All posts by Maria

Brother Lucius Amarillas, O.S.B., to Profess Solemn Vows on July 14

Brother Lucius Amarillas, O.S.B., a junior Benedictine monk of Saint Leo Abbey, will profess solemn vows during Mass at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, July 14, 2019, at Saint Leo Abbey.  Professing solemn vows will bind Brother Lucius to the monastery and the Benedictine order for the remainder of his life.

All are invited to attend this joyous occasion! If you cannot attend in person, you are invited to pray for Brother Lucius and watch the live video stream of the Mass via Saint Leo Abbey’s Facebook page.

Brother Lucius was born in Manteca, California and grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada. After graduating high school, he moved to Florida and began studying religion at Saint Leo University. There, he started discerning a vocation with the Benedictine monks who founded the university.

For the last four years, Lucius has been through monastic formation, which consists of studying monastic history, Scripture, liturgy, and community life. Within the Abbey community, Lucius has been assigned several jobs from baking bread, cleaning and caring for the Abbey Church, and serving as the Abbot’s master of liturgical celebrations. With immense gratitude to Abbot Isaac, the monks of Saint Leo Abbey, as well as many others who have prayed for and accompanied him on his journey, Lucius looks forward to professing solemn vows of obedience, stability, and conversion of life. Following his profession of solemn vows, Lucius will continue graduate studies in theology at Saint Leo University and Saint John’s University, Collegeville.

Becoming a monk and taking Solemn Vows

The formation of a monk consists of a few stages the candidate progresses through: postulancy, novitiate, and juniorate. Following at least three years of the juniorate, if approved by the community, the junior monk may profess solemn vows, which binds him to the monastery and the Benedictine order for the remainder of his life.

These vows are unique to the Benedictine order. “Obedience” requires that the monk obeys his superior, the Abbot, and his successors. “Stability” requires that the monk remains a member of the particular monastic community in which he is making his vows, in this case, Saint Leo Abbey. Finally, “Conversion of Life” declares that the monk is indeed promising to live a life differently than the rest of the world, a life which is centered on monastic practices aiming for holiness.

Jóvenes completan el Programa de Verano para Jóvenes Latinos sobre la Doctrina Social Católica

Ana Luisa Jahuey de St. Cecilia, Andrés Hernández de St. Paul en Tampa y Christian y Matthew Obando de Nativity recibieron becas de SEPI para asistir al Programa de Verano para Jóvenes Latinos sobre la Doctrina Social Católica. Este es uno de dos programas de verano para adultos jóvenes hispanos de la región sureste creado en respuesta a las prioridades y necesidades identificadas en el V Encuentro Encuentro Nacional de Pastoral Hispana/Latina y en el Sínodo sobre los Jóvenes, la Fe y el Discernimiento Vocacional. El programa tiene como objetivo acompañar a los adultos jóvenes del sureste a responder fielmente al llamado de ser discípulos misioneros. ¡Felicitaciones jóvenes y gracias por responder al llamado a vivir valientemente el Evangelio!

Young Adults complete the Young Latino Catholic Social Teaching Summer Program

Ana Luisa Jahuey (St. Cecelia), Andres Hernandez (St. Paul Tampa), and Christian Obando and Matthew Obando (Nativity) received scholarships from SEPI to attend the Young Latino Catholic Social Teaching Summer Program. This is one of two new summer programs for Hispanic young adults in the Southeast Region created in response to the priorities and needs identified in the Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry and the Synod on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment. The program aims to accompany young adults from the Southeast to respond faithfully to the call to be missionary disciples. Congratulations jóvenes and thanks for responding to the call to Courageously live the Gospel!

Congratulations to our 2019 Valedictorians and Salutatorians

Congratulations to the valedictorians and salutatorians for the 2018/2019 school year from the seven Catholic high schools in our diocese! Note: The first year that Cristo Rey High School will have a class of seniors is 2020.

Academy of the Holy Names

Valedictorian Salutatorian
Lauren Dingle Sydney Lowman
Katherine Taulbee


Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School

Valedictorian Salutatorian
David Ackart Hannah Holliday


Clearwater Central Catholic High School

Valedictorian Salutatorian
Greta Ciampini Julia Root
International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program Valedictorian International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program Salutatorian
Angela Cuff Eric Gallagher


Jesuit High School

Valedictorian Valedictorian
Miguel Antonio Coste Christopher Day Gold
Nicholas William Muir


St. Petersburg Catholic High School

Valedictorian Salutatorian
Sean Shannon Jingqi Cao


Tampa Catholic High School

Valedictorian Salutatorian
Gina Bell Issabel Kenkel

Tampa Catholic High School Has 7 Million Reasons to Celebrate

On May 16, 2019, Tampa Catholic received its largest donation ever. In fact, the $7-million gift from alumnus Arnie Bellini and his wife Lauren is believed to be the largest single gift to a Catholic school in Florida’s history.

Bellini is Founder of tech firm ConnectWise and a 1976 graduate of Tampa Catholic. The company was sold earlier this year and Bellini gave back some of his earnings to the school that helped him become the person he is today.

“Our educators are amazing passionate people who inspire our students to be the very best they can be. They inspired my family and they will inspire you,” Bellini told more than 700 students attending a ceremony planned by school leaders at the school’s gymnasium for the big announcement. It was part press conference; part pep rally. The event started with Bishop Gregory Parkes offering a prayer of thanksgiving.

“We are grateful for the blessings of our alumni and their generous support of this school,” said Bishop Gregory Parkes during the opening prayer. “May what we do here always be according to God’s will and for God’s glory.”

Soon after that, a drum line entered the gym followed by the school’s mascot walking onto a stage. Then the mascot revealed himself to be Bellini.  He spoke for about 20 minutes about the impact Tampa Catholic has had on the life of his family and how he hopes his gift will transform the school and even the world.

“We will modernize and innovate education like no one has seen before and it will happen right here at Tampa Catholic,” said Bellini.

The $7-million gift will be allocated for The Bellini Center for the Arts. Bellini believes the arts are critical for teaching creativity and innovation which are needed for jobs of the future.

“A $7-million gift is truly unprecedented in the state of Florida for a Catholic school. We are truly blessed,” said Robert Lees, principal of Tampa Catholic High School.

The school is aiming to raise $23 million in total for other construction/expansion projects that include a new Student Services Center, Fitness Center, Academic Arcade, and Riverfront Commons, to open access to the Hillsborough River.

Parents, students and alumni expressed excitement for the future changes.

“Truly all parts of the plan are going to be important because they touch on arts, academic, fitness. It’s very comprehensive and will make a mark on our community,” said Dr. Elizabeth Nunez, a 1988 graduate whose daughter now attends Tampa Catholic.

Sister Lany Jo Smith, a 1966 grad who now lives in Connecticut, was at the school to hear the big news.

“I am so excited and so very happy about what this will mean to the current and future students of Tampa Catholic. I was especially pleased to hear about the focus on the arts. Art education is central to making a person whole in body, mind and soul,” said Sister Jo Smith.

The plans for a new fitness center sparked extra excitement with the students.

“I am most looking forward to all the sports renovations. That will help us improve in a lot of our sports,” said Katie, a Tampa Catholic Junior.

One thing is certain: The generosity of the Bellini family will leave a lasting legacy on the school.

“It’s a transformational gift and we’re so very grateful to the Bellini family for making this commitment to Tampa Catholic. It’s very inspiring to see a family that has achieved success and wants to share that with others,” said Bishop Parkes.

Ordinations to the Priesthood on Saturday, May 18

Bishop Parkes will ordain Deacon Anthony Astrab, Deacon Ralph D’Elia and Deacon Joshua Hare to the priesthood on Saturday, May 18, 2019, at 11:00 a.m. at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle. All are invited to attend this joyous occasion! Scroll to the bottom of this page to see videos of the three deacons sharing their vocation stories.

Unable to join us in person? Watch the live video stream of the Mass below and/or tune in to Spirit FM 90.5. Download the Worship Aid.

USCCB Migration Chairman Endorses Proposed Senate Legislation That Gives Permanent Legal Protection to Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Holders

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration endorsed the “Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors” (DREAM) Act of 2019, S. 874 and the “Safe Environment from Countries Under Repression & Emergency” (SECURE) Act of 2019, S. 879. The DREAM Act of 2019 would provide permanent legal protection and a pathway to citizenship for qualifying Dreamers. The SECURE Act of 2019 would provide permanent legal protection and a pathway to citizenship to qualifying Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders.

“We support legislative efforts to fully integrate hard-working Dreamers and TPS holders into the United States. We need a permanent legislative solution for those who have spent their lives contributing and living in the United States, the country they know as home,” said Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration. “Dreamers and TPS holders are vital members of our community who are going to school, working to make our communities better and raising families.”

Please see the USCCB Committee on Migration letters of support for the DREAM Act and Secure Act.

More information about Dreamers and TPS can be found on the Justice for Immigrants website.

Spring Retreat Day on April 27, 2019

As Christians, we are called to be persons of hope. But how do we do this amid the gloom and doom that sometimes pervades the daily news-and our personal lives? Join us for a spring retreat to explore the nature of hope and its relation to faith and love.

Saturday, April 21, 2019 (deadline to register is April 18)
St. Mary Parish
15520 North Boulevard
Tampa, FL 33613

9:00 a.m. Mass in the Church
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Retreat in Parish Center

Cost in $15.00 and includes a continental breakfast and lunch.


The retreat will suggest practical ways to nourish hope and courage in our daily lives. Scripture, music, short videos, stories, sharing, and humor will be used to lead us deeper into the Mystery of God, the ultimate source of all hope.

The guest speaker is Melannie Svoboda, SND, a Sister of Notre Dame of Chardon, OH. She has earned M.A.’s in both English and Spirituality. She has ministered as a teacher, formation director, congregational leader, spiritual director, and writer. Her many books included Everyday Epiphanies, When the Rains Speaks, and Hanging onto Hope. Visit her blog “Sunflower Seeds” at


Destiny Sommer and Lydia Nystrom work with their robot

Saint Leo University to Hold Summer Robotics Camps for Youths

As the United States celebrates National Robotics Week (April 6-14), Saint Leo University is expanding its summer robotics camp programs for youths. The university began offering the popular Girls Can! Robotics Camp in 2015, under the direction of Dr. Monika Kiss, professor of mathematics.

Last year, a camp for boys was added to Saint Leo’s offerings. In 2019, the university will have four camp programs:

  • Girls’ robotics camp – Monday, June 3, through Friday, June 7, for ages 10 to 14;
  • Boys’ robotic camp – Monday, June 10, through Friday, June 14, for ages 10 to 14;
  • Co-ed robotics camp – Monday, June 24, through Friday, June 28, for youths 10 to 14; and,
  • Girls’ overnight robotics camp – Sunday, June 30, through Wednesday, July 3, for ages 10 to 15.

RoboWeek in April aims to increase awareness of the importance of the robotics industry and the impact robots will make in the future. Saint Leo’s summer camp program has a similar goal of increasing young people’s interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and especially to open young girls’ eyes to the opportunities in STEM fields, Kiss said.

The campers build and program Lego EV3 Mindstorm robots in their daily sessions along with fun camp activities. As a part of programing, they will use their mathematical skills to design algorithms, their science skills to figure out what their robot can and can’t do, and their problem-solving skills to come up with excellent programs, Kiss said. In addition to the academic skills they will learn by learning to program, they will also learn a lot of soft skills, such as teamwork, communication skills, leadership skills, and improved self-confidence.

The overnight camp is for girls with prior robotics experience. They not only will have the opportunity to explore science and math, but also the chance to experience campus life by staying in a residence hall.

For more information, email Dr. Kiss at or call (352) 588-8836. Registration is available at

Photo caption:

At a 2018 Girls Can! Robotics Camp at Saint Leo University, campers Destiny Sommer and Lydia Nystrom work on their robot. Photo by Benjamin Watters, Saint Leo University 

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. More than 93,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.

Marking 65 Years of Priestly Ministry

In 2019, 3 priests in the Diocese of St. Petersburg will celebrate the 65th anniversary of their ordination. They will be recognized by Bishop Parkes during the annual Chrism Mass on Tuesday, April 16. They are:

Rev. Jose G. GonzalezRev. Jose G. Gonzalez

He was born in Asturias, Spain and moved with his family to Havana, Cuba while still an infant.  He was ordained in Rome on December 7, 1954 for the Salesian Order.  He arrived in the Diocese of St. Petersburg in 1974 and was accepted as one of our diocesan priests in 1979.  Father Gonzalez provided ministry to the Hispanic community and was Spiritual Director for the Hispanic Cursillo.  He also assisted with Marriage Encounter for many years until his retirement in 2002, after which he continued to serve at St. Michael Parish, Clearwater and at St. Raphael Parish, St. Petersburg, where he has resided.

Rev. Robert Schindler

He was born in Hollywood, Maryland and was ordained on May 8, 1954 for the Diocese of Monterey, California.  In 1969, he became a priest of the Diocese of Campeche, Mexico.  Father Schindler moved to the Diocese of St. Petersburg in 1993, where he ministered as a Chaplain at James A. Haley V.A. Hospital, Tampa until 2002, after which he has provided assistance in several parishes, including with the Traditional Latin Mass at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle.

Rev. Robert Velten, O.S.B.

He first professed as a Benedictine Monk in 1949 and was ordained on May 27, 1954.  He is a member of the American Cassinese Congregation of Benedictines and resides at Saint Leo Abbey, where he formerly served as Local Superior.  From 1959 to 1964, Father Velten was Headmaster of Saint Leo College Preparatory School (now Saint Leo University).

Requiescat in pace– May he rest in peace:

Rev. Emeric Szlezak, O.F.M. would have celebrated his 75thanniversary of ordination to the priesthood for the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor on June 11th.  A native of Budapest Hungary, Father Szlezak served for many years in New York and Connecticut before moving to St. Anthony Friary, St. Petersburg, where he remained active while in retirement frequently offering Masses for Hungarian-speaking Catholics.  Father Szlezak died on March 16, 2019 at the age of 101.