Diocese of Santa Rosa
in California

Diœcesis Sanctae Rosae in California

Diócesis de Santa Rosa en California
Cathedral of St. Eugene
Coat of arms
Country United States
TerritoryCounties of Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma, California
Ecclesiastical provinceSan Francisco
Area30,331.35 km2 (11,711.00 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2009)
167,945 (18%)
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteRoman Rite
EstablishedJanuary 13, 1962
CathedralCathedral of Saint Eugene
Patron saintSt. Rose of Lima
Secular priests54
Current leadership
BishopRobert Francis Vasa
Metropolitan ArchbishopSalvatore Cordileone
Bishops emeritusDaniel Francis Walsh

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa in California (Latin: Diœcesis Sanctae Rosae in California) is a diocese, or ecclesiastical territory, of the Roman Catholic Church in the northern California region of the United States. It is a suffragan diocese of the ecclesiastical province of the metropolitan Archdiocese of San Francisco.

The mother church of the Diocese of Santa Rosa in California is the Cathedral of Saint Eugene in Santa Rosa[1] As of 2023, the current bishop is Robert Vasa.


The Diocese of Santa Rosa in California comprises Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma Counties.


1820 to 1962

The first Catholic presence in the area was the establishment of the Mission San Francisco Solano in present-day Sonoma in 1823 by Jose Altamira.[2]

In 1828, a Native American woman was listening to Juan Amoros preaching to a group by a creek near near present-day Santa Rosa. She stepped forward and asked to be baptised a Christian. Since it was the feast day of Rose of Lima, Amoros baptised her as Rosa and named the creek and its surrounding area as Santa Rosa. The Asistencia Santa Rosa de Lima was established there.[2]

Over the following decades, parishes were established in these communities:

1962 to 1987

Pope John XXIII erected the Diocese of Santa Rosa in California on February 21, 1962, with territory from the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Diocese of Sacramento. He named Leo Maher of San Francisco as the first bishop of the new diocese.[3]

During his seven-year tenure as bishop, Maher established seven parishes, one mission, three high schools, four elementary schools, and several rectories and convents.[4] He also elevated three missions to parish status and oversaw major renovations of four existing parish churches. Maher became bishop of the Diocese of San Diego in 1969.[3]

Auxiliary Bishop Mark Hurley from San Francisco was the second bishop of Santa Rosa, named by Pope Paul VI in 1969. Hurley established terms of office for pastors and associate pastors, opened a low-income senior residence, and created the Priests' Retirement Fund, Project Hope, and the Apostolic Endowment Fund.[5] He founded the Centro Pastoral Hispano and re-dedicated Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Mission.[5] He established two new parishes in his last five years as bishop, and ordained over a dozen priests and deacons in his last three years.[5] Hurley retired in 1986.

1987 to present

Pope John Paul II named Auxiliary Bishop John Steinbock from the Diocese of Orange as the third bishop of Santa Rosa in 1987.[6] He became bishop of Fresno in 1991. To replace Steinbock, John Paul II appointed Auxiliary Bishop George Ziemann of Los Angeles. Ziemann submitted his resignation as bishop of Santa Rosa to the Vatican in 1999 after admitting a sexual relationship with a man and being sued by him.[7]

To replace Ziemann, John Paul II appointed Bishop Daniel F. Walsh of the Diocese of Las Vegas in 2000. In 2011, Bishop Robert F. Vasa from the Diocese of Baker was appointed as coadjutor bishop to assist Walsh. When Walsh retired later that year, Vasa automatically succeed him as bishop. As of 2023, Vasa is the current bishop of Santa Rosa.

In March 2023, after facing nearly 200 sex abuse lawsuits, the diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.[8][9]

Sex abuse

Bishop Steinbock suspended youth minister Donald Kimball in 1990 after Kimball admitted to having sex with six girls. However, his actions did not become public until a 1997 lawsuit was filed against the diocese by four victims, males and females. He was laicized in 2000. Kimball was convicted in 2002 of molesting a 13-year-old girl, but the conviction was overturned by the US Supreme Court in 2003.[10]

In 1996, Gary Timmons, a diocesan priest, was convicted on charges of committing lewd or lascivious acts with children and sentenced to four years in prison. Ever since the 1960s, the diocese had transferred Timmons to new parishes and then a summer camp whenever charges of child sexual abuse had been reported.[11]

Bishop Ziemann was sued for sexual battery and defamation in 1999 by Jorge Salas, a diocesan priest. Salas claimed that Ziemann forced him into a sexual relationship in return for not prosecuting him for his theft of funds from a parish. Ziemann denied the charges, but admitted to having a personal relationship with Salas.[10]

In August 2006, the Sonoma County, California, Sheriff's Office recommended criminal charges against Bishop Walsh for not reporting multiple child molestations by Francisco Ochoa. Ochoa was a diocesan priest who had confessed sexual abuse crimes to Walsh. Walsh immediately suspended Ochoa but failed to report these crimes to police during the five-day time period mandated by law. This delay enabled Ochoa to flee to Mexico to avoid prosecution.

The Sonoma County District Attorney's Office eventually approved a plea agreement for Walsh, which called for four months of counseling in lieu of prosecution.[12][13] In 2007, the diocese settled a lawsuit by ten individuals who alleged being sexually abused by Ochoa. The diocese paid them a $5 million settlement, including $20,000 donated by Walsh himself.[14]

In 2019, Vasa published a list of 39 clergy connected with the diocese who had credible accusations of sexual abuse of minors.[15]


Bishops of Santa Rosa in California

  1. Leo Thomas Maher (1962–1969), appointed Bishop of San Diego
  2. Mark Joseph Hurley (1969–1986)
  3. John Thomas Steinbock (1987–1991), appointed Bishop of Fresno
  4. George Patrick Ziemann (1992–1999)
  5. Daniel Francis Walsh (2000–2011)
  6. Robert Francis Vasa (2011–present)

Coadjutor bishop

Robert Francis Vasa (2010–2011)


Main article: List of churches in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa in California

The diocese includes approximately 63 parish and mission churches. It is divided into five deaneries:


Elementary schools

High schools

  • Independently operated

Health care

See also


  1. ^ "Diocese of Santa Rosa in California". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "History". Diocese of Santa Rosa. Retrieved 2023-05-14.
  3. ^ a b "Bishop Leo Thomas Maher". Catholic-Hierarchy.org.
  4. ^ "Most Reverend Leo T. Maher, First Bishop of Santa Rosa (1962-1969)". Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa in California. Archived from the original on 2010-06-09.
  5. ^ a b c "Past Bishops of Santa Rosa". Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa in California. Archived from the original on 2010-06-09.
  6. ^ Cheney, David M. "Bishop John Thomas Steinbock [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org.
  7. ^ Reuters (1999-07-24). "Sued by Priest, Bishop Resigns and Admits to Sexual Relationship". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-05-14. ((cite news)): |last= has generic name (help)
  8. ^ "Diocese of Santa Rosa files for bankruptcy after nearly 200 sex abuse lawsuits". CBS News. March 10, 2023. Retrieved March 10, 2023.
  9. ^ "Diocese of Santa Rosa files for bankruptcy today". KSRO. March 13, 2023. Retrieved March 13, 2022.
  10. ^ a b "Donald Kimball, 62, Defrocked Priest in Sex Cases, Is Dead". The New York Times. Associated Press. 2006-09-16. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-05-14.
  11. ^ Doyle, Anne Barrett (2021-05-26). "Decades-old clergy abuse cases inching through courts - BishopAccountability.org". Retrieved 2023-05-14.
  12. ^ "SANTA ROSA / Catholic bishop may face jail". 26 August 2006.
  13. ^ "Calif. bishop quits amid abuse cases". Boston.com. 2011-07-01. Retrieved 2021-11-23.
  14. ^ "Santa Rosa Diocese to Pay $5 Million in Priest Sex Abuse Settlement". Claims Journal. 2007-09-13. Retrieved 2021-11-23.
  15. ^ "Two Sonoma Valley priests on diocese abuser list". Sonoma Index-Tribune. 2019-01-15. Retrieved 2023-05-14.

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