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November 5, 2007   •   VOL. 45, NO. 19   •   Oakland, CA

articles list

Cathedral provost talks about dedication plans

Cathedral work progressing

Catholic churches, agencies reach out to wildfire victims

St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen of Champions trains would-be chefs

Laptops transform learning at St. Joachim

MacBooks become part of student life at Moreau Catholic High in Hayward

Cancer survivor advocates for Latino families

Ten East Bay groups receive grants for work to end poverty

Actor reprises one-man performance of ´Damien═

Nicaragua: the continuing struggle to remain hopeful amidst dire poverty

Guatemalan adoption reform may shatter orphan care there

Religion seen as a factor in 2008 presidential race

New LCWR president comments on future of women religious

Deacon Dennis Rivera














Catholic churches, agencies
reach out to wildfire victims

Cristobal Mateo registers with a volunteer as he arrives Oct. 24 at an evacuation set up by Mission San Luis Rey parishioners for evacuees who fled the wildfires near Fallbrook.The nearly 100 evacuees were almost exclusively agricultural workers from Guatemala who arrived at the church in search of shelter.


SAN DIEGO (CNS) — Catholic Charities agencies in two California dioceses are continuing to reach out to the thousands of their residents affected by the ravaging wildfires that scorched more than 500,000 acres in the southern part of the state and left more than 2,000 families without homes.

The fires, which began Oct. 21, destroyed 2,767 structures and caused the evacuation of more than 900,000 people. Despite the scope of the blazes, there was relatively little personal injury with fewer than a dozen fire-related deaths. Property damage in San Diego County, however, has surpassed $1 billion.

St. Bartholomew Church, a mission church on the Rincon Reservation, and several homes on the reservation were destroyed in one of the fires, according to Bo Mazzetti, a councilman for the Luiseno tribe.

He told the San Diego Union-Tribune daily newspaper the loss of the church was a spiritual blow to the tribe. “That’s something we’ve all attended, that church. It’s devastating to see that,” Mazzetti said.

The church property is owned by the Luiseno tribe, not by the Diocese of San Diego, although a deacon or priest from a nearby parish regularly ministers to reservation residents. The same is true of two other mission churches on reservations close to the Rincon Reservation, both of which were believed destroyed in the blazes.

Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside became a somewhat accidental shelter for 100 Spanish-speaking immigrants, mostly Guatemalans, who could not take refuge at their parish church because it, too, had been evacuated.
How to help fire victims
Catholic Charities in San Diego and San Bernardino are appealing for funds to help them assist the thousands of people who lost their homes or their livelihoods to the wildfires that raged through southern California late last month. The two agencies are providing housing and store vouchers, medicine, counseling and assistance with applying to FEMA and other agencies for financial aid. Cash donations can be sent to:

      Catholic Charities USA
      Southern California Wildfires 2007
      P.O. Box 7068
      Merrifield, VA 22116-7086

      Catholic Charities
      Diocese of San Diego
      349 Cedar Street
      San Diego, 92101
“We were not planning on having a shelter here,” said Carmen Parra, the mission’s director of social concerns. “We found a few families in our parking lot, and we decided to open up our little facility where we have bingo,” she said.

“This is a first for us. We’re a church and we do have an office. We can help people with food yearlong, but this is something — we needed to do this. We couldn’t let these people go.”

Catholic Charities San Diego, in partnership with other agencies, established a presence inside Qualcomm Stadium — a football stadium that doubled as a shelter for as many as 15,000 evacuees — in offering hot meals. It created a locator system whereby pastors and parishioners could connect with one another, and recruited diocesan priests to visit the stadium to provide spiritual and emotional care to evacuees.

Rodrigo Valdivia, chancellor for the San Diego Diocese, said Catholic Charities is also helping those who lost their homes find temporary housing and is providing help to gardeners, plumbers and other workers who lost their business tools in the fires.

Msgr. Richard Duncanson brings Communion to wildfire evacuees Harley and LaVerne Harriss at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Oct. 24. The venue served as a shelter and service center for 15,000 people who fled their homes from raging wildfires.


Ken Sawa, executive director of Catholic Charities San Bernardino, visited one shelter with 1,600 occupants and reported that each one could very easily qualify for Catholic Charities assistance. Catholic Charities USA has deployed a five-member team to help the local agency with the dramatic increase in calls for help.

In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, a portable building used as a computer lab behind Our Lady of Malibu School in Malibu was among buildings destroyed when the fires hit that community. The teachers’ workroom next to the destroyed computer lab was scorched in the fire and several junior-high classroom windows cracked from the fire’s intense heat. Layers of ash were deposited on the church and hall.
Firefighters were able to save the church’s main buildings after parish staff evacuated the site early Oct. 21.

“Even though it’s a big loss for a small school like us, in comparison to our neighbors, we are so fortunate,” said school co-principal Suzanne Ricci. Forty-seven computers, two servers, printers and digital equipment were lost in the destroyed computer lab, a setback to administrators’ plans to focus on educational technology during the 2007-08 school year.

Msgr. Richard Duncanson brings Communion to wildfire evacuees Harley and LaVerne Harriss at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Oct. 24. The venue served as a shelter and service center for 15,000 people who fled their homes from raging wildfires.


Catholic Charities in the archdiocese coordinated its response with local disaster and community leaders and is focusing primarily on helping clients locate additional resources, such as assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In Orange County, fires were away from populated areas and largely contained.

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