News for mid May 2019

Bishop blesses Knights on Bikes

The Knights of Columbus Knights on Bikes of the Diocese of Venice welcomed Bishop Frank J. Dewane as he blessed their motorcycles May 19 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice. Bishop Dewane first celebrated a Mass for the group and then led a prayer service and blessing. Organized by George Lopez of Ave Maria Parish, the motorcyclists came from across the Diocese. The Knights on Bikes is a worldwide organization consisting of members of the Knights of Columbus who are also motorcycle riders. The Knights on Bikes was formed in the United States in April 2005. Members proudly wear a vest that clearly promotes the Knights of Columbus organization.

Seminarians graduate from college

Diocesan Seminarian Daniel Scanlan gives the valedictorian address May 9 at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami.

Three Diocesan Seminarians recently graduated from college. Transitional Deacon Carlos Encinas earned his Master’s in Divinity from St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach on May 9. The day before, Seminarians Daniel Scanlan and Juan Contreras graduated from St. john Vianney College Seminary in Miami. Scanlan graduated at the class valedictorian. Deacon Encinas will be ordained to the priesthood in the fall, while Scanlan and Contreras will next go on to St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary.

Food sorting from Post Office drive

A volunteer helps sort donations at St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton on May 11 following the Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.

The St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton received food deliveries from five U.S. Post Offices as part of a Letter Carries “Stamp Our Hunger Food Drive.” On May 11, some 300 volunteers helped sort the food in the St. Joseph Parish School gymnasium and stock the Food Pantry. The food pantry serves all of Manatee County and in 2018 the Food Pantry served more than 5,300 families with 12,772 family members of which 4,443 were children and 442 were veterans. These families visited the pantry and received food over 19,600 visits during the past 12 months. In addition, the Food Pantry distributed more than 550 bags of food and toiletries to the homeless of Manatee County during the year. An additional 1,000 bags of food are distributed Thanksgiving Week. For more information about the St. Joseph Food Pantry, call 941-756-3732, email directors@stjoepantry.com or send donations to St. Joseph Food Pantry, 2704 33rd Ave. W., Bradenton, FL 34205.

Sarasota school expands offering

Incarnation Catholic School, 2911 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota, will be expanding their early learning classes to include a PreK three program. The program will offer a monthly theme-based curriculum that will include math, science, language and basics of our Catholic faith. Our little learners will discover answers to big questions like “How do Plants Grow?” and “ Who lives in the Ocean?”. Small class sizes will allow for individual attention and differentiate instruction. Playground time will provide an opportunity to work on gross motor skills.  The program will offer full and part time options, perfect for every family. Children must be potty trained and three years old by September 1. For more information please call 941-924-8588.

Verot grad tapped to head ATF

Regina Lombardo, a 1981 graduate of Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, was announced on May 1 as the new acting deputy director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the first woman to head the federal agency. Lombardo has served as the associate deputy director and chief operating officer for the agency since March 2018, with responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the agency. She has served as a special agent at ATF since 1992 and has risen through the ranks as a career employee, holding numerous management positions that include assistant director of Human Resources and Professional Development, deputy assistant director of Field Operations’ Central Region, special agent in charge of the Tampa Field Division, assistant special agent in Charge of the New York Field Division, and assistant country attaché in Toronto, Canada.

Youth event May 31 on Sanibel

Youth from across the Diocese are invited to take part in an event 7-10 p.m., May 31 at St. Isabel Parish, 3559 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel. This event is open to everyone but the Youth Groups in the area are encouraged to participate. The event, titled “Immeasurable Mercy!” will feature our well-known local musician Mark Shapic and vocalist Jennine Fuentes! Also included is pizza, refreshments, games, Adoration and Reconciliation along with some praise and worship. It’s a time for music, fun, and fellowship! RSVP to Dr. Sue Ellen Nolan at @sueellen.nolan@saintisabel.org.

Taize Prayer service May 31 in Sarasota

St. Thomas More Parish, 2506 Gulf Gate Drive, Sarasota, invites people to a special Taize Prayer Service, 7 p.m., May 31. The feast of Pentecost commemorates the beginning of the Church in a new way, with the arrival of the Holy Spirit and with the disciples speaking so that many people heard the gospel in their own language. The prayer in the manner of Taizé is a good way to discover a shared gospel in many languages. Celebrate Pentecost with Song, Silence and Scripture in the style of Taizé monastery in France. The simple and beautiful chant music is dedicated to the renewal of spirits and the healing of our planet. The repetitive nature of the chanted prayer can promote a kind of inner unity of the person, allowing the spirit to be more open and more attentive to what is essential. Silence is a fundamental part of the Taizé service. For more details, please call 941-923-1691.

Scouting Awards presented

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

Girls and boys from throughout the Diocese of Venice participated in a Mass on May 5 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice wearing the uniforms of their Scout troop.

Designated as “Scouting Sunday,” the Mass was followed by an award ceremony in the Parish Hall to celebrate and recognize the girls and boys who commit themselves to scouting while remaining true to the Faith. Members of the Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Brownies, American Heritage Girls (AHG) and the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Society participated in the ceremony.

During a reception following Mass, Bishop Frank J. Dewane presented more than 250 awards, with some Scouts receiving multiple honors. The awards included: Rosary Series, Faith Series, Footsteps of American Saints, Modern Saints, Women in Scripture, Models of Faith, Child of God, Family of God, Mother Mary, Queen of the Rosary, Mary, the First Disciple, I Live My Faith, Priesthood Sunday, Light of Christ, Parvuli Dei, Ad Altare Dei awards. Each award requires the Scout to participate in different activities which help increase their Faith and become more difficult to earn as the Scout advances.

During the awards ceremony, Diocesan Scout Awards Coordinator Bob Paquette presented Dewane was presented with the Quality Diocese Award, which is given to a Diocese for its commitment to supporting Catholic Scouting. This is the 10th year in a row the Diocese of Venice has received this award.

Three American Heritage Girl Troops earned the Pope Paul VI Catholic Quality Unit Award: Troop 1203 of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Fort Myers; Troop 2112 of Epiphany Cathedral in Venice; and Troop 1029 of Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria. Additional adult recognition included the Duty to God, the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and the Bronze Pelican awards.

Lastly, Melissa Harkness of the American Heritage Girl Troop 1203 at St. Francis Xavier parish in Fort Myers was presented the Companions on the Journey Award, the highest recognition from the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry for a Diocese to confer to an adult working in youth ministry.

Recognizing the hard work and commitment that the Scouts from throughout the Diocese of Venice make to earn the Catholic Religious Awards, Bishop Dewane congratulated each of the award recipients and all Scouts.

Participating in the ceremony was Scouts Chaplain Father Lawton Lang, who is an Eagle Scout, and Diocese of Venice Director of Evangelization Joshua Mazrin.

Second Diocesan Walk to Our Lady May 4

Staff Report

The month of May is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary who serves as a guide for us to grow closer to the Lord.

To help celebrate Our Lady, the Diocese of Venice is holding its second annual “Walk to Our Lady: A Marian Pilgrimage to the May Crowning,” a public display of Faith and Devotion to the Blessed Mother.

Everyone is encouraged to register now for the May 4 walk in Venice from Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1301 Center Road, to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center, 3989 S. Moon Drive.

Join Bishop Frank J. Dewane and other participants as they process 6.6 miles in prayer and song. Registration opens at 7:30 a.m. at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish and then at 8 a.m., the walk will begin. The route takes walkers along Venice Avenue, then first under, and later over, Interstate 75 as they make their way to the Retreat Center.

The walk will have a Sheriff’s Office escort and have multiple rest stations with snacks, water and bathrooms available along the route. A trolley will follow the walkers for those who were unable to make the whole distance on foot or need the opportunity to cool off and rest.

At a steady pace, the walk will conclude around 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center where a May Crowning prayer service will take place. Once concluded, everyone is invited for a lunch of hot dogs and hamburgers. Trolleys will be available to drive people back to the starting point at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.

The walk is co-sponsored by the Diocese Office of Communications and Evangelization and is building upon the success of the 2018 walk. During the first walk, more than 100 people took part, giving a powerful public witness and expression of devotion to Our Lady as they walked down streets while praying and singing aloud with joy. The rosary was recited as an International Rosary, meaning it was shared in multiple languages (Spanish, Vietnamese, Polish and English).

The walk is free, but advanced registration is required to help prepare for the number of participants. Please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/events/2019-walk-to-our-lady/ to register. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact Gail Ardy at 941-484-9543 or ardy@dioceseofvenice.org.

News from Around the Diocese for late April

News from across the Diocese for April 2019

Staff Report

Mission Possible Immokalee 2019: June 10-14

The deadline to register for the June Mission Possible Immokalee 2019 trip is May 10. All teens between the ages of 15-17 years old are invited by the Diocese of Venice Mission Office to participate in the trip, which is June 10-14. This is a Mission experience of service to the marginalized in Immokalee and will include daily sites visits, Mass as well as evening prayer and reflection. The cost is $180 per person and includes meals, lodging and transportation to work sites. Registration is through local Parish Youth Group or Catholic Schools only. For more details about Mission Possible Immokalee 2019, please contact Lisa Dahn at 239-241-2233 or missionoffice@dioceseofvenice.org.

Lent project focuses on Passion

This Lenten Season students at St. Martha Catholic School were asked to draw the image of Jesus on the Cross. The drawings were put on display on the walls closest to the school Chapel. Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who was at the school April 17 to celebrate the Mass, was shown the images and he commented on how well they were done and appreciated that art is a unique way for students to connect with Jesus and His Passion.

 

 

Knights support St. Vincent de Paul Society

The Knights of Columbus San Marco Council 6344 sponsored the April 9 St. Vincent De Paul Dinner in the San Marco Parish Center on Marco Island. The event included a barbeque dinner and included lots of fun for more than 250 people who came out to support the programs at the St. Vincent de Paul Society. The Society provides emergency financial support for needy families in the area and thanks to the support of the Knights they will be able to help even more people this coming year.

 

 

Bible on the Beach in Venice

Epiphany Cathedral youth took part in a Bible of the Beach at Venice Beach following the Palm Sunday Mass. The annual gathering helps prepare the youth as they head into Holy Week. Diocese of Venice Director of Evangelization offered words of encouragement to the group.

News from Around the Diocese November 2018

Wrap-up of news from Across the Diocese in November

Wauchula Children’s Festival a big success

More than 200 children participated in a Children’s Festival at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula. Geared toward children aged 3 to 10, there were a number of fun activities and games as well as Mass and prayers.

 

 

 

Successful Vocations Awareness Weekend

The Diocese Vocations Office brought a group of young men to participate in the Nov. 9-11 Vocations Awareness Weekend at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. Led by Vocations Director Father Eric Scanlan, several attended this engaging and prayerful discernment event.

 

 

 

 

Retreat inspires catechists

A Diocesan Catechist Retreat themed: “Root of God’s Healing” took place Nov. 17 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. About 100 catechists participated in the retreat which focused on reenergizing them as they approach the Advent and Christmas seasons. They were reminded that Jesus serves to free and restore them as they work to be the light and witness of the Lord for others.

 

 

 

VDCCW Latina Convocation held

The first ever Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women Latina Convocation took place Nov. 17 at Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton. About 50 women took part in the gathering which served to educate about the role of the CCW and to inspire them to become more involved in their faith. Iris Gomez, VDCCW Past-President, organized the gathering and Father Juan Carlos Sack, Administrator at Sacred Heart Parish, provide inspirational talks.

 

 

Cities for Life gathering held

Praying for the end to the death penalty, a Cities for Life gathering was held Nov. 30 at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Port Charlotte. Cities for Life is a worldwide annual event that was begun in 2002 by the community of Saint’ Egidio in Rome where the Coliseum was lit up during the night. November 30th was chosen because it is the anniversary of the first civil state in the world to do away with the death penalty in Tuscany, Italy in 1786- 229 years ago. About 2,000 cities and 80 countries will call for the end of the use of the death penalty by lighting civic or religious buildings around the world, along with prayer services and educational programs. This was the fourth time the Dioceses of Florida participated in the prayer vigil. Participants in the Port Charlotte gathering saw a video presentation of a talk on the death penalty from the September 2018 Florida Respect Life Conference in Punta Gorda.

 

Sarasota Charity Ball Jan. 26 at The Westin

The Catholic Charities Ball will be held on Jan. 26,  at 6 p.m. at The Westin in Sarasota. All proceeds will benefit the programs and services of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. in Sarasota and Manatee counties which include Our Mother’s House, St. Martha’s Early Learning Center, Bethesda House, Catholic Charities Family Haven, housing counseling and foreclosure prevention, financial assistance, senior services, professional counseling, refugee services, and immigration services. The evening will include a cocktail hour, auctions, dinner, and dancing. Tickets are $300 a person. For information and tickets visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org or call 941-355-4680, ext. 301 or email nmuth@ccdis1.org.

Punta Gorda Youth Tweet the Holy Father

Staff Report – Florida Catholic

11/15/2018

A simple exercise for a Parish youth group turned into an outpouring of heartfelt emotion about the Universal Church, their Faith and Pope Francis.

Rita J. Sheridan, Director of Youth Ministries at Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda, organized her 6th-8th graders to compose messages – or Tweets – that would be sent to Pope Francis through his Twitter social media account.

Sheridan heard about other youth groups doing this exercise and believed it would be a good idea. The results were amazing.

“After I read each of them, I was so moved that I set up the Twitter account and sent them off to the Pope,” Sheridan said. “They really couldn’t believe I would actually do this!”

Sheridan was pleased with the thought and effort the students made during this project.

“It was a great exercise and the kids truly spoke from their hearts,” she said.

The following are just some of the Tweets created by the youth from Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda:

  • “Dear Pope Francis – when I go to Church I feel safe against all evil on Earth. I honor you for religious freedom. I get connected to the Church when I pray and I am with my family.” – Nicholas
  • “Dear Pope Francis – I feel special at Church because I sing at Mass. It’s only me and three other girls. Almost all my family that goes to church at the 4 o’clock Mass helps in the Mass. Thank you for trying to stop the shootings. Love.” – Tristen
  • “Dear Pope Francis – My name is Aaron and I’d like to tell you that when I go to Church I feel connected to the Church. I appreciate your work. I’m connected to the Church because I love to learn about God. God bless you, Pope Francis.” – Aaron
  • “Dear Pope Francis – When my mother, brother and I walk into Church we feel welcomed by God. I truly follow what you stand for which is love, caring and having a beloved heart. I follow yours and God’s Word for these top three special things. I plan on serving in the U.S. Navy to protect these top three things including religious freedom so we can continue to follow God and follow his word in the future. Thank you for being the true head of our Christian Catholic religion. I truly follow you wholeheartedly… dearly loved and truly follower.” – no name provided
  • “Dear Pope Francis – As I walk into Church I feel welcomed. Along with many other emotions including the breaking of my religious solitude and the acceptance into God’s arms. I honor you because of your efforts and success in helping people into Christianity or accepting them for who they are no matter the religion or Faith of said person. I feel as if you connect me to the Church by showing me there is nothing to be afraid of as you and God accept me into your arms even if others don’t accept me for who I am. I like your approach on how you want to save the environment and how you unite people together to make a change. Thank you.” 8th grader – no name provided

To date, the youth have not received any responses from Pope Francis, but Sheridan explained that this is understandable as the Holy Father (or his staff) likely see countless messages each day.

Bishop reads to support Literacy Campaign

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

7/13/2018

To the delight of young boys and girls, Bishop Frank J. Dewane read a book to children at Casa San Juan Bosco farmworker housing community of Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. in Arcadia.

The 39 children, from kindergarten through 4th grade, were participating in a summer afternoon reading program that was part of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and made possible through the support of The Patterson Foundation with partnerships with The Community Foundation of Sarasota and the United Way Suncoast.

Bishop Dewane read “The Giving Tree,” a children’s picture book by Shel Silverstein. The book follows the lives of a female apple tree and a boy, who develop a relationship with one another. The tree is very “giving” and the boy evolves into a “taking” teenager, man, then elderly man. While the boy ages in the story, the tree addresses the boy as “Boy” his entire life.

While reading the book, the Bishop made sure each of the children, who were seated attentively on the floor, could see the illustrations and pointing out some of the important details. Afterwards, the Bishop queried the inquisitive children about what lessons they learned.

Based on the questions posed by Bishop Dewane and the responses he received, the children understood the positive messages from the book about giving and having a caring relationship with nature and those around them.

The summer reading program at Casa San Juan Bosco is three afternoons a week in June and July, and is part of a larger program which includes the arts and other educational activities. Throughout the summer the children were encouraged to read as many books as they could. The older children and volunteers would also read to the others in smaller groups. Throughout the summer, the children keep track of all the books they read and then write a short synopsis on each book to get credit.

By late June, Janet Seguera had read 10 books, which were marked in shiny stars on the Summer Reading Challenge board. “I love to read and sometimes read to my younger sisters. By reading, I learn so much about wonderful places and people. It’s fun.”

The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is part of a national campaign which unites community partners across the nation to make reading proficiently by the end of third grade a priority. This is to address the fact that two-thirds of children in 4th grade cannot read at grade-level. While it is understood that parents and good preschool teachers teach reading from birth through 3rd Grade, in fourth grade students must use their reading skills to learn, and teachers no longer teach students how to read.

Locally, the communitywide effort includes Manatee and Sarasota counties as well as the Catholic Charities program in Arcadia. The effort focuses on helping all children, especially those from low-income families, succeed in school and life by ensuring they read on grade level by the end of third grade.

Bishop Dewane said he was delighted to be a part of this outreach and thanked representatives of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-level Reading for recognizing the Catholic Charities program as worthy of their outreach as well as the Patterson Foundation which also supported helped with the program.

“It was an honor to read for the children and a privilege to be here to support this reading program for these young boys and girls in Arcadia,” Bishop Dewane said. “Reading is an important foundation of learning that can be carried forward throughout one’s life. Catholic Charities and the Diocese both look forward to working with these partners in the future to help promote literacy which is so important in the life of all students.”

Summertime and the Giving is Easy 2018

Annual Campaign to support Catholic Charities

Staff Report

7/13/2018

Every day vulnerable people living throughout Southwest Florida go to their local Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. office seeking relief. This assistance can come in the form of nourishment, education, shelter, or in the support of at-risk children, isolated elderly, struggling families and homeless individuals.

For this reason, Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. offers the opportunity for supporters to give directly to the causes which empower those in need through the “Summertime and the Giving is Easy” Campaign. The theme for the 2018 Campaign is “EmPOWer your neighbors in need with strength. Be a SuperHero and Give!”

A file photo of a familily at Casa San Juan Bosco farm worker housing of Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. in Arcadia.

Giving to the “Summertime and the Giving is Easy” Campaign builds up the people of Southwest Florida with the courage and hope to move beyond poverty and achieve self-sufficiency. By supporting this Campaign generously, for example, you can help lift a child out of poverty, give nourishment to a senior, put a roof overhead for a homeless family, supply a home for a veteran, or offer stability to a victim of human trafficking.

Each year, Catholic Charities serves more than 40,000 families and individuals regardless of race, nationality or creed with more than 30 specialized programs that are focused on improving lives. A total of 92 cents of each dollar donated to Catholic Charities goes directly to programs and services. Charity Navigator, a leading evaluator of non-profits, consistently rates Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. among its top-rated organizations, giving its highest rating for sound fiscal management a total of 15 times over the past 17 years. The “Summertime and the Giving is Easy” is a chance to brighten the future for your neighbors who come to Catholic Charities for help. Any gift amount is greatly appreciated!

Support with stability.

Volunteers at the Judy Sullivan Family Resource Center of Catholic Charities assist clients as they go through the “Choice Food Pantry” in Naples in late June.

The Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Program guides victims to attain a healthy life.

Catholic Charities administers Professional Counseling Services that keep families together and offer relief. Frail and isolated elders come to the Senior Support Coordination Program to live independently. A victim of labor trafficking recently expressed his gratitude from the work of Catholic Charities to create a stable and safe living environment for his family. “I have not the right words for all who have helped us, but I am so thankful.”

Sheltering the homeless.

The North Port Family Haven provides emergency housing and long-term case management for homeless families. At Our Mother’s House in Venice, desperate mothers and their children have a safe place to live where they can work toward self-sufficiency. One mother recently completed the extensive education program, leaving with a stable job and housing for her and her child and a very bright future. “Our Mother’s House changed my life. I was essentially homeless with a young child and no options. I was desperate. Today, I am a very different person. I never would have thought it was possible.” Additionally, Casa San Jose in Sarasota gives those living with HIV a proper residence to enhance the quality of their life. The Veteran’s House, also in Sarasota, offers a deserving veteran a roof over his/her head.

Feeding the hungry.

Food Pantries located throughout Southwest Florida distribute thousands of pounds of food every week. Homeless school children are sustained over the weekend through the Weekend Power Pack Food Program in Naples. The Casa Maria Soup Kitchen in Immokalee serves around 35,000 hot meals each year. The nutritional center at Bethesda House in Sarasota assists special needs clients with healthy food items.

Catholic Charities educates children and adults.

At St. Martha’s Early Learning Center in Sarasota, low-income preschoolers become kindergarten ready. The AFCAAM Center in Fort Myers provides after-school tutoring and mentoring for disadvantaged youth. Our Summer Camps offer a fun and educational experience. Families living at Casa San Juan Bosco in Arcadia learn beneficial life skills.

These are some of the children who particpate in the Catholic Charities Day Care at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Boca Grande.

In addition to all the work previously mentioned, Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. continues to take a central role in helping many in the Diocese of Venice recover from Hurricane Irma. This initially included the establishment and operation of 12 different Disaster Response Centers which served as central hubs for the distribution of much needed food and water and other necessities. Approximately 82,000 people were helped in just the first three weeks.

In the long-term recovery from Hurricane Irma, Catholic Charities has been at the front lines by providing caseworkers which aid individuals and families in getting back into permanent housing through financial assistance or assisting families who lost work meet the needs of food and other necessities.

“Summertime and the Giving is Easy” is a chance to brighten the future for your neighbors who come to Catholic Charities for help. Any gift amount is greatly appreciated!  You can make your contribution in honor or in memory of a loved one. Donations can be made to a specific program of Catholic Charities or to the general fund where the money will go where it is most urgently needed.

The giving is easy! To donate, please visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org, or write to Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc., 5824 Bee Ridge Road, PMB 409, Sarasota, FL 34233-5065. Your gift will make a positive impact!

Religious Freedom Film Festival spans generations

Susan Laielli – Florida Catholic

Venice – The Diocese of Venice Youth and Young Adult groups accepted the challenge of creating films with a Religious Freedom theme during the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) designated Religious Freedom Week, June 22-29.

These are some of the people who attended the Diocese of Venice Religious Freedom Film Festival June 27 at St. Agnes Parish in Naples.

In all, six films were submitted to the Diocese of Venice 14-Day Film Festival by Diocesan youth and young adults, who had from June 7-21 to produce films that could be up to up to 10 minutes long. The films were featured at three Diocesan showcases: June 26, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, Sarasota; June 27, St. Agnes Parish Hall, Naples; and June 28, Our Lady of Light Parish Hall, Fort Myers.  Electronic voting for each film was open through July 6.

Films were submitted by Youth and Young Adult groups from St. Joseph’s Parish in Bradenton, Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch, St. Agnes Parish in Naples, St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples, St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, and St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres.

These are some of the people who attended the Diocese of Venice Religious Freedom Film Festival June 28 at Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers.

“Our youth worked with our young adults to learn about video production and editing, as well as on the topic research,” said Theresa Barbale, Director of Youth and Young Adult at St. Peter the Apostle in Naples.  “It was good for those with experience to teach the younger kids.”

Attendees at St. Agnes Catholic Parish spanned multiple generations, and expressed joy that the middle school aged children are learning about Religious Freedoms, and the subtle infringements on those liberties.

At each of the events, the co-producers of a soon-to be released documentary on Christian persecution, Patrick Carberry and Jordan Allott, presented newly gathered footage and discussed what they learned from Christians in small villages that were decimated by ISIS, or other extremists. The film, “Christians in the Mirror,” is produced by In Altum Productions, and is set for release in August.

Spiritual enrichment + fun and games

Staff Report

It was more than fun and games at the St. Michael Parish summer camps for boys and girls in Wauchula. During back-to-back weeks in early June, young boys, and then young girls, converged on the Parish grounds and participated in eight hours of daily spiritual enrichment mixed in with fun and outdoor games.

Each summer, the Parish Religious Education team organizes the camps for the boys (June 4-8) and the girls (June 11-15). The camps are for children from first through sixth grade and offer a chance for the Parish staff to keep connected with the young people when regular religious education programs are closed for the summer.

The children described the week in the simplest of terms: “Fun!” “Awesome!” “Great!” “Perfect!” Beautiful!” “Terrific!” If the smiles and excitement for each day were not enough, the impact of the camp was the lively participation of everyone in each of the activities throughout each week.

The theme for the camps this year was “Obedience!” At daily Mass, Parish Administrator Father Timothy van Zee, Institute of the Incarnate Word, stressed the importance of obedience, trying to explain the concept on a level the young children could clearly understand.

“The best reason is because Jesus gave us that example. We need to be like Jesus if we want to be happy and if we want to get to heaven,” said Father van Zee. “Even when you are asked to do something you don’t want to do; it is better to obey. If you do that, you become a better person, more like Jesus.”

Each camp day had a serious religious and spiritual element, including prayer and an examination of conscience. The early part of the schedule included a talk about the Holy Mass with a presentation covering different aspects of full, active and conscious participation in the Mass. This encompassed the proper way to use a holy water font when entering the Church; the need to genuflect facing the tabernacle and the altar; and a review of the prayers and music.

A key component of the preparation was a daily reinforcement of how to behave when going forward for Holy Communion. For the youngest children, this meant crossing their arms indicating they were not of age to receive the Eucharist and bowing their head to be blessed by Father van Zee. For older children, it was a reminder to respond clearly when the Holy Eucharist is presented to them.

Following Mass, there were additional prayers lead by a religious sister and then they were free to head to a breakfast of pancakes, fruit, milk and juice.

Other parts of the day included some fun and games as well as productive team-building exercises. Small teams competed in the various activities throughout the week with an emphasis on support and teamwork. Points were accumulated for various token prizes.

This was important in helping the young boys and girls realize that they can accomplish much more with the help of others than if they tried to do the same thing alone. Because it is the summer, many of the outdoor activities included water, providing some of the funnier moments of the week.

In the afternoons, different activities included learning about the life of different saints, presentations on the stage in the Parish Hall, and more indoor games. The girls also had the opportunity to bake. Days concluded with snack time, singing and then a recitation of the Holy Rosary. Each week also included a field trip to the Tampa Bay area where they went to indoor amusement facilities.

Each week culminated in a celebration for the parents with presentations from each team. The girls also served fresh baked pizza.

The camps were organized by Sister Maria Gema de Jesus Ruiz, a Servant of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, Director of Religious Education at St. Michael Parish. However, they would not have been possible without the support of the other religious women at the Parish and the hard work by the entire Parish community, including the parent and teen volunteers. Among those volunteers were several Diocesan seminarians who helped with the boys, and an extra religious sister from Washington, D.C., who assisted with the girls.

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