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This is a very special podcast-only edition of Orange County Catholic Radio!

Lend an ear as host Rick Howick welcomes Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Freyer back to the studio – to discuss the re-opening plan for our parishes in the Diocese of Orange.

Listen and SHARE.





Originally broadcast on 6/5/20


As the nation continues to work through the challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Orange County Catholic schools continue to deliver quality instruction through distance-learning platforms.  

After moving swiftly to distance learning back on March 18, each school site is monitoring students’ progress and obtaining feedback from families in an effort to refine program features.  

“Parent satisfaction is one of the barometers we use to measure the success of the distance learning program,” says Diocese of Orange Assistant Superintendent Dr. Denise Valadez. “We’re relying on parental support now more than ever.” 

A parent survey that went out to families at elementary school sites within the first two weeks of program implementation generated a specific request – more a personal connection between students and teachers. In response, teachers have increased their use of live video communication platforms, such as Zoom and Google Meet, not only for curriculum instruction, but also for virtual community-building activities. 

“We’re really concerned about the social and emotional wellbeing of our students,” says Valadez. “So we wanted to put some intentional focus on that. We wanted our students to be able to see our teachers, and vice versa.” 

A second and more recent parent survey with approximately 2,000 responses revealed that more than 75 percent of parents rated the distance learning program at their child’s school with a mark of either 4 or 5, with 5 being “excellent.” 

“For the most part, our parents are very pleased with the program and how quickly our teachers were able to pivot to get this off the ground,” says Valadez. 

Even with the program’s positive feedback, Valadez acknowledges that distance learning is not the same as traditional in-class instruction, and as such, there are likely to be some learning gaps for students as they continue to learn from home. 

On April 28, 2020, the Los Angeles Times reported that Gov. Gavin Newsom is considering a possible early start to the next academic school year for California public schools – in late July or early August – as a way of addressing learning losses due to school closures. But Valadez states that no such measures will be needed for Orange County Catholic schools, and plans are already in place to address any learning gaps that may surface.  

“In order to help mitigate that our teachers are working over the next several weeks…to make sure that they hit those essential skills (within the standards) that are needed for next year,” says Valadez. 

Valadez also says that teachers will be more thoughtful and specific in the narrative comments they put in the third trimester report cards to aid those parents who plan to work with their children over the summer. 

Additionally, teachers at school sites will be meeting with the next grade level to convey the areas they focused on during distance learning, as well as potential areas of growth that may need more attention. Since “summer slide” is already a scenario schools deal with annually, Valadez is confident that with these conversations, both teachers and students will be adequately prepared for the fall. 

“There is that collaboration between grade levels so that everyone is aware of where the kids are going forward,” says Valadez. 

The schools will maintain current grading systems for core classes and will continue distance-learning delivery through the remainder of the school year. Communication between schools and families will remain a priority as both work together to set students up for success. 

“Our teachers have…taken this opportunity to show their strengths and to be intentional about the program that they’re offering our kids,” says Valadez. “They are providing our students with a lot of feedback so they will be prepared for success for next year.”


More than 20 married couples from the Diocese of Orange used this time of social distancing to grow closer to each other through the BE LIGHT Date Night series from April 26 to 30. They were among 1,500 couples from 144 dioceses in 9 countries who participated in this free five-night virtual series from Witness to Love marriage preparation renewal ministry. 

Hosted by Witness to Love founders Mary Rose and Ryan Verret, each date night featured a short, pre-recorded video presentation from a dynamic couple, reflection questions, and further resources. The presenting couples gave inspiring messages, sincerely sharing about their joys and struggles in quarantine with their young children, and highlighting the richness of our Catholic faith’s understanding of sacramental marriage. Participating couples from the Diocese of Orange were also invited to a follow-up Zoom hangout with the Office of Pastoral Care for Families in All Stages on Sunday, May 3, to share their experiences of the series. 

Couples with young children appreciated the flexible format of being able to do the date nights whenever they could—sometimes starting past 10 p.m., after finishing work from home and getting kids to bed. But even couples who have been married over 20 or 30 years found the series to be helpful for their relationship and enriching for their faith. Some of the couples found themselves having heated conversations one night, followed by healing conversations the next. Through the journey of the series, they were ultimately renewed. 

Marisela and Jose Cabrera from St. Anthony Claret parish in Anaheim invited friends, family, and other couples from their parish to go through the series together. For each of the five nights, seven to eight couples met with them on Zoom to share and discuss the reflection questions. The small group gathered virtually at 9 p.m. and easily went until past 11 p.m., only dispersing when Jose reminded them of the time.  

During the post-series Zoom hangout, many couples from the Diocese of Orange wistfully expressed sadness that the five nights were already over.  

In these times of sheltering at home and parish closures, the family—the “domestic church”—is all the more the main focus of faith formation and practice. Since marriage is the foundation of the family, strengthening marriages should be a real matter of priority for the Church as, in the prophetic words of Pope St. John Paul II, “Future evangelization depends largely on the domestic Church” (Familiaris Consortio 65). Marriage enrichment opportunities like these hopefully help married couples build their relationship with each other and to God and equip them to live as missionary disciples in and out of their homes. 


The BE LIGHT Date Night Series was re-released on May 10 for couples to go through asynchronously. For more information: