• Family life can foster priestly vocations Posted in: Diocesan News

    Betty Hoffmann thought her eldest son, Christopher, might become a priest when at a very young age, he asked if he could baptize the dog.

    The mother of three boys prayerfully waited for God to reveal his plan for her son. On Dec. 5, 1987, Father Christopher Hoffmann was ordained to the priesthood and now serves as pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Port Orange.

    “You wait, you watch, and you listen and you pray,” she said.

    Betty and Ken Hoffmann were two parents who spoke about parents’ role in a child’s discernment at the Diocese of Orlando’s fifth annual Parish Vocations Committee workshop April 27 at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Winter Park. The daylong event featured an opening Mass celebrated by Bishop John Noonan; a keynote address on the family’s role in promoting vocations presented by Father David Ruchinski, director of the Office of Vocations for the Diocese of St. Augustine; and examples of best practices of parish vocations committees and diocesan vocations initiatives.

    Lee and Mary Dorsey, parents of fifth-year seminarian Chris Dorsey, also spoke. Since their children were young, the Dorseys put the Church and their faith at the center of their family life. Yet, neither foresaw their youngest child entering the priesthood. “We raised our family in prayer,” Mary Dorsey said. “At an early age, we are forming our children into whatever God is calling them to be. As parents, we are nurturing that call and discovering that call. We did not push for a vocation. It was something that was revealed to Chris and he responded.”

    “As a family, you are not laying the groundwork to raise a priest,” Lee Dorsey said. “You are laying the groundwork to build the best person you can and to let your children know that Jesus is part of your family, that God is the guy driving.”

    The parish priests played an important role in the Hoffmann boys’ everyday lives. Ken Hoffmann said throughout the years, priests would often visit their home and share the evening meal with their family. Also, Betty Hoffmann’s brother was a priest. The boys got to know the priests as people and were comfortable around them. The parents tried to lead by their example.

    “Our faith life was not only about going to Church on Sundays, but it is a way of life,” Ken Hoffmann said. “Our children need to see how we live our lives day in and day out both at home and away from home.”

    “Family is very important in a call to vocation because that is where I first learned my faith,” Chris Dorsey said. “It is where I grew so that when I did hear that voice asking me what about the priesthood, I knew it was something I needed to pay attention to. My family is my foundation.”

  • All are one in the body of Christ Posted in: Faith News Online

    ORLANDO I The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi, was celebrated with Mass and a Eucharistic procession led by Bishop John Noonan that stopped at nine altars of repose in the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, June 18.

    Many of the more than 2,000 attendees were dressed in traditional costumes from their country and sang as Bishop Noonan reached the altars which represented the many cultures present in the Diocese of Orlando.

    Father Emmanuel Akalue, pastor of Our Lady of Grace in Palm Bay, whose altar represented the African community, spoke of the importance of the feast. “It means a lot to us because it shows that we pass on the universality of the Church which we represent. So we are only one ‘AM’. Among the people of God, although there are many parts, there is only one body. We are only the African parts of the Church. So we are very happy and excited to be part and parcel of this wonderful initiative of the Church.”

    The Trawczynski family, parishioners at St. Joseph Parish in Orlando participated in the Mass and procession. Originally from Poland, the procession brought back memories of the celebration in their homeland.  “In Poland this is a very big holiday. Everybody goes on the streets with Jesus. It is a much bigger scale because Poland is a very Catholic country,” said Anna Trawczynski. Dawid Trawczynski added, “It is a special day today. We celebrate the body of Christ. We want the kids to know what this day means for us and for the Church and we just want to be present here.”

    Honoring their Indian heritage for the second year at the altar of repose prepared by St. Mary’s Syro-Malabar Parish in Sanford, were Sojin and Sheeba Joseph. They came with their two daughters.  Sheeba said that what she enjoyed most was that, “We are all united in him. All together we are one community.”

    The basilica is in the heart of the tourist area, bringing together faithful from across the country who are visiting the area. Elida Hernandez was visiting from Texas. When she is in town, she participates in Mass at the basilica. She found the African altar the most beautiful because of the reverence of the congregation as they knelt before the monstrance holding our Lord Jesus Christ. Afterward, her granddaughter, who works on a cruise ship and had just returned from Africa, was blessed by Father Akalue. It was a special moment for her. She found the procession very “educational” as she learned about other cultures.

    In his homily, Bishop Noonan pointed out that, “We believe these words (of consecration) because of Jesus. We pray these words. And above all, we accept these words. That somehow, through the words of Jesus, bread and wine is consecrated into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”

    Quoting Pope Francis, he said, “You may see with your mind, but you must listen to your heart,” alluding to the fact that there is often more to something than what mere eyes can reveal. “And that is the challenge for all of us,” said Bishop Noonan. “We think we see and understand everything, but do we listen to our heart? Our ‘Amen’ is our belief, our trust in Jesus Christ. There are nine different altars from different cultures that remind us that we are one,” he continued. “He is one body. Let us be mindful of the greatest mystery, but also the greatest gift that each of us receive when we come to church. Not only in word, but in Eucharist, may we receive God into our hearts so that we too may have faith; may have hope; may have love in our hearts forever and ever.”

  • Local woman begins new life as Sister of Saint Joseph Posted in: Diocesan News

    ORLANDO | On Sunday, June 4, Pentecost Sunday, Sister Varada Grace Ford made her Profession of First Vows with the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Sister Grace was a working single mom of three children. She taught honors classes in the local inner city high school. She was involved in ministry to the sick through home and hospital visitations at St. Joseph Parish in Winter Haven. She also ministered to incarcerated youth. Even as a very busy woman, she still felt a strong call to search for more in her life. She connected with Sister of St. Joseph Kathleen Power, diocesan associate director of vocations, for a period of discernment.

    “I had discerned and spent time with a number of other Congregations.  [Learning about the Sisters of St. Joseph] was a recognition, a coming home.  I had an immediate sense of assurance that this was the path of life I wanted to pursue,” remembered Sister Grace.

    In August 2014, with the blessings of her three adult children, John, Jacob, and Amanda, Grace Ford entered postulancy with the Sisters of Saint Joseph. As a postulant, Sister Grace was introduced to the interdependency of community living and through prayer, the discipline of silence, and the dynamics of spiritual direction. “This has been a rich gift in having the time to learn and study Scripture and deepen the faith,” she reflected.

    Through her postulancy and novitiate, Sister Grace continued her in-depth preparation for the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. She grew in faithfulness to her personal and communal prayer life, a deep love of the Eucharist, and a life lived in community. Her preparation culminated in her profession of first vows in the chapel of the Motherhouse in St. Augustine. The vows were received by Sister Jane Stoecker, the General Superior of the order.

    Bishop Felipe Estévez, bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine, celebrated the Liturgy, blessed and presented Sister with the profession crucifix which symbolizes her special participation in the Paschal Mystery. During his homily, Bishop reflected, “I am excited that Sister Grace was so taken by the beauty of the story of the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine. This community has had such an impact in all of Florida in the last 150 years.”

    “I am profoundly grateful for God’s merciful love and generosity in my life,” said Sister Grace. “I can only hope to express my gratitude for His infinite love by being of some small service to His people.  If someone experiences his warmth, acceptance and desire to heal them in any way, I will have been blessed to play some small role. It is difficult to articulate the desire of my heart but the cover of the program for my vows said it all, “I have found the One whom my soul loves.”  Song of Songs expresses the love story I believe God wants us to experience and share with one another.  I think that verse captures it all!”

    Sister Grace will begin intensive studies in the Clinical Pastoral Education program at Florida Hospital this summer.

  • A Call to Prayer mourns those lost during Pulse shooting Posted in: Diocesan News, Faith News Online

    ORLANDO | On June 11, the eve of the one year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Bishop John Noonan and local religious leaders joined together for A Call to Prayer at St. James Cathedral, Orlando. As family and friends mourned, prayed for and remembered those who died and those who are still suffering, the service proffered comfort and sustenance.

    On June 12, 2016, a gunman opened fire within Pulse nightclub in downtown Orlando. By the time police were able to secure the building 50 people had died, including the shooter, and 53 more were wounded. It was the worst shooting attack America has ever experienced.

    The service began with the song “Lord, Make Us Servants of Your Peace,” the lyrics recalling St. Francis of Assisi’s famous prayer and setting the tone of healing and restoration. Bishop Noonan said he was following the lead of Pope Francis noting, “We need to walk with and accompany everybody—there is no exception. We treat everybody with dignity because they are made in the image and likeness of God and that’s what it’s all about.”

    Certainly, on the night of the shooting, there was no distinction. Diocesan priests and local clergy from several denominations came to the aid of those injured and in shock as they awaited news of their loved ones or waited to be taken to the hospital. Catholic Charities of Central Florida raised funds to help survivors and sent bilingual staff members to the Hampton Inn downtown where family and friends were waiting.

    Imam Muhammad Musri, Ph.D., president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, gave the reflection citing three challenges with which society is faced: mental illness, the problem of hate and gun violence. He quoted startling statistics from Florida ranking 50th in funding of mental health to the fact that in the last year, 20,000 Americans took their own lives out of despair. He also mentioned with sadness the recent mass shootings at mosques and other places.

    “The disappearance of faith from everyday lives of people is the major reason,” said Imam Musri. “Faith, I believe, is the primary provider of hope. God is a God of hope and as faith communities we have to do our best to support our people…” He concluded saying, “I pray the faith community will lead the way to address these things through faith, through prayer, through education and active engagement in our society. I pray to the most merciful and compassionate God to help us rise against these challenges.”

    As candles were lit remembering those lost, Maria de los Angeles Rivera, who lost her son Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera in the shooting, observed in quiet reflection. She flew from Puerto Rico to take part in the local events recognizing the anniversary and was grateful for the service. She told of how her faith had sustained her in this past year.

    “Three months prior to the shooting, I took several workshops on prayer. The last one was called “Desert” where one connects God with nature. That has helped me a lot,” she said. Eric was one of her four children.

    Vicente Figueroa had come to support one of Eric’s childhood friends. “As a homosexual male,” he said, “I believe that we should unite and give thanks to God for our lives.” He added, “As a man raised in the Catholic church, I understand that these ecumenical services, which act as a commemoration, are a place where various denominations can join in the name of God, to help us be able to heal. After all, it is the same God, our one God.”

    As the service came to a close, the prayer of St. Francis was now spoken, rather than sung. Pastor Dr. Joel Hunter of Northland, A Church Distributed, suggested to those assembled that “…it would be better if the prayer becomes a seed so that it blossoms in all of us as a different lifestyle.” He added, “I submit to you that we will not have a different community until we live different lives.”

    Call to Prayer from Diocese of Orlando on Vimeo.

  • When you travel, invite the Lord! Posted in: Diocesan News, Faith News Online

    Tips for keeping the faith during summer vacation

    ORLANDO | Summer is here and soon many will be flocking to the beach, boarding planes or cruise ships, or heading off on road trips for the long-awaited summer vacation getaway. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of airport terminals, rest stops and shore excursions, how does one manage to keep faith at the center?

    If taking a cruise this summer, many ports will have an Apostleship of the Sea office. Located in 153 ports worldwide, Apostleship of the Sea is a professional association of Catholic maritime ministers, cruise ship priests, mariners and all those who support travelers and those who work in the maritime industry or military. Many of these locations offer Mass, Wi-Fi, phones and other services to minister to those visiting other shores.

    Jan Leeper, a parishioner from St. Stephen’s Catholic Community in Winter Springs recently took a cruise and included a pilgrimage to Fatima as part of the voyage. Leeper said, “There was an English language Mass which we attended and, of course, visited the tombs of the three children. Several pilgrims were crossing the piazza on their knees—such devotion.”

    Many airports offer chaplains and a chapel for a quiet place to pray in between flights. At the Orlando International Airport, for example, Missionary of Our Lady of LaSalette Father Robert Susann celebrates Mass at 8:15 a.m. and noon on Sundays at the interfaith chapel located in the Gates 1-59 corridor. Father Susann has been serving airport staff and travelers since 2004.

    “I get a chance to meet all kinds of people from all over the world. I work the crowd and am very present,” said Father Susann. He has an intention book in the chapel so that he can pray for all those with special requests. He also equips the chapel with interdenominational information. Father Susann says his goal is “to be present to people and to be a witness to the fact that God lives among us and journeys with us.”

    For members of the faithful opting for “stay-cations” this year, the local Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe in Orlando serves visitors from near and far. Offering Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation daily and adorned with beautiful chapels, stations of the cross, a museum, a pilgrimage center and a gift shop, the basilica nurtures prayer and quiet in the center.

    Vince Castellano, who is the director of volunteers and liturgy, says the basilica also provides guided tours of the shrine by booking ahead of time. “We will do it at the visitor’s convenience,” said Castellano. “It is important to minister to tourists because it is an extension of evangelization.” He added, “They make the effort to come because their faith is that important. This is a place for them to have a spiritual sanctuary. Even though they’re on vacation, their faith doesn’t take a vacation.” The basilica hosts more than 500,000 visitors per year. He added, “It’s a wonderful little find.”

    Diocese of Orlando Facebook followers shared how they are planning to enliven their faith this summer. Some suggested joining your local parish Vacation Bible School and taking part as a crew leader to share the fun with your children. Others are going on diocesan or parish mission trips, like Susan Engel, youth minister for St. Patrick Parish in Mount Dora. Engel said, “There will be 16 youth and five adults from St. Patrick who will be traveling to Jamaica… We are very excited to be focusing on the beatitudes as we serve the marginalized in the city of Kingston.”

    Toni-Marie D’Allesandro from Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Melbourne is going to California. She said, “After we pass through the San Ynez Mountains onto beautiful Santa Barbara …we are going to visit the 200-year-old mission with its famous twin bell towers, and celebrate Mass.”

    “There is no “vacation” for our “vocations,” said Father Thomas Walden, pastor of St. Joseph Parish and St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Orlando. “As we make travel plans, it is just as important (if not more
    important) when booking destinations, hotels, attractions and restaurants, to find a Catholic Church near your vacation spot, and participate in Mass. Seeing a different parish and meeting new people can be a great part of a vacation. When you travel, invite the Lord!”

    To find Mass times at your vacation destination, visit www.masstimes.org. For a list of pilgrimage sites in the United States, visit www.usccb.org/about/world-youth-day/sites-of-catholic-heritage-in-the-usa.cfm.

  • Deacon Michael Willems: “I want my life to be proof of God’s love” Posted in: Faith News Online

    Michael Willems is a native Floridian born and raised in Fort Pierce. He attended St. Anastasia Catholic Grade School and John Carroll Catholic High School, where he first felt the call to serve the Lord and considered becoming a priest.

    He chose to go down a different path and attended Tampa Technical Institute earning a degree in computer electronics. He is an emergency preparedness specialist for Florida Power and Light and a parishioner of Our Lady of Hope in Port Orange. He is involved in the ministries of Cursillo, F.A.I.T.H. and the Human Trafficking Task Force.

    In 2007, he attended a Cursillo weekend and his journey to become a deacon progressed from there.

    “I kept thinking that it never seemed like the right time,” said Willems, who after speaking with Deacon Mike Rosolino decided to take the next step.

    Willems said he is not the same person he was five years ago when he started his spiritual journey of diaconate formation. He has grown closer to his wife, found loving friends along the way, who have been priceless, and it has made him a better person overall. When he becomes deacon at Our Lady of Hope, he hopes to bring the love of Christ to others.

    “I hope I’ll be seen as a servant in the community but most of all I want them to see God’s love in the way I treat everyone,” he said. “I want my life to be proof of God’s love.”

    He is married to Patti and is the father of Joshua, Benjamin, Morgan, and grandfather of Jayden and Timmy. As an Eagle Scout, Willems enjoys home improvement projects, gardening, sci-fi movies and reading. He is especially fond of grilling out with the family and spending time with Patti, whom he owes a deep gratitude for walking the path with him.


    1 of 10 men who shared stories of faith on their diaconate journey before Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate on June 10, 2017

  • Deacon Antonio Carattini Torres: “I have always liked to serve others in all the ways I can” Posted in: Faith News Online

    For Antonio Torres Carattini, serving others has always come naturally. As a member of Blessed Trinity,  he has served as a lector, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, extraordinary minister of the sick, sacristan and served on retreats.

    “I have always liked to serve others in all the ways I can,” Carattini stated.

    Carattini was born in Puerto Rico 58 years ago. He was educated as a Catholic, and his mother would pray the rosary with him every night and take him to Mass every Sunday.

    In 1976, Carattini moved to New Jersey with his older sister to finish high school. In 1978, he joined the U.S. Marines and in 1981, moved back to Puerto Rico to study criminal justice at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. He married his wife, Luz, in 1983 and had two daughters. In 1986, he joined the Puerto Rican State Police. In 2012, after his wife retired as a teacher, they decided to move to Florida.

    He felt the call to the diaconate in the 2000 when he attended the retreat John XXIII. Since he had finished his diaconate formation in 2009 in Puerto Rico and received the ministry of lector and acolyte in August 2015, he was accepted for ordination in 2017.

    “These last two years, have being a blessing, because I learned many things needed to know better the diocese and to serve in a better way the people of God,” Carattini said. “It has being a long journey for which I feel blessed, because now I can say I’m completely satisfied, with no doubt in me. This call is genuine because when the Lord calls you there’s nothing you can do about it. Nothing can stop you to fulfill God’s will.”


    1 of 10 men who shared stories of faith on their diaconate journey before Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate on June 10, 2017

  • Deacon Michael Nussear: “Service to others, all things for God” Posted in: Faith News Online

    “Service to others, all things for God,” is the quote on the front of Michael Nussear’s diaconate formation binder, which served as a reminder of his calling to the diaconate in 2012 when he entered formation. He said he first felt the call at a young age before he entered grade school, but it was only five years ago that he finally answered that call.

    “I have a very close relationship with God,” he said. “When God speaks to you, you pay attention to that. When a person says ‘yes’ to God, amazing things happen.”

    Nussear said this calling has formed him into becoming more of a servant to others and more like Christ in his daily encounters with people. He was raised in a family where his mother was Catholic and his father, Lutheran. He was formed in the Catholic faith, attending Catholic school and religious education.

    Nussear and his wife, Janice, have been Holy Name of Jesus parishioners since 1993 and have been married for 42 years. They have three children, Nicole, 34, Kristen, 28, and Andrew, 25.

    They have served in a variety of ministries including extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, Christ Renews His Parish retreat team, Ten Great Dates, Small Church Communities, FOCCUS, Marriage Encounter, Cursillo, Pre-Cana team and served on the core teams for several marriage conferences and workshops. Nussear also serves in a ministry to the homeless where, he says he often sees the face of Jesus.

    “I am richly blessed to be supported by my wife, family, pastor, and parish,” Nussear said. “I am humbled and honored to serve the Diocese of Orlando and my Holy Name of Jesus family.”

    Nussear served a 21-year career in the U.S. Air Force and is now in his second career as a cost analyst. He has a degree in psychology and a master’s in human relations and management, and theology.


    1 of 10 men who shared stories of faith on their diaconate journey before Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate on June 10, 2017

  • Deacon Carlos Martinez: “Inside my heart, I have so much joy and happiness that I needed to share it” Posted in: Faith News Online

    Martinez’ call to become a deacon first came alive when he was a child, and people commented on how he would be a great deacon. It was a lifetime journey, but it became further ignited after he received the Sacrament of marriage.

    “Inside my heart, I have so much joy and happiness that I needed to share it,” he said. “I want to continue to show the love of God to other people.”

    Carlos Martinez and his wife, Luz Marina, were born in Colombia, South America, but it wasn’t until they came to the United States that they met and now are celebrating 26 years of marriage.

    They have been parishioners at Holy Cross Parish for more than 20 years, where they serve the community in and outside the walls of the church. Martinez said through the diaconate formation, he realized he was being molded for service, for Jesus, and his skills and talents honed to serve His people and the church. Martinez serves in the prison ministry, Spanish ministry Pescadores de Hombres (Fishers of Men), Caminantes Jesus, as a lector and as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.

    Martinez also has worked for a company that has allowed him to travel around the world and experience a universal Church and the Body of Christ alive and working.

    “These experiences continue to assist me in my spiritual growth,” Martinez said. “As I continue this earthly pilgrimage as a Christian, husband, brother, son, friend, I hope everyone sees the love of Christ in me, why I am always smiling and have so much joy, and that my actions reflect the God I love and serve.”


    1 of 10 men who shared stories of faith on their diaconate journey before Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate on June 10, 2017

  • Deacon Steve Floyd: “I have the love of God from my head to my heart” Posted in: Faith News Online

    Stephen Floyd grew up in a large Catholic family with eight siblings outside Philadelphia in Moorestown, New Jersey. His father, Frederick, would share the Catholic faith at dinner and his mother, Kathleen, participated in daily Mass and was active in the pro-life movement.

    He first felt called to the diaconate more than 20 years ago but never thought the timing was right. In 2011, he felt a strong call from God and both he and his wife, Renée, responded to that call.

    Floyd has been married to Renée for 31 years and has two children, Nick and Laura. He has belonged to Blessed Trinity Parish in Ocala since 2004 and has been greatly impacted by this community’s commitment to the stewardship way of life. Ministries that he has been involved with include Christ Renews His Parish, Eucharistic Adoration, pro-life ministry, Cursillo and serving as a lector, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and Brother’s Keeper. He also spends more than eight hours a week coaching youth swimming.

    What excites Floyd is the opportunity to engage the world to find ways to take back the Christian culture. He plans to do this through writing, speaking, and encouraging people to include God even in the little things they do at both work and home such as beginning the day with prayer.

    He said this journey has expanded his love for God, and he couldn’t have completed it without the fellowship he received from the men also about to be ordained.

    “I have the love of God from my head to my heart,” he said. “I feel God deeply in my entire being now.”

    Floyd works as a practice administrator for Dr. Stephen Dunn, DDS. He received his master’s degree in 2004 from Florida Southern College and recently received his master’s in theology from Saint Leo’s University.


    1 of 10 men who shared stories of faith on their diaconate journey before Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate on June 10, 2017