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Host Deacon Steve Greco interviews guests on a variety of topics. On this week’s program, Steve welcomes two key team members of the Spirit-Filled Hearts ministry, Katie Hughes and Michael Aimola.

Our discussion today centers around the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 25) and the power of the Word of God.

What does it mean for us to “live out our Baptism?”

Join us for a lively discussion!






Originally broadcast on 2/2/2020


Host Rick Howick interviews guests on a variety of topics. This week, Rick welcomes two very special people to our studio, Katie Dawson and Fr. Al Baca. Together our guests will be talking about a very special Diocesan Ministries Celebration that is happening on the campus of Christ Cathedral on Saturday, October 12th, and YOU are invited to attend!

Listen in, and hear all about it. Please share this podcast with a friend!





Originally broadcast on 9/21/19


One year short of 250 may seem like a very long time, but set against more than 10 millennia, it’s relatively brief.  

Case in point: Not long after 1769, life changed quickly and dramatically for the Acjachemen, a Native American tribe that had inhabited what later became California. During the previous 10,000 years, however, their way of life had remained exactly the same.  

The cause of this radical change was the Portolá Expedition, the first exploration by Spanish missionaries who headed north seeking to expand New Spain and bring their culture and religion to the New World. And one event 249 years ago will forever stand as a seminal moment in both Catholic and local Native American history: the first baptism of the Acjachemen people. 

Many years earlier, the Acjachemen (pronounced “Ah-HAWSH-eh-men”) lived in what is today Orange and San Diego counties. By around 1200 AD, two significant settlements had been established: Panhe, today in the southern end of San Clemente, and Putuidem, a few miles farther to the south. Small and large Acjachemen villages dotted the area. Their territory eventually grew to include what today is Oceanside to Long Beach, east to Lake Elsinore and west to San Clemente and Catalina islands. 

Like native peoples throughout history, the Acjachemen lived in harmony with the land and found uses for everything they took from their surroundings. They constructed “kiichas,” circular shelters made of branches, grass and reeds. The hunter-gatherers lived on acorns, wild berries, roots and bulbs, as well as the deer, rabbits and squirrels that thrived in the region.  

The first baptism in Alta (“New”) California didn’t take place during Father Junipero Serra’s expedition, says Msgr. Arthur Holquin, Pastor Emeritus of Mission San Juan Capistrano and the Diocese’s Vicar for Divine Worship. “While Father Serra was charged with the evangelization of Alta California, he was not part of the first expedition that left in 1769. There were two padres who were chaplains on this expedition, and one of them, Father Francisco Gomez, performed this first baptism.” 

Expedition members first met the Acjachemen tribe while searching for a place to spend one night. The priests were soon informed that two young girls were seriously ill and dying. Fr. Gomez, seeking to help the girls enter heaven, performed the baptism on July 22, 1769. The missionaries later named the area Los Cristianitos (“Little Christians”). 

Had the baptism been performed some two centuries later, it would’ve been under the watchful eyes of the United States Marine Corp. A cross and memorial are located at the actual site, off Cristiantos Road, near Camp Pendleton’s Cristiantos entrance. And in 2013, the Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens, in San Clemente, unveiled the official State Historical Marker honoring the baptism. Located near Casa Romantica’s main entrance, it was moved from Camp Pendleton, since visiting the actual site had required Marine approval. 

“What this monument represents is the biggest paradigm shift in our culture – the day the children were baptized and we became Christians,” said Teresa Romero, chairwoman of the Juaneño band of Mission Indians, in a 2013 OC Register article. (“Juaneño,” the name given to the Acjachemen people by the Spaniards, was derived from “Mission San Juan Capistrano,” founded by Serra in 1776.) 

Last May, San Juan Capistrano’s city council approved the Northwest Open Space Community Parks Project. The 3.6-acre park will include a re-creation of Putuidem, called the “mother village” by the Acjachemen, to honor the first Californians.  

After the Mission was established, the Acjachemen way of life was altered dramatically. In order to join the Mission after being baptized, Spanish missionaries and soldiers required that they change nearly everything: their diet and manner of gathering food, their clothing (they had been sparsely clothed in the moderate climate), their culture, their language and their daily activities. 

They were also given a new religion. 

Although the Acjachemen had devised no written language prior to the Mission’s establishment, tribal elders had passed the tribe’s rich history through stories told to their children. This oral history lived on for thousands of years. Like most Native Americans, the Acjachemen were spiritual people; their view of a higher being was in part based on their intimate coexistence with their natural surroundings.  

Twenty-five years after Mission San Juan Capistrano’s founding, more than a thousand Acjachemen had been introduced to Catholicism. They learned about the Bible as the Word of God and His Ten Commandments; about prayer and the existence of the Holy Trinity; and about the earthly life, martyrdom and eternal life of Jesus. Through the generations, more and more Native Americans adopted the Catholic way. 

“Most, if not all, were converted to Catholicism,” Msgr. Holquin says. “Whether or not their decedents are still practicing their original faith is difficult to tell, since there has been so much intermarriage, along with other factors. But some definitely do.” 

Today most descendants of California’s first inhabitants live as Christians, yet many continue to honor their past by remembering what they’d been taught by their elders many generations ago.


She was raised Catholic but had ventured away from the church. 

After she got married and began having children, something stirred in Elaina Francis–a spiritual yearning that only could be satisfied by re-embracing the faith she had left years ago. 

On Saturday, May 12, at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Irvine, in what church officials said was a rarity, not only did Elaina and Kedric Francis have their marriage blessed in a liturgical ceremony, they also had their four young children baptized. 

The unique ceremony, before family and friends who later celebrated at the Francis home with cake and other treats, strengthens the entire St. John Neumann community and the larger O.C. Catholic community, said Deacon John Erdag, who presided over the joint Sacrament of Matrimony and Sacrament of Baptism. 

“Catholic families serve as ‘domestic churches,’ and this beautiful family is strengthening our church,” Erdag said. “Society needs families like this who are raising their kids in the Catholic faith.” 

Said Elaina: “The Holy Spirit came back to me in two ways: through motherhood, and through friendship.” 


Questioning the faith 

Elaina said something went awry in her interpretation of the Church while growing up. 

“It felt more like a chore and a burden, without a sense of unconditional love at the heart of it,” Elaina said. 

So, as a young adult, she stopped going to church. 

“I went through my share of rebellions and questioning the faith, which I don’t regret,” Elaina added. “I believe it’s healthy and normal to question things, and that it can lead to a deeper connection to God.”  

Around three years ago, Elaina began to feel the stirrings of faith returning. 

At that time, she and Kedric had two children, Otis, now 7, and Annarose, now 6. 

“One of the first things you learn as a new mother is that you cannot do it alone,” Elaina said. “We all need help, support, and a village to get us through. And it just so happened that the village that began forming around me was other Catholic women, both new friends and old.” 

Elaina reignited friendships with old classmates from Mater Dei High School who also were new mothers. 

Her obstetrician/gynecologist is an Irish Catholic. 

Elaina, a professional photographer, landed new clients who reached out to her for a family photo session. The husband and wife turned out to be two religion teachers, one at Mater Dei and the other at Rosary Academy in Fullerton. 

And through Instagram, Elaina struck up a close friendship with Korinne Hannegan, a mother of seven and a parishioner at St. Edward the Confessor in Dana Point. 

“All of these people had one thing in common: They led by pure example and showed me what being a modern, practicing Catholic in today’s society could look like,” Elaina said.  

Last December, Elaina became a parishioner at St. John Neumann. 

As director of parish life, one of Erdag’s jobs is to reach out to new churchgoers. 

“I saw the (parish registration) form and noticed her kids weren’t baptized,” Erdag said. “Then things just snowballed from there.” 

By that time, the Francis clan had expanded to three children, with one on the way (Mabel is now 2, and Flynn is 4 months old). 

Erdag received approval from St. John Neumann Fr. Jeff Droessler, the church’s administrator, to have the joint marriage/baptism ceremony for family and friends on a Saturday afternoon. 

Among the guests was Hannegan, who Elaina chose to be the godmother of her four children. 

“She was well on her journey (to returning to the church) when I met her, and I was very happy to walk along beside her,” said Hannegan, who teared up several times during the ceremony. 

“I literally can’t even put it into words,” Hannegan said. “It was so beautiful to watch her come back home. It was beyond moving.” 

Also attending the service was Wylie Aitken, a prominent Orange County attorney and family friend who is active in the Orange Catholic Foundation and is a parishioner at San Antonio de Padua Church in Anaheim. 

“It’s really an honor to be here,” Aitken said. “It’s marvelous to see their marriage evolve. It’s a culmination of an interesting journey. It’s just phenomenal.” 

Added Aitken: “It’s very positive to see people make decisions when they are free to make decisions.” 

Although her husband isn’t a Catholic, Elaina said he’s a wonderful father and spiritual guide for their children. 

“I’ve seen so much spiritual growth in him,” Elaina said. “It’s almost like he tapped into something that was always there but he didn’t know it. 

“He talks to our kids about God and morality and the commitments and disciplines required when serving others. He also comes to Mass with us here and there, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he begins really exploring his own faith journey.” 

Elaina said St. John Neumann felt like home from the first Mass she and her family attended. 

“The sense of community is awesome,” she said. 

And May 12, 2018 always will be a monumental day for her. 

“The day was beyond special, as wonderful as our wedding day,” Elaina said. “Any opportunity to bring together many of the people you love, from all different corners of life, into the same room to celebrate the love in your family is going to be one of the best days of your life.”  



VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Children have a right to be brought up in the Christian faith, Pope Francis said.

Parents and godparents must make sure they “feed the flame of baptismal grace in their little ones, helping them persevere in the faith,” the pope said May 16 at his weekly general audience.

“Christian education is a child’s right; it seeks to guide them gradually to know God’s plan in Christ,” so they will be able to personally take up the faith in which they were baptized, he said. 

Ending a series of audience talks about baptism, Pope Francis talked about the meaning of the white garment and the lit candle the newly baptized are given during the baptismal rite. 

“The white garment, as it symbolically expresses what happens in the sacrament, proclaims the condition of those transfigured in divine glory,” signifying a new life in Christ, he said.

To “put on Christ,” as St. Paul explains in his letter to the Colossians, is to cultivate the virtues of “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another … And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection,” the pope said.

Giving the newly baptized a candle lit from the paschal candle represents the risen Christ they have received, he said. It reminds people “that we are not the light, but the light is Christ,” who has conquered the darkness of evil.

“We are called to receive his splendor” and let one’s heart be set on fire, he added.

“The living presence of Christ to safeguard, defend and expand in us is the lamp that lights our footsteps, a light that guides our choices, a flame that warms our hearts in going to encounter the Lord, making us able to help those who journey with us” toward eternity, the pope said.

Pope Francis repeated the same invitation he made in his apostolic exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate” (“Rejoice and Be Glad”), asking people to “let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God; turn to him in every situation. Do not be dismayed, for the power of the Holy Spirit enables you to do this, and holiness, in the end, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life.”


The first step in our initiation into Christian life is the sacrament Baptism. In fact, because of your Baptism you are Christian. But in Catholic teaching, Baptism is just the beginning of a full life in Christ. For most children it is a gift to them from their parents while they are still infants. 

The sacramental grace of Baptism works within the child’s soul to encourage maturity in faith and learning.  It is followed by two other very important rites of initiation that are uniquely Catholic in their sacramental nature and theology.  

Some people look on Confirmation as something like the Jewish Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah, however, according to Katie Dawson, director of Parish Faith Formation for the Diocese of Orange, “Confirmation isn’t a coming of age ritual. The rites of initiation are Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, in that order. After the Bishop is given testimony as to our living out the life of Christ in faith, he then ‘confirms’ us in the faith.” 

Theologically, the Eucharist is the pinnacle of our initiation or ‘communion’ with the Church. According to Catholic Answers, “In the early Church, sacramental initiation always involved the bishop; the bishop was the ordinary minister of both Baptism and Confirmation. However, pastoral practice changed as the Church expanded rapidly. When bishops could no longer be present at all celebrations of Baptism, they chose to retain a role in the process of initiation by continuing to be the ordinary minister of Confirmation. In the Latin Church, with the bishop as the minister of Confirmation, it is evident how this Sacrament can serve to strengthen the person’s bond with the Church and her apostolic origins. However, there are also times when the bishop entrusts the celebration of the rite of Confirmation to a priest, such as in the case of the Baptism of an adult or the reception of an adult from another Christian community into full communion with the Church.” 

Confirmation also brings gifts – seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit to be exact. Wisdom helps us to see things as God sees them. Knowledge calls us to contemplation and prayer. Understanding is to know ourselves in light of God’s divine purpose. Fortitude or courage to trust that when we are strong in the face of evil we have faith that God is with us. The gift of Counsel or right judgment gives us the peace that, as St. Paul states, surpasses all understanding. Reverence or piety is to respect the things of God and the creation he has given us. And fear of the Lord, is not fear as we know it today, but wonder at the magnificence of God and the love He has for each of us.  

Today, most confirmations take place in the teen years.  Although confirmed in the faith, it doesn’t necessarily mean that confirmed teens will be stalwarts of the faith forevermore. In fact, they are confirmed just before they go off in the secular world that will lure them with all kinds of distractions, and distortions regarding faith and morals. 

The rite of Confirmation draws many images and scriptural readings from Pentecost, and several passages in the Acts of the Apostles. Acts 19:6 contains one of many passages: “…And when Paul laid (his) hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.” Sometimes, the Holy Spirit can grab hold of a young soul and if the grace is accepted they go forth and never stray far from the faith. In others, the grace may lay dormant until, years later, when life becomes more complex the adult is drawn back through grace to God and the Church. It is still all a question of free will. 

According to Dawson, “As the newly confirmed grow and mature they can become more open to the grace from their Confirmation.  For example, in college they may be able to pass a test on a great and complex work of literature, but they probably won’t fully understand it until they have had more life experience.”  That is why Confirmation is so important, it is like an energy overlay on our Baptism, calling us to live our life in Christ – no matter how long it takes or how many challenges come before us. 


VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Parents who prefer not to baptize their children in the hopes that they will “understand and ask for baptism” as adults lack faith that the Holy Spirit will act in their child’s life, Pope Francis said. 

A video accompanying this story can be found at

While some believe that there is no need to “baptize a child that does not understand” the meaning of the sacrament, the pope said doing so would deny the chance for “Christian virtues to grow within that child and blossom.”

“Always give this opportunity to all children: to have within themselves the Holy Spirit that will guide them in life. Do not forget to baptize your children,” the pope said during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square April 11.

Arriving in the square under cloudy skies, Pope Francis once again picked up several children who rode around in his popemobile while he circled around to greet thousands of pilgrims. 

After dropping them off, the pope made his way toward the stage when he was greeted by some unlikely guests at the audience: three llamas. 

According to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, the three llamas — named Buffon, Shaquiri and Tiento — along with their owner and his two traveling companions, began their pilgrimage to Rome in February. The pilgrims traveled over 650 miles on foot from the northern Italian province of Bolzano to meet the pope. 

The names of two of the llamas seemingly reference two soccer greats — Gianluigi Buffon and Xherdan Shaqiri — while Tiento is also the name of the 1930 World Cup soccer ball.

The pope greeted the pilgrims and smiled as he saw the llamas, which are indigenous to South America. 

In his main talk, Pope Francis reflected on the sacrament of baptism as “the foundation of Christian life.”

As the first of seven sacraments, he said, baptism “is the door that permits Christ the Lord to make his dwelling in us and allows us to immerse ourselves in his mystery.”

While being immersed in water is a common ritual “in various beliefs” that signifies the passing from one condition to another, Pope Francis said Christians must never forget that just as the body is immersed in water at baptism, so is the soul “immersed in Christ to receive forgiveness from sin and shine with divine light.”

“By virtue of the Holy Spirit, baptism immerses us in the death and resurrection of the Lord, drowning the old man — dominated by the sin that divides us from God — in the baptismal font and giving birth to the new man, recreated in Jesus. In Him, all the sons of Adam are called to new life,” the pope said. 

The pope, who often tells people to look up the date of their baptism, called on those who don’t remember the date to ask their family and to celebrate it like a birthday and “give thanks to the Lord because it was on that day when Jesus entered” in their lives.

“We should all know the date of our baptism. It is another birthday, it is the day of our rebirth,” he said. 

Although baptism occurs only once in a Christian’s life, Pope Francis said, “it illuminates our entire life, guiding our steps until (we reach) the heavenly Jerusalem.”

“No one deserves baptism, which is always a gift for everyone, adults and newborns. But like what happens to a seed full of life, this gift takes root and brings forth fruit in a land nourished by faith,” the pope said.


On today’s timely and informative episode, Deacon Steve engages a discussion on, “what is our true calling as Catholic Christians?” From our baptism, we are anointed with a sacred chrism to be priest, prophet and king. What, exactly, does that mean? Tune in and find out!

Our special guests today include Deacon Spencer Lewerenz, Andrew Laubacher (aka A-LOB) and Katie Hughes.






Originally broadcast on 3/18/18


The 2017 Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017 and ends with the beginning of the Easter Triddum and the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, April 13.  Lent offers us the opportunity to prepare for the celebration of Easter, to walk with the catechumens preparing for the celebration of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation and for those of us who are baptized to prepare ourselves to renew our baptismal promises through penitential practices.  In a particular way during Lent, we are asked to devote ourselves to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy that “remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbors in body and spirit.”

The following practices are to be observed by Catholics in the Diocese of Orange in their penitential practices:


1. It is to be noted first of all that it is by Divine Law that the faithful are bound to do penance and, as a specification of this obligation by the Church, some form of mortification by those 14 years of age and older is to be observed on all Fridays throughout the year. This obligation is in itself a serious one.

2. Everyone 14 years of age and older is bound to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and on all Fridays of Lent. No Catholic will lightly hold himself excused from this penitential practice. If for some serious reason a person must eat meat on a Friday in Lent, some other form of self-sacrifice should be performed.

3.Everyone who is at least 18 years of age and not yet 60 is bound also to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

On these two days of fast only one full meal is allowed. Two other meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken, but together they should not equal another full meal. Eating between meals on these days is not permitted, but liquids are allowed.

Where health or ability to work would be seriously affected, the law does not oblige.


Lenten Observance


4. In order that our love for Christ and identification with Him may be deepened, all Catholics during the period of Lent are encouraged to participate at daily Mass and to receive Holy Communion often; to participate in the devotional life of the Church; to give generously to religious and charitable works; to assist the sick, the aged and the poor; to practice voluntary fast, penance and self-denial, especially regarding alcoholic drink and social entertainment; and to pray more fervently, particularly for the intentions of the Holy Father.

5. Lent is an admirable time to preach the Gospel message of reconciliation and for Pastors to make available frequent communal celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this way the social and ecclesial aspects of sin and reconciliation may be underscored. It should be noted, however, that at such communal celebrations, general absolution may not be given.

6. Ash Wednesday falls this year on March 1. Easter Sunday is on April 16th and the Easter Season concludes on the Feast of Pentecost, June 4th. Catholics are bound to receive Holy Communion at least once a year, especially within the Easter Season, unless for good reason the precept is fulfilled at some other time.

7. Marriages may take place during Mass and the Nuptial Blessing may be given, but it is contrary to the penitential spirit of the Season of Lent to have elaborate weddings and celebrations.

8. To afford the faithful opportunities for gaining the graces of the Lenten Season, there should be special Lenten Masses, particularly in the late afternoon or evening. The Way of the Cross and other prayer services should also be publicly celebrated during the Lenten Season.

9. There is to be no morning Mass celebrated on Holy Thursday. Morning Prayer is recommended.

10. Good Friday has become a day specially consecrated to prayer and meditation on the passion and death of Christ. Where the devotion of Three Hours is observed, however, it should not conflict with the primary importance of the liturgy of Good Friday. Morning Prayer is recommended.

11. In compliance with (1) the liturgical norms of the Roman Missal on “Easter Vigil” #3, (2) the Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts #78 and (3) published Diocesan regulations, the Easter Vigil Service must begin after nightfall (not before 7:50 PM). Morning Prayer is recommended.

12. Those responsible for the religious formation of the young should bring their children, whenever it is possible, to Church in Lent for the devotion of the Way of the Cross. It is commendable to have a separate devotion to the Way of the Cross accommodated to children, insofar as circumstances permit.

13. The Sacred Triduum begins with the Celebration of the Eucharist of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening and ends with Easter Evening Prayer.



VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Parents are charged with guarding the faith given to their children at baptism and helping them become true witnesses by example rather than just rules, Pope Francis said.

By asking the church for faith for their children through the sacrament of baptism, Christian parents have the task of helping their children to grow so that they “may be witnesses for all of us: also for us priests, bishops, everyone,” the pope said during a Mass in the Sistine Chapel.

During the Mass Jan. 8, the feast of the baptism of the Lord, Pope Francis baptized 28 infants — 15 boys and 13 girls.

“Faith is not reciting the ‘Creed’ on Sunday when we go to Mass: It is not only this,” the pope said. “Faith is believing that which is the truth: God the father who has sent his son and the Spirit which gives us life.”

The pope’s brief homily centered on the meaning of faith, which he described as a lifelong journey that “is lived” and leads to becoming a witness of Christ.

Parents, he continued, must also teach through their example that faith “means trusting in God.”

While the pope spoke, the faint cries of a child echoed throughout the Sistine Chapel, causing a chain reaction of crying infants.

“The concert has begun!” the pope said jokingly. “It is because the children are in a place they do not know; they woke up earlier than usual. One begins with one note and then the others mimic. Some cry simply because another one cried.”

Acknowledging that some babies might be crying because they are hungry, the pope urged the mothers to not be ashamed to breast-feed their children in the chapel.

“Mothers, nurse them without fear, with all normality, like Our Lady nursed Jesus,” he told them.

Later, before praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said the feast of the Lord’s baptism helps “us to the rediscover the beauty of being a baptized people.”

The baptized, he said, are “sinners saved by the grace of Christ, truly inserted by the power of the Holy Spirit in the filial relationship of Jesus with the father and welcomed into the womb of mother church” where Christians are capable of being brothers and sisters with everyone.

Noting John the Baptist’s feelings of unworthiness in baptizing Jesus, Pope Francis said John was aware “of the great distance between him and Jesus.”

However, Jesus came into the world to bridge the gap between God and man and “to reunite that which was divided,” he said.

After his baptism, Jesus begins his mission of salvation, which is characterized “by the style of a humble and meek servant, armed only with the strength of truth,” he said.

All Christians, the pope added, are called to follow Jesus’ style of proclaiming the Gospel without “shouting or scolding someone.”

“True mission is never proselytism but rather attraction to Christ. But how? How is attraction to Christ done? With one’s own witness that comes from a strong union with him through prayer, adoration and concrete charity, which is service to Jesus present in the least of our brothers,” he said.

After reciting the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis prayed for the parents and for the children he baptized, as well as for a “young catechumen” he baptized Jan. 7 in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives.

The Vatican provided no further details about the young person.

“I invoke the Holy Spirit upon them and their children so that this sacrament, which is so simple yet at the same time so important, may be lived with faith and joy,” the pope said.