Confirmation – sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit

Through the Sacrament of Confirmation the faithful become more perfectly bound to the Church as true witnesses to Christ as their full Christian initiation is completed. This season 1,738 have been confirmed in the Diocese of Venice, which is an increase over last year’s number.

Pope Francis said Confirmation is a Sacrament which must be understood as a continuation of the faith journey, beginning with Baptism, along with the Eucharist, to constitute a single saving event – Christian initiation – “in which we are brought into Christ who died and rose again, and become new creatures and members of the Church.”

Here in the Diocese of Venice, a group of young men and women recently completed their own final step of Christian initiation by being “sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” with sacred Chrism oil administered by Bishop Frank J. Dewane during their Confirmation at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee on May 4, 2024.

This Sacrament has been repeated by Bishop Dewane, and delegated Parish priests in the Parish at the Easter Vigil, since the fall of 2023, with 1,738 young men and women receiving their Confirmation during that time. Among that number were 662 adults who received the Sacrament of Confirmation at their home Parishes on Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil on March 30, 2024.

Bishop Dewane told the confirmandi at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish that part of receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation is a willingness to come forward and say they are ready to receive the Holy Spirit and live out that commitment.

“Nothing magical happens today,” Bishop Dewane said. “Each one of you must be aware in your mind, and more profoundly in your heart and soul, that you have let the Holy Spirit into your life. That encounter with Christ, that encounter of receiving the Holy Spirit, must change your life as you become more the man or woman of God you are called to be.”

Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, the young men and women are confirmed with the abundant gifts of the Holy Spirit. In the anointing, they will each be formed more closely to Christ, the Son of God.

“We are all supposed to follow Jesus Christ in our life,” the Bishop said. “When He was on earth, the Lord said to the Apostles and His Disciples ‘Follow Me.’ Christ says ‘Follow Me’ to us on a regular basis because sometimes we get a little lost. When this happens, Christ says, ‘come back – follow me.’ As you follow the Lord, you will come to have a deeper understanding of who God is in your life, allowing you to conform your life more fully to Christ, the Son of God.”

Bishop Dewane told the young men and women that this is a call to live out their faith fully, not selectively. This is because the Sacrament of Confirmation is not an ending to the faith journey, but a beginning. This means living their faith outside the four walls of the church, doing the will of the Lord, and living in a manner worthy of the call that each has received.

“By being anointed with the sacred Chrism, you are called to stand up in the midst of others and show you are a man or woman of faith,” Bishop Dewane said. “As a witness for Christ, there is a profound value you give by demonstrating your faith. You do this by speaking up, or maybe by making the sign of the cross in a restaurant before you start your meal, and in everything you do. It has far more value than what you think. Your example reminds others of what they should or could be doing.”

During the Sacrament of Confirmation, the confirmandi renew their baptismal promises, which Bishop Dewane said is done to publicly proclaim who they are as Catholics and to have the courage, hope, faith and perseverance to be true followers of Christ.

As the Rite continues, the Bishop says an introductory prayer and asks all to join him in praying for the candidates and then he recites an additional prayer. Finally, the candidates are presented by coming forward, with their 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 with the holy Chrism oil and says “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” The confirmed reply, “Amen.” At this point, the Bishop says, “Peace be with you,” and they respond “And with your spirit.”

Pope Francis often stresses how important it is that all children receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. While there is a logical emphasis on the Sacrament of Baptism, he notes that there tends to be less of a focus on the Sacrament of Confirmation. Therefore, those who are baptized remain at a halfway point, and as Pope Francis said, they do not “receive the Holy Spirit that gives us the strength to go forward in Christian life.”

The Diocese of Venice has a religious education program which emphasizes the importance of the Sacrament of Confirmation during a two-year period. The young men and women go through a process where they renew and refresh what they previously learned before transitioning into studying about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This program culminates in Confirmation, when they are full Christians who are called to be more and reflect the love and goodness of Christ in their heart and soul.

There is an additional program called the Order of Christian Initiation for Adults, which not only assists adults in receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, but other Sacraments they might be missing, thus allowing them to be in full Communion with the Church. Contact your Parish if you wish to inquire about the Order of Christian Initiation for Adults in Diocese of Venice.

EASTER: Spreading the Good News of the Risen Lord

Throughout the Universal Church the faithful gathered for a joyous celebration on Easter; that is the Resurrection of Our Lord, the Summit of the Catholic Faith.

This celebration comes after the holiest of weeks which began with the entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and included the suffering and death of Our Lord. The Resurrection on Easter completes the journey for Jesus when death was conquered. This moment marks the beginning of a new journey of belief and hope for all the faithful, Bishop Frank J. Dewane said during the Easter Vigil Mass, March 30, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

“Humanity has never really known a single night so powerful as tonight, during this Easter Vigil – so majestic, so holy – the greatest night, when the power of death is conquered,” Bishop Dewane said. “This is the night of keeping vigil as we wait for the Lord. This is the night of the new Adam, and of the New Covenant.”

The Easter Vigil, which takes place on Holy Saturday night, “is the greatest and most noble of all solemnities and it is to be unique in every single Church,” according to the Roman Missal. The Vigil began in darkness before the Easter fire was kindled and the Paschal (Passover) Candle was lit, and then proceeded down the main aisle, carried by a Deacon, into the darkened church with the proclamation that Christ is our Light.

The Gospel reading tells of the three women who went to the tomb of Jesus to complete the anointing of Jesus’ body properly, even though they knew a great stone was in their way, they were carried by their faith, hope and love for Jesus Christ because following a great darkness, the sun had risen that Easter morning.

“We must continually grow closer to the Lord, seeking His help, and proclaiming that He is risen,” Bishop Dewane said. “By living faith, hope, and love, in our own lives, just as those women did, the stones which keep us from the Lord will be moved out of our way, because we are each called to enter into the tomb and be with Christ, seeing, understanding and believing.”

During this Mass, the faithful hear the story of Salvation proclaimed in numerous Scripture readings. It is also at this time when the Bishop/priests confer the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation for the Catechumens and Candidates. At Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice, there were 662 women and men who entered fully into the Catholic Church, a record number for the Diocese.

One of these candidates was Shawn Marren, who first received the Sacrament of Confirmation and then the Sacrament of First Holy Communion from Bishop Dewane at Epiphany Cathedral.

Marren was emotional when he received his First Holy Communion. He explained that this moment meant a great deal to him having studied and learned the origin of the Real Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist. His journey toward becoming Catholic started a few years ago while filling in as an organist at the Cathedral. Marren was fascinated by the Most Holy Eucharist and the homilies offered during Masses. He then asked questions of Cathedral Rector Msgr. Patrick Dubois and was directed to read early Church teachings.

“I had never read pre-Reformation texts and my eyes were opened to the Catholic faith, and how the Real Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist lives to this day,” Marren said. “I feel truly blessed.”

The celebration of Easter is not confined to a single day, in fact, throughout the next 50 days the Easter Season is celebrated “in joyful exultation as one Feast Day, or better as one ‘great Sunday.’”

The first days make up the Octave of Easter and are celebrated as solemnities of the Lord. On the 40th day of the Easter Season, Catholics celebrate the Ascension of the Lord (May 9, which is moved to the following Sunday on May 12 in most Diocese in the U.S., including the Diocese of Venice), and for the nine days following, prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (May 19).

Easter Triduum celebrated in Diocese

The summit of the Liturgical Year is the Easter Triduum (March 28-31, 2024) — from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday. Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery.

The single celebration of the Triduum marks the end of the Lenten Season, and leads to the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord at the Easter Vigil.

The liturgical services that take place during the Triduum are:

  • Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Thursday)
  • Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion (Good Friday)
  • Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord (Easter Vigil)

Thousands of the faithful of the Diocese of Venice gathered at Parishes for the celebration of the Triduum.

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park included the commemoration when Jesus Christ established the Sacrament of Holy Communion prior to His arrest and crucifixion. It also observes His institution of the priesthood. This Liturgy included the presentation of the oils blessed and consecrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane during the March 26 Chrism Mass, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, which will be used for the Sacraments in the Parish throughout the year. Later was the traditional washing of the feet, reenacting Jesus washing the feet of the Disciples. Following the Prayer after Communion, the Mass concluded with a procession to transfer the Holy Eucharist to a place of repose in the Parish Hall. This action left the tabernacle vacant until the Easter Vigil.

On Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, the faithful at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples participated in the Liturgy which included the reading of the Passion from the Gospel of John. Next was the presentation of the cross, brought forth by the priest and unveiled as the priest sang: “This is the wood of the cross, on which hung the salvation of the world,” and the congregation responded: “Come let us adore.” The faithful were then encouraged to come forward to venerate the cross. This was done by either touching, bowing, or genuflecting.

Either prior to, or after, the Good Friday Liturgy, many Parishes hosted the Stations of the Cross, sometimes led by children or including a dramatic retelling.

For example, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee, the Living Stations began in a field behind the Parish church, and then travelled through the neighborhood. The Stations were inclusive to include the languages of the Parish (Spanish, English and Creole). By the time the procession returned to the Parish the crowd had swelled into the thousands.

For the first time, a public Stations of the Cross took place in downtown Venice, starting at Epiphany Cathedral and proceeding into nearby Centennial Park and then down Venice Avenue. Approximately 800 took part, including members of the youth group, as streets were temporarily blocked.

On Holy Saturday, the only Mass of the day is the Easter Vigil

On Easter Sunday, several Parishes celebrated Mass at sunrise while extra Masses were added to accommodate the increased numbers common for this holiest of days.

Many Parishes also hosted fun for children which often included Easter egg hunts either on the Saturday or following a Children’s Liturgy on Sunday.

News briefs for the week on March 8, 2024

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, in consultation with the Priest Personnel Board, announces the following:

Father Celestino Gutierrez, retired as Pastor of St. Jude Parish, Sarasota, effective February 19, 2024, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Pastor of St. Jude Parish, Sarasota.

Father Jiobani Batista, as Pastor of St. Jude Parish, Sarasota, effective March 11, 2024, and thus is relieved of his duties as Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish, LaBelle.

Father Marcial Garcia, as Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish, LaBelle, effective March 11, 2024, and thus relieved of his duties as Pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven.

Father Remigious Ssekiranda, as Administrator of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven, effective March 11, 2024, and thus relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of St. Paul Parish in Arcadia.

Father Pawel Kawalec, as Parochial Vicar of St. Paul Parish in Arcadia, effective March 11, 2024, and thus relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of St. Catherine Parish in Sebring.

Father Anthonio Jean, as Parochial Vicar of Sacred Heart Parish, Bradenton, effective February 26, 2024, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar at St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Cape Coral.

Father Shawn Roser, as Parochial Vicar of Resurrection of Our Lord Parish, Fort Myers, effective March 11, 2024, and thus is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Lakewood Ranch and as Director of Vocations and Seminarian Formation for the Diocese of Venice.

Father Alexander Pince, as Director of Vocations and Seminarian Formation for the Diocese of Venice, effective March 11, 2024, while retaining half time duties as Parochial Vicar of Epiphany Cathedral, Venice.

Father Alan Baldarelli, as Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Lakewood Ranch, effective March 11, 2024.

Last chance to register for Diocesan Eucharistic Conference

March 12, 2024, is the deadline to register for the Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Conference on March 16 at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. This effort, in support of the Church’s National Eucharistic Revival, is to place an emphasis on the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist, will be an all-day event of faith and fellowship, featuring inspirational Catholic speakers, including nationally acclaimed Catholic speaker and author Steven Ray, Crystalina Evert, Kathia Aranga, Father Elvis Gonzalez, and Tim Glemkowski. English and Spanish sessions will be offered. All are welcome. The day will include Mass, as well as adoration, and confessions. For more information, and a video invitation from Bishop Frank J. Dewane, please visit

Cheer team wins competition

Congratulations to the Incarnation Catholic School Elementary Cheer Team for winning first place in the East Coast Championships – The Takeover 2024 Cheerleading Competition March 2-3, 2024, in Wesley Chapel. Great job girls, coaches and parents for all your hard work and dedication!

Arcadia youth take part in Stations of the Cross

Youth from St. Paul Parish in Arcadia learned about and took part in the Stations of the Cross on March 1, 2024. Led by Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Light, the youth dedicated their prayer for peace in the world.

Naples high school hosts eighth graders

St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples was overrun by more than 120 enthusiastic 8th graders who were at the school to experience a day in the life of a Celtic student. From hitting the weights in the gym to finding solace in the chapel, the future Celtics explored every corner of the vibrant campus. But the excitement didn’t stop there! The young guests were hands-on with a chemistry experiment, embarked on a scavenger hunt, and put their knowledge to the test in a lively trivia session with some of Nuemann’s amazing teachers. The students were from nearby St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School and St. Ann Catholic School and many are discerning whether to attend St. John Neumann in the fall.

Walk for the Poor in Punta Gorda March 16

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s 15th annual Walk for the Poor is set for March 16, 2024 at Gilchrist Park. The yearly event raises money to help Charlotte County’s four St. Vincent de Paul conferences Sacred Heart, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Maximillian Kolbe and San Antonio, which provide assistance to those in need, including clothing, linens, housewares, furniture and limited financial assistance.  Registration is at 8 a.m., followed by the walk at 9 a.m.  You can register and donate at  For more information, call 917-549-0555 or

Patriot’s Plaza marks 10th anniversary

Diocese of Venice Chancellor Dr. Volodymyr Smeryk is seen with Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School students on March 2, 2024, at the 10th anniversary celebration of the opening of Patriot’s Plaza at Sarasota National Cemetery in Sarasota.

Rite of Election – Record 662 set to enter Church in Diocese at Easter Vigil

A large number of women and men set to enter the Catholic Church within the Diocese of Venice at the Easter Vigil were recognized during the annual Rite of Election at Epiphany Cathedral on the First Sunday of Lent, Feb. 18, 2024. This annual tradition is a formal Rite during which catechumens are presented and their names are entered into the Book of the Elect.

The 316 catechumens (individuals who are not yet baptized) were joined by an additional 346 candidates (already-baptized Christians preparing for confirmation and First Eucharist). The candidates participate in the formal ceremony and are recognized during the celebration for answering the “Call To Their Continuing Conversion.” The Cathedral was at capacity as family members were also present to show their support.

The Rite of Election was presided over by Bishop Frank J. Dewane who said the large number of catechumens and candidates was impressive, noting that the 662 are the most ever set to enter the Church in the Diocese in a single year through the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults (OCIA) program, topping the 2023 total of 567.

“The Diocese is blessed and graced by the presence of the catechumens and candidates,” Bishop Dewane said. “That 662 is a massive number for a Diocese our size.”

The group was complimented by Bishop Dewane for making a commitment to publicly announce the call of the Holy Spirit in a particular way by becoming active members of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Venice. “All of you should see the strength and demonstration of the Holy Spirit in bringing you together for the Rite of Election.”

The catechumens and candidates, who were recognized by Bishop Dewane, are on a continuing journey that will culminate when they come into full communion with the Catholic Church at the March 30 Easter Vigil Mass in their respective Parishes.

“As you prepare, come to realize the Lord calls you to continue your journey,” Bishop Dewane said. “That doesn’t end at the Easter Vigil. That is a continuation of the journey that the Holy Spirit has prompted from each one of you and continues to prompt you in your daily lives. If you listen and pay attention, you will come to evidence the Holy Spirit in your life to become more that man or woman of God the Lord calls us all to be.”

Bishop Dewane encouraged each catechumen and candidate telling them that they are each given a task by the Lord to continue to be the leaven to their family and those around them.

“Each one of you has received a call to holiness,” the Bishop said “What are you doing to be ever more holy? Your response is found in the Word of God. You must be aware and know that Word of God; that it is the voice of the Lord in your heart and soul. Let these words grow and resonate in your heart!”

Many who participated in the Rite of Election expressed their joy in joining with others on this important step in their faith journey. One candidate from Holy Cross Parish in Palmetto said, “What a beautiful celebration! I will remember the Rite … the rest of my life. With a deep sense of awe and gratitude I thank Almighty God for blessing me so!”

The group of catechumens and candidates come from 47 Parishes/Missions in the Diocese of Venice and are accompanied by tens of thousands of others across the country that will also join the Catholic Church this year. The largest groups of catechumens and candidates came from the following Parishes: Jesus the Worker in Fort Myers, Our Lady Queen of Heaven in LaBelle, St. Peter the Apostle in Naples, Holy Cross in Bradenton, Ave Maria in Ave Maria, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Immokalee. St. Leo the Great in Bonita Springs, and St. Katherine Drexel in Cape Coral.

The catechumens are part of the OCIA, which is for those who are unbaptized and unchurched, who come to inquire about becoming part of the Roman Catholic Faith in a process that takes about a year. Often catechumens are those who have begun to seek and understand God in their lives and have been led by the Holy Spirit to become Catholic. OCIA is a journey of discovery and faith. This is most commonly done in three distinct phases: discernment, acceptance into the catechumenate, along with purification and enlightenment.

Each catechumen will go through a series of scrutinies during which they examine their readiness to accept Christ and the Catholic Faith in the form of the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation). This time culminates at the Easter Vigil when the catechumens are received through Baptism into the Catholic Church. The final period of the OCIA is the time of “Mystagogy” (post-baptismal catechesis). During the weeks following the Easter Vigil, the newly initiated live more profoundly their experience of Baptism and the Eucharist as they begin the journey of discipleship and their growing union with Christ.

For candidates, those who have been correctly baptized with a Trinitarian formula, the Catholic Church does not require re-Baptism. Candidates have already experienced a journey of faith and understand how Jesus leads us to the Father through the work of the Holy Spirit. In fact, many have been attending Mass with their families for years but may have never received the Sacrament of Holy Communion or the Sacrament of Confirmation.

The candidates are invited to the Cathedral for the Rite of Election as a form of welcome, but because they are already in the Book of the Elect as baptized Christians, they do not bring their names forward. To symbolize that baptism, and as a sign of their continuing conversion, they come forward and make the sign of the cross with holy water.

Everyone is encouraged to pray for and welcome the catechumens and candidates at their own Parish as they continue their journey of discovery in their Faith.

News Briefs for the week of January 26, 2024

Ordination to the Priesthood Feb. 10

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the faithful to the Ordination to the Priesthood of Transitional Deacon Alan Baldarelli.  The Ordination will take place at 11 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this important event in the life of Deacon Alan as well as the Diocese of Venice. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall. The ordination will be livestreamed at

Youth make sandwiches for homeless

Middle schoolers who are part of the Our Lady of Light Parish religious education program in Fort Myers made more than 400 sandwiches during their Jan. 18, 2024, gathering. These sandwiches were donated for distribution by the Lee County Homeless Coalition. The simple act of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches provided the youth a valuable lesson about giving back to the community, as we are all “Called to Serve” our brothers and sisters in Christ. Well done!

Fort Myers Knights have successful “Coats for Kids” drive

The Knights of Columbus Council 2596 at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Fort Myers conducted a “Coats for Kids” program by purchasing a number of jackets and hoodies for children in need. This was done to provide children with nice outerwear during the winter months to not only ward off the chill but to give them something new that they are happy to wear. On Jan. 22, 2024, the Knights were able to provide more than 120 new fleece-lined zip-up jackets for distribution with their partner, Child Care SWFL, a local non-profit that provides a myriad of support and educational services to families in need and at-risk children. Coats were supplied to Child Care’s five learning centers in Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres, and LaBelle. The Knights also presented Child Care with $500 to assist with their ongoing efforts.

Charismatic Day of Renewal and Formation Feb. 3

The Diocese of Venice Catholic Charismatic Renewal Commission invites all to the “Come Holy Spirit, Come” day of renewal from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, 1441 Spear St., Port Charlotte. There is a $10 fee, which includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Seating is limited and the deadline to register is Jan. 31.  Please register at Questions, please contact Theresa Salvo at 804-387-8282 or, or Margie DeFrancesca at 239-595-1938 or

National Marriage Week, and World Marriage Day!

The observances of National Marriage Week from Feb. 7 -14, 2024, and World Marriage Day, Sunday, Feb. 11 are opportunities to focus on building a culture of life and love that begins with supporting and promoting marriage and the family. The theme for 2024 is “Love Beyond Words.”  For resources from the USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth to help celebrate and live the great gift of married life, please visit Celebrate National Marriage Week 2024 – For Your Marriage. Resources are available in both English and Spanish.

Wedding Anniversary Masses in February

All couples celebrating 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, or more than 50 years of marriage are invited by Bishop Frank J. Dewane to an Anniversary Mass in their honor. The Diocese hosts two Anniversary Masses each year (one in the northern part of the Diocese and the second in the southern part) to accommodate the demand. The first Mass is 11 a.m., Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. The second Mass is 11 a.m., Feb. 24 at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. A luncheon follows each Mass. Free pictures with Bishop Dewane will also be available for the couples. To register for either Mass, please contact your local Parish office for reservations no later than one week before the event you choose to attend. For additional information, please contact the Diocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life at 941-484-9543.

Health Care Ethics Conference Feb. 17

Medical professionals, students, and interested laypeople are invited to the first annual Converging Roads health care ethics conference on Feb. 17, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs! This one-day conference will offer continuing education credits for health care professionals with presentations centered on the theme of Catholic Medicine in a Secular Society. For information, contact Carrie Harkey at, and to register, go to


After consultation, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announces the following:

Father Michael P. Orsi, is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of St. Agnes Parish and Chaplain of St. John Neumann Catholic High School, in Naples, effective January 17, 2024. Father Orsi requested retirement and thus, was granted, while retaining priestly faculties.


News Briefs for the week of January 19, 2024

Naples Catholic Street Evangelization training Jan. 23

Anyone interested in learning about Catholic Street Evangelization needs to register now for the Jan. 27, 2024, Saint Paul Street Evangelization (SPSE) training at St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Ave N, Naples. Registration deadline is January 23. SPSE is a response to the mandate of Jesus Christ to “preach the Gospel to all nations…” taking the Catholic Faith to the streets. The organization seeks to train the faithful to witness effectively to the truth, beauty, and goodness of Jesus and His Church in the public square in a non-confrontational way. Saint Paul Street Evangelization is supported and encouraged by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. All Catholics who are 18 years of age and older are cordially invited to participate. The daily Mass is at 8 a.m., and the workshops are from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. A “Live Lab” will follow. The cost is $15 per person and includes continental breakfast and lunch. To register, please visit For additional questions, please contact Jim Gontis at

Health Care Ethics Conference Feb. 17

Medical professionals, students, and interested laypeople are invited to the first annual Converging Roads health care ethics conference on Feb. 17, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs! This one-day conference will offer continuing education credits for health care professionals with presentations centered on the theme of Catholic Medicine in a Secular Society. For more information or to register, visit For information, contact Carrie Harkey at or call 941-484-9543.

Migrant Care Grants application period open

Grant requests for funding of projects in 2024 are available from the Foundation for the Care of the Migrant Poor Fund and need to be submitted no later than Monday, April 1, 2024. To be considered a grant, the project must clearly be seen as a service to the migrant poor or new immigrants. Preference will be given to those projects under Catholic auspices. Applications can be submitted by visiting

Religious sisters complete half marathon

Two Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, Sister Nicole Daly and Sister Juliana Alfonso, completed the BCC Naples Half Marathon on Jan. 14, 2024. The St. John Neumann Catholic High School teachers completed the 13 miles run while wearing their religious habits. Congratulations to Sisters Nicole and Juliana for their dedication, strength, endurance, and inspiration for all.

Blue Mass in Naples on Jan. 27

St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, is hosting the annual Blue Mass for Law Enforcement, Firefighters, and First Responders at 11 a.m., Jan. 27, 2024. The guest is Msgr. Steven P. Hurley, Pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Wilmington, Delaware. Before entering the seminary, Msgr. Hurley served a policeman and eventually detective for eight years in Ocean City, Maryland. This Mass is dedicated to honoring the sacrifice and service of all law enforcement, firefighters and first responders in the community. Hospitality will follow in the Parish Hall.

“Three Kings” Mass brings students together

Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers hosted a “Three Kings” Mass for first graders from St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers and St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral on Jan. 9, 2024. The Feast of the Three Kings, or the Epiphany (Jan. 7), represents the arrival of the three kings in Bethlehem to praise and honor the Baby Jesus. The Mass was celebrated by Jesuit Father John Belmonte, Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Catholic Education. The first graders serenaded everyone with numerous songs. Father Belmonte queried the young children about what they got for Christmas (and what they would give Jesus for Christmas), and made everyone smile the entire time. Following Mass, representatives from both schools were selected as the three “Kings” for this year.


National Eucharistic Revival continue

Placing a greater emphasis on the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist has been the ongoing focus of the National Eucharistic Revival, is an initiative called for in June 2022 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

In support of the National Eucharistic Revival, Bishop Frank J. Dewane directed that the resources of the Diocese of Venice focus on engaging the faithful through a series of events celebrating the Most Holy Eucharist.

Foremost of these events was the March 2023 Diocesan Eucharistic Congress. During the Congress, an estimated 4,400 (middle school students, youth and adults) participated in three unique events during the course of two days, at a venue on the Fort Myers riverfront. “What a wonderful time to be together celebrating our Faith in the Most Holy Eucharist,” Bishop Dewane said at the opening of the Congress.

The high point for the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress included the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass being celebrated each day (one for youth, one for adults).

There were also three group Eucharistic Adorations (two outdoors for the younger participants and one indoors for the adults); a 1,600-person-strong public Eucharistic Procession in the streets of Fort Myers; inspirational talks in both Spanish and English; live music; and fellowship as participants shared the beauty of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Other Diocesan activities throughout the year further supported efforts to celebrate the Source and Summit of our Faith, the Most Holy Eucharist. The Office of Evangelization promoted the Traveling Rosary Congress in October 2023. This Rosary Congress was a unique opportunity to place all prayers and the needs of the faithful into the loving arms of the Mother of God, including a the intention to recognize the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Hosted by 31 Parishes, many had 24 hours of adoration and prayer with different ministries scheduled each hour. Even when the Rosary Congress didn’t last 24 hours, the gatherings always included the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Eucharistic Adoration and the praying of the Holy Rosary.

Additionally, there was a concerted effort to expand the That Man Is You (TMIY) Catholic men’s program from its base of two Parishes. Training sessions throughout the summer bore fruit as 11 new Parishes signed on to start this important weekly outreach in September. At those Parishes, the number of participants has been well beyond what was expected and the effect on the Parish life has been noted by several Pastors. The resonance of the program stems from its focus to honestly address the pressures and temptations that men face in our modern culture, especially those relating to their roles as husbands and fathers. Each weekly session has a segment focused on the Most Holy Eucharist and often follows Mass.

Also, throughout 2023, the Office of Marriage and Family hosted a series of events promoting the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, each with a theme stressing the Most Holy Eucharist. This included the two annual anniversary Masses, celebrated by Bishop Dewane, held to honor couples who have dedicated their lives to God and their marriage. The Masses, held in the northern and southern parts of the Diocese to accommodate the large response, recognize couples enjoying significant wedding anniversaries; with many of those present celebrating more than 50 years of marriage while some marked more than 70 years. Between the two Masses, the 630 couples represented a combined 32,500+ years of marriage. Bishop Dewane stressed that the marriages of those present were bound by God, noting how these couples represent a shining example of the important Sacrament of the Eucharist. The 2024 Anniversary Masses will take place at 11 a.m. Feb. 3, at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, and 11 a.m. Feb. 24, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. A reception follows these free event. Registration is handled through local Parishes.

The Diocese of Venice hosted the third “Together in Holiness” Marriage Conference in Fort Myers in October. Again, the theme focused on the Most Holy Eucharist, and the important role in building, and strengthening, a holy marriage. More than 125 couples, representing 31 Parishes, took part in this event. The day included the Mass, celebrated by Bishop Dewane, the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and the availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The conference allowed couples to grow together in holiness and their closeness to the Lord; to learn to form their children in the Catholic Faith; to enjoy a day of quality time with their spouse; and to witness dynamic presentations. Plans are already underway for the 2024 conference to take place this fall.

In 2023, the focus of the National Eucharistic Revival switched to Parish outreach. Parishes throughout the Diocese organized Catholic speakers, adoration, Eucharistic processions, and other exciting events.

With the support of the Office of Evangelization and Department of Communications and the USCCB committee for the National Eucharistic Revival, a number or resources have been provided to Parishes. This was done to refresh the teaching of the faithful about the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist, and its history dating back to the Last Supper of Christ. Resources also include details about the importance of Eucharistic Adoration, and a list of speakers who are available to speak on this topic.

As a result, many Parishes have expanded their adoration time. Several Parishes have added new days, or extended existing hours, all with positive results. A few Parishes have even begun an adoration focused on teens and families, with participation correspondingly increasing. Through early 2024, several Parishes have brought in numerous high-profile guests to speak about the Most Holy Eucharist and Real Presence, with many more scheduled in the coming months. The attendance at these presentations has been impressive. Resources for this outreach can be found at

Building on the success of the first Diocesan Eucharistic Conference, the second Conference is set for March 16, at Bishop Verot Catholic High School, 3398 Sunrise Drive, Fort Myers. All are invited to attend the all-day event of faith and fellowship, featuring inspirational Catholic speakers, including nationally acclaimed Catholic speaker and author Steven Ray, Crystalina Evert, Father Elvis Gonzalez, Katia Aranga, and Tim Glemkowski. English and Spanish sessions will be offered. The day will include the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as well as Eucharistic Adoration, and confessions. Space is limited so early registration is encouraged. For more information and to register, please visit

The National Eucharistic Revival will culminate in the first National Eucharistic Congress in the United States in almost 50 years. This historic gathering will take place in Indianapolis from July 17 to 21, 2024. Bishop Dewane is leading a pilgrimage to the National Congress which the Bishop describes as “a pivotal moment in the Church, and a unique opportunity for participants to draw into a deeper, more intimate relationship with Our Lord.”

The cost of the Diocese of Venice pilgrimage package is $1,049. With the package, pilgrims receive the National Eucharistic Congress 5-day pass, which provides access to all speakers and events, as well as four nights’ accommodations in a 4-star hotel within walking distance of the convention center. Please note, the pilgrimage package does not include transportation or meals. Space is limited! Learn more by visiting

Please visit the Diocese of Venice website,, to learn about any additional information about the Diocesan activities to promote the National Eucharistic Revival, and check with your Parish to learn more about local Eucharistic events!.

Christmas celebrated across Diocese

The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:10-14

Passed through generations, the retelling of the coming of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in such a humble way, born in a manger to reign over the world, should cause everyone to pause and reflect on the gifts of grace that have come to each one of us through His birth.

This pause and time of reflection is at the heart of what Christmas is all about. This moment was celebrated throughout the Diocese of Venice in a variety of ways, most significantly through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated a pre-recorded TV Mass for the Homebound from St. Bernard Parish in Holmes Beach. This hour-long Christmas Mass reaches thousands of those who are unable to attend Mass for a variety of reasons.

Bishop Dewane also celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Mass at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. At the Midnight Mass, the Bishop brought forth the Child Jesus and placed Him in the manger as “O Come All Ye Faithful” was sung.

During the Midnight Mass, Bishop Dewane reminded the faithful that we are all part of Salvation History, and as such, we are called to a life within the Church, a Church not like the Roman Empire of Jesus’ time, but the new Kingdom built for us all.

“We are part of a new Kingdom, which started in a humble manger, with the Baby Jesus dressed in swaddling clothes,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is a different type of Kingdom from the time of Caesar Augustus when the individual meant little. The new Kingdom was built for us all. Jesus Christ does care about each one of us.”

Because of this new Kingdom, which is the Church on earth, led by the successors of Peter, we each have an obligation and responsibility to stand and speak up for the Church, the Bishop said.

“Jesus Christ has built for us a Church, a home for you and for me, and for many of our brothers and sisters. We are blessed to receive the goodness of the Lord by the love we express to Him, by our presence and active participation as we live our lives within the Church; being a full member; going to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each week; and praying to the Lord. This is who we are all called to be,” Bishop Dewane said.

The manger, or Nativity scene, is a celebratory focus of the Christmas Season. Several Diocesan Parishes and each Catholic school took time to have a retelling of the birth of Jesus with young children and in some cases with live animals.

For example, St. Michael Parish in Wauchula held a living Nativity play on Dec. 17, 2024, included a donkey, horses and many angels and shepherds. This community celebration is organized by the religious sisters who serve the Parish, the Sister Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, and includes a festival and the distribution of gifts for the children in the area.

Epiphany Cathedral Parish in Venice and St. William Parish in Naples hosted meals for those in need, the homeless, and the lonely. Epiphany hosted a Christmas Day dinner in the Parish Hall. The St. William luncheon took place at the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., on Dec. 26, and was coordinated with nearby St. Peter the Apostle Parish and Catholic Charities. Many volunteers supported each effort, including Bishop Dewane who worked the serving line at the Cathedral dinner, bringing smiles to the faces of those who came for a hot meal.

Christmas is also a time to help others so donations for the needy were piled high and distributed. The most common form of collecting items for needy children is through an Angel Tree, where the ornaments are a wish list item for a child or family.

The Angel Tree at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Parrish brought in a massive number of toys of all types, as well as more than $4,000 in gift card donations.

In Naples, at St. Ann Parish, the annual Council of Catholic Women Family 2 Family Christmas Gift Giving Program was a huge success, as it is each year. The effort collected more than 600 gift bags filled with needed items and then were distributed to several local charities.

As was the case at each Parish, many gave from their heart and brought bags of items well beyond what was sought. Naturally, no donated item was turned away and it just meant more people were granted a Merry Christmas.

Catholic schools spent much of the month in preparation for Christmas with pageants, recitals, concerts, parties, and other fun, such as creating handmade presents for family members or building and decorating gingerbread houses. At the same time, the schools teach students the true meaning of Christmas, including needing to spread the love of Christ, that is in their hearts, out to the world.

Young carolers from schools throughout the Diocese visited nearby assisted living facilities to spread holiday cheer by singing Christmas carols.

In addition, each school has a service component where students do work, volunteer or obtain funds or gifts to give back to the community. This effort goes into high gear during the Christmas Season.

At St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, the students collected canned goods for the St. Joseph Food Pantry, and toys and other goodies for needy children in the area.

The Knights on Bikes, a motorcycle club of the Knights of Columbus, donated more than 300 unwrapped Christmas presents for the more than 100 children at the Golisano Childrens Hospital in Fort Myers. Following their drop-off, the Knights gathered around the flagpole in front of the hospital and prayed a rosary for the children.

The “Good News of great joy” was widely celebrated throughout the Diocese of Venice during the Christmas Season, which continues through Jan. 8, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This year, many of the Diocesan faithful thought not only of their own family and friends but also of others, especially those most in need.

Youth challenged to reflect on their relationship with Jesus

Each of us is made in the image and likeness of God, giving us everything we have, from the sun in the sky, to the food we eat and the clothes we wear. How we respond to that gift from God will define who we are, and who we are becoming.

This was the straightforward message shared with more than 500 youth at two separate retreats on Nov. 11, 2023. Building on Jesus’ questioning of the Apostles in the Gospel of Matthew (16:13-20), the two retreats focused on engaging the teens to think about their personal relationship with the Lord, and how they would answer the question Jesus posed to the Apostles, “Who do you say that I am?”

At St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres, more than 300 Hispanic youth from Parishes in Lee and Collier counties gathered for a day of prayer and reflection in a presentation led by the group Los Hermanos Unidos. Among the first speakers were Father Christian Chami, Parochial Vicar at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota, and Father Daniel Scanlan, Parochial Vicar at St. Thomas More Parish in Sarasota.

The second group included 170 high school sophomores from nine different Parishes in Sarasota and Manatee counties, who gathered at the Zazarino Center of St. Martha Catholic School for a Confirmation Retreat. The theme of the retreat was “Hearts on Fire, Ablaze, Live Out Loud,” and the guest speaker was Jimmy Mitchell, founder of Love Good. Mitchell is also the director of campus ministry at Jesuit Catholic High School in Tampa.

At both retreats, the youth heard about the need to build their personal relationship with the Lord, the importance of prayer and virtue, and how to find their vocation in life.

Father Chami told the Lehigh Acres group that a vocation to the priesthood, religious life, married life, or consecrated single life, is how you choose to respond positively to God because he made us intentionally and personally. Father continued by saying that a vocation is a free choice that comes from an open dialogue with God by going to Mass and through personal prayer time.

“If you take the time, God will make it clear what you are called to do and will help make evident what He is calling you to do,” Father Chami said. “Believe me. By choosing to follow the Lord, you will not regret it. It is the best life you can live. It is not always easy, but it is the most joyful and wonderful life.”

Father Scanlan said his vocation to the priesthood was a way that he could give himself completely to God.

“It is our prayer that you have a personal encounter with God today and every day,” Father Scanlan said. “When you get to know God, you can answer that question, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ What is more important in your life? Does God have a place in your life?”

Each teen will answer that question differently, but Father Scanlan said that they must keep their hearts open to listening and hearing the call of God in their life.

“God is always reaching out to you,” Father said. “Are you listening?”

The day in Lehigh Acres also included Eucharistic Adoration, the opportunity for the teens to go to confession, small group activities and more.

Both retreats concluded with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

In addition, in Sarasota, the teens took part in service projects that included making “Get Well” cards for those sick in the hospital, bagging lunches for the homeless, and making Christmas treat bags for children in foster care.