Pregnancy resource network leaders meet

Every year directors and staff of pregnancy help centers, maternity homes and after-birth homes come together for a day to share and learn from one another.

The latest gathering took place on June 27, 2023, at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Education Building in Venice, and covered a wide variety of topics.

Firstly, Diocese of Venice Respect Life Director Jeanne Berdeaux provided the group an update on the national “Walking with Moms in Need” program,  which educates (in both English and Spanish) Parish staff and the faithful about how to help pregnant moms in need, including where to send them for help (https://dioceseofvenice.org/walking-with-moms-in-need).

There are 22 pregnancy help centers and nine residential maternity and after-birth homes within the Diocese, standing ready to help. Importantly, there are many financial and volunteering opportunities available to support pregnancy help centers.

Jacqueline Zdrojowy, Executive Director of Pregnancy Solutions, which has offices in Venice, North Port, Port Charlotte and Arcadia, affirmed the value of the new program and how it has helped to build bridges with people in local Parishes. She said the program has unified the pregnancy help centers, helping moms avoid confusion when seeking help.

In a video message about the national program (available through the link above), Bishop Frank J. Dewane stresses how the Church has built a Culture of Life and how we must all stand as a voice for the voiceless – the unborn. It is through the “Walking with Moms in Need” program that Parishes are to be “Islands of Mercy” in a sea of indifference and a field hospital for those in search of support, as called on by Pope Francis.

Bishop Dewane has extended an invitation for the faithful to join in the “Walking with Moms in Need” program “guided by the Holy Spirit, let us offer Christ’s presence and love to mothers in their time of need through our faithful service and support.”

Also discussed during the pregnancy resource network meeting were two proposed Florida Constitutional Amendments that sponsor groups hope to see on the November 2024 ballot. Berdeaux explained concerns with both proposals and how interested attendees can monitor the progress of each campaign.

Karin Barbito, of Support After Abortion, presented information on two “white papers” based on commissioned research:

  • Women’s Research – “Study shows long-term negative impact of medication abortion.”
  • Men’s Research – “Study shows long-term negative impact of abortion on men.”

(These reports are available for download at www.SupportAfterAbortion.com.)

Barbito explained that the growing trend in the use of “medication” – also known as chemical abortions – indicates 80% of abortions are now performed using pills rather than surgery. Complications are as high as 85% with many women experiencing multiple adverse reactions.

The majority of women and men who have experienced abortion want healing but don’t know where to go for help.  Support After Abortion is shifting the conversation to compassion and support for those impacted by abortion. The website offers excellent introductory materials, “Keys to Hope & Healing” and “Unraveled Roots.”

In addition, Barbito said there is a new database which provides information on healing programs across the country, including through a helpline 844-289-4673 and website, while also promoting the Catholic Church’s program, known as Project Rachel, at 941-412-5860 or www.hopeafterabortion.com.

Berdeaux described the network meeting attendees as the “’first responders’ who help women and men navigate the help that is available to them when faced with an unexpected pregnancy.”

All Parishes are encouraged to organize tours of their local agencies so they can meet the dedicated workers and determine how they can help.

“Continued advertisements are needed to make sure that all parishioners know where to send a pregnant woman in need,” Berdeaux said.

For more information, see www.dioceseofvenice.org/respectlife or contact Jeanne Berdeaux at 941-374-1068.

News Briefs for the week of July 14, 2023

Appointments

After consultation, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announces the following:

Father Jerome A. Carosella, retired as Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy, Boca Grande, effective July 17, 2023, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy, Boca Grande, and other appointments on the Board of Trustees with the Diocesan Pension Plan and Catholic Charities.

Father Anthony Hewitt, appointed as Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish, Boca Grande, effective July 17, 2023, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish, Fort Myers.

Father Steven Clemente, appointed as Administrator of St. Francis Xavier Parish, Fort Myers, effective July 17, 2023, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of St. William Parish, Naples.

Father Grzegorz Klich, appointed as Parochial Vicar of St. William Parish, Naples, effective July 17, 2023, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of Ascension Parish, Fort Myers Beach.

Father Robert Tatman, appointed as Parochial Vicar of St. Francis Xavier Parish, Fort Myers, effective July 17, 2023, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of St. Jude Parish, Sarasota.

Father Christian Chami, appointed as Parochial Vicar of St. Jude Parish, Sarasota, effective July 17, 2023, after completion of his Licentiate Studies at the Pontifical University of Saint Anselm in Rome.

Bishop celebrating anniversaries in July

The month of July holds a special meaning in the heart of Bishop Frank J. Dewane as it is the month in which he was ordained to the priesthood (July 16, 1988), and ordained as a Bishop (July 25, 2006). The priestly ordination anniversary is 35 years, while the Bishop ordination is 17 years.

Bishop Dewane was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Green Bay and served in a Parish as well as on the Diocesan Tribunal. The Bishop was then appointed in 1991 to serve as a member of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York City, during which time he represented the Holy See at several international conferences. In 1995, he was transferred to the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” and was later appointed Under Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Bishop Dewane was named Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in Florida by Pope Benedict XVI on April 25, 2006.

Please pray for Bishop Dewane on his respective 35th and 17th anniversaries. Anyone wishing to send their congratulations to the Bishop can do so at communications@dioceseofvenice.org.

Ave Youth Conference welcomes Bishop

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on July 9, 2023, at the conclusion of the REVEALED Conference in Ave Maria. The Mass included more than 400 high school students from across Florida and beyond who were participating in the three-day conference at Ave Maria University. The youth were encouraged to open themselves to God’s love and His Kingship, making the Lord their King guide in their life.

Totus Tuus continues to share the love of Christ

Totus Tuus (a Latin phrase meaning “totally yours”) is a summer Catholic youth camp program dedicated to sharing the Gospel and promoting the Catholic faith through evangelization, catechesis, Christian witness and Eucharistic worship. During the week of July 9-14, 2023, the team was at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle. The weeklong Parish summer catechetical program assists parents and parishes in evangelizing and catechizing the youth by complementing the work they are already doing at the Parish and at home. The program is offered at 11 Parishes throughout the summer in the Diocese of Venice with four sessions now completed. The week-long camps are divided into two sessions, with the day camp for students entering grades 1 – 6, and the evening camp for middle school and high school students entering grades 7 – 12.

The remaining Parishes hosting the program are as follows:

  • John XXIII in Fort Myers and St. Patrick in Sarasota, July 16-21;
  • Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and Our Lady of the Angels in Lakewood Ranch, July 23-28.

Some parishes still have limited openings for this program. To inquire, please contact the individual Parish religious education office by visiting https://dioceseofvenice.org/find-a-parish/. For further information regarding this program, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/totustuus2023/.

Sarasota parishioner earns Gold at Special Olympics

Congratulations to Mollie O’Connell, of St. Martha Parish in Sarasota, for earning a Gold Medal the 2k Cycling Time Trial race at the Special Olympics held in Berlin, Germany, on June 21, 2023, with a winning time of 5:56.78. The Special Olympics were held from June 17-25, with more than 7,000 athletes competing in 26 sports. Well done, Mollie!

Bradenton student plays lacrosse for a cause

St. Joseph Catholic School student, Cooper Kolbe, plays on a competitive lacrosse team with a higher purpose. The team is called Owen’s Heroes, which was named for a 5-year-old who has type 1 diabetes. The team plays and raises money for research and to help families of children struggling with juvenile diabetes. Cooper is the team goalie and this summer, Owen’s Hero’s made it all the way to the Youth Lacrosse World Series competing against 25 teams from around the world. After the tournament, Owen’s Heroes was ranked #11 in the world. What a great experience, and what a great cause these young athletes have embraced!

4th of July Parade held in Ave Maria

The 7th annual Ave Maria Parish “God Bless America” Independence Day Bike and Golf Cart Parade was a huge success with hundreds of participants of all ages. The parade concluded in the Ave Maria Piazza in front the Parish church.

Natural Family Planning Week July 23-29

Natural Family Planning Awareness week is July 23-29, 2023.  The dates of Natural Family Planning Awareness Week highlight the anniversary of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae (July 25) which articulates Catholic beliefs about human sexuality, conjugal love, and responsible parenthood. Find information through the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website at https://www.usccb.org/topics/natural-family-planning/national-nfp-awareness-week. For more information or to attend a free introductory session contact Carrie Harkey at 941-484-9543 or harkey@dioceseofvenice.org.

Execution Prayer Vigils Aug. 3

James Barnes is scheduled to be executed in Florida at 6 p.m. on Aug. 3, 2023. Barnes was sentenced to death for the 1988 murder of a young woman named Patricia Miller in Melbourne, and he has been on Florida’s death row since 2006. Prayer vigils will be held at 5:30 p.m., Aug. 3, at San Pedro Parish, 14380 Tamiami Trail, North Port, and at 5:30 p.m., Aug. 3, at the outdoor Last Supper table at Sacred Heart Parish, 211 W. Charlotte Ave., Punta Gorda. All are invited to attend! If you are not able to attend, please pray for Barnes and his family as well as Miller and her family, and all tasked with his execution.

Vocational Retreat in Arcadia in August

St. Paul Catholic Church is hosting a one-day “Encounter with Christ” Vocational Retreat, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Aug. 26, 2023, for males and females ages 15 to 30. The retreat will take place in the Parish Hall located at 1208 East Oak St., Arcadia. The cost for the day is $20 and includes meals and materials. Pre-registration is available by emailing retreatreg20@gmail.com. For further information contact the Parish office at 863-494-2611.

Surviving Divorce program

If you or someone you know is navigating the challenges of a separation or divorce, consider participating in the Surviving Divorce Program developed by Rose Sweet, a well-known Catholic author, and speaker. The 12-week program begins at 6:30 p.m., Aug. 17, 2023, at St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Ave., Naples. To register, contact Michael Dana at mgdana@gmail.com or 301-332-9055.

News Briefs for the week of June 30, 2023

Program helps incoming freshman in Fort Myers

Students in the first Bishop Verot Catholic High School LEAP program (Learning Enrichment Academic Program) of the summer finished on June 23, 2023, in Fort Myers. The two-week program is for incoming freshmen as they take part in a reading assignment (The Lord of the Flies) together and discuss it as a group each day. They even made their own bandanas (a key plot point in the dystopian novel). The program gives the new students a sample of high school life without the usual pressures of a full campus. A second LEAP session will take place in July and include a review of the novel Pygmalion. Another summer program includes the opportunity for upperclassmen and their parents to receive help with the college application process, including working on essays, collecting recommendations, or even filling out applications with Maria Barbato, Verot Director of School Counseling. This outreach to students is offered throughout the summer.

Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal

Every day, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., serves the area’s most vulnerable population by feeding, housing, empowering, and helping all in need. This summer, you can be the one that makes a difference. Your acts of kindness have the power to transform lives and leave a positive impact in our community. The Catholic Charities Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal is asking for your support. The giving is easy! Your gift will make a positive impact on our less fortunate brothers and sisters! Please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org or mail a check to Catholic Charities, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

OLPH needs volunteers

As Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice continues to recover from Hurricane Ian, volunteers are needed to assist in that effort. Projects include landscaping, assembling furniture and more. If you are interested in helping out and becoming a volunteer, please contact Dee Isabelle at isabelle@olph-retreat.org, call 941-486-0233, or register at https://www.olph-retreat.org/new-volunteer. If you would like to assist financially, please visit https://www.olph-retreat.org/the-olph-annual-fund-and-ways-to-give.

Free counseling services available

Did you know that Catholic Charities offers FREE counseling and Psychotherapy? If you or someone you know is ready to take the first step towards healing and wellness, call 888-249-9296. Catholic Charities serves ALL that come to us for help, regardless of race or religion.

Support pregnant mothers in need

Looking for a way to help pregnant women in need?  Your tax-deductible donation will help with rent, utilities, or other necessities.  Give to the Catholic Charities Pennies for Babies Fund, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285 where no administrative fees are taken from any donations. Questions?  Contact Jeanne Berdeaux, Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068.

 

Religious Freedom Week June 22-29

The Feasts of Ss. Thomas More and John Fisher on June 22, 2023, mark the start of Religious Freedom Week, a call by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) for all Catholics across the United States to pray, reflect on, and to promote religious freedom.

It is appropriate that the week begins on such a day, as Ss. Thomas More and John Fisher are remembered for being martyred in 1535 for standing up for the Sanctity of Marriage and the Freedom of the Church in opposition to England’s King Henry VIII. Ss. Thomas More and John Fisher show us what faithful citizenship looks like. They loved and served their country, but they put God first!

Continuing through the Solemnity of Ss. Peter & Paul the Apostles on June 29, the Religious Freedom Week 2023 theme is “Embracing the Divine Gift of Freedom.”

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

Bishop Frank J. Dewane encourages the faithful of the Diocese to be aware of the challenges in today’s society including the threats to religious freedom faced both domestically and abroad.

In a video message about Religious Freedom Week (found at https://dioceseofvenice.org/religious-freedom-week-june-22-29-2023), Bishop Dewane said: “Jeremiah reminds us of the Christian duty to speak up, speak out, particularly in situations where the Gospel is mocked, or rejected. This is not an easy assignment! But it is what God wants of us.”

Bishop Dewane explained that religious worship connects us with God, and one another. It is something that is protected in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. “When protected by law, religious freedom benefits not only the Christian, but also society, which can only be strengthened by the Christian’s free witness to the truth of Jesus Christ.”

The USCCB provides “Pray-Reflect-Act” resources at www.usccb.org/ReligiousFreedomWeek. Each day of Religious Freedom Week has a particular focus with topics including: respect for sacred spaces; seal of Confession; Nicaragua; religious student groups; religious freedom in Nigeria; faith at work; service to immigrants and refugees, and Catholic healthcare.

Bishop Dewane also encouraged the faithful to “embrace – this week especially, during Religious Freedom Week — the divine God-given gift of freedom. It is not always easy. In a world devastated by sin, doing justice, speaking truthfully, treating all people with dignity, will almost certainly, at some point, bring one into conflict with others. Take courage and know that you are doing what God asks of you. Call to mind the words of Jesus: “Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father (Mathew 10:32).”

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

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

Additional USCCB materials can be found in English and Spanish at www.usccb.org/ReligiousFreedomWeek.

News briefs for the week of June 16, 2023

Where is Totus Tuus this Week?

Totus Tuus (a Latin phrase meaning “totally yours”) is a summer Catholic youth camp program dedicated to sharing the Gospel and promoting the Catholic faith through evangelization, catechesis, Christian witness and Eucharistic worship. During the week of June 12-16, 2023, the team was at St. Agnes Parish in Naples. The weeklong Parish summer catechetical camp assists parents and parishes in evangelizing and catechizing the youth by complementing the work they are already doing at the Parish and at home. This summer the program is offered at 11 parishes in the Diocese of Venice with three sessions now completed. The week-long camps are divided into two sessions, with the day camp for students entering grades 1 – 6, and the evening camp for middle school and high school students entering grades 7 – 12.

The remaining Parishes hosting the program are as follows:

  • Ave Maria in Ave Maria and St. Peter the Apostle in Naples, June 18-23;
  • Catherine in Sebring, June 25-30;
  • Our Lady Queen of Heaven in La Belle, July 9-14;
  • John XXIII in Fort Myers and St. Patrick in Sarasota, July 16-21;
  • Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and Our Lady of the Angels in Lakewood Ranch, July 23-28.

Several parishes still have limited openings for this program. To inquire, please contact the individual Parish religious education office by visiting https://dioceseofvenice.org/find-a-parish/. For further information regarding this program, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/totustuus2023/.

Students work to protect Everglades

A dedicated team of 12 seventh grade students from the National Junior Honor Society of St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, participated in a community service project to protect the Everglades. Our “Everglades Champions” worked for several months earlier in 2023 to understand issues involving water quality and seagrass habitats, learn about policies and practices associated with water quality, and implement goals and strategies to affect positive change in the community. Their goal was to promote healthy water quality and seagrass habitats by educating the community about the harm posed by fertilizer run-off and encourage the community to NOT fertilize lawns during the rainy season. To reach their goal, the students implemented a multi-faceted strategy. They created informational posters and artwork which is on display at the Cape Coral Library through the end of June. They delivered letters and flyers to local hardware stores, and they posted their message on social media. The students were recognized by the Everglades Foundation during a virtual celebration event on June 2, 2023.

Knights on Bikes begin evangelization efforts in Collier County

On Sunday, June 4, 2023, the Knights of Columbus Knights on Bikes rode from Ave Maria to San Marco Parish on Marco Island to participate in Mass as a Knight honor guard. The Knights on Bikes in the Diocese are under the leadership of Chair Pete Battle, whose mission is to evangelize to the Catholic community and to those willing to listen to the message of Christ, as they live and witness faith as motorcyclists. Their motto is “In God we trust and ride.” The Knights on Bikes are involved in charity rides, toy drives, fund raising rides for vocations and local Knight’s councils. The Knights on Bikes will next be participating in Mass will be at Our Lady of Light Parish, 19680 Cypress View Drive, Fort Myers, at 10:30 a.m., on July 23. Any Parish interested in hosting the Knights on Bikes can reach out to Pete Battle at 239-601-6061.

Independence Day Bike and Golf Cart Parade

The Knights of Columbus Ave Maria Assembly 3862 is hosting the 6th annual “God Bless America” Independence Day Bike and Golf Cart Parade, at 10 a.m., July 4, 2023. The ceremony starts in the Piazza of the town and will include a reflection from an Ave Maria veteran on the “Blessing of Freedom,” then patriotic songs, prayers for our country, then a “Blessing of the Bikes.” The parade, which will include bikes, trikes, golf carts, skateboards, strollers (decorated or not), will be led by a fire truck and pass through several neighborhoods, ending approximately 2 miles later back in the Piazza where there will be treats available. All are welcome. For more information, contact Dominick Micillo at 904-536-1480.

Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal

Every day, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., serves the area’s most vulnerable population by feeding, housing, empowering, and helping all in need. This summer, you can be the one that makes a difference. Your acts of kindness have the power to transform lives and leave a positive impact in our community. The Catholic Charities Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal is asking for your support. The giving is easy! Your gift will make a positive impact on our less fortunate brothers and sisters! Please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org or mail a check to Catholic Charities, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

Ordination to the Priesthood July 15

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the faithful to the Ordination to the Priesthood of Transitional Deacons Alejandro Giraldo Roldan and Daniel Scanlan. The Ordination will take place at 11 a.m., Saturday, July 15, 2023, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this important event in the lives of Deacons Alejandro and Daniel as well as the Diocese of Venice. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall.

Free counseling services available

Did you know that Catholic Charities offers FREE counseling and Psychotherapy? If you or someone you know is ready to take the first step towards healing and wellness, call 888-249-9296. Catholic Charities serves ALL that come to us for help, regardless of race or religion.

Support pregnant mothers in need

Looking for a way to help pregnant women in need?  Your tax-deductible donation will help with rent, utilities, or other necessities.  Give to the Catholic Charities Pennies for Babies Fund, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285 where no administrative fees are taken from any donations. Questions?  Contact Jeanne Berdeaux, Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068.

Wounds of Ian linger on Boca Grande

Life on Gasparilla Island and the island community of Boca Grande appears to be back to normal seven months after Hurricane Ian. Businesses are open, streets are bustling with visitors and the recent snowbird season was robust.

But a closer look and it becomes clear that much needs to be done as this island community works to recover from the storm that lashed the area with winds estimated at 155 mph. Tarps still cover many roofs, exposed siding is commonplace, and there are signs everywhere marking where contractors are working on the interiors of homes.

Father Jerome Carosella, Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish, explained how the aftermath of Ian still affects everyday life on Boca Grande.

“Even when people don’t talk about Ian directly, you know that each person is fighting with their insurance company or awaiting work to be completed. They are frustrated and want work done but people also know everyone else is going through the same thing, so it has united us in a strange way,” Father Carosella said. “This shared experience has brought about so many good people. Strangers helping strangers. Neighbors getting to know their neighbors. We all realize that whatever damage we have, it could have been so much worse.”

Islands immediately to the south of Gasparilla Island, such as Captiva, Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach, were inundated by up to 15 feet of storm surge, causing catastrophic damage.

“Make no mistake, parts of Boca Grande were badly damaged, so much so that some people are never returning and deciding to sell. But about 80% or more are determined to stay and rebuild. Our Lady of Mercy is doing that rebuilding alongside everyone else,” Father Carosella added.

The Parish had roof damage to the church, rectory, and pre-school. Each had water intrusion from the heavy rain that came with Ian. The pre-school also had water flow into the building when the nearby street flooded. The new parish hall, which was nearly completed by the time Ian struck on Sept. 28, 2022, had only superficial damage.

“The pre-school roof was hit by the best mango tree on the island, and flood water also went right through the front door,” Father Carosella explained about the school which has 30 children and is run by Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., while the Parish covers all costs. “We focused on getting the interior fixed so we could be here for the children and their families. And three months later we reopened.”

The corner of the roof that was hit by the mango tree is still in need of repairs, as are the church and rectory roofs. Each was covered with a protective padding that is water-resistant, but regular weather is stressing the temporary fixes.

“We had a big windstorm last night and it pulled some of the covering off the church roof,” Father Carosella said on April 28, 2023. “But we are expecting the roofs to be repaired sometime in June. That is great considering where we were right after Ian.”

Delays in repairs are being caused by a lack of material and contractors.

Unlike during Hurricane Charley in 2004, Father Carosella evacuated ahead of Ian when friends in the fire department and Sheriff’s Office told him they too were leaving the barrier island.

So, Father put the storm shutters in place and took the Blessed Sacrament, the consecrated Communion hosts, to St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Grove City for safekeeping. Then he went to stay with parishioner-friends in South Gulf Cove on the mainland in Charlotte County.

Father Carosella returned to Boca Grande on Sept. 30, two days after the storm struck, having to wait until the waters on the island receded enough to allow passage of trucks.

What Father found was heartbreaking but not nearly as bad as he had feared. Other nearby churches, businesses and homes suffered much worse. Within a block of Our Lady of Mercy a cellular tower collapsed and cut a bakery in half, while a Baptist church had its roof, steeple and a wall blown out, and nearly every home in view had serious damage. Debris was everywhere and although he was not sure where to begin the cleanup, a guardian angel was soon coming to the rescue.

“A guy with a big truck and trailer pulled up and asked, ‘Can I help you?’” Father Carosella said he was amazed that a stranger would offer to help, but quickly accepted. “Gary Chelli is from St. Petersburg and had visited Boca Grande before, but I didn’t know him. He said he came down because he wanted to help. He had asked someone at the fire department where help was needed and they asked if he was Catholic and directed him my way. And Gary kept coming back for days with tarps, gas and water while helping to clear debris and make temporary repairs. He was a big help and we have become good friends.”

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated the first day back on the island with just a few people, and repair work at the parish has been slow, but steady as each milestone is celebrated.

“We are getting there,” Father said. “They recently finished the work on the front rooms of the rectory and that is great. They had to replace the floors and walls and are now putting the finishing touches on the paint. You can’t even tell there was any damage.”

With that work behind, Father Carosella said only a few items need to be taken care of, such as repairing and reinstalling the old-style wood shutters, and of course the installation of the new roofs.

“We have come a long way since Ian. A big turning point for the community was the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the town square. Everyone gathered for this quiet moment in between all of the reconstruction to thank the Lord for what we have. We are all so blessed.”

If you would like to support the Diocese of Venice in its recovery from Hurricane Ian, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/hurricaneian.

 

News Briefs for the week of April 21, 2023

Appointments

After consultation with Priest Personnel Board, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announces the following appointments:

Father Teofile Useche, as Pastor of Holy Cross Parish, Palmetto, effective May 1, 2023, and is relieved of his duties as Pastor of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Port Charlotte.

Father Claudio Stewart, as Administrator of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Port Charlotte, effective May 1, 2023, while retaining other responsibilities to the Diocesan Hispanic Apostolate.

Father Jayabalan Raju, as Administrator of St. John XXIII Parish, Fort Myers, effective May 1, 2023, and is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of Epiphany Cathedral, Venice.

Father Krzysztof Piotrowski, as Parochial Vicar of Epiphany Cathedral, effective May 1, 2023, and is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of St. Agnes Parish, Naples.

Father Augustine Twum Obour, as Parochial Vicar of St. Agnes Parish, Naples, effective May 1, 2023, and is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of St. Francis Xavier Parish, Fort Myers.

 

Mass for Victims of Child Abuse April 25

April is Child Abuse Awareness Prevention Month, and in conjunction with the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Diocese of Venice will hold a Mass for Victims of Child Abuse for the 16th consecutive year with Bishop Frank J. Dewane as the Celebrant. The Mass will take place at 8 a.m., Tuesday, April 25, 2023, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. All are invited to attend as we come together to pray for the victims of abuse.

10 Parishes hosting Novena of Masses for Life

Throughout the Diocese of Venice, there are 10 Parishes hosting the annual Novena of Masses for Life. A Novena of Masses for Life is celebrated annually from the Solemnity of the Annunciation (usually on March 25 unless it falls during Holy Week) and monthly on or around the 25th until November, with the option of additional Masses on Christmas.  The novena presents a special opportunity to meditate on the progressive development of Our Lord in His mother’s womb.  The hope is that this meditation will help people to reflect on the sanctity of all human life, from fertilization/conception to birth and throughout life until natural death, regardless of age or condition. Parishes participating in the monthly Novena of Masses for Life until Christmas are: Epiphany Cathedral, Venice; Incarnation, Sarasota; St. Patrick, Sarasota; Our Lady of Lourdes, Venice; San Pedro, North Port; St. Maximilian Kolbe, Port Charlotte; St. Vincent de Paul, Fort Myers; St. Cecilia, Fort Myers; St. Andrew, Cape Coral and St. Catherine, Sebring. For a schedule of Masses, contact the Parish or Jeanne Berdeaux at Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068.

Teacher recognized in Naples

The Naples Council on World Affairs has chosen Cindy Brewer, a teacher at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples as 2023 Educator of the Year! Brewer’s students won first place award this year at the National High School Model UN competition in New York, as well as winning a vocal recognition award at Gator Model UN. Last year the Neumann team took two third place awards at the national competition. She arranged multiple Zoom conversations for her students with students in Ukraine through the Move Ukraine effort supported by NCWA; her students also prepared podcasts to share with Ukrainian students. One of her students was selected for a NCWA summer scholarship to Oxford University in England, and she has brought her students to NCWA lectures and other events. She was granted NCWA’s award at an event Friday evening. Her background singing in an a cappella group that traveled to North Korea, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and other locations during the 1980s led to personal experiences that laid the foundation for her interest in world affairs.

Verot student earns award at state conference

Bishop Verot Catholic High School student Ava Lewis competed the weekend of April 14-16, 2023, in the Florida HOSA (Future Health Professionals) State Leadership Conference in Orlando. HOSA helps in educating young minds who are looking to enter the global health community. Ava was the representative for Bishop Verot and ended up placing third for Prepared Speaking! Her achievement qualifies her for the International Leadership Conference in Dallas this June. Great job Ava, and good luck in Dallas!

Memorial service held for Knights in Fort Myers

The Knights of Columbus at St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers organized a Memorial Service in honor of deceased members on April 16, 2023. The service, led by Father Lorenzo Gonzalez, Pastor of St. Columbkille, was held in the memorial prayer garden which was built in part thanks to the efforts of the Knights.

Weightlifters compete in States

Six Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School weightlifters competed in the 1A Florida High School Boys Weightlifting State Championship on April 13, 2023, at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland. J.R. Rosenberg took third place in the 199 pounds division, with a combined weight lifted of 610 pounds. Other Mooney competitors were Matt Thomas, Javier Pastor, Drew Mellon, Ian Parker, Matty Maloni and Joe Carlo. Also competing from the Diocese of Venice, were Bishop Verot Catholic High School weightlifters Justin Davis and Wyatt Whalen from Fort Myers.

Father-daughter dance a success in Bradenton

The St. Joseph Catholic School Parent Teacher Organization organized “The Emerald City Father-Daughter Dance” in Bradenton on April 15, 2023. The fathers and daughters had lots of fun.

Final retreat for high school seniors held in Naples

Soon-to-be graduating seniors from St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples attended their last retreat on April 17, 2023, at St. Ann Parish. The theme for the retreat was Joshua 1:9 – “Stay strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” The seniors listened to witness talks and read letters from their freshman selves before hitting the beach for some fun!

Catholic Days at The Capitol: A Sea of Red Blankets Tallahassee

Karen Barry Schwarz – Special to the Florida Catholic

Each year, Catholics from across the state gather in Tallahassee to participate in Catholic Days at the Capitol. This two-day event provides an opportunity for the Faithful to put a call to political responsibility into action and to strengthen the presence of Catholic values in the public square.

This year, Catholic Days at the Capitol took place March 7 and 8, 2023, with almost 300 of the faithful traveling to the Capitol in Tallahassee, most of them wearing red as is tradition, including 68 from the Diocese of Venice.

 

“This number of people traveling from the Diocese of Venice to the Capitol for Catholic Days is an all-time high – a 20-plus year record for us,” said Jeanne Berdeaux, the Diocese of Venice Respect Life Director. “We’re especially excited to have had 38 high school students with us this trip!”

The trip has been organized and led by Berdeaux for the past two decades. The group travelled by bus to Tallahassee. In addition to 30 adults, 38 students represented Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, and Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria.

 

Berdeaux spends months in advance planning the trip, making appointments with legislators for the faithful to discuss the key issues of importance to Catholics, according to direction provided by Bishop Frank J. Dewane and the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops. The goal is to ensure that legislators know the Church’s position on several key issues and, ideally, to convince them to support (or oppose) certain bills.

This year, there were three bills on the agenda, addressing issues of abortion, education, and the death penalty. The faithful asked legislators for their support of the proposed abortion and education bills, and to oppose the current bill addressing the death penalty. Specifically, Catholics want legislators to:

  • Support provisions that prohibit abortion after detection of a heartbeat. (While this bill does not end abortion in Florida, it limits its harm and is a significant improvement over current law.)
  • Expand access to state scholarship programs for all students and convert state scholarships to educational savings accounts. (Parents should have the option to choose the educational environment that best meets the needs of their children.)
  • Retain the unanimous jury requirement to impose a death sentence, rather than go to a majority requirement. (If Florida is going to retain the death penalty, our state should preserve the highest standard possible to recommend the most severe penalty society can impose.)

 

Bishop Gregory L. Parkes, Diocese of St. Petersburg, welcomed the group to Catholic Days at the Capitol, reminding the faithful that participating in the legislative process, including advocacy, is not only a right but a responsibility.

 

Bishop Dewane addressed the group just before they attended their legislative meetings, sending them off with a prayer: “God Almighty our Heavenly Father, we are grateful that you have brought us together this day… We ask you particularly to give us the courage this day as we go forward. Courage to speak up, courage to listen to those with whom we dialogue, but also the strongest insight, the intellect, to respond in a caring and a giving – in Your way – to the threat that we sometimes hear against life.”

 

A 10th grader from Cardinal Mooney expressed his enthusiasm for the trip felt by many of the high schoolers, “We’re here to fight for the rights of unborn children, and for the preservation of life as Catholics understand it; the death penalty, or abortion . . . so many people suffer from the effects of it. It does more harm than good in our society. That’s what Catholics are really advocating for.”

 

Other Diocese of Venice students added their excitement, explaining the purpose of the trip: “We’re here to learn about the issues that are facing Florida right now!” “We’re here to become future leaders of our generation!” “We’re here to make a Catholic presence at the capitol!”

 

Catholic Days at the Capitol concluded with the Annual Red Mass of the Holy Spirit at the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More, concelebrated by all the Bishops of Florida to pray for those working in the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government.  Bishop Erik Pohlmeier, Diocese of St. Augustine and the most recently appointed Bishop in the state, delivered the homily. In addition to Faithful from across the state, several legislators were in attendance.

 

Catholics are asked to wear red to Catholic Days at the Capitol, and to the Mass, as the color red is said to invoke the Holy Spirit.

 

To get involved in Catholic Days at The Capitol in the Diocese of Venice next year, contact Jeanne Berdeaux at 941-441-1101, or Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org. To learn more about the legislative issues of concern to Catholics, connect with The Florida Catholic Advocacy (FLCAN), an online community established by the Bishops of Florida to connect, educate, and mobilize Catholics across Florida’s seven dioceses. Get alerts from FLCAN by signing up at www.flaccb.org/join-flcan, or to receive alerts via text message, simply text FLCAN to 50457.

Knights donate ultrasound

The Knights of Columbus have done it again. They raised the money to purchase an ultrasound machine for a local pro-life pregnancy care center.

The Knights of Columbus Council 11281 of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples recently donated an ultrasound to the Community Pregnancy Clinics, Inc. (CPCI) pregnancy center at 2977 Goodlette-Frank Road, which is located across the street from a Planned Parenthood abortion facility.

Father Tomasz Zalewski, Pastor of St. John the Evangelist, led the Blessing and Dedication Ceremony at the CPCI clinic on Feb. 23, 2023. Father Nick Thompson, Parochial Vicar at St. John the Evangelist, proclaimed the Gospel reading. Then, Father Zalewski blessed the ultrasound.

Father Zalewski quoted God’s promise through the prophet Isaiah, “Can a mother forget her infant? Be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” Father also emphasized that all human life is a gift from God, and that we are each called to help build a Culture of Life in our community.

Scott Baier, CEO of CPCI, spoke about the importance of ultrasound technology and thanked St. John the Evangelist Parish and the Knights of Columbus for donating the machine. CPCI operates pregnancy clinics in Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota and Gainesville – as well as two mobile clinics. CPCI has established its presence as a trusted provider of life-affirming pregnancy and reproductive healthcare in the community.

The donated ultrasound is a Philips ClearVue 850 Ultrasound Machine. The machine includes 3D/4D imaging modes and color Doppler. This technology allows mothers to see their baby earlier than ever. Even at six weeks gestation, parents and family see in detail the beginning of their baby’s development. Approximately 90% of women who view these clear images choose life for their baby!

Leona and Tony Hernandez, parishioners of St. John the Evangelist, volunteered to help with the Ultrasound machine demonstration. Among the 25 attendees at the dedication ceremony were CPCI staff, Knights and other supporters of the clinic. All were extremely impressed with the clear and powerful images of the Hernandez’ preborn child.

Knights Council 11281 Grand Knight, Paul Curti, explained that the Council held various events (including a Baby Bottle Drive and an outdoor Country Life Fest concert) to raise money for the ultrasound machine and other donations to local Pro-Life organizations.

Central Florida Laps for Life provided additional funding, and the Supreme Knights of Columbus Council provides a dollar-for-dollar match for ultrasound purchases.

Through the Ultrasound Initiative, the Supreme Council of the US provides a 50 percent matching grant and has helped to place more than 1,600 ultrasound machines into pro-life pregnancy centers across the nation.

Since the program began in 2012, within the Diocese of Venice 22 ultrasound machines, as well as 1 mobile unit, have been placed in Pro-Life pregnancy resource centers thanks to the Knights.

“Diocese of Venice Councils have donated more than $400,000 for ultrasound machines,” Drew Dillingham, Knights of Columbus National Life and Faith Program Manager, stated. “The Supreme Council has matched that amount, so over $800,000 in total has been donated by the K of C. More machines have been placed in the (territory of the) Diocese of Venice, than in 23 U.S. states.”

To learn more about the Knights of Columbus Ultrasound Initiative, please visit https://communitypregnancyclinic.com/.

 

To learn more about Community Pregnancy Clinics, please visit https://communitypregnancyclinic.com/.

 

Standing as a witness for Life matters – 40 Days for Life opens in Fort Myers and Sarasota

A group of students from the Bishop Verot Catholic High School Respect Life Club were at the forefront of being public witnesses for life during the opening of the 40 Days for Life Spring Prayer Campaign on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023.

The students, joined by Bishop Frank J. Dewane and dozens of others, led everyone in praying the rosary in front of a Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Fort Myers. Simultaneously, a 40 Days for Life prayer campaign began in Sarasota.

40 Days for Life is an internationally coordinated 40-day campaign that aims to end abortion locally through prayer and fasting, community outreach, and a peaceful all-day vigil in front of abortion mills. The spring campaign encompasses Lent and continues through April 2 (Palm Sunday). Since its 2007 beginnings, 40 Days vigils have led to the saving of more than 22,000 babies as thousands of cities participate. The Diocese of Venice has been involved with 40 Days for Life since the beginning with vigils taking place in the fall – to coincide with October, Respect Life Month – and in the spring – during Lent.

Bishop Dewane celebrated the Ash Wednesday Mass at nearby St. John XXIII Parish and stressed the importance of protecting life while offering words of encouragement to those who stand as public witnesses for life.

“Continue to give of yourself, always lifting up with prayer those who are harmed by abortion,” Bishop Dewane said. “We ask the Lord to be with us, giving us the courage to speak up for life, and to speak up for each individual made in the image and likeness of God.”

Mary, a sidewalk counselor, said she is a counselor today by the blessings and grace of God. She shared her journey of sadness and joy. Now a mother and grandmother, Mary was 16 when she got pregnant. The father was not around, she was a naïve girl who was terrified of the consequences her pregnancy might mean to her family, so she believed she had no other option than to kill her unborn child by having an abortion.

“Abortion was presented as an easy solution to my ‘problem,’” Mary said. “It just opened up other problems of self-destruction… because the guilt took over me.”

It took many years, with the help of the support of several different post-abortion groups (Support After Abortion and Project Rachel are available in the Diocese of Venice), and the care of an understanding husband before she could confront her demons. “I know what I did was wrong, and I know that God forgives me. The hardest part was that I needed to forgive myself.”

Once that forgiveness took hold in her life, Mary became a Pro-Life advocate and is now a sidewalk counselor, offering pregnant mothers positive alternatives to abortion through resources such as pregnancy help centers and counseling. “I know being out here makes a difference. I’ve seen the young mothers choose life. You are changing minds. You are saving lives.”

Many of the Bishop Verot students took part in the National March for Life on Jan. 20, in Washington, D.C. There they joined hundreds of thousands as they became the new “Pro-Life Generation.”

Jeanne Berdeaux, Diocese of Venice Respect Life Director, said 40 Days for Life remains an important component in the multifaceted fight to end abortion. The reason is many people think the fight ended in June 2022 when Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

While a great victory, the ruling did not end abortion, but put the issue in the hands of individual states. For example, in Florida, where there is a Pro-Life governor and legislature, the current law allows abortion up to 15 weeks. Proposed legislation, a so-called heartbeat law, would change that to 6 weeks. Berdeaux said that is not enough as life begins at conception and any access to abortion is wrong.

Bishop Dewane said we need to pray that everyone develops a respect for the dignity of life and for all to stand as a witness for life, being a voice for the voiceless – the unborn.

The Fort Myers prayer vigil is from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily, on the public right-of-way in front of Planned Parenthood at 6418 Commerce Park Drive. In Sarasota, the vigil is 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily outside the regional headquarters of Planned Parenthood, 736 Central Ave.

Participants are welcome to spend as much time as they wish with many Parishes having designated dates and times. Some commit to taking part for a few minutes, an hour, or all day as they stand in the public right-of-way. Appropriate signs will be provided at both sites but are not needed to stand and pray. For those unable to be present in front of an abortion facility, they are encouraged to pray from home and fast for the end of abortion.

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