To the cheers of the faithful, church officials in Orange County introduced a new auxiliary bishop on Wednesday for the nation's 10th-largest Roman Catholic diocese, giving the Rev. Timothy Freyer an ornate pectoral cross to symbolize his new position.
Freyer, 53, draped it over his chest before taking the microphone at the Christ Cathedral campus in Garden Grove and thanking the crowd in Spanish and English.
He remembered his heart "racing with nervousness" when he first learned he had been chosen for the post, only to reflect that each role in his evolution as a priest "has been better than I can imagine." He promised to do all he can to help Bishop Kevin Vann, head of the Diocese of Orange, a diverse and growing community of 62 parishes and centers, 41 schools and 1.3 million Catholics. Freyer is currently the diocese's episcopal vicar for priests.
Born in Los Angeles, Freyer grew up in Huntington Beach as an only child. No one in his family has worked as a priest and, unlike his classmates, he never rose early to go surfing and remembers his mother urging him to get to school on time.
Vann described Freyer as someone with a "love of his vocation, and his care for the Lord's people certainly mirror my own convictions about the priesthood."
Freyer said he was eager to assist in developing the diocese's new pastoral plan and focus on evangelization, "creating experiences to allow us to share our faith more deeply."
A graduate of Huntington Beach High School, he attended St. John's Seminary College in Camarillo and, following his ordination as a priest in 1989, started on his first assignment as associate pastor at St. Hedwig Church in Los Alamitos. Later, after working at Our Lady of Fatima Church in San Clemente, he signed up for language immersion classes in Mexico.
More than 40% of the diocese's current population is Latino, according to officials, who also hope to get a Vietnamese American as auxiliary bishop in the near future.
"This is timely. We love Father Tim. You can tell from his homilies that he's full of zeal and his words deliver just the right amount of support," said Daniel Herrera, a member of St. Anne Catholic Church in Santa Ana.
Steve Sallot, the diocese's vicar general, praised the Holy See's appointment of Freyer, calling it "an early Christmas gift."
"Please be patient with me," Freyer, a founding board member of the Anaheim Family Justice Center and a chaplain for Anaheim's police department, told the crowd as cameras whirred. In the days leading to his official ordination on Jan. 17, he asked for one favor: "Please pray for me."