MANATEE- The Diocese of Venice celebrated their 35th anniversary at one of the first places Catholics landed in Florida. Parishioners from across the diocese celebrated Mass on the Manatee River.

“This year we have the 35th anniversary of the diocese,” Bishop Frank Dewane said. “35 years isn’t a great number, but it’s substantial in the sense that this group of people of God came together and formed this Diocese of Venice. So we celebrate that today.”

The mass was held at the Holy Eucharist Memorial, honoring the 12 priests and friars that accompanied the 1539 Spanish Expedition and began to settle the area.

“Back to the days when the discoverers and the missionaries came,” Bishop Dewane said. “And I’m not saying that every part of that was positive, but I am saying that we look back they came to do evangelizing, and they did evangelize, and we’re called by Pope Francis today, each one of us to step out and Evangelize.”

“This was very historical,” Joshua Oglane said. “This is a very special place where the first people came to Florida, and we’re proud of St. Joseph’s to make this a very historical event.”

Eighth Grader Joshua Oglane says holding the mass outside helps you connect with God in a different way.

“Usually when you’re inside it’s very quiet,” Oglane said. “But today there was nature and it was very beautiful, beautiful scenery, you could just feel God everywhere with all the nature and his creation.”

And as we honor the past, the students helped look toward the future of the church.

“We need to look forward,” Bishop Dewane said. “We are a people of hope, we’re called to be, so we need to look forward and do precisely that kind of thing.”

The Diocese will be holding events to mark their 35th anniversary throughout the year.