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Santa Rosa bishop promotes play about 19th century priest

  • Rev. Robert Vasa, the new Coadjuctor Bishop of Santa Rosa, smiles toward the crowd during a mass for his reception at St. Eugene's Cathedral in Santa Rosa, California on Sunday, March 6, 2011. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Bishop Robert Vasa of the Santa Rosa Catholic Diocese is personally promoting a religious one-man drama about St. John Vianney — patron saint of saints — written, produced and performed by Napa native Leonardo Defilippis.

Vasa invited Defilippis to bring his production back to his home turf and the bishop himself plans to attend most of the six productions.

"It's a wonderfully spiritual focus on qualities that can touch hearts and call people to conversion," Vasa said Tuesday.

The production, Vianney, is about the life of a humble, patient and gentle 19th century priest who was famous for his ability to renew people's faith. People all over France and beyond would seek his counsel, flocking to sermons.

In the October issue of the North Coast Catholic magazine, Defilippis, said that former John Paul II has referred to Vianney as "the priest par excellence, the model of all priests."

Defilippis said that for priests, the play has served as a "reaffirmation" of the priesthood.

"For the laity, it has shown them that, especially in light of the difficulties and even the scandals which are so often highlighted in the media, we still have to pray for our priests; we have to love them and serve them,"

Vasa said he thought it was a natural to bring the production to Santa Rosa Diocese parishes. Defilippis was born in Napa and was a graduate of Justin-Sienna High School. His father was a well-known athletic coach there.

"Because he's had so much national acclaim, we feel privileged to have him," Vasa said.

The play was presented Monday at St. Apollinaris Catholic Church in Napa and Tuesday St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Petaluma. Productions will continue through the week in Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Ukiah and Eureka.


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