North Coast Churches Offer Prayers for Rev. Rogers

By Tim Tesconi
Press Democrat
November 21, 1995

The Rev. John K. Rogers, a Catholic priest in Humboldt County who traveled the world as a religious scholar and humanitarian, was the recipient of thousands of prayers during weekend masses at North Coast churches.

Rogers, 46, took his own life Nov. 11 in a forest near Louveigne, Belgium, where he was studying theology. The suicide followed accusations, recently made public, that Rogers molested a 15-year-old boy more than 20 years ago in Eureka.

In his suicide note Rogers said he did not molest the boy, now a 36-year-old Santa Rosa man, but the "pain and embarrassment are too much for me to handle."

For the last 12 years, Rogers was the director of the Newman Center at Humboldt State University in Arcata and the college's Catholic campus minister. He also served on the faculty at Humboldt State where he taught courses in comparative religion.

"Father Rogers was known for his availability and openness to people. He touched many lives through his pastoral ministry in Humboldt County. He truly loved being a priest and couldn't think of himself in any other role," said the Rev. Thomas Devereaux, pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Healdsburg and Rogers' best friend.

A native of San Francisco, Rogers was reared in Redwood City where he attended St. Pius Elementary School. A lifelong outdoorsman, Rogers became an Eagle Scout when he was 13 years old and until his death enjoyed hiking, camping and fishing. A licensed scuba instructor, he participated in underwater archeological expeditions off the coast of Israel, Turkey and the Gulf of Mexico.

Devereaux said he had known Rogers for 27 years and admired his brilliance, energy and devotion. He said Rogers' interest in religion and humanitarian work took him all over the world.

"He had a very exciting life. Wherever he went he made new friends," said Devereaux.

Devereaux will officiate at Rogers' funeral service at 2 p.m. Wednesday at St. Bernard's Church in Eureka. He will be buried in the priests' circle at the church cemetery.

Rogers graduated from Humboldt State in 1971 and then enrolled at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, where he earned a master's degree in 1976. The same year he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in ceremonies at St. Eugene's Cathedral in Santa Rosa.

Rogers was an international authority on the world's religions, often representing the Catholic church in interfaith conferences with leaders of Eastern religions. In 1991 he spent a month with the Dalai Lama to further his understanding of Eastern spirituality.

Rogers also was a frequent pilgrim to the Holy Land and worked tirelessly for peace in the Middle East. In 1994 he was decorated with the Holy Cross of Jerusalem by the Melkite Catholic Church for his peace efforts.

Rogers was among those honored in 1993 by Alexii II, the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, for humanitarian aid following the collapse of the former Soviet Union.

Rogers is survived by his father, Donn E. Rogers of Medford, Ore; sisters, Karen Nollenberger of Ashland, Ore., and Margaret "Peggy" Rogers of Portland; brothers, Robert Rogers of Sebastopol, Richard Rogers of Medford, and James Rogers of Bellingham, Wash., and by seven nieces and nephews.

Friends and family have established the John K. Rogers Memorial Fund to aid college students who need money for an emergency. Donations can be sent to the Newman Center, 700 Union St., Arcata, 95521.


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