Universal Diocesan Confession times ahead of Holy Week

With Holy Week just days away, it is not too late to ponder how well prepared we are for the Resurrection of the Lord on Easter Sunday.

One way to help in this effort is through participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

To facilitate this requirement, every Parish in the Diocese of Venice will be open with a confessor present from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., on Friday, March 31, 2023, and from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, April 1. These opportunities, facilitated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, are made available so that the faithful may find ample opportunity to receive God’s Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the Lenten Season.

Bishop Dewane said that many people view the idea of confessing one’s sins as so unbearable that they either completely avoid the Sacrament or go infrequently.

“It is heartbreaking to hear stories from those who have avoided confession for many years after carrying around a burden,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is heartwarming to talk to people of all ages who go to confession and are relieved and overjoyed at the benefits. Some even scold themselves for missing such a beautiful Sacrament for so long.”

Throughout the Lenten Season, Parishes have offered extended hours for the Sacrament, in addition to offering Penance Services, where multiple priests from the region were made available to hear the confessions of a large number of people.

Pope Francis often speaks about the healing benefits of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, saying that he goes about once every two weeks. On March 17, Pope Francis spoke about the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“In Confession, let’s give God first place,” the Holy Father said. “Once He is in charge, everything becomes beautiful and confession becomes the Sacrament of joy, not of fear and judgement, but of joy.”

As the Catechism teaches, the priest is acting in Persona Christi, the person of Christ, within the confessional. So, like presenting oneself at the altar to be nourished by Christ in the Eucharist, a person going to Confession, is not ultimately confessing to a priest, but confessing to and receiving forgiveness from Jesus Christ.

“The Lord comes to us when we step back from our presumptuous ego… He can bridge the distance whenever, with honesty and sincerity, we bring our weaknesses before him,” Pope Francis said. “He holds out his hand and lifts us up whenever we realize we are ‘hitting rock bottom’ and we turn back to him with a sincere heart. That is how God is. He is waiting for us, deep down, for in Jesus he chose to ‘descend to the depths.’”

The Pope emphasized that God waits for us, especially in the Sacrament of Penance, where he said the Lord touches our wounds, heals our hearts, and leaves us with inner peace.

Please contact your local Parish for additional available confession times.

Rite of Election – Largest ever Diocesan group set to enter Church at Easter Vigil

The largest ever group of women and men set to enter the Catholic Church within the Diocese of Venice at the Easter Vigil were recognized during the annual Rite of Election at Epiphany Cathedral on the first Sunday of Lent on Feb. 26, 2023. This annual tradition is a formal Rite during which catechumens are presented and their names are entered into the Book of Elect.

The 216 catechumens (individuals who are not yet baptized) were joined by an additional 351 candidates (already-baptized Christians preparing for confirmation and First Eucharist). The candidates participate in the formal ceremony and are recognized during the celebration for answering the “Call To Their Continuing Conversion.” The Cathedral was at near capacity as family members were also present to show their support.

The Rite of Election was presided over by Bishop Frank J. Dewane who said he was impressed by the large number of catechumens and candidates, noting that the 567 are the most ever set to enter the Church in the Diocese in a single year through the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults (OCIA) program.

Bishop Dewane complimented each for making the commitment to publicly announce the call of the Holy Spirit in a particular way by becoming active members of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Venice. “You are the brave and courageous; the Spirit of the Lord is working within you.”

The catechumens and candidates, who were recognized by Bishop Dewane, are on a continuing journey that will culminate when they come into full communion with the Catholic Church at the April 8 Easter Vigil Mass in their respective Parishes.

The group represent 47 Parishes in the Diocese of Venice and are accompanied by tens of thousands of others across the country that will also join the Catholic Church this year. Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers, St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples, Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria, and Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee had the largest groups of catechumens and candidates.

Bishop Dewane acknowledged the sacrifice each catechumen and candidate has made in recognizing the voice of God in their lives, prompted by the Holy Spirit, to come forward on this journey of learning about the Catholic Faith.

“This happens in your heart,” the Bishop said. “Leave your heart always open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the voice of God. Listen to what the Lord is asking of you.”

By recognizing the Lord’s presence in your heart, it must change you in fundamental ways, Bishop Dewane said. The presence of the Lord in your life must impact how you live, how you treat yourself, how you treat others, and how you are going to live the life to which the Lord has called you. During the coming weeks of Lent, the Bishop encouraged the catechumens and candidates to seek the Lord in Sacred Scriptures as they develop and grow in building their relationship with Jesus Christ.

“We must go out from these four walls (of the Cathedral) and be doers of our Faith out in society,” Bishop Dewane said. “We have respective roles – responding and answering – as we are called, made in the image and likeness of God, to give witness to Jesus Christ.”

The catechumens are part of the OCIA, which is for those who are unbaptized and unchurched, who come to inquire about becoming part of the Roman Catholic Faith in a process that takes about a year. Often catechumens are those who have begun to seek and understand God in their lives and have been led by the Holy Spirit to become Catholic. OCIA is a journey of discovery and faith. This is most commonly done in three distinct phases: discernment, acceptance into the catechumenate along with purification and enlightenment.

Each catechumen will go through a series of scrutinies during which they examine their readiness to accept Christ and the Catholic Faith in the form of the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation). This time culminates at the Easter Vigil when the catechumens are received through Baptism into the Catholic Church. The final period of the OCIA is the time of “Mystagogy” (post-baptismal catechesis). During the weeks following the Easter Vigil, the newly initiated live more profoundly their experience of Baptism and the Eucharist as they begin the journey of discipleship and their growing union with Christ.

For candidates, those who have been correctly baptized with a Trinitarian formula, the Catholic Church does not require re-Baptism. Candidates have already experienced a journey of faith and understand how Jesus leads us to the Father through the work of the Holy Spirit. In fact, many have been attending Mass with their families for years but may have never received the Sacrament of Holy Communion or the Sacrament of Confirmation.

The candidates are invited to the Cathedral for the Rite of Election as a form of welcome, but because they are already in the Book of the Elect as baptized Christians, they do not bring their names forward. To symbolize that baptism, and as a sign of their continuing conversion, they come forward and make the sign of the cross with holy water.

Everyone is encouraged to pray for and welcome the catechumens and candidates at their own Parish as they continue their journey of discovery in their Faith.

Hundreds of couples recognized for giving hope to society

During a time when society is trying to redefine what marriage is, hundreds of couples were honored during a Feb. 18, 2023, Diocese of Venice celebration of their lasting witness to Sacramental Marriage.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated a Mass at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice recognizing 360 couples, who were celebrating a combined 18,403 years of marriage, for their accomplishment which brings hope to their families, to the community, to society and to the Universal Church.

“Think of the accomplishment of who you are as a group; but also think of it as individuals and couples, as children of God, made in the image and likeness of God,” Bishop Dewane said. “You were the minister of the Sacrament – one to the other. You stood there together then and are here together today. The number of years you have lived by the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage is a real achievement. See yourselves as the goodness that you are.”

The Bishop described the couples as both radical and countercultural, but also a true inspiration for others to follow and emulate.

“You don’t see it, but your commitment to each other is seen by younger generations, perhaps by your grandchildren or great-granchildren,” Bishop Dewane said. “That is a lasting testimony to the vows you took, committing to each other before God those many years ago.”

The 360 couples present for the Mass represented 41 Parishes and included 58 couples which have been married for 50 years. One of those couples, John and Janet Johannsen, celebrated their 50th on the day of the Mass. Also celebrating their 45th anniversary during the Mass were Louis and Maria Gomes. Both of these couples are from San Pedro Parish in North Port.

The couple recognized as being present with the longest marriage was John and Rita Riebel, who celebrate 72 years of marriage on April 7. They moved to Florida 27 years ago and attend Epiphany Cathedral. They met in New Jersey on a blind date. As newlyweds, John served in the Army and later in construction, sometimes working three jobs to provide for their 5 children, a true testimony to their love and commitment to each other and as a family.

Other couples recognized during the Mass were Thomas and Dolores Martorana, 72 years, from Epiphany Cathedral; Carl and Natalie Pensak, 71 years, from Epiphany Cathedral; and Marvin and Carol Peschel, 70 years, from St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Port Charlotte.

The Peschel’s met in high school when she was a junior and he a senior needing a tutor so he could graduate. “She was always smarter than me,” Marvin Peschel explained. “That is why it was always easy to just say “Yes dear” whenever we had a discussion.”

Of course, the couple credits their strong faith and belief in a commitment to loving each other through good times and bad. This is particularly true now that he is 90 and she is 89. “We have something special,” Carol Peschel said.

During the Mass, the married couples renewed their wedding vows. In addition, each couple was presented with commemorative certificates, signed by the Bishop, for their enduring commitment to marriage.

A reception followed the Mass with lunch and the opportunity to have complimentary pictures taken with the Bishop.

Masses are celebrated each year in the northern and southern sections of the Diocese of Venice to accommodate those wanting to attend. The first Mass was Feb. 11 at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, bringing together 270 couples representing a combined 14,002 years of marriage.

Sacrament of Holy Matrimony – Icons of God

The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is a sacred bond between a man and a woman which reflects the honor, love, commitment and fidelity each demonstrates for the other.

In celebration of that commitment, each year Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites couples married 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50+ years to a Mass in their honor as witnesses to a beautiful vocation for younger generations to see and admire. This first such Mass in 2023 was Feb. 4 at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. Present were 270 couples representing a combined 14,002 years of marriage.

“What a beautiful sight from up here,” Bishop Dewane said. “We are here to celebrate the love and commitment you and your spouse made all those years ago. We gather here to give thanks to the Lord, and we gather to recognize all of you at the table of the Lord, for the marriage that you have, for your fidelity, as well as for your entering into the Sacrament accompanied by God.”

Bishop Dewane noted how Pope Francis described married couples as Icons of God – neither being more than the other, but only together do they combine to make the image of God complete. For this reason, the Bishop said it is right that the Mass is celebrated and acknowledges the couples for the life and commitment they made before God, to each other.

“You are a gift to the Diocese, to your children, to your grandchildren and to the younger people in the Diocese, you offer them great hope,” Bishop Dewane said. “You offer them a future. You are an example for others to follow. The life that you as married couples live – in kindness and fruitfulness – is unique in what it contributes to society. What a wonderful gift you give to the world.”

The couple recognized as being present with the longest marriage were David and Peggy Hiller, who will be marking 72 years on May 4. They attend Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in Fort Myers and grew up in Ohio, first meeting on an ice rink. They spent their life working together in farming: cows, chickens, pigs.  Peggy helped David drive the tractors so now he says he returns the favor by washing the dishes. They raised four children and eventually bought a home in Fort Myers 40 years ago and now split their time between Florida and Ohio.

The 270 couples present for the Mass represented 25 Parishes and included 30 couples which have been married 50 years. Three couples celebrated their actual anniversary on the day of the Mass. They included: Gerald and Sharon Allen, 62 years, St. Therese Parish, North Fort Myers; Morris and Christina Cirlincione, 56 years, St. Ann Parish, Naples; and Charles and Colleen Faris, 50 years, St. Finbarr Parish, Naples.

John and Paulette Donlon of St. Leo the Great Parish have been married 63 years. They met in high school and built a life together in Michigan. They said the ability to have Christ at the heart of their marriage has helped them overcome any challenges.

“Marriage is about being there for each other, no matter what,” Paulette Donlon said. “You love each other. You get through struggles because you remember that you made a commitment at your wedding before God. That is real. That is serious. That puts everything in perspective.”

During the Mass, the married couples renewed their wedding vows. In addition, each couple was presented with commemorative certificates, signed by the Bishop, for their enduring commitment to marriage.

A reception followed the Mass with lunch and the opportunity to have complimentary pictures taken with the Bishop.

Masses are celebrated each year in the northern and southern sections of the Diocese of Venice so as to accommodate those wanting to attend. The second Mass is 11 a.m. Feb. 18, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave., Venice (registration is through your Parish and walk-ins are welcome).

News briefs for the week of Jan. 20, 2023

Naples teens attend Florida March for Life

A group of 27 (six parents, two teachers, and 19 students) represented St. John Neumann Catholic High School of Naples at the March for Life in St. Augustine on Jan. 14, 2023. The group marched for the sanctity of life in a trip sponsored by Florida Right for Life President Lynda Bell.

Cougar Experience held for visiting students

On January 11, 2023, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota hosted 130 8th graders from their partner schools for The Cougar Experience. It was a great day of games, lunch, athletics and learning more about Cardinal Mooney’s arts and academics. The partner schools are St. Martha Catholic School, Incarnation Catholic School, and St. Mary Academy, all in Sarasota, as well as Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice and St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton.

Learning the Sacraments

Fourth grade students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers are learning about the seven Sacraments, and the role water plays in the sacraments. The students renewed their baptismal promises Jan. 11, 2023, while working on a craft project related to the Sacraments.

Jr. Thespians take stage in state competition

The Jr. Thespians Troupe from St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton received four Superior Awards and four Excellent Awards at the Jan. 12-14, 2023, Florida State Junior Thespian Festival – Thespian Jam, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Some 6,000 participated in the festival which gives theater lovers the chance to celebrate the best middle school theatrical work and have an unforgettable experience. The students put in many hours of practice and hard work, which definitely paid off.

Basketball player reaches milestone

St. John Neumann Catholic High School basketball player Sophia McCartney reached the 1,000-point milestone during a game on Jan. 14, 2023. After the home game in Sarasota, the star player was honored and recognized for this remarkable achievement, something that is rare in high school basketball.

Cape Coral students hone their robotics skills

Middle school students at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral were able to hone their robotic coding skills on Jan. 17, 2023. They worked on coding and working with Lego Spike Prime Robots. These small robots are made out of Lego pieces and can follow paths on an established course. The robots can be coded to perform various tasks as well. These skills are being learned as part of a larger Diocesan-wide robotics STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts, math) curriculum which helps students learn the skills needed to excel in a high-tech modern society.

Marriage conference draws rave reviews

The Diocese of Venice, “Together in Holiness” Marriage Conference, presented in partnership with the Diocese Office of Family Life and the St. John Paul II Foundation, took place Oct. 22, 2022, at St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers and was a huge success.

More than 100 couples took part in this event which was intended to allow couples to grow together in holiness, learn to form their children in the Catholic Faith, enjoy a day of quality time with their spouse, and witness dynamic presentations.

The day also included the Mass, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and the availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

One couple from Naples said they were impressed not only by the speakers, but by the supportive atmosphere the conference offered. “This was such a nourishing environment for us and a great boost for our marriage.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane addressed the couples, impressed by the numbers and encouraged by their enthusiasm in a society in which the very definition of marriage is under attack and calls for a modern form of spiritual battle as a response.

“Know that the Lord sees the good you have set out to do this day by being here as a couple, as spouses,” Bishop Dewane said. “You continue to do that spiritual battle – against everything that is around us in society that really attacks your very vocation – that concerns me a great deal. I do believe the vocation of marriage is under attack which is destroying the moral fabric of society. This conference is present so that you, together, can work on building this beautiful vocation back up.”

The first presenter was Father Shawn Monahan, OMV, Associate Director of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice, whose talk was titled, “The Holy Eucharist: The Source and Summit of Marriage and Family Life.”

Father Monahan explained how when a couple gets married, Christ also makes a promise to them to help live out that vocation and to empower them to mirror His love for His bride the Church profoundly through the Eucharistic embrace which is both at the heart of Christian life and the Sacrament of Marriage. “It takes three to get married, Father said. “And God is the third person.”

Christopher J. Stravitsch, Chair of the St. John Paul II Foundation, talked about “A Family that Prays Together.” Building upon what St. John Paul II taught, Strevitsh said families have a “priestly mission” that includes living a life of prayer together in the home – husband and wife together.

Damon and Melanie Owens, cofounders of Joyful Ever After, also spoke and their topic was “To Love and to Cherish: Deepening Love and Intimacy in Marriage.” Their presentation focused on the significance of cherishing the most important person in one’s life, their spouse, even in the face of the challenges and demands of daily family life.

What’s Next

Couldn’t make the conference? Looking for other opportunities for marriage enrichment? As a complement to the conference, the St. John Paul II Foundation and the Diocese of Venice invite all married couples to participate in the Together in Holiness Formation series: year-round marriage enrichment for small communities of spouses.

Highlights of the Formation series include short and beautifully-made videos with national speakers, themes that are based on the life, teaching, and witness of St. John Paul II, and Bring it Home activities that translate learning into living. The series is also available for Spanish-speaking couples through captioned videos and translated materials. Click here to view a trailer!

To get involved, please complete an interest form here. For questions, please email Program Coordinator Charlotte Sacco at charlotte@forlifeandfamily.org.



Diocese to expand support for couples and families

The Diocese of Venice recognizes the importance of forming all married couples, from newlyweds to empty nesters, to live out their call to holiness and joy in the Sacrament of Marriage! As St. John Paul II famously said, “As goes the family, so goes the nation, and so goes the entire world in which we live.”

To promote greater support and formation for couples, the Diocese of Venice Office of Family Life and the St. John Paul II Foundation are working jointly to bring “Together in Holiness” to the entire Diocese. “Together in Holiness” is a comprehensive marriage enrichment initiative that includes an annual, one-day Conference series for couples, as well as a year-round Formation series for couples in Parishes, schools, and small communities.

“The Diocese of Venice continues to value the ongoing collaboration with the St. John Paul II Foundation in support of marriage and family,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane. “It is precisely the fruits that flow from the “Together in Holiness” Conference and the ongoing follow up Formation series, that the Sacrament of Marriage is all about. Through its Office of Family Life, the Diocese invites all couples to participate in these life-enriching opportunities.  Married couples are a sacramental representation of love, joy, and commitment, so I am thankful that “Together in Holiness” assists our married couples to contribute to the renewal of the family, Church and society.”

The second annual “Together in Holiness” Marriage Enrichment Conference will take place on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, the Feast of St. John Paul II, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will be hosted at St. John XXIII Parish, 13060 Palomino Lane, Fort Myers. Couples will enjoy a day of quality time with their spouse accompanied by dynamic presentations! The day will include the Mass and the availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This special event is for all couples, engaged, newlywed or long married. Access to on-site childcare will be provided.

The inaugural “Together in Holiness” Marriage Enrichment Conferences on Oct. 2, 2021, in Sarasota and Naples drew some 120 couples.

Here are just a few of the positive comments from previous attendees:

  • “Incredible!” “Life-changing!” “Impactful!” “Educational!” “Just what we needed!”
  • “It was truly a great event, very inspiring and applicable to the everyday life. It helped me to take a fresh look at my marriage and the relationship with my husband.”
  • “We both got a lot out of the entire day. It was a day of connecting – with each other, with other couples, with own selves, and, most importantly, with God.”

Complementing the one-day conference, the “Together in Holiness” Formation series offers year-round marriage enrichment to small communities of spouses that equips them with the formation, encouragement, and practical tools to grow together in holiness and to form their children in the Catholic Faith.

The “Together in Holiness” Formation series is a 7-part series based on the life, witness, and teachings of St. John Paul II on marriage and family life. Highlights include short, compelling video presentations with national speakers, Host Couples who facilitate discussion, and a “Bring it Home” component that translates learning into living. The Formation series is also available for Spanish-speaking couples through translated materials and captioned videos.

To register, please visit https://forlifeandfamily.org/events/th22-vnfl/. A video message from Bishop Frank J. Dewane can be found at www.dioceseofvenice.org/together-in-holiness-marriage-conference-october-22-2022.

For more information, please contact Carrie Harkey at 941-484-9543 or at  harkey@dioceseovenice.org.

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

Through the Sacrament of Confirmation the Christian initiation is completed as the recipients become more perfectly bound to the Church as true witnesses to Christ. This season almost 1,500 have been confirmed in the Diocese of Venice.

Pope Francis said Confirmation 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, Pope Francis continued. “This concluded the process of formation and gradual insertion into the Christian community that could take several years. It was a step-by-step process, first reaching Baptism, then Confirmation, and finally the Eucharist.”

The term ‘confirmation’ must remind one that this Sacrament involves growth from baptismal grace, Pope Francis said. “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, 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, Pope Francis said that “Confirmation, like every Sacrament, is not the work of men, but rather the work of God, Who takes care of our lives in order to mold us in the image of His Son, to make us able to love like Him. 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.”

Here in the Diocese of Venice, 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 Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton on April 22, 2022. Bishop Frank J. Dewane used sacred Chrism oil to anoint the confirmandi in Bradenton. This has been repeated by Bishop Dewane, and delegated Parish priests, since the fall of 2021, with more than 1,411 young men and women receiving the Sacrament during that time. Among that number were 397 adults who received the Sacrament of Confirmation at their home Parishes on Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil on April 16, 2022.

Bishop Dewane told the confirmandi at Sacred Heart 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,” the Bishop said. “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.”

“This Sacrament makes you more,” he explained. “Be filled with the Holy Spirit and let this conscious action you take be a sign of who you have become as Catholics, and who you are going to be going forward as women and men of God. Be an inspiration to others as you let the light and the gifts of the Holy Spirit shine forth in your words and your deeds.”

During the Sacrament of Confirmation, the candidates renew their baptismal promises, which Bishop Dewane said is done to publicly proclaim who they are as Catholics and to have the courage, hope, faith and perseverance to be true followers of Christ.

As the Rite continues, the Bishop, the attending priests, and all the faithful, pray in silence for the candidates and then the Bishop recites a prayer aloud. Finally, the candidates were presented with the sponsor placing their right 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.” It is at this point, the Bishop said, that their unity to the Church was complete.

Recently, the Holy Father repeatedly stressed how important of how important it is that all children receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. While there is a logical emphasis on the Sacrament of Baptism, there tends to be less of a focus on the Sacrament of Confirmation. Therefore, those who are baptized remain at a halfway point, and as Pope Francis said, they do not “receive the Holy Spirit that gives us the strength to go forward in Christian life.”

The Diocese of Venice has a religious education program which emphasizes the importance of the Sacrament of Confirmation with a two-year process. The young men and women 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. There is an additional program called the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, which not only assists adults in receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, but other Sacraments they might be missing, thus allowing them to be in full Communion with the Church.

Pentecost: the Holy Spirit descends upon all – Church celebrates its “Birthday”

The Solemnity of Pentecost, which is celebrated 50 days after Easter, marks the descent of the Holy Spirit.

The twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit are charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity.

Pope Francis addressed the faithful on Pentecost at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican saying that the Holy Spirit “rejuvenates the Church” and teaches the Church “to be an open house without walls of division.”

“Brothers and sisters, let us sit at the school of the Holy Spirit, so that he can teach us all things. Let us invoke him each day, so that he can remind us to make God’s gaze upon us our starting point, to make decisions by listening to his voice, and to journey together as Church, docile to him and open to the world,” the Holy Father said.

At Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, Rector Msgr. Patrick Dubois said the Holy Spirit was sent down with the power to proclaim the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

“Since then, the Church has spread throughout the world to include more than 1.2 billion Catholics,” Msgr. Dubois said. “The Holy Spirit accompanied the Disciples throughout the world as they began their journey on this birthday of the Church. This accompaniment by the Holy Spirit is not only exclusive to Bishops, priest, deacons and those in religious life – who each have a key role to fill – but to the lay faithful, who are called to spread the Gospel within society.”

“It is through the lay faithful that the Holy Spirit work to transform the affairs of this world according to God’s core values,” Msgr. Dubois continued. “This is done by giving witness to Christ wherever it is that you live. Wherever you are, be it in Venice, Fort Myers, Bradenton, you are the light of the world, you are called by the Lord Jesus to spread the Gospel and advance the Kingdom of God. May this day be a new birthday, that we may consecrate ourselves with renewed zeal to be God’s witness in this world.”

The latest generation of faithful who are guided by the Holy Spirit are those who have recently entered into full Communion with the Church, namely the recent recipients of the Sacrament of Confirmation.

On Pentecost, Msgr. Dubois bestowed the Sacrament of Confirmation upon 60 people from 17 different Parishes across the Diocese. The confirmandi were people who otherwise missed being confirmed either at the Easter Vigil or by the Bishop at the Parish.

The candidates were told that that they are called and equipped by Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit – a special strength to give witness to Christ and perform the acts of good Christians.

“Confirmation will make you a frontline fighter for the Faith of Christ,” Msgr. Dubois added. “With the Sacrament, the Holy Spirit will confirm you in your path and from there the Holy Spirit will give you the gifts and strength to sanctify your mission according to God’s Commandments.”

EASTER: The Summit of the Catholic Faith

For the Easter Season – Spread the Good News

Throughout the Universal Church the faithful gathered for a joyous celebration on Easter; that is the Resurrection of Our Lord, the Summit of the Catholic Faith. Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the “Feast of feasts,” the “Solemnity of solemnities.”

This celebration comes after the holiest of weeks which began with the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and included the institution of the Eucharist (Communion) during the Last Supper, Institution of the Sacrament of Holy Orders as well as the betrayal by Judas on Holy Thursday and the suffering and death of Our Lord on Good Friday. The Resurrection on Easter completes the journey for Jesus but it is just the beginning of a new journey of belief and hope for the Faithful, Bishop Frank J. Dewane explained during the Easter Vigil Mass on April 16, 2022, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

“For more than two thousand years humanity has never known a night so powerful as this night which represents the greatest noble night when the power of death was overcome – conquered that night by Jesus Christ,” Bishop Dewane said.

The Bishop noted the Gospel reading from the Vigil provides guidance to carry the message of Easter forward. The Gospel of Luke (24:1-12) tells the story of the women who were going to care for the body of Jesus, thought to be deceased, in the Jewish custom and found the stone rolled away from the tomb. The Gospel then reads: “but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.’ And they remembered his words.'”

Bishop Dewane said we all need to look back to Scripture and recall those words, at that moment. “All of us need to ponder the power of the Resurrection in our life. We need to have hope. Yes, we can be afraid at times, but we cannot be deterred. The women who came to the tomb of Jesus were afraid, but they had hope. We must allow the same to happen to us, as with shouts of joy, proclaim the Risen Lord, whose power can roll back the stones – those obstacles to living out a true life of faith in Jesus Christ. This Risen Lord gives us the grace we need to go forward to be the messengers of Christ’s Word – the messenger of the Resurrection of the Lord – Alleluia! Christ is Risen!”

The Easter Vigil begins in darkness, the Easter fire is kindled and the Paschal (Passover) Candle lit. The Candle is brought into the darkened church with the proclamation that Christ is our Light as the flame is shared and the light spreads.

During this Vigil Mass, the faithful hear the story of Salvation proclaimed in numerous Scripture readings first from the Old Testament (Genesis and Exodus) and then from the New Testament. It is also at this time at the Vigil Mass that the Bishop and priests baptize and confirm Catechumens and Candidates. There were 397 women and men who entered fully into the Catholic Church at Parishes throughout the Diocese.

One of these candidates was Samantha Valerie Caballero who received the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and First Holy Communion from Bishop Dewane at Epiphany Cathedral. Caballero was emotional after becoming fully Catholic. “I feel blessed to have grown close to the Lord, Jesus Christ in my life,” she said afterwards.

The celebration of Easter is not confined to a single day; in fact, throughout the next 50 days the Easter Season is celebrated “in joyful exultation as one Feast Day, or better as one ‘great Sunday.’”

The first eight days after Easter make up what is called the Octave of Easter and is a festive time. On the 40th day of the Easter Season, Catholics celebrate the Ascension of the Lord (May 26 – the celebration is moved to the following Sunday, May 29). The days that follow are a time to prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday (June 5).