News Briefs for the Week of March 15, 2024

Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Televised Mass schedule

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

Student wins prestigious essay contest

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

Student wins state Knights free throw challenge

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

First Communion retreat held in Wauchula

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

Students take part in weekly Lenten prayer service

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

Gala to celebrate Community Pregnancy Clinics 50th anniversary

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

Chrism Mass at Cathedral on March 26

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


Mooney girls team ends season with impressive record

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Briefs for the Week of February 2, 2024

Mooney runner named Florida Gatorade Player of the Year

Addison Dempsey, a senior at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, has been named the 2023-24 Gatorade Florida Girls Cross Country Player of the Year. Dempsey is the first Gatorade Florida Girls Cross Country Player of the Year to be chosen from Cardinal Mooney.  The award, announced Jan. 22, 2024, celebrates the nation’s top high school athletes for excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community.   The 5-foot-5 senior capped her 2023 campaign by racing to 18th place at the Foot Locker South Regional Championships, clocking a time of 17:39.22 as the state’s top finisher at the event. Dempsey established four new course records this past season, breaking the tape with a personal-best 5K time of 17:20.20 at the North Port XC Invitational. She won eight races during the fall and was Florida’s top finisher at the prestigious Adidas XC Challenge, where she took third.  She earned a bronze in the November Florida High School Athletic Association Girls Class 2A 5K. She earned a silver in the same event in 2022. A volunteer on behalf of the Boys and Girls Club, which assists local, underserved kids and provides them a safe environment, Dempsey has also donated her time as a coach at youth soccer camps and as part of running trail clean-up projects. Dempsey has maintained an impressive 3.88 GPA in the classroom.

School holds memorable night in the “Scottish Highlands”

The annual Celtic Ball, supporting St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, took place at the school on Jan. 27, 2024. The theme of the night was the “Scottish Highlands.” Bishop Frank J. Dewane applauded the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco who serve at St. John Neumann for their unfailing commitment to education and for the example they are for their students and the entire school community. Bishop Dewane also thanked the parents for entrusting their children’s education and future to St. John Neumann. The evening included a live and silent auction, and guests were provided with Scottish cloaks, while some men wore traditional kilts.

Mass honors law enforcement, fire fighters and first responders

To honor and remember the service of active, retired and fallen law enforcement officers, firefighters and first responders who offer their lives in service to the community to keep us all safe and well, St. Agnes Parish in Naples hosted the annual Blue Mass on Jan. 27, 2023. The opening procession was led by music from the Southwest Florida Guns ‘n Hoses Pipes ‘n Drums corps with bagpipes and drums, the Knights of Columbus Color Corps, and Columbiettes. Msgr. Steven P. Hurley, of Wilmington, Delaware, was the homilist for the Mass. He was a policeman in Maryland for eight years before following a vocation to the priesthood. After the Mass, each active and retired first responder present was asked to come forward to receive a token of appreciation. Law enforcement officials received a St. Michael the Archangel Medal, firefighters a St. Florian Medal, and a special medal was also presented for all other first responders. A barbeque, hosted by the Knights of Columbus, followed in the Parish Hall.

National Marriage Week, and World Marriage Day!

The observances of National Marriage Week from Feb. 7 -14, 2024, and World Marriage Day, Sunday, Feb. 11, are opportunities to focus on building a culture of life and love that begins with supporting and promoting marriage and the family. The theme for 2024 is “Love Beyond Words.”  For resources from the USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth to help celebrate and live the great gift of married life, please visit Celebrate National Marriage Week 2024 – For Your Marriage. Resources are available in both English and Spanish.

Health Care Ethics Conference Feb. 17

Medical professionals, students, and interested laypeople are invited to the first annual Converging Roads health care ethics conference on Feb. 17, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs! This one-day conference will offer continuing education credits for health care professionals with presentations centered on the theme of Catholic Medicine in a Secular Society. For information, contact Carrie Harkey at, and to register, go to

2024 Catholic Charities Ball Feb. 17 in Sarasota

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., invites all to the 2024 Catholic Charities Ball, 6 p.m., Feb. 17, 2024, at Michael’s On East Ballroom, 1212 S. East Ave., Sarasota. The theme is “Serving All,” and supports the programs of Catholic Charities in Sarasota and Manatee counties. This year also marks the launch of the new Long-term Recovery Program, which is actively helping families still recovering from Hurricane Ian and other natural disasters. Tickets are $400 a person. The evening will include a cocktail hour, live and silent auctions, fine dining, dancing, and live entertainment. Register at For more information, 941-376-7845 or email

Few spots remain for Eucharistic Congress pilgrimage with Bishop

Join Bishop Frank J. Dewane on a Pilgrimage to the 10th National Eucharistic Congress. Only eight spots remain! This once-in-a-lifetime 5-day gathering will take place in Indianapolis July 17 – 21, 2024. The National Eucharistic Congress represents the culmination of the Church’s three-year effort to put an emphasis on the Real Presence of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Eucharistic.  It is a pivotal moment in the Church, and a unique opportunity for participants to draw into a deeper, more intimate relationship with Our Lord. For pilgrimage details, please visit Questions? Contact Carrie Harkey,


50th Catholic Schools Week– Jan. 28 – Feb. 3 – Diocesan Catholic schools continue to thrive

Each day is a celebration of educating the mind, body and spirit at Catholic Schools throughout the Diocese of Venice.

A more public celebration will occur the week of Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, 2024, when Diocesan schools will participate in a series of exciting activities as part of the 50th annual National Catholic Schools Week.

Sponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), the week provides an annual opportunity to share the good news about Catholic Schools. The theme, “Catholic Schools: United in Faith and Community.” focuses on the important spiritual, academic, and societal contributions provided by a Catholic education firmly rooted in the Truth of the Gospel.

Within the 15 Diocese of Venice Catholic schools, these are exciting times. Just in the past year, a rapid increase in enrollment has continued; an already cutting-edge curriculum has expanded; and many schools are working on projects to expand and upgrade their campus facilities.

Schools typically observe the annual celebration week with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners, and community members. On the weekend starting Catholic Schools Week, look for students to speak at Parish Masses to explain the benefits of supporting their education.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane said Diocesan Catholic Schools not only educate the mind but also the soul, teaching the students to have a concern for their brothers and sisters, whether they live in the same country, down the street, or are in their classroom, through prayer, and the teaching of values, morals, and virtues.

“Through this broader approach, the student begins to learn, to reach out, beyond themselves, seeing for themselves that we are all made in the image and likeness of God,” Bishop Dewane said.

Catholic Schools Week 2024 promises to be bigger and better than ever, starting with the large numbers of students attending Diocesan Catholic schools, which is topping 6,200. This a 30 percent growth rate in the high schools in four years and 40 percent increase in the grade schools. As enrollment for the 2024-2025 Academic Year ramps up, space is limited.

St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School is in the process of building a science center/gymnasium which is expected to add six classrooms and open by the start of the 2024-2025 Academic Year. Several schools also received temporary portable classrooms to accommodate added enrollment. These are temporary solutions as long-term capital campaigns are being planned for projects to upgrade existing facilities, and add classrooms to accommodate current and projected growth.

“This is a good problem to have,” said Jesuit Father John Belmonte, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education. “We have been blessed in that people are choosing Diocesan Catholic schools. Parents are finding a rigorous academic program, but more importantly, the curriculum is about training the will of each student and teaching them to make the right decisions so that they can do the good that is needed by not only their families and themselves but by society.”

Each school offers a comprehensive STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, art, and math) learning model which is combined with the Diocesan curriculum called, “The Gifts of Christ: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Affability, Fortitude, Humility, and Prudence,” creating students of good moral character equipped to succeed in the world of today. This program has a strong robotics component as well.

“We prepare our students for today and for the future,” Bishop Dewane said. “We give the students what they need for success in this challenging world. Through this initiative, we are helping students to discover who they are as men and women of faith, as they learn these virtues that Christ calls us to, time after time in the Gospel.”

For example, there is an annual Diocesan robotics competition, dubbed the Lion Cup. This event brings together teams for each of the schools. The 2023 edition was a highlight for both students and teachers. Nearly 40 teams, and more than 220 students gathered for the middle and high school robotics tournament. The competition was fierce, and the intensity built as the day progressed and the participants became laser-focused on being the best in completing complicated tasks with their machines. Robotics teams are already gearing up for the 2024 Lion Cup which will be in April. In the meantime, the different robotics teams compete in public regional competitions.

On the spiritual side of the education, Father Belmonte has developed an annual devotional project, which is themed to focus students on a particular prayer or aspect of the faith, all in a continued effort to help them grow closer to Jesus Christ. The 2023-2024 project is themed, “Cause of Our Joy: Marian Devotional Project.” The focus of the project is teaching the students about Our Lady, and the importance of praying the Most Holy Rosary. This project builds upon the theme from the previous year, “The Most Holy Eucharist: The Riches of His Glorious Inheritance,” which was done in support of the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival. The Revival is a U.S. Bishops outreach to help increase devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist through prayer and Eucharistic Adoration.

On Dec. 8, 2023, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School football team from Sarasota, earned the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 1S state championship. This was 51 years to the day (Dec. 8, 1972) of the last state title by a Mooney football team. A victory rally was held on Dec. 19 at Mooney.

In addition, the Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria won the 6-man football championship. Also, the Mooney girls’ basketball team, and the St. John Neumann Catholic High School baseball team in Naples, both reached the state Final Four in their respective divisions. Consistently, individual and team Diocesan athletes excel in swimming, cross country, track and field and more. Many go on to earn athletic scholarships and continue playing sports at the collegiate level.

While sports achievements are impressive, many Diocesan students earn honors for their academic and artistic gifts as well.

One Bishop Verot Catholic High School student in Fort Myers recently earned a perfect score on the ACT college placement exam. Students in all grades score at the advanced level on national tests while being grounded in the knowledge of the Catholic Faith. Impressively, the 2023 graduating high schoolers garnered more than $43.2 million in scholarship offers. Those numbers include students earning nationally competitive academic honors, such as the National Merit Scholarship. An astounding 99 percent of the graduates are heading off to higher education at some of the top colleges and universities in the land.

For the artists, students across the Diocese earn honors in both local, regional, and national competitions. In fact, for the past six years, at least one Diocesan student has been recognized for their artwork in the annual Missionary Childhood Association Christmas Art Contest. In the past year, several students have been recognized by county governments for their artistic talents, with artwork appearing in numerous environmentally-themed calendars.

The 15 Diocesan Catholic schools are an investment in the future as they serve as the heart of the Diocese, building the Catholic leadership of tomorrow. Schools are in Bradenton, Sarasota, Venice, Port Charlotte, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples, Ave Maria and Sebring.

Scholarships are available to help ease some of the financial burden, and families should not assume that they wouldn’t qualify. In addition to school, Parish and Diocesan support, state scholarships such as Step Up For Students are also available.

Catholic Schools Week 2024 will showcase many of these aspects of Catholic education within the Diocese of Venice. Please check with the nearest Diocesan Catholic school for a list of public activities by visiting

Mooney celebrates state title

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School hosted a victory rally for the state champion Cougar football team before a jubilant crowd in their home stadium in Sarasota on Dec. 19, 2023.

The team earned the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 1S state championship in Tallahassee on Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was 51 years to the day, in 1972, since the last football state championship was won by Cardinal Mooney.

Following a highlight video, the players ran onto the field to the adoring cheers of family, faculty, students, and alumni. Cardinal Mooney Chaplain Father Eric Scanlan offered the opening prayer, followed by remarks from Principal Ben Hopper. A Proclamation was then read by Sarasota City Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, Mooney Class of 1982.

Athletic Director Rafael Fernandez addressed the team, stating how proud he was of the players and how the state title was just the first step in creating a championship legacy at Cardinal Mooney. Fernandez brought five senior stars onto the stage to unveil the new championship banner. The banner will be on permanent display in the school gymnasium.

Head Coach Jared Clark got emotional when talking about the team, their heart, grit and determination, overcoming all challenges to achieve the ultimate goal – a state title. He also spoke about the many who worked behind the scenes, including the athletic trainers, assistant coaches, and their families. Coach Clark stressed that the players were brothers for life, and no matter where life takes them, they will always be Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School state champions.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane offered the closing prayer, saying that the team has shown that they will succeed in sports and now they are encouraged to succeed in life, with the Lord accompanying them along the way.

The rally concluded with a fireworks display, and the players signing team photos for fans.

Mooney State Champs! First time in 51 years

The Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School football team earned the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 1S state championship in Tallahassee on Dec. 8, 2023, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

This is the first Cardinal Mooney Cougar state football title since 1972.

The Sarasota team defeated Trinity Catholic High School of Ocala with the final score of 31-27, at Ken Riley Field at Bragg Memorial Stadium (Tallahassee), home of Florida A&M University. The team scored the winning touchdown with 47 seconds to play in the game. An interception on the last play of the game sealed the victory.

The star of the game was junior wide receiver/defensive back Chris Mccorkle who scored on a 39-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Michael Valentino. Mccorkle then intercepted a desperate “Hail Mary” pass in the end zone with all zeroes on the play clock.

The exciting game was hard fought, with Trinity Catholic scoring first before Cardinal Mooney rattled off three touchdowns by early in the second quarter. They included a 75-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Devin Mignery to Mccorkle to tie the score at 7. Then a four-yard touchdown run from senior Carson Beach brought the score to 14-7. This was followed by an 82-yard pass from Valentino to wide receiver Teddy Foster, bringing the score to 21-7.

However, Trinity managed to tie the game by halftime. A 33-yard field goal from Nino Scheitz put the Cougars up 24-21 in the third quarter, but two field goals from Trinity, including a 49-yarder with 1:10 to play in the game, put the Cougars behind. Just 23 seconds later, the game-winning pass and reception brought a long-awaited championship to the Sarasota team.

An emotional Head Coach Jared Clark, who spoke after the game, said “This is a special group of young men… We won this (championship) 51 years to the day of the last one… Some of the ‘72 guys were on the sidelines. There is so much love from the alumni… I’m so proud of these kids… It is these young men and the coaching staff. These guys are amazing!”

Senior quarterback Valentino, who suffered from a punctured lung and broken ribs early in the season posted on social media, “What a journey. Thank you Jesus for the ups and the downs. Love this team! Jeremiah 29:11.”

Sophomore quarterback Mignery posted to social media as well, saying “All the hard work finally showed yesterday! Love all my brothers!”

In an interview after the game, Mccorkle, who finished the game with two catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns, plus an interception, said, “It feels great. I don’t even know what to say right now. I’m shocked we even won this. My mindset and where I wanted to be, we got where we needed to be. (Trinity Catholic) thought they were just going to run right through us.”

During the game, each of the Cougar coaches wore a special shirt for the game, which had an American Flag motif, with stripes down the left arm and stars on a field on blue on the right arm, with the word “FAITH” in Cougar red on the back.

A large contingent of fans, including parents, students, and faculty, travelled to cheer on the Cougars, who finished the season 12-2. Many more gathered to watch the game at viewing parties at both Miller’s Ale House and the Daiquiri Deck in Sarasota.

At Miller’s Ale House, the atmosphere was more like a professional or college championship versus a high school one. The passion for the Cougars was clear as everyone wore Cardinal Mooney colors, “State Bound” shirts and more, cheering the great plays and moaning when the final result was in doubt in the final minute of the game.

No matter, the Cougar fans erupted in delirium in both the stadium and at the viewing parties when the final touchdown was scored. More raucous celebrations commenced when the “Hail Mary” pass from Trinity was intercepted in the end zone, sealing a long-awaited victory.

A community-wide celebration for the Cougars will take place in the Mooney Stadium on Fruitville Road at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 19. A highlight film will be played on an inflatable screen. Each player will be called up and given a “State Championship” shirt. The celebration is delayed because of exams at the school.

Prior to leaving for Tallahassee on Dec. 7, a pep rally was held in the Mooney gymnasium for the students and supporters. Deacon Jack Milholland Jr., Mooney Class of 1977 and Permanent Deacon at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch, provided an invocation and blessed the players with holy water.

The cheerleaders then performed before the players made one last run through the tunnel and through the gym to the cheers of the students and supporters. Parents with signs of support lined the driveway as the buses carrying the team, with a Sheriff’s Office escort, headed for Tallahassee.

The team made a stop at neighboring St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy where the students lined the driveway with their own signs of support. The players took the time to get out of the buses and give their youngest fans fist-bumps and high-fives.

Enroute, the team stopped at the University of Florida in Gainesville to visit their football training facilities.

Upon arrival in Tallahassee the team took part in a practice before ending their day at the Vigil Mass for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More.

This victory by the Cougar football team will be savored by the players, the coaches, the students, the faculty, and the alumni for many years to come. The 1972 team is still spoken about with reverence 51 years later, with several of the players regularly returning to the school to watch games and be recognized.

Congratulations State Champion Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Cougars!!!

Mooney playing for state football title

For the first time in 51 years, the Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School football team from Sarasota is playing for a state title.

This is the first Mooney team to reach the State Championships since 1972, when they won. This is also the first team to get past the state semifinal, last reached in 2006.

The Cougars (11-2) will battle Trinity Catholic High School (6-7) from Ocala in the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 1S State Championship 10 a.m., Friday, Dec. 7, 2023, at Ken Riley Field at Bragg Memorial Stadium (Tallahassee), home of Florida A&M University.

The Cougars earned the right to the state championship game by beating North Florida Christian High School of Tallahassee 41-14 in the state semifinal game at home on Dec. 1.

The Cougars entered the championship game on a five-game winning streak, dominating playoff opponents 54-14 and 42-0 before beating North Florida Christian.

Mooney’s last loss was on the road to Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers on Oct. 20. Bishop Verot lost its 2S regional final 38-32 to Booker High School in Sarasota on Nov. 24.

Meanwhile, despite its 6-7 record, Trinity Catholic is riding a three-game winning streak in the playoffs, winning their regional final game by a score of 51-36.

Mooney Head Coach is Jared Clark, a 2000 graduate of Cardinal Mooney who went on to play college football at the University of Notre Dame.

Clark is in his first year at the helm of the team and told reporters after the state semifinal game that he expected the team to play for a state title because he knew the talent was there.

Some of that talent Clark mentioned includes Teddy Foster (defensive back), who is committed to play at the University of Florida, and Zy’marion Lang (wide receiver, defensive back), who is committed to the University of South Carolina. The team captains are George Leibold, Teddy Foster, Ryan Sugg and Zeshon Casimir. The starting quarterback is Michael Valentino and the star running back is Carson Beach.

A pep rally and send-off with students, parents and alumni took place on Dec. 6. IN addition, parents lined the school driveway with signs of support and cheered as the buses carrying the team headed off to Tallahassee with a Sheriff’s Office escort. Across the street from Cardinal Mooney, the buses went through the parking lot of St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy as students there cheered on the team.

A group of 51 students will go to the game on a sold-out bus, leaving in the early morning hours of Dec. 8, while other students, parents, alumni, and other supporters will be travelling independently. A local viewing party is also planned for Miller’s Ale House in Sarasota.

Diocesan cross country athletes excel at State

Diocesan Catholic high school teams and individuals excelled at the recent Florida State High School Athletic Association Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee.

Individually, Mackenzie de Lisle, a junior at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, took home the Girls Class 2A silver with a 5K time of 17:52.2. In the same race, Allsion Dempsey, a senior at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, took the bronze with a time of 18:01.9.

Overall, in the team competitions, the Bishop Verot girls finished fourth, while the Cardinal Mooney girls placed 25th overall. The Verot boys also placed fourth overall. In the Class 1A race, the girls from St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples placed 22nd overall.

The athletes competing for the Verot girls team were Mackenzie de Lisle, Gianna Gyurich, Caroline Ward, Caroline Muddell, Erika Romero, Jocelyn Sweeney, and McKinley Parker. The Mooney girls team included Allsion Dempsey, Rosemary Selke, Ellie Runnels, Hailey Fritschle, Kyla Logan, Samantha Petrill, and Karel Dib. The Neumann girls team included Kailyn Albright Merkel, Elisabeth Le Quere, Virginia Kate Chachere, Emma Collins, Ava Murtack, Chelsea Perez, and Mylee Van de Wouw. The Verot boys team included Andrew Marino, Dennis Olsen, Zachary Zielke, Thomas Eichten, Zachary Engel, Rafael Casillas, and Cael Horton.

Congratulations to all these athletes for qualifying for the State Championships and their overall performance this season!


Stadium Plaza dedicated to longtime teacher/coach

Coach Mike Gill has been a presence on the campus of Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers for more than five decades, first as a student and then as a coach and a teacher for the past 52 years.

To honor his legacy, the newly constructed “Coach Gill Plaza” was dedicated to honor a man who has had a lasting impact on the Bishop Verot community. The plaza, complete with a cross, fencing, new pavers, and dedicated entrances, serves as the newly renovated entrance to the Viking Stadium which serves as home to numerous Verot sports teams, including football, track and others.

More than 150 family members, friends, Viking alumni, faculty, staff and current students were present for the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 27, 2023, prior to the final regular season home game. Representing the Diocese was Jesuit Father John Belmonte, Superintendent of Catholic Education.

Verot Principal Suzie O’Grady lauded Gill for making an indelible mark on the Verot community, as mentor and friend to students, faculty, and staff for many decades. O’Grady also thanked the many supporters of the project and noted how appropriate it was to honor a man who means so much to the greater Verot community, with a legacy that goes beyond any words of praise.

Gill said he was privileged and humbled by the dedication of the plaza in his name, saying that in the crowd present to honor him were people more worthy of such an honor.

“I don’t deserve this,” Gill said. “I don’t need my name up there. Bishop Verot has given me more in my tenure than I could ever repay. It is the people that make up the Viking nation; that’s what is impressive, all of you.”

Verot tackles Mooney in rivalry football game

The Homecoming Football Game for the Bishop Verot Catholic High School Vikings on Oct. 20, 2023, in Fort Myers, was a rousing success when they beat their long-time nemesis, the Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Cougars from Sarasota.

The game was close early, but the powerful Vikings offense came to dominate the game with a final score of 50-14. This is the fourth time the Vikings have reached 50 points or more. For the season, the Vikings are now 8-1 and the Cougars are 6-2. Good records for both teams!

The Vikings are led by junior quarterback Carter Smith who passed for 150 yards with two touchdowns while also rushing for 138 yards and three touchdowns. During the game he became the holder of Verot’s career passing record at 6,495 yards.

Other standouts for the Vikings were sophomore Deshon Jenkins Jr., who rushed for 121 yards and three touchdowns.

The Verot defense was led by senior safety Leroy Roker (2 interceptions and four tackles). Leroy also rushed for 34 yards, and he caught one pass for 24 yards. He recently announced his commitment to play football at The Ohio State University.

The Vikings have high aspirations with a goal for a return trip to the State Final Four.

Present as a neutral observer for the game was Jesuit Father John Belmonte, Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Catholic Education. To be impartial, Father Belmonte spent the first half on the Verot sideline and the second half on the Mooney sideline.

Before the game an Alumni tailgate was held, and at halftime the Homecoming Court was presented. Homecoming Week included Mass, karaoke night, a field day, game show competitions, a senior breakfast, powderpuff football, and a traditional Homecoming Bonfire the night before the game.