01/02/2014 11:27 am ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

Catholic Pastor Found Killed In Church Rectory In Northern California

A popular Catholic priest was found dead in the rectory by church staff on New Year's Day and police have called it a homicide.

Though police in Eureka, Calif. believe St. Bernard Parish Reverend Eric Freed was murdered, they have not revealed details yet of how he perished, ABC News reported.

He was found after 9 a.m. when he failed to show up for mass, the Times-Standard said.

Freed led a mass on Tuesday evening and police said the slaying took place sometime after parishioners departed. He was last seen alive at 6:20 p.m. that night.

He had been scheduled to deliver a sermon Wednesday urging church members to be content, grateful and aware that faith means believing God is in control, ABC News also reported.

A 2010 Nissan Altima belonging to Freed is missing too, CNN said.

Before Christmas, Freed published a letter on the church's website in which he said "I cannot describe how proud and honored I am to be your pastor. Our parish is alive, joyful, and full of faith, hope, and charity that define us Catholic Christians."

"For those of us who believe in prayer, this is the time for that," said Eureka Mayor Frank Jager, who said he was friends with Freed.

No suspects have been named yet, according to news reports.

Freed also taught in the religious studies department at Humboldt State University.

He had been the pastor at St. Bernard's since 2011. Eureka is about 275 miles north of San Francisco.



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