In a groundbreaking decision, San Diego Catholic Bishop Robert W. McElroy appointed María Olivia (Marioly) Galván as the diocese’s first woman chancellor. In addition, she will serve in a new position, director of Pastoral Ministries, overseeing and supporting seven departments.

The offices are the Diocesan Institute, Family Life and Spirituality, Liturgy and Spirituality, Social Ministry, Young Adult Ministry, Youth Ministry, and Evangelization and Catechetical Ministry, which she has directed for two years and will continue to do so.

The appointment comes at a time when the diocese is focused on reaching more Catholics, particularly those no longer practicing their faith. A new Office for Family Life and Spirituality opened last summer to meet the distinct needs of today’s families. The diocese is in the middle of a four-year national initiative to better serve Latino Catholics, called the V National Encuentro of Hispanic Ministry. And more innovative programing to engage young Catholics is being offered.

Galván, 35, is perfectly suited to champion all of these efforts, having worked her way up from part-time secretary to one of the highest lay positions at the diocese.

For the Chula Vista native, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, that journey began in high school when she responded to the call of being catechist at her home parish of St. John of the Cross in Lemon Grove.

And it continued while she obtained a degree in Business Administration, with a focus on real estate, an industry where she would work for almost 10 years.

The fact that she has become the first woman chancellor in the diocese is not lost on her.

“I think it speaks volumes of the presence of lay women in ministry, and specifically in leadership roles like this one,” she said. “It’s very humbling for me. I recognize what a huge responsibility it is.”

Her appointment follows a trend of the Church embracing more women, including laity, in leadership roles. Hoffsman Ospino, a national lecturer on the history of the Catholic Church, said that the number of women who serve as chancellors has been growing across the country but it’s still small. (In California, however, nine out of 12 dioceses have women chancellors, four of them religious women.)

Full story at The Southern Cross.