Our community of faith is experiencing a time of great hope and opportunity. I am continually overwhelmed by the depth of faith, charity and love shared and inspired by what we have accomplished together, even over the past year since you welcomed me as your Bishop and shepherd. Our diocese continues to do remarkable things and share its ministry with an ever growing Catholic community.
When our Diocese was formed by Pope Paul VI in 1976, there were 42 parishes serving around 300,000 Catholics. Over the past 37 years the Catholic community in Orange County has experienced exponential growth, expanding to 62 parishes and centers serving an estimated 1.3 million Catholics. At the installation of our first Bishop, William Johnson, he said, “The very name, ‘Orange,’ suggests a golden treasure and the new diocese is all that in its physical characteristics, its people and its traditions. The area is small enough to be unified as a true community and large enough to encompass a substantial number of generous hearted people.”
Indeed, these words have rung true for me as I have traveled the diocese celebrating hundreds of Masses, prayer services, holy hours, baptisms and many sacraments at local parishes. The Catholic people of Orange are truly a treasure. The enthusiasm of the faithful and vibrancy of the cultures present in our relatively small geographic area is remarkable and a blessing from God. Our diocese is recognized as an emerging center of faith and we are all blessed to be together at this time of great possibility.
The growth and energy of our Catholic community reached a historic milestone last year with the acquisition of the iconic Crystal Cathedral campus. This inspirational space provides our diocese with an opportunity to fully realize those words shared by Bishop Johnson at his installation – “…to be unified as a true community.” Until now we have not had a true spiritual center where we can join together as Catholics in the bonds of ecclesial communion.
It was uplifting to participate in the eighth annual Orange County Catholic Prayer Breakfast on September 18th within the Christ Cathedral. I was pleased to join this inspiring celebration of our Catholic faith and opportunity for prayer, reflection and formation, and to hear the inspiring and thought provoking words of both Archbishop Di Noia and Fr. Andrew Small.
The spiritual fruits and blessings of the Year of Faith are powerfully evident within the Diocese of Orange and were on display within the cathedral that morning. The collaborative spirit and depth of faith present in our Church continues to enable the remarkable transformation of the Christ Cathedral Campus and provides the energy and inspiration behind our many ministries and programs that support the needs of the faithful and provide care to the poor and marginalized within our communities.
Even before our cathedral is officially dedicated, we have begun to utilize this campus as a place to gather the people God together in celebration. Thousands of Catholics have flocked to these grounds for prayer services, faith formation, ministry meetings, tours, prayer services and more. Catholics and non-Catholics alike have experienced musical concerts, speaking series events and even a Mass in the plaza that drew more than 3,000 faithful. The campus is already becoming our center, even before we have completed our important transformative work.
Indeed, a cathedral like any church, synagogue or mosque, says to those who come to it, “here we look to heaven for the grace to do God’s loving will on earth.” The Christ Cathedral is already an established international landmark and is much lauded for its architectural inspiration and iconic stature. At its dedication the Architectural Record described the building as, “both an inspiring and an inspired structure.” As we seek to transform this iconic space into an appropriate and fitting center for Catholic worship, we must also seek to respect those that have come before and restore and rejuvenate while transforming this house of worship.
I was pleased to share news of our progress with regard to the transformation and to announce a significant milestone in this effort to attendees of the prayer breakfast. I shared that our diocese has recently completed a long consultative process, in which a knowledgeable committee of clergy, lay leaders, and architectural and liturgical experts discussed the needs of the Christ Cathedral and its extensive grounds to appropriately support the practice of Catholic worship, while congruently inspiring, engaging and creating a spiritual focal point for Catholics and non-Catholics alike across the nation and world. These efforts concluded with the selection of two architectural firms to collaborate on the transformation of the cathedral and its grounds.
The diocese has retained Johnson Fain, for the design of the cathedral itself and Rios Clementi Hale Studios to lead the master planning effort for the overall campus. Johnson Fain and Rios Clementi Hale Studios have the experience and ability to respect the building’s original design inspiration while creating a fitting and functional spiritual home for Orange County’s 1.3 million Catholics. These two firms see this important work as more than a renovation project, but as a reflection of God and his people on earth.
This is an exciting time in the history of our diocese as we transform our new home and look toward a hopeful future. With your help, I am confident we will meet our goals as a diocese and Church, but more importantly set off on our journey of faith together as an energetic and unified family.
The day the Christ Cathedral is dedicated and becomes our center it will attract the devout and the distant, across languages and cultures, politics and lifestyles. The cathedral will be an international center of faith and evangelization, a vessel for the love of God, a beacon of faith, a home for neighbor and traveler, and a sanctuary for the human spirit. Our cathedral will be a place for involvement in the sacraments, a place to hear the Word of God proclaimed and a place for personal prayer and devotion. It will be a holy place where God dwells among us.