News Briefs for the week of September 8, 2023


Father Patrick O’Connor, OSFS, is relieved of his duties as Pastor of Jesus the Worker Parish and San Jose Mission in Fort Myers, effective Sept. 1, 2023, and thus has returned to his Religious Community.

Father Carlos Encinas, is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of St. Agnes Parish and St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, Naples, effective Aug. 1, 2023. Father Encinas, for health reasons, has taken an assignment in the Diocese of Oakland, California.

Bishop Dewane celebrates Mass in Bradenton

Students at St. Joseph Catholic School were blessed to have Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for them on Sept. 1, 2023. Bishop Dewane encouraged the students to follow Christ’s example at home, in school and in the community. Following the Mass, the Bishop joined the eighth graders for breakfast where he took time to speak to them and encourage them to be the leaders of their school.

Day focuses on STREAM learning

The third through eighth grade students at St. Mary Academy had a fun STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts, and math) day on Aug. 31, 2023, hands-on exercises in small groups. The students worked on the following: Natural Disasters – created structures to withstand high winds of a Category 1-4 hurricane, where a blow dryer created much excitement; Hurricane Escape Room – an activity where they researched the season, cause, formation, naming, and wind scale of a hurricane; Create a Structure to Survive the Storm: with the use of pilings, flood barrier walls and absorbent materials students created a dog house to keep their pet dog dry. These were great activities using all aspects of STREAM and the students learned so much, instilling a love of science, while also working together as disciples of Christ.

Fort Myers schools give back

Two Diocesan Catholic schools which received many gestures of kindness from the impact of two hurricanes are returning the favor. St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers and St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral had special “Dress Down Days” on Aug. 31, and Sept. 1, 2023, respectively. Money raised on these days will go to help Sacred Hearts Catholic School in Lahaina, Hawaii. The school, which has been serving the community for more than 150 years, was destroyed during an Aug. 8, 2023, wildfire which killed at least 115 and left thousands homeless. The school website states: “The flames destroyed our physical structures, but they cannot extinguish the Holy Spirit in us and our strong will to rebuild and rescue the students of the Lahaina community.” By providing a donation, the students at St. Andrew and St. Francis Xavier were able to forgo wearing their school uniform for the day. The result was that thousands were raised between the two schools in a single day. Both of the Lee County schools received donations from across the country following Hurricanes Irma (2017) and Ian (2022), which severely impacted the schools and surrounding communities, thus this was a great opportunity to give back to a Catholic school in need.

Service and community focus of school retreat

Middle school students at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota took part in a special Retreat Day Sept. 1, 2023, which focused on service and community. The students created cards for those who are sick in the hospital and placemats to be used at Thanksgiving for those less fortunate. They concluded with a Prayer Service with Pallotine Fr. George Suszko, Pastor of St. Martha Parish.

Patriotic theme for first game of season

The stands of the St. John Neumann Catholic High School football field were a sea of red, white, and blue on Sept. 1, 2023, during the first home game of the season in Naples. The Patriotic Night brought out many inspiring outfits as everyone cheered the Celtic team on to a 16-8 victory against Gateway Charter of Fort Myers.

Teachers take part in professional development

Each year Diocesan Catholic school teachers have special days set aside to help them grow in their work and receive updates on new policies and programs. At St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton on Sept. 5, 2023, the teachers learned about a new program for faith formation, followed by working in committees to begin a self-study that will lead to long range planning, goal setting, and preparation for school re-accreditation. During the day, the staff lived their mission statement: “rooted in Catholic faith and committed to academic excellence.”

Volunteers help fill backpacks

Volunteers from St. Martha Catholic School and Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota helped fill 1,200 backpacks for children in the region on Sept. 5, 2023, at All Faiths Food Bank. There were 18 volunteers who joined in this outreach.

Vocational Retreat draws dozens of men and women

Priesthood, religious life, sacramental marriage, and consecrated single life are the four vocational options for young people today. This was the core message of a one-day Vocational Retreat “Encounter with Christ” on Aug. 26, 2023, at St. Paul Parish in Arcadia.

Father Luis Pacheco, Administrator of St. Paul, organized the retreat as a way to encourage the youth to start thinking about a vocation, regardless of which one, but in all cases, in service to the Lord.

The response was overwhelmingly positive as 52 young men and women attended the retreat representing four different regional Parishes. During the day, the youth heard from Bishop Frank J. Dewane, priests, religious women, a married couple and a single woman; all shared how they are living their response to the call of the Lord in their lives.

Bishop Dewane, who spoke to the group and celebrated Mass at the close of the retreat, said “We are each called to open our hearts and our ears to hear the call of the Lord in our own life. That call will be different for each one of you. It is how you respond to that call, by the life you live, where you will find the joy that happens as you give yourself to the Lord.”

Sharing his own vocation story, Bishop Dewane explained how he first thought about the priesthood in his early teens, but kept putting it off to do other things, before finally realizing it was time.

“There was angst over the decision, but once I decided to go for it, I never looked back. I even reflect that I should have done this (discerned the priesthood) years earlier. The Lord has been good to me. You are called to do what the Lord asks,” the Bishop said.

Answering a call to a vocation is not about what anyone wants, it is about surrendering yourself to the Lord because He knows what you need, Bishop Dewane continued.

“Society tells you that you have to decide. Don’t let anybody tell you what to do and the Lord gets lumped into that. Don’t let that happen. When you leave this retreat, it’s my prayer that you will pray about what you are going to do, and about what you learned today. Know that you will forever be in my prayers,” the Bishop concluded.

The retreat began with an opening prayer and then a presentation by Father Pacheco themed “Jesus the Great Doctor.” There were then group discussions followed by a short vocational video. The second talk was by Father Nathan Marzonie, Oblate of the Virgin Mary, and Parochial Vicar at San Pedro Parish in North Port, on discernment and his journey to becoming a priest with a religious order.

Following lunch, there were games and songs before a vocational film and time for personal reflection on the following questions: What vocation do you think God could be calling you to? What questions should I ask myself to find out what vocation I am being called to? What is the difference between a vocation and a profession? Prior to Mass, the youth had the opportunity to go to confession while the group took part in a Holy Hour with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

A key moment of the day was when the youth heard from a panel of presenters, with representatives of each vocation. On the panel were Father Alex Pince, Parochial Vicar at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, Sister Martha Flores, Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Light (MHML), Director of Religious Education at St. Paul, Mr. and Mrs. Dixon, and Lupita Galaviz.

The Dixon’s shared how they entered their marriage as the pure sacrament it is meant to be, keeping God first in everything they do. The couple has been blessed with 12 children and one on the way. “We have been blessed in so many ways. Sacramental marriage is a beautiful vocation when you live it with the support of God to help you through any challenges,” Mrs. Dixon said.

Galaviz, 23, explained how she chose to remain single for now because it is how the Lord has guided her through her life. While she does have a boyfriend, the two live a pure life; she is taking the time to grow deeper in her relationship with the Lord, through prayer and by living her life as an example for others to follow. This has allowed her to mentor and support others while sharing what she has learned from the Lord.

Father Pince spoke about how he also delayed his vocation to the priesthood for several years until he finally heard the call of the Lord clearly while on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France. “I was overpowered with God’s incredible love. I had a sense God would never abandon me if I said ‘Yes!’ I knew I wouldn’t be afraid in my life because He would be with me every day.”

By saying “Yes!” Father Pince said he finds great joy in the priesthood each day. “It is not like my life is over. God has surpassed any expectations because God had a plan for me from the beginning.”

Offering advice to the youth, Father Pince said they need to attend Mass regularly and to receive the Blessed Sacrament at Communion, using this time to be close to the Lord, in His Church. They must also go to the confessional regularly to receive the Lord’s loving mercy, and to be in a state of grace, the vessel that can clearly hear the Lord’s voice. Finally, the youth must trust God — this comes from His unwavering love, which, when accepted, will lead them to ultimate happiness.

Sister Martha took a different approach to her talk to the youth as many in the group have known her for many years.

“It’s exciting to be a religious,” she said. “It is not a boring life; it is an extreme life. It is fun, always fun. I entered the convent at 18 so I could go out and share the Love of God with others, announcing Him and to be passionate for His Kingdom, all to make sure everyone can hear the Good News of the Lord.”

A religious for 40 years, Sister Martha said it seems like she entered the convent and made her vows of chastity, poverty and obedience yesterday.

“I have the same love of God, and I am here to share it with all of you. I gave myself freely, and it is the best experience to give all of yourself in what you are doing and thinking and sharing it with so many people. A vocation is a gift from the Lord. You say, ‘Here I am Lord’ and you answer that call every day.”

Sister Martha concluded by adding, “Don’t be afraid. When you answer your vocation, it will be the most joyful and happy life. But you must listen because He is always talking to you, and He wants you to be happy and enjoy life and be able to share His life with others. A vocation is always in motion,” she said with a laugh and big smile.

Each panelist shared what it was like to live their vocation and then responded to anonymous but poignant questions from the retreatants.

If you are interested in a vocation to the priesthood, or religious life (men or women), please contact Father Shawn Roser, Diocesan Director of Vocations, at 941-484-9543 or, or visit

Mission celebrates Bishop visit, Feast Day

A joyful celebration of faith and culture took place Aug. 27, 2023, at Santa Rosa de Lima Mission in Montura Ranch Estates, a small farming community in Hendry County, some 15 miles south of Clewiston.

The occasion, the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. Add a Feast Day of Santa Rosa de Lima and nothing could quell the excitement of the small community. The day also included a banquet featuring food from many different cultures.

Bishop Dewane was grateful for the kind welcome and praised the faithful for their strong faith in making Santa Rosa de Lima Mission such a vibrant Catholic community, shown in how they respond to the call of the Lord in their lives.

“Your presence here each Sunday is a testament to that,” Bishop Dewane said. “But it cannot just be on Sundays. You must declare that you are a follower of Jesus Christ. Choose to say who Jesus is in your life, in the way you live each day.”

Following the Mass, Bishop Dewane praised the pastoral work of Father Jean Woady Louis, Administrator of the Mission and St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston, and the two women religious from the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Light (MHML) who serve in numerous roles.

Father Woady, as well as a parishioner representing the community, thanked Bishop Dewane publicly for his support of the people of Santa Rosa de Lima Mission and of Hendry County. They both noted how it was an honor and blessing to have the Bishop celebrate the Mass for the community.

In honor of the Feast Day aspect of the celebration, a temporary shrine of roses with a statue of Santa Rosa de Lima was on display in front of the chapel, which Bishop Dewane incensed during the Mass.

Many in the community sought special blessings from Bishop Dewane following the Mass as he took time to greet as many people as was possible. One woman said she could not remember ever meeting a Bishop in person and was honored Bishop Dewane took the time to speak with her and even bless her mother.

While there was a driving rainstorm after Mass, this did not deter a lavish potluck banquet which took place under tents and other shelter, and included cuisine from Mexico, Peru, Cuba and elsewhere.

Also present for the celebration was concelebrating Father Marcial Garcia, Pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven. He previously served the Mission, as did Father Jiobani Batista, Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle, who joined the group for the banquet.

Answering the call of the Lord – Young lady begins postulancy with religious order

When Stephanie Dowell met her first woman religious, she thought it was just another job that someone did, not realizing at the time that it was a whole other way of life.

The first encounter occurred when Dowell was in 5th grade at Incarnation Catholic School. The next encounter took place after eighth grade when she attended a summer Steubenville youth conference in Orlando. There were religious women from many different communities, and Stephanie was able to see them and be surrounded by them during that weekend.

“During the Saturday night Adoration – where they have the monstrance with the Holy Eucharist go around to every person there – it was such a powerful experience for me, and I really felt God talking to me… That this was what He was calling me to do. He wanted to call me deeper into a relationship with Him.”

Once the seed was planted, Dowell began to research various religious communities and went on several retreats, including with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist community in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

It was during those weekends with the Dominican sisters that Dowell realized she had found a home, fully understanding the order’s mission which is to seek to share God’s message of faith and the joy of religious life with the modern world through various outreaches including education, vocations, and culture.

The rest is history, as Dowell, 18, is now becoming a postulant with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist community in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She travelled to Michigan on Aug. 22, 2023, the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, and was welcomed by the order alongside five other young ladies for a pre-postulancy week. The order stated on the occasion: “As we recall our Lady’s ‘fiat’ in response to God’s call to her, we praise God for the ‘yes’ each of these young ladies has given to the Father’s invitation.”

Stephanie’s formal entrance will take place on Aug. 28, with her parents and siblings (an older sister and two younger brothers) present.

Prior to her departure, she spoke during Mass at Incarnation Parish the weekend of Aug. 12-13, sharing her vocation story and thanking the parishioners for their support and prayer through years.

“Everyone was congratulating me and asking for prayers. Everyone was so excited. (A woman answering a call to a religious life) is not something super common anymore and they were glad that it is still alive. I just hope I don’t let them down,” Dowell said. “A lot of people are very happy for me and I feel very blessed.”

Father Eric Scanlan, Incarnation Pastor, expressed his joy about a vocation coming from the Parish, from a graduate of the Catholic school and altar server through the years.

“Every vocation is a gift from God, whether to marriage, religious life, priesthood, or serving the Lord as a single man or woman,” Father Scanlan wrote in a note to the faithful about Dowell’s choice of vocation. “Yet, it is always a special joy to see someone respond to the call to give their life in service to God… We are so very excited and proud to support you with our prayers in the years to come, that God willing, you may complete your time of preparation and formation, and so give your life completely to Him. May God bless you, guide you, and lead you more deeply into greater union with Him.”

Dowell said she first attended Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota for two years before transferring to the State College of Florida Collegiate School in Venice. Due to scheduling, it allowed her more time to work on her prayer life.

When she first told her parents about a possible vocation to a religious life while still in middle school, Dowell said they initially thought she was joking but realized quickly how serious she was. Then, when her parents saw her upon a return from a retreat with the Dominicans in Ann Arbor, “they saw how peaceful and joyful I felt. I think that kind of eased them into thinking ‘This is okay for our daughter to do.’ God bless them, they are very accepting of this.”

Her older sister and two younger brothers are also each accepting, having been very supportive through her discernment process.

The retreats included joining in prayer with the sisters, learning about what community life was like, talks on the charism of the community, studying saints of the community, as well as a visit to the Blessed Solanus Casey Center in Detroit, which served as an added inspiration.

Officially entering as a postulant, Dowell will wear a blue vest and blue skirt with a white button-down shirt for the first year. During this time, the postulant will learn community life, the rules of the community, what’s expected of a sister and begin her formal education. This is followed by two years of novitiate, in which she will wear a habit with a white veil. This two-year period consists of learning more about the community and themselves, as well as what God is calling for them in their vows. Then, she will take first vows and receive a black veil. These first vows are renewed after three years. It is approximately two years later when she would take her final vows. The entire process before final vows takes about eight years.

While a postulant, Dowell’s contact with the outside will be limited as her life will be structured within the framework of the community. For example, she will be able to write letters to her family twice a month, and one letter to two friends once a month. Then she will have four visiting days a year and will be able to come home for a week in the spring.

Fully aware of the commitment, Dowell read some books ahead of her entering religious life, such as about the lives of the saints, specifically on Dominican saints, Church history, and key Church documents. “I am a little nervous, but feel my heart is filled with the love of God.”

When asked about what advice she would give to other young women or men about how to be open to the Lord, she said: “The Lord will come to you, whether you are ready or not. It’s just you have to be willing to listen, even if you are not ready at that time. He’s going to always want the best for you, and what you are called to, what He has planned for you, is what you will have the most joy and peace in.”

Please pray for Stephanie Dowell as she begins her journey with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist community in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Excited Diocesan pilgrims take on World Youth Day

Bishop Frank J. Dewane and 52 Diocese of Venice pilgrims are growing closer to Our Lord along with hundreds of thousands from across the globe during World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal.

The pilgrims, led by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, have been on a whirlwind trip with multiple stops at important religious sites enroute to Lisbon that included the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, candlelight processions, as well as visits to shrines, monasteries, churches, sacred sites and more.

Bishop Dewane told the pilgrims upon arrival in Portugal that he wants each to take time to focus on what it is Lord wants them to gain from this spiritual journey of discovery. “You have to come to an understanding of what Jesus is saying to you, and calling each of you to do. The Lord does this because He knows and loves you and wants you to become the best version of yourself, reflecting Jesus’ love and light into the world.”

Trinity Shipe of St. Martha Parish in Sarasota said that this pilgrimage was her first international travel, and she was excited “to be able to be with a bunch of other people who are our age and who are Catholic; as well as to see everyone here all together while I grow in my faith journey.”

Daisy Tejo, of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle, said after just one day in Portugal that the pilgrimage had “been such an amazing experience.” She said that being with so many young people from around the world was life-changing and she prayed the rosary and visited key sites while in Fatima, the location of multiple Marian apparitions. “I look forward to the days to come at Lisbon. I’m very excited.”

One pilgrim, Bryce Kuo of Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch, said the early part of the journey had been an incredible experience. He is traveling with his sister and mother, which has added to the experience. What struck Bryce most was the unifying nature of the World Youth Day experience. “We are speaking in different languages, but we are all united by the same faith… It’s a very moving experience. After this, it will give me the guidelines to live my life in the best way I can.”

Bishop Dewane has been with the Diocesan pilgrims every step of the way, celebrating Mass for the group several times, including during their first stop in Portugal, at a Carmelite monastery in Coimbra.

While in Fatima the group visited several sacred sites. The city, which is located in central Portugal, is famous for Marian apparitions which took place in 1917 when three children saw a series of visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The visit there included taking part in Stations of the Cross and visiting the church where the three children, St. Lucia dos Santos and her cousins, Sts. Francisco and Jacinto Marto, were baptized.

Bishop Dewane was the main celebrant for a Mass for the Diocesan pilgrims and others on July 31 in the Chapel of the Apparitions, built to mark the exact location of the apparitions. The Chapel is part of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima which is visited by at least 6 million each year.

On the evenings of July 30 and 31, the pilgrims took part in rosary and candlelight processions. During the July 31 procession, Diocesan pilgrims Ryan Cody of Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch, and Christian DiGioia, of Epiphany Cathedral, had the honor of carrying the American Flag, while Transitional Deacon Timothy “Greg” Dougherty was among the leaders of the procession.

While in Fatima the pilgrims also visited the Cenacolo Community (Fraternity Angel of Peace), which has houses around the world which help young men and women overcome addictions and depression through a program of encountering Jesus and centering their lives on prayer and service. Bishop Dewane and the Diocesan pilgrims heard powerful testimonies of the 13 men who are currently being helped by the community.

The pilgrims departed Fatima on Aug. 1, and while enroute to Lisbon, they made a stop at St. Stephen’s Church in Santarem, to see and learn about the Eucharistic Miracle of Santarem, which occurred on Feb. 16, 1274. Bishop again celebrated Mass for the Diocesan group.

Once the pilgrims checked into the hotel that they would call home for the following week, the pilgrims attended the WYD 2023 Opening Mass at Colina de Encontro (Parque Eduardo VII), which was celebrated by Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, Manuel Clemente.

Domenico Cricchio Jr. of Our Lady of the Angels summed up what many of the Diocesan pilgrims thought of the first main event at WYD. “What an experience. Amazing. It’s hard to explain these things and to prepare for them. When you are there, it’s a whole new feeling – the whole world is with you and the solidarity and community you feel for the love of Christ is unlike anything I have ever experienced. I look forward to so many more great things here in Lisbon.”

The Diocesan pilgrimage was organized by Marthamaria Morales, Diocesan Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. Morales said the group includes several priests, seminarians as well as youth and young adults from nine different Parishes.

During the main part of WYD in Lisbon, the pilgrims are taking part in daily catechesis called “Rise Up” meetings Aug. 2-4, which are intended to help the young people have an experience of faith and an encounter with Christ in an atmosphere of community and participation.

The Marian themes for the catechesis are linked to the general theme of WYD 2023 which is “Mary arose and went with haste” Luke 1:39. The biblical phrase opens the account of the Visitation (Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth). The overall goal of the catechesis is to give the young people a mission that now is the time to dream and work for a new world, just as Mary did as a young woman.

Pope Francis is scheduled to join the pilgrims on Aug. 3, for a welcome ceremony in the city center. He is also expected to preside at a Way of the Cross on Aug. 4, a prayer vigil on Aug. 5, and the WYD Closing Mass, with an anticipated crowd of a million or more, on Aug. 6. The Diocesan pilgrims are expected to be at each of these key moments at WYD 2023.

Please pray for the WYD pilgrims from the Diocese of Venice and around the world, that they may have a safe and fruitful journey and a meaningful encounter with Jesus Christ.

To follow along on the journey of the Diocesan pilgrims, please visit the Diocese Facebook page @dioceseofvenice or on Instagram @dioceseofveniceinfl, or the Diocese website,

Early highlights of Diocesan pilgrimage to WYD 2023

The following is a list of highlights for the 52 Diocesan pilgrims who are joining Bishop Frank J. Dewane for World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal.

July 30

Arrival in Porto, Portugal and bus ride to Fatima, with a stop in Coimbra. Visited Carmelite Monastery of Coimbra, where Bishop Dewane celebrated Mass. Arrived in Fatima. That evening the group participated in a candlelight procession at the Shrine.

July 31

Mass at the Chapel of Apparitions with Bishop Dewane as the main celebrant. The small chapel is located in Cova da Iria, to mark the exact location where the three children Sts. Lucia dos Santos and her cousins, Francisco and Jacinto Marto, reported having received the famous apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Bus ride to the outskirts of Fatima in the countryside where the Aug. 19, 1917, apparition of Our Lady of Fatima took place. Pilgrims took part in two-mile Estação da Via Sacra (Stations of the Cross), or Caminho dos Pastorinhos (path of the little shepherds), which included 14 chapels that represent the different stations of the Way of the Cross. Father Alex Pince, Parochial Vicar at Epiphany Cathedral led the Diocesan group through the stations on the second anniversary of his priestly ordination.

This visit also included a stop at the Cenacolo Community (Fraternity Angel of Peace) which ministers to those suffering from addictions, as well as the Parish Church of Fatima where Sts. Lucia, Francisco and Jacinto, were baptized, as well as to the Shrine Museum. St. Francisco died in 1919 at the age of 10, Jacinto died in 1920, at the age of 9, both from the 1919 global influenza outbreak. They are the Church’s youngest saints who did not die as martyrs, with Jacinta the youngest.

Upon return to the center of Fatima, the group visited the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, the tombs of the saints, and participated in a rosary and candlelight procession.

Aug. 1

departed from Fatima to Lisbon with a stop at St. Stephen Church in Santarem, to see and learn about the Eucharistic Miracle of Santarem, which occurred on Feb. 16, 1274. Bishop again celebrated Mass for the Diocesan group.

Arrival in Lisbon included checking into hotel and getting credentialed for the main WYD 2023 activities throughout the city. The group then participated in the WYD opening Mass at Colina de Econtro (Parque Eduardo VII), celebrated by Cardinal Patriarch Lisbon, Manuel Clemente.

Aug. 2

Bishop Dewane met the pilgrims for breakfast before they headed out to their Rise Up catechism. This catechism took place the mornings of Aug. 2-4. Bishop Dewane celebrated Mass for the group at St. Joseph Parish.

Each afternoon of WYD a Youth Festival is taking place throughout the city. In Cidade da Alegria, is a Vocational Fair and Reconciliation Park. During the Vocational Fair, young pilgrims encounter various movements, associations, communities, religious orders, and projects of social nature. Reconciliation Park is where pilgrims encounter the Merciful Christ through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

That evening the Diocesan group joined in the WYDUSA National Gathering in Parque da Quinta das Conches. The program featured prayer, music, testimony, networking, and a Holy Hour with the Lord, led by Bishop Robert Barron of Winona-Rochester and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.

Aug. 3

Rise Up catechesis continues. Evening welcoming ceremony for Pope Francis at Colina de Econtro (Parque Eduardo VII). Youth Festival.

Aug. 4

Rise Up catechesis concludes. Evening includes Stations of the Cross at Colina de Econtro (Parque Eduardo VII). Youth Festival.

Aug. 5

World Youth Day Vigil at “Campo de Grace” (Parque Tejo). This is an evening and overnight celebration for the pilgrims which includes speakers, musicians, adoration and much more. Pilgrims typically spend the night at the vigil.

Aug. 6

World Youth Day 2023 closing Mass with Pope Francis at “Campo de Grace.” The Mass concludes with the announcement of where the next World Youth Day will be held. That evening, the Diocesan pilgrims will have dinner as a group with Bishop Dewane.

Aug. 7

The pilgrims leave Lisbon for Porto, Portugal, and upon arrival they will tour one of Europe’s oldest cities. Bishop Dewane will celebrate Mass for the group at the Cathedral there. Last night in Portugal.

Aug. 8

Fly from Porto to Zurich, Switzerland, with a connection to Miami, arriving in the evening. Welcome Home!!!

Theology on Tap brings together young adults

Theology on Tap offers an innovative solution to one of today’s most pressing pastoral concerns: how to reach out to young Catholic adults.

Gatherings, coordinated by Marthamaria Morales, Diocese of Venice Youth & Young Adult Director, are held on the third Thursday of each month at the Mandeville Beer Garden in downtown Sarasota, just a few blocks from St. Martha Parish. The bar includes an outdoor deck which offered the ideal location for fellowship and a discussion about the Faith in a comfortable and relaxed setting.

“It can often be difficult for young adults to stay connected to the Faith,” Morales added. “As a young Catholic, it can be easy to feel left out of the Parish because few activities are designed to appeal to them. Theology on Tap is a program specifically for them.”

The idea of Theology on Tap is to bring together young adults where they feel most comfortable while inviting them to discover how Faith can make sense of their everyday lives. The evenings are about coming together to socialize, collaborate, pray, and grow in their spiritual understanding, all while building a strong core community. The outreach began in 2012 in Naples and Fort Myers and rotated through Parishes in Sarasota County for many years before settling on a single gathering place.

Morales, who has been in her position since January 2023, said the monthly meetings range in size from 30-50 young men and women each month. A different speaker, often a priest, speaks on timely topics and a lively discussion often follows.

The featured presenter for the Theology on Tap on June 15, 2023, was Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese of Venice Director of Catholic Education. Father Belmonte spoke about the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival.

Launched as an initiative of the U.S. Catholic Bishops in June 2022, the National Eucharistic Revival is a three-year movement by the U.S. Bishops to answer the call of Jesus Christ to return to the source and summit of Our Faith – the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. This effort will culminate in 2024 with a National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis.

The Revival’s first year was titled “The Year of Diocesan Revival,” and efforts focused on formation for Diocesan leadership and Diocesan-wide events (March 2023 Diocesan Eucharistic Congress and Youth Rally). The Revival’s second year, “The Year of Parish Revival,” aims to reach Catholics in their Parishes through renewed attention to the “art” of the Mass, Eucharistic devotions, and small-group faith sharing and formation and began on June 11, 2023, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi).

Father Belmonte said the Revival is directed toward all Catholics, but there is a special emphasis on those who have fallen away from the Faith, which includes many young adults after they are away from the direct influence of their family.

Offering an overview of what has taken place in Diocesan Catholic schools to support the Revival, Father Belmonte shared a recap of a recently concluded Devotional Project to the Most Holy Eucharist. This including sharing a prayer card with artwork created by school students and on the reverse includes the prayer: “Devotional Prayer to the Most Holy Eucharist.” This prayer was prayed together to open Father’s talk. As an educator, Father also quizzed the young adults about their knowledge of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Next, Father shared an image of the “Defenders of the Eucharist,” a 1625 painting by Peter Paul Rubens, which is on display at the nearby Ringling Museum of Art on the Sarasota bayfront. This artwork depicts seven saints who worked to safeguard and promote the Eucharist (Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory the Great, Clare of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Norbert and Jerome). Father explained how each had a unique story on how the Most Holy Eucharist has been challenged and defended, dating to the Last Supper.

Following his remarks, Father Belmonte fielded questions from the 30 who were gathered on a hot summer evening. Many asked what more can be done to promote a belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Each month, there are regulars who participate and among the newbies, several said they loved the format and would be returning. Others shared ideas of doing more for young adults at the Parish level, but this outreach is not as widespread as some would prefer.

Morales was pleased with the June turnout as it was very hot and muggy, and she hopes the numbers remain strong through the summer. She will be making an extra promotional push in the coming months.

“I know there is a demand and know young adults want to be a part of the Church. It is all about spreading the word,” Morales said.

The next gathering of Theology on Tap in Sarasota will take place at 7 p.m., July 20, at the Mandeville Beer Garden, 428 N. Lemon St., and the featured speaker will be Father Eric Scanlan, Pastor of Incarnation Parish in Sarasota.

Religious sister retires after 57 years teaching

Sister Maureen G. Carroll, Missionary Sister of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, served her last day as a teacher on May 26, 2023, ending a 57-year career, 34 of those at St. Ann Catholic School in Naples.

Sister Maureen is a very quiet and unassuming woman whose presence and energy is seen in everything she does. Described by many as a an “anchor” at St. Ann, Sister is known as someone who is “a good friend that cares about everyone.”

According to Sister Maureen, her greatest joy has been to lead the children to Jesus through the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist.

Generations of young children, mostly second grade students at St. Ann, were formed in their love for Christ by Sister Maureen performing her duties with gentleness and love.

A presence during the school Masses and on Sundays, serving as a Eucharistic Minister or assisting in various ways throughout the years, Sister Maureen quietly performed her tasks without complaint and guided by Christ.

St. Ann Principal Michael Buskirk expressed sadness over the retirement of Sister Maureen saying that she has been an important part of the school for many decades and replacing her was an impossible task.

“Sister Maureen, we thank you for sharing the gift of your strength and gentleness! May God bless you!” Buskirk said.

In honor of Sister Maureen’s service, the people of St. Ann’s dedicated a pew in her name with her own words on it: “You are all precious in the sight of God and I will carry you all in my heart always.” The pew was decorated with artwork that include a garden and beach scene with images of Sister, students, her cat, and various wildlife.

The pew was presented to Sister Maureen during a retirement reception. Present were current and past students and teachers, grateful parents, as well as several Missionary Sisters. This gathering allowed admirers time to honor Sister ahead of the chaos of the end of another school year.

Born in Ridgewood, New York, Sister Maureen was received as a candidate with the Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1960. She took her first profession on June 30, 1962, and Final Profession on Aug. 22, 1967.

Sister earned a degree in elementary education from Cabrini College, in Radnor, Pennsylvania. She taught in Catholic schools, grades 1-4, in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Illinois before 1989, settling in for the next 34 years at St. Ann Catholic School. The rest is history.

In her spare time, Sister Maureen likes to fish, walk the beach, eat chocolate, travel as well as spending time with friends and family.

In noting her retirement, the Missionary Sisters congratulated Sister Maureen on “her faithful, loving service which is true to their charism as Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus – “Being graced by the Love of Christ, we the Missionary Sisters of the most Sacred Heart are called to respond to His love and to make that love present to everyone.”

The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Christian Life

During the month of May, more than 3,000 young boys and girls throughout the Diocese of Venice will take part in the Sacrament of the Eucharist for the first time.

At St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, the First Communion group of 86 children was so large that two Masses were needed on May 6, 2023.

The girls in white dresses and boys in suits or white shirts with ties solemnly came forward as they reached this important milestone in their spiritual journey of faith. Sitting behind the First Communicants were their parents who beamed with joy.

Before Mass, the children were given final instructions by the catechists, told to clasp their hands together in prayer and then processed into the Church in two lines, boys and girls.

During his homily, Father Wilner Durosier, CS, Administrator of St. Michael Parish, explained the idea of the miracle of the Eucharist to the First Communicants. “It is through a miracle Jesus turned mere bread into the Body of Christ. This is why your priest will say: ‘The Body of Christ’ when giving you the Eucharist each time.”

Father Durosier asked the children if they recall in the lessons about the Last Supper, when Jesus turned bread into His Body, to make sure everyone knows He is there all of the time for everyone who receives Him.

“Jesus gave Himself over to us. Take advantage of the gift Jesus has made available for us at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” Father continued. “Jesus is always there, waiting for you to return. While today you receive your First Communion, I pray that today will be the beginning of many, many Communions so that your heart may always, like today, be festive and full of joy and above all be blessed. Jesus will be waiting for you.”

The children at St. Michael also consecrated themselves to Mary after receiving their First Communion. After the Mass, a group picture was taken and the children proudly stood for individual photos with Father Durosier.

One of the girls, Gabriella, said she was nervous about receiving Jesus in the weeks leading up to her First Communion but was comforted when one of the women religious who serve at the Parish comforted her by saying that if she wasn’t ready, she could wait until she felt she was truly prepared to allow Jesus to become a greater part of her life.

“I am so happy right now,” Gabriella said after the Mass. “I love Jesus so much.”

Similar scenes have taken place at other Parishes in the Diocese or will occur throughout the month. At Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park, the First Communion Mass was also on May 6. There, each child first gathered in the Parish Hall and processed to the church together before coming forward to receive their First Communion while on a kneeler.

At San Marco Parish, in Marco Island, the First Communion was incorporated into the Mass for the Fifth Sunday of Easter on May 7. While there were only 10 First Communicants, the importance for the children, parents, and Holy Mother Church was no less significant.

During a 2019 trip to Bulgaria, Pope Francis told First Communicants how the Lord wants them to share the joy of the Eucharist with others.

“Making your First Communion shows that you want to be closer to Jesus every day, to grow in friendship with Him and to lead other people to share in the joy He wants us to feel,” the Holy Father said. “The Lord needs you because He wants to work the miracle of bringing His joy to many of your friends and family members.”

The 3,000-plus First Communions taking place in the Diocese of Venice throughout May occur during a time of a National Eucharistic Revival. This revival is a three-year effort of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to reinforce the devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane spoke during a March 2023 Eucharistic Congress in Fort Myers, held as part of the National Eucharistic Revival, before groups of teens and adults about the importance of the Holy Eucharist in the life of every Catholic, from the youngest who receive their First Communion to the oldest.

“It is in a precise way in the Eucharist, the Lord is given to us, and we receive Him… Put yourself in a relationship with Jesus Christ, through the Eucharist. It is Christ. It is His Body and Blood. It is His Real Presence!” Bishop Dewane said. “Let His Real Presence in the Eucharist fill your heart, fill your mind, fill your soul with His indication of what it is He wants from you and for you to do in your life.”

Please pray for all children receiving their First Holy Communion during May, that they love the Lord with all their hearts and forever live faithfully.

Osprey Pastor installed

Bishop Frank J. Dewane installed Carmelite Father Anthony Armstrong as Pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Osprey on May 7, 2023, in the context of the Mass.

“We are all called to go forth, responding every more faithfully to the Lord, with ever more strength. Holy Mother Church calls for a Pastor to accomplish that in each Parish, and I, as Bishop, am called to appoint them,” Bishop Dewane said. “Father has been here a while, and you have come to know him, to understand his ways as he has come to know this community here at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I ask that you continue to pray for him as he leads your Parish into the future.”

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish was established in 2000 as a Chapel of Epiphany Cathedral in Venice under the care of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It was in 2002 when Our Lady of Mount Carmel was elevated to a Parish. The current building used for the liturgy was opened in 2004 with a Parish Hall, located a short distance away, added in 2019. The Parish has approximately 1,000 families. Father Armstrong is the fifth Pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

As part of the installation process, Bishop Dewane first called Father Armstrong to the ambo following the homily. Father then recited, along with the faithful, the profession of faith, including additional parts solely for him. He then recited an Oath of Fidelity in which he promises to “adhere to the teachings, which either the Roman Pontiff or the college of bishops enunciate when they exercise authentic magisterium.” The installation also includes prayers to provide the new Pastor the wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit to lead the Parish.

The Bishop then presented Father Armstrong as the new Pastor to the faithful gathered. Documents are later signed by the Bishop, the new Pastor, and two official witnesses of the Parish Community, who serve as witnesses on behalf of all of the parishioners. Copies of these documents are put in the Diocesan files for the Parish and Father, while a copy is kept at the Parish.


After Mass, Father Armstrong first thanked Bishop Dewane for the honor of appointing him, and then the faithful for being so supportive since his appointment in 2022.


“I am well aware of the awesome responsibilities I am undertaking, and I am well aware of my need for your prayers for me as your Pastor,” Father said. “I know that, without your prayers, and without God’s grace, I will not be able to fulfill the role that I have been given.”


A reception followed in the Parish Hall.