Chrism Mass – Symbol of Unity – Renewal of Priestly Promises; Consecration and Blessing of Holy Oils

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was joined by more than 150 priests from across the Diocese for the annual Chrism Mass March 26, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

The Chrism Mass, which the Bishop concelebrates with priests from throughout the Diocese and during which he consecrates the sacred Chrism and blesses the other oils, is among the principal manifestations of the fullness of the Bishop’s Priesthood and is considered to be a sign of the close bond between the Priests and their Bishop. For it is with the sacred Chrism consecrated by the Bishop that the priests are ordained, the newly baptized are anointed, and those to be confirmed are signed. It is with the Oil of Catechumens that catechumens are prepared and disposed for Baptism. Finally, it is with the Oil of the Sick that those who are ill are comforted in their infirmity.

This celebration, which was witnessed by more than 1,000 of the faithful, including 350 students from Diocesan Catholic schools, is an expression of unity of the priests with their Shepherd, the Bishop of the Diocese.

The celebration not only brings into focus the historical context of the priesthood by the renewal of Priestly Promises, but also presents an opportunity for the priests to recall their ordination and to reflect upon their ongoing priestly vocation. Having all the priests of the Diocese come together at the Chrism Mass, united with their Bishop, on the eve of the Easter Triduum, reminds priests of their calling to act in the person of Christ – in persona Christi. This is the largest annual gathering of the clergy for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

During the Renewal of Priestly Promises the gathered priests stood as one, and spoke with one voice responding, “I am,” three times to a series of questions asked by Bishop Dewane. These same questions were asked of them at the time of their Ordination to the Priesthood.

Bishop Dewane publicly thanked the priests for their continued service to the People of God throughout the Diocese of Venice. He also called upon the faithful to continue to support the priests who bring the Sacraments into their lives.

“The Chrism Mass highlights the role and responsibility of the ordained in relationship with their Bishop, but primarily in their relationship to God and to Jesus Christ in offering that eternal sacrifice at the table of the Lord,” Bishop Dewane said. “My brothers, our hands were and remain anointed with the oil of Chrism, the same Chrism that will be instituted today; may Jesus always preserve you to sanctify the Christian people and in the Holy Office, in sacrifice to God.”

The anointed hands of a priest are sacramental instruments that baptize, confirm, bless, absolve sin, consecrate, offer the Bread of Life, the Chalice of Salvation; they are sacramental instruments that touch heads who ask for a blessing and at the end of life, open the door to eternity for many.

“Those are the instruments the Lord gives us,” Bishop Dewane said. “St. Teresa of Avila emphasized this point, saying, ‘Christ has no hands on earth but yours.’ Your hands are important in that role. They pray, they labor, they offer compassion and peace to those you meet. The anointed hands have been further consecrated, use them carefully for what God wants.”

While the priesthood can be challenging, the Bishop said that the heart of the priest “pulsates the lifeblood of the Body of Christ, the Church, keeping Her alive, active and sacred. Let it be part of who you are. That beating heart; let it be for Christ in every way.”

Pope Francis said the grace of the priesthood is for service, not for glory, as there is no recompense greater for a priest than the friendship with Jesus Christ. Seeking one’s own glory robs the priest, and ultimately the faithful, of the presence of Christ.

“We must all be careful of not letting our hearts and hands get numb to the repeated exercise of our service, but recognize them as a blessing and grace for those whom we serve,” Bishop Dewane said. “Be men of a priestly heart, so the faithful can approach and listen to you, as they yearn to be faithful themselves. Let them feel the presence of the Lord, through you as a priest, while they seek your companionship on their spiritual journey.”

During the Chrism Mass, Bishop Dewane recognized the seven Priests and four Permanent Deacons who are celebrating the 25th and 50th anniversaries of their ordination for their years of service to Christ and Holy Mother Church. Bishop Dewane also recognized Father Celestino Gutierrez, who is marking his 60th anniversary as a priest in 2024 and recently retired as founding Pastor of St. Jude Parish in Sarasota.


In attendance for this special occasion were religious men and women; Diocesan seminarians; Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem; Knights and Dames of the Sovereign Order of Malta; the Knights of Columbus, including those of the Color Corps; members of the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women; students from Diocesan Catholic schools; as well as the faithful of the Diocese of Venice.

Sacred Chrism Oil

The Chrism Mass takes its name from the sacred Chrism oil, the most eminent of the three holy oils, which the Bishop consecrates and blesses for use by Parishes of the Diocese. Bishop Dewane referred to the Gospel message which described the oils as being the oil of gladness, which represent the indelible mark each bestows.

The Oil of the Sick, used for those who seek anointing, and the Oil of the Catechumens, which is imposed on those preparing for baptism, are blessed, by the Bishop at different times during the Chrism Mass. The sacred Chrism is both blessed and consecrated. The verb “consecrate” is applied to the action of making holy the chrism and indicates its use to spiritually separate, sanctify and purify its recipients.

For the blessing and consecration of the sacred Chrism oil, the initial motion is to pour balsam into the oil, and then this is mixed. The balsam is added so that it gives the oil a sweet smell intended to remind those who encounter it of the “odor of sanctity.” All of the Faithful are called to strive for sanctity. Next, the Bishop breathes on the Sacred Chrism “to symbolize the Holy Spirit coming down.” At a particular point in the consecratory prayer for the Sacred Chrism, all the priests join the Bishop in extending their right hand toward the Chrism, as the Bishop concludes the prayer.

After Mass, the oils were given to each Pastor to use in their Parish throughout the Liturgical Year.

Priest and Deacon Jubilarians

A reception was held in the Parish Hall following the Mass to honor Priests and Deacons celebrating their jubilee in 2024.

Reverend Mark Svarczkopf spoke for the golden jubilarians. Father Svarczkopf is originally from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and currently assists in the Eastern Deanery of the Diocese of Venice, primarily at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, but also at St. Catherine in Sebring, Our Lady of Grace in Avon Park and St. James in Lake Placid. Father said a key part of being a priest is having the grace to soften the hardest of hearts.

Father Anthony Hewitt spoke on behalf of the silver jubilarians. Father Hewitt spoke about the importance of Holy Week to priests. “The totality and the very reason we exist on this planet – Jesus Christ – that Holy Hour where He goes to glorify His Heavenly Father; where He goes to die and rise on Easter Sunday.” Father prayed that the faithful find the beauty of the Paschal Triduum, because many “don’t see the joy of Holy Thursday; the magnificent beauty and the glory that is Good Friday; and they never ever come to Easter Vigil.” Father Hewitt is currently Pastor at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande.

Also celebrating 50 years were Father Richard Bondi, who assists at Ave Maria Parish and University in Ave Maria; and Father Brian Manning, who assists at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples. Additional priest silver jubilarians were Father Victor Caviedes, who is Parochial Vicar at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota; Father Anthonio Jean, who is Parochial Vicar at Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton; and Father Jayabalan (Jay) Raju, Administrator of St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers.

Deacon Michael Leahy, a golden jubilarian, is retired. Celebrating their silver jubilees are Deacon Edward Gwiazda, who assists at St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres; Deacon William Hickey, who assists at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch; and Deacon Alfred Mauriello, who assists at St. Finbarr Parish in Naples.

News Briefs for the week for March 29, 2024

Palm Sunday opens Holy Week

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord brought the faithful together as the Lenten Season nears a close (Holy Thursday). This is the day we remember and honor Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, greeted by cheering crowds waving palm branches that they set out on the ground along his path, before his crucifixion on Good Friday.  As is tradition, the faithful received palms upon entering church, which were then blessed by the presiding priest. During this Mass, the Passion of the Lord from the Gospel of Mark was read.

Hour-long Easter Sunday Televised Mass schedule

The Diocese of Venice in Florida will air the televised Easter Sunday Mass for a full hour. This special Mass for the homebound and celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, can be viewed at noon on the CW Network in Sarasota, Manatee, Desoto, Charlotte, Hardee and Highland counties, and at 10:30 a.m. on FOX4 in Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Hendry, Glades and Desoto counties. The Mass is also available on the Diocese of Venice website at

Bishop Dewane inspires high schoolers

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for students at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers on March 19, 2024. During the Mass, Bishop Dewane encouraged the students to finish Lent and the school year strong, while focusing on placing Christ before all else. The Bishop also complimented the faculty and students for their support of the wildly successful Diocesan Eucharistic Conference which was hosted by the school and included many student volunteers on March 16. Bishop Dewane said the actions of the faculty and students reflected well on the school and let others in the Diocese know what he already knew – Bishop Verot is a place where students are educated and formed to be leaders in the community.

Students learn about importance of having a vocation

Juniors and seniors at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota were blessed to have the opportunity to learn more about hearing the call to vocations in the priesthood and religious life on March 15, 2024. Father Alex Pince, Diocese of Venice Director of Vocations and Mooney Chaplain, and Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist spoke to men and women respectively, sharing their experiences and spiritual journey to the priesthood and/or religious life. The key message was to keep one’s heart open to the call of Jesus.

Couples retreat at Ave Maria University on April 6

Missionaries to the Family is hosting a FREE half-day couples retreat from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., April 6, 2024, in the St. Scholastica Honors lounge, Ave Maria University, 5050 Ave Maria Blvd., Ave Maria. “The Art of Catholic Family Life: Building a Holy Home” is a half-day retreat open to all married and engaged couples, offering a unique opportunity to explore what it means to live the spirit of Nazareth in your home. Note, the Feast of the Annunciation Mass will be celebrated at 1 p.m. Please register at The Missionaries to the Family is an Ecclesial Lay Ministry of the Catholic Church and an Initiative of Paradisus Dei, well-known for THAT MAN IS YOU!

Diocesan Eucharistic Conference deepens faith, brings joy

Renewed with a passion for the Most Holy Eucharist, nearly 1,400 of the faithful participated in the Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Conference in Fort Myers on March 16, 2024.

“We gather for a special occasion in the life of the Diocese – to acknowledge the presence of Christ in our midst, but particularly always present with us in the form of His Body and His Blood,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane said during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which opened the Conference.

“Know the Lord sees your desire to come to know Him more profoundly, to seek refuge in Him during difficult times in our lives,” Bishop Dewane said. “He knows you already; He knows why you are here today.”

Bishop Dewane called upon the faithful to summon the Grace of the Lord from within to become a true disciple of the Lord and let the Bread and Wine we receive at Communion remind us of the presence of Christ.

“Let us pray that this day will be an opportunity for you to be reached ever more by the Lord. Let us reach down deeper within ourselves, to become that full blown disciple of Jesus Christ. To go forward in our lives, proclaiming and evidencing Jesus Christ, His Presence, His Body and His Blood, as truly part of the lives we live,” the Bishop concluded.

The event, part of a nationwide effort called for by all the Catholic Bishops of the United States to revive belief in, and reverence for, the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist, began with Mass, celebrated by Bishop Dewane at St. Cecilia Parish – and the church was at capacity, before continuing at neighboring Bishop Verot Catholic High School.

The day included private and group Adoration, the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and thought-provoking talks by nationally known Catholic speakers, in both English and Spanish. The reaction from Conference participants was inspiring.

“What a wonderful day,” said Sharon Brown from Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers. “My love for Jesus has never been greater.”

“We are one Church, united in Christ through the Most Holy Eucharist,” said Anita Thompson of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Port Charlotte. “You couldn’t ask for a more perfect day to celebrate the Catholic Faith.”

Corina Sanchez of Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers said the entire day was a beautiful experience, which included the opening Mass, celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, inspirational talks, the opportunity to be among the faithful from across the Diocese, and the concluding group Eucharistic Adoration.

“Everything was perfect,” Sanchez said. “Jesus was with us all today.”

The keynote speaker for the Conference was acclaimed author Steven Ray, who presented on “Defending the Eucharist: Baptists Accept the Real Presence.” Ray spoke to all attendees, with a simultaneous Spanish translation offered, sharing his story of awakening from mocking the Catholic belief in the Real Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist to the awakening and now vigor with which he has defended the Catholic Faith, and the Real Presence, for the past 25 years.

Crystalina Evert, founder of Women Made New Ministries and the co-founder of Chastity Project, and guest and the host on TV programs for EWTN, spoke on “How the Eucharist Can Heal, Restore, and Protect You, Your Family, and Your Parish,” while Tim Glemkowski, CEO of the National Eucharistic Congress, spoke on “What God Did and What God is Doing: The Need for a Eucharistic Revival and Your Place in One.”


Father Elvis Gonzalez, a National Eucharistic Revival preacher based in Miami, presented “The Eucharist: Source and Transforming Force of Family Life.” Kathia Aranga, Director of the Office for Hispanic Catholics in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and President of the National Hispanic Committee for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the United States and Canada, spoke on “Holy Eucharist as the Center of Parish and Family Life.” Both of these talks were presented in Spanish.

Each speaker offered the faithful the opportunity to become part of the greater National Eucharistic Revival and to leave with their hearts and minds aflame for the love of Jesus, His Catholic Church, and especially His Real Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist.

The Diocesan Eucharistic Conference drew upon the success of the 2023 Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Congress which brought more than 4,000 Catholic school students, youth, and adults together for two days of events. What’s next? The National Eucharistic Revival will hold a National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in July. Bishop Dewane will be leading a pilgrimage group from the Diocese.

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Symposium unites Catholic educators

Catholic school teachers and administrators gathered for the third annual STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Education, Arts and Mathematics) Symposium hosted by the Diocese of Venice Department of Education.

The Symposium took place on March 15, 2024, at St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers, and included more than 450 teachers and administrators. The core Gift of Christ of the Symposium was “Truth,” and the theme tag line was “Teaching Truth to Our Youth.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane opened the day with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. During the Mass, Bishop Dewane praised the teachers and faculty for the love they have for their students and their profession. “The innovation that takes place knows no bounds. It is easy to perceive that. You are infused with the love for what you do, there is no hiding that.”

“In a world of technology, the light that shines out from Jesus Christ is the splendor of the truth,” the Bishop said. “Christ is that truth. It is that love of Christ, the desire for truth that is part of human nature itself. Let us take that desire for truth from Christ and educate – addressing human nature itself – teaching the youth in the schools of the Diocese of Venice that it is Jesus Christ that holds for them all truth.”

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Catholic Education, said educators love to learn, and the Symposium was going to help them teach young people about the beautiful Catholic faith and Catholic school culture, and learn about God’s truth, beauty and goodness.

“It is Truth with a capital T, that we will be exploring,” Father Belmonte said. “Teaching Truth has never been more difficult to teach. We are going to take those concepts and adapt them into something new.”

Father Robert Spitzer SJ, Ph. D., president of The Magis Center of Reason and Faith, spoke on “Truth of Creation and Science,” and focused on sharing the close connection among science, reason, and faith. The theme for Liz Repking, founder of Cyber Safety Consulting, was “Technology and the Truth of Now,” sharing the reality that children of all ages are online and the many dangers that go with that reality. Joe Allen, author of Dark Aeon: transhumanism and the War Against Humanity, spoke on “Dark Aeon: A.I. Challenges Faced by Youth,” which included information about the growing use of AI (artificial intelligence) in many aspects of life today and the types of threats this poses to people of all ages.

One teacher from St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral said the Symposium was one of the best events she had even been to, specifically because it covered relevant topics that concern teachers today. Many other teachers agreed, as it focused on a topic, teaching “Truth,” to students who get “truths” from many, often unfiltered, sources outside of the home or the classroom.

Father Belmonte presented the Charitas Awards, the highest Diocesan Education award given to faculty and leadership, nominated by their peers, for their constant exhibition and embodiment of the Virtue of Charity. Recipients are teachers and administrators who produce excellence in all that they do, including: radiates with care and compassion towards students and colleagues, treats others as brothers and sisters in Christ, embodies the Catholic Faith inside and outside the classroom, leads by example, and spreads Truth, Beauty and Goodness to those around them.

Teachers who have demonstrated leadership in STREAM and robotics education at their school were presented the Blue Apple Award. The color blue in the Bible has been described by scholars as denoting the Holy Spirit and Truth or service to God, as well as the waters of the new creation in the Book of Genesis, and most importantly the color blue is associated with our Blessed Mother.

Each Catholic school principal was also presented with an award of a crystal blue lily, representing the Blessed Virgin Mary. In addition, Father Belmonte was honored with a bronze fruit tree as a “Thank You” for helping to grow and improve the Diocesan Catholic schools. Additionally, Years of Service Awards were presented in categories of 10-15 years, 15-19 years, 20-25 years, 25-29 years, and more than 30 years. Maria Barbato, Director of School Counseling at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, was presented the Legacy Award for her 35 years of “Guiding God’s Children in the Diocese of Venice.” She is retiring at the end of the academic year.

The day concluded on a high note with an “after-school snack” which included an ice cream food truck, meaning everyone left the day with a big smile.

Briefs for the week of March 22, 2024

Seminarian installed as Acolyte

Congratulations to Diocese of Venice Seminarian Joseph Bao Quoc Nguyen was one of five men installed to the ministry of Acolyte on March 15, 2024, at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, OFM Cap., Archbishop of Boston, presided over the Mass of Institution which plays a significant role in the formation of these men as they journey towards their ordination to the priesthood. As an Acolyte, the primary responsibility will be assisting the Deacon and priest during Mass, with a focus on ensuring the altar is prepared. They may also serve as Extra-ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at Mass and bringing the Holy Eucharist to the sick.

Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Televised Mass schedule

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

Chrism Mass at Cathedral on March 26

The Chrism Mass, which takes place during Holy Week every year, will be held at 10:30 a.m., March 26, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. During this Mass, Bishop Frank J. Dewane will bless the Holy Oils which are used in the administration of the Sacraments at each parish throughout the year. Priests and Deacons celebrating 25 and 50 years of Ordination will also be recognized. All are invited and encouraged to attend in support of our clergy and to participate in this important Holy Week celebration.

Lenten school Masses continue

Following the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Bishop Frank J. Dewane continued to celebrate Mass for students at each of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools during the Lenten Season. The most recent Masses were March 14, 2024, at Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota, St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton on March 19 (the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary), and Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria, on March 20. Bishop continued to encourage the students to finish the Lenten Season strong in preparation for Holy Week.

St. Joseph Feast celebrated in Italian

Epiphany Cathedral in Venice hosted a Mass for the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was celebrated in Italian on March 19, 2024, and included the active involvement of the Italian American Club of Venice. Following the Mass, the statue of St. Joseph was carried to the Parish Hall in a procession led by the Knights of Columbus. There, Msgr. Patrick Dubois, Cathedral Rector, blessed the traditional St. Joseph’s table of bread and sweets, which were later distributed.

School Gala has a Roaring 20’s theme

The St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School Roaring 20’s Gala & Auction took place on March 16, 2024, at the Vineyards Golf and Country Club in Naples. A vintage Duesenberg was on display as guests arrived, many of the woman in sequined flapper-style dresses with feather headbands, while the men dressed in 20’s style tuxedoes, complete with fedoras. Bishop Frank J. Dewane was the guest of honor and thanked the parents for entrusting their children’s education to St. Elizabeth Seton. In addition, Bishop Dewane praised the faculty and staff for consistently delivering a quality education centered on faith, while also managing rapid growth and improvement of the school facilities.

Cars blessed at Sarasota Parish

Priests at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota blessed about 70 vehicles on March 14, 2024. The blessing follows the tradition in Rome, Italy, where cars line up outside the Colosseum in front of the Monastery of St. Frances of Rome (the patron saint of drivers) for a blessing. This was observed by Incarnation Pastor Father Eric Scanlan and shared with drivers who drove under the church portico for their blessing and then made way for the next vehicle.

Bishop to students: It’s not too late to finish Lent strong!

In the final few weeks of Lent, leading to Holy Week and the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter, Bishop Frank J. Dewane has been encouraging Catholic school students to refocus their faith lives and finish the Lenten Season strong.

Bishop Dewane has celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for students at seven Diocesan Catholic schools in the past few weeks, with more to come before Holy Week. His message has been to pay attention to the lessons found in the Gospel of practicing their faith as Jesus did, in their prayers, in their interactions with family and friends, and in the community where they must seek the face of Christ in others.

“It is my prayer for the remainder of the Lenten Season that all of you students recommit yourselves, as you did at the time of Ash Wednesday, to live faithfully, to make the sacrifices that Jesus calls forth from you, and to take time during the rest of Lenten Season to improve your prayer life,” Bishop Dewane said during a Mass on March 13, 2024, for students at St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy in Sarasota. “Focus on your prayers for the remainder of the Lenten Season, whether alone, in school or at home; in that way you will better come to know Jesus Christ.”

It is the call of all the faithful to work to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and live as Jesus calls us to be as men and women of God. Bishop Dewane said there are basic features of being a Catholic, such as attending Mass every Sunday, having an active prayer life, knowing and living the 10 Commandments, and doing acts of charity or service.

“There is nothing stagnant in being a faithful Catholic,” Bishop Dewane said on March 11, to students at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota. “Being Catholic is not merely a state of being, because understanding our faith necessarily makes us people of action. This originates through Baptism and when we live our faith, we do it for the Lord and we become a conduit of God’s grace in the world.”

While we are all called to live our faith daily, as humans, we are not perfect and will sometimes stumble, Bishop Dewane continued.

“We need healing in the spiritual sense, because we are all sinners,” Bishop Dewane said. “You must open yourselves to being healed by Christ through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As you practice your faith, being men and women of God, it is how you respond; do you stand before the Lord and seek the healing you need?  The Lord calls us to respond to His call, if we stumble, the Lord heals us.”

Masses celebrated by Bishop Dewane in the past week were at St. John Neumann Catholic High School, Naples, March 7; St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School and St. Ann Catholic School, Naples, March 8; and St. Catherine Catholic School, Sebring, March 12. Additional Masses will be celebrated prior to Easter.

When time permitted, Bishop Dewane spoke with eighth grade students while also answering their questions. In addition, at St. Catherine Catholic School, the Bishop was presented with a large birthday card signed by the students. The students also sang “Happy Birthday” to him. At St. Martha Catholic School, the Bishop blessed Lenten crosses made by the sixth grade students.


News Briefs for the Week of March 15, 2024

Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Televised Mass schedule

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

Student wins prestigious essay contest

Congratulations to Hunter Wehle from St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charotte who was honored as the 2023 Florida Daughters of the American Revolution Essay Contest winner in Orlando on March 9, 2024. This year, the essay theme was “John Phillip Sousa.” Hunter was one of three St. Charles students who had their essay win a regional competition. Well done everyone!

Student wins state Knights free throw challenge

Maddy Mitchell of Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice placed first in her age group at the Knights of Columbus State Free Throw Championship in Melbourne on March 9, 2024. Maddy was one of two students from Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School to reach the state championships.

First Communion retreat held in Wauchula

First Communion candidates at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula took part in a retreat on March 9, 2024. The boys and girls spent time in Eucharistic Adoration, learning about the different parts of Mass, and praying the rosary. While praying the Holy Rosary, each boy and girl placed a white rose before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This retreat helps clear the way for the youth to take part in their First Sacrament of Reconciliation on March 20. They will receive their first Holy Communion in May.

Students take part in weekly Lenten prayer service

Each Friday of this Lenten Season, St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring has been taking part in a morning prayer service. During the prayer service, students gather around the Blessed Mother for prayers, petitions, Pledge of Allegiance, and mission statement. Each class takes a turn leading the school in this special prayer time.

Gala to celebrate Community Pregnancy Clinics 50th anniversary

Community Pregnancy Clinics Inc. (CPCI) is celebrating its 50th Anniversary with a Gala.  “A Legacy of Life” will take place beginning at 5:00 p.m., on Saturday, April 6 at the Ritz-Carlton Tiburon, 600 Tiburon Drive, Naples. Tickets start at $500 and include cocktail social hour, silent auction, elegant 3-course dinner, keynote speech from The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles, and after party with live music and dancing. For further information and to purchase tickets, please contact Joel Chute at or 239-328-7547.

Chrism Mass at Cathedral on March 26

The Chrism Mass, which takes place during Holy Week every year, will be held at 10:30 a.m., March 26, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. During this Mass, Bishop Frank J. Dewane will bless the Holy Oils which are used in the administration of the Sacraments at each parish throughout the year. Priests and Deacons celebrating 25 and 50 years of Ordination are recognized at this Mass. All are encouraged to attend in support of our clergy and to participate in this important Holy Week celebration.


Sebring Parish marks century serving the Faithful

For 100 years the Faithful of Sebring in Highlands County have been able to call St. Catherine of Siena Parish their home.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for the St. Catherine community on the exact anniversary when the Parish was erected, March 2, 2024.

“Christ is the cornerstone of the Church, but you, the Faithful of St. Catherine, build up His House, you are the living stones,” Bishop Dewane said.

An anniversary is an important time to look at the past, the present and into the future, Bishop Dewane said. The Bishop reflected upon how much the Parish has grown and transformed in the past 100 years while serving the needs of the faithful in the community. The first Masses in Sebring were celebrated in homes by Jesuit priests who would ride horses from Tampa. It was in 1920 when a Mission church in the Diocese of St. Augustine (which encompassed all of Florida at the time), was established in the name of St. Catherine of Siena.

Bishop Dewane also praised all the priests, as well as the religious men and women who served the Parish through the years, who have served the spiritual needs of the Mission and Parish from its beginnings to today, including Father Jose González, who has been Pastor at St. Catherine since 2005.

“We celebrate this anniversary because we are a people of hope,” the Bishop said. “Christ made us to be this way. St. Catherine’s story goes into the present-day world, and into the future. St. Catherine is a family of believers, united in faith and in love of the Lord – to teach, proclaim and celebrate the word of God. This must continue when you leave the walls of the Church and enter out into the community.”

The Bishop also encouraged the faithful to take the time during the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Parish to grow in a deeper relationship with the Lord. “Pause to recommit yourself to live the faith to its fullest out among the people, not just in our homes. Invite those around you to be a part of this anniversary, this celebration of the Lord as a community and in your life.”

The Parish community has grown since its founding, including the establishment of St. Catherine Catholic School in 2008.

“These students are being formed to make a great contribution to our society as men and women of faith who can go out to the public square,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is the blessing of the Lord that the school continues to grow and continues to have the support of the entire community.”

Students from the school served as the Choir for the 100th Anniversary Mass. They were also pivotal in helping to set up the celebratory luncheon which followed the Mass.

Father González said he was grateful for the presence of Bishop Dewane at the important celebration in the life of the Parish. Father also expressed his gratitude to the parishioners who call St. Catherine their home today for their continuing support.

During the reception Father González recited the following prayer:

“To the pioneers, then, who long ago came to St. Catherine Church and whose first thoughts were of Christ and His Church, we humbly pray… We are grateful to those deeds of the past, which are our inspiration for the present and our hope for the future… As we honor the past, we cannot forget the present and the zealous part our parishioners are playing in the glorious progress of the Diocese of Venice, of St. Catherine Church and St. Catherine Catholic School. May all the good work continue as we pray that You, Loving Father, abundantly continue to bless our Diocese, our Parish and our School. Amen.”

The original Parish church was completed in late 1924, and the first Pastor was Father Patrick O’Brien. When the second Pastor arrived, a rectory was added in 1939. Three Victory Noll Sisters served in the Parish from 1956 until 1970. Father Jose Ruiz was named Pastor in 1976, and with his arrival came many changes. A new church was dedicated in 1978 and a new rectory built in 1979. The Parish Hall was constructed in in the early 1980s and the church was renovated and expanded. A new Parish office and youth center were built in 2000 and 2002 respectively. Father González was appointed Administrator upon the death of Father Ruiz in 2002 and has been at the Parish ever since.

Someone who remembers many of the changes at St. Catherine during the past 80 years is Margaret Mercure, who moved to Sebring in 1944 with her young family, following her husband who was in the military during the height of World War II. The couple loved the area so much, they stayed.

Mercure said she has many fond memories of her early years at the Parish, the religious sisters and growth of the area. Her most vivid memory was that there were no bathrooms for women in the original church. Women would need to use the bathroom in the Parish office as the substitute.

“When the new church was built, it was the first thing I checked out,” she said.

Pat Israel has lived in the Parish for 54 years. She received most of her Sacraments there, including First Holy Communion, Confirmation and Holy Matrimony, as did her children.

“St Catherine has been my spiritual home for many years,” Israel said. “It is home.”

As part of the ongoing 100th anniversary celebration, Father González welcomed Sister Nancy Murray, an Adrian Dominican who is also sister of comedian Bill Murray, who used her gift for acting to spread the story of Dominican Saint Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church. Transforming herself into the 14th century Saint and patroness of the Dominican Order, Sister Nancy’s one-woman show entertains audiences from across the world with her story of St. Catherine’s fierce devotion and love for God. Sister Nancy offered two presentations to the faithful, as well as to children in religious education classes and at St. Catherine Catholic School.

Happy 100th Anniversary to St. Catherine of Siena Parish!

Bishop praises those who stand for life – Says more needs to be done to protect unborn

Calling those who stand up for life the “light in the darkness,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane praised the participants in the 40 Days for Life spring campaign in Sarasota, encouraging all the faithful to join in demonstrating the value of life throughout society.

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 campaign is currently taking place in the Diocese of Venice in Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples.

Speaking during Mass at St. Martha Parish in Sarasota on March 5, 2024, Bishop Dewane said the prayer intention focused on the continuing success of 40 Days for Life. He went on to say now, it is more important than ever to be seen and heard on the issue of life even though many believed the abortion issue was over when Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U. S. Supreme Court in June 2022.

“It has moved to a different plane, but it is not safe,” Bishop Dewane said. “We discover that we haven’t won. When Roe was overturned it was a moment of new life, almost an exodus of the oppression of the 50 years of direct attacks on the unborn. However, quickly we saw that the taking the life of children didn’t end. Mothers are still being harmed, families being threatened, lives being taken.”

Noting that since that U.S. Supreme Court decision, several states, and even a country, have already enshrined the right to abortion in their respective constitutions.

“We cannot determine what happens in France, but we can still speak out clearly for what happens in our own country,” the Bishop said. “It is not enough to stay silent.”

Currently under review in the Florida State Supreme Court is a dangerous amendment which would essentially allow abortions, for any reason, until birth. This would reverse the recent passage of a 15-week ban on abortion, scheduled to soon become a 6-week ban. What the justices are determining is whether the wording is acceptable – something of a technicality, Bishop Dewane noted, wondering why the court is not concerned with the loss of life.

“As this plays out, and hopefully the ballot amendment does not go forward this year, this issue will not go away,” Bishop Dewane continued. “If it is not this year, it is next year or the year after that. The threat is there.”

“We are not going to find a political solution to this issue,” the Bishop continued. “Abortion is a moral problem, and it is going to take a solution that comes out of moral theology and moral conviction of individuals. In the meantime, you and I do have to enter the political arena, and we have to be ready to make the sacrifices it takes to stand up and continue to speak out for life.”

Bishop Dewane concluded by saying that it is his prayer that individuals will have the strength to stand up to confront the evil that is abortion and to evidence the character that God has given us. “Let us take that love and pass it on to others, so that they can have the possibility to live life.”

Following Mass, the Bishop, along with the faithful, including 10 students from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, went to the Planned Parenthood regional headquarters and abortion facility to stand as public witnesses for life.

The Cardinal Mooney students, led by teacher Tim Shipe, walked from the Parish to the abortion facility, joining others who are committed to preserving life. Participants prayed silently and witnessed for life, holding signs, while others prayed the rosary.

The older people who were participating in the prayer vigil were impressed by the students, encouraged that they are learning about Pro-Life issues and joining in the prayer walk.

Peg Styer, 84, who has been standing witness for many decades, said seeing young people participate gives her comfort that when she is no longer able to be present, others will do their part. “It makes a difference when the young girls come here and see people praying. I have met many of them who saw people praying for them and choose life. It is why we are out here,” Styer said.

The students also toured the nearby Community Pregnancy Clinic, a Pro-Life facility which offers a wide range of life-affirming assistance for moms who are considering an abortion.

A peaceful, rather than confrontational effort, the 40 Days for Life prayer spring campaign started Feb. 14, Ash Wednesday, continues through Palm Sunday (March 24), and is taking place in more than 700 cities worldwide. The Diocese of Venice has participated since 2007, the year of the first national campaign. To date, 24,242 babies have been saved (92 during the 2024 spring campaign through March 5) and 148 abortion centers have been closed.

All are encouraged to participate in the 40 Days for Life prayer vigil. Many area Parishes have signed up for specific days and hours, but all are free to join at any time. The peaceful vigil takes place in the public right of way and appropriate signs are provided.

The prayer vigil in Sarasota is daily, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 736 Central Ave. In Fort Myers, the vigil is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Mon. – Sat.), at 6418 Commerce Park Drive. The Naples prayer vigil is from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Mon. – Sat.), at 1425 Creech Road.

For more information, please visit

If you would like to learn more about the Respect Life issues and how you can be a witness for life, please visit

Mooney girls team ends season with impressive record

Every player who participates in a team sport dreams of finishing a season with a win, this often means a championship and glory. For the team that falls in the last game of the season, there is the disappointment of what could have been.

For the Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Lady Cougar Girls Basketball Team, the last four seasons have ended in the Florida State High School Athletic Association 3A State Championship Game. Each game was a heartbreaking loss.

The Cougars from Sarasota fell to Miami Country Day 75-51 on March 1, 2024, at RP Funding Arena in Lakeland. Mooney was seeking its first state title while Country Day earned its 9th, and third in 4 years over Mooney.

Cardinal Mooney’s defeat signaled the end of their 14-game winning streak.The Cougar girls defeated Seffner Christian High School 66-52 on Feb. 28, to earn their trip to the state title game.

Mooney was led by two junior stars, Kali Barrett (12 points, 5 rebounds) and Sy’Monique Simon (11 points and 9 rebounds), as well as a huge contribution from freshman Madi Mignery (11 points and 14 rebounds). Sam Kotasek, the only senior on the team, had 11 points.

After the game, Sy’Monique said the team thrived through adversity and made the journey from the Suncoast all the way up to Lakeland. “This was our final goal, this is where we wanted to be… Every day we were fighting in practice to get here, and we did it.”

Barrett reached a milestone on the court with her 1,000th career point on Jan. 30.

Prior to the trip to the championship games, the teams took part in a rally at the school before being cheered on by students at neighboring St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy. A large group of supporters also travelled to Lakeland for the game.

While the Cougars finish the season with a loss, their 22-7 record was impressive, as was this fourth run at a state title.