A Beacon of Belief: St. Teresa of Avila

On a crisp and clear December night, St. Teresa of Avila church glows against a star-dusted sky like an illustration on an old-fashioned Christmas card.

The simple, New England-style white wooden church with its classic steeple has been a peaceful beacon perched on a hill overlooking the tiny town of Bodega since 1862, making it the oldest Catholic church in continuous use in Sonoma County.

The great 20th-century photographer Ansel Adams was enchanted by the modest little parish church and made it famous when he captured it in a 1953 black-andwhite photograph titled “Church and Road,” one of his favorites. A decade later moviegoers around the world watched a clutch of terrified children run past St. Teresa’s in one of the most unforgettable scenes of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

After it fell into disrepair in the 1950s, locals set about restoring and maintaining St. Teresa’s, most recently replacing a century-old white cross on the steeple that had rotted. It still has no running water, but that doesn’t dissuade the faithful.

White lights provide a beckoning call starting the week before Christmas, while inside garlands are strung across the ceiling and wreaths welcome all who enter.

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