Spanish Masses debated |

Spanish Masses debated

Some parishioners of St. Patrick’s Church were surprised by a letter they found on their windshields after attending a recent Saturday evening Mass. The missive, written by Grass Valley resident Ed Yarborough, accused the church’s priest, the Rev. Tim Nondorf, of encouraging illegal immigrants by offering special services, including Mass in Spanish.

“Do you believe it’s ethical for a clergyman to help criminals break the law?” Yarborough wrote in his public letter. “Aren’t illegal aliens criminals? Their very presence in this country is a violation of federal law. Does that not concern you? Didn’t Jesus say ‘render unto Caesar’?”

In December 2005, Yarborough, 50, launched a one-man campaign against Nondorf, 36, alleging the priest is promoting illegal immigration by helping members of his growing Spanish-speaking congregation.

“They are evidently Spanish-speaking people, and that is a fairly good indication they are illegal,” Yarborough said recently.

Nondorf explained the church’s stance on immigration by quoting from a letter the Rev. Richard J. Garcia, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento, wrote to Yarborough on Aug. 3, 2006.

“It is to serve the people of God that a priest is ordained, that is, to serve all people, regardless of a person’s legal status in a particular country,” Nondorf read. “As St. Paul reminds us, Jesus ministered to Jew and Gentile alike.”

St. Patrick’s Church hosts Spanish Masses on the last Sunday of every month. Bilingual Mass is offered on high holidays and sacraments in Spanish on special occasions. The church also hosts a social group for Hispanic youth and English classes.

The church has not taken any major legal action against Yarborough for posting letters on the parishioners’ windshields. The action violates a city ordinance, Grass Valley Police Chief John Foster said.

“If people feel they are being harassed or threatened, I would encourage them to contact us,” Foster said.

“But if you don’t report the crime, we can’t do anything about it.”

Yarborough said he is not sure of his future line of action against Nondorf.

“I’m kind of disappointed with the wishy-washy position they (the Catholic Church) have taken on the immigration issue,” Yarborough said. “But as long as they offer special Spanish-language services … for illegal aliens, they are … taking a political position (on immigration) whether they want to admit it or not.”

Yarborough is a Nevada City native who graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz and works for a local insurance agent. He is a Catholic but said he is not a member of any Catholic church in town.

“I pray for Mr. Yarborough every day, asking that God touch his heart,” Nondorf said. “On Sunday, July 30, when he stood outside our church picketing, the Spanish community said a decade of the rosary for him.

“That’s all we can do – pray for him.”


To contact Staff Writer Soumitro Sen, e-mail soumit or call 477-4229.


Ed Yarborough’s correspondence with St. Patrick’s Church officials and the parishioners:

• Dec. 8, 2005 – Yarborough sent a letter to the Rev. Tim Nondorf, pastor at St. Patrick’s Church.

• July 29, 2006 – Yarborough puts fliers on parishioners’ cars on the eve of the church’s first Mass in Spanish.

• July 31, 2006 – Nondorf gets a second letter from Yarborough.

• July 31, 2006 – Nondorf sends a letter to the Rev. Richard J. Garcia, auxiliary bishop of Sacramento.

• Aug. 2, 2006 – The Rev. Bernadin Mugabowakigeri, former associate pastor at the church, gets a letter from Yarborough.

• Oct. 28, 2006 – Yarborough puts fliers on parishioners’ cars again.

Source: The Rev. Tim Nondorf, priest at St. Patrick’s Church.

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