The Deacon's Bench

The news seems to be improving for Southern California — but for many families, and many communities, the damage is done. That includes an Indian reservation where a mission church was destroyed.

From CNS:

A Catholic church on an Indian reservation was one of the casualties of the ongoing wildfires that have hit Southern California.

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 on the reservation.

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 St. Bartholomew 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 feared destroyed in the blazes.

A representative of Catholic Mutual, the San Diego Diocese’s insurance company, said Oct. 24 no harm had come to any church properties owned by the diocese.

A message left Oct. 23 on the answering machine at San Rafael Church in the city’s Rancho Bernardo area said: “Due to the fires in San Diego, San Rafael Parish offices and premises have been evacuated until further notice. All scheduled activities for this week have been canceled. Thank you.”

“Catholic Charities is providing support to the community and our staff affected by the wildfires with hot meals, staffing and technical resources to those located at Qualcomm Stadium,” a football stadium in San Diego doubling as a shelter, said Catholic Charities USA spokeswoman Shelly Boryszewicz in an Oct. 24 statement. Priests were being recruited to go to the stadium and minister to those taking refuge there.

The Diocese of San Diego shut down its chancery building Oct. 23, but reopened the next day, albeit at about 60 percent strength as employees were tending to fire-related situations in their homes.

The Catholic-run University of San Diego announced Oct. 23 it was canceling classes for the remainder of the week.

“Dining services staff and student volunteers have provided desperately needed food and supplies to evacuees at Qualcomm Stadium,” said the university’s president, Mary Long, in an Oct. 23 statement. The university’s Center for Community Service Learning was coordinating volunteer opportunities for students and staff.

The university’s Web site notified parents that, while the school was not in any physical danger from the fires, it was compiling a list of homes willing to take in students on a temporary basis.

“Parents and their students are encouraged to consider their options and make the decision best for them,” the Web site said. “Many USD faculty and staff have been affected by the fires and we are very understanding of these decisions.”

If you are wondering how you can help, CBS News has compiled a list of resources and information at this link. And if you’re concerned about someone you know in the San Diego area, the CBS affiliate KFMB has a web page which lists streets and addresses where houses are confirmed lost.

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