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Venice
Workshops promote authentic femininity

Christina Valenzuela speaks during a “Cycle Prep Workshop” for mothers and their daughters Oct. 31, 2021, at St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers. 

FORT MYERS  |  Each woman is uniquely beautiful and made according to God’s “image and likeness,” that is God’s design. With this in mind, the Diocese of Venice Office of Family Life hosted a series of workshops in late October to help instill a deeper appreciation for authentic femininity and the way God designed the female body as taught in the “Theology of the Body” from St. John Paul II.

Christina Valenzuela, a national speaker who provides lifelong learning and support for Body Literacy and Natural Family Planning, addressed three very different audiences using Sacred Scripture and the rich theology of the Catholic Church to help women develop a renewed appreciation for their unique role in God’s plan.

Valenzuela first spoke Oct. 21, 2021, to more than 150 young women at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, in a talk titled, “Language of the Body,” which was directed toward single women. 

Christina Valenzuela, fourth from left, a national speaker on Natural Family Planning, is seen during an NFP Ambassador Workshop Oct. 30, 2021, at St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers. 

During the evening, she spoke about cycle charting and opened a window into Original Solitude and an opportunity to better understand what St. John Paul II calls the “mystery of woman.” That was done in the context of the liturgy, devotions, and rich theology of the Catholic Church.

Kateri Millword, president of Ave for Life Pro-Life Club, described the evening as a very enriching experience. This included hearing Valenzuela “talk about true femininity through the lens of fertility and cycles. She focused on their spiritual aspects, highlighting the dignity and beauty instilled in each woman by God. In the light of the ‘Theology of the Body’ from St. Pope John Paul II. She explained how each woman can truly find herself through learning about her body in respect to what makes up her ‘feminine genius.’”

Then on Oct. 23 at St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers, she took time to train representatives from several Parishes to develop Natural Family Planning (NFP) “Ambassadors.” The idea was to build confidence by talking about NFP with others while gaining tools for expanding NFP support at the local level. Valenzuela also offered a perspective on discerning the unique role each Parish plays in supporting the family. And the importance of becoming well-versed in various types of NFP and resources.

Christina Valenzuela speaks to more than 150 young women at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, in a talk titled, “Language of the Body,” Oct. 28, 2021.

Workshop participant Lori Crawford, of Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers, explained how Valenzuela guided the group to reflect on the “next steps for sharing the good and hard news about Natural Family Planning. I felt the call while we were there to minister to young girls as they grow into young women and navigate the difficult teen and young adult years. I appreciated the clarity that this workshop brought as well as the camaraderie – a network of people that feel love for this relevant and difficult, but true teaching of the Church.”

The third workshop by Valenzuela took place Oct. 24, also at St. John XXIII Parish and was for mothers with daughters (ages 9-12) and designed to teach the science behind a women’s cycle, and how to create a “Culture of Care” for one another as a woman’s body grows and changes. More than 50 attended the “Cycle Prep Workshop” which receive high praise from the mothers who attended.

Elizabeth Andrews, of St. John XXIII Parish said “the Cycle Prep class offered by our Diocese was exactly what mothers of young daughters needed. There was so much information that moms weren’t aware of prior to this session, given in a fun and relatable way, plus we were given tools to assist our daughters as they mature.”

Andrews said she would highly recommend any of the Pearl and Thistle’s programs Valenzuela created, and she was grateful to Bishop Frank J. Dewane and the Office of Family Life for bringing the workshop to the Parish.

Lastly, Valenzuela recorded a presentation on “Pastoral Accompaniment and NFP,” which Carrie Harkey, Diocesan Office of Family Life Director, said would be shared with Parishes to provide an overview of various NFP methods, resources and accompaniment techniques to help couples through difficult fertility situations. 

In addition, The Family Life Office offers pastoral planning packets “NFP in Our Parish: A Guide to Building Family Support in your Pastoral Plan” with the goal of building support in the family and where that falls in the parish plan

Harkey said the success of the presentations by Valenzuela does not end the efforts of the Diocese to help women develop a renewed appreciation for their unique role in God’s plan while also continuing to support families who strive to authentically live Church teaching. 


Venice
Parishes, schools across the Diocese help bring Saints to life

Wauchula  |  In the days leading up to and following Nov. 1, 2021, the Solemnity of All Saints, Parishes and Diocesan Catholic schools took time out to put a special emphasis on the Saints.

At some Masses children dressed as their favorite Saint. In some schools’ presentations were made to allow the young “Saints” to share the story of these holy men and women of God.

The most popular activity this year was the Trunk-or-Treat which provided a safe environment for the little ones to come and get candy and have a little fun.

Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Parish in Bokeelia supported the Pine Island event by supplying 162 kids prepackaged bags of candy that had a label that said “Never Stop FALL-O-WEEN Jesus for Heavenly Treats. Have a Happy Halloween from OLMM Catholic Church.” The parishioners donated the candy for the event as the Parish Trunk-or-Treat Theme was: “FALL for Jesus, He Never LEAVES.”

Meanwhile, St. Michael Parish in Wauchula decided to host a carnival/trick-or-treat event in the field behind the Parish. Children dressed as priests, angels and a variety of superheroes and other characters each had to complete a carnival game to receive candy. One game had children try to identify images of saints with only a small hint to held. All of the candy was donated by the faithful at St. Raphael Parish in Englewood.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane often describes the saints as women and men who do ordinary things extraordinarily well.

An example of this occurred in Bradenton, where second graders from St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton shared candy, homemade cards, and sang their favorite songs for the residents at nearby Truewood Assisted Living. Thanks to a donor who supplied candy, the students also enjoyed Trick or Treating throughout the facility.

Students from St. Ann Catholic School in Naples are seen following an All Saints Day Mass Nov. 1, 2021. 

The Beta Club of St. John Neumann Catholic School in Naples also did a little thing well when they delivered treats to the faculty and teachers at St. Ann Catholic School in Naples in thanks for their dedication to education. Each bag also featured a Bible verse chosen by the club. “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

Back at the high school, the seniors escorted pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students from St. Ann and St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Schools for trick-or-treating to each of the classrooms.

Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers hosted kindergartens students from St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral and St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers Oct. 28, for pumpkin decorating and a few treats. 

At Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria the children in grades Pre-k through third came to Mass Oct. 29, dressed as their favorite saint. After Mass had concluded, the costumed children took turns announcing to the assembled students, teachers, parents and visitors which saint they were.

On the Solemnity, Nov. 1, St. Andrew Catholic School students wore a wide variety of saint costumes to Mass with many Blessed Virgin Mary’s, several angels, and a few popes

Pope Francis said true happiness does not come from being young, rich, or successful, as the world thinks, but from the counter-cultural idea to follow Jesus Christ. The Holy Father made his remarks during a special Angelus address for the Solemnity of All Saints, celebrated by the Catholic Church Nov. 1, 2021. This year the obligation to attend Mass was abrogated in the United States because the Solemnity fell on a Monday.

In addition, schools also took time out on All Soul’s Day, Nov. 2, to pause to remember deceased family and friends. Middle school-aged students at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton placed prayers for deceased relatives and friends on the back images made from sugar. This was part of a special Family Night celebrating Día de los Muertos Oct. 29.

At Bishop Verot, for many years Fathers Joe and John Beattie, Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, would have a book for staff and students to record the names of loved ones to remember on All Souls Day. That tradition continues to this day with students and staff invited to participate this year.

Parishes also did the same with several dedicating evening Masses to the reading of the names of deceased parishioners from the previous year. The entire month of November is dedicated to all the souls in purgatory. 


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