Linda Ji has a wide-ranging, impressive, and surprising resume, considering her new position as director for the Office of Pastoral Care for Families in All Stages for the Diocese of Orange.
Ji, whose last job was serving the Orange Catholic Foundation as donor services coordinator, has work experience with donors, Catholic schools, youth and young adult parish programs, and community and economic development.
Her educational background includes a master’s degree in divinity, as well as bachelor’s and master’s degrees in urban planning.
Still, she says, the many positions on her resume and her various professional interests seemed to be a jumble that didn’t make sense – until they all came together in her new role.
“A friendly priest was pushing me to do more, and I was looking for an opportunity to serve in a ministry role,” Ji says. “Then a human resources lady urged me to try for this position. I prayed about it and talked with people about it. And, here I am.”
Ji says she draws from her background in youth and young adult services to address the issues facing families. Her experience in working with the Catholic school tuition assistance program further informed her perspective of parishes and families.
“Stewardship is always a concern for fundamental ministries, but in this office, stewardship isn’t just about money, talent, and time,” Ji notes. “The stewardship piece is part of a larger puzzle. We must come from healthy relationships to be led to offer support.”
Her previous work at the parish level included talking with young people, folding up chairs and putting away tables, she says, “the nitty-gritty grassroots” of ministry.
Today she relishes her wider diocesan perspective.
“I like to remain open to where the Spirit is directing me,” Ji explains. “Anything we do at the diocese level will be implemented in ways that are tailored for each smaller community. I want to try to meet with as many pastors as possible because each parish is totally unique.”
During her first weeks on the job Ji is collecting large amounts of data to determine the achievable goals she can reach toward, recognizing, she says, “that the Kingdom of God is the ultimate goal.”
Bishop Kevin Vann is reviewing a new strategic plan that is promised for the fall, Ji notes. “That will guide us. The areas highlighted are in working groups, including evangelization, faith formation, stewardship, schools.”
One area Ji believes must be strengthened is marriage preparation. “There is a lot of room for improvement to help young families as they move into this important stage of life,” she says. “Also, Orange County has one of the nation’s fastest-growing aging populations, so as this group gets older, we need to ask ourselves, what does this mean for faith and family life?”
End-of-life issues, including hospice care and the legality and morality of physician-assisted suicide, are also important for Orange County Catholics, she notes.
Ji acknowledges that her professional life has included many transitions, including work in the secular world of community and economic development, her ministry to youth and young adults – and now her position ministering to families in all stages throughout the Diocese of Orange.
“My career has been a surprising journey,” she says. “Now, for the first time in my life, I understand why I did all those strange things. My resume makes more sense.”