By GREG HARDESTY     11/28/2023

Following an extensive process of consulting with key stakeholders, the Diocese of Orange has launched the second stage of a strategic plan first introduced in 2018 by Bishop Kevin Vann that provided a five-year roadmap to guide the Diocese into the future.

An executive summary of the new strategic plan, unveiled to Diocese staff on Nov. 6, soon will be available on the diocesan website, rcbo.org. Future stories in OC Catholic will take a closer look at the five areas of focus in the new strategic plan:

• Our Parishes and the Mission of the Diocese
• Youth and Young Adult Outreach
• Catholic School Identity
• Governance and Communications
• Financial Resources and Stewardship

In 2018, Bishop Kevin Vann promulgated the first strategic plan.

“He realized that we’ve made great strides in many areas, and we need to build on those successes and that it’s time to look at what we’ve achieved and become even more vibrant and more faithful to our mission,” said Bishop Timothy Freyer, who is shepherding the new effort.

Dr. Erin Barisano, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese, will direct implementation of the new strategic plan.

“One, we’re trying to ensure parishes are mission focused — that they are not inward focused but outward focused,” Bishop Freyer said of the new plan. “The mission of the Diocese is to always be going out. Some parishes are very good at it, while others are kind of stagnant.”

Added Bishop Freyer: “We want to make sure we care for the spiritual needs of members of each parish in the best way possible and equip them to be missionary disciples.”

The second focus of the strategic plan is on youth ministry.

“A worry I commonly hear from parishioners is that their grandchild or son or daughter is not practicing the faith,” Bishop Freyer said.

To better encourage and keep youth in the Catholic fold, the strategic plan calls for the Diocese to make a large investment in providing high-quality youth ministers at each parish.

The Diocese will provide money to needier parishes to ensure they can hire top young adult ministers.

“We’re not just putting stuff on paper; we are going to be funding a lot of this work,” Bishop Freyer said, adding: “We also want to make sure students, parents, siblings and faculty all fall in love with the Lord and want to share the good news with brothers and sisters everywhere.”

The new strategic plan is not specifically a five-year extension, Bishop Freyer said. The hope is to develop another one in a few years based on the results of this one.

A key element of the new plan is making sure progress on goals can be measured.

“Dr. Barisano is a great gift to the Diocese,” said Bishop Freyer, who selected her to implement the new plan because of her leadership in the education workgroup in the 2018-2023 stage.

“She’s very good on metrics,” Bishop Freyer added. “I want to make sure we have goals that can be quantified and to stay focused on them so we can evaluate whether we are being successful.”

In late 2016, Bishop Vann initiated Project Fidelium and the Strategy Task Force, a response to dynamic growth in the Diocese coupled with the 2012 purchase of the former Crystal Cathedral.

Bishop Vann, in unveiling the new strategic plan to diocesan staff, expressed gratitude to everyone involved for their hard work.

The work included reaching out to several other dioceses to learn their best practices, conducting one-on-one interviews with Diocese personnel, and sending out surveys to priests, school principals, teachers and others.

“I’m very proud and grateful to be associated with all of you,” Bishop Vann told diocese staff members. “Always move forward, never backward – that’s our philosophy.”