Under the pastoral leadership of Archbishop John J. Mitty (1935-1961) the total population of the 13-county Archdiocese of San Francisco grew from 1.8 million to 4.3 million. After his death in 1961, plans were discussed to divide the huge archdiocese into smaller suffragan dioceses, each with its own local bishop. On Jan. 13, 1962, Pope John XXIII established three new dioceses: Oakland, Stockton, and Santa Rosa. The Diocese of Santa Rosa comprised four counties from the Archdiocese of San Francisco (Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake) and two counties (Humboldt and Del Norte) from the Diocese of Sacramento. The new diocese, while larger that the state of Maryland, had a total population of only 300,000. It was officially created on February 21, 1962. Thus the diocese celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2012.
Msgr. Leo T. Maher of San Francisco was appointed founding bishop and ordained in St. Mary's Cathedral on Apr. 5, 1962.
Upon arrival in the new diocese of 58,000 Catholics, Bishop Maher saw there was a pressing need for new parishes, schools and residences. Other parishes established since the nineteenth century had long since outgrown their facilities. He undertook an ambitious and far-sighted program of building and purchasing property to serve the rapidly increasing numbers of the faithful.
By the end of Bishop Maher's tenure, seven new parishes, one mission, three high schools, four elementary schools and several rectories and convents were erected. Three missions were elevated to parish status. Four existing parish churches were replaced or extensively remodeled.
Bishop Maher also sought priests and religious to minister to the rapidly expanding diocese. He ordained many priests for Santa Rosa, the first of whom was Father Michael H. Kenny, former bishop of Juneau, Alaska.
Just as the Church of Santa Rosa was enjoying a vast expansion of its physical presence, the universal Church was entering one of the most dramatic periods of renewal in its history. The four sessions of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) met during Bishop Maher's tenure and initiated a comprehensive renewal of nearly all areas of Church life. Before all these changes could be implemented, Bishop Maher was transferred to the Diocese of San Diego in August, 1969.
He passed away on February 23, 1991.
It was fitting that Msgr. Mark J. Hurley's ordination in 1968 as auxiliary bishop of San Francisco was one of the first liturgies in the vernacular. In the months and years after his installation as the second bishop of Santa Rosa at St. Eugene's Cathedral on Jan. 14, 1970, it was his task to implement many of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
During his seventeen years in Santa Rosa, Bishop Hurley firmly established the financial security of the diocese, while inauguration policies and programs that were of great benefit to priests, parishes and communities throughout the diocese: parish-level pastoral and financial councils, terms of office for pastors and associate pastors, and the founding of the Priests' Retirement Fund. The successes of Project Hope and the Apostolic Endowment Fund were examples of Christian stewardship that greatly increased the diocese's ability to minister through parishes, schools and diocesan institutions.
Under Bishop Hurley's leadership, the diocese opened Vigil Light, a low-income senior residence in Santa Rosa, and also gave faithful support to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which serves more than 100,000 hot meals per year, in addition to numerous other charitable works.
Increasingly mindful of the ethnic diversity of the Church of Santa Rosa, Bishop Hurley founded the Centro Pastoral Hispano and re-dedicated Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Mission to better serve the needs and share the great spiritual and cultural riches of the Hispanic and Native American Catholics.
Steady increases of the population in Sonoma County necessitated the establishment of two new parishes during the last five years of Bishop Hurley's ministry in the diocese. In his last three years as Bishop of Santa Rosa, he ordained more than a dozen men to the priesthood or diaconate.
On April 15, 1986, Bishop Hurley announced his resignation as bishop of Santa Rosa and appointments to the Vatican Congregation on Education and the Secretariat for Non-Believers.
Bishop Hurley passed away on the Feast of St. Agnes, February 5, 2001.
On Jan. 27, 1987, Pope John Paul II appointed Bishop John T. Steinbock, an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Orange, as third bishop of Santa Rosa. Bishop Steinbock was installed at St. John the Baptist Church in Napa on Mar. 31, 1987. The Diocese of Santa Rosa also celebrated its Silver Anniversary on that occasion.
During his almost five-year ministry in the Diocese of Santa Rosa, Bishop Steinbock paid special attention to the morale and welfare of the priests, insuring that they would be cared for, especially during their years of retirement.
He instituted a formal four-year program for the training and formation of permanent deacons in the diocese.
Ministry to the ever-growing number of Hispanic people in the diocese became a priority for Bishop Steinbock. He accepted Spanish-speaking priests from other dioceses for service in the Diocese of Santa Rosa to minister to the Hispanic people. He encouraged priests of the diocese to become familiar with Spanish and the Hispanic culture, so they could better minister to the Spanish-speaking people and better form one community of believers.
Bishop Steinbock reached out to the general public as well. He instituted the Catholic Professional and Business Breakfast Club as one way to remind people to incorporated Christian values into their daily lives at home and at work. Aware of the plight of the homeless, he directed Catholic Charities to manage the Family Shelter in Santa Rosa and to work with a coalition of other community agencies to provide care to the homeless.
Under Bishop Steinbock's leadership, the people of the diocese committed themselves to a pastoral planning process and adopted 20y diocesan pastoral goals for implementation over a five-year period. Committing himself to a collaborative style of ministry, he appointed a ministries board whose members, directors of diocesan departments, coordinated their ministries and worked together in an effort to facilitate the implementation of the goals of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan.
Before his appointment as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Fresno on Oct. 15, 1991, Bishop Steinbock introduced a Stewardship Program and initiated the Bishop's Annual Appeal to finance present and future diocesan and parish ministries.
Bishop Steinbock passed away on December 5, 2010
Appointments since priestly ordination:
Ordained to episcopacy:
Member, Committee on Education, United States Catholic Conference, 1994-1999; chair of its Committee on Catechesis, 1996-1999, member 1993-1996; Committee on Laity, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1996-1999; member of Administrative Committee, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1996-1999; and Ad Hoc Committee on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, National Conference of Catholic Bishops
Bishop Ziemann passed away on October 22, 2009.
Priestly ordination and assignments:
Bishop retired on June 30, 2011.