Confirmation bestowed on 1,500 in nine months

Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Christian initiation is completed as the recipients become more perfectly bound to the Church as a true witness to Christ.

Confirmation is a Sacrament which must be understood as a continuation of the Faith journey, begun with Baptism, along with the Eucharist, to constitute a single saving event – Christian initiation, changed by this encounter with the Lord, Bishop Frank J. Dewane explained during a Confirmation Mass on May 30, 2021 for the youth of St. Michael Parish in Wauchula.

This May 30 Mass marked the conclusion of more than nine months of Confirmations presided over by Bishop Dewane. From early September 2020 to the end of May 2021 more than 1,500 received the Sacrament at 40 different Parishes. The total number was significantly higher during the past nine months as Parish Confirmations were necessarily put on hold from March to September 2020 due to the global Pandemic. Confirmation classes from the Spring of 2020 were rescheduled to the Fall when possible, or groups were merged into one larger Mass in 2021.

Bishop Dewane stressed the importance of ensuring the Confirmation Masses took place and scheduling them became a top priority. Some Parishes were forced to divide their groups in half or thirds to ensure social distancing was possible. For example, the St. Michael Parish Mass was held at the new St. Paul Parish Church in Arcadia to ensure all confirmandi, and their families, could participate under one roof.

At that Mass, held on Holy Trinity Sunday, Bishop Dewane told the confirmandi that they were given a great opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, a time when they publicly “give witness to who you are as followers of Jesus Christ. It is part of your Faith journey to live the commitment of believers, a beginning of a new life in the Holy Spirit and to become more the man or woman of God you are called to be.”

This Sacrament imbues the recipient with the Holy Spirit, making the person an advocate for the Lord, Bishop Dewane said. “This becomes a permanent part of who you are. Live your Faith to the fullest. Use these Gifts of the Holy Spirit every day. They must become part of who you are. The more you use them, the closer you will grow to the Lord.”

The Sacrament should not be viewed as the end of the journey, but the continuation of the journey of Faith with the new dimension of the Holy Spirit.

“You stand and give a superb witness by answering the call of Jesus Christ,” Bishop Dewane continued. “However, sometimes standing forward isn’t enough to give that witness to Christ. You need to speak up and say who you are as Catholic men and women. You must have courage to do that.”

The term ‘confirmation’ must remind one that this Sacrament involves growth from baptismal grace, Bishop Dewane explained. “It unites us more firmly with Christ; it completes our bond with the Church; it accords to us the special strength of the Holy Spirit in order to spread and to defend the Faith.”

Before the Sacred Chrism was administered, the Bishop asked the candidates to renew their baptismal promises as a sign of their personal assent to the Faith. This is the giving of their assent to a belief in Christ and His Church. The Bishop also extended his hands over the candidates during the Rite. This action is called, “The Laying on of Hands.” In this action, the Bishop imparts the Holy Spirit upon the candidates, completing the grace of their Baptism.

Finally, the candidates are individually presented to the Bishop with the sponsor placing their right hand on the candidate’s right shoulder. Then with his right thumb, the Bishop makes the sign of the cross on their forehead using the Sacred Chrism and says “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The Sacrament of Confirmation requires comprehensive preparation – often years of study and spiritual growth – as it aims to lead candidates toward a personal attachment to Faith in Christ and to reawaken in them a sense of belonging to the Church.

The Diocese of Venice has a religious education program which emphasizes the importance of the Sacrament of Confirmation with a two-year program. The young women and men go through a process where they complete one phase of their Faith journey and prepare to begin the next phase as full Christians who are called to be more and reflect the love and goodness of Christ in their heart and soul.

Priest Ordination celebrated in midst of Pandemic

Bishop Frank J. Dewane presided over the ordination of Father Franckel in a Rite of Ordination, an age-old ceremony that was witnessed by the faithful on June 27, 2020 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

Bishop Dewane told Father Franckel that through ordination, he becomes forever raised to the rank of priest in the Body of Christ. With that rank comes great responsibility – to sanctify, to teach, to love and serve just as Christ taught.

“Thank you for coming forward in your response to the call of Jesus Christ,” Bishop Dewane said of the long and sometimes difficult journey made by Father Franckel to reach this moment. “We celebrate you as you are sent forth to preach the Gospel; to be the Good Shepherd of God’s people; and to celebrate the Liturgy, especially the Lord’s Sacrifice on His Table. In doing so you bring together the faithful of the community as you pray with them and for them to the Lord.”

Father Fils-Aime, 41, who was born in the Cornillon region of Haiti in the town of Potino, said he feels blessed by God to be ordained and feels the love of the people of the Diocese of Venice. “I am grateful for all of the prayers and support I have received during this journey and feel I am prepared to serve the people as I continue to trust in God.”

The ordination was a bright moment for the Diocese during this time of the COVID-19 Pandemic. All present wore masks and maint

ained social distancing. While there were many family and friends present, the immediate family of Father Franckel was not able to attend as they were home in Haiti, unable to travel. To help bridge that gap in distance, the ordination was streamed live through social media.

To start the Rite of Ordination, Diocese of Venice Vocations Director Father Shawn Roser called Deacon Franckel forward as he presented himself for ordination to the Bishop. The Bishop, on behalf of the entire Church, accepted Franckel and called him to ordination as a Priest by saying: “Relying on the help of the Lord God and Our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose Franckel Fils-Aime, our brother, for the Order of the Priesthood.”

During the Rite of Ordination, Fils-Aime knelt before Bishop Dewane to express his desire and willingness to be ordained as a Priest and to fulfill the responsibilities that come with ordination, which included a promise of respect and obedience to the Bishop and his successors. Fils-Aime then lay prostrate before the altar for the Litany of Supplication (Litany of Saints).

After this solemn act of prayer, the Sacrament of Ordination was conferred when Franckel again knelt before Bishop Dewane, whom in silent prayer, imposed his hands on the head of the ordinand. Each priest then came forward to pray over Father Fils-Aime. Next, Bishop Dewane, with his hands outstretched, prayed the Prayer of Ordination.

Father Franckel was then vested in stole and chasuble by Father Timothy Navin, Pastor of San Marco Parish in Marco Island, the location of his first pastoral assignment as a seminarian of the Diocese. The hands of Father Franckel were then anointed with the Sacred Chrism by the Bishop, the sign of the special anointing of the Holy Spirit who will make his ministry fruitful.

Next, the Bishop presented Father Fils-Aime with the chalice and paten which all priests are called to present to God in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The Rite of Ordination is concluded with the Bishop giving a fraternal kiss of peace to the newly ordained priest, welcoming him into the Diocesan Presbyterate or priesthood. Bishop Dewane introduced Father Franckel to all those present to enthusiastic applause.

Journey to ordination

A recent graduate from St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Father completed more than 14 years of priestly discernment and formation. He first entered seminary in the Dominican Republic studying to become a Franciscan Capuchin Friar. He spent nine years in formation before discerning a call to Diocesan priesthood in Venice. During this time, he studied in the Dominican Republic and Brazil, eventually earning a philosophy degree from Centro Universitario Franciscano in Brazil.

Father Franckel learned of the Diocese of Venice through holiday visits to the area which included participation in the annual New Year’s Day Mass celebrating the anniversary of Haitian Independence for the Haitian Catholic Community of the Diocese of Venice. There he met Msgr. Patrick Dubois who then arranged an introduction and meeting with Bishop Dewane.

In addition to his pastoral assignment at San Marco Parish, he later held summer assignments at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park, St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples, St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton, as well as a pastoral year at Epiphany Cathedral.

Along with family and friends, there were faithful from across the Diocese, many from the Parishes where he previously had served. Included among those were also representatives of the Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta, and the Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, as well as Diocesan seminarians who served during the Mass.

The Ordination was followed by a reception in the Cathedral Parish Hall where newly ordained Father Franckel Fils-Aime was available to greet the public and impart his priestly blessing on them.

Vespers and First Masses

On the eve of his ordination, a Solemn Vespers was celebrated at San Marco Parish for then-Deacon Fils-Aime. During this prayer service Bishop Dewane blessed the priestly vestments and chalices which were used by the newly ordained at his first public Masses on June 28, 2020.

The first Mass celebrated by Father Franckel was at San Marco Parish. There, Father admitted that when he first arrived at the Parish in 2015 his English was limited and credits the priests and staff of San Marco for how well he speaks the language, and how poorly, he joked. During the Mass, he added: “The people of San Marco welcomed me with their hearts open and I consider them to be a part of my family,” he said. “I love you all for what you did for me and who you are.”

As is tradition, during the first Mass of a newly ordained priest, another priest delivers the homily. In this case it was Father Jack Costello, Rector of Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, who spoke about then-Seminarian Franckel serving a pastoral year at the Cathedral. Father Costello noted how blessed the Diocese was to have a new priest, one who is well prepared to serve the faithful with sincerity and compassion.

The second Mass of the day was in the afternoon, celebrated in Haitian Creole at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Fort Myers. While there are nine active priests serving in the Diocese from Haiti, Father Fils-Aime was recognized as the first Haitian priest to be ordained for the Diocese in more than 15 years. Father Jean Woady Louis, Parochial Vicar of Holy Cross Parish in Palmetto, delivered the homily noting how important it is to have a priest to provide the Sacraments in their native language.

At both Masses, which were streamed live on social media so his family and friends could watch from afar, Father Fils-Aime shared how his parents, Voguel Fils-Aime and Philomène Remy, supported his discernment for a vocation to the priesthood. He expressed regret that his mother, who passed away in 2011, was not alive to see him reach his priestly ordination but was confident she was present in spirit and watching over him.

“It is such a privilege and honor to be called by God and I do not have the words to give thanks to the Bishop for the opportunity to be a priest here in the Diocese of Venice.”


First Holy Communion: Delay does nothing to lessen the importance of Sacrament

Two years of religious instruction built toward a beautiful moment when young girls and boys willingly step forward to become one with Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist for the first time.

Parishes have begun celebrating the Sacrament of First Holy Communion, having been delayed, like so many other events, by the COVID-19 Pandemic, the latest in the steps by Parishes desiring to return to normal operations. Several Parishes chose the weekend of June 13-14, 2020, for the Sacrament as it coincided with the Solemnity of Corpus Christi – the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

Father Jack Costello, Rector of Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, celebrated a Mass for the First Holy Communion group of 2020 on June 13, about six weeks later than originally scheduled. Father said everyone should be “grateful to God that we can have this today, for all of our children, this special day when they receive the gift of Jesus’ Body and Blood.”

One First Communicant was very happy and said she felt different following Mass. “Wonderful. Jesus is a part of me now.”

By receiving Jesus, Father Costello said it must change the First Communicant, as it should every time one receives the Sacrament, to remember three words: “You be Jesus. You are called to love God, love our neighbor and love all people. When we receive the Body and Blood of Christ it helps to remind us of our identity – that we are Jesus – children of God.”

The First Communicants were reminded that the Sacrament connects to two important celebrations: Christmas, when God gave His Son as a gift to the world; and the Last Supper, when Jesus made sure the gift of Himself was made available to us and continues forever.

While explaining the reason for receiving the Sacrament repeatedly, Father Costello said that once they leave Church, they will begin to be drained of Jesus by a world that does not believe, and they will constantly need nourishment. “When you come back to Communion the next time, Jesus is going to replenish you spiritually. Reminding you of who you are… It is an important passage in a Catholic life. I am happy and congratulate all of you.”

Normally scheduled for May, the Sacrament of First Holy Communion was impossible as churches were closed to public Mass. Since that restriction was lifted effective May 18, 2020, priests and catechists rescheduled the Sacrament all while adhering to health and safety guidelines such as the wearing of masks and social distancing. This meant that instead of one large group receiving the sacrament together, the celebrations were spread over multiple Masses and, as needed, onto multiple weekends.

When the time came, the girls, in white dresses, and boys, in suits, each came forward with their family. The First Communicants all had smiles as they pulled away their masks to consume the Body of Christ for the first time. Following the Mass, the families came forward to light a candle, a reminder of the first time Jesus broke bread with His Disciples and the holy beginning of this Sacrament. Father Costello then blessed the candle and families with Holy Water. Afterwards the young boys and girls stood for a group picture and then individual and family photos.

Transitional Deacon prepares for Oct. 5 priestly ordination

Bob Reddy

Venice – Transitional Deacon Carlos Encinas had only to complete his final exams in medical school when he realized his desire to become a priest was something he could no longer ignore.

He left his hometown in Argentina and went to New York City, ostensibly to visit a friend, but actually to seriously discern a vocation to the priesthood. “I needed to separate myself from medical school and home, a place I lived my entire life. I wanted to focus on this process with my whole heart.”

While in New York City, Deacon Encinas discerned with the Franciscan Friars, helping in a homeless shelter. While this experience helped him to realize he was on the right path, he did know that religious life was not a good fit because he wanted to be a parish priest. Thus, he began his formal studies toward the priesthood for the Archdiocese of New York at Cathedral Seminary House of Formation in Douglaston. N.Y., where he graduated with a degree in philosophy.

It was just before his final year in college seminary when Deacon Encinas decided he wanted to serve in a Diocese which had distinct Hispanic populations, unlike New York City where the population is more diffuse. A friend suggested he look at the Diocese of Venice. A week-long visit, including a meeting with Bishop Frank J. Dewane, solidified his decision to join the Diocese as a seminarian upon graduation in 2014.

Throughout his entire discernment process, Deacon Encinas said God was always gentle in asking more of him, showing him signs that he is on the right path. “God never forces you to do something you don’t want to,” he added. “It was at Mass that I would see signs that led me to realize what God wanted from me.”

The recent graduate of St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach is now on the cusp of reaching his goal of becoming a priest. The Ordination to the Priesthood of Deacon Encinas will take place at 11 a.m., Oct. 5 at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. Bishop Dewane will preside over the ordination.

Now 40, Deacon Encinas was born and raised in Corrientes, Argentina, and said he had a desire to become a priest off and on since he was 19-years-old. When he decided to enter seminary in the U.S., his parents, Alberto and Josefina Encinas, were skeptical, and his father was upset because he wanted his son to become a physician.

“As time passed, he appreciated more what I was doing and now everyone is very happy,” Deacon Encinas explained.

Because of the distance and cost, none of his family was able to attend his April 14, 2018, ordination to the transitional diaconate at St. Joan of Arc Parish Church, Boca Raton. The family did watch via a livestream on social media. He is pleased to know that in October, his parents, sisters, a niece and nephew and three cousins are all coming to the U.S. for the ordination.

While a seminarian for the Diocese of Venice, Deacon Encinas had several pastoral assignments including: St. Peter the Apostle Parish, Naples; St. Andrew Parish, Cape Coral; St. Joseph Parish, Bradenton, and Our Lady of Grace, Avon Park.

The ordination of a transitional deacon to the priesthood is considered one of the pivotal moments in the life of a Diocese. It is one of the most beautiful and often unseen Sacraments in the Church. It is a public response to the Call to Holiness, which comes with great responsibility and accountability.

While an ordination is the final step to priesthood, it is not the conclusion of priestly formation, it is just the beginning.

During ordination to the priesthood Deacon Encinas will freely presents himself to serve God, the Church and the Bishop of the Diocese of Venice and his successors. He will also make a renewed commitment to celibacy and promise obedience. The reward for that choice is to have his life filled with the message of God.

Faithful line up for Confession

Staff Report

A steady stream of the faithful at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota waited patiently for their opportunity to take part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation on the last weekend before Holy Week.

This scene was repeated at Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice after Bishop Frank J. Dewane, with the agreement of the Presbyteral Council, designated April 12 (4-8 p.m.) and April 13 (9 a.m.-noon) as time for Confession at each Parish. This was done to allow the faithful ample opportunity to receive God’s Mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Lenten Season.

The response was so impressive at some parishes that the confession times were extended upwards of two hours to accommodate the need.

Maria Cortez of St. Jude Parish tries to go to confession at least once a month but admitted she had lapsed since the start of 2019.

“I let unimportant things get in the way of my love for Christ,” Cortez said. “I am not a saint, and this is good for me to be here. With Holy Week here, I knew it was time to return to the confessional and ask for forgiveness.”

Pope Francis often remarks about the healing power of the confessional and urges the faithful to go as often as possible. Parishes and Missions in the Diocese of Venice have regular reconciliation times throughout the year, please visit for contact information on the parish or mission nearest you.

Sacrament of Confirmation: More Perfectly Bound to the Church as a True Witnesses to Christ

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, Christian initiation is completed, as the recipients become more perfectly bound to the Church as a true witness to Christ.

This is how Pope Francis views Confirmation which he said is a Sacrament which must be understood as a continuation of the faith journey, beginning with Baptism, along with the Eucharist, to constitute a single saving event – Christian initiation – “in which we are brought into Christ who died and rose again, and become new creatures and members of the Church.”

Throughout much of history, these three Sacraments were celebrated together, at the end of the catechumenal path – normally on Holy Saturday. “It was a step-by-step process, first reaching Baptism, then Confirmation, and finally the Eucharist,” the Holy Father explained

The term ‘confirmation’ must remind one that this Sacrament involves growth from baptismal grace, Pope Francis continued. “It unites us more firmly with Christ; it completes our bond with the Church; it accords to us the special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and to defend the Faith, to confess the name of Christ and never to be ashamed of His Cross.”

It should be noted that while the order of the Sacraments may have changed over time, “confirmation, like every Sacrament, is not the work of men, but rather the work of God, who takes care of our lives so as to mold us in the image of His Son, to make us able to love like Him,” the Holy Father added. “He infuses us with the Holy Spirit whose action pervades the whole person and all of life, as is shown by the Seven Gifts that Tradition, in the light of the Sacred Scriptures, has always made clear: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Fortitude, Piety and Fear of the Lord. When we welcome the Holy Spirit into our hearts and allow it to act, Christ Himself is made present in us and takes form in our lives; through us, it will be He who prays, forgives, brings hope and consolation, serves our brothers, is close to the needy and the abandoned, who creates communion and sows peace.”

A group of young men and women recently completed their own final step of Christian initiation by being “sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” during their Confirmation at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota on April 28. Bishop Frank J. Dewane used Holy Chrism oil to anoint the confirmandi.

This was repeated by Bishop Dewane throughout the year, with more 1,792 men and women receiving the Sacrament during since last fall at 54 different Parishes and in area prisons. An additional 398 women and men received the Sacrament of Confirmation at their home Parishes on Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil.

Bishop Dewane told the confirmandi at St. Jude Parish that their sacramental life is key to who they are becoming by growing in the “Grace of God.” In order to do that, they must carry the Gifts of the Holy Spirit with them beyond the four walls of their Church. They must be doers of their Faith because there is nothing passive about being Catholic. The Sacrament of Confirmation is not an ending to the faith journey, but a beginning.

“You are on a journey to become women and men of God… We are each called to follow the lead Jesus gives us. You are old enough to do so freely in receiving this Sacrament,” Bishop Dewane added. “Allow this sacramental gift to enter into your life and carry the Holy Spirit with you from this point forward. You must each be changed by this encounter!”

During the Sacrament of Confirmation, the candidates renew their baptismal promises and then the Bishop, the attending priests, and all the faithful, pray that the Holy Spirit descend upon and remain on the Confirmandi. The Bishop then recites a prayer. Finally, the candidates are presented to the Bishop with their sponsor placing his/her hand on the candidates’ right shoulder. Then with his right thumb, the Bishop makes the sign of the cross on their forehead with the Holy Chrism oil and says “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” The newly confirmed replies: “Amen.”

Choosing Confirmation names such as St. Jude, St. Edward the Confessor, St. Maria Goretti, St. Padre Pio, St. Patrick, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Peter, St. Martha, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Luisa, St. Juan Diego, St. Magdalena, and many more, the youth spoke about what it meant to receive this Sacrament which fully welcomes them into the full benefits of the Universal Church.

“This was an important day for me,” one young man explained. “I have struggled with my faith in the past, however, during my catechism classes I found myself realizing I had developed a special bond with Christ. That makes me very happy.”

One young lady who got emotional when the Bishop anointed her forehead explained that she was nervous because she had doubts about being worthy of the Sacrament. “When the Bishop made the sign of the cross on my forehead I immediately felt a calm and joy wash over me. That was very powerful.”

Pope Francis explains that when we are anointed with Holy Chrism we are conformed, “by the power of the Holy Spirit, to Christ, who is the only true ‘anointed one’ the Messiah, the Saint of God.”

The Holy Father often stresses how important it is that all children receive the Sacrament of Confirmation because while there is an important emphasis on the Sacrament of Baptism, there tends to be a less of a focus on the Sacrament of Confirmation. He explained that those who are only baptized remain at a halfway point, and do not “receive the Holy Spirit that gives us the strength to go forward in Christian life.”

The Sacrament of Confirmation requires good preparation – often years of study and spiritual growth – as it aims to lead candidates toward “personal adhesion to faith in Christ and to reawaken in them a sense of belonging to the Church,” the Holy Father added. He also reminded the faithful to thank the Lord for receiving the gift of confirmation. “Then ask Him for His help in living as true Christians, to always journey with joy according to the Holy Spirit that has been granted to us.”

The Diocese of Venice has a religious education program which emphasizes the importance of the Sacrament of Confirmation with a two-year program. The young women and men go through a process where they complete one phase of their faith journey and prepare to begin the next phase as with the fullness of their Baptism and as Christians who are called to be more and reflect the love and goodness Christ in their heart and soul.

In addition, through Epiphany Cathedral, there is Religious Education for Special Needs Individuals (RESI) program, which is an outreach for those with Special Needs. The program welcomes God’s children by acknowledging that all children can learn, pray and have a relationship with God. This program is specifically designed to meet the spiritual needs of persons with developmental disabilities and intellectual challenges and welcomes candidates from age 10 to adulthood. Through this program they are incorporated into the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church. On April 15, Bishop Dewane confirmed six individuals who completed the RESI program at Epiphany Cathedral.