In the comments below, Manny invited me to say a few words about living as a faithful Catholic in the state of California. I’ll state up front that I’m not a political blogger, nor am I qualified to making sweeping defenses of every issue on the plate. But I can respond — at least from one mom’s perspective — to Manny’s question, “Is California as anti Catholic (or anti religious in general) as it seems?”
California is a big, diverse and beautiful melting pot of a state, just as in many ways our Church engenders those same qualities. I grew up in Southern California, educated at amazing Catholic schools in Orange County that were built by families who cared about passing along their faith to their children. After a stint at Notre Dame and graduate school at Vanderbilt University, my husband and I resettled in Los Angeles during his residency. When that training was finished, we moved to our home here in Fresno, which is situated in California’s Central Valley.
Since we’ve lived in Fresno for over eighteen years, I feel best equipped to share a bit on what it’s like to be Catholic in my part of the state. Admittedly, the Valley is likely more conservative politically than those who live north and south of us. I’d also call my home town very religious, although we have a diverse population of faith families sharing our community. The earliest records of the Diocese record the arrival of Blessed Junipero Serra and his companions in 1770. In the Jubilee year of 2000, the Diocese reported over 325,000 Catholics being served by 82 active priests. My home diocese stretches over multiple counties and encompasses a broad part of the center of our state.
I’ll share with you just a few thoughts on actively living out my faith in my home state:
- Being Catholic in California means valuing the diversity of our population. In my home parish, I can attend Mass in a variety of languages (including Latin) and I count as friends folks from many ethnic and cultural backgrounds. This means learning in new and every evolving ways about the beauty of being one, holy, catholic and apostolic.
- Being Catholic in California means having to actively teach my children (who have attended public high schools) about things I didn’t encounter until my college years. But honestly, I am sure that the same conversations are happening in homes all over the country as our youngsters encounter “adult” topics at an ever younger age. Since we’ve chosen an educational environment for our sons that exposes them to real world issues, it is our responsibility and duty to be constantly tuned in, discussing, and praying with and for them.
- Being Catholic in California means being able to drive a stretch of highway that in fifteen minutes takes me from wealthy families living in million dollar mansions to migrant families living in shacks. Being Catholic here means not being able to turn a blind eye to the very real needs of the poor, and it means constantly challenging myself to look at how I can do more to love and serve them in my own little corner of the world.
Obviously, this list could go on and on. For the sake of conversation, I’d like to ask each of you what “Being Catholic” in your corner of the world looks like — what are the challenges you and your family face each day in living out your commitment to your faith?