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Priests reflect on safety, after slaying of Eureka pastor

Published On: Jan 03 2014 08:40:13 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 03 2014 10:46:04 PM CST
CHICO, Calif. -

The shocking murder of a Catholic priest in Eureka has many wondering about the safety of clergy members.

Priests are very aware of their vulnerability.  At most churches, Catholic priests live in the rectory, a home right next to the church.  The three priests at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in downtown Chico live just a few steps away from where they do their work.

Father Tim Nondorf shares the living space in the rectory with two other priests.  Being at the corner of Fourth and Chestnut Streets near Chico State University, has its own unique challenges.

”We're surrounded by fraternities,” said Nondorf.  “So when school is in session it's a little louder than most rectories I've been at.”

The murder of Father Eric Freed in Eureka New Year's Day reminded Father Nondorf of how vulnerable a priest is, but he said he isn’t frightened.

Part of a priest’s job is to open his heart and his door to others.  Sometimes that involves ministering to complete strangers.

”There have been cases in our diocese where someone rings the door bell at two in the morning, you answer it, and it's not a good encounter,” said Nondorf. “We do get homeless who come by here looking for help, and sometimes we can help them and sometimes we can't.  And that can lead to challenges.” 

This week’s slaying at St. Bernard Church in Eureka is a sober reminder that no one is immune to random acts of violence, not even members of the clergy.

”The challenge of the priesthood is that, we need to be there for people of all walks of life.  And at times that can put us in harm's way.”

Sadly for parishioners of Saint John the Baptist, Father Tim Nondorf is being transferred to a larger parish near Sacramento.  Soon a new priest will move into the rectory and join the other two priests.  Hopefully they can live in peace and safety, no matter who comes knocking on the door.