Vallombrosa 300x100 12.2017

‘Rival’ school raises $25,000 for Cardinal Newman community

01 10.26.17_vasa.st.vincent PAGESanta Rosa Bishop Robert F. Vasa celebrated Mass at St. Vincent High School in Petaluma Oct. 21 before a dinner that raised $25,000 for Santa Rosa’s Cardinal Newman High School. (Photo by Christina Gray/Catholic San Francisco)

October 26, 2017
Christina Gray

Twenty-one miles and a longtime academic and athletic rivalry still separate St. Vincent de Paul High School in Petaluma and Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa. But for a night and perhaps evermore, the two Sonoma County Catholic high schools were on one team.

Two weeks after the Tubbs Fire seriously damaged and closed Cardinal Newman High School, displacing more than 100 school families and staff, hundreds turned out for a spaghetti dinner fundraiser hosted by St. Vincent de Paul High School Oct. 21.

Before dinner, the community packed shoulder-to-shoulder into St. Vincent’s Msgr. Tillman Hall for a Mass celebrated by Santa Rosa Bishop Robert F. Vasa. Father William Donohue, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Petaluma and president of the school concelebrated accompanied by a choir led by three Marian Sisters from Santa Rosa.

“As Catholic schools we tend to compete against each other,” St. Vincent principal Patrick Daly said in his introduction. “But many times it takes certain acts to bring us together. We gather as two distinct communities but one community in faith.”

A box of colorful buttons hand drawn by St. Vincent art teacher Amy Waud-Reiter was passed up and down the rows with different messages, including “Sonoma County Strong,” “We Stand Tall Together,” “CN Strong” and a phrase that has become emblematic of the Wine Country firestorm, “The Love in the Air is Thicker Than the Smoke.”

In his homily, Bishop Vasa thanked the local community for supporting the Catholic schools hit hard by the wildfires just as the school year had begun.

St. Rose School in Santa Rosa also suffered major damage in the Tubbs Fire. Studying and learning in the weeks and months to come would be under “less than ideal circumstances,” he said.

“I can assure you that your offer to help and your participation here this evening is a sign of great encouragement to those who have suffered loss,” said Bishop Vasa. “They know the school community, the Christian community, and the diocesan community has not forgotten or abandoned them in their time of need.”

The evening, he said, also offered an opportunity to reflect upon the mission of the church in “bringing salvation to men” and the role of Catholic education in that mission.

“That’s what you are doing tonight, you’re allowing that light of the Gospel which shines in your heart to reflect out into a world darkened by the smoke of fire,” he said.

Spirits were high in the gym lined with long, tables decorated in Cardinal Newman and St. Vincent school colors. What appeared to be several generations of Cardinal Newman students and staff were seen in sports apparel or red shirts with the motto, “One School Undivided.”

Cardinal Newman principal Graham Rutherford told Catholic San Francisco that despite some initial talk of his students, particularly seniors, finishing out their school years at St. Vincent or at Marin Catholic, “we do not believe students will need to go to any other school.”

“As one community we are working to provide a combination of online and onsite programs for the rest of this semester that will allow students to stay on track,” he said. Classes will resume on Oct. 24 at four parish sites, one for each class level.

St. Vincent alum and board member Jeff Adams said that the pastor, principal, board of regents and the St. Vincent High School leadership team met after learning about the devastating damage to Cardinal Newman High School and organized the event which raised through dinner and raffle tickets and a silent auction, approximately $25,000 to aid school families, faculty and staff.

Vice principal Claudia Thompson and Marie Rodnick of the school’s campus ministry, he said, were instrumental in the quick coordination of the event which also served to lift the spirits of the community after a couple of weeks marred by “chaos and the unknown.”

The past few weeks have been “disheartening, sad, chaotic and helpless” for so many individuals, families, and the whole community,” he said. “Last night I felt joy and hope again seeing the kindness towards others and hearing the laughter of children running around and playing. This too shall pass and we will be stronger for it.”


23 Newman IMG_6713 PAGEThe Marin Catholic High School student body donned red in solidarity with fire-damaged Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa. Marin Catholic raised $25,000 for Cardinal Newman relief through a “No-Go Fireman’s Ball” online-only fundraiser. (Courtesy photo)


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