Christ Cathedral Rector Fr. Bao Thai, Mater Dei High School President Michael Brennan, JSerra coach Keith Orahood, Garden of Hope designer Alan Smith and Mater Dei alumni Bryce Young and Maurice Sanchez and Annette Walker were recently named to the Orange County Register’s 125 most influential people for 2022.
Fr. Bao is the fourth Vietnamese American rector ever for a cathedral in the United States. Bishop Kevin Vann appointed him to the position in February, and he began in July.
“I don’t see my new role as an honor for myself,” Fr. Bao told the Register in an interview in March, “but as an honor for the entire Vietnamese community here in the United States and around the world.”
Michael Brennan started as president of Mater Dei in February, after serving at Servite High School in Anaheim and St. Anthony High School in Long Beach.
MICHAEL BRENNAN. PHOTO BY STEVEN GEORGES/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
“I just felt a calling to come here,” Brennan told Register columnist Steve Fryer in February. “My insides just said, ‘You may have the unique experience for what Mater Dei High School needs for this period of time.’”
For JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, alongside his twin brother Kurt, Keith Orahood was credited with starting an adaptive wheelchair youth tennis program for players with disabilities.
“When Landon agreed to play tennis here and when I saw the smile it brought to his face on a daily basis,
I thought that magic could go on with other kids,” Keith Orahood told OC Catholic. “I had the heartstrings tugged on and thought I want to do something. I want to give back to the community and to some kids.”
Alan Smith, a longtime supporter of Catholic Charities of Orange County, designed and helped build the Garden of Hope. The garden is located next to Catholic Charities’ Cantlay Food Distribution Center in Santa Ana.
“When I walked out that door with the concrete and blank walls, I said ‘Lord,’ and all I heard was ‘You can do this,’ and I saw a picture. I just saw a vision,” Smith said.
Mater Dei alumni Bryce Young and Maurice Sanchez were also recognized.
Young, class of 2020, was the Heisman Trophy winner for 2021 from the University of Alabama. He was recognized by the Santa Ana campus alongside its two other Heisman winners during a special homecoming event in May.
Sanchez, class of 1974, in January became the first Latino and person of color in the 40-year history of California’s Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division Three, located in Santa Ana.
San Francisco Solano parishioner Annette Walker, in her role as president of City of Hope Orange County, oversaw the opening of a new state-of-the-art cancer center in Irvine. The lifelong Catholic is also a former president of strategy and chief executive of Providence St. Joseph Health.