Bishop Estévez Remains Fully Committed to Protecting Children and Vulnerable Adults

On Tuesday, August 14, a Pennsylvania grand jury released a report on widespread sexual child abuse involving 301 priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses. According to the report, the abuses occurred over a 70 year period and involved more than 1,000 victims and their families. And even more horrific, the report said church leaders knew of the abuses, and some did not prevent it from again.

In the wake of the grand jury report in Pennsylvania, the allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and other allegations that have come to light involving seminaries, Bishop Felipe Estévez of the Diocese of St. Augustine said he remains firmly committed to providing safe environments for everyone, especially children and vulnerable adults.

Bishop Felipe J. Estévez

“I am profoundly saddened to hear of the lives that have been shattered at the hands of clergymen and the mishandling of these cases over a 70-year period,” said Bishop Estévez. “I want to see greater transparency and greater accountability among all bishops, and we must demonstrate a spirit of repentance and recommitment so that such abuse cannot happen again and we can restore the full trust of our people.”

The Diocese of St. Augustine implemented policies and procedures to address allegations of abuse in 1987. In 2002, the U.S. Bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The Charter was revised in 2011 and again in 2018. The Charter pledges to maintain transparency and to provide for the permanent removal of offenders from ministry and to maintain safe environments for everyone.

As part of the Charter, each diocese is audited annually with onsite visits by independent auditors every three years. The Diocese of St. Augustine is getting ready for an onsite review in October to ensure we are demonstrating transparency and accountability. The diocese has been found compliant every year since the audits began in 2003.

Here are some of the measures in place in the Diocese of St. Augustine:

  • More than 45,000 adults in the diocese have been trained in the Protecting God’s Children program.
  • Since 2002, the diocese has screened and conducted national and international criminal background checks on more than 48,000 clergy, employees and volunteers with renewal checks every five years.
  • The diocese spends on average $220,000 each year for its child protection efforts.
  • Children who attend our Catholic schools and parish programs are taught to recognize a predator’s grooming process, to say “No,” and to tell their parents and other trusted adults about such behavior.
  • Procedures are in place to respond promptly with compassion to all reports of misconduct – treating all victims with dignity, respect, privacy, and confidentiality.
  • The Bishop meets with victims to assist in their recovery.
  • There is a Zero Tolerance for sexual abusers.

Also, the diocese has in place an independent Review Board to hear complaints and allegations, to investigate the claims and provide direction on their outcomes. The board is made up of a sitting district judge, a prosecuting attorney with experience in sex crimes, a child psychiatrist, a physician, nurse, former police detective, a victims advocate and other lay men and women who serve as staff.

How to Report Abuse notices, in various languages, are published in parish bulletins and the St. Augustine Catholic magazine. The notices provide the phone numbers to the Department of Children and Families and the diocese.

The Province of Miami, which comprised of the seven dioceses and its bishops in Florida, will meet in November to review the policies and procedures in place. The bishops continually look for ways to strengthen their efforts. It is unfortunate that we continue to hear of child abuse cases committed by clergy, but the diocese is doing everything possible to protect our children and vulnerable adults. That is our foremost concern.

As Catholics, we need to be reminded that a majority of the abuses we are hearing about in the media today are the failings of church leadership from the last century. That is not the church we have today. Our bishops have mandated the implementation of strict policies and procedures to safeguard our children and vulnerable adults. They are committed to transparency and accountability. But more work needs to be done.

If you would like to discuss this further, please call Kathleen Bagg at (904) 262-1705, or call (904) 262-3200, ext. 129 to report abuse. To view our policies and procedures, visit and click on the Safe Environments tab on the homepage.


Click to view Diocesan Policies & Procedures

Best Practices Workshops in Adult Faith Formation – Sign-up today!

     Dominican Sister Janet Schaeffler

Since Vatican II, the Church has officially published more than eight documents calling for adults to be the center of the Church’s formational mission. Now more than ever, adults need to be equipped to share their faith in new and engaging ways to the next generations of believers.  For most adults, the catechesis they received as children is simply not enough to continue in the faith as adults.  There is a desire for a deepened understanding of the Catholic faith.

In order to address this need brought forth in listening sessions and reiterated in the new diocesan pastoral plan, the Office of Christian Formation has invited Dominican Sister Janet Schaeffler to provide three free parish workshops on Best Practices in Adult Faith Formation. These will be held on:

  • Monday, August 13 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Holy Spirit Parish Hall
  • Monday, August 13  6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.  Queen of Peace Parish Hall, Gainesville
  • Tuesday, August 14  6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.  St. Catherine of Siena Parish Hall

Please follow the link below to register and share this link with those in your location who serve in adult faith formation.

About Sister Janet

She currently accompanies others on their faith-journey through days of reflection/retreats, parish missions, workshops, catechist formation opportunities, adult faith formation opportunities, as well as online courses through Crossroads at Boston College, the VLCFF at the University of Dayton and the Vibrant Faith Institute.

Sr. Janet created and publishes GEMS – a monthly newsletter flowing from an ongoing international adult faith formation best practices study.

In 2010, she received the NCCL Distinguished Service Award in Catechetics.

She is the author of hundreds of articles and publications.

Some of her recent publications are: 

Deepening Faith: Adult Faith Formation in the Parish

The Spirituality of Catechists

Teaching Kids to Care

How to Talk to Children about Jesus

Hope: An Anchor in Today’s World

The Seasons of Adult Faith Formation

The Creed: Understanding and Sharing What We Believe

Pep Talks for Catechists

A Prayerbook for Eucharistic Ministers

Creative Connections for Catechists from A to Z

Prayer from A to Z

Lessons and Activities on What Makes Us Catholic

Celebrating Catechetical Sunday – “Enlisting Witnesses for Christ”

The third Sunday of September in the United States is celebrated as Catechetical Sunday in honor to acknowledge and commission those who are catechists.  In his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, Pope John Paul II, said, “Among the laity who become evangelizers, catechists have a place of honor…Catechists are among those who have received Christ’s command to ‘go and teach all nations.’”

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Ministry Formation Program Celebrates 25 Years!

In October, 1990, the Most Rev. Bishop John J. Snyder established a committee to assist him in the development of a comprehensive Ministry Formation Program (MFP) to assist in the formation of lay leaders for the diocese.  This committee reviewed similar programs and spoke with various leadership groups in the diocese including the Family Life Office, the Liturgical Commission, Hispanic Apostolate, Marywood Retreat Center, and the Presbyterate.

After more than a year of study, Bishop Snyder accepted the recommendations and mandated that all Diocesan Leadership personnel that had been professionally trained, but without Church background, would need to complete the program.

In February, 1992 Bishop Snyder appointed Fr. Michael Houle as the Interim Director of the Ministry Formation Program and Margaret McCully was hired to serve as the Administrative Assistant.  The Office of Christian Formation was given the task of staff and overseeing the MFP.  The MFP admitted its first participants in the fall of 1992, and the first certificates of completion were conferred in December, 1995.

In 1993, Father Houle formed an Advisory Board that would create long term plans for the Ministry Formation Program.  This board still operates today on a rotating basis giving guidance and leadership to the Office of Christian Formation.

In initiating a diaconate program for the Diocese of St. Augustine in 2003, it was determined that the MFP would be a first requirement from men feeling the call to ordained ministry.

In 1996, the MFP began the process of becoming an accredited program through the then active United States Catholic Conference Commission on Certification Accreditation. (USCCB/CCA).  This was fully achieved for the years 2001-2009 and reaffirmed in 2009- 2017.  The USCCB/CCA no longer exists as an agency of the Bishops.

There have been 359 graduates of the program who serve in a variety of capacities in the diocese as DREs, youth ministers, school teachers, RCIA Coordinators, etc.

A silver jubilee celebration is being held on Saturday, June 23 at Bishop Kenny High School, the original site of the MFP classes.  For more information, please contact Erin in the Office of Christian Formation at

Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

(Please print and recite prayer for the remainder of the month of June, for the intentions of our shepherd, Bishop Felipe Estévez and the needs of the Diocese of St. Augustine)

Lord, have mercy
Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy
Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy
Lord, have mercy

God our Father in heaven
have mercy on us
God the Son, Redeemer of the world
have mercy on us
God the Holy Spirit
have mercy on us
Holy Trinity, one God
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, Son of the eternal Father
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mother
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, one with the eternal Word
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, infinite in majesty
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, holy temple of God
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, tabernacle of the Most High
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, house of God and gate of heaven
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, aflame with love for us
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, source of justice and love
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, well-spring of all virtue
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, worthy of all praise
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, king and center of all hearts
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, treasure-house of wisdom and knowledge
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, in whom there dwells the fullness of God
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, in whom the Father is Well pleased
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, from whose fullness we have all received
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, desire of the eternal hills
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, patient and full of mercy
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, generous to all who turn to you
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, fountain of life and holiness
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, atonement for our sins
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, overwhelmed with insults
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, broken for our sins
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, obedient even to death
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, pierced by a lance
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliation have mercy on us Heart of Jesus, victim of our sins
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, salvation of all who trust in you
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, hope of all who die in you
have mercy on us
Heart of Jesus, delight of all the saints
have mercy on us

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world
have mercy on us
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world
have mercy on us
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world
have mercy on us

Jesus, gentle and humble of heart. Touch our hearts and make them like your own.

Let us pray.
Father, we rejoice in the gifts of love we have received from the heart of Jesus your Son. Open our hearts to share his life and continue to bless us with his love. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.

National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Mariners and People of the Sea, May 22

The National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Mariners and People of the Sea will be celebrated on May 22. The day is observed in conjunction with National Maritime Day in the United States of America, which has been celebrated since 1933 to honor those who serve as merchant mariners and to recognize the benefits of the maritime industry.

Most Reverend Brendan J. Cahill, S.T.D, Bishop of the Diocese of Victoria, Texas, and Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) promoter, is encouraging dioceses to mark the national day by remembering the men and women of the sea in homilies and by including special petitions during Mass. When Mass is celebrated on May 22, the text for the Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the Sea, is also encouraged.

Bishop Cahill will celebrate a Mass in observance of Maritime Day on Saturday, May 19, at 12:10 p.m., in the Crypt Church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC. The Mass is sponsored by the AOS national office and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.

Apostleship of the Sea (AOS), is a worldwide Catholic maritime ministry that engages with seafarers, fishers, their families, port personnel and all who work or travel on the high seas, regardless of race, color or creed. The maritime ministry shows the Church’s care and concern to seafarers who are often away from home for many months because of the nature of their work and lifestyle. A network of AOS port offices and Catholic chaplains provide spiritual and practical assistance that accommodate a seafarer’s unique lifestyle and needs.

In the message addressed to chaplains, volunteers, friends and supporters of the Apostleship of the Sea, on Sea Sunday July 9, 2017, Cardinal Peter Appia Kodwo Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Integral Human Development Service, said, “In our daily lives, we are surrounded by and use many objects and products that at some stage of their journey towards us have been transported on vessels. It is difficult for us to imagine behind these objects the faces of the many seafarers who have secured a smooth sailing for the vessel to deliver these commodities to the port safely. We are invited to recognize and express our gratitude to this force of more than 1.5 million seafarers, who with their hard work and sacrifices are making our life more comfortable by transporting, between nations and across the seven seas, almost 90 per cent of the goods.”

In the United States, AOS is present in 53 maritime ports in 26 states and in 48 dioceses. Priest chaplains, deacons, religious and lay people extend hospitality by providing a “home away from home” for seafarers. AOS has 10 Stella Maris centers, and over 100 chaplains and pastoral teams, including priests, religious, deacons and lay ecclesial ministers providing many services including: Mass, communion, confession and other sacraments, assistance to seafarers in distress, ship visits, transportation to visit business centers, a place to relax while on the port, computers with internet connection at the center, cell phones and phone cards as well as facilitating seafarers’ access to services that others provide.

As we work and serve to protect the rights of those working at sea, let us join our prayers with that of Pope Francis, entrusting sailors, fishermen, and all those in difficulty on the seas far away from home, to the motherly protection of Mary, Star of the Sea.

To learn more about Apostleship of the Sea ministry in the Diocese of St. Augustine, contact Deacon Milton Vega at or call (904) 613-3489. More information is also available on the USCCB website at

4th Annual Sister Celinie Joubert Catechetical Awards

The Fourth Annual Sr. Celine Joubert, SSJ Awards will be given on Wednesday, May 23 at a reception to be held at the Catholic Center starting at 4:00 p.m.  This year, three catechetical leaders will be honored who have served the Church a total of 61 years:

Charlie Chorman, of Sacred Heart Parish in Fleming Island, has taught 8th grade Religious Education for over 20 yrs.  He brings a care and concern for all of his students and believes that everyone should be engaged lifelong formation.

Karen Pabian, Palmer Academy and Our Lady Star of the Sea, has served in many capacities at the parish/school including:  RCIA with children, sacramental preparation, and is a retired teacher from Palmer Academy where she still serves as a substitute teacher and keeps active in the musical theatre of the school.

Joy Pichardo, of Bishop John J. Snyder High School, has served on the Campus Ministry team as leader for 22 years.  Joy is an ever “joyful” presence on campus, whether she is planning retreats, service opportunities, or planning Catholic Schools’ Week.

Click to Read the Award Criteria

The reception is by invitation of the nominees.

Registration is now open for 2018 Summer School of Theology

The 10th Annual Summer School of Theology will be held the week of June 18-22, 2018  in the Wisdom Center at Marywood.  This formation opportunity provides a full immersion experience into a particular area of theology.  This year, the Diocesan Office of Christian Formation is teaming with Catholic Theological Union of Chicago to bring a member of their faculty to present:  Encountering Paul:  His Life, Letters, and Theology. Sister Laurie Brink, O.P. will present the week.

The sessions will meet daily from 9:00 – 3:00 p.m. with the following presenters and daily focus:

  • June 18:  Picturing Paul and Exploring His World
  • June 19:  Ancient Letter Writing:  The First Christian Artifact (Thessalonians and Galatians)
  • June 20:   No Divisions Among You:  Conflict in Corinth
  • June 21:   Paul Theological Manifesto to the Romans
  • June 22:   The On-Going Influence of Paul (Ephesians, Colossians, Pastoral Epistles)

A text will be provided prior to the week.  All participants need to bring their own Bible.

Registration fee including materials and lunch daily:

  • Before May 25 – $175
  • Between May 25-June 15 – $225
  • Daily rate (not recommended) – $45
Click Here to Register Download Brochure

Call to Prayer and Action Urging Congress to Enact the Conscience Protection Act

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty urge the faithful to flood Congress with emails and calls asking for enactment of the Conscience Protection Act as part of the 2018 funding bill and to pray for this outcome. Congress is currently considering whether to include the Conscience Protection Act in must-pass government funding legislation, and a decision on the Conscience Protection Act’s inclusion will be made prior to March 23, 2018.

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The Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion

Candidates sign the Rite of Election book with Bishop Felipe Estévez during the Rite of Election Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jacksonville.

Those preparing to be baptized and fully enter into the life of the Catholic Church will participate in the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion at the early part of Lent.  The celebration of this Rite makes very clear the role of the local bishop in both approving and welcoming new Catholics.

During the Rite of Election, catechumens (not baptized in any Christian faith tradition) publicly express their desire for baptism to the bishop. Their names are recorded in the Book of the Elect, a designation which reflects that the bishop, in the name of the Lord and the local Church, is choosing or electing them to share in the Easter sacraments. Candidates (those already baptized) celebrate the Call to Continuing Conversion, publicly professing their faith and their desire to come into full communion with the Catholic Church.

3 Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion Celebrations are held in the Diocese of St. Augustine in the Cathedral Basilica:

  • Sunday, February 18
  • Saturday, February 24
  • Sunday, February 25

During the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, pastors and their RCIA coordinators present the catechumens and the candidates to the bishop and the congregation. The catechumens and candidates affirm their desire to enter fully into the life of Christ through the Catholic Church. Godparents and sponsors are then asked by the bishop to affirm that the catechumens and candidates are sufficiently prepared to continue their journeys of faith. The assembly, along with the godparents and sponsors, follow this testimony by pledging their support and prayers for those in preparation.

The catechumens and candidates will spend the season of Lent reflecting and preparing to receive the initiation sacraments. The days of Lent are the final period of purification and enlightenment for catechumens and candidates, marked by prayer and study, and spiritual guidance from the priests and parish teams.

For information on the process of RCIA, please contact the parish nearest to you.