Youth Mental Health workshop informs

Dozens of Parish staff from across the Diocese of Venice recently took part in one of two workshops, learning how to respond to a mental health crisis among youth.

The Youth Mental Health First Aid workshops on April 29, 2021 at St. Agnes Parish in Naples and May 1 at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish in Sarasota, were offered through the Diocese Department of Religious Education in an effort to teach those who interact with teens how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or is in crisis.

Barry Groesch, seasonal resident who attends Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda, is a retired law enforcement officer with 30 years of experience who has been teaching Mental Health First Aid to groups for the past decades. The target audience for the Diocesan workshops was priests, deacons, principals, teachers, and catechists.

Groesch said Youth Mental Health First Aid is the help offered to a young person experiencing a mental health challenge, mental disorder or mental health crisis. The first aid given is administered until appropriate help is received or until the crisis resolves. He stressed that Mental Health First Aid does not teach people to diagnose or to provide treatment. Through role-playing, participants worked through various scenarios which addressed some of the situations they might face.

The reality is that most mental health issues are not handled because of the societal stigma that comes with mental illness, Groesch said. He was quick to point out that no two people suffer from the same issues and that the goal is to create a more supportive and understanding environment. This is all done so that when a crisis does occur the signs are recognized and an action plan is in place, lending appropriate support and bridging the gap until professional help can arrive.

John Gulley, Principal of St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers, said he hoped to learn about identifying the symptoms of mental health issues and being more proactive.

Kelli Bonner, Director of Religious Education at St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers, expressed her desire to leave the workshop with the tools necessary to confidently respond when the next crisis occurs.

This was precisely the goal Groesch set forth for the day, teaching participants the risk factors and warning signs of a variety of mental health challenges common among adolescents. Participants learn to support a youth developing signs and symptoms of a mental illness or in an emotional crisis by applying a core five-step action plan.

That action plan included: assessing for risk of suicide or harm; listening without judgement; giving reassurance and information; encouraging appropriate professional help; and encouraging self-help and other support strategies.

Each workshop participant also received a certificate upon completion of the workshop.

Cyber Safety Workshops informs

When the Diocese of Venice set aside March 6-7, 2021 as Safe Haven Sunday so as to provide informational materials to address the harmful effects of pornography on youth marriages and families, it was only natural that there would be a call for more help on this difficult issue.

In response, the Diocese Offices of Family Life, Religious Education and Catholic Schools recently brought in Liz Repking, founder of Cyber Safety Consulting, to address parents, religious educators, and principals through a series of workshops.

Speaking from personal experience through her work, as well as a parent of three, Repking said her presentations had the goal of educating parents, children, and educators on the safe, savvy, and ethical use of the digital world with a total of five presentations before more than 150 people.

The parent workshops, April 14, at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice, and April 15 at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Fort Myers, 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 provided basic tools and practical tips for adults to create a safer digital environment for themselves and their children. Questions from Repking’s presentation focused on how to set limits while children are online and maintain an openness if trouble arises and encouraged a parent to be available to respond. Religious educators at the workshops sought a way to help guide their young students in becoming better digital citizens.

Repking explained how many teens freely share personal information as well as images or videos of themselves to others, whether they are real friends or “online friends,” not really knowing how that information is going to be used.

“Young people do not have the skills to developmentally manage the abstract thinking needed to address the issues they face online each day,” she said. “They don’t understand the consequences of their actions or the foreverness of the internet.”

Repking shared a disturbing story about her own daughter’s encounter with an online predator who used innocuous, but common tactics to become online friends with the teenage girl while attempting to learn more and more information. Fortunately for Reking’s daughter, this conversation was stopped before anything more serious could happen; it serves as an object lesson for others.

“She even told this person, who purported to be a girl her same age, that her mother is a cyber security person who told her not to share information or pictures,” Repking said. “But he kept pressing, and coercing, and trying to get more and more information. That happened to my daughter,” she said as she showed images of the text exchange. “She knew better. What happens to the others who don’t know any better?”

Workshops specifically for Catholic school principals and Parish religious education directors were held April 14 at St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers, April 15 at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota, and April 16 at Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers.

The presentation topics were similar to that of the parent workshop but Repking also shared her efforts to create curriculum for students in Dioceses and school districts around the country. This work focuses on helping young people approach online usage through a moral and value perspective, providing lasting life skills.

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Catholic Schools, said Repking’s presentation was a natural follow-up to Safe Haven Sunday and moves the Diocese forward with the possibility of bringing the in-school program to the Diocese in the coming year. “There is so much out there that needs to be addressed in helping to develop our students to be faithful and prudent online users.”

Several religious education directors noted during and after the presentations the challenge they face in trying to get their students to understand the dangers of online usage (predators, cyberbullying, identity theft, and more). It was noted by several that hearing Repking was beneficial in guiding them and adding they hope to receive additional information and training in the future.

News Briefs for the week of April 16, 2021

2 Diocesan Seminarians to be ordained Transitional Deacons April 17

Diocese of Venice Seminarians José Grullón and David Portorreal are among a group of nine who will be ordained as Transitional Deacons at 11 a.m., April 17, 2021 at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. His Excellency, Bishop William A. Wack, CSC, Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee, will ordain the men and the liturgy will be livestreamed at www.svdp.edu/live from St. Joan of Arc Parish in Boca Raton. As newly ordained Deacons, these men will be assigned to Parishes where they will exercise their ministry in preparation to become priests in the following year. Among many duties, they will preach, perform baptisms, witness marriages, as well as preside over wakes and funerals.

Cape Coral students at state competition

A team of seven St. Andrew Catholic School students from Cape Coral competed on March 13, 2021 in the Florida Odyssey of the Mind State Competition at the Orlando Convention Center. The team took the judges to a magical storybook land by building a life-sized magical beanstalk which appeared to grow using a combination of springs, magnets, and an intricate pulley system.  They proudly took 4th place in the State Finals and will be moving on to compete in The Odyssey of the Mind World Finals which will take place in Orlando in the upcoming months. These students began preparing their solution in September of 2020 and have worked hard throughout the course of the 2020-2021 school year. Team members were: Addison Baker, Kiley Lebid, Ryan Peterson, Ellianna Trunkett, Ana Cerna, Laura Cerna and Isabella Smith.

Evangelizing Catechesis: Survey of the new Directory for Catechesis

The Diocese Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation is offering an online course surveying the new how-to guide, the Directory for Catechesis, published by the Vatican in 2020. This new edition of the Directory emphasizes how to incorporate evangelization throughout the entire process of catechesis. This course is for Directors and Coordinators of Religious Education, catechists, schoolteachers, adult faith formators, RCIA teams, parents — anyone who teaches the Faith. Co-teachers of the course are Dr. John Gresham, Director of the Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation, Anne Chrzan, Director of Religious Education for the Diocese of Venice, and Joshua Mazrin, Director of Evangelization for the Diocese of Venice. The six-week course starts April 19, 2021. There is a $25 fee to take the course. Visit the Institute website for more information and to register at www.institute-dov.org or contact the director for more information: john.gresham@institute-dov.org.

Marriage Prep Retreat for Couples over 55 coming soon

The Office of Family Life is hosting a one-day sacramental marriage preparation retreat for those couples over 55 years of age who are preparing for marriage or convalidation, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., April 24, 2021 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1301 Center Road, Venice. Lunch is included. The program builds an appreciation for the joy of Sacramental Marriage while offering insight and tools to address the unique challenges and responsibilities. Registration is required at https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/two-become-one.

Youth Mental Health First Aid Workshop

Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to teach Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, Directors of Religious Education, Youth Ministers, Principals and Teachers how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or is in crisis. Youth Mental Health First Aid is primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. The course introduces common mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a 5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. The course will be held on April 29, 2021 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, and on May 1 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish, 833 Magellan Drive, Sarasota. Advanced registration is required, and the cost is $25. Visit www.dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/workshop-on-youth-mental-health-first-aid for registration. The cost includes the book, lunch and certificate of completion.

Porn: Seven Myths Exposed event May 4

The porn industry has taken our culture hostage! The Diocese of Venice Family Life Office is hosting an event at 6:30 p.m., May 4, 2021 at the Epiphany Cathedral Parish Hall, 399 Sarasota St., Venice, to address and educate teens, parents and all others on the tyranny of pornography in our society. Matt Fradd is the speaker who has authored and coauthored several books, and creates and hosts the podcast, “Pints with Aquinas”. There is no cost to attend. For further information, please contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543.

Stepping into Marriage with Children

Did you know 60 percent of second marriages fail and the failure rate increases to 70 percent when there are children from a previous marriage in the home. The difficulties of parenting and stepparenting seemingly insurmountable are often the root cause of such failures. A free half day workshop, organized by the Diocese Office of Family Life, entitled “Stepping into Marriage with Children” is designed for those couples beginning or currently in a stepfamily situation, and will take place from 9 a.m. to noon, May 15, 2021 at Our Lady of Light Parish, 19680 Cypress View Drive, Fort Myers. This workshop takes a realistic look at blended families and offers strategies and tools to meet unique challenges. There is no cost to attend but registration is required at https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/stepping-into-marriage-with-children. For further information please contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543.

Year of the Family

On March 19, 2021, the fifth anniversary of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, on the joy and beauty of familial love, Pope Francis inaugurated the year “Amoris Laetitia Family” which will conclude on June 26, 2022 on the occasion of the next World Meeting of Families in Rome. When announced, the Dicastery said in a statement, “The Pandemic experience has highlighted the central role of the family as the domestic Church and has shown the importance of community ties between families”. To learn more about the effort and the initiatives occurring in the Diocese of Venice during this commemorative year visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/year-of-the-family/.

Tele-Mental Health Counseling Services available

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc. is offering Mental Health Counseling for adults and children provided by licensed mental health therapists. If you or someone you know are feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, depressed or helpless, Catholic Charities can help. For more information, please call 239-455-2655.

Vaccines for Homebound Seniors

Seniors and/or their caregivers can sign up to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in their home by sending their request by email to HomeboundVaccine@em.myflorida.com. Also, Senior Friendship Centers (Sarasota, Venice, Fort Myers and Arcadia) has organized a program to connect seniors with volunteers who can drive them to their scheduled vaccine appointment. Anyone needing a ride to their vaccination appointment should contact Lillian Cleveland, Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 941-556-3223 or lcleveland@friendshipcenters.org. The above is for information purposes only and are independent programs. Inquiries should be directed to the email/phone numbers for each program.

EASTER: The Summit of the Catholic Faith

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 but also the beginning of a new journey of belief and hope for the faithful, Bishop Frank J. Dewane explained during the Easter Vigil Mass, April 3, 2021 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

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 brought into the darkened church with the proclamation that Christ is our Light.

During this Mass, the faithful hear the story of Salvation proclaimed in numerous Scripture readings. It is also at this time when priests confer the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation for the Catechumens and Candidates. At Parishes throughout the Diocese, there were 330 women and men who entered fully into the Catholic Church.

Two of these candidates were sisters Martha Lee McGuffin Mahoney (St. Teresa of Avila) and Valerie Ann McGiffin Amundson (St. Teresa of Calcutta), and they both first received the Sacrament of Confirmation and then the Sacrament of First Holy Communion from Bishop Dewane at Epiphany Cathedral.

Mahoney said she felt gratitude in her heart and became emotional when Bishop Dewane made the sign of the cross with Holy Oil on her forehead. “I feel blessed and loved.”

Amundson said she was drawn to the Catholic Faith by commitment of the Church to never waver in what is taught and passed down through the centuries. “It was also the Catholic spirit that drew me in. I had concerns about falsehoods I heard about Catholics, but those quickly went away when I realized that we are all called to live out the teachings of Christ.”

Bishop Dewane explained how the Easter Candle, flickering at the foot of the altar, represents Jesus Christ, a light that shatters the darkness, a darkness more profound than what was inside the Cathedral, but within one’s life and heart.

“We have to take this opportunity to carry home with us these words from Scripture; to place them into our hearts and into your heart and to be the light, often in the midst of darkness,” the Bishop continued. “Be attentive in your life to the economy of Salvation as you are to the economy of finances.”

We are all called to be that voice and that witness. Take this opportunity at Easter to recognize the joy of the resurrected Lord, Bishop Dewane stressed. The resurrection is the restoration of the covenant the Jewish people had with God and is now restored.

“Salvation is here for you and me,” the Bishop concluded. “Go forward with shouts of joy. It has to be who you are, going forward with the Risen Christ who is within our midst, who is with us as a community of believers to keeps us safe.”

Easter is the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection from the dead, culminating in his Ascension to the Father and sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. There are 50 days of Easter from the first Sunday to Pentecost.

The first eight 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 13, which is moved to the following Sunday on May 16), and for the nine days following, prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (May 23).

News Briefs for the week of April 9, 2021

Livestream moves from Catholic Center to Epiphany Cathedral Parish

After more than a year of livestreaming the Mass from the Catholic Center, since April 1, 2021 the livestream of the daily and weekend Masses is broadcast at 8 a.m. from Epiphany Cathedral Parish. You will be able to find the Masses on the Cathedral Facebook page found at www.facebook.com/epiphanycathedral.

Evangelizing Catechesis: Survey of the new Directory for Catechesis

The Diocese Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation is offering an online course surveying the new how-to guide, the Directory for Catechesis, published by the Vatican in 2020. This new edition of the Directory emphasizes how to incorporate evangelization throughout the entire process of catechesis. This course is for Directors and Coordinators of Religious Education, catechists, schoolteachers, adult faith formators, RCIA teams, parents — anyone who teaches the Faith. Co-teachers of the course are Dr. John Gresham, Director of the Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation, Anne Chrzan, Director of Religious Education for the Diocese of Venice, and Joshua Mazrin, Director of Evangelization for the Diocese of Venice. The six-week course starts April 19, 2021. There is a $25 fee to take the course. Visit the Institute website for more information and to register at www.institute-dov.org or contact the director for more information: john.gresham@institute-dov.org.

Parent Cyber Security Presentation

The Offices of Family Life and Religious Education are hosting a free parent event “Protecting God’s Children Online in a Hyper Digital Age.” Cyber security expert Liz Repking will cover keeping kids safe from cyber bullying, online predators, sexting, online gaming, and how to help children create an escape plan when trouble arises. There are two opportunities to attend: April 14, 2021 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1301 Center Road, Venice, and April 15 at St. Francis Xavier Parish, 2057 Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers. Both presentations are from 6:30-8 p.m. Registration by April 10 is required for planning purposes.  https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/protecting-gods-children-online-in-a-hyper-digital-age.

Youth Mental Health First Aid Workshop

Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to teach Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, Directors of Religious Education, Youth Ministers, Principals and Teachers how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or are in crisis. Youth Mental Health First Aid is primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. The course introduces common mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a 5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD), and eating disorders. The course will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., April 29, St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., May 1 at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, 833 Magellan Drive, Sarasota. Advanced registration is required, and the cost is $25 which includes the book, lunch and certificate of completion. For registration and payment visit www.dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/workshop-on-youth-mental-health-first-aid.

Monthly Days of Prayer and Private Retreats

Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) Retreat and Spirituality Center, 3989 South Moon Drive, Venice, offers a Monthly Day of Prayer on the second Wednesday and the second Sunday of each month. The upcoming dates are April 14, May 9, and May 12. The day begins at 9:30 a.m. with continental breakfast and includes two conferences, lunch, Eucharistic Adoration, Mass, and opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, private meditation and prayer. The day concludes at 3:15 pm. In addition, OLPH offers 1-, 3-, 5-, and 8-Day private individual retreats in a safe and tranquil setting.  These retreats include exploration of the matters of the heart, daily hours of contemplation and meditation, daily meetings with a Spiritual Director/Priest, moments of recreational activity, Mass and availability for Confession. For more information or to register, call Denise Riley at 941-486-0233, ext. 3004, or visit our website at www.olph-retreat.org.

Magnificat Breakfast for Women

The next Magnificat breakfast for women is being held from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., April 24, 2021 at the Holiday Inn Airport, Gulf Coast Town Center, Fort Myers. The guest speaker is Margaret Adams, a member of St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers and will share her spiritual journey. Seating is limited. No walk-ins or payment at the door! Advanced registration ONLY. Masks are required. Please send a $23 check, payable to Magnificat Fort Myers, to Margaret Mengle, 5017 Westminster Dr., Fort Myers, FL. 33919 (239-826-7475). Your mail request must be postmarked by April 13 or make reservations online at https://magnificatfortmyers.com/order-tickets/ by April 19.

 

News Briefs for the Week of March 19, 2021

Bishop celebrates Mass at Donahue Academy

Bishop Frank J. Dewane continued celebrating Mass for students in Diocese of Venice Catholic schools with the latest stop on March 16, 2021, at the Donahue Academy of Ave Maria. During these Masses, Bishop Dewane stressed how the Lenten Season is a time for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as we prepare to celebrate the Paschal Mystery of our Faith.

Religious education group makes lunches for homeless

The St. Martha Parish religious education program and service club in Sarasota took part in a “It takes and village – Made with love,” project on March 9, 2021 to make bag lunches for the homeless in the area.

Each bag included a colored drawing and inspirational message, as well as a sticker that read: “Made with love & care by the St. Martha Service Club.”

Divine Mercy Sunday Prayer Service

On Divine Mercy Sunday, April 11, 2021, everyone is invited to participate in a Prayer Service for Forgiveness and Healing from Pregnancy Loss. The service will take place from 2:30-3:30 p.m. at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice, and will be available for viewing online at www.facebook.com/DioceseofVenice. Contact Sylvia at 941-412-5860 or project.rachel@dioceseofvenice.org for any questions.

Divine Mercy Sunday in Naples

Come to the Feast of Divine Mercy as St. William Parish, 601 Seagate Drive, Naples, celebrates with a special service from 2:15-3:30 p.m., Divine Mercy Sunday, April 11. The service will start with the rosary, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, chanting of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, a reflection on Divine Mercy followed by Benediction. All are welcomed. For information, please contact Fred or Barb Goduti at 239-261-4810

Parent cyber security event in April

The Diocese of Venice Offices of Family Life and Religious Education are hosting a free parent event “Protecting God’s Children Online in a Hyper Digital Age.” Cyber security expert Liz Repking will cover keeping kids safe from cyber bullying, online predators, sexting, online gaming, and how to help children create an escape plan when trouble arises. Two opportunities to attend: April 14, 2021 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1301 Center Road, Venice, and April 15 at St. Francis Xavier Parish, 2057 Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers. Both presentations are from 6:30-8 p.m. There is no cost. Registration is required for planning purposes by April 10 at

https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/protecting-gods-children-online-in-a-hyper-digital-age.

Marriage prep retreat for couples over 55 in April

The Diocese Office of Family life is hosting a one-day sacramental marriage preparation retreat for those couples over 55 years of age preparing for marriage or convalidation from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., April 24 Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1301 Center Road, Venice. Lunch is included. Preregistration is required at https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/two-become-one. The program builds an appreciation for the joy of sacramental marriage while offering insight and tools to address the unique challenges and responsibilities.

Shifting from Condemnation to Compassion

Do you know someone who has had an abortion?  Chances are they don’t know where to go for help.  Have you ever heard someone condemning a person for having an abortion?  The Church does not condemn them; we welcome them and want to help them with compassion and healing that will change their lives.  In our diocese, Project Rachel, the Church’s healing after abortion outreach, is partnering with Support After Abortion, a new worldwide networking organization that sees healing as a necessary part of ending the demand for abortion. Change the way you see Pro-Life.  Go to https://supportafterabortion.com/shifting-from-condemnation-to-compassion/ to read an article that will give you a new perspective. Questions?  Contact Sylvia at 941-412-5860 or project.rachel@dioceseofvenice.org.

Hundreds prepare to become Catholic

The 2021 numbers of catechumens and candidates presented for the annual Rite of Election was 316. That is great news following a year filled with much uncertainty.

The temporary shuttering of churches for public Mass and ongoing health and safety concerns about meetings or classes could have dramatically impacted those seeking to enter the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA).

This year’s numbers are only down about 10 percent from 2020. This is a great accomplishment considering the challenges which needed to be overcome. The largest group was from Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers and included 51 catechumens and 13 candidates.

“This was actually a great time to have RCIA because people who were part of the pandemic had a reason to question their Faith,” explained Anne Chrzan, the Diocese of Venice Director of Religious of Education who oversees the implementation of RCIA programs. “Our Church gave them a place and a reason to believe and have hope!”

The 316 catechumens and candidates, representing 40 different Parishes, were recognized during the annual Rite of Election presided over by Bishop Frank J. Dewane.

Details of the Rite of Election were adapted this year to comply with social distancing requirements necessitated by the Pandemic. There were four Deanery-based celebrations, the first on Feb. 21, 2021 at Epiphany Cathedral for the Northern Deanery, and later the same day at St. Catherine Parish in Sebring for the Eastern Deanery. On Feb. 28, additional Rites took place at Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers for the Central Deanery, and then at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples for the Southern Deanery.

Bishop Dewane recognized the catechumens and candidates for their responding to a particular call from the Lord. “In a world full of indifference, you come forward as a faith-filled person. It marks you. You take a further step to integrate yourselves into the community of faith and worship here in the Diocese of Venice… I am humbled by all of you: by the individual who chooses God; by one who chooses their Faith; by what it is you set out to do; by the determination you have; by the sacrifices you made.”

This response to the Lord does not end at the Easter Vigil (April 4), the Bishop continued, but that response must continue to “change who you are as men and women of God.”

“Mother church is pleased that you come here today to ratify the ‘Yes!’ you have already given to follow the Lord, a ‘Yes!” to Jesus,” Bishop Dewane added. “Once that ‘Yes!’ is said then the true conversion must set about to happen. That is the next step. Do this and know it is my prayer that you will allow the love of God to inspire you throughout your life in the many good things that you do. Let it be that love of God that graces you.”

Chrzan added that the Pandemic created some challenges in RCIA program with some using online teaching options, but those were rare exceptions

“I had one DRE who was skeptical about moving forward during the pandemic, but I asked her to see what Jesus says about that and she had an entire family approach her the following week,” Chrzan explained. “Because she took it to prayer, God gave her a family to bring into the Church!”

The Rite of Election also is called the enrollment of names, because each catechumen writes his or her name in the Book of the Elect. When the catechumens from each Parish were called forward, a sheet with the signed names was presented to the Bishop. Instead of shaking hands with each catechumen, as was done in past years, this year Bishop Dewane welcomed them with a respectful bow.

Catechumens are the unbaptized and unchurched who inquire about becoming part of the Roman Catholic Faith. Many times, 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. RCIA is a journey of discovery and Faith. Children and teens ages 7 to 17 participate in similar groups geared to their own age ranges.

After completing the Rite of Election, the catechumens continue their spiritual formation throughout the remainder of Lent, a period of purification and enlightenment – the final, intense preparation for the reception at the Easter Vigil of the Sacrament of Initiation – Baptism, Confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist.

For candidates, those who have been baptized with a Trinitarian formula, the Catholic Church does not require re-Baptism. Candidates have already experienced a journey of Faith. 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 or Sacrament of Reconciliation. They participate in appropriate religious education classes, often with the catechumens, and will receive the necessary Sacraments at the Easter Vigil.

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

Rite of Election: Catechumens, candidates welcomed

When the Easter Vigil takes place on April 3, 2021, the Diocese of Venice will be welcoming 314 who will become Catholic and enter the Church.

One major step in this journey occurred on Feb. 21, 2021, when the Rite of Election was held on the first Sunday of Lent. This annual tradition is a formal Rite in which catechumens are presented and their names are entered into the Book of Elect. Candidates are also present as part of their calling to continuing conversion.

“I am humbled to stand before you catechumens and candidates, you come here to Holy Mother Church to publicly pronounce your “Yes!” to Jesus,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane said.  “You declare yourself today that this is what you want to do. I welcome you and I trust that your sponsors, the priests, DREs (Directors of Religious Education), and parish representatives, have guided you well. I say thank you to all for your presence and the support that you give.”

Bishop Dewane reminded the catechumens and candidates at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice on Feb. 21, 2021 that the Rite of Election is not just a gathering of people who have chosen a religion, but a deeper commitment, made by a free choice.

“My prayer is that you are here today because you are convinced in your mind, heart and, most importantly, your soul, that the Catholic Church offers you the fullness of Christianity in a very clear way, and you are content and are willing to live it out in that way,” the Bishop stated.

He warned them that they will struggle during this process, but they must stand fast in their conviction to find the time in their lives to open themselves to hear Jesus Christ within their hearts.

Details of the Rite of Election were adapted this year to comply with social distancing requirements necessitated by the Pandemic. Instead of one large gathering at the Cathedral, this year there are four celebrations of the Rite presided over by Bishop Dewane, one in each Deanery (regions within the Diocese). The first, at the Cathedral accommodated those from the Northern Deanery, while later the same day the Rite took place at St. Catherine Parish in Sebring for the Eastern Deanery. On Feb. 28, additional Rites will take place at Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers for the Central Deanery, and then at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples for the Southern Deanery.

To accommodate social distancing, sponsors did not sit or stand next to their catechumens this year unless they were spouses or members of the same household. During the Act of Admission, sponsors extended a hand toward their catechumen, instead of placing a hand on the catechumen’s shoulder, as in past years.

The Rite of Election also is called the enrollment of names, because each catechumen writes his or her name in the Book of the Elect. When the catechumens from each Parish were called forward, a sheet with the signed names was carried by one catechumen and presented to the Bishop. Instead of shaking hands with each catechumen, as was done in past years, this year Bishop Dewane welcomed them with a respectful bow.

The catechumens and candidates are part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). These catechumens are the unbaptized and unchurched who inquire about becoming part of the Roman Catholic Faith. Many times, 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. RCIA is a journey of discovery and Faith. They have been meeting weekly since last fall – in many cases on Zoom – to share their faith journeys and learn about the Catholic Church. Children and teens ages 7 to 17 participate in similar groups geared to their own age ranges.

After completing the Rite of Election, the catechumens continue their spiritual formation throughout the remainder of Lent, a period of purification and enlightenment – the final, intense preparation for the reception at the Easter Vigil of the Sacrament of Initiation – Baptism, Confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist.

For candidates, those who have been baptized in the name of the Trinity, the Catholic Church does not require re-Baptism. Candidates have already experienced a journey of Faith. 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 or Sacrament of Reconciliation. They participate in appropriate religious education classes, often with the catechumens, and will receive any missing Sacraments at the Easter Vigil.

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

News briefs for the week of Jan. 26, 2021

Children’s Festival held in Wauchula

The annual Children’s Festival was held at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula on Jan. 23, 2021. The Festival brings children from kindergarten through fifth grade to the Parish for a day of prayer and fun.

The day included Mass, a Eucharistic Procession, as well as presentations about how they can grow in their Faith. In addition, there were various games, many of which had a faith-based theme. The women religious who serve the Parish, Sisters Servant of Lord and the Virgin of Matara, organized the festival.

“A Seminarian Story” sixth installment available

The Diocese of Venice in Florida Office of Vocations launched a video series titled, “A Seminarian Story,” to celebrate the 16 Seminarians currently in formation. The first four videos have been released and more will follow approximately every few weeks. The most recent video is about Seminarian David Portorreal who is doing formation at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach.

Developed with the assistance of the Diocese Communications Department, the goal of the series is to inspire others to follow in the path to the priesthood or religious life, as well as encourage the faithful to continue to support the seminarians as they continue their formation process at different seminaries. “A Seminarian Story” featuring David Portorreal can be found at https://vimeo.com/443069438.

Men’s & Women’s Conferences 2021

Registration is now open for the 2021 Men’s & Women’s Conferences! The Men’s Conference will feature speakers Patrick Madrid and Joel Stepanek on Saturday February 20th.

The Women’s Conference will feature speakers Kimberly Hahn and Mary Ann Weisinger-Puig on Saturday March 13. Both conferences will be held at Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (doors open at 8:00 a.m.) with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Confession available all day. To register, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/adultconferences.

Anniversary Masses

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 to be celebrated in two locations. This year, considering the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, each location will have two Masses to allow for appropriate social distancing. The Masses are 10 a.m. and noon on Feb. 6, 2021, Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice, and 10 a.m. and noon, March 6, 2021, St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. All registration is being handled through your local Parish. Please reserve seats at least one week before the Mass you wish to attend.

Begin your year with Jesus in the Eucharist

What better way to begin 2021 than in the presence of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament? The Office of Evangelization will be hosting several evenings of Eucharistic Adoration with Confession available, music, reflection, and time for silent prayer. Jesus, who makes “All Things New” will bring a newness to your faith in this new year. Locations include Our Lady of Light Parish, Fort Myers, Feb. 2; Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Lakewood Ranch, Feb. 3; St. John the Evangelist Parish, Naples, Feb. 4; Incarnation Parish, Sarasota, Feb. 11; and St. Joseph Parish, Bradenton, Feb. 16. Adoration begins at 7 p.m. and goes until 8:30 p.m.

Bibles presented to Bradenton students

Father Rafal Ligenza, Administrator of St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton, presented bibles to each of the seventh and eighth graders at St. Joseph Catholic School on Jan. 21, 2021. Father Ligenza presented the bibles as gifts from the Parish and then prayed with the students.

Encountering God in Prayer: A Lenten Journey

Spend this Lent growing in prayer! “Encountering God in Prayer: A Lenten Journey” is a theological and practical online course offered by the Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation. The course will guide you through the rich and beautiful teaching on personal prayer found in part four of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Short video lectures, online discussions, prayer exercises and other learning activities will constitute the class content. Students log in each week at times most convenient to them. The instructor, Dr. John Gresham, Executive Director of the Institute, has extensive experience teaching on prayer in courses, workshops, and retreats. The course is $25 and runs from Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 to April 5. For more information, visit www.institute-dov.org, call 941-766-7334 or email john.gresham@institute-dov.org.

Water bottle stations make an impact

Each Diocesan Catholic school strives to be good steward of God’s creation, including making every effort to limit the amount of trash. At St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, water bottle filling station were installed to cut down on the waste caused by plastic water bottles. On Jan. 22, 2021 Neumann Senior Tommy Anderson was recognized as the 10,000th water bottle filler at one of the stations on campus. Principal Sister Patricia Roche, Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco, presented Anderson with a certificate during morning prayers/announcements. The stations were installed thanks to the Home and School Association. Since the start of the Academic Year, 31,609 water bottles have been saved from entering the landfill.

Verot student to attend Congress of Future Medical Leaders

Eric Avin, a ninth grader at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, will serve as a Delegate to the Congress of Future Medical Leaders this March. The Congress is an honors-only program for high school students striving for a career as a physician or in a medical research field. The event is designed to honor, inspire, motivate and direct some of the brightest students in the country and to provide a path, plan and resources to help them reach their goal. He was chosen based on the recommendations of a teacher and a Nobel laureate, and on his academic achievement, leadership potential and determination to serve humanity in the field of medicine. During the two-day virtual Congress, Eric will have the chance to hear Nobel Laureates and National Medal of Science Winners talk about leading medical research; learn about cutting-edge advances and the future in medicine and medical technology and much more.

Safe Haven Sunday

Pornography is one of the leading causes of addictions, abuse, adultery, divorce, and even human trafficking: it is, in short, a pervasive evil inflicting grave wounds on our families. Pornography creates unsafe environments for children and confuses others about attitudes towards sex and marriage. It is a moral issue. For this reason, March 7 has been designated as Safe Haven Sunday in the Diocese of Venice. This day for awareness will give an opportunity to address the harmfulness of pornography in marriages, families, and culture, while providing helpful resources for all. Detailed information about the implementation of this program will be shared in the coming weeks through your Parishes. If you have any questions, please contact Carrie Harkey, Diocesan Coordinator of Family Life at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543.

Faith and Wine Lee County Feb. 25

The next gathering of Faith and Wine Lee County will be a virtual Zoom event beginning at 7 p.m., Feb. 25, 2021. The speaker is Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, who will present “Small Things with Great Love: To Love like Mother Teresa.” To see the complete line-up of speakers, or to register, visit https://faithandwineleecounty.com.

 

News briefs for the week of Jan. 20, 2021

Students learn about St. Joseph

During this “Year of St. Joseph,” St. Ann Catholic School 8th grade Junior Catechists Mariana Franco and Jack McGovern taught 1st grade students to create a shrine for St. Joseph during the week dedicated to the Saint. This is part of the ongoing St. Joseph Devotional Project taking place at all Diocesan elementary schools. The “Year of St. Joseph” was established by Bishop Frank J. Dewane in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic on March 19, 2020 and will continue through Dec. 8, 2021 as directed by Pope Francis. St. Joseph is the Protector of the Universal Church.

Marriage Prep Retreats for 2021

The Diocese Office of Family Life is offering a “Day of Reflection” retreats for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage. A specially prepared volunteer team of married couples and a priest will share their experiences and information with the intention of enabling couples to be more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of marriage. The retreats in English are from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., April 17, Aug. 7 and Nov. 13, 2021. Retreats in Spanish are at the same time and will be March 6, Aug. 7 and Oct. 30. To register for the English retreats, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/marriage-preparation-retreat-2021 and to register for the Spanish retreat, please contact St. Jude Parish in Sarasota at 941-955-3934. For more information or to inquire about a virtual option contact Carrie Harkey at 941-484-9543 ext. 3019.

St. Joseph student takes second place in state soccer competition

Emmanuel, a student at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton took second place in the state for his age division in the Knights of Columbus State Soccer Challenge held on Jan. 16, 2021, in Melbourne. Emmanuel, and classmate Connor, won at local, regional and district levels of the Knights Soccer Challenge qualifying for the state events. Well done!

Institute provides Lenten offering

Spend this Lent growing in prayer! “Encountering God in Prayer: A Lenten Journey” is a theological and practical online course offered by the Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation. The course will guide you through the rich and beautiful teaching on personal prayer found in part four of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Short video lectures, online discussions, prayer exercises and other learning activities which constitute the class content. Students log in each week at times most convenient to them. The instructor, Dr. John Gresham, Executive Director of the Institute, has extensive experience teaching on prayer in courses, workshops, and retreats. The course runs from Ash Wednesday Feb. 17, 2021 to April 5. For more information visit the Institute website www.institute-dov.org, call 941-766-7334 or email john.gresham@institute-dov.org.

Updated times for Sunday Mass on radio in Spanish

St. Jude Parish in Sarasota broadcasts the Holy Mass in Spanish, celebrated by Father Celestino Gutierrez, every Sunday at 8 a.m. on radio station FM 99.1 and 10 a.m. on FM 105.3. We are grateful to the sponsors and SOLMART Media for their collaboration in this effort.

“Child’s Play” virtual fundraiser Feb. 25

Our Mother’s House, a program of Catholic Charities which provides housing and support for homeless mothers and their infant children, is having a virtual fundraiser titled “Child’s Play.” This night of interactive fun begins at 7 p.m., Feb. 25, 2021 with funds raised used to ensure that the mothers and their children receive the suport they need as they strive for self-sufficiency. For information about the event, contact Lisa Ventura at Lisa.Ventura@CatholicCharitiesDov.Org or 941-485-6264. A generous donor has offered to match all donations up to a total of $125,000. Please participate and help make a difference.

Projector installed in school Chapel

The Our Lady of the Angels Chapel at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples has a new addition of a projector courtesy of the Salesian Sisters Education Fund. Installed on Jan. 11, 2021, the projector allows the text and music for the Mass to be seen by all, removing the need to print worship aids for each Mass or prayer service.

Surviving divorce program beginning in February

A 12-week program called “Surviving Divorce … Hope and Healing for the Catholic Family” will begin Feb. 16, 2021 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice. There will be monthly group gatherings and weekly on-line Zoom meetings. Content includes internet access to a weekly video, group sharing and discussion. Participants will be provided assurance that they are not alone and a place to tell one’s story and be heard. The cost of the program is $25 and includes a Participant’s Workbook and access to all videos. For more information and to register, contact Bob and Chris Smialek at bobandchrissmialek@icloud.com or 815-275-5305

Naples Catholic School Virtual Gala Feb. 3

The Saint Ann School Foundation is hosting its annual Heart for Education Gala, which will be a virtual event on Feb. 3, 2021. The Foundation is dedicated to ensuring a faith-based education remains accessible to all families desiring it for their children, regardless of income. Many of our families have experienced great hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The need is greater now as more families have asked for additional scholarship funds. To register to receive a link to the Virtual Gala, please visit www.stann.net/gala or contact Pamela Macia at 239-262-4110 ext. 307 or foundation@stann.net or pamelamacia@gmail.com.

Cathedral School Gala April 16

The Epiphany Gala is one of our most successful fundraisers for Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School and will take place April 16, 2021 at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice. The Gala theme is the Amalfi Coast and features both live and silent auctions as well as a dinner and dancing. This year’s Shining Stars are Troy and Joyce Sacco. For more detail, please contact Leah Mihm at 941-615-0284 or mihm@ecstigers.com. Note, this event may become a Virtual Gala if conditions require.

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