As a show of support for the local community, California Army National Guardsmen prayed beside county residents during a special Sunday ceremony Oct. 15 in Napa at the Saint John the Baptist Church, where the bishop of Santa Rosa - Bishop Robert F. Vasa - presided. More than a thousand California Guardsmen are still in place, supporting firefighting efforts in Napa and Sonoma counties.
The California Guardsmen, as well as other first responders, were the special audience among the hundreds of Napa residents who attended. In his sermon, Vasa thanked the Soldiers for their sacrifices and amplified their support to the stricken community.
"Without a doubt, your presence is a great source of consolation to all the people," said Vasa, looking at the Soldiers. "It lets the people know they are not alone in their struggles. The nation is here for us."
Vasa clapped, showing his approval, and all the church goers in attendance began applauding with him.
"You have all come from different places to help our community," Vasa added. "For that we thank you and pray for your safety."
The Northern California wildfires continue setting state records for destruction. More than 40 have died, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). Several blazes have destroyed nearly 6,000 homes and structures, and have displaced more than 100,000 residents, sending many into evacuation centers, some nearly 75 miles away. Hundreds more are still unaccounted, per CAL FIRE information.
Vasa, who oversees an official Catholic population of nearly 180,000 people in the counties of Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake, Humboldt, and Del Norte, asked for prayers for all who have passed and those who continue to be affected.
"For most Soldiers, religion is a part of their life," said Chaplain (Capt.) David Evans, the Cal Guard's 49th Military Police Brigade religious affairs officer. "The bottom line is taking care of their spirituality and getting them integrated within the community, to show we are one."
Sonoma County has taken the brunt of the fire rampage. Per CAL FIRE, almost 11,000 firefighters were still battling more than a dozen fires burning across a 100-mile stretch of Northern California.