As I laid my hands on our new priests, Fr. Ruben Ruiz and Fr. Fredy Mancilla, offering them a blessing and praying for the future success of their priestly ministry, I was drawn into deep reflection, not only on the importance and solemnity of their initiation into the priesthood through the sacrament of Holy Orders, but also on the changing face of the priesthood in California and the new energy our changing demographics have brought the Church. Indeed, Ruben and Fredy embody a new vibrancy within our Church and their entrance into the priesthood is an important part of embracing this energy and ensuring our Diocese is well suited to meet the spiritual and cultural needs of our growing and increasingly diverse population.
Remarkably, Catholics now comprise more than 40 percent of Orange County’s population, with Latinos making up more than one-third of this population. It is important that we have priests that not only speak Spanish, but have grounding in Latin American culture and are able to share these gifts with not only our Hispanic population, but also the many other ethnicities that make up our dynamic flock.
The Diocese of Orange has experienced exponential growth since its creation in 1976, expanding from a little more than 300,000 Catholics to more than 1.2 million currently. This growth has presented challenges, not only in terms of infrastructure needs, but also in ensuring an adequate number of priests are available to care for the spiritual needs of the faithful. I was so pleased to welcome and celebrate with our many seminarians that were in attendance at the ordination ceremony. We are experiencing record participation in our vocations programs and many young men are discerning and answering a calling to serve. It is of critical importance that the Diocese continues to emphasize our vocation programs and form men to care for the ever growing spiritual needs of our vibrant Church.
We are experiencing a very positive and hopeful time for our Diocese and blessings abound. Please join me in celebrating the faith and commitment of our two new priests as they begin their ministry to the people of Orange County. We are blessed to have such dynamic and dedicated men of faith in service to God’s people.
+ Bishop Kevin Vann