Over 8.6 millionCatholics live in Southern California. Comprised of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Dioceses of Orange, SanBernardino and San Diego, they represent a microcosm of the nation's demographic diversity and social challenges. Affluence contrasts with abject poverty where many towns have 30 percent of children living in poverty. The nation's southern boarder is a constant reminder of immigration challenges and the reality of deportations hovers over many parishes. Constant reminders of homelessness fueled by high housing costs are just outside many parish front doors. LosAngles is the nation's largest diocese, Orange is the seventh largest. On any Sunday, liturgy is celebrated in over 40 languages in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
While Church inSouthern California is graced by cultural diversity, pressures of orthodox theological uniformity to dismiss the richness of Catholic thought punctuate parishes and programs. Social concerns can be dismissed to focus on polarizing mores fueling culture wars. Special interest apostolates given credence and influence can challenge the People of God, Body of Christ visioning Church with contemporary modalities of inclusion and welcome. Collaboration can be stifled by control rooted in clericalism. Preponderance for apologetics can drown out listening to the stories of others, so we remain "us" and "them".
Fed at the Eucharistic table, Church in Southern California struggles to become a vibrant, inclusiveChurch when narrow paradigms dominate message and mission to snuff out vision and workings of the Holy Spirit. The thirsting for Church of spiritual substance and relevant to the diverse nuances of life seems like a mirage on aSo Cal desert for many So Cal Catholics. Yet some in their thirsting, clergy and laity, keep articulating their hope rooted in Gospel precepts and dialogue to close crevasses of divide. The potential for 8.6 million So Cal Catholics to be leaven in Church and their communities could be transformative if thirsting for the potential of what Church could be was quenched. An effervescent source of refreshing Living Water, like proverbial ocean waves of grace, if allowed to be articulate in word and action and not hindered by systemic spiritual traffic jams rooted in control and desire to reside in spiritual silos isolated from the world instead of heeding the Gospel call to go out into the world.