All posts by Maria

U.S. Bishops’ Chairman on Pro-Life Activities Calls All People of Good Will to Stand Up and Protect Unborn and Born Infants

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, KS and Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities has issued the following statement in response to the introduction of a bill in the Virginia legislature that would allow a baby to be aborted at nine months.  Although the bill was defeated there, a similar bill was passed by the New York legislature and signed into law by its Governor.

Archbishop Naumann’s full statement follows:

“A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill which would allow a baby to be aborted at nine months, even if the mother is just about to give birth. This legislation shocks the conscience and is made more egregious by the Governor of Virginia suggesting the permissibility of denying care to infants born alive during the abortion. This senseless disrespect for new human life is horrifying. We join the bishops of Virginia in urging all people of good will to stand up to protect unborn and born infants from legislation that would permit their gruesome deaths.”

Saint Leo University Named as Top 10 Military Friendly® School

Commitment to Student-Veterans, Active Duty Military, Families Recognized

ST. LEO, FL – Saint Leo University recently was named a Top 10 Gold-level Military Friendly® School Award recipient for 2019-2020 in the category of private institutions offering doctoral degrees. Saint Leo is ranked seventh in the nation as a Military Friendly® School.

Now in its 10th year, the Military Friendly® Schools list has come to set the standard for higher education institutions to provide the best opportunities for veterans and their spouses, according to VIQTORY, a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) that connects the military community to civilian employment, educational, and entrepreneurial opportunities through its G.I. Jobs®, Military Spouse, and Military Friendly® brands.

“Saint Leo is honored to be named one of the best private, higher education institutions serving our military and veterans,” said Dr. Jen Shaw, vice president of Student Affairs. “It is important to help those who served their country to transition into civilian life as well as helping those who currently serve continue their education no matter where they are located. Saint Leo advocates for its military students, military family members, and student-veterans throughout the university—not only at University Campus, but also at its teaching locations in seven states and those who study online.”

In addition to its main location in in St. Leo, FL, north of Tampa, Saint Leo educates students at more than 30 education centers, including many located on military bases. Saint Leo teaches at one of the largest naval bases in the world, Naval Station Norfolk, as well as at other bases in Virginia, Florida, California, Texas, South Carolina, and Mississippi.

Saint Leo now has three Military Resource Centers—areas where student-veterans, military-affiliated students, and ROTC members may gather to get assistance, study, and enjoy social activities. In addition to the main campus, an MRC is located at Saint Leo’s Newport News, Virginia, location and at its new Savannah Education Center in Savannah, Georgia.

The 2019-2020 Military Friendly® Schools list will be published in the May issue of G.I. Jobsmagazine. The list can also be found at

Institutions earning the Military Friendly® School designation were evaluated using public data sources and responses from a proprietary survey completed by the university.

Methodology, criteria, and weightings for the rankings were determined by VIQTORY with input from the Military Friendly® Advisory Council of independent leaders in the higher education and military recruitment community. The rankings were determined by looking at the institution’s performance in the areas of student retention; graduation; job placement; loan repayment; persistence (degree advancement or transfer); and loan default rates for all students and, specifically, for student-veterans.

For more information, contact

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University ( is a modern Catholic teaching university that is firmly grounded in the liberal arts tradition and the timeless Benedictine wisdom that seeks balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit. The Saint Leo University of today is a private, nonprofit institution that creates hospitable learning communities wherever students want to be or need to be, whether that is a campus classroom, a web-based environment, an employer’s worksite, a military base, or an office park. Saint Leo welcomes people of all faiths and of no religious affiliation, and encourages learners of all generations.

The university remains the faithful steward of the beautiful lakeside University Campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, where its founding monks created the first Catholic college in the state in 1889. Serving nearly 12,000 students, Saint Leo has expanded to downtown Tampa, to other sites in Florida and beyond, and maintains a physical presence in seven states. The university provides highly respected online learning programs to students nationally and internationally. More than 93,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.

Corpus Christi Students Participate in STEMpalooza

On Wednesday, January 23, 2019, eight students from Corpus Christi Catholic School in Temple Terrace participated in STEMpalooza, a STEM competition sponsored by the Hillsborough County Association of Elementary Science Teachers.

The 2nd and 3rd grade team competed in the Robot Maze and Obstacle Course and earned gold medals!

The 4th and 5th grade team competed in the Crack the Code competition and earned silver medals!

Learn more about Corpus Christi Catholic School at their website.

Students participate in the robot challenge.


Saint Leo University Earns U.S. News Honors for Online Bachelor’s Programs

Saint Leo University was named as providing two of the best online programs in the United States, according to the 2019 U.S. News & World Report’s Best Online Programs edition, which was released January 16.

Saint Leo ranked 69th in the Best Online Programs for bachelor’s degrees, tied with the University of Cincinnati, University of North Dakota, and the University of North Texas.

In addition, Saint Leo ( was named as one of 2019 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans.

In 2018, Saint Leo was ranked high in the Best Online Programs for bachelor’s degrees (tied for 88th) and was named to the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans list (51st).

Saint Leo recently celebrated its 20th anniversary of offering online education. Launched in December 1998, Saint Leo was one of the first institutions to embrace online education with the creation of the Center for Online Learning.

“We are proud that Saint Leo University’s online bachelor’s program is recognized in the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Online Programs rankings again this year,” said Dr. Jeffrey D. Senese, university president. “Saint Leo continues to strengthen its online programs, offering the best student experience. We want to meet the needs of all of our students, no matter where they study. Saint Leo’s online education program allows our students to study and take classes at their convenience. It offers them flexibility along with access to highly reputable programs.”

U.S. News assessed schools based on four general categories: engagement; services and technologies; faculty credentials and training; and expert opinion. Full rankings can be found at

Saint Leo University is Florida’s first and oldest Catholic university, founded in 1889, north of Tampa, FL. Today, the university holds true to the Benedictine values on which it was founded. All courses at Saint Leo, including those taught online, include a focus on at least one of Saint Leo’s six core values: excellence; community; respect; personal development; responsible stewardship; and integrity. For example, students in online business courses discuss ethical behavior by national companies – what does a company look like that embraces integrity?

With 20 years of experience, Saint Leo understands the flexible learning experience online education can provide. The university is attuned with the unique needs of the online adult learner. One of the most critical areas in which Saint Leo distinguishes itself among other higher education institutions is its focus on connecting with students.

Students who are connected and involved in their university tend to do better academically and complete their degrees, which are offered from the associate level to the doctoral.

“Online students are no different,” said Shadel Hamilton, associate vice president of WorldWide Student Services. There may be a greater need for connection for those studying online as they don’t receive the face-to-face interaction that their counterparts, who attend class in a traditional university setting receive, Hamilton said. “We foster engagement that increases student satisfaction and success while also providing individualized support to align students’ education and career goals.”

One of the ways Saint Leo students connect is via virtual clubs and associations, offered through Saint Leo WorldWide’s Student Services department. Online students may join a club or association without leaving their home or workplace. Clubs focus on specific topics such as the Military & Family or the Student Communications Club, which produces a monthly newsletter created by online students located around the world.

“I believe Saint Leo has succeeded in online education because we take a proactive approach to serving online students and invite them to be part of a virtual community,” said Nancy Cheek, associate director of Career Services.

The veterans ranking by U.S. News & World Report is just one of many military awards Saint Leo has received. The university recently was ranked fourth in the country by Military Times Best: Colleges 2019in the online and nontraditional schools category. It has been honored by other publications such as G.I. Jobs and Military Advanced Education and Transition, and was named by Victory Media as a 2018 Top 10 Gold-level Military Friendly® School Award recipient and a 2018 Spouse Friendly School.

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University ( is a modern Catholic teaching university that is firmly grounded in the liberal arts tradition and the timeless Benedictine wisdom that seeks balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit. The Saint Leo University of today is a private, nonprofit institution that creates hospitable learning communities wherever students want to be or need to be, whether that is a campus classroom, a web-based environment, an employer’s worksite, a military base, or an office park. Saint Leo welcomes people of all faiths and of no religious affiliation and encourages learners of all generations. The university is committed to providing educational opportunities to the nation’s armed forces, veterans, and their families. Saint Leo is regionally accredited to award degrees ranging from the associate to the doctorate, and the faculty and staff guide all students to develop their capacities for critical thinking, moral reflection, and lifelong learning and leadership.

The university remains the faithful steward of the beautiful lakeside University Campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, where its founding monks created the first Catholic college in the state in 1889. Serving nearly 12,000 students, Saint Leo has expanded to downtown Tampa, to other sites in Florida and beyond, and maintains a physical presence in seven states. The university provides highly respected online learning programs to students nationally and internationally. More than 93,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.

Chairman of U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Migration Calls on President and Congress to Create a Border Solution and End Shut-Down

Bishop Joseph Vásquez, of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the Committee on Migration issued the following statement calling for the President and Congressional leaders to create a border solution and end the government shut-down.

Bishop Vasquez’s full statement follows:

“Secure borders and humane treatment of those fleeing persecution and seeking a better life are not mutually exclusive. The United States can ensure both and must do so without instilling fear or sowing hatred. We will continue to advocate for immigration reform to advance the common good and address these issues.

Pope Francis states that migrants are not statistics, but persons with feelings that need ongoing protection. From our work serving immigrant and refugees along the U.S./Mexico border, in the interior of the United States and throughout the world, we know this to be true. We urge lawmakers to look beyond rhetoric and remember the human dignity that God our Father has given each of us simply because we are all His children.

The President and Congressional leaders need to come together and end the shut-down with a solution that recognizes the dignity of work of affected employees, respects the humanity of all regardless of immigration status, and protects the sanctity of human life.”

National Migration Week is Jan. 6-12

We must never forget, however, that migrants, rather than simply being a statistic, are first of all persons who have faces, names and individual stories.”  – Pope Francis 
National Migration Week will be observed in dioceses around the country Jan. 6-12, 2019. This year’s theme, “Building Communities of Welcome,” encourages us to discover opportunities to engage with migrants as community members, neighbors, and friends. We can find opportunities to encounter migrant children and families in our community through our local Catholic Charities, parishes and other community organizations. Opportunities to encounter and accompany can include: becoming a foster parent to a migrant child who has been separated from family members, participating in or establishing a local Parishes Organized to Welcome Refugees (POWR) program; launching a new initiative that will support migrants in their effort to become American citizens; engaging in advocacy with local, state, and federal leaders to ensure that resources are in place to support refugees and immigrants during their transition and beyond.
During this week, Catholics are called to participate through prayer and action to try to ease the struggles of immigrants, migrants and vulnerable populations and to reflect on the Church’s obligation to create a culture of encounter, engagement and accompaniment.
Take action during this week of prayer, awareness and advocacy:


2019 National Migration Week (USCCB news release)

Messages from Pope Francis:

For World Day of Migrants & Refugees, 2018 (English | Español)
For World Day of Peace: Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace, 2018 (English | Español)



National Migration Week Toolkit (Justice for Immigrants website)

Reaching Out to Our Community this Christmas Season

As we await the birth of our Lord and Savior on Christmas Day, we strive to remember the true meaning of the season. As there are many people in our community who will be going without Christmas gifts or even basic everyday necessities, many of our parish and school communities have taken to heart those words from Scripture: “It is better to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Parishioners from across the diocese have shown incredible generosity. Below are a few examples of what our parishes and schools have done to serve our community this Christmas season.

Our Lady of Fatima Parish Brightens the Holidays for Those in Need

Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Women’s Club partners with the Family Resource Center of Citrus County to assist parents and guardians who would otherwise be unable to provide Christmas gifts for their children.  They take the names and wish lists of 25 children, make tags and hang them on Christmas trees at the church entrance.  Parishioners then select one or more tags and purchase gifts for the child whose tag was chosen.

“When they bring back their unwrapped gift, the generosity of our parishioners is overwhelming.  They usually exceed what is requested by adding extras, including gift cards to the area grocery stores for Christmas dinner!” shared Debbie Sosnicki, the parish’s office manager.

The Women’s Club then delivers those gifts back to the Resource Center, where they will be wrapped and delivered.

After these tags are taken, volunteers from the parish hang tags up for the parish’sFamily Tree to assist families in need.  Also included are tags for items requested bythe local Pregnancy & Family Life Center, such as diapers, receiving blankets, and more. “And, once again, the parishioners of Our Lady of Fatima step up and generously donate to make Christmas brighter,” said Mrs. Sosnicki.

The Family Tree was begun by parishioner Therese Kendrick.  She and her husband Ed continue to oversee this mission of giving every year.

Learn more about Our Lady of Fatima Parish.

Our Lady of Lourdes Parish and Catholic School Collect Over 1,200 Gifts for Children of Migrant Workers

2018 Christmas Outreach to the Community - Our Lady of Lourdes Parish

Students of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Dunedin have been working hard this year to help make Christmas wonderful for children of migrant workers. Since Halloween, the students have been collecting candy and created 449 gift bags to be distributed to the children living in the migrant community near Dade City.

The highlight of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish’s Christmas season is seeing the Church narthex filled completely with beautifully wrapped gifts, shiny new bicycles with bows on them, stuffed animals of all sizes, little dollhouses and bundles of gift cards, knowing that these presents will be given to children in need.

When asked about the efforts of his parishioners, the parish’s pastor, Father Gary Dowsey, said, “Our seventh and eighth grade students loaded over 1,200 Christmas gifts for the children of migrant farm workers into a caravan of cars. The feeling of joy was palpable. Giving to others is truly awesome work!”  

Learn more about Our Lady of Lourdes Parish and Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School.

Sacred Heart Parish in Pinellas Park Shares Christmas Joy with Residents at Bayside Terrace Assisted Living Facility

2018 Christmas Outreach to the Community with Sacred Heart Parish in Pinellas Park

During the fall, the lay leadership of Sacred Heart Parish in Pinellas Park gathered with Father Kevin Yarnell to plan their Christmas outreach efforts. After discussing various ideas, the group decided to provide a meaningful Christmas gift to every resident at a local assisted living facility. The parish partnered with Bayside Terrace, a nearby facility. On Sunday, December, 17, the Parish hosted a Christmas party for the residents. Volunteers from the parish, including from the high school youth group, led carols and handed out individualized presents to every resident.

“The cheerful scene and the joy in the faces of the residents was indescribable,” shared Father Yarnell. “It is not something I will soon forget.”

Learn more about Sacred Heart Parish.

St. Catherine of Siena Parish Shares Joy and Warmth this Christmas

2018 Christmas Outreach to the Community - St. Catherine of Siena Parish

St. Catherine of Siena Parish participates in several Christmas outreach projects. Each year, theparish’s  St. Vincent de Paul Society sponsors a toy giveaway. Throughout Advent, parishioners take paper ornaments from the parish’s Giving Tree, near the church’s main entrance. They return unwrapped gifts, which are then sorted by volunteers and displayed on tables in the parish hall. During the week before Christmas, local families in need gather in the parish hall and choose one gift for each of their children.

In addition, the Knights of Columbus sponsor a winter clothing drive for the residents of Pinellas Hope. Members of the parish are encouraged to bring new hats, gloves and socks to the church, which the Knights then wrap. On Tuesday, December 4, the Knights distributed 250 packages of winter clothing to the residents as part of a Christmas party, which included a tree lighting, carol singing and cookies.

Parishioners also participated in Caroling for Cans in the Brookside neighborhood. They split into groups, sang Christmas carols and collected non-perishable foods for distribution to those in need. Then they returned to church where they enjoyed cookies, cocoa, and a fire in the fire pit and a visit from Santa!

Learn more about St. Catherine of Siena Parish.

 St. Francis of Assisi Parish Feeds the Hungry

2018 Christmas Outreach to the Community with St. Francis of Assisi Parish

A “mercy tree”can be found in the narthex of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Seffner. Earlier this month, tags were hung on the tree, listing much-needed food items. Parishioners responded to the request with generous hearts. The food collected goes to stock the St. Francis Food Pantry which is run by members of the parish.

Learn more about St. Francis of Assisi Parish.

St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Spreads Holiday Cheer through their Giving Tree

Through their “Giving Tree” Christmas outreach project, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in New Port Richey is able to make the Christmas brighter for many. Tags are placed on the tree with requests to support a variety of projects and organizations.

Parishioners provide an outfit and a toy for children of families who are being helped by the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Society and diapers, baby items, and gifts for mothers to give to the West Pasco Pregnancy Center and Cyesis, a program for teen mothers in the public school system. The parish also collects Walmart gift cards to send to the Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska. Fairbanks is a mission diocese, which the parish assisted through a Missionary Appeal several years ago. Members of the parish were moved by the appeal to provide continued assistance to the diocese.

Additionally, the parish provides gifts for the parents of families in a transitional housing program in Holiday, which is run by Metropolitan Ministries. The program was able to obtain gifts for the children but needed help with gifts for the parents. Clients of the Women’s Resource Center of Tampa Bay, which cares for mothers dealing with addiction, also receive gifts. St. Thomas Aquinas Parish is also involved with “One Community Now” (OCN), a faith-based non-profit that seeks to address the needs of the community. For Christmas, the Parish provided the toys for their annual Christmas party for the Holiday Lakes Estates subdivision – a low income area that OCN has taken on as a community transformation project.

“As always, I am blown away by the generosity of our parishioners.  Not only do they simply buy the giftthat is on the tag, but they obviously put a lot of thought into what they purchase and more often than not, go the extra mile, being the hands and feet of Christ,” shared Mary Miller, Pastoral Ministries Coordinator at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish.

Learn more about St. Thomas Aquinas Parish.

Bishop Parkes’ Official Social Media Accounts

The Diocese of St. Petersburg has become aware that people are impersonating Bishop Parkes on Instagram and asking for money via private and direct messaging features. Bishop Parkes does not contact individuals on social media using the private message feature of Instagram. Please block and report any suspicious activity to Instagram and do not respond.

Bishop Parkes does not contact individuals via private or direct messaging on social media. Please report any suspicious activity to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and do not respond.

Follow these tips from the Federal Trade Commission and protect yourself from hoaxes, email scams and phishing (when internet fraudsters mimic a legitimate individual, organization or business to trick consumers into giving out their personal information or money).

  • Be Aware! Legitimate organizations would never solicit sensitive personal information through insecure channels such as email, social media messaging or text messaging.
  • Ignore suspicious emails, social media and text messages from someone who claims to need your personal information or financial assistance.
  • To verify the legitimacy of an email, social media message or text message that you receive from any organization, including a church, call the office and speak to a representative who can assist.

10 Things You Can Do To Avoid Becoming a Victim of Fraud

Visit this website to learn about protecting your family online, visit

Helping the Panhandle after Hurricane Michael

On October 8, 2018, Hurricane Michael slammed into the panhandle of Florida, leaving widespread devastation in its path.

In the weeks that followed, the people of the Diocese of St. Petersburg generously responded by giving over $300,000 for disaster relief. These funds went directly to Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida to help with recovery efforts.

In addition to monies raised, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, in keeping with our diocesan vision to Courageously Live the Gospel, collected food, toiletries, diapers and cleaning supplies. A truckload filled with the donations was delivered to Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida on Saturday, October 27th. Many of our Catholic parishes and schools also conducted their own collections of supplies that were later sent to the Panhandle.

The people of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee are grateful for the kindness and generosity of all those who are helping them rebuild their lives and their communities.

“Home for Christmas” with Support from Catholic Charities

Terry Oliver will be celebrating Christmas at his Homosassa home this year, after one-year away. Last October, he and his daughter were displaced from his house because of damage sustained from Hurricane Irma.

His house was fixed thanks to the partnership between Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Mennonite Disaster Services (MDS) and the Citrus County Long-Term Recovery Group.

On December 13, MDS members and Catholic Charities turned the house over to Mr. Oliver in a brief ceremony. This is the first time he was able to see his home after the community organizations and volunteers who raced against the clock to finish the repairs needed to make this Christmas wish come true.

Upon finally returning to his home, Mr. Oliver was overwhelmed with emotion. With tear-filled eyes and a trembling voice, he said “This is a blessing. I can’t thank you all enough.”

2018 "Home for the Holidays" Thanks to Catholic Charities

While the Tampa Bay area dodged a direct hit from Hurricane Irma from September 2017, certain areas in West Central Florida were heavily impacted, especially in Hernando and Citrus Counties. These areas experienced fierce winds and flooding and suffered over $60 million in crop and timber losses. Nearly 6,000 Citrus County households filed claims with FEMA.

Catholic Charities has provided over $1 million in assistance to nearly 2,000 clients who suffered some form of damage due to Hurricanes Maria and Irma, including rent and mortgage assistance, utilities, food, home repairs and more.

In order to help families with their long-term needs and return their lives to a sense of normalcy, Catholic Charities formed partnerships with community organizations. One partnership was with MDS. Another was with Citrus County Long-Term Recovery Group, a public-private partnership formed to assist in the long-term recovery of Citrus County families with significantly damaged homes. Citrus County Long-Term Recovery Group (LTRG) selected Mr. Oliver for repairs to his home and volunteers from MDS did the repair work.

In Mr. Oliver’s home, his bedroom and bathroom had rotted floors and mold-infested walls. Those two rooms needed to be stripped down to theirstuds and rebuilt. The rest of the home had water and mold damage and floors and ceilings had to be repaired as well.

Mr. Oliver is a retiree on disability who suffers from chronic back pain and emphysema. His home was first damaged during Hurricane Hermine in 2016, but he missed the FEMA claim submission deadline. Hurricane Irma worsened the damage. Walking on the floors was dangerous and Mr. Oliver almost fell through on numerous occasions. He was repeatedly ill due to exposure to mold. After Hurricane Irma, Mr. Oliver was forced to move in with his brother, and this time submitted a FEMA claim on time. His home was selected for repairs by the LTRG.

In early December, eight MDS volunteers arrived at Mr. Oliver’s home with supplies and equipment to repair the damage. Led by 20-year program veterans Norm and Carolyn Ringenberg, their mission was to repair the homes of individuals whose homes were damaged from Hurricane Irma in a partnership with Catholic Charities. Mr. Oliver’s home was the MDS volunteers’ eighth home repair of their fall season. The MDS volunteers will return in January to continue their partnership with Catholic Charities to help repair more homes in Citrus County.

About Catholic Charities Diocese of St. Petersburg

Since 1945, Catholic Charities has provided social services aimed at supporting and preserving families and promoting self-sufficiency and social justice. As an accredited Agency, Catholic Charities is a non-profit leader in serving the poor and vulnerable within Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties. To learn more, visit