By Nicole Gregory     1/28/2016

When Bishop Kevin Vann paid a visit to Mission Hospital in Laguna Beach on Dec. 16, he revealed his pastoral side by singing Christmas songs in Spanish, praying with staff members and talking to patients.

The occasion was an honor for everyone at Mission Hospital, but very much in line with the Bishop’s dedication to spiritual care and healing for the diverse communities of Orange County.

“A pastoral visit from Bishop Vann is especially meaningful during Advent, not only for Mission Hospital Laguna Beach patients and their families, but for all those who provide care to those who are sick and provide an environment of love, hope and healing,” says Richard Fridrick, director of Spiritual Care and Ethics of Mission Hospital.

Bishop Vann was welcomed by Kenneth McFarland, CEO; Sister Martha Ann Fitzpatrick; Cindy Mueller, VP Mission Integration; and other hospital leaders before setting out to tour the Laguna Beach hospital campus.

The Pastor at work

Mission Hospital care is based on the works of mercy: To feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, visit the sick and bury the dead.

Fridrick explains that being a “prisoner” can be understood as someone who is trapped by a disease, mental illness or a chemical dependency. Mission Hospital in certain circumstances helps families with burial expenses as needed to provide dignity for the patient as well as the family.

The Bishop was particularly interested in the inpatient and outpatient mental health services offered to the local community. He visited with the staff of nutritional care and environmental services, as well as patients and staff in behavioral health, chemical dependency and the medical/surgical areas. “We prepared by asking patients in advance if they wished a visit from the Bishop,” says Fridrick.

In this setting, Fridrick was able to see Bishop Vann, who speaks several languages, interacting with many people. “He is such an embracing person.

There is so much of Pope Francis in him – in who he is and how he embraces the community. He just wants to lovingly respond to their needs and challenges.”

Originally from Springfield, Illinois, Bishop Vann was called to be the Bishop of Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas for several years prior to being installed as the Shepherd of the Diocese of Orange in 2012.

He has been called “a bishop of the people.” He often wears cowboy boots and on the day of his Mission Hospital visit he sported a bright red cap.

The mission of healing

The healing ministry of Mission Hospital includes spiritual, physical and emotional care. “We approach the patients where they’re at. It’s not about our agenda,” says Fridrick. “Our emphasis is integrating the care through body, mind and spirit. We want to be a conduit, to help bring people to their wholeness.” This is expressed in creating a welcoming atmosphere, as well as in the surgery, patient visitation and meeting sacramental needs. “We continue to bring wholeness the way Jesus brought it, being radically inclusive of all persons, regardless of their life’s journey,” he adds.

In this way, the heritage the Sister of St Joseph of Orange continues. “We want to actively live out the call and mission – to ‘extend the healing ministry of Jesus in the tradition of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange by continually improving the health and quality of life of people in the communities we serve.’”