All posts by teresap

Invitation to Worship: Bishop Gregory Parkes Begins New Sunday Gospel Reflection

It has been more than one year since Bishop Parkes was installed as the spiritual leader of the Diocese of St. Petersburg. During that time, he has visited many parishes and schools for confirmations, dedications, listening sessions and liturgical celebrations. Thousands of people stay connected with Bishop Parkes via social media and follow his travels throughout the diocese. Wherever he goes, he shares the Good News of Jesus Christ.


Now, Bishop Parkes is taking to the airwaves to share the Good News via a new segment that will begin airing on Spirit FM 90.5 on Friday, March 23. The segment will be a short reflection on the upcoming Sunday Gospel that will be proclaimed during Mass on Sunday in Catholic churches around Tampa Bay and around the world.


The reflections will be about two minutes in length and will teach listeners about the heroes of faith introduced to us in the Scriptures, lessons from the inspired Word of God and insight on how we are called to live our lives as Christians.


“I am grateful for the opportunity to reach people throughout Tampa Bay via the radio. It’s accessible to everyone in our cars, homes and workplaces. I hope to encourage people with this reflection and to challenge them. But mostly, I seek to invite them to join us in worshiping Christ at Mass each Sunday,” said Bishop Parkes.


The segment is called “Invitation to Worship” and it will air each week Friday through Sunday. The segments will also be available as podcasts on the Diocese of St. Petersburg Soundcloud page:

U.S. Bishops Urge National Leaders to Address Scourge of Gun Violence

For many years, the USCCB has supported a federal ban on assault weapons, limitations on civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines, further criminalizing gun trafficking, certain limitations on the purchase of handguns, and safety measures such as locks that prevent children and anyone other than the owner from using guns without permission.

In the aftermath of the tragic attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., of Youngstown, Ohio, Chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education, once again urge national leaders to finally come together and address the crisis of gun violence in a comprehensive way.

Their comments are below:

“Once again, we are confronted with grave evil, the murder of our dear children and those who teach them. Our prayers continue for those who have died, and those suffering with injuries and unimaginable grief. We also continue our decades-long advocacy for common-sense gun measures as part of a comprehensive approach to the reduction of violence in society and the protection of life.

Specifically, this moment calls for an honest and practical dialogue around a series of concrete proposals—not partisanship and overheated rhetoric. The idea of arming teachers seems to raise more concerns than it addresses. Setting a more appropriate minimum age for gun ownership, requiring universal background checks (as the bishops have long advocated), and banning ‘bump stocks’ are concepts that appear to offer more promise. We must explore ways to curb violent images and experiences with which we inundate our youth, and ensure that law enforcement have the necessary tools and incentives to identify troubled individuals and get them help.

Most people with mental illness will never commit a violent act, but mental illness has been a significant factor in some of these horrific attacks. We must look to increase resources and seek earlier interventions.

The advocacy by survivors of the Parkland shooting—and young people throughout our nation—is a stark reminder that guns pose an enormous danger to the innocent when they fall into the wrong hands. The voices of these advocates should ring in our ears as they describe the peaceful future to which they aspire. We must always remember what is at stake as we take actions to safeguard our communities and honor human life. In the words of St. John, ‘let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth’ (1 Jn. 3:18).”



Catholic Volunteers in Florida is Now Accepting Applications!

As you consider career paths, have you thought about participating in a life-altering year of full-time service that will bring you many new opportunities? Catholic Volunteers in Florida has multiple volunteer positions open for the 2018-19 service year, which begins in August. Apply now if you are ready for a year that will change your life! Applicants should have a college degree, or equivalent life experience, and a heart for serving marginalized communities in Florida or the Dominican Republic.

Facts about Catholic Volunteers in Florida:

  • Catholic Volunteers serve in many fields such as teaching, community development, special education, social work, youth programs, immigration and legal services, restorative justice, and more.
  • Benefits include housing, health insurance, a monthly living stipend, quarterly retreats, leadership training, and the AmeriCorps Education Award (for qualifying positions).
  • 65% of our volunteers are offered employment in the organization where they serve after their year of service!
  • The program focuses on active spirituality, doing justice, creating community, and living simply.

Application deadline is May 1, 2018. To learn more or to start an application, go to

300 Catholics Attend Regional Encuentro to Discuss Challenges of Faith and Culture

Gathered in Miami for three days of intense reflection, 300 Catholics, mostly Hispanic, pondered problems and offered solutions to challenges faced by people in their communities. The Diocese of St. Petersburg had 34 delegates representing 20 parishes at the Regional V (fifth) Encuentro, which was the second largest contingency of participants. Bishop Gregory Parkes and Monsignor Robert Morris, Vicar General of the Diocese of St. Petersburg also attended.

In all, 30 dioceses were in attendance from nine southeastern states. It was a prelude to the big event: the national V Encuentro for Hispanic Ministry set for Grapevine, Texas, in September.

Many issues were discussed during the event on Feb. 22-24, including those relating to families and religious education, raising children in the faith, vocations, and immigration. They spoke in Spanish and English. They prayed and sang in both as well.

In the end, they summed up their work in two words: hope and commitment. These words describe both the impact the Encuentro process has had on participants and the ongoing work that lies ahead.

“I hope that the V Encuentro will create in us an attitude of greater listening, openness, and action by the Church to respond to the spiritual, vocational and service needs of our Hispanic youth and young adults,” said Gustavo Facio from Corpus Christi Parish in Tampa and Coordinator of Pastoral Juvenil.

Carlos Flores, director of Hispanic Ministry in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, has been helping to organize the Encuentro Process since August of 2014.

Flores says the V Encuentro has offered Catholics in our diocese the opportunity to live out their baptismal call to evangelize and that often means going outside the walls of our churches to bring God’s love to others.

Seventeen parishes completed the reflection process of the V Encuentro with 1,000 participants reaching out to over 800 people encountered in our peripheries. They formed communities and prayed and reflected on how they can go to the peripheries and accompany our brothers and sisters who are not currently connected with the Church or have fallen away from the faith. Encuentro participants have been learning a new missionary process, which involves recognizing their own need for God’s love and mercy and then bringing this hope in Christ to others.

“We talk a lot about evangelization.  There can’t be evangelization without encountering others.  We can’t evangelize from the pews.  We must get up and go out to encounter the people who need to hear about God’s love.  My hope is that this is just the beginning for our diocese in reaching out to all who live in our 5 counties…to meet them like Jesus met the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, to welcome them, to walk with them, to lead them to Christ,” said Flores.


More than 50 percent of Hispanic Catholics are younger than 27 and a similar number were born in the U.S., according to figures cited in the Encuentro working document. They’re fluent in English but learned to pray, and still speak Spanish, at home.

“They like hamburgers and they like tacos,” said Marthamaria Morales of the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama. Moreover, “they are Catholic by tradition but not by conviction. So we’re trying to find a place for them in the Catholic Church.”

She said giving millennials a task, a sense of mission works because “they’re seeking some sense of belonging … a purpose in life.”

She also advocates for bilingual Masses on special occasions, such as Christmas, confirmations and special feast days, as a way of helping Hispanics and English-speakers get to know each other better.

“I don’t want to see two communities. We need to be one community,” said Barbara Romani, a non-Hispanic delegate from Miami who grew up in New York, amid fellow Italians but also Germans, Irish, Puerto Ricans, Cubans and Dominicans. Then she moved to Miami and watched as the city absorbed wave after wave of immigrants, first from Cuba and then from every country in Central and South America, as well as Haiti.

“You have to work to incorporate, to do things to get people together,” Romani said. She added that the whole Church community — not just Hispanics — needs to support the Encuentro process.


Planning for the V Encuentro began in 2014. The nitty-gritty of parish and diocesan meetings took place last year, and the process will not conclude until 2020. The U.S. bishops will spend 2019 reviewing the national Encuentro’s conclusions and writing some type of pastoral plan. In 2020, those recommendations will make their way back to the dioceses for implementation in the parishes.

“This continues a tradition of Encuentros that has helped the Church not only recognize the need but engage in the solutions,” said Vivi Iglesias,  Region XIV coordinator for the Encuentro. She was the previous Hispanic Ministry Director for the Diocese of St. Petersburg who recruited volunteers, assembled the diocesan team and coordinated the training for parishes and other diocesan directors.

“The emphasis that we see coming up is the youth, vocations, the young families and leadership development among Hispanics, and immigration, ” Iglesias added.

Father Duvan Bermudez, director of Hispanic Ministry for the Palm Beach diocese, said the greatest needs are to continue strengthening the Hispanic communities and raise awareness among the clergy, not just about the presence of Hispanics, but of people of other nationalities and ethnicities, including Filipinos, Brazilians, Vietnamese and Haitians.

“We need to be able to take the Gospel to these people,” Father Bermudez said, adding that it’s understood that in the U.S. people have to speak English. But “it’s also important to respect the culture.”


Speaking to the delegates as they concluded their reflections, Father Rafael Capó reminded them that “with great gifts comes great responsibility. So with hope comes commitment.”

Father Capó directs the Southeast Regional Office for Hispanic Ministry, the anchor institution for the Southeast Regional Encuentro and itself a result of the reflections — and ultimate implementation — of the II Encuentro, held from 1975 to 1977.

On opening night, he told the delegates, “You are called to be a leader in the evangelization of the U.S.”

It was a theme Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the U.S., picked up at the closing Mass Feb. 24. Speaking in Spanish, he called the Encuentro a means of rebuilding the Church and invited the delegates “to have this dream … that we are going to transform our reality.”

In the U.S. Church today, Encuentro “is one of the most dynamic things that can exist,” he said, “because it is an encounter … a meeting of those who, in the socio-political context of this country, are rejected.”

Harking back to Moses and the prophets, Archbishop Pierre said today’s generations are similarly displaced. “There is an uncertainty about our identity.” Parents find it difficult to transmit their faith and values to their children. “The world is lost, people are lost.”

But in the midst of these changing times, God “makes a convocation to make a new people … the people of God,” the archbishop said. “Not to form a small sect, not to form a small world of the elect,” but to put into practice the supreme law of the kingdom of God, the law of love.

“We must reflect. A discernment … You must see what we can do in this new world,” he said. He suggested that the answer lies in the theme for the V Encuentro: “Missionary disciples. Witnesses to God’s love.”

The phrase is taken from the document published by the bishops of Latin America — including a cardinal from Buenos Aires who would become Pope Francis — after their meeting in Aparecida, Brazil.

“Our church must be, must be! the place where people can have the opportunity to meet Jesus,” Archbishop Pierre said. “If those people are disciples, in the context of today you have to orient them to be missionaries … The sequence is to be disciples first and missionaries as the consequence of discipleship.”

“I encourage you,” he concluded. “You have a great responsibility.”

Thank you to Ana Rodriguez-Soto and the Florida Catholic for contributing to this article.


Congratulations Bishop Lynch

Bishop Robert Lynch received the Roy G. Harrell, Jr. Leadership Award on Feb. 22, 2018 at the St. Anthony Hospital Foundation Legacy Dinner. This award is presented to someone who demonstrates leadership through community service and is described through their work with attributes such as vision, courage, initiative, motivation, selflessness, commitment, dependability and accomplishment. There is a selection committee that takes nominations for a period of time and goes through all applications and chooses a top candidate.

Bishop Lynch was ordained and installed as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg on January 26, 1996, and he retired on November 28, 2016.

St. Anthony’s Hospital was opened by the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany (New York) on November 1, 1931 after renovating a small existing medical facility. The mission was to provide for the community the most modern medical science available with an emphasis on care that is truly humane. Over the years, in partnership with its medical staff, St. Anthony’s pioneered many innovative services. Today, the hospital is respected for its expertise in cardiology, oncology, orthopedics, vascular services, neurology, and behavioral health.

Bon Secours Named One of the Most Ethical Companies

Bon Secours Health System has been recognized by the Ethisphere Institute, a global leader in advancing the standards of ethical business practices, as one of the 2018 World’s Most Ethical Companies.  Bon Secours is one of only eight honorees in the health care industry and the only Catholic hospital ministry, underscoring the organization’s commitment to lead with integrity and prioritize ethical business practices in the key areas of: compliance, corporate responsibility, governance, leadership, innovation, reputation and in creating a culture of ethics.

(Photo above shows a community garden started by Bon Secours at a high needs school. Through its Mission Fund, Bon Secours supports many initiatives to improve the health of the community.)

The Congregation of the Sisters of Bon Secours is a Roman Catholic religious congregation for nursing, that cares for patients from all socio-economic groups.

“Bon Secours is honored and humbled by this recognition,” said Richard J. Statuto, president and CEO of Bon Secours Health System. “Bon Secours’ 194-year history of being “good help to those in need” is the foundation for our organization. In a complex healthcare environment, we have leveraged the best insights from the business ethics movement to build on this strong foundation and further advance our mission. We view building a strong ethical culture as a continuous journey, not a destination at which we have arrived.”

The World’s Most Ethical Companies assessment is based upon the Ethisphere Institute’s Ethics Quotient® (EQ) framework, which offers a quantitative assessment of a company’s performance in an objective, consistent and standardized manner. The information collected provides a comprehensive sampling of definitive criteria of core competencies rather than all aspects of corporate governance, risk, sustainability, compliance and ethics.

“Global corporations operating with a common rule of law are now society’s strongest force to improve the human condition. The World’s Most Ethical Companies in particular continued to show exemplary leadership,” explained Ethisphere’s CEO, Timothy Erblich. “I congratulate everyone at Bon Secours on their inaugural recognition as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies.”


Pope Francis Grants Indulgence to the Faithful during the 50th Anniversary of the Diocese of St. Petersburg

As with many jubilee years, Pope Francis has instructed that a special plenary indulgence be available for the faithful throughout 2018 for the 50th Anniversary of the Diocese of St. Petersburg. The faithful who commit to a complete detachment of sin may follow the steps below to receive this indulgence.

For Able-Bodied Catholics

  • Devoutly make a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in a spirit of contrition and love on:
    • May 6, 2018, 3 p.m. for the Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
    • Another day during 2018 and set aside time for meditation, praying the Our Father, the Creed and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle
5815 5th Ave North
St. Petersburg, FL 33710
(727) 347-9702

  • Participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (20 days before or after visiting the cathedral)
  • Receive the Holy Eucharist (20 days before or after visiting the cathedral)
  • Pray for the pope and for his intentions

For the Elderly, Confined and the Ill

Pope Francis said they can receive an indulgence if they:

  • Join spiritually in the anniversary celebrations
  • Participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (20 days before or after spiritually joining in the anniversary celebration)
  • Receive the Holy Eucharist (20 days before or after spiritually joining in the anniversary celebration)
  • Pray for the pope and for his intentions
  • Offer prayers, sorrows and personal troubles to our merciful God

What is an indulgence?

“A remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints. An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.” – (Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 1471). Indulgences may be applied to one’s self or the dead.

Soon-to-be Catholics Respond to A Call from Christ

Adults and children (over the age of 8) across the Diocese of St. Petersburg are currently preparing to become Catholic during the Easter Vigil Mass on March 31. They have been on a journey of faith that started many months ago with a call from God to live as His disciples.

When they first began the process of preparation to receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist, they were known as Catechumens. On Feb. 18, they became known as “The Elect” during the Rite of Election led by Bishop Gregory Parkes at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle.

During the prayer service, Bishop Parkes carried his pastoral staff, signifying his role as shepherd of God’s people. The Word of God was proclaimed, signifying that God continues to speak to His people, and the Book of the Elect was carried as a symbol of those whose names will be inscribed into the Book of Life (Revelation 21:27).

Bishop Parkes encouraged those preparing to become Catholic to spend extra time in prayer during this Lenten Season and to listen closely to the Lord.

“In your prayer, pray, ‘speak Lord, your servant is listening.’ See what whispers or what shouts the Lord may have for you in these coming weeks as you prepare to receive His grace in the Sacraments,” he said.

He also encouraged them to keep learning about the faith and to also align their hearts more closely to the Heart of Jesus.

“It’s not only what we teach about our faith that’s important, it’s how we live our faith. To be a Catholic in the world today not only means that we have knowledge but that we embrace and live our faith in our hearts and through our lives,” said Bishop Parkes.

The catechumens were each called by name during the prayer service as they stood alongside their godparents.

Preparing to become Catholic and receive the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist) involves a learning process that includes weekly prayer, reflection and discussion about the faith based upon the Sunday readings, mentoring in Christian discipleship, and spending time in prayer and fellowship with their local parish community.

Floridians Pray for an End to the Death Penalty as Execution Date Approaches

The Catholic Church believes that life in prison without parole provides a non-lethal alternative to the death penalty and is the more just solution since the Church believes that all Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God.

That is why Michael Sheedy, executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent a letter to Governor Scott on Feb. 15 on behalf of the bishops of Florida asking that Eric Branch’s death sentence be commuted to a life sentence without parole. Eric Branch is scheduled to be executed on Thursday, February 22, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. for the 1993 murder of Susan Morris.

“It is our concern that the death penalty contributes to a growing disrespect for the sacredness of all human life,” said Sheedy. “It feeds on an underlying sense of vengeance in our culture and adds to a callousness or coarseness towards one another.”

In the wake of the senseless act of violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that tragically took the lives of 17 people, Sheedy wrote, “State-sanctioned killing does not deter or end violence, but instead it perpetuates a cycle of violence.”

While violent acts call for justice, traditional Catholic teaching only permits recourse to the death penalty when necessary to defend human lives against the unjust aggressor. A sentence of life without the possibility of parole is a severe punishment, keeps society safe from the offender, and allows for the possibility of redemption.

Prior to Branch’s scheduled execution, Catholic faithful and members of the community will gather across the state to pray for the victims of violent crimes and their families, for those on death row, for an end to the use of the death penalty, and for Governor Scott as he confronts the decision to proceed with the execution.

In the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Spirit FM 90.5 will be praying on air, Thursday, February 22, at 5:50 p.m. Spirit FM is also available on the internet ( St. Vincent de Paul Parish (4843 Mile Stretch Drive, Holiday) will hold a prayer service on Wednesday, February 21, at 4:00 p.m.

To read the full text of Michael Sheedy’s letter to Gov. Scott, click here.

To contact Governor Rick Scott and ask him to commute Eric Branch’s death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole and to stop signing death warrants, click here.

Society of St. Vincent de Paul Grant will Brighten the Smiles of Many

Uninsured migrant workers in the Dade City area will receive much-needed dental care thanks to an $11,000 grant from the National Council of the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

“Our goal is to assist 115 uninsured residents of Dade City and surrounding migrant camps in obtaining basic dental care,” said Raymond Pawlicki, of the SVdP St. Rita’s Conference. “This grant will allow us to provide 115 dental visits to provide x-rays, examinations and extractions/fillings for about one year.”

The St. Rita Conference was founded in 2012 and is a part of the Diocesan Council of St. Petersburg. The Conference has 25 active members who work to operate a food pantry that serves more than 80 families a week. They also work with the St. Andre Free Clinic and Catholic Charities which serves more than 400 underprivileged and undocumented people per year. Most of the Conferences dental referrals come from the nurses at the free clinic who screen patients.

“The need for medical and dental care is great among the indigent and undocumented community that I see at St. Andre’s Free Clinic,” said Dr. Mike Flannery, president of the SVdP St. Rita’s Conference. “These funds will go a long way to reduce suffering and provide hope among these people.”

This grant was one of four dental program grants distributed around the country through the Friends of the Poor® grant program. Grant applications are evaluated and awarded by a Vincentian review committee. Funding is provided by the general public and the Society’s members and is targeted to specific needs in each community.

“We are pleased to be able to assist local Councils as they work to help those in need,” said Dave Barringer, National CEO of SVdP. “Our Councils are great examples of how a dedicated group of people can make a difference in alleviating suffering.”

One of the largest charitable organizations in the world, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul ( is an international, nonprofit, Catholic lay organization of about 800,000 men and women who voluntarily join together to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to the needy and suffering in 150 countries on five continents. With the U.S. headquarters in St. Louis, Mo., membership in the United States totals nearly 100,000 in 4,400 communities.

SVdP offers a variety of programs and services, including home visits, housing assistance, disaster relief, education and mentoring, food pantries, dining halls, clothing, assistance with transportation, prescription medication, and rent and utility costs. The Society also works to provide care for the sick, the incarcerated and the elderly. Nationally, over the past year, SVdP provided over $1.2 billion in tangible and in-kind services to those in need, made more than 1.7 million personal visits (homes, hospitals, prisons and eldercare facilities) and helped more than 20.9 million people regardless of race, religion or national origin.