When the Diocese of Orange moved to the Christ Cathedral grounds in 2013, Bishop Kevin Vann invited the Dynamic Catholic Institute to establish an office in the Tower of Hope.
Yet Ohio-based Dynamic Catholic – an international, nonprofit outreach with the ambition to re-energize the Catholic Church in America and inspire people to “rediscover the genius of Catholicism” – was even then no stranger to Orange County.
A young, fiery Matthew Kelly, the energetic Australian founder of Dynamic Catholic, first evangelized at local parishes more than 20 years ago, recalls Evelyn Garcia, then a youth minister at Santa Ana’s St. Barbara Parish.
Kelly and Garcia immediately became good friends. Today she is the ministry’s full-time West Coast representative and serves as its pilgrimage coordinator.
“Matthew asked if I wanted to help establish an OC office, and after volunteering for Dynamic Catholic for more than 20 years, coming to work for the mission was an easy ‘yes’ for me,” Garcia recalls.
Dynamic Catholic Institute is one of several international and local ministries with offices in the 13-story Tower of Hope. Besides the Christ Cathedral Parish headquarters and Christ Catholic Cathedral Corp., the tower is home to, among others, the West Coast facilities of EWTN Global Catholic Network, Immaculate Heart Radio’s recording and broadcasting studio, and the Augustine Institute.
Kelly observes that Orange County “seems to be vibrant and filled with a lot of people who are passionate about seeing the Church play a role in the lives of everyday people, but also playing a role in the life of the broader community.” He looks forward to the historic opening of Christ Cathedral in July 2019.
“Here in Orange County we are so blessed,” agrees Garcia. “We have a lot of phenomenal parishes and many of them offering so many Dynamic Catholic programs. It brings tears to my eyes to see so many people excited about the faith and about being Catholic.”
Kelly founded the Dynamic Catholic Institute in 2009. Since then it has distributed 5 million books through its book program. It also offers videos, speakers, marriage and sacramental programs and other resources to promote spiritual growth to individuals, couples, youth, and parishes at low or no cost.
When he was a teenager, “God lit a fire in me and fire has a way of spreading,” Kelly recalls in an email interview. “We all evangelize about something. Some people evangelize about their new car or their new phone or favorite vacation destination – they tell everyone they know and meet about these things.
“People who have encountered God in a powerful way evangelize about God,” he notes. “That is the experience we are working so hard to facilitate for millions of people each year at Dynamic Catholic.”
Kelly wants the institute to be a “game-changer factory” for Catholics and their parishes.
“If the Catholic Church in America needs to be re-energized (and I don’t know anyone who thinks it doesn’t need to be), then every parish needs to be re-energized; and if every parish needs to be re-energized that means every Catholic needs to be re-energized: and that means you and me,” Kelly says, adding that game-changers for Catholics and parishes include the institute’s First Communion program, Lent, Mass Journal, and Prayer Process programs.
Garcia, who then coordinated Search Retreats for St. Barbara’s, was introduced to Kelly when he was just 19 and a friend shared a video of his presentations. “They said, ‘you have to watch this guy,’” she remembers. “He was amazing. He was giving our whole Search Retreat by himself, without notes.”
As a critical part of his ministry, Kelly – who lives with his wife and five young children near Cincinnati – strongly believes that all parishes should have affordable, world-class materials available to educate and evangelize.
Dynamic Catholic currently offers daily videos for the “Best Advent Ever” program. They are available via email subscription and at dynamiccatholic.com/best-advent-ever. Daily inspirational videos are sent to email subscribers and can be accessed at dynamiccatholic.com/daily-reflections. In the spring, the institute again will offer its “Best Lent Ever” series of daily videos.
Locally, St. Cecilia Parish in Tustin in February will host a Dynamic Catholic speaker, Dominic Albano, presenting “Finding Your Greatness,” Garcia says. Several parishes currently participate in the institute’s book program, offering parishioners free copies of Kelly’s best-selling book, “Rediscovering Catholicism.” St. Hedwig Church in Los Alamitos gave away books last year, Garcia says, as did Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in La Habra.
Even when speaking long-distance by email, Kelly’s enthusiasm for Catholic belief is contagious. He says he wrote his best-selling book, “Rediscovering Jesus,” because “I wanted to rediscover [Jesus] and I wanted to help others rediscover Jesus. Sometimes we think we know someone and then when we spend some time with that person, we discover that we didn’t really know them like we thought we did. Jesus is constantly surprising me like that.”