News Briefs for the Week of Oct. 27, 2023

Veterans Day Mass

On Veterans Day, Saturday, November 11, the Diocese of Venice will hold a Memorial Mass in honor of the men and women who have served our country and continue to serve and protect us today. This is the 14th year the Diocese has held a Mass on Veterans Day. Bishop Frank J. Dewane will celebrate the Mass at 3 p.m. at the Sarasota National Cemetery, 9810 State Road 72/Clark Road, approximately five miles east of I-75. The Priests, Deacons and Knights of Columbus in the Diocese will join Bishop Dewane for this important event. All are invited to attend, and active military personnel are asked to wear their uniform. Attendees are also encouraged to wear sunscreen and bring a hat. There is ample seating and parking at the cemetery. All guests are encouraged to arrive early. Please contact Gail Ardy at ardy@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-486-4714 for further information.

Knights support vocations

The Knights of Columbus of the St. John Council 11281 hosted a Vocations Dinner Dance on Oct. 21, 2023, in the St. John the Evangelist Parish Ballroom. The honorees were Father Nicholas Thompson and Father Mark Harris, Parochial Vicars at St. John the Evangelist. Bishop Frank J. Dewane offered the opening Benediction. The evening included dinner for more than 200 with numerous priest and women religious present. Entertainment was by the Manhattan Connection. The proceeds of the evening will help support Diocesan seminarians.

Children pray for peace

More than 100 children and teens took part in a special prayer service at St. Paul Parish in Arcadia on Oct. 21, 2023, during which they prayed for peace in the world. This gathering included children in the religious education program praying the Rosary. A paper rosary (green, red, white, blue and yellow) was laid out on the floor in front of the altar before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This paper rosary was in place so that as each prayer was recited, a child would come forward and placed a yellow flower on the corresponding “bead.”

Theology on Tap continues

Father Mark Yavarone, OMV, Director of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice was the featured speaker at the Oct. 19, 2023, gathering of Theology on Tap for young adults at the Mandeville Beer Garden in Sarasota. Theology on Tap is for young adults and takes place on the third Thursday of each month at 7 p.m., outside in the garden for food and refreshments, presentations, and discussions about the Catholic Faith. The Nov. 16 guest is Father Anthony Armstrong, O. Carm., Pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Osprey. The Dec. 21 guest is Bishop Frank J. Dewane. For any questions, please email Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org.

Youth Holy Hour Nov. 5 in Naples

Middle school, high school and college youth are invited to attend a Holy Hour once a month at St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Ave. N., Naples. The hour will consist of Adoration, prayer and an opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  The evening follows the 5 p.m. Mass and lasts until 7 p.m. The next Youth Holy Hour is Nov. 5, 2023, with gatherings scheduled for Dec. 3, and Jan. 7. For further information, please contact St. John the Evangelist Youth Ministry Director Juliana LoGiudice at jjuliana@sjecc.com.

Science fair impresses

Middle school students at Incarnation Catholic School in Sarasota took part in a Science Fair on Oct 19, 2023. Students were asked to create a science experiment on any topic. They started with a hypothesis, used a variety of materials and procedures and then came up with conclusions. Project titles included, “Wind Beneath My Electrons,” “Soap vs. Microwave,” “Colorful Chemistry,” Ink Incident,” “The Rise of the Cupcake,” “Hand in the Sand,” “Robots Lead the Way,” “That’s Metal!” and “Does water or coffee make plants grow faster?” Parents and Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School students served as judges.

Volunteers Needed

Join Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., dedicated staff to help in the mission of serving all. There are many opportunities to volunteer in many different programs, located throughout Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, Hendry, Glades, Collier, Desoto, Hardee, and Highlands counties. Catholic Charities offers programs for infants, afterschool programs, the elderly, and much more. Join and make a difference. To learn more about amazing volunteer opportunities, please visit https://catholiccharitiesdov.org/volunteer.

 

Rosary remains focus as Diocesan Congress concludes

While the Diocese of Venice Traveling Rosary Congress has successfully concluded, the entire month of October is dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary and commemorations continue.

For example, different theology classes at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples gathered on Oct. 17, 2023, in the Our Lady of the Angels Chapel on campus to pray for peace in the world, as called for by Pope Francis. Praying the Rosary is regarded as a potent weapon against evil, as well as the most effective prayer for bringing peace to the entire globe.

Meanwhile, young students at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral celebrated Rosary Day on Oct. 10. The students colored images of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Holy Family, learned a prayer to Our Lady of Fátima, while also creating and decorating a box for their Rosary.

At St. Catherine Catholic School in Sebring, there is a newly formed a Rosary Club which meets regularly with the group praying the different Mysteries of the Rosary.

As for the Traveling Rosary Congress, it began on Oct. 6, 2023, wrapping up its journey at five different Parishes on Oct. 14, 2023. In total, 31 different Parishes in the Diocese participated in this important evangelization effort.

The faithful were encouraged to place all prayer intentions and the needs of the faithful into the loving arms of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as part of the Congress. Parishes also included the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, and the praying of the Holy Rosary.

In its third year, the Rosary Congress was a key component of the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival which is in its Parish Year phase and concludes with a national pilgrimage to Indianapolis in July 2024. Bishop Frank J. Dewane will be leading a pilgrimage from the Diocese. The Revival is an initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to put an emphasis on the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Additional celebrations in the Diocese included the 13th annual Rosary Rally at Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda. The rally, which is held annually to occur as close to Oct. 13 as is possible, called upon all to turn toward God, through His Holy Mother, asking for His urgent help in solving America’s key problems. This year’s rally coincided with the Parish hosting the Rosary Congress and this helped to increase participation. There were additional Rosary rallies in Port Charlotte, Fort Myers, Naples.

Oct. 13 is significant, because that day in 1917 marked the last Marian apparition in Fátima, Portugal, and the day on which approximately 70,000 people bore witness to the miracle of the dancing sun — a miracle that shattered the prevalent belief at the time that God was no longer relevant. The Blessed Virgin Mary exhorted the crowd to pray the rosary for world peace. The apparition is often referred to as the “Miracle of the Sun.”

October is dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary primarily due to the fact that the liturgical feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is celebrated annually on Oct. 7. It was instituted to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary in gratitude for the protection that she gives the Church in answer to the praying of the Rosary by the faithful.

As the month of October continues, let us consider the beautiful prayer of the Rosary as a means that we too can use in order to draw closer to Jesus and Mary by meditating on the great mysteries of Salvation.

News Briefs for the week of November 20, 2023

Students encouraged to be “Servants of Christ”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated a Mass of the Holy Spirit for students at two Naples Catholic schools on Oct. 9, 2023. St. Elizabeth Seton and St. Ann hosted Bishop Dewane who spoke to students about how the Apostle Paul was called to live his life in a manner worthy of the call he received from Jesus Christ. While St. Paul struggled with the call, he ultimately gave himself over to the Lord to become His servant. Bishop Dewane asked the students at both schools, “How are you going to live as a servant of Jesus Christ?” Following each Mass, the Bishop took time to speak to the eighth graders, encouraging them to be leaders at their school, while also answering questions. Further, the Bishop encouraged the eighth graders to consider going to nearby St. John Neumann Catholic High School.

Students pray for peace

This is homecoming week at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, but the students took time out from the festivities to join in praying for peace in the Holy Land on Oct. 17, 2023, as called for by the Patriarch of Jerusalem and Pope Francis. A morning prayer service was held for the victims and families affected by the recent tragic events in Israel and Gaza. The students at Bishop Verot vowed that every day, they stand united in hope for peace in the world.

“Faith Over Fear” STREAM Day

The students at St. Mary Academy in Sarasota took part in a STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, art and math) Day on Oct. 13, 2023. The theme was “Faith Over Fear,” as students learned the story of David and Goliath. The Biblical account of David and Goliath is one of the most popular stories from Scripture. It is a lesson of courage, faith, and overcoming what seems impossible! The students made catapults to take down Goliath! The creativity was impressive, and the students had a great time working together.

Teachers receive grants

St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School teachers in Naples were recipients of 12 Champions for Learning grants from The Education Foundation of Collier County. For the school, these grants will fund a range of needs from class field trips to books, STREAM projects, enrichment activities, and even sewing machines for art class. The teachers awarded were: Megan Schuchman (grade 1), Susan Boga (grade 1), Natalie Donahue (middle school – language arts), Nichole Eastman (grade 5), Christina Grun (art), Michele McFee (pre-kindergarten-3), Charity Winter (resource), and Fabiola Galarraga-Cole (Spanish). Congratulations all!

National Eucharistic Congress pilgrimage with Bishop Dewane

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the Faithful of the Diocese of Venice to join him on a Pilgrimage to the 10th National Eucharistic Congress. This historic 5-day gathering will take place in Indianapolis July 17 – 21, 2024. The National Eucharistic Congress represents the culmination of the Church’s three-year effort to put an emphasis on the Real Presence of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Eucharistic.  It is 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! Register today using https://ctscentral.rezmagic.com/Booking/Reservation/Start?tripID=5394&CategoryId=52540. Questions? Contact Carrie Harkey, harkey@dioceseofvenice.org.

Vocations Weekend Oct. 27-29

If you are a young man (high school age or above) and sense that the Lord is calling you to the priesthood, St. John Vianney College Seminary is hosting a free Vocations Weekend. The event begins with pizza and night prayer on Friday evening, Oct. 27, 2023, and ends with Holy Mass and brunch on Sunday, Oct. 29. Join with other discerners from around the state of Florida to experience a glimpse of seminary life, meet the young men who are already studying for the priesthood as seminarians, and join with them in prayer and fraternity during this profound weekend retreat. (The typical schedule for the weekend includes adoration, spiritual talks, daily Mass, personal testimonies from seminarians, meet and greet with the professors, a campus tour, games and sports.) For more information and to RSVP, please visit https://www.venicevocations.org/, or email Father Shawn Roser, Diocesan Director of Vocations at roser@dioceseofvenice.org or call 941-486-4720.

40 Days for Life continues

The 40 Days for Life fall campaign is ongoing and runs through Nov. 5, 2023, seeking a peaceful end to abortion in the U.S. and around the world through the power of prayer. It is the presence of more than one million prayer warriors in 681 cities worldwide – including Fort Myers, Naples, and Sarasota – that will make a difference in this important battle to save the unborn. The prayer vigil in Fort Myers is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Mon. – Sat.), at 6418 Commerce Park Drive. In Sarasota, the vigil is daily, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (7 days a week), at 736 Central Ave. The Naples prayer vigil is from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Mon. – Sat.), at 1425 Creech Road. For more information, please visit https://www.40daysforlife.com/en/, or contact Diocesan Respect Life Director Jeanne Berdeaux at Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068.

Students take part in leadership retreat

A group of select students from St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples recently participated in a transformative Salesian Leadership Retreat the weekend of Oct. 6-8, 2023, in New York City. During this enriching experience, the students had the opportunity to cultivate their leadership skills, deepen their spirituality, and forge lasting bonds with their peers. Through various workshops, activities, and reflections, they explored the values of St. John Bosco and St. Mary Mazzarello, learning how to become compassionate and effective leaders in our community.

Equestrian Club trots for fun

The Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Equestrian Club is going strong as it is in its second year. This is a group for horse lovers to learn more about the equestrian sport in a safe and Christian environment. This year the club has partnered with Wolfe’s Born to Ride, a Christian stable in Parrish. On Oct. 7, 2023, two groups of students took part in two-hour rides through Little Myakka State Park. The Wolfes met the students at the park with 10 gentle horses. The group got to walk, trot, canter, go through water, ditches and through and over obstacles. They are planning to do rides like this monthly and even hope to do a moonlight trail ride with parents.

 

 

 

 

News Briefs for the week of October 13, 2023

Bishop participates in national Catholic Charities gathering

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Episcopal Liaison to Catholic Charites USA, was among 550 delegates from around the country to take part in the 2023 CCUSA annual gathering Oct. 3-5, 2023, in Cleveland, Ohio. The conference included learning labs, meetings, breakout session vendor exhibits and site visits to some Catholic Charities ministries. Bishop Dewane was among those concelebrating Mass on Oct. 4 in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.

Parish has multicultural celebration for Feast Day

The faithful of St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers participated in a multicultural celebration on Oct. 7, 2023, as part of a Feast Day commemoration. The celebration began with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in honor of St. John XXIII’s Feast Day (Oct. 11). Vietnamese dancers performed before the opening of the Mass. Parish Administrator Father Jayabalan Raju blessed a multicultural display on a pedestal to the left of the altar. Flanked by the Vatican and U.S. flags, the display included flowers brought forward by representatives of the Vietnamese, Hispanic, Filipino and Anglo communities, as well as smaller flags representing many nations.  The celebration continued in the Parish Hall with food from many different cultures.

Students take part in leadership retreat

A group of select students from St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples recently participated in a transformative Salesian Leadership Retreat the weekend of Oct. 6-8, 2023, in New York City. During this enriching experience, the students had the opportunity to cultivate their leadership skills, deepen their spirituality, and forge lasting bonds with their peers. Through various workshops, activities, and reflections, they explored the values of St. John Bosco and St. Mary Mazzarello, learning how to become compassionate and effective leaders in our community.

Equestrian Club trots for fun

The Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Equestrian Club is going strong as it is in its second year. This is a group for horse lovers to learn more about the equestrian sport in a safe and Christian environment. This year the club has partnered with Wolfe’s Born to Ride, a Christian stable in Parrish. On Oct. 7, 2023, two groups of students took part in two-hour rides through Little Myakka State Park. The Wolfes met the students at the park with 10 gentle horses. The group got to walk, trot, canter, go through water, ditches and through and over obstacles. They are planning to do rides like this monthly and even hope to do a moonlight trail ride with parents.

“Red Mass” for legal profession in Sarasota Oct. 18

The Red Mass, a medieval tradition of the Roman Catholic Church, has been observed annually in the Diocese of Venice since 2008.  This year, the Red Mass will be celebrated at 5:30 p.m., October 18 at St. Martha Catholic Church 200 N. Orange Street, Sarasota. The Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of the Diocese of Venice, will be the Main Celebrant. A reception hosted by the Catholic Lawyers Guild (CLG) follows immediately at the Parish Hall. For further information, please contact Atty. Paul Consbruck at 866-558-7285; 941-966-6706 or adoptfla@yahoo.com.

Faith & Ale at Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers

Faith & Ale Fort Myers Catholic men’s group is returning on Thursday, October 19 at Resurrection Parish, 8121 Cypress Lake Drive, Fort Myers. The speakers will be Deacon Jeff Ball of Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria, Deacon John Gaulin of St. John XXIII, and Deacon Bob Gaitens who is the Diocesan Director of Diaconate Formation. They will be participating in a panel discussing what is a Deacon, how each became a Deacon and what each does in fulfilling the role of Deacon at their assigned church. The program begins at 6:00 p.m. with pizza and refreshments for a $10 donation and concludes at 8:00 p.m. Reservations are required at www.faithandale.com .

Vocations Weekend

If you are a young man (high school age or above) and sense that the Lord is calling you to the priesthood, St. John Vianney College Seminary is hosting a free Vocations Weekend. The event begins with pizza and night prayer on Friday evening, Oct. 27, 2023, and ends with Holy Mass and brunch on Sunday, Oct. 29. Join with other discerners from around the state of Florida to experience a glimpse of seminary life, meet the young men who are already studying for the priesthood as seminarians, and join with them in prayer and fraternity during this profound weekend retreat. (The typical schedule for the weekend includes adoration, spiritual talks, daily Mass, personal testimonies from seminarians, meet and greet with the professors, a campus tour, games and sports.) For more information and to RSVP, please visit venicevocations.org or email Father Shawn Roser, the Director of Vocations at the Diocese of Venice at roser@dioceseofvenice.org or call 941-486-4720.

40 Days for Life continues

The 40 Days for Life fall campaign is ongoing and runs through Nov. 5, 2023, seeking a peaceful end to abortion in the U.S. and around the world through the power of prayer. It is the presence of more than one million prayer warriors in 681 cities worldwide – including Fort Myers, Naples, and Sarasota – that will make a difference in this important battle to save the unborn. The prayer vigil in Fort Myers is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Mon. – Sat.), at 6418 Commerce Park Drive. In Sarasota, the vigil is daily, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (7 days a week), at 736 Central Ave. The Naples prayer vigil is from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Mon. – Sat.), at 1425 Creech Road. For more information, please visit https://www.40daysforlife.com/en/, or contact Diocesan Respect Life Director Jeanne Berdeaux at Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068.

Pro-Life luncheon in November

The Jon Sharfenberger Pro-Life Scholarship Luncheon, an event to support pro-life initiatives on the campus of Ave Maria University, will be held at the University on Nov. 4, 2023. After the passing of former AMU student Jon Sharfenberger in October 2011, the Jon Sharfenberger Memorial Scholarship was established at the University to encourage students to become Catholic leaders in an increasingly secular society.  The event will start at 11:30 a.m. with a Mass said by Most Rev. Edward Sharfenberger (Jon’s uncle), of the Diocese of Albany, and it will be followed by a lunch at 12:30 p.m. in the Bob Thomas Student Union Ballroom at AMU. The keynote speaker is Seth Gruber, founder and president of The White Rose Resistance and host of the popular podcast “UnAborted.” A nationally renowned human rights activist and sought-after speaker, Gruber is fighting for a world where every person has the right to be born. For registration information, please visit Ave Maria University.

 

 

World Youth Day pilgrims share experiences

A group of Diocesan World Youth Day 2023 pilgrims from Epiphany Cathedral in Venice shared stories about their epic and faith-filled journey to their supporters during a gathering on Sept. 12, 2023.

Five teens, four priests and two adults, reflected upon their 11-day journey to Portugal, joining Pope Francis and 1.5 million others from around the world for a life-changing experience. They were among 52 pilgrims from the Diocese, including Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who travelled from July 29 to Aug. 8.

The evening was designed as a way for the pilgrims from the Cathedral to express their gratitude to the parishioners whose generosity allowed so many to go to World Youth Day. Stephanie Lovetere, Youth Director at Epiphany, organized the event.

As a slideshow of images and videos rotated on a screen, the pilgrims each reflected on highlights of the journey, including stops at Fatima, the site of a famous Marian apparition, as well as Santarem, the location of one of the earliest recognized Eucharistic Miracles, then in Lisbon for the main World Youth Day activities which included encounters with Pope Francis.

Christian DiGioia, a senior at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, said it was an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to go to World Youth Day.

“It didn’t hit me until we were in Fatima, as everything was happening so fast and we were all tired from flying and taking a bus, and then we were with a large group, praying the rosary, outside of the big Fatima Basilica and Shrine. What a faith-filled and joyful experience,” DiGioia said.

Others shared similar experiences with one teen saying how the frequent encounters with youth from different countries helped to reassure them about their faith, noting how language barriers meant nothing when words such as Jesus and Mary were sung or spoken, and the faith connection was made stronger.

One young man explained that a faith journey for teens today can be very lonely. However, being amongst 1.5 million other youth who are excited about their faith lit something within him – it is a gift he will carry with him for the rest of his life, he said.

The youth also enjoyed seeing Pope Francis, either during an opening ceremony or riding in the Popemobile, and hearing his inspirational words during the closing Mass.

Adult chaperone Krista Lopez, who journeyed to Portugal with her daughter, Tatiana, saw how the young people were “on fire for the Lord. None of them were faking it.”

Tatiana Lopez said the pilgrimage was “outstanding” and described how she and other Diocesan pilgrims had youth from around the world sign a Portuguese flag, with many adding inspirational messages.

“I also made a pledge to myself to pray for the supporters back here at Epiphany Cathedral who made this experience possible,” Tatiana said. “I am so blessed, as this is the closest time to my faith I have ever had, and it remains strong within me.”

Also sharing their experiences were Cathedral Parochial Vicars Fathers Alex Pince and Kris Piotrowski, as well as retired twins Fathers Richard and Robert Beligotti. The twin priests offered the closing praying for the gathering.

Several supporters told the pilgrims how impressed they were to hear about their experiences, and were enthralled how the young people conveyed not just the stories but the true emotional impact of the journey to Portugal.

Msgr. Patrick Dubois, Cathedral Rector, concluded the presentation by thanking the supporters for their willingness to understand the benefit of sending so many to World Youth Day from the Cathedral as possible.

To the pilgrims, he said, “Treasure your experience and share this with your friends. And take what you gained and continue growing in your faith.”

Gathering focuses on promoting youth outreach

Representatives from 33 Parishes and two Diocesan Catholic high schools took part in a gathering to help bolster youth outreach.

Marthamaria Morales, Diocese of Venice Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry organized the gathering Sept. 8 and 9, 2023, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice. The 60 participants were those who serve youth at the Parish level, and included women religious, youth ministers, directors of religious education, and committed volunteers from Parishes that don’t have staff but serve youth and young adults.

Morales said this meeting was an opportunity for those active in youth outreach across the Diocese to get to know each other, build community, share best practices, dream together, and accompany one another in this amazing journey serving young people.

“This is the first time this wider group has gathered in one place in several years,” Morales said. “It is important for them to get together because we have a few new youth ministers and some other ‘seasoned’ ministers serving in different Parishes. We want them to feel value and all the support not just to survive but to thrive.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane offered words of encouragement to the group and expressed his gratitude for the important role they play in the Church within the Diocese of Venice.

“These young people are the Church of today, and they need our attention,” Bishop Dewane said. “It takes a certain type of individual who can rise up to answer the call to serve our young people, forming them into the person they are becoming in response to a call from God.”

A youth minister’s responsibility is to be the leaven in the Parish, the Bishop added, nurturing those who are present and working to help those who are absent to want to return and grow closer to the Lord.

The experience of the youth ministers in the Diocese who were present for the meeting ranged from 42 years to less than a week.

To assist, Morales brought in representatives from Project YM, a national outreach which helps youth ministers navigate the complicated world with the goal that the participants leave the gathering with a practical action plan to help bolster their young ministries.

Michael Marchand, president and co-founder of Project YM, offered sobering statistics about the current generation and how 42% of high school students are persistently sad or hopeless and approximately 22% have seriously considered suicide.

Marchand, who has more than 20 years of experience serving Catholic youth, said “it is vitally important to reach out to the youth at every level because it is about saving lives, both spiritually and literally.”

Another concerning number is that 80 percent of high schoolers who are active in their faith leave the Church before they graduate from college. Of those youth who remain in the Church after college, they overwhelmingly stated that having upwards of five adult mentors (outside of family) connected to the faith made a difference in their staying active in the faith.

“This really stresses the importance of investing in serving young people as much as possible, because the reality is that no Parish will ever have a 5-1 adult to youth ratio,” Marchand said.

Participants left the gathering with advice and action plans that are intended to help outreach programs increase participation and retention of youth of all ages.

One youth minister who has less than a year’s experience said she greatly benefitted from the gathering, noting that she learned the importance of mentoring as well as gaining insights into what activities work the best.

Jim Brantner, of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Grove City, who has more than four decades of serving young people, said, ”Genuinely love what you do and the young people you are responsible for, and Jesus will guide you through the rest.”

Vocational Retreat draws dozens of men and women

Priesthood, religious life, sacramental marriage, and consecrated single life are the four vocational options for young people today. This was the core message of a one-day Vocational Retreat “Encounter with Christ” on Aug. 26, 2023, at St. Paul Parish in Arcadia.

Father Luis Pacheco, Administrator of St. Paul, organized the retreat as a way to encourage the youth to start thinking about a vocation, regardless of which one, but in all cases, in service to the Lord.

The response was overwhelmingly positive as 52 young men and women attended the retreat representing four different regional Parishes. During the day, the youth heard from Bishop Frank J. Dewane, priests, religious women, a married couple and a single woman; all shared how they are living their response to the call of the Lord in their lives.

Bishop Dewane, who spoke to the group and celebrated Mass at the close of the retreat, said “We are each called to open our hearts and our ears to hear the call of the Lord in our own life. That call will be different for each one of you. It is how you respond to that call, by the life you live, where you will find the joy that happens as you give yourself to the Lord.”

Sharing his own vocation story, Bishop Dewane explained how he first thought about the priesthood in his early teens, but kept putting it off to do other things, before finally realizing it was time.

“There was angst over the decision, but once I decided to go for it, I never looked back. I even reflect that I should have done this (discerned the priesthood) years earlier. The Lord has been good to me. You are called to do what the Lord asks,” the Bishop said.

Answering a call to a vocation is not about what anyone wants, it is about surrendering yourself to the Lord because He knows what you need, Bishop Dewane continued.

“Society tells you that you have to decide. Don’t let anybody tell you what to do and the Lord gets lumped into that. Don’t let that happen. When you leave this retreat, it’s my prayer that you will pray about what you are going to do, and about what you learned today. Know that you will forever be in my prayers,” the Bishop concluded.

The retreat began with an opening prayer and then a presentation by Father Pacheco themed “Jesus the Great Doctor.” There were then group discussions followed by a short vocational video. The second talk was by Father Nathan Marzonie, Oblate of the Virgin Mary, and Parochial Vicar at San Pedro Parish in North Port, on discernment and his journey to becoming a priest with a religious order.

Following lunch, there were games and songs before a vocational film and time for personal reflection on the following questions: What vocation do you think God could be calling you to? What questions should I ask myself to find out what vocation I am being called to? What is the difference between a vocation and a profession? Prior to Mass, the youth had the opportunity to go to confession while the group took part in a Holy Hour with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

A key moment of the day was when the youth heard from a panel of presenters, with representatives of each vocation. On the panel were Father Alex Pince, Parochial Vicar at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, Sister Martha Flores, Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Light (MHML), Director of Religious Education at St. Paul, Mr. and Mrs. Dixon, and Lupita Galaviz.

The Dixon’s shared how they entered their marriage as the pure sacrament it is meant to be, keeping God first in everything they do. The couple has been blessed with 12 children and one on the way. “We have been blessed in so many ways. Sacramental marriage is a beautiful vocation when you live it with the support of God to help you through any challenges,” Mrs. Dixon said.

Galaviz, 23, explained how she chose to remain single for now because it is how the Lord has guided her through her life. While she does have a boyfriend, the two live a pure life; she is taking the time to grow deeper in her relationship with the Lord, through prayer and by living her life as an example for others to follow. This has allowed her to mentor and support others while sharing what she has learned from the Lord.

Father Pince spoke about how he also delayed his vocation to the priesthood for several years until he finally heard the call of the Lord clearly while on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France. “I was overpowered with God’s incredible love. I had a sense God would never abandon me if I said ‘Yes!’ I knew I wouldn’t be afraid in my life because He would be with me every day.”

By saying “Yes!” Father Pince said he finds great joy in the priesthood each day. “It is not like my life is over. God has surpassed any expectations because God had a plan for me from the beginning.”

Offering advice to the youth, Father Pince said they need to attend Mass regularly and to receive the Blessed Sacrament at Communion, using this time to be close to the Lord, in His Church. They must also go to the confessional regularly to receive the Lord’s loving mercy, and to be in a state of grace, the vessel that can clearly hear the Lord’s voice. Finally, the youth must trust God — this comes from His unwavering love, which, when accepted, will lead them to ultimate happiness.

Sister Martha took a different approach to her talk to the youth as many in the group have known her for many years.

“It’s exciting to be a religious,” she said. “It is not a boring life; it is an extreme life. It is fun, always fun. I entered the convent at 18 so I could go out and share the Love of God with others, announcing Him and to be passionate for His Kingdom, all to make sure everyone can hear the Good News of the Lord.”

A religious for 40 years, Sister Martha said it seems like she entered the convent and made her vows of chastity, poverty and obedience yesterday.

“I have the same love of God, and I am here to share it with all of you. I gave myself freely, and it is the best experience to give all of yourself in what you are doing and thinking and sharing it with so many people. A vocation is a gift from the Lord. You say, ‘Here I am Lord’ and you answer that call every day.”

Sister Martha concluded by adding, “Don’t be afraid. When you answer your vocation, it will be the most joyful and happy life. But you must listen because He is always talking to you, and He wants you to be happy and enjoy life and be able to share His life with others. A vocation is always in motion,” she said with a laugh and big smile.

Each panelist shared what it was like to live their vocation and then responded to anonymous but poignant questions from the retreatants.

If you are interested in a vocation to the priesthood, or religious life (men or women), please contact Father Shawn Roser, Diocesan Director of Vocations, at 941-484-9543 or roser@dioceseofvenice.org, or visit www.venicevocation.org.

News Briefs for the Week of September 1, 2023

Students recognized for summer work

Students at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton were recognized for taking part in two summer learning programs during an awards ceremony on Aug. 25, 2023. First was the recognition of students who participated in the IXL Summer Reading Challenge. IXL (from “I excel”) is a math and language arts practice website for K-12 (subscription based). Students in grades one through eight used the IXL online individualized learning program to complete problems in math, language arts, social studies, science, and Spanish. IXL participants completed a total of 182,624 problems. Throughout the summer, the competition was very intense. The over-all top winner was Monica, who completed 16,560 problems, while 58 students were recognized for their participation. In addition, 72 students received recognition for their participation in a summer reading program.

Youth event held in Fort Myers

The St. John XXIII Parish Youth Council hosted a family event Aug. 27, 2023, in Fort Myers. Nearly 200 took part in this event which took place in Marian Hall and included a live performance by The Camp Veritas Band, dynamic speakers, and Adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Students marked for leadership

As is the tradition at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, the eighth-grade students are brought forward during a ceremony where they take an oath of leadership. This ceremony took place following Mass on Aug. 24, 2023. Principal David Nelson administered the oath and then presented each student with a pin to mark them as St. Andrew Catholic School Leaders.

Police make fun visit to Naples school

Members of the Naples Police Department stopped by to speak to pre-kindergarten students at St. Ann Catholic School on Aug. 25, 2023. Officers read to the students and answered questions as the students learned about how the police are there to serve the community as everyday heroes.

Students use physics during experiment

A physics class at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers used an experiment that would measure and interpret the forces acting on an object in equilibrium. The experiment: How do rope tensions relate to their weights and the weight of an object, such as scaffolding? The students worked on this exact question on Aug. 24, 2023, and their focus and comprehension were impressive.

Confirmation class begins in Fort Myers

A Sacrament of Confirmation class at Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers began on Aug. 27, 2023. During the opening session, participants took part in an open discussion on key questions of the faith, including: Do you view the Holy Spirit as more of a “who” or a “what”? Does this distinction change how you approach the Holy Spirit? Who or what is the Holy Spirit to you? These questions and more are the focus of the sacramental preparation during the coming months. The goal of the religious education program is to help the faithful grow in their knowledge and understanding of the Catholic faith and their part in the Universal Church.

Parish to host Oktoberfest

San Pedro Parish, 14380 Tamiami Trail, North Port, is hosting an Oktoberfest celebration on Oct. 13 and 14, 2023. On Oct. 13, the evening begins at 5 p.m. and concludes at 11 p.m., and will include an opening ceremony and music by The Boogiemen, and hourly races, as well as a beverage garden, and food favorites such as brats, burgers, hotdogs, perogies, Bavarian and hand-rolled pretzels, ice cream and homemade desserts. On Oct. 14, the doors are open 11 a.m.-11 p.m., and this is a Family Day; the event is free and open to all. Music includes performances by Beth Travers and Trop Rock, Bud Buckley, The Flashbacks, Shari Fink and the Mission Band, as well as an open mic. There will also be a Foam Party with inflatables, balloons, face painting, rock climbing, trivia, dunk tank, raffles, giveaways and more. Proceeds will support the Parish Restoration Fund. Sponsorship and vendor exhibits are available by calling 941-426-2500, or email events@sanpedrorcc.org.

News Briefs for the week of August 25, 2023

World Youth Day topic at recent Theology on Tap

World Youth Day 2023 was the topic of discussion at the most recent Theology on Tap on Aug. 17, 2023, at the Mandeville Beer Garden in Sarasota. An outreach of the Diocese Young Adult Ministry, Theology on Tap takes place on the third Thursday of each month with a variety of speakers addressing topics relevant to the Catholic Faith. In August, the guest speakers were Transitional Deacon Thomas Gregory Dougherty, a Diocesan seminarian in his final year of studies at St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts; and Stephanie Lovetere, the Youth Ministry Coordinator at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. Each shared their experiences on the trip to Portugal with a group of 52 from the Diocese, including Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Marthamaria Morales, Diocesan Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry who also organizes Theology on tap. The monthly gathering also includes food and refreshments. The next scheduled date is Sept. 21, and will feature Father Christian Chami, Parochial Vicar at St. Jude Parish, Sarasota.  For any questions, please email Marthamaria Morales at morales@dioceseofvenice.org.

Second Collection for Maui, Hawaii Aug. 26-27

Devastating wildfires swept through the Maui region of Hawaii on Aug. 8, 2023, causing much destruction and a loss of life for a large number of residents, particularly in Lahaina.  As we are all called to help our brothers and sisters in need, a second collection will take place in the Diocese of Venice the weekend of August 26 and 27. The proceeds of the collection will be sent to Catholic Charities Diocese of Honolulu to assist in their efforts to address the needs of the citizens in the affected area. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.

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 have a pro-abortion constitutional amendment placed on the statewide ballot in the November 2024 election. To do so, they need nearly 900,000 signatures and are working right now in communities across Florida to collect them. Floridian Catholics should not sign the petition. Please also continue your prayers for the protection of the unborn and spread the word to your spheres of influence.

High school retreat serves community

Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers hosted its annual Freshman Retreat on Aug. 17, 2023. Freshmen, along with senior leaders, enjoyed a great morning getting settled into their rooms, listening to discussions, and enjoying breakfast. They then headed out to various service sites throughout the community in order to give back and appreciate the Christian Service aspect of the freshmen retreat.

STREAM skills used in school project

Fifth-grade students at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples used engineering, teamwork, math and technology skills in their first STREAM activity of the school year on Aug. 22, 2023. Each student was amazed to learn their handmade rubberband/yarn device was an actual tool! The objective was to build a tower first using only their dominant hand, then building the tower with their non-dominant hand. Students learned, smiled, and worked together as disciples of Christ.

Vocabulary “treasure hunt”

Using “Christ is Us” books, second grade students at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers practiced their vocabulary words on Aug. 18, 2023. The lesson was a “treasure hunt” as the students try to find and define key “gem” words in the text of the books. When finished with their search, they presented to their groups and used cooperative learning structures for added reading lessons.

“Heart of Discipleship” retreat helps ministry students

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School ministry students in Sarasota attended a retreat on Aug. 22, 2023, at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch. The students spent the day exploring the “Heart of Discipleship” while coming together as a team.  Students heard from various speakers including teacher, alum and Deacon Jack Milholland of Our Lady of the Angels Parish. The lesson learned was: “God is good! All the time!”

Day of Reflection for Sacramental Marriage Sept. 9 in Naples

The Office of Marriage and Family Life will be hosting a Day of Reflection for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church.  A specially prepared team will share their experiences and information enabling couples to be more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of marriage.  This event will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sept. 9, 2023, at St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Avenue, Naples. The cost of $50/couple covers all retreat materials and lunch.  Pre-registration is required at https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/marriage-preparation-seminar-2023. Should you have questions or require additional information contact Carrie Harkey at harkey@dioceseofvenice.org, or call 941-484-9543 ext. 4748.

Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal coming to an end

Every day, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., serves its most vulnerable population by feeding, housing, empowering, and helping all in need. This summer, you can be the one that makes a difference. Your acts of kindness have the power to transform lives and leave a positive impact in our community. The Catholic Charities Summertime and the Giving is Easy Appeal is coming to a conclusion soon. Your gift will make a positive impact on our less fortunate brothers and sisters! Please visit https://catholiccharitiesdov.org/ or mail a check to Catholic Charities, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.

Formation Program in Spanish

The next session of the Hispanic Apostolate’s Formation Program is scheduled to begin on Sept. 29, 2023. The topic of study will be focused on the “National Eucharistic Revival” and there will be a total of seven classes held from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 pm. on Fridays. (During Lent classes will move to Thursdays beginning February 15th.). The cost for all the classes is $35 including the book. Those who register and attend a minimum of 6 classes either at one of the participating parishes or online using our APP (https://pastoralhispanavenice.com/) will receive a Diocesan Certification.

Programa de Formación en Español

La próxima sesión del Programa de Formación a cargo del Apostolado Hispano comenzará el 29 de setiembre del 2023. El tema de estudio estará enfocado en el “Avivamiento Eucarístico Nacional” y habrá un total de 7 clases que se darán los viernes por la noche de 7:00 pm a 9:00 pm. (Durante la Cuaresma las clases se trasladan al jueves a partir del 15 de febrero). El costo de todas las clases es de $35 incluyendo el libro. Las personas que se registren y atiendan un mínimo de 6 clases ya sea en una de las parroquias participantes o vía online usando nuestro APP (https://pastoralhispanavenice.com/) recibirán una Certificación Diocesana.

Help available for Hurricane Ian survivors

Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice, Inc. has partnered with St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services in the Disaster Case Management Program to offer services to individuals and families impacted by Hurricane Ian. For additional information or to schedule an appointment, visit www.svdpdisaster.org, email DR4673IAN@svdpdisaster.org, or call 941-799-6779.

World Youth Day 2023 – Universal Church inspires Diocesan teens

We are all part of one Universal and one Local Church – that is the Mother Church that spans the globe and the Diocese in which you reside. This was a profound lesson learned by the Diocese of Venice pilgrims as they took part in an epic journey to World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal.

From July 29 to Aug. 8, 2023, Bishop Frank J. Dewane was joined by 52 Diocesan pilgrims who were able to take in the culture of this European country while also seeing the Lord in many things great and small.

Highlights for the young pilgrims included being among people from all corners of the world, Mass with Pope Francis and, most importantly, truly feeling God’s presence in all they were doing, seeing and hearing.

Bishop Dewane met with the group at their hotel each morning and saw a change in them as the week progressed. At a dinner following the Mass that closed World Youth Day 2023, the Bishop realized that the young men and women had grasped the sacredness of the moment and had a new realization of the idea of the Universal and Local Church (Diocese).

“It was wonderful to see how excited everyone was,” Bishop Dewane said. “The young people shared how they felt, which can be difficult. However, this showed how immersed they were in the experience of this holy journey and being among friends who they could trust.”

The young people heard the message of Pope Francis who said they are an important part of society and their gifts from the Lord are not to be used later, but now.

Videos of the brief encounter with Pope Francis showed the pure joy of the moment for the youth. For example, Antonio LaPorta, of St. Agnes Parish in Naples, said it was a surreal and awesome experience seeing the Holy Father. “You see him on TV and you don’t think he is a real person. Then you see him in real life, and everyone is cheering and jumping because the Pope is there… I loved the joy and praise he gets.”

Luke Dalton of Epiphany Cathedral in Venice was similarly impressed by the Holy Father. “It was cool being that close to the earthly leader of the Church. I got a video and was pretty close.”

Tatiana Lopez, of Our Lady of the Angels in Lakewood Ranch, said seeing and hearing the message of Pope Francis and being part of the whole World Youth Day pilgrimage was a “very unique experience. We got involved with all the different countries and getting to know the different people. Being here with my mom (Krista Lopez) was special. Then we heard Pope Francis at the (closing) Mass. Hearing him speak and seeing him in person was incredible.”

In addition to Epiphany Cathedral, St. Agnes, Our Lady of the Angels, the Diocesan group represented nine parishes including: Jesus the Worker in Fort Myers, St. Martha in Sarasota, Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria, Our Lady Queen of Heaven in LaBelle, Sacred Heart Parish in Punta Gorda, and St. Joseph in Bradenton. Leading them throughout the week was Marthamaria Morales, the Diocesan Director for Youth and Young Adult Ministry. The group also included several priests, seminarians and other adults.

Morales said the entire journey brought the Diocesan group closer together as they shared incredible spiritual experiences from Mass, to prayer, to Eucharistic Adoration, to listening to amazing speakers and musicians and finally the closing Vigil and Mass with Pope Francis.

First, they were united by a long flight, and a shared adventure as they visited key religious sites in Coimbra, Fatima, Santarem before arriving in Lisbon. The group participated in the Opening Ceremony and Mass in Colina de Econtro (Parque Eduardo VII), and took part in a daily “Rise Up” catechesis.

During the catechesis, which took place Aug. 2-4, the youth learned about how they are loved by the Lord and because of this they were challenged to put Jesus first in their lives above outside distractions.

Speakers at the English-language catechesis included Bishop Robert Barron, of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Christopher West, who spoke on the Theology of the Body. Morales was one of the presenters for the Spanish-language catechesis.

Each afternoon of WYD, a Youth Festival took place throughout the city. In Cidade da Alegria, there was a Vocational Fair and Reconciliation Park. During the Vocational Fair, young pilgrims encounter various movements, associations, communities, religious orders, and projects of social nature. The Reconciliation Park is where pilgrims encountered the Merciful Christ through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The group was present at the welcoming ceremony for Pope Francis on Aug. 2, and for the Stations of the Cross on Aug. 3. In their “down time” the pilgrims were able to explore the historic city and waterfront while also meeting and exchanging small gifts and tokens with pilgrims from across the globe.

Daisy Trejo, of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in LaBelle, started the pilgrimage as a generally “shy” person, but throughout the journey she opened up, getting signatures on her Diocesan T-shirts from people from around the world.

Meanwhile, Jesus Ismael Hernandez of Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers, traded bracelets with dozens of others.

A special moment occurred when Father Krzysztof “Chris” Piotrowski, Parochial Vicar at Epiphany Cathedral, crossed paths with the Agata Kornhauser-Duda, the First Lady of Poland. Father is a native of Poland and the two spoke briefly and posed for photos.

The World Youth Day Vigil was Aug. 5 at “Campo de Grace” (Parque Tejo). This was an evening and overnight celebration for the pilgrims which included speakers, musicians, adoration and much more. Diocesan priests celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the pilgrims in the field before the celebration began. The pilgrims then spent the night on air mattresses and in sleeping bags ahead of the Closing Mass with the Holy Father the following morning.

Bishop Dewane and the Diocesan priests concelebrated the Closing Mass. Pope Francis’ message to the youth was to shine, to listen, and to be unafraid.

“To all of you, dear young people, who are the present and the future, yes to all of you, Jesus now says: ‘Have no fear,’ ‘Do not be afraid!’ Pope Francis said.

“Now, in a brief moment of silence, (I ask) each of you repeat these words, in your own heart: ‘Do not be afraid!’

“Dear young people, I would like to look into the eyes of each of you and say: Do not be afraid. I will tell you something else, also very beautiful: it is no longer I, but Jesus Himself who is now looking at you. He knows each of your hearts, each of your lives; He knows your joys, your sorrows, your successes and failures. He knows your heart. Today, He says to you, here in Lisbon, at this World Youth Day: ‘Have no fear, take heart, do not be afraid!’”

Donna Kuo, of Our Lady of the Angels and mother of two of the Diocesan WYD pilgrims (Bryce and Lindsay), was one of several parents who travelled with their children. Kuo explained how it was such an honor to be a part of the Diocesan pilgrimage.

“We are walking away changed for life. With memories for life. What I will treasure the most is the time to reflect and pray with my children and grow in our faith together” Kuo said.

Following the closing Mass, Bishop Dewane and pilgrims went out for a final meal in Lisbon as a group. The next day, they travelled to Porto, Portugal (where they arrived and departed from) and had a tour of the city.

There, Bishop Dewane celebrated Mass for the group for the final time at the Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto in Portuguese), which is the most important religious edifice in the city and dates from 1110.

Perhaps Christian DiGioia of Epiphany Cathedral said it best about his experience: “It feels great to be part of a giant Catholic community. People from everywhere united by God.”

The pilgrims returned to the U.S. on Aug. 8, ready to live out what they learned. As they reflect upon their journey, they can start to make plans for World Youth Day 2027 in Seoul, South Korea.

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