Students at the Donahue Academy in Ave Maria head toward a school Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane. (PHOTO BY BOB REDDY)

Becoming a ‘Disciple of Christ’

Naples  |  One of the fundamental tenants of the Catholic Faith is that we must all strive to be a true “Disciple of Christ.” During the coming months, to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Venice in Florida, an initiative about how to become a “Disciple of Christ” will be unveiled.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane has been introducing the concept of being a “Disciple of Christ” to students in Diocesan Catholic Schools during a series of Masses at the beginning of the new academic year. 

“Just as Jesus called upon his apostles and disciples to follow, you are all called to follow Christ and be a Disciple of the Lord,” Bishop Dewane said to students at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School in Naples on Sept. 5.

The Bishop explained that to be a disciple one needs to be a follower or student of someone. A disciple comes to understand the life and writing of the person they follow. Citing the 10 Commandments and the Beatitudes as good ways to start living their life as a “Disciple of Christ,” the Bishop told the students that they “need to spend some more time in prayer and a little less time with those devices we carry around.”

“I want you to work and concentrate on becoming a ‘Disciple of Christ,’” Bishop Dewane said. “You can do this by making more room in your lives for Jesus. Sometimes this is easy to do. Know that when Christ is with you, then you are asked to be a certain kind of person. We all must strive to do what Christ asks us to do, and in doing so, we become more a man or woman of God – a true “Disciple of Christ.’”

To reinforce his point, the Bishop asked the younger students to repeat “Disciples of Christ” several times. He also told them that their teachers will readdress this theme throughout the year.

Several activities for schools and religious education students are in the planning stages including a video project where the students will share how they are a “Disciple of Christ.”

After the conclusion of the Aug. 30 Mass at St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, the eighth-grade students made a pledge to be leaders of the school in a responsible manner spiritually, academically and athletically. The students were then presented a leadership pin by the Bishop and Diocese Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ben Moore.

Following each Mass at the elementary/middle schools, the Bishop met with the eighth graders, encouraged them to be the true leaders of their respective schools while also urging them to attend the nearest Catholic High School next year.

“Everything I said to the other student applies doubly to each of you, because you are older, and you better understand what I ask of you,” the Bishop said. “I say this, because you are now the leaders of the school and young ones will follow your example. Take this responsibility seriously.”

The eighth graders were given the opportunity to ask the Bishop any question they chose. Most of these questions focused on background and what it is like to be a Bishop, his travel and interaction with Pope Francis. The Bishop in turn stressed the importance of being strong students in all areas of study, including language arts and in learning a foreign language. The skills they will learn from these courses will benefit them far into the future. The talks concluded with a group photo.

During the Masses at the elementary/middle schools, where many parents participated, Bishop Dewane took particular time to address the parents, acknowledging how they are always the first and best educators of their children. He thanked the parents for placing their child into one of the Catholic schools knowing they have other options. The Diocese makes a huge commitment of resources to serve these students so as to help them grow in their faith.

The Bishop was able to celebrate the Mass for students at all but two of the Diocesan Catholic Schools. The exceptions were St. John Neumann Catholic High School and St. Ann Catholic School in Naples, which were postponed to a later date due to the threat of Hurricane Dorian.