Diocesan schools enjoy record enrollment

When entering any of the 15 Diocese of Venice Catholic schools you will find a bustling hive of activity, and you will see images of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary visible everywhere.

The children, in their uniforms – whether it is sports jacket, tie and slacks, or a polo shirt and tan pants – are smiling as they go from classroom to classroom eager for the next lesson.

In the classrooms, the students work at desks or in labs being challenged to learn in a way that is both enriching and fun: this is often done in a cooperative environment.

All Diocesan Catholic schools work conscientiously to provide Christ-centered learning experiences that are transportable to the real world, and to provide the opportunity for children to develop life-long learning skills and to be successful beyond the classroom.

Jesuit Father John Belmonte, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, said the 2023-2024 Academic Year is going to be exciting for everyone as enrollment has topped more than 6,200 students. That is an increase of more than 30 percent since 2020.

“We are full up with every school having some sort of waitlist,” Father Belmonte said. “There has been a focused effort to let the community in on the secret that Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools provide a top-notch education at all grade levels. There are exciting things happening in our schools and families are taking notice.”

While some of the enrollment increase has been due to the expansion of school choice scholarships through the Florida Step Up For Students program, Father Belmonte said it is much more.

Most crucially has been the support of Bishop Frank J. Dewane with promoting a variety of different initiatives to help bolster enrollment in the past several years. This includes a curriculum called “The Gifts of Christ: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Affability, Fortitude, Humility, and Prudence,” a robotics program, expanding the scope of the STREAM model (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math), into the classroom.

“These new initiatives, which are being implemented in every Diocesan Catholic school, ensure that each of the students receives the educational experience that parents have come to expect from the Diocese,” Father Belmonte explained. “That is a quality education that helps to build the mind, body and spirit, all focused on building up the glory of God in the world.”

Bishop Dewane said the increased enrollment is impressive and that he is humbled knowing that more families are putting their trust in the Diocese to educate their child.

“I want to thank all of the parents who have put their confidence in Diocesan Catholics schools, whether they are new to our schools or have been connected to our schools for many years,” Bishop Dewane said. “We have gained this trust by having Christ at the center of everything. We accomplish this through our comprehensive ‘Gifts of Christ’ initiative which enhances the faith and academic life of the students and the entire Diocesan school community.”

This initiative creates a strong culture by providing each student a Catholic world view and building moral character that continues to help develop the creative imagination of each student.

The result is that Diocesan Catholic schools are outstanding in placing students ahead of the curve in primary fields while continuing to promote core Catholic values by helping students to develop cognitive thought processes and gain skills such as leadership, communication, complex problem solving, teamwork and creativity.

Getting the word out about the great things happening in Diocesan Catholic schools has meant that Father Belmonte and his team have been relentless in raising awareness about the widespread availability of school choice and education choice scholarships. During enrollment season in the spring, Father Belmonte said his office texted and emailed 1 million messages to Catholic families within the borders of the Diocese.

“People are saying, ‘I can’t believe you’re communicating with me on my cell phone,’” Belmonte said.

Clearly, the outreach efforts are working. And there are no plans to pause.

The Diocese is in the process of converting one of its schools, Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota, into a classical school, in response to growing parental demand for that kind of rigorous curriculum. In doing so, Incarnation will join Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria as a classical Catholic school.

Across the Diocese, the schools are increasing academic standards while focusing on developing a strong “Catholic School Culture.”

“This culture is the vision, values, systems, language, expectations, behaviors, and beliefs that increase a school’s and Diocese’s chances of accomplishing the strategy of fulfilling its mission: to introduce the world to its Savior,” Father Belmonte said. “That is at the core of what we do, each and every day, and judging by the enrollment numbers, the parents value that by entrusting their children to our schools.”

For more information about Diocesan Catholic schools, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/education.

News Briefs for the week of September 8, 2023

Announcements

Father Patrick O’Connor, OSFS, is relieved of his duties as Pastor of Jesus the Worker Parish and San Jose Mission in Fort Myers, effective Sept. 1, 2023, and thus has returned to his Religious Community.

Father Carlos Encinas, is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of St. Agnes Parish and St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, Naples, effective Aug. 1, 2023. Father Encinas, for health reasons, has taken an assignment in the Diocese of Oakland, California.

Bishop Dewane celebrates Mass in Bradenton

Students at St. Joseph Catholic School were blessed to have Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for them on Sept. 1, 2023. Bishop Dewane encouraged the students to follow Christ’s example at home, in school and in the community. Following the Mass, the Bishop joined the eighth graders for breakfast where he took time to speak to them and encourage them to be the leaders of their school.

Day focuses on STREAM learning

The third through eighth grade students at St. Mary Academy had a fun STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts, and math) day on Aug. 31, 2023, hands-on exercises in small groups. The students worked on the following: Natural Disasters – created structures to withstand high winds of a Category 1-4 hurricane, where a blow dryer created much excitement; Hurricane Escape Room – an activity where they researched the season, cause, formation, naming, and wind scale of a hurricane; Create a Structure to Survive the Storm: with the use of pilings, flood barrier walls and absorbent materials students created a dog house to keep their pet dog dry. These were great activities using all aspects of STREAM and the students learned so much, instilling a love of science, while also working together as disciples of Christ.

Fort Myers schools give back

Two Diocesan Catholic schools which received many gestures of kindness from the impact of two hurricanes are returning the favor. St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers and St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral had special “Dress Down Days” on Aug. 31, and Sept. 1, 2023, respectively. Money raised on these days will go to help Sacred Hearts Catholic School in Lahaina, Hawaii. The school, which has been serving the community for more than 150 years, was destroyed during an Aug. 8, 2023, wildfire which killed at least 115 and left thousands homeless. The school website states: “The flames destroyed our physical structures, but they cannot extinguish the Holy Spirit in us and our strong will to rebuild and rescue the students of the Lahaina community.” By providing a donation, the students at St. Andrew and St. Francis Xavier were able to forgo wearing their school uniform for the day. The result was that thousands were raised between the two schools in a single day. Both of the Lee County schools received donations from across the country following Hurricanes Irma (2017) and Ian (2022), which severely impacted the schools and surrounding communities, thus this was a great opportunity to give back to a Catholic school in need.

Service and community focus of school retreat

Middle school students at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota took part in a special Retreat Day Sept. 1, 2023, which focused on service and community. The students created cards for those who are sick in the hospital and placemats to be used at Thanksgiving for those less fortunate. They concluded with a Prayer Service with Pallotine Fr. George Suszko, Pastor of St. Martha Parish.

Patriotic theme for first game of season

The stands of the St. John Neumann Catholic High School football field were a sea of red, white, and blue on Sept. 1, 2023, during the first home game of the season in Naples. The Patriotic Night brought out many inspiring outfits as everyone cheered the Celtic team on to a 16-8 victory against Gateway Charter of Fort Myers.

Teachers take part in professional development

Each year Diocesan Catholic school teachers have special days set aside to help them grow in their work and receive updates on new policies and programs. At St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton on Sept. 5, 2023, the teachers learned about a new program for faith formation, followed by working in committees to begin a self-study that will lead to long range planning, goal setting, and preparation for school re-accreditation. During the day, the staff lived their mission statement: “rooted in Catholic faith and committed to academic excellence.”

Volunteers help fill backpacks

Volunteers from St. Martha Catholic School and Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota helped fill 1,200 backpacks for children in the region on Sept. 5, 2023, at All Faiths Food Bank. There were 18 volunteers who joined in this outreach.

News Briefs for the Week of September 1, 2023

Students recognized for summer work

Students at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton were recognized for taking part in two summer learning programs during an awards ceremony on Aug. 25, 2023. First was the recognition of students who participated in the IXL Summer Reading Challenge. IXL (from “I excel”) is a math and language arts practice website for K-12 (subscription based). Students in grades one through eight used the IXL online individualized learning program to complete problems in math, language arts, social studies, science, and Spanish. IXL participants completed a total of 182,624 problems. Throughout the summer, the competition was very intense. The over-all top winner was Monica, who completed 16,560 problems, while 58 students were recognized for their participation. In addition, 72 students received recognition for their participation in a summer reading program.

Youth event held in Fort Myers

The St. John XXIII Parish Youth Council hosted a family event Aug. 27, 2023, in Fort Myers. Nearly 200 took part in this event which took place in Marian Hall and included a live performance by The Camp Veritas Band, dynamic speakers, and Adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Students marked for leadership

As is the tradition at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, the eighth-grade students are brought forward during a ceremony where they take an oath of leadership. This ceremony took place following Mass on Aug. 24, 2023. Principal David Nelson administered the oath and then presented each student with a pin to mark them as St. Andrew Catholic School Leaders.

Police make fun visit to Naples school

Members of the Naples Police Department stopped by to speak to pre-kindergarten students at St. Ann Catholic School on Aug. 25, 2023. Officers read to the students and answered questions as the students learned about how the police are there to serve the community as everyday heroes.

Students use physics during experiment

A physics class at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers used an experiment that would measure and interpret the forces acting on an object in equilibrium. The experiment: How do rope tensions relate to their weights and the weight of an object, such as scaffolding? The students worked on this exact question on Aug. 24, 2023, and their focus and comprehension were impressive.

Confirmation class begins in Fort Myers

A Sacrament of Confirmation class at Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers began on Aug. 27, 2023. During the opening session, participants took part in an open discussion on key questions of the faith, including: Do you view the Holy Spirit as more of a “who” or a “what”? Does this distinction change how you approach the Holy Spirit? Who or what is the Holy Spirit to you? These questions and more are the focus of the sacramental preparation during the coming months. The goal of the religious education program is to help the faithful grow in their knowledge and understanding of the Catholic faith and their part in the Universal Church.

Parish to host Oktoberfest

San Pedro Parish, 14380 Tamiami Trail, North Port, is hosting an Oktoberfest celebration on Oct. 13 and 14, 2023. On Oct. 13, the evening begins at 5 p.m. and concludes at 11 p.m., and will include an opening ceremony and music by The Boogiemen, and hourly races, as well as a beverage garden, and food favorites such as brats, burgers, hotdogs, perogies, Bavarian and hand-rolled pretzels, ice cream and homemade desserts. On Oct. 14, the doors are open 11 a.m.-11 p.m., and this is a Family Day; the event is free and open to all. Music includes performances by Beth Travers and Trop Rock, Bud Buckley, The Flashbacks, Shari Fink and the Mission Band, as well as an open mic. There will also be a Foam Party with inflatables, balloons, face painting, rock climbing, trivia, dunk tank, raffles, giveaways and more. Proceeds will support the Parish Restoration Fund. Sponsorship and vendor exhibits are available by calling 941-426-2500, or email events@sanpedrorcc.org.

News Briefs for the week of August 25, 2023

World Youth Day topic at recent Theology on Tap

World Youth Day 2023 was the topic of discussion at the most recent Theology on Tap on Aug. 17, 2023, at the Mandeville Beer Garden in Sarasota. An outreach of the Diocese Young Adult Ministry, Theology on Tap takes place on the third Thursday of each month with a variety of speakers addressing topics relevant to the Catholic Faith. In August, the guest speakers were Transitional Deacon Thomas Gregory Dougherty, a Diocesan seminarian in his final year of studies at St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts; and Stephanie Lovetere, the Youth Ministry Coordinator at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. Each shared their experiences on the trip to Portugal with a group of 52 from the Diocese, including Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Marthamaria Morales, Diocesan Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry who also organizes Theology on tap. The monthly gathering also includes food and refreshments. The next scheduled date is Sept. 21, and will feature Father Christian Chami, Parochial Vicar at St. Jude Parish, Sarasota.  For any questions, please email Marthamaria Morales at morales@dioceseofvenice.org.

Second Collection for Maui, Hawaii Aug. 26-27

Devastating wildfires swept through the Maui region of Hawaii on Aug. 8, 2023, causing much destruction and a loss of life for a large number of residents, particularly in Lahaina.  As we are all called to help our brothers and sisters in need, a second collection will take place in the Diocese of Venice the weekend of August 26 and 27. The proceeds of the collection will be sent to Catholic Charities Diocese of Honolulu to assist in their efforts to address the needs of the citizens in the affected area. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.

Decline to Sign Petition for dangerous Pro-Abortion ballot initiative

An extremely grave initiative is underway in Florida that seeks to erase pro-life protections by inserting language into the Florida State Constitution banning regulation of abortion. Abortion activists are working to gather petition signatures to have a pro-abortion constitutional amendment placed on the statewide ballot in the November 2024 election. To do so, they need nearly 900,000 signatures and are working right now in communities across Florida to collect them. Floridian Catholics should not sign the petition. Please also continue your prayers for the protection of the unborn and spread the word to your spheres of influence.

High school retreat serves community

Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers hosted its annual Freshman Retreat on Aug. 17, 2023. Freshmen, along with senior leaders, enjoyed a great morning getting settled into their rooms, listening to discussions, and enjoying breakfast. They then headed out to various service sites throughout the community in order to give back and appreciate the Christian Service aspect of the freshmen retreat.

STREAM skills used in school project

Fifth-grade students at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples used engineering, teamwork, math and technology skills in their first STREAM activity of the school year on Aug. 22, 2023. Each student was amazed to learn their handmade rubberband/yarn device was an actual tool! The objective was to build a tower first using only their dominant hand, then building the tower with their non-dominant hand. Students learned, smiled, and worked together as disciples of Christ.

Vocabulary “treasure hunt”

Using “Christ is Us” books, second grade students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers practiced their vocabulary words on Aug. 18, 2023. The lesson was a “treasure hunt” as the students try to find and define key “gem” words in the text of the books. When finished with their search, they presented to their groups and used cooperative learning structures for added reading lessons.

“Heart of Discipleship” retreat helps ministry students

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School ministry students in Sarasota attended a retreat on Aug. 22, 2023, at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch. The students spent the day exploring the “Heart of Discipleship” while coming together as a team.  Students heard from various speakers including teacher, alum and Deacon Jack Milholland of Our Lady of the Angels Parish. The lesson learned was: “God is good! All the time!”

Day of Reflection for Sacramental Marriage Sept. 9 in Naples

The Office of Marriage and Family Life will be hosting a Day of Reflection for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church.  A specially prepared team will share their experiences and information enabling couples to be more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of marriage.  This event will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sept. 9, 2023, at St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Avenue, Naples. The cost of $50/couple covers all retreat materials and lunch.  Pre-registration is required at https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/marriage-preparation-seminar-2023. Should you have questions or require additional information contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org, or call 941-484-9543 ext. 4748.

Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal coming to an end

Every day, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., serves its most vulnerable population by feeding, housing, empowering, and helping all in need. This summer, you can be the one that makes a difference. Your acts of kindness have the power to transform lives and leave a positive impact in our community. The Catholic Charities Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal is coming to a conclusion soon. Your gift will make a positive impact on our less fortunate brothers and sisters! Please visit https://catholiccharitiesdov.org/ or mail a check to Catholic Charities, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

Formation Program in Spanish

The next session of the Hispanic Apostolate’s Formation Program is scheduled to begin on Sept. 29, 2023. The topic of study will be focused on the “National Eucharistic Revival” and there will be a total of seven classes held from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 pm. on Fridays. (During Lent classes will move to Thursdays beginning February 15th.). The cost for all the classes is $35 including the book. Those who register and attend a minimum of 6 classes either at one of the participating parishes or online using our APP (https://pastoralhispanavenice.com/) will receive a Diocesan Certification.

Programa de Formación en Español

La próxima sesión del Programa de Formación a cargo del Apostolado Hispano comenzará el 29 de setiembre del 2023. El tema de estudio estará enfocado en el “Avivamiento Eucarístico Nacional” y habrá un total de 7 clases que se darán los viernes por la noche de 7:00 pm a 9:00 pm. (Durante la Cuaresma las clases se trasladan al jueves a partir del 15 de febrero). El costo de todas las clases es de $35 incluyendo el libro. Las personas que se registren y atiendan un mínimo de 6 clases ya sea en una de las parroquias participantes o vía online usando nuestro APP (https://pastoralhispanavenice.com/) recibirán una Certificación Diocesana.

Help available for Hurricane Ian survivors

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice, Inc. has partnered with St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services in the Disaster Case Management Program to offer services to individuals and families impacted by Hurricane Ian. For additional information or to schedule an appointment, visit www.svdpdisaster.org, email DR4673IAN@svdpdisaster.org, or call 941-799-6779.

One week in and students fully engaged

Sounds such as the trudging of feet in the hallways, the ringing of the first bell, morning prayers, and classroom instruction, are what make up a typical school day.

However, the sounds have a new ring in each of the 15 Diocese of Venice Catholic schools as the halls are full with a combined complement of more than 6,200 students. That equates to a record enrollment for the 2023-2024 Academic Year, which began on Aug. 9, 2023.

The first days were full of everyone figuring out where to go, reuniting with old friends or making new ones, participating in their first academic lessons and taking part in any of a myriad of extracurricular activities.

At Diocesan Catholic schools, each student attended an opening Mass, either the first day of school, or within the first week.

Jesuit Father John Belmonte, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, started the year by celebrating Mass for students at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples on Aug. 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Father Belmonte encouraged the students to turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary for guidance as a pathway toward heaven. The solemnity celebrates Mary’s Assumption, body and soul, into heaven and eternal life, so that she might be more fully conformed to her Son, Jesus Christ, the conqueror of death.

“This is another exciting year in our Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools,” Father said. “We are full up with every school having some sort of waitlist. We have new initiatives which are being implemented to ensure that each of our students receives the educational experience that parents have come to expect from the Diocese: that is a quality education that helps to build the mind, body and spirit, all focused on building up the glory of God in the world.”

Diocesan schools have fully integrated the STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) learning model into all classrooms. At the same time, the Diocesan curriculum called, “The Gifts of Christ: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Affability, Fortitude, Humility, and Prudence,” is the norm.

This approach, fully supported through the generosity of Bishop Frank J. Dewane, places students ahead of the curve in primary fields while continuing to promote core Catholic virtues by helping students to develop cognitive thought processes and gain skills such as leadership, communication, complex problem solving, teamwork and creativity.

Many classrooms showed off their STREAM skills in the first days of school with second graders at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers, using blocks to make homes and churches. They created a Tree of Knowledge story/drawing and stained-glass art.

Just after school began, the three Catholic schools in Lee County were the beneficiary of the Catholic Schools Night on Aug. 11, at The Mighty Mussels minor league baseball game at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers. Part of the proceeds benefited St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, as well as St. Francis Xavier and Bishop Verot Catholic High School, both in Fort Myers. The Mighty Mussels mascot visited the students at St. Andrew the morning of the game.

The first Friday at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples was a House Retreat Day, where new students are assigned to one of four Houses which serve as their center of social and school spirit activities throughout the coming year. Each of the four teams competes for points to earn different rewards or prizes throughout the year, with a trophy for the winners at the end.

Students at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice are now participating in daily Mass. This builds upon the lessons from the last school year when the students learned about the Most Holy Eucharist.

At St. Mary Academy in Sarasota, STREAM was part of a fun and messy hands-on lesson with toothpaste. The experiment focused on the question: Can you get all of the toothpaste back into a tube once it is all squeezed out? Some of it might end up back inside, but the majority of it sticks elsewhere. During the expansive lesson, the students learned that our words and actions are like toothpaste. We have to stop and think about what we say and do towards others so that our kindness is what sticks to others. It is very hard to take back unkind words or actions- just as hard as trying to get all of the toothpaste back into the tube. This was such a strong lesson in how words must be chosen carefully and not say things you will regret.

These are just a few of the examples of what took place during the first week of school in the Diocese of Venice and doesn’t even come close to covering the full scope of the exciting things that are taking place each day. Stay tuned as we follow our students throughout the school year.

To learn more about Diocese of Venice Catholic schools, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/education.

News briefs for the week of June 16, 2023

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 12-16, 2023, the team was at St. Agnes Parish in Naples. The weeklong Parish summer catechetical camp 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 11 parishes in the Diocese of Venice with three sessions now completed. The week-long camps are divided into two sessions, with the day camp for students entering grades 1 – 6, and the evening camp for middle school and high school students entering grades 7 – 12.

The remaining Parishes hosting the program are as follows:

  • Ave Maria in Ave Maria and St. Peter the Apostle in Naples, June 18-23;
  • Catherine in Sebring, June 25-30;
  • Our Lady Queen of Heaven in La Belle, July 9-14;
  • John XXIII in Fort Myers and St. Patrick in Sarasota, July 16-21;
  • Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and Our Lady of the Angels in Lakewood Ranch, July 23-28.

Several parishes still have limited openings for this program. To inquire, please contact the individual Parish religious education office by visiting https://dioceseofvenice.org/find-a-parish/. For further information regarding this program, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/totustuus2023/.

Students work to protect Everglades

A dedicated team of 12 seventh grade students from the National Junior Honor Society of St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, participated in a community service project to protect the Everglades. Our “Everglades Champions” worked for several months earlier in 2023 to understand issues involving water quality and seagrass habitats, learn about policies and practices associated with water quality, and implement goals and strategies to affect positive change in the community. Their goal was to promote healthy water quality and seagrass habitats by educating the community about the harm posed by fertilizer run-off and encourage the community to NOT fertilize lawns during the rainy season. To reach their goal, the students implemented a multi-faceted strategy. They created informational posters and artwork which is on display at the Cape Coral Library through the end of June. They delivered letters and flyers to local hardware stores, and they posted their message on social media. The students were recognized by the Everglades Foundation during a virtual celebration event on June 2, 2023.

Knights on Bikes begin evangelization efforts in Collier County

On Sunday, June 4, 2023, the Knights of Columbus Knights on Bikes rode from Ave Maria to San Marco Parish on Marco Island to participate in Mass as a Knight honor guard. The Knights on Bikes in the Diocese are under the leadership of Chair Pete Battle, whose mission is to evangelize to the Catholic community and to those willing to listen to the message of Christ, as they live and witness faith as motorcyclists. Their motto is “In God we trust and ride.” The Knights on Bikes are involved in charity rides, toy drives, fund raising rides for vocations and local Knight’s councils. The Knights on Bikes will next be participating in Mass will be at Our Lady of Light Parish, 19680 Cypress View Drive, Fort Myers, at 10:30 a.m., on July 23. Any Parish interested in hosting the Knights on Bikes can reach out to Pete Battle at 239-601-6061.

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., July 4, 2023. 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.

Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal

Every day, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., serves the area’s most vulnerable population by feeding, housing, empowering, and helping all in need. This summer, you can be the one that makes a difference. Your acts of kindness have the power to transform lives and leave a positive impact in our community. The Catholic Charities Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal is asking for your support. The giving is easy! Your gift will make a positive impact on our less fortunate brothers and sisters! Please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org or mail a check to Catholic Charities, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

Ordination to the Priesthood July 15

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the faithful to the Ordination to the Priesthood of Transitional Deacons Alejandro Giraldo Roldan and Daniel Scanlan. The Ordination will take place at 11 a.m., Saturday, July 15, 2023, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this important event in the lives of Deacons Alejandro and Daniel as well as the Diocese of Venice. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall.

Free counseling services available

Did you know that Catholic Charities offers FREE counseling and Psychotherapy? If you or someone you know is ready to take the first step towards healing and wellness, call 888-249-9296. Catholic Charities serves ALL that come to us for help, regardless of race or religion.

Support pregnant mothers in need

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.

Sebring third graders publish first book

Third graders at St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring have authored their first book.

The book, which includes illustrations from the students and their own reflections on the Most Holy Eucharist, was a part of a class effort inspired by the 2022-2023 Diocesan Catholic Schools Devotional Project on the “The Most Holy Eucharist: The Riches of His Glorious Inheritance.”

The devotional project theme was approved and encouraged by Bishop Frank J. Dewane as it supports the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival, led by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which began in 2022 and continues through 2024.

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese Superintendent of Catholic Education, said the goal of this year’s devotional project was to bring “students a deeper awareness and more ardent love of our Lord’s Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist.”

Another element of the devotional project was to encourage students to get into the habit of visiting the Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist by going to Mass or attending adoration.

As part of that project, the students at each school, including St. Catherine, learned from trained eighth-grade Junior Catechists about the Most Holy Eucharist.

St. Catherine third-grade teacher Frances Shipman said, “In listening to my students’ beautiful answers during this class discussion (with the Junior Catechists) on the body, blood, soul, and divinity of the Most Holy Eucharist, I thought that their understanding and answers needed to be shared in the form of a book.”

The illustrations were completed in their art class with teacher Mary Alexander. Then, Shipman partnered with Studentreasures Publishing for the publication.

“This project was a culmination of the foundation that parents and teachers, past and present, have set for our students on the greatest gift of the body and blood of Jesus Christ,” Shipman said.

Students shared what the Most Holy Eucharist means to them as they shared their deep understanding of the power of receiving the body of Christ.

Here is a sample:

“I like the Eucharist because it gives me eternal life. The Eucharist means Jesus’ life and Jesus’ body. Jesus is always with us. Eucharist is important because it leads us to holiness, courage and goodness. It is the bread of life and the greatest story of love, it represents Jesus’ body and Jesus’ blood.” – Ismael

“The Eucharist means healing and eternal life to me.” – Catalina

“We cannot see God, but he is always with us. It is the most holy thing I have ever seen, when I see the Eucharist. I feel the Lord’s presence. The Eucharist is extremely precious to me.” – Anastacia

“I believe the Eucharist is how Jesus gave us very special holy gifts… The Eucharist means so much to me. People gather to accept the sacrifice that Jesus and God did for me. It makes my heart feel so good that the holiness and love felt during Communion makes so many people feel togetherness and praise in joy. The Eucharist is Jesus’ way to say I will always be with you in body and spirit, and this makes me so happy.” – Asia

“The Eucharist is the hidden baby Jesus. To me the Eucharist is like a baby in a mom’s tummy, you can’t see the baby, but the baby is there. You can’t see Jesus in the Eucharist, but He is there.” – Pia

“The Eucharist means that Christ is with me. It also means that Jesus and God are present through the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Sophia

“When we receive the Eucharist, our hearts are overcome with knowing that Jesus loves us. This means we belong to God forever.” – Elsa

“When we receive the Eucharist, we become pure in heart.” James

“When we celebrate the Eucharist at Mass, we remember Jesus’ sacrifice. The Eucharist makes me have courage.” – Jadelynn

“When I receive the Eucharist, I feel faith and affability and I can get along with everyone.” – Elena

“The Eucharist is how I can connect with Jesus Christ… The Eucharist is how you and me can be better people too. God wants us to be kind and loving to each other, so when we eat the Eucharist God can help our words and our actions to unite and be kinder.” Owen

St. Catherine Principal Dr. Christine Higgins said she is proud of the students for their reflections on the Holy Eucharist and their artwork, “We are grateful to Bishop Dewane and Father Belmonte, and our Pastor Father Jose Gonzalez for their leadership and inspiration of Faith to our students and teachers.”

Father Belmonte visited the third-grade students on May 9, 2023, and was presented a copy of the illustrated book.

“It is incredible how well these students grasp what they learned through this devotional project in the classroom about the Most Holy Eucharist and turned it into something beautiful,” Father Belmonte said. “The words and the artwork are outstanding.”

At the back of the book, Shipman wrote a note to the parents: “Thank you for entrusting your most precious treasures to me this school year. We have laughed, learned, lived, loved, studied, played, prayed, and even enriched our lives together this year. It was an honor to guide your children in writing a book on the Most Holy Eucharist and I want to thank you for raising Disciples of Christ.”

News Briefs for the week of June 9, 2023

Students learn about how corporation operates

Members of the Bishop Verot Catholic High School Scholars Academy learned about color, fabric quality, lab testing, trends, concept design, visual merchandising, and technology while touring the Fort Myers campus of Chico’s headquarters in May 2023. These students had a front-row seat to see how a large clothing retail company operates, as the students learned how to connect their academic paths to future career opportunities.

STREAM summer camp in Bradenton

St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton is hosting a summer camp which focuses on learning STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math) skills. The first day of the camp was June 5, 2023, and activities included making morphing creations, enjoying books, and participating in “Math and Movement.”

Young adult outreach opportunity

St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers hosts a once a month gathering for young adults called Rooted, in the church at 4 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month (June 11, 2023). This includes praise and worship, along with Eucharistic Adoration. In addition, the outreach program is looking to expand it’s offerings to young adults, such as for college students, those 20-30, young adults who are married with/without children (children welcome), and older adults aged 30 years and up. If you are interested in helping to organize, lead, or participate in this effort, please contact Kelly Evers, St. John XXIII Coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, at kelly@johnxxiii.net or 239-561-3022.

Day of Reflection for Sacramental Marriage June 17

The Office of Marriage and Family Life will be hosting a Day of Reflection for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church on two separate dates. This day of reflection will be 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., June 17, 2023, at St. Katharine Drexel Parish, 1922 SW 20th Ave., Cape Coral. A specially prepared team will share their experiences and information enabling couples to be more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of marriage. The cost of $50/couple covers all retreat materials and lunch.  Pre-registration is required at Marriage Preparation Seminar 2023 (regfox.com).  Should you have questions or require additional information contact Carrie Harkey at 941-484-9543 ext. 4748, or harkey@dioceseofvenice.org.

Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal

Every day, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., serves its most vulnerable population by feeding, housing, empowering, and helping all in need. This summer, you can be the one that makes a difference. Your acts of kindness have the power to transform lives and leave a positive impact in our community. The Catholic Charities Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal is asking for your support. The giving is easy! Your gift will make a positive impact on our less fortunate brothers and sisters! Please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org or mail a check to Catholic Charities, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

Ordination to the Priesthood July 15

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the faithful to the Ordination to the Priesthood of Transitional Deacons Alejandro Giraldo Roldan and Daniel Scanlan. The Ordination will take place at 11 a.m., Saturday, July 15, 2023, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this important event in the lives of Deacons Alejandro and Daniel as well as the Diocese of Venice. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall.

Volunteers Needed for Prison Outreach

Join the team of Diocesan volunteers who enter county jails and state prisons within the 10-county Diocese of Venice to do pastoral outreach, distribute the Eucharist and facilitate programs. Priests, Deacons, and lay volunteers are encouraged to assist in this ministry. Volunteers will first participate in an orientation program before entering the facility and will “shadow” experienced volunteers until you feel comfortable. Times and days vary by facility. Please contact Joe Mallof at 224-217-7139 or Bob Hiniker 863-558-0407 to learn where you can fit into this joyful opportunity.

 

News briefs for the week of May 26, 2023

Verot athlete wins discus state title

Wyatt Whalen, a graduating senior at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, won the Florida State 2A Discus Championship at the recent Florida High School Athletic Association Track & Field State Championship on May 19, 2023, at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Whalen made a throw of 16.48 meters (54-feet 1-inch), which follows up his 2022 state title in the shot put. Verot teammate Grayson Tubbs, also a senior, finished third in the 800-meter race with a time of 1:56.52. The Verot boys finished 7th overall, with the girls coming in at 16th. Other top performances came from the girls and boys 3200 relay teams, which both finished fourth. Other Verot athletes to reach the awards podium (top 8) were: Logan Schwartz, javelin (4th), Mackenzie De Lisle, 3200 (4th); Julie Reitz, 1600, (8th); Ryan Peterson, discus (5th); Raven Gadsen, triple jump (8th). In the same competition, Marc Dalmau, a graduating senior at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, took third in the discus with a throw of 49.12 meters (161-feet 2-inches). Congratulations to everyone!

Neumann falls in baseball state semifinals

The dream year for the St. John Neumann Catholic High School baseball team came to an end on May 18, 2023, in the state semifinals at the Lee County Sports Complex in Fort Myers. The team fell by a score of 3-0 to Lakeland Christian, the eventual state 2A champions. The Celtics finished the season with a record of 23-9 and reached the state Final Four for the first time since 1985. Great season everyone!

40-Hours Devotion and Eucharistic Procession coming to North Port

San Pedro Parish, 14380 Tamiami Trail, North Port, will celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi and the ongoing Eucharistic Revival with a 40-Hours Devotion and Eucharistic Procession. Adoration will begin at 3 p.m. Friday, June 9, 2023, and conclude at 7 a.m., Sunday, June 11. Adoration will be interrupted during the daily Masses (8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, June 10). There will be a Eucharistic Procession around the Parish grounds following the 10:45 a.m. Mass on Sunday, June 11. To sign up for an hour of adoration, please contact 941-426-2500 or sanpedrorevival@gmail.com.

Physics on display

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School Honor’s Physics class of Michelle Vocu held a time-honored tradition on May 16, 2023, and tried their luck with the egg drop experiment. The assignment was to design and construct a container that would allow the egg to fall freely without increased air resistance from the top of the football stadium press box, and land unharmed. The maximum weight allowed was 600 grams, and the students were encouraged to have a minimum size for the structure. In addition, they were not allowed to use any food or packaging materials in their design. After their drops (most of which were successful), the designs were evaluated, and recommendations were made for a redesign. The students were also able to calculate the impact force and velocity of their egg, using the data collected. What a great way to round out the year!

School improvement project moves into next phase

The North Campus Improvement Project at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton has moved into Phase 2 beginning in mid-May 2023. The next activity includes the installation of a shade structure over the outdoor basketball courts. The improvement project includes the construction of a six-classroom early learning/aftercare center, updates to the playground, classroom lighting and much more. If you have questions about how you can help support the school, please contact Carlee Colonneso at development@sjsfl.org,or visit https://www.sjsfl.org/donate.

Retreat encourages men to return to Church

The latest John XXIII Movement retreat took place the weekend of May 19-21, 2023, at Campo San Jose Retreat Center in Lake Placid. The retreat was for men who have been absent from the Church and marginalized from society. The John XXIII Movement is a private international association of laity, born to be a movement of evangelization/conversion and to work, helping the faithful return to full and active participation in the Catholic Church.

 

 

News Briefs for the week of May 12, 2023

Bishop leads prayer service to honor Our Lady

Bishop Frank J. Dewane led a prayer service for the staff of the Catholic Center in Venice on May 3, 2023, in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary who we celebrate throughout the month of May.

Artist recognized during exhibition

Valentina Montes, a graduating senior at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, has been invited by Artis Naples to display her art pieces at the 14th Annual Student Exhibition. The event runs from May 6 to July 23, 2023. Valentina will continue her art education in the fall at Florida Atlantic University.

Fun run held in Cape Coral

St. Andrew Catholic School students participated in the Boosterthon Fun Run in Cape Coral on May 5, 2023. Families and extended families helped the school reach and exceed its goal of $40,000. Students not only ran but participated in a number of fun activities as part of the celebration. Funds will be used to enhance school security and plan for future expansion.

Cinco de Mayo celebrated in Naples

The Spanish classes at St. Ann Catholic School in Naples celebrated Cinco de Mayo (May 5, 2023) in style with traditional food and fun times honoring the Mexican culture.

Seniors have last day in school

The graduating seniors at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School had fun on their last formal day of class on May 4, 2023, in Sarasota. There were lots of hugs, smiles and a few tears as the students were cheered as they exited the school building at the end of the day by teachers and the freshman, sophomore and junior students.

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