The Blessed Blog

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

Jan. 25th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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A Toast to the Soul

by Danielle Koleniak

Proverbs 27:17 | “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”

It’s easy to come to church on Sundays, celebrate Mass, eat a doughnut and then go about the rest of the weekend– but what about the other 166.5 hours in your week? Yes, there’s work, taking care of your children/grandchildren, walking the dog, squeezing in some tee (or tea) time, food shopping, cooking, cleaning, soccer practice, driving to soccer practice… and before you know it, you’re burnt out!


Rest assured, (just don’t fall asleep) there’s something to give you the boost (or taste) you need. It’s called, Faith & Wine Lee County, and if you have three more minutes to take a deep breath and read this article, you’ll learn about the heart behind the mission and why women (yes, you) should enjoy a night out complete with a light meal, a glass of wine, inspiring speakers and an opportunity to connect with women in the faith, like Sue Ammon, who are living in the same crazy/beautiful world as you. Oh, and it gets better… babysitting is available (yes, you have to take the kids home with you at the end of the night…).

Be reminded, just as iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend; after all, no one likes a dull nail filer ;)

Danielle Koleniak: How did the idea to bring Faith & Wine to Lee County come about?
Sue Ammon: It all started when I was in a Bible Study with Sharon and Al Natella. Al would talk about the success of Faith & Ale and how many women would come to him asking why there wasn’t something like it for women. He mentioned Naples had Faith & Wine for women and it was very popular. Soon after, I decided to retire and thought with a new chapter in life, I could help make the idea into a reality. We started to bring a team of women from local parishes together to develop the program for Lee County. Next thing I know… I was voted President of Faith & Wine for Lee County! It was totally unexpected, but I love being a part of this. There is so much good energy!

DK: For those who don’t know what Faith & Wine is, explain the concept.
SA: In Naples they host it at St. John the Evangelist Parish Hall. The organization brings both local and national speakers to the event. The women sit down for a light dinner and a glass of wine, fellowship and listen to speakers talk about their spiritual journeys or issues prevalent to women in the Catholic faith. It’s warm, welcoming and fun to share some special time with other women in the faith.

DK: Why is it important for just women to come together and to have fellowship with one another?
SA: We go to Mass, we go to Bible Study, we even go to church events—we learn and grow through all of that, but there’s also nothing like women coming together in the faith and connecting with one another. Father Bob, our Chaplain had a specific vision for Faith & Wine in Lee County. It’s his vision that women in our community come together in our faith, building friendships and supporting one another. He really wants us to focus on local speakers to share their faith journey. Then after the presenter speaks, women have some time to share with each other at the table. Our plan is to come together and let us connect over what we just heard. It’s about loving our neighbor and connecting with one another. The body of Christ is divided and scattered. God wants us to be in unity while living in the faith. We’re hoping this achieves that.

DK: So this isn’t just for women in our parish?
SA: The more of us that come together, the more love we generate. It’s open to all Catholic women in Lee County, but it’s truly open to women of all ages, denominations and faiths.
DK: What kind of topics will the speakers touch on?

SA: We have two speakers set up for separate events. The first is Mary Beth Clary. She started the Faith and Wine in Naples. She’s currently an attorney and will share her faith journey called, ‘Faith, Journey or Roller Coaster?”. She’s going to talk about her journey from Cradle Catholic, to fallen away Catholic who eventually returns to Catholicism and becomes the founder of Faith and Wine. She is so much fun and funny! Her story is so similar to many of us. We’ve fallen away from our faith for a long time. She’s relatable. We just confirmed our speaker for our second event on March 26th: Parishioner, Gabriela Frei! She is a professional singer, too. Her talk is titled, “Full of Grace. Songs of Surrender and Trust to Jesus through Mary.” She is also going to share her faith journey interwoven with song.

DK: As leader of Faith and Wine, what is your goal for the event?
SA: I want this to be a soft landing for women…a place where all they have to do is show up. No homework, no preparations, free babysitting—just come and enjoy yourself and the company of others. It’s not an intimidating session where you have to know the Bible and Catechism. Faith and Wine is place you can bring your friends who have fallen away. It’s a great way to evangelize and bring people closer to Christ.
We’re all coming from different places in life, but we’re all truly in the same place—we have the same heart.

Jan. 18th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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A Voice for the Silent

by Danielle Koleniak

As thousands of northerners made their way down to sunny and warm Southwest Florida, a group of 11 Bishop Verot High School students are heading to Washington DC, where the temperature this month averages 45 degrees.

Their purpose is far more important than taking a ‘selfie’ with the National Monument—They’re marching for life. Since January 22, 1974 (the day abortion was legalized), 56 million people have gathered to rally their pro-life support on the day of prayer for the legal protection of unborn children.


This year, more than 500,000 people from all over the world are expected to attend the largest pro-life event in the world. Bishop Verot sophomore and St. John XXIII parishioner, Elena Quinonez will be one of 11 students from the Catholic high school, traveling to the cold temps to pray, take a stand, and march through the National Capital in hope of bringing change and ultimately, saving lives.

Danielle Koleniak: How did you first learn about ‘March for Life?’
Elena Quinonez: I’m in a club for school called ‘Mission in Life.’ One day we went to Planned Parenthood to pray for the unborn. After we prayed, our Director of Campus Ministry, Matthew Burback, told our club about ‘March for Life’ and asked if any of us were interested in going to Washington DC to join the effort. The march is similar to what we do in our own town, except in Washington DC, march and pray with thousands of people.

DK: Explain what the ‘Mission in Life’ club is.
EQ: About 20 highschoolers come together to work in bettering our community.We do service projects together. For example, for Christmas we wrapped gifts for children in need. Now we’re focusing on Respect for Life.

DK: How many are attending the march from Bishop Verot High School?
EQ: We’re a group of 11. We’re going to fly to Washington DC and stay for four days. We’re paying for the trip on our own.

DK: Why is the Respect for Life cause so important to you?
EQ: Deciding someone’s fate is not our decision. Life is sacred from the beginning. We need to protect the unborn and be a voice for the babies who don’t have voices. It’s important to make a stand, march, and pray for that.

DK: You’re at an age where young ladies are having abortions. How does this hit ‘close to home?’
EQ: My dad is a doctor and he tells me that girls my age come into his office pregnant and look at abortion as an option. I think it’s important that the teenagers should know that they don’t only have that option.

DK: What are you expecting for this trip?
EQ: Cold weather, for sure. Haha! The march starts in the National Mall and it’s a long walk through Washington DC. Everyone marches together and prays. To have everyone together, believing and praying for the same thing, is really powerful. I think this will really make my beliefs and passion even stronger, and hopefully bring change. When we come back home, it would be great to share our experience with other students at Bishop Verot High School.

Prayer to End Abortion

Lord God,
I thank you today for the gift of my life,
And for the lives of all my brothers and sisters.
I know there is nothing that destroys more life than abortion,
Yet I rejoice that you have conquered death by the Resurrection of Your Son.
I am ready to do my part in ending abortion.
Today I commit myself
Never to be silent, never to be passive, never to be forgetful of the unborn.
I commit myself to be active in the pro-life movement,
And never to stop defending life
Until all my brothers and sisters are protected,
And our nation once again becomes
A nation with liberty and justice
Not just for some, but for all,
Through Christ our Lord. Amen!

Jan. 11th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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A Baptism of their Own

The Gospel’s account of Jesus’ baptism marks a pivotal moment where Jesus begins his public ministry by going into the Jordan River to receive the baptism of repentance and conversion. It’s also quite a mind-boggling image to grasp. There was Jesus—without sin—putting himself next to sinners and expressing His commitment to God.

Many of us do not remember our baptism, but for those who have children of their own, you may recall the sacred moment when the priest poured holy water over your little one’s head—and the promise you gave to God and your child.


Parishioners, Maggie and Vern Swanson, remember the promise three times over. Their third child, eight-week old, Addalin was just recently baptized. In this week’s article, Maggie opens up about how her relationship with Christ and the Church changed when she became a mother.

Whether your children are still little minions or grown adults with their own children, celebrate the significance of the Baptism of the Lord and be reminded that just like the day at the Jordan River, Jesus is always right beside you.

Danielle Koleniak: What’s motherhood like now with three children?

Maggie Swanson: It’s interesting. We’re outnumbered now. We tag team everything. Usually, my husband will take on the toddlers and I’ll keep Addalin. When I’m by myself, that’s when things get interesting! Annabelle is four. Vernie is two, and Addalin is eight weeks, but they all behave very well.

DK: When you and your husband Vern first became parents how important was it for Annabelle to be baptized?

MS: It was a huge priority. We were living in Michigan at the time. We flew into Fort Myers just so Annabelle could be baptized in our home parish by Father Bob. We knew she would grow up in this parish. As planned, we eventually moved back down to Fort Myers and now are raising three children in the church.

DK: Talk about the significance each time. Addalin was baptized recently.

MS: For me, I truly didn’t understand my faith until I had children. My oldest was born 6 days before Christmas and I can remember reading her “The First Christmas.” As I held her in my arms and read the book, I started to cry because I understood what Mary was going through; except for her, it was much more extreme. She was in a stable, today there is modern medicine. With each child I had, it touched my heart more and more. When you become a parent, you want the absolute best for your kids, but the most important thing you can give them is faith. We want them to develop a strong relationship with God at the very beginning.

DK: How important was it for you to have all siblings present during Addalin’s baptism?

MS: The closest people Addalin will have in her life are her two siblings, especially when guiding her in her faith.

DK: Addalin ‘played’ baby Jesus at this past Christmas Eve Mass. Walk me through what is was like to watch it all play out.

MS: It was emotional. You’re imagining what it was like for Mary and everything she went through that night. I also saw the impact it had in other parishioners as they watched Father Bob place her in the manger. It’s amazing to see how someone so little… who can’t talk, walk, or do much of anything, can have such an impact on so many people. Just as it relates to Jesus, but so much more—when He was a tiny newborn He changed the world.

DK: Reflecting on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Jesus was without sin, and still chose to be baptized. What significance does this hold to you?

MS: To me, it meant He was just as much a part of the faith as He was the leader of the faith. He put himself on our level to show us that He isn’t just here for us, He is walking alongside us.

DK: As a Catholic, why do you believe it is important to commemorate the day?

MS: It gives us an opportunity each year to renew our faith and commit to our faith again for the coming year. We all make New Year’s resolutions to eating well and working out, but this is a chance for us to reflect on how we can improve our walk in the faith and a being better servant.

It’s important that no matter how old your kids are, whether they are three weeks old, three years old, or 30 years old, that you take the opportunity to tell them about the church and encourage them to be part of the faith. It’s one thing to baptize your child, but the significance is teaching them that faith is so much more than going to church on Sunday morning, it’s living it throughout the week.

Jan. 4th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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Feast of the Epiphany

The Church has a custom of blessing homes on the Feast of the Epiphany and the week following. Family and friends gather to ask God’s blessing on their homes and those who live in or visit the home. It is an invitation for Jesus to be a daily guest in our home, our comings and goings, our conversations, our work and play, our joys and sorrows.


A traditional way of doing this is to use chalk blessed during the Epiphany liturgy and write above the home’s entryway, 20 + C + M + B + 15. The letters C, M, B have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the three magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. They also abbreviate the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless the house.” The “+” signs represent the cross and 2015 is the year.
January 6, which is 12 days after Christmas in the Gregorian calendar, marks not only the end of the Christmas holidays but also the start of the Carnival season, which climaxes with Mardi Gras. In some European countries, such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia, children dress as the three kings and visit houses. In their roles as the kings, or wise men, they sing about Jesus’ birth and pay homage to the “king of kings”. They are rewarded with praise and cookies.

Dia de los Reyes Magos is the Latin American celebration of Epiphany. In many Latin American countries, it is the three wise men and not Santa Claus who bring gifts for children. Children write letters to the wise men telling them how good they were and what gifts they want. In France, Le Jour des Rois (the Day of Kings), sometimes called the Fête des Rois, is celebrated with parties for children and adults. The galette des rois, or “cake of kings”, highlights these celebrations. This cake is round and flat, cut into the pantry, covered with a white napkin and carried into a dining room.
Children in Spain fill their shoes with straw or grain for the three kings’ horses to eat and place them on balconies or by the front door on Epiphany Eve. The next day they find cookies, sweets or gifts in their place. The “three kings” make an entry in many cities in Spain on Epiphany Eve, accompanied by military bands and drummers in medieval dress.

On Epiphany (or New Year) you can bless your house. You can make this as simple or as intricate as you like; include (liturgical) greeting (eg. “The Lord be with you…”), song or carol, holy water (sprinkling door, each room), reading (eg. Epiphany Gospel, start of John’s Gospel), more prayers, Lord’s Prayer, incense, and assigning parts to different members of the household. Many homes are the dwelling for one person – the blessing of a home is equally appropriate.


Leader: Peace be in this place.
All: And with all who enter here.

Leader: Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. You have blessed the earth with abundant water. May it be for us a pledge of cleansing and protection.
All: Blessed be God forever.
A member of the family takes the water and a sprig of greenery and sprinkles the rooms of the house and the people, while all say together:
All: I will pour out water upon the thirsty ground, and streams upon the dry land.;
I will pour out my spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing upon your descendants.

One person makes the inscription with chalk above the door, while another proclaims the corresponding words.
The three wisemen, C Casper M Melchior, and B Balthasar
Followed the star of God’s Son who became man
2015 Two thousand, fifteen years ago.
+ May Christ bless our dwelling
+ and remain with us throughout the new year
Leader: Lift up your heads, O gates!
All: That the King of Glory may come in
Leader: Who is the King of Glory?
All: The Lord of hosts is the King of Glory!

Leader: God of Salvation, incline your ear. Bless us and all those who gathered here. Your angels send us, who will defend us, and fill with grace all who dwell in this place.
All: Amen

Christmas Congrats | The 23rd Times

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Dear Parishioners of St. John XXIII Catholic Church,

It’s hard to believe it has been 12 years since our parish, Blessed Pope John XXIII was formed. In April of 2014, we celebrated the canonization of St. John XXIII.

Your collective efforts have allowed us to pay off our huge mortgage. We are now debt free!

First, I would like to thank our generous parishioners for getting us to this point.

Also, I truly appreciate the wisdom and guidance of the Parish Finance Committee, Parish Advisory Council and our Strategic Planning Committee. Without the countless efforts of Al Natella, Mike Mullin, and all the members of their committees this would not be possible.

I’d like to personally thank our Business Manager, Holly Atkins, and Bookkeeper, Ana Thompson, in overseeing the records.

Once again, my heartfelt thanks and congratulations to you, parishioners, and to the private donors who have supported us throughout this journey.

May 2015 bless you all with good health and happiness in Christ.

God’s peace,
Father Bob Tabbert