Pastor’s Desk ~ August 13, 2023

Dear Fellow Parishioners,

Mid-August is here, school vacations are coming to an end, and the start of religious education and school are just around the corner.

As I mentioned at Masses, I spent most of my vacation at my favorite resort, Rancho Back-yardo. While doing so, I watched or read many, many news stories about the hassles of flying – high ticket prices and fees, canceled and over-booked flights, delays, unruly passengers, etc. It’s still a near-miracle, however, to be able to walk off of a plan and be in a different city, country or continent.

There is something to be said for car travel, especially if you take the time to pass through flyover country and the small towns interstates now bypass. In nearly all small towns in Nevada there are churches, notably Catholic and Mormon churches. Most of the Catholic churches in larger cities (Reno, Sparks) are newish and grand, especially in Reno, Sparks, indicative of the large and growing Catholic populations. In the smaller towns, they are much more modest, if not original construction. The parish of St. Mary in the Mountains in Virginia City dates back at least to when the Comstock Lode was discovered in 1859 – the first major silver deposit discovery in the United States. In 1875, a fire destroyed 90% of the town, including the church. The “new” St. Mary’s was rebuilt immediately thereafter, when Virginia City was at its peak of population and prosperity. Nearly 150 years later, this church still impressively dominates the skyline of what is now mainly an historic and tourist town.

In general outline, that is very similar to the history of our own parish, St. Vincent’s. The parish was founded at about the same time, had its first church burn down in the same year, and rebuilt when the city was increasingly prosperous and populous. And like St. Mary’s in Virginia City, St. Vincent’s dominates the skyline of Petaluma.

And now, back to the present.

At the elementary school, I am pleased to welcome our new principal, Mr. Joseph Clapp. Mr. Clapp comes with wide experience in elementary school teaching and administration. His daughter is a current student and now a 4th-generation SVES alumna, since her mother and her family are long-time Petalumans. During the summer, we were able to install, at very low cost, air conditioning in many SVES rooms. Those of us who remember experiencing heat waves in that school will know what a welcome development this is.

Last Monday, August 7th, our high school hosted a Faculty and Staff Retreat for all those working at both schools. Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane delivered the keynote address and preached the homily on the subject of, among other things, Catholic education and human freedom. School age students, Catholic and non-Catholic, are facing challenges that few of us older people can readily understand. A key component of Catholic education is an awareness of mission and, without conceding points of principle, a commitment to listen. Hope is not empty optimism, or magical thinking, but reason and reality grounded in faith, a deep confidence that God’s promises to each of us will be kept.

Please pray for a fruitful and productive religious education and school year 2023-2024, for all our parish students wherever the schools they may attend.

Fr. Bill Donahue

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