On Aug. 28, 2017, when Bishop Kevin Vann named esteemed theologian Pia de Solenni, SThD, chancellor of the Diocese of Orange, she became the most senior lay administrative leader in the diocese.
In her new position, De Solenni plays a key role in supporting the organizational and ministerial efforts of the bishop in guiding the faith journey of O.C.’s 1.3 million-plus Catholics.
De Solenni previously served as theological consultant to the Office of the Bishop. She received her doctorate in sacred theology, summa cum laude, from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, and in 2001 received the Award of the Pontifical Academies for her doctoral work, presented by St. John Paul II.
De Solenni is not alone as a key lay leader in the diocese. Three other women hold critical leadership positions in the areas of finance, faith formation and fundraising.
They are Elizabeth Jensen, chief financial officer for the diocese; Katie Dawson, director of parish faith formation; and Cindy Bobruk, executive director and president of the Orange Catholic Foundation, the autonomous foundation that serves as the fundraising and stewardship arm of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange.
“I’d like to think that each of us has shown demonstrable skills in earning our positions,” said Jensen, when asked about women holding key leadership positions in the diocese. “The bishop takes very great care in hiring the right people, regardless of their gender or race.”
SUPPORT AND RESOURCES
In February 2018, Dawson will mark her fifth year as director of Parish Faith Formation. Prior to that, she worked for 10 years at St. John Eudes Church in Chatsworth.
The graduate of San Clemente High School has a double major in religious studies and history from Loyola Marymount University, and a master’s degree in theology from the University of Notre Dame.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to be able to contribute (to the diocese),” says Dawson. “Every day, I wake up excited about the potential of what we can do.”
As director of Parish Faith Formation, Dawson’s main role is to provide resources and support for parish staff members involved in Faith Formation ministries serving children (preschoolers to 8th-graders) as well as adults.
“Evangelization is one of our top priorities,” says Dawson, who in addition to her studies and career has, with her husband, raised five children, now ages 23 to 34.
In late 2016/early 2017, Dawson helped launched a major initiative, “The Evangelization Summit,” in which leadership teams from 35 parishes got together to learn how to do a better job at evangelizing.
And this fall, she and her team were able to equip 10 parishes with a laptop and a projector, thanks to a technology grant from the Orange Catholic Foundation – the nonprofit that Bobruk runs.
“These are great-hearted people in the parishes – genuine heroes,” says Dawson. “It’s such a privilege to have the opportunity to assist them and to provide them with the resources they need. It’s so great to be a conduit to make things happen.”
As for Bobruk, she works closely with Bishop Vann and the foundation’s board of directors to raise, manage, grow and grant funds to support all aspects of the Catholic faith in the diocese.
Bobruk’s nonprofit management, capital campaign, and advancement experience spans more than 30 years and also includes the University of California, Irvine; St Margaret’s Episcopal School; and The Shea Center for Therapeutic Riding.
Bobruk and her husband, who have two sons, are founding parishioners of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Ladera Ranch.
IN SERVICE TO GOD
Jensen, a graduate of Mater Dei High School who earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Notre Dame, views her job as much more than crunching numbers.
“I like to remind people that business administration is always a ministry,” Jensen says. “You think of CPAs and IT and real estate professionals as ‘corporate,’ but we’re really all here in service to the bishop, to the diocese and to God.”
Jensen has been CFO for the diocese since July 2017. Prior to that, she was diocese controller for more than two years.
Jensen previously served as finance manager at St. Edward the Confessor parish in Dana Point, and for five years before that she offered her financial expertise in a volunteer capacity at St. Hedwig Catholic Church in Los Alamitos.
For eight years after graduating from Notre Dame, Jensen, a certified public accountant, was an auditor at PwC, a public accounting firm.
As CFO for the diocese, Jensen, a mother of three daughters ages 12-16, is in charge of the diocese finance department. She also oversees the accounting and finance departments of nearly 100 parishes and schools.
“One of the things I most like about my job is my relationship with the Catholic Church,” says Jensen. “From a spiritual standpoint, that helps how I conduct business.”