Class legacy gift exudes faith and fellowship

Some last names were omitted to protect the privacy of youth.
ORLANDO | Eighth-graders at St. James Cathedral School prepare for graduation on a cloudy morning, June 5, but not before sharing in the blessing of the paved deck they are leaving the school as a legacy gift. Excited to find their name on the bricks surrounding the large cross sitting at the center of the deck, the students were thankful for a chance to return to campus one last time and see their gift completed and blessed.
Each year the graduating class of St. James Cathedral School leaves a legacy gift as a way of thanking school staff for forming them in the faith, preparing them for high school, and leaving their mark. Past projects include stained glass, a Marian garden, and even a scoreboard. This year, the class chose to commemorate a space that was of particular significance to them.

Originally set on grass and partial concrete, the Class of 2020 chose to pave their lunch area with bricks to enhance the school grounds. “(The legacy committee) looked around for an area that needed a little more life… it was a perfect area that would leave a lasting tribute,” said Wendy T., a mother of an eighth-grader who served on the four-person legacy committee. She said it followed in step with one of their family mottos: “Leave everything better than you found it.”

The 20’ x 60’ space strewn with picnic tables, runs the length of the middle-school. “The SJCS middle school deck is where my classmates and I shared laughs and memories during lunch. It’s the place where my closest friendships grew,” explained Alexandra, Wendy’s daughter. “By adding bricks, we wanted the upcoming classes to be able to make memories and fellowship like we did.”

With the help of Charles JeBailey, another eighth-grade parent, his construction company MarJon Construction, prepared the space. He also secured the brick donation, making the project possible.

Wendy noted, “The goal was to have the deck completed over spring break, so that when they came back to school, they could enjoy the last bit of their eighth-grade year socializing, sharing community and breaking bread on it.” She added, “With COVID, we didn’t go back to see it.” The circumstances made the blessing, just prior to graduation, all the sweeter.

Father Miguel González, rector of St. James Cathedral, and Parochial Vicar Father Matthew Hawkins prayed over the space and blessed it with holy water. Then the group of 56 students moved to the gymnasium for their graduation ceremony.

“When the parents and the families come together, we do great things at St. James,” acknowledged Wendy. Principal Jayme Hartmann added, “It’s adds to the aesthetic value (of the school). It’s not only pretty to look at, and… was a fabulous way to allow these kids to really show where their foundation is. They put it in bricks. It’s decorative. It’s religious. It’s a great representation of the foundation they built here.”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic, June 5, 2020

Law professionals celebrate Red Mass and their mission

ORLANDO | St. James Cathedral in Orlando filled with judges, lawyers and other legal professionals for the annual Red Mass, Nov. 8. Celebrant Monsignor Richard Walsh called to mind recently canonized Cardinal John Henry Newman, who said in one of his meditations, “God knows me and calls me by name. He has created me to do some definite service.” Monsignor told those present, “Somewhere along the line, your decision to be what you are… wasn’t something by chance, rather the Lord inspired it in you.”  As Newman says, “He has committed some work to me he has not committed to another.”  Monsignor Walsh added, “If (the work you do) is your mission, then you are part of something bigger than yourselves… You are working for the Lord himself.”

Taking the words to heart, the lawyers present renewed their Oath of Admission to the Florida Bar then proceeded to a luncheon where the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Central Florida recognized several members of the community who live the mission God set before them.

Norma Stives, co-founder of Life Choices Medical Clinic in Altamonte Springs, accepted the St. Martin de Porres Award for strides in providing free services to pregnant mothers such as sonograms, parenting classes, professional counseling for post-abortive women and men, and much more. The clinic began as Mary’s place in 2008. Now, it is intentionally located next to an abortion clinic in the hopes of reducing the rising numbers of abortions in the state. Judge Carmine Bravo, who presented the award, noted 80% of the women who get a sonogram choose life for their child. The St. Martin de Porres Award recognizes those who, like de Porres, had an outreach to the community, who served the faithful and less fortunate.

Recalling the many mentors, supporters, guides and teachers in life who stand apart in one’s memory, having made a profound difference in charting the course of life, Kevin Shaughnessy noted, “For me and many other people in this room, Tom Wilkes (Jr.) filled all those roles. He was a mentor, teacher and he did it for me and hundreds of young Catholics, lawyers, and young professionals – all the while raising a great family and working in the Church.” Wilkes served three mayors as Orange County Attorney while working hard in the Cursillo movement and many other church ministries. Wilkes Jr. was the recipient of the St. Thomas More Award, given to a practicing Catholic who is involved in his/her parish; who displays a commitment to Catholic Social Teaching and Christian principles; evangelizes, and promotes the social, intellectual and spiritual welfare of the people served through his/her discipline.

In a moving speech, Betty Wheeler presented the new Catholic Community Servant Award, created posthumously in recognition of Deacon David Gray’s ministry to immigrants, prisoners, and the poor. Deacon Gray died earlier this year. His wife, Christeen, and one of his daughters accepted the award with gratitude. Although not a lawyer, Deacon Gray’s ministry exemplified the ideals of both St. Thomas More and St. Martin de Porres. The guild noted his laughter, love of faith, love for life, and willingness to accompany anyone in need are remembered in the hearts and minds of all who knew him.

All three recipients were clear of God’s plan for them. As St. Newman said, “I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes. I am part in his great work. I am a link in the chain – a bond of connection between persons.”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic  November 13, 2019

Blue Mass honors first responders

ORLANDO | The day for honoring first responders could not have been more appropriate. In the early hours of Sept. 27, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper and Navy veteran Tracy Vickers died in a car crash on the 408. Clergy, students, and members of various safety and rescue agencies arrived at the Blue Mass midday to pray for those who, like Vickers, selflessly serve their communities.

Minutes before Mass, students from area Catholic schools stood on the sidewalk in awe as a massive American flag unfurled between two tower trucks on Robinson Ave. The flag flanked the front of St. James Cathedral as a reminder of all patriotic heroes who protect America.

Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón was on the scene of Trooper Vickers’ fatal crash the morning of the Blue Mass. He noted how the accident drives home the importance of such a Mass. “It means a lot, especially on a day like today, that we are being supported and prayed for. It’s a dangerous job, as we can see by Trooper Vickers’ death.” As a Catholic, he says, “For me, it means a lot to be here today. I came to this church (St. James) shortly after I came from Puerto Rico.”

“Our sympathy goes out to all of you who work so that we can live our lives in peace and safety,” said Bishop John Noonan as Mass began, pausing for a moment of silence.

Bishop spoke of St. Michael the Archangel and why he was chosen as the patron of first responders. St. Michael is known as “the one like God. He is in battle gear with a sword, with a shield, with a cross … Each and every one of our first responders do work every day. They do God’s work as Michael the Archangel does the work of God. Michael’s role was established to bring peace and justice, to defend and protect; to help and to assist, lead and guide the people of God. This is what first responders do every day.” He spoke directly to those first responders present and said, “You are like Michael the Archangel. You have been given the role of guardian of our communities.”

Deacon Paul Volkerson, a retired captain of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, stood on the altar close to bishop. “I think it’s important for first responders to see us show our appreciation of the sacrifices that they make,” he said. Having spent 25 years at the sheriff’s office and with two sons in law enforcement, he says, “It’s a much more dangerous world now than when I started 40 plus years ago.” In addition, the on-the-job stress is high. He said that, in Florida, you must enter the department with a healthy heart, yet two officers this year died from heart issues. “I can tell you,” he said, “It’s a lot of stress, not just on the officers, but stress on the families, wives and children. When the husband or wife goes to work, there is always that recognition that they may not come home today.”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic September 27, 2019


O Lord
We praise you
for the goodness of the earth
for the beauty of the rise of dawn
for the glory of the nightfall
that Your prayer ever surrounds us.

You give us the land and all within it
as a glimpse of Your heart
holy and forever loving
that we might also
be of You, with You, in You
throughout our days.

You compel us to take courage,
no matter the difficulty.
You place servants before us –
men and women whom
You entrust to safeguard
against our human calamity.

These heralds of blessing
shield the most vulnerable
offer wellspring for the parched
and carry the brokenhearted.
They sacrifice their own life
to yield our living.

We thank you O Lord
for those who bring forth
Your Spirit in our midst.
You are with us.
May we who fix our hope in God
be filled with all joy and peace in believing.


The ‘Saint of 9/11’

ORLANDO | As the sun set on Fire Station One on September 11, 2019, leaders of the Diocese of Orlando gathered with city officials to pray and remember. Bishop John Noonan and Father Miguel González, Rector of St. James Cathedral, sat in the front row with Mayor Buddy Dyer and others. The sound of bagpipes filled the air, as the group called to mind the victims from 18 years ago, including a Franciscan priest who was among the first to die.

Father Mychal Judge, chaplain to the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), ran from his friary to World Trade Center shortly after the first plane hit. After anointing a firefighter, he was struck by falling debris and killed.

“I am proud that we are united here tonight to honor the lives taken,” said Mayor Dyer. Directly in front of the mayor and the crowd sat a table. On that table next to a cross and a helmet, was a smiling photo of Father Judge in full firefighter gear. Bishop Noonan was called up to light a single white candle that stood above a sea of red and blue ones. It burned in honor of Father Judge.

Honor Guards from both the Orlando Police and Fire Departments lit the remaining blue and red candles, representing the fallen firefighters, police and Port Authority officers lost that day.
“Amid the urban noise of the street, we gathered for a holy ceremony honoring the beloved public safety personnel who spared their lives for us on September 11, eighteen years ago,” said Bishop Noonan. “The dignity of the Honor Guards’ lighting of a candle for each man and woman recalled his/her valor which will never be forgotten. It was a truly a blessing to participate.”

District Chief Michael Stallings helped to organize the solemn event. “This year, as we do every year, Orlando Fire Department memorializes FDNY members during our September 11th ceremony,” he said. “This year, we chose to honor Father Mychal Judge, FDNY chaplain and Catholic priest, who was killed while offering spiritual support to the crews who were heading up the stairs of the World Trade Center. We felt that by having Bishop Noonan present to light Father Judge’s candle and having the clergy and staff from St. James Cathedral present at our ceremony, it would be a more meaningful event.”

Father Judge is remembered as a very traditional and devout Catholic who had a special devotion to Mary and the Blessed Sacrament. During his funeral Mass, a friend and fellow priest said he believed Father Judge was one of the first to die because his goal in life was to prepare firefighters to meet their maker. Father Judge could not have ministered to them all on that day. He believes God took Father Judge first to meet those men and women on the other side of their journey to eternal life.
In his homily, preached the day before he died, Father Judge reminded the firefighters, “Never a boring day on this job. You do what God has called you to do… You get on the rig and you go out and you do the job – which is a mystery. And a surprise… No matter how big the call. No matter how small. You have no idea what God is calling you to, but He needs you. He needs me. He needs all of us.” Many people now refer to Father Judge as the ‘saint of 9/11.’

“We were truly honored by having the Diocese of Orlando with us during this very important night,” added Stallings. “The invitation is always open for all people to join us during our annual memorial as it allows us to grieve, and be thankful together as Americans.”

Special to Jennifer Drow of the Florida Catholic September 18, 2019

New theology and ministry certificate encourages Catholics to continue education

ORLANDO | A shared comradery of faith in Christ and continuing education flowed throughout evening at St. James Cathedral’s social hall Sept. 5. The congregation brought together more than 30 individuals with hopes to further their personal and professional lives by pursuing their advancement of their Christian faith.

The Loyola Institute for Ministry Extension Program (LIMEX), a fully accredited division of Loyola University founded in New Orleans, has been supplying Christian education—both in classrooms and online—for adults across six continents for nearly 40 years. The Diocese of Orlando was one of the first dioceses in the country to participate in the LIMEX program.

After an opening prayer blessed the group for a night dedicated in Jesus’ honor, the keynote speaker took the podium. Dr. Tom Ryan, director of Loyola’s Institute for Ministry, explained to those gathered why enrollment is so important to their own faith and the various paths they can take as a LIMEX member.

“Students in this program join a cloud of [Catholic] witnesses all over the United States and all over the world,” he said. “LIMEX prepares worshippers to go out into the world as faithful Catholics, to announce the Good News of God’s love and the joy that brings, the beauty that implies, and the community that builds. We all participate, in our own way, in the priesthood of Christ.”

Required classes, such as Jewish Roots and Christian Origins will explore ancient Hebrew Scripture and the teachings of Jesus. “The first six courses in our curriculum are core theology,” Dr. Ryan said. The Introduction to Practical Theology course will play a significant part in preparing enrolled students for professional careers in Christian ministry.

Dr. Ryan is proud how the LIMEX program handles its approach to religious pedagogy. “We call it practical theology. Some theologians keep theology hidden in their head,” he said, noting that LIMEX takes the opposite approach. “The best theologians throughout Church history have been practical theologians. Practical theology is about reading the Bible and the newspaper together, in terms of each other. What does this mean for the Church and the world?” The courses for the certificate merge Christian faith and social topics for students to reflect upon. “There will be lots of writing,” Dr. Ryan stated several times throughout the evening.

“Our program includes spiritual formation,” he said. “We want you to put the spiritual formation in conversation with your studies so prayer can illuminate and enhance your studies. LIMEX is rooted in your Baptism.” He encouraged the group to study Sts. Ignatius of Loyola and Thomas Aquinas.

“You will form a community [in Orlando], a learning community, a praying community,” he said of meeting up with other students in the program. “Each week you will engage about the fruits of your prayer and the fruits of your study. I think that is one of the most powerful things about this program. You will learn communication skills, how to deal with people.”

Along with the new certificate in theology and ministry, Loyola offers master degrees in business administration and criminal justice, and many more. Prices for master degree students enrolled in face-to-face classes in Orlando are $1,056. Online classes are $1,227. Depending on certain circumstances, some parishes may assist students with tuition.Those interested in taking part in the theology and ministry certificate must have a high school degree, ministry experience, and the ability to communicate on a post-secondary level. The cost to apply online is free.

For more information, interested parties can contact Dr. Tom Ryan by email at or call 504-865-3727. To apply online, go to For in-person classes in the Diocese of Orlando, contact Tomas Evans,

By Maurice Beaulieu of the Florida Catholic September 04, 2019

Mystery of the Eucharist embraces universal Church in diocese

ORLANDO | St. James Cathedral filled with faithful of various cultural backgrounds, coming together to celebrate the mystery of the Feast of the Most Holy Eucharist at the Corpus Christi Mass and Procession, June 23. Ten altars of repose located in the brick parking lot between the cathedral and chancery honored the Lord’s presence with decor and sacramentals from different traditions. Bishop John Noonan led the procession to each altar with the monstrance, stopping for prayer, song and reflection. “This sacrifice is reminder to you and me that Jesus gave His life to save us,” he said. “So we celebrate the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist to remind us that Jesus is still present to each and every one of us. We receive the Body and Blood so we can become Christ to one another.”


The Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ dates back to the Diocese of Liège in Belgium in the 13th century, but is rooted in Christ’s institution of the Sacrament of Holy Communion at the Last Supper. Established as a universal feast in 1264, the feast day is a solemnity – a day that commemorates a highly significant day in the life of Jesus, Mary, or an important saint. Corpus Christi is usually celebrated the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, but in the U.S., it is the following Sunday.

Calling to mind that universality, the Diocese of Orlando’s culturally diverse members bore witness to the Body of Christ outdoors, that the public might witness the many faces of Christ alive through numerous nationalities and customs. Seminarians served as canopy bearers, while Bishop Noonan raised high the monstrance, guiding the procession to altars of repose. Representatives from each country greeted the procession with songs and colorful displays of flags, unique instruments, images and icons.


Father Jaroslaw Shudrak of St. Mary’s Protectoress Ukrainian Parish in Apopka participated for the fourth year. He says the feast day is important, “primarily because of our love for the Eucharist.” He also enjoys the opportunity for other people “to see, know and learn about our Eastern Rite, ‘the other lung of the Church’ as St. Pope John Paul II said.” To heighten that opportunity, he brought several icons – St. Mary the Protectoress, the Resurrection and the Nativity. The altar held an Eastern Rite chalice and paten. “It is such a pleasure for us to participate in such a beautiful and wonderful feast,” he added.

Arriving at the final altar of repose were immigrants from Kerala, India, members of St. Mary’s Syro-Malabar Parish in Sanford. The Syro-Malabar church is considered the church of St. Thomas Christians because it was borne of St. Thomas’ evangelization in parts of India in 72 A.D., originating in Kerala. Dressed in typical clothing, those gathered welcomed the procession singing, “the King is coming who is the ruler of the four directions of the universe; He comes to give grace to all. Let all people come to worship Him.” Above the altar rose a handsomely gilded gold cross. Resting on the altar was the resurrection cross or sleeva, emphasizing the risen Christ and representing the Holy Spirit. Bright red and gold umbrellas framed the setting, hailing the solemnity’s importance. Father Sibi Kurian Velamparambil, voiced the sentiment of the crowd: “To be part of Corpus Christi procession is an experience of walking with Jesus.” He added, “Being a migrant community, Jesus is the center of our family and life.”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – June 24, 2019

Ordination to the Priesthood of Derek Saldanha – May 2019

Welcome to St. James Cathedral on this joy filled day as we are about to ordain Derek Saldanha, our brother, to the priesthood. I extend a very special welcome to your parents, Agnelo and Lavita, your brother David, family and friends who join us here today from Melbourne to Cameroon. The priests and deacons of the Diocese of Orlando and visiting priests from other Dioceses; welcome. Classmates of Derek who have been ordained and those who will be ordained in the future; welcome. Welcome all seminarians and young people, you are about to witness this beautiful Rite of Ordination. I hope and pray it is a source of inspiration for you in your vocation to the priesthood and religious life. Those who will be joining us from other parts of the Diocese and the world; especially from India; we welcome you on the internet by way of live stream.

I welcome the faculty and staff of St. John Vianney and St. Vincent de Paul Seminaries who formed you and educated you. I am grateful to your formators, Father Jorge Torres, your vocations director, who accompanied and guided you over the years. Father Miguel Gonzalez helped in your discernment to follow Christ. Father Josh Swallows accompanied you during this last year.

I address your parents who have given you life and your faith. Derek said that faith played a very important role in the life of his family. You prayed the rosary together. Derek said his family helped him discern your call to the priesthood. For this we are grateful.

Derek, your favorite saint, St. Francis Xavier evangelized the land of your birth, India. You are about to follow in his footsteps, you too will be called to evangelize. You are the first priest to be ordained from India in the Diocese of Orlando. You will join a group of your brother priests from many different countries who serve in the Diocese of Orlando. I am blessed and grateful to all the priests who serve all people in the Orlando Diocese.

The Diocese of Orlando’s Indian communities welcome you with great joy as the first among them to be ordained a priest. St. Francis Xavier’s life changed when the Lord touched him. Isaiah the prophet tells us in the first reading, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me” (Is 61:1). You, Derek, are about to be anointed with the Spirit of the Lord and your life too will be changed. You will be called “to bring glad tidings to the lowly, heal the brokenhearted and to proclaim liberty to the captives” (Is. 61:1).

St. Francis Xavier discerned his vocation while at university in Paris. Derek, you discerned your vocation at Franciscan University. Your reflecting on the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist; realizing it was the consecration of God through the words and hands of the priest that we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We also receive God’s merciful grace through the words and blessings of the priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is in the Sacraments that we encounter Christ, in and through the priests that we receive these precious gifts.

St. Francis Xavier brought the Gospel to India, especially to the state of Goa. Derek, you come from a long and rich missionary tradition. In the Letter to the Hebrews you are reminded to be a humble representative of the people before God by “offering gifts and sacrifices for sins and to deal patiently with the people” (Heb 1:2) because you yourself are a sinner. “The priest is not his own, but the servant of Jesus Christ.” Christ is the treasure you carry within and it is He who is the most important treasure.” The words to the hymn, “Earthen Vessels” by Father John Foley, S.J., “Behold the treasure not made of gold, in earthen vessels, wealth untold, one treasure only, the Lord the Christ in earthen vessels,” – Derek, you are that earthen vessel who holds the treasure.

Derek you are to preach, to teach and live the Gospel, sanctifying the people with the Sacraments. You place your life at God’s disposal; through a life of chastity and obedience. The rite of Ordination “encourages you to be more intentional about your life.” I pray that your Ordination to the priesthood of Jesus Christ brings fulfillment and joy into your life.

The ritual of calling you by name brings to mind the words of Jeremiah the prophet, “Before I formed you. … .I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you” (Jer 1:5). Derek, you were chosen by God and the people of God affirmed you by their applause. Your simple answer, “Present”, is reflected in the words of Scripture, “Here I am Lord. I come to do your will.” The laying on of hands by the bishop and priests: you as a sacred person committed to the service to God. The Book of the Gospels was placed in your hands at your Ordination to the Diaconate, dedicating your life to preaching and faithfully teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The anointing of your hands with sacred Chrism blesses you as an anointed one like the priests, prophets and kings of old. The placing of the sacred vessels in your hands entrusts you with the precious gift of consecrating the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We hear not even the angels in heaven have been given such power.

Pope Francis said in an address to priests, “The Word of God requires witness, teachers who are faithful to the truth and worthy witnesses of the Gospel. …The witness incarnates what is taught, makes it tangible, makes its call, and leaves no one indifferent. The witness adds to the truth the joy of the Gospel, aware of being loved by God and the object of His infinite mercy.”

Derek you are that witness and teacher. You said, “I look forward to journeying with the people, helping them in their own relationship with God that they may come to discover Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. In doing so that they may receive the peace and joy that comes from Him alone.”

Father Cantalamesa said in a retreat to the bishops of the USA that in your prayers you are to ask the Holy Spirit for help; “we don’t speak of the Holy Spirit, but we speak to the Holy Spirit.” He also pointed out the need to rethink the relationship between prayer and action. “We must pray first and then do what emerges from our prayer.” Don’t neglect your life of prayer. Daily prayer with the Holy Spirit will direct and guide your ministry.

Derek, praying to and with the Holy Spirit must become the focal point of your daily life of prayer. As a priest of Jesus Christ, you can bring God’s glory and power into the lives of the people, but only through a life of prayer.

The parish community of Holy Name of Jesus played an important role in your vocation; the priests and the people inspired you. Their prayers and support gave you the opportunity to discern your vocation and for this we are eternally grateful. You now will be able to do likewise – to inspire and encourage others to seek God’s will in their life’s vocation. Allow them to see priesthood, religious life or family life as a calling and a gift from God.

Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Derek, you told me this is your favorite Scripture passage. You said, “Whenever my life has been centered around Him, I have been able to do whatever He asks of me.”

Derek, just like St. Francis Xavier, the Lord asks you; “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20).

In a recent interview you said, “I hope to preach the word of God with zeal, with meaning, giving it my everything.” With God’s grace, it will be so.

Ordination to the Priesthood, Deacon Derek Saldanha
St. James Cathedral, Orlando
May 25, 2019

Evangelizing downtown with the Via Crucis

ORLANDO | On the eve of Palm Sunday, April 14, a crowd gathered in front of St. James Cathedral in Orlando to watch a live Via Crucis – the Stations of the Cross acted out in the form of a play. It is the first time an event of its kind took place out on the street, presenting the opportunity to evangelize in the heart of downtown.

The Via Crucis was the dream of Cristina Hinostroza, parishioner at Most Precious Blood Parish in Oviedo. Growing up in Tijuana, Mexico, the memories of this beautiful re-enactment are still vivid in her mind. Seven years ago, she began to pursue her desire to bring it to her parish. In 2017, that became a reality. However, it was a surprise when Anibel Beltran, Hispanic Ministry director of St. James, called her to bring it downtown. Gladly, she and the cast of 50 agreed.

“It is very emotional,” she said. “During rehearsal my eyes watered. When you really live it, you are accompanying Christ. In Tijuana, you walk through hills. It takes up to two hours and it impacts your Lent in a different way.” She added, “You think you know the story, until you see him suffering.”

When Hinostroza arrived in the United States 20 years ago, she realized many of the customs she held dear, such as the Mass for the Virgin of Guadalupe, were not celebrated. She set out to change that practice and eight years ago, coordinated with her pastor at the time to begin an annual Virgin of Guadalupe Mass at 5 a.m., on her feast day. With that experience behind her, coordination of the Via Crucis began.

Three years ago, with 50 characters and many more behind the scenes volunteers, they began put together the dialogue, planned the wardrobe and built the props. They asked for donations of sheets, curtains and fabric while women stepped up to sew the costumes. They raised money to purchase guards uniforms and slowly everything came together.

After learning other Latin American countries have similar traditions of the re-enactment, Hinostroza’s crew now appropriately represents various nations including Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Peru, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Cuba.

Deacon Carlos Sola, of St. James Cathedral, offered a short homily on the steps of the cathedral after the Via Crucis. He noted, just as Jesus carried His cross through the streets to Calvary, today this visual presentation enables us to experience what that may have been like. He said, “With our presence, we are manifesting to all those who pass by, our faith, our confidence in the Lord who saves us. We are entering Holy Week, a week that helps us synchronize with Christ, what He taught us and what He lived and the direct consequence between what He said and what He did… In the cross, we see nailed, the love of Christ for His Father and for us. In the same way, we should have, nailed to the cross of our existence, our love of the Father and the love of our brothers and sisters.”

As for Hinostroza, she emphasized, “What I hope is that seeing it, people change their way of thinking so that they might live out the remainder of Lent differently.”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – April 16, 2019

Couples renew marital covenant

ORLANDO | Couples of all ages desiring to renew their commitment to one another and the Sacrament of Marriage filled St. James Cathedral in Orlando Feb. 9, a prelude to World Marriage Day. Bishop John Noonan spoke to them about their great witness of love and blessed them as the couples renewed their vows. Originally celebrated as the part of the Diocese of Orlando’s 25th anniversary, the formerly named Wedding Anniversary Mass, honored marriages of 25 and 50 years. Recognizing the importance of each anniversary as a call to Sacrament, a covenant of fidelity with God, the celebration was renamed Mass for Marriage in 2017.

For many couples, the Mass is a significant annual event. Tomás and Mercedes Díaz have participated for four years. Married in August 1976 in Guacara, Venezuela, Tomás says they attend “first of all because we believe in marriage. It also renews the commitment we made to Jesus when we were married. It gives us great joy to see the couples who have been married 50, 60, 70 years and still love one another.”

“They are holding hands, standing close, like love birds. It fills us with joy,” notes Mercedes. “They’re an example for us. We see that we can persevere together until the Lord calls us home,” adds Tomás.

Married 42 years, the Good Shepherd parishioners keep the spark in their marriage by participating in World Wide Marriage Encounter (WWME). In 2002, they noticed their marriage becoming monotonous. “We were stagnant. Our conversation was about the house, the children and work,” recalls Mercedes. Then a pastor at their local parish in Venezuela spoke about World Wide Marriage Encounter. Tomás was not keen on the idea, but agreed to go. “That is where I came to understand the time we had wasted… not being in that full union,” he said. In gratitude to God, they joined the WWME team in 2005 and eventually became presenters. They moved to the U.S. in 2009 and picked up their service once again, now leading Spanish retreats.

“Our first weekend, we came to know ourselves better and each other. It gave us a chance to speak about topics we had never before broached,” said Mercedes. “We realized what the Sacrament of Marriage is—that to love is a decision.”

“I can say that I have the love of God, but if I choose not to love my partner each day, then I do not have the love of God within me. All that helped us decide to make our marriage a priority, before home, children and other things. That has helped us maintain our vibrant relationship and keep the flame of love ignited.”

Reordering priorities is what brought Marco and Michelle Robles of Most Precious Blood Parish to the special Mass for the first time. Married five years ago, Marco said, “I thought it would be a nice opportunity to spend some time with my wife. We’ve kind of gotten in the habit of just going day by day with our 2-year old, so having a chance to refocus on each other was a great opportunity.” He added, “It helped us see how far we’ve come in just those five years, but also prepare for hopefully many, many more years to come. Seeing how much our faith plays a role in a successful marriage, to have that partner be there with you and help you be accountable and to share in your faith, helps you be able to work out those hardships and things that, in today’s society, drive couples apart.” He noted that seeing so many strong marriages “gives us something to strive toward.”


Paul and Robin Ring were married at Divine Mercy Parish in Merritt Island in 1984. It is still their home parish. For the last three years they have made the drive to Orlando to “honor the Sacrament of Marriage,” says Robin. Both are also involved in marriage ministry through WWME. As leaders for the Central and Northeast Florida region, Robin says WWME has helped “keep our relationship a priority and allows us to communicate openly and honestly.”

Paul explained, “Before marriage encounter, I pretty much kept everything inside. Going to marriage encounter helped me express my feelings to Robin so she’s not guessing.”

The retreat was a 25th anniversary gift to themselves much like each vow renewal at Mass for Marriage. It is something they do to strengthen their bond, but happy marriages take work and that is why the Rings have stuck with WWME. “It’s helped me get to know myself and Paul better,” said Robin. Paul likes that “We’re not just communicating on a superficial level.”

Both the Díaz and Ring families agree improved communication has been integral to their success as a couple. “You have to be able to understand yourself and be able to share that,” said Robin. The couples agree that sharing feelings more openly, in a loving and respectful way has helped them fend of difficulties down the line.

“This is worth it. We are many couples who believe in marriage and in the daily struggle to remain the best couple we can be, with God,” said Tomás. “As the bishop reminded us, we should be the sign of God’s love on earth.”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – February 11, 2019

New Video: Rite reveals beauty and gift of chastity

ORLANDO | Marianne Cano walked down the aisle of St. James Cathedral in Orlando dressed in a long white gown and filled with irrepressible joy. The day she awaited and prepared for since her youth, to become a “bride of Christ”, was here. Surrounded by family and guests from as far away as Dominican Republic, she was consecrated to a life of virginity. Cano, who attends Ascension Parish in Melbourne, is the first woman to become a publicly professed consecrated virgin in the Diocese of Orlando. The rite dates back to the apostolic era and was revived after Vatican II.

Pursuing this path for more than 20 years, Cano began private formation with a spiritual director in 2013 after learning of the Rite of Solemn Consecration to a Life of Virginity. After petitioning Bishop John Noonan, Cano entered her final phase of formation with Sister of Saint Joseph, Kathleen Power in January 2018. “The restoration of this ancient Rite in the church impacts each one of us as laity, priests, deacons, consecrated religious, and widows,” said Sister Power. “This wonderful consecrated virgin stands as an icon of all of us in the Church publicly… It is another way to consecrate yourself to Christ in the world as laity. Having the chance to participate in Marianne’s formation has enlightened me and brought me great joy!”

Cano’s mother, Marta Menendez Cano, said her daughter has “been a consecrated person on her own since she was a teenager… daily Mass would not be missed by her, no matter what was going on in her life.” She added, “Marianne has been with the Lord all her life. This is her wish coming true. She has officially found what she did not know existed.”

As Sister Power called Cano to come forth, her attendant and fellow consecrated virgin, Magalis Aguilera, lit a brass lamp recalling Matt. 25. The story speaks of 10 virgins who awaited their bridegroom, Christ, but only five were prepared at his arrival. Cano was ready and eager, singing her response with ardor.

“Marianne, God has called you and has led you to this moment in your life. You are to be united to God and to dedicate your life and service to God and his people,” Bishop John Noonan told Cano in his homily. Referring to the reading from Is 62:1-5 as well as the new bond between her and Christ, he added, “This new relationship will be like the intimate bond between a husband and wife; they will no longer be forsaken or desolate, but will become one – the delight and the espoused of the Lord. …to cultivate an intimate relationship with God calls for making God’s presence real and vibrant in our life.” To do this, he encouraged her to speak with God in prayer.

“Marianne, the Scriptures reveal so much to us about God and our faith… Unfortunately, too many Christians today do not know or believe in God. Jesus has become a personality not a person, set in dogma and doctrine… Pope Emeritus Benedict reminds us that Jesus cannot be an object, but must become the subject of our lives. Jesus is not only beside us, but dwells in us. It is God’s grace that gives us the knowledge and strength to make Jesus the subject of our lives… Marianne, prayer is our only means and source of cultivating and strengthening our relationship with God.”

Cano resolved to persevere in the holy state of virginity, to follow Christ in the spirit of the Gospel as a faithful witness to God’s love and a convincing sign of the kingdom of heaven, and to accept solemn consecration as a bride Christ, the Son of God.

Taking her hands in his, Bishop Noonan prayed the Prayer of Consecration: “…Lord, look with favor on your handmaid. She places in your hands her resolve to live in chastity. You inspire her to take this vow; now she gives you her heart… She has chosen you above all things; may she find all things in possessing you.”

Visibly moved, Cano then received a veil as a symbol of her dedication to Christ; a ring, marking her as a bride of Christ; and the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Church. All will serve as reminders of her betrothal and commitment to supporting the diocese in prayer and deed.

The ceremony crystallized Cano’s greatest yearning. Her emotions are summed up in in a letter she wrote to Bishop Noonan in November 2017, when she requested permission for consecration. “Since my youth, I have recited repeatedly this scripture passage: ‘Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart’ (Ps 37:4). Reflecting upon my spiritual journey, I now see that contemplating Jesus, particularly in His passion and death on the cross, has actually transformed my heart into one that longs only to please Him and quench His thirst for souls. Indeed, He Himself is and forever will be the fulfillment of all my desires!”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – January 21, 2019

Bishop Noonan's E-Scroll
“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” Romans 1:16


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