News briefs for the week of Jan. 26, 2021

Children’s Festival held in Wauchula

The annual Children’s Festival was held at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula on Jan. 23, 2021. The Festival brings children from kindergarten through fifth grade to the Parish for a day of prayer and fun.

The day included Mass, a Eucharistic Procession, as well as presentations about how they can grow in their Faith. In addition, there were various games, many of which had a faith-based theme. The women religious who serve the Parish, Sisters Servant of Lord and the Virgin of Matara, organized the festival.

“A Seminarian Story” sixth installment available

The Diocese of Venice in Florida Office of Vocations launched a video series titled, “A Seminarian Story,” to celebrate the 16 Seminarians currently in formation. The first four videos have been released and more will follow approximately every few weeks. The most recent video is about Seminarian David Portorreal who is doing formation at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach.

Developed with the assistance of the Diocese Communications Department, the goal of the series is to inspire others to follow in the path to the priesthood or religious life, as well as encourage the faithful to continue to support the seminarians as they continue their formation process at different seminaries. “A Seminarian Story” featuring David Portorreal can be found at https://vimeo.com/443069438.

Men’s & Women’s Conferences 2021

Registration is now open for the 2021 Men’s & Women’s Conferences! The Men’s Conference will feature speakers Patrick Madrid and Joel Stepanek on Saturday February 20th.

The Women’s Conference will feature speakers Kimberly Hahn and Mary Ann Weisinger-Puig on Saturday March 13. Both conferences will be held at Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (doors open at 8:00 a.m.) with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Confession available all day. To register, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/adultconferences.

Anniversary Masses

All couples celebrating 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, or more than 50 years of marriage are invited by Bishop Frank J. Dewane to an Anniversary Mass in their honor to be celebrated in two locations. This year, considering the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, each location will have two Masses to allow for appropriate social distancing. The Masses are 10 a.m. and noon on Feb. 6, 2021, Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice, and 10 a.m. and noon, March 6, 2021, St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. All registration is being handled through your local Parish. Please reserve seats at least one week before the Mass you wish to attend.

Begin your year with Jesus in the Eucharist

What better way to begin 2021 than in the presence of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament? The Office of Evangelization will be hosting several evenings of Eucharistic Adoration with Confession available, music, reflection, and time for silent prayer. Jesus, who makes “All Things New” will bring a newness to your faith in this new year. Locations include Our Lady of Light Parish, Fort Myers, Feb. 2; Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Lakewood Ranch, Feb. 3; St. John the Evangelist Parish, Naples, Feb. 4; Incarnation Parish, Sarasota, Feb. 11; and St. Joseph Parish, Bradenton, Feb. 16. Adoration begins at 7 p.m. and goes until 8:30 p.m.

Bibles presented to Bradenton students

Father Rafal Ligenza, Administrator of St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton, presented bibles to each of the seventh and eighth graders at St. Joseph Catholic School on Jan. 21, 2021. Father Ligenza presented the bibles as gifts from the Parish and then prayed with the students.

Encountering God in Prayer: A Lenten Journey

Spend this Lent growing in prayer! “Encountering God in Prayer: A Lenten Journey” is a theological and practical online course offered by the Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation. The course will guide you through the rich and beautiful teaching on personal prayer found in part four of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Short video lectures, online discussions, prayer exercises and other learning activities will constitute the class content. Students log in each week at times most convenient to them. The instructor, Dr. John Gresham, Executive Director of the Institute, has extensive experience teaching on prayer in courses, workshops, and retreats. The course is $25 and runs from Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 to April 5. For more information, visit www.institute-dov.org, call 941-766-7334 or email john.gresham@institute-dov.org.

Water bottle stations make an impact

Each Diocesan Catholic school strives to be good steward of God’s creation, including making every effort to limit the amount of trash. At St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, water bottle filling station were installed to cut down on the waste caused by plastic water bottles. On Jan. 22, 2021 Neumann Senior Tommy Anderson was recognized as the 10,000th water bottle filler at one of the stations on campus. Principal Sister Patricia Roche, Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco, presented Anderson with a certificate during morning prayers/announcements. The stations were installed thanks to the Home and School Association. Since the start of the Academic Year, 31,609 water bottles have been saved from entering the landfill.

Verot student to attend Congress of Future Medical Leaders

Eric Avin, a ninth grader at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, will serve as a Delegate to the Congress of Future Medical Leaders this March. The Congress is an honors-only program for high school students striving for a career as a physician or in a medical research field. The event is designed to honor, inspire, motivate and direct some of the brightest students in the country and to provide a path, plan and resources to help them reach their goal. He was chosen based on the recommendations of a teacher and a Nobel laureate, and on his academic achievement, leadership potential and determination to serve humanity in the field of medicine. During the two-day virtual Congress, Eric will have the chance to hear Nobel Laureates and National Medal of Science Winners talk about leading medical research; learn about cutting-edge advances and the future in medicine and medical technology and much more.

Safe Haven Sunday

Pornography is one of the leading causes of addictions, abuse, adultery, divorce, and even human trafficking: it is, in short, a pervasive evil inflicting grave wounds on our families. Pornography creates unsafe environments for children and confuses others about attitudes towards sex and marriage. It is a moral issue. For this reason, March 7 has been designated as Safe Haven Sunday in the Diocese of Venice. This day for awareness will give an opportunity to address the harmfulness of pornography in marriages, families, and culture, while providing helpful resources for all. Detailed information about the implementation of this program will be shared in the coming weeks through your Parishes. If you have any questions, please contact Carrie Harkey, Diocesan Coordinator of Family Life at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-484-9543.

Faith and Wine Lee County Feb. 25

The next gathering of Faith and Wine Lee County will be a virtual Zoom event beginning at 7 p.m., Feb. 25, 2021. The speaker is Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, who will present “Small Things with Great Love: To Love like Mother Teresa.” To see the complete line-up of speakers, or to register, visit https://faithandwineleecounty.com.

 

Celebrating Christmas during a Pandemic

The Christmas Season is a time to celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ and an opportunity to let the light of the Lord shine forth from within.

Celebrations abounded throughout the Diocese of Venice with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses bringing in the number of faithful not seen since before the start of the global COVID-19 Pandemic.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane recorded a Christmas Day Mass for broadcast on TV to the homebound and also offered a livestream Mass from the Catholic Canter in Venice on Christmas Day.

The message of Bishop Dewane was of hope, not only of the news that vaccines are being distributed, but the “hope that God gave us in sending His Son into the World. That is what we celebrate today… Allow Christ to be the light in your life.”

Aside from the decorated altars, behind the scenes it was the Faithful who magnified the light of Christ through their generosity in supporting those in the community who are less fortunate.

To reach as many children as possible, while still staying safe, St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston, distributed gifts during smaller celebrations throughout December. Each child also received a t-shirt with an image of Jesus embracing a child and the name of the Parish. In all, some 500 children received gifts.

At St. Jude Parish in Sarasota, Pastor Father Celestino Gutiérrez helped to distribute toys and food for 58 families at the Myakka Mission for Migrants brings smiles to the faces of 118 children.

Donors from across the Diocese brought holiday cheer to children at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, where gifts were distributed following an outdoor Nativity Play on Dec. 19, 2020. In addition to the gifts, the young children of the Parish also received jackets, donated by the Knights of Columbus from Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch.

Those in religious education classes at Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda, who usually visited nearby assisted living facilities, turned their disappointment into activities which included handmaking Christmas cards and creating gift bags for residents. The youth created videos of Christmas Carols that were shared with the residents and posted to social media.

Donations not only came from Parishes and the faithful, but from inspiring children who wanted to help kids like themselves.

For example, Renata, Milena and Tyler, along with their friends, all from the Vilano Community in Sarasota, pooled their lemonade stand money to buy necessities and donate them to the mothers at Our Mother’s House in Venice, a residential and support program of Catholic Charities which assists single mothers and their children who might otherwise be homeless.

One young girl from Fort Myers, 5-year-old Chandler Ciccarello, first went to friends and then went on social media to raise money so she could use the money, with the help of her mom, to buy gifts for area needy children. In the end, more than $4,000 was raised and gifts were purchased for 400 children and donated to Catholic Charities of Lee County. Originally the idea was to buy bicycles for children and enough was raised that all children who asked receive a bicycle for Christmas courtesy of Chandler.

These are but a few examples of the spirit of Christmas which spread across the Diocese of Venice this Holiday Season.

News briefs for the week of Dec. 7, 2020

Retired priest dies

Father Arthur Schute, a retired priest who served as Director of Pastoral Care at Bon Secours – St. Joseph Hospital in Port Charlotte from 1997-2005, died Dec. 5, 2020 at the age of 78. Father Schute was ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 21, 1967 to the Archdiocese of Newark. He was a graduate of Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Following his retirement in 2005, he continued to assist at Parishes in Charlotte County and was living in the area at the time of his death. Funeral services will be 11 a.m., Dec. 12, 2020, St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Port Charlotte. Please pray for the repose of the soul of Father Schute and for consolation of his family.

Christmas Day Television Mass for the Homebound

The televised Christmas Day Mass for the Homebound with Celebrant Bishop Frank J. Dewane will air for a full hour on Christmas Day. For viewers in the northern portions of the Diocese (DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Manatee, and Sarasota counties), the Mass will air at 9:30 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee counties), the Mass will air at 8:00 a.m. on WFTX-TV (FOX-4). Please check your cable provider for channel listings. Leaflet missals are available upon request by calling Gail Ardy at 941-486-4714 or by writing: TV Mass, Diocese of Venice, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285. For more information email ardy@dioceseofvenice.org.

“A Seminarian Story” third installment available

The Diocese of Venice in Florida Office of Vocations recently launched a video series titled, “A Seminarian Story,” to celebrate the 16 Seminarians currently in formation. The first three videos have been released and more will follow approximately every two weeks. The most recent video is about Seminarian James Gates who is discerning his vocation at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. Developed with the assistance of the Diocese Communications Department, the goal of the series is to inspire others to follow in the path to the priesthood or religious life, as well as encourage the faithful to continue to support the seminarians as they continue their formation process at different seminaries. “A Seminarian Story” featuring James Gates can be found at https://vimeo.com/445659054.

Prayer vigil held to halt executions

Members of all five Charlotte County parishes participated in a prayer service on Nov. 30, 2020, outside Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda. The event commemorated the worldwide “Cities for Life, Cities Against the Death Penalty” annual observance. Special prayers and a rosary were offered for an end to the use of the death penalty, for all those on death row and for victims of violent crime.

Students help serve meals

Some 20 Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School students helped set up, serve, and breakdown the 20th Annual Sarasota Ministerial Association Feed the Homeless Thanksgiving Lunch on Nov. 25, 2020. This was the ninth year during which students from Cardinal Mooney volunteered.

Parish helps spread Christmas cheer

Our Lady of Light Parish hosted its annual Service Morning on Nov. 22, 2020 with families and children gathering to make Christmas cards to send overseas for our military as well as Christmas candy jars for local foster children.

Door decorating contest

Sister April Hoffman, a Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco, is seen with a student in front of a decorated door at St. John Neumann Catholic School in Naples on Dec. 3, 2020. The door are decorated for the holidays and part of a school-wide competition.

Mass at Dawn (Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo)

The Mass at Dawn will take place at 6:00 a.m., December 15 – 23, and at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, December 20 at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, 1441 Spear St., Port Charlotte. All are welcome to attend each day or when you are able. This Mass comes from the Catholic custom of gathering for celebration of the Eucharist in predawn hours in the nine days before Christmas. Masks are required. Please call 941-661-8335 for further information.

“What is Catholic Theology?”

The Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation is offering a 16-week online course starting Jan. 11, 2020 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 Program in Theology and Christian Ministry at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Anyone interested in a graduate-level introduction to Catholic Theology is welcome to attend for a discounted price. The course is taught by Dr. John Gresham, Executive Director of the Institute, who brings 20 years of experience teaching at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, and Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. For more information, or to register for the course, visit the website of the Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation https://institute-dov.org/ and click on the link to COURSES. For other information, contact Dr. Gresham by email john.gresham@institute-dov.org or phone (941) 766-7334.

Help Your Parish

Parishes face increased risk of financial shortfalls due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and its effects on everyday life. Parishes depend on weekly financial gifts to continue their ministries, especially in this critical time of crisis. Please prayerfully consider an online donation to your parish by visiting https://dioceseofvenice.org/ways-to-give/parish-donations-online/. You may also contribute through your usual channels (e.g., envelopes, and through the Parish online giving option). Together we will navigate through this Pandemic, aid those in need, and secure the road ahead for the Parishes within the Diocese of Venice. Please continue to pray for the repose of the souls of those who have died from Coronavirus, for the recovery of the sick, for the strength of healthcare workers and caregivers, as well as for an end to this health crisis. Thank you for your generosity.

Do You Need Help?

If you need assistance from Catholic Charities for food, financial assistance, or tele-mental health counseling, please call the number for your area listed below between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday:

*  Sarasota/Manatee/DeSoto/Hardee/Highlands counties: 844-385-2407

*  Charlotte/Lee/Hendry/Glades counties: 844-385-2423

*  Collier County: 844-385-2404.

Youth Rally 2020 style!

The 2020 Diocese of Venice Youth Rally was a huge success, uniting young Catholics in Faith even though the youth were scattered at 20 different locations thanks to restrictions necessitated by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The central site for the Youth Rally was St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples. There, about 100 youth from St. John the Evangelist, St. William and St. Peter the Apostle parishes gathered in the Pulte Family Life Center, maintaining social distancing and wearing masks when possible. Some of the largest secondary sites were St. Michael Parish in Wauchula and St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral.

One young lady from St. John the Evangelist said she enjoyed the day because it provided her time to reflect upon her own spiritual journey while trying to find her place in the world. “It is easy to get lost, but if I listen to the call of the Lord, I will find my way.”

One young man from St. Peter the Apostle was at a previous Diocesan Youth Rally and missed the big crowd – nearly 2,000 in 2019. However, he enjoyed the smaller event because “everyone seemed to be personally talking to me. The speakers talked on my level and seemed to understand the struggle I have in living out my Faith.”

The Youth Rally theme was “Worthy,” from the opening of Chapter 4 of St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians which serves to remind the young men and women that they must “live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane greeted the youth stating, “I am convinced you were called by the Lord to be here (at the Rally), otherwise you would not be here or tuning in to this livestream. The idea of being called is not a one-sided conversation with God. The Lord makes known to you, and to me, the mission that He has for us. We must go out and live that call. Our response has to be worthy of the call we have been given.”

Bishop Dewane stressed that the response from each youth at the Rally will be different based on the gifts and talents they have been given. Because we are each called, in our own way, the Lord is patient with us in our response, never calling upon us to do something we are not capable of doing.

“God knows who we are,” the Bishop continued. “We have to work on turning away from sin and be willing to return to the Lord. Let that worthiness rise up within you and let it make you more!!! In living out that call, you become the witness – the leaven – you are called to speak up for the Lord. You must let the word ‘worthy’ remain with you; think about it in your mind, but more profoundly think about it in your heart and soul.”

The first speaker was Chris Mueller, of everydaycatholic.com, who explained that nothing you can do will be unworthy of God’s love. He added that one doesn’t earn God love, that is always there, even for those who sin, who have flaws or faults, because there is no one who does not have sin. “God says, “Bring them to Me, I will use every part of you, I will make you new, in Me.”

To hear that call, one must hear the call of God through prayer and through living an active Faith life. “By this active participation, God moves our hearts to in fact change us. He makes us new. And by having received that love, we are urge to live our lives in a manner worthy of that call.”

Jackie Angel spoke about the underlying call for all Catholics – to be saints. She explained that this does not mean one will be asked to perform miracles, but one must at least aspire to live in the manner of the saints by being the best Catholic possible.

“To live in the manner worthy of the call to be a saint, one must root out all evil in one’s life, whether it is to remove toxic friends, end destructive behavior, you have to move away from what took you away from the Lord,” Angel said. “You do this because Jesus died for you. The Lord loves you and wants you to be in a relationship with Him and to love you in return.”

Eucharistic Adoration took place in the Family Life Center before Bishop Dewane led the youth to the Parish Church in a Eucharistic Procession. Once in the Church there was additional time for adoration and a Benediction prior to the celebration of Mass.

The day also included a live performance by the band Zander, the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (available at all sites), as well as Catholic trivia.

News briefs for the week of Nov. 10, 2020

Virtual Diocesan Concert Series continues

The first Virtual Diocesan Concert was a success when it was streamed live from Incarnation Parish in Sarasota on Nov. 6, 2020. Incarnation Music Director Andi Zdrava directed the performance with Johanna Fincher and Abigale Zdrava providing the stunning vocals, while Dr. Nina Kim played the violin and Edevaldo Mulla the cello.

Music included a variety of selections such as “Panis Angelicus” and “I heard the voice of Jesus say,” as well as two versions of the “Ave Maria.” The series continues from a new location on Nov. 13, 2020 at noon and again on Nov. 20, 2020. Each segment will be live and last approximately 30 minutes. Anyone can view the live stream through the Diocese of Venice Facebook page at www.facebook.com/dioceseofvenice. You do not need to register to view live events on Facebook.

Catholic Medical Association Guild leaders meet with Bishop

Leadership of the Southwest Florida Guild of the Catholic Medical Association met with Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Nov. 5, 2020 at the Catholic Center in Venice. The leadership provided Bishop Dewane with their annual report on their latest activities.

Bereavement seminar Nov. 16 in Naples

Deacon Henry deMena is hosting “There is Hope – Surviving the Holidays” Bereavement Seminar at 3 p.m., Nov. 16, 2020, at the St. Agnes Parish Center, 7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples. This is for those who have experienced a death in the family or the loss of close friend or are trying to help someone who has experienced a loss. Deacon deMena will share he bereavement counseling experience and helpful advice on surviving the holidays. He will also discuss issues which have arisen as a result of isolation due to COVID-19. The seminar is free and open to all. No registration is required. Masks must be worn. Seating will be socially distanced. For those not comfortable to attend, the seminar will be livestreamed from the St. Agnes Parish website and Facebook pages. For more information, please email Deacon deMena at deaconhenry@stagnesnaples.org.

Youth make prayer bowls

Youth at St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers gathered Nov. 8, 2020 to make prayer bowls. The youth used arts and crafts to decorate their bowls with various religious symbols as part of an ongoing effort to learn about the significance of various Christian symbols such as the dove, the Alpha and Omega and much more.

Lee County Parish reaches out to help homeless

Coming together in service for others is a key component of living a faithful Catholic life.

The Lee County Homeless Coalition posted this image to social media on Oct. 1, 2020 of Blessing Bags donated by the faithful of Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers.

Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers offers a variety of programs throughout the year to help encourage parishioners to engage in service to help others in the community. One recent effort is the Blessing Bags Project, which collected items to be distributed to the homeless in Lee County.

Thanks to the generosity and caring of the faithful, more than 200 Blessing Bags were created and shared with the Lee County Homeless Coalition for distribution. The Coalition expressed their appreciation on social media on Oct. 1, 2020, posting photos of the donations received, commenting: “Thank you so much for your generosity!”

While successful, the Blessing Bag project was a challenge during the ongoing global pandemic, explained project lead Chelsea Plesko, Parish Coordinator of Faith Formation.

“With fewer people coming to church on the weekends, we got creative in spreading the word,” Plesko said. “It started as a project for our young parishioners in Faith Formation and grew from there.”

Email blasts, plus online bulletin announcements detailing the specific need and relevant deadlines, helped to spread the word. Key items needed included socks, lip balm, sunscreen, single-serving nuts and beef jerky, as well as toiletries.

A close up of a completed Blessing Bags filled with donated items for the homeless in Lee County created by the faithful of Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers in September 2020.

The response was impressive as most donations were dropped off in bins at the Parish on the weekend of Sept. 20, 2020. Others were creative and ordered what was needed online and had the items delivered directly to the Parish.

“Even though this year was harder than usual for many, it did not stop our parishioners from generously donating to our annual Blessing Bags project,” said Oblate of St. Francis de Sales Father Hugh McGuigan, Pastor of Our Lady of Light. “I’m proud of all those involved that helped us to create over 200 blessing bags for the homeless population in Lee County.”

Because of COVID-19 precautions, all donated items were untouched for 24 hours and before there were separate sorting and packing parties. Plesko explained that in past years these would be large social gathering with refreshments, but in 2020 alterations were made to ensure the work was completed while keeping everyone safe.

Plesko said more than 50 participated in the sorting on Sept. 23 and packing on Oct. 24 as all wore gloves and masks. Children in the Faith Formation program earned service hours for their work.

Once sorted, bag fillers went from station to station to have someone deposit items into gallon Ziploc bags versus just grabbing handfuls of what was needed. In addition to the donated items, each bag included a prayer card and notes of encouragement from the parishioners.

The Blessing Bags project at Our Lady of Light is just one of many the faithful participate in each year. While the pandemic has brought its challenges to these efforts, adjustments have been made to ensure continued success.

Pet blessings abound

For the past six months Eleanor Warring has relied on her best friend more than ever.  Sammy, a 7-year-old terrier poodle mix was one of more than a dozen dogs present for the annual Blessing of the Animals on Oct. 3, 2020 at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch.

Warring lost her husband of 58 years in 2016 when Sammy was nearly 3 years old and the two have been nearly inseparable since. The companionship has been valued more since the pandemic began, which is why Warring wanted to be certain Sammy received a proper blessing with Holy Water from Deacon Jack Milholland.

Sammy remained still throughout the prayer service which consisted of readings from Scripture, prayers and intercessions followed by a general blessing and then individual blessings as Deacon Milholland worked his way through the crowd.

“I would bring him to Mass if I could,” Warring explained. “That is why this blessing is so special. I find great comfort with Sammy and find great comfort in the Church.”

The Blessing of the Animals traditionally occurs on Oct. 4, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of animals and the environment. St. Francis loved the birds near his hometown and even allowed himself to be displaced from a place of shelter in deference to a donkey. The Saint wrote a Canticle of the Creatures, an ode to God’s living things, “All praise to you, Oh Lord, for all these brother and sister creatures.”

The celebration of the Blessing of the Animals celebrates the sacredness of all God’s creation. In the spirit of Saint Francis, the celebration honors animals that share our lives and touch our hearts. It also acknowledges and encourages respect for all of creation.

With requirements of social distancing, many of the blessings throughout the Diocese were on a smaller scale than in the past, but their importance seemed just as crucial. At St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers, Father Lorenzo González held a drive-thru blessing, as did Father Casey Jones at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples. Meanwhile the blessing at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples by Father Gerard Critch was held in a courtyard.

In the wake of the pandemic, many became much closer to their pets. Whether the pets are furry, feathered, scaled or finned, they helped their owners cope with the isolation and loneliness brought on by the quarantine, or the need to remain home for work and/or school.

2020 World Mission Sunday Oct. 18

By Father Bob Kantor – Special to the Florida Catholic

This World Mission Sunday comes amid a pandemic affecting the whole world and so much else happening in our nation. Each year, parishes take up a collection that provides for more than a thousand mission dioceses in territories that cover more than half of the globe. This year will be no different. The World Mission Sunday collection is the weekend of Oct. 17-18, 2020. Unfortunately, with fewer people in the pews it is likely to translate to lighter support of the priests, religious and lay pastoral leaders who proclaim the Gospel, build the Church and serve the poor and most vulnerable. Their work is both a witness to Christ and a practical help. If you are able, please be generous.

Some mission experiences for the people of our Diocese have been understandably curtailed during the pandemic. The Mission Impossible: Immokalee summer experience for teens was cancelled in June. Tentative plans for an international mission experience for young people in the Caribbean remain on the drawing board. Missionaries who were supposed to travel to half of the Parishes in the Diocese in November as part of the Diocese of Venice Mission Cooperative Plan were cancelled. Second collections will be taken up in those Parishes, who host a missionary every other year as part of the plan.

Despite all these challenges, we are still called to mission!  Pope Francis has challenged each of us to live our lives of faith as missionary disciples, spreading the good news of Jesus Christ in creative ways, pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones to share the Faith. In his message for World Mission Day 2020, the Holy Father notes that this year is marked by the suffering and challenge posed by Covid-19. “Like the disciples in the Gospel were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm.  We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other,” the Holy Father said.

Pope Francis calls us to an awareness of others, not thinking only of ourselves.  Regarding our call to mission, he added “the invitation to step out of ourselves for love of God and neighbor presents itself as an opportunity for sharing, service and intercessory prayer. The mission that God entrusts to each one of us leads us from fear and introspection to a renewed realization that we find ourselves precisely when we give ourselves to others.”

How can we make a difference today and tend the oars of the boat we all feel being tossed about these days? Your generosity on World Mission Sunday is one concrete means of offering help that is greatly needed around the world. Christ also offers a very personal call to each of us. To the extent we can, in the ways we can in these times of less personal contact, bringing Jesus to the world is even more critical. Where there are suffering hearts and anxious spirits, we can be the ones to reflect the peace of Christ and the soothing of the Spirit to an ailing world.

A global pandemic, contentious elections and social unrest have many people seeking answers and trying to effect solutions that they hope will improve present conditions.  Without God, is this possible? Without justice, peace and love undergirding any initiative, can it really work? Perhaps this year more than ever, our own nation can be thought of as mission territory, where you and I can bring Christ to bear where he has been ignored or forgotten. Perhaps these challenging times will lead to a more profound World Mission Sunday than ever, one where we not only make our greatly needed sacrificial offering, but also contribute something profound from our very lives for God and neighbor.

By Father Bob Kantor is the Diocesan of Venice Director for the Propagation of the Faith (Mission Office) and Pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Naples. To learn more about the Diocese Mission Office, please call 239-592-1949 or email missionoffice@dioceseofvenice.org.

News Briefs from the week of Sept. 18 2020

Verot student named National Merit Semifinalist

Congratulations to Bishop Verot Catholic High School senior Xavier Caangay who has been named a 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program Semifinalist. This makes Caangay one of 16,000 students nationwide to be recognized among the 1.5 million juniors who entered the competition by taking the 2019 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. To become a Finalist, the Semifinalist and his or her high school must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about their academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. Finalists are announced in the spring and have the opportunity to compete for some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million. All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from this group of Finalists.

Naples Catholic school recognized

St. Ann Catholic School has been selected for the 2020 Best of Naples Award in the Schools category by the Naples Award Program. This is the 2nd consecutive year the school has won the award. Each year, the Naples Award Program identifies entities that it believes have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local entities that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and the community. These exceptional companies help make the Naples area a great place to live, work, and play. The Naples Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Naples area.  Recognition is given to those entities that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value. The school was also the runner-up for best school in Collier County in Gulfshore Life magazine For more information on St. Ann Catholic School, please call 239-262-4110 or visit www.stann.net.

Teens consecrated to Jesus through Mary

Five teens from Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers were consecrated to Jesus through Mary on Aug. 16, 2020, after six weeks of learning about the lives of different saints. This consecration is part of 33 Days to Morning Glory. One teen said of the achievement: “The Marian Consecration has helped me, because Mary is like the voice in your head that steers you away from what’s wrong and gives you a road to what’s right. I also learned that when Mary is present in your life you can tell her all your worries knowing she is listening which gives me a sense of peace.”

 

7th season of Faith & Wine coming virtually in October

Faith & Wine is returning to Lee County with its first ever virtual event on Oct. 22, 2020 featuring Liz Larson, a nurse and parishioner at Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers, presenting “Lessons from Emma: A Walk in Faith.” Larson will share her life-changing experience following the devastating diagnosis of her unborn child. To learn more and to register, please visit www.faithandwineleecounty.com.

Sacrament of Confirmation resumes for Diocesan youth

Frida Castillo and Maria Ramos are close friends who were among nearly 70 to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation on Sept. 5, 2020 at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle.

Frida said she felt a weight had been lifted from her shoulders when Bishop Frank J. Dewane made the sign of the cross on her forehead with Sacred Chrism while saying: “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Maria felt serene after the Rite. “I am at peace, and so happy to now be a full member of the Church.”

The Sacrament was originally scheduled to be conferred on the Our Lady Queen of Heaven youth by Bishop Dewane shortly after Easter, but the global COVID-19 Pandemic caused a frustrating delay for this group and many others.

“We were so ready,” Frida said. “We worked for two years to get to this point and then we had to wait with no idea how long.”

The final preparation was completed virtually in the spring, and then refresher classes and a mini retreat took place in August. There were two Masses to accommodate the large group. Only the confirmandi and their sponsors were permitted in the Church while family watched from the Parish Hall with everyone wearing face coverings.

The Confirmation Rite at Our Lady of Queen of Heaven was the first in what will be a series of such occasions to be celebrated by Bishop Dewane throughout the Diocese in the coming months. These will include all rescheduled Confirmations from the spring and ones already planned for the fall.

This Sacrament imbues the recipient with the Holy Spirit, making the person an advocate for the Lord, Bishop Dewane said. “This becomes a permanent part of who you are. Live your faith to the fullest. Use these Gifts of the Holy Spirit every day. They must become part of who you are. The more you use them, the closer you will grow to the Lord.”

The Sacrament should not be viewed as the end of the journey, but the continuation of the journey of faith with the new dimension of the Holy Spirit.

“This is the time that you give witness to who you are as followers of Jesus Christ,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is part of your faith journey to live the commitment of believers, a beginning of a new life in the Holy Spirit and to become more the man or woman of God you are called to be.”

Before the Sacred Chrism was administered, the Bishop asked the candidates to renew their baptismal promises as a sign of their personal assent to the faith. This is the candidates assent to their belief in Christ and His Church. The Bishop also extended his hands over the candidates during the Rite. This action is called, “The Laying on of Hands.” In this action, the Bishop imparts the Holy Spirit upon the candidates, completing the grace of their baptism.

After each Mass, the Bishop posed for pictures with each of newly confirmed and family in the Parish Hall.

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