SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. -- The first Bishop in the Diocese of Venice has passed away. Bishop John Nevins led more than 200,000 Catholics in our area for more than two decades. And while he stepped down from his leadership role back in 2007, his legacy is still felt today.
A flame flickers alongside a photo of Bishop John Nevins Wednesday at the Diocese of Venice office.
Appointed by Pope John Paul II, Nevins started up the diocese in 1984 and served until 2007.
"We have profound heartfelt sorrow today. We are grieving that. At the same time are rejoicing his ministry and all the gifts he has brought the area," says director of communications Benedict Nguyen.
Local Catholics like Venice Vice Mayor Emilio Carlesimo are remembering. "You got the feeling he was very spiritual, and he exuded that."
He was known for his sense of peace, compassion, and understanding of people of all backgrounds, races and religions. "He always challenged you, and you came away from church with something to think about. I miss him."
Not just inside the church walls, but in the community, too.
"Very committed to several causes. He was very committed to the issue of migrant workers, very committed to single mothers, the issue of HIV/AIDS ministry."
When the diocese started, it's believed there were around 115,000 Catholics in the 10-county area. By the time he retired, the 10,000 square miles had more than 200,000 members.
He added 15 parishes to the original 39, and increased the number of chapels and missions to 13. Today there is even the Bishop Nevins Academy in Sarasota.
Bishop Nevins passed away at his home in Venice Tuesday. He was 82-years old.
A viewing will take place at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice (350 Tampa Avenue West) next Tuesday. A service celebrating his life will take place there on Wednesday.
Tuesday, the Diocese released a statement, saying in part: "At every moment, especially when times were difficult but full of hope, Bishop Nevins entrusted himself to the Virgin Mary. May she lead him into the House of Our Father."