Tiny little news stories about booming Diocese of Orange

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The Diocese of Orange — as in Orange County — has a new leader, Bishop Kevin W. Vann, who has moved from one rapidly growing Catholic flock, in Fort Worth, to lead another in a diocese that the experts believe is one of the most rapidly growing in the United States. It is already the nation’s 10th largest and, with its rising tide of Latino and Asian believers, there is little sign this growth will stop anytime soon.

I was not surprised that both The Orange County Register and The Los Angeles Times covered the recent rites in which Vann was installed as the fourth leader of this still young diocese.

I was surprised — stunned, actually — that both newspapers offered such short, perfunctory reports. I mean, the Register — as the local newspaper — dedicated all of 440 words to this event.

It was wise, I think, to dedicate much of that tiny space to the multicultural aspects of the rite, which drew a crowd at a UC Irvine facility that was slightly too large to be held in the former Crystal Cathedral facility that will soon become the diocesan Christ Cathedral. Consider the following information:

American Indian and Vietnamese dancers opened the ceremony. Vann welcomed the crowd in four languages — English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Korean – while other portions of the service were translated into Chinese, Tagalog, Polish and Tongan. At one point, Vann lifted his voice in Spanish three times: “Viva Cristo Rey!” he said. “Viva!” came the shouted reply, again and again.

Actually, the bishop delivered part of his sermon in Spanish, as well, a gesture that was more than symbolic, methinks. Those seeking to know what he actually said on this occasion can, of course, turn to the essential Whispers in the Loggia website for that kind of information.

I must admit that I laughed out loud when I hit this story’s short, short snippet of the sermon. You see, in addition to waving an Angels baseball hat, saluting his family and other essential acts:

He also delivered a spiritual message.

“We are gathered here today as the body of Christ, as the family of God,” he told the 4,000 who filled the center. “To bring the message of God to the world.”

What do you know? The bishop delivered — note the precise term — a “spiritual” message. What a shock.

Actually he delivered a rather complex, and at times emotional, message about growing up near the Mississippi River and learning about the power, and the dangers, of rivers that combine a wide variety of different waters and currents into one strong body of water. It was a metaphor for the great gifts, as well as tensions, found in Southern California.

Well, dang it, this was not the kind of message that crunches down well into one soundbite. If only he had said something, well, nakedly political.

How did the Times handle that complex message in its 460-word report?

Greeting the crowd in Spanish, Vietnamese and Korean, Vann spoke of his Illinois upbringing near the Mississippi River and his journey out West.

“By the hand of God I believe we have been brought together to be, as the Scripture says, the stream that gladdens the city of God,” said Vann, who also flashed an Anaheim Angels ball cap.

“Let us sing and keep going,” he told the crowd. “What do I mean by keep going? Make progress.”

This story did, however, deliver one rather meaty set of facts about the new shepherd:

Vann is not unfamiliar with the challenges that a growing contingent of worshipers will provide. As the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, since 2005, he oversaw more than $135 million in capital improvements and helped oversee the opening of the nation’s largest Vietnamese church.

Vann will face a $100-million capital campaign, which will go toward parish renovations, school funding and upgrades to the high-profile Crystal Cathedral for Catholic worship.

That’s just about it, in terms of content.

Not much news content on which to chew — unless one watches the actual rites online and pays close attention to things like Bible verses, prayers and metaphors.

About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • jack

    Here’s a link to the story that ran the day before: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/vann-379889-diocese-county.html

  • FW Ken

    I rather liked the little Orange County story, even with it’s limitations.

    The story linked in the comment above is richer and it’s nice they included more about his time here in Fort Worth, but it suffers a bit from exaggeration. The diocese grew from about 500,000 to 710,000 during his tenure, hardly double. Also, a lot of good stuff happened, but I’m not sure we are all that exciting a place. Fr. Groeschel’s Franciscans Friars of the Renewal established a friary here with outreach to the street population. That might have been worth a mention. This area is also a hotbed of Anglican Ordinariate activity. Bp. Vann ordained 6 men to the Ordinariate priesthood last summer, and our diocesan priesthood formation grew from 13 to 30 or so men under Bp. Vann. Come to think of it, things are pretty good around here.

    I think the bit about the palatial bishop’s home is just wrong. His predecessor, Bp. Delaney, lived in a rather ordinary house or apartment (I forget) and was as simple and unassuming as Bp. Vann. The cathedral rectory (which is rather palatial) had a fire and underwent a major restoration. The parish offices also moved into another building down the street, so the rectory became a home rather than an office/home combination.

    Also, I’m pretty sure any dancing would have been before the liturgy proper, since that’s rather against the rubrics. It did set me to thinking about Bp. Vann’s ordination and installation in 2005. Languages included English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and American Sign Language. The Tongan community choir also sang, but they sang in English.

    Finally, it’s interesting that Bp. Vann succeeded Bp. Joseph Delaney here and Bp. Tod Brown in Orange. Both of the former bishops were “Vatican II” types, if you get my drift; Bp. Vann most decidedly is not. There will be a story in that 5 years from now.

    And it’s bad enough that we lost Bp. Vann AND Josh Hamilton to the Angels, so maybe I’m just sulking. Go Rangers!

  • Stilbelieve

    FW Ken, thanks for the tip in the next to last paragraph. I look forward to getting to know him.


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