Support After Abortion Virtual Conference Oct. 28-30

It comes as no surprise that in its purest sense, the Pro-Life movement seeks to end abortion. But how to go about doing that is a topic of much discussion with a wide range of programs and approaches — all with varying levels of effectiveness.

God planted the seeds for the formation of a new, innovative and unconventional approach with Support After Abortion’s Board President, Janine Marrone, in 2016 at a Luncheons for Life event she sponsors in the Diocese of Venice. Hearing first-hand the emotional devastation, shame and pain that nearly always follows an abortion, while recognizing the stark fact that 50 percent of women will have a repeat abortion, Marrone started a grassroots effort to heal those who are hurting.

Since its founding in 2017, Support After Abortion (SAA) is on a mission to strengthen healing from the impacts of abortion worldwide. Through its network, the organization fosters collaboration and connections between those impacted by abortion and experts in healing. SAA is a center of excellence that strengthens and elevates programs using innovative approaches, methods, education and research.  Ultimately, we build new perspectives rooted in real-life stories; stories that truly change the way the world views abortion.

To expands its reach, the first SAA Healing Network Virtual Conference in July 2020 was designed to unite and connect advocates for abortion healing and reached 5,600 advocates and leaders in abortion healing in 22 countries and 6 continents. It was so successful that an even bigger event is set to take place Oct. 28-30, 2020.

The conference provides educators, program leaders, counselors, therapists, and clergy with access to meaningful, research-based educational resources to make their organizations, staff and individual roles highly effective. Educational and inspirational sessions will be a mix of live and recorded presentations from 60+ leading abortion healing experts globally.

In fact, you’ll find these familiar faces among the keynote presenters: Bishop Frank J. Dewane; Father Joe Gates, Administrator of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Parrish; Father Shawn Monahan, Oblate of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Parochial Vicar at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

In addition, Abby Johnson, the author of the best-selling book and subsequent movie, “Unplanned.” Abby had an eight-year career with Planned Parenthood; one that caused her to ultimately flee the organization and become an outspoken advocate for the pro-life movement.  Abby travels across the globe sharing her harrowing story of her career with Planned Parenthood before becoming an outspoken opponent of abortion. She is the founder of And Then There Were None, a ministry designed to assist abortion clinic workers in transitioning out of the industry.

Registration for the Healing Network Virtual Conference is FREE at https://www.supportafterabortionvirtualconference.com/.  For more information about the Healing Network Virtual Conference or Support After Abortion, please contact Lisa Rowe at 941-468-6148 or lisa@supportafterabortion.com.

Poor Clare feast celebration muted

The Poor Clare Sisters, living a secluded life in a monastery on Fort Myers Beach, are examples for all to follow, shaking off their worldly burdens to live as St. Clare of Assisi called, in cloister, devoting their life to serve as the Lord called.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane expressed his profound gratitude to the Poor Clare Sisters for their response to God while remarking how the ongoing global pandemic has forced many into isolation, which he prays has encouraged the faithful to use that time growing closer to the Lord.

The Bishop celebrated Mass on Aug. 11, 2020, the Feast of St. Clare, for the religious sisters at the San Damiano Monastery of St. Clare on Fort Myers Beach.

Abbess Sister Mary Frances Fortin and the other religious sisters at the Monastery, expressed their appreciation for the Bishop’s presence, particularly on the Feast Day of their Founder, which is an annual occasion.

“We are deeply grateful to have Bishop here with us every year, but his presence has a greater meaning to us during this pandemic,” Sister Mary Frances said. “The continued support we receive from the Bishop and Diocese is overwhelming.”

The Mass was celebrated without the normal standing-room-only congregation as the Chapel is too small to accommodate the faithful and still maintain social distancing.

“We miss the people who come to visit,” Sister Mary Frances said of those who would attend the daily Mass or come to pray in the Chapel. “Our prayers are with everyone who is suffering through these difficult times and we turn to the Lord in joyful hope that will we be able to open our doors again soon.”

Bishop Dewane said the good work of Poor Clare Sisters, “through your prayers and your example that should inspire all to devote one’s life in service to the Lord.”

The Poor Clare religious community of women was begun 800 years ago when Chiara Offreduccio, a young noble woman of Assisi, Italy, cast off her rich garments and donned the simple garb of St. Francis of Assisi to live, as he did, the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Poor Clare Sisters have called Fort Myers Beach their home since 1988. The Monastery became independent in 2009. Although the Sisters never solicit donations, many parishioners bring them groceries and send them money each month.

The daily life of the Poor Clare Sisters is set into a traditional monastic framework of prayer and work. Holy Mass and Liturgy of the Hours are the anchor of their day. Outside these times, the sisters engage in all the ordinary tasks of life in a spirit of sisterly sharing, joy and peace. A sister might be found packing up an order of hosts for one of the local parishes, taking care of the altar, sweeping the cloister walk or doing some laundry. Or you may find a sister at a desk, doing bookkeeping, answering mail, preparing spiritual cards or planning the liturgy.

While the Chapel is currently closed to the public due to the pandemic, you can contact the Poor Clare Sisters by calling 239-463-5599, emailing prayer requests to saintclare@comcast.net, or by visiting www.fmbpoorclare.com.

Donations in support of the Poor Clare Sisters can be sent to: San Damiano Monastery of St. Clare, 6029 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931.

Prayer to St. Clare
“O glorious Saint Clare, God has given you the power of working miracles and the favor of answering the prayers of those who invoke your assistance in misfortune, anxiety and distress; we beseech you, obtain for us from Jesus, through Mary, what we beg of you so fervently and hopefully if it be for the greater honor and glory of God and for the good of our souls. Amen.”

News briefs for week of Aug. 10, 2020

Ordination to the Transitional Diaconate Aug. 29

Diocese of Venice Seminarian Alex Pince will be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Aug. 29, 2020, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. The Transitional Diaconate Ordination Mass will begin at 11 a.m., with a reception to follow. All are invited to attend.   

Diocesan Prayer Campaign begins Aug. 15

A Diocese of Venice Fall Prayer Campaign for Peace and Conversion in our country begins on Aug. 15, 2020 (the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and includes a 54-day Rosary Novena. These daily prayers and devotions are designed to help each of us truly encounter Christ and be transformed by His love. This transformation is that of true holiness. Each one of us is called to continuously offer ourselves to God, growing in holiness day by day. To learn more, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/prayer.

Voter Guides available

Please be advised that the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops Candidate Questionnaire is available at www.flaccb.org/cqp. Candidate responses are posted on the website and appear in two formats: 1) lists of all candidates on the primary and general election ballots; and 2) primary election candidates in table format by Diocese. If you have any questions, please contact Jeanne Berdeaux at Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068.

Religious sisters renew vows

Congratulations to Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco Katie Flanagan (Immaculata La Salle Catholic High School, Miami), April Cabaccang (St. John Neumann Catholic High School, Naples), April Hoffman (St. John Neumann) and  Maria Fe Tansioco (Immaculata La Salle) on the renewal of their vows on Aug. 4, 2020 at Our Lady of the Angels Chapel of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples. Father Bob Kantor, Pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Naples presided over the renewal of vows. The ceremony was witnessed by members of the student government. The temporary professed sisters usually renew their vows in Haledon, N.J., at their Mother House, but because of pandemic travel restrictions, the Salesian Sisters who minister in Florida renewed their vows in Our Lady of the Angels Chapel at Neumann.

1,800 books devoured in summer reading program

Congratulations to St. Joseph Catholic School summer readers who participated in the Patterson Summer Reading Challenge! These students read more than 1,800 books, completed Accelerated Reader goals, shared books weekly via Zoom, and completed book activities. Because of our new start date, our readers still have until Aug. 14, 2020, to achieve their High Points goals, and some are very close! Great work! Each student earned a wristband for completing books and achieving goals.

New windows being installed

The installation of stained-glass windows at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch is making excellent progress. The newly constructed Church was dedicated in 2019 but the stained-glass windows were not ready at the time. Since mid-June 2020, the new windows are being installed and adding greater beauty to the interior of the worship space.

Sarasota priest joins reading campaign

Pallottine Father Patrick Wilson, Parochial Vicar of St. Martha Parish in Sarasota recently took part in a webcast series of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading “This Book is Cool!” hosted by Director Beth Duda. The featured book on the July 12, 2020 episode, was “The Frogs Wore Red Suspenders” written by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Petra Mathers. The project is generously funded by The Patterson Foundation, is designed to encourage children, PreK- Gr. 3, to read, and includes a selected book, a special guest, new vocabulary words for the Word Bank, and a suggested activity that goes with the book.

Bradenton food pantry benefits from postal drive

The National Association of Letter Carriers headed up an employee food drive at all five post offices in Bradenton all to benefit the St. Joseph Parish Food Pantry, the largest such pantry in Manatee County.  The postal carriers.  collected food throughout the month of July 2020 and brought it, along with a monetary check in the amount of $1,000, to the food pantry on July 29, 2020.  This action took the place of a national food drive which was cancelled, impacting food banks through the country. Thank you, Bradenton letter carriers, for your generosity.

New Superintendent meets Principals

Shares vision about building Catholic School Culture

The mission of the Catholic Church, and by extension its Catholic Schools, is to introduce the world to its Savior.

This mission concept favorite declaration of Cardinal Francis George, the late Archbishop of Chicago and shared by Father John Belmonte, a Jesuit and new Diocesan Superintendent of Schools.

Father Belmonte shared the message at a meeting with principals on July 8, 2020 at Epiphany Cathedral Parish Hall in Venice. “That is what we do,” he explained. “That is our mission.”

He added that the world happens to be the school for the principal, the classroom for the teachers, and the family for those who are parents.

“We get to do that as Catholic School educators every day; which in my view is the greatest mission that anyone could have the privilege of serving and why I certainly get up in the morning and what I want to have happen in all Catholic schools – to introduce the world to its Savior! There is nothing better!”

As Superintendent, Father Belmonte said he sees his job – and by extension the entire Office of Education – as helping each principal, and by association each Diocesan Catholic school, to be wildly successful.

“If you are already wildly successful, congratulations, we will continue to facilitate that,” Father continued. “If you’re not quite wildly successful, we will work on that… because if we are, then we are introducing our students, families, teachers, everyone that we are serving, to our Lord, through the Church. Nothing is more important than that.”

Father Belmonte did warn the principals that he obsesses about developing Catholic School culture and its deeper and richer meaning in comparison to Catholic identity. “It is much more than that.”

The gathering began with the Liturgy of the Hours, a daily prayer of the Church, followed by a welcome by Bishop Frank J. Dewane.

The Bishop welcome Father Belmonte and said he was humbled that Father accepted the position with the Diocese, having a strong background in education which is also the Charism of the Jesuit religious order.

Bishop Dewane opened his comments by first thanking the gathered principals for their hard work during the last few months and managing the challenges caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“Know that I am very proud of how you handled it, and how we were perceived out in the public arena in handling the online teaching during the spring semester and as we approach reopening in August,” said Bishop Dewane while specifically thanking Interim Superintendent of Schools Ben Hopper for stepping up while also doing double duty as principal at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School.

Father Belmonte has a long connection to the Diocese of Venice having visited the area with family, specifically Anna Maria Island in Manatee County, for the past 50 years. He has an extensive background in education as a teacher and administrator, most recently as superintendent of the Diocese of Joliet.

Prayer, formation, fun at summer program

The sounds of a few dozen girls praying together in Church had been missing for the past few months at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula.

The Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara (SSVM), women religious who serve at the Parish, were determined to change that by organizing two religion-based programs for children, one for girls the week of June 29-July 3, 2020, and the boys from July 6-July 10, 2020.

Sister Gema Ruiz, SSVM, said, “We are excited to see our children praying and playing together. These programs allow them to experience a week of joy and friendship in this time of hardship.”

The summer programs were for children from kindergarten through fifth grade and usually has more than 150 children. Therefore, the usual raucous crowds were a bit toned down this year with limits on the number of participants to about 60 each. This did nothing to change the purpose of the summer programs, bringing young boys and girls in a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.

This was accomplished through the daily participation in celebration of the Mass, prayer time, religion and Bible classes, games, arts and crafts with some fun mixed in to help burn off the pent-up energy of the young ones.

Safety protocols were followed by children and volunteers alike. There was lots of hand washing and wearing of masks was required at Mass, or at indoor activities in the Parish Hall or classrooms. Masks were only put to the side while eating or when outdoor games took place to avoid heat-related illnesses.

Assisted by men and women who are discerning life as religious with the order each day began early and lasted through the afternoon. There was even a field trip one morning to the Heartland Event Center.

The programs served the added benefit of bringing something normal back into their lives, being together with friends for a few hours.

When asked how his week had gone, one second grade boy jumped high off the ground stretching out his arms legs and exclaimed, “Great!”

Drive-by farewell overwhelms retiring priest

After 22 years serving at St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales Father Stanley Dombrowski knew now was the time to retire.

“I had a great run, but it was time,” said Father Dombrowski, who will soon turn 73. He started at St. Cecilia as Parochial Vicar in 1998 before becoming Pastor in 2001 with his retirement effective July 1, 2020.

To mark his retirement, the Parish staff decided to hold a drive-by farewell on July 2, 2020, wherein the parishioners could drive into the parking lot and heap their praises on Father from their vehicles.

The unusual circumstances of the COVID-19 Pandemic forced this unusual, but successful farewell in lieu of a traditional farewell party. Vehicles arrived long before the celebration was to commence, and the line was so long it created a temporary traffic jam on nearby roads.

As much as a party, cake and speeches would have been more traditional, the drive-thru allowed each family to have a few moments to personally thank Father for his service and to pray for a blessed retirement. The impact one priest had upon the faithful at St. Cecilia was evident in the decorated vehicles and words of kindness.

One driver summed it up best for many: “No words can express what you mean to our family. We love you.”

Father Dombrowski wore a funny hat and was all smiles as he greeted every family by name, recognizing grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren who have been part of the Parish for many years. Jokingly, he reminded everyone that although he is retired, he will still help out at St. Cecilia. “I have the 7:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Mass this Sunday.”

Afterwards he said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support. “That was wonderful. It brought back such strong memories.”

Father Dombrowski made his first profession with the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales in 1979 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1983. He first served as a teacher in Wilmington, Delaware, then as campus minister at Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales in Pennsylvania. He later served as a U.S. Navy Chaplain before arriving at St. Cecilia in Fort Myers.

Sister Frances retires leaving advice: ‘Stay close to Jesus’

Susan Laielli – Special to the Florida Catholic

With a smile and her famous Irish twinkle shared with Parishioners of Epiphany Cathedral in Venice for the last 26 years, Sister Frances Lalor, RSM, announces her retirement effective June 30.

Religious Sister of Mercy Frances Lalor, longtime Director of Religious Education at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, is retiring June 30, 2020.

Sister Frances, 81, professed her vows as a Religious Sister of Mercy (RSM) on September 8, 1957 in Ireland, and completed her studies in Columbia, Missouri in the 1960’s, eventually serving as principal of a Catholic School in Lake Worth, Fla., before coming to Southwest Florida.

“When we first came to America, we had the most beautiful habits made for us in Ireland, but oh boy, were they hot,” laughs Sister Frances. “We had to make lighter weight habits on the hurry.”

Since 1994, Sister has been a leader in Catholic Education working as Epiphany Cathedral’s Director of Religious Education, a position that is extremely crucial with respect to teaching and preparing young minds and hearts for the Sacraments of Confirmation, First Confession and First Holy Communion, as well as overseeing the annual Vacation Bible School and weekly Religious Education classes. She also coordinated the Parish’s RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) Faith Formation classes, which brings new Catholics into the Church. In addition, she served as acting Principal of Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School for several months a few years ago.

Over two-and-a-half decades of teaching in Venice, one can only imagine the impact Sister has had on several generations of growing Catholics. The advice she always offered was to always “stay close to Jesus.”

“Well, I hope I have. You never know for sure if you have made a difference,” said Sister Frances. “In fact, I met a little girl just last Sunday who went through a very difficult time in her life when she was growing up here. Now, a nurse in Texas, she came back to visit. When someone says to you, ‘You saved my life’ – you know…”

With teary eyes, Sister recalls the little girl’s father died by suicide and she spent time working with the family through that rough time, including helping her to get through the Christmas pageant that year.

Religious Sister of Mercy Frances Lalor, center, seen in Ireland with her brother Tom, a newly ordained priest, and cousin Sarah Ryan in this photo from 1968. The longtime Parish Director of Religious Education is retiring on June 30, 2020.

Born in County Laois, Ireland, Sister Frances grew up in a “very” Catholic Family, one of seven children, who never missed Mass, and whom as a family prayed the Holy Rosary each night on their knees, as she says, “not in cushy chairs.”

“No matter who came to the door the Rosary didn’t stop. They just walked in and got down on their knees – whether it was a workman, or someone else, because we lived on a farm,” said Sister Frances.

The visitors would finish the Rosary with the family, then work would go on, she recalls.

With a memory of seven Popes in her lifetime, she says if she had to choose a favorite, it would be Pope (St.) John XXIII, who served from 1958-1963.

“I like Pope John XXIII because before he became Pope, he helped the Jews quite a bit, but when he became Pope, he was just natural and human,” said Sister.

Retirement is one of the unavoidable stages in a life well-lived and is bittersweet.

On June 1, 2020, Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School teachers honor retiring Religious Sister of Mercy Frances Lalor, a one-time principal at the Venice school. The longtime Parish Director of Religious Education is retiring on June 30, 2020.

As Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School celebrates 60 years of Premier Education for a Life of Purpose this year, the school recently honored Sister Frances with its 2020 Shining Star Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Epiphany Gala, held in February.

Before the effects of COVID-19 took hold, Sister Frances had big retirement plans to visit a religious order in San Antonio, Texas. But for now, those plans are on hold, so she’ll remain local with a few good meals until the Pandemic subsides.

“A favorite would be eggplant parmigiana with a glass of white wine – not red!” smiles Sister Frances.

News briefs from the week of June 22 2020

First grader wins national Space Art contest

Artwork of Javier Herrera, a first grader at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers, who won the Living Worlds Space Art Contest sponsored by the University of Notre Dame.

Javier Herrera, a first grader at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers has been named the first-place winner in the Living Worlds Space Art Contest sponsored by the University of Notre Dame. Javier won the K-1st grade category in the contest which asked students to imagine what new and unusual forms of life may exist on other planets. For his top place finish, Javier was presented with a beginner telescope and some science books. His teacher/classroom will receive a $250 gift card to purchase science and art supplies.

A panel of educators and scientists evaluated the artworks based on their artistic creativity, scientific accuracy, and the written explanation. By participating in this contest, it is hoped that students will learn about adaptation, the discovery of planets around other stars, and the diversity of life both on our planet and beyond.

 

LaBelle priest earns Doctorate

Congratulations to Father David Vidal, Administrator of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle, for successfully defending his doctoral dissertation on April 23, 2020, through the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Father Vidal is also a part-time member of St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami Philosophy Faculty as well as one of the adjunct spiritual directors. Father Vidal is a Thomistic scholar whose research and writings deal with the idea of the “Transcendentals” in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Son of current Ave Maria family ordained Transitional Deacon

On June 14, 2020, Salesian Brother Steven Joseph DeMaio (Salesians of Don Bosco) was among seven ordained transitional deacons in Jerusalem. He is originally from Sherman, Conn., but his parents are parishioners at Ave Maria Parish. Deacon DeMaio entered formation in 2010 and made his first vows in 2012 and perpetual vows in 2018. The ordaining prelate was Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, Latin-Rite Apostolic Administrator of Jerusalem. The ordinations were celebrated at the Church of All Nations in Gethsemane. This summer he will exercise his ministry at a parish in Belle Glade in Diocese of Palm Beach, about 20 miles east of Clewiston.

 

Food pantry open in Wauchula

St. Michael Parish in Wauchula is the home to a food pantry which has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 Pandemic response. To accommodate those who work, the food pantry is open each Saturday, 7–8:45 a.m., 408 Heard Bridge Road, Wauchula. If you need food at a different time or would like to support the efforts to assist the community, please call the Parish at 863-773-4089.

Community supports Catholic Charities program

The Vilano Community of Sarasota recently held a food drive for Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities in Venice and dropped of the items in early June 2020. The drive also collected items for the babies such as diapers and wipes. The program assists mothers and their young children who might otherwise be homeless with shelter and supportive assistance.

Bradenton food pantry available

The St. Joseph Parish Food Pantry, 2704 33rd Ave. W., Bradenton, is open and distributing food from 9a.m. to noon Monday-Friday, and 5-7 p.m. Wednesdays, following all social distancing protocols. New clients are welcome to register during regular pantry hours. Call 941-756-3732 if you have any questions or wish to make a donation of money or food. For more information on the St. Joseph Food Pantry go to https://www.stjoepantry.com/.

Catholic Charities Response to Pandemic

If you need help

If you need assistance from Catholic Charities for food, financial assistance or tele-mental health counseling, please call the number for your area listed below 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday:

  • Sarasota/Manatee/DeSoto/Hardee/Highlands counties: 844-385-2407,
  • Charlotte/Lee/Hendry/Glades counties: 844-385-2423,
  • Collier County: 844-385-2404.

Food distribution

Catholic Charities food distribution will take place only at the following times and locations. Please call the regional number for more information.

  • Monday-Friday, 9-11 a.m., Guadalupe Social Services, 211 S. 9th St., Immokalee;
  • Tuesdays, 9-11:30 a.m., Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center, 3174 Tamiami Trail E., Naples;
  • Thursdays, 9 a.m.-noon, St. Margaret Parish, 208 Dean Duff St., Clewiston;
  • Fridays, 9-11 a.m., St. Leo the Great Parish, 28360 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs;
  • Fridays, 9 a.m.-noon, Elizabeth K. Galeana Pantry, 4235 Michigan Avenue Link, Fort Myers;
  • 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month, 9-11 a.m., St. Paul Parish, 1208 E. Oak St. Arcadia;

How to Help

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. is in urgent need of your financial support during its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To help, please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org/donate or send a check to: Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc., 5824 Bee Ridge Road, PMB 409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065.

Catholic Charities partnership assists COVID patients

The positive COVID-19 cases in Immokalee surpassed the 1,000 mark on June 11, 2020 according to information provided by the Florida Department of Health.

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. is collaborating with the Collier County Bureau of Emergency Services Division (BES), to help those infected with the virus who have tested positive and are unable to self-isolate.

First, to help alleviate the spread of the coronavirus, Collier County BES is leasing seven apartments, for 65 days, at Horizon Village, a dormitory in Immokalee for unaccompanied migrant and seasonal workers owned by the Collier County Housing Authority.

The items, purchased with the help of a donor by Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities, will be used to create “Move-In-Kits” for positive COVID-19 cases who receive temporary housing assistance from Collier County in Immokalee while in quarantine.

The reason for this action is that those living in Immokalee live in very simple and extremely close quarters. The efficiency apartments obtained by the county are a safe place for those infected with the virus to quarantine themselves and yet, remain near family and friends.

With this arrangement finalized, Catholic Charities CEO Philomena Pereira was approached by Dan Summers, director of BES, to provide “Move-In-Kits” for those needing the emergency shelter as well as to offer some hot meals and other food they can cook in their temporary homes while in isolation.

Peggy Rodriguez, Program Director of Catholic Charities Guadalupe Social Services in Immokalee, jumped at the opportunity to help curb the spread of the coronavirus in her community.  Rodriguez contacted one of her generous donors, Tom and Fran McCarthy, to learn if they would help fund the “Move-In Kit” project. They most graciously agreed. Rodriguez and her team went shopping to purchase the supplies needed for the “Move-In Kits.”

The “Move-In-Kit” supplies include: bed kits (sheets, blankets, pillows, comforter), bathroom kits (towels, soap, toilet brush, plunger), cleaning kits (glass cleaners, dish soap, disinfectants cleaning products, bleach, broom, dustpan, laundry detergent), kitchen kits (pots, frying pans, glasses, dish set, utensils, coffee maker) and an AM/FM radio. The cost of one “Move-In Kit” is about $150.

In addition, Catholic Charities will be providing a daily hot meal from Guadalupe Social Services Casa Maria Soup Kitchen and other culturally appropriate non-perishable food items for the length of their stay. The apartments each have refrigerators and kitchenettes.

Father Inna Reddy Yeruva, M.o.C., hands out soup to-go at the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen of Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities in Immokalee on June 10, 2020.

Collier County officials said if more space is needed, more rooms can be reserved quickly. Officials are also unsure how many people will ultimately need the temporary sheltering in the coming weeks and months and thus how many additional “Move-In-Kits” will be needed.

Pereira said this partnership with Collier County came out of ongoing discussions on the increasing demands for assistance in Immokalee. The rural farming community has been hit hard by the impacts of the pandemic in two ways. First there have been massive job losses when farms ceased operations. There has also been a spike in positive tests as many of the residents live in communal housing where social distancing and isolation are next to impossible.

Father Inna Reddy Yeruva, M.o.C., hands out soup to-go at the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen of Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities in Immokalee on June 10, 2020.

Guadalupe Social Services is also home to a food distribution point which has seen a massive increase in demand since the crisis began. The food pantry is open 9-11 a.m. each weekday, and the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen is now open for take-out of hot food during the same hours. Other living accommodations are being made as required and requested by needy families and Collier County officials.

Catholic Charities Board Chair Dick Rogan noted that he had a sense of pride with how Catholic Charities has stepped up to assist in Immokalee and complimented Rodriguez’ team for going above and beyond.

Pereira said the community partnership taking place in Immokalee is an example of how Catholic Charities is adjusting its response to the evolving impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic as the situation changes in different areas of the Diocese. Primarily, more rural areas are seeing larger numbers of people out of work and an increase in positive cases, so the focus for assistance is shifting.

“It will take all of us joining forces to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to help those who continue to struggle throughout the Diocese of Venice,” she said.

If you would like to assist the efforts of Guadalupe Social Services, or Catholic Charities as a whole, your financial support is urgently need. To help, please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org/donate or send a check to: Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice Inc., 5824 Bee Ridge Road, PMB 409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065.

If you need help

If you need assistance from Catholic Charities for food, financial assistance or tele-mental health counseling, please call the number for your area listed below 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday:

  • Sarasota/Manatee/DeSoto/Hardee/Highlands counties: 844-385-2407,
  • Charlotte/Lee/Hendry/Glades counties: 844-385-2423,
  • Collier County: 844-385-2404.

Food distribution

Catholic Charities food distribution will take place only at the following times and locations. Please call the regional number for more information.

  • Monday-Friday, 9-11 a.m., Guadalupe Social Services, 211 S. 9th St., Immokalee;
  • Tuesdays, 9-11:30 a.m., Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center, 3174 Tamiami Trail E., Naples;
  • Thursdays, 9 a.m.-noon, St. Margaret Parish, 208 Dean Duff St., Clewiston;
  • Fridays, 9-11 a.m., St. Leo the Great Parish, 28360 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs;
  • Fridays, 9 a.m.-noon, Elizabeth K. Galeana Pantry, 4235 Michigan Avenue Link, Fort Myers;
  • 2nd and 4th Fridays of the month, 9-11 a.m., St. Paul Parish, 1208 E. Oak St. Arcadia.

Public celebration of Mass resumes May 18

The following is a letter from Bishop Dewane to the faithful, dated May 12, 2020: 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Bishop Frank J. Dewane raises the host during the Mass at St. Ann Parish in Naples in January, 2020. The public celebration of the Mass in the Diocese resumes May 18, 2020.

As we rejoice in our Easter Faith, my prayer is that the new life we have in Christ will bring you and your family hope and comfort. The Coronavirus has brought numerous challenges. Our common efforts to mitigate the disease have asked us to sacrifice and adjust to new realities for the good of all. United in Christ, we continue to face the present difficulties with courage and compassion. So many have persevered in faith and charity and our Parishes have remained beacons of God’s love and grace. For this, I am profoundly grateful to God and to the Priests and Faithful of the Diocese of Venice.

After much prayer and discernment, and having consulted with the priests on the Presbyteral Council, it has been determined that public celebration of the Mass in the Diocese of Venice can resume. Therefore, I am announcing that the celebration of Holy Mass with a congregation present, will begin on May 18, 2020 and moving forward.  All other non-liturgical activities at Parishes remain suspended until it is determined that these activities can safely resume; thank you for your understanding on this point.

Out of concern for the safety of all involved, our Pastors have been asked to follow established directives and guidelines. These limit the size of the congregation to 25% of occupancy, maintain social distancing guidance, and ask the Faithful’s cooperation to wear facemasks and bring with them hand sanitizer for their use. The Faithful are also asked to receive communion in the hand. These are extraordinary times and I ask for your patience and good will as Parishes reopen for public celebrations. Further, schedules may need to be adjusted and some Priests or liturgical ministers may not be able to participate publicly because of age or health conditions.

As Parish churches reopen for Mass, I remind those who are at greater risk or anxious about returning at this time, that the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in effect until June 28, 2020. Parishes have been asked to continue livestreaming until the dispensation is lifted. The Faithful ought not to worry about remaining home if they are concerned for their wellbeing or that of other parishioners. Of course, those who are sick or have symptoms associated with COVID-19 are to stay home.

The Faithful of the Diocese of Venice have remained resolute in their faith during these unprecedented times, vibrantly expressing their Spiritual Communion with Christ and His Church. Still, I am aware that there is a hunger for the Eucharist. My prayerful hope is that, strengthened by the Bread come down from Heaven, you will emerge from these times with stronger faith. As we return to Holy Mass, let us with the psalmist, raise our voices in praise of God: I rejoiced when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+ Frank J. Dewane

Bishop of the Diocese of

Venice in Florida

 

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