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Host Rick Howick welcomes Ellen Roy to the studio for today’s discussion. Ellen is the Executive Director for Catholic Charities of Orange County. She shares about her fascinating background; and, about some of the incredibly important work that happens every day. This ministry is an absolute lifeline to so many.. Catholic Charities of OC!

Listen and SHARE this podcast!






Originally broadcast on 3/27/21


Fr. Christopher is always thrilled to bring new friends to the studio to be part of the radio program.

Today’s guest is Ian Rangel. He is the Director of the Diocese of Orange Pastoral Services Appeal and Fund Development.

Give a listen to this very informative program; and, share it with a friend!




Originally broadcast on 3/20/21


On this podcast, Deacon Steve Greco has invited some folks from a parish in Pennsylvania who have done an amazing service to their community in this time of pandemic. Our topic is about an initiative called the “Community Emergency Fund.”

You will be inspired by this timely discussion that is all about reaching out and assisting our neighbor in need!



Originally broadcast on 1/31/21


“Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave.”– Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “Deus Caritas Est 


Gifts are on my mind. A couple of recent articles on “Rules for Gifting” encourage parents to give children 10 gifts max, with a rationale for each one. 

As my own children have become adults, some with children of their own, my gift list has both grown longer – and narrower. No one will receive multiple gifts at my house except my husband.   

In this holiday season, gift-giving and gratitude go hand in hand (we hope!). It’s commonplace to focus on our blessings rather than what’s missing – and during COVID-19, that seems not only virtuous, but essential to survival.  

When I was a child, I remember hearing my great-aunt Ida say she preferred Thanksgiving to Christmas because the focus is on what has been received rather than on what you were going to get. 

At the time I thought she was crazy – but at age 10 I didn’t have her perspective. 

Now I am at least as old as she was when she said that and now I understand. I also notice that my pleasure in gift giving now is more about choosing a good gift for someone than it is about what I’m going to receive. Nevertheless, I won’t try to explain that to my grandchildren.  

In all our gift-giving we can find an echo of the original “giving,” and we imitate the original Gift-Giver. The given-ness of our life is fundamental; recognizing our creation is a key to successfully navigating life. When we understand ourselves (correctly) as the recipient of a gift – of gifts beyond measure, when we understand ourselves to have received EVERYTHING – including the invitation of God into communion with the Trinity through the free gift of His Son – then our mind is changed (blown, if you will).  

That Christmas gift list I am managing doesn’t begin to compare with the list of gifts I’ve received in my life. I don’t know about you but I haven’t always recognized those gifts I have received, haven’t always welcomed events or people, friends or even sometimes family members as gifts. Receiving gifts is sometimes a lot harder than choosing them. 

Last week, as I was musing on some difficult relationships, I found myself really stuck, frustrated and a little bit resentful. After wallowing for a few minutes, I got a grip and prayed briefly that God would show me the way forward. I didn’t spend a lot of time on the prayer. I spent a lot more time on the frustrations than I did on the prayer, and I confess, I wasn’t really expecting much in the moment. But I immediately felt, knew, heard the words “Be A Gift.” It was exactly what I needed in that moment. I know exactly what I must do.  

In this time of gift giving, the most important gift we give is the gift of our presence. As Pope Francis wisely says, “For life is a gift we receive only when we give ourselves away.” We have been greatly blessed, and acting out of that blessing, we can be a gift in turn.  


Editors’ Note: Watch Katie Dawson’s “Catholic Family Minutes” on the Diocese of Orange Facebook page at 


On today’s episode of Cathedral Square, Fr. Christopher Smith welcomes 2 people who are truly “world changers.”

John Straw (Executive Director) and Catharine Quinn (Field Program Coordinator) join us to talk about how CONCERN AMERICA helps to transform need into self-sufficiency.

Since their beginning in 1972, Concern America’s vision has been to build health care, clean water, education, and economic opportunity with communities worldwide

Tune in for some powerful stories and reflections!




Originally broadcast on 10/17/20


Host Rick Howick interviews guests on a variety of topics. This week, Rick welcomes a couple of very special guests to the studio: Tung Truong and Maria Arroyo from Catholic Relief Services (CRS).

Tung has come to us by way of his home country of Vietnam, where he serves as a representative for CRS.

Be inspired by the incredible work being done because of our generosity – by this amazing relief organization!







Originally broadcast on 2/22/20


Every year my sister and I make the same promise to each other. “One year, we’re not going to do presents at all,” we declare over the phone. “And it will be the best Christmas ever.” 

Our kids are all still at home, eager Christmas lovers, so we haven’t yet been able to make good on our dreams of a gift-free holiday. But I daydream of a December free from shopping lists and shipping stress. 

I know I’m not alone. The average American will spend $700 on Christmas gifts this year. This season of cheer is also an overload of consumption. 

Ironically, the greatest gifts on the first Christmas were given freely. Mary and Joseph’s love for Jesus. The shepherds’ wonder. The angels’ glorious song. The star’s guiding light. The goodness of God incarnate. 

Could we celebrate Christmas by giving less to each other and keeping the focus on faith and family? 

It can be tricky to transform long-standing traditions, especially when it comes to the holidays. But it also brings a breath of fresh air to let the Holy Spirit inspire our exchanges of love in new ways. 

Years ago, our family switched to celebrating the octave of Christmas. Now we open one present each morning for the eight days from Dec. 25 through Jan. 1. The kids love this tradition, running downstairs every morning to see what small surprise might be waiting under the tree. 

Rather than buy each child eight presents, we’ve found that we can fill up the octave with gifts from grandparents, godparents, aunts, uncles and siblings. We start with stockings on Christmas morning and then add a few gifts from us: books for everyone one day, a surprise outing another night. 

Switching to the octave — from one manic morning of unwrapping — has been such a gift for our family. We get to stretch out the Christmas celebration. We avoid the Dec. 26 “letdown.” We’ve put the focus back on enjoying time together. 

If you’ve ever felt stressed by December shopping (or felt the regret from credit card statements in January), consider bringing this question to prayer: How does my celebration of Christmas honor the Christ Child — the humble baby born into poverty? 

Might the Spirit whisper ways that you could celebrate differently this year? 

Here are a few ideas to ponder. 

  • Give to others first. Prioritize your charitable giving before deciding how much to spend on family and friends.
  • Simplify your gift-giving. Buy secondhand or fair trade items. Try homemade gifts or regifting something you own. (Our extended family has found more fun with a goofy gift exchange — limited to things we already own or purchases under $10 — than with anything else on Christmas Day.)
  • Give the gift of time. Sharing an experience with a loved one brings more lasting memories than most presents we can wrap. (Hint for grandparents: A museum membership or tickets to an event can be a welcome alternative, especially when parents feel overwhelmed by the influx of new toys.)
  • Follow an easy formula for kids if you can’t resist buying gifts: something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. Four simple categories for fun.


However you choose to celebrate Christmas, let your faith guide your giving. Buying less is a great first step: to focus on Christ, resist greed and bring relief to your budget and the environment. 

“Christmas is preferring the silent voice of God to the noisiness of consumerism,” said Pope Francis. 

When it comes to giving, we need this good news — now more than ever


It feels good to give to others. And as Catholic parents, we are committed to teach our children the habits, joys, and responsibilities of giving – at the holidays and beyond. 

Author Mary-Jo McLaughlin cites research from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute that shows if an adult or parent donates or does volunteer work and talks with their child about why they do so, children are more likely to follow their example.  

“This encourages an attitude of generous giving rather than giving out of a sense of guilt or manipulation,” explains McLaughlin, writing in “Four County Catholic,” published by St. Pius X Catholic Church in Granger, Indiana. “It teaches children empathy, compassion and care for others while instilling in them greater gratitude for what they have.” 

Indeed, this research “provides a clear, effective path for parents who want to encourage their children to be generous and caring,” said Debra J. Mesch, Ph.D., director of the institute, which is part of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “Talking to children about charity is effective across all types of U.S. households, pointing the way to raising future philanthropists.” 


Five ways to make giving a habit 

The “Four County Catholic” article lists key ways parents can teach kids to give. 

  1. Help children see that God has given them many blessings. 
  2. Teach children to be grateful to God for the blessings He has given us.
  3. Show children how stewardship has built our Church.
  4. Help children to recognize that stewardship is something we do all the time. 
  5. Help children identify the joy that comes from stewardship.

Still, it can be difficult to be generous – and to ensure our kids are paying attention as we do so – particularly as we battle busy schedules made even more challenging with the added stress of the season. 


Putting generosity into practice 

  • If generosity begins at home, then the best way to begin is to frequently compliment our children on their unique gifts. Their dimples, for example, are God’s gift and they must share them with others.
  • Continuous thankfulness becomes a happy habit. Identifying together the things we’ve been given and thanking God for them generates positive conversations at the dinner table or bedtime.
  • I can’t drive to the market in my neighborhood without spotting at least one homeless person. These sightings are the perfect opportunity to discuss the poor and needy with our children. You can even go a step further: Visit the dollar store, fill a small plastic bag with hygiene products, and give them to the homeless people who cross your path.
  • Giving to the Church on Sunday helps support our parishes and parish schools. Kids can see firsthand the ensuing benefits they enjoy each day. Discussing how to distinguish our ‘wants’ from our ‘needs’ helps focus attention on the amount we spend.


Underscoring the importance of giving 

As noted in the Indiana University study, the most critical way we influence our children’s giving habits is by sharing our own good feelings about helping and giving. 

When we stop to throw a loose dollar bill into the Salvation Army red bucket or the Sunday offering basket, we put giving into practice – and can immediately share the warm, satisfying feeling we experience as we give.


Stewardship is a core principle in Catholic and Christian life. In its simplest terms, it springs from the belief that God has entrusted the faithful with their lives, Church and world and it is their duty to care for and grow them. The faithful are not owners so much as caretakers joined in the effort to make their faith and Church flourish and to spread the word of God.

Often this is broken down into the sharing of “time, treasure and talent” with the Church and in Christian walks.

Debbie Leaverton, director of Parish Stewardship Education and the Pastoral Services Appeal for the Orange Catholic Foundation, describes stewardship as a “foundation for the other pillars. It’s not just a ministry, it’s a foundation.”

Or, as Leisa Anslinger, an author, speaker and director of Cincinnati-based Catholic Life and Faith, says, “If we look at parish life, everything is happening out of the stewardship of people giving.”

However, too often, parish members reduce the broad aims of stewardship into tithing and beefing up the weekly offering, Leaverton and Anslinger say. And that misses the greater purpose, which is to have a full and active Church life.

Leaverton said stewardship “is not a goal, it’s a journey.”

As Aslinger puts it, “Stewardship is about putting faith into daily life. That’s a much deeper journey to get past checklists and look instead at our blessings.”

Unfortunately, Leaverton said, when a priest begins speaking of stewardship, “people in the pew will say, ‘Oh, no, they’re going to ask for money.’”

Anslinger, who will speak about stewardship at the Diocese of Orange later this month, said she had an “aha” moment in Australia 10 years ago.

In the United States when she mentions stewardship, the first thought is often “money.” However, when she posed the question in Australia, the answer was “agriculture,” which she said, “really drove home the idea.”

As Anslinger explained it, a farmer’s job is not to own the land so much as to plant seeds, care for the crop and share the harvest.

Similarly, she said, “A wine steward does not own the wine.” His job is to make it fruitful and deepen appreciation. Fiduciary responsibility is part of it, but it’s not the whole,” she said.

In a pastoral letter, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote that the goal of stewardship is to “receive God’s gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice with others and return them with increase to the Lord.”

Stewards and clergy “are not passive beneficiaries,” but “obligated to be contributors and collaborators with the church and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ,” the letter read.

At the Orange Catholic Foundation, Leaverton works to bolster stewardship practices throughout the 62 parishes.

On Friday, Sept. 21, the Foundation will host its annual Stewardship Day for Priests, followed on Saturday, Sept. 22, by workshops for priests, deacons and lay leaders.

Bishop Thanh Nguyen will be a special guest Friday night, and speakers include Anslinger and Dave Baranowkski, the director of stewardship education at the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Anslinger speaks nationally and is the author of a number of books and guides on the topic, as well as a periodic publication “Impact,” in which she reflects on Sunday readings.

The Diocese stewardship events will feature discussion, presentations and tips on topics such as making a parish more welcoming, communication, planning events, finding good lay witness speakers and other ways to engage and vitalize the parish.

In 2017, the Orange Catholic Foundation earned top recognition at the International Catholic Stewardship Council meeting for Total Stewardship Effort.

The Foundation was launched 21 years ago. According to Leaverton, 85 percent of the parishes have participated in stewardship programs.

She added that 11 parishes are currently engaged in stewardship aimed specifically for Latino parishioners and her office is working on introducing Vietnamese stewardship programs.

In those cases, she said stewardship involves more than just translation, but presenting it in culturally relevant ways.

In parishes with strong stewardship involvement, Leaverton said the Church culture becomes much more vibrant and revenues often grow organically, allowing for more programing.

The Bible is rife with examples of people sacrificing and receiving rewards in multiples. Part of the challenge is to reframe the concept from sacrificing to sharing.

Anslinger said the question can be asked, “Are we possessed by our possessions?”

Anslinger said stewardship can be practiced in daily life merely by reflecting on blessings and following the lessons of Jesus by giving selflessly.

This can extend beyond the Church to raising children, caring for the elderly, or doing something as simple as mowing a lawn for an ailing neighbor, Anslinger said.

“When we share our faith, that’s all stewardship,” she said.

Or, as Leaverton put it, “Stewardship is the way of life of a disciple.”


With Christmas just around the corner, Christians near and far are looking forward to gathering with friends and family to share a wonderful meal, count their blessings, exchange gifts and look ahead to a new year. Unfortunately, two de facto holidays – Black Friday and Cyber Monday, both associated with traffic, conspicuous consumption and financial obligation – have become part of the picture. Many people have lost the true meaning of Christmas during the hectic seasonal buzz, and the most needy are largely forgotten. Individuals and families who never fret about overcrowded malls or low credit card balances, about overcooked rib roast or the wrong gift bag; they’re hungry and without a warm place to sleep.  

“At Christmas, we remember the birth of that special little baby, whose life story still inspires us,” says Tita Smith, executive director of Catholic Charities Orange County ( “In this season of giving, let us give to and pray for all those less fortunate, and those who open their doors to them.” 

Giving to others in need, an essential element of Catholic social teaching, can be provided around the corner or around the world. Case in point: the victims of the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. Residents of the latter, hit the hardest, have received less aid in a less-timely manner. 

Fr. Jerome Karcher, pastor of Saint Vincent De Paul Church in Huntington Beach, speaks eloquently about Christmas charity at a time of dire need. “Charity calls for a ‘disinterested love.’ That is a love that seeks nothing in return, a love that does not seek self-interest but rather the good of another. This charity, this love, can be demanding, especially in the context of world disasters such as the hurricane in Puerto Rico, where there is great need and people who rely upon our charity – our disinterested love – for them to simply survive.”  

How can we help? For starters, donate money. While it seems impersonal, relief organizations throughout the world note that money is by far the best way to help them provide aid. Along with Catholic Charities of Orange County (, the Diocese’s Catholic Relief Fund ( is a great place to start. Donations will be used to help victims of all three hurricanes. Others to consider are Catholic Relief Services ( and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (  

By giving to Catholic charities, those in need get more bang from your buck. “It’s easily proven that Catholic agencies give more direct aid to others than many charities, says Fr. Christopher Heath, pastor of St. Hedwig Catholic Church in Los Alamitos. “Some only give pennies on the dollar to direct aid, while Church charities give a far, far higher percentage.” 

It doesn’t take a lot – say, the cost of two Venti Mocha Frappucinos – to make a difference. When enough people donate, says Fr. Chris, “Even 10 dollars adds up pretty quickly.” 

For whatever reason, friends, co-workers and acquaintances may prefer to give to secular charities. Before doing so, they would be wise to review them by checking with independent financial-monitoring groups such as Charity Navigator or Charity Watch. (These organizations, and those that follow, can all be found through Google.) 

Relief nonprofits to consider include UNICEF, World Relief, the American Red Cross, the International Medical Corp, Americares and Direct Relief. Others are headquartered in Puerto Rico, such as ConPRmetidos, and many hurricane-relief efforts can be found at GoFundMe, the popular online donation resource.  

Although relief organizations from Placentia to Puerto Rico are grateful for any financial help, money doesn’t carry boxes of food or medicine to a damaged hospital. Money doesn’t hold a light for a surgical team or haul construction equipment to a washed-out bridge.  

Those who wish to volunteer in areas hit by a catastrophe can visit the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. (Click on “How to Help” then “Volunteer.”) Kind souls who want to lend a hand can choose a volunteer opportunity based on geography and availability date, or they may select a specific agency.  

Fr. Chris reminds us that anyone who wants to help those less fortunate – whether financially or through “sweat equity” – should remember the essence of Catholic charity. 

“St. Paul wrote, ‘As a matter of equality, your surplus at the present time should supply their needs, so that their surplus may also supply your needs.” (2 Cor 8:14). “This is not meant to be self-serving, but simply a recognition that we all will fall on hard times, so while we have an abundance – and yes, to a suffering person even 10 dollars is an abundance – we ought to see that God has shared with us many blessings, expecting that we will share them with others according to our ability.”  

Tita Smith puts it another way: “Christmas is the celebration of ‘keeping it real,’ the celebration of our Creator connecting with us by joining our struggle. May gestures of generosity and kindness to our neighbors, acts that we call charity, continue to warm our universe, in the truest Catholic sense.”