We are midway through the season of Lent, a time of greater sacrifice, almsgiving, and prayer. Before Lent began, long-time friend of Ave Maria University, Bishop Dewane, visited AMU students on campus in the Gyrene Cafe to provide valuable advice on what the Church wants from them, especially during the season of Lent. Our students took advantage of the Bishop’s presence at their University and asked a variety of questions concerning his vocation to the religious life, the Church’s expectations of the students, advice for entering into society after college, and their Lenten duties.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane serves in the Diocese of Venice, Florida. He grew up on a farm in Wisconsin with loving parents, one brother and two sisters. Prior to entering seminary, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences from the University of Wisconsin. He went on to earn a Master’s Degree in International Administration from The American University in Washington, D.C. He also holds degrees from Pontifical Gregorian University and Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, both in Rome.
Sometimes, you have to wait on the Lord’s timing.
Bishop Dewane shared hat he did not enter seminary until he was 33 years old. The students, intrigued, wondered what else he did before entering the seminary. Bishop Frank Dewane traveled to Russia, learned the language, and worked for the National Broadcasting Association (NBC) in Moscow. After some time, he traveled to New York City and worked for a subsidiary of PepsiCo. When the time came for him to enter the seminary, he just knew. Bishop Dewane explained that he learned we must “be open to what the Lord is asking us to do, we must turn ourselves over to the Lord. At times in my life, I knew I just had to wait on the Lord.”
Throughout all of Bishop Dewane’s education experience and work experience, his father had repeatedly asked him, “When are you going to get a real job?” When the Bishop finally entered the seminary, his parents were happy and proud.
During his time at seminary, the Bishop explained that there were some seminarians whom everyone knew would most likely become bishops someday. Bishop Dewane told the AMU students: “No one in the seminary ever said to me, ‘You’re going to be a Bishop.’” And yet here he stands today, installed as Bishop of the Diocese of Venice by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006, and even serving on several committees at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Go out into the world and be Ave Maria strong, he said, particularly Our Lady strong.
Ave Maria University students crowded together in the Gyrene Cafe to hear from Bishop Dewane on the Monday before Ash Wednesday because they knew how valuable his advice would be. Senior Katie Ligday, student host for the event, asked: “What do you and the Church want from AMU as a young Catholic institution?” In reply, Bishop Dewane said, “Be the yeast in society, make a difference wherever it is you go.” Continuing, he urged: “You’ll all leave this nice place… Be Ave Maria strong, particularly Our Lady strong. At Ave Maria University, you get a unique education, in education but also in faith and morals. Be that yeast, that leaven in the world. Yeast can go bad sometimes. So, be the yeast in a good way. You know what is good, now set out and do it.”
When posed with the question, “How can we live in the world and not be consumed by the world?” the Bishop responded, “It’s not easy. You need a good conscience. You need to make those right choices. You need to be strong enough to tell a person that they aren’t being yeast.” More concretely, he warned about the distraction of technology and encouraged students to develop real connections, real relationships, with others. “Look at people in the eye, not at your device, and understand where their heart is. People are the gift the Lord has given us. Don’t let technology enslave you. Computers, iphones, all of it are great. But, they can be destructive.” Bishop Dewane expanded upon his answer to add that all are called to live holy lives. “That universal call for holiness is out there for you,” he said. “It’s not just for Bishops or nuns, but laity too. Keep in mind the call to holiness. Once we hear the call, it’s our responsibility to respond. That’s important. Find what the call is for you. It’s different for everyone.”
This year, Lent began on February 14th, which was both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday. Bishop Dewane suggested that students celebrate Valentine’s Day on the day before, and live out the prayer and fasting of Ash Wednesday as a Valentine’s gift to the Lord. “Lent is no great secret,” he said. The entire season of Lent is a time set aside in a special way as a “gift” for God, to help us prepare our hearts to receive the far greater gift of participation in Christ’s suffering, death and Resurrection.
Bishop Dewane serves as an example of faith and love for the students at Ave Maria University. It was a great privilege for our students to receive advice from him during this formative time in their lives. AMU students ended the evening pondering the Bishop’s advice and inspired to go out in the world and be Ave Maria strong.