While millions of Catholics await for a new Pope here at home many are awaiting the return of their local spiritual leader. Bishop Frank Dewane has been away with a serious medical ailment for more than a month.
Dewane has led the the more than 250,000 Catholics in the Diocese of Venice since 2006. His absence has not gone unnoticed. "We have received thousands of cards and letters," says Billy Atwell with the Diocese.
A health scare has kept him away. "He was in the hospital for awhile with a staph infection in a previously replaced hip. He is now at home recovering waiting for an implant of a new hip."
Difficult timing as many Catholics are looking to their local leaders after Pope Benedict suddenly stepped down. Now a search for a new one. Atwell says while the Bishop is not physically at the office he is staying up to date. "The Bishop is briefed daily so he is aware of where things are. He conversations with the chancellor and myself to know what is going on."
Atwell says the diocese which oversees 59 Catholic churches, numerous schools, missions, and social service facilities is following protocol. "Church law actually makes a prevision for the absence of a Bishop to make sure the roles and responsibilities are shared throughout the Diocese."
Saying everyone is conducting their roll in these uncertain times. "The Diocese is broken up into what is called Deaneries. It is kind of like a district. Those are managed by Deans. Different areas of ministry are managed by vicars who are priests. The Catholic Center is broken up into different departments and offices which are managed by lay directors."
Hoping for a quick return physically but still united spiritually."One of the beautiful things about being Catholic is he is united with us in prayer. He will be back."
Atwell says exactly when the Bishop will be back will be up to his Doctors.