New online course assists parents as primary teachers of the Faith

By John Carkeet, Special to the Florida Catholic

How are you, as a Catholic parent, fulfilling the promise you made at your children’s baptism to teach the faith to your sons and daughters?

The Diocese of Venice Office of Family Life and the Diocesan Institute of Catholic Studies and Formation can help Catholic parents fulfill that promise through “Empowering Parents as Teachers of Faith,” a three-week online course beginning Oct. 11, 2021, that inspires parents to practice the irreplaceable role they have in passing on the faith to their children.

“Empowering Parents as Teachers of Faith” will explore societal trends impacting children and what the Church proclaims about parenthood. The course will also explain the process of conversion and demonstrate how parents may apply this process to help their children develop a personal relationship with the Lord.

“The Church’s teachings have always put parents as the primary evangelizers and teachers of their children,” said Carrie Harkey, Diocesan Family Life Coordinator. “This course equips parents with practical tools and resources to accomplish the duties of forming their children.”

Harkey, a mother of three, designed the course alongside Dr. John Gresham, Executive Director of the Institute, in a manner that will effectively share relevant knowledge, generate fruitful discussion, and maximize online convenience.

“The Diocese understands firsthand that parents have busy schedules,” said Gresham, a father of five and grandfather of four. “That’s why this course comprises short, pre-recorded lessons that can be accessed anytime, anywhere and on any device.”

In addition to structured lessons, “Empowering Parents as Teachers of Faith” also provides an online forum for parents to ask questions, share best practices and acquire relevant resources. The forum also opens opportunities for parents to actively participate in a faith-based community that integrates the Church’s teachings into modern home life.

At the end of the course, the Diocese will facilitate a physical connection for all parents who registered by hosting a complimentary picnic for them and their families. Featuring hot food, fun games, and sweet treats, the outdoor social will take place Nov. 14 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice.

“’Empowering Parents as Teachers of Faith’ was designed by parents for parents to help them grow in their relationship with Jesus,” Harkey said. “I pray that this course will give parents the knowledge and confidence to help mold their children as models of Christ’s teachings.”

Register for “Empowering Parents as Teachers of Faith” by Oct. 11 for only $25 at

John Carkeet is the Marketing Coordinator Diocese of Venice in Florida Education Department and can be reached at 941-484-9543 or


News Briefs for the Week of Oct. 8, 2021

Mass to Open Diocesan Phase of Synod

As a part of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” Pope Francis has invited every Diocese in the world to inaugurate the beginning of the Synod with an opening Mass. In the Diocese of Venice, this opening Mass will be celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane at 2:30 p.m., Oct. 17, 2021, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave., Venice. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this Mass. In this Diocesan Phase of the Synod, Catholics in the Diocese of Venice are encouraged to participate in listening sessions, which will be announced in the coming weeks.

Bishop meets Pope Francis

Bishop Frank J. Dewane had the opportunity to greet and meet with Pope Francis following the General Audience in the Vatican’s Pope Paul VI Hall on Sept. 29, 2021. Bishop Dewane spoke briefly with the Holy Father who in return asked about what is taking place in the Diocese of Venice. The Bishop was in Rome to witness the Ordination to the Transitional Diaconate of Diocesan Seminarian Christian Chami on Sept. 30, 2021.

Ministry of Acolyte conferred on Seminarian

Diocese of Venice Seminarian Jacob Gwynn was conferred to the Ministry of Acolyte on Sept. 26, 2021 at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. The principal celebrant for the Mass was Bishop Luis R. Zarama of the Diocese of Raleigh. As an Acolyte, Gwynn is now charged with assisting at the celebration of the Eucharist, purifying the sacred vessels and, when needed, to assist with the distribution of Holy Communion. As part of the Rite, the Bishop placed the paten, which contains the hosts for the celebration of Mass, in the hands of the candidate. He then said, “…take this vessel with bread for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of his Church.”

Blessing of the Animals

Many Diocesan Parishes and Schools hosted a Blessing of the Animals to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi on Oct. 4, 2021. While many Parishes hosted the blessings during the preceding weekend, schools opted to either have the blessing before school or prior to the end of the day. The variety of animals was immense, from horses to hamsters, parrots to rabbits as well as nearly every assortment of dog and cat imaginable. It was evident that these creatures were well loved and an important part of each family.

Rosary making educates children

Kindergarten and first graders at St. Mary Catholic Academy in Sarasota used part of religion class on Sept. 29, 2021 to make rosaries. It was at that time the students learned how October is the month of the Holy Rosary and both October and May are months in which we give special honor to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Cardinal Mooney named Apple Distinguished School

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota has been recognized as an Apple Distinguished School for 2021-2024 for actively implementing a 1:1 iPad program, Apple Classroom, Apple TVs, Canvas Learning Management System, digital textbooks, and so much more across the curriculum.

Apple Distinguished Schools are centers of innovation, leadership, and educational excellence. They use Apple technology to connect students to the world, fuel creativity, deepen collaboration, and make learning personal.

“The ingenuity of our teachers, from project-based learning to direct instruction, allows our students the opportunity to explore different uses of technology throughout the college preparatory curriculum at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School,” said Principal Ben Hopper. “We are proud of our faculty, students, and families who have embraced the daily integration of technology with the result being recognized as an Apple Distinguished School.”

While maintaining Mooney’s Catholic traditions, teachers and administrators realized that in order to teach tomorrow’s creative thinkers and problem solvers, it is necessary to use current technology taking Verot beyond the limited walls of the classroom.

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School is committed to creating an innovative and compelling learning environment that engages students and provides tangible evidence of academic achievement. From math and science to fine arts and world languages, teachers and students utilize iPad apps to prepare students for real-world experiences.

Elsewhere in the Diocese of Venice, Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers has been an Apple Distinguished School since 2017. This distinction has been renewed and will continue through at least 2022.

Catechetical Day Conference inspires

The Church calls all who are baptized to be catechists within their families and their communities. Catechesis is a critical way in which we use our Faith to empower one another to learn more about Jesus Christ.

A Catechetical Conference, hosted by Diocese of Venice Department of Education and spearheaded by the Office of Religious Education, provided an understanding as to how to bring Jesus Christ into the classroom as a catechist according to Church teachings.

The bilingual Conference was Sept. 25, 2021 at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, and offered catechetical leaders, catechists, religion coordinators and religion teachers a training day aimed at helping them to grow spiritually and professionally. There were nine workshops and several keynote addresses led by renowned speakers presenting a variety of topics rooted in the theme, “Encountering Christ in the Classroom.”

The response from the more than 300 participants throughout the day was overwhelmingly positive. Many cited the variety of options for workshops, the bilingual nature of the event; as well as the enthusiasm of the speakers as reasons for their enjoyment of the day.

“This is great,” said Sister Rosemary Le, FMI, Director of Religious Education at Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers.

Anne Chrzan, Diocesan Director of Religious Education, expressed her prayers that the Conference was an opportunity for catechists to learn how to better share the Good News of the Lord in their classrooms.

“We broadly define the ‘classroom’ to include our homes, churches and workplaces to show that we catechists can empower our communities to love Jesus, emulate his teachings and embrace our Catholic faith at any time and place,” Chrzan said.

The Conference opened with Mass at neighboring St. Cecilia Parish, celebrated by Msgr. Stephen E. McNamara, Vicar General of the Diocese and Pastor of Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers, who was filling in for Bishop Frank J. Dewane. Bishop Dewane was unable to attend the Conference until later in the day.

Workshops ranged from “How to Pray with Children in the Classroom” and “How to Use E-learning Platforms in Religious Education” to “Disciples Making Disciples.” Among the featured speakers were Jared Dees, creator of the website, The Religion Teacher; Ricardo Grzona, founder of Fundación Ramón Pané, a nonprofit organization dedicated to evangelization and spiritual formation; and Dr. Amy Roberts, a classroom methodology professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.

The day also included the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Eucharistic Adoration.

In addition to the Catechetical Conference, Chrzan also hosted a workshop on Sept. 23, at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) Workshop was led by Dr. Bill Keimig of Franciscan University of Ohio. Kiemig spoke to about 40 catechists regarding the need to follow the proven formal structure of the RCIA process. He noted that by following the process in the way it was created, it ensures that a greater number of new Catholics will remain active in the Faith beyond the first year following the Sacrament Confirmation at the Easter Vigil.

News Briefs for the Week of Oct. 1, 2021

Scout 10 Commandment Hike held

The Knights of Columbus of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Council 15821, led by Grand Knight Anthony Hopfinger, presented a dialogue with the Cub Scouts about the Ten Commandments held on Sept. 25, 2021, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice. The Cub Scouts hiked around the Lake of the Blessed Sacrament to 10 different points to discuss the Commandment with the Knights. Patches were blessed and distributed by Father Lawton Lang, Diocesan Scout Chaplain. A light lunch was provided by the staff at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. All were pleased with the weather, the program, and the presentations.

Religious Sister dies

Sister Maria del Carmen Peña, Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco, died unexpectedly Sept. 25, 2021 in Haledon, New Jersey at the age of 87 and a Salesian Sister for 65 years. Sister Carmen retired at the age of 86 after six years of service in the finance office of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples. The high school posted a message of her passing on social media and stated: “She loved our school and we loved her even more.  She was small in stature, but captured a big piece of your heart once you met her. Her legacy will live on through all those who were blessed to know her.  May you rest in peace Sr. Carmen.  No doubt some of the first words she heard was, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’” Born in 1934 in Saltillo, Mexico, Sister Carmen served in various roles of leadership for more than 40 years, including Provincial Treasurer and Provincial Vicar and much more. A Mass of Christian Burial was held Sept. 27, 2021, at the St. Joseph Provincial Center in Haledon, New Jersey.

Latest Catholic Charities vaccination clinic a success

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. continues to reach out to underserved portions of the community by hosting COVID-19 vaccination clinics throughout the Diocese. The latest clinic was hosted Sept. 25, 2021 at the Casa San Juan Bosco Farmworker Housing community in Arcadia. Representatives of the DeSoto County Department of Health and Florida Department of Health administered the vaccines with volunteers assisting and handing out gift bags of food and other essentials to all who came. Catholic Charities has hosted more than a dozen vaccination clinics throughout the region.

Interest in science blossoms in Chemistry Club

The after-school St. Catherine Catholic School Chemistry Club explored chemical changes in matter during various scientific experiments at their Sept. 27, 2021 meeting. Everyone in the club loves science.

Students donate care packages

Members of the Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School St. Vincent de Paul Society in Sarasota donated more than 100 care packages to the families and clients of Bethesda House of the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Venice, Inc. on Sept. 24, 2021.

Hispanic Heritage Month celebrated in school

Students at St. Ann Catholic School in Naples celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month by doing research on the different Spanish-speaking countries in the world. Students then created a presentation to share what they learned with the rest of the class on Sept. 21, 2021.

Students learn about Moses

The first grade students of Christine Macaluso at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers learned about the story of Moses in class the week of Sept. 20, 2021. They ended their week by creating colorful drawings of baby Moses in a basket.

Schools hold Boosterthon

St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Catholic Academy in Sarasota held a Boosterthon the week of Sept. 20-24, 2021. One of the highlights was a fun run and other games, topped off by ice cream at the end of the week. Money raised during the week will go toward various programs in the two schools.

Students celebrate Johnny Appleseed Day outside

Pre-K-3 and Pre-K-4 classes at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples celebrated Johnny Appleseed Day with an outdoor class on Sept. 27, 2021. Students sat on blankets while they learned about a man who not only introduced apples to North America but promoted conservation.

Top students recognized

Seven Diocese of Venice Catholic high school seniors recently received national recognition for academic success.




Each of the four Diocese Catholic high schools had at least one student named a 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program Semifinalist, placing them among only 16,000 students nationwide to be recognized among the 1.5 million juniors who entered the competition by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The nationwide pool of semifinalists includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state and represents less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors.

Those gaining semifinalist status were: Alexis Camina (St. John Neumann Catholic High School, Naples), Sophia Miller (Bishop Verot Catholic High School, Fort Myers), Catherine Graham and Winston Fairchild (Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria), and Hallie Monserez, Peter Etz and Sofia Cava (Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, Sarasota).

Being named semifinalists puts these seven scholars on a path to compete to become National Merit Scholarship Finalists and potential scholarship winners. The process includes submitting a detailed application with information about their academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, as well as honors and awards received.

Finalists are announced in the spring and have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million to be offered next spring.

The mission of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Venice is to offer a superb education infused with Catholic values, teachings and traditions.

To learn more about Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools, please visit


News Briefs for the week of Sept. 24, 2021

Bishop radio show addresses faith and science

Join Bishop Frank J. Dewane, for his monthly radio program on Relevant Radio. “Witnessing Faith with Bishop Dewane,” which can be heard at 8:30 a.m., on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. This month will feature part one of a two-part show on Faith and Science featuring guests Michael Dauphinais, Ph.D., who serves as the Fr. Matthew Lamb Professor of Catholic Theology at Ave Maria University, and Stephen H. Thong, Ph.D., who serves as Chair, and Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Dept. of Chemistry & Physics at Ave Maria University. Access to listen to the program is available at The second part of the series will be available on Friday, Oct. 29.

National Migration Week runs through Sept. 26

National Migration Week 2021 will be held from Sept .20, 2021 through Sept. 26, 2021 in solidarity with the Holy See’s observation of the World Day for Migrants and Refugees on Sept. 26. The theme is “Towards an Ever Wider ‘We’” where Pope Francis calls on us to ensure that “we will think no longer in terms of ‘them’ and ‘those,’ but only ‘us’” (Fratelli tutti, no. 35) and this universal “us” must become a reality first of all within the Church, which is called to cultivate communion in diversity. In general, National Migration Week is meant to emphasize the ways in which the migration question is important for the Catholic Church in the United States. Throughout the Week, the Diocese of Venice posted information about the week and messages of support on its social media platforms.

Catechists commissioned

At Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice, catechists were commissioned as part of Catechetical Sunday on Sept. 19, 2021. These religious educators made a promise to hand on the faith and be a witness to the Gospel. The theme for this year was: “Say the Word and My Soul Shall be Healed.”

High school students participate in coastal cleanup

Members of the Bishop Verot Catholic High School Environmental Club participated in the International Coastal Cleanup at Lovers Key State Park in Fort Myers Beach on Sept. 18, 2021.

Puppetry skills taught to young students

The St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School 8th grade drama students collaborated to teach 1st graders puppetry skills and reviewed scripts using 1st grade sight words on Sept. 17, 2021 in Naples. Students will perform their puppet show skits for the 1st grade class when they are ready! The other 8th grade drama class practiced skits with kindergarten and 3rd grade students.

Students learn about Safety

The St. Mary Catholic Academy School Resource Officer Laura Markey visited Teacher Erin Fredd’s 2nd Grade Class on Sept. 16, 2021 in Sarasota, and a had a lesson on car safety, bike safety, strangers and so much more. The students were absolutely intrigued by her and the great stories she shared. The students had an opportunity to ask questions and learn about the great things police officers do for our community.

High school college fair big success

More than two dozen different colleges and universities took part in the St. John Neumann Catholic High School College Fair in Naples on Sept. 20, 2021. It was a valuable opportunity for all of the students to speak in person with representatives and ask questions.

9/11 Commemorations from around the Diocese

In ways large and small the faithful of the Diocese of Venice commemorated the 20th Anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States with reflection and prayer.

Students in Diocesan Catholic Schools took part in prayer services, dressed in patriotic colors and learned about an event that happened before they were born. The students at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers participated in a Red, White and Blue Dress Out fundraiser on Sept. 8, 2021 with proceeds going to the “Tunnel to Towers Foundation” (  The Foundation was created in honor of Fire Department of New York member Stephen Gerard Siller, who was headed home following his shift on Sept. 11, 2001, when he heard the call.  Though blocked by traffic, he then proceeded to run in full gear across the Brooklyn Bridge to the Twin Towers where he later perished.

On Sept. 9, during their lunch periods, the Verot students were given the opportunity to share in discussion with some of the staff members about the events of 9/11 and their lasting impact.

Meanwhile, St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy held a prayer service on Sept. 10 with students encouraged to wear red, white and blue. The service was to further promote peace and tolerance.  The funds raised will be used to purchase a Peace Pole and benches.

Diocesan Parishes also hosted a variety of prayer services and commemorations.

St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples hosted its annual 9/11 Memorial Mass on Sept. 11.  The Parish is home to a 9/11 Cross made from the steel of the World Trade Center and has hosted a commemorative Mass each year since 2001. Father Gerard Critch, Pastor of St. Peter’s, served as a Chaplain at Ground Zero during the initial search and recovery process following the terror attacks in New York City.

Our Lady of the Angels Parish and the Knights of Columbus of the Saints Cosmas and Damian Council 13341, hosted a Blue Mass on Sept. 11 in honor of the work of public safety personnel including law enforcement, firefighters, and emergency medical services personal.

Leading up to the 20th Anniversary, St. Agnes Parish in Naples hosted a Peace Novena from Sept. 3 to Sept. 11. The novena served a dual purpose of commemorating the terror attacks and marking the end of the war in Afghanistan with its recent tragic consequences. The final prayer service on Sept. 11 included special decorations, a candle lighting ceremony, scripture readings, a brief homily, intercessions, the completion of the Novena, and music, prior to Mass. The faithful were able to follow the entire novena through the Parish website.

These are just some of the examples of how the faithful of the Diocese marked this anniversary all unified in prayer that no one will ever forget the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, and to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

News Briefs for Week of Sept. 17, 2021

Civilize it! Campaign Relaunched

It was during the 2019-2020 election cycle that Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of the Diocese of Venice, encouraged all to take a Pledge entitled “Civilize It!” for a more enlightened political season.  On September 7, 2021, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) relaunched Civilize it:  A Better Kind of Politics, to address the polarization in society.  Join Catholics across the Diocese of Venice in taking the Civilize It Pledge to engage individuals, families, and communities in a dialogue of bridgebuilding.  Visit and sign the Pledge today.

Civilize It:  A Better Kind of Politics Prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where uncivil words prevail, show me how to model love.

Help me remember the God-given dignity of all and invite others to do the same.

Show me how to build bridges and not walls and see first what unites us rather than how we diverge.

Let me seek to understand before asking to be understood.

Give me a listening heart filled with empathy and compassion.

May I be clear in sharing my own position and respectful and civil in describing those of others.

Let me never tolerate hateful ideas.

May I invite all to charity and love.

Lord, help me to imitate your compassion and mercy.

Make me an instrument of your peace. Amen

School benefactor dies

Louis Zazarino, a supporter of St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Catholic Academy in Sarasota died Sept. 4, 2021. He was 78. A devoted parishioner of St Martha Parish in Sarasota, Zazarino took great joy in giving back. He loved dancing, horses, and cars. Those who knew him loved him for his humor, humanity, and humility. He will be dearly missed by his family and children. A social media post from St. Mary Catholic Academy stated, “His legacy as a supporter of Catholic Education will never be forgotten. The Zazarino Center of St. Martha and St. Mary will serve as a reminder of his generosity, love and support forever. May God grant him eternal rest.” A similar post was made by St. Martha Catholic School. A funeral Mass, celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, was Sept. 9, 2021 at St. Martha Parish in Sarasota.

Venice CCW member named to State Board

Brenda Dolan, Immediate Past President of the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, has been installed as President, Provincial Director-Elect Florida Council of Catholic Women (FCCW) Board. The new Board members were installed at the Province Dinner on Aug. 26, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia. This was part of the 101st National CCW Convention. In June 2021, Dolan, of St. Therese Parish in North Fort Myers, completed a two-year term as Co-President of the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women. She was President for two years before that. Several women from the Diocese of Venice also serve on FCCW committees, including Iris Gomez, Legislative Advocacy Co-Chair; Ellen Bachman, Our Lady of Good Counsel Co-Chair; Dolan, By Laws Committee Chair. The current Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women President is Josephine Weiss.

Giving back on Labor Day

Students and faculty from St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples gave up some of their Labor Day holiday to help distribute food at nearby St. Elizabeth Seton Parish. Under the portico in front of the Parish Church, the students and faculty helped to load vehicles with food for families in need. Among the helpers were four Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco, who serve at St. John Neumann, including Principal Sister Patricia Roche.

Blizzards in a jar

For students learning in Florida it is pretty rare for them to experience a blizzard, but with a little bit of science kindergarteners and first graders at St. Mary Catholic Academy created their own blizzards – in a jar, of course. These students took part in the science experiment during class on Sept. 9, 2021 in Sarasota. Here’s how it works: Because oil is less dense than water, the water will naturally sink to the bottom of the jar. When the Alka-Seltzer is dropped into the jar, its interaction with the water creates pressure in an upward direction, and the oil pushes it back down. This pressure back and forth is part of what creates the snowstorm. The other element is the interaction between water and sodium bicarbonate in the Alka-Seltzer, which generates carbon dioxide gas. The combination of these factors creates a blizzard every time! The students had a blast!

Happy Birthday Mary

On the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sept. 8, 2021, students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers by making their own Mary statues and writing the Blessed Virgin birthday cards.

Science students learn about hurricanes and earthquakes

Students in an Environmental Science class at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers learned about the impact of hurricanes and earthquakes on structures in a Sept. 8, 2021 lab where they created their own houses.

Bishop celebrates Mass at Mooney

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, joined by Father Eric Scanlan, Chaplain of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, receives the gifts presented by students during the school Mass held on September 14, 2021.

Pardon Our Dust – Parishes and schools – upgrades, renovations and new construction

Dusty construction zones have been a common sight at multiple Diocesan Parishes and Catholic schools during the summer months and in some locations more work is on the horizon.

Projects ranging from window upgrades to constructing new Parish Halls have forced some temporary closures of buildings and other disruptions throughout the summer and into the fall. However, Joe Rego, Diocese of Venice Director of Building and Construction, explained how all the work – nearly 80 active projects – has been necessary stressing the end results will be worth any temporary inconvenience.

“Each of these projects (active, ongoing, or planned) is a priority for the respective Parish and school,” Rego explained. “All of it is necessary and will have benefits that will last for years to come.”

One of the most common projects currently within the Diocese has been roof repair and/or replacement. Such work is often necessitated as buildings age.

For example, the faithful at Our Lady of Grace Parish have endured multiple projects to upgrade their Parish Church and Parish Hall. The roof was replaced on both in 2020 and now interior work is ongoing in the Church with new tile flooring, pews and look to the sanctuary. With Mass taking place in the Parish Hall, the faithful are anxious to return when the work is completed late in the fall.

“Our parishioners’ support has been very vital in the inception and the actual implementation of the project,” said Father Ronnie Sison, Pastor of Our Lady of Grace. “The new floors should be enjoyed and last for generations to come. They also provide us with a healthier and cleaner environment by removing the old carpeting and replacing it with something that will outlast us all.”

The Church at Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostle Parish in Bradenton was closed for a time, and Mass was temporarily held in the Parish Center, to allow the installation of a new roof, and now the pews are being refinished, reupholstered and installed.

Pews were also replaced during the summer at St. Andrew Parish in Cape Coral and St. Ann Parish in Naples. Father William Davis, OSFS, Pastor of St. Ann Parish, said the upholstery on the pews was past its usefulness and the cost difference for new ones was close enough that it was a natural choice. Though there was an inconvenience for approximately seven weeks, Father Davis said the results exceeded expectations and “the response has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Meanwhile, the roof at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Sarasota is being worked on now with much more to come. The interior of the church, including the altar, will be renovated with Mass temporarily being held outside starting in late fall. Once all of that work is done, the faithful will see the construction of a new Parish Hall, replacing a structure that was torn down due to safety concerns.

Roof replacement is now taking place on the church building at St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish on Longboat Key with additional buildings at other locations being scheduled for work in the coming year.

Holy Child Mission in Bowling Green has been going through a complete renovation with the interior gutted and replaced. Much of this work was necessitated because of damage caused by Hurricane Irma in September 2017. As that repair work progressed, more issues were discovered and are being addressed. Bishop Frank J. Dewane saw firsthand the progress of the work on Aug. 7, 2021. He was given a tour and learned that upgrades to the restrooms and a new roof were next on the to-do list.

Multiple construction projects are taking place at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande and include a new Parish Life Center, for which the slab is installed with walls being erected. Work will extend into early 2022. Other tasks include modifications to the existing preschool which includes converting spaces and upgrading the play area. Father Jerome Carosella, Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy, said he has been impressed by the progress of the work and what is necessary as the Parish is in an historic district on a barrier island. “The anchors go deep into the ground, so it won’t be going anywhere if a big storm comes,” Father said.

Another Parish Life Center under construction is located at St. William Parish in Naples. The Parish Center is replacing an old structure to accommodate Parish growth. That project began in April 2021 and is at the phase where exterior walls are rising, and interior work will begin by the fall. This project is expected to be done by Easter 2022.

Two Parishes with newly constructed Churches are going through similar renovations to their properties. Both Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch and Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee have work that includes Hall renovations. Work in Immokalee is in the final stages while Lakewood Ranch the construction is in the preliminary phases. Both buildings will include a commercial kitchen and much needed space for the respective growing Parish community.

The most recent high-profile project completed was the new St. Paul Parish Church in Arcadia. This project included the renovation of a former large grocery store into a new Church which was Blessed and Dedicated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane in March 2021. The new Church quadrupled the capacity of the old to more than 1,300. Future work includes classrooms and office space as well as a Parish Hall all contained under one roof.

Smaller projects include work on installing hurricane impact windows at St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota, audio-visual upgrades at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice, a fence for Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton and much more.

Diocesan Catholic schools were not immune to summer work and upgrades focused on the safety of students. Upgrades were made to Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice and Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota.

St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples replaced the fire and public address system which was previously damaged in a lightning strike. Several schools created or expanded dedicated classroom space for the growing STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) curriculum.

St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring and Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria are both having work done to expand their facilities and make better use of existing space to accommodate growth in the schools.

At St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples a new portable classroom building is being installed for use by middle schoolers as the additional classroom space was needed. The old cafeteria is going through a renovation to convert to a building to be used for the arts and sciences. Eventually the school will be building a new administration building and enhanced entrance.

Rego, of Diocesan Buildings Department, said these are just some of the examples of the individual projects currently at different stages of completion throughout the Diocese. It should be noted that some of the projects have been impacted by the global Pandemic which caused shortages of building materials and workers.

“This resulted in delays for some projects,” Rego said. “It was unavoidable but something we strive to deal with. We are confident in the firms we use, as we have developed a good working relationship. When projects are put up for bid, each firms has a clear understanding of our needs.”