Catholic Apologist Barely Escapes California Wildfire

News: US News
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by Rodney Pelletier  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 11, 2017   

Joseph Sciambra and his father just escape with their lives

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NAPA, Calif. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Joseph Sciambra, a faithful Catholic apologist, has lost everything in a wildfire that is tearing through Napa, California. 

Sciambra's apostolate, Jesus Loves Gay Men, is focused on converting men from homosexual sins. His book, Swallowed by Satan: How Our Lord Jesus Christ Saved Me from Pornography, Homosexuality and the Occult, details how his use of pornography as a child helped lead him to a life of sin that brought him nothing but shame. He returned to the Catholic faith in 1999 and has been a strong advocate of Church teaching on human sexuality.

The three-county wildfire, sweeping through Northern California, destroying thousands of homes and causing nearly 20 deaths, consumed Sciambra's home and property on October 9. Although authorities don't yet know how the fire was started, it has consumed over 115,000 acres across Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties and put more than 100 people in the hospital.

Sciambra remarked in an October 10 Facebook post things were looking bleak for him and his elderly father as the last helicopter left the area without being able to take them to safety. Scaimbra resolved he would rather die with this man than live without him.


Joseph's father had been injured in a fall only a week prior and was bound to a wheelchair. The ambulance had been called to take his father to safety but it never arrived. Sciambra recounts the building horror of the situation:

But while we were waiting, two fireman showed up, told us we had to leave – they picked my dad up (with his broken arm), did the best they could and put him in the cargo area of their SUV.

We drove down the 4 mile road but it was blocked, and we could not get out. There was a line of about 20 cars filled with people trying to get out.

He goes on:

A few of us decided to turn around as the fire was burning up the mountain towards us. There was a large clearing about one half mile back — by then, a helicopter had landed there.

I thought they could fly my dad out, by the time I reached them, they were already flying out an older woman and children (three at a time).

Then another helicopter arrived but when the firefighters arrived, they said they would first have to secure my dad to a gurney before they could transport him so he would go on the next flight — they had room for three — so my mom, my friend and another guy went.

If I was going to die, I wanted to stay and die with my dad, the same man I never got along with, the same man I always felt alienated from, the same man I blamed for much of what went wrong in my life, including my own homosexuality — at that moment, if I was going to live or die, and would rather die with this man (who prayed me out of my once hellish life) than survive another day knowing I left him.

He continues:

In the meantime, some of the cars made it out, including my nephew and his wife, but the road was closed again.

Well, the helicopter didn't come back because it couldn't land in the high winds. A few seconds later, another firefighter said the road was open again. So an incredibly brave fighter named Zack who had been working on securing my dad for transport, got in the back of our SUV and stayed with him, and we drove away.

As I turned the corner to start heading down the mountain, every house in front of me was burning.

We drove through flames, embers and smoke.

I would have turned around, but Zack kept assuring me and told me to drive on. If he had not been with us — and if I had tried to turn around — we surely would have been burned alive. Thank God for him.

Image
Sciambra family chapel. Image courtesy of Susan Baldini. 

Everything the family owned had been consumed by the fire except for the family's personal chapel, which apparently made it through without any damage.

Sciambra reveals, "I don’t care about the stuff I lost, but this is very hard on my dad who is very ill. Right now, he is in the hospital. Please pray for him if you pray for anyone."

He added that all items, including all copies of his book, which he used to fund his apostolate were destroyed by the fire, disclosing "my online shop is now closed and my amazon.com listing for the paperback book is closed; the Kindle version should still be up. Please pray for me."

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Rodney Pelletier

Rodney Pelletier is a staff writer for ChurchMilitant.com.

Follow Rodney on Twitter: @RodPelletier