March 8, 2008
Rancho Cordova parish recovers after van plows into church

Damaged door and pews

Damage to St. John Vianney Church in Rancho Cordova when a minivan slammed through two sets of heavy doors at its entrance included destruction of 12 pews (above). News of the Feb. 16 incident spread quickly among parishioners who offered assistance to clean up the church. Luis Gris Elizarrarás/Herald photos

By Michelle Mathews
Herald correspondent

Members of St. John Vianney Parish in Rancho Cordova were shocked and saddened when they saw the damage to their church after a man slammed a minivan through the entrance late in the evening on Feb. 16.

News of the incident spread quickly among parishioners who then stepped forward to help in any way they could. Volunteers readied the parish hall for Sunday Mass by arranging 500 chairs, setting up a temporary altar and bringing in a piano.

Parishioners prayed during Masses for Harold David Zequeda, 36, who the night before had steered a silver Ford Windstar onto the church’s front lawn then accelerated, plowing directly into the front of the church.

The van broke through two sets of heavy doors and destroyed 12 pews before finally coming to a stop near a statue of the Sacred Heart.

“We have a statue of St. John Vianney standing in the vestibule of the church,” said Father Martin Maroney, pastor. “One of the doors smashed into a nearby table but somehow managed to miss the statue. He’s our patron saint and I think he was looking after our church.”

Amazingly not a single statue was damaged and no one was hurt, including Zequeda, who emerged from the van unscathed. Zequeda, who told police he was angry with God, was arrested and is currently being held on $1 million bail.

By the Monday following the incident, the Knights of Columbus had spearheaded a cleanup crew of about 50 volunteers who vacuumed, swept and removed debris from the church so it would be ready for weekday Masses.

“I am incredibly grateful for all of the support we have received through all of this,” Father Maroney told The Herald. “Bishop (William) Weigand came out to visit us, a number of priests have called with their support, and our parishioners have been calling to offer to help in any way they can. We even received a donation from someone outside the parish who wanted to help.”

Representatives from the insurance agency and a construction company are in the process of assessing the damage and determining a timeline for the completion of repairs.

In the meantime, the parish has rented and set up chairs in place of the damaged pews to accommodate those attending Masses, weddings and funerals. According to Father Maroney, the parish continues to pray for Zequeda and parishioners are happy to be back in their church.

“We have to pick up and go on,” Father Maroney said. “We want to get our church back together again.”

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