Published January 9, 2014
ORANGE, Calif. (CNS)—Last month, Bishop Kevin Vann was appointed chairman of the board of directors of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., culminating a busy first year as bishop of Orange. It has been a year filled with diocesan events, advocacy and prayer in support of undocumented immigrants.
“Any concern about immigration reform takes into account the whole person,” Bishop Vann said, explaining that he approaches the issue as “being a pastor of souls.”
“How do we as pastors help our people find homes here in the United States, find a place where they can truly contribute to our society?”
As CLINIC chairman, Bishop Vann will provide leadership and strategic guidance, explained the organization’s executive director, Jeanne Atkinson.
“In addition to having served for three years on CLINIC’s board as a representative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, Bishop Vann brings to the position extensive experience in serving in the diverse dioceses of Orange and Fort Worth as well as a strong pastoral commitment to ministering to immigrants,” she said.
Bishop Vann expects to rely on his experience working with immigrants in the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., where he was ordained a priest, and the Diocese of Fort Worth, where he served as bishop before his appointment to Orange.
As pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Decatur, Ill., Bishop Vann taught himself how to speak, read and write Spanish after a Spanish-speaking family asked him for help finding a Spanish-language Mass. When he admitted he didn’t know of any in the area, they responded: “Can you help us? We want to stay Catholic.”
A few years later, he was heading the diocese’s Hispanic Ministry.
As bishop of Fort Worth—where the Catholic population is more than 50 percent Hispanic—he and his staff organized an advocacy program designed to inform Texas legislators that Catholics are supportive of immigration reform as well as people who are undocumented.
Now as bishop of Orange—home to the largest Vietnamese community outside Vietnam and encompassing one of the 10 U.S. counties with the greatest Hispanic population—he has met with elected representatives to speak about immigration reform and recently presided over a prayer service that drew more than 3,000 to the campus of the future Christ Cathedral.