Discover the Diocese of Venice

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Venice in Florida (LatinDioecesis Venetiae in Florida) is a Roman Catholic diocese in Florida, founded on June 16, 1984. The Diocese of Venice includes the ten counties of CharlotteCollierDeSotoGladesHardeeHendryHighlands,LeeManatee, and Sarasota.

As Bishop John Joseph Nevins resigned for reasons of age on January 19, 2007, he was automatically succeeded as ordinary, or diocesan bishop, by Bishop Frank Joseph Dewanewho, as coadjutor bishop, was an assistant or auxiliary bishop with the right of succession to the office.


The first Spanish explorers came ashore in what is now the diocese in the 16th century. Their arrival brought the first Catholic missionaries, whose purpose was to set up permanent missions in the name of Spain and the Catholic Church.

Conquistador Juan Ponce de León was the first European to arrive in Florida, in 1513. He explored its west coast between 1513 and 1521.

Ponce de Leon encountered the resident Calusa tribe, who first welcomed the Spanish, but later objected because the explorers had desecrated their sacred places, and fought the invaders. The Calusa objected to the construction of missions, and frequently attacked them. When Ponce de Leon was injured in an attack the expedition and mission on the West Coast was abandoned.

Seven years later Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto brought priests to Florida in an attempt to evangelize the native tribes during an exploration of the coast from 1539-1542. DeSoto led an expedition of 10 ships and 620 men, which included 12 priests. They landed near what is now Bradenton on May 25, 1539. Mass was celebrated almost every day by the expedition priests. Later, when DeSoto landed at Shaw’s Point near the mouth of Tampa Bay, the men named it "La Bahia de Espiritu Santo," in honor of the Holy Spirit. The sheer number of DeSoto's forces caused the Calusa to abandon their settlements along the harbor entrance. (A memorial to the Eucharist and a Memorial Cross were built and dedicated in the area near DeSoto's landings by Bishop Emeritus John J. Nevins in 1994 at De Soto National Memorial in Bradenton.)

Other efforts to bring missionaries to Florida were unsuccessful until Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, founder of Saint Augustine and Governor of Spanish Florida, sought peace with the Calusa and founded a military outpost there in February of 1566. Pedro Menendez sought assistance from the Jesuits, who agreed to send a small contingent to Florida. Before leaving the San Carlos Bay area, Menéndez established a Jesuit mission at Mound Key near the mouth of the Estero River in what is now Lee County, and left a garrison of soldiers to guard it.

Father Juan Rogel and Brother Francisco de Villareal spent the winter studying the Calusa language, and proceeded to work among the tribe in southern Florida. The establishment there of a fort and settlement at Mound Key was the first such effort to colonize the area. A Jesuit mission, San Antonio de Carlos, where a chapel was built in 1567, was founded by Father Juan Rogel, the first such mission in the Spanish New World, and the first Catholic presence within the territory of the present Diocese of Venice in Florida.

After the end of the US Civil War in 1865, missionaries from Savannah, St. Augustine, and Tampa began visiting the areas south of Tampa Bay that later became the Diocese of Venice. In 1889 the care of the area within the Diocese fell under the jurisdiction of the Jesuit Fathers from Tampa, who made regular visits to Bradenton, Fort Myers, Arcadia, and adjacent missions. The first missions and Catholic communities within the current Diocese of Venice in Florida were located at Sacred Heart in Bradenton (1868), Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (later St. Francis Xavier) in Fort Myers (1878), St. Paul in Arcadia (1882), Sacred Heart in Punta Gorda (1888), St. Martha in Sarasota (1889), St. Michael in Wauchula (1915), St. Joseph in Bradenton (1915), and St. Catherine in Sebring (1918).

The Diocese of Venice in Florida was erected by Pope John Paul II in 1984 from parts of the Archdiocese of Miami, the Diocese of Orlando and the Diocese of St. Petersburg; Bishop Emeritus John J. Nevins was the founding Bishop.


Career of incumbent as of 2013

Frank J. Dewane was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 as the second Bishop of the Diocese, which has 227,000 Catholic inhabitants. He serves on a number of boards and committees, including the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” the charitable arm of the Holy See; the USCCB National Catholic Rural Life Committee as President of the Board of Directors which examines rural areas and determines what the Church is doing to help; the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace; and the Florida Catholic Conference Committee for Farmworker Justice and Immigration.

Dewane was born in Green Bay on March 9, 1950, the third child of Eleanor and Ben Dewane, devout Irish-Catholics who owned and operated a dairy farm. St. James Parish in Cooperstown, Wisc., was the center of community life for the Dewane family, which included four children. After high school graduation Bishop Dewane attended the University of Wisconsin where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences. He then earned a Master’s Degree in International Administration from The American University in Washington, D.C.

Prior to entering the seminary, he worked for the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) in Moscow, Russia, and then for a subsidiary of PepsiCo in New York City.

Dewane began his studies for the priesthood at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Ind., where he completed one year of philosophy. He then studied theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. While in Rome, he also completed advanced studies in canon law at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas.

On July 16, 1988, Dewane was ordained to the priesthood and appointed to the Diocese of Green Bay as assistant pastor. He also worked for the Diocesan Tribunal.

In 1991 he was appointed to serve as a member of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York City. He had been serving in the Diocese of Green Bay as assistant pastor at Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

From 1995 to 2001, Dewane served on the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum.”

In 2001, he was appointed Under Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, a post he had held at The Vatican until 2006. The primary responsibility of the Pontifical Council is to promote justice, peace, development and human rights world-wide. As Under Secretary, then-Monsignor Dewane was an official delegate of the Holy See to numerous international conferences and world summits.

On April 25, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI named him Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in Florida. On July 25, 2006 he was installed as the second bishop.


1950-born in Green Bay, WI, to Eleanor and Ben Dewane.

1988-Ordained to the priesthood1988-1991 Assistant pastor at Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Green Bay

1991-1995 Member of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York City

1995-2001 Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” Rome

2001-2006 Under Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, RomeApril 2006 Coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Venice in Florida

July 2006 Ordained as Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in Florida

Boards and Other Activities

Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” Member

USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, Member

Pontifical North American College in Rome, Board of Directors Treasurer

USCCB National Catholic Rural Life Conference, President of the Board of Directors

USCCB Advisory Group on Interreligious Relations to the Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Member

Catholic Legal Immigration Network Board of Directors, Member

Holy Land Foundation Board of Directors

Florida Catholic Conference Committee for Farmworker Justice and Immigration

Ave Maria University Board of Trustees

Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from St. Leo University

Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem

Chaplain ad honorum to the Order of Malta

Episcopal Advisor to the Daughters of Isabella

Third Degree Knights of Columbus

Other information

Diocesan high schools

Diocesan elementary Schools

Diocesan special needs Schools


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