2022 LION CUP STREAM Robotics Challenge huge success

With a shower of confetti, the inaugural Diocese of Venice Lion Cup Robotics Tournament got off to a rousing start on May 14, 2022, at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers.

The Lion Cup – a STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts, Math) middle and high school robotics tournament, included 150 competitors, 23 teams, representing 13 Diocesan Catholic schools. The competition was fierce, and the intensity built as the day progressed and the participants became laser-focused on being the best.

Emily Graham of the middle school Shambots 2 team from Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish said the team prayed and sought the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary for success in the competition.

“We worked so hard to get ready and it was so much fun to compete against the other schools and then we won,” Emily, a 6th grader said with a big smile. “These robots are so amazing. We worked together to get everything to work.”

Jackalyn Flynn, a member of the Dollar Store Stark Industries team from Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, said the competition was tough but she had lots of fun. “This was hard. We just created our team and learned so much from this competition. We will do better next year.”

In a welcome video message from Bishop Frank J. Dewane, he described the students as pioneers forging a path for the next generation of leaders and innovators and believers.

“Your ideas and enthusiasm show no bounds as we celebrate the creative challenge founded on the Gifts of Christ,” Bishop Dewane said. “The Lion Cup is more than a friendly competition among Catholic schools, it demonstrates that STREAM is a faith-infused program that can help solve many of the world’s most daunting problems by upholding Catholic values and teaching the principles of strength, utility and beauty. The Lion Cup showcases that Diocese of Venice Catholic schools are preparing students who are ready to build, lead and succeed in a time when science and technology are at the forefront of nearly every facet of our lives.”

The competition was fierce as teams programed their robots to accomplish various tasks in a specific order in a limited amount of time. The middle school robots are made from Lego pieces and as they go through the obstacle course, their autonomous robot picks up items along the way. Teamwork comes into play in design, construction and strategy. The high school robots are 10 times larger and are both autonomous and have a remote control.

Just before the competition began, teams were allowed to practice on the designated courses and test their work. Many teams made adjustments before the actual competition began and then the intensity and focus of the participants was ramped up. With their teammates/classmates cheering from the sidelines, each completed – or failed- task evoked a reaction.

The teams were judged on robot design, accuracy, efficiency and other factors. Awards were presented to the top teams at the end of the competition.

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Superintendent of Catholic Education, said it was a great day, beyond his wildest dreams, giving much credit to Jennifer Falestiny, Diocesan Curriculum Coordinator and leader of the STREAM initiative in the Diocesan schools.

“What a huge success. So much virtue was shown here today,” Father Belmonte said. We do all of these things to give glory to God. That’s why our schools exist. That’s why our teachers teach. That’s why your parents send you to the school – everything to God’s glory.”

The Lion Cup honors St. Mark, one of the patron saints of the Diocese of Venice, whose symbol features a winged lion. The competition also pays homage to Leonardo da Vinci, inventor of many of the first robots, one of which resembles a lion.

“Da Vinci’s works incorporate three design attributes developed by Vitruvius, a famous Roman architect and engineer: Firmitas (strength), Utilitas (utility) and Venustas (beauty),” said Father Belmonte. “All three of these attributes will be aspects of our students’ robotic designs. The students have been preparing for this tournament for months and were eager to compete.”

Special awards were presented to the teams that reflected the attributes of Firmitas, Utilitas, and Venustas.

The Department of Education at the Diocese of Venice plans to host larger robotics competitions every year, possibly opening the invitation to other schools throughout Florida.

The winning teams were:

Middle school

  • 1st – Shambots 2 – Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish
  • 2nd – ECS Tigers 2 – Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School
  • 3rd – Falcon Robot – St. Francis Xavier Catholic School

High School

  • 1st – Despair Parts – St. John Neumann Catholic High School
  • 2nd – Shambots 1 – Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish
  • 3rd – SJN Team 2 – St. John Neumann Catholic High School

Venustas – Beauty – Our Lady of Mercy – Co-Patroness of the Diocese of Venice

  • Middle school – ECS Tigers 1 – Eiphany Cathedral Catholic School
  • High school – Dollar Store Stark Industries – Bishop Verot Catholic High School

Utilitas – Utility – St. Macrina – Patron Saint of Robots

  • Middle school – Falcon Robot – St. Francis Xavier Catholic School
  • High school – Shambots 1 – Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish

Firmitas – Strength – St. Mark the Evangelist – Co-Patron of the Diocese of Venice

  • Middle school – Dragons – St. Mary Academy
  • High school – Dollar Store Stark Industries – Bishop Verot Catholic High School

News Briefs for the week of May 13 2022


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

Father Jayabalan Raju, Parochial Vicar of Epiphany Cathedral Parish, Venice, is welcomed to the Presbyterate of the Diocese of Venice and is incardinated into said Diocese, effective April 22, 2022.

Father Fausto Stampiglia, S.A.C., V.F., retired as Pastor of St. Martha Parish and other Diocesan responsibilities, effective May 14, 2022, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Pastor of St. Martha Parish.

Father Jerzy (George) Suszko, S.A.C., is appointed as Pastor of St. Martha Parish, effective May 14, 2022. At the same time, he is relieved of his duty as Parochial Vicar at St. Martha Parish.

Father Marcin Koziola, is relieved of his duties as Administrator of Holy Cross Parish, effective May 2, 2022.

Father Kristian Villafaña, is appointed as Temporary Administrator of Holy Cross Parish, effective May 2, 2022.

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.

Sarasota Beach Volleyball team State Champs

Congratulations to our Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Girls Beach Volleyball team from Sarasota, they are State Champions for the Sunshine State Conference! The team beat Merritt Island High School on April 30, 2022, at Hickory Point Beach in Taveras. The team then fell in the quarterfinals of the FSHAA State Tournament on May 7, 2022, at Florida State University in Tallahassee. The team finished the season with a 22-2 overall record.

Fort Myers tennis team takes second at State

Congratulations to the Bishop Verot Catholic High School Viking Girls Tennis team in Fort Myers. They made Verot history today, earning 2nd place in the State Championship on April 29 at Red Bug Lake Park in Casselberry! The ladies entered the State Tournament at the 6th seed and took down two teams before falling in the Final to Gulliver Prep. Way to go ladies!

Pitcher throws Perfect Game

St. John Neumann Catholic High School Freshman Sophia Escobar pitched a Perfect Game on April 26, 2022, against South Fort Myers High School. She also struck out 14 batters during the game. A Perfect Game means Sofia did not allow any walks, hits or runs. Well done!

Venice school is STREAM Accredited

Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice is officially a STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts, Math) Accredited Catholic School in the Diocese of Venice. Accreditation became official on April 26, 2022, from the Florida Catholic Conference of Bishops Accreditation Committee. The process of being certified has taken six years and the school credits its teachers for dedicating unit and lesson plans to the process.

Youngest students have fun measuring

Pre-kindergarten students, the youngest at St. Catherine Parish in Sebring, had fun on May 9, 2022, learning how to measure different objects. This lesson is helping to prepare these young minds for more advanced math in Kindergarten and beyond.

News Briefs for the week of May 6, 2022

Vegie Races cap off fun night

The St. Andrew Catholic School Veggie Races capped off STREAM Night on April 28, 2022, in Cape Coral. The night included a variety of STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts, Math) demonstrations throughout the schools. The highlight was the end of the evening Veggie Races. These races pit students against each other with racecars designed exclusive with vegetables – with a few skewers to hold everything together. The track was an inclined ramp with parallel lanes for the two competitors. The goal was to first get to the bottom without the racecar falling apart and then going as far as possible down the track. A great time was had by all as the students had use creativity and practicality to create a successful racecar.

Pinecone birdfeeders made in Sebring

Third graders at St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring made pinecone birdseed feeders as part of a project to their Plants and Animals Science Unit on April 29, 2022. The patron saint of animals, St. Francis of Assisi, built bonds of love with all of the kinds of creatures in the animal kingdom. However, St. Francis had a special relationship with birds, who often followed him around and rested on his shoulders, arms, or hands as he prayed or walked around outside.

Middle school track teams excel

On April 30th, the middle school boys and girls track teams at Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria, competed at their conference championships on April 30, 2022, and both teams came home Champions. Way to go teams!

News Briefs for the week of April 22, 2022

Computers, robotics and Legos make learning fun

St. Andrew Catholic School third grade students learned about landmarks on April 6, 2022, in Cape Coral. To do this, they researched various landmarks on their computers and then, with their new Robotics programing software, used their Lego kits to bring what they learned to life. This is another example of a cross-curricular activity using the STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) model.

Fresh salsa made from school garden

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School Environmental Club members enjoyed the fruits of their labor with homemade salsa in Fort Myers on April 17, 2022. Each of the ingredients were cultivated from the school garden. The results were tasty.

Schools, Catholic Charities in northern counties to benefit from Giving Challenge

Diocesan Catholic schools and programs of Catholic Charities in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, and DeSoto counties will be beneficiaries of the 2022 Giving Challenge, from noon April 26 to noon April 27, 2022. The Giving Challenge is presented by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. The giving is being augmented by The Patterson Foundation which will match all donations between $25 and $100. All donations made during the 24-hour Giving Challenge are unrestricted gifts to the nonprofit organization of your choice. You can visit www.givingchallenge.org to search for participating organizations. Note that many of the organizations also have Challenge Matches from various supporters. These matches serve to multiply the value of individual donations. Schools participating in the 2022 Giving Challenge include: Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School, Incarnation Catholic School, St. Mary Academy, St. Martha Catholic School, St. Joseph Catholic School, and St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School. In addition to Catholic Charities, other organizations within the Diocese that are part of the Giving Challenge include the St. Joseph Food Pantry, St. Vincent de Paul – St. Joseph Conference Bradenton Inc., as well as the Society St. Vincent de Paul – Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Conference.

Treasures of the Church coming to Diocese

An Exposition of Sacred Relics will take place in several locations within the Diocese of Venice and elsewhere in Florida in the month of May. Each evening begins with a presentation and teaching on relics which features the catechetical and spiritual basis for the Walk with the Saints where over 150 relics will be displayed. In the Diocese of Venice, the following dates and locations are available for all to attend: May 9, Incarnation Parish, 2929 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota; May 10, St. Katharine Drexel Parish, 1922 SW 20th Ave., Cape Coral; May 11, Ave Maria Parish, 5088 Annunciation Circle, Ave Maria; May 12, St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, 5225 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples. Each exposition will begin at 6:30 p.m. and there is no fee to attend. For further information please visit www.treauresofthechurch.com.

Students and parents help Needy

During a day off from school on April 18, 2022, students and parents from St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota volunteered to help pack 728 food boxes at All Faiths Food Bank in south Sarasota. This outreach, during a rare weekday off from school during the Monday within the Octave of Easter, reflected well the commitment to service Diocesan Catholic schools instill in its students and families. Great job everyone!

Breakfast with Bishop Joseph Coffey

The TMIY (That Man is You) Men’s Ministry of Ave Maria Parish is hosting a breakfast with Most. Rev. Joseph L. Coffey, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of the Military Services, at 8:15 a.m., May 13, 2022, in the Parish Hall at 5068 Annunciation Circle, Ave Maria. Bishop Coffey will speak on “The Causes of Canonization of Military Chaplains Father (Vincent) Capodanno and Father (Emil) Kapuan.” There is no cost or registration required. For more information, call Dom Micillo at 904-536-1480.

Port Charlotte school hosts first responders

St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charlotte was swarmed with first responders and their various emergency response vehicles on April 13, 2022. There was no emergency, in fact the first responders were present to give the students a variety of public safety demonstrations. Students were treated to a visit from the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, including helicopter landing on the athletic field, K-9 units, and more. Also present were representatives from Charlotte County Fire and EMS, Charlotte County Public Safety, Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Fish and Wildlife and Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The day also included an opportunity for the students to thank the first responders for keeping the community safe.

Picnic tables installed at Bradenton school

April 13, 2022, was a scheduled day off at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton. However, the campus was busy as volunteers and the maintenance team assembled and moved 22 new picnic tables into the courtyard. The hard work paid off and when students and teachers returned on April 19, they received a pleasant surprise as there are new places for outdoor study, projects, lunch and relaxation.

Catholic athletes continue to excel

Teams from Bishop Verot Catholic High School earned both girl’s and boy’s tennis team district titles on April 13, 2022, in Fort Myers. Meanwhile, the Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School boy’s lacrosse team earned a district title on April 15. The Mooney girl’s lacrosse team defeated the Verot girls in the district playoffs on April 11.

Neumann seniors reflect on high school

Scientium Veritatis ~ Senior Reflection Day at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples was April 19, 2022. The seniors presented before the faculty and staff their reflection projects, which called for them to dive deep and reflect on their last four years and the growth they have experienced. Students focused on Don Bosco’s Oratory (Home, School, Playground and Church) while showcasing important artifacts from their high school years.

OLPH Day of Prayer in May

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center’s final Monthly Day of Prayer Retreat for the season will be Sunday, May 8, 2022, and Wednesday, May 11. The cost for each retreat is $40 and includes a continental breakfast, two conferences, lunch, adoration, and Mass. The conference topics are the same for both sessions. The final Group retreat for the season is the Ignatian Preached Retreat scheduled for May 20-23. The cost is $460 and includes a private room and all meals. The Fall 2022 private retreat schedule is now available on the OLPH website and includes 3-day, 5-day, and 8-day directed retreats on their beautiful campus. To learn more about each retreat and to register, please visit: www.olph-retreat.org or call 941-486-0233. OLPH is located at 3989 South Moon Drive, Venice.

9th Annual Marian Eucharistic Conference in May

All are invited to the 9th Annual Marian Eucharistic Conference May 13 to May 15 at Ave Maria University, Ave Maria. The theme is “Do Whatever He Tells You.” Featured speakers will include Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Coffey, of the Archdiocese of the Military Services, Father Larry Richards, Father Rick Martignetti, Deacon Dr. Mark Miravalle, EWTN’s Steve Ray, and Johnnette Benkovic plus music by Martin Doman and the AMU Band. In addition to the talks, the Conference will include a Rosary Walk, Holy Mass, Benediction, and more. The cost is $180 per person and includes lodging, meals and conference fee for the weekend. For more information visit www.aveconferences.com,call 239-348-4725 or email aveconferences@gmail.com.

News Briefs for the week of April 8, 2022

Parish hosts 40-hour Devotion

St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral hosted a 40-hour Devotion April 2, to April 4, 2022. This devotion included Adoration, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, praying the Holy Hour and concluded with a Mass. Father Ricky Varner, Pastor at St. Katharine Drexel, stressed the importance of focusing on the Lord through Eucharistic Adoration. The 40-hour Devotion was spilt into blocks of time throughout the three days to allow for more people to participate and benefit from spending prayerful time in the presence of the Lord.

 Candlelight Vigil to close 40 Days for Life in Sarasota

Everyone is invited to participate in the closing Candlelight Vigil of the 40 Days for Life spring campaign in Sarasota on Saturday, April 9, 2022. The Vigil will begin at 7:45 p.m. in front of the regional Planned Parenthood abortion facility at 736 Central Ave. in Sarasota. The 40 Days for Life spring campaign began on Ash Wednesday in thousands of communities, including Sarasota and Fort Myers. During 40 Days, at all of these sites, the faithful stood as peaceful witnesses for life. While the 40 Days for Life campaign is concluding, there are year-round opportunities to pray at abortion facilities in the Diocese. For more information, please contact Jeanne Berdeaux at 941-484-9543 or Berdeaux#dioceseofvenice.org.

 Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Televised Mass

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

Chrism Mass April 12

The Diocese of Venice Chrism Mass, which takes place during Holy Week every year, will be held at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, April 12 at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., in Venice. During this Mass, the faithful of the Diocese join the Priests, Deacons and Bishop Frank J. Dewane for the blessing of the Holy Oils which are used in the administration of the Sacraments at each parish throughout the year. Priests and Deacons celebrating 25 and 50 years of Ordination are recognized at this Mass. All are encouraged to attend in support of our clergy and to participate in this important Holy Week celebration.

The 2022 Priest and Deacon Jubilarians are:

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

Holy Week Mass times online

To learn about the times for the Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday Mass and service times at Parishes and Missions throughout the Diocese of Venice, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/diocese-of-venice-2022-holy-week-mass-times/.

Students visit biomed business

Bishop Verot Catholic High School students in “Medical Interventions,” a third-year course in the Biomedical Sciences program in Fort Myers, visited Neogenomics on April 1, 2022, to better understand the application of the research they are doing in class and learn about potential career paths.

Young students study DNA

Catholic schools in the Diocese of Venice pride themselves on offering programs in all areas of study including science. Seventh graders at St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring were studying DNA and genetics on March 30, 2022. As part of the lesson, they extracted their own DNA, using dried skin, and observed it in the school’s STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) lab. Classes like this enable students to learn more about not only the world around them, but also about themselves: students identify themselves as unique through their DNA and, in particular, as children of God.

Field trip teaches about Florida wildlife

A March 31, 2022, field trip to Florida Gulf Coast University in Estero by fifth graders from St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers helped the young students learn about wildlife that is native to Florida. The program, called the “Panther Posse,” brings in wildlife experts to share images and research that is ongoing about the Florida panther as well as other wildlife, including black bears. The presentation is a mix of fun and hands-on science. Students learned to identify trail markings of different wildlife as well as what dangers the wildlife face from pollution and interaction with people. The students left the program as newly launched naturalists and scientists.

Cyber safety education

Students at the different schools in Lee County heard from a specialist the week of March 29, 2022, about how to navigate technology and social media in today’s world. Robert Hackenson Jr. of Dynamic Influence spoke with students at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers as well as at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. These lessons provided basic tips on the pitfalls of providing too much information about yourself online. The safety aspects could not be overstated as online predators try to manipulate people of all ages to endanger the users in different ways. Hackenson used age-appropriate examples to ensure the students understood these dangers. One of the focuses was on Social Media Land Mines, which included never revealing your location, details about your home or private life and much more.

Sneak preview wows young students

Student groups from St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral and St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers were given a sneak peek of the musical “Cinderella” at Bishop Verot Catholic High School on April 1, 2022. Two special previews were offered for the younger students who saw the elaborate production by the Verot Theater Department. Afterwards, the students were able to meet some of the cast and people who worked behind-the-scenes to make the show happen. Full performances were offered throughout the subsequent weekend.

Diocese hosts STREAM Symposium

More than 500 Catholic school teachers and administrators, as well as corporate sponsors and community leaders, attended the inaugural STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Education, Arts and Mathematics) Symposium hosted by The Diocese of Venice Department of Education.

The buzz of excitement was infectious on March 21, 2022, at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, as teachers moved between breakout sessions, eager to put into practice what they learned during the STREAM Symposium.

“STREAM embraces Catholic culture as the core of interdisciplinary learning,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane. “STREAM’s vision requires planning, development, collaboration and communication across all six disciplines. Its framework illuminates Catholic values and teachings among multiple creative systems and cutting-edge platforms that inspire students to apply faith, science, and technology in meaningful ways.”

The Symposium began with Mass at neighboring St. Cecilia Parish. The Mass celebrant, Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, said the day was about sharing new methods, new ideas and being creative and learning new limits and innovation.

Father Belmonte said that when we encounter one innovative person, be it a teacher, principal, or anyone else, “what we see with that one person is something new, our own renewal. I want to encourage all of you to take the bet that you once placed, that is the one you took when you started teaching – to work, to create, to teach and to inspire within the limits given to you. Teaching is nothing more than your deep desire to share what you have found to be true, good and beautiful.”

The STREAM Symposium offered teachers and other participants a choice of more than 30 breakout sessions. Each 45-minute session encompassed a STREAM topic ranging from integrating smart boards and educational software to promoting digital safety and project-based learning in the classroom, as well as how best to integrate the teachings of the Church in a classroom setting. Between sessions, attendees also visited with premier education technology vendors and sponsors and participated in interactive exhibits that showcased faith-infused innovation.

The Symposium also featured a keynote address by Nathan Davis, Leadership Executive, Apple Inc., entitled “Creativity in Learning.”

The Diocese of Venice strives to be the nation’s premier provider of STREAM education, Father Belmonte stressed. “This system supports teachers by helping them prepare every student to become a man or woman of God, a person of virtue, who pursues scientific, technological and artistic endeavors founded on Faith. This Symposium is one way to convey that support.”

The behind-the-scenes planning for the STREAM Symposium was made possible by Jennifer Falestiny, Diocesan Curriculum Specialist, with the support of the entire Education team.

Early in the day, Father Belmonte presented the first ever Blue Apple Award, given to teachers who have demonstrated leadership in STREAM and robotics education at their school. The color blue in the Bible has been described by scholars as denoting the Holy Spirit and Truth or service to God, as well as the waters of the new creation in the Book of Genesis, and most importantly the color blue is associated with our Blessed Mother. There were 16 inaugural recipients of the Blue Apple Award.

In addition, Years of Service Awards were presented in categories of 10-15 years, 15-19 years, 20-25 years, 25-29 years, and more than 30 years.

Father Belmonte noted that this was the first time all of the Diocesan teachers and administrators were gathered together since before the pandemic and said “it is good to finally be together. This is my first chance to be with all of you since I started as Superintendent almost two years ago.”

The day concluded on a high note with an “after-school snack” which included four food trucks full of treats, sweets and coffee, meaning everyone left the day with a big smile.

News Briefs for the week of March 25, 2022

Synod Listening Sessions ongoing

The Listening Sessions for the Diocesan Phase of “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” continues through May. At the invitation of Bishop Frank J. Dewane the faithful are encouraged to be prepared to answer the fundamental concept of what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church today. The in-person Listening Sessions are 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The remaining Sessions are as follows:

Monday, March 28, St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Ave. N., Naples (Eng.);

Monday, May 9, St. Catherine Parish, 820 Hickory St., Sebring (Eng./Sp);

Monday, May 16, St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples (Eng.);

Monday, May 23, Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish, 355 S. Bridge St., LaBelle (Eng./Sp);

(NEW) Virtual Session from 10:30 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, May 25.

To register for a Listening Session or the Virtual Session, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/2022-synod-listening-sessions. Email synod@dioceseofvenice.org for any questions or comments regarding the Listening Sessions.

Diocesan-wide opportunity for Sacrament of Reconciliation coming soon

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

Donated ultrasound blessed

A new ultrasound machine, donated by the Knights of Columbus Council 14202 of St. Agnes Parish in Naples, was blessed March 21, 2022, at the Community Pregnancy Clinics Inc. Father Bob Kantor, Pastor of St. Agnes, and Father Michael Orsi, Parochial Vicar of St. Agnes, presided over the blessing. It is noted that more than 90% of women who see their babies on an ultrasound choose life. The machine is the latest model and is courtesy of a nationwide initiative of the Knights of Columbus which matches the contributions of local Council in purchasing the latest machines for Pro-Life clinics.

Naples students do well at Model UN conference

The St. John Neumann Catholic High School Model UN students from Naples took part in the National High School Model United Nations Conference in New York City the week of March 18, 2022. Under the direction of their advisor, Cindy Brewer, the Neumann team placed 3rd for research and presentation out of 135 teams from around the world. In addition, Hunter Lund and Alessio Cirino’s committee placed third out of the 70 committees in their field. This immersive experience in the world of international affairs, problem solving, and diplomacy was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the students. Long recognized for having the best substantive program on the Model UN circuit, National High School Model UN is known for its diverse, talented attendees, its highly engaging debates, and its academically rigorous material. These SJN students were able to attend meetings with the diplomatic representatives of the countries they represented, as well as other UN and Non-Government Organization (NGO) leaders for dynamic question and answer sessions.

Hardee County group takes part in 40 Days for Life

Members of the St. Michael Parish Council of Catholic Woman and Faith Formation Group from Wauchula traveled March 15, 2022, to Sarasota to pray to end abortion at the Planned Parenthood facility as part of the 40 Days for Life spring prayer campaign. The group was present during on the day abortions are done were performed at the facility. This led to an emotional day, leaving the group with both sadness and hope. Sadness about what takes place in such facilities and hope that publicly standing for life made a difference. The group prayed for the mothers and babies that are victims of the lie that abortion is the only answer. The spring 40 Days for Life peaceful prayer campaign is taking place in the public right-of-way in both Sarasota and Fort Myers through April 10. All are encouraged to spend at least one hour in prayer for life during Lent. Contact your Parish Life Coordinator for specific information about your Parish’s commitment days. For additional information about the local 40 Days for Life, go to www.40daysforlife.com/sarasota or www.40daysforlife.com/fortmyers.

Holocaust survivor shares story

Heinz Wartski, a 93 year old Holocaust survivor and Korean War veteran, shared his story with Bishop Verot Catholic High School students on March 15, 2022, in Fort Myers. Heinz Wartski grew up in Danzig with his parents and two siblings. In 1939, Heinz and his family escaped to Italy and later joined the partisan resistance in the Appenine Mountains.  He stated: “We were a minority in every nation in which we lived, and we were therefore easy targets for any government in need of scapegoats.” His family survived until liberation in 1945. Heinz and his family immigrated to the United States in 1949.  He married Hella Wartski, a fellow Holocaust survivor, and had two children.  He currently resides in Naples, and volunteers with the Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida.

Digestive system lesson

Thank you to Katy Wallis, professor at State College of Florida, for leading fifth-grade students from St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton through an interactive lesson on the digestive system on March 18, 2022. Students used plastic bags filled with various items to get a “feel” for how the digestive system, including the stomach, works.

Team GPA tops region

The St. John Neumann Catholic High School Celtic Boys Basketball Team in Naples finished the season with a team GPA of 3.74 which is #1 in the Florida High School Athletic Association 2A classification and the #3 team GPA in the entire state. Well done!

News Briefs for the Week of March 18 2022

Living rosary launches students into Spring Break

On March 11, 2022, the student body of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota participated in praying a living rosary as a lead up to Spring Break. A living rosary consists of people representing each bead of the rosary. Each person then leads one prayer of the rosary. Different grade levels represented different decades, including one in Spanish. This was the last group gathering for the students before going on Spring Break.

Ukraine Relief

As the world continues to pray for peace and for the victims of the war in Ukraine, the Diocese of Venice has made it possible for the faithful to support charitable relief and assist in providing humanitarian aid, as well as necessary recovery efforts. Donations may be sent to the Diocese of Venice, with “Ukraine” indicated in the memo or note line at the following address: Diocese of Venice in Florida, Ukraine Relief, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285, or visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/ways-to-give/ and click the donate button. Also, please keep the people of the Ukraine in your prayers.

Students take part in leadership retreat

St. John Neumann Catholic High School students, along with Sister April Hoffman, FMA, attended the Salesian Leadership Retreat the week of March 7-11, 2022. The retreat is run by the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, which is the same religious order that leads Neumann. The group stopped in Hoboken, N.J., for a little sightseeing excursion before traveling to Haledon to meet up with more of the Salesian family. While on the retreat, the warm-weather Neumann Celtics also got a taste of snow during a tour of New York City.

Artist makes mark at Naples school

Local artist, Marcus Zotter, is at it again. He painted another amazing mural on an interior wall of the St. Ann Catholic School library. The artwork incorporates the images of five current students. Earlier in the school year, Zotter created a dolphin-themed mural on a nearby exterior wall.

Gravity and eggs = SCIENCE

1st Graders at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota conducted an Easter Egg Gravity Investigation on March 11, 2022. The young scientists have been learning about gravity and after making their predictions, they did a variety of tests with different types of fresh and plastic eggs on a ramp, at varying levels and kept track of the results in a data table.

Books Team places third

Three sixth grade girls represented St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton as the first ever Battle of the Books Team. The students were Anya, Bailey, and Kimberly. On March 11, 2022, the team competed against other Manatee County Schools at Braden River High School. Teams earned points by answering questions about the 15 Sunshine State Young Readers Award Books for 2021-2022. As first-time competitors, the St. Joseph girls took third place. Congratulations!

News Briefs for the Week of Feb. 5, 2022

Sebring robotics team demonstrate skills

The St. Catherine Catholic School Robotics Team demonstrated their skills on Feb. 15, 2022, in Sebring during a visit from Diocese of Venice Superintendent of Catholic Education Father John Belmonte, SJ, and Jennifer Falestiny, Diocesan Curriculum Specialist. The team has made remarkable progress in their skill level and has participated in a few competitions to hone their skills in preparation for a Diocesan Robotics Competition in May.

40 Days for Life in Sarasota and Fort Myers

Join other Christians during Lent (through April 10), for the Spring 40 Days for Life Campaign in Fort Myers and Sarasota. This year’s Campaign is the biggest Lenten effort yet, with prayer vigils planned in 588 cities. 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. The Fort Myers prayer vigil is 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday to Saturday, at 6418 Commerce Park Drive. The Sarasota prayer vigil is daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 736 Central Ave. Check with your local Parish to learn the days they are committed to standing up for life. Most participants are encouraged to spend at least one hour in silent prayer in front of a local abortion facility seeking an end to legalized abortion in the U.S. With a landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court now there has never been more reason for hope and prayer. For 40 Days for Life information on the two Diocesan locations, please go to www.40daysforlife.com/sarasota or www.40daysforlife.com/fortmyers.

National Merit Finalists named

Congratulations to the seven Diocese of Venice Catholic high school seniors for advancing as Finalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program! The finalists are: Alexis Camina of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples; Catherine Graham and Winston Fairchild of Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish; Hallie Monserez, Peter Etz and Sofia Cava of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota; and Sophia Miller of Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. Finalists have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million. The process to become a Finalist includes submitting a detailed application with information about their academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, as well as honors and awards received.

“Pope’s Rabbi” speaking in Naples

The Catholic-Jewish Dialogue of Collier County presents Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a longtime friend of Pope Francis, for a presentation at 3 p.m., Sunday, April 3, at St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Ave. N., Naples. With his return visit to the Diocese of Venice, Rabbi Skorka will describe his ongoing Catholic-Jewish dialogue with Pope Francis beginning while the Pontiff was Archbishop of Buenos Aires and which continues to this day. The program is presented by the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue of Collier County, the Diocese of Venice and the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples. Tickets are $18 per person in advance ($25 at the door if space is available). To purchase tickets, please visit www.jewishnaples.org.

News Briefs for the Week of Feb. 18, 2022

Seminarian Instituted as an Acolyte

Congratulations to Diocese of Venice Seminarian W. Pat Long, who was among 12 Instituted as an Acolyte on Feb. 9, 2022, at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts. The installation was presided over by Cardinal Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. The installation Mass plays an important role in the formation of the seminarians in their journey toward becoming priests. As an acolyte, each man’s primary role will be assisting the deacon and priest during Mass. They may also serve as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at Mass, bring Holy Eucharist to the sick, and participate in other tasks while aiding the priest and deacon during liturgical celebrations. Please join in praying for all of these men, but in particular Pat Long who is discerning his vocation to the priesthood for the Diocese of Venice.

Junior reaches scoring milestone

Jordyn Byrd, a Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School basketball player recently reached the 1,000-point milestone in her career. She accomplished this milestone on Feb. 11, 2022, in Sarasota, during a victory which led to a regional playoff win. Jordyn also plays volleyball and in January was named 2021-2022 Gatorade Florida Volleyball Player of the Year. She has maintained a 3.72 GPA in the classroom and will begin her senior year of high school this fall. She has already committed to continuing her athletic and academic career at the University of Texas.

Kinder surgeons’ scrub in

Future surgeons at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota showed their skills in Christina Via-Reque’s Kinder Cardiology on Feb. 10, 2022! These doctors scrubbed in and worked on their patients to practice reading, writing, colors, motor skills, sounding out words, math and more!

Soccer team dream season ends

The Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish boy’s soccer dream season came to an end with a 2-1 loss in the Class 2A-Region 3 quarterfinal match on Feb. 9, 2022, to Bradenton Christian Academy. The Shamrocks’ Aidan Minter accounted for the only goal in the heartbreaking loss. The Shamrocks had earned a home field game by clinching a district title on Feb. 4. The team should be proud of their success and vow to do better next year.

Schools share Valentines in community

Two Diocese of Venice Catholic high schools took time out this Valentine’s Day to give back to the community. Students at St. John Neumann Catholic School in Naples were thinking about the special day for a few weeks in many homeroom classes, as well as the Spanish Club, taking time to make cards for local assisted living facilities, as well as for the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco at the Provincial House, in New Jersey. Another class took note of where they saw love at the Naples school. Members of the Bishop Verot Catholic High School National Honors Society in Fort Myers hosted a Valentine’s Day celebration for clients of Special Populations in Cape Coral, a program for adults and children with intellectual disabilities which strives to promote independence.

Seventh graders enjoy high school experience

Some 70 seventh graders from St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy in Sarasota enjoyed a Cougar Experience Day on Feb. 9, 2022, at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School. In addition to a tour, the younger students took part in fun activities across the campus and heard from the high schoolers who shared what makes Mooney so special.

Hands-on science is key

To ensure that students at St. Andrew Catholic School learn the necessary skills to function in a modern world, the use of iPads and technology is standard. However, experience using tools such as a microscope still serve a vital purpose in the learning process. On Feb. 9, the sixth-grade science class in Cape Coral used their microscopes to identify various elements as part of a larger STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts, Math) curriculum. Of course, they were able to create images of the slide and save them on their iPads, but using the actual equipment made a real difference in the lesson.