News Briefs for the Week of September 1, 2023

Students recognized for summer work

Students at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton were recognized for taking part in two summer learning programs during an awards ceremony on Aug. 25, 2023. First was the recognition of students who participated in the IXL Summer Reading Challenge. IXL (from “I excel”) is a math and language arts practice website for K-12 (subscription based). Students in grades one through eight used the IXL online individualized learning program to complete problems in math, language arts, social studies, science, and Spanish. IXL participants completed a total of 182,624 problems. Throughout the summer, the competition was very intense. The over-all top winner was Monica, who completed 16,560 problems, while 58 students were recognized for their participation. In addition, 72 students received recognition for their participation in a summer reading program.

Youth event held in Fort Myers

The St. John XXIII Parish Youth Council hosted a family event Aug. 27, 2023, in Fort Myers. Nearly 200 took part in this event which took place in Marian Hall and included a live performance by The Camp Veritas Band, dynamic speakers, and Adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Students marked for leadership

As is the tradition at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, the eighth-grade students are brought forward during a ceremony where they take an oath of leadership. This ceremony took place following Mass on Aug. 24, 2023. Principal David Nelson administered the oath and then presented each student with a pin to mark them as St. Andrew Catholic School Leaders.

Police make fun visit to Naples school

Members of the Naples Police Department stopped by to speak to pre-kindergarten students at St. Ann Catholic School on Aug. 25, 2023. Officers read to the students and answered questions as the students learned about how the police are there to serve the community as everyday heroes.

Students use physics during experiment

A physics class at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers used an experiment that would measure and interpret the forces acting on an object in equilibrium. The experiment: How do rope tensions relate to their weights and the weight of an object, such as scaffolding? The students worked on this exact question on Aug. 24, 2023, and their focus and comprehension were impressive.

Confirmation class begins in Fort Myers

A Sacrament of Confirmation class at Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers began on Aug. 27, 2023. During the opening session, participants took part in an open discussion on key questions of the faith, including: Do you view the Holy Spirit as more of a “who” or a “what”? Does this distinction change how you approach the Holy Spirit? Who or what is the Holy Spirit to you? These questions and more are the focus of the sacramental preparation during the coming months. The goal of the religious education program is to help the faithful grow in their knowledge and understanding of the Catholic faith and their part in the Universal Church.

Parish to host Oktoberfest

San Pedro Parish, 14380 Tamiami Trail, North Port, is hosting an Oktoberfest celebration on Oct. 13 and 14, 2023. On Oct. 13, the evening begins at 5 p.m. and concludes at 11 p.m., and will include an opening ceremony and music by The Boogiemen, and hourly races, as well as a beverage garden, and food favorites such as brats, burgers, hotdogs, perogies, Bavarian and hand-rolled pretzels, ice cream and homemade desserts. On Oct. 14, the doors are open 11 a.m.-11 p.m., and this is a Family Day; the event is free and open to all. Music includes performances by Beth Travers and Trop Rock, Bud Buckley, The Flashbacks, Shari Fink and the Mission Band, as well as an open mic. There will also be a Foam Party with inflatables, balloons, face painting, rock climbing, trivia, dunk tank, raffles, giveaways and more. Proceeds will support the Parish Restoration Fund. Sponsorship and vendor exhibits are available by calling 941-426-2500, or email

Bishop celebrates Mass at university

The Ave Maria University 2023-2024 Academic Year opened with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Aug. 21, 2023.

Prior to the opening hymn, students carrying banners, representing different houses (themed resident halls) of the university, came forward, and they were followed by faculty, dressed in their doctoral robes and seated up front while the students sat behind. Concelebrating the Mass with Bishop Dewane were priests who serve the spiritual needs of the students on campus and in Ave Maria Parish.

The Bishop and priests wore red vestments, to mark the celebration of a Mass of the Holy Spirit, whereupon the community gathers to thank God for the gifts of creation and salvation and to seek the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit in the coming year.

Bishop Dewane welcomed new and returning students for the start of a new Academic Year and noted that they have each been provided with a great opportunity to be at Ave Maria University and said he was praying that they find success in their studies. The Bishop encouraged the students to be open to hear the call of the Lord in their lives and to live that answer each day.

The Bishop called upon the Lord to bless the works of the faculty and staff of the university as they are dedicated to the task of building up the students on all levels, but most importantly in their spiritual formation.

Reflecting upon the Gospel reading of the day (Mt 19:16-22), wherein a young man approached Jesus and said “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life,” Bishop Dewane said the lesson taught by Jesus is an important one for all to learn, but perhaps most importantly for the university students to understand.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells the young man to keep the Commandments, but when he says he has done all of that, he questioned again about what he lacks, the young man is prompted to go further and sell what he had and give to the poor and he will have treasure in heaven, “Then come, follow Me.” The young man heard this and went away sad, for he had many possessions.

“The life we all live is often marred by sin, contrary to the way we set out as we are all searching for something,” Bishop Dewane explained. “The lesson we must learn is not to focus our lives on our earthly possessions, but it is to conform to the request of Jesus Christ in our lives. We do this through prayers and intercessions, because we have to ask what the Lord seeks of us.”

As students, they come to Ave Maria University with goals and dreams to enter into a profession or career, but the Bishop remarked how that is secondary to what their commitment to attending a Catholic university is all about.

“Your commitment must be about listening to the Lord and responding,” Bishop Dewane continued. “The Light of Christ must be in your ministry and in your lives. Here at Ave Maria University, you must be willing to be a part of Christian culture. Like Christ, live your life for others. You are the Light; called to evidence those beliefs with a certain moral strength.”

“As we begin this year, let us invoke the Light of the Holy Spirit within our lives. May it guide your relationship with the Lord as you strive to live and become always more the men or women of God we are called to be,” Bishop Dewane concluded.

Following closing prayer, the Bishop presided over a commissioning ceremony for five new doctoral students in theology who received the mandatum. As part of the doctoral program, they will be engaged as instructors and teaching assistants for courses in Catholic theology at the University. As such, they are required to obtain the mandatum from the local Bishop. As part of this, before Bishop Dewane and the entire school community, each made a Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity, vowing to remain faithful to the Teachings of the Church.

After the Mass the Bishop greeted the students who thanked him for his presence and inspiring homily.

Community Harvest Program to include Catholic schools

“Eat well, do good” is the theme of a local program that will support area non-profits in the month of September.  The program, Community Harvest, is in its 26th year, and this year, for the first time, will include Diocese of Venice Catholic schools as one of its beneficiaries.

“We’re delighted to be included in Community Harvest this year,” said Father John Belmonte, S.J., Superintendent of Catholic Education for the Diocese of Venice. “The Diocese’s Catholic Schools serve more than 6,000 area students, and contributions in any amount help us with our mission of preparing these students for a life of purpose by providing an education centered in Christ.”

Those interested in helping local non-profits, including the Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools, can do so simply by dining at any of the participating restaurants during the month of September. The restaurant group donates 5 percent of all diners’ checks to charities selected by the guests.

Participating restaurants include all restaurants owned by the1905 Family of Restaurants group, including all Columbia restaurants, Cha Cha Coconuts, Ulele, Goody Goody and Casa Santo Stefano. Two of the restaurants, Columbia, and Cha Cha Coconuts, have locations in Sarasota on St. Armands Circle. The others are located in Tampa.

The Community Harvest program has donated more than $3 million to the local community since its inception in 1998.

For more information about Diocese of Venice Catholic schools, please visit


News Briefs for the week of August 25, 2023

World Youth Day topic at recent Theology on Tap

World Youth Day 2023 was the topic of discussion at the most recent Theology on Tap on Aug. 17, 2023, at the Mandeville Beer Garden in Sarasota. An outreach of the Diocese Young Adult Ministry, Theology on Tap takes place on the third Thursday of each month with a variety of speakers addressing topics relevant to the Catholic Faith. In August, the guest speakers were Transitional Deacon Thomas Gregory Dougherty, a Diocesan seminarian in his final year of studies at St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts; and Stephanie Lovetere, the Youth Ministry Coordinator at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. Each shared their experiences on the trip to Portugal with a group of 52 from the Diocese, including Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Marthamaria Morales, Diocesan Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry who also organizes Theology on tap. The monthly gathering also includes food and refreshments. The next scheduled date is Sept. 21, and will feature Father Christian Chami, Parochial Vicar at St. Jude Parish, Sarasota.  For any questions, please email Marthamaria Morales at

Second Collection for Maui, Hawaii Aug. 26-27

Devastating wildfires swept through the Maui region of Hawaii on Aug. 8, 2023, causing much destruction and a loss of life for a large number of residents, particularly in Lahaina.  As we are all called to help our brothers and sisters in need, a second collection will take place in the Diocese of Venice the weekend of August 26 and 27. The proceeds of the collection will be sent to Catholic Charities Diocese of Honolulu to assist in their efforts to address the needs of the citizens in the affected area. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.

Decline to Sign Petition for dangerous Pro-Abortion ballot initiative

An extremely grave initiative is underway in Florida that seeks to erase pro-life protections by inserting language into the Florida State Constitution banning regulation of abortion. Abortion activists are working to gather petition signatures to have a pro-abortion constitutional amendment placed on the statewide ballot in the November 2024 election. To do so, they need nearly 900,000 signatures and are working right now in communities across Florida to collect them. Floridian Catholics should not sign the petition. Please also continue your prayers for the protection of the unborn and spread the word to your spheres of influence.

High school retreat serves community

Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers hosted its annual Freshman Retreat on Aug. 17, 2023. Freshmen, along with senior leaders, enjoyed a great morning getting settled into their rooms, listening to discussions, and enjoying breakfast. They then headed out to various service sites throughout the community in order to give back and appreciate the Christian Service aspect of the freshmen retreat.

STREAM skills used in school project

Fifth-grade students at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples used engineering, teamwork, math and technology skills in their first STREAM activity of the school year on Aug. 22, 2023. Each student was amazed to learn their handmade rubberband/yarn device was an actual tool! The objective was to build a tower first using only their dominant hand, then building the tower with their non-dominant hand. Students learned, smiled, and worked together as disciples of Christ.

Vocabulary “treasure hunt”

Using “Christ is Us” books, second grade students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers practiced their vocabulary words on Aug. 18, 2023. The lesson was a “treasure hunt” as the students try to find and define key “gem” words in the text of the books. When finished with their search, they presented to their groups and used cooperative learning structures for added reading lessons.

“Heart of Discipleship” retreat helps ministry students

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School ministry students in Sarasota attended a retreat on Aug. 22, 2023, at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch. The students spent the day exploring the “Heart of Discipleship” while coming together as a team.  Students heard from various speakers including teacher, alum and Deacon Jack Milholland of Our Lady of the Angels Parish. The lesson learned was: “God is good! All the time!”

Day of Reflection for Sacramental Marriage Sept. 9 in Naples

The Office of Marriage and Family Life will be hosting a Day of Reflection for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church.  A specially prepared team will share their experiences and information enabling couples to be more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of marriage.  This event will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sept. 9, 2023, at St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Avenue, Naples. The cost of $50/couple covers all retreat materials and lunch.  Pre-registration is required at Should you have questions or require additional information contact Carrie Harkey at, or call 941-484-9543 ext. 4748.

Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal coming to an end

Every day, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., serves its most vulnerable population by feeding, housing, empowering, and helping all in need. This summer, you can be the one that makes a difference. Your acts of kindness have the power to transform lives and leave a positive impact in our community. The Catholic Charities Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal is coming to a conclusion soon. Your gift will make a positive impact on our less fortunate brothers and sisters! Please visit or mail a check to Catholic Charities, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

Formation Program in Spanish

The next session of the Hispanic Apostolate’s Formation Program is scheduled to begin on Sept. 29, 2023. The topic of study will be focused on the “National Eucharistic Revival” and there will be a total of seven classes held from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 pm. on Fridays. (During Lent classes will move to Thursdays beginning February 15th.). The cost for all the classes is $35 including the book. Those who register and attend a minimum of 6 classes either at one of the participating parishes or online using our APP ( will receive a Diocesan Certification.

Programa de Formación en Español

La próxima sesión del Programa de Formación a cargo del Apostolado Hispano comenzará el 29 de setiembre del 2023. El tema de estudio estará enfocado en el “Avivamiento Eucarístico Nacional” y habrá un total de 7 clases que se darán los viernes por la noche de 7:00 pm a 9:00 pm. (Durante la Cuaresma las clases se trasladan al jueves a partir del 15 de febrero). El costo de todas las clases es de $35 incluyendo el libro. Las personas que se registren y atiendan un mínimo de 6 clases ya sea en una de las parroquias participantes o vía online usando nuestro APP ( recibirán una Certificación Diocesana.

Help available for Hurricane Ian survivors

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice, Inc. has partnered with St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services in the Disaster Case Management Program to offer services to individuals and families impacted by Hurricane Ian. For additional information or to schedule an appointment, visit, email, or call 941-799-6779.

One week in and students fully engaged

Sounds such as the trudging of feet in the hallways, the ringing of the first bell, morning prayers, and classroom instruction, are what make up a typical school day.

However, the sounds have a new ring in each of the 15 Diocese of Venice Catholic schools as the halls are full with a combined complement of more than 6,200 students. That equates to a record enrollment for the 2023-2024 Academic Year, which began on Aug. 9, 2023.

The first days were full of everyone figuring out where to go, reuniting with old friends or making new ones, participating in their first academic lessons and taking part in any of a myriad of extracurricular activities.

At Diocesan Catholic schools, each student attended an opening Mass, either the first day of school, or within the first week.

Jesuit Father John Belmonte, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, started the year by celebrating Mass for students at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples on Aug. 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Father Belmonte encouraged the students to turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary for guidance as a pathway toward heaven. The solemnity celebrates Mary’s Assumption, body and soul, into heaven and eternal life, so that she might be more fully conformed to her Son, Jesus Christ, the conqueror of death.

“This is another exciting year in our Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools,” Father said. “We are full up with every school having some sort of waitlist. We have new initiatives which are being implemented to ensure that each of our students receives the educational experience that parents have come to expect from the Diocese: that is a quality education that helps to build the mind, body and spirit, all focused on building up the glory of God in the world.”

Diocesan schools have fully integrated the STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) learning model into all classrooms. At the same time, the Diocesan curriculum called, “The Gifts of Christ: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Affability, Fortitude, Humility, and Prudence,” is the norm.

This approach, fully supported through the generosity of Bishop Frank J. Dewane, places students ahead of the curve in primary fields while continuing to promote core Catholic virtues by helping students to develop cognitive thought processes and gain skills such as leadership, communication, complex problem solving, teamwork and creativity.

Many classrooms showed off their STREAM skills in the first days of school with second graders at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers, using blocks to make homes and churches. They created a Tree of Knowledge story/drawing and stained-glass art.

Just after school began, the three Catholic schools in Lee County were the beneficiary of the Catholic Schools Night on Aug. 11, at The Mighty Mussels minor league baseball game at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers. Part of the proceeds benefited St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, as well as St. Francis Xavier and Bishop Verot Catholic High School, both in Fort Myers. The Mighty Mussels mascot visited the students at St. Andrew the morning of the game.

The first Friday at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples was a House Retreat Day, where new students are assigned to one of four Houses which serve as their center of social and school spirit activities throughout the coming year. Each of the four teams competes for points to earn different rewards or prizes throughout the year, with a trophy for the winners at the end.

Students at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice are now participating in daily Mass. This builds upon the lessons from the last school year when the students learned about the Most Holy Eucharist.

At St. Mary Academy in Sarasota, STREAM was part of a fun and messy hands-on lesson with toothpaste. The experiment focused on the question: Can you get all of the toothpaste back into a tube once it is all squeezed out? Some of it might end up back inside, but the majority of it sticks elsewhere. During the expansive lesson, the students learned that our words and actions are like toothpaste. We have to stop and think about what we say and do towards others so that our kindness is what sticks to others. It is very hard to take back unkind words or actions- just as hard as trying to get all of the toothpaste back into the tube. This was such a strong lesson in how words must be chosen carefully and not say things you will regret.

These are just a few of the examples of what took place during the first week of school in the Diocese of Venice and doesn’t even come close to covering the full scope of the exciting things that are taking place each day. Stay tuned as we follow our students throughout the school year.

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

School buildings get summer makeover

When students returned to Diocesan Catholic schools the week of Aug. 7, 2023, school administrators were in a last-minute rush to complete summer improvement projects which ranged from a fresh coat of paint, the installation of portable classrooms, to new roofs.

The work across the Diocese took advantage of students being off campus as crews with heavy equipment conducted loud and dusty work. The work is expected to continue in some locations right up to and beyond the first day of school, which was Aug. 9.

At Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, crews have been working at various locations across the campus. Work included the installation of six new portable classrooms behind the theater to accommodate the growing number of students as well as other cosmetic upgrades throughout. Meanwhile, the finishing touches are being put on a new entrance to Viking Stadium. In its final phase in mid-August, the new plaza is being dedicated to Coach Mike Gill, who has been a teacher at Verot for more than 50 years. The work is expected to be completed by the first kickoff of the coming football season in late August.

Workers also descended on Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, throughout the summer. One building received a new roof, while there was new paint in the hallways and bathrooms, updates to the gymnasium roof and major renovations to the baseball field. Unexpected repair work was needed due to a mid-summer thunderstorm, which caused damage to the roof of the media center and a covered walkway, but that work was completed by the first day.

There have been several upgrades at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples. Work included installing two new modular classrooms to handle increased enrollment, new middle school lockers, an audio/visual system in the gymnasium, renovated restrooms in the cafeteria, smart boards, shiny floors, and much more.

Four additional classrooms were added to Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria. These rooms had been used for various purposes, such as storage and other school activities, but the need for the class space became pressing as there has been a massive increase in enrollment in the past few years.

A new covered basketball court is being installed at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton. This court is nearing completion as the finishing touches are added. The covered area will allow more outdoor activities for students, including sports such as tennis and pickleball.

For Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School, much of the work focused on completing roof repairs from Hurricane Ian. The main school building was temporarily unusable following the Sept. 28, 2022, storm. Temporary repairs to the interior building and roof allowed students to return to the building by early January 2023, but the installation of the new permanent metal roof took most of the summer. St. Ann Catholic School in Naples also received a new roof in an upgrade to protect from future storms.

All ongoing work is expected to be completed soon, putting the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools in good shape for the more than 6,200 in the classrooms this year!

News Briefs for week of August 18, 2023

Knights honor clergy

The Knights of Columbus of Saints Cosmas and Damian Council 13341 of Bradenton hosted a Clergy Appreciation Dinner on Aug. 12, 2023, at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch. Among the honorees were Bishop Frank J. Dewane; Father Sebastian Szczawínski, Pastor of Our Lady of the Angels; Father Shawn Roser, Parish Parochial Vicar and Diocesan Vocations Director; Msgr. Joseph Stearns who is retired but assists at the Parish; Deacon Jack Milholland; and Deacon G. Thomas Harencher. The evening included dinner for more than 200 and each of the honorees was presented with a commemorative compass. Grand Knight Jerry Graceffo Jr. said it was appropriate for the Knights to honor the clergy who serve the spiritual needs of the faithful is many different ways.

High school welcomes new assistant director

Bishop Verot Catholic High School has announced the hiring of a new Assistant Director of Special Events, Donor & Alumni Relations. Crystal Melton will lead Bishop Verot’s events and alumni relations efforts as the school continues to have record enrollment and growth. Melton brings with her experience in the field of events, fundraising and community relations. Melton earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, and a master’s in Curriculum and Instruction. She previously was on the Verot School Board and the chair of the Curriculum & Academic Affairs Committee for the school. Most recently, she was a teacher and Director of Development at St. Andrew Catholic School.  Melton grew up in Alaska and Virginia, before moving to Florida in 2010 with her husband and their two children. Her daughter is a Verot Alum and her son is an 8th grader at St. Andrew Catholic School, and a future Viking.

Support our seminarians

Support, encourage and educate future priests through the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women Seminarian Fund. Join the VDCCW in celebrating Priesthood Sunday on September 24, 2023, in a special and lasting way by sending your Parish Priest a Seminarian Fund “IN HONOR OF” card. This is a gift that keeps on giving. The Diocese is currently educating 13 men in various seminaries and a donation of any amount would be a great help (The donation amount will not be revealed to the recipient). To take part, please send your donation, made out to VDCCW Seminarian Fund (plus $1 to cover postage and printing) to: Cornelia Zaneƫti, Seminarian Fund Guardian, 5808 Gulf Drive, #204, Holmes Beach, FL 34217.

Early bird registration for the Marriage Conference

Registration is now open for the Oct. 21, 2023, Diocese of Venice “Together in Holiness” Marriage Conference, presented in partnership with the Diocese of Venice Office of Family Life and the St. John Paul II Foundation. This marriage enrichment conference will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at St. John XXIII Parish, 13060 Palomino Lane, Fort Myers. All Catholic married and engaged couples throughout the Diocese of Venice and beyond are welcome. Grow together in holiness, learn to form your children in the Catholic Faith, enjoy a day of quality time with your spouse, witness dynamic presentations! The day will include the Mass and the availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This special event is for all couples, engaged, newlywed or long married! On-site childcare will be provided. Early bird couple registration is $54, ($64 after Aug. 28). To register, please visit Please contact Carrie Harkey at for further information.

Catholic Charities event to benefit programs in DeSoto County

The 2023 Boots and Bandannas event to benefit the programs of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., in DeSoto County will take place, at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, at Our Lady of Angels Parish, 12905 SR. 70 E., Lakewood Ranch. Enjoy a fun night of great food, live auction, and live music by Andy Pursell and his band.  Kick up your heels for a great cause with programs such as a food pantry, farmworker and senior housing, youth and afterschool educational enrichment programs, financial and housing assistance and disaster response and recovery.  For more details, and to register for Boots and Bandannas 2023, please visit,

Red Mass for legal professionals to be held in Sarasota

The Red Mass, a medieval tradition of the Roman Catholic Church, is observed annually in the Diocese of Venice. The Red Mass will be celebrated at 5:30 p.m., Oct. 18, 2023, at St. Martha Parish, 200 N. Orange St., Sarasota. Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Bishop will be the main celebrant. A reception hosted by the Catholic Lawyers Guild (CLG) follows immediately at the Fr. Fausto Parish Hall. The first recorded Red Mass was held in the Cathedral of Paris in 1245. The popular name “Red Mass” refers to the traditional red vestments of the clergy and the judges when convened at the royal courts in Europe. Prayers at the Red Mass are offered to invoke the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon those who serve in law and the administration of justice. Hence, lawyers, judges, public officials, law enforcement officers, and law students are specifically invited to participate at the Red Mass, although everyone is welcome to attend. In the United States, an annual Red Mass is held in Washington, D.C., before the opening of the U.S. Supreme Court. Similarly, Red Mass is held at the start of the legislative session in Tallahassee. The first Red Mass in the Diocese of Venice was held in March 2008 at St. Martha. At the Red Mass, prayers are for wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord, to help us through these challenging times. For further information, please contact Atty. Paul Consbruck at 866-558-7285; 941-966-6706 or

Students return to classroom

The opening bell rings and a few tears flow as thousands of children across the Diocese of Venice return to school for the 2023-24 School Year.

From pre-kindergarten to seniors in high school, the students will face rigorous course work which will develop them academically, physically – and most importantly – spiritually.

On the first day, friendships are renewed, new bonds are formed, and new challenges are accepted by students at every level.

At St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, Principal David Nelson and his team of staff and faculty were ready to go as 636 students – the most ever in the school’s 34 years history – arrived on the steamy morning of Aug. 9, 2023, for the first day of school.

Nelson and other staff were outside the front entrance for the carline – opening doors and greeting familiar and new faces alike. Wearing their school uniform – shirt or sweatshirt with the school logo, and tan or blue shorts – some of the students were tired, others were excited to be back, but all entered the school with a smile.

For the first day many parents escorted their child to the classroom where there were hugs, with parting comments from the parents including: “Have fun!” “Good luck!” “Miss you already!” and “I love you!” Following a few last “First Day of School” photos, the parents departed, and everyone quickly settled into their seats comforted in the knowledge that they now had many new friends.

These scenes were repeated at each of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools. The high schools had less tears and more fun as those students settled into their year. At each Diocesan Catholic high school – Bishop Verot in Fort Myers, Cardinal Mooney in Sarasota, St. John Neumann in Naples and Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria – there were special “Senior Sunrise” welcomes for the graduating class of 2023. Each school was completely open by Aug. 10, with some staggering their starts over two days.

St. Andrew and nearly all of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools are full, with extensive waitlists at several schools, and final enrollment numbers expected to exceed 6,100, up more than 1,000 in two years.

Diocesan Catholic schools work conscientiously to provide Christ-centered learning experiences that are transportable to the real world and provide the opportunity for children to develop life-long learning skills and to be successful beyond the classroom.

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, said he expects great things from the students within the Diocese in the 2023-2023 Academic Year as a great effort has gone into increasing academic standards while focusing on developing a strong “Catholic School Culture.”

“This culture is the vision, values, systems, language, expectations, behaviors, and beliefs that increase a school’s and Diocese’s chances of accomplishing the strategy of fulfilling its mission: to introduce the world to its Savior,” Father Belmonte said.

News Briefs for the Week of August 11, 2023

Knight’s Silver Rose visits Sebring

A special prayer service was held Aug. 8, 2023, at St. Catherine Parish in Sebring, when members of the Knights of Columbus brought the travelling Silver Rose to the Parish. Each year, from early March through mid-December, Silver Roses are stewarded by Knights of Columbus councils along routes from Canada to Mexico. Every stop the Silver Rose makes throughout the pilgrimage is a rosary-centered occasion for Knights, parishioners and community members to pray for respect for life, for the spiritual renewal of each nation, and for the advancement of the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Knights of Columbus expansive pro-life initiative includes supporting the National March for Life in Washington, D.C., and placing more than 1,000 ultrasounds in pregnancy resource centers throughout the world, including many within the Diocese of Venice.

Youth pray for priests

On the Feast of St. John Vianney, Aug. 4, 2023, youth from St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral offered a Holy hour & Divine Mercy Chaplet for all priests in honor of the feast day of St. John Vianney. The French saint (1786-1759) was known for his faithfulness, his devotion to the Virgin Mary, and to St. Philomena, and for dedication to the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) for his parishioners. St. John Vianney was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1925. He is the patron saint of clergy throughout the world.

Student commits to West Point

Sophia McCartney, a senior at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, has announced her commitment to accept an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2024. McCartney is a star basketball player at Neumann and intends to play at West Point.

Rosary makers hold luncheon

The rosary makers of Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria held a luncheon on Aug. 5, 2023, to honor Our Blessed Mother. Our Lady’s Rosary Makers is a nationwide apostolate founded by Xaverian Brother Dylan in 1949. Rosary makers of Ave Maria meet Wednesdays 1-3 p.m. in the Oasis Club Craft Room – Del Webb. All are welcome; however, reservations are required. For more information, please contact Virginia Patterson at 916-616-8007, or

Bradenton students represent school in golf tournament

Congratulations to St. Joseph Catholic School students Niko and Tobias on attending the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship. Niko placed 72 among 170 in his division, and Tobias placed 33 among the 200 in his division. The Championship is played every August in Pinehurst, N.C., and gathers 1500 plus golfers in the age range of 5-12 years old from many different countries around the world. Niko and Tobias are pictured with family and friends at the event.


Youth celebration in Fort Myers Aug. 27

St. John XXIII Parish Youth Council in Fort Myers is hosting a Youth Celebration Family Event from 5 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023, in the Parish Hall, 13060 Palomino Lane, Fort Myers. The evening is titled: “Celebrating the Catholic Family,” and will include a live performance by The Camp Veritas Band, dynamic speakers, adoration, a 50/50 raffle, and concessions. The event is free and is for youth (middle and high school age) and parents. For more information, please contact Kelly Evers at 239-561-3022 or

Retreats Returning to OLPH

Registration is now open for several retreats at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center, 3989 South Moon Drive, Venice. The Monthly Days of Prayer start September 13. Also, several dates are available for our Desert Day retreats, a one day overnight private retreat. In addition, starting this fall, OLPH is offering single-day Youth Retreats for grades 6-12. The following Fall group retreats are also available for registration: Matt Talbot Men’s Retreat scheduled for October 15-17, and the Can You See Me? retreat scheduled for October 27-29. If you are interested in the 3-night, 5-night, or 7-night private, directed retreat schedule, fall dates are now available. To learn more or to register for a group or private retreat, please visit, or call 941-486-0233.

Vocational Retreat in Arcadia Aug. 26

St. Paul Parish in Arcadia is hosting a one-day Vocational Retreat, “Encounter with Christ” from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Aug. 26, 2023, for males and females ages 15 to 30. The cost for the day is $20 and includes meals and materials. Pre-registration is available by emailing For further information contact the Parish office at 863-494-2611.

Scam Alert

Parishioners of several Parishes in the Diocese of Venice have been contacted by imposters pretending to be their pastor and/or Parish staff, and asking them to send gift cards, cash or money orders via email or text. These requests are a scam and under no circumstances should you reply to these emails or comply with these requests. Nor should you divulge any personal information to anyone that is not a trusted source. If you are contacted with a request for money via email or text, and the message appears as though it is from a Diocesan priest or employee, do not reply. Instead, make direct contact with the person by calling the Parish and asking to speak with the priest or employee.

Excited Diocesan pilgrims take on World Youth Day

Bishop Frank J. Dewane and 52 Diocese of Venice pilgrims are growing closer to Our Lord along with hundreds of thousands from across the globe during World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal.

The pilgrims, led by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, have been on a whirlwind trip with multiple stops at important religious sites enroute to Lisbon that included the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, candlelight processions, as well as visits to shrines, monasteries, churches, sacred sites and more.

Bishop Dewane told the pilgrims upon arrival in Portugal that he wants each to take time to focus on what it is Lord wants them to gain from this spiritual journey of discovery. “You have to come to an understanding of what Jesus is saying to you, and calling each of you to do. The Lord does this because He knows and loves you and wants you to become the best version of yourself, reflecting Jesus’ love and light into the world.”

Trinity Shipe of St. Martha Parish in Sarasota said that this pilgrimage was her first international travel, and she was excited “to be able to be with a bunch of other people who are our age and who are Catholic; as well as to see everyone here all together while I grow in my faith journey.”

Daisy Tejo, of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle, said after just one day in Portugal that the pilgrimage had “been such an amazing experience.” She said that being with so many young people from around the world was life-changing and she prayed the rosary and visited key sites while in Fatima, the location of multiple Marian apparitions. “I look forward to the days to come at Lisbon. I’m very excited.”

One pilgrim, Bryce Kuo of Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch, said the early part of the journey had been an incredible experience. He is traveling with his sister and mother, which has added to the experience. What struck Bryce most was the unifying nature of the World Youth Day experience. “We are speaking in different languages, but we are all united by the same faith… It’s a very moving experience. After this, it will give me the guidelines to live my life in the best way I can.”

Bishop Dewane has been with the Diocesan pilgrims every step of the way, celebrating Mass for the group several times, including during their first stop in Portugal, at a Carmelite monastery in Coimbra.

While in Fatima the group visited several sacred sites. The city, which is located in central Portugal, is famous for Marian apparitions which took place in 1917 when three children saw a series of visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The visit there included taking part in Stations of the Cross and visiting the church where the three children, St. Lucia dos Santos and her cousins, Sts. Francisco and Jacinto Marto, were baptized.

Bishop Dewane was the main celebrant for a Mass for the Diocesan pilgrims and others on July 31 in the Chapel of the Apparitions, built to mark the exact location of the apparitions. The Chapel is part of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima which is visited by at least 6 million each year.

On the evenings of July 30 and 31, the pilgrims took part in rosary and candlelight processions. During the July 31 procession, Diocesan pilgrims Ryan Cody of Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch, and Christian DiGioia, of Epiphany Cathedral, had the honor of carrying the American Flag, while Transitional Deacon Timothy “Greg” Dougherty was among the leaders of the procession.

While in Fatima the pilgrims also visited the Cenacolo Community (Fraternity Angel of Peace), which has houses around the world which help young men and women overcome addictions and depression through a program of encountering Jesus and centering their lives on prayer and service. Bishop Dewane and the Diocesan pilgrims heard powerful testimonies of the 13 men who are currently being helped by the community.

The pilgrims departed Fatima on Aug. 1, and while enroute to Lisbon, they made a stop at St. Stephen’s Church in Santarem, to see and learn about the Eucharistic Miracle of Santarem, which occurred on Feb. 16, 1274. Bishop again celebrated Mass for the Diocesan group.

Once the pilgrims checked into the hotel that they would call home for the following week, the pilgrims attended the WYD 2023 Opening Mass at Colina de Encontro (Parque Eduardo VII), which was celebrated by Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, Manuel Clemente.

Domenico Cricchio Jr. of Our Lady of the Angels summed up what many of the Diocesan pilgrims thought of the first main event at WYD. “What an experience. Amazing. It’s hard to explain these things and to prepare for them. When you are there, it’s a whole new feeling – the whole world is with you and the solidarity and community you feel for the love of Christ is unlike anything I have ever experienced. I look forward to so many more great things here in Lisbon.”

The Diocesan pilgrimage was organized by Marthamaria Morales, Diocesan Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. Morales said the group includes several priests, seminarians as well as youth and young adults from nine different Parishes.

During the main part of WYD in Lisbon, the pilgrims are taking part in daily catechesis called “Rise Up” meetings Aug. 2-4, which are intended to help the young people have an experience of faith and an encounter with Christ in an atmosphere of community and participation.

The Marian themes for the catechesis are linked to the general theme of WYD 2023 which is “Mary arose and went with haste” Luke 1:39. The biblical phrase opens the account of the Visitation (Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth). The overall goal of the catechesis is to give the young people a mission that now is the time to dream and work for a new world, just as Mary did as a young woman.

Pope Francis is scheduled to join the pilgrims on Aug. 3, for a welcome ceremony in the city center. He is also expected to preside at a Way of the Cross on Aug. 4, a prayer vigil on Aug. 5, and the WYD Closing Mass, with an anticipated crowd of a million or more, on Aug. 6. The Diocesan pilgrims are expected to be at each of these key moments at WYD 2023.

Please pray for the WYD pilgrims from the Diocese of Venice and around the world, that they may have a safe and fruitful journey and a meaningful encounter with Jesus Christ.

To follow along on the journey of the Diocesan pilgrims, please visit the Diocese Facebook page @dioceseofvenice or on Instagram @dioceseofveniceinfl, or the Diocese website,