Parishes, schools help bring Saints to life

In the days leading up to and following Nov. 1, 2021, the Solemnity of All Saints, Parishes and Diocesan Catholic schools took time out to put a special emphasis on the Saints.

At some Masses children dressed as their favorite Saint. In some schools, presentations were made to allow the young “Saints” to share the story of these holy men and women of God.

The most popular activity this year was the Trunk-or-Treat which provided a safe environment for the little ones to come and get candy and have a little fun.

Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Parish in Bokeelia supported the Pine Island event by supplying 162 kids prepackaged bags of candy that had a label that said “Never Stop FALL-O-WEEN Jesus for Heavenly Treats. Have a Happy Halloween from OLMM Catholic Church.” The parishioners donated the candy for the event as the Parish Trunk-or-Treat Theme was: “FALL for Jesus, He Never LEAVES.”

Meanwhile, St. Michael Parish in Wauchula decided to host a carnival/trick-or-treat event in the field behind the Parish. Children dressed as priests, angels and a variety of superheroes and other characters each had to complete a carnival game to receive candy. One game had children try to identify images of saints with only a small hint to help. All the candy was donated by the faithful at St. Raphael Parish in Englewood.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane often describes the saints as women and men who do ordinary things extraordinarily well.

An example of this occurred in Bradenton, where second graders from St. Joseph Catholic School shared candy, homemade cards, and sang their favorite songs for the residents at nearby Truewood Assisted Living. Thanks to a donor who supplied candy, the students also enjoyed Trick or Treating throughout the facility.

The Beta Club of St. John Neumann Catholic School in Naples also did a little thing well when they delivered treats to the faculty and teachers at St. Ann Catholic School in Naples in thanks for their dedication to education. Each bag also featured a bible verse chosen by the Beta Club – “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” James 1:12.

Back at the high school, the seniors escorted pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students from St. Ann and St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Schools for trick-or-treating to each of the classrooms.

Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers hosted kindergarten students from St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral and St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers on Oct. 28 for pumpkin decorating and a few treats.

At Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria the children in grades Pre-k through third came to Mass on Oct. 29 dressed as their favorite saint. After Mass had concluded, the costumed children took turns announcing to the assembled students, teachers, parents and visitors which saint they were.

On the Solemnity, Nov. 1, St. Andrew Catholic School students wore a wide variety of “saint” costumes to Mass with many Blessed Virgin Mary’s, several angels, and a few Popes.

Pope Francis said true happiness does not come from being young, rich, or successful, as the world thinks, but from the counter-cultural idea to follow Jesus Christ. The Holy Father made his remarks during a special Angelus address for the Solemnity of All Saints, celebrated by the Catholic Church on Nov. 1, 2021. This year the obligation to attend Mass was abrogated in the United States because the Solemnity fell on a Monday.

In addition, schools also took time out on All Soul’s Day, Nov. 2, to pause to remember deceased family and friends. Middle school-aged students at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton created images made from sugar with prayers for deceased relatives and friends written on the back of each one. This was part of a special Family Night celebrating Día de los Muertos on Oct. 29.

At Bishop Verot, for many years Fathers Joe and John Beattie, Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, would have a book for staff and students to record the names of loved ones to remember on All Souls Day. That tradition continues to this day with students and staff invited to participate this year.

Parishes also did the same with several dedicating evening Masses to the reading of the names of deceased parishioners from the previous year. The entire month of November is dedicated to all the Souls in Purgatory.

Diocesan Catholic Schools to participate in Healing Novena

For nine school days, all the grade school students, teachers and administrators in the Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools will be praying a Novena for Healing. The novena begins May 11, 2021 and will conclude on May 21.

This novena will seek the intercessions of Venerable Antonietta Meo, a 6-year-old from Rome known by the nickname “Nennolina.” She also is the youngest person in the history of the Church to have a beatification process opened.

“We will be over 4,000 strong praying this novena,” wrote Father John Belmonte, SJ, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, in a letter to parents and guardians.

As part of the letter about the novena, Father Belmonte requested that families submit the names of students, especially those with serious illnesses, for whom the novena will be prayed. Of course, other family members and friends can go on the list as well.

Once the names are compiled, Father Belmonte will submit them to Father Gino Amicarelli, the Pastor at the Basilica of Santa Croce in Rome, where Venerable Antonietta Meo went to the Catholic school and is buried.

“Father Amicarelli graciously agreed to place the list of names at the tomb of ‘Nennolina’ for us,” Father Belmonte wrote. The letter also included an attached prayer booklet for the families which included the novena as well as a detailed background on the life of “Nennolina,” These booklets will be distributed to each student for use in the classroom.

“I know that the people for whom we will pray, their families and our schools will find great spiritual benefit in this novena. May Venerable Antonietta Meo intercede for all of us, especially those children and their families who ask for healing,” the letter from Father Belmonte concluded.

Born in Rome on December 15, 1930, “Nennolina” attended her early schooling with religious sisters and during this time developed an osteosarcoma and her left leg had to be amputated. At that young age she had a concept of the value of suffering that was incomprehensible without the grace of God. She attended elementary school with a prosthesis that bothered her greatly. However, she offered it all to Jesus, “May each step that I take be a little word of love.” Tumors spread throughout her body and both the illness itself and the treatments intended to heal her caused her great pain.

She liked to attend school and catechism class; she wrote to Jesus, “I go enthusiastically, because I learn so many beautiful things about You and Your saints.” Having not yet reached the age of seven, she died in the midst of terrible pain on July 3, 1937. On December 17, 2007 Pope Benedict XVI declared Antonietta Meo, “Venerable.” Her life has been a witness of sanctity for children who suffer.

Prayer to obtain graces through the intercession of Venerable Antonietta Meo

O God, Father of the humble, we thank You because with Antonietta Meo You gave us the gift of a living image of Your Love and Wisdom, revealed to the young. You, who gave her the grace of being joined to the Cross of Our Lord Jesus and of suffering with fortitude and joy, make her glorious even now on earth, so that everyone can look to her as a shining example of loyalty to the Gospel. Grant us her simple and passionate love for the Eucharist and the Church; draw near to us in our need and, by her intercession, according to Your Holy Will, give us the grace which we request in faith.


Schools celebrates saints, souls and more

One of the blessings of a Catholic school is the gift of weaving education, faith, and family traditions into the very fabric of the school community. As the days of fall become shorter, the reality of eternity is celebrated by many cultures. In a Catholic school, there is much more to celebrate such as All Hallows Eve, Dia de los Muertos, All Saints Day and All Souls Day

This year, St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton had to be creative in celebrating as a school community. The students each prepared an art project to decorate the courtyard with four areas to highlight this season. Teachers and students shared a reflection as their small cohorts visited each area. The Parent Teacher Organization safely prepared treat bags for each student. As music filled the courtyard, students visited each station where they received a treat or symbol that recognized that celebration.

The first station was for All Hallows Eve. This station was a reminder that life can sometimes be frightening, but together, we can overcome challenges with faith. Pumpkins and ornamental gourds from Hydro Harvest Farms in Ruskin, filled this area. Each child got to pick ornamental gourds to put in their bags. Older students were able to select pumpkins to take home. Students prayed for all affected by COVID-19 and prayed for the day we can all remove our masks and celebrate in groups again.

The next station celebrated Día de los Muertos, as a time to remember our loved ones. The students participated in remembering departed relatives and friends as they learned about cultural traditions.

The third station celebrated All Saints Day, and the many Saints who inspire all by their lives of holiness. The Saints brought God’s presence to the world through their love and care for others. Since the Saints always followed God, sunflowers with pictures of Saints filled this area. Students shared in a Litany of the Saints, learned that each of us is called to holiness, and this is a day to remember all Saints, including those whose names we may never know.

The final station was in honor of All Souls Day. Students had prepared pinwheels with the names of family and friends to remember. The students reflected on the Body of Christ and God’s Spirit that fills their lives. They also prayed a decade of the rosary for the faithful departed. Following the prayers, each student received a cross to wear over their heart as a reminder of their love for God and one another.

A pumpkin decorating contest completed the day. Families had prepared pumpkins at home and submitted pictures. A slide presentation was set to music to share with family and friends. E-learners were able to share in these projects from home.

Divine Mercy in Our Souls

By Joshua Mazrin – Special to the Florida Catholic

Divine Mercy Sunday has been celebrated since April 20, 2000, after being instituted as a Solemnity by Pope St. John Paul II. The day marks the octave of Easter and is focused on the tremendous gift of God’s Mercy for all of mankind.

This beautiful message of Mercy for the whole world was given to St. Faustina Kowalska, a Sister of Our Lady of Mercy from Poland in the 1920s and 30s. God chose to use a humble little sister, a young girl with only a second-grade education, to bring about a devotion that would open the floodgates of heaven so that more souls would come to know God’s love.

“Proclaim that mercy is the greatest attribute of God. All the works of My hands are crowned with mercy,” (Divine Mercy in My Soul: Diary of St. Faustina, 301), the Lord told St. Faustina when charging her to spread this message even to the ends of the earth. This was quite the task to ask of the Saint-to-be.

“Oh, if sinners knew My mercy, they would not perish in such great numbers. Tell sinful souls not to be afraid to approach Me; speak to them of My great mercy” (Diary, 1396). These words spoken by Our Lord were not meant for St. Faustina alone, but for each one of us. The Lord calls each of us to proclaim this Mercy to all we encounter.

This calls to mind the words of St. Paul, who in his letter to the Romans said, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more” (Romans 5:20). There is no question that the world is filled with sin and each one of us is tempted in some way toward it. But now is not a time to abandon hope.

Just like the Cross itself, the Lord’s Mercy seems scandalous. It is scandalous the amount of love with which God loves us.

“I perform works of mercy in every soul. The greater the sinner, the greater right he has to My mercy. My mercy is confirmed in every work of My hands. He who trusts in My Mercy will not perish, for all his affairs are Mine” (Diary, 723).

There are no exclusions here. This Mercy is available for every soul. The necessary response is to simply repent and to trust. No sin is too big for God’s Mercy.

Alongside the teachings of Divine Mercy, the Lord gave also the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Novena of Divine Mercy. These are simple ways to live the Lord’s call to trust in His Mercy and bring it to those around us.

The Divine Mercy Chaplet comes with the promise of great graces. It is prayed using the same beads of the rosary and consists of the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Apostles Creed with short prayers focused on obtaining mercy.

“The souls that say this chaplet will be embraced by My mercy during their lifetime and especially at the hour of their death” (Diary, 754).

These words which God spoke to St. Faustina say it all:

“Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy. I desire that the whole world know My infinite mercy. I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My mercy” (Diary, 687).

To understand the message of Divine Mercy requires a look at the Passion of Christ.  The glory is tied to the suffering. Yes, this is a strange concept, but even spouses know the sacrifice made for one another. Parents know the great love in sacrificing for their children.

The way in which we are united to Christ is through suffering, death, and resurrection. “…if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified in him” (Romans 8:17).

On this 20th anniversary of the institution of Divine Mercy Sunday, there is certainly no shortage on suffering and the world is indeed in great need of God’s Mercy. The faithful must turn to God in their own homes with Churches still closed due to the current state of affairs.

“O soul steeped in darkness, do not despair. All is not yet lost. Come and confide in your God, who is love and mercy… My child, listen to the voice of your merciful Father” (Diary, 1486).

God has not abandoned His Church; Christ has not abandoned His flock. We are with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, we are with Him at the Cross on Calvary, but we are also with Him leaving the tomb on the morning of Easter Sunday and standing in His blessing of Divine Mercy, healing, and forgiveness this coming Divine Mercy Sunday.

What you can do:

  • Say the Divine Mercy Chaplet with your family;
  • Finish the Divine Mercy Novena;
  • Meditate on and thank the Lord for His Incarnation, Passion, Death, and Resurrection;
  • Read the Diary of St. Faustina (and Scripture, of course!);
  • Go to Confession as soon as you are able.

Do not be afraid to approach the Lord and His Mercy. Do not be afraid to make a change in your life to grow in holiness. It is the Lord’s delight “to act in a human soul and to fill it with [His] mercy” (Diary, 1784). It is the Lord’s delight to fill you with His Mercy.

“My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world. Who can measure the extent of my goodness? For you I descended from heaven to earth; for you I allowed myself to be nailed to the cross; for you I let my Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come, then, with trust to draw graces from this fountain. I never reject a contrite heart. Your misery has disappeared in the depths of My mercy” (Diary, 1485).

Joshua Mazrin is the Diocese of Venice Director of Evangelization. He can be reached at