News Briefs for the week of August 16, 2022

Bishop celebrates Mass for students in Bradenton, Sarasota and Naples

Bishop Frank J. Dewane recently celebrated Mass for students at three Diocesan Catholic schools, visiting St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, Sept. 7, 2022, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, Sept. 12, and St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, Sept. 13. Bishop Dewane continues to be impressed by the increased enrollment at each of the schools as the students filled churches, chapels and gymnasiums. The Bishop is also continuing to invoke the Holy Spirit to descend upon the students as they go forth into the 2022-2023 Academic Year.

Seminarian prepares for Transitional Diaconate Ordination

In preparation for their upcoming diaconate ordination, the fourth-year class at Pontifical North American College (NAC) in Rome publicly professed the Faith of the Church and made an Oath of Fidelity in the presence of the NAC community on Sept. 13, 2022. Among those taking their oath was Diocese of Venice Seminarian Daniel Scanlan, who will be ordained on Sept. 29 at St. Peter’s Basilica. Please continue to pray for Daniel and all seminarians as they approach this milestone of their formation journey.

Robot building engages students

Students at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral were busy on Sept. 12, 2022, building Lego Education Spike Prime Robots in Robotics class. The robotics program at St. Andrew allows students to learn and excel using skills that will prepare them for the future. Eventually, teams will be formed to compete in completing various tasks or taking part in a robot obstacle course within the school, and as the year progresses, against other robotics teams from other Diocesan Catholic schools.


Faith Formation kicks off in Fort Myers

The faith formation program at Our Lady of Light Parish and St. Cecilia Parish, both in Fort Myers, got a kick-start on Sept. 11, 2022, when hundreds of children began a new educational journey as they grow closer to the Lord. Our Lady of Light has some 150 in its K-5 formation program called “Footsteps in Faith.” St. Cecilia had their first classes learn Patriotic songs in conjunction with Patriot’s Day.

Life skills learned at school

St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples had its own version of the TV reality show “Chopped!” on Sept. 9, 2022. Students in a life skills class created a menu, recipe, budget and learned about how to read nutritional labels on grocery items. This included a trip to a grocery store and then preparing and serving the delicious creations for the judges, which included the Principal, Sister Patricia Roche, Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco. The results were delicious.

Students celebrate Our Lady’s birthday

To honor the Blessed Virgin Mary on her birthday, Sept. 8, 2022, students at Ave Maria Catholic School and Donahue Academy in Ave Maria made special efforts to mark this joyful event. This outpouring of love for Our Lady included homemade cookies, handmade cards and paper flowers for the Mother of God. The kindergarten students also made private visits to a statue of Our Lady, offering their prayers and best wishes on Mary’s special day.

Scientific method learned in classroom

Sixth grade science students at St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring have been learning about the scientific method – consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses. For example, on Sept. 12, 2022, they grew bacteria in a petri dish and conducted a scientific investigation and observed their bacteria specimens under a microscope. This type of project offers a hands-on approach to learning which helps students use multiple skills in order to complete their experiments.

Kindness rocks found on school campus

If you visit Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, you might spot colorful rocks on the ground. These rocks were not lost during some science experiment gone awry, they were in fact created by freshmen in their theology class as part of a “Kindness Project.” With the assistance of guidance counselors, each small rock was colorfully decorated and included a simple message of kindness, such as “Live your best life!” “Be You!” “Smile!” and more. The reaffirming artistic creations were then placed throughout the campus on Sept. 9, 2022.

News Briefs for the week of August 26, 2022

Mooney football team hears from coaching legend

The Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Football Team was both humbled and honored to have had Coach Urban Meyer give an inspirational talk before their Preseason Classic Game against Seffner Christian in Sarasota on Aug. 19, 2022. Meyer’s is a three-time national championship college football coach, twice as head coach of University of Florida and once with Ohio State University.

Gliders fly through classrooms

Fourth graders at St. Mary Academy in Sarasota had fun with their latest STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) challenge on Aug. 19, 2022. Their task was to build 3-hoop gliders, alternating the location of the hoops on each glider, and then let them fly. Each glider flew to determine which design performed the best and traveled the farthest. This was a lesson which challenged the students to think creatively and build a glider from paper and then see the results of their hard work.

Verot track and field champ receives ring

Bishop Verot Catholic High School senior Wyatt Whalen received his State Championship Ring on Aug. 19, 2022, in Fort Myers. Whalen took the Class 2A shot put title with a throw of 16.32 m (53 feet 6 ½ inches) during the Florida High School Athletic Association Track & Field State Championship May 11 -12, 2022, at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Whalen also took third in the discus with a toss of 46.36 m (152 feet 1 inch).

Eucharistic Conference in September

Inspired by the National Eucharistic Revival movement, St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples is creating the opportunity for people to learn more about Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. The one-day Eucharistic Conference is 9 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. The day features talks and worship music in both English and Spanish. There are sessions only in Spanish at the same time as the only English sessions followed by Eucharistic worship in both languages. Father Casey Jones, Pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton, and Jon Niven, Music Director at Seton, are hosting the English track. Special guests Juan De La Rosa, Director de la Renovación Carismática and Fernando Torres, Ministerio Agnes Dei Líder de Adoración, both from the Archdiocese of New York, are hosting the Spanish sessions. The day will end with a bilingual Vigil Mass at 4:30 pm. Breakfast and lunch are provided. Cost is $10 per person. Registration is on Seton’s website, The Parish is located at 5225 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples. Please call 239-455-3900 for any additional information.

Students visit Venice retreat center

Eleventh grade students at Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria spent time on Aug. 18, 2022, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice as part of a retreat. The students prayed together, had some fun and learned about how they need to hear the call of the Lord in their lives. Ave Maria Parish Pastor Father David Vidal celebrated Mass for the teens.

Students have a ball with robotics

At St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, students are working hard to improve their coding skills during a robotics class on Aug. 22, 2022. This specialized skill is being learned as part of a broader STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) curriculum. This curriculum, called, “The Gifts of Christ: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Affability, Fortitude, Humility, and Prudence,” is growing out of a robotics program which broadens the opportunities for each student. The coding skills learned at St. Andrew enabled the students to perform various fun tasks with a Sphero Bolt Robot.

Ave Maria men’s program returning

The Ave Maria Parish “This Man Is You!” interactive men’s program is returning for weekly meetings beginning Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in the Parish. The program combines the best research from science with the teachings of the Catholic Faith and the wisdom of the saints to develop the vision of man fully alive. By honestly addressing the pressures and temptations that men face in our modern culture, “That Man Is You!” seeks to form men who will be capable of transforming homes and society. The theme for the year is “Thy Kingdom Come: Claim Your Royal Dignity and Inheritance.” The schedule includes 7 a.m. breakfast, with a weekly presentation from different speakers, small group discussions, concluding with Mass in the Parish church at 9 a.m. For more information and to register, please contact Dr. Charlie Thomason at or 860-460-7195.

Sarasota Laps for Life Oct. 8

Join the Sarasota Laps for Life 5K on Siesta Key Beach from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. This year the Knights of Columbus are running to benefit SOLVE maternity homes in Bradenton, Sarasota and Englewood. SOLVE provides cost-free housing, counseling and support for women and teens with unintended pregnancies. Why run? Promote a culture that encourages life in abundance by providing the support and resources available for both mother and child so they can flourish. Join us as we celebrate life in abundance! See for details and registration.

Priest appreciation dinners coming soon

The Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women invites all to one of two Priest Appreciation Dinners the group is hosting. The dinners are intended to honor all priests serving in the Diocese. The first dinner is 6 p.m. – 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 16, at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Hall, 1301 Center Road, Venice, while the second is at the same time on Friday, October 7, at Our Lady of Light Parish, 19680 Cypress View Drive, Fort Myers. The dinner is $45. For those interested in attending either dinner, please contact Ellen Bachman at 941-721-7393 or

First Responders Mass

The Knights of Columbus Saints Cosmas and Damian Council 13341 is honored to sponsor the First Responders Mass at 1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 10, Our Lady of the Angels Parish, 12905 E. State Road 70, Lakewood Ranch. The Mass will honor the work of public safety personnel, including law enforcement officials, firefighters, and emergency medical service personnel. This Mass is a way to recognize the sacrifice of first responders and to remember those who have given their lives in service to their communities. All are welcome.

40 Days for Life Fall Campaign begins soon

The Fall Campaign of 40 Days for Life begins Sept. 28, 2022, and ends Nov. 6. Check with your Parish coordinator to join your Parish’s day on the sidewalk or go to (look under the locations tab for Sarasota or Fort Myers). Your presence can be a powerful sign to women in need that there are better options available. Questions? Contact Jeanne Berdeaux at or 941-374-1068.

Support CCW Seminarian Fund

Support, encourage and educate future priests through the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women Seminarian Fund. Join the VDCCW in celebrating Priesthood Sunday on Sept. 25, 2022, in a special and lasting way by sending your Parish 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 Zanetti, Seminarian Fund Guardian, 5808 Gulf Drive #204, Holmes Beach, FL 34217. If you have any questions, email Cornelia Zanetti at



‘Totus Tuus’ leaves impacts for a lifetime

When you note something took 40 days, that number has a significant connection to Sacred Scriptures, uniquely elevating the impact and meaning of an activity.

For example, the Bible states: 40 days and nights of rain during the great flood, Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai; Jonah preached 40 days to Nineveh; Goliath taunted Israel for 40 days; and Jesus fasted for 40 days, as well as other examples.

Therefore, there is a special significance in that the “Totus Tuus” summer camp was active in the Diocese of Venice for 40 days. This is not only because of its symbolic connection to the Bible, but for its wide-reaching impact on the hundreds of children and teens who participated. However, this positive impact was not limited to the campers; it was felt at the host Parishes, by the volunteers, and in the families, not to mention the missionaries and seminarians who led the camp each week.

In the Bible, after 40 days a great event always occurs, and the same is true in the Diocese at the completion of the “Totus Tuus” camp on Aug. 5, 2022.

Word has been spreading about the passionate growth in a love for Christ by the children at the host Parishes achieved in a single 5-day period. There is already a call to bring the missionaries back in the summer of 2023 at more Parishes, reaching even more children and teens.

Beginning June 6, at St. Katherine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral, host Parish priests have raved all summer about how this summer camp was different than anything that has been offered. Each of the five days of the “Totus Tuus” camp was an intensive and enriching time for the young participants as they learned about their faith and grew closer to the Lord.

By the time the camp reached its eighth weekly home, St. Patrick Parish in Sarasota from Aug. 1 to Aug. 5, the results were abundantly clear, the camp was a success and there was a demand for more of the same.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane visited the St. Patrick camp on Aug. 4, witnessing what the young children (aged from kindergarten to sixth grade) learned in just a few days.

The children, led by the “Totus Tuus” missionaries and accompanying Diocesan seminarians, were able to recite a variety of prayers and enthusiastically sang songs. When asked about the camp, eager little hands rose in excitement because the lessons of the week excited their minds and souls helping them to grow in their passionate relationship with the Lord.

Bishop Dewane praised the children on their knowledge of the lessons they had learned. These lessons focused on the Luminous Mysteries of the rosary, prayer, key aspects of a devotion to Jesus, all with a special focus on the Mass.

“You learned so much,” Bishop Dewane said. “That is very good. Remember, we all have more to learn about the Lord and our relationship with Jesus Christ and how that must continue to grow.”

Among the lessons during the camp, the children were taught how to view others as brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, when they see someone in need, they are to help, acting as Christ did.

“Totus Tuus” is a Latin phrase meaning “Totally Yours.” It was a motto of St. John Paul II, taken from St. Louis de Montfort’s “True Devotion to Mary.” It signifies our desire to give ourselves entirely to Jesus Christ through Mary.

Each Parish hosting the event welcomed children and teens from Monday morning to Friday afternoon.  These sessions were divided into daytime camp for children from first grade through sixth, and evening retreats for teens seventh grade through recent high school graduates. The weeks were filled with faith, fun, and friendship as well as games, crazy skits, and music. Throughout, the college-age leaders provided an authentic witness to the students. They were in turn supported by teen helpers for the day camp and adult volunteers in the evenings.

During this initial introduction to the “Totus Tuus” summer camp in the Diocese, only one Parish hosted the camp each week. In addition to St. Katharine Drexel and St. Patrick bookending the summer, other host Parishes included: St. Agnes in Naples (June 13-17); Our Lady Queen of Heaven in La Belle (June 20-24); St. Catherine in Sebring (June 27-July 1); St. John XXIII in Fort Myers (July 11-15); St. Joseph in Bradenton (July 18-22); and St. Elizabeth Seton in Naples (July 25-29).

The “Totus Tuus” program strives to bring an awareness of vocations to the young adults who serve as missionaries. Each missionary begins the day with morning prayer, praying the rosary and attending daily Mass. These missionaries serve as teachers for the camp by leading a small group of children or teens each day with lessons and activities to enhance the theme of prayer.

“Totus Tuus” missionaries were Stephanie Lovetere of the Diocese of Venice, Epiphany Cathedral and a student at Ave Maria University, Sam Salyer of the Diocese of Gary, Kate Ihlefeldt, of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, and Garrett Willie of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Additionally, assisting the missionaries were Diocese of Venice Seminarians Juan Contreras and James Gates.

Salyer finished his missionary work on fire for the Lord. “It has been an amazing journey,” he said. “I grew as a person, as a missionary and as a man of God. The interaction with the children of different ages opened up a whole new way for me to see how the Lord works in each of us. I saw the transformation of these children from uninterested to totally engaged in a short period of time. It was incredible.”

Seminarian Gates enjoyed helping connect the children with the wonders of Christ through the lessons, during Eucharistic Adoration and at Mass. “When you see the faces, the reactions, it is very special. Their enthusiasm validated the hard work we put into each day.”

Carrie Harkey, Diocesan Director of the Office of Family Life, who helped bring the “Totus Tuus” summer camp to the Diocese, said the praise from priests, religious education leaders and parents has been 100% positive. The only negative reaction was the request that the camp be longer than one week at a Parish.

“With the feedback we have received, we are going to bring the camp back for the summer of 2023,” Harkey said. “The enthusiasm is contagious and that is a god thing. This summer was a test to see how it worked and we have our results. Going forward, we now have an established program which directly engages young people, from kindergarten through high school, about their faith. That is very special.”

Priestly Ordination July 16 – All invited to witness important moment for Diocese

EDITOR’S NOTE – Story continues below:

Priestly Ordination to be Livestreamed

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the faithful to watch, via a livestream, the Ordination to the Priesthood of Transitional Deacons Christian Chami, David Portorreal, and Michael Young at 11 a.m., Saturday, July 16, from Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. The Ordination, presided over by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, will be livestreamed via the Cathedral at Links will laso be available via the Diocesan website,, or the Cathedral website, The livestream will begin a few minutes before 11 a.m. and be accessible later for those unable to watch live. Please note that you do not need to have a Facebook account to watch the livestream.

Profile of the three ordinandi

The Diocese of Venice relies on dedicated men who have committed their lives to serving God. Three such men will be ordained to the priesthood on July 16, 2022, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

Transitional Deacons Christian Chami, David Portorreal, and Michael Young have completed their priestly formation and have been called to ordination by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who will be the ordaining prelate. The ordination will be at 11 a.m., at the Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice.









In addition to Bishop Dewane, the Mass will include a number of priests, deacons, religious, family and friends from across the Diocese. All are invited to attend the Mass and a reception following the ordination in the Epiphany Parish Center.

“This is one of the most beautiful and rarely seen Sacraments in the Church,” Bishop Dewane explained. “The Diocese of Venice is blessed that these men have responded to the Call to Holiness, which comes with great responsibility and accountability. At ordination these men are joined to the Bishops in the priestly office and are called to serve God’s people.”

Venice Diocesan Director of Vocations, Father Shawn Roser, added that the ordination is the final step to priesthood, but it is not the conclusion of their priestly formation. “This is just the beginning.”

Deacon Chami, born in Montreal, Canada, raised in Naples since the age of 4, is a graduate of Florida State University where he first seriously heard the call for a vocation to the priesthood. His family is originally from Lebanon.

An accomplished swimmer in high school, Deacon Chami found through adversity that there was more to life than “looking at the bottom of the pool. The Lord always works in mysterious patterns… I would reach new heights as a swimmer and get hurt. It was then I realized that I needed to put God at the center of my life. So, I started asking; let me know Jesus, in a way I had never known before.”

While at Florida State, Deacon Chami credits the Brotherhood of Hope, a religious order which runs the Catholic Student Union in Tallahassee, with teaching him how to pray with Scripture, pray silently, and how to properly discern.

“I just had this moment where I realized that saying yes to becoming a priest or religious brother didn’t cause a sadness in me,” Deacon Chami added. “Rather it was joy. Because ultimately I’d be living and working with the Lord – and I wasn’t losing anything, rather I was gaining something that I hadn’t seen before.”

Since joining the Diocese as a seminarian, Deacon Chami graduated from St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami and then studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Within the Diocese, he has served pastoral assignments at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, Incarnation Parish in Sarasota, Sts. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish in Bradenton and St. Francis Xavier Parish in Fort Myers.

Deacon Portorreal grew up in Northeast Ohio attending Jesuit-run Catholic schools and then graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, before entering film school at Florida State University. He moved to Los Angeles to break into the film industry trying to sell screenplays, get acting jobs and even tried his hand as writer/director. But the seeds of a priestly vocation were planted in grade school and as the years passed there was a growing restlessness that the Ministerial Priesthood was what God wanted in his life.

“There was always this restlessness,” Deacon Portorreal said about his calling, admitting that he focused on other things first but wasn’t finding peace. “I was told by a formation director in Los Angeles that I was never going to truly know the answer until I formally discern. I decided to leave my life behind and move forward with those seeds planted way back when. I like to say that God is the great course corrector; so all of the different twists and turns in my life the Lord has led me to this moment where I am at the cusp of being a priest and I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Deacon Portorreal began his discernment with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles at St. John Seminary in Camarilla, California. But his parents are retired in Naples, so he eventually transferred to become a seminarian within the Diocese of Venice. As a seminarian, Deacon Portorreal has had pastoral assignments at St. William Parish in Naples and St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs.

Deacon Young was born in Atlanta, Georgia and grew up in Mississippi before settling in North Carolina. He too heard the call to the priesthood from a young age, but also pushed it to the back of his mind when he joined the U.S. Navy and served for four years. It was there that he appreciated his faith more profoundly as access to a priest was rare while onboard a ship at sea.

When Deacon Young left the Navy, he became a law enforcement officer and special/enforcement agent. He later worked as a reentry program case manager for men and women transitioning from the Federal Bureau of Prisons back into society.

He described his calling to the priesthood as a series of moments when he received reinforcement to move forward, first with a career and then to a life in service to the Lord. “Some people have a calling early and some later in life. When you are ready, you know it. I always had good spiritual advisors who planted the seeds of my discernment, beginning with my parents. The advice was always to stay strong in the Faith, and here I am.”

Deacon Young earned a degree from John Wesley College in North Carolina and is a former member of a religious community who then transitioned to the Diocese of Venice. He recently graduated from Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts, which caters to second-career vocations. Within the Diocese of Venice, he served pastoral summer assignments at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota and Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice.

While Transitional Deacons Chami, Portorreal and Young are being ordained on July 16, there are another 13 men in the Diocese who are at various stages in their priestly formation, either in college or at a seminary where they have begun studies toward the ordained priesthood. The seminarians are currently engaged in various summer pastoral assignments.

Seminarians are supported by the Diocese of Venice through the Catholic Faith Appeal, the Knights of Columbus, the Council of Catholic Women and the generosity of individual parishes and parishioners. Parishioners from around the Diocese are encouraged to help support the seminarians in their studies and choice of vocation.

To contribute to the education of the seminarians, send a check to the Diocese of Venice, Office of Vocations, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285 or go to For more information about the seminarians or Vocations, contact Father Roser at 941-484-9543.


Totally Yours! Hundreds having fun with faith

The new Diocese of Venice Totus Tuus Summer Camp has been generating a lot of buzz as it moves from Parish to Parish each week. Hundreds of children and teens have been having fun learning about the Catholic Faith throughout the Diocese.

Totus Tuus (a Latin phrase meaning “totally yours”) is a summer Catholic youth camp program dedicated to sharing the Gospel and promoting the Catholic Faith through evangelization, catechesis, Christian witness and Eucharistic worship. The camp is directed by a team of four missionaries and two Diocesan seminarians. Parish staff and volunteers augment the team and together they make the week one to remember for all who participate.

Father Jiobani Batista, Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle – which hosted Totus Tuus the week of June 20-24, 2022 – said if he had his way, he would welcome a Totus Tuus Summer Camp every week, all summer.

“The enthusiasm and wonder of the young children have been great,” Father Batista said. “Then, the engagement and excitement from the teens was incredible. I am having young kids come up to me at each break asking me questions about everything. That is amazing. To see their interest and excitement about Jesus, the Mass and everything about their Faith is very exciting.”

The day camp program is for grades one to five, and is Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and evenings are for grades six through 12, is Monday to Thursday from 7:30 9:45 p.m. The camp opened the week of June 6 at St. Katherine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral, where 50 children, and 27 youth participated. Then the following week at St. Agnes Parish in Naples some 100 young children and more than 60 teens participated, with a group coming from Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee.

The Our Lady Queen of Heaven week engaged more than 100 children during the day and some 60 youth in the evening. This group also included children from St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston. This was followed by a week at St. Catherine Parish in Sebring, with participants (about 100 youth and 60 teens) also coming from St. James Parish in Lake Placid and Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park.

Each day of the children’s camp, the participants learn lessons about the importance of prayer, and ways to pray, from the basics of the Our Father and Hail Mary to the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. They also learn about the importance of the Eucharist and how Jesus walks with them all the time.

Diocesan Seminarians Juan Contreras and James Gates are fully involved in the daily activities of the camp, taking charge of some classes of the younger campers and being team leaders for the older groups in the evenings.

“I think this camp is making a difference and it’s fun to see how much enthusiasm the little kids have and compare that to the teens and their questions, which are much more serious and profound,” Contreras said.

“It is great to see the reaction of the little kids when they learn something new,” Gates said. “The teens just like to hang out, but they are interested and that is important.”

Seeing the seminarians every day, in a relaxed setting, gives the campers of all ages a positive role model whom they can look up to and interact with, which is an opportunity they might not otherwise have. Some of their impactful actions by the seminarians are subtle: such as a compliment here, or a smile there, and perhaps a high five for a job well done. At other times, the seminarians teach the young children the basics of praying the Our Father and Hail Mary, or they are leaders in prayer, such as during the Liturgy of the Hours with the youth in the evening, or perhaps when they join in the crazy dancing and fun games.

“Having the young children and youth see the seminarians is really inspiring,” Father Batista said. “They are great with the little ones and can answer any question for the teens. In fact, I already have some inquiring to be a Totus Tuus missionary next year and others who are expressing an interest in a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. That is great. I wish we had all of the seminarians here.”

After the final evening prayer with the youth at Our Lady Queen of Heaven, many of the teens sought out the two seminarians, as well as the other four missionaries, to personally thank them, often seeking a high-five, fist-bump or even a hug, always with a big smile.

Angelica Pena, Director of Religious Education at Our Lady Queen of Heaven, praised the structure and focus of Totus Tuus. She was amazed at how well her students were picking up the most complex of topics and then remembering the next day.

“This is a whole year of religious education crammed into one week for the young ones, and they love it, and more importantly the parents love it,” Pena said. “They are learning, and they are remembering prayers and lessons in a way that just doesn’t happen when you see them for 90 minutes each week.”

Only one Parish hosts the camp each week. The Parishes hosting Totus Tuus for the rest of the summer are: St. John XXIII in Fort Myers, July 11-15; St. Joseph in Bradenton, July 18-22; St. Elizabeth Seton in Naples, July 25-29; and St. Patrick in Sarasota, August 1-August 5.

There are still some openings for this program. Please contact the Director of Religious Education at the Parish hosting the program or Anne Chrzan at

Parish Mission and day camps bring delight

St. Michael Parish in Wauchula has been busy! For two weeks in mid-June, the Parish held day camps for children and evening missions for the adults all while hosting 28 men and women who are discerning a vocation to a religious life.

Daily, between June 13 and June 24, 2022, more than 100 children arrived at the Parish to take part in a camp which included Mass, prayer, and lots of fun indoor and outdoor activities. The evenings were for the parents who came to hear talks and take part in Mass as part of the “Holy Mission – Save Your Soul.” The response from the children and adults was overwhelmingly positive.

Present to assist were 13 novice sisters, who are discerning a vocation for the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, and 15 seminarians who are discerning for the Incarnate Word religious order in Washington, D.C. They were joined by the four women religious and the priests of the Parish.

The busy two weeks culminated on June 24, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is celebrated annually on the Friday after Corpus Christi Sunday. The closing evening Mass included prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and even a renewal of wedding vows for many couples.

A Sacred Heart Procession was held with a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus led in the rain around the Parish property as the faithful sang and prayed. The procession concluded in front of a new cross which was erected to commemorate the Holy Mission. The priests present led everyone in prayer and blessed the cross. All then took part in a farewell reception in the Parish Hall to thank the novice sisters and seminarians for being present at St. Michael Parish, and also to pray for them as they continue their discernment into a religious life.

Faith Can Be Fun!

What do you get when upwards of 100 children gather for a special summer camp – a growth in Faith and lots of fun.

Part way into its second week, the inaugural Totus Tuus Summer Camp for children and teens has been a great success. The opening week, June 6-10, 2022, at St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral, brought in 50 children each day and 27 teens each evening. The second week, June 13-17, is at St. Agnes Parish in Naples and there are more than 100 children and 60 youth taking part. Among the group at St. Agnes were also children from Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee.

The goal of the Totus Tuus Summer Camp is to help young people grow in their understanding of the faith and strengthening of their faith in Jesus Christ. The camp is directed by a team of four missionaries and two Diocesan seminarians. Parish staff and volunteers augment the team and together they make the week one to remember for all who participate.

Each day of the weeklong camp, the children and youth learn lessons about the importance of prayer, and ways to pray, from the basics of the Our Father and Hail Mary to the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.

They also learn about the importance of the Eucharist and how Jesus walks with them all the time, explained Anne Chrzan, Diocesan Director of Religious Education.

The day begins with music to pump the children up and get them ready for the full day ahead with all the time focused on learning key lessons about their faith. In addition to dancing, music and prayer, the children have time for activities such as crafts and games.

There is time for Mass each day with additional quiet reflective time in Eucharistic Adoration and three days when there is opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Mass portion of the day is more than participating in the important celebration of the Holy Eucharist. It is at this time during the camp when the children not only learn the various hymns but also learn about the different parts of the Mass and why they are so key to this important celebration. For example, when entering the Church, the children are brought to the Holy Water Font and taught how and why they are to respectfully dip their finger in the water and bless themselves.

Diocesan Seminarians Juan Contreras and James Gates are fully involved in the daily activities of the camp, serving as leaders in prayer and offering their discernment stories to the teens in the evenings. They serve as leaders when teaching about hearing the call of the Lord in one’s life, citing their own examples as a guide for others to follow.

The teen aspect of the summer camp is confined to the evenings and focuses on allowing the Totus Tuus missionaries and seminarians to share their stories and lead discussions on topics that are important to young people today. The teens also take part in Adoration and there is a special focus on growing their prayer life and relationship with the Lord.

There is a mid-week potluck during which families come and see firsthand what their children have learned as they perform skits or short plays about different aspects of their faith. The week concludes with a water day of outside fun and games.

Rose M. Talbot-Babey, Director of Religious Education at St. Katharine Drexel, sent a note to Chrzan about the week, saying she received lots of positive feedback from parents and children alike about how they enjoyed the Totus Tuus camp.

“In particular, the children were sharing what they had learned once they got home which is so encouraging and the parents were pleased with that,” Talbot-Babey wrote.

Only one Parish hosts the camp each week. The Parishes hosting Totus Tuus this summer are: St. Katherine Drexel; St. Agnes in Naples; Our Lady Queen of Heaven in La Belle, June 20-24; St. Catherine in Sebring, June 27-July 1; St. John XXIII in Fort Myers, July 11-15; St. Joseph in Bradenton, July 18-22; St. Elizabeth Seton in Naples, July 25-29; and St. Patrick in Sarasota, August 1-August 5.

The camp program, for grades 1-5, takes place Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and for grades 6-12, it is Monday to Thursday from 7:30 9:45 p.m.

Several parishes still have openings for this program. Please contact the Director of Religious Education at the Parish hosting the program or Anne Chrzan at

News Briefs for the Week of May 20, 2022

Volunteers sort food

More than 150 volunteers came to the St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton to help sort and store 50,000 pounds of food on May 14, 2022. The food was collected during the U.S. Postal Service Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.

CCW council re-established in Sebring

The St. Catherine Council of Catholic Women was re-established during a ceremony in Sebring on May 7, 2022. The installation ceremony included representatives from the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women who aided in this process. The Council acts within the Parish to support, empower and educate Catholic women in spirituality, leadership and service. The installation was presided over by Father Jose Gonzalez, Pastor of St. Catherine.

Diocesan seminarian Valedictorian

Transitional Deacon David Portorreal, a Diocese of Venice Seminarian, graduated on May 12, 2022, from St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. The commencement address was by Most Rev. Felipe J. Estévez, Bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine. Deacon Portorreal was the Valedictorian of his graduating class and will be ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on July 16, 2022, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

SVdP International president visits Parish

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul International President General Renato Lima de Oliveira visited members of the Sacred Heart Conference on May 5, 2022, in Punta Gorda. He congratulated the conference for their spirituality, friendship and their Vincentian Spirit. He was amazed at the size and ability of the conference to help the community in so many ways.

Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate June 18

All are invited and encouraged to attend the Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate for the following candidate: Craig Dutka of Holy Cross Parish in Palmetto. The Ordination will be held at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, June 18, 2022, at Holy Cross Parish, 506 26th St. W., Palmetto. A reception in the Parish Hall will follow.

Our Lady of Fatima Rosary Rally

Please join our national America Needs Fatima Rosary Rally for the Traditional Family and Public Prayers in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to end abortion Saturday, June 4, from noon to 1:00 p.m., at the corner of Daniels Parkway and Daniels Commerce Blvd near Tile Outlet of America and TIAA Bank in Fort Myers. Parking is in an empty lot at Daniels Commerce Blvd and Commerce Park Blvd or John Yarbrough Linear Park off Daniels at Metro Parkways. Please arrive 10 minutes early and bring your Pro-Life signs, chairs, water and umbrellas. For more information, please contact Toni at

Charismatic Pentecost Celebration

The Diocese of Venice English Charismatic Renewal invites all to join them for a celebration on Pentecost Sunday at 3:00 p.m., June 5 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 211 West Charlotte Avenue, Punta Gorda. The afternoon will include praise and worship followed by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at 4:00 p.m. Please bring your Prayer Group Banner and Stand as there will be a Banner Procession. For further information, please contact Alice Keough at or 941-484-3505 ext. 1104.

Youth Conference in July

The 14th annual Ave Maria University Youth Conference – “Fearless” is July 8-10, 2022. Featured talks are by Father Rick Martignetti, Father Joseph Lugalambi, Father Rich Pagano and Chris Padget. The event includes the talks, Mass, Adoration, praise and worship, fellowship, opportunities for confession and much more. The cost is $175 and includes lodging, all meals t-shirt and more. To register, call 239-348-4725, or

Two Seminarians ordained Transitional Deacon

Alan Baldarelli Jr. and Michael Young followed different calls of the Lord in their lives, but their answers were the same, leading the two Diocese of Venice seminarians on a journey toward the priesthood. The pair reached a major milestone along that path on April 2, 2022, when they were ordained as Transitional Deacons.

Deacons Baldarelli and Young were among 11 ordained at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Boca Raton by Most Rev. David L. Toups, Bishop of the Diocese of Beaumont, Texas. The men, from different Dioceses across Florida, are studying at both St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach and Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts.

With a broad smile on his face throughout his ordination, Deacon Baldarelli moves forward comfortable in the knowledge that he is truly following the call of the Lord in his life.

“I feel very confident in my vocation call,” he said. He explained that the personal perspective gained from his previous work life before entering seminary, as well as seminarian pastoral assignments in Parishes, all combined to bring him to this joyful point in his spiritual journey.

Deacon Young said that this milestone is all part of a bigger journey. “I am in awe; one step closer to being able to save souls. This is all much bigger than me and I am blessed to be here.”

The first of three ranks of ordained ministry in the Church, deacons perform many services to the Church in conjunction with the ministries of priests and bishops. In Parish life, deacons may preside at baptisms, weddings and rites of Christian burial, assist the priest at Mass, proclaim the Gospel and deliver homilies.

In his homily, Bishop Toups explained how Jesus was the Good Shepherd, and we must always be good sheep and follow the voice, and for the 11 men, that call is as deacons, and soon to be priests, all done with humble confidence and trust in the Lord.

“Jesus knows you and loves you,” Bishop Toups said. “You are not alone. He has called you for this time – from the womb of all eternity – He has called you to serve and evangelize a world in a global pandemic, at war in Europe, and in a post-Christian culture that desperately needs the Good Shepherd even if they don’t even know it.”

Citing the example of Pope John Paul II, who died 17 years to the day of the ordination, as an example of someone who let nothing deter his efforts to serve the Lord, Bishop Toups noted how all those called to a vocation to priesthood are uniquely called to the period of history in which they live and then to respond heroically. “We need such heroes for today.”

“You are called to shepherd and feed because our world is starving,” the Bishop continued. “Brothers, first, be good sheep every day and be aware always that Jesus knows you and He loves you. As you turn to Him, the Good Shepherd; listen to His voice in prayer; trust Him to lead you; and then you will be shepherds worthy of the name.”

Following the homily, the men approached Bishop Toups one-by-one, knelt and promised respect and obedience to his Bishop and his successors. To signify humble submission before God, the men then lay prostrate in the sanctuary while the assembly sang the Litany of Saints.

The ordinations were complete after each man again approached the Bishop who imposed his hands on the candidate and proclaimed a prayer of consecration, to confer the Holy Spirit to guide their ministries.

The Deacons then received a stole and dalmatic (the exterior garb of a deacon), signifying the Office of Diaconate and the deacon’s role in the celebration of the Eucharist.

Next, the newly ordained Deacons knelt before the Bishop who presented them with the Book of the Gospels, and said: “Receive the Gospels of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” The reception of the Book of Gospels is a symbol of their new ministry of proclaiming the Gospel and preaching. The Rite of Ordination concluded with the fraternal kiss of peace.

Deacon Baldarelli, 39, has been studying at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary since 2016. He previously graduated from John Carroll University in Ohio earning a degree in marketing. He worked in sales for 11 years prior to becoming a seminarian for the Diocese of Venice. As a seminarian, he had summer pastoral assignments at Holy Cross Parish in Palmetto and St. Paul Parish in Arcadia, and then completed a pastoral year at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. He said he benefitted from the sage wisdom of each of his priestly mentors.

Deacon Young, 55, has been studying at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary which specializes in formation for later vocations. He served in the U.S. Navy before becoming a law enforcement officer and special/enforcement agent. He later worked as a reentry program case manager for men and women transitioning from the Federal Bureau of Prisons back into society. He earned a degree from John Wesley College in North Carolina and is a former member of a religious community who has now transitioned to candidacy for the Diocesan priesthood. Within the Diocese of Venice, he served pastoral summer assignments at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota and Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice.

Please pray for these men as they continue their spiritual journey.

News Briefs for the Week of April 1, 2022

Two to be ordained Transitional Deacon April 2

Diocese of Venice Seminarians Michael Young and Alan Baldarelli Jr. will be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate, along with nine others, at 11 a.m. April 2, 2022, at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Boynton Beach. Young is studying at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts, while Baldarelli is studying at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. Presiding over the ordination is Bishop David Toups of the Diocese of Beaumont. The liturgy will be livestreamed at As newly ordained Transitional Deacons, these men will be assigned to Parishes where they will exercise their ministry in preparation to become priests. Among many duties, they will preach, perform baptisms, witness marriages, as well as preside over wakes and funerals. Please join in praying for Michael and Alan as they take this important step in their vocational journey.

40th Anniversary celebration a success

St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School’s 40th Anniversary Celebration Gala & Auction was a great success in Naples on March 26, 2022. Parents, priests, parishioners, and other supporters attended the event at the Spirit Center of St. Peter the Apostle Parish. It was a fun night of fellowship, dinner, music and dancing with silent and live auctions, and a Call to the Heart to fund a second Kindergarten classroom in the fall. Demand for enrollment at Seton is at an all-time high creating a great need for additional classroom and administrative space. The event raised approximately $200,000 benefiting the school’s ongoing Campus Expansion Program to meet the needs of the many families desiring quality Catholic education for their children. For more information about the school’s expansion plans, visit

Genocide survivor shares story of loss and forgiveness

Immaculée Ilibagiza, a Rwandan genocide survivor and author, was the guest speaker at the annual Faith & Ale – Faith & Wine Joint Event in Lee County at St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers on March 24, 2022. Approximately 650 heard Immaculée’s presentation as she shared her amazing story of being a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. In addition to sharing the details of having lost her parents and brothers, her message centered around the topic of faith, hope and forgiveness. Faith & Wine Lee County is a Catholic faith lay-group which unites women of all backgrounds. A related program, Faith & Ale, is a Catholic men’s group and will host its final gathering of the season on April 21 at St. John XXIII Parish, 13060 Palomino Lane, Fort Myers, for a presentation by Dan Hesse on the topic, “Can Catholic Values Save Capitalism?” Hesse is a retired CEO of AT&T Wireless Services and Sprint. The program begins at 6 p.m., with pizza and refreshments for a $10 donation. Reservations are required – please register online at

History project develops special skills

Second grade students at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton completed a biography research project on March 25, 2022, which included making a presentation and dressing up as the historical figure they researched. The students also created posters, a wax museum and essays about the person. Among the historical figures chosen were Abraham Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Gala supports Cardinal Mooney

Race for the Roses Gala, benefiting Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, was held March 25, 2022, at the Grove in Lakewood Ranch. Supporters dressed in their favorite outfits fit for a day at the Kentucky Derby. Proceeds were targeting the creation of a new science and physics labs. Ginger Judge was this year’s recipient of the School Sister’s of Notre Dame Award for her continuous support of Cardinal Mooney.

Ave Maria students run for gold

The girls track team of Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish came home from the Immokalee Meet on March 23, 2022, with seven gold medals, two silvers, five bronzes and winning the meet overall! The boy’s team did well, too, earning multiple medals and an overall third place team finish. Special recognition goes to Freshman Izzy Meyer who brought home three gold medals. The results are impressive taking into account this is only the second year the school has had a track team.

Care packages for needy

On March 28, 2022, students at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral partnered with the St. Vincent de Paul Society to create “care packages” for the needy of Southwest Florida. The students had been collecting the items for weeks leading up to a packing session. Items included various products that promote personal hygiene.

Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Televised Mass

The Diocese of Venice in Florida will air the televised Palm Sunday (April 10) and Easter Sunday (April 17) Masses, each for a full hour. The Masses can be viewed at 9 a.m. on the CW Network in Sarasota, Manatee, Desoto, Charlotte, Hardee and Highland counties, and at 10:30 a.m. on FOX-4 in Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Hendry, Glades and Desoto counties. The Mass is also available on the Diocese of Venice website at

Diocesan-wide Opportunity for Sacrament of Reconciliation

As the Lenten Season progresses, the precept of confessing grave sins and receiving Holy Communion at least once during the Lenten Season merits a reminder to all. To facilitate this requirement, every Parish in the Diocese of Venice will be open with a confessor present from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., on Friday, April 8, and from 9:00 a.m. to noon, Saturday, April 9. Check with your local Parish for additional confession times or the availability of a Penance Service. These opportunities are made available so that the faithful may find ample opportunity to receive God’s Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the Lenten Season.

Chrism Mass April 12

The Diocese of Venice Chrism Mass, which takes place during Holy Week every year, will be held at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, April 12 at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., in Venice. During this Mass, the faithful of the Diocese join the Priests, Deacons and Bishop for the blessing of 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.

The 2022 Priest and Deacon Jubilarians are:

  • 50 years – Msgr. Joseph Stearns, Father Adrian Wilde, O. Carm., Father David Foley, and Deacon Ray Barrett.
  • 25 years – Father Hugh McGuigan, OSFS, Father Patrick O’Connor, OSFS, Father Leszek Sikorski, Deacon Henry de Mena, and Deacon Mark Miravalle.

Mass for Victims of Child Abuse

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and in conjunction with the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Diocese of Venice will hold a Mass for Victims of Child Abuse for the 15th consecutive year. The Mass will take place at 8 a.m., Wednesday, April 20, 2022, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. The Mass will be live-streamed, and all are welcome to attend as we come together to pray for the victims of abuse.