Stories in wake of Ian

To put it simply, Hurricane Ian was a monster. The true scope is still unknown more than a week after landfall.

Following the passage of Hurricane Ian, people emerged from their homes to find the world turned upside-down. The spectrum of damage to the communities within the Diocese of Venice ranges from obliterated homes, floods and piles of yard debris and every impact in between.

Below are a few stories of the hurricane from around the Diocese:

Taking shelter

Father Patrick O’Connor, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales and Pastor of Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers, decided to ride out the storm inside the Parish church with Parochial Vicar Father Jose del Olmo. This was safe a bet because the new church was completed in 2011 to the highest standards. The area around the church is a very poor migrant community with many manufactured homes or houses built in the 1950s. Because many sought safety in the church when Hurricane Irma approached in 2017, Father O’Connor posted on all the doors of the church and Parish offices a list of nearby shelters. When the storm began most went to shelters, but when it got worse, the church was the safest place.

“It was crazy!” Father O’Connor explained. “Lots of families… We could not even open most of the doors because of the wind.” Everyone was safe as the church came through unscathed. However, the Parish Hall lost roof tiles, and San Jose Mission in South Fort Myers, which is administered by Jesus the Worker, was inundated with flood waters. In the days after the storm passed, volunteers cleaned out the Mission church and hall as best they could. Since then, the Parish has a been abuzz with activity of relief efforts to help the community with needed emergency supplies with the assistance of several organizations, including Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc.

Time for a barbecue

Nestled due east of Bradenton, St. Michael Parish in Wauchula sits in Hardee County, a rural community that prides itself on independence and resilience in times of adversity. Hurricane Ian has been the toughest challenge so far, but the spirit of the people remains strong as many families recover from the double hit of wind damage followed soon after by massive river flooding which caused hundreds to lose their homes to the Peace River. The Parish has a robust food pantry which is operated by a dedicated group of volunteers and the religious sisters who serve the community, Servant Sisters of the Virgin of Matara. With power out, it became clear that the food in the freezers would not last. So, a barbecue was planned for the night after the storm on Sept. 29. This was such a huge success; hot meals have been served each night since. Families emptied their own refrigerators and freezers before the food spoiled so the food was plentiful. Despite not having electricity, parish volunteers utilized a propane-powered stove and oven, outdoor grills and battery-powered lanterns to cook a hot meal each day following the hurricane. Outside large pots of pasta boiled while lasagna cooked in the kitchen of the Parish Hall. Since the storm, about 420 hot meals have been served each night. During the day, as more and more relief supplies arrive, distributions are taking place helping people get through each day.

Big truck, no forklifts, no problem

When three semitrailers full of supplies arrived at St. Katharine Drexel parish in Cape Coral on Tuesday, Sept. 4, and no forklifts were to be seen, a call went out for help. And help arrived in the form of dozens of volunteers, including many from the Parish Youth Outreach. These teens stepped up to help. The Cape Coral region experienced extreme damage and flooding and, even a week later, less than 20 percent of the city had power and few had drinkable water. The supplies being unloaded were desperately needed, even by some of the teens helping. Pastor Father Ricky Varner praised the youth for assisting in the difficult conditions.

Mary Statue spared

Some of the worst damage in the northern portions of the Diocese was to the roof of Incarnation Parish Church. Large chunks of copper roofing peeled off and were scattered everywhere. Some landed in the parking lot, others into carefully manicured gardens. One large piece that flew off the church building landed in a prayer garden where a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary stands and can be seen through a window as the faithful enter church. A post on social media from the Parish read: “Several large pieces fell here surrounding our Blessed Mother statue, but thankfully causing no harm!”

Still delivering meals

St. Vincent de Paul Society in Naples delivered Meals on Wheels amid Hurricane Ian’s destruction. Thanks to volunteers and staff, the Society was able to deliver shelf stable food to those who rely on Meals on Wheels for their daily meals. The Society posted to social media a day after Ian passed, “The destruction that was seen while delivering was truly heartbreaking.”

A new skylight

As the hurricane blew through Sarasota, the storm created a new skylight for Bishop Frank J. Dewane. Two large branches from an oak tree pierced the ceiling of his living room, causing damage and water to intrude. “I have two trees in my home, but I didn’t plant them,” Bishop Dewane said when explaining the damage to parishioners at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota on Oct. 1. The Bishop said he feels blessed to be alive after such a close encounter with an oak tree. “My issues are nothing compared to others who are going through a much greater loss. Roofs can be repaired. If not, I will decorate them for Christmas. The true focus now is on repairing the lives of those who are suffering in our Diocese.”

Check back in the next issue of The Florida Catholic for more stories of hope in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

St. Vincent de Paul Society – a stalwart in Naples

The St. Vincent De Paul Society in Naples is much more than its thrift stores.

The SVdP two stores in Collier County provide an important source of income for the organization’s greater purpose – helping neighbors in need.

It was on Sept. 10, 2017, when Hurricane Irma roared ashore near Marco Island and spread a swath of destruction through Naples, impacting thousands. That recovery still continues as the misery for some has been compounded by a global pandemic, a housing crisis, and rampant inflation.

At no time in its 50-plus years of existence has the St. Vincent De Paul Society Naples District Council had to help people during such a continued time of misery as families and individuals face each day living on the knifes-edge between poverty and homelessness.

“We have seen people impacted by a bit of everything these past few years,” said Kimberly Schul, Executive Director of the St. Vincent De Paul Society Naples District Council. “Even with everything, our focus has been unchanged.”

Working at multiple locations across the county, SVdP Naples, and its dedicated volunteers, provide help for working families and individuals facing life’s unexpected challenges. This includes offering nutritious food and a friendly visit with homebound seniors and disabled neighbors, and critical advice and counsel for Collier County residents, young and old.

Demand at the food pantry has remained high throughout the summer months. One woman who recently sought food explained her needs: “The food I receive is for my children. Times are hard right now. I work two jobs and can barely cover my living expenses. Rent went way up, gas is high, even basic food is more expensive. In the past two years, the Society has been there and helped me keep my head above water.”

To better meet the need of the community, the SVdP Naples District Council provides caseworkers who learn not just about the need of a family or individual, but they dig deeper. The centerpiece of this effort is the home visit.

Schul explained that the home visit is always conducted by a team of trained Vincentians, and this gives caseworkers a more effective way to support and build stronger relationships with neighbors in need. This often results in better outcomes that not only relieve poverty but also bring emotional assistance to all concerned.

Parishes in Collier County (St. Agnes, St. Ann, St. Elizabeth Seton, St. Finbarr, St. John the Evangelist, San Marco, St. Peter the Apostle and St. William) all have a St. Vincent de Paul Conference, a Parish-based volunteer group.

Schul explained that by working closely with the Parish, the individual Conferences operate cooperatively to form the Council. The presidents of the Conferences comprise the Council Board of Directors, which governs the operation of the Naples Society. When the Society can not help, community partners are contacted and no one is left without help.

Each of the Conferences works its corresponding Parish to raise and disburse funds at its own discretion. Conferences raise funds through donations and fundraising projects. Although providing volunteers to help staff at the SVdP two thrift stores, the responsibility of operating the thrift stores is that of the Council, and as such, any monies generated also become used to help the less fortunate at the discretion of the Council. Parishes also conduct regular food drives to help meet the Council demand.

One of the newest outreach efforts began in June 2021, when St. Vincent de Paul Society’s St. William and St. Peter Conferences started the Homeless Backpack Program to provide food for the homeless in the East Naples area. Since that time, the program has expanded to provide much more than food. Available goods include toiletries, clothing, camping gear, home-cooked meals and bicycles. Community support systems are made available as well, including housing, food stamps, identification, medical care, financial assistance, counseling, and substance abuse treatment.

The Homeless Backpack Program was recently folded under the umbrella of SVdP Naples and retitled HOMe (Homeless Outreach Ministry etc.). This newly imagined program is designed to mitigate the suffering that the “unhoused” experience every day. Each Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Vincentians open the doors of the HOMe program, located at 3174 Tamiami Trail E., to approximately 40 neighbors and provide meaningful, tangible, and spiritual assistance. The program is done in partnership with Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., in Collier County as well as the Naples Homeless Coalition.

“Everyone involved in this outreach sees that their helping hands make a difference for each homeless neighbor, one neighbor at a time,” Schul said. “In the Catholic tradition, HOMe is acting as the helping hands of our dear Lord.”

Other important programs include the Choice Food Pantry, which operates 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and assists nearly 900 each month. The Meals on Wheels program delivers food to 140 individuals, and approximately 160 families/individuals receive some sort of financial support each month.

“We rely on the support of donations and volunteers from the community to help us meet our needs,” Schul said. “We work to ensure that we stretch our food and financial resources to meet all of the demand. Sometimes we will have fewer options in the food pantry or maybe we cannot always cover all emergency expenses, but we will always provide something to help those in need. That is what we are here to do – every day, all year long.”

Schul said a critical issue is that the pandemic impacted the number of volunteers who help in all aspects of the Society’s operations.

“There is an acute need now for volunteers,” Schul said. “We have a place for everyone who wants to offer their time… there are many volunteer opportunities available which people can do based on the gifts the Lord has provided. If you want to help, we have a place for you!”

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a network of friends, inspired by Gospel values, growing in holiness and building a more just world through personal relationships with and service to people in need. The core values of the Society are: Spirituality, Friendship, and Service to the Poor.

If you are interested in supporting or volunteering with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Naples, please call 239-775-2907, or visit https://svdpnaples.org/. Or you can mail donations to Society of St. Vincent De Paul, Naples District Council, 4451 Mercantile Ave., Naples, FL 34104.

News Briefs for the Week of June 24, 2022

Appointments

After consultation, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announces the following:

Father Joseph Clifford, has taken an assignment in the Diocese of Lansing, as Chaplain of St. Joseph Hospital, Ann Arbor, MI, effective February 2, 2022.

Father Piotr Paciorek, retired as Parochial Vicar of Ave Maria Parish, effective May 31, 2022, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of Ave Maria Parish.

Father Chester Domaszewicz, retired as Pastor of St. Bernard Parish, effective June 1, 2022, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Pastor of St. Bernard Parish.

Msgr. Patrick Dubois, has been appointed as Vicar Forane of the Northern Deanery, effective June 17, 2022.

Ordination to the Priesthood July 16

Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of the Diocese of Venice, invites the faithful to the Ordination to the Priesthood of Transitional Deacons Christian Chami, David Portorreal, and Michael Young. The Ordination will take place at 11 a.m., on Saturday, July 16, 2022, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this important event in the lives of the Deacons as well as the Diocese of Venice. The event will be livestreamed via the Epiphany Cathedral Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/EpiphanyCathedral – you do not need to be a subscriber to view the ordination.) A reception will follow in the Parish Hall.

Where is Totus Tuus this Week?

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. During the week of June 20-24, 2022, the team was at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle. The weeklong Parish summer catechetical camp program assists parents and parishes in evangelizing and catechizing the youth by complementing the work they are already doing at the parish and at home. This summer the program is offered at eight parishes in the Diocese of Venice with two sessions now completed. The camp program takes place for grades 1-5, Monday – Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and for grades 6-12, Monday – Thursday from 7:30 p.m.to 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 chrzan@dioceseofvenice.org. The remaining Parishes hosting the program are as follows:

  • St. Catherine Parish, 820 Hickory Street, Sebring, June 27-July 1.
  • St. John XXIII Parish, 13060 Palomino Lane, Fort Myers, July 11-15.
  • St. Joseph Parish, 3100 26th Street West, Bradenton, July 18-22.
  • St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, 5225 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples, July 25-29.
  • St. Patrick Parish, 7900 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota, August 1-5.

Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help June 27

All are welcome to attend the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at 11:15 a.m., Monday, June 27 in the St. Joseph Chapel on the grounds of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center, 3989 S. Moon Drive, Venice to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. In preparation, you are invited to pray a novena starting Saturday, June 18. The daily prayers are published on the website at www.olph-retreat.org. The Fall 3-night, 5-night, and 7-night private, directed retreat schedule is also published on the website. To learn more about a private retreat and to register, please visit www.olph-retreat.org or call 941-486-0233.

Independence Day Bike and Golf Cart Parade

The Knights of Columbus Ave Maria Assembly 3862 is hosting the 6th annual “God Bless America” Independence Day Bike and Golf Cart Parade, at 10 a.m., Monday, July 4, 2022. The ceremony starts in the Piazza of the town and will include a reflection from an Ave Maria veteran on the “Blessing of Freedom,” then patriotic songs, prayers for our country, then a “Blessing of the Bikes.” The parade, which will include bikes, trikes, golf carts, skateboards, strollers (decorated or not), will be led by a fire truck and pass through several neighborhoods, ending approximately 2 miles later back in the Piazza where there will be treats available. All are welcome. For more information, contact Dominick Micillo at 904-536-1480.

Mooney grad takes Junior golf title

Wyatt Plattner, a recent graduate of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, won the 50th Southern Junior Championship at the Country Club of Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2022. To take the title, Plattner notched four birdies on the back nine holes to post a final-round 67, earning a three-shot win in the 54-hole event at 9-under-par 201. The Mooney grad will play at the college level at the University of Cincinnati beginning this fall.

Volunteers needed in Naples

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Naples is looking for thrift store volunteers. If you would like to offer your time as a cashier, sorter, receiver or customer assistance representative for SVdP Naples, call Samantha at 239-775-2907 ext. 1014 or email info@svdpnaples.org.

Youth Conference July 8-10

The 14th annual Ave Maria University Youth Conference – “Fearless” – is being held July 8 to10, 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, and opportunities for confession. The cost is $175 and includes lodging, all meals, a t-shirt and more. To register, call 239-348-4725, aveconferences@gmail.com or www.aveconferences.com.

Adoption services available

Catholic Charities Adoption Services is a state-wide agency that provides counseling to birth parents, and provisions or resources to meet the needs of birth parents considering adoption planning. If you or a loved one would like to learn more, please call Joan Pierse at 941-355-4680.

Men’s Support after Abortion Program

One in 4 women will have experienced at least one abortion by age 45. A man is connected to every pregnancy and abortion. Men are hurting from their abortion experiences too. Men often push down their experience or cover it up with unhealthy behaviors. For six weeks beginning on Saturday, July 9, 2022, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples, Father Mark Harris will team up with Nathan Misirian from Support After Abortion to co-facilitate a program just for men wounded, angry or hurt by abortion. If you (or someone you know) are a man ready for healing, or you know someone who is, confidentially call 941-412-5860 today or email project.rachel@dioceseofvenice.org to register for this series.

Volunteer to Help Pregnant Mothers

Looking for a way to help pregnant women in need?  Your tax-deductible donation will help with rent, utilities, or other necessities.  Give to the Catholic Charities Pennies for Babies Fund, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285 where no administrative fees are taken from any donations. Questions?  Contact Jeanne Berdeaux, Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068.

News Briefs for the Week of June 10, 2022

Our Lady of Fatima Rosary Rally a success

More than 30 people took part in the national “America Needs Fatima Rosary Rally” on June 4, 2022, in Fort Myers. The Rally was held at the corner of Daniels Parkway and Daniels Commerce Boulevard, and was focused on the Traditional Family and Public Prayers in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to end abortion, and. The threat of rain kept some away as the region was under a Tropical Storm Warning at the time. Rally organizer Toni Holmlund said the weather cooperated and most of the drivers passing by were supportive.

Sarasota school recognized

St. Mary Academy won the Family Living Magazine’s Reader’s Choice 2022 award for Best Special Education School in the area! Parents with special needs children often find that a typical classroom setting isn’t ideal for their child. They may have tried the traditional classroom setting only to have their child struggle and fall behind academically. Now, imagine finding that perfect school, one that meets your child’s particular needs. From the moment you visit the secure campus, you realize St. Mary Academy is a very unique environment. To learn more about St. Mary Academy, please visit www.stmarysarasota.org/.

Lourdes Virtual pilgrimage June 25

Holy Cross Parish, 505 26th St. W., Palmetto, is hosting a “Lourdes Virtual Pilgrimage Experience,” at 9 a.m., June 25, 2022. Presented by the Our Lady of Lourdes Hospitality North American Volunteers, the presentation will be in English and Spanish. Present at the presentation will be a Grotto Rock and water from Lourdes, a Eucharistic blessing, and a Holy Rosary procession. Participants will have the opportunity to earn a plenary indulgence. There is no cost to attend. For more information, please call Holy Cross Parish at 941-729-3891.

Volunteers needed

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Naples is looking for thrift store volunteers. If you would like to offer your time as a cashier, sorter, receiver or customer assistance representative for SVdP Naples, call Samantha at 239-775-2907 ext. 1014 or email info@svdpnaples.org

Ordination to the Priesthood

Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of the Diocese of Venice, invites the faithful to the Ordination to the Priesthood of Transitional Deacons Christian Chami, David Portorreal, and Michael Young. The Ordination will take place at 11 a.m., on Saturday, July 16, 2022, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this important event in the lives of the Deacons as well as the Diocese of Venice. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall.

Religious Freedom Week 2022

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is once again promoting the celebration of Religious Freedom Week beginning Wednesday, June 22 to Wednesday, June 29, 2022. Each year the week encompasses the period between the Memorial of Saints Thomas More & John Fisher, through the Solemnity of Saints Peter & Paul. The theme for this year is Life and Dignity for All. The Church plays a crucial role in both bearing witness to the gospel of life and serving all who will be affected by these discussions and their outcomes, especially in light of an upcoming Supreme Court decision in June. Learn how you can pray, reflect, and act to promote religious freedom at www.usccb.org/ReligiousFreedomWeek.

Catholic Summer Camp Program

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 weeklong Parish summer catechetical camp program assists parents and parishes in evangelizing and catechizing youth by complementing the work they are already doing at the parish and at home. This summer the program will be offered at eight parishes in the Diocese of Venice. The camp program is for grades 1-5 Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and for grades 6-12 Monday to Thursday from 7:30 p.m.to 9:45 p.m. Parishes hosting the program in the coming weeks are as follows:

  • St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, June 13-17.
  • Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish, 355 S. Bridge Street, LaBelle, June 20-24.
  • St. Catherine Parish, 820 Hickory Street, Sebring, June 27-July 1.
  • St. John XXIII Parish, 13060 Palomino Lane, Fort Myers, July 11-15.
  • St. Joseph Parish, 3100 26th Street West, Bradenton, July 18-22.
  • St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, 5225 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples, July 25-29.
  • St. Patrick Parish, 7900 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota, August 1-5.

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 chrzan@dioceseofvenice.org.

Vacation Bible School in Grove City

St. Francis of Assisi Parish, 5265 Placida Rd., Grove City, is hosting Vacation Bible School “God’s Wonder Lab,” from 9:00 a.m. to noon daily from Monday June 20 to Friday, June 24, 2022. Plunge in for VBS fun at God’s Wonder Lab! Our God makes the impossible possible! Participants will delve into five Bible stories and discover that Jesus does the impossible for us. He does wonderful things for us because he loves us. Open to children first to sixth grade, 2022-2023. Register online at www.sfoachuch.com or contact Jim Brantner at 941-697-4899 Press 3.

Vacation Bible School in Venice

Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice, is hosting a Vacation Bible School “Monumental – Celebrating God’s Greatness,” from 9:00 a.m. to noon, daily Monday, June 27 to Friday, July 1, 2022. The week offers the opportunity to meet new friends, participate in amazing games, have surprising adventures and much more. Please register at www.epiphanycathedral.org or call 941-484-3505. Adult and teen volunteers needed.

Youth Conference

The 14th annual Ave Maria University Youth Conference – “Fearless” – is being held July 8 to10, 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, and opportunities for confession. The cost is $175 and includes lodging, all meals, a t-shirt and more. To register, call 239-348-4725, aveconferences@gmail.com or www.aveconferences.com.

Adoption services available

Catholic Charities Adoption Services is a state-wide agency that provides counseling to birth parents, and provisions or resources to meet the needs of birth parents considering adoption planning. If you or a loved one would like to learn more, please call Joan Pierse at 941-355-4680.

 

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 toni@defendingtheunborn.com.

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 keough@epiphanycathedral.org 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, aveconferences@gmail.com or www.aveconferences.com.

News Briefs for the Week of Oct. 1, 2021

Scout 10 Commandment Hike held

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

Religious Sister dies

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

Latest Catholic Charities vaccination clinic a success

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

Interest in science blossoms in Chemistry Club

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

Students donate care packages

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

Hispanic Heritage Month celebrated in school

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

Students learn about Moses

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

Schools hold Boosterthon

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

Students celebrate Johnny Appleseed Day outside

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

News briefs for week of February 26, 2021

Verot artists shine in chalk

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School Art Club members participated in the Chalk Block contest on Feb. 5-6, 2021 on the waterfront in Fort Myers. More than 40 Lee County high school teams participated in the Chalk Block event which was sponsored by Lee Health and Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

 

Verot seniors Angela Hopkinson, Letitia Tiranayake-Siriwardena, and Rachelle Hartig won the Golisano Children’s Hospital “Sunny and Sparkle” award in addition to taking third place overall. Ainsleigh Ellis, Sophie Purdue, and MacKenzie Housler won a judge’s award for their sun garden. The theme this year was CommUNITY. The girls are currently considering making their chalk block design into a t-shirt that will raise money for art therapy programs at the Children’s Hospital.

 

Sarasota Charity Ball a success

The 2021 Sarasota Charity Ball was a huge success on Feb. 13 at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in downtown Sarasota. The proceeds from the event will benefit the programs of Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice in Sarasota and Manatee counties including the St. Martha Early Learning Center, Bethesda House, Our Mother’s House, North Port Family Haven and more, all which help to serve the needy in the area.

The elegant evening included a live auction and dinner catered by Michael’s on East and was chaired by Bridget Speiss.

Mooney student medals in State Weightlifting

Congratulations to Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School student McKayla Cantrell who medaled and finished 4th in the 2021 Class 1A Girls Weightlifting State Championship on Feb. 12, 2021 at Suwanee High School in Live Oak. Her combined lift was 305 pounds (165 pounds in the bench press and 140 in the clean and jerk). McKayla is Mooney’s first state medalist in this event.

Parish adds spiritual touch to food distribution

St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples are now partnering with St. Matthew’s House for a weekly food distribution. This outreach began in January and more than 400 families are coming by for food each week. In addition to giving food, the Parish Prayer Team provides something different to help the recipients connect to the Lord. For example, the team recently provided rosaries along with information in the Divine Mercy Devotion. As the team prays with their guests, they also learn if there are any other needs, such as rent or utilities, which are then addressed by the Parish St. Vincent DePaul Society.

Migrant Care Grants deadline Feb. 28

Grant requests for funding of 2021 projects from the Foundation for the Care of the Migrant Poor are available and need to be submitted no later than Feb. 28, 2021. To be considered by the Board of Directors for a Grant, the project must clearly be seen as a service to the migrant poor or new immigrants. Preference will be given to those projects under Catholic auspices. Applications can be submitted by going to the Foundation page on the Diocese website at https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/organizations/foundation-for-the-care-of-the-migrant-poor/.

Volunteers needed

The St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift stores in Bonita Springs and Naples are in need of more volunteers. If you feel you can help, please contact Samantha Maturo, Program/Volunteer Coordinator, at smaturo@svdpnaples.org or 239-775-2907 ext. 1014.

Safe Haven Sunday

Pornography is one of the leading causes of addictions, abuse, adultery, divorce, and even human trafficking: it is, in short, a pervasive evil inflicting grave wounds on our families. Pornography creates unsafe environments for children and confuses others about attitudes towards sex and marriage. It is a moral issue. For this reason, March 7 has been designated as Safe Haven Sunday in the Diocese of Venice. This day for awareness will give an opportunity to address the harmfulness of pornography in marriages, families, and culture, while providing helpful resources for all. Detailed information about the implementation of this program will be shared in the coming weeks through your Parishes. If you have any questions, please contact Carrie Harkey, Diocesan Coordinator of Family Life at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543.

Women’s Conference March 13

Registration is now open for the 2021 Women’s Conference on March 13, which will feature speakers Kimberly Hahn and Mary Ann Weisinger-Puig. The Conference will be held at Bishop Verot Catholic High School, 5598 Sunrise Drive, Fort Myers. The Conference is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (doors open at 8 a.m.) with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. Confession will be available all day. For more information or to register, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/adultconferences.

40 Days for Life now until Palm Sunday

Join other Christians from now through March 28, for the Spring 40 Days for Life campaign. This Campaign encompasses 40 days of prayer and fasting for an end to abortion. Stand and peacefully pray during vigils in the public right-of-way outside Planned Parenthood in Fort Myers or Sarasota. For more information, go to www.40daysforlife.com and click on the location nearest you.

Demand for food at Parishes remains strong

Wendy Shaver owns a small consulting agency, but her business has been closed since August when all of her clients went out of business due to impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“It has been a very difficult time,” Shaver said on Jan. 28, 2021 as she waited patiently for food that was being distributed  by members of the Sacred Heart Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the parking lot of Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda. “I never thought I would ever need food, but I was desperate as all of my savings are gone. This food will help me get by another few weeks.”

The food is part of the regional Harry Chapin Food Bank mobile food pantry distribution and organized through the Charlotte County COAD (Community Organizations Active in a Disaster) Food Task Force. Distribution take place four times a month, twice at Sacred Heart Parish, and includes a food kit, with about 5 days of meals.

Paul Kaiser, President of the Sacred Heart Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, explained that a core group of volunteers ensures the bi-monthly food distribution takes place without a hitch. The Conference has also kept its offices near the Punta Gorda Airport open three days a week. On these days, food is distributed to 40 to 80 individuals and families, or up to 240 a week beyond those helped through the mobile food pantry. That compares to 150 assisted per month before the Pandemic.

Meanwhile, at Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers, the small food pantry there is officially open each Tuesday morning, but for families in need of assistance during off-hours, help is available.

“We help up to 100 families a week, but we support several hundred households regularly since not every family comes weekly – some come biweekly, or monthly, or only occasionally in an emergency situation,” explained Father Patrick O’Connor, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, Pastor of Jesus the Worker Parish.

The pantry receives food from the Harry Chapin Food Bank, as well as from MidWest Food Bank, but the Parish staff and volunteers must pick up its own food. The Parish also relies upon donations from the faithful within the community and from surrounding Parishes.

“The food pantry is a defining ministry in the Christian life of our community,” Father O’Connor described. “Our people are proud of the work of our pantry and see it as an important part of our Catholic identity as a Church community, fulfilling one of the great mandates of love of Jesus – to feed the hungry. One might think that such a ministry would be a drain in the community, but quite the opposite, it draws people to our community, and it is life giving.”

The food pantry at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula also remains very busy. The weekly distribution early Saturday mornings begins before sunrise and is over by 9 a.m. The food comes from various sources, including parishioners, the All Faiths Food Bank in Sarasota, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., and other churches.

Sister Maria Madre de le Alborada Quizhpe, Sister Servant of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, who organizes the weekly distribution, said the number of families seeking help each week remains high at 200 or more. That is only slightly less than the peak immediately after the Pandemic began.

“There are many who are out or work or working less, so the need is there and they come to St. Michael’s for help,” Sister Alborada said, noting that the farming community has been impacted hard by the pandemic as crops are smaller because demand is less. Because of the different sources, the food distributed in Wauchula is a mix of fresh vegetables, frozen meat, bread and essentials, such as beans and rice. When possible, candy is added for the small children.

In Wauchula, as is the case in Punta Gorda and Fort Myers, the food distribution relies on a core group of volunteers who work during the distribution or in advance to help prepare the food. They also each rely on the generosity of those individuals who are not facing as much of an impact during the Pandemic as others.

“People have been generous, and it is making a big difference,” Sister Alborada said. “But the demand is still here.”

How to support or volunteer at a food pantry

Sacred Heart Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, visit https://www.svdp-dov.org/sacred-heart/, call 941-575-0767 or write to 25200 Airport Road, Punta Gorda, FL, 33950.

Jesus the Worker Parish food pantry, call 239-693-5333, or write to 881 Nuna Ave., Fort Myers, FL 33905.

St. Michael Parish, call 863-773-4089, or write to 408 Heard Bridge Road, Wauchula, FL 33873.

Another way to help

Walk for the Poor

The 12th annual Walk for The Poor to support the Charlotte County Conferences of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, is 9 a.m., Feb. 13, 2021, at the Laishley Park Pavilion in Punta Gorda (registration begins at 8 a.m.). Each year, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul hosts the Walk for the Poor to raise funds and to increase awareness of the needs of the less fortunate living in our Charlotte County community.

The walk will proceed along the Trabue Harbor Walk or the northbound U.S. 41 bridge, if preferred. For more information call: 917-549-0555; to register or donate visit our website at https://svdp-dov.org/charlotte and click on Walk for the Poor.

News briefs for the week of Nov. 20, 2020

Vigil held for children killed by violence

A Candlelight Vigil was held Nov 7, 2020 at St. Joseph Church in Bradenton to honor the memory of the 1,080 children who have been killed by gun and domestic violence between Jan. 1, 2020 and Nov. 7, 2020. Each of the names of the children were read aloud, along with their age, city and state and a candle was lit for each and every child! Prayers were said by Father Shawn Roser and joined by both Deacon Ron Dains and Deacon Ron Ochner who read the names, while many joined in lighting candles for the lost children and their grieving families. A Manatee County Sheriff’s Deputy spoke on how hard this senseless loss of life is for law enforcement officers as well as all of us!

School supports charity, honors veterans

The National Junior Honor Society at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers collected more than 1,100 items of food to be delivered to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. This effort was made possible with the assistance of the Knights of Columbus. The school also delivered more than 150 Veteran’s Day cards made by students to Mission BBQ. Mission BBQ handed out free lunches to veterans on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2020, and with their lunch they each received a handmade card! The students were honored to make these cards and show their appreciation for our local community.

Student donates hair for third time

For the third time, Serafina Colonneso, a student at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, has donated 12 inches of her hair to Children With Hair Loss. Children With Hair Loss is a non-profit organization that provides human hair replacements at no cost to children and young adults facing medically-related hair loss. Way to go Serafina!

Charlotte County SVdP helps distribute food

A food distribution effort in Charlotte County helping more than 1,400 individuals and families in late July was boosted by support from local members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP).

The SVdP St. Charles Borromeo and Sacred Heart Conferences participated in a USDA Farms to Family Food Box giveaway on July 24, 2020 at Franz Ross Park in Port Charlotte. This effort included distributing 1,440 boxes of food (23,040 pounds) to the community through various non-profit agencies in the area response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The USDA program consists of refrigerated boxes of fresh produce (fruit and vegetables, dairy and meat), which were picked up by various non-profit organizations. In addition to SVdP Conferences, food was also distributed to Villa San Carlos, a low-income senior housing facility run by the Diocese of Venice.

The Charlotte County Food Assistance Task Force, currently chaired by SVDP member Joe Sabatino, is helping to provide a coordinated response to the crisis by organizing the outreach efforts of non-profit organizations throughout the county. The Task Force has different committees providing financial assistance, business recovery, youth and education opportunities, support for special populations, and food assistance, with the various SVdP conferences actively participating.

“This is a collaboration of community resources, county government, churches, along with leadership by St. Vincent de Paul,” Sabatino said.

It was a joy to behold, to watch everything come together,” Sabatino said. “After a few bumps, things worked very smoothly, and we were able to distribute all the food boxes by 11 a.m. The teamwork displayed by everyone was great to see. We were all united in our mission to provide food to those in need, and more importantly to let them know that they are valued, and we care about them and their families during these deeply stressful times.”

The SVdP Conferences in Charlotte County (Sacred Heart, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Maximilian Kolbe and San Antonio) each have food pantries and have remained opened throughout the crisis.

SVdP Conferences are also supporting the Harry Chapin Food Bank in Fort Myers with its distribution of food at least twice a month at Sacred Heart Parish, 211 W. Charlotte Ave., in Punta Gorda. The upcoming schedule is from 10 a.m. to noon, every other Thursday (Aug. 13, Aug. 27, Sept. 10, and Sept. 24).

For more information or to help support the needs of the SVdP Conferences in Charlotte County, please visit https://www.svdp-dov.org/charlotte/.

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