At Mass yesterday, our pastor Fr. Joe Knerr, asked for prayers for St. John Vianney Church in Hacienda Heights which was burned to the ground Saturday night. It turns out that St. John’s is the sister parish of our own parish, St. Bonaventure in Huntington Beach. The design of the church building is identical to our own (for my readers from St. B and environs, you may not even be able to tell any difference between St. John’s and St. Bonaventure — I can’t!)
Certainly this news was troubling, especially since the fire appears to have been the result of arson. You can watch a memorial video of the fire and read an article here. The church is completely destroyed.
But imagine how surprised my husband and I were to here that the pastor at St. John’s is Fr. (now Monsignor) Tim Nichols. 18 years ago, Fr. Tim was assigned to St. James Church is Redondo Beach, California, and was the priest who both prepared us for our marriage and also performed our marriage ceremony and mass. We were both quite fond of Fr. Tim, but lost track of him after he left St. James. I do not believe it is a coincidence that after so many years we find him now as a result of this tragedy, and in our sister parish no less.
I cannot imagine what it must be like for the people and priests of this parish during this difficult time. But as a woman of faith, as much as this event saddens me, I can see also what a difficult, but significant, gift of grace has been bestowed on this community. I have no doubt they will be strengthened through it and that their faith will grow. And entering into Holy Week, we have all been given an opportunity to help. Our prayers are with Fr. Tim and his congregation and I ask you to pray as well. Donations can be made out to the St. John Vianney Rebuilding Fund, St. John Vianney Catholic Church, 1345 Turnbull Canyon Road, Hacienda Heights CA 91745.