The Christ Cathedral campus and Diocese of Orange kicked off September’s National Suicide Prevention Month in dramatic fashion on Sept. 1 by changing the colors of the campus’ 90-foot neon cross to purple and teal.
THE CHRIST CATHEDRAL CAMPUS AND DIOCESE OF ORANGE KICKED OFF SEPTEMBER’S NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION MONTH IN DRAMATIC FASHION ON SEPT. 1 BY CHANGING THE COLORS OF THE CAMPUS’ 90-FOOT NEON CROSS TO PURPLE AND TEAL. PHOTO BY IAN TRAN/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
The two colors are symbolic of National Suicide Prevention Month’s efforts to build awareness around suicide, with the hope that those suffering from the thought of ending their own lives can get the help they need.
The cross is located atop the 13-floor Tower of Hope on the Garden Grove cathedral campus. It lights up after dusk and is visible throughout northern Orange County by hundreds of thousands of passing motorists.
The cross’ temporary colors are also particularly fitting because the Tower of Hope is named after the New Hope Crisis Counseling Hotline, which since 1968 has been based in the tower. The hotline (714-NEW HOPE) was founded by the Rev. Robert Schuller, founder of the Crystal Cathedral, and has continued
on under the stewardship of Catholic Charities of Orange County.
Later in September, other local institutions — including Angel Stadium, ARTIC, the Seal Beach Police Department, Orange County administration buildings and John Wayne Airport — are scheduled to illuminate purple and teal on their buildings or landmarks as part of Light Up Hope OC, an initiative of the
Orange County Health Care Agency. Linda Ji, the director of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of Orange, spoke about the importance of reaching those who are struggling and getting them help.
“We are very fortunate here in the Diocese of Orange to be under the leadership of Bishop Kevin Vann who made a public commitment to prioritize mental health ministry, alongside other religious leaders here in Orange County,” she said.
Rebecca Freeman, pastoral care ministry coordinator for the Diocese, stressed the importance of letting people know they are not alone.
“Regardless if you’re Catholic or not, we want people to know that we stand with them, we support them,” she said.
“We see them and recognize them and the hurt and pain that they’re going through. We want them to know that we as a church are a universal church with open arms here to support everyone in need.”
Ray Walworth of DayLite, an electrical service and lighting maintenance company that contracts with Christ Cathedral to change the cross’ colors, was on hand Sept. 1 to install the purple and teal. Step by step and with steady hands, he crawled up the narrow cross to the peak — a height of more than 300 feet.
“I think it’s very important for people to get help,” he said in regard to the cross’ lights being changed this month. “I hope this helps out, just to spread the awareness – if you need help, it’s not a bad thing. Everybody needs a little help here and there.”
The Diocese’s efforts are part of the Catholic Church’s greater mission.
“All life is valuable. We see suicide prevention as a life issue,” said Deacon Ed Shoener, president of the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers. “Quite often, suicide is precipitated by some sort of mental issue or crisis. We need to do a better job reducing the stigma around mental illness and suicide.”
Deacon Ed, a member of the Diocese of Scranton in Pennsylvania, noted that 2022 had the highest recorded number of suicides in the U.S., at just under 50,000. He added that Catholic understanding and practices around suicide have changed since the 1990s, as the Church now offers funerals and burials for those who died by suicide at Catholic cemeteries.
“The Church certainly has a role to play here,” he added. “Obviously, the Church is not a mental health research center, but it has a leadership role. We can start to understand mental illness and death by suicide is not a moral failure or a character flaw; it’s rooted in illness. God wants to be with us as we suffer with these illnesses … This is why the Church now prays for people afflicted by suicide.”