Reflection on a Seminarian’s Visit to the Frozen North

The following is revised from an article published in the Sacred Heart-St. Joseph Parish Newsletter:

Even though our Diocese of Sacramento is the largest by area in California, it isn’t often that I’ve had the chance to visit the vast swaths of territory in the north of the state. The formation of a seminarian for the priesthood includes a lot, but adventuresome treks through the mountains (or for that matter, the cities) are not mandatory. Boredom is permissible, if not altogether appealing. And so Father Ronald Torres’ invitation to hospitality and a guided tour of his mountainous, river-pierced, and tree-nestled Parish of Sacred Heart (Fort Jones) and Saint Joseph (Yreka) for the weekend of January 7-8 was an offer I couldn’t refuse.


St. Josephs Church, Yreka

Photo Credit:

The visit could not have occurred on a more exciting weekend, meteorologically speaking; a huge winter storm was in its final hours as I nosed my borrowed Subaru into the rectory driveway late Friday night. The next morning Father and I awoke to the beauty of four inches of fresh snow—God’s answer to many Californians’ earnest prayers. Although the snow made it impossible to visit the church communities of Etna and Happy Valley, I got a taste of what life is like in the higher elevations. Father and I patiently waited for the evening Mass in St. Joseph’s, visiting the parish hall to see the volunteers and visitors to the Saturday lunch effort. I was impressed at the dedication of parishioners who braved the snow to feed those who depended on the parish for a hot meal.

Seminarians often have the privilege of altar serving in many churches, and it was with gusto that I donned my cassock and surplice (the black and white altar server attire) to help with the weekend Masses. Father gave me the opportunity to introduce myself to the parish, and it was a joy to thank so many faithful Catholics for their prayers and sacrifices that support priestly and religious vocations. We seminarians depend on your prayers and courageous support—including the willingness to invite others to consider whether Jesus is calling him/her to follow Him in the priesthood or a religious vocation.

It was with some chagrin that I said goodbye to Father Ronald—and to the intrepid Deacon Chuck and Dortje Werner—after Sunday brunch. The parishes of the north are blessed with a beauty and community that I refuse to envy (that’s a sin!), but fully intend to visit again. May God richly bless the parish and families of Sacred Heart-St. Joseph’s. Amen.