News Briefs for the Week of April 30, 2021


After consultation with the Priest Personnel Board, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announces the following appointment: Father Daniel A. Flens, as Parochial Vicar of St. Andrew Parish, Cape Coral, effective March 1, 2021.

Dispensation to attend Mass ends effective May 1, 2021

As Bishop Frank J. Dewane continues to listen to public health data and hear from Priests and Parishioners about their experiences at Diocesan Parishes, the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass will be lifted in the Diocese of Venice beginning May 1, 2021. For a letter from Bishop Dewane and the revised guidelines updating Parish safety protocols which includes the need to continue to wear masks at Mass, as well as at all Diocesan and Parish activities, please visit for English and for Spanish, please visit

Youth group raises money for Earth Day

The St. Columbkille Parish Youth Group lesson for the week was Catholic Social Justice, and Caring for God’s Creation, and in turn they hosted a lemonade stand after Masses on April 18, 2021 with all donations going to help the earth. The group raised more than $600 and opted to split the money and shared it with ECHO in North Fort Myers and the Calusa Nature Center in Fort Myers. ECHO teaches sustainable farming and combats world hunger, while the Calusa Nature Center connects people with nature educating them about our unique ecosystem and environmental issues concerning the region. The success was attributed to the hard work of the youth and the support of the parishioners.


Volunteer recognized nationally

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. Volunteer Tim Gunderman of Bonita Springs was recently named one of 6 finalists a finalist for the Catholic Charities USA Volunteer of the Year Award. Gunderman by virtue of his efforts to help people in the Bonita Springs and Naples areas during the past year first made the top 36 then the top 6. A video of each finalist was created as part of the selection process. Congratulations Tim for your time, knowledge and heart in helping to support Catholic Charities.

The St. Vincent de Paul Rummage Sale May 1

Please join the Sacred Heart Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in our continuing efforts to raise money to assist those in need in our community by taking part in a May 1, 2021 Rummage Sale from 9 a.m. to noon at 25200 Airport Road in Punta Gorda. There will be household items, furniture, linens, clothing, shoes, purses, jewelry, books and toys. The rain date is May 8.

Junior Class Retreat theme: “Have No Fear”

The peer ministry team at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples was on campus until late on April 22, 2021 and returned to school bright and early the next day to lead the Junior Class Retreat! The theme of the retreat was “Have No Fear” (Psalm 23) with the focus on letting go of our fears in order to trust more in God. The day included time for prayer and reflection as well as a variety of fun activities

Student places third in countywide Spelling Bee

Congratulations to Elizabeth Burke, a student at Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Parish, for taking third place in the 2021 Optimist Club of Naples Spelling Bee on March 24, 2021.

First graders learn about science

The first-grade class of Anne Boddison at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers recently enjoyed reading stories on inventing and engineering things. The students then had fun working together and using different items from their S.T.R.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts, Math) bins to build many unique objects such as flying houses, robots, mazes, and much more. The students then recorded what they built by drawing and writing about what they created in their journals.

Online fundraiser to support Our Mother’s House

Honor your mother, daughter, sister, friend, or someone who has been like a mother to you with a gift that will help homeless mothers and their children. Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities provides a safe environment for residents to achieve self-sufficiency through education, vocational training, and personal growth. This year they are holding their annual Mother’s Day fundraiser so everyone can help a needy mother succeed. To support Our Mother’s House please visit

Porn: Seven Myths Exposed event May 4

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

Stepping into Marriage with Children

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

Year of the Family

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

8th Annual Marian Eucharistic Conference

All are invited to the 8th Annual Marian Eucharistic Conference at Ave Maria University from May 14 to May 16, 2021. Featured speakers will include Dr. Mark Miravalle, John Paul II Chair of Mariology, Franciscan University of Steubenville; Kathleen Beckman L.H.S., author and President of Foundation of Prayer for Priests; Dr. Edward Sri, theologian, author, and co-founding leader of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students); and Roy Shoeman, speaker and author of “Salvation is from the Jews” and “Honey from the Rock.” Please visit to register for this event. Lodging and meals available. For more information call 239-348-4725 or email

Prayer Vigils continue abortion centers

40 Days for Life continues year-round in Fort Myers and Sarasota! Please join in prayer outside of Planned Parenthood. Help is needed in Fort Myers on Wednesdays and Thursdays when abortions take place and in Sarasota Monday, Tuesday and Thursdays. Your presence makes a difference! When people are there on the sidewalk, the “no show rate” for abortion appointments can go up 75%. For more information about the Fort Myers vigils, please email and for Sarasota

Foster Homes Needed in Florida

There are over 20,000 children requiring foster care in the State of Florida with only 5000 families certified to meet their needs. During May, National Foster Care Awareness Month, please consider providing a loving home where a child can heal and thrive. To learn more about foster parenting children in Florida who do not have relatives who are able to care for them, please call 1-83-FOSTERFL or visit

Divine Mercy Sunday: Prayer Service for Forgiveness and Healing

The Second Sunday of Easter, or Divine Mercy Sunday, completes the Octave of Easter, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the blessing of His continuing presence in our midst. The Gospel reading for Divine Mercy Sunday (April 11, 2021) recalls the encounter between St. Thomas and Jesus after the Resurrection.

For many in the Diocese of Venice, the Feast of Divine Mercy takes on a powerful meaning when they participate in a private or public prayer called the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and is a time to remind the faithful that the Lord’s Mercy has no end.

This year, the marking of Divine Mercy Sunday at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice incorporated a prayer service for healing and forgiveness for anyone who has been touched by a pregnancy loss.

“Sometimes in a loss – whether it is through a miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion – so much is going on; the hurt is so strong one might believe they can’t approach the Lord,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane said. “Divine Mercy Sunday is here to remind us to call upon the Lord for the forgiveness, compassion, and mercy regardless of how we got there.”

“While one might be afraid to approach the Lord in the context of shame or fear, Divine Mercy Sunday is about the all-encompassing power of God to forgive,” the Bishop added. “Just as the Apostles were locked in the upper room with fear when Jesus Christ appeared to them, we lock ourselves in – so alone – thinking the Lord can’t forgive us. No matter what it is we lock inside, this must not prevent us from seeking forgiveness.”

Father Shawn Monahan, OMV, Epiphany Cathedral Parochial Vicar, who counsels women who have suffered the loss of a child through abortion, stillbirth and miscarriage, also reflected on the power of Divine Mercy Sunday.

“The mercy is never with condemnation and always with compassion,” Father Monahan said. “Healing takes time, so we must be patient with ourselves in the process, in walking with the Lord, and tuning our ears to hear His voice and to trust in His love and mercy.”

Divine Mercy Sunday is a tradition in Parishes throughout the Diocese and the world, celebrating the mercy of Jesus as recalled to us by St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a religious sister who lived a humble life to whom Jesus appeared. St. Faustina was born in Krakow, Poland and lived from 1905-1938 being canonized by St. Pope John Paul II in 2000 and at that time declared the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.

The image of the Divine Mercy was created by St. Faustina who was told to paint the image of Jesus as she saw Him. The painting has the saying at the bottom: “Jesus, I trust in You.” The rays emanating from Jesus represent water – which makes souls righteous — and blood — which is the life of souls, Jesus told St. Faustina.

Among the practices associated with the devotion are its novena, the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy (a series of prayers organized similarly to a rosary), the Hour of Great Mercy (a time of prayer traditionally celebrated at 3 p.m.), and a plenary indulgence granted to those who receive the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation on Divine Mercy Sunday.

The Epiphany Cathedral service included the singing of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation as well as a display of the Divine Mercy image and a relic of St. Faustina.

Epiphany Cathedral has a long history of celebrating St. Faustina as a devotion to her dates to the founding of the Diocese of Venice in 1984 when a weekly Mass in Polish began there. Earlier on Divine Mercy Sunday, a Mass in English, Polish and Spanish was celebrated and afterwards was also the opportunity for prayer before the relic of St. Faustina.

A video of the full service can be found at

News Briefs for the week of March 26, 2021

Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Televised Mass

The Diocese of Venice in Florida will air the televised Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Masses, each for a full hour. The Masses can be viewed at 9 a.m. on the CW Network in Sarasota, Manatee, Desoto, Charlotte, Hardee and Highland counties, and at 10:30 a.m. on FOX4 in Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Hendry, Glades and Desoto counties. The Mass is also available on the Diocese of Venice website at

Holy Week Mass times

The Holy Week Mass times for each Diocese of Venice Parish/Mission have been compiled and are available for viewing at The list is in alphabetical order by city and includes the address and contact information for more information.

Catholic Center daily livestream to end March 31

The livestream of the Daily Mass from the Catholic Center will end on the final day of Lent, Wednesday, March 31, 2021. The 8 a.m. livestream of the Daily Mass from Epiphany Cathedral in Venice will still be available for viewing through the Diocese of Venice and Cathedral Facebook pages. As usual, this stream is available for viewing throughout the day.

Knight receives honor for military valor

Knights of Columbus member Salvatore (Sal) Naimo, of the Our Lady of Victory Council 3358, served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the 1950s including during the Korean War. On his 89th birthday, March 17, 2021, the veteran received one of the military’s highest honors for his heroic actions nearly 70 years ago. Colonel John Polidoro, Chief of Staff for Marine Corps Forces, Central Command, awarded Cpl. Naimo the Silver Star in a ceremony at the Knights Hall in Sarasota.

It was September 1951 when Cpl. Naimo put his own life at risk by carrying two fellow Marines who were severely injured in a mortar attack to get aid. Naimo was nominated for the honor years ago but only recently was it approved and awarded.

“What I did in 1951, it is long gone in the past, but this will remind me of it forever,” Naimo said to local media who were present for the ceremony. “It was a day that I won’t forget. It is just something that I won’t probably talk about again.”

Divine Mercy items of interest

A Divine Mercy Novena begins on Good Friday, April 2, 2021 and concludes Saturday, April 10. In private revelations to St. Faustina, Jesus asked that the Feast of Divine Mercy be preceded by a novena praying for nine intentions with the Divine Mercy Chaplet. It is particularly appropriate for anyone who has been touched by abortion or is nearing death. The novena can be accessed online at

In addition, there will be a Divine Mercy Sunday Prayer Service on April 11, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave, West, Venice. Everyone is invited to participate in the prayer service for forgiveness and healing from pregnancy loss. The prayer service will also be livestreamed at

For information about either the Divine Mercy Novena of the Prayer Service, please contact Sylvia at 941-412-5860 or

Bishop celebrates Mass for students in Sarasota and Bradenton

Bishop Frank J. Dewane continued celebrating Mass for students in Diocese of Venice Catholic schools with the latest stops on March 8, 2021, at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, March 19 at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton and March 23 at St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy in Sarasota.

During these Masses, Bishop Dewane stressed how the Lenten Season is a time for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as we prepare to celebrate the Paschal Mystery of our Faith.

Freshman Retreat

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School Class of 2024 enjoyed the much-anticipated Freshman Retreat on March 17, 2021. Seniors led the event, including a scavenger hunt, small group discussions, ice cream social, and candlelight prayer service in the courtyard. The key moment of the retreat was the celebration of Mass. This retreat was postponed from before the start of the academic year due to necessary pandemic restrictions.



Future bright in Diocese One Year into Pandemic

What a difference a year makes.

It was on March 19, 2020 that the celebration of public Masses was suspended within the Diocese of Venice. On that day, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, sadness and worry prevailed for an occasion normally set aside to celebrate and honor the foster-father of Jesus Christ, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Patron of the Universal Church who is also guardian and protector of the Church and Her faithful.

It was also on that day the Diocese of Venice began its celebration of a “Year of St. Joseph.” “Particularly in this time of uncertainty in light of the coronavirus Pandemic,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane said at the time: “It is appropriate to seek the intercession of St. Joseph, a saint whom we look for guidance and protection.”

One year later, the Solemnity in 2021 takes on a new meaning of hope as the Diocese has made great strides in the effort to return to all pre-pandemic activities. Numerous successful events, including conferences, Masses and prayer walks, have brought an approach of normalcy to people of the Diocese, through spreading the “Good News of the Lord.”

For the Solemnity this year, the Bishop is celebrating a traditional Mass in Italian. Diocesan school children who have been taking part in a St. Joseph Devotional Project will also be recognized at a special event. The Diocesan “Year of St. Joseph” has been extended to Dec. 8, 2021 to coincide with a Universal Year dedicated by Pope Francis.

The Diocese resumed public Masses on May 18, 2020 with up to 50 percent capacity, social distancing, and mask requirements, as well as enhanced cleaning protocols, all of which remain in place to this day. While visiting any Parish within the Diocese of Venice there are signs requiring all to wear masks and maintain social distancing. The ubiquitous hand sanitizer is also there. Behind the scenes are dedicated people who do deep cleaning.

Catholic schools and Parish religious education programs went to virtual learning in the spring and summer of 2020 before a massive effort was made to enable in-person instruction by August at all schools and for most religious education students.

The results have been inspiring during a time of great sorrow and struggle as everyone was impacted by the Pandemic in some way. There have been no outbreaks linked to the celebration of Mass in the Diocese, in-person instruction or for that matter at Diocesan or Parish events. Therefore, confidence has built in the effectiveness of the Diocesan safety precautions. Therefore, the number of people returning to Sunday Mass has steadily increased while at the same time the number of students learning virtually has correspondingly dropped for the same reason. In fact, only 3.4 percent of all Diocesan Catholic school students are currently remote learning.

This success has come about through the leadership of Bishop Dewane, in conjunction and consultation with the priests, principals, Chancery and numerous internal and external professionals, in coordinating the Diocesan efforts during this evolving process while implementing these policies across 61 Parishes and 15 schools.

As we celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph, let us reflect upon the past year in remembrance of those we have lost and those who have struggled in any way.

The Holy Father in declaring the Universal Year of St. Joseph against the backdrop of the Pandemic, which, he stated, has helped us see more clearly the importance of “ordinary” people who, though far from the limelight, exercise patience and offer hope every day. In this, they resemble St. Joseph, “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence, who nonetheless played an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”

Women of God: Women of Strength

On a recent beautiful Saturday, 350 Catholic women consciously chose to take part in a Conference that would not only encourage but guide them as they continue to become more the Women of God they are called to be.

The 2021 Diocese of Venice Women’s Conference was held March 13, 2021 at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers and featured a day of rousing talks and the opportunity to be together amongst other women of Faith.

Roberta Bunch of Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers was thrilled to be able to attend the event with so many other like-minded and motivated women.

“I really wanted to be here so I could get some insight into how to keep up my passion for Christ,” Bunch said, noting it was the first large gathering she had been to in more than a year. “Each part of the day struck me in different ways. Truly wonderful. My heart is filled with joy.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane praised the women for taking time out of their busy lives to participate in the Conference, something he is confident the Lord sees.

“Because of this, you have been given a mission in the Church as the peacemakers,” Bishop Dewane continued. “You can do so much. Your love is undeniable. Know the Lord will give you the rest – the strength, humility and honesty to set you on a new direction, changing who you are as a Woman of God.”

The Conference featured acclaimed speakers Kimberly Hahn and Mary Ann Weisinger-Puig. Both focused on the importance of placing one’s trust in the Lord and being hope-filled women.

Hahn explained that hope is a “confidence in the Lord’s presence and His power. Hope is about placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength but on the help and grace of the Holy Spirit.”

Weisinger-Puig spoke about key women throughout Church history who should be looked up to as “radiant witnesses to God’s love.” Examples included St. Joan of Arc and St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross (St. Edith Stein), to name a few. The final woman covered was Servant of God Chiara Corbella Petrillo. An Italian woman who had carried two children to term even though she knew they would die shortly after birth. During her third pregnancy she was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer but chose the life of the unborn child over undergoing any invasive treatments. Her son was born healthy, but she died within a year, in 2012, at the age of 28.

New to the Conference was a question and answer session with Bishop Dewane joining Hahn and Weisinger-Puig. Questions covered issues raised in the earlier presentations, but one poignant moment came when the panel was asked for advice on how to respond when a family member strays from the Faith.

The Conference opened with Eucharistic Adoration, which continued throughout the day in a nearby classroom. The opportunity for Confession was also available all day. Aspects of the Conference were adapted this year to comply with social distancing requirements necessitated by the Pandemic. These included extra space for seating during the talks and lunch, as well as limiting the total number of participants.

News Briefs for the Week of March 19, 2021

Bishop celebrates Mass at Donahue Academy

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

Religious education group makes lunches for homeless

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

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

Divine Mercy Sunday Prayer Service

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

Divine Mercy Sunday in Naples

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

Parent cyber security event in April

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

Marriage prep retreat for couples over 55 in April

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

Shifting from Condemnation to Compassion

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

Bishop ignites 40 Days Spring Campaign

The 40 Days for Life Spring Campaign seeking an end to abortion in the U.S. commenced on Ash Wednesday. Present at the opening vigil in Fort Myers were more than 200 people, including students from two Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was at the head of the vigil on Feb. 17, 2021, encouraging everyone present to be strong as they stand up to end an evil that plagues society: the taking of innocent life. “It is part of our Lenten journey to give ever more to life in every way, and participation in this vigil is an important step,” Bishop Dewane said.

Students from Bishop Verot Catholic High School and Donahue Academy of Ave Maria took part in the vigil. First, they took part in an opening procession as escorts of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary to a podium across from the Planned Parenthood abortion facility. The students then led the praying of the rosary and heard from several speakers who shared their passion for life while holding up signs such as “Pray to End Abortion,” “Smile, Your Parents Chose Life,” and more.

The sight of the students filled the hearts of the older participants with joy upon hearing that the youth were part of the respective school’s Pro-Life club. The students are actively learning and sharing what they know about Church Teaching and the sanctity of all life from conception to natural deaths with their peers, while participating in a variety of other activities throughout the year.

“It is heartwarming to see the young people out here,” said 72-year-old Susan Byrd of St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers. “It is their generation that is being harmed and we need them to take up the mantle in speaking out for the unborn.”

One Bishop Verot student said she was proud to be a part of the opening for the 40 Days for Life Spring Campaign and plans to return during the coming weeks. “We were not able to go to the national March for Life because of the Pandemic, but I am so glad we could be here. The message of life needs to be heard here!”

Another 40 Days for Life Spring Campaign can be found in Sarasota, where more than 80 took part in the opening vigil. The two Diocesan campaigns are part of the larger national effort which this year include 567 cities and continues through March 28.

Bishop Dewane said that many make the issue of life a political one, when in reality it is a moral issue.

“Failing to protect life is a moral evil that threatens the dignity of each and every human being in the world today,” the Bishop continued. “For this reason, the Catholic Church and U.S. Bishops have been unwavering and outspoken in their stance on this issue.”

For more information about how you can participate in the 40 Days for Life Spring Campaign within the Diocese, go to and click on the location nearest you. You can also contact your Parish Life Coordinator for specific information about your Parish’s commitment days.

News briefs for week of February 26, 2021

Verot artists shine in chalk

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School Art Club members participated in the Chalk Block contest on Feb. 5-6, 2021 on the waterfront in Fort Myers. More than 40 Lee County high school teams participated in the Chalk Block event which was sponsored by Lee Health and Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.


Verot seniors Angela Hopkinson, Letitia Tiranayake-Siriwardena, and Rachelle Hartig won the Golisano Children’s Hospital “Sunny and Sparkle” award in addition to taking third place overall. Ainsleigh Ellis, Sophie Purdue, and MacKenzie Housler won a judge’s award for their sun garden. The theme this year was CommUNITY. The girls are currently considering making their chalk block design into a t-shirt that will raise money for art therapy programs at the Children’s Hospital.


Sarasota Charity Ball a success

The 2021 Sarasota Charity Ball was a huge success on Feb. 13 at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in downtown Sarasota. The proceeds from the event will benefit the programs of Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice in Sarasota and Manatee counties including the St. Martha Early Learning Center, Bethesda House, Our Mother’s House, North Port Family Haven and more, all which help to serve the needy in the area.

The elegant evening included a live auction and dinner catered by Michael’s on East and was chaired by Bridget Speiss.

Mooney student medals in State Weightlifting

Congratulations to Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School student McKayla Cantrell who medaled and finished 4th in the 2021 Class 1A Girls Weightlifting State Championship on Feb. 12, 2021 at Suwanee High School in Live Oak. Her combined lift was 305 pounds (165 pounds in the bench press and 140 in the clean and jerk). McKayla is Mooney’s first state medalist in this event.

Parish adds spiritual touch to food distribution

St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples are now partnering with St. Matthew’s House for a weekly food distribution. This outreach began in January and more than 400 families are coming by for food each week. In addition to giving food, the Parish Prayer Team provides something different to help the recipients connect to the Lord. For example, the team recently provided rosaries along with information in the Divine Mercy Devotion. As the team prays with their guests, they also learn if there are any other needs, such as rent or utilities, which are then addressed by the Parish St. Vincent DePaul Society.

Migrant Care Grants deadline Feb. 28

Grant requests for funding of 2021 projects from the Foundation for the Care of the Migrant Poor are available and need to be submitted no later than Feb. 28, 2021. To be considered by the Board of Directors for a Grant, the project must clearly be seen as a service to the migrant poor or new immigrants. Preference will be given to those projects under Catholic auspices. Applications can be submitted by going to the Foundation page on the Diocese website at

Volunteers needed

The St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift stores in Bonita Springs and Naples are in need of more volunteers. If you feel you can help, please contact Samantha Maturo, Program/Volunteer Coordinator, at or 239-775-2907 ext. 1014.

Safe Haven Sunday

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

Women’s Conference March 13

Registration is now open for the 2021 Women’s Conference on March 13, which will feature speakers Kimberly Hahn and Mary Ann Weisinger-Puig. The Conference will be held at Bishop Verot Catholic High School, 5598 Sunrise Drive, Fort Myers. The Conference is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (doors open at 8 a.m.) with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. Confession will be available all day. For more information or to register, please visit

40 Days for Life now until Palm Sunday

Join other Christians from now through March 28, for the Spring 40 Days for Life campaign. This Campaign encompasses 40 days of prayer and fasting for an end to abortion. Stand and peacefully pray during vigils in the public right-of-way outside Planned Parenthood in Fort Myers or Sarasota. For more information, go to and click on the location nearest you.

Sarasota Prayer Walk commemorates dark anniversary

Support of the unborn is a moral stance, not a political one. This was the message shared during the 23rd Annual Prayer Walk for Life in Sarasota Jan. 22, 2021.

This walk coincided with the National Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. The day also marked the 48th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision which cleared the way for the legalization of abortion in the U.S. Since legalization, some 60 million babies have been aborted.

A Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane began the day at St. Martha Parish, putting the activities in their proper context of prayer, resolve and hope. This Mass was livestreamed and shared via the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities social media accounts and was available for viewing by those outside of the Diocese.

“Respecting life is not a political issue, but a moral one,” Bishop Dewane stated. “Failing to protect life is a moral evil that threatens the dignity of each and every human being in the world today.”

For this reason, the Catholic Church, U.S. Bishops, priests and the faithful are obligated to continue to speak out for the voiceless because the right to life is God-given, the Bishop added.

“It has to be all of us together,” Bishop Dewane continued. “Abortion is of preeminent priority and we need to continue to be a voice for life in our country. The position of the Church and that of the U.S. Bishop Conference is unchanging and publicly well known. The sacredness of human life must be defended and has been the position of the Conference and Church since the beginning.”

The prayer walk took place in front of the regional headquarters for Planned Parenthood on Central Avenue in Sarasota, the largest abortionist in the nation.

Circling the facility in prayer, approximately 100 took part in the walk with some holding signs seeking the closure of the facility, others calling for all to pray for the unborn.

Carmella Roberts of Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch said she was pleased that there were so many people participating in the walk because of many factors that could have prevented participation.

“I’m so glad people didn’t use the excuse of the cold weather, the Pandemic or even a new president to stop coming out for this important walk for life,” Roberts said. “We are out here to raise awareness about what happens here, but also to educate others about the sacredness of all life. Jesus calls us to be here, in His place, to pray for the unborn and for the mothers that they choose life.”

The faithful of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Grove City took part in their own Prayer Walk for Life on Jan. 23, 2021. Participants circled the Parish Church while praying the rosary as witnesses to the dignity of the human person.

In addition, a Prayer Life Chain took place on Jan. 24, 2021 on U.S. 41 in front of San Pedro Parish in North Port. Dozens of faithful, led by Deacon Richard Frohmiller, held up signs for passing motorists to see that read “Jesus Forgives and Heals,” “Adoption is a Loving Option, “Pray to End Abortion,” “Abortion Hurts Women,” and more.

Beginning Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, the faithful will have the additional opportunity to stand up as witnesses for life. There will be two Diocesan locations for the Spring Campaign of 40 Days for Life. Stand and peacefully pray during vigils in the public right-of-way outside Planned Parenthood in Fort Myers or Sarasota. For more information, go to and click on the location nearest you.

For more information about the Diocese of Venice Respect Life Office, please visit, or contact Jeanne Berdeaux at 941-484-9543 or

2021 to be busy across Diocese

Opportunities abound for the faithful of the Diocese of Venice to grow closer to the Lord as the new year begins while continuing to deal with the impacts of the global COVID-19 Pandemic. A variety of larger Diocesan events are scheduled or in the planning stages while at the same time numerous Parishes are in the process of either completing or starting major construction work. Therefore, 2021 is sure to be an exciting year for Catholics across Southwest Florida.

In the coming months there will be the Ordination to the Priesthood of two men, a new initiative to curb the impacts of pornography on society, small and large conferences, Masses for couples celebrating significant wedding anniversaries, opportunities to promote the sanctity of life, celebrations of all sorts, as well as the continuation of the “Year of St. Joseph.”

With the blessing of Bishop Frank J. Dewane, such activities will take place throughout the Diocese as part of the continuing effort to emerge with a new purpose in the wake of the darkest days of the Pandemic. All of this will be done while following the guidelines of social distancing, face coverings and extensive sanitizing (cleaning) which continues to take place. These measures remain, not only to ensure the safety of the public attending Mass or other events, but for priests, staff and volunteers who serve throughout the Diocese.

Two of the most important occasions to grow in the Faith are the annual Women’s and Men’s Conferences at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. Each year captivating speakers help bring focus to the faith-life of participants. The Conferences are from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and include Mass with Bishop Dewane, Adoration, the chance for Confession, listening to presenters and enjoying lunch. The Men’s Conference is Feb. 20, 2021, while the Women’s Conference is March 13, 2021. For more information please contact the Office of Evangelization at or 941-484-9543..

For all couples celebrating a significant wedding anniversary in 2021, Bishop Dewane will be the celebrant of Masses in your honor. This year, to allow for appropriate social distancing, each location will have two Masses, 10 a.m. and noon on Feb. 6, 2021, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice, and 10 a.m. and noon on March 6, 2021, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. All registration is being handled through local Parishes with seating commitments confirmed at least one week before the Mass you wish to attend.

The Office of Respect Life will be busy throughout 2021 with a variety of in-person and virtual activities all to raise awareness about important issues regarding the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. First up is the 23rd annual Sarasota Prayer Walk for Life on Jan. 22, 2021 outside of the Planned Parenthood in downtown Sarasota. Bishop Dewane will celebrate Mass at 8:30 a.m. at St. Martha Parish, and immediately following, participants will gather for the prayer walk. Space is limited for Mass, so registration is required at The Mass will be livestreamed through the Diocesan Facebook page and will be shared with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s 9 Days for Life campaign.

Two weeks later, Feb. 2-3, 2021, the faithful will be able to participate in the Virtual Catholic Days at the Capitol courtesy of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops at Finally, there will be an opportunity to participate in the national 40 Days for Life Spring Campaign during Lent in Fort Myers and Sarasota then for the Fall Campaign (October) at multiple locations in the Diocese.

New this year, the Diocese will be participating in Safe Haven Sunday, March 7, 2021, to raise awareness about the harmfulness of pornography in the family and society. Pornography creates unsafe environments for children and confuses others about attitudes towards sex and marriage. It is a moral issue, therefore this day of awareness will explain the impacts pornography can have on marriages, families, and culture, while providing helpful resources for all. Detailed information will be shared with the faithful about how to combat this scourge in the week leading up to Safe Haven Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Diocese continues to be dedicated to celebrating the “Year of St. Joseph,” which began on March 19, 2020, the Feast of St. Joseph. The prayers of the Diocese, as directed by Bishop Dewane, are focused on the Saint who is the foster-father of Jesus and the Protector of the Universal Church. In light of Pope Francis recently dedicating a “Year of St. Joseph,” the Diocesan celebration will continue through December 8, 2021. A “Year of St. Joseph,” webpage ( was added to the Diocesan website for prayers, devotions and general information. Meanwhile, the Diocesan Department of Catholic Education started a St. Joseph Devotional Project to promote a dedication to the Saint while at the same time developing a devotional life of both children and adults into 2021.

In the coming months, Bishop Dewane will preside over a variety of celebrations which occur each year, including the Rite of Election in February when Bishop Dewane welcomes those in RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) who will be fully entering the Church at the Easter Vigil, a Mass for Victims of Abuse, and later in the year a Veterans Day Mass, the 25th anniversary celebration of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center, a Red Mass for legal professionals and more. It is also expected that two men will be Ordained to the Priesthood by the Bishop in early summer.

Throughout 2021 there will be a variety of Parish-based celebrations to include the 50th Anniversary of the founding of San Marco Parish on March Island; the opening of a new church for St. Paul Parish in Arcadia; the completion of roof repairs for Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish in Bradenton; groundbreakings for Parish Centers at St. William Parish in Naples and Our Lady of Mercy in Boca Grande; the renovation of property that previously functioned churches into Parish Centers at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee and Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch; and the completion of extensive audio-visual upgrades to Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers. These are just samples of the ongoing projects and work underway to support Parishes as they take action now for the benefit of future generations.

As 2021 moves forward, check the Diocesan website ( frequently for information about these and other upcoming events. As always, check the weekly Florida Catholic e-Edition to read stories and view images from these and other happenings across the Diocese. If you would like to read the story about life in the Diocese during 2020, please visit www.