Thanksgiving celebrated across the Diocese

The idea of giving thanks, knowing that we are here because of gifts given to us by God, is at the core of what Thanksgiving is all about.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane described the holiday this way while celebrating Mass at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch on Nov. 23, 2023.

As hard as we try, Bishop Dewane added, “being who God called us to be is difficult, and we will fail along the way. But, the Bible records the wonderful gifts of God, which we can find within ourselves and in others who are all made in the image and likeness of God.”

The Gospel reading of the day (Luke 17:11-19) was the parable of the 10 lepers, when only one returned to thank Jesus upon being cured of the debilitating illness. Jesus asks where the other nine were. Bishop Dewane stressed how we are all among the missing nine at certain points in our life, but we must always strive to be among the ones who return.

“By your presence at Mass on Thanksgiving, you are counted among those who returned to Jesus, just as you came to give thanks to God today. Know the Lord sees the goodness in you and thanks you,” Bishop Dewane said.

Meanwhile, Bishop Dewane went from the Mass in Lakewood Ranch to take part in a free community Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the Knights of Columbus Our Lady of Victory Council 3358 at their Hall on Fruitville Road in Sarasota.

The Knights delivered more than 200 meals to the elderly and homebound and then served hundreds more meals to those who needed a hot meal or didn’t have anywhere to go for the holiday. Guests were also encouraged to take meals home. Those meals included turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, roll, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

Bishop Dewane offered the opening prayer for the Knights and other volunteers before the dining room was opened. Then, the Bishop took his traditional spot in charge of serving the corn and later assisted with the stuffing and gravy.

Being grateful for what they have was a strong theme during Traditional Thanksgiving events throughout the Diocese of Venice.

St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral hosted a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for the second year in a row with 144 meals served. The first dinner in 2022 came about when many were still recovering from Hurricane Ian and Father Ricky Varner, Pastor at St. Katherine Drexel, organized different Parishes groups to make certain dishes to help people. It is now an annual tradition cherished by many.

In Naples, at St. Peter the Apostle, Pastor Father Gerard Critch started the Parish Thanksgiving dinner more than 10 years ago to ensure “no one will spend Thanksgiving alone.” Following a trilingual Mass (English, Spanish, Creole), the dinner served 300.

On Nov. 22, students from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota volunteered and served food at the 23rd Annual Sarasota Ministerial Association Thanksgiving Dinner at St. Martha Parish in Sarasota. This was the fifteenth year Mooney students helped support this event.

At St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway happened on Nov. 18, in conjunction with the weekly Saturday Food Pantry. More than 200 turkeys with all the fixings were given away. On the same day, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., in Immokalee, delivered meals with all the trimmings to more than 150 families.

Gratitude for the many blessings enjoyed by the Diocese of Venice was widespread, and heartfelt!

Food drives support needy during holidays

Throughout November, students at the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools rallied to collect thousands of food items which were donated to local food pantries just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.

At St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers, the Junior National Honor Society organized the food drive with more than 4,000 items collected in during a two-week period. Meanwhile, at St. Andrew Catholic School students in Cape Coral donated 1,540 pounds of food. A similar food drive at St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring garnered some 2,000 canned goods. These are just some of the impressive responses to a call for need in the area.

The Diocesan high schools were not to be outdone by their younger counterparts. Huge deliveries of food from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School went out on Nov. 17, 2023, to four local food pantries. In addition, the school donated more than $1,200 in gift cards for use at area grocery stores. Similar scenes played out at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, and Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School includes all grades and held a similar food drive.

Beneficiaries of the food collected by the students throughout the Diocese included the regional Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., food pantries, the Harry Chapin Food Bank in Fort Myers, All Faiths Food Bank in Sarasota, as well as individual Parish food pantries.

For example, one of the beneficiaries of the items collected at Cardinal Mooney was the St. Joseph Food Pantry, which distributes needed food to more than 1,800 families each month in Manatee County, or about 6,500 individuals.

Pantry Director Dan Friedrich said the demand from needy families for food has increased in the past year as the cost of items has skyrocketed. While donations go up during the holidays, the demand is there year-round.

The generosity of the families at the Diocesan Catholic schools will go a long way in helping those in need this holiday season.

While dry food donations are accepted at all food pantries, monetary donations are greatly appreciated as this money can be leveraged to purchase more items from regional food banks. To support Catholic Charities, please visit https://catholiccharitiesdov.org/donate. To support the St. Joseph Food Pantry, please visit https://stjoepantry.com/donate.

Thanksgiving across the Diocese

The idea of giving thanks, knowing that we are here because of gifts given to us by God, is at the core of what Thanksgiving is all about.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane described the holiday this way while celebrating Mass at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch on Nov. 24, 2022.

As hard as we try, Bishop Dewane added, “being who God called us to be is difficult, and we will fail along the way. But, the Bible records the wonderful gifts of God, which we can find within ourselves and in others who are all made in the image and likeness of God.”

The Gospel reading of the day was the parable of the 10 lepers, when only one returned to thank Jesus upon being cured of the debilitating illness. Jesus asks where the other nine were, and Bishop Dewane said that we are all among the nine at certain points in life, but must always strive to be among the one’s who return.

“Our appreciation and gratitude of thanksgiving increases over the years as we realize how much is done for us by those around us and by God Himself.” Bishop Dewane said. “By your presence at Mass on Thanksgiving, you are counted among those who returned to Jesus, just as you came to give thanks to God. Know the Lord sees the goodness and thanks you express.”

Being grateful for what they have was a strong theme during a Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner at St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral.

The community was devastated by Hurricane Ian and is still recovering, which encouraged Father Ricky Varner, Pastor at St. Katharine Drexel, to host a Parish Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner.

Father Varner sent a request to the Parish staff and leaders of the different outreach groups (Knights of Columbus, Council of Catholic Women, Legion of Mary, Youth Outreach, Cursillo and more) to organize the dinner in an effort to help continue the healing process in support of families who are still displaced or rebuilding. Each group would be responsible for providing a designated dish.

“Since the wrath of Hurricane Ian on September 28th, I have had the privilege to see the best of all of you and to work alongside this incredible community… as we continue to support our brothers and sisters here and beyond to rebuild their lives and strive to get back to some form of normalcy,” Father Varner wrote in his appeal.

The results were glorious as more than 200 people came to enjoy a holiday meal.

Father Varner bussed the tables during the dinner pleased at the response to the meal by individuals and families, many still traumatized by the hurricane eight weeks later. “You people of St. Katharine Drexel – You Rock!”

One couple present were the Tremble’s who thought they would have to forgo a traditional Thanksgiving meal this year because their kitchen was destroyed in storm surge. The Tremble’s had hosted family from across the country each Thanksgiving since they moved to the area in 2010. That was not an option this year. They could have taken up any number of offers to go north for the holiday, but there is too much work to do in Cape Coral.

“Our life has been one long microwave dinner since Ian,” said June Tremble. “We are so thankful to Father Ricky and to everyone at the Parish for doing this. This is the best turkey I have ever had, because I know it was made with love.”

Other families had similar stories to share, with one person expressing their thanks for having a chance to put the recovery from Ian at the back of their mind, if only for a few hours.

“I have smiled and laughed more in the hour I have been here than in the two months since Ian,” said one man. “I really needed this. I think we all did.

The response by the staff and volunteers, as well as by the Parish families meant that Father Varner is already planning on making the dinner an annual tradition.

Meanwhile, Bishop Dewane went from the Mass in Lakewood Ranch to take part in a free community Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the Knights of Columbus Our Lady of Victory Council 3358 at their Hall on Fruitville Road in Sarasota.

The Knights delivered more than 200 meals to the elderly and homebound and then served hundreds more to those who needed a hot meal or didn’t have anywhere to go for the holiday. Guests were also encouraged to take meals home. Those meals included turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, roll, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

Bishop Dewane offered the opening prayer for the Knights and other volunteers before the dining room was opened. Then, the Bishop took his traditional spot in charge of serving the corn and assisted in serving potatoes as well.

On Nov. 24, students from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota volunteered and served food at the 23rd Annual Sarasota Ministerial Association Thanksgiving Dinner at Sarasota First Baptist Church. Students and families participate each year this event is held.

For those who watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from New York, they might have caught a glimpse of two cheer teams from the Diocese.

The National Champion Cheer Squad from Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota were part of the larger “Spirit of America Production!” group.

Joining them was a group of senior cheerleaders from Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Sarasota. The participation of both groups is by invitation only and it is considered a great honor to be selected.

Many work to make Thanksgiving joyful

Thanksgiving is an annual national holiday to praise and give thanks to God for our blessings of food and life.

In preparation for the holiday, many volunteered to help those who are less fortunate or who are struggling in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

Parishes and Diocesan Catholic school students collected thousands of cans of food and other items to help fill local food pantries. Many also volunteered to distribute food as lines of vehicles twisted through parking lots in hopes of getting items for a hearty meal this year. Some Parishes hosted pre-Thanksgiving dinners to bring holiday cheer wherever they could.

For example, St. Andrew Catholic School students in Cape Coral donated 1,630 pounds of food to a local food pantry while at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, the student there collected 1,253 items. Similarly, St. John Neumann Catholic School students in Naples held their own food drive to benefit Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., collecting and delivering 6,423 canned goods.

The beneficiary of the St. John Neumann food drive was the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center of Catholic Charities in Naples. The Thanksgiving food distribution there took place on Nov. 22, 2022.

Allegra Belliard, Program Director, supervised as a steady stream of grateful families came and received a turkey and ham as well as bags of food. The turkey and ham meals were courtesy of Publix Charities.

Belliard said the demand is higher in 2022 as compared to the height of the COVD-19 pandemic. This is because the cost of food is much higher due to inflation combined with many people being out of work because of Ian. The hurricane damaged or destroyed many homes, businesses, and resorts, dramatically impacting those in the service industry. Among the places damaged was the Family Resource Center itself. Storm surge flowed through the building and surrounding neighborhood, but the food pantry part of the building was open within a few weeks as the demand remained high.

Cordelia Fulton felt blessed to have Catholic Charities provide food for her family. “Bless you all,” the mother of three who has been unemployed since Ian said. “It will be a happy Thanksgiving in our home.”

Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities in Immokalee did their own food distribution on Nov. 19. This area had some damage during Hurricane Ian, but the greatest impacts were to the crops which are an important resource for work in the rural community.

Peggy Rodriguez, Catholic Charities Regional Director for Collier County, said teams of volunteers packed more 700 bags of food ahead of Thanksgiving, above what is normally distributed each week. About 200 of those bags were dispersed directly from the Guadalupe Social Services food pantry. Meanwhile, several agencies worked together to deliver the balance of the food to 500 more families who were unable to arrive during regular hours.

Students from St. Joseph Catholic School show off the items collected during a Thanksgiving food drive on Nov. 18, 2022, to benefit the St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton.

In Manatee County, where hurricane damage was scattered, the demand for food ahead of Thanksgiving was still very high at the St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton.

A line of vehicles filled with families seeking a turkey with all the trimmings, twisted its way through the parking lot of St. Joseph Parish on Nov. 21. In a three-day period, the pantry expected to distribute food to 800 families. A generous donation of 2,000 turkeys the week before Thanksgiving enabled the pantry to give every family a turkey, something that isn’t always possible.

Sylvia Trotter said she has been struggling to feed her family while juggling expenses such as caring for two children and her parents. “We combine our money for important things, and we doubted that we would celebrate Thanksgiving this year,” Trotter said. “Everything is a luxury now, which makes these wonderful (volunteers) my heroes.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane offered the following Thanksgiving message to the faithful of the Diocese:

“Greetings to all and a Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving! In this season of gratitude, let us remember to give thanks to God who has given many great gifts to all. The greatest gift God has given is the body and blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, in the Eucharist. The word “Eucharist” actually means “an act of thanksgiving to God”. By participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we are united as one body, one human family, in Christ.

On Thanksgiving Day, I extend my gratitude to all here in the Diocese of Venice, and to the many around the country, who so generously have provided aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. Know that you remain in my prayers.

Happy Thanksgiving! Have a Blessed Advent Season!”

If you would like to support Catholic Charities, please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org or if you would like to support the Diocesan effort to recover from Hurricane Ian, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/hurricaneian.

Thanksgiving a time to give back

Throughout the Diocese of Venice, Thanksgiving 2021 was a time to reflect and be grateful for all of the bountiful blessings God has bestowed upon the world as uncertainty and turmoil continues to be ever present.

For many, expressing their gratitude was achieved by going to Mass, giving back to the community through donations of food or money, and by cooking Thanksgiving Day dinners for those who were in need of a hot meal or might otherwise be alone this holiday.

On Thanksgiving morning, Bishop Dewane celebrated Mass at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch, something he has done for nearly a decade. Bishop Dewane spoke of how we all have so much for which to be thankful for, even during the continuing pandemic. “We gather together to be thankful for the graces God bestows upon us; for our presence here and for those around us. We must use that grace to express our gratitude to the Lord by being the leaven; going out into the world as the voice to change things through bringing Christ into the lives of all. Be the example to the world. Tell others where it is you find gratitude – in the Lord.”

Food distribution took place in the days leading up to Thanksgiving at multiple locations.

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., distributed food and turkey at each of its food pantries and even delivered food to homes in Naples, Arcadia and Immokalee.

A partnership between St. Elizabeth Seton Parish and St. Matthew’s House in Naples meant that for two days vehicles lined up to receive food, including a frozen turkey. Bishop Dewane helped load turkeys on the first day, and over the two days some 700 turkeys and food for meals were distributed.

Meanwhile, at the St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton, some 900 turkeys and bags of food were distributed in two days. This effort is an outreach of the Parish and takes place throughout the year. However, Thanksgiving week a special bag of food and a turkey are offered for all. Countless volunteers on the car line and in the background made the distribution a success.

Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers distributed extra food from its pantry and provided gift cards to families for the purchase of a turkey or other food that was appropriate for the large Hispanic community.

The Knights of St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers went above and beyond the call of duty when they delivered 204 turkeys and all the trimmings to a local food pantry and then gave 129 turkeys to St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston and 380 turkeys to St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven.

The Sarasota Ministerial Association and St. Martha’s Church held the 21st Annual Thanksgiving Wednesday Community Luncheon Nov. 24, 2021, in the Father Fausto Parish Hall. Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School students were among the volunteers who assisted in making the event a success. The luncheon is the combined effort of many different groups in the area by providing hot food for the local homeless population.

On Thanksgiving Day, several groups hosted hot meals for the community.

One of the largest was the Knights of Columbus Our Lady of Victory Council 3358, which hosted its annual Thanksgiving Dinner at their Hall on Fruitville Road in Sarasota. This was open to anyone including those who are alone or in need a hot meal. Bishop Dewane helped plate the mashed potatoes and corn. Bishop Dewane frequently assists at this meal.

Before the meal, the Bishop blessed the Knights and all of the volunteers who made the meal possible. Some 250 boxed meals were delivered throughout the area to elder housing and low-income housing facilities, while at the same time there was a steady stream of grateful people arriving throughout the afternoon for a meal with all the trimmings, including pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top. The leftovers were donated to help feed the homeless. The Knights in Sarasota have been hosting this annual meal with all of the trimmings since the late 1980s.

The Knights of Columbus of Epiphany Cathedral in Venice hosted their own Thanksgiving Dinner for the community with Msgr. Patrick Dubois, Rector of the Cathedral, helping to serve apple and pumpkin pie.

St. Peter the Apostles Parish in Naples also hosted its annual Thanksgiving Dinner for those who might otherwise be alone for the holiday, a tradition that goes back a number of years.

These were just a few of the ways the faithful of the Diocese lived their faith in celebration of Thanksgiving.

Giving back for Thanksgiving

Catholic schools and Parish youth groups across the Diocese of Venice learned a valuable lesson ahead of Thanksgiving: to be thankful for what they have and how wonderful it feels to give to others.

Thousands of cans of food and other non-perishable items were collected and then delivered to various Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. food banks or those of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

For example, at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers the students took part in the school’s annual “Share Your Blessings” canned food drive. The drive was led by the National Junior Honor Society in partnership with the Knights of Columbus and collected more than 3,500 items for the nearby St. Vincent de Paul Society which helps feed those in need. Top collecting classes earned a prize of holiday cookies.

This important lesson of giving back resonates with students of all ages and is a strong representation of the Catholic Social Teaching regarding charity, where one doesn’t just give but gives from the heart to everyone in need regardless of their race or religion because “Christ is all and in all.”

Although many world religions uphold charitable work, it is specially emphasized in the Christian Faith and is a central message found in the Gospels. For example, in Colossians 3:11 we are instructed to love our neighbors because they are the children of God as we are all part of the same human family and share the same nature, needs and dignity.

This is why the smiles on the student faces last a little bit longer as they learn to appreciate that their combined hard work translates into food on the table for many families in the community who are less fortunate.

When organizing food drives, many Catholic schools often have friendly competitions amongst the different classrooms and grade levels.

This went to an extreme level at Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria, where the whole school took part in a massive, canned food drive competition to help the Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities in Immokalee.

How massive? One local store had to stay open two extra hours as the students were buying so many cans. Then, when the stores ran out of cans, the students collected rice, pasta and more. This created a temporary counting problem as the faculty tried to figure out the equivalent value of a canned item versus a bag of rice or box of pasta.

The result was a massive 6,000 items of food. So much that it took more than one trip to deliver everything to the grateful staff of Catholic Charities.

The competition was also fierce at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers where students put their donated food items into large cans labeled with the name of favored teachers or faculty members. The name which had the most food was obligated to wear a turkey outfit after school on Nov. 19, 2021 – the start of the Thanksgiving break – and wave to all of the families and students. The “winner” was Matt Hiller, Assistant Dean of Students who gladly wore the outfit and held a sign as he waved and gobbled – “Save a TURKEY – Eat PIZZA!”

At St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples the students, faculty, and staff delivered a total of 6,474 items to Catholic Charities. In addition to the school-wide food drive, the Celtic baseball team decided to go above and beyond and host an additional food drive, donating more than 200 items to another area charity.

Nearby, St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School students collected over 1,000 pounds of food and over $250 from a dress down (non-uniform) day collection.

Not to be forgotten, the St. Columbkille Parish Youth Group & Faith Formation families came together to donate and assemble many large baskets of food. This was in addition to turkeys donated by the Knights of Columbus.

These were just a few examples of the generosity and charity from the students and youth of the Diocese of Venice leading up to Thanksgiving. The lessons of charity were well learned and countless families were the beneficiaries of their generosity.

Generosity abounds leading to Thanksgiving

The generosity of the faithful, whether they are part of a Diocese of Venice Catholic School or Parish, knows no limits.

With many people struggling because of the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Thanksgiving for some seemed as if it could be without the basic needs of food on the table.

Food and fundraising drives at Diocesan Catholic Schools and Parishes, as well as through a variety of other organizations, stepped up to answer the call for help with a late season surge of food and monetary donations.

Students from St. John Neumann Catholic School in Naples held their annual Thanksgiving Food Drive for Catholic Charities and collected 4,837 cans. The students and faculty then delivered the items on Nov. 20, 2020 to the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center.

St. Columbkille Parish members of the Knights of Columbus delivered donated turkeys to St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven and then to St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston.

The St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton was also the beneficiary of the Knight of Columbus. The Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish Council donated money from the annual Msgr. Moretti Memorial Golf Tournament, which was used to purchase 100 frozen turkeys. Kindergarteners at St. Martha Catholic School also collected more than 200 pounds of food for the food pantry.

On Nov. 23, and 24, the St. Joseph Food Pantry loaded 1,500 frozen turkeys for families in need in lieu of the normal bag of food. The demand for food at the pantry has risen dramatically since the start of the Pandemic and thanks to donations like those from the Knights and Diocesan Catholic schools, there was enough to provide turkeys this year, ensuring everyone a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, St. William Parish in Naples is reaching out to those who are alone this Thanksgiving by calling parishioners during Thanksgiving week. These calls, to those added to a list of those who are alone, are to offer prayers and conversation; a human touch for those who remain necessarily isolated out of caution and concerns due to the Pandemic.

These are just a few of the examples of what took place in the Diocese of Venice leading up to Thanksgiving, showing that the faithful are filled with holiday spirit while also caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are less fortunate than ourselves.

Schools celebrate Thanksgiving

While some Catholic Schools focused on collecting food for others, students also learned about and did a variety of activities in celebration of the holiday before the break.

For example, at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice the pre-kindergarten-4 class learned about friendship, built a teepee, made Native American clothing and turned corn into popcorn. Fifth-grade students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers, had a Thanksgiving Day Balloon Parade! After reading “Balloons Over Broadway,” by Melissa Sweet, students were challenged to make their own balloon to fly in a class parade. Kindergarten students at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral celebrated Thanksgiving a little early on Nov. 17 with a classroom feast with all the trimmings.

Again, these are just a sampling of the many activities which took place at Diocesan Catholic School leading up to Thanksgiving.

Catholic Charities programs seeking help during holidays

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. is in urgent need of donations ahead of the extended holiday season. With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, and Christmas not long afterwards there are thousands of families who are facing economic hardships this year exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic.

Since the Pandemic began, Catholic Charities has been on the front lines operating six food pantries and supporting several others. In seven months, between March 24 and Oct. 31, 2020, more than 1.5 million pounds of food have been distributed. In total, Catholic Charities has helped more than 150,000 with food and meals since the crisis began. Those numbers are double what the organization typical does in a full year.

Catholic Charities CEO Philomena Pereira said the organization has been meeting the demand, but more help is needed as the holidays approach. One big factor is the looming expiration at the end of 2020 of all built-in protections against foreclosure and eviction.

“Traditionally this is a time when Catholic Charities steps up to provide a bright holiday for families and children in need,” Pereira said. “Unfortunately, some our usual sources of support were equally impacted by the Pandemic, while the need for outside help is greater than ever.”

Pereira stressed that donations of food from individuals is needed, now more than ever, to supplement what Catholic Charities must purchase from outside sources.

The basic needs right now are for the following: canned vegetables, fruits, meats and soups; beans; rice; flour; maseca; pasta; tomato sauce; cereal; baby food; diapers (size 4 in greatest demand); as well as peanut butter and jelly.

As expected, the holidays have massively increased the demand for frozen turkeys and chickens, as well as other traditional holiday trimmings such as instant mashed potatoes, stuffing and more.

In addition, as Christmas approaches there is an urgent need for toys and clothing, specifically for babies and young children. For those looking to assist older children, there is always a demand for bicycles with appropriate helmets and pads.

For those unable to donate food or other items in person, donations of gifts cards to be used at Publix, Winn-Dixie, Walmart, Amazon or other local retailers are accepted. As always, financial donations are appreciated and will be used to support the ongoing effort of Catholic Charities to respond to the crisis caused by the global Pandemic. Leave the shopping to us if that is better for you!

To learn how to donate items and where to drop them off, please visit https://catholiccharitiesdov.org/how-you-can-help/, or contact the number for your area below between 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday:

  • Sarasota/Manatee/DeSoto/Hardee/Highlands counties: 844-385-2407;
  • Charlotte/Lee/Hendry/Glades counties: 844-385-2423;
  • Collier County: 844-385-2404.

Thanksgiving brings out best in people

Thanksgiving is all about gathering family together and a time to reflect and give thanks for all the gifts and graces the Lord has bestowed on one’s life.

For those who struggle paycheck to paycheck or are on the brink of homelessness, thanksgiving has a different meaning. It can mean loneliness, despair and hunger as most places that would offer a caring meal are closed for the holiday weekend.

Several efforts throughout the Diocese helped to bring a bit of joy into the lives of many.

To meet the need in Manatee County, the St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton uses the first three days of Thanksgiving Week to distribute special bags of food to more than 1,200 individuals and families.

On the first day, Nov. 25, a long line stretched around the building as people patiently waited to receive their bags of food. Each of those receiving a bag was already on a list of eligible recipients. The St. Joseph Food Pantry serves as the central distribution hub for the needy in the entire county and operates year-round.

St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School students.

A huge team of volunteers sorted donated food and packed the bags while others checked in families and still others passed out the bags of food. The bags came in sizes for individuals, small families, medium-sized families, and large families.

Barb Ricalzone has been helping at the food pantry for years and handed out the larger bags of food on the first and busiest distribution day. “It gives me a good feeling to be able to help. The smiles and kind words from everyone is rewarding. I love to help people and I know this really makes a difference.”

One of the recipients of the bags, Christine, who fell on hard times when she was laid off several months ago and feared that she would not be able to have a real Thanksgiving dinner for her family. As she held a big bag of food, and her oldest son held the bag with the turkey, she smiled and thanked as many of the volunteers as she could as tears rolled down her cheeks. “Thank you so much! Happy Thanksgiving! Bless you all!”

“I never thought I would ever need to come to a food pantry in my life,” Christine said. “What these people are doing is incredible. They put a smile on the face of my whole family.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was in Sarasota on Thanksgiving Day where he joined the Knights of Columbus Council 3358 for the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner for the community.

The Bishop gave the opening blessing and praised the Knights for their outstanding annual outreach to the community. Bishop Dewane then helped on the food line. This annual event is in its third decade and provides about 600 hot meals for many people who have nowhere else to go on Thanksgiving. An additional 200 meals were delivered to the homeless in the area. Earlier, Bishop Dewane celebrated Mass at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch.

In Immokalee, the faithful of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples offered “Thanksgiving in the Park” which provided more than 2,000 hot meals. Some 100 volunteers helped prepare the meal and even more served the food on Thanksgiving Day in a spot adjacent to the Immokalee Airport.

Several other parishes had Thanksgiving dinners for the faithful who had no family in the area, including at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples which served about 300.

Catholic Schools throughout the Diocese participated in these efforts with food drives that benefited Catholic Charities, the St. Joseph Food Pantry and other community feeding programs.

For example, the students at St. John Neumann Catholic High School donated more than 11,500 cans of food to help the working poor families of Collier County to the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center of Catholic Charities in Naples.

“As a result of their generosity, our families will be supported in a very big way,” said Mary Shaughnessy, District Director Catholic Charities of Collier County.

Meanwhile, the students from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota delivered food to Bethesda House, a Catholic Charities program for people impacted by HIV/AIDS, as well as to the Incarnation Parish St. Vincent de Paul Society. Students, parents, faculty members and administrators also helped to feed more than 200 homeless residents of Sarasota on Nov. 27 at the 19th Annual Sarasota Downtown Ministerial Association Day Before Thanksgiving Luncheon.

Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School Student Council in Venice motivated the students to donate nearly 2,000 items for the Mayors’ “Feed the Hungry” campaign.

These are just a few of the examples of how Catholics across the Diocese of Venice turned their personal thanks into giving to others.

Thanksgiving celebrated around the Diocese

Staff Report – Florida Catholic

12/4/2018

The Thanksgiving holiday brings people together for a meal with the opportunity to thank the Lord for all that has been provided during the past year.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane helps serve a hot meal at the Knights of Columbus Council 3358 in Sarasota for the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner for the community.

While Thanksgiving is typically a celebration of the family, many take the opportunity to help those in need, whether it is through bags of food or offering a hot meal, the outreach throughout the Diocese is impressive.

The Young Vincentians from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota delivered more than 1,000 pounds of food to Bethesda House, a Catholic Charities program for people impacted by HIV/AIDS.

Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities in Immokalee and the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center in Naples both offered baskets of food to hundreds of needy families. This included food that would not only be used for the holiday itself but could feed a family of four for up to a week.

One mother, who received a gift basket from the Judy Sullivan Center, noted that the food was much appreciated as it would allow her to provide a special meal for her two children at Thanksgiving. “I’m just so grateful to everyone who provided the food. It means so much to my children too.”

The St. Joseph Food Pantry handed out more than 1,200 bags of food Thanksgiving Week in Bradenton.

At St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton, volunteers handed out more than 1,200 bags of food in three days. Meanwhile, the Young Vincentians from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota delivered more than 1,000 pounds of food to Bethesda House, a Catholic Charities program for people impacted by HIV/AIDS. At St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers, more than 120 turkeys and other items were donated to St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston and St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven.

Volunteers at St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers load turkeys for delivery to parishes in Clewiston and Moore Haven just before Thanksgiving.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was in Sarasota on Thanksgiving Day when he joined the Knights of Columbus Council 3358 for the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner for the community. The Bishop gave the opening blessing and helped on the food line. This annual event is in its third decade and this year provided about 600 hot meals for many people who have nowhere else to go on Thanksgiving. An additional 200 meals were delivered to the homeless in the area. Earlier, Bishop Dewane celebrated Mass at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch.

In Immokalee, the faithful of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples offered “Thanksgiving in the Park” which provided more than 2,000 meals. More than 100 volunteers helped prepare the meal and then serve the food on Thanksgiving Day.

Several other parishes had Thanksgiving dinner for the faithful, including at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples which served about 300.

These were just a few examples of what took place throughout the Diocese of Venice Thanksgiving week.

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