faith and Science featuring guests Michael Dauphinais, Ph.D., who serves as the Fr. Matthew Lamb Professor of Catholic Theology at Ave Maria University, and Stephen H. Thong, Ph.D., who serves as Chair, and Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Dept. of Chemistry & Physics at Ave Maria University. Access to listen to the program is available at https://dioceseofvenice.org/our-bishop/relevant-radio-podcasts. The second part of the series will be available on Friday, Oct. 29.

National Migration Week runs through Sept. 26

National Migration Week 2021 will be held from Sept .20, 2021 through Sept. 26, 2021 in solidarity with the Holy See’s observation of the World Day for Migrants and Refugees on Sept. 26. The theme is “Towards an Ever Wider ‘We’” where Pope Francis calls on us to ensure that “we will think no longer in terms of ‘them’ and ‘those,’ but only ‘us’” (Fratelli tutti, no. 35) and this universal “us” must become a reality first of all within the Church, which is called to cultivate communion in diversity. In general, National Migration Week is meant to emphasize the ways in which the migration question is important for the Catholic Church in the United States. Throughout the Week, the Diocese of Venice posted information about the week and messages of support on its social media platforms.

Catechists commissioned

At Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice, catechists were commissioned as part of Catechetical Sunday on Sept. 19, 2021. These religious educators made a promise to hand on the faith and be a witness to the Gospel. The theme for this year was: “Say the Word and My Soul Shall be Healed.”

High school students participate in coastal cleanup

Members of the Bishop Verot Catholic High School Environmental Club participated in the International Coastal Cleanup at Lovers Key State Park in Fort Myers Beach on Sept. 18, 2021.

Puppetry skills taught to young students

The St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School 8th grade drama students collaborated to teach 1st graders puppetry skills and reviewed scripts using 1st grade sight words on Sept. 17, 2021 in Naples. Students will perform their puppet show skits for the 1st grade class when they are ready! The other 8th grade drama class practiced skits with kindergarten and 3rd grade students.

Students learn about Safety

The St. Mary Catholic Academy School Resource Officer Laura Markey visited Teacher Erin Fredd’s 2nd Grade Class on Sept. 16, 2021 in Sarasota, and a had a lesson on car safety, bike safety, strangers and so much more. The students were absolutely intrigued by her and the great stories she shared. The students had an opportunity to ask questions and learn about the great things police officers do for our community.

High school college fair big success

More than two dozen different colleges and universities took part in the St. John Neumann Catholic High School College Fair in Naples on Sept. 20, 2021. It was a valuable opportunity for all of the students to speak in person with representatives and ask questions.

An Opportunity to Encounter Jesus in the Classroom

Religious Educators Prepare for Catechetical Day

By John Carkeet, Special to the Florida Catholic

After 18 months of prayer, patience and preparation, hundreds of religious educators across the Diocese of Venice are poised to participate in its Catechetical Day Conference Sept. 25, 2021, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers.

Hosted by the Diocese of Venice Department of Education, the Conference will feature nine workshops and four keynote addresses led by renowned national speakers presenting a variety of topics rooted in the theme, “Encountering Christ in the Classroom.”

“Catechetical Day is an opportunity for religious educators to learn how to increase their skills in sharing the Word of God with their students in the classroom,” said Anne Chrzan, Diocesan Director of Religious Education. “We broadly define the ‘classroom’ to include homes, parks, playgrounds, churches, and other public gatherings to show that catechists can teach and inspire students to love Jesus, emulate his teachings and embrace their Catholic faith in all dimensions of their lives.

This Conference will allow catechists to come together in smaller groups and learn new material in English or Spanish. Religious education publishers will also showcase innovative resources to help catechists enhance their students’ learning environment.

The day begins with Jesus at the forefront as Bishop Frank J. Dewane will celebrate the liturgy at St. Cecilia Catholic Church. Attendees will then take a short walk or ride to neighboring Bishop Verot Catholic High School, where they will attend workshops, explore the exhibits, and partake in fellowship over a catered luncheon.

Catechetical Day presents the perfect opportunity to help the catechists within the Diocese of Venice learn new and exciting ways to engage young people with a curriculum centered on the teachings of the Catholic Church. By the end of the Conference, Catechists will be better equipped to share how they encountered Jesus in their lives and help students recognize where He is and can be in their lives.

Jared Dees, creator of the website, The Religion Teacher, which offers a treasure trove of practical resources and effective teaching strategies to religious educators, serves as the Conference’s keynote speaker. Dees, who is also the author of Encountering Jesus in the Classroom, will walk participants through the five-step method of Lectio Divina, one of the earliest forms of prayer.

Ricardo Grzona and Dr. Amy Roberts will also lead engaging presentations entitled, “How to Share Your Faith with Children and Parents.” Grzona, founder of Fundación Ramón Pané, a nonprofit organization dedicated to evangelization and spiritual formation, will present the topic in Spanish. Roberts, a classroom methodology professor at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, will address the audience in English.

With approximately 1,100 catechists serving more than 7,500 children and teens across the Diocese of Venice, the Department of Education designed Catechetical Day to educate catechists and give them the tools and resources for parishioners to grow in the Catholic faith. Chrzan expects record breaking attendance for a Conference that gathers catechists who serve the Church in sharing the Word of God among young people from all walks of life.

Register for Catechetical Day at https://dioceseofvenice.org/events/catechetical-conference or contact Anne Chrzan at chrzan@dioceseofvenice.org.



News Briefs for Week of Aug. 27, 2021

Bishop blesses Maria Vision offices

Bishop Frank J. Dewane blessed the offices of Maria Vision USA in Ave Maria on Aug. 23, 2021. Maria Vision offers a variety of faith-based programming with a mission to bring the light of the Gospel to the entire world with the vision of Mary Most Holy.

The programming includes the Holy Hour, daily Mass, weekly rosary, guest speakers and presentations. Maria Vision can be viewed in 12 million households in the United States on Direct TV channels 262 and 89 and through its website https://www.mariavision.us/.

Safety Patrol keeps little ones safe

Student Safely Patrols at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers put their leadership skills to the test on Aug. 20, 2021. They greet (often by name) the Pre-Kindergarten-3, PreK-4, and Kindergarten students during morning drop-off. Separating from the ones they love the most can be tough for the youngest Falcons. Patrols assist students to class and ensure they are in the learning mindset when they arrive. For example, one of the Pre-K students didn’t want a walker and instead wanted to be a walker, so Safety Patrol members strapped on a bright yellow safety belt on the young lady, and she walked the Patrol to class. Whatever works, the team often says that welcoming all the smiling faces and exchanging greetings with the students during morning drop-off is the best part of our day. Well done!

Young scientists get hands-on

Scientists at St. Mary Academy in Sarasota participated in a hands-on experiment Aug. 20, 2021, where they used their senses as they smelled, touched and tasted marshmallows. Then the scientists asked questions, wanting to know what would happen if you put a marshmallow in the microwave for 30 seconds. They then recorded their results. The next day they had more questions and asked what would happen if we they marshmallows in different liquids like vinegar, water, soda, and cranberry juice. Students love hands-on experiments.

R.C.I.A. Workshop with R.C.I.A. teams

The Diocese of Venice Office of Religious Education is holding a Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) Workshop led by Dr. Bill Keimig from Franciscan University at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs, from 9 am.m to 3 p.m. on Sept. 23, 2021. The workshop will include the following: a walk through the four periods of the RCIA process – pre catchumenate, catchumenate, purification and enlightenment and mystagogy & the neophyte year; a walk through the three aspects of the catechumenal model – liturgical, catechetical, pastoral – with a fixed time in the event on each; plus opportunities for questions and answers. Lunch will be provided at no cost to participants.  Contact Anne Chrzan, Diocesan Director of Religious Education for registration information at chrzan@dioceseofvenice.org.

VDCCW Priest’s Appreciation Dinner

The Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women Priest’s Appreciation Dinner is 6:00 p.m., Friday, September 17 at the Venetian River Club, 502 Veneto Blvd., Venice. The cost is $40. RSVP with a check by Wednesday, September 1 to: Ellen Bachman, 52414 Lansdowne Way, Palmetto, FL 34221. For more information, please contact Ellen Bachman at 941-721-7393 or pennyln99@aol.com.

Sarasota Parish has Teen “Service Week”

Service, prayer, music, fun and food.

Combine those things and you have a formula for a successful “Teen Service Week” for youth who are preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation at St. Thomas More Parish in Sarasota.

Robbie Anderson, the Director of Religious Education and Youth Outreach at St Thomas More, brought the idea of a faith-based service week from her previous position in the Chicago area. The group began their week with their regular Sunday night meeting on Aug. 1, 2021 with prayer, music and food.

On each morning of the week of Aug. 2-6, the teens met with assigned leaders at the parish and prayed together. From there, they were sent to different locations to serve the community. Their week started with a Sarasota food pantry, then met with teens from St. Michael Parish in Wauchula. In the middle of the week, they assisted at a local soup kitchen and organized the Parishes’ own food pantry.

The longest journey was on Thursday, when they trekked to Immokalee and visited Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish and the Catholic Charities offices there, which include a soup kitchen, food pantry and much more. The group also helped in a local environmental cleanup and learned about the difficult working conditions for farmworkers and were educated on unfair wages. The week concluded with the group helping parishioners with small projects around their home.

Anderson said each day began by 7 a.m. and concluded by 9 p.m. At the conclusion of each day, the teens finished with a sponsored meal, played outdoor games and prayed together. As part of the week the youth wrote prayers based on their daily experiences. Examples include the following:

  • “I pray for immigrants who are struggling for an income standard because of their circumstances.”
  • “Please put food on the tables of those in food insecurity.”
  • “God bless those who love and support their communities through organized and consistent efforts.”
  • “That we continue to make a difference in future days and weeks.”
  • “That our work today will make us more compassionate to those who don’t have enough.”
  • “That this week was life changing for all the teens and adults and that what we experienced will motivate us to continue to serve others.”
  • “For a resolution to equality, justice and hunger issues.”
  • “For the homeless people we served today, that they stay safe.”

It was clear to Anderson that the week made a real impact on the youth in various ways.

“At our reflection at the end of the week many said they were made much more aware of the poverty right here in Sarasota that they never imagined existed,” she said. “They were also saying they need to raise awareness of the unfair wages that the farm workers receive.”

Catechists earn Certifications throughout the Diocese.

More than 110 catechists from across the Diocese of Venice spent time during the summer earning basic certifications on topics including: “Scripture,” “Sacraments,” “Morality and Doctrine,” and “Methodology.”

These workshops, presented at 10 different Parishes in June and July were offered by the Diocesan Office of Religious Education through a partnership with Franciscan at Home. At each location there was a moderator who guided the group through the process of following the Franciscan at Home program which included instructional videos, as well as time for personal and small group discussion.

The group settings served to benefit everyone, as observed during one of the July 25, 2021 workshops on “Methodology” which took place at St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton. Participants reflected upon the entire summer series and praised the presentation of the work and the opportunity to learn as a group.

“This was very helpful,” said one participant who has been a catechist for more than 20 years. “I learned as much from the videos as from everyone else in the group. It provided me a new and exciting way to approach my students.”

Students covered the broader topics of the day in three one-hour session, breaking the programs broader topics into compressed, manageable parts while at the same time having the opportunity to learn and absorb the lessons in a more formal setting.

Sitting in for a portion of the final session at St. Joseph, their Pastor, Father Rafal Ligenza, praised the group for taking part in the workshops and their willingness to continue to learn the Faith. He expressed confidence in the long-term benefits to those in the Parish religious education programs.

“There is a saying in Poland about teaching,” Father said. “You teach Johnny so that you can form John. What you do will make a difference in the lives of your students whether they are small children in First Communion classes or participating in the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). Thank you for what you do.”

Anne Chrzan, Diocesan Director of Religious Education, said the Franciscan at Home program helps catechists meet basic certification requirements. The four courses covered during the summer are just a few of the more than a dozen available to all catechists online. The summer offerings were made available in the classroom setting because there had been some hesitancy by some to participate online. Therefore, Chrzan, along with the directors of religious education from eight Parishes, created the four-session summer series.

The topics of “Scripture,” “Sacraments,” “Morality and Doctrine,” and “Methodology” were the focus of the summer sessions, but Chrzan said there are a dozen other Franciscan at Home classes available online. Given the success of the summer classes, it is likely that a similar program will be offered in the future.

“The response was overwhelmingly positive,” Chrzan said. “Not just from the people taking the classes but from the DRE (directors of religious education) who led these sessions.”

Chrzan explained that of the 1,000 or so catechists in the Diocese the Franciscan at Home program offers a quick and easy way to help educators to learn about and be grounded in the Faith. This serves as a foundation for their success, and the success of their students, moving forward.

The Parishes which hosted the summer Franciscan at Home program were St.  Ann and St. John the Evangelist in Naples; Resurrection and St. Cecilia in Fort Myers; St. Katharine Drexel in Cape Coral; Sacred Heart in Punta Gorda; St. Thomas More and Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Sarasota; as well as St. Joseph and Sacred Heart in Bradenton (in Spanish).

For more information about upcoming offerings from the Diocese Office of Religious Education, please contact Anne Chrzan at 941-484-9543 or chrzan@dioceseofvenice.org.

Confirmation bestowed on 1,500 in nine months

Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Christian initiation is completed as the recipients become more perfectly bound to the Church as a true witness to Christ.

Confirmation is a Sacrament which must be understood as a continuation of the Faith journey, begun with Baptism, along with the Eucharist, to constitute a single saving event – Christian initiation, changed by this encounter with the Lord, Bishop Frank J. Dewane explained during a Confirmation Mass on May 30, 2021 for the youth of St. Michael Parish in Wauchula.

This May 30 Mass marked the conclusion of more than nine months of Confirmations presided over by Bishop Dewane. From early September 2020 to the end of May 2021 more than 1,500 received the Sacrament at 40 different Parishes. The total number was significantly higher during the past nine months as Parish Confirmations were necessarily put on hold from March to September 2020 due to the global Pandemic. Confirmation classes from the Spring of 2020 were rescheduled to the Fall when possible, or groups were merged into one larger Mass in 2021.

Bishop Dewane stressed the importance of ensuring the Confirmation Masses took place and scheduling them became a top priority. Some Parishes were forced to divide their groups in half or thirds to ensure social distancing was possible. For example, the St. Michael Parish Mass was held at the new St. Paul Parish Church in Arcadia to ensure all confirmandi, and their families, could participate under one roof.

At that Mass, held on Holy Trinity Sunday, Bishop Dewane told the confirmandi that they were given a great opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, a time when they publicly “give witness to who you are as followers of Jesus Christ. It is part of your Faith journey to live the commitment of believers, a beginning of a new life in the Holy Spirit and to become more the man or woman of God you are called to be.”

This Sacrament imbues the recipient with the Holy Spirit, making the person an advocate for the Lord, Bishop Dewane said. “This becomes a permanent part of who you are. Live your Faith to the fullest. Use these Gifts of the Holy Spirit every day. They must become part of who you are. The more you use them, the closer you will grow to the Lord.”

The Sacrament should not be viewed as the end of the journey, but the continuation of the journey of Faith with the new dimension of the Holy Spirit.

“You stand and give a superb witness by answering the call of Jesus Christ,” Bishop Dewane continued. “However, sometimes standing forward isn’t enough to give that witness to Christ. You need to speak up and say who you are as Catholic men and women. You must have courage to do that.”

The term ‘confirmation’ must remind one that this Sacrament involves growth from baptismal grace, Bishop Dewane explained. “It unites us more firmly with Christ; it completes our bond with the Church; it accords to us the special strength of the Holy Spirit in order to spread and to defend the Faith.”

Before the Sacred Chrism was administered, the Bishop asked the candidates to renew their baptismal promises as a sign of their personal assent to the Faith. This is the giving of their assent to a belief in Christ and His Church. The Bishop also extended his hands over the candidates during the Rite. This action is called, “The Laying on of Hands.” In this action, the Bishop imparts the Holy Spirit upon the candidates, completing the grace of their Baptism.

Finally, the candidates are individually presented to the Bishop with the sponsor placing their right hand on the candidate’s right shoulder. Then with his right thumb, the Bishop makes the sign of the cross on their forehead using the Sacred Chrism and says “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The Sacrament of Confirmation requires comprehensive preparation – often years of study and spiritual growth – as it aims to lead candidates toward a personal attachment to Faith in Christ and to reawaken in them a sense of belonging to the Church.

The Diocese of Venice has a religious education program which emphasizes the importance of the Sacrament of Confirmation with a two-year program. The young women and men go through a process where they complete one phase of their Faith journey and prepare to begin the next phase as full Christians who are called to be more and reflect the love and goodness of Christ in their heart and soul.