Jim Graves is a Catholic writer and editor living in Newport Beach, California. He previously served as Managing Editor for the Diocese of Orange Bulletin, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Orange, California. His work has appeared in the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Cal Catholic Daily and Catholic World Report.
California has some interesting private chapels established by Catholics and open to the public. The following are three such chapels — one in northern California, one in central California, and one in Southern California.
Chapel Hill in Shandon is a privately owned chapel in San Luis Obispo County, east of Paso Robles in Central California. It was built by Judge William Clark (1931-2013) who served on the California Supreme Court and a variety of positions with the Reagan administration in the 1980s. He was a practicing Catholic, as well as a realtor and rancher. He built the chapel on the hill above his ranch as a gift to the community.
In 1988, Clark, who was a pilot, was nearly killed in a plane crash when the plane he was piloting was caught in a strong crosswind shortly after takeoff. The plane crashed beside the runway, nearly missing a fuel storage unit. A ranch hand pulled him from the wreckage, and although seriously injured, Clark survived. He resolved to build the chapel in thanksgiving to God for his life, as he thought his survival a miracle.
Chapel Hill is built in the mission style; some of its interesting features are a rose window behind the altar, the “river of life” pattern on its entry doors, bell tower, elaborately detailed Spanish ceilings and many other beautiful details. There are no buildings surrounding it; it sits alone on top of a hill.
Although it is officially a nondenominational church, it has been used regularly for Sunday Mass. It is also the site of classical music concerts. It is located on private property and has no address. Take the CA-46 east from Paso Robles, take the Shandon exit (West Centre Street) to McMillan Canyon Road; it is off McMillan.
Queen of Life Chapel in Irvine (www.queenoflifechapel.org) was established by Catholic philanthropist Tim Busch. It’s located in a business park not far from the Orange County airport. It is a quaint little chapel, with nice art and a pious community. Busch is a successful businessman who supports a variety of Catholic apostolates. If you go to Mass, you might see him assisting at the altar and serving as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.
The chapel is an oratory operating with the blessing of the Bishop of Orange; you’re welcome to come pray daily between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Masses are Monday-Friday at 11:50 a.m.; the Anglican rite (in union with Rome) celebrates Sunday Masses at 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. Located at the Busch Group Offices, 2532 Dupont Drive, Irvine; enter through the chapel door in the rear of the facilities rather than the main entrance.
St. Catherine of Siena Chapel is part of Castello di Amorosa (www.castellodiamorosa.com), a Napa Valley winery. It is a magnificent 107-room medieval replica castle with eight levels, surrounded by vineyards. The castle has a moat, drawbridge, interior courtyard, a 500-year-old fireplace — and, of course, the chapel. Castello di Amorosa was built by fourth-generation vintner Dario Sattui, and opened its doors to the public in 2007. Sunday Mass was celebrated there on Sundays until 2012, when Napa required the castle to obtain a permit to continue doing so. You’re still welcome to come and pray. Address: 4045 North Saint Helena Highway, Calistoga. The entrance to the chapel is through the courtyard.