“Connection” is the vision and theme for the new Diocesan Pastoral Plan developed by more than 1,000 parish representatives, ministry leaders, priests and other religious in Orange County. The rollout is well underway and is aimed at uniting the community in faith to bring Christian love and service to the place we call home.
The original Pastoral Plan developed by Bishop Tod Brown, among its many goals, called for better communication on the part of the Diocese and stronger adult and youth ministry programs. Great strides were made, but the plan predated the purchase of the new Christ Cathedral, and the options were somewhat limited. The Christ Cathedral campus has expanded the possibilities for service, collaboration and gathering in a way the Diocese had never imagined just a few years ago. The campus, with its size and multiple gathering spaces, enables the Diocese to create a new vision that was not possible when the first Pastoral Plan was developed.
According to Bishop Kevin Vann, “As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Orange … we are blessed to be in solidarity and mission with many other faith communities working together for the good of our community. Sacred Scripture frequently uses the number 40, signifying journey and pilgrimage with the Lord, not unlike our journey these past years.” With the new Pastoral Plan, the Diocese is embarking on both a journey and pilgrimage to greater connection among Catholics and the community at large.
In August of 2015, the Diocesan Pastoral Council began a process to re-imagine the mission of the Diocese from the parish to the cathedral. According to Chancellor Shirl Giacomi, the process began with two simple, but profound questions: “What are you most proud of in the Diocese and what are you longing for?” Through the process of three convocations, involving more than 1,000 parish leaders, the answers to these questions and the ideas they inspired led to clear themes and a vision.
The relationship between the Diocese and the parishes can be loosely compared to the relationship between a county and cities. A city manages at the neighborhood level, providing services and programs to meet the needs of the people within a relatively small community. The county provides the programs and services that address the needs of the larger community that would be too cumbersome for cities to handle on an individual basis.
But the connection between the Diocese and the parish is much stronger, and guided by a common purpose. As Bishop Vann says, “(the Pastoral Plan) is best seen in the light of a framework for family life and marriage, sacramental celebrations, outreach to those in need, the fostering of vocations to priesthood, and consecrated life and the ministry of deacons… each of us, each day, do not travel our faith journey alone, but together.” In short, the parish is the neighborhood where the pastor and parishioners choose the ministries and services that best suit their needs. The Diocese provides the framework, training, financial guidance and regional services that contribute to the success of the parishes.
The new Pastoral Plan is available on the Diocese website rcbo.org under the Leadership tab. It outlines nine initiatives that will be the focus going forward. However, these initiatives are not just for the Diocese, but each deanery and parish is expected to consider and discuss them in light of their own ministries. The goal is to create 62 parish-driven “points of light” that will not only reach out to the 1.2 million Catholics in Orange County, but also embrace the entire community for the greater good of all.
With the new Christ Cathedral, Catholics now have a place to gather and learn, and as Saint Junipero Serra said, we go “Siempre Adelante”, always forward, together.
The Pastoral Plan includes the following areas of emphasis. The document is available at rcbo.org under Leadership and provides much more detail.
Unity in our diversity
This begins by noticing the person you sit next to at Mass and getting to know them. Welcoming new people, sharing our space (facilities), bringing the marginalized into greater participation, accommodating persons with special needs, or families of the detained.
Our life of prayer
Discover what is offered in faith formation, presentations and liturgical experiences in your parish, deanery or religious communities. Discuss the liturgy with your family. Strengthen your personal connection with the Lord to grow in holiness and mission.
Personal & corporal works of mercy and love
Support the Pastoral Care Center to extend the hand of mercy to individuals and families in need. Meet our ecumenical and interfaith neighbors with open hearts to collaborate in service of the common good in our neighborhoods. Meet the pastoral care needs of married couples and families in crisis.
Adult faith, youth and young adults
Provide parish support for adult faith and young adult learning, service and prayer opportunities. Equip the faithful for evangelization by energizing parish life and engagement.
Inactive and returning Catholics
Grow in a welcoming and non-judgmental way so that others feel save enough to ask questions about faith and life in the Church today. Be willing to extend a personal and loving invitation to those who may wish to return to active Catholic life. Update yourself well enough in Catholic teaching so that I can speak about your faith appropriately with love and confidence.
Re-examine our methods of communication to improve outreach, without forgetting that the most important communication is personal. Encourage persons in the parish who have the skills and willingness to assist parishioners to make use of new platforms and technologies.
Stewardship and finance
Willingness to learn about financial practices and needs in your parish. Support ethical and just labor practices within those who serve us. Maintain parish facilities and use the facilities with respect and care.
Year of Mercy memorial
The Diocese Pastoral Care Center plans to house a wide variety of Outreach to Homeless services and support groups designed to perpetuate the spirit of the Year of Mercy.