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Host Rick Howick is delighted to welcome a new guest to today’s broadcast. Her name is Joan Patten.

Joan works for the Diocese of Orange in the vocations office as a delegate for consecrated life. She acts as a liaison between the bishop and the religious communities. Joan has a wonderful laugh and a great sense of humor. You are sure to be captivated by this dynamic conversation!

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Originally broadcast on 12/5/20


“Together let us thank God for the Religious Orders and Institutes devoted to contemplation or the works of the apostolate, for Societies of Apostolic Life, for Secular Institutes and for other groups of consecrated persons, as well as for all those individuals who, in their inmost hearts, dedicate themselves to God by a special consecration.” – St. Pope John Paul II, Vita Consecrata

There are many ways to dedicate one’s life to God. We each must obey Our Father’s voice as He calls us to the life where we can serve Him fully.

And the Lord calls us to many different ways of life – to the priesthood, marriage and family, religious orders or consecration, or the single life. Discerning His call, however, can be tricky.

That’s where the Diocese of Orange’s revitalized Office of Vocations and Consecrated Life can assist. Fr. Brandon Dang, director of Vocations, and Joan Patten AO, delegate for Consecrated Life and Religious, work side by side to encourage, support, and assist those discerning their call to service in the Church.

Fr. Dang grew up in Orange County and became Catholic at the age of 9 after his mother’s conversion. He was an altar server and active in faith formation and the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Group at St. Nicholas in Laguna Woods. In his second year at Irvine Valley College he attended a vocations retreat, which led to his discernment and decision to study for the priesthood for the Diocese of Orange. He was ordained in 2016.

Patten is a consecrated lay woman with the Secular Institute of the Apostolic Oblates. Consecrated to Redemptive Love, the Apostolic Oblates’ charism is to promote the universal call to holiness in daily life and assist people in cultivating their interior life. This is done primarily through the apostolate of the Pro Sanctity Movement, an international movement in the Catholic Church. The apostolic activities include retreats, camps, college and young adult ministry, formation groups, spiritual direction, and family formation.

In addressing each person’s unique call and distinctive characteristics, both Fr. Dang and Patten point to the Scripture passage in 1 Corinthians 12, which says “there are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.”

“As Scripture says, there are many parts but the same body, though all are in Christ,” Patten notes. “The Holy Spirit has a great imagination, and while all are called to holiness, there are many viable options for living fully in Our Lord.”

In line with St. John Paul II’s definitions of the priesthood, religious orders, and secular institutes as a vital part of the Catholic Church, Fr. Dang and  Patten were recruited to begin their work this summer. Fr. Dang says Bishop Vann encouraged him to harness his youth, energy, and enthusiasm in attracting men to vocations and to providing spiritual and practical support to the diocese’s 29 men currently studying toward ordination in West Coast seminaries.

“The Holy Spirit has blessed us,” Fr. Dang says. “It is a huge gift for us to celebrate vocations and I’m blessed to be in the position to help men determine where the Spirit is working in their lives, where God is calling them to serve the Church.”

A primary goal of the revitalized vocations office is to align its work in evangelization with Bishop Vann’s Strategic Plan, Fr. Dang notes. “Being a witness and using all the tools in our arsenal – including social media, work in the parishes, and outreach – informs us as we determine how to best create missionary disciples who will become the leaders in our evangelization work.”

Studies show the age of men and women determining their call to the priesthood or religious communities is getting younger, a trend that could be part of this generation’s commitment to seeking truth.

“The median age for our men studying for the priesthood is in the early 30s and older men are the exceptions,” Fr. Dang explains. Patten adds that the handful of women who recently decided to enter religious life are in their late 20s to early 30s.

“This generation is seeking, discerning and responding at earlier ages,” Patten says. “These individuals are interested in commitment; they consider as a viable option that God is calling them to learn how to respond to people. They find deep happiness in their relationship with Our Lord.”

That said, Fr. Dang and Patten agree that it takes special people to thrive in the priesthood and in religious life. “Their call is a radical invitation to live poverty, chastity, and obedience,”  Patten notes. “It’s a radical way of following Jesus and doing the work of evangelization in service to the Church.”


Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) –      While addressing the priests of the Diocese of Rome on Thursday, Pope Francis also responded to a question about married priests, underscoring that the Church has great concern for priests who leave ministry to get married and later want to return, but that on the other hand he does not know if the Church can find a way for this to happen.

The Bishop of Rome traditionally meets with the priests of his diocese during Lent, and the Feb. 19 encounter took place at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.

The Holy See press office delivered eight minutes of audio from the two-hour meeting, but has yet to release an official summary or transcription: thus the only source of information is the testimony of priests who took part.

The theme this year was homiletics ñ the art of preaching and to prepare for it, Pope Francis had the text of his 2005 address to the Congregation for Divine Worship sent to the priests.

The text, Pope Francis revealed, was a bit criticized by Cardinal Meisner and by Cardinal Ratzinger. “Ratzinger told me that the text lacked one thing on the homily, a sense of being before God. He was right: I did not speak about that.”

The Pope’s address was followed by a series of questions from the priests.

According to LíAvvenire, the Pope also addressed the issued of married priests, following a question posed by Fr. Giovanni Cereti.

LíAvvenire wrote that Fr. Cereti mentioned how in the Eastern Catholic Churches, married men may be ordained priests, unlike the typical situation in the Latin rite.

Fr. Julio Lavin de Tezanos Pinto, deputy parish priest of the Roman parish of San Romano Martyr, told CNA that in fact “the conversation dealt with some specific cases – they were talking about priests who were dispensed from priesthood in order to get married: they actually got married, and they now wish to come back.”

Fr. Lavin then recounted that the Pope ‘responded that the question touched a wound, that he welcomed the question and that he touched this plague, and that he was not going to archive such a question – which meant that he wanted to express an understanding of the problem, probably, the phrase would not store this question in an archiveí was misinterpreted as ëit is part of my agenda.íî

Fr. Walter Insero, spokesman of the Diocese of Rome, told CNA “the Pope said this is a plague of the Church, and he intended to say that the issue of the possibility of marriage for priests may cause pain to the people involved.”

“When the Pope said the issue was not going to be stored in an archive, he wanted to say that he will take the issue into account, but he also added that he does not know if the Church will be able to find a way for these people.”

Pope Francis also revealed that Feb. 10 he said Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae chapel together with seven priests who were celebrating the 50th anniversary of their priesthood, and that five priests who had left ministry to marry attended the Mass.

Fr. Insero added, “there many other important issues the Pope addressed during his meeting with the Roman clergy.”

“Pope Francis said it is important that a priest begs for the gift of tears because, he said, if the priest has not the ability to cry anymore, he cannot be on the side of people, to bear their sufferings, to accompany them in their life,” recounted Fr. Insero.

The spokesman of the Rome diocese said Pope Francis reflection “started from his 2005 address to the Congregation for Divine Worship, he focused on the importance of preaching, he stressed that the false prophet may be recognized by the fact that he speaks his own words, while the true prophet speaks God’s words, and so he explained that it is important to make space for the Word of God.”

“Pope Francis also highlighted that preparing a homily is a path. He said that you can’t prepare a homily in one hour, the very same day you give the homily … you should bear the homily with prayer, so that your point of view becomes what the Spirit tells people.”

A priest also asked the Pope about how to help people to discover the beauty of liturgy, and the Pope, Fr. Insero said, praised Benedict XVI’s commitment to liturgy.

“He said Benedict XVI had liberalized the extraordinary rite, and that he did this because he is a man of communion, and wanted to keep the door open for everyone. But he also added that the Church remains in the ordinary rite, and that we have to foster that rite, to explain its beauty to people,î said Fr. Insero.

Pope Francis also recommended two books for priests to read: “Proclaiming God’s Message: A study in the theology of preaching,” a 1963 volume by Fr. Domenico Grasso, S.J.; and “A Theology of Proclamation,” a 1958 work of Fr. Hugo Rahner, S.J.