VENICE — In a ceremony rich in pageantry and deep in meaning, Catholics from across the 10-county Diocese of Venice attended the Opening Mass on Tuesday commemorating the beginning of a “Year of Celebration.”
The Mass marked the Diocese’s 25th anniversary.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane, the main celebrant for the Mass at Epiphany Cathedral, was joined by founding Bishop John Nevins, and 2,000 priests, deacons and faithful from across the Diocese.
Twelve parishioners from Sacred Heart Catholic Church rode a church bus from Bradenton to attend the service.
Catherine Boatright of Sacred Heart said she was thrilled to see Nivens and Dewane together at the Mass.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate a diocesan anniversary. It was very inspirational,” Boatright said.
Since its establishment July 17, 1984, the Diocese has grown to serve more than 237,000 registered Catholics in 56 parishes, one quasi-parish, seven missions, six chapels and 14 schools.
Dewane said that he has been asked what the next 25 years will be like. While he said he doesn’t have a crystal ball, he encouraged parishioners to live by their faith. He noted in dark times, people always come back to their faith.
“It was beautiful, something completely different,” said Rose Mary Niles, 80, a parishioner from St. Frances X. Cabrini Catholic Church in Parrish.
Attending from Saints Peter and Paul of Bradenton were Frank and Kay Scanlon.
“I think the ceremony brought the whole diocese together,” Frank Scanlon said. “There was a tremendous feeling of unity.”
Every priest in the diocese was clad in white robes and marched through the cathedral as sunlight streamed through the 14 stained glass windows.
Many of the pastors were accompanied by parish delegations, who carried their banners in procession. Among the lay orders attending were the Knights of Columbus, Council of Catholic Women, and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.
A variety of events are planned throughout the year, including Masses in each major area of the Diocese. The Year of Celebration will end with a closing Mass at Epiphany Cathedral on Dec. 8.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7917.