Feb. 11th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Catholic Faith Appeal – How is it done?

In giving witness to the Gospel, the Diocese of Venice strives to address the spiritual and material needs of the faithful in ten counties of Southwest Florida. The following pages provide samples of some of the good works of Diocesan Offices, Departments, and Programs which build up the Church. These works of love are made possible by the generous involvement of faithful Catholics like you in our Catholic Faith Appeal!

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Ministries Your CFA Dollars Support:

  • Building Department
  • Catholic Charities
  • Catholic Schools Department
  • Child and Youth Protection
  • College Campus Outreach
  • Continuing Education
  • Diocesan Marriage Tribunal
  • Diocesan Retreat Center
  • Family Life Outreach
  • Haitian Apostolate
  • Hispanic Apostolate
  • Marriage Preparation
  • Mass on TV for the Homebound
  • Office of Evangelization
  • Office of Religious Life
  • Peace and Social Justice Office
  • Permanent Diaconate
  • Poor Parishes and Missions
  • Prison Outreach
  • Religious Education Office
  • Respect Life Department
  • Safe Environment Program
  • Seminarian Education
  • Stewardship/Development
  • Support for Convents
  • The Catholic Center
  • Vocations Office
  • Worship Office
  • Young Adult Outreach
  • Youth Outreach

Feb. 4th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Connect: Bringing People Closer to Christ

by: Clayton Atkins

If you ever stop by St. John XXIII on a Wednesday evening during the school year, be prepared, because you may not recognize the Church. The first thing you will notice is the noise: the peaceful quiet and joyous singing that we usually associate with the empty building or the celebration of Mass, is replaced with the bustling sounds of children chattering excitedly and trying to sit still as they listen to their teachers explain our faith. Although it may be difficult for you to find your way in between the tables, chairs, and dividers of the makeshift classrooms that litter the narthex and the Church itself, if you did so, you would witness a stunning display of God working through human beings. After long days at work and school, parents bring their children to our Church, where volunteers teach them the basics of our faith and prepare them to partake in the Sacramental Rites. So, although you may not recognize the arrangement of the building, or the sounds echoing throughout it, you will undoubtedly still feel at home in the atmosphere of love and fellowship that binds us together at Mass—it is present in the shared community of faith and learning that takes place on these Wednesday evenings.

It was in this atmosphere that Sally Pratt was called to undertake a new ministry. Having recently moved here in Oct. of 2014, Sally, a retired nurse, was looking for a way to get more involved in the Church and deepen her faith. Sally has been immersed in her spirituality for her entire life: she went to a Cursillo retreat weekend, the Spiritual Exercises, led retreats, and been involved in active parishes. But, newly retired, she was looking for a way to share her daily practices of faith and spirituality with others in a new and exciting way. After participating in the annual women’s retreat and experiencing a strong connection with our parish, she was praying about how she could continue to share her faith and to bring others to Christ. The very next day, she received an email from Holly Atkins, our Business Manager, and Chris Biel, our Director of Faith Formation, inquiring whether she would be interested in starting a new ministry at St. John XXIII.

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Here at our Parish, no matter our age or level of spiritual development, we are privileged to have numerous opportunities to develop our faith: in addition to Faith Formation classes for children and young teens, there are also youth groups, young adult ministries, 65 & older singles brunches, men’s groups, women’s groups…the list goes on. However, Holly and Chris realized that there wasn’t a ministry specifically for parents, and in Sally, they saw an opportunity to remedy this. Sally jumped at the chance. Holly Atkins joked that she had never received an answer so quickly. Their idea was to offer busy parents a convenient time and place to grow in their faith, and when better to do so then when their children were already at Church, laying the foundation of their growing faith? And so, the “Growing in Faith” group was born. It is a small group of parents who meet with Sally while their children attend Faith Formation. When we share our faith with others in a safe, intimate, nurturing setting, we provide it with the space and love it needs to flourish.

It is easy for most of us to conceive of this concept of “growth” in regards to children. Of course children need to “grow” their faith; we are not born with faith—we need to cultivate it. Children need stories to listen to; teachers to educate them; role models to emulate. This seems obvious to us. But we often forget that adults have similar needs, and it is all too easy for us to neglect our own innate desire for spiritual growth as we get caught up in the daily struggles of modern life. Ironically, this call for spiritual development is of extreme importance to the very people who are often most likely to be too busy to answer it. It’s already a small miracle that, when you do walk into the Church on a Wednesday evening, you see so many children and parents, eager to learn more about our faith, which many of us sometimes take for granted.

Here, you will witness parents who have a million other things on their agenda, setting aside the time they know their children need to grow as Catholics.

The idea behind the “Growing in Faith” group is that parents, in particular, need to set aside time for their faith, too, because parents are their children’s first and greatest teachers. And this is where Sally comes in. She offers parents an opportunity to learn about their Catholic Faith in a small group setting. They can come as they are to share with the group or just soak up what others have to share. Parents are encouraged to take what they learn with the small groups and to share their faith with the children, such as setting aside five minutes to pray with their children, reading Sunday’s Gospel to them, or simply asking them how they experienced Christ’s presence throughout their day. Sally asserts that when parents take the time to do this with their children, Mass becomes so much more meaningful for everyone. When children see that their parents are actively engaged in their faith, they are encouraged to participate as well. Often Sally will try to structure the weekly parent meeting around a topic that their children will also be covering in their classes, but often they end up discussing topics that they, the parents, want to know more about such as the Mass, Adoration, Reconciliation, The Rosary, The chaplet of the Divine Mercy, Advent, Lent, Ignatius Prayers, Lectio Divina, and so much more. This way, families can share their faith with each other because everyone is on the same page.

Sally says that her goal is to “Bring people closer to Christ.” She maintains that Christ is always present in our lives, waiting for us to let him in. Meeting with others and sharing about our journeys in faith is one of many ways that we can do this. We would like to encourage anyone with a desire to deepen their faith to attend one of Sally’s “Growing in Faith” group gatherings. If you are already dropping your children off for Faith Formation, stay for the hour and grow closer to Christ. Who knows…in the time you would need to make it through Daniels traffic and back on an errand, you could have an experience that strengthens your connection with God, yourself, and your family. The Growing in Faith group meets in the Parish office kitchen on Wednesdays during Faith Formation. We hope to see you there.

“Sally is amazing and brings an excitement to learning more about our Faith with her passion and ideas. I love being able to spend the time with other parents who have the same faith, wants, and needs for their families. The group is wonderful and has helped me grow so much for myself, my husband, and my children.” – Angela

Jan. 28th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Called to Serve | Our Parish Nurse Ministry

by: Helen Tuffy, RN – Judy Balyeat, RN – Nancie Burke, RN – Joann Andrews, RN

We are called into service at our baptism and we are each provided different gifts from the Holy Spirit to carry out the word of Christ in our church and our community. Our parish provides us with many different ways to serve. There are hundreds of people in our parish who have chosen as their mission to serve others in a multitude of ways. We are blessed to be a part of such a generous group of giving people. St. John XXIII parish has an active Parish Nurse Program as one of its ministries.

The Parish Nurses’ primary role is to serve through healing and compassionate presence. We address the needs of mind, body and spirit and meet people on their health and spiritual journey. Parish Nursing provides us with a mission; something we feel called to do. “The joy we feel” in this ministry, is due to the belief that we are suited to the role as nurses and are driven to help with the needs of others. *(1)

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Our own spirituality develops as we provide service. We feel closer to God as we perform the services as they are needed and where they are needed. “We all know, the person with the greatest sense of serving was Jesus Christ.” *(2)

What do Parish Nurses acutually do?

Health advocacy: We serve through advocacy by visiting parishioners at church, hospital, home, rehab facility or even accompany them to doctor’s offices. The Parish Nurses are skilled at listening to medical personnel and can help you have a greater understanding of your illness, treatments and options.

Provide instruction: We can instruct on medication effects, side effects, and proper administration. Many hospital readmissions are due to patient not understanding why, how or when to take medications.

Do you understand the diet recommended by your doctor?

Perform Assessment: We do take blood pressures once a month in the Narthex and can recommend actions if it is outside acceptable ranges.

Offer Prayer and Support: We can be a prayer partner with those we visit by realizing that prayer is the means to be connected to Christ. We can be an extension of the parish by spending time with those who may be lonely or homebound. We are able to arrange for regular visits to bring the Eucharist and allay the feelings of loneliness with a social visit. We can distribute comfort blankets or prayer shawls made by talented and loving members of our parish as a tangible demonstration that others are thinking of and praying for them. Rosaries are available and, we will say the rosary with you if you like. Care of spirit really is our number one concern.

Meal preparation: We have developed a team of parishioners who will cook meals for those who need nutritional supplements. Their kindness and willingness is one way they show their love and concern for our fellow parishioners.

Referrals: We assist with referrals to community resources for help with food, facility information, physician information, transportation and/or financial assistance referrals.

Special Liturgies: We have sponsored, with parish leadership, special liturgies for those with Dementia/Alzheimer’s disease and for their caretakers. The Mass is softer, shorter, and adapted to things that may be familiar to those with memory issues.

We have a Mass for those parents who have lost children so that they may gather to share, the blessings of the Mass and visit with others who have walked down the same difficult road. In the future, other specialty liturgies may be available.

Provide Information: The Veterans Information Officers visited our parish to inform veterans of any benefits they may be entitled to by virtue of their service to our country.

In a future, we would like to provide educational programs that can help all of us live a healthier lifestyle.

Additional Information: If you would like a Parish Nurse visit at home, hospital or facility, or if you would like some more information on what we do, then call the Parish office at (239) 561-2245 and leave your name and phone number. You will be contacted by a nurse within 48 hours. We are blessed to have the opportunity to serve.

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” – Mark 10:48

Jan. 21st, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Beyond RCIA: Tips for Growing Your Catholic Faith

by Ginny Whelan, RCIA Coordinator

I recently visited with several past members of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) at St. John XXIII who had been accepted into the Church the past three years. I asked them what they learned since they came into the Church and what had helped them grow in their Catholic faith. This is by no means their exact words. Just ideas that were prayer fully shared.

Before we begin, let’s examine what we know for certain. We have a goal (Heaven), a road map (Scripture and Tradition), examples to follow (the Saints), leadership (the Pope, Bishops, Priests and Deacons), clear teaching authority (the Magisterium of the Church), help along the way (the Sacraments) and we have Divine guidance (the Holy Spirit). It is obvious that we have the tools and resources we need.

PRAY: Work on developing a daily prayer routine with the goal of at least an hour a day devoted to prayer. Sound difficult? Think about how much TV we watch a day. Consider how much time we spend in our cars each day and how much time we devote to exercise. We have more than enough time for prayer if we plan for it, schedule it and commit to it. Pray the Morning Offering or other prayer before you leave home-10 minutes, Rosary in your car or while exercising-20 minutes, Daily Jesuit Examen-15 minutes, Prayer with all meals-5 minutes, Prayer with our children and spouse-10 minutes. Add it up-we just did an hour of prayer.

DAILY SURRENDER AND CONVERSION IS NECCESSARY: I learned early on in my journey into the Church that my surrender to God’s will and my conversion was not a one-time event. We must always put His will before our own and experience a “dying of self” in order for Christ to be in charge of our lives.

ACCEPT AND STUDY OUR FAITH: Accepting the teaching of our Church is necessary, but so is the knowledge that our full understanding may take time. Trust that two millennia of Church teaching is probably much more reliable than what you or I might conjure up on our own. Go to a parish bible study, take adult faith classes, read the bible and catechism, and read great Catholic authors like Kreeft, Hahn, Matthew Kelly, Archbishop Dolan, St. John XXIII, St Theresa of Calcutta, Pope Francis. Understand our faith and be able to defend it to others.

DEVOTE MORE TIME TO THE EUCHARIST: Want to fully experience Christ and be closer to Him during the work day? Know what parishes are on your way to work or near your office. Seek out the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist in daily Mass when possible and spend quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration every week. We Catholics have a wonderful gift in the Eucharist and we should seek Him out at every opportunity.

BE A LIGHT FOR CHRIST:

What does being a light for Christ mean? How can it be manifested in us? Author Francis Fernandez shares this observation from In Conversation with God, “Jesus said to his disciples in the book of Matthew: ‘You are the light of the world’. The light of the disciple is the light of the Master himself. In the absence of this light of Christ, society becomes engulfed in the most impenetrable darkness. Christians are to illuminate the environment in which they live and work. A follower of Christ necessarily gives light. The very witness of a Christian life, and good works done in a supernatural spirit, are effective in drawing men to the faith and to God. Let us ask ourselves today about our effect on those who live side by side with us, those who have dealings with us for professional or social reasons. Do they see this light which illuminates the way that leads to God? Do these same people feel themselves moved, by their contact with us, to lead better lives?”

PURSUE JOY, NOT HAPPINESS: Father Bob gave a wonderful homily in which he described the pursuit of happiness as the pursuit of the things of this world. We think we are seeking happiness in the bigger house, nicer car, better job, bigger paycheck, but do these things really bring happiness? His point was that all happiness must be preceded by joy and that all joy is Christ-inspired! Seek out and surrender your heart to Christ to find joy…and you will also find happiness.

START WITH THE END IN MIND: I can’t think of a better motivation for practicing our Catholic faith than this mental image: Picture Jesus greeting you in Heaven with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We have a lifetime to love and serve the Lord. Will we use it wisely? What will Jesus say to us at the end of our lives?

PRIVILEGED, NOT ENTITLED: We are all privileged to be part of the Body of Christ in the Catholic Church, but privileges are earned not granted. Our life of faith requires dedication, obedience and practice. We must work to earn this privilege and to fully understand the gift we have been given.

A few thoughts in closing…. Matthew 5:13-14 and 16 – “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Heavenly Father.”

My favorite quote: “Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.” St. Ignatius of Loyola Francis Fernandez from, In Conversation with God: “We make our Lord known through the example of our life, looking for occasions to speak out, not missing a single opportunity. Our task consists to a large extent in making the way to Christ cheerful and attractive. If we behave like that, many will be encouraged to follow it and to bring the joy and peace of the Lord to other men and women.”

We who are blessed to walk on the faith journey with adults who are called by the Lord and say yes, experience joy, peace and grow in faith in their shadow.

“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, NOTHING will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

Dec. 24th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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The Lessons of Advent: What the Church Teaches Us

by: Stephen Beale – Catholic Exchange

Be Watchful:

Our associated attitude should be a mixture of hope, expectation, and holy fear. In placing ourselves in the position of the Israelites in the time of Christ we learn how to prepare for His Second Coming. This is the core Church teaching.

Make Wise Use of Your Time:

But there is an added benefit to constantly maintaining an attitude of watchfulness. People who are watchful generally make better use of the time they have then people who aren’t. (Credit for this insight goes to a friend at a Bible study who pointed this out.) As Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil.” This advice comes in the context of a discussion about the end times. Note the preceding verse: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” Likewise, there is John 9:4, “We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work.”

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Christ is the Lord of History:

Advents remind us that history is in God’s hands. In Christ, God intervenes in history, resetting the story of humanity, guiding its development, and determining its conclusion. History is not a runaway train racing into an unknown future. It is not a product of chance or the impersonal laws of evolution, physics, or social science.

History Has an End:

In 1992, a political scientist named Francis Fukuyama wrote a sensational book titled The End of History and the Last Man. Fukuyama argued that history, defined narrowly as a debate of ideas, was over. Democracy had won, communism had lost, and global capitalism and technological progress were the future.

A quarter of a century later, amid Islamic terrorism and the resurgence of nationalism in the West, Fukuyama’s thesis seems foolish. But he was fundamentally right about one thing. History does have an end. The whole of history — whether you conceive of it as the development of ideas, institutions, nations, or technology — ends in Christ, who is the true last man.

The point is to not just reiterate that Christ is sovereign over history (see lesson 3), but also to make us realize the futility of temporal attachments, whether a particular ideology, system of government, nation, or civilization. These things do have value but we must remember that one day they—like history itself—will pass away.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

Christ is Our Orgin and Destiny:

Finally, in Advent, we learn again that Christ is our origin and our end. All things that matter have their source in Him and move towards Him as their destination. As Christ said in Revelation 22:13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Oct. 29th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Sue Edwards Reflects on Her Role Within the Women’s Guild

By Colleen Leavy – Bulletin Editor

Guided by faith, prayer, knowledge and concern, The Women’s Guild helps build St. John XXIII’s community through friendship, spiritual reflection, and the support of those in need.
The Women’s Guild’s success is due to the hard work of the many women who give so much of themselves.

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The following questions and answers reflect the newly elected president in her faith, commitment and dedication to her role within The Women’s Guild.

CL: What made you decide to serve?
SE: I grew up in a household where we were taught that the best way to show God’s love was to serve others. Ours was the house that friends and family came for help and comfort. For Thanksgiving and Christmas we included sailors from Great Lakes Naval Base and seniors from the state run nursing home. It was only natural then, that I became involved in the church from an early age. In the churches we have attended I’ve always looked for ways that I was being called to serve. When we moved to Fort Myers and I first attended St. John XXIII, I was happy to see so many opportunities to serve, especially, in the social justice area. I am now involved as a lector in The Women’s Guild, Caring for Creation, and helping with some of the social justice activities such as the backpack drive and the angel tree.

CL: How long have you been president?
SE: As I mentioned, when I come to a new church I look for opportunities to serve. When we were looking for a president, I offered to serve. I have been the president of 2 other women’s clubs so I had some experience. My only worry was that I was new to St. John XXIII and did not have the history of what has been done. Luckily I have a great board who have that history: Barbara Artale VP, Carolyn Hartmann secretary, and Joann Bernstein, treasurer. We took office in July and will serve for 3 years.

CL: How do you support Fr. Bob with your mission?
SE: The mission of the Women’s Guild is in line with that of the church’s mission. We desire that all feel welcome and that we show God’s love by the charities we support and the way we interact with others. We have been supportive of Fr.. Bob especially in the capital campaign and by supporting the charities that are close to his heart. We have tried to respond to any requests he has for our group.

CL: What would you tell someone who is interested in volunteering?
SE: There are many opportunities in our parish and within the Women’s Guild for women to choose: helping with collections like sneakers and backpacks, funeral lunches, bake sales for Lifeline and Verity, food for St. Martin de Porres. No matter what your interest or your talents there is a place for you and your skills. By using your God given talents, not only will you get a sense of satisfaction but God will be pleased you are using what He gave you. Plus you can serve others and get the bonus of meeting other great women and also having a good time.

CL: What upcoming events do you have planned?
SE: This Sunday night, October 29th, we have The Pippin Musical at The Broadway Palm. We are excited about The Fashion Show on February 24th. We also hope to include some luncheons after the first of the year.

CL: What do you hope to accomplish in the next 3 years?
SE: The one thing that I would like is for The Women’s Guild to help accomplish making our large parish more welcoming by providing women with the opportunity to meet one another and work together to accomplish God’s work here at St. John XXIII and the surrounding community.

Oct. 22nd, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Fighting Against Hunger & Forced Migration: End War/Arms Trade

by: Carol Glatz – Catholic News Service

It makes no sense to lament the problems of hunger and forced migration if one is unwilling to address their root causes, which are conflict and climate change, Pope Francis said.

“War and climate change lead to hunger; therefore, let’s avoid presenting it as if it were an incurable disease, and instead implement laws, economic policies, lifestyle changes and attitudes that prevent the problems in the first place,” he told world leaders at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

Pope Francis received a standing ovation after he addressed the assembly at FAO’s Rome headquarters to mark World Food Day on October 16th, the date the organization was founded in 1945 to address the causes of poverty and hunger. The FAO was holding a conference on the theme “Changing the future of migration.”

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Food insecurity is linked to forced migration, the pope said, and the two can be addressed only “if we go to the root of the problem” — conflict and climate change.

International law already has all the instruments and means in place to prevent and quickly end the conflicts that tear communities and countries apart, and trigger hunger, malnutrition and migration, he said.

“Good will and dialogue are needed to stop conflicts,” he said, “and it is necessary to fully commit to gradual and systematic disarmament” as well as stop the “terrible plague of arms trafficking.”

“What good is denouncing that millions of people are victims of hunger and malnutrition because of conflicts if one then does not effectively work for peace and disarmament?” he asked.

As for climate change, he said, scientists know what needs to be done and the international instruments — like the Paris Agreement — are already available.
Without specifying which nations, the pope said, unfortunately “some are backing away” from the agreement.

“We cannot resign ourselves to saying, ‘Someone else will do it,’” he said. Everyone is called to adopt and promote changes in lifestyle, in the way resources are used and in production and consumption — particularly when it comes to food, which is increasingly wasted.

Some people believe reducing the number of mouths to feed would solve the problem of food insecurity, but, the pope said, this is “a false solution” given the enormous waste and overconsumption in the world.

“Cutting back is easy,” he said, but “sharing requires conversion and this is demanding.”

“We cannot act only if others are doing it or limit ourselves to having pity because pity doesn’t go beyond emergency aid,” the pope said.

International organizations, leaders and individuals need to act out of real love and mercy toward others — particularly the most vulnerable — in order to create a world based on true justice and solidarity.

Arriving at the FAO headquarters, Pope Francis presented a gift of a statue depicting the tragic death of Alan Kurdi (also known as Aylan), the 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on the shore of Turkey when a small inflatable boat holding a dozen refugees capsized in 2015. The statue, made of pure white Carrara marble, depicts a child-like angel weeping over the boy’s lifeless body.

Oct. 15th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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The Now Moment for America: A Conversation about Racism

By Joanne Halt, M.A.

Racism is one of those topics that can immediately put us on edge. We fear examining our beliefs because to do so could open a Pandora’s Box and we might be judged. The violent outcome of the march in Charlottesville V.A. illustrates that we are at a decision point in America about racial beliefs. People of conscience could not allow the coalition of white supremacists to march there without a counter march of protest since such hate groups such as the KKK and Neo-Nazis pose a direct challenge to the dignity of human life. To be supportive in any way to such activity is to foster racism. What many folks might feel is a “Where did all of this come from?” moment in society has been developing as the demographics of our country are changing and fear predominates. White supremacy group membership is at an all time high and increasingly vocal. White privilege, which fueled the march in Charlottesville, is a concept waiting to be unpacked for many of us. Concurrently, the issue of color determining one person’s response to another has been festering individually and collectively for the lifetime of pretty much every black or brown person living in America today. Ask any man of color what it feels like to see the kneejerk reaction of a white woman clutching her purse in fear as he walks toward her. For African Americans skin color is the barrier they face to assimilation, unlike other minority groups who have assimilated much more easily in our culture.

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To deny the racial divide in our country is not possible. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently announced the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism which is addressing the sin of racism in our society and Church, and the urgent need to come together to find solutions. Almost 40 years ago, the USCCB wrote a Pastoral Letter on Racism which stated that “Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father.”

Prejudice can lurk unnoticed in our unconscious beliefs. Without prayerful reflection, it can feed on the fear of what is different and grow into overt racism. Self-reflection is a beginning that must then lead to action. Our bishops are calling us to this moment of self-inquiry and conversion.

To help us with this beginning step of self-inquiry, The Respect for Life Committee is hosting a presentation by Dr. Martha R. Bireda, PhD. on October 17th. She is Director of the Blanchard House Museum of African History and Culture, located in Punta Gorda, Florida. For over 30 years, Dr. Bireda has consulted, lectured, and written about social issues related to race, gender, class, power, and culture. She has contributed many magazine articles that explore critical issues past and present impacting our global society. She believes that awareness and recognition of the universality of social issues can contribute to the resolution of problems that affect all societies, and confirm our human connectivity. She is the author of twelve books.

When asked to describe her presentation, Dr. Bireda responded that we need the opportunity to explore our beliefs in a safe place. Our beliefs often operate on an unconscious level. Examining the beliefs on race that have been operative historically in America is a first step. Identifying those authority figures, educational systems and important others who contributed to our individual belief system is also important. Dr. Bireda’s presentation invites us to ask ourselves these questions: why do I believe what I do about my group and about other groups? Where did this come from and why do I believe it now? If I don’t believe what I was taught as a youth now, how do I express my present beliefs? Finally, she says, “The ultimate question is- how can I demonstrate with my actions what are my ‘now’ beliefs?” Ultimately we take responsibility for solving and not perpetuating the problem,
Dr. Bireda’s interest in raising consciousness began when she was 10 years old in 1955 and heard about Emmet Till being killed. Emmet was a 14 year old tortured and murdered in Mississippi by two Caucasian men. “Emmet was a child and I thought, so am I, …am I going to be killed too?” This question and feeling of vulnerability by virtue of skin color became the foundation for her life’s work.

According to Fr. George Murry, S.J., the Head of the USCCB Committee on Racism: “Through listening, prayer and meaningful collaboration, I’m hopeful we can find lasting solutions and common ground where racism will no longer find a place in our hearts or in our society.”

TUESDAY, October 17th
The Now Moment for America:
A Conversation about Racism
6:30pm-8:00pm – In the Community Room
Guest Speaker: Dr. Martha Bireda

Oct. 1st, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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RESPECT LIFE SUNDAY | Be Not Afraid

Why do we celebrate RESPECT LIFE Sunday in October?

Back in 1972, the year before the United States Supreme Court ruled on Roe V. Wade to legalize abortion in the U.S., Pope John Paul II set aside the first Sunday of October as “Respect Life Sunday”, also called “Sanctity of Life Sunday.”

The Catholic Church has dedicated the month of October, starting with the first Sunday, to extra time and resources in advancing the culture of life. Such can be implemented through prayer, activism, and education against the falsehoods promoted by the pro-abortion advocates.

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On the matter of abortion, the Catholic Church teaches the following through its Catechism.

“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life. ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.’ [Jer. 1:5] ‘My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.” [Psalm 139:15]

Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law: “You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish. God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.”[Gaudium et spes]

Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. ‘A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,’ ‘by the very commission of the offense,’ and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.” [Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2270-2272]

Aug 20th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Encountering Christ Through the Sacraments

by: Rich Byrne, D.Min. – Parishioner

As Catholics, we have been raised with and attune to the Seven Sacraments. They have a special meaning among us. Yet, why? What makes them so special in our broken world?

These Sacraments, instituted by Christ, are meant to strengthen and to encourage us on our spiritual journeys. The Church, as the People of God, has a God-given role in helping us realize that we are chosen, we are called, we are discipled.

As we move daily among our many challenges, the Sacraments manifest visible signs of God’s Invisible Love for us, for all people and for all creation.

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In order to heighten that incarnational dimension, the Church highlights the physical or tangible dimension of every Sacrament. In earlier times, prayerful theologians realized that there is an undeniable moment in every Sacramental action (ex opere operato) in which one can attest that God, the Holy Spirit, the Risen Christ is truly present and acting. In Baptism, it is the pouring of the water. In Confirmation, Ordination, Anointing, and Reconciliation, it relates to the moments of the use of hands. In Eucharist, it is the Consecration. In Marriage, it is the communion of life and love between husband and wife. We can see that the tangible expresses the spiritually nurturing love that is present in such graced moments.

As we participate in these sacred moments, heaven and earth merge. They are real moments for multi-faceted healing, for forgiving mercy, for real spiritual nourishment. They are invaluable aids to support us as we strive to follow the challenging teachings of Jesus and of His supportive Church.

A clear challenge for each of us as members of this parochial and the ecclesial community is to grow in such awareness, that God is really alive, loving and present among us and within us. God is acting in every moment, especially (whether we are aware or not) in these great Sacramental moments. These are the signs of God’s longing to communicate His Infinite Love. Yes, we are abundantly loved. Can we wake up to that? Can we experience in prayer and in the Sacraments that we are absolutely lovable?

God created us to love ourselves, to love Him and to love all beings. Using the Sacraments more intentionally in our lives (such as, Sunday Eucharist) helps us realize ever more deeply that we are unconditionally and absolutely LOVED.

Encountering Christ Through the Sacraments Offered by the Faith Alive! Team

Whether you have been a life-long Catholic, have just recently become Catholic, or would like to hear more about the Sacraments, you are invited to join our parish community for this enlightening series. We will meet in the church community room from 6:30-8pm. Come to one session or the entire series. All are welcome! Registration is requested. Please call the parish office or email, jennifer@johnxxiii.net

August 22nd – Overview of the Sacraments:
The Seven Sacraments are central to our Catholic Faith and are the visible signs of God’s Love. During this introductory evening, we will discuss how Christ is the Great Sacrament of our encountering the Presence of God. By more deeply appreciating the Risen Christ, we, the People of God, may experience more fully the many Graces of the Sacraments.

August 29th – Baptism and Confirmation:
We will look at the meaning of our Baptism not only as the first step in our faith life, but also as a continuing journey where we not only face the challenges of life but also encounter the presence of Christ along the way. Confirmation is living life fully in the Holy Spirit. This sacrament is called Confirmation because the faith given in Baptism is now confirmed and made strong with new hope, grace and understanding.

September 5th – The Most Holy Eucharist:
“Do this in memory of me” is the command of the Lord to the Apostles at the Last Supper after Jesus instituted the greatest Sacrament of our salvation. The Holy Eucharist is the center and pinnacle of the Catholic life because it is the sacrament of the real Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ and is being celebrated every day.

September 12th – Sacraments of Healing:
By means of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick, Christ willed His Church to continue His work of healing and salvation. Christ, the physician of our soul and body, instituted these Sacraments because the new life that He gives us can be weakened and even lost through sin.

September 19th – Sacraments of Vocations:
Matrimony and Holy Orders both involve a lifelong commitment, and their purpose is to bring the light of Christ into the world. This presentation will explore the graces and responsibilities of these sacraments.

Aug 13th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

By | A Father Bob-Cast, Bulletin, Interviews, Ministries, The 23rd Times | No Comments

Matt Piedimonte | Faith Called Into Focus

by Colleen Leavy, Bulletin Editor

In the upcoming weeks, high school students will be venturing towards a new and exciting chapter in their education as they head off to college. For many of them, it will be a truly incredible experience, shaping them into the confident and passionate individuals they will become for the rest of their lives. However, with this newly found independence, uncertainty and fear can emerge. While college can give students a new opportunity to renew and shape their identity, others can become lost, abandoning their faith and falling victim to peer pressure.

This rang true for Matt Piedimonte, a missionary for the group FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). Raised in Western NY as the second of four boys in a Catholic home, Matt attended Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, where he graduated with a Finance Degree in 2012. Throughout his collegiate career, Matt struggled with maintaining his faith and connection to God. Without a strong identity, he fell victim to the party culture, following advice from his friends on how to become happy. This lifestyle ended up leaving Matt with more questions than answers, and a sense of unfulfillment. “Despite graduating and having a good job lined up, I still had an ache.”

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Shortly after graduating, his expected lifetime career in finance took a drastic turn. Traditionally, older siblings are usually meant to be the mentors. Ironically, Matt’s younger brother was the one that gave him the direction he had been seeking. “When I witnessed him receive communion”, Matt says, “it looked like he knew God and he had something I didn’t have. He was instrumental in bringing me back to the faith.” This began a journey of rediscovering Matt’s identity in Christ, which culminated in a spiritual encounter at Mass, when he heard Jesus say to him “I love you.” After this, it became clear to him that God was asking him to share his experience and lead other young college students to true fulfillment, in the very same place he fell furthest away.

Slowly, Matt began to walk in God’s direction, but it wasn’t until 2015 while speaking to a priest in Rochester, NY, that he was told about FOCUS, founded by Curtis Martin in 1989, after he too had fallen away from his faith. In just 28 years, FOCUS has grown to represent 600 missionaries with 140 campuses participating, including three in Europe!

When Matt resigned from his job as a crop insurance agent, he began training to become a FOCUS Missionary by using their strategy to win, build and send others in faith. Trained in Church teachings, prayer, sacred Scripture, evangelization and discipleship, FOCUS missionaries encounter students in friendship where they currently are in life, inviting them into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and accompanying them as they pursue lives of virtue and excellence. After serving two years at the University of Maine, he will enter his third year with the organization, spreading his faith to Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, to lead a team of four missionaries and 35 student leaders.

No matter how far away you feel you have strayed from your calling, Matt offers these words of advice: “God will never stop pursuing us. He calls each and every one of us to be Saints in every walk of life.”

For Additional Information

If you are a college student in search of spiritual guidance, visit: https://focusoncampus.org/find-my-campus

Additionally, you will be able to see which missionaries serve at your campus and how to contact them.
Missionaries do not receive a salary. Matt’s basic living and mission needs come from individuals, families, businesses and Parishes who wish to partner with him. Help support Matt and his vision through his online fund-page at: https://www.focus.org/missionaries/matthew-piedimonte

June 25th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Living Your Strengths

AT ST. JOHN XXIII CHURCH

by: Steve Engelman

At some time during the past seven years you may have seen and wondered about those five words near the bottom of parish name tags; noticed upcoming sessions advertised in the bulletin; or were one of the hundreds of parishioners who participated in a Living Your Strengths workshop.

Living Your Strengths, based on a book of the same title and the associated Clifton StrengthsFinder® assessment, has been a key component for enhancing parishioner engagement by raising awareness and understanding of the unique talents God bestowed upon each of us. These talents are natural ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that can be productively applied for enriching personal, communal, and spiritual lives.

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For the natural talents we are blessed with at birth to develop into true strengths, it requires awareness, understanding, education and practice to transform them from a raw condition to a more fully developed mature state.

The problem is most people do not know what their greatest talents are, or how to go about discovering them, and this untapped potential leads to a lack of engagement and spiritual fulfillment. Gallup’s research shows engagement drives a parish’s spiritual health and, contrary to popular belief, it is actually a greater sense of belonging felt by a parishioner that leads to enriched believing in the mission of Christ and the Church, not the opposite.

The model for achieving greater parishioner engagement, as defined by Gallup, is hierarchical with four stages building upon each other. Imagine a pyramid with the first level, or base, being “What do I get?” and the second level as “What do I give?”. The third and fourth levels are “Do I belong?” and “How can we grow?, respectively. At St. John XXIII, the first two levels are addressed in our Living Christ’s Covenant document originally introduced to parishioners in 2013 and renewed in February of this year. Additionally, the often displayed WORSHIP, GROW, SERVE, CONNECT, and GIVE banners are reminders of the “What do I give?” level and are intended to provide guidance to parishioners seeking to become further engaged and even more spiritual.

The level of parishioner engagement, and thus overall spiritual commitment, is measurable and can be categorized as shown below:

Engaged: These parishioners are intensely loyal with a strong psychological connection to our parish. They are more spiritually committed and more likely to extend invitations to others. They also tend to give more generously of their time, talents, and treasure.

Not Engaged: These parishioners may attend Mass regularly but are not psychologically connected and their connection is probably more social than spiritual. They donate moderately but not sacrificially and if they volunteer they only donate minimal amounts of time.

Actively Disengaged: These members usually attend Mass only once or twice a year, if at all. Some in this group may attend regularly, but if that’s the case, they are physically present but psychologically absent. Some are unhappy and may insist on sharing that unhappiness with just about anyone.

In 2011 our parish, with support from Gallup, conducted a survey to develop a baseline engagement measure and the results at that time were 32% engaged, 47% not engaged, and 21% actively disengaged. While these results were better than the average Catholic Church it was also apparent great opportunities exist.

Living your Strengths workshops address numerous elements of engagement and are designed to assist parishioners, through enhanced awareness and application of their unique talents, toward higher levels of engagement and the resulting spiritual enrichment.

You are invited to participate in the next workshop series where the ongoing journey toward greater satisfaction, throughout all aspects of your life, continues. During three interactive and enlightening sessions, you will transition from learning your unique God-given talents to truly living your strengths with greater understanding, confidence, and personal fulfillment. We will also explore the unique talents of others and the contributions each can make toward greater stewardship and discipleship.

This series of workshops is scheduled for July 11, 18, and 25 from 6pm-8pm

To register or for additional information please contact:

Jennifer Engelman in the parish office at jennifer@johnxxiii.net
or phone (239) 561-2245

June 11th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Our Parish Library

LORI IZRAL SERVING ST. JOHN XXIII CHURCH

Did You Know? Lori Izral has spent most of her adult life in service of the Church. As a teacher since 1957, she taught at Catholic elementary, high school, college and university levels.

In addition, she served in various positions in the Communications field with Jesuits in Communication/North America, UNDA-USA (the official Catholic organization for broadcasters) and the American Catholic Bishops’ Communications Commission.

Lori carried her service to other organizations in administrative roles, such as The Chicago Association for Retarded Citizens (Vice-President), The National Telemedia Council (President) and The North American Broadcast Section of the World Association for Christian Communication (President).

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Sixteen years ago, after retiring from Loyola University as Professor Emerita, she and her husband John moved from LaGrange, IL, to Fort Myers, FL. They have been members of St. John XXIII since its inception at Noonan Academy. Lori serves as lector, Eucharistic Minister and Homebound Minister.

In November, 2009, she found an ad in the Church bulletin: “Wanted – a Literature Minister.” This minister would “oversee a small collection of books and have a willingness to manage new donations.” Lori met with Damian Hanley, Communications Director for our Parish at the time, and told him “I could do this.” He said “Go for it!” So, she did!

Whether a professor, communicator or librarian, Lori believes that her service in the Church is truly one of her greatest blessings.

History of Our Parish Library

Our Parish Library was established in 2010 for the following reasons:

  • To expand our growing knowledge of our faith
  • To instruct us in spiritual development
  • To inspire us in the practice of our moral choices
  • To entertain with faith and Christian values in mind
  • To enable all ministries to consolidate resources and share them with the parish community

The Library began with 15 books donated by the priests and staff of the parish. Today we have processed more than 2,000 books. These books came to us from our generous priests and parishioners, the Friends of the Lakes Public Library, the St. John XXIII Thrift Store, the St. Cecilia Parish Library and the Legends Golfand Country Club Library. We continually welcome contributions to expand our library holdings. This year we hope to be processing CDs and DVDs to our collections.

Processing books includes the following: cleaning and repairing books (where needed), stamping, categorizing, making labels for pockets and cards, making labels for the spines of the books and listings in our inventory (author, title, publisher, year of publication and call letters). The books are sorted into 34 categories, such as, reference, biography, art, history, family issues, spirituality, death and dying, fiction, ecclesiology, prayer and meditation, senior issues, liturgy, health and healing…just to name a few.

Space limitations and lack of funding curtail our physical abilities to house these treasures. To that issue we have been using two carts in the narthex to circulate our books. The carts have 12 shelves holding a few hundred books in several categories. The rest of our books are held in the meeting room of the administration building. About 15 newly processed books are rotated into the carts each week.

Books may be signed out from either place for as long as needed. The larger collection is available for research, supplemental reading, and circulation. Access to the room is limited because of meetings, conferences and religious lessons. However, should you wish to use the library, just call the office at (239) 561-2245 to ask if the room is free or to make an appointment.

Some ways you can help us:

  • Please continue to use our library
  • Be sure to sign out the books: date, name and phone number
  • Handle the books gently: no markings, dog-eared pages or marginal notes
  • Return books to the designated shelf of the carts

Generosity and Gratitude are two sides of the same coin that builds our parish community. Blessings to you for your generosity in helping our ministry. Thank you, Lori, for your time, talent and treasure to St. John XXIII!

May 21st, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Bishops among first signatories to pledge to end death penalty

By Mark Pattison | Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Bishops attending a meeting were among the first to sign the National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty at the U.S. bishops’ headquarters building May 9.

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Each person taking the pledge promises to educate, advocate and pray for an end to capital punishment.

“All Christians and people of goodwill are thus called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty, whether legal or illegal, and in all its forms, but also in order to improve prison conditions, with respect for the human dignity of the people deprived of their freedom,” Pope Francis has said. This quotation kicks off the pledge.

The pledge drive is organized by the Catholic Mobilizing Network.

“The death penalty represents a failure of our society to fulfill the demands of human dignity, as evidenced by the 159 people and counting who have been exonerated due to their innocence since 1973,” the organization says on the pledge sheet following space for someone’s signature.

Quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the network added, “The death penalty is not needed to maintain public safety, punishment must ‘correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and (be) more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.’”

After capital punishment was halted nationwide briefly in the 1970s, more than 1,400 people have been executed since it resumed 40 years ago, according to the Catholic Mobilizing Network. “The prolonged nature of the death penalty process can perpetuate the trauma for victims’ families and prevents the opportunity for healing and reconciliation called for in the message of Jesus Christ.”

The idea for the pledge campaign took root in January, said Catholic Mobilizing Network executive director Karen Clifton in an interview with Catholic News Service. It is supported in part by a $50,000 grant from the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Communication Campaign.

Clifton said Arkansas’ bid to execute eight death-row prisoners in a 10-day span in April — four were ultimately put to death — “exacerbated the situation and showed it as a very live example of who we are executing and the reasons why the system is so broken,” she said.

Penalties for crime are “supposed to be retributive, but also restorative. The death penalty is definitely not restorative,” Clifton said. Those on death row are not the worst of the worst, they’re the least — the marginalized, the poor, those with improper (legal) counsel,” she added.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said he and his fellow bishops have voiced their views strongly with Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, where capital punishment is legal and where prisoners have been executed.

Bishop Dewane, in recalling Pope John Paul II’s successful personal appeal to the governor of Missouri to spare a death-row inmate’s life during the pope’s visit to St. Louis in 1999, said the episode offers hope. “It’s a great example,” he added. “You never know how your words will be taken, or accepted.”

Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, who was one of a number of bishops who signed the pledge following a daylong meeting May 9 at the U.S. bishops’ headquarters building in Washington, said the church’s ministry to prisoners is another source of hope. “It’s the ministry of companionship that’s so important,” he noted.

Bishop Soto said the ministry of accompaniment is also necessary to the victims of crime. He recalled an instance when a priest of his diocese, who was expected to attend a meeting of priests, had to bow out “because he had to bury someone who had been killed by violence in his neighborhood. … We are not recognizing that the futility of the death penalty system.”

Capuchin Father John Pavlik, president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, told CNS that networking is a key tool in the toolbox in spreading information opposing the death penalty. CMSM, he said, has a person on staff to monitor issues surrounding justice and peace, and has consistently communicated capital punishment information to CMSM members.

Father Pavlik said he takes inspiration from an Ohio woman whose child was murdered decades ago. The killer was arrested, tried and convicted on a charge of capital murder, “and she has spent the last 25 years advocating against the execution of this man.” The priest also voiced his distaste at the “disregard for life” shown in Arkansas, which he said had tried to execute eight death-row prisoners in such a short time because “the drug (used in the fatal injection) was going to expire.”

May 14th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

By | A Father Bob-Cast, Bulletin, Ministries, Pope Francis, The 23rd Times | No Comments

It’s official: Pope Francis to canonize Fatima visionaries during May visit

By Elise Harris

Vatican City, Apr 20, 2017 / 03:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his trip to Portugal for the centenary of the Fatima Marian apparitions next month, Pope Francis will canonize visionaries Francisco and Jacinta Marto, making them the youngest non-martyrs to ever be declared saints.

The children will be canonized during Pope Francis’ May 13 Mass in Fatima. The decision for the date was made during a April 20 consistory of cardinals, which also voted on the dates of four other canonizations, in addition to that of Francisco and Jacinta, that will take place this year.

Some martyrs who will soon be saints are diocesan priests Andrea de Soveral and Ambrogio Francesco Ferro, and layman Matteo Moreira, killed in hatred of the faith in Brazil in 1645; and three teenagers – Cristóbal, Antonio, and Juan – killed in hatred of the faith in Mexico in 1529, who will be canonized October 15.

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Bl. Angelo da Acri, a Capuchin priest who died in October 1739, and Faustino Míguez, a Piarist priest who founded the Calasanziano Institute of the Daughters of the Divine Shepherd, will also be canonized October 15.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, the Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, is the man who was largely responsible for advancing the visionaries’ cause, paving the way for them to become the first canonized children who were not martyred.

Previously, the Portuguese cardinal told CNA, children were not beatified, due to the belief “that children didn’t yet have the ability to practice Christian heroic virtue like adults.”

But that all changed when the cause for Francisco and Jacinta Marto arrived on his desk.

Francisco, 11, and Jacinta, 10, became the youngest non-martyr children in the history of the Church to be beatified when on May 13, 2000, the 83rd anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, Pope John Paul II proclaimed them “Blessed,” officially showing that young children can become Saints.

The brother and sister, who tended to their family’s sheep with their cousin Lucia Santo in the fields of Fatima, Portugal, witnessed the apparitions of Mary now commonly known as Our Lady of Fatima.

During the first apparition, which took place May 13, 1917, Our Lady asked the three children to pray the Rosary and make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. The children did this and were known to pray often, giving their lunch to beggars and going without food themselves. They offered up their sacrifices and even refrained from drinking water on hot days.

When Francisco and Jacinta became seriously ill with the Spanish flu in October 1918, Mary appeared to them and said she would to take them to heaven soon.

Bed-ridden, Francisco requested and received his first Communion. The following day, Francisco died, April 4, 1919. Jacinta suffered a long illness and was eventually transferred to a Lisbon hospital, where she underwent an operation for an abscess in her chest. However, her health did not improve and she died Feb. 20, 1920.

Francisco and Jacinta “practiced Christian virtue in a heroic way,” Cardinal Martins said, explaining that among other things, one of the most obvious moments in which this virtue was apparent for him was when the three shepherd children were arrested and intimidated by their mayor on August 13, 1917.

Government stability in Portugal was rocky following the revolution and coup d’état that led to the overthrow of the monarchy and subsequent establishment of the First Portuguese Republic in 1910.

A new liberal constitution separating Church and state was drafted under the influence of Freemasonry, which sought to omit the faith – which for many was the backbone of Portuguese culture and society – from public life.

It was in this context that, after catching wind of the Virgin Mary’s appearance to Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia, district Mayor Artur de Oliveira Santos had the children arrested on the day Mary was to appear to them, and threatened to boil them in hot oil unless they would confess to inventing the apparitions.

At one point in the conversation at the jailhouse, Jacinta was taken out of the room, leaving Francisco and Lucia alone. The two were told that Jacinta had been burned with hot oil, and that if they didn’t lie, the same would happen to them.

However, instead of caving to the pressure, the children said: “you can do whatever you want, but we cannot tell a lie. Do whatever you want to us, burn us with oil, but we cannot tell a lie.”

“This was the virtue of these children,” Cardinal Martins said, noting that to accept death rather than tell a lie is “more heroic than many adults.”

“There’s a lot to say on the heroicness of children,” he said, adding that “because of this I brought their cause forward.”

Cardinal Martins was also the one to bring Lucia’s cause to the Vatican following her death in 2005. The visionary had spent the remainder of her life after the apparitions as a Carmelite nun.

Typically the must be a five-year waiting period after a person dies before their cause can be brought forward. However, after only three years Martins ask that the remaining two be dismissed, and his request was granted.

Although the diocesan phase of the cause has already been finished, Cardinal Martins – who knew the visionary personally – said Lucia’s process will take much longer than that of Francisco and Jacinta not only due to her long life, but also because of the vast number of letters and other material from her writings and correspondence that needs to be examined.

The cardinal, who will be present in Fatima with the Pope during his May 12-13 visit for the centenary of the apparitions, said he views the occasion as the conclusion of a process that began with him changing a norm regarding the view of children “and their heroic virtue.”

This process is important, he said, because it means there could be other children who practiced heroic virtue that can now be canonized, so “it’s certainly something important.”

“It needs to be seen that (children) are truly capable of practicing heroic virtue,” not only in Fatima, but “in the Christian life,” he said.

Although canonizations, apart from a few exceptions, are typically held in Rome, it was only recently that beatifications began to be held outside of Rome, in the local Church which promoted the new Blessed’s cause.

This change was made by Cardinal Martins in September 2005, after receiving the approval of Benedict XVI.

In the past, a beatification Mass in Rome would be presided over by the Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints during the morning, with the Pope coming down to the basilica to pray to the new Blessed in the afternoon. Cardinal Martins said he decided to change this because the beatification and the canonization “are two different realities.”

“While the canonizations had a more universal dimension of the Church, the beatifications have a more local dimension, where they (the Blessed) came from,” he said, noting that this is reflected even in the words spoken during the rites for each Mass.

“Because of this, I made a distinction: the beatification in their (the Blessed’s) own church, in their diocese, and the canonizations in Rome.”

The result was “a fantastic revolution,” he said, explaining that while maybe 2-3,000 people would participate in the beatification ceremonies in Rome, hundreds of thousands started to come for the local beatification Masses of new Blessed in their home dioceses.

The cardinal said that “it’s beautiful” to see people – many times including friends and family members of new Blessed – join in honoring their countryman, asking for their intercession, and seeking to follow their example.

He believes the custom will remain like this, adding that it is beautiful particularly from the standpoint of evangelization.

“The new Blessed says to their brothers, many of whom they knew, ‘I am one of you, one like you, so you must follow my path and live the Gospel in depth’,” the cardinal said, explaining that this is “a formidable act of evangelization, and with everyone happy about the new Blessed, they’ll immediately do what they say!”

Cardinal Martins said the decision was also prompted by the emphasis placed on local Churches during the Second Vatican Council.

“I thought, one of the most effective ways to highlight the importance of local Churches is to conduct in the local diocese the beatification of one of their sons,” he said.

April 23rd, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Devotion of Divine Mercy

by: Mike Navarro

Divine Mercy Background in the Church

To open the millennium Pope John Paul II declared that the Second Sunday of Easter would become the Feast of Divine Mercy, and he exhorted the faithful to participate in the Devine Mercy Devotion.

On the first Feast of Divine Mercy, celebrated on April 30, 2000, he canonized St. Faustina. St. Faustina, a Sister from Poland, lived from 1905-1938 (33 years old). She entered the Apostolic Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy at the age of 20.

She mystically received over 17 extraordinary private revelations from Jesus, the Divine Mercy chaplet prayer, and the Divine Mercy Image.

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Since the year 2000, every pope (JPII, BXVI, and Francis) has celebrated the Vatican’s Devine Mercy Mass, and the Devine Mercy Service at 3:00 from the Chair of Peter.
In so doing, our Holy Fathers have put their imprimatur on this powerful devotion.

Another true sign was on April 2, 2005, after the Divine Mercy Vigil Mass celebrated in St.. Peter’s Cathedra, JPII passed away.

Last year Pope Francis culminated the Year of Mercy when he celebrated the Vatican’s Divine Mercy Service.

Divine Mercy Devotion (Pray the Chaplet, Participate in the Novena, and Attend Divine Mercy Celebration Service). Recitation of the Devine Mercy Chaplet, a five minute prayer.

The Divine Mercy Novena starts on Good Friday and ends the following Saturday. Each day the chaplet is prayed for certain souls:

  • Day 1: All sinners
  • Day 2: Priest and Religious
  • Day 3: Devout and Faithful Souls
  • Day 4: Those Who Do Not Believe in God
  • Day 5: Those Who Have Separated Themselves from the Church
  • Day 6: Meek and Humble Souls and the Souls of Little Children
  • Day 7: Souls Who Venerate and Glorify My Mercy
  • Day 8: Those Detained in Purgatory
  • Day 9: Those Who Have Become Lukewarm in Faith

Jesus’ special promise to those who complete the Divine Mercy Novena, go to confession, and receive communion on Divine Mercy Sunday: “…shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day are open all the divine floodgates through which graces flow.”

Attend the Divine Mercy Celebration Service. At the service the Image is Displayed, Blessed, and Venerated, and personal articles are also blessed.

The image has the five wounds of Jesus. Emanating from the heart of Jesus is a pale ray and a red ray. The pale ray symbolizes the water which cleanses and purifies and the red ray represents the blood which gives new life to souls.

Words inscribed on the image are “Jesus, I Trust in You.”

Jesus’ Promises to People who recite and spread the Devotion of Divine Mercy:

“Souls who spread the honor of my mercy I shield through their entire life and at the hour of death will receive great mercy.”

When you pray the chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the Just Judge, but as the Merciful Savior.”

Closing
Our Holy Fathers have told us that Divine Mercy is the greatest attribute of God, and it is especially needed in our modern, secular times.
All are invited to attend our Divine Mercy Service to receive these powerful graces and blessings of Mercy.

April 2nd, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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U.S. Catholics asked to accompany migrants, refugees seeking better life

By Julie Asher | Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. bishops in a pastoral reflection released March 22 called all Catholics to do what each of them can “to accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States.”

Titled “Living as a People of God in Unsettled Times,” the reflection was issued “in solidarity with those who have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict or fear in their native lands,” said a news release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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“To live as a people of God is to live in the hope of the Resurrection,” said the reflection, which was approved by the USCCB Administrative Committee on the first day of a two-day meeting in Washington.

The 50 37-member committee is made up of the executive officers of the USCCB, elected committee chairmen and elected regional representatives. It acts on behalf of the nation’s bishops between their spring and fall general meetings.

“To live in Christ is to draw upon the limitless love of Jesus to fortify us against the temptation of fear,” it continued. “Pray that our engagement in the debate over immigration and refugee issues may bring peace and comfort to those most affected by current and proposed national policy changes.”

The bishops urged Catholics to pray for an end to the root causes of violence and other circumstances forcing families to flee their homeland to find a better life; to meet with newcomers in their parishes and “listen to their story, and share your own”; and to call, write or visit their elected representatives to ask them to fix our broken immigration system” in a way that would safeguard the country’s security and “our humanity through a generous opportunity for legal immigration.”

The statement opened with a passage from Chapter 19 of the Book of Leviticus: “The word of God is truly alive today. When an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt.”

The bishops urged Catholics to “not lose sight of the fact that behind every policy is the story of a person in search of a better life. They may be an immigrant or refugee family sacrificing so that their children might have a brighter future.”

“As shepherds of a pilgrim church,” they wrote, “we will not tire in saying to families who have the courage to set out from their despair onto the road of hope: “We are with you.”

Those families could include “a family seeking security from an increased threat of extremist violence,” they said, adding that “it is necessary to safeguard the United States in a manner that does not cause us to lose our humanity.”

The bishops said that “intense debate is essential to healthy democracy, but the rhetoric of fear does not serve us well.”

“When we look at one another do we see with the heart of Jesus?” they asked.

Their pastoral reflection comes at a time when the Trump administration’s rhetoric and its policies on national security, refugees and immigration are in the headlines almost daily. Those policies have sparked almost nonstop protests in various parts of the country since President Donald Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration. In some cases, the anti-Trump demonstrations have turned violent.

The latest action on the refugee issue came March 16 when two federal judges blocked Trump’s new executive order banning for 90 days the entry into the U.S. of citizens from six Muslim-majority nations and suspending for 120 days the resettlement of refugees. Two federal judges, one in Hawaii and one in Maryland, blocked the order before it was too take affect March 16 at midnight.

The Department of Justice announced March 17 it will appeal the Maryland ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which is based in Richmond, Virginia.

In their reflection, the bishops said that all in this country find “common dreams for our children” in their “diverse backgrounds.”

“Hope in the next generation is how the nation will realize its founding motto, ‘out of many, one,’” they said. “In doing so, we will also realize God’s hope for all his children: that we would see each other as valued sisters and brothers regardless of race, religion or national origin.”

Christ, as the word made flesh, “strengthens us to bring our words to life,” they said and suggested three ways Catholics, “in our own small way,” can “bring our words of solidarity for migrants and refugees to life”: by praying, welcoming newcomers and writing to their elected representatives urging them to support humane immigration policies.

“Pray for an end to the root causes of violent hatred that force mothers and fathers to flee the only home they may have known in search of economic and physical security for their children,” the bishops said.

They asked Catholics to meet with newcomers in their parishes, and to “listen to their story and share your own.” The bishops noted parishes across the country have programs for immigrants and refugees “both to comfort them and to help them know their rights.”

They also urged Catholics to “to reach out in loving dialogue to those who may disagree with us. The more we come to understand each other’s concerns the better we can serve one another. Together, we are one body in Christ.”

Finally, Catholics should call, write or visit their elected officials urging they “fix our broken immigration system in a way that safeguards both our security and our humanity through a generous opportunity for legal immigration.”

The reflection ended with a quote from Pope Francis: “To migrate is the expression of that inherent desire for the happiness proper to every human being, a happiness that is to be sought and pursued. For us Christians, all human life is an itinerant journey toward our heavenly homeland.”

Mar. 5th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Here I am Lord, Reformed by Lent

ST. JOHN XXIII LENTEN PROGRAM

by: Jennifer Engelman

It is getting busy in southwest Florida! We are into the month of March with Spring Training at two local parks, many out-of-town guests coming to visit, and with so many wonderful events in our communities. Where do you find the time to attend a Lenten program at our parish? Simply schedule it into your calendar. We invite you to come as you are as we offer you time for a little peace, rest and spiritual health.

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As our parish continues to grow, so does our need for growing in our faith and connecting with others in our parish. Join us to take another look at Lent and to strengthen your relationship with Jesus Christ. Our Lenten Program titled, Here I am Lord, Reformed by Lent, helps us observe the 40-day period that replicates Christ’s sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert. We in turn join Him through fasting, repentance, self-denial and spiritual growth. Most importantly we want to set aside time for reflecting on Jesus, who suffered and sacrificed His life for us all.

This inspirational Lenten Program is offered by our Faith Alive! Team, who are a group of dedicated, faith-filled parishioners that give of their time and talent. The Faith Alive! Team formed about 5 years ago when we met with a small group of interested parishioners. I am blessed to be a part of this team that meets and offers their experience as teachers, presenters and facilitators. We come from varied backgrounds but our love of Jesus brings us forward to present and share. Since the team’s inception we continue to offer well-thought out programs that help our parish come together in small groups to discuss and share their faith with each other. We are all excited about the Catholic Faith and we want you to be too.

Remember that despite our weaknesses, Jesus takes us as we are. Come join us for all five sessions or even one or two evenings. Come grow in your faith and become energized by Lent – and say, “Here I am Lord!”

Feb. 19th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Living Christ’s Covenant at St. John XXIII

by: Mike Mullin

Bulletin articles over the past 6 weeks have restated our major parish goal of enhancing the spiritual fulfillment of our parishioners. Our parish mission statement commits our clergy, the administrative staff, and our ministry members, to provide the liturgies and support programs which contribute to the success of this faith journey for all our members. A key structure chosen to illustrate that effort over the last 4 years has been the New Covenant of our Lord, instituted at the Last Supper, and foretold in scriptural passages such as “They shall be my people and I will be their God. I will make an everlasting covenant with them and not cease to do them good”.

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Five areas of increased spiritual activity have been suggested to direct our thoughts and help us to identify the actions which could lead anyone of us to a deeper participation in Christ’s Covenant, therefore attaining the graces and spiritual fulfillment it promises.

The 5 areas are:

  • Worship: Frequently, Zealously, Adoringly
  • Grow: Knowledge, Faith, Virtue
  • Serve: Assist, Provide, Establish
  • Connect: Relate, Develop, Conclude
  • Give: Gratitude, Sharing, Sacrifice

We refer to them as the “Pillars of the Covenant” and examples of each of them have been featured in previous bulletins, highlighting many members of the parish who have grown spiritually from their participation in the various ministries and programs offering such opportunities.

Today, just 10 days before Ash Wednesday and the start of our Lenten season, it seems very fitting that we provide the Covenant document once again for your review and prayerful consideration. It appears on page 3 of this bulletin. We hope you will study it at home, go on-line to reread the earlier stories, and pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to aid you in forming your response to the offer of mercy and love that God has so freely given. You may choose to make the symbolic gesture of signing the Covenant in ink, but it’s even more meaningful that you live it out after accepting it in your heart and soul. May God bless us all.

Feb. 12th, 2017 | The 23rd Times

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Ministries Your CFA Dollars Support

The Diocese of Venice serves as the hands of Christ throughout its ten counties of Southwest Florida, with the mission of providing for the spiritual and material needs of the faithful. The following pages highlight the hard work and collaborative efforts of the many dedicated people of the Programs, Departments, and Diocesan Offices who carry out this mission. It is through the generosity of Catholics like you that sharing God’s love is made possible.

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  • Building Department
  • Catholic Charities
  • Catholic Schools Department
  • Child and Youth Protection
  • College Campus Outreach
  • Continuing Education
  • Diocesan Marriage Tribunal
  • Diocesan Retreat Center
  • Family Life Outreach
  • Haitian Apostolate
  • Hispanic Apostolate
  • Marriage Preparation
  • Mass on TV for the Homebound
  • Office of Evangelization
  • Office of Religious Life
  • Peace and Social Justice Office
  • Permanent Diaconate
  • Poor Parishes and Missions
  • Prison Outreach
  • Religious Education Office
  • Respect Life Department
  • Safe Environment Program
  • Seminarian Education
  • Stewardship/Development
  • Support for Convents
  • The Catholic Center
  • Vocations Office
  • Worship Office
  • Young Adult Outreach