Growing up, my family would periodically attend other Catholic Churches on Sundays during the summer. My mother always reminded us to “make a wish” as we entered a new church, all usually within a reasonable drive from our home base of Holy Spirit Parish in Fountain Valley. It was like a mini vacation and, honestly, even as a child I remember it to be kind of a refreshing change.

From the exterior architecture to the altar, each church has its own distinct features. Our visits allowed my brother and I to realize as young children that the Catholic Church extended way beyond our own parish. The prayers were the same, the songs similar and the people as devout.

Holy Spirit, however, was home. I married my college sweetheart in the church hall that served as a temporary church before the current one was built.

After starting our family and moving from the area, my husband and I attended St. Joseph, a very traditional looking church in Pomona. For the last 22 years, however, after moving back to O.C., we’ve attended St. Nicholas in Laguna Woods. This is where our sons received their first communion, confirmation, and were altar servers.

We’d take our boys to other churches during the summer months, too. I remember returning to St. Nicholas after several weeks of attending Mass elsewhere. Just as Father Dick Delahunty started Mass in his familiar Irish accent, my then-10-year-old leaned in to me and said, “I feel like we’re home.” Now 27 years old, our son will be married at St. Nicholas next spring.

In the summer, my husband and I still enjoy visiting other churches. A favorite, of course, is Mission Basilica in San Juan Capistrano. The beauty of the church is something to behold and the acoustics enhance the wonderful organ and the choir.

We also occasionally return to Holy Spirit in Fountain Valley. In fact, we did so on our 25th anniversary to renew our wedding vows, this time in the “new” church. Father Sean, now retired, presided and our two sons, as well as my parents, stood by us.

As the Diocese of Orange celebrates its 40th Anniversary, it’s a reminder that our community is much bigger than our own parish. Together each church is part of the 10th largest diocese in the nation and one of the fastest growing, too. If you don’t often venture outside of your own parish, consider doing so occasionally to appreciate the diversity of the Diocese of Orange. To help acquaint you with the many parishes within our diocese, we’ve introduced the Parish Profile feature to our pages. Look for your parish to be featured in the coming weeks.