Around the Diocese

In an effort to foster student interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers, seventh graders learn the effects of liquid nitrogen on a live specimen at Divine Mercy Catholic Academy’s Space Day. (ANNA MOSS | COURTESY)

Parishes and schools around the Diocese of Orlando are growing fast and introducing exciting developments. In this “Around the Diocese” feature, The Florida Catholic provides updates by county on how faith is being enkindled and shared among the people of God.


Parish Sheds Light in Uganda

Many of the more than 1.3 billion people worldwide, who are without electricity, use kerosene lamps. These lamps are highly toxic and expensive to operate, often costing families in poor areas more than 20% of their income. The toxic fumes not only endanger health, but advance climate change.

Blessed Trinity Parish in Ocala is on a mission to help its sister parish in Uganda eradicate the use of kerosene lamps. At the cost of only $5 per lamp, the parish has already sent 1,000 solar lights and parishioners are hoping to raise enough money to purchase and distribute 10,000 more. Blessed Trinity pastor, Father Patrick Sheedy said, “In our twin parish in Nalweyo, Uganda, very few households have electricity.”  The lights will give children four hours of light to study by each night and aid in the health of the community.

According to Sun24, the solar light company Father Sheedy is using to purchase and distribute the solar lights, in two years, one crude kerosene lamp damages the climate as much as driving 4,250 miles in a typical American car.

The plan is to donate the first lamp and thus, enable savings so that residents may purchase additional lamps.

New Building Fulfills Faith Community Needs

“The roof is on and everything is enclosed,” said Father Sebastian Hanks of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Summerfield referring to their new $1.3 million multipurpose building. The building will include meeting space and an office and food pantry for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Since its founding in Sept. 2005, the parish has gone from 500 parishioners to 3,200. “We receive about 15 to 20 new parishioners a month,” said Father Hanks.

He said that an increase in parishioners has meant needing more meeting space for faith formation classes and their 35 ministries. Together with the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, the increased activity created the need for expansion.

Construction of the building, which is already fully funded, began in August and is expected to be completed by February 2017. “The new center will help us keep the electric bills and air conditioning bills at a minimum, because the social hall is too big for small groups,” said Father Hanks.

Father Hanks said he hopes that this building will enhance the parish’s Catholic education, “not only to communicate the facts, but also to transmit a coherent comprehensive vision of life, in the conviction that the Catholic truths contained in that vision will liberate us in the most profound meaning of human freedom as possible.”


Parish Purchases for Expansion

From gathering in family homes, to a funeral chapel, to a mission church and finally a formal parish in 2005, St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Wildwood is expanding once again to meet the needs of the unprecedented growth in northern Sumter County.

The parish recently purchased 16-acres for incremental expansion. The decision came after the parish surveyed its parishioners and assessed its needs.

The first phase will include an on-site rectory, storage building and parking. The addition of parking spaces has already begun and should be completed in time for Christmas Masses.

Phase two will include a Family Life Center and expansion of the church. Spiritual décor from the original mission church will be integrated into the Family Life Center to represent the parish’s spiritual roots and to celebrate God’s work through the parishioners. The church building will also be expanded by roughly 10,000 square feet.

Referring to the new Family Life Center in phase two, pastor, Father Peter Puntal said, “We will continue to build up the Body of Christ in this new structure, but more importantly, use our spiritual gifts and celebrate the gift of community.”


Students Launch on Scientific Space Quest

In an effort to foster student interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers, Divine Mercy Catholic Academy held its first Space Day. The event was designed to instill in students the unique opportunities available to them simply by living on the Space Coast.

Students heard guest speakers, participated in hands-on activities and visited interactive stations manned by a variety of companies related to the aerospace industry including, NASA, the United Launch Alliance, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Boeing Defense, and others.

From the Apollo moon landing to the electromagnetic spectrum, students learned what is needed to build and communicate in space and viewed demonstrations on propulsion and rocket launching. Student even launched their own rockets.

Students were excited to learn and participate in the activities. Fourth grade student, Natalie, said “Something that I learned during Space Day was that you have to go 17,200 miles to orbit earth.”

Kyleigh, another fourth grade student said, “I learned that if you are standing still, you are still moving because the earth is rotating, so no one can stay still!”


Santa Fe School Assistant Principal Receives Award for Innovative Media Center  

Glenda Pierce, assistant principal and teacher at Santa Fe Catholic High School, was awarded the Secondary Principal Advocate Award from the Florida Association for Media in Education (FAME) organization. Pierce won the award for her efforts in transforming Santa Fe Catholic High School’s library into an innovative learning space where students and teachers can collaborate, design, create, build, analyze, problem solve and much more.

The transformation began three years ago when Pierce noticed that Santa Fe’s library was being underutilized by the students and teachers. She began researching school libraries and how they could support Santa Fe’s learning culture. She researched best practices and visited exemplary libraries throughout the state and even joined Twitter to follow and interact with school library leaders around the country.

As a result of her research the library gained: traditional library space for studying, a broadcast lab complete with green screen technology and video editing software, a technology enabled active learning (TEAL) lab with whiteboard tables and glass walls for brainstorming projects, and a collaborative classroom equipped with computers, projectors, and adjustable seating.

At a time when school libraries are increasingly seen as outdated Pierce had the vision to implement a research based school library program. She knew that by providing a customized learning environment encouraging collaboration, creativity, and exploration students would become active learners who saw learning as something that happened everywhere; not just in the confines of a classroom.


School Offers “Nurse’s Office of the Future” for Students with Special Needs

With the click of a button, nurses at Morning Star School in Orlando are able to bring a board-certified pediatrician on to campus via a video visit.  The school is the first in Florida to use the telehealth technology, known as Nemours CareConnect.

“Nemours CareConnect helps Morning Star offer the school nurse’s office of the future to students and families,” said Shayan Vyas MD, medical director of Nemours CareConnect. “If a nurse wants to consult with a board-certified pediatrician, doctors from Nemours are able to remotely see and hear the child within moments.”

Morning Star School is a Diocese of Orlando school serving the needs of students with special needs. The video visits are intended for minor injuries and health issues, such as fevers, vomiting and rashes as well as chronic disease management.

“We are so excited to partner with Nemours and CareConnect,” said Sandy Cooney, principal of Morning Star School. “The parents will no longer need to leave their employment to pick up a sick child.”

Families are contacted by the school prior to a video visit and are welcomed to join in on the appointment via their mobile devices, tablets or computers.

Following a visit, an electronic summary of the visit will be available through the hospital’s health record portal. A report will also be sent to the child’s primary care physician when possible.