Disaster strikes close to home: How to help
With prayers, hospitality, and bottled water and supplies by the truckload, the people of the Diocese of Oakland responded to the needs of their North Bay neighbors in the wake of wildfires that began Oct. 8 and have burned for more than a week.
Bishop Vasa has been providing daily updates at http://srdiocese.org/signofhope. Those signs of hope included an Oct. 12 Mass at St. Rose Church in Santa Rosa, for families connected with Cardinal Newman High School and St. Rose Elementary School, which suffered damage in the fire's first hours.
"The overflowing church brought together this portion of the Santa Rosa community and was a source of encouragement and support to those who suffer through these days," Bishop Vasa wrote. "Pastors, as well as I, are visiting the major evacuation centers. Some parishes are hosting evacuees but the city or county shelters have more concentrated access to the services which those who have left or lost their homes need."
Rev. Jeffrey Keyes, CPPS, parochial vicar of the Cathedral of St. Eugene in Santa Rosa and former pastor of St. Edward Church in Newark, celebrated Mass at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds for the National Guard and responders on Oct. 14.
Bishop Vasa assured his people of his "ongoing and ardent prayers for your safety and well-being."
"While we are far flung and scattered I need you to know that you are not alone," he wrote. "We are still in survival mode rather than recovery mode but plans are already underway, especially for our impacted schools, to provide a path forward."
That path forward has drawn the attention of students at high schools in the Oakland diocese. Bishop O'Dowd High School has designated a "dollar day" collection, and students at St. Joseph Notre Dame High School are also pledging to help the recovery. The students at the Alameda school loaded a truck destined for the evacuation centers with hundreds of supplies they collected during a one-day drive on Oct. 13.
Holy Names High School partnered with Yandell Truckaway, a local trucking company, to send toiletries and dry goods to the North Bay shelters.
St. Raymond Church in Dublin worked with the Redwood Empire Food Bank in Santa Rosa to provide much-needed ready-to-eat food, such as peanut butter, foil-packaged tuna and granola bars, as well as bottled water, for distribution in the evacuation shelters.
Parishioners at St. Michael Parish joined with the Livermore neighbors to send bottled water, canned goods, personal care items and flashlights.
More than 40 Piedmont Troop 6 Scouts — including Bishop O'Dowd students Benicio de Palm '21, Teddy Bruin '18, Kieran Okada '19, Jett Roberts '19, Maeve Kelly '18 and Noelia McKillop '21 — put their cooking skills to good use. With their adult leaders and parents, the Scouts put together a mobile kitchen, then prepared and served lunch for more than 200 Redwood Empire Council Boy Scout volunteers working about two miles from the fires.
Also on the front lines, Catholic Charities of Santa Rosa is working with other agencies to provide short-term and long-term support for victims. Monetary donations will be the most useful contribution to that work. They are also able to accept a limited number of diapers, baby wipes, face masks, twin-size blankets, toiletries, towels and warm adult coats. Check its website at www.srcharities.org/fire-recovery for its most current needs.
As of Oct. 17, Mont La Salle, the San Francisco New Orleans District Provincialate of the Christian Brothers, remained undamaged by the fires. The Brothers of Mont La Salle's Provincialate and Holy Family Communities evacuated the property on Oct. 10, and will stay with the Brothers' communities in Concord, Moraga, Berkeley and San Francisco until it is safe to return home.
All were reported to be doing well, according to a post by the community's website.
Brother Dominic Ruegg, 99, was so at home on the Saint Mary's College campus in Moraga that he attended an Oct. 17 lecture by Kate Hennessy, Dorothy Day's granddaughter. He is among five Brothers visiting the Saint Mary's campus. "We're happy to welcome them here," said Carole Swain, vice president of the college's Office of Mission.
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