Bishop Robert Vasa of the Diocese of Santa Rosa has canceled the building of a new community gym and youth center on the property of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and School in Napa.
The proposed 17,000-square-foot Napa Valley Youth Center would have provided year-round athletic activities and other after-school and summer programs for school-aged youth who are 17 and under. The facility was intended to provide positive alternatives for students who might otherwise be vulnerable to delinquency, drug abuse and gang violence.
Vasa decided that he could not authorize the building of a community youth center and gym on diocesan property, according to a letter written by Father Gordon Kalil and distributed Sunday to St. John parishioners and school families.
Kalil said the board of directors for the Napa Valley Youth Center considered going forward with the project at a different location, but decided that purchasing land would be too expensive. Last week, the board of directors disbanded.
“It saddens me personally that this has become the status of the Napa Valley Youth Center,” Kalil wrote. “However, I understand the reasons for its loss at this time, but pray and believe in my heart that our agreed upon mission to support the great number of youth in our church, school, and community will become a reality.”
St. John’s had launched a capital campaign in 2010 to help raise $5.4 million to build the Napa Valley Youth Center, as well as an additional $4.1 million to upgrade existing church and school property.
As of this spring, St. John’s had received nearly $3 million in active pledges and donations, and more than $1.6 million had been spent on church and school construction projects, according to the letter. Those projects included a complete remodel of the church, replacing all of the school windows, and installing a new safety crosswalk.
More than 400 families still have a pledge balance to the parish capital campaign. Those families will be contacted and given the choice to cancel their balances or have their balances go toward the seismic retrofit of the roof at St. John the Baptist Catholic School, Kalil said. Any additional funds after the roof retrofit would go toward creating 24 additional parking spaces next to St. John’s by changing Caymus Street to a one-way street with diagonal parking.
Kalil said he wants to get matters resolved with the families with remaining pledge balances before his departure. Kalil is currently serving as a part-time pastor at both St. Helena Catholic Church and St. John the Baptist. He will transfer to St. Helena full-time July 1, after Father Ismael Mora — a bilingual pastor from Eureka — becomes the new pastor at St. John’s.
The Catholic school’s principal, Nancy Jordan, said she was disappointed the youth center and gym project had been stopped, but she respected the bishop’s decision.
“We are now presented with an opportunity to regroup and generate new ideas for our campus and facilities that best meet the needs of our church and school,” Jordan said in an e-mail. “We trust that we can create alternative, but equally effective plans that meet the requirements of our diocese and provide our children with the recreational facilities they truly need.”
The Napa Valley Youth Center project was initially approved by the previous bishop of Santa Rosa, Daniel Walsh, in 2010. Vasa was appointed bishop about two years ago following Walsh’s retirement.
Vasa has taken a firm stance on controversial issues and is known for his orthodox view of Catholic doctrine.
Shortly after Vasa was appointed to the Diocese of Santa Rosa, Queen of the Valley Medical Center tightened its rules regarding tubal ligations — a permanent form of birth control in which a woman’s fallopian tubes are blocked, tied or cut.
Vasa also has proposed implementing a controversial addendum to Catholic school teacher contracts by requiring teachers to affirm that contraception, abortion, same-sex-marriage and euthanasia are “modern errors” and are “matters that gravely offend human dignity.”
Vasa initially wanted to make this a requirement for the 2013-14 school year but reversed his decision following the public outcry of numerous schools in the diocese.