The Blessed Blog

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

September 28, 2014 | The 23rd Times

By | Bulletin, Interviews, The 23rd Times | No Comments

Stepping into the Future

We all strive to live a life of meaning and purpose. Whether it may be in our careers, volunteering in our free time, or raising our children better than our parents raised us. Some way, somehow, before we leave this world, we hope we made a little difference and left a footprint behind.


We all strive to live a life of meaning and purpose. Whether it may be in our careers, volunteering in our free time, or raising our children better than our parents raised us. Some way, somehow, before we leave this world, we hope we made a little difference and left a footprint behind.

A priest’s life is committed to making a difference; In praying for the sick in his or her most desperate hour, in loving people, and sharing the Word of God to those who are lost.

Here, at St. John XXIII, our priests are our family (we might even like them a little bit more).
For the past three years, Father Bernie has been everything his mission stands for.

He has grown the Vietnamese community in our parish, counseled families, and traveled on mission trips building homes in rural communities.
Now, God and his community have called him to a new journey… to a much colder climate…where there are definitely no palm trees- Missouri.

Selfishly, we don’t want to see him go, but what’s next is big. Father Bernie will be taking a leadership role in the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix (CMC) for Annual Marion Days Celebrations. The CMC is a religious community of priests and brothers based out of Carthage, Missouri. In August each year, 50,000 to 60,000 Vietnamese American Catholics gather in Carthage for the celebration. He’ll also be working with families, praying for the sick and reaching out to the lonely.

As we dedicate our Masses, celebrate him and send him off with big hugs, one thing is certain— From the bottom of our hearts, Father Bernie, we thank you- for leaving one big footprint behind at St. John XXIII.

Damian Hanley: What has it been like to be the spiritual leader for the Vietnamese community here and why is it important to have this?
Father Bernie: I’m so grateful to God, to my Superior, to Father Bob, and to this parish for the last three years. I think God has a plan for all of us. For the last three years, I saw and experienced a lot of blessings that God has granted to me personally and within the Parish and the Vietnamese community. I came here September 1, 2011. Time flies by quicky. As you may know, another Vietnamese Priest, Father John Cao, will be replacing me.

I remember the first New Year’s celebration we had here. This older man- He’s 70-something…had been in Florida for quite some time. For years he tried to gather the Vietnamese community, but it never happened. Until that day, three years ago, when we first celebrated the Vietnamese New Year. He was shedding tears and thanking God for finally giving everyone a home where we can gather together to worship God and to celebrate with one another.

For us, that’s special in this country. For the last three years, I gave my best with the wide open arms of Father Bob and such a welcoming Parish.

I had a chance to work with some of the Vietnamese people here and establish a Vietnamese community here. They’re such loving people. For some time they felt like lost sheep. Now they have a place to go. Some of our people travel 30-40 minutes to worship and thank God on Saturday evenings. More and more, people still continue to come.

DH: What are some of the things you see within this specific community?
FB: The biggest problem I saw was that they had been living in this ‘neighborhood’ too long without a shepherd. They had (and continue to have) the language barrier, so it was hard for them to come to Mass because they didn’t understand anything. For a long time they wouldn’t go to church. They didn’t have spiritual guidance, so their lives were spent away from the Church. A lot of them struggled with their family lives.

Damian: What was something you quickly embraced when you first came to the Parish?
FB: When Father Bob and the staff took me in the Church I saw the credo hanging on the wall. That moment is still in my heart.

Danielle Koleniak: What did the credo mean to you?
FB: It spoke to me that no matter who I am, I am accepted , respected and loved at this Parish. It made me feel at home.

DH: What is the next chapter for you?
FB: My religious community called me back to Missouri to help out with the community. I’ll be in charge of the evangelization program. This means for the next four years, I’ll be in charge of the Annual Marion Days Celebration. About 80 thousand people come to the United States from all over the world for four days.
I’ll also be in charge of the CMC families—reaching out to the poor, the sick and the lonely.

DK: What excites you about this next journey?
FB: It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m excited to bring Christ to different people.

DK: Looking back on the past three years, What difference do you hope you made in the lives of others?
FB: I love the community. I love the people. Especially, Saturday night Mass— people just hang out after. It shows me that they feel at home here and have peace here. I saw it really come together when we built the Vietnamese Memorial. I’m going to miss the children, the choir, the women who help prepare the food, all the fun: Christmas Midnight Mass, picnics and New Year celebration.

DK: We are going to miss you, too!

September 21, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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

The Generosity of God | Father Bob-Cast



Small Tunes take on a Big Cause


There’s nothing like the song ‘Happy’ to turn a bad day around. Or Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ to make traffic on Daniels pleasant. You can call it, ‘rocking out’ or you can call it music therapy. Regardless, music is good for the soul.
Music therapy’s notoriety took off when Gabby Giffords was recovering from a gunshot wound to her head. You may remember, Gabby Giffords was a member of the United States House of Representatives.

On January 8, 2011, a week into her third term, Giffords was a victim of a shooting near Tucson, which was reported to be an assassination attempt on her, at a supermarket where she was meeting publicly with constituents. She was critically injured; thirteen people were injured and six others were killed in the shooting, among them Federal Judge John Roll. At first she could not talk, so she and her music therapist sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and other classics together. Singing helped her brain relearn how to form words for conversation.

Music therapy’s healing work is also used for children who are chronically ill. Singing, song writing and playing musical instruments are a way to help them cope. It’s a moment to take them on a journey, away from reality and bring healing through a tune or beat.

Research has shown that music with a strong beat can stimulate brainwaves to resonate in sync with the beat, with faster beats bringing sharper concentration and more alert thinking, and a slower tempo promoting a calm, meditative state. Also, research has found that the change in brainwave activity levels that music can bring can also enable the brain to shift speeds more easily on its own as needed, which means that music can bring lasting benefits to your state of mind, even after you’ve stopped listening.

This week we sat down and talked with high school senior and parishioner, Sam Eusanio.

As a child, he was diagnosed with Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura, also known as I-T-P. If you’re not familiar with the disorder, don’t be embarrassed— I had to ‘Google it.’ ITP is a disorder that can lead to easy or excessive bruising and bleeding. The bleeding results from unusually low levels of platelets — the cells that help your blood clot.
At 13, the Children’s Hospital was a revolving door for Sam. In that time he saw children, just like him, going through (in his eyes) far worse. His heart felt compelled that one day, when he was healthy again, he would make those terrible moments for others feel a little less painful, boring or depressing.

Over the years he’s developed a passion for guitar. (Even though his little brother, Nick thinks he has to finish his workbook to be considered a true pro.)

His passion also brought healing— an escape from the realities of being a teenager and coping with ITP.
Guitar was therapy for Sam – a little escape from ITP… and with the memories of the long hours at the hospital as a child still clear in his mind, he says it’s time to pay it forward.

Over the next few months, Sam is collecting instruments to donate to the music therapy program at the Golisano Children’s Hospital. But his mission doesn’t stop there. He’ll be working alongside the music therapists to teach pediatric patients how to play guitar. (I thought teenagers were supposed to be selfish, texting/instagraming minions?)

To Sam, this is a small act of kindness to tie into a school project. But its effects could potentially supersede the feeling the song ‘Happy’ bring on a bad day. It could bring healing. Healing for a child who is consumed by their chronic illness, that in a moment… one simple tune… one string of the guitar… could take their mind to another dimension and bring cope into their lives.

Damian Hanley: Tell me about this ministry and why you started it.
Sam Eusanio: It started as a task project at school. It was in collaboration with one of my friends, Connor. I was a patient at the Children’s Hospital at Healthpark for some time. My friend and I both play guitar, so we thought why don’t we teach kids at the hospital how to play instruments? But, then we decided to start a donation, too.

D: How are you getting those donations and what are you collecting?
S: We just started this process. We’re looking to the church to get some donations. We’re also going to local instrument stores and putting up fliers. We’re looking for new instruments, used, and even monetary donations. We’ll then team up with the hospital’s music therapy program and teach some guitar lessons to the pediatric patients.

D: How did having an instrument in the hospital help you while you were ill?
S: That’s the thing, I didn’t. I’d have to say, the time I was in the hospital was the most boring three days of my life. I know there are kids there who stay longer than that. I know if they had something to do, to just take their mind off their illness, it would help them through it.

D: If you don’t mind sharing, why were you in the hospital and what was it like?
S: I found out I had Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura, also known as I-T-P. It’s an immune disorder where your immune system attacks your blood platelets. Your blood has a hard time with coagulation.

D: How did you find out?
S: I was 13 years old when I had little red dots all over my skin. We went into the doctor and then went to the hospital for blood tests. They say it’s actually common, but most people don’t have it long enough to actually have the full effect.

D: How has this changed your life? Tell me about your life now.
S: I want to go to college; I think the University of Florida. I want to go into the medical field. Specifically, I want to get my doctorate in biochemistry. I have an interest in human anatomy and biology, so being a doctor just seems like the right fit. You get to help people.

D: Explain to me the program at your school called C.A.S.? How is that part of your International Baccalaureate program?
S: It stands for Creativity, Action and Service. It’s a required course for IB students. You need 50 hours in CAS. In that, you have a project that must include at least two categories in the service. This project includes creativity and service.

D: How can people help your cause?
S: They can donate used instruments, purchase and donate new instruments or give a monetary donation, so we can purchase instruments. We’ll collect everything through Christmas and then bring them to the Children hospital’s music therapy program.
For more information or to help the cause contact Sam at:
(239) 898-9239

September 14, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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

We’re SO close!

Last Sunday, we heard our finance committee speak on the future of our Parish – very exciting! We’re close to being debt free. Our numbers continue to swell, and the fact remains, we need a Parish Life Center. For a recap on this plan, check out the Father Bob-Cast in this week’s e-News, and download the bulletin for the rest of the events and happenings.


And in case you missed it…

Mike Reese’s Church History overview class is now online! Visit the page here.



September 7, 2014 | The 23rd Times

By | Bulletin, Interviews, Ministries, The 23rd Times | No Comments

It’s hard to stop thinking about Robin Williams. When you cruise YouTube, you find his stand-up, one-liners from The Dead Poets Society, and dance moves from Mrs. Doubtfire. He really raised the bar on vacuuming in tights and a dress. Then I clicked on an old commercial he did as a public service announcement about depression and suicide. It only had a few thousand views, but it struck me. Williams looked straight into the camera and said, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”


Please email with your scripture reflections today! What is your favorite Gospel passage and how does it affect your life? We’d love to know!


This week we interviewed Becky Anderson of Verity Pregnancy Center. Becky and her staff meet girls every day who are on the brink of making permanent decisions. They counsel them by telling them the truth. It’s not a clump of cells. It’s a life. It’s not just the hardest decision they’ll ever make, it’s a decision that will change the course of their life, no matter what they choose. It’s not a “problem”, it’s a gift. If we believe in God, then we’re supposed to believe that all life is a gift (even if your Gift is screaming and throwing a tantrum in the line at Publix).
Family, friends and fans mourned the death of Robin Williams. Suicide leaves a wake of untold consequences. You can’t measure the pain because it doesn’t come from a place of loss. It comes from a place of what might have been. When women in their 70’s or 80’s confess an abortion that’s 4 or 5 decades old, they never talk about the guilt they feel for taking a life. They mourn the] fact that “my daughter would be 50 years old today”, or “my son would probably have kids of his own by now.”

When young women reach for a permanent solution, they’re doing so out of fear. Becky and Verity’s job is to get them to look at the bigger picture of their lives and make a decision that won’t haunt them for the next 50 years.

Their job is to inject just a small amount of faith into them because with that, fear can be overcome. Too many young women view an unplanned pregnancy as a temporary problem. As a parish, we are supporting Verity because they’re working to change that stigma one person at a time.

We sat down and asked Becky a few questions, and she gave us a few answers. Keep reading and help support their upcoming golf tournament…

Damian: Tell me what you guys do here, specifically?
Becky Anderson: Verity Pregnancy Center is what some would call years ago, ‘A Crisis Pregnancy Center’– where young women come looking for answers to the unplanned pregnancy they are facing. Many have not made the decision as to whether they want to keep the baby, adopt it out or choose abortion.

DH: So it’s not called a ‘Crisis Pregnancy Center?’ What’s it called?
BA: ‘A Pregnancy Help Center’ or ‘Pregnancy Medical Center.’

DH: Why get away from that term?
BA: Women may have equated the term ‘Crisis’ with a life affirming center. We don’t care what we call ourselves, as long as a woman makes a choice to come to our center before she would ever go to an abortion center.

DH: What do you do differently than other places?
BA: We converted to a medical model. We have a nurse on staff who does ultrasounds on a pregnant woman who is early in her pregnancy. It allows us to verify there is a viable pregnancy. We also provide the pregnancy testing that is done before that. We do a lot of education that goes along with helping a woman to continue a healthy pregnancy for the long term. We provide everything from childbirth classes to answering a mother’s common questions.

DH: What do you say to woman that ultimately ‘changes her mind’ about pregnancy?
BA: Our society says that women have choices. The problem is, women who are looking toward abortion feel they don’t have a choice. For example, there’s the one mother who has a one year-old…the boyfriend just left, she lost her job and feels she doesn’t know how she is going to feed another mouth. They feel they have no choice. What we provide is truth. Truth of what they’re facing. Truth that there is a consequence of each choice they face. We provide them with information. And last, Finally, we provide them hope.

DH: You deal with a lot of heavy situations. What is that like from day to day?
BA: It depends on how prayed-up we are. We begin every morning, as a staff, with prayer because we can’t do this on our own. Even in those circumstances, we leave for the day absolutely exhausted. The reason why we are ready for the next day is because we know we made a difference – not just for the life of the mother who has hope, but the life of a baby who now gets to live.

DH: What is something our parishioners can do help out the cause?
BA: Prayer. Pray that women find us before they find the abortion clinic. Second, get involved with voting. There are tons of laws that are protecting the unborn. Volunteer. We started a Fatherhood Ministry here. It gives dads a connection point. We’re going to be offering “dad” classes. It allows dads to talk with seasoned dads about what it means to be a good dad. They can also help with material assistance. We give out a ton of diapers and clothes—that’s one of the ways we provide hope to our clients. You can also help out with fundraising events.
Verity Pregnancy Center Fundraiser. September 22nd at Pelican Preserve.

‘A Day of Golf’ For More Information: 239-433-1929
If you or someone you know is in an UNPLANNED PREGNANCY and you don’t know what to do, you are not alone. Verity is here to help. Whether you are in need of a pregnancy test, information regarding your choices, a medical referral, material services, or just a confidential friend to talk to, we are here to help.

Verity Pregnancy & Medical
Resources Center
8890 Salrose Lane
Ste. 104
Fort Myers, FL 33912

August 31, 2014 | The 23rd Times

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

Life as Ministry w/ Robin Dysard

On this election day (last Tuesday), I skim the local news sites for information on the election taking place, and I’m reminded (by Rick Scott), that this election – like every other – is about jobs, and education… and half a dozen other buzzwords that mean nothing in the context they’re being used. The Naples Republican claims 620,000 jobs have been created during his time in office while 832,000 people lost their jobs during Democratic candidate former Gov. Charlie Crist’s tenure. This probably had nothing to do with the natural cycle of the recession that started less than a year after Crist took office, but that’s neither here nor there. The good news is that 620,000 people have new opportunities to make money, feed their families, give to their Church, and buy new Apple products, to avoid suffering the indignity of the iPhone 4S.

Watch the interview.


Although the function of at least 99% of those jobs will not be addressing the spiritual needs of anyone nearby, each one is an opportunity to do some marginal evangelization.
I’d like to believe that God doesn’t much care what we do for a living (so long as it’s honest and decent), and so if we’re going to be engaged in an activity for 8+ hours per day, why don’t we do the Catholic Thing, and introduce people to Jesus. But is that the Catholic thing? Because most of the people we stumble across in life, the ones aggressively trying to evangelize us and make sure we’re saved, are Protestants (and Jehovah’s Witnesses, even more so). I’ve never been cornered at the Mall by a Catholic, and a priest has never arbitrarily knocked on my door for a visit, but maybe it’s time Catholics step up their game.

Let’s face it, everywhere we go, people are hurting. Whether we sell insurance, mow lawns, or do taxes, we’re dealing with people that could use more love in their lives. Robin Dysard happens to be a physical therapist. She works in home health, so she’s in and out people’s homes who are, by definition, homebound. Without a vibrant and active support system, homebound people suffer from loneliness, and with that, depression. These become the forgotten externalities of a health condition that may seem as mundane as, say, a broken hip. Robin finds small ways to show them her faith. She doesn’t “cram” religion down their throat. She doesn’t try to save them (or assume they need saving). She does the Catholic Thing. She treats them with love and respect, and when asked, she attributes her gentle way of being to her relationship with God. As a volunteer board member at Verity Pregnancy Center, she’s also leading a life of deliberate service to some of the most vulnerable people in society – the unborn. I sat down (we stood, really) with Robin Dysard and we talked about her journey in, away from, and back to the Catholic faith, and what she’s been up to in the mean time. These were some of her answers.

Damian: So you are a Catholic “revert”, and you also sit on the board of Verity – a crisis pregnancy center. Which one do you want to talk about first?
Robin Dysard: I think I’ll talk about being a Catholic revert. It’s a big part of my identity. I was raised Catholic, and I left when I was young because it didn’t really mean anything to me. I was just sitting in the pew, and that was probably a result of ineffective catechesis as a child. But later, I was actually evangelized by another Catholic (when coming back), and I never realized what I had left. I’d probably thought that Jesus founded the Protestant Church. I just had no idea. A lot of people are unaware of the writings of the founding Church Fathers, such as Ignatius of Antioch. It’s really an exciting thing – being a Catholic, and I love being a part of the Faith Education committee here.

DH: Yes, I do see your name in and around the Church… What is it you do in that role?
RD: I work with a team called Faith Alive, and we look at different programs to bring to the Church to educate adults. What I really love is the heart of the people on the committee. We just finished reading the book Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell, and in it, she explains that a lot of people are leaving the Catholic Church because their spiritual needs are not being met. They end up going to protestant churches which are a completely different atmosphere. They really concentrate on forming a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, so that’s what we’re working on right now.

DH: Well that’s their tagline, right? “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” And a lot of Catholics are like you. Raised Catholic and maybe they fell away, but they’re back, and certainly they’ve been approached at the mall by these evangelizers. “Are you saved?” And you’ve got to think, I feel good today… maybe I have been? Tell me what that means – to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Did you get that when you were in that community?
RD: I did, actually, but over time I lost that closeness I had when I first got “saved”, and that was probably my fault. But I still do believe that it’s very important for people to develop an active prayer life and work on a deeper relationship with God. So I’m really excited to help start a group like that, so we can meet the needs of people seeking a deeper relationship.

DH: Certainly there are lots of people that are in need of that, whether or not they pursue it is another story, but more so than in most places, this pregnancy center must serve people in that type of situation. We all know “the deal”, right? Those girls are scared, they’re confused, and they need resources of all types. Why do you choose to serve young women in those situations, rather than, say, the humane society?
RD: That’s a great question. I feel called to that because I have a personal experience related to that ministry, and I think most women are afraid to talk about it openly. There’s a lot of shame involved in crisis pregnancy, but we all need to know the love of God. All people make mistakes when they’re young, but Verity is there to help these women make the right choices and get truthful information – not the type of information they’d get at Planned Parenthood.

DH: So tell me what happens when a girl comes in?
RD: On the first visit they fill out forms and are interviewed, they will have a pregnancy test, and they will meet with a counselor. They may not necessarily have an ultrasound the first visit but if they are abortion vulnerable we try to get them to have an ultrasound that visit; seeing life makes a big difference in these women’s lives.

DH: Okay, so you don’t “work” for Verity, can I ask what you do with your life? You have bills and stuff, right?
RD: Haha. I just give those to my husband. But seriously, I’m a physical therapist, and I do home health care, so that in itself is its own ministry.

DH: Right, because loneliness and the whole shut-in epidemic is huge. What is that like, walking into someone’s home who is literally dying of loneliness?
RD: Any kind of illness causes depression. Aging causes depression, so if I can reach them in any way… Sometimes I just talk about my Church to them and it will spark a fire.

DH: Knowing about this epidemic, you feel helpless, right? We don’t know where they are actually located. We don’t know what their life is like. We don’t know if their needs are met…
RD: I just do what I can to reach them. You sort of get a gauge of their faith when you go into their house. If you see nothing religious, like a crucifix or an image of Mary, you sort of tread lightly. I will still say “God bless you”, or “I will pray for you”, but I stop there. The people I see are hurting though, and it’s a great opportunity to reach them.

Verity is holding a Golf Marathon at Pelican Preserve Country Club. September 22nd, it’s a full day of golf. Golfers will receive free lessons throughout the day. Jim Cole – who played on the PGA tour – will be there to mentor the golfers. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. Monetary donations are accepted, as well as Golfer Sponsorships. Visit Verity’s website for more information