A reception and blessing mark the beginning of construction on a new church

By Greg Mellen     6/24/2019

Already bursting at the seams, Christ Our Savior Catholic Church hit the breaking point. That is, breaking ground Saturday, June 1, to build new church buildings on the undeveloped campus in Santa Ana, bounded by Alton Avenue, Bear Street and MacArthur Boulevard.

With Bishop Kevin Vann and Monsignor J. Michael McKiernan in attendance, and filmed by Saigon TV, a packed house of 600 congregants came out for an 8 a.m. Mass, followed by the groundbreaking and a reception.

“It was a beautiful morning,” said volunteer Dr. Ron Raya, who has been with the church since 2006. “I am excited for those of us who gave birth to (the parish).”

Bishop Vann gave thanks to congregants and volunteers who had been with the parish, especially McKiernan.

The Monsignor, now at Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano, was the first pastor of Christ Our Savior and received several extended applause and standing ovations from parishioners. After the service, a long line of well-wishers queued up to greet and speak with McKiernan.

After the Mass, held in a modular building on the property, congregants gathered under an outdoor tent and then proceeded to the adjacent field where the proposed buildings will stand.

There Bishop Vann blessed the ground with holy water and led responsive readings and recitation of “The Lord’s Prayer.”

The new facility will be built on a land that had formerly been used to grow lima beans. Officials hope to begin work on the first phase of the project in August with move-in and dedication by November, 2020.

Construction of parish offices and other facilities will follow.

Because of its central location in Orange County and convenient freeway access, the Diocese of Orange purchased the land from the Segerstrom family in 2002 with the intention of making it the Diocese seat with a large cathedral, parish and diocesan offices.

However, after the former Crystal Cathedral property became available and was purchased in 2012 plans changed. Christ Cathedral is scheduled to be dedicated in July.

A 6.7-acre portion of the Christ Our Savior campus was rezoned for residential use and sold to Shea Homes for a development.

The parish is using $15.6 million in proceeds from the sale, plus more than $2 million raised by the congregation, for the new construction.

“The dream and vision of the church campus is a reality now,” said Rada, who has been an active volunteer at the parish since its formation and is in charge of facilities.

At a time when Catholic churches in the U.S. are closing and parishes merging, the Diocese of Orange continues to grow. And Christ Our Savior is a poster child for the continued growth, spurred in part by a vibrant and diverse immigrant congregation.

Masses at the parish are celebrated in English, Spanish and Vietnamese languages, as well as American Sign Language for the deaf community. Parish membership has grown to 1,700 registered families and continues to grow.

“We’re a good reflection of what the Diocese is,” Rada said.

When the parish opened, it operated out of a warehouse on MacArthur Boulevard and services were held in a multipurpose room at Jim Thorpe Elementary School. It later moved to the auditorium at Segerstrom High and on to the campus where masses are now celebrated in a modular building. The Santa Ana site is a hive of activity and home to parish offices and myriad classes, social and worship groups.

Christ Our Savior will be the first church built in Santa Ana since Our Lady of La Vang was dedicated in 2006.

“A new church is needed to accommodate our growing congregation,” Christ Our Savior Pastor, Father Steve Correz, told OC Catholic in 2018 when plans were announced for the new construction. “There’s a lot of excitement here.”

A committee of Christ Our Savior parishioners provided input on the design of the church, which will seat 1,250 congregants. The interior is designed so that the deaf congregants can easily see sign language interpreters and video monitors. An 85-foot cross is planned to be placed on the site and California sycamore, pink trumpet and olive trees will line outdoor walkways and plazas.

“We’ve come a long way,” Correz said in 2018, adding that the vision for the church’s progress was implemented by McKiernan. “Even though plans change, there was always a need for a new worship space for the parish. We just didn’t have any funds to do it.”

“We have been given a great gift,” Lesa Truxaw, a Christ Our Savior parishioner and director of the Office for Worship at the Diocese of Orange, said in 2018. “It’s been exciting to see the growth and progression of our parish.”