Novena to Christ the King begins today

For the nine days leading up to the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is suggesting that the faithful pray a novena to Christ the King.

“Let us offer our prayers to Christ the King for the freedom of the Church,” the USCCB urges. Religious freedom allows the Church, and all religious communities, to live out their faith in public and to serve the good of all.

The novena begins Nov. 12, 2021 and concludes on the eve of the Solemnity, Nov. 20. To participate in the novena visit www.dioceseofvenice.org.

The idea behind the novena is that religious freedom is under attack in many places. Worldwide, it is estimated that upwards of 4 billion people (51% of the global population) live in countries that have intense violations of religious freedom.

Domestically, a major area of concern continues to be freedom for Catholic institutions, such as schools, hospitals, and child welfare service providers, to carry out their missions free from government intervention

If anyone wonders why Religious Freedom needs to be defended in the U.S., they need look no further than the frequent headlines about religious institutions being forced to pay for abortions in health care coverage, going against the teachings of the faith in defense of life from conception to natural death. Individuals have faced lawsuits for refusing to perform a service (bake a wedding cake, host an event) for same-sex couples because that violates their personally held faith-based beliefs.

Religious freedom is a human right, essential to the dignity of the human person and the flourishing of all that is noble in us. It should be noted that religious freedom does not exist to protect the government from religion, but religion from government intervention.

Another form of suppressing religious freedom is the disturbing trend in the past 18 months of overt acts of vandalism at Catholic sites globally and in the U.S. Since May 2020, the USCCB stated that more than 100 incidents of vandalism have been reported, including within the Diocese of Venice.

On Oct. 10, 2021, the USCCB responded to the latest such incident in Denver, Colorado, when satanic and other hateful graffiti was scrawled on the walls before Sunday Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

In a statement from the USCCB condemning the incident in Denver, it was noted in part: “These incidents of vandalism have ranged from the tragic to the obscene, from the transparent to the inexplicable. There remains much we do not know about this phenomenon, but at a minimum, they underscore that our society is in sore need of God’s grace… where the motive was retribution for some past fault of ours, we must reconcile; where misunderstanding of our teachings has caused anger toward us, we must offer clarity; but this destruction must stop. This is not the way… These are not mere property crimes – this is the degradation of visible representations of our Catholic faith. These are acts of hate.”

The Solemnity of Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius XI in his 1925 encyclical Quas primas (In the first), setting aside a special day so that “the Catholic Church, which is the kingdom of Christ on earth, destined to be spread among all men and all nations, should with every token of veneration salute her Author and Founder in her annual liturgy as King and Lord, and as King of Kings” [Quas primas 12].

Celebrated on the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year, this year the Solemnity is Nov. 21. The USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty has urged “that the Solemnity of Christ the King – a feast born out of resistance to totalitarian incursions against religious liberty – be a day specifically employed by bishops and priests to preach about religious liberty, both here and abroad.”

“For Christians, when our faith is repeatedly marginalized in public life, we can fall into the habit of compartmentalizing our lives,” the USCCB website states in its article “About Christ the King.” “We love Jesus in our private lives, but we shrink from acknowledging the kingship of Christ in social life. When we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King, we declare to the world and remind ourselves that Jesus is the Lord of the Church and of the entire universe.”

Once again, if you wish to participate in the novena to the Christ the King, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bishop Frank J. Dewane dedicated his monthly radio show on Relevant Radio to the topic of Religious Freedom. The program debuted on June 25 and access to the program is available at https://dioceseofvenice.org/our-bishop/relevant-radio-podcasts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn about the what the USCCB is saying about religious liberty, please visit https://www.usccb.org/committees/religious-liberty.

 For anyone interested in participating the Naples prayer vigil, they will resume on the last Friday of October and continue monthly going forward. For more information, you can contact Patricia Bucola at world5433@gmail.com.

News Briefs for the week of June 25, 2021

Ordination to the Priesthood July 31

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the faithful of the Diocese to the Ordination of Transitional Deacons Mark Harris and Alexander Pince to the Priesthood. This is to take place at 11 a.m., July 31, 2021, Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this important event in the lives of Deacons Harris and Pince as well as the Diocese of Venice. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall.

“Witnessing Faith with Bishop Dewane” available June 25

Join Bishop Frank J. Dewane, for his monthly radio program on Relevant Radio. “Witnessing Faith with Bishop Dewane” can be heard at 8:30 a.m., June 25, 2021 addressing the topic of Religious Freedom. Access to the program is available at https://dioceseofvenice.org/our-bishop/relevant-radio-podcasts.

“Franciscan at Home” online workshops

The Diocese of Venice Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation presents “Franciscan at Home,” which offers online workshops for anyone who wants to grow deeper in the Catholic Faith. This is a program sponsored by your Parish at no cost to you. Workshops are available on parenting, youth ministry, prayer, Catholic social teaching, theology of the body, Scripture and much more. Many workshops are available in Spanish. For more information, please call the at 941-766-7334, or visit www.franciscanathome.org/institute-dov.

Grove City Food Pantry open

The St. Francis of Assisi Parish Food Pantry, 5265 Placida Road, Grove City, is open and distributing food from 9:15 a.m. to 11:15 a.m., on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. For more information contact Megan at 941-697-4899, or by email at megan@sfoachurch.com.

ZOOM Surviving Divorce Facilitator Training July 8

Nationally known author Rose Sweet will be offering an online “Surviving Divorce” facilitator training via ZOOM 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., July 8, 2021. This is training for the Surviving Divorce: Hope and Healing for the Catholic Family program. Whether you’re a seasoned leader or considering starting a group, everyone can learn something of value to best love and support the divorced. This outreach goes to the deepest aches of the heart and the wounds are complex. While facilitators are not called to bring healing (that is God’s job) they are called to be as skilled as you can be at understanding minds, hearts, and the truth and power of the fullness of Catholic teaching. Sweet is a pioneer in the divorce healing world and will help integrate Catholic principles and practical realities into this outreach. To register, please visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/surviving-divorce-zoom-facilitator-training-tickets-158750776847. For more information contact Carrie Harkey in the Family Life Office at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org.

Institute starting new course in August

The Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation of the Diocese of Venice is offering a 16-week graduate level online course starting Aug. 24 that introduces students to the principles, practices, and sources of Catholic Theology. The course “What is Catholic Theology? (Ecclesial Nature and Mission of Theology)” counts as a pre-requisite for those beginning the online MA in Theology and Christian Ministry at Franciscan University of Steubenville. (Franciscan offers Diocese of Venice students discounted tuition for this online MA). This course is also available to those who wish to attend for their own personal enrichment. For cost and other information and to register for the course, visit the Institute website https://institute-dov.org/ or call 941-766-7334.

Tele-Mental Health Counseling Services

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 is feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, depressed, or helpless, Catholic Charities can help. For more information, please call 239-455-2655. There is no charge for this service.

2021 Marriage Preparation Retreats

The Diocesan Office of Family Life is offering “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. to 5:00 p.m., on the following Saturdays: July 10, August 7, and November 13. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/marriage-preparation-retreat-2021 to register for the English retreats. Retreats in Spanish take place: 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., August 7 and October 30 at St. Jude Parish, 3930 17th Street, Sarasota, and 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., August 14 and December 4, at Our Lady Queen of Heaven, 355 S. Bridge Street, LaBelle. To register for a St. Jude retreat date please contact the parish at 941-955-3934. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/retiro-de-formacion-matrimonial. to register for a retreat at Our Lady Queen of Heaven, For further information contact Carrie Harkey at 941-484-9543 ext. 3019.

Public Prayer for God’s Mercy Upon America!

Join lay Catholics and others in public prayer asking for God’s Mercy for the United States the last Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. on the east side of U.S. 41, immediately north of Pine Ridge Road, Naples, and opposite the Waterside shops. This public witness of our Faith offers the opportunity to turn to God for His merciful help during this time of great need. The Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Rosary will be prayed. Please bring folding chairs, shade umbrellas, bottled water, and signs if you wish. Parking is available in adjacent lots. If you have questions or require additional information, please email world5433@gmail.com.

Ave Maria University 12th Annual Youth Conference

All high school age youth from incoming freshman to outgoing seniors are invited to join us for the 12th Annual Ave Maria University Youth Conference “FEARLESS” July 9-11. This incredible weekend will be full of faith, fellowship, music, and great speakers! The special rate for this year’s conference is only $130 per person and includes lodging, meals, and conference fee and a t-shirt. Call or email 239-348-4725 or aveconferences@gmail.com or visit us at www.aveconferences.com for more information.

Free Rosary Repair Service

Send your broken rosaries in a padded envelope to Betty and Dick Holden, 7930 Estero Blvd. #502, Fort Myers, FL 33931. Rosaries will be repaired and returned within the week of receipt. Donations of old rosaries are also accepted which will be repaired and sent to missions. Include a note indicating repair or donation. For more details, please call 239-463-3993 or email holdenbnd@gmail.com.

Religious Liberty Week June 22-29

The Feast of Ss. Thomas More and John Fisher on June 22, 2021 marks the start of Religious Freedom Week, a call by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) for all Catholics across the United States to pray, reflect and take action in support of Religious Liberty in our country and abroad.

It is appropriate that the week begins on such a day, as Ss. Thomas More and John Fisher are remembered for being martyred in 1535 for standing up for the Sanctity of Marriage and the Freedom of the Church in opposition to England’s King Henry VIII.

Continuing through the Solemnity of Ss. Peter & Paul the Apostles on June 29, 2021, the Religious Freedom Week theme is “Solidarity in Freedom,” and stems from a Pope Francis quote: “Solidarity means much more than engaging in sporadic acts of generosity. It means thinking and acting in terms of community.” This quote is from the Pope Francis encyclical “Fratelli tutti (On Fraternity and Social Friendship)” which was released in October 2020.

During Religious Freedom Week, Catholics are encouraged to pray each day for specific causes related to religious freedom. The USCCB’s “Pray – Reflect – Act” Series aims to help Catholics build solidarity with people of faith who are persecuted and find strength to carry out the mission of the Church. Religious freedom allows the Church, and all religious communities, to live out their faith in public and to serve the good of all.

The Diocese of Venice joins with other Dioceses to promote Religious Freedom Week. Bishop Frank J. Dewane encourages the faithful of the Diocese of Venice to educate themselves about the issues of religious freedom but to be aware of the threats faced both domestically and abroad.

The USCCB has prepared resources which may be found at: www.usccb.org/ReligiousFreedomWeek. Each day focuses on different religious liberty topics of concern for the U.S. Bishops.

The USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty collaborated with the Office of International Justice and Peace to raise awareness and show solidarity with people throughout the world who suffer for their faith, from the persecution of Christians in Nicaragua to highlighting Pope Francis’s trip to Iraq this year. Domestically, a major area of concern continues to be freedom for Catholic institutions, such as schools, hospitals, and child welfare service providers, to carry out their missions free from government intervention..

Materials prepared by the USCCB are made available to help people understand religious liberty from a Catholic perspective, reflect on the application, pray about particular issues, and act on what they learn by advocating for policies that promote religious freedom.

Through prayer, reflection, and public action during Religious Freedom Week, the USCCB hopes to promote the essential right of religious freedom for Catholics and for those of all faiths.

The USCCB materials can be found in English (https://www.usccb.org/committees/religious-liberty/religious-freedom-week) and in Spanish (https://www.usccb.org/committees/religious-liberty/semana-de-la-libertad-religiosa).

Connect with the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty by texting “FREEDOM” or “LIBERTAD” to 84576 and sign up for the First Freedom News, the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty’s monthly newsletter.

Religious Freedom Week 2020

The Feast of Ss. Thomas More and John Fisher on June 22, 2020 marks the start of Religious Freedom Week, a national call for all Catholics across the United States to pray, reflect and take action in support of Religious Liberty in our country and abroad.

It is appropriate that the week begins on such a day, as Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher are remembered for being martyred in 1535 for standing up for the Sanctity of Marriage and the Freedom of the Church in opposition to England’s King Henry VIII.

Continuing through the Solemnity of Sts. Peter & Paul the Apostles on June 29, 2020, Religious Freedom Week is a call by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to unite Catholics across the country to pray, reflect and take action on religious liberty, both here in this country and abroad. The theme for Religious Freedom Week 2020 is “For the Good of All.”

Religious Freedom was founded to allow people of Faith to serve others in God’s love through ministries like education, adoption and foster care, health care, as well as migration and refugee services.

During the week, the USCCB encourages the faithful to reflect upon the importance of religious freedom so that we can carry out our mission of service and mercy. Everyone is invited to pray for our brothers and sisters who face intense persecution in other parts of the world.

Throughout the Religious Freedom Week, we are called to follow Christ as missionary disciples by seeking the truth, serving others, and living our Faith in all that we do. A number of resources, including daily prayers, reflections as well as action items related to issues in the U.S. and abroad, can be found at the USCCB website at www.usccb.org/ReligiousFreedomWeek.

In Catholic teaching, the Second Vatican Council declared in Dignitatis Humanae, No. 2, that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means all men/women are immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power. In such ways that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his/her own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

Religious Liberty is protected in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well as in federal and state laws and reaches beyond our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the rosary at home; it also encompasses our ability to contribute freely to the common good of all Americans.

To stay up-to-date on current religious freedom issues, sign up for text messages from the USCCB. It’s easy. Just text the word “FREEDOM” or “LIBERTAD” to 84576.

Naples Knights take action

Staff Report

3/29/19

The Knights of Columbus is a group which serves to help defend the faith and supports the Catholic Church in a variety of ways.

The Knights from Assembly 3094 and Council 14202 of St. Agnes Parish in Naples recently expressed their frustration by sending an open letter to their U.S. Congressional delegation including U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, as well as U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Francis Rooney

In the letter, which appeared in the Naples Daily News, they specifically address derogatory remarks against the Knights by three U.S. Senators Mazie Hirona, Hawaii; and Kamala Harris and Diana Feinstein, both of California. The Senators bashed Federal Judicial nominees because they are members of the Knights of Columbus, because the Senators claimed the Knights of Columbus hold extreme positions, particularly on same sex marriage and abortion.

The letter states that: “By condemning the Knights as holding extreme positions and by denigrating the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, these three Senators are attempting to ban members of the Knights from holding public office. They went on to establish a religious test for public office holders, a contravention of Constitutional guarantees.”

The letter goes on to state that the members of the Knights of St. Agnes Parish chose the forum of an open letter so as to inform the Congressional Delegation and their fellow citizens of the Knights’ unequivocal support of the moral teaching of the Catholic Church on the matter of abortion and same sex marriage. They also condemned the recent enactment of a New York law allowing an abortion of a fetus up until the time of birth.

Knight Greg Russo shared the letter with the Naples Daily News and expressed his desire that, on behalf of the 400 members of the Knights St. Agnes Assembly and Council, and the thousands of Knights across Southwest Florida, that the Congressional Delegation condemn the vicious and unwarranted attacks on members of the Knights and moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who was copied on the letter, said he stands with all Knights in highlighting and speaking out and against these attacks.

“The Knights of Columbus have a strong history of defending the moral teachings of the Church,” Bishop Dewane said. “As a Knight, I support this letter and strongly encourage others to speak out against this and other attacks against the Church. If these attacks go uncontested, they threaten to tear down the Religious Freedom upon which this nation was founded.”

Religious Freedom Film Festival spans generations

Susan Laielli – Florida Catholic

Venice – The Diocese of Venice Youth and Young Adult groups accepted the challenge of creating films with a Religious Freedom theme during the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) designated Religious Freedom Week, June 22-29.

These are some of the people who attended the Diocese of Venice Religious Freedom Film Festival June 27 at St. Agnes Parish in Naples.

In all, six films were submitted to the Diocese of Venice 14-Day Film Festival by Diocesan youth and young adults, who had from June 7-21 to produce films that could be up to up to 10 minutes long. The films were featured at three Diocesan showcases: June 26, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, Sarasota; June 27, St. Agnes Parish Hall, Naples; and June 28, Our Lady of Light Parish Hall, Fort Myers.  Electronic voting for each film was open through July 6.

Films were submitted by Youth and Young Adult groups from St. Joseph’s Parish in Bradenton, Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch, St. Agnes Parish in Naples, St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples, St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, and St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres.

These are some of the people who attended the Diocese of Venice Religious Freedom Film Festival June 28 at Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers.

“Our youth worked with our young adults to learn about video production and editing, as well as on the topic research,” said Theresa Barbale, Director of Youth and Young Adult at St. Peter the Apostle in Naples.  “It was good for those with experience to teach the younger kids.”

Attendees at St. Agnes Catholic Parish spanned multiple generations, and expressed joy that the middle school aged children are learning about Religious Freedoms, and the subtle infringements on those liberties.

At each of the events, the co-producers of a soon-to be released documentary on Christian persecution, Patrick Carberry and Jordan Allott, presented newly gathered footage and discussed what they learned from Christians in small villages that were decimated by ISIS, or other extremists. The film, “Christians in the Mirror,” is produced by In Altum Productions, and is set for release in August.

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