News from Around the Diocese November 2018

Wrap-up of news from Across the Diocese in November

Wauchula Children’s Festival a big success

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

 

 

 

Successful Vocations Awareness Weekend

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

 

 

 

 

Retreat inspires catechists

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

 

 

 

VDCCW Latina Convocation held

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

 

 

Cities for Life gathering held

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

 

Sarasota Charity Ball Jan. 26 at The Westin

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

Punta Gorda Youth Tweet the Holy Father

Staff Report – Florida Catholic

11/15/2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bishop reads to support Literacy Campaign

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

7/13/2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summertime and the Giving is Easy 2018

Annual Campaign to support Catholic Charities

Staff Report

7/13/2018

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

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

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

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

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

Support with stability.

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

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

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

Sheltering the homeless.

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

Feeding the hungry.

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

Catholic Charities educates children and adults.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Religious Freedom Film Festival spans generations

Susan Laielli – Florida Catholic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spiritual enrichment + fun and games

Staff Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Retreat opens eyes of students

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

When a group of 21 St. John Neumann Catholic High School students talk about what they did for their summer vacation, they will each have compelling stories to tell.

For one week they opted to start their summer by being part of the Immokalee Service Week. This is the fourth year that a group from St. John Neumann has journeyed to Immokalee for a service retreat.

The service trip was organized by Sister Katie Flanagan, Salesian Sister of St. John Bosco on the faculty of at St. John Neumann. She prayed each student would gain a renewed sense of Christian Service from their experience.

One student reflected on the week as a revelation for her that even doing the smallest act of kindness can bring joy to others. “I had no idea I would be able to impact people in such a way. The smiles we have been getting have been incredible. Everyone is so grateful for us being here. We are here representing St. John Neumann; but we are also representing Jesus in our presence. That is very powerful.”

Students from St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples took part in a retreat in Immokalee the week of May 29-June 1. Here they are seen listening to an inspirational talk.

Immokalee is about a 40-minute drive from St. John Neumann Catholic High School, but the difference between Naples and Immokalee can be shocking for anyone who has never travelled off the main roads. The Collier County city is home to many farms and food processing facilities and is one of the poorest communities in the State of Florida.

During their retreat, the students worked and assisted in a variety of tasks at several locations. Of particular focus was helping at Guadalupe Social Services, a program run by Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. The men and women helped at the Casa Maria Soup Kitchen, serving hot meals. They also assisted in loading bags of food for distribution and organizing the storage rooms. The group brought their own food donations and later assisted in the mobile food program by going out into a nearby neighborhood to knocked on doors with offers of a bag of groceries for each family.

It was in the neighborhood and the soup kitchen that the students saw the true face of Immokalee. They learned that the food provided at lunch is often the only food many of those individuals have all day, and it is certainly the only hot food they will have.

The week for the St. John Neumann students was not limited to the one location. In fact, the students toured Immokalee and learned about the struggle of the families who work and live there and heard a presentation from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers about the plight of farm workers in the region. Other service activities for the students included helping to rehabilitate a house for Habitat for Humanity, assisting at Collier Parks and the Salvation Army.

The activities were a mix of manual labor and interaction with local residents. The thanks received from those they encountered were what filled their hearts with joy. The overall experience was a true encounter of seeing Christ in others, one student explained.

Each day included daily prayer, time for reflection, and Mass celebrated at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish by Fathers Ignatius Reddy Yeruva and Tobias Sabariar, Missionaries of Compassion from India who assist with Catholic Charities.

The students were in awe and wonder at the conditions people live in throughout the area and the poverty the young children are forced to live in, particularly compared to their nearby hometown of Naples. Each student noted how powerful and rewarding the experience was for them, something they will carry forward for the rest of their lives.

For more information about St. John Neumann Catholic High School, please call 239-455-3044 or visit www.sjnceltics.org.

For more information about Guadalupe Social Services of Catholic Charities please call 239-657-6242, e-mail peggy@catholiccharitiescc.org or visit www.catholiccharitiesdov.org.

Sacrament of Confirmation: More Perfectly Bound to the Church as a True Witnesses to Christ

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, Christian initiation is completed, as the recipients become more perfectly bound to the Church as a true witness to Christ.

This is how Pope Francis views Confirmation which he said is a Sacrament which must be understood as a continuation of the faith journey, beginning with Baptism, along with the Eucharist, to constitute a single saving event – Christian initiation – “in which we are brought into Christ who died and rose again, and become new creatures and members of the Church.”

Throughout much of history, these three Sacraments were celebrated together, at the end of the catechumenal path – normally on Holy Saturday. “It was a step-by-step process, first reaching Baptism, then Confirmation, and finally the Eucharist,” the Holy Father explained

The term ‘confirmation’ must remind one that this Sacrament involves growth from baptismal grace, Pope Francis continued. “It unites us more firmly with Christ; it completes our bond with the Church; it accords to us the special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and to defend the Faith, to confess the name of Christ and never to be ashamed of His Cross.”

It should be noted that while the order of the Sacraments may have changed over time, “confirmation, like every Sacrament, is not the work of men, but rather the work of God, who takes care of our lives so as to mold us in the image of His Son, to make us able to love like Him,” the Holy Father added. “He infuses us with the Holy Spirit whose action pervades the whole person and all of life, as is shown by the Seven Gifts that Tradition, in the light of the Sacred Scriptures, has always made clear: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Fortitude, Piety and Fear of the Lord. When we welcome the Holy Spirit into our hearts and allow it to act, Christ Himself is made present in us and takes form in our lives; through us, it will be He who prays, forgives, brings hope and consolation, serves our brothers, is close to the needy and the abandoned, who creates communion and sows peace.”

A group of young men and women recently completed their own final step of Christian initiation by being “sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” during their Confirmation at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota on April 28. Bishop Frank J. Dewane used Holy Chrism oil to anoint the confirmandi.

This was repeated by Bishop Dewane throughout the year, with more 1,792 men and women receiving the Sacrament during since last fall at 54 different Parishes and in area prisons. An additional 398 women and men received the Sacrament of Confirmation at their home Parishes on Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil.

Bishop Dewane told the confirmandi at St. Jude Parish that their sacramental life is key to who they are becoming by growing in the “Grace of God.” In order to do that, they must carry the Gifts of the Holy Spirit with them beyond the four walls of their Church. They must be doers of their Faith because there is nothing passive about being Catholic. The Sacrament of Confirmation is not an ending to the faith journey, but a beginning.

“You are on a journey to become women and men of God… We are each called to follow the lead Jesus gives us. You are old enough to do so freely in receiving this Sacrament,” Bishop Dewane added. “Allow this sacramental gift to enter into your life and carry the Holy Spirit with you from this point forward. You must each be changed by this encounter!”

During the Sacrament of Confirmation, the candidates renew their baptismal promises and then the Bishop, the attending priests, and all the faithful, pray that the Holy Spirit descend upon and remain on the Confirmandi. The Bishop then recites a prayer. Finally, the candidates are presented to the Bishop with their sponsor placing his/her hand on the candidates’ right shoulder. Then with his right thumb, the Bishop makes the sign of the cross on their forehead with the Holy Chrism oil and says “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” The newly confirmed replies: “Amen.”

Choosing Confirmation names such as St. Jude, St. Edward the Confessor, St. Maria Goretti, St. Padre Pio, St. Patrick, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Peter, St. Martha, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Luisa, St. Juan Diego, St. Magdalena, and many more, the youth spoke about what it meant to receive this Sacrament which fully welcomes them into the full benefits of the Universal Church.

“This was an important day for me,” one young man explained. “I have struggled with my faith in the past, however, during my catechism classes I found myself realizing I had developed a special bond with Christ. That makes me very happy.”

One young lady who got emotional when the Bishop anointed her forehead explained that she was nervous because she had doubts about being worthy of the Sacrament. “When the Bishop made the sign of the cross on my forehead I immediately felt a calm and joy wash over me. That was very powerful.”

Pope Francis explains that when we are anointed with Holy Chrism we are conformed, “by the power of the Holy Spirit, to Christ, who is the only true ‘anointed one’ the Messiah, the Saint of God.”

The Holy Father often stresses how important it is that all children receive the Sacrament of Confirmation because while there is an important emphasis on the Sacrament of Baptism, there tends to be a less of a focus on the Sacrament of Confirmation. He explained that those who are only baptized remain at a halfway point, and do not “receive the Holy Spirit that gives us the strength to go forward in Christian life.”

The Sacrament of Confirmation requires good preparation – often years of study and spiritual growth – as it aims to lead candidates toward “personal adhesion to faith in Christ and to reawaken in them a sense of belonging to the Church,” the Holy Father added. He also reminded the faithful to thank the Lord for receiving the gift of confirmation. “Then ask Him for His help in living as true Christians, to always journey with joy according to the Holy Spirit that has been granted to us.”

The Diocese of Venice has a religious education program which emphasizes the importance of the Sacrament of Confirmation with a two-year program. The young women and men go through a process where they complete one phase of their faith journey and prepare to begin the next phase as with the fullness of their Baptism and as Christians who are called to be more and reflect the love and goodness Christ in their heart and soul.

In addition, through Epiphany Cathedral, there is Religious Education for Special Needs Individuals (RESI) program, which is an outreach for those with Special Needs. The program welcomes God’s children by acknowledging that all children can learn, pray and have a relationship with God. This program is specifically designed to meet the spiritual needs of persons with developmental disabilities and intellectual challenges and welcomes candidates from age 10 to adulthood. Through this program they are incorporated into the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church. On April 15, Bishop Dewane confirmed six individuals who completed the RESI program at Epiphany Cathedral.

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