Tag Archives: Bishop Kevin Vann

Bridging the Gap

Pastor Rick Warren, who will speak at the 2016 Legatus Summit, holds “rock star” status among evangelicals — and he has great admiration for the Roman Catholic Church.

Rick Warren is known as “America’s Pastor” because of his engaging communication style and his massive cultural and political influence, both fueled by his bestselling books, including The Purpose Driven Life. What may be less familiar is how many initiatives Warren and his Saddleback mega-church in Lake Forest, Calif., have undertaken with the Catholic Church.  (Warren joins a host of other well-known speakers at the Annual Legatus Summit, Jan. 28-30,
in Orlando.)

Catholic connection

During the past year alone, Warren has spoken at three important Catholic meetings.

“Pope Francis asked me to speak at the Vatican’s colloquium last November on the complementarity of men and women,” Warren told Legatus magazine. “In March, I was a speaker at the largest Catholic religious education conference in the U.S., held by the archdiocese of Los Angeles.”

During Pope Francis’ visit in September, Warren was at the White House reception for the pontiff. He also attended the canonization of Junípero Serra at Catholic University of America.


Rick Warren meets with Pope Francis at a Vatican conference on the family in November 2014 (Braven Carver, SBC)

“Serra is dear to my heart and that of my wife Kay’s,” he said. “This is the man who basically brought the Church to California.”

Warren and his team from Saddleback — America’s eighth largest church — were the only non-Catholics invited to a dinner in D.C. for American bishops after the canonization. In Philadelphia, Warren spoke to a capacity crowd at the World Meeting of Families, sharing the stage with Boston’s Cardinal Seán O’Malley.

Mental illness

Back on the West Coast, Warren has worked with Bishop Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Orange, Calif., on several initiatives. Their best-know endeavor was a set of conferences on mental health co-sponsored by Saddleback Church and the Diocese of Orange in March 2014 and October 2015. The events were a response to the suicide of Warren’s son Matthew in 2013.

“Immediately after the passing of Warren’s son, Bishop Vann reached out and prayed with the Warren family,” said Ryan Lilyengren, Bishop Vann’s communications director. “We were very happy to partner with them for these two conferences.”

Warren’s goal is to remove the stigma of mental illness.

“It is not a sin to be sick,” he explained. “Mental illness is no different than any other disease. If my heart is sick, I take a pill. There is no shame in that. If you have a mental illness and take a pill for that, why is there shame? The church can do much to remove the stigma.”

Though Warren and his wife prayed for a miracle and hoped to at least find the right medication to manage Matthew’s depression, their son took his life five days after Easter in 2013. Warren stopped preaching for four months and stayed at home to listen to God.

Rick Warren and Bishop Kevin Vann pose together at Saddleback Church on Feb. 24, 2014 (AP Photo/Nick Ut )

Rick Warren and Bishop Kevin Vann pose
together at Saddleback Church on Feb. 24,
2014 (AP Photo/Nick Ut )

“What I have come to realize is that in God’s garden of grace, even broken trees can bear fruit,” he said. “None of us have a mind and body that works perfectly. We all suffer from some kind of physical or mental problem. There are 60 million adults who struggle with mental health issues in the U.S. Most suffer in silence. Churches and businesses must speak up about this. There can be no stigma.”

Another outburst of grace from the pain of Matthew’s suicide is a new book on hope that Warren is writing.

“I plan to speak about the power of hope at Legatus’ Summit,” he said. “My new book is called The Hope You Need. It is on the Lord’s Prayer. It will be released in 2016. For 35 years, I have preached on the Lord’s Prayer. This is a profoundly deep prayer. In it, there are 10 antidotes to hopelessness.”

Working together

What many find astounding is Warren’s willingness to embrace Catholics as his brothers and sisters in the faith. While many Protestant leaders espouse and teach anti-Catholicism, Warren rejects this idea.

“We have much more in common than anything else,” said Warren. “As the world becomes more secular, we have to remember that we — evangelicals and Catholics — hold the sanctity of life, sex and marriage in common. We have serious disagreements to be sure, but that does not mean we can’t love each other.

“If we only stayed around people who totally agreed with us on everything, we could never be married or have friends. Do we all believe in the Holy Trinity? Yes. That Jesus was the Son of God who died and rose from the dead? Yes. In heaven and hell? Yes. In the bible? Yes. That salvation is through Jesus Christ? Yes. Then we are on the same team. We can have unity without uniformity.”

Warren worked closely with the Diocese of Orange this past year to fight the bill that legalized assisted suicide in California. Since the bill’s passage in October, Warren has worked with the diocese on a referendum to repeal the law. Warren has also spoken to the diocese’s priests on the New Evangelization.

The close relationship between Warren and the diocese is somewhat unique in the U.S.

“Bishop Vann has been incredibly pleased with the wonderful relationship between the diocese and evangelicals from Saddleback,” Lilyengren said. “We may have our differences, but the love of God is the most important thing.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Many Catholics would be surprised to know that Archbishop Fulton Sheen has had a major influence on Warren’s life.

“Fulton Sheen was a great, godly man,” Warren said. “He was the forerunner of many priests today in using the media. I have watched every episode [of his television program Life Is Worth Living] ever made and read all his books.”

Warren said he often watches EWTN, and he apparently prays the Divine Mercy Chaplet with his wife every day. He counts Pope St. John Paul II and Blessed Mother Teresa as his heroes. He has read the works of Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas à Kempis and the Desert Fathers.

“What I love about Dr. Rick Warren is that he truly does love the Catholic Church,” said Kathleen Eaton-Bravo, a member of Legatus’ Orange Coast Chapter and founder of Obria Medical Clinics. “Coming from one of the biggest evangelical churches in the U.S., this is a miracle in itself. There is a ‘fear factor’ among evangelicals, but Rick makes sure that anti-Catholicism stays out of Saddleback Church. We have reached out to all the evangelical churches in our area, but the only one who has embraced us is Saddleback.”

Boston Cardinal Seán O’Malley and Rick Warren take the stage at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia on Sept. 25 (Gregory L. Tracy photo)

Boston Cardinal Seán O’Malley and Rick Warren take the stage at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia on Sept. 25 (Gregory L. Tracy photo)

On the issue of religious freedom, Warren has often stood up for the Catholic Church.

“Religious freedom makes the U.S. unique,” he said. “It is our first freedom and most important freedom. It comes before freedom of the press, speech, assembly, the right to bear arms. If I don’t have the freedom to believe and practice my religion, then I don’t need all the other freedoms.”

Warren has also stood with the Catholic Church against same-sex “marriage.”

“I would remind people that the Church has never been on the right side of history,” he said. “For 2,000 years, one culture after another has crumbled. But the Church still stands. If Jesus comes in 1,000 years, there may not be a U.S., but there will be the Church. If five people on the Supreme Court think that they can change the definition of marriage for billions of people, they are deluded.”

Ultimately, Warren’s friendship with the Catholic Church is a welcome sign of hope and unity in a world of discord and division.

“I think the mission God has given to Rick is to bring evangelicals and Catholics together through his powerful voice,” said Eaton-Bravo. “God has called him to be a unifier. Pope Francis looks to Rick Warren as an opportunity to bring Christians together as never before.”

SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.

Your invitation to the 2016 Summit

The clock is ticking down to Legatus’ 2016 Summit — and excitement is building toward the Jan. 28-30 event at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, in Orlando, Fla. Because a capacity crowd of more than 500 participants is anticipated, organizers suggest registering for the Summit as early as possible.

“The schedule is full of speakers that will entertain, educate and enrich our spiritual lives,” said Laura Sacha, Legatus’ conference director. “Hosted by Legatus’ Lincoln Chapter, the Summit’s theme — No More Comfortable Catholicism — is timely because Legatus is on the front lines of the New Evangelization.”

The Summit’s roster of speakers and special guests is impressive:

• Tony B, singer/performer

• Dr. William Donohue, the Catholic League

• Dr. Robert P. George, Princeton University

• Dr. Ray Guarendi, clinical psychologist

• Anne Hendershott, Franciscan University of Steubenville

• Bishop Sam Jacobs, national chaplain

• Ali Landry, actress/master of ceremonies

• Patrick Lencioni, author

• Dr. Ralph Martin, Renewal Ministries

• Bishop John Noonan, Bishop of Orlando

• Fr. Frank Pavone, Priests for Life

• Joseph Pearce, Aquinas College

• Cardinal George Pell, Vatican

• Lloyd Reeb, author

• Sal Salvo, financial expert

• Fr. Mike Schmitz, Diocese of Duluth

• Pastor Rick Warren, Saddleback Church

Thomas Aquinas College hosts a discussion seminar about the meaning and importance of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ first encyclical, and the annual Legatus golf outing takes place at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Orlando, Grande Lakes.

For more details, visit sign at the top of this page or call (866) 534-2887.

Transforming the Crystal Cathedral

Legates help acquire the cathedral and transform it into a Catholic worship space . . .

cover-feb14When Legates in California’s Orange County tell the story of how Dr. Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral became their diocesan cathedral, they use superlatives like “miracle” and “astounding.”

“It’s probably one of the most amazing miracles I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Tim Busch of the Orange County Chapter. Fellow Legate Jim Tecca concurred: “It was one of the most astounding things I’ve ever seen in business.”

Historic deal

The acquisition of the iconic church and its 34-acre complex by the Diocese of Orange started out somewhat inauspiciously as an idea not everyone was ready to embrace.

Tim Busch

Tim Busch

In fact, when Busch asked, “Why don’t we buy the Crystal Cathedral?” at a meeting of then-Bishop Tod Brown’s executive committee, the bishop and most of those present turned thumbs down.

Bishop Brown in particular was concerned that trying to buy the property, which belonged to Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral Ministries and was in bankruptcy proceedings, could touch off a “holy war.”

“He didn’t want any animosity to exist between two Christian churches,” Busch explained.

However, the idea resonated with Monsignor Lawrence Baird, chaplain of Legatus’ Orange County Chapter, who was at the meeting, leading to discussions about why acquiring the Garden Grove property might make sense for the relatively young diocese of 1.2 million Catholics, still without its own cathedral.

Advisers convinced Bishop Brown that buying and adapting the site would be less expensive than building a new cathedral, and Busch began making inquiries behind the scenes. After Crystal Cathedral Ministries announced that a real estate developer wanted to acquire the property, the diocese made its interest in the site public. That was in July 2011, and by the following February, the $57.5 million purchase had been completed.

Christ Cathedral

Christ Cathedral

Worship space

Several months later, work began on a series of renovations and restorations that culminated in relocating St. Callistus Church to the Arboretum (the first worship building built on the Crystal Cathedral campus), and moving the diocesan offices and St. Callistus School (since renamed Christ Cathedral Academy) to a four-story building on the property.

Now the focus is on transforming the former Protestant mega-church known as the Crystal Cathedral into a Catholic place of worship called Christ Cathedral. The diocese expects to have the church ready as a fully functioning cathedral in 2016.

“We want the interior to reflect classic Catholic worship,” said Bishop Kevin Vann, who had served as Legatus’ Dallas Chapter chaplain prior to being named bishop of Orange last year.

As he walks the campus in the morning or on his lunch break, Bishop Vann said he sees it as a place of worship and also great energy. “There’s a lot of new life. Everybody’s beginning to feel it, too.”

In particular, he said, “the cathedral points to God and draws others to it.” Furthermore, he added, “it makes a statement that Christ is here, the local Church is here and we’re about the business of preaching the Gospel.”

Serving the Church

Rob Neal

Rob Neal

Throughout the process of acquiring and developing the site, Legatus members have been key players, giving their time and talent, but also their treasure.

Cindy Bobruk, executive director of the Orange Catholic Foundation, said with their contributions Legates have helped move the project forward and also have supported the $100-million For Christ Forever capital campaign, which will fund the cathedral project along with Catholic education, parish support, priest retirement and diocesan ministries.

Rob Neal is a member of Legatus’ Orange Coast Chapter and chairman of the Christ Cathedral architecture and renovation committee. He said it’s not surprising that Legates in the diocese, which is home to four chapters, would have been extensively involved in the project.

“It’s exactly what [Legatus founder] Tom Monaghan sensed would happen — that he would create a corps of faith-filled leaders in the community who would have the leadership skills and the financial substance to be of great assistance to their faith,” he explained.

Neal said Legates’ participation in the project has been such that when he goes to meetings of the Cathedral Guild — a group of leaders who have supported the Christ Cathedral at a certain giving level — “it’s like going to a Legatus meeting.”

Busch, whose law firm represented the diocese in negotiations for the Crystal Cathedral property acquisition, said it is no secret that many Legates are leaders in the Orange diocese.

“Through Legatus and meeting every month, you get to know these people personally,” he said. “You’re in a position where you can call them up and sort of put together a group so it doesn’t seem like you’re the only guy supporting this idea.”

In advancing the plan to buy the Crystal Cathedral property, for example, he was joined by fellow Legates Mike Hagan and Jim Tecca, a retired Wachovia Bank CEO, who is now chairman of the Orange Catholic Foundation board.

Miraculous acquisition


Orange County Legates pose at Christ Cathedral

Legates involved in the project, however, know that it took more than their connections and professional expertise to make the acquisition happen. A significant element was the support of Schuller, whom Busch informed of the diocese’s plans as soon as they were made public.

“The very day I sent the letter,” Busch said, “I got a call from Dr. Schuller on voicemail, saying he was extremely interested in the Roman Catholic Church buying the Crystal Cathedral and to please keep him personally informed as to how the conversation was going.”

Meanwhile, several bidders for the property surfaced, including Chapman University. Initially, although Chapman’s bid was lower, it appeared the university was going to get the property because their proposal included a 30-year lease to Crystal Cathedral Ministries for continued use of the cathedral, something the diocese could not offer.

During the bankruptcy hearing the judge learned that Chapman’s bid was not going to fully pay creditors, so the university increased its bid and sent the offer back to the Crystal Cathedral Ministries board for reconsideration. Thanks to Schuller and his wife Arvella, the board’s vote favored the diocese’s now-lower bid.

In November 2011, the court approved the board’s decision after hours of testimony due to the judge’s disbelief that a debtor would accept a lower bid even though the creditors were paid in full under either bid.

“It was Divine Providence all along,” Busch said.

Another challenging aspect of the sale, he added, was learning after approval by the bankruptcy court that the diocese still needed permission from the Vatican because the purchase exceeded $10 million.

Over Thanksgiving weekend in 2011, Busch called American Church officials in Rome to garner support for the acquisition. “I started calling everybody we knew because we had to have this done and we knew it could take months.” Again, he said, “an amazing miracle happened.”

The diocese received a letter the Monday after Thanksgiving saying the question had been reviewed and the purchase would be approved.

Although the Crystal Cathedral Ministries property was an incredible real estate value for the diocese because of the worth of land and buildings (one estimate put it at $500 million), Neal, a developer and managing partner of Hager Pacific Properties, said buying it was more than a matter of economic calculus.

“This is a remarkable property that is literally unique,” he said. “I would challenge anyone to find another property in the world where you have the handwork of three of the greatest American architects located within 100 feet of each other. It’s located on a very large parcel of land in the geographic heart of one of the most densely populated areas in the world. It’s just unbelievable.”

JUDY ROBERTS is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.

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Faith, deep in the heart of Texas

Fort Worth chaplain Bishop Kevin Vann explains his love of Legatus and its mission . . .

Bishop Kevin Vann

Bishop Kevin Vann
Fort Worth Chapter

As a priest of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, Bishop Kevin W. Vann had pastored parishes ranging in size from 35 to 1,300 families. Then in 2005, he was asked to leave the Land of Lincoln to shepherd a multi-parish congregation in a state where little is done that isn’t giant — some 700,000 Catholics stretching over the 25,000 square miles that comprise the Fort Worth diocese. He was one of the first bishops appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, and Legatus was one of the first ambassadors to knock at the new bishop’s door.

Tell us about your call to the priesthood.

I grew up the oldest of six in a really good, hard-working Catholic family. I began thinking about becoming a priest when I was in grade school. But the idea went to the back of my mind through high school, a secular college and three years as a medical technologist. As a med tech I was around suffering and dying a lot, and that made me begin thinking again about becoming a priest. So in the spring of ’76 I went to the seminary, and on May 30 last year I celebrated my 30th anniversary of ordination.

How did you become acquainted with Legatus?

I knew about it when I was pastor in Illinois, but I didn’t know anybody in it. When you get the call to be bishop, however, a lot of people want to talk with you right away. Brian Von Gruben [Legatus’ Central Region director] was one of them. He came to see me about starting a chapter here. I liked the role Legatus could play in our diocese, so I decided that I not only wanted a chapter here, I wanted to be chaplain, too.

What I liked about Legatus was that it could serve — and now does serve — as a focal point for the faith formation of Catholic business leaders and their spouses. Deepening their spiritual and religious lives also helps them more clearly bring their faith into the workplace.

What impact has Legatus had on your diocese?

Newcomers are happily surprised that a Catholic business organization like this exists. And for the folks who’ve joined, it’s helping them heed the call to holiness and impact the culture around them.

I’d like to see progress in the number of members — we have about 35 now — as well as in the chapter’s visibility within the diocese. The challenge is getting the word out. Already we’ve been using the diocesan paper, sending invitations to prospective members and I’ve been hosting receptions at the cathedral.

You have a vocation, of course. Any avocations?

I read in the evening, and books by the Holy Father are at the top of my reading list. Right now I’m re-reading his second book on Jesus, his book Church Fathers and Teachers, and a compilation of his talks given on Bavarian radio. All are available from Ignatius Press.

I also studied piano for 10 years when I was young and enjoy playing at parties. Although I learned classical, I really enjoy music from the ’20s through the ’40s — especially ragtime and Broadway.

Any lessons you’ve learned as a priest that are especially apt for business leaders?

We live in a culture of instant expectations, but faith is not like that. We’re not going to start our faith journey one day and complete it tomorrow. I like the imagery in the story of the road to Emmaus. Our life of faith is a journey we walk in constant conversation with the Lord. The answers are rarely as instantaneous as e-mail.