The Blessed Blog

News, photos and stories from St. John XXIII Catholic Church.

November 23, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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

We Give Thanks to God for Bringing You to Us

With Thanksgiving upon us, our hearts overflow with thankfulness.
Thank you, parishioners for your gracious love and support
that allows us to serve so many.
As we give thanks and praises to God in heaven above,
may your heart be filled with joy and your life be filled with love.
God’s peace,

St. John XXIII Pastoral Staff


November 16, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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

 Helping those in Need: The Thanksgiving Food Drive

By: Danielle Koleniak

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” -Matthew 25:35-40


At 8:30am Social Justice Volunteers lined up their cars and began loading what would be the first drop-off round of donations to the storage unit for the annual Thanksgiving Food Drive. The team’s unloading assembly line and arranging of canned green beans to cereal boxes would put a grocery store to shame. Smiles, laughs and teasing of George Szymanski’s organizational skills all took place.

The group of about seven volunteers was there for one purpose—answering God’s call to serve those in need. Dolores Marcheski-Young is one of them. After persuading her for approximately 1.5 hours as we organized pasta and peanut butter, she agreed to share her love about serving in the Social Justice Ministry. She spoke specifically about the need this year. The goal is to collect enough food to feed 200 hundred families who live in the poorest communities in Lee County. They also need the hands to make it happen.

On Monday, November 17 at 8:30am, volunteers will make their final round of loading, unloading and organizing goods. When you read this article, think about how truly blessed you are and being the hands behind the mission.

Danielle Koleniak: Talk to me a little bit about what the Social Justice Ministry is doing?
Dolores Marcheski Young: I became involved with the Social Justice Ministry about four years ago. The Thanksgiving Food Drive was taking place even then.
It really has grown exponentially in the past two to three years. The parishioners here have been extremely generous. They fill grocery bags with cans and boxes of non-perishables and drop it off in the Narthex. From there, a group of volunteers pick up the bags, bring them to a nearby storage facility and then organize the goods to be prepared in bags and sent off for families in the community. Donors also give money and gift cards to purchase turkeys. Our mission is to provide a complete Thanksgiving meal for 200 families this year.

DK: Where do the donations go?
DMY: Recently the Social Justice Ministry has taken a big role in helping the Hispanic community and homeless through St. Martin De Porres Outreach Community Ministry. Food will also go to families in need within our parish.

DK: Why is it important to get involved in this initiative?
DMY: It’s about paying it forward.

DK: Talk about what it’s like when you see the final product of the mission take place— placing the full grocery bags and turkey into the hands of the needy families.
DMY: It’s eye opening to see the number of women with their young children standing in line and waiting while their husbands may have been away working. Not one person ever hesitates to say ‘thank you.’ The experience is also very heartwarming. We sometimes forget how blessed we are in this country. I think we need to remember that. I think this season brings to mind what we have and what the need is. Our goal this year is to feed 200 families through this food drive. We can’t do that without the help of our generous parishioners at St. John XXIII.

DK: What can parishioners do to help the cause?
DMY: We are collecting non-perishable food items through November 16 (that’s today). They can drop off the items in the parish narthex.
We also need helping hands on Monday, November 17th at 8:30am (After 8:00am Mass).

1) Loading cars to drop bags off at storage facility
2) Organizing the food at storage unit

Even if volunteers can only give a little time, that’s ok. We really need the help.For more information: Contact Dolores at or Karen at

November 9, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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

A Tribute to Our Heroes, Living & Deceased Veterans

by Cyndy Salzmann, Crosswalk

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” – Philippians 1:3

It was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month in 1918 when the world celebrated as a treaty was signed ending what was to be “the war to end all wars” – World War I.

One year later, on what came to be known as Armistice Day, Americans came together to remember and honor the sacrifices of the men and women who served during the war. Soldiers who survived the war marched in parades and were honored by speeches and ceremonies recognizing their contribution to peace throughout the world.


Congress declared Armistice Day a national holiday in 1938. By this time, with unrest in much of the world, Americans realized World War I would not be the last war. After the Second World War, which was even bloodier than the first, Armistice Day continued to be observed. In 1954, Congress changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day to include veterans of all United States wars.

Today, Americans honor the service and sacrifice of our armed forces in the past as well as the present on Veterans Day. The official, national ceremony takes place at Arlington National Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. A color guard representing all the branches of the military executes “Present Arms” at the tomb, a Presidential wreath is placed on the graves, and a bugler plays “taps.”

In communities across the county, there are parades, ceremonies and speeches. At 11:00 in the morning, Americans are encouraged to observe a moment of silence to remember those who fought for freedom.

A Closer Look

Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! ~~ Patrick Henry March 23, 1775

I’ll be honest with you – it is quite uncomfortable for me to take a closer look at Veterans Day. I am ashamed to admit that it wasn’t until recently that I began to understand and appreciate the great freedom we enjoy as citizens of the United States. I am even more ashamed to admit that I had little appreciation for its cost.

I grew up in an era when military service was not valued by a very vocal segment of our nation – much less honored. As a child, I witnessed night after night of students and others protesting the controversial Vietnam War on the evening news. Veterans who had put their lives on the line in service to their country were not welcomed home as heroes – but as outcasts.

It was a time when I found it hard to imagine why anyone would voluntarily choose to enter the military. Looking back, the only word for our nation’s treatment of our veterans during this period is – appalling.

Outside the Cocoon

It wasn’t until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 that I began to peek outside of my comfortable cocoon in the United States at life in countries with little freedom. I saw the cruel treatment of women in many Middle Eastern countries as they were beaten for appearing on the street without male escorts – even if their only reason for venturing out was to purchase food for their children. I saw how girls in these countries are denied access to education and have no choice in their marriage partners.

In Sudan, I learned of people – even children – tortured and murdered because they refuse to deny their faith in Jesus. In China, pregnant women are forced to abort their unborn children to comply with laws on family size.

In Central American countries, those who publicly disagree with governmental policies often “mysteriously” disappear – never to be seen again. The list of human rights violations and atrocities outside of the United States is extensive.

Yet, here I sit – in the wealthiest nation on the earth – free to attend the church of my choice, to own as many Bibles as I can afford, to choose my own husband (or choose not to marry), to vote for the leaders of my government and even write a letter to the editor of the newspaper when I disagree with the decisions they make.
And why can I enjoy these freedoms? Because the men and women in our armed forces understand that freedom has a cost. And since the birth of our nation, brave men and women have stepped forward, weighed the cost and chosen to lay down their lives in service to their fellow countrymen.

Thank you just isn’t enough. We need to pass these truths on to future generations – and Veterans Day is a great place to start.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

November 2, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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

From Tragedy to Triumph

If you ever attend the 9:15 Mass, you can’t miss the man who is nothing short of a big teddy bear ready to greet you and direct you to a seat with a good view. Head Usher, Jim Mottram never misses a beat and ALWAYS (yes, always) has a big smile on his face. Although his smile is contagious, his story is what’s captivating. About four years ago, his life crumbled. His first grandson, Nolan, died when he was just a few days old. Then, weeks later, his only son, Charlie died in a car crash on State Road 82. “Why, God, why?” would be the first words out of anyone’s mouth. Is there anything more debilitating? In our interview, Jim opened up about the unimaginable time in his life- But also, how in a moment of extreme tragedy, he didn’t run from God– Instead, he chased Him. As we reflect on All Souls’ Day and celebrate the lives of our deceased loved ones; be inspired by a story that will have you remembering about your loved one’s ‘dash’ (we’ll explain)—and remind you to live life to the fullest each and every day.


Danielle Koleniak: Before we go into your loss, how is everything right now?
Jim Mottram: The family is doing really well. Everyone is healthy. The girls are involved with different things and flourishing. We’ve come back to the church. That’s what is most amazing about this whole thing. We lost four family members here in Florida and also my brother who lived up north, all within a short period of time. It makes you angry in a sense, but then you stop and think…there had to be reasons for this. My son Charlie, for example: It took me so long to even be able to come around and talk about it. I can talk about it all the time now. It even makes me feel better to talk about him. I truly believe that God decided to take him at that particular time because He realized Charlie would be suffering too much on this earth. I find comfort in knowing God has a place for him in that case. Of course, it was too soon. It hurt us. You can’t compare the loss of your own child.

DK: You experienced a lot of tragedy in a short period of time- making it pretty easy to be angry at God.
JM: Oh, yes. I was angry in my own little way. I would ask myself, “Why did God do this?” and “What did we do wrong?” It was difficult to comprehend—debilitating. We still have our moments, but my wife and I both realized that God had a plan and a plan for us. That plan is working. My daughters say they find strength in everything they do because of their brother. We still feel his presence is around us. It’s amazing what believing and giving your faith back to God can do for healing.

DK: Looking at your relationship with God before the loss and looking at it now- explain to me the difference.
JM: I used to be an altar boy and I went to church all the time with my parents. I was bored with it. Then as I grew older, I drifted away. When I came to St. John XXIII, it renewed my faith. When the tragedy began with the loss of my first grandson, Nolan, we were so thankful to God that He guided us to this church and community. They took care of us and renewed our faith in God.

DK: You always seem so happy. You must have some weak moments at times?
JM: I do. I have my moments. I used to feel ‘poor me,’ but I see now that we’ve been blessed with four children. One was called away to God. I still have three beautiful, healthy girls who are making a great life for themselves. They miss him greatly, but they also use him as inspiration

DK: About a year after baby Nolan died, CC was born. Tell me about your grandson?
JM: He’s three years old now, almost four. He’s so special. He is the light of my world. He’s a lot like a Charlie in a sense. That too, has helped me cope. He’s funny. It’s amazing. We teach him about God, too. He also thinks Father Bob is God. We are doing our best to explain that Father Bob is God’s messenger—He’ll get it eventually.

DK: For someone who has experienced a lot of loss, what does All Souls’ Day mean to you?
JM: I celebrate everyone who has died and gone to heaven, not just the people I lost in my life. It’s for everybody. It’s also one of my daughter’s birthdays. It gives you time to reflect on everyone who has died and is with God, and also who you get to celebrate life with.

DK: You have four family members buried at our memorial garden. What does it mean to you to have them so close and at your parish?
JM: It’s wonderful. It’s beautiful to walk out there and reflect. It’s nice to be able to talk to someone so close and to talk to God. It’s like you go into another world when you’re there. Knowing that they’re right there has really helped us cope. My grandson and son are right next to each other. Whenever I’m in the memorial garden, I’m reminded that God has a plan for all of us. I have peace about it. I have my moments where I wish my son was still around. I wish I could see what would have been, so I think about what he did when he was alive. He had such an impact. I think about the dash (-). He was born in 1988 and died in 2010. The dash in between those two dates represents his whole life.

That’s what life is about- how you spend the ‘dash’ in your life!

October 26, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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

 A New Chapter: Father John Vu Cao

With much excitement, St. John XXIII Catholic Church welcomes our new priest, Father John Vu Cao. Father John traded the Golden State for the Sunshine State and calls the move a new chapter in life. But how he arrived is quite the testament. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, Father John was one of six children. His father died when he was eight years old. His memories of the war-torn country date back to when he was just a young boy. On April 30,1975, at just 10 years-old, he and his family left Vietnam by ship.

After 19 days at sea, they finally reached the Philippines. He went through several refugee camps before a Catholic church in Denver, Colorado sponsored his family.


In his introduction interview, Father John looked back at his childhood with gratefulness and explained how God called him to be a priest. You’ll also learn about what makes him tick… his favorite hobbies, the fact that he can’t remember the last time he ate a candy bar (yes, I’m serious), and what he loves most about serving God.
We couldn’t be more thrilled to have him as part of our family!

Danielle Koleniak: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Fr. John Vu Cao: I was born in southern Vietnam in 1965. I lived there for the first 10 years of my life. In 1975, we left. I lived in several refugee camps in the Philippians and California. Then a Catholic family near Denver, Colorado sponsored my mom and five siblings to move.

At the age of 12, I left home and joined the Vietnamese community in Carthage, Missouri. I was ordained in 2001.
I’ve been in Corona, California for the past 8 years.

DK: Where is your family now?
FJ: Everyone in my family is in California, except for my brother. He lives in Texas.

DK: What do you think of Southwest Florida, so far?
FJ: This is my first time in Florida. The people and the Vietnamese community have really welcomed me with open arms. I already feel a sense of community here.

DK: Tell me about the moment you decided to become a priest.
FJ: I knew at 12. I had a genuine desire to become a priest without knowing what it really meant. I didn’t feel like I could live a family life. I love children and I love family life, but I didn’t imagine myself having it. Plus, I’m a perfectionist. I don’t think anyone could stand me! Haha! There was something going on when God called me when I was 12, it wasn’t an accident. God put the right people in the right place to bring me to the priesthood. By 11th grade, I really decided that this was something I wanted to stay with for the rest of my life. I couldn’t imagine my life any other way.

DK: What are some of your hobbies?
FJ: I love to read books. They make me feel fulfilled. I like to read books about spirituality and Martial Arts novels. It’s addicting!
I also enjoy working in production/mass media.

DK: What are you most passionate about within the church?
FJ: I like working with small groups and ministries—helping people with growth in their spiritual life.

DK: What are your goals that you would like to see happen in our parish?
FJ: I want to continue to build on the foundation of the Vietnamese community here. My vision is to help people appreciate the spiritual life. I want to help the community grow.

DK: Now, onto some fun questions. What’s your favorite food?
FJ: Steak.

DK: Favorite Dessert?
FJ: Fruit. I don’t like cake or candy. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a candy bar.

DK: Music?
FJ: I like Vietnamese folk music and 80s Pop

DK: Play any sports?
FJ: I like tennis, soccer and basketball.

DK: Where would you like to travel?
FJ: I would like to go to South America. I’ve never been there before.

DK: If you were trapped on an island, what three things must you have with you?
FJ: Wine and bread to celebrate Mass and books.

DK: What is one thing that most people don’t know about you?
FJ: I’m an introvert, so some people may get the impression that I’m cold when really, I really want to have friends. I like to interact with people.

DK: We’re so excited to have you. You will have many friends here!