For an afternoon, UC Irvine's cavernous Bren Center - usually home to basketball - was transformed into a grand cathedral. There was a huge choir. Cardinal Roger Mahony was there, along with 50 bishops, 250 priests, and thousands of Catholics.
The occasion was the installation ceremony for Bishop Kevin W. Vann, the fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Orange.
Bishop Vann takes over for Bishop Tod Brown, who last year turned 75 - the Catholic Church's mandatory retirement age for bishops.
Vann comes from Fort Worth, where he was known as a champion of comprehensive immigration reform.
In his remarks, Vann showed off some of his language skills – he’s fluent in Spanish and Italian and is working on his Vietnamese. Vann also displayed a sense of humor, talking about how he had grown up near St. Louis as a Cardinals fan.
“Of course one’s life as shepherd and a pastor takes you many places,” said Vann. “You have to pastor and shepherd and be with the people with whom god you are sent, which means I’ve had to trade ball caps several times.”
Now that he’ll be wearing an Angels ball cap, Vann will be presiding over the fastest growing diocese in the country, home to more than a million Catholics.
Among them is Melissa from Fountain Valley, who didn’t want to give her last name. She attended the installation and said likes what she’s seen of Vann so far.
“He tries to connect with his communities through living with them and understanding their life experience,” said Melissa. “I thought it was really appropriate that so many different languages were involved here. It’s a great representation of what Orange County is really like.”
Orange County Catholics now have a a new leader, and next year, they'll have even more.
The Diocese of Orange will complete its move into its new headquarters - the former Crystal Cathedral built by Rev. Robert Schuller and purchased in bankruptcy by the Diocese. It's been renamed Christ Cathedral - and the move into the new cathedral is something Bishop Vann said he “looks forward to.”