The Diocese of Orange -- as in Orange County -- has a new leader, Bishop Kevin W. Vann, who has moved from one rapidly growing Catholic flock, in Fort Worth, to lead another in a diocese that the experts believe is one of the most rapidly growing in the United States. It is already the nation's 10th largest and, with its rising tide of Latino and Asian believers, there is little sign this growth will stop anytime soon.
I was not surprised that both The Orange County Register and The Los Angeles Times covered the recent rites in which Vann was installed as the fourth leader of this still young diocese.
I was surprised -- stunned, actually -- that both newspapers offered such short, perfunctory reports. I mean, the Register -- as the local newspaper -- dedicated all of 440 words to this event.
It was wise, I think, to dedicate much of that tiny space to the multicultural aspects of the rite, which drew a crowd at a UC Irvine facility that was slightly too large to be held in the former Crystal Cathedral facility that will soon become the diocesan Christ Cathedral. Consider the following information:
American Indian and Vietnamese dancers opened the ceremony. Vann welcomed the crowd in four languages -- English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Korean – while other portions of the service were translated into Chinese, Tagalog, Polish and Tongan. At one point, Vann lifted his voice in Spanish three times: "Viva Cristo Rey!" he said. "Viva!" came the shouted reply, again and again.
Actually, the bishop delivered part of his sermon in Spanish, as well, a gesture that was more than symbolic, methinks. Those seeking to know what he actually said on this occasion can, of course, turn to the essential Whispers in the Loggia website for that kind of information.
I must admit that I laughed out loud when I hit this story's short, short snippet of the sermon. You see, in addition to waving an Angels baseball hat, saluting his family and other essential acts:
He also delivered a spiritual message.
"We are gathered here today as the body of Christ, as the family of God," he told the 4,000 who filled the center. "To bring the message of God to the world."
What do you know? The bishop delivered -- note the precise term -- a "spiritual" message. What a shock.
Actually he delivered a rather complex, and at times emotional, message about growing up near the Mississippi River and learning about the power, and the dangers, of rivers that combine a wide variety of different waters and currents into one strong body of water. It was a metaphor for the great gifts, as well as tensions, found in Southern California.
Well, dang it, this was not the kind of message that crunches down well into one soundbite. If only he had said something, well, nakedly political.
How did the Times handle that complex message in its 460-word report?
Greeting the crowd in Spanish, Vietnamese and Korean, Vann spoke of his Illinois upbringing near the Mississippi River and his journey out West.
"By the hand of God I believe we have been brought together to be, as the Scripture says, the stream that gladdens the city of God," said Vann, who also flashed an Anaheim Angels ball cap.
"Let us sing and keep going," he told the crowd. "What do I mean by keep going? Make progress."
This story did, however, deliver one rather meaty set of facts about the new shepherd:
Vann is not unfamiliar with the challenges that a growing contingent of worshipers will provide. As the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, since 2005, he oversaw more than $135 million in capital improvements and helped oversee the opening of the nation's largest Vietnamese church.
Vann will face a $100-million capital campaign, which will go toward parish renovations, school funding and upgrades to the high-profile Crystal Cathedral for Catholic worship.
That's just about it, in terms of content.
Not much news content on which to chew -- unless one watches the actual rites online and pays close attention to things like Bible verses, prayers and metaphors.