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

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 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 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

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 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, 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 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

News from around the Diocese late March 2020

Blood drive a success

St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples, in conjunction with the Knights of Columbus Council 12178, helped make a blood drive on March 21 a huge success.

With the fears of the pandemic keeping people home, the blood drive was authorized by authorities to continue considering the urgent need for blood. Using the Ministry Center, Naples Community Hospital Healthcare System Community Blood Center bus was parked outside and classrooms in the building were used to process donors.

Precautions were made to ensure the health and safety of all. The Blood Center follows universal precautions and following guidelines issued from CDC and FDA to keep our donors safe.

Grand Knight Randy Thomas was initially worried no one would participate in the blood drive. With an initial sign-up of 21 donors, about 100 arrived to give blood. Because of the demand, and to ensure everyone stayed as prescribed social distancing, some donors made an appointment to donate blood later as need will continue.

“It is wonderful how the people of St. Peter’s stepped up, even during time of uncertainty. Really wonderful,” Thomas said.

St. Peter Pastor, Father Gerard Critch, stopped by to offer words of encouragement and to bless the Blood Center workers, volunteers and donors.

St. Vincent de Paul Society still helping

The St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) Society districts throughout the Diocese of Venice may have shuttered their famous thrift stores, but they continue to help people in need.

Courtesy FOX-$

Responding to the pandemic, various programs that make a difference for those in need, such as meals on wheels, financial assistance and food pantries continue to operate under modified conditions which ensures both the health and safety of members, but also that of the the public at-large.

An example of this is opening food pantries for limited hours and by appointment and delivering food to the elderly twice a week instead of each day limiting personal contact and risks for all.

Those needing help or wanting to assist, are encouraged to contact their local SVdP Society offices for details.

Bradenton food pantry operating, needs donations.

Volunteers at the St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton are focused on ensuring there is enough food for all in need. Busy on any day of year, the food pantry is the largest in Manatee County serving more than 1,200 individuals and families each month, there has been an immediate demand for more for whatever the pantry can provide.

An appeal for food the week of March 23 brought a huge response and helped to temporarily restock the shelves, but the need remains strong. Donations of nonperishable food are needed, but specific needs include the priorities right now is for donations of pasta, rice, potatoes, cereal, peanut butter and jelly, as well as canned meat and fish.

Precautions are being taken for those making donations and handling the food. People are being asked to make drive-up donations from 9 a.m.-noon, Tuesday through Thursday. Cars are to enter the church parking lot at 2704 33rd Ave. W. From there, signs are posted to direct people to the appropriate drop-off location. Call if you have any questions 941-756-3732.