News briefs for the week on March 8, 2024

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, in consultation with the Priest Personnel Board, announces the following:

Father Celestino Gutierrez, retired as Pastor of St. Jude Parish, Sarasota, effective February 19, 2024, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Pastor of St. Jude Parish, Sarasota.

Father Jiobani Batista, as Pastor of St. Jude Parish, Sarasota, effective March 11, 2024, and thus is relieved of his duties as Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish, LaBelle.

Father Marcial Garcia, as Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish, LaBelle, effective March 11, 2024, and thus relieved of his duties as Pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven.

Father Remigious Ssekiranda, as Administrator of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven, effective March 11, 2024, and thus relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of St. Paul Parish in Arcadia.

Father Pawel Kawalec, as Parochial Vicar of St. Paul Parish in Arcadia, effective March 11, 2024, and thus relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of St. Catherine Parish in Sebring.

Father Anthonio Jean, as Parochial Vicar of Sacred Heart Parish, Bradenton, effective February 26, 2024, and thus, is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar at St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Cape Coral.

Father Shawn Roser, as Parochial Vicar of Resurrection of Our Lord Parish, Fort Myers, effective March 11, 2024, and thus is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Lakewood Ranch and as Director of Vocations and Seminarian Formation for the Diocese of Venice.

Father Alexander Pince, as Director of Vocations and Seminarian Formation for the Diocese of Venice, effective March 11, 2024, while retaining half time duties as Parochial Vicar of Epiphany Cathedral, Venice.

Father Alan Baldarelli, as Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Lakewood Ranch, effective March 11, 2024.

Last chance to register for Diocesan Eucharistic Conference

March 12, 2024, is the deadline to register for the Diocese of Venice Eucharistic Conference on March 16 at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers. This effort, in support of the Church’s National Eucharistic Revival, is to place an emphasis on the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist, will be an all-day event of faith and fellowship, featuring inspirational Catholic speakers, including nationally acclaimed Catholic speaker and author Steven Ray, Crystalina Evert, Kathia Aranga, Father Elvis Gonzalez, and Tim Glemkowski. English and Spanish sessions will be offered. All are welcome. The day will include Mass, as well as adoration, and confessions. For more information, and a video invitation from Bishop Frank J. Dewane, please visit

Cheer team wins competition

Congratulations to the Incarnation Catholic School Elementary Cheer Team for winning first place in the East Coast Championships – The Takeover 2024 Cheerleading Competition March 2-3, 2024, in Wesley Chapel. Great job girls, coaches and parents for all your hard work and dedication!

Arcadia youth take part in Stations of the Cross

Youth from St. Paul Parish in Arcadia learned about and took part in the Stations of the Cross on March 1, 2024. Led by Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Light, the youth dedicated their prayer for peace in the world.

Naples high school hosts eighth graders

St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples was overrun by more than 120 enthusiastic 8th graders who were at the school to experience a day in the life of a Celtic student. From hitting the weights in the gym to finding solace in the chapel, the future Celtics explored every corner of the vibrant campus. But the excitement didn’t stop there! The young guests were hands-on with a chemistry experiment, embarked on a scavenger hunt, and put their knowledge to the test in a lively trivia session with some of Nuemann’s amazing teachers. The students were from nearby St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School and St. Ann Catholic School and many are discerning whether to attend St. John Neumann in the fall.

Walk for the Poor in Punta Gorda March 16

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s 15th annual Walk for the Poor is set for March 16, 2024 at Gilchrist Park. The yearly event raises money to help Charlotte County’s four St. Vincent de Paul conferences Sacred Heart, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Maximillian Kolbe and San Antonio, which provide assistance to those in need, including clothing, linens, housewares, furniture and limited financial assistance.  Registration is at 8 a.m., followed by the walk at 9 a.m.  You can register and donate at  For more information, call 917-549-0555 or

Patriot’s Plaza marks 10th anniversary

Diocese of Venice Chancellor Dr. Volodymyr Smeryk is seen with Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School students on March 2, 2024, at the 10th anniversary celebration of the opening of Patriot’s Plaza at Sarasota National Cemetery in Sarasota.

More than 600 participate in NET retreats

Dynamic, Parish-based encounters for middle and high school teens took place between Feb. 3 and Feb. 11, 2024, throughout the Diocese of Venice.

The NET Ministries (National Evangelization Teams) retreats, visiting seven Parish and one Diocesan Catholic school between Feb. 3 and Feb. 11, 2024, challenged young Catholics, through relational ministry, to hear about, respond to and live for Jesus Christ.

“An absolutely beautiful evening with our Lord!” St. Michael Parish in Wauchula posted to social media. “NET Ministries you did awesome. Keep praying for our youth! Keep giving them opportunities or they will never experience His Love or get to know Him. May God bless all of our youth all over the world.”

The Diocesan Office of Evangelization sponsored the retreats which cumulatively reached more than 600 middle and high school students. The goal was to inspire young people to form personal and profound relationships with Jesus Christ and His Church.

The theme of the retreats in early February was “True Presence,” building upon the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival. The Revival is an initiative of the U.S. Bishops to encourage a greater passion for the Most Holy Eucharist, the Source and Summit of the Catholic Faith. Most of the retreats included the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and when that was not possible due to time constraints, there was Eucharistic Adoration.

The Diocesan retreats took place at the following locations, St. Thomas More, Sarasota; St. Catherine, Sebring; St. Joseph the Worker, Moore Haven; St. Michael, Wauchula; Our Lady of Light, Fort Myers; St. Paul, Arcadia; St. Agnes, Naples; and St. Joseph Catholic School, Bradenton. Several Parishes took the opportunity to use the NET visit as a Confirmation Retreat for youth.

The retreats included guided prayer time and a personal invitation to commit to Christ, as the NET members shared the message of God’s unending love for the youth. This was accomplished in small group discussions, games and activities, and live testimony presentations.

Carrying Pro-Life message to the world

Made in the image and likeness of God, every life matters.

That is the simple, yet overpowering message carried by the faithful during two marches for life in mid-January – one nationally in Washington, D.C., the other locally in Ave Maria.

Unified in their support for life, both rallies brought forth people both young and old, but mostly young people of high school and college ages. The enthusiasm of the participants in the marches was not diminished by the weather, during a Jan. 19, 2024, snowstorm in D.C., or on Jan. 20, a chilly and blustery day in Florida.

All who took part in the marches (tens of thousands in D.C., and more than 1,300 in Ave Maria) returned home invigorated to carry the Pro-Life message out into the world.

“We have the obligation to be that witness, and give that testimony for life,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane during the Ave Maria march, which included faithful from throughout the Diocese, as well as groups from the Archdiocese of Miami and Diocese of Orlando. “We gather as people for a culture of life. The struggle to address abortion is often dragged into the political arena, but it is not a political problem; it is a moral problem – a deep and serious one. It is deeply a moral problem in our society today. That is the arena from which we must address abortion.”

Bishop Dewane said we must continue to speak up for life, even while there have been positive gains, such as the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court Dobbs decision which overturned Roe V. Wade. Even in Florida, with a 15-week ban on abortion, scheduled to soon become a 6-week ban, the gains are threatened by those who don’t cherish the value of life.

The Bishop explained that the positive gains previously noted are being directly threatened by a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution which would essentially allow abortions, for any reason, until birth.

“This is a very dangerous amendment and something we must all be aware of and watch out for if it ends up on the November ballot,” Bishop Dewane said. “We need to rise up as one voice and say no to this amendment.”

Meanwhile, more than 200 from the Diocese of Venice took part in the National March for Life in Washington. The crowd was so large that the procession to the National Mall lasted more than three hours, in a snowstorm.

Among the larger groups in D.C. were representatives from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, Ave Maria University and the Ave Maria School of Law. Diocesan seminarians from St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach and Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts, also participated with their respective schools.

Several of the Diocesan high school students remarked upon their return that they were proud to be part of the National March for Life and they will continue to support the Pro-Life movement going forward until abortion is no more. They say they would also tell their friends about their experiences of being among so many like-minded teens who all have a passion about promoting a Culture of Life.

Father Eric Scanlan, Pastor at Incarnation Parish, went to Washington with students from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School. There, the group prayed outside the national headquarters of Planned Parenthood, the largest group of abortionists in the U.S. They also participated in a Vigil Mass, Jan. 18, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The morning of the National March, the group participated in the Life Fest at the D.C. Armory.

“It is always an emotional experience to participate in the March for Life,” said Father Scanlan, having participated for the past several years. “The best part is how the students respond. They are among thousands of others their own age who are also passionate about life. They carry the Pro-Life message home with them in their heart.”

The effort to protect life does not end with the marches. Starting Feb. 14, Ash Wednesday, and continuing through Lent, there will three 40 Days for Life spring campaign locations within the Diocese (Fort Myers, Naples, and Sarasota). During the campaign, the faithful will stand in peaceful prayer to end abortion. For more details, please visit

If you would like to learn more about the Respect Life issues and how you can be a witness for life, please visit

News Briefs for the week of January 26, 2024

Ordination to the Priesthood Feb. 10

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the faithful to the Ordination to the Priesthood of Transitional Deacon Alan Baldarelli.  The Ordination will take place at 11 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this important event in the life of Deacon Alan as well as the Diocese of Venice. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall. The ordination will be livestreamed at

Youth make sandwiches for homeless

Middle schoolers who are part of the Our Lady of Light Parish religious education program in Fort Myers made more than 400 sandwiches during their Jan. 18, 2024, gathering. These sandwiches were donated for distribution by the Lee County Homeless Coalition. The simple act of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches provided the youth a valuable lesson about giving back to the community, as we are all “Called to Serve” our brothers and sisters in Christ. Well done!

Fort Myers Knights have successful “Coats for Kids” drive

The Knights of Columbus Council 2596 at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Fort Myers conducted a “Coats for Kids” program by purchasing a number of jackets and hoodies for children in need. This was done to provide children with nice outerwear during the winter months to not only ward off the chill but to give them something new that they are happy to wear. On Jan. 22, 2024, the Knights were able to provide more than 120 new fleece-lined zip-up jackets for distribution with their partner, Child Care SWFL, a local non-profit that provides a myriad of support and educational services to families in need and at-risk children. Coats were supplied to Child Care’s five learning centers in Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres, and LaBelle. The Knights also presented Child Care with $500 to assist with their ongoing efforts.

Charismatic Day of Renewal and Formation Feb. 3

The Diocese of Venice Catholic Charismatic Renewal Commission invites all to the “Come Holy Spirit, Come” day of renewal from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, 1441 Spear St., Port Charlotte. There is a $10 fee, which includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Seating is limited and the deadline to register is Jan. 31.  Please register at Questions, please contact Theresa Salvo at 804-387-8282 or, or Margie DeFrancesca at 239-595-1938 or

National Marriage Week, and World Marriage Day!

The observances of National Marriage Week from Feb. 7 -14, 2024, and World Marriage Day, Sunday, Feb. 11 are opportunities to focus on building a culture of life and love that begins with supporting and promoting marriage and the family. The theme for 2024 is “Love Beyond Words.”  For resources from the USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth to help celebrate and live the great gift of married life, please visit Celebrate National Marriage Week 2024 – For Your Marriage. Resources are available in both English and Spanish.

Wedding Anniversary Masses in February

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. The Diocese hosts two Anniversary Masses each year (one in the northern part of the Diocese and the second in the southern part) to accommodate the demand. The first Mass is 11 a.m., Feb. 3, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs. The second Mass is 11 a.m., Feb. 24 at Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. A luncheon follows each Mass. Free pictures with Bishop Dewane will also be available for the couples. To register for either Mass, please contact your local Parish office for reservations no later than one week before the event you choose to attend. For additional information, please contact the Diocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life at 941-484-9543.

Health Care Ethics Conference Feb. 17

Medical professionals, students, and interested laypeople are invited to the first annual Converging Roads health care ethics conference on Feb. 17, 2024, at St. Leo the Great Parish, 28290 Beaumont Road, Bonita Springs! This one-day conference will offer continuing education credits for health care professionals with presentations centered on the theme of Catholic Medicine in a Secular Society. For information, contact Carrie Harkey at, and to register, go to


After consultation, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announces the following:

Father Michael P. Orsi, is relieved of his duties as Parochial Vicar of St. Agnes Parish and Chaplain of St. John Neumann Catholic High School, in Naples, effective January 17, 2024. Father Orsi requested retirement and thus, was granted, while retaining priestly faculties.


National Eucharistic Revival continue

Placing a greater emphasis on the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist has been the ongoing focus of the National Eucharistic Revival, is an initiative called for in June 2022 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

In support of the National Eucharistic Revival, Bishop Frank J. Dewane directed that the resources of the Diocese of Venice focus on engaging the faithful through a series of events celebrating the Most Holy Eucharist.

Foremost of these events was the March 2023 Diocesan Eucharistic Congress. During the Congress, an estimated 4,400 (middle school students, youth and adults) participated in three unique events during the course of two days, at a venue on the Fort Myers riverfront. “What a wonderful time to be together celebrating our Faith in the Most Holy Eucharist,” Bishop Dewane said at the opening of the Congress.

The high point for the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress included the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass being celebrated each day (one for youth, one for adults).

There were also three group Eucharistic Adorations (two outdoors for the younger participants and one indoors for the adults); a 1,600-person-strong public Eucharistic Procession in the streets of Fort Myers; inspirational talks in both Spanish and English; live music; and fellowship as participants shared the beauty of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Other Diocesan activities throughout the year further supported efforts to celebrate the Source and Summit of our Faith, the Most Holy Eucharist. The Office of Evangelization promoted the Traveling Rosary Congress in October 2023. This Rosary Congress was a unique opportunity to place all prayers and the needs of the faithful into the loving arms of the Mother of God, including a the intention to recognize the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Hosted by 31 Parishes, many had 24 hours of adoration and prayer with different ministries scheduled each hour. Even when the Rosary Congress didn’t last 24 hours, the gatherings always included the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Eucharistic Adoration and the praying of the Holy Rosary.

Additionally, there was a concerted effort to expand the That Man Is You (TMIY) Catholic men’s program from its base of two Parishes. Training sessions throughout the summer bore fruit as 11 new Parishes signed on to start this important weekly outreach in September. At those Parishes, the number of participants has been well beyond what was expected and the effect on the Parish life has been noted by several Pastors. The resonance of the program stems from its focus to honestly address the pressures and temptations that men face in our modern culture, especially those relating to their roles as husbands and fathers. Each weekly session has a segment focused on the Most Holy Eucharist and often follows Mass.

Also, throughout 2023, the Office of Marriage and Family hosted a series of events promoting the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, each with a theme stressing the Most Holy Eucharist. This included the two annual anniversary Masses, celebrated by Bishop Dewane, held to honor couples who have dedicated their lives to God and their marriage. The Masses, held in the northern and southern parts of the Diocese to accommodate the large response, recognize couples enjoying significant wedding anniversaries; with many of those present celebrating more than 50 years of marriage while some marked more than 70 years. Between the two Masses, the 630 couples represented a combined 32,500+ years of marriage. Bishop Dewane stressed that the marriages of those present were bound by God, noting how these couples represent a shining example of the important Sacrament of the Eucharist. The 2024 Anniversary Masses will take place at 11 a.m. Feb. 3, at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, and 11 a.m. Feb. 24, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. A reception follows these free event. Registration is handled through local Parishes.

The Diocese of Venice hosted the third “Together in Holiness” Marriage Conference in Fort Myers in October. Again, the theme focused on the Most Holy Eucharist, and the important role in building, and strengthening, a holy marriage. More than 125 couples, representing 31 Parishes, took part in this event. The day included the Mass, celebrated by Bishop Dewane, the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and the availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The conference allowed couples to grow together in holiness and their closeness to the Lord; to learn to form their children in the Catholic Faith; to enjoy a day of quality time with their spouse; and to witness dynamic presentations. Plans are already underway for the 2024 conference to take place this fall.

In 2023, the focus of the National Eucharistic Revival switched to Parish outreach. Parishes throughout the Diocese organized Catholic speakers, adoration, Eucharistic processions, and other exciting events.

With the support of the Office of Evangelization and Department of Communications and the USCCB committee for the National Eucharistic Revival, a number or resources have been provided to Parishes. This was done to refresh the teaching of the faithful about the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist, and its history dating back to the Last Supper of Christ. Resources also include details about the importance of Eucharistic Adoration, and a list of speakers who are available to speak on this topic.

As a result, many Parishes have expanded their adoration time. Several Parishes have added new days, or extended existing hours, all with positive results. A few Parishes have even begun an adoration focused on teens and families, with participation correspondingly increasing. Through early 2024, several Parishes have brought in numerous high-profile guests to speak about the Most Holy Eucharist and Real Presence, with many more scheduled in the coming months. The attendance at these presentations has been impressive. Resources for this outreach can be found at

Building on the success of the first Diocesan Eucharistic Conference, the second Conference is set for March 16, at Bishop Verot Catholic High School, 3398 Sunrise Drive, Fort Myers. All are invited to attend the all-day event of faith and fellowship, featuring inspirational Catholic speakers, including nationally acclaimed Catholic speaker and author Steven Ray, Crystalina Evert, Father Elvis Gonzalez, Katia Aranga, and Tim Glemkowski. English and Spanish sessions will be offered. The day will include the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as well as Eucharistic Adoration, and confessions. Space is limited so early registration is encouraged. For more information and to register, please visit

The National Eucharistic Revival will culminate in the first National Eucharistic Congress in the United States in almost 50 years. This historic gathering will take place in Indianapolis from July 17 to 21, 2024. Bishop Dewane is leading a pilgrimage to the National Congress which the Bishop describes as “a pivotal moment in the Church, and a unique opportunity for participants to draw into a deeper, more intimate relationship with Our Lord.”

The cost of the Diocese of Venice pilgrimage package is $1,049. With the package, pilgrims receive the National Eucharistic Congress 5-day pass, which provides access to all speakers and events, as well as four nights’ accommodations in a 4-star hotel within walking distance of the convention center. Please note, the pilgrimage package does not include transportation or meals. Space is limited! Learn more by visiting

Please visit the Diocese of Venice website,, to learn about any additional information about the Diocesan activities to promote the National Eucharistic Revival, and check with your Parish to learn more about local Eucharistic events!.

Thanksgiving celebrated across the Diocese

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Briefs for the Week of December 8, 2023


After consultation, Bishop Frank J. Dewane announces the following:

Father David Vidal, Pastor of Ave Maria Parish, is welcomed to the Presbyterate of the Diocese of Venice and is incardinated into said Diocese, effective November 21, 2023.

Father Augustine Twum Obour, Parochial Vicar of St. Agnes Parish, is welcomed to the Presbyterate of the Diocese of Venice and is incardinated into said Diocese, effective November 21, 2023.

Father Claudio Stewart, Administrator of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, is welcomed to the Presbyterate of the Diocese of Venice and is incardinated into said Diocese, effective November 22, 2023.

Father Juan Carlos Sack, Parochial Vicar of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish, is welcomed to the Presbyterate of the Diocese of Venice and is incardinated into said Diocese, effective November 22, 2023.

Catholic Center Christmas Tree blessed by Bishop

Bishop Frank J. Dewane led the blessing of the Catholic Center Christmas Tree on Dec. 5, 2023, in Venice. The blessing was part of a prayer service that included readings and petitions as staff of the Catholic Center gathered. Afterwards, the tree was decorated, and holiday treats were offered.

Students receive personal Bibles

Sixth grade students at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton were each presented with a personal Bible that they will use throughout middle school and will keep for their spiritual growth. The presentation took place on Nov. 17, 2023, by Parish Pastor Father Rafal Ligenza and Liliana Ronderos, St. Joseph Religious Education Director, who visited the sixth graders. Father Ligenza led a prayer service and blessed Bibles for each of the students.

Advent wreaths made in Naples

The Home and School Association of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples and Theology Teacher Erica Szczechowski orchestrated an Advent Wreath Making night on Dec. 1, 2023, for the ladies of the school. This was a community-building event. Let the light of the wreaths guide everyone through this season of anticipation and reflection.

Students learn about kindness

Florida Gulf Coast University Roots of Compassion and Kindness students visited St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers to talk to middle schoolers about kindness. The students worked on communication and teamwork (kind words and kind hands) with games and reflective activities in a spirit of enthusiasm, patience and fun.

Students learning new measuring technique

First grade students in Dixie Kreulen’s class at St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring learned how to measure including the question: “Can we measure God’s love?” on Nov. 20, 2023. This is a good example of how Diocesan Catholic schools use an integrated curriculum called “The Gifts of Christ: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Affability, Fortitude, Humility, and Prudence,” expanding the scope of the STREAM model (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math), into the classroom.

Bishop to speak at Theology on Tap in December

Each month, on the third Thursday, young adults gather for faith, fellowship and fun at the Mandeville Beer Garden in Sarasota. Theology on Tap is presented by the Diocese Office of Evangelization, and the Dec. 21, 2023, guest speaker will be Bishop Frank J. Dewane. The Mandeville Beer Garden is located at 428 N. Lemon, Ave., and the gathering begins at 7 p.m. For any questions, please email Jim Gontis at

Youth challenged to reflect on their relationship with Jesus

Each of us is made in the image and likeness of God, giving us everything we have, from the sun in the sky, to the food we eat and the clothes we wear. How we respond to that gift from God will define who we are, and who we are becoming.

This was the straightforward message shared with more than 500 youth at two separate retreats on Nov. 11, 2023. Building on Jesus’ questioning of the Apostles in the Gospel of Matthew (16:13-20), the two retreats focused on engaging the teens to think about their personal relationship with the Lord, and how they would answer the question Jesus posed to the Apostles, “Who do you say that I am?”

At St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres, more than 300 Hispanic youth from Parishes in Lee and Collier counties gathered for a day of prayer and reflection in a presentation led by the group Los Hermanos Unidos. Among the first speakers were Father Christian Chami, Parochial Vicar at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota, and Father Daniel Scanlan, Parochial Vicar at St. Thomas More Parish in Sarasota.

The second group included 170 high school sophomores from nine different Parishes in Sarasota and Manatee counties, who gathered at the Zazarino Center of St. Martha Catholic School for a Confirmation Retreat. The theme of the retreat was “Hearts on Fire, Ablaze, Live Out Loud,” and the guest speaker was Jimmy Mitchell, founder of Love Good. Mitchell is also the director of campus ministry at Jesuit Catholic High School in Tampa.

At both retreats, the youth heard about the need to build their personal relationship with the Lord, the importance of prayer and virtue, and how to find their vocation in life.

Father Chami told the Lehigh Acres group that a vocation to the priesthood, religious life, married life, or consecrated single life, is how you choose to respond positively to God because he made us intentionally and personally. Father continued by saying that a vocation is a free choice that comes from an open dialogue with God by going to Mass and through personal prayer time.

“If you take the time, God will make it clear what you are called to do and will help make evident what He is calling you to do,” Father Chami said. “Believe me. By choosing to follow the Lord, you will not regret it. It is the best life you can live. It is not always easy, but it is the most joyful and wonderful life.”

Father Scanlan said his vocation to the priesthood was a way that he could give himself completely to God.

“It is our prayer that you have a personal encounter with God today and every day,” Father Scanlan said. “When you get to know God, you can answer that question, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ What is more important in your life? Does God have a place in your life?”

Each teen will answer that question differently, but Father Scanlan said that they must keep their hearts open to listening and hearing the call of God in their life.

“God is always reaching out to you,” Father said. “Are you listening?”

The day in Lehigh Acres also included Eucharistic Adoration, the opportunity for the teens to go to confession, small group activities and more.

Both retreats concluded with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

In addition, in Sarasota, the teens took part in service projects that included making “Get Well” cards for those sick in the hospital, bagging lunches for the homeless, and making Christmas treat bags for children in foster care.

News Briefs for the week of November 3, 2023

Seminarian Admitted to Candidacy

Diocese of Venice Seminarian Joseph Bao Quoc Nguyen took a significant step in his vocation journey with his Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders. He was one of four men to be admitted to candidacy on Oct. 25, 2023, at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts. The Rite was presided over by Most Rev. Earl K. Fernandes, Bishop of the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio. During the Rite, each man expressed his intention to complete his preparation for Holy Orders and his resolve to dedicate himself to that goal. To be admitted to candidacy, Seminarian Nguyen had to have been first approved by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, and will continue his studies to become a Catholic priest.

Bishop celebrates Mass for students on All Saints’ Day

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for students at both St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers and St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral on All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1, 2023. In his message to the students, Bishop Dewane said it is important to learn about these Saints who are described as ordinary people of faith who lived extraordinary lives. They lived their lives in response to a call to holiness from the Lord. The Bishop asked the students at both Masses to respond to a call to holiness in their own lives.

Decline to Sign Petition for Dangerous Pro-Abortion Ballot Initiative

An extremely grave initiative is underway in Florida that seeks to erase pro-life protections by inserting language into the Florida State Constitution banning regulation of abortion. Abortion activists are working to gather petition signatures to place a pro-abortion constitutional amendment, titled “Amendment to Limit Government Interference with Abortion” on the November 2024 ballot. This amendment would allow abortion up until birth, including when the baby is capable of feeling pain, and would eliminate laws requiring parental consent and safety protocols for women. Floridians should not sign the petition. Please spread the word to your spheres of influence and continue to pray for the protection of the unborn.

All Saints’ Day Party held in Wauchula

Saints of all ages participated in the annual All Saints’ Day Party at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula on Oct. 28, 2023. Children dressed as the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Michael the Archangel were the most common costumes. Others dressed as St. Joseph, angels, popes, bishops and even superheroes. The evening included food, games and lots of candy. Prior to the party, there was an All Saints’ Day procession, led by a statue of St. Michael the Archangel and directed by the Servant Sisters of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará who serve the Parish.

Veteran’s Day Ball in Ave Maria

The Knights of Columbus of Ave Maria invite all to a Veteran’s Day Grand Ball, on Saturday, November 11, in the del Webb Grand Hall. The keynote speaker is Most Rev. Joseph L. Coffey, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of the Military Services, USA. The evening begins with a 6:00 p.m. cocktail hour/cash bar, with a 7:00 p.m. program, dinner and dancing. Black tie is optional for civilians, active duty military and veterans are asked to wear dinner dress or Class A Uniform. Tickets are $125 per person and seating is limited. For tickets, go to

National Night of Prayer for Life

The 2023 Annual National Night of Prayer for Life marks its 34th anniversary of people across the country praying to convert America’s heart to cherish life and encourage living the Gospel of Life.  It unites the Feast of the Immaculate Conception with the Feast of St. Juan Diego from Friday, December 8, at 9:00 p.m. to Saturday, December 9, at 1:00 a.m., with a national hour of unity across all time zones from midnight to 1:00 a.m.  People are invited to join in unity of prayer to restore the protection of life, the family, and the church, establish peace and inspire courage in our nation.  For more information, see, or contact Jeanne Berdeaux at or 941-374-1068.

Gloria Concert in Naples

St. Peter the Apostle Parish, 5130 Rattlesnake Hammock Road, Naples, is hosting a free Gloria Concert at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, December 14. The concert will include all the Parish choirs of various languages (English, Spanish and Creole) as well as a children’s pageant. For further details, please contact Nancy Spolsino at 239-774-3037.

Marriage conference provides inspiration, renewal to hundreds

The Diocese of Venice, “Together in Holiness” Marriage Conference, presented in partnership with the Diocese Office of Family Life and the St. John Paul II Foundation, took place Oct. 21, 2023, at St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers and was a great success.

More than 125 couples, representing 31 Parishes, took part in this event which was intended to allow couples to grow together in holiness, learn to form their children in the Catholic Faith, enjoy a day of quality time with their spouse, and witness dynamic presentations. Many married couples brought their families, with nearly 50 children enrolled in childcare throughout the day. In addition to married couples, many engaged couples also participated.

The day included the Mass, celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and the availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

One couple from Naples who has been married for 15 years with three children said they went to the event looking for a more Christ-centered focus on their marriage and they were impressed not only by the speakers, but by the supportive atmosphere the day offered. “It was wonderful. Each speaker offered something of value that will enrich us as a couple, and as a family going forward.”

Bishop Dewane addressed the couples, and was impressed by the numbers and encouraged by their enthusiasm, particularly in a society in which marriage is viewed as almost countercultural, but in the faith context is supported by the Holy Spirit and the Grace of God.

“As couples, you can speak of that more eloquently than I can, because you live that commitment daily – day in and day out,” Bishop Dewane said. “Know that the Lord sees the goodness you are – the witnesses you are for others. Each of you are called to open your hearts, minds, and souls to what it is that the Lord asks of you. Let the Holy Spirit have a role and presence in your lives; providing counsel, fortitude, and courage in your relationship; that element of truth. It is in this concept that the sacred covenant will never be broken, because it is what the Lord put before you.”

This year’s conference theme was “Family, the Church in Your Home” and featured national speakers Haley Stewart and Greg Schutte, as well as local speakers Michael and Nancy Dauphinais.

The focus of the day was on the centrality of the Eucharist as a source of grace in married life, which fits well with the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival initiative of the U.S. Bishops.

What’s Next

For couples who wish to continue enriching their marriage – whether or not they attended the conference – a “Together in Holiness” Formation series is being offered. The Formation series creates small groups of four to six couples who gather “to explore a particular theme based on the life, teaching and witness of St. John Paul II.” At the local gatherings, couples share a meal, watch a brief video and have guided prayer, Scripture and discussion led by a St. John Paul II Foundation-trained couple. If you would like to participate in or learn more about the “Together in Holiness” Formation series, contact


To learn more about other Diocese of Venice initiatives in support of Marriage and Family, contact Carrie Harkey at 941-484-9543 or