Parish named after Saint tries to live up to name

Visit St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton and you will find something taking place at nearly all hours of every day of the year.

What you will discover will vary. It could be the faithful coming or going to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; people praying in the Adoration Chapel or partaking in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You might also find people at the Parish participating in the more than three dozen different outreach programs; then again maybe they are heading into the growing Catholic school and even others are there to stock shelves in the food pantry.

“St. Joseph has a certain welcoming feeling that draws people – it is a family,” said longtime parishioner and member of Parish Advisory Council, Mary Miller. “There is a connection here that people get that is down to earth. Everyone is so welcoming and warm.”

Their Pastor, Father Rafal Ligenza said that since his arrival in 2019 the faithful have been on a journey together building the Kingdom of God. Faithful come from far distances in Manatee County to attend Mass at St. Joseph, something Father credits to the faithful.

Named after the Protector of the Universal Church, and Foster-Father of Jesus, the Parish has roots dating back to 1869 when missionary priest served the area. The Parish dates to 1926 and the Catholic school to 1954. Bishop Frank J. Dewane consecrated the Diocese of Venice to a “Year of St. Joseph” on March 19, 2020, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, in the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic. That year was extended upon Pope Francis creating a Universal “Year of St. Joseph from Dec. 8, 2020 to Dec. 8, 2021.

Bishop Dewane has often said St. Joseph, who never says a word in the Bible, but who is a model of obedience of what God asks of him. “St. Joseph freely and willingly accepted a vision he was given in life… to be the foster father of Jesus, but also the head of the Holy Family; the provider and the Protector.”

Father Ligenza said he is humbled to be at a Parish named after St. Joseph.

“There is so much faith in God here,” Father said. “Every day we have people using the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in service to God. There is a passion about this Parish that the community has, and it is wonderful. We are growing together, obedient to the teachings of Christ.”

This support manifested itself when a big change was recently made. The tabernacle was moved to the center of the church, behind the altar. Previously, the tabernacle was in a Chapel at the back of the church building. The was because the choir sits behind the altar and no appropriate location was identified when the church was built. After some explaining and work, the tabernacle has a new home, properly at the rear center of the altar.

“Everyone understood because this puts the focus where it needs to be, on Our Lord at all times when we are in the church,” Father Ligenza said.

The Parish is home to the largest food pantry in Manatee County serving more than 1,000 families each month. There is also has a huge choir and vibrant religious education and youth program. In fact, the Middle School Youth Group, CTG (Called to Greatness), had a mini retreat on Nov. 17, 2021, in honor of November being the month of Holy Souls. The group talked about what living like a Saint means, what purgatory is, played a fun Saint game, focused on teamwork, and ended with a candlelight vigil for loved ones that passed away.

“There are great things happening here,” Father Ligenza said.

Miller has been a witness to many of those happenings since her family first came to St. Joseph in the 1970s, a time when the Parish was part of the Diocese of St. Petersburg prior to the establishment of the Diocese of Venice in 1984.

She tried to enroll her children into the Catholic school, which was led by a religious order of sisters and there was a waitlist. Eventually they were enrolled, and the Millers never left.

“When we came, we felt like we belonged,” Miller added. “After our children were enrolled in the school my husband and I became more involved in the Parish and volunteered wherever we were needed.”

Miller’s husband, Walter, served many years on the Parish Advisory Council and the School Board and was pivotal in spearheading many efforts to support the Parish and school. The last major project he worked on before his death in 2020 was the installation of a new electronic sign in front of the Parish. His local ties helped make it happen and the sign is dedicated to his memory.

Mary Miller was so involved as a volunteer in the Parish that she became a paid staff member for 20 years. When the time to retire came, she remained active in the Parish  as a money counter, assisting in the food pantry and recently rejoined the Parish Advisory Board.

‘St. Joseph is where my heart is,” Miller said. “I pass other Catholic churches to come here. I know many other do as well. This is where the faith is and holds so strongly for many people.”

The Parish has about 1,600 families and is located at 3100 26th Street W. Bradenton. Daily Mass is Monday to Saturday at 8 a.m., and weekends Masses are 4 p.m. on Saturday, and 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Sundays.

For more information about St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton, please call 941-756-3732 or visit For more information about St. Joseph Catholic School, please call 941-755-2611 or visit  or visit


Bishop inspires Catholic School students

In the early portion of each Academic Year Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrates Mass for the students at the 15 Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools.

The first of these Masses was celebrated Aug. 18, 2021 at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton. It was appropriate that the school was chosen as the Diocese and the whole Church are still in the midst of a “Year of St. Joseph,” which continues until Dec. 8, 2021.

During each Mass, Bishop Dewane invokes the Holy Spirit to come down upon the students, faculty and staff for a safe and successful year.

The Bishop used the Gospel reading from the Mass on Aug. 18, which was of the parable of the “last shall be first and the first shall be last.” During the Gospel reading, it is explained that one must not be envious because it is perceived that the Lord is generous to others, but be grateful for the gifts received.

“Jesus is very generous,” the Bishop added. “Jesus gave us a good example… You and I are called to imitate Jesus and be generous in who we are and how we live out our life.”

This can be done by being kind to someone in the school who needs help, or perhaps generosity toward your parents in gratitude for the great sacrifice they make each day. “They give you their total love. Do you give that love in return? This is how you can be generous. It is who we are as children of God. As a student, be generous to your teachers, to your classmates and to all those you encounter throughout the day.”

Realizing that it may be easier to say “I will be generous in my life” than actually doing it, Bishop Dewane said “what we do that is most generous and most felt by others comes from the heart and comes from the Graces the Lord gives us to live out our life. It is just like us wearing the masks. No one likes it, but we do it to be generous to everyone else. Because we are concerned about others.

In this Year of St. Joseph, Bishop Dewane said the Protector of the Church and Foster-Father of Jesus, is a model to follow for his generosity in turning over his life in service to the Lord.

“Pray to St joseph to have that grace to be generous to be seen always as a giver in your life, one who lives that faith and in so doing gives to others a gift,” Bishop Dewane said.

Following the Masses, the Bishop took the opportunity to speak with the eighth-grade students, encouraging them to be the leaders at their school and they must lead by example as they are “big kids” the younger students look up to for guidance. and continue with their education at a local Catholic high school. He also took time to answer any of their questions and then stood for a photo with them.

It so happened that after Mass at St. Joseph Catholic School, the Bishop participated in an award ceremony. The school recognized the top three students from each grade for their participation and success in a summer problem solving competition. The program continues the tradition of academic excellence from the end of June to end of August by offering problems to solve in the subjects of math, language arts, science and social studies. In all, the students at St. Joseph completed 59,211 problems. In addition, after the Aug. 24 Mass at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, the Bishop presented leadership pins to the eighth graders.

During this week, the Bishop also celebrated Mass for Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria on Aug. 24, and St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Catholic Academy in Sarasota on Aug. 25. Additional Catholic School Masses are scheduled for late August and into September.

Journey with St. Joseph through the month of September

The Diocese of Venice Office of Family Life is introducing a 30-day St. Joseph Devotional for the month of September as a way to continue to mark the celebration of the Year of Amoris Laetitia Family and ongoing “Year of St. Joseph.”

Devotionals are used to encourage spiritual growth, explained Diocesan Family Life Director Carrie Harkey. “By setting aside time each day for prayer and meditation one grows in their relationship with God. A few minutes a day leads to great spiritual gain.”

All wishing to participate will receive a daily email throughout the month containing a short reflection and prayer, Harkey added. “By inviting St. Joseph into daily life, partakers will become better acquainted with the person, the call, and the mission of this great Saint.”

The Diocese is using “Blessed St. Joseph: A 30-Day Devotional on the Person & Mission of the Chosen Father of Our Lord” by Rick Sarkisian for this outreach.

Because Saint Joseph is Protector of the Universal Church, Bishop Frank J. Dewane consecrated the Diocese of Venice to a “Year of St. Joseph” in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic beginning March 19, 2020, the Feast Day of St. Joseph.

The Diocese dedication to a “Year of St. Joseph” was extended to continue until Dec. 8, 2021. This was in keeping with Pope Francis creating a Universal “Year of St. Joseph” from Dec. 8, 2020 to Dec. 8, 2021. The announcement of the Holy Father coincided with the 150th anniversary of the Saint’s proclamation as Patron of the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX on Dec. 8, 1870 in his decree Quemadmodum Deus.

Pope Francis said he was establishing the year so that “every member of the faithful, following his example, may strengthen their life of faith daily in the complete fulfillment of God’s will.”

When speaking about the “Year of St. Joseph,” Bishop Dewane encouraged, “all to take his life as our model for fulfilling our personal call to holiness. It may be tempting to only think of St. Joseph as a figure in the nativity set. But reflection on this extraordinary Saint and the important role he played as protector and guardian of the Holy Family is needed now more than ever as the family today is surrounded by secular culture’s contrary message of selfishness, individualism, and immorality.”

St. Joseph is known as the Patron Saint of the Universal Church, a happy death, families, fathers, expectant mothers, explorers, pilgrims, travelers, immigrants, home sellers and buyers, craftsmen, engineers and working people. Many cities and countries are dedicated to him. In the Diocese of Venice several locations are named in honor of St. Joseph, including the following: St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton; St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton; St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven; San Jose Mission in Fort Myers and Campo San Jose Retreat Center in Lake Placid.

“Through examining the various titles given to St. Joseph and the model of virtues he displays; one is aided to become imitators of him witnessing to the family, Parish, workplace, and the world,” Harkey said.

These reflections, found in the 30-Day Devotional, can be used by individuals, as daily family prayer, or in Parish groups. To join this 30-day journey to become better acquainted with the Foster Father of Our Lord register at Registering will also place you on the Office of Family Life mailing list to ensure you are made aware of future opportunities focusing on marriage and family.

In addition, the Diocese of Venice has created a quick-reference website for key elements of the ongoing “Year of St. Joseph,” including information about the locations named after the Saint, which can all be found at

For more information about this devotional and for other questions, please contact Carrie Harkey at

News Briefs for Week of Aug. 6, 2021

Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal

Every day, Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice serves the most vulnerable population by feeding, housing, empowering, and striving to help those in need. This summer, you can leave your footprint by helping your neighbors. The Catholic Charities Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal is asking for your support. Donate to your choice of assistance, such as food, shelter, education or other support. The giving is easy! Your gift will make a positive impact on our less fortunate brothers and sisters! Please visit or mail a check to Catholic Charities,1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

Marriage prep for couples over 55

The Office of Family Life is offering a one-day marriage prep seminar for those couples over 55 years of age preparing for marriage or convalidation from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Aug. 28, 2021, at Our Lady of Lourdes. 1301 Center Road, Venice. A specially prepared volunteer team share their experiences and information with the intention of enabling couples to be more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of marriage. Pre-registration is required. Please register online at:

Scholarships for Catholic Schools

Step Up for Students is a state-approved non-profit scholarship funding organization that helps administer four scholarships for Florida schoolchildren: the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTC) for lower to middle income families, the Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) for lower to middle income families and students with unique abilities (formerly Gardiner), as well as the Hope Scholarship. These scholarships could provide up to $7000 for a Catholic School education with 2021 adjusted income guidelines. Step up for Students will continue accepting applications throughout the school year. For the Diocese of Venice Catholic School application webpage visit

Catholic Alpha Online

Alpha Online is course where individuals meet virtually once a week via Zoom to discuss and share ideas about faith and God in an open, caring and non-judgmental way. The Diocese of Venice English Catholic Charismatic Renewal invites you to experience Catholic Alpha online from the comfort of your home, and to hear from notable Catholic speakers. These include newly appointed Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa O.F.M. Cap., longtime Preacher of the Papal Household; Dr. Mary Healy; Father John Ricardo; and Father Mike Schmitz. Each course is Monday from 7 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. beginning Sept. 13 through Nov. 29, 2021.  For further information please contact Theresa Salvo at or 804-387-8282.

2021 Marriage Preparation Retreats

The Diocesan Office of Family Life is offering “Day of Reflection” retreats for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage. A specially prepared volunteer team of married couples and a priest will share their experiences and information with the intention of enabling couples to be more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of marriage. The retreats in English are from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., on the following Saturdays: Aug. 7, and Nov. 13. Please visit to register for the English retreats. Retreats in Spanish take place: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Aug. 7 and Oct. 30 at St. Jude Parish, 3930 17th Street, Sarasota, and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Aug. 14 and Dec. 4, at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish, 355 S. Bridge Street, LaBelle. To register for a St. Jude retreat date please contact the parish at 941-955-3934. Please visit to register for a retreat at Our Lady Queen of Heaven, For further information contact Carrie Harkey at 941-484-9543 ext. 3019.

New Catholic Institute course Aug. 24

The Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation is offering a 16-week graduate level online course starting Aug. 24, 2021 that introduces students to the principles, practices, and sources of Catholic Theology. The course “What is Catholic Theology? (Ecclesial Nature and Mission of Theology)” counts as a pre-requisite for those beginning the online MA in Theology and Christian Ministry at Franciscan University of Steubenville. (Franciscan offers Diocese of Venice students discounted tuition for this online MA). This course is also available to those who wish to attend for their own personal enrichment. For cost and other information and to register for the course, visit the Institute website at or call 941-766-7334.

Year of Saint Joseph

On the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, March 19, 2020 Bishop Frank J. Dewane, in the context of the Coronavirus, consecrated the Diocese of Venice to the care and protection of Saint Joseph, and announced a “Year of Saint Joseph”. Pope Francis recently dedicated a “Year of St. Joseph” therefore, the Diocesan celebration will continue through December 8, 2021. Saint Joseph, often referred to as the Protector, can be our protector during these troubling times. A 9-day Novena to Saint Joseph is included. This Novena can be prayed any time throughout the year. The novena and other resources can be found at

Diocesan Marriage Conference Oct. 2

The Diocese of Venice in Florida and the St. John Paul II Foundation announce the “Together in Holiness Marriage Conference” that will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Oct. 2, 2021, at St. Agnes Parish, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples and St. Thomas More Parish, 2506 Gulf Gate Drive, Sarasota. The speakers are Kevin and Lisa Cotter. For more details contact Carrie Harkey at

Invitation to all Widows and Widowers

Come join the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish faith-sharing group for widows and widowers to grow together in holiness and the devout life.  The next topic will be: ‘Praying with the saints, our mentors in the faith.’ This 8-week series will be held on Wednesday mornings from 10:30 a.m. to noon, beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 at the Church, 435 S. Tamimi Trail, Osprey.  All are welcome!  For information and to join this group, please contact Marianne Cano at 941-966-0807/ext314 or send e-mail to

Food Distribution within Diocese

For various food distribution sites of Catholic Charities and Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice, the days, times, and locations are listed below:

Guadalupe Social Services – 211 S. 9th St., Immokalee, Monday – Friday: 9 a.m.-12 p.m., Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen open daily. The Soup Kitchen Dining Room is open for dine-in and also provides take-out/meals-to-go.

Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center – 3174 Tamiami Trail E., Naples, Mondays – Fridays: 1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. and Tuesdays – Fridays: 9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.

St. Margaret Parish – 208 Dean Duff St., Clewiston, Thursdays: 9 a.m.-12 p.m.

Bonita Springs – 28360 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs, Fridays: 9 a.m.-11 a.m.

Elizabeth K. Galeana Food Pantry – 4235 Michigan Ave. Link, Fort Myers, Fridays: 9 a.m.-12 p.m.

St. Paul Parish – Parish Hall, 1208 E Oak St., Arcadia, Fridays: 8:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m.

St. Francis of Assisi Food Pantry – 5265 Placida Road, Grove City, Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 9:15 a.m.-11:15 a.m., contact Megan at 941-697-4899 or

St. Jude Food Pantry, 3930 17th St., Sarasota, Wednesdays: 5 p.m.-6:30 p.m., Saturdays: 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. Please bring ID and do not exit your vehicle. Volunteers will load cars. Call 941-955-3934 if you have any questions or visit:

Wauchula Food Pantry – 408 Heard Bridge Road, Wauchula, Saturdays: 7 a.m.-8:45 a.m., call the parish at 863-773-4089 if you require a different time or would like to support the efforts to assist the community.

St. Joseph Food Pantry – 3100 26th St W., Bradenton, Monday through Friday: 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Call 941-756-3732 with any questions. Please visit to donate money or food.

Catholic schools preparing to open

Lesson plans are being drawn up and classrooms and being decorated as work is ongoing to ensure everything is ready for the start of the 2021-2022 Academic Year in Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools.

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese Superintendent of Catholic Education, said that enrollment is up across the 15 Catholic schools in the Diocese and that several initiatives are moving forward to engage students to not only grow academically but, more importantly, spiritually.

In a July 23, 2021 letter to parents and guardians Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Father Belmonte announced the 2021-2022 Academic Year for Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools will start on time and will continue to provide Christ-centered education in-person, five days a week.

The letter also stressed that the priority remains to provide a safe and healthy environment for all students and employees.

Guidelines for the 2021-2021 school year include:

  • Prayers for the continued wellbeing of all students, as well as faculty and staff.
  • Masks for students, staff, and volunteers are optional but indeed highly encouraged.
  • It is understood that changes to these guidelines may be made at any time. The Diocese of Venice Department of Education will continue to monitor guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and other experts.
  • Vaccinations for Covid-19 are not mandated.
  • Social distancing protocols will not be required.

“The Diocese of Venice Department of Catholic Education strongly encourages families to continue following recommended preventative measures to reduce the spread of the virus and stay healthy,” the letter from the Bishop and Father Belmonte continued. “Let us be united in prayer for the safety and wellbeing of our students.”

The letter included gratitude to parents and guardians, as well as students, faculty, staff and volunteers, for the success of the 2020-2021 Academic Year. Additional gratitude was expressed for the patience and understanding of all as planning for the new school year progressed.

Meanwhile, Diocesan Catholic schools continue to be at the forefront in education with a curriculum that is STREAM-based (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math). This initiative has been a priority for many years and highlights religion as a dimension which help students have a superior academic experience rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Father Belmonte stressed that the primary function of all Diocesan Catholic schools is to introduce the world to its Savior. This is being accomplished through the development of a strong Catholic culture at each school.

To further the STREAM aspect of Catholic education, Father Belmonte said the previously announced initiative involving robots, in a partnership with FIRST® (“For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), is moving forward and will be integrated into each school and at every grade level.

All Diocesan schools were provided with age-appropriate kits and robots to compete at the highest levels of competition through FIRST®. These kits use LEGO products, such as Duplo blocks for the youngest students, and more traditional blocks for older students. Each progressive kit increases with difficulty and broadens the concepts learned in earlier years. Older students will build robots for competitions.

Keeping in line with the effort to build a strong Catholic culture, the initiative incorporates Catholic values and virtues through the Diocesan curriculum called, “The Gifts of Christ: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Affability, Fortitude, Humility, and Prudence.”

This partnership with FIRST® was made possible through the generosity and vision of Bishop Dewane who made the initial investment of some 500 robots and other resources to the schools. “It is all about investing in our students because they are our mission and we want them to succeed; to become the leaders, the professionals, the faith witnesses of tomorrow,” Bishop Dewane said during the March announcement of the initiative.

The earlier cited growth in enrollment is directly related to the robot initiative. Parents of newly enrolled students have cited the visionary aspect of the program, with its Faith component, as a key factor in their decision to choose a Diocese Catholic school.

In addition to the robotics, Diocese Catholic schools will continue to build their devotion to St. Joseph, as part of the ongoing “Year of St. Joseph.” This will be accomplished through an initiative planned to begin in October which will include bringing prayer and devotion to the home.

Meanwhile, the different schools continue to work hard in preparing classrooms and other facilities to be ready for the return on students the week of Aug. 9. Among that work included the upgrade of facilities including fencing, landscaping, roofing, renovated classrooms and much more.

To learn more about Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools, please visit

Encountering St. Joseph course available online

Celebrate the “Year of St. Joseph” by learning from Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Francis through an online course that is available now.

In response to Bishop Dewane declaring a “Year of St Joseph” for the Diocese of Venice on March 19, 2020, the Diocese Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation offered an online course on St Joseph in the Fall of 2020.

This course provided an in-depth study of St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation on the Person and Mission of St. Joseph (Redemptoris Custos). Since then, Pope Francis declared a “Year of St Joseph” for the Universal Church lasting from December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021.

Now the Institute is offering an expanded and reformatted version of their course on St Joseph. The Institute added a module on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter on St. Joseph (Patris Corde). The course was also re-formatted as a self-paced course for individual or group study.

Students can start the course whenever they wish and work at their own pace. An individual can take the course on their own or a small group could watch the videos together and use the questions provided to discuss what they learned.

Registration is available now and the course will remain available throughout the remainder of this “Year of St Joseph.”

The course includes Lectio Divina exercises, pre-recorded video lectures, questions for personal reflection or group discussion, and links to recommended resources for further study.

Taught by Dr. John Gresham, Executive Director of the Institute, who has more than 20 years of teaching experience. “I really enjoyed teaching these papal documents because they emphasize how Saint Joseph is an example to everyone on how to live their vocation.”

A student in the earlier version of the course said, “I gained new insights about St. Joseph that I can directly apply to my life and that are of clear and immediate benefit.”

Another student commented, “I like the accessibility right here in my home. Having lecture, video, readings available to me. I could do the class at my own leisure, no pressure.”

For more information, please visit the Institute website or call 941-766-7334. The course is now open for registration. The course fee is $35.

Reflect upon St. Joseph this Father’s Day

“With a father’s heart: that is how Joseph loved Jesus, whom all four Gospels refer to as ‘the son of Joseph.’”

This was the opening sentence of the apostolic letter “Patris Corde” of Pope Francis on the 150th Anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX in his decree Quemadmodum Deus.

The 1870 decree stated, “Jesus Christ our Lord… whom countless kings and prophets had desired to see, Joseph not only saw but conversed with, and embraced in paternal affection, and kissed. He most diligently reared Him whom the faithful were to receive as the bread that came down from heaven whereby, they might obtain eternal life.”

Therefore, it is appropriate to reflect on this most honored of Saints as a second Father’s Day is taking place during a global Pandemic on June 20, 2021.

In his apostolic letter, released in conjunction with the start of the “Universal Year of St. Joseph” which began Dec. 8, 2020 and concludes on Dec. 8, 2021, Pope Francis reflected on the fatherly qualities of St. Joseph, describing him as beloved, tender and loving, obedient, accepting, and “creatively courageous.” He also underlined that he was a working father.

The Holy Father referred to the Saint as “a father in the shadows,” citing the novel “The Shadow of the Father,” published by the Polish author Jan Dobraczyński in 1977.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who for the Diocese of Venice instituted a “Year of St. Joseph” on March 19, 2020 in the context of the Pandemic and under the title of Protector of the Universal Church, proclaimed “St. Joseph is a figure who led by example, while also offering powerful prayer and protection.” The Diocesan celebration of the “Year of St. Joseph” was extended to coincide with the “Universal Year of St. Joseph” and will continue until Dec. 8, 2021.

As a model of obedience of what God asked of him, Bishop Dewane, said St. Joseph freely and willingly accepted a vision he was given in life… “to be the foster father of Jesus but also the head of the Holy Family; the provider and the Protector.”

Saints and Popes through the centuries have spoken on St. Joseph’s influence to intercede as the faithful have turned to the Saint as a powerful patron and faithful guardian, father and friend. Many seek the intercessions of St. Joseph for healing and conversion, help with their children, a new job or home, and for all their needs of body and soul.

Pope Leo XIII presented St. Joseph as a model at a time when the world and the Church were wrestling with the challenges posed by modernity wrote in his 1889 encyclical on devotion to St. Joseph “Quamquam pluries,” “Men of every rank and country should fly to the trust and guard of the blessed Joseph.”

In his own 2020 letter, Pope Francis wrote: “The greatness of St. Joseph is that he was the spouse of Mary and the father of Jesus. In this way, he placed himself, in the words of St. John Chrysostom, “at the service of the entire plan of salvation.”

Pope Francis also cited St. Paul VI who pointed out that St. Joseph concretely expressed his fatherhood “by making his life a sacrificial service to the mystery of the incarnation and its redemptive purpose. He employed his legal authority over the Holy Family to devote himself completely to them in his life and work. He turned his human vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of himself, his heart and all his abilities, a love placed at the service of the Messiah who was growing to maturity in his home.”

At the conclusion of his apostolic letter, Pope Francis explained that his goal was to increase “our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and is zeal.”

The saints help all the faithful “to strive for the holiness and perfection of their particular state of life,” the Holy Father added. Their lives are concrete proof that it is possible to put the Gospel into practice.

“Jesus told us: ‘Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart’ (Mt 11:29). The lives of the saints too are examples to be imitated. St. Paul explicitly says this: ‘Be imitators of me!’ (1 Cor 4:16). By his eloquent silence, St. Joseph says the same.”

Therefore, on this Father’s Day, turn to St. Joseph as an example to follow as we all strive to grow closer to the Lord.

For links to the Apostolic letter (in English and Spanish) or other resources in celebration of the ongoing “Year of St. Joseph,” please visit

News Briefs for the Week of May 14 2021

Catholic Schools receive Year of St. Joseph plaque

Diocese of Venice Catholic schools were recently presented with a three-dimensional St. Joseph plaque courtesy of Bishop Frank J. Dewane as part of the ongoing celebration of the “Year of St. Joseph.” Teaching the lessons of St. Joseph, Protector of the Universal Church, has been a priority in the Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Venice for the past year. The schools took part in a St. Joseph Devotional Project to introduce the devotion and to strengthen Catholic culture in each of the Diocesan schools. Bishop Dewane marked the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, 2021, by celebrating Mass at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton with invited guests and winners of the Devotional Project Art Contest. The Mass was livestreamed and at its conclusion the Bishop led the students (both in person and viewing online) in the Act of Consecration to the Most Chaste Heart of St. Joseph.

Wear Red on Pentecost Sunday

The great feast that marks the birth of the Christian Church by the power of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost Sunday, is May 23. Pentecost means “fiftieth day” and is celebrated 50 days after Easter. Red is the liturgical color for this day and the Faithful are encouraged to wear red to Mass that day. Red is symbolic of the love of the Holy Spirit and recalls the tongues of fire in which the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles that first Pentecost. The color red also reminds us of the blood of the martyrs. These are the believers of every generation who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, hold firm to the true faith even at the cost of their lives.

Lakewood Ranch woman receives lay Franciscan honor

Marie Rizzi, of Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch, is the winner of the 2021 Franciscan Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Award, from the Secular Franciscan Order Five Franciscan Martyrs Region (Florida, Alabama and South Georgia). Rizzi practices Catholic Social Justice daily by feeding the hungry, shopping for the homebound, calling to see if people need company or a ride to an appointment. She has directed her Parish efforts to support Casa San Juan Bosco Farm Worker Housing of Catholic Charities in Arcadia. In addition, she is active in devising ways to involve youth in Parish outreach. Rizzi was presented the award at the Five Franciscan Martyrs Region Annual Meeting in Winter Park on May 7, 2021.

St. Martha golf team league champs

Congrats to the St. Martha Catholic School Golf Team on finishing an undefeated season on May 5, 2021. The Sarasota team capped off their season with a 6 shot victory to earn the League Championship.

Fort Myers students collect items for Catholic Charities

The Bishop Verot Catholic High School National Honor Society members collected needed items for the Fort Myers Food Pantry of Catholic Charities in early May 2021. The collection included more than 750 diapers, socks, toothbrushes, and soap.

New dean announced for Ave Maria Law

The Ave Maria School of Law in Naples recently announced that John Czarnetzky, a professor of law at the University of Mississippi, will become the new dean of the law school effective June 1, 2021. In addition to teaching courses at the University of Mississippi School of Law, Czarnetzky also works as a legal advisor to the Holy See’s Mission to the United Nations, and has represented the Holy See in various negotiations and in international treaties. Czarnetzky also is a lay Dominican and a Third Degree member of the Knights of Columbus. He was unanimously selected for the position by the school’s board of governors. Czarnetzky replaces Kevin Cieply, who resigned at the end of February due to personal reasons.

Updated Catholic Charities food pantry hours

The hours have been updated for the Catholic Charities efforts toward food distribution at the following times and locations:

  • Guadalupe Social Services – 211 South 9th St., Immokalee – Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon. The Soup Kitchen dining room is now open daily for dine-in and meals-to-go.
  • Judy Sullivan Center – 3174 Tamiami Trail E., Naples – Monday-Friday, 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. and Tuesday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
  • Margaret Parish – 208 Dean Duff St., Clewiston – Thursday, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Bonita Springs – 28360 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs – Friday, 9 a.m.-11 a.m.
  • Elizabeth K. Galeana Pantry – 4235 Michigan Avenue Link, Fort Myers – Friday, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Paul Parish – Parish Hall, 1208 E Oak St., Arcadia – Fridays, 8:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m.

English Catholic Charismatic Renewal

The Diocese of Venice English Charismatic Renewal will hold a Pentecost Celebration on May 23 beginning at 2:30 p.m. at Sacred Heart Parish, 211 W. Charlotte Ave., Punta Gorda. No registration is required. For more information, please email or contact Renee Mazaron at 419-343-1604. Reminder: Bring your prayer group banner and stand to the event.

Diocesan CCW Convention

The Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s 34th Annual Convention, with a theme of “What have you done for the least of my people?” (Matt 25:40), will be held June 4 and June 5, at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1301 Center Road, Venice. The cost of the two-day convention is $75, or $65 for one day (lunch included). Each day will include personal development time, dynamic speakers and workshops, as well as providing the opportunity to meet women from around the Diocese along with the President of the Florida Council of Women. For registration information, please contact Bernadette Raftery at 704-968-9580 or or Ellen Bachman at 941-721-7393 or Please register by May 25.

Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker May 1

Year honoring Protector of Universal Church continues

To foster deep devotion to Saint Joseph among Catholics, and in response to the “May Day” celebrations for workers sponsored by Communists, Pope Pius XII instituted the Memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker in 1955. This feast extends the long relationship between Joseph and the cause of workers in both Catholic faith and devotion.

Because Saint Joseph is Protector of the Universal Church, Bishop Frank J. Dewane consecrated the Diocese of Venice to a “Year of St. Joseph” in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic beginning March 19, 2020.

“I dedicated the Diocese to Saint Joseph, the Protector, so that the faithful would be safe,” Bishop Dewane said. “This year, as we celebrate the Memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker, that commitment to honor Saint Joseph, a model of obedience, freely and willingly accepting a vision he was given in life by God.”

The Bishop added that Saint Joseph was called to be the foster-father of Jesus but also the head of the Holy Family; “the provider and the Protector. Using this remarkable Saint as our example, we must continue to devote ourselves to living a life that is dedicated to Jesus. Take St. Joseph as a role model going forward.”

The Diocese dedication to a “Year of Saint Joseph” was extended to continue until Dec. 8, 2021. This was in direct support of Pope Francis creating a Universal “Year of Saint Joseph” from Dec. 8, 2020 to Dec. 8, 2021. The announcement of the Holy Father coincided with the 150th anniversary of the Saint’s proclamation as Patron of the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX on Dec. 8, 1870 in his decree Quemadmodum Deus.

Pope Francis said he was establishing the year so that “every member of the faithful, following his example, may strengthen their life of faith daily in the complete fulfillment of God’s will.”

To mark the occasion, Pope Francis distributed an Apostolic Letter Patris Corde, which translates to “With a Father’s Heart,” in which he describes Saint Joseph as a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father, a father who is creatively courageous, a working father and a father in the shadows.

Written against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis said the Pandemic has heightened his desire to reflect on Saint Joseph, as so many people during the pandemic have made hidden sacrifices to protect others, just as Saint Joseph quietly protected and cared for Mary and Jesus.

“Each of us can discover in Joseph — the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence — an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble,” the Holy Father wrote.

Pope Francis describes Saint Joseph as a noble saint, who was given the noble task of caring and watching over the Virgin Mary and Jesus, and now cares for and watches over the Church and models for all the dignity of human work.

He also said he wanted to highlight St. Joseph’s role as a father who served his family with charity and humility, adding, “Our world today needs fathers.”

In some images, Saint Joseph is seen holding lilies, which symbolize integrity and indicate that he was the earthly spouse of the Blessed Mother, whose purity is represented by a white lily. A group of three lilies can represent the Trinity. It is believed that St. Joseph died before Jesus began his public ministry.

Saint Joseph is known as the patron saint of the Universal Church, a happy death, families, fathers, expectant mothers, explorers, pilgrims, travelers, immigrants, home sellers and buyers, craftsmen, engineers and working people. Also, many cities and countries are dedicated to him.

The Diocese of Venice has several locations named in honor of Saint Joseph including the following: St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton; St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton; St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven; San Jose Mission in Fort Myers and Campo San Jose Retreat Center in Lake Placid.

Many people pray to Saint Joseph for intercession, including praying novenas, a nine-day series of prayers or devotions. The Diocese of Venice has created a quick-reference website for key elements of the ongoing “Year of Saint Joseph,” including information about the locations named after the Saint, which can all be found at

Information from the Catholic News Service is included in this report.


NOTE: The “Year of Saint Joseph” also includes the opportunity to receive a plenary indulgence. For an exclusive online story about this, please visit


Plenary indulgence available during “Year of St. Joseph”

As Catholics pray and reflect on the life of Saint Joseph throughout the coming year, they also have opportunities to gain a plenary indulgence, or remission of all temporal punishment due to sin. An indulgence can be applied to oneself or to a soul in Purgatory.

An indulgence requires a specific act, defined by the Church, as well as Sacramental Confession, Eucharistic Communion, prayer for the Pope’s intentions, and full detachment from sin.

Special indulgences during the “Year of Saint Joseph” can be received through more than a dozen different prayers and actions, including praying for the unemployed, entrusting one’s daily work to St. Joseph, performing a corporal or spiritual work of mercy, or meditating for at least 30 minutes on the Lord’s Prayer.

In its Decree, the Apostolic Penitentiary said that, “to reaffirm the universality of Saint Joseph’s patronage in the Church,” it would grant a Plenary Indulgence to Catholics who recite any approved prayer or act of piety in honor of St. Joseph, especially on March 19, the Saint’s solemnity as “Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” and on May 1, the Memorial of “St. Joseph the Worker.”

Other notable days for the Plenary Indulgence are the “Feast of the Holy Family” on December 27, as well as the 19th of each month during the Year and every Wednesday throughout the year, which is a day traditionally dedicated to the memory of Saint Joseph in the Latin Church.

The Decree further states: “In the current context of the health emergency (of the pandemic), the gift of the Plenary Indulgence is particularly extended to the elderly, the sick, the dying and all those who for legitimate reasons are unable to leave the house, who, with a soul detached from any sin and with the intention of fulfilling, as soon as possible, the three usual conditions, in their own home or where the impediment keeps them, recite an act of piety in honor of St. Joseph, Comfort of the Sick and Patron of a Happy Death, offering with trust in God the pains and discomforts of their life.”

The three usual conditions for receiving a Plenary Indulgence are Sacramental Confession (which, under the “usual conditions,” means going to Confession within 20 days before or within 20 days after the day the Plenary Indulgence is sought); also, the reception of Eucharistic Communion on the day the Plenary Indulgence is sought; and prayer for the Pope’s needs and intentions on the day the Plenary Indulgence is sought (which, under the “usual conditions” is understood to be an Our Father and Hail Mary; or, one may also recite the Creed). As stated above, a sincere and willed detachment from sin, both mortal and venial, is also required.

According to the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church, an Indulgence is “the remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sin whose guilt has already been forgiven. A properly disposed member of the Christian faithful can obtain an Indulgence under prescribed conditions through the help of the Church, which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints. An Indulgence is Partial if it removes part of the temporal punishment due to sin, or Plenary if it removes all punishment.” (CCC, 1471)

Moreover, the decree specifically notes the numerous ways to receive an indulgence, including the following:

  • Participate in a spiritual retreat for at least one day that includes a meditation on St. Joseph.
  • Pray for St. Joseph’s intercession for the unemployed that they might find dignifying work.
  • Recite the Litany of St. Joseph for persecuted Christians.
  • Entrust one’s daily work and activity to the protection of St. Joseph the Worker.
  • Follow Saint Joseph’s example in performing a corporal work of mercy. These include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the imprisoned, visiting the sick, and burying the dead.
  • Perform one of the spiritual works of mercy, such as comforting the sorrowful, counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing the sinner, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving injuries, and praying for the living and the dead.
  • Pray the rosary together with one’s family in order that “all Christian families may be stimulated to recreate the same atmosphere of intimate communion, love and prayer that was in the Holy Family.”
  • Engaged couples can also receive an indulgence from praying the rosary together.
  • Meditate for at least 30 minutes on the Lord’s Prayer, because St. Joseph “invites us to rediscover our filial relationship with the Father, to renew fidelity to prayer, to listen and correspond with profound discernment to God’s will.”
  • Pray an approved prayer to St. Joseph on St. Joseph Sunday, the Sunday after Christmas in the Byzantine Catholic tradition.
  • Pray an approved prayer to St. Joseph on the 19th of any month.
  • Honor Joseph with an act of piety or approved prayer on a Wednesday, the day traditionally dedicated to St. Joseph.
  • Celebrate the feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1 with an act of piety or prayer.

NOTE: The Apostolic Penitentiary permits any prayer to St. Joseph approved by the Church, mentioning in particular a prayer composed by Pope Leo XIII:

“To you, O blessed Joseph, do we come in our tribulation, and having implored the help of your most holy Spouse, we confidently invoke your patronage also. Through that charity which bound you to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God and through the paternal love with which you embraced the Child Jesus, we humbly beg you graciously to regard the inheritance which Jesus Christ has purchased by his Blood, and with your power and strength to aid us in our necessities.”

“O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, defend the chosen children of Jesus Christ; O most loving father, ward off from us every contagion of error and corrupting influence; O our most mighty protector, be kind to us and from heaven assist us in our struggle with the power of darkness.”

“As once you rescued the Child Jesus from deadly peril, so now protect God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity; shield, too, each one of us by your constant protection, so that, supported by your example and your aid, we may be able to live piously, to die in holiness, and to obtain eternal happiness in heaven. Amen.”

Information from the Catholic News Service is included in this report.