The Blessed Blog

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

July 26th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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My Lesson in Hospitality

By: Deacon David Reardon | Deacon Digest/Abbey Press

As a part of our diaconal formation program in the Diocese of Venice-in-Florida, we were asked to attend a Mass in another Roman Catholic community in which we had no experience. My wife Mary and I chose to attend the Vietnamese Mass at St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers. The Mass is celebrated on Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m.


My initial concerns were that I knew nothing about the Vietnamese culture, language, sensibility, or spirituality. It seemed intimidating and disorienting to plant ourselves in the midst of this group unannounced. I didn’t know what to expect. How would we be seen and viewed? What would they make of us suddenly entering their community as complete strangers?

Walking from the parking lot to the church were the young and the old. Most had clearly taken time to dress well for the occasion; it was clear they cared about this time, which seemed to suggest this was an important occasion in their lives. It also suggested to me that—like many immigrants to this country—they appeared to have integrated enough into American society that they were achieving some degree of material success.

Why did the Mass begin at 8:00 p.m.? Many Vietnamese are small business owners, many keeping their shops open until 7:00 p.m. on Saturday evenings. They have come to this country to work. As we would see, they had come there that evening to worship and give thanks to the Lord with equal enthusiasm.

We walked somewhat hurriedly and nervously through the Narthex into the church. I felt the urge to steer toward the rear of the church so that I might have a broader perspective from which to view the Mass, the congregation, and the choir. However, it seemed Mary and I both realized simultaneously and without speaking that it would be much more important to seat ourselves within the middle of the people in order to participate in the Mass with them, as we would any other Mass in any other congregation.

As we found our place, a cantor in the middle of the congregation began to lead a chanted prayer. It was a long, beautiful prayer, more than 10 verses with a refrain/chorus between each verse. I soon discovered this chant was a glimpse into the style of the Mass which was largely chanted in this same lilting melody. (I later learned this form of chant is unique to Vietnamese worship and is called Doc kinh, “praying with devotion.”)

The Mass proceeded in Vietnamese and, of course, I could understand nothing. However, the beauty of the Catholic Mass is that I could follow the prayers often saying them inaudibly to myself.

People are the same everywhere. As I periodically scanned the congregation, I noticed grandparents with their grandchildren. The grandfather, appearing stern and intolerant of the young child’s restlessness, with the grandmother being more nurturing and understanding. There were families with young children showing expressions of physical affection toward their parents with frequent hugs. Three generations would be together in many pews. The family structure seemed close and attentive to one another.

The priest continued with the chant through the Mass, as did the respondents. Much of the music offered by the choir was this same heavenly lilting chant. Many of the choir members stood with arms folded across their chests. I began to look around and noticed that others in the congregation had assumed similar postures. Perhaps it signifies contentment or rest, maybe rest in the Lord.

The Readings and Psalmody were in Vietnamese. Following the Gospel, the priest left the ambo and moved down the steps of the altar to address a group of children in the first few pews. I was surprised he delivered his homily to them in English. It was brief, somewhat simple, and direct in its style and delivery. He seemed to conclude and paused momentarily before addressing the larger congregation in Vietnamese for a longer and (apparently) more developed homily.

As I observed the priest delivering his homily in two languages, it occurred to me what dedication this man has to serve our Lord. He has not only dedicated his life to serving God as a priest, but he has come to a foreign land, entered a foreign seminary, studied in a second language, and now cares enough about his own community to serve them in two languages. I know how difficult and challenging it has been for me to pursue the diaconate in my home country and native tongue—I have utmost respect for this priest.

The entire experience spoke to me of the power of song and melody as a universal means of expressing our love of God and a powerful means to convey a believer’s sense of awe and wonder of the Lord to others: “Sing praise, play music; proclaim his wondrous deeds! Glory in his holy name; rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord!” (Psalm 105:1-3). The entire liturgy was enveloped in these otherworldly melodies that spoke very clearly of the supreme sanctity, goodness, love, and mercy of God. At the sign of peace, all around us embraced us with warm smiles and gentle greetings. We felt truly accepted by this community. We were welcomed with unspoken hospitality as strangers in a foreign land would have been welcomed by observant Israelites in ancient Israel.

Christ’s presence at the consecration was clearly experienced by all. As we approached the Extraordinary Minister to receive our Lord in Holy Communion, he offered us Jesus in English, proclaiming, “The Body of Christ.” This struck me as another sign of a very welcoming attitude. He accommodated our needs by modifying his behavior in an act of charity.

As a result of this experience, what had begun in trepidation and self-consciousness has allowed me to reflect on the importance of hospitality as an integral element to any ministerial activity. It will be important for me to be more mindful of this important part of mission. By prayer, petition, and practice, it is my desire to grow in this area. This experience has shown me that the Catholic Church is truly universal. Despite the barriers of human language, the language of God, His presence, and movement in his Spirit were active and present in this liturgy. It has also highlighted the importance and beauty of enculturation. The Mass was the “same” and yet elements of the Vietnamese culture have been respected and maintained in a way that does not detract from the Roman Rite, but also I believe truly enriches it. At the same time, a people of faith coming from their unique cultural perspective have been allowed to preserve the dignity of their liturgical heritage.

About the Writer: Deacon David Reardon, M.D., a newly ordained deacon for the Diocese of Venice in Florida, and his wife, Mary Reardon, M.D., have volunteered their medical services for a number of years on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. David is a pathologist and his wife Mary is a retired pediatric pulmonologist.

July 19th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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Our Prophecy is One World, One Family, One God

By: Thomas Gumbleton, The National Catholic Reporter | Blog

On this beautiful summer evening, we have a very heavy topic flowing out of our Scripture lessons. It’s about the prophets and prophecy. This will be our Gospel message for a couple of weeks now. When we start to think about and reflect on the topic of prophets we probably think, “What would that have to do with me?” First of all, God still sends prophets into our midst.

We still have the opportunity to hear them, to listen.


To be like the people in Babylon where the Jews had been sent into exile, we can reject the prophets in our midst even as they rejected Ezekiel. Or even as in Nazareth, Jesus’ own family, friends, people he grew up with rejected him; they would not listen. So that’s one thing we have to begin to reflect on — are we open to hearing God’s word proclaimed to us by prophets in our midst today? But then a second thing and maybe even more important: Each one of us is called to be a prophet. Maybe you think, “That’s kind of absurd. I’m a prophet?”

If you go back to the text of the baptism by which each of us was baptized, you find out that at the time when you’re anointed by the minister of baptism, anointed with holy chrism, the minister said, “As Jesus was anointed priest, prophet, and king, so may you live always as a member of His body sharing everlasting life.” In other words, we too, at our baptisms, have been anointed to carry on the very work of Jesus, the work of priest offering sacrifice here at our altar every week, the work of ruler guiding, showing others the way, but also the work of prophet.

Just to be sure (although I feel certain everybody’s aware of this), prophecy isn’t about predicting the future. A prophet is one who speaks, but speaks on behalf of God. A prophet speaks the message of God, and especially that message as it’s proclaimed to us through Jesus. Now that message is being preached to us today through a variety of prophets in our midst. Perhaps the most prominent prophets recently are those people from the church in South Carolina who were so brutally murdered by that young man who actually was carrying out a racist and terrorist action.

You may remember, maybe even saw it on television, when they confronted the killer, one after another proclaims the message of Jesus — forgiveness, a refusal to use violence in response to violence, and instead a reaching out in love. Back in Nazareth, that’s probably the main reason why Jesus was rejected. He had begun to proclaim the reign of God, which is God’s love over all and all of us participating in that love of God and spreading the love of God wherever we go.

Jesus was showing them and he told them, “The reign of God is at hand.” He made it very clear — not a military reign or a reign of power, a reign of violence, a reign of might. God’s reign is a reign of love and only love, even so far as to love your enemy. It’s hard to accept that. Love your enemy, do good to those who hurt you, return good for evil — that was the message, the word of God that Jesus was proclaiming. His own family, His neighbors, His friends couldn’t accept it.

They rejected Jesus. He left his hometown, Nazareth, and went off to preach elsewhere. The same thing can happen to us today when we have prophets in our midst like those who show us the way of Jesus, the way of forgiveness even in the face of extreme violence and hatred. Are we ready to listen and to really recognize this is the word of God proclaimed to us through these people who are giving us once more the message of Jesus?

Recently, in Detroit, a group of ministers, pastors from the city gathered in a meeting to discuss and then to have a press conference about the terrible violence taking place in our community. In some ways you say, “How absurd it is when people go to a block party. There are people there with guns. Then if some kind of altercation breaks out, they begin to shoot and kill.” That’s happened twice very recently.

These ministers were gathered to publicly proclaim that we must reject that. We must give up our guns thinking that guns can protect us. It’s not the way of Jesus. Our next prophet, and we’re so blessed, is Pope Francis. His encyclical letter that just came out on June 18th — Laudato Si’, Praised be God — all about creation, our planet, and what we have done and are doing to it and a plead to heed the devastation that is going on, that is getting to the point of being irreversible, changing our ecology, changing our planet, destroying parts of it.

Maybe one of the hardest things (and I think about this today as I see the flags in our midst and I hope that it will not be taken negatively), but Francis urges us in this encyclical letter not to think about ourselves as people of United States, Canada, Mexico, Germany, France, South Africa — any other nation. He said, “We’re one human family and we have to begin to enhance that concept, deepen it within our own hearts and thoughts.”

“We’re one human family and the whole human family has been given this planet to cherish, to protect, to nurture. We have to work together as a whole human family to make that happen.” That’s what Francis is telling us. To me, he’s a prophet speaking the word of God. I think for many, many people he is, but I hope to all people — everyone will begin to listen to this inspired word because if we really could think of ourselves as one human family, we could break down a lot of the barriers, a lot of the hostility that’s in the world, as well as being able to protect our planet.

That doesn’t mean we give up our nationhood or our regard and our love for our country, but it means we reach beyond and we recognize it’s bigger than just the United States. It’s one world, one family, one God. When we begin to hear that prophecy, we’ll not only begin to move towards saving our planet, we’ll also really begin to move toward sharing in the work of Jesus of making the reign of God’s love happen.

You and I, I hope, must begin to listen carefully to prophets, and there are so many others besides the few I’ve mentioned. But also, we must begin to think, “I have to say the word of God.” In words sometimes, but even more, in the way we live, the way we treat one another, our neighbors, and people in our community, in our country. But beyond our country in the world, by our own lives, we have to speak the message of Jesus, which is the message of God’s love — the message of healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Ultimately, that will be a message that will guarantee that we will have peace in our world, that our planet will be saved and become the beautiful place God means it to be, and that the reign of God will break forth in our midst as we listen to the prophets that are among us. But also each of us begins to carry out our responsibility as one, a follower of Jesus, who proclaims his message by the way we live.

July 12th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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Thriftin’ for a Mission

By Danielle Koleniak

Thrift store shopping has been around for decades, but in the Great Recession when many retail stores were closing, thrift store sales were increasing and more stores were popping up. Today, despite the improving economy and employment rate, thrift stores are holding its upward trend. ‘How much so?’ you may ask…

According to America’s Research Group, a consumer research firm, about 16-18 percent of Americans will shop at a thrift store during a given year.


For consignment/resale shops, it’s about 12 to 15 percent. To keep these figures in perspective, consider that during the same time frame; 11.4 percent of Americans shop in factory outlet malls, 19.6 percent in apparel stores and 21.3 percent in major department stores.

What you may or may not know, is that St. John XXIII Catholic Church runs a thrift store located on Tamiami Trail, ¼ mile south of Gladiolus, across from Jamaica Bay. (Yes!!!!)

The store’s sales are higher than ever. In fact, in 7 years, they’ve more than doubled.

St. John XXIII thrift store isn’t your typical pop-up, musty, dig through to find a ‘treasure’ kind-of shop. It’s well organized, smells nice, and truly sells ‘like-new’ items. I may be a little biased (or a lot), but its mission is by-far the best in town. The entire store’s proceeds support scholarships for Catholic Education. So, when you purchase a beautiful chandelier, you’re providing an opportunity for a child in need to attend St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, so there’s no ‘buyer’s remorse!’ I know, it’s a win-win.

So the next time you’ve got the itch to shop, or something in the house breaks…before you buy new, think ‘like new’ and head to St. John XXIII Thrift Store, first.

P.S. There’s a coupon on page 14 :)

Danielle Koleniak: For parishioners who have never been in the store, what do you sell?
Cynthia Conzatti: We sell everything you use in your home: lighting fixtures, art and décor, dining sets, furniture, clothing, children’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, hand bags, quality vintage items, china and crystal, lamps, linens, shower curtains, window treatments, books, sporting goods, treadmills, and flat screen TVs. We also sell new religious items. We have rosary beads, sacramental items, crucifixes and pyxes.

DK: What makes St. John XXIII Thrift Store different from the other thrift shops in town?
CC: First, our funds go back to Parish families for tuition assistance for Catholic Education. We also stay open for business all year versus closing for a month or period over the summer.
The design and layout of the 7,000 square foot store allows the shopper to engage their senses. That includes smell. We pride ourselves on being allergy sensitive, so we give every item that we take in a sniff test. If it smells musty, moldy, smoky, or offensive it gets some serious treatment or it goes back out the door.
What I love is that when you walk in, the space is open, so you can see beautiful items for sale in every direction – especially as you walk to the donation drop off area. We’ve turned quite a few donors into customers along that path. We simply don’t believe you have to ‘dig’ to find something.
Customers can feel the difference in many of our furniture pieces, too. Rosendo, Dustin, Grant, and our dedicated team of volunteers work hard to steam clean, polish, paint, repair, and refurbish worthwhile pieces that need that little extra TLC to bring them up to our standards.
The only thing we haven’t done yet to engage all the senses is to open a coffee bar – give us time. We have some great volunteer bakers who keep us fat and happy with their home made treats. Haha!

DK: Talk about the mission behind the thrift store:
CC: We have some incredibly dedicated volunteers. They’re Eucharistic Ministers, Ushers, choir members, Sacristans, and members of the Women’s Guild. They are some of our best volunteers because they are so committed to Catholic Education. We have a ton of retired educators, medical and business professionals, too. They all want the youth to be educated in the Catholic schools- that’s our number one focus. They want to give back and be a volunteer. Every year, we provide $90,000-$120,000 in scholarship money for Catholic Education.
Sometimes there is confusion as to what we make at the thrift store and what we give to Catholic Education. People don’t realize how costly it is to refurbish, repaint and buy cleaning supplies to get the items floor-ready.
Only about 25% of what we have coming in is in ready-to-sell condition. The rest takes some work. We clean it, repair or refurbish before the item hits our floor. If we can’t do it, we send it to charity or salvage. Only 10% of what we take in is not salvageable. We also pay our truck employees because it requires intensive labor to pick up and transport the furniture. We can’t risk sending our volunteers out with the truck on a regular basis. Sometimes we need to ask a volunteer to go out on the truck, but only if we’re in a pinch.

DK: Since the store is mainly run by volunteers, how are you holding up for the summer months?
CC: Right now, we really need what’s called ‘reverse season volunteers’—volunteers who can work during the summer months. It’s not a sit-down job, so you’re definitely moving things around. This time of the year we can certainly use some man power that can help lift heavier items. If someone wants to be a volunteer at the Thrift Store and already a volunteer at the church, they can contact me directly at If they aren’t a volunteer, contact the parish office 239-561-2245 to begin the volunteer process. We could also use some help in getting shoppers in the door. The best form of advertising is ‘word of mouth.’ It’s as simple as handing a friend or neighbor our business card or coupon from the church bulletin. We want people to know about us, give us a try, and think of our store first, before buying new.

July 5th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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Vacation Bible School Round Up



Parish Happenings

Have you listened to our NEW podcasts? Listen to inspirational messages from Father Bob and homilies from Mass. Visit our site weekly at

‘Like’ our Facebook page! For all the latest happenings and inspirational messages ‘Like’ us on Facebook. Search ‘St. John XXIII Catholic Church’.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter! Visit our website,, scroll down to “Stay Connected” and enter your email address.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS for The Women’s Guild: A Night at the Theater with the ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ on Sunday, October 25th at the Broadway Palm Theater at 5:30pm. Million Dollar Quartet is a smash-hit musical inspired by the famed recording session that brought together rock ‘n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time. Tickets are $60 per person. Reservations of full tables of 2, 4, 6 or 8 are available at this time. The show includes a buffet dinner. Purchase your tickets through Lois Becker at 239–0531.

Do you need to receive gluten-free hosts? Please go to the Sacristy before Mass and let the Sacristans know. They will accommodate your needs. Thank you!

Do you feel called to serve the Body and Blood of Christ during Mass? Do you have a deep devotion to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist? We have a need for additional ministers at the Sunday 11:15am Mass. Please contact the office to discuss volunteer processing and training for either of these volunteer positions.

TODAY! The Knights of Columbus will hold a Flag Dedication Ceremony in the Memorial Garden on July 5th after the 11:15am Mass today. A special thank you to our Knights of Columbus for purchasing and installing the new flag pole for the Memorial Garden.

Save the date! The St. John XXIII Women’s Retreat is back! Mark your calendars for Nov. 6th-8th 2015. It will be held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice, FL. This year’s theme is “Soul Sisters” Walking the journey of faith together. Watch the bulletin for future details.

Homebound Ministry: We are in need of Eucharistic Ministers who would assist with our Homebound Ministry. This is a very gratifying and important ministry that brings the Eucharist to parishioners in their own homes.
Sometimes those ministers are the only people those folks see all week! If you are interested, please call the church office.

The next Habitat for Humanity work day for our parish is Tuesday, July 28th. When you sign up for the day, use this url:

50+ Singles Brunch Today! Sunday, July 5th after 9:15am Mass at Mimi’s at Bell Tower. RSVP to Fran Turpin 768-1651 by Friday, July 3rd, if you are attending or have any questions.

Do you enjoy gardening? The Gardening Ministry is looking for help (for about an hour) on Wednesdays to assist in watering and maintenance in the gardens on the church grounds. If interested, please contact Sandy Bourdeau at 239-872-1453. A ‘Team of Two’ would lighten the load!

June 28th, 2015 | The 23rd Times

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Pope Francis’ Encyclical: An Urgent Call

By: Joshua J. McElwee of National Catholic Reporter

Pope Francis has clearly embraced what he calls a “very solid scientific consensus” that humans are causing cataclysmic climate change that is endangering the planet. The pope has also lambasted global political leaders for their “weak responses” and lack of will over decades to address the issue.


In what has already been the most debated papal encyclical letter in recent memory, Francis urgently calls on the entire world’s population to act, lest we leave to coming generations a planet of “debris, desolation and filth.”

“An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at [our] behavior, which at times appears self-destructive,” the pope writes at one point in the letter, titled: “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.” Addressing world leaders directly, Francis asks: “What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?” Francis writes, “As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear…

Such evasiveness serves as a license to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.” Such sharp words on the situation facing humanity pervade the more than 40,000word letter, which has a far-ranging scope — first reviewing scientific conclusions on climate change and other environmental degradation before going into deeper implications for both the church and the global international system. The document also shows a notable reorientation of the church’s understanding of the human person, from a being that dominates to one that responsibly serves creation.

The title Laudato Si’ comes from St. Francis of Assisi’s famous 13th-century prayer “The Canticle of the Creatures.” Translated into English as either “Be praised” or “Praised be,” it is an Umbrian-Italian phrase used throughout the prayer to give thanks to God for creation.

The Vatican’s launch of the encyclical — which has already drawn public criticism from two Catholic U.S. presidential candidates and from right-wing groups that deny climate change science — was preceded by some controversy when a draft version of the document was leaked by the Italian newsmagazine L’Espresso.

The final version of the text does not seem to deviate in any substantial way from the leaked copy. In fact, the offi cial English translation presents some matters more forcefully than the leaked Italian draft, adding sharper words, especially in the pope’s call for action on the part of global leaders.

Tackling climate change in the fi rst of its six chapters, Francis states bluntly: “A very solid scientifi c consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.”

He continues, “Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases … released mainly as a result of human activity.”

Among other main issues and themes touched upon by the letter:

-Environmental degradation causing lack of access to drinking water, loss of biodiversity, and decline in quality of human life;
-Pervasive global inequity that leaves billions experiencing “ecological debt”;
-The search for long-term solutions to replace fossil fuels and other unsustainable energies;
-Tying together the ecological crisis with a global social crisis that leaves the poorest in the world behind and does not make them part of international decision making;
-Changes in global lifestyle that could “bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power.”

Starting his letter with a short preamble on the purpose for his writing, Francis refers to his predecessor John XXIII, who famously addressed his 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris to “all men and women of good will.”

“Now, faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on this planet,” Francis states. “In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.” “I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet,” he says. “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”

The encyclical is available in a number of languages at: en/encyclicals/index.html