Fanning themselves with programs in Thursday's sweltering heat, about 1,000 people crowded into the Holy Family Cathedral in Orange to welcome the new spiritual leader of Orange County's 610,000 Roman Catholics.
He is Tod David Brown, appointed bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange in June to succeed Bishop Norman F. McFarland, who retired earlier this year.
On hand were 150 white-robed priests from across California, as well as 45 bishops and archbishops in red skullcaps.
Addressing a standing-room-only crowd that spilled into the street, Brown joked from the pulpit about the oppressive heat. "Welcome to the Orange County tropical zone," he said.
"I hope to lead us together into the new millennium," Brown, 61, told those on hand for an installation ceremony that featured contemporary religious music to the accompaniment of guitars and drums.
"I am humbled by your eager and open-hearted welcome," Brown said. "I am feeling a mixture of surprise and wonder at finding myself here in Orange."
Indeed, the new bishop followed a rather circuitous route to get here. A native of San Francisco, he was ordained and spent the first years of his priesthood in Monterey. Later he became the bishop of Boise, Idaho, where he has been since 1989.
"He has been a good shepherd and leader who has served with zeal and with zest," Agostino Cacciavillan said in formally installing Orange County's third bishop since the diocese was formed in 1976. Cacciavillan, whose title is apostolic nuncio to the United States, represents the pope in this country. "This is an important moment," he said of the ceremony, "a wonderful opportunity."
Cardinal Roger Mahony, the metropolitan archbishop of Los Angeles, welcomed Brown as his "longtime friend."
Evident in the ceremony was the ethnic and cultural diversity that characterizes Orange County's Catholics. Most of the liturgical readings were in Spanish, Vietnamese and English.
After receiving his crozier, the staff symbolizing the shepherding of his religious flock, the new bishop was greeted in succession by three couples dressed in the traditional clothing of their ethnic communities: Mexican, Vietnamese and Korean. In the crowd were several clergymen of other faiths and denominations dressed in the vestments of their religions: Judaism, Hinduism, Greek Orthodox, United Methodist and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
"It shows the continuing concern of the church for all people," said Monsignor Lawrence J. Baird, a spokesman for the diocese. "We share the belief that the bishop comes to teach. We are all created by God and called together to eternal salvation."
As he was leaving the church, Brown expressed enthusiasm for his new assignment. "I am overjoyed," the new bishop said of his appointment to Orange County. "I look forward to doing my ministry here."