Church in Sonoma County Defies Public Health Orders, Holds Service

Jeffrey Schaub
May 31, 2020 - 3:51 pm

    Violating a Sonoma County ban on in-person religious services, the Catholic Bishop of Santa Rosa presided over a service at St. Eugene’s Cathedral on Sunday, an action criticized by the County’s Public Health Officer, Dr. Sundari Mase, and other local religious leaders.

    The bell atop St. Eugene’s Cathedral rang out following the mid-morning mass celebrating Pentecost Day, or the birth of the Catholic Church.

    The special service took place under Bishop Robert Vasa, and came about after he informed Dr. Mase last week that he would follow California Governor Gavin Newsom’s order allowing church services to resume, even though they remained banned in Sonoma County. 

    “This is serious and I would really like to open, and I plan to open,” Vasa said.

    His decision was immediately criticized by Dr. Sundari Mase. 

    Vasa oversees the north coast’s largest religious denomination that stretches from Petaluma to the Oregon border. 

    “We have to be concerned, as I am, and have been about human survival,” he said. “But there’s another element to humanity and we’re going to call it ‘human flourishing.’”

    The service was originally planned to take place inside the cathedral, but ended up being held outside. About 50 parishioners attended. 

    Jennifer Gunderson is a church member, and she told KCBS Radio that the church members felt isolated from each other.

    “I think the Bishop said it perfectly in his homily, the church is about coming together and we haven’t been able to do that,” she said. “We haven’t been able to celebrate our faith together as a community.”