ST. ROSE OF LIMA
While many of our Catholic parishes in California trace their antecedents through
the early chain of Missions established by the Franciscan Fathers under the original
presidency of Fr. Junipero Serra, St. Rose parish is the daughter of the Church of the
Assumption, Tomales. For many years Catholics in and near Santa Rosa were few,
and, as priests were scarce, Mass was offered on the rarest of occasions. It would
seem that the first priest to offer Mass on a somewhat regular basis in Santa Rosa was
Father Louis Rossi, the pastor of Tomales, who began celebrating Mass here about
1859. Mass was offered in a hotel owned by Patrick Colgan. In the year 1860, a small
church was erected on a lot situated on Fifth Street near R Street. Julio Carrillo
donated the lot. The wooden church was small and poorly furnished and, at first, had
only eight pews. Father Rossi attended his mission church at intervals until 1862 when
ill health forced him to retire. He was succeeded as pastor of Tomales by Father Patrick
Walsh, who came to Santa Rosa about once a month for Mass. Tomales had a quick
succession of pastors, Fathers Thomas Fagan, Peter Bermingham, Anthony Debase,
William Slattery (who enlarged the Santa Rosa church in 1869 and added aspire in
1872), Francis Kelly and Andrew Cullen.
In 1876 the number of Catholics had increased to such an extent as to require a
resident priest. In response, Archbishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany established St. Rose
as a parish whose boundaries then embraced the present parishes, of Healdsburg,
Cloverdale, Sebastopol and Guerneville. The year was 1877. The first pastor was
Father Peter J. Kaiser who previously had been pastor of St. Boniface church, San
Francisco. Father Kaiser died within a year after becoming our first pastor. Father John
M. Conway, who hailed from Brown County, Ohio, succeeded Father Kaiser in 1877. By
1880, the Christian College (a Campbellite school opened on Sept. 23, 1872) was
purchased by Father Conway. He invited the Ursuline Sisters from his old home in Ohio
to come and establish a school. In the same year he moved the church from Fifth
Street to a site on B Street next to the Ursuline College. The county population began
to grow with the result that the Archbishop divided the parish in 1884 and established
the parish of St. Johnʼs in Healdsburg. Fr. Conway continued his expansion of parish
facilities when in 1888 he purchased the grounds for Calvary Cemetery in Bennett
Valley. Due to ill health, Fr. Conway was forced to resign as shepherd of the parish in
1890. Suffering as an invalid for some years, he died Aug. 1, 1896.
Although the parish of St. Sebastianʼs in Sebastopol was established in 1897
from territory taken from St. Rose, our parish continued to grow, necessitating the
building of a new church. The old church was again moved, this time to the rear, closer
to the Ursuline College, in order to allow construction of the stone church with which we
are familiar. Work was begun in June, 1900 and the cornerstone was laid, Oct. 28,
1900. The event was reported in the San Francisco Examiner: “With appropriate
ceremony the corner stone of the new Catholic Church, dedicated to St. Rose, was laid
this afternoon by Archbishop Riordan.”
Hundreds of people from Santa Rosa and from other places in the county and
from San Francisco thronged the approaches to the edifice now in course of erection on
B Street. It occupies the site where, for close on half a century, the old church stood.
The procession of clergy, choir, and acolytes started from the old church, the
choir meanwhile singing the hymn commencing “Come Holy Ghost”. The Archbishop
was attended by his secretary, the Rev. Father P. Mulligan; the Rev. J.M. Cassin, rector
of St. Roseʼs parish, Santa Rosa; the Rev. Father J.L. OʼNeil of St. Dominicʼs church,
San Francisco; the Rev. Father Leahy of St. Vincentʼs Church, Petaluma, and the Rev.
Father Mackey of Tomales, assisted by the Rev. John Rogers.
Archbishop Riordan, in laying the corner stone, was assisted by D. Sheerin of
San Francisco, the donor of the handsome stone. Nearly half a century ago, when the
old building of St. Roseʼs Church was planned, Mr. Sheerin was the first one to
subscribe to the building fund and aided in carrying out the work. Consequently, there
was a significance in the duty he performed today.
After the Archbishop had blessed the stone, the choir rendered the Hymn of
Sacred Heart. The choir was composed of a quartet of male voices from St. Maryʼs
College, Oakland, composed of John P. Plover, James Blossom, R. Michel and A.
Porter. The other singers were R. Guichard and James Towey, also of St. Maryʼs
College: Dr. Mulcahey, Paul Noonan and James Kelly of Santa Rosa. Mrs. J. P. Berry
presided at the organ. The sermon was delivered by the Rev. J. L. OʼNeil, O.P. of San Francisco.
This morning Archbishop Riordan celebrated mass at 8 oʼclock in old St. Roseʼs.
From here he went to Sebastopol, where he administered confirmation to a class of seventy five candidates.
Archbishop Patrick Riordan dedicated the completed church with a capacity of
approximately 400 on July 21, 1901. Shea and Shea of San Francisco were the
architects. Peter Moroni was the contractor. There is some confusion over the donor of
the stone. The Examiner story claims the donor to be D. Sheerin . Others say the
donor was Captain J. M. McDonald of San Francisco. All agree the stone came from a local quarry.
Although there were formal architects and contractors on the job, local
parishoners always claimed Father Cassin was “Chief of Construction”. It was Fr.
Cassin who insisted on the oversized steel reinforced foundations and walls. The
strength of the construction was demonstrated in the earthquake of April 18, 1906.
Every other brick and stone edifice in Santa Rosa was badly damaged and most of
them totally destroyed. St. Rose Church came through the dreadful ordeal unscathed
with the exception of a few stones which were shaken loose from a cornice. The total
bill for repairs amounted to only $200.
Tom Gregory in his 1911 history of Sonoma County states: “...in fact, Rev. J. M.
Cassin may have had ...a premonition as he saw ...the ground broken for the
cornerstone, June 1900, of the great disaster of April, 1906 ...its foundation, a deep bed
of cement, and walls reinforced with steel cables”. Under the cornerstone were three
symbols gathered by Fr. Cassin in his travels: a small stone from Bethlehem, an olive
wood cross from Jerusalem and a marble cross from the catacombs in Rome. Father
Cassinʼs rounds involved long journeys on horseback, stage and buggy, to minister to
his far flung flock. On the occasion of his Golden Jubilee, the Press Democrat wrote:
“Winter and autumn, spring and summer, in sunshine and in shadow, in sorrow and in
happiness, in smiles and in success, in meetings and in partings, he has been to many
an omnipresent friend. Men, women, and children, no matter their faith, join in the
general expression of congratulations to Father Cassin on the celebration of his golden
jubilee.” Father Cassin, after nearly 30 years as pastor of St. Rose, retired in 1919 from
the active management of the parish and lived in the rectory until he died, June 19,
1932, after 56 years of priestly labor.
In December of 1919, the Rev. Francis V. Long was appointed administrator of
St. Rose. He built the rectory (now the Bishopʼs residence) in 1922. In 1930, Fr. Long
was appointed pastor of St. Anselmʼs Church, San Anselmo. Upon the transfer of Fr.
Long, the Rev. Anthony Henaghan was appointed administrator but, unfortunately, after
a brief five months, he died in a fatal automobile accident in July 1930.
The Rev. Henry B. Raters succeeded Father Heneghan. Fr. Raters had been
pastor of Our Lady of Loretto Parish in Novato. Immediately upon his appointment, Fr.
Raters purchased property from the Ursuline nuns for the building of a parochial school.
The school opened its first term on Sept. 14, 1931 and was solemnly dedicated on Oct.
18, 1931 by Archbishop Edward J. Hanna. Fr. Raters was a jolly, rotund man with a
taste for good cigars and an incredible memory for telephone numbers. His father
came from Oldenburg in Germany, his mother from Nijmegen in Holland.
It was a chance meeting with the late Archbishop Edward Hanna that brought Fr.
Raters to Santa Rosa. The Archbishop, visiting the Catholic University of Fribourg in
Switzerland, spotted a young seminarian and said, “I can use you in San Francisco how
about it?” Fr. Raters was an outstanding linguist, speaking German, French, Dutch,
Italian, Spanish, Latin and English.
The population of Santa Rosa grew rapidly following World War II necessitating
the founding of another parish. Consequently, in 1950, St. Rose was again divided
when Archbishop John J. Mitty established St. Eugeneʼs Parish. St. Eugeneʼs took its
title from the patron saint of the reigning Pontiff, Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli). The
year 1952 marked the 75th anniversary of the parishʼs establishment. The Diamond
Jubilee was celebrated on Sunday, April 27th, with a Solemn Mass at which Archbishop
Mitty presided. Worn out after 31 years as pastor of St. Rose, and after seeing to the
pastoral needs of a parish that continued to grow, Father Raters retired. Although, a
“big” man, Fr. Raters never enjoyed robust health, yet he continued to administer the
parish until he decided he had better ask the Archbishop for permission to retire.
IIl health pursued him even in retirement and he died Sept. 23, 1965, mourned by all the
citizens of Santa Rosa.
The Rt. Rev. Msgr. Walter J. Tappe succeeded Father Raters as pastor on June
24, 1961. Eight months after Msg. Tappeʼs appointment as pastor of St. Rose, Pope
John XXIII established the Diocese of Santa Rosa, naming Msgr. Leo T. Maher the first
Bishop. Bishop Maher appointed Msgr. Tappe his Vicar General. In addition to
assisting Bishop Maher in the building of the new diocese, Msgr. Tappe undertook the
building of the parish convent, the parish office building of the new diocese, (he had
spent every morning in the Chancery office). He also undertook building the priests
residence, the new wing of the Church with its famous windows, mosaic, sanctuary and
baptistry, the parking lot, the landscaping of the parish grounds and the complete
refurbishing of the parochial school.
The parish continued to grow at an astounding rate. At this time, there were
2900 known families in the parish over 6000 parishoners would attend Mass on
Christmas and Easter while the average Sunday Mass attendance was 8600. Msgr.
Tappe then petitioned Bishop Maher to divide the parish and the Bishop agreed. Thus,
another “daughter” parish was formed, this time in the Western part of the city. Nine
hundred and thirty two St. Rose families became the “founding” parishoners of the new
Resurrection Parish. Our parish was singularly honored when Pope Paul VI appointed
M. W. Tappe a Pastor/Observer at the Second Vatican Council. He was one of 98
pastors chosen from throughout the world. The parish was again honored on Nov. 18,
1966 when Pope Paul, at a Public Congregation of the Council, invited Msgr. Tappe to
celebrate Mass with him around the great Papal Altar in St. Peterʼs Basilica. Msgr.
Tappe was chosen to represent all the parish clergy of the world. On this occasion, the
Holy Father promulgated the Councils Constitution on Divine Revelation and its Decree
on the Lay Apostolate.
St. Rose has been served by many splendid Assistant Pastors, too many to
number here. One, however, must be mentioned. On June 11, 1926, a young man
named Thomas A. Connolly was ordained a priest. His first assignment was to St.
Rose. He later became Archbishop of Seattle.