Fort Worth Diocese has new leader

The 710,000 Catholics in the 28-county Diocese of Fort Worth finally know who their new bishop will be.

Pope Francis announced Tuesday that the Rev. Monsignor Michael Olson, who was ordained a priest in the diocese in 1994 and served most recently as rector of Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving, will be installed as bishop Jan. 29.

He will succeed Bishop Kevin Vann, who was appointed Bishop of Orange, Calif., in September 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI.

It’s the first time a priest from the diocese has been named its bishop.

The announcement has been long awaited. Temporary leaders of the diocese had been looking forward to news of their new bishop in February, when the Vatican was rocked by Benedict’s surprise resignation.

In a meeting with reporters Tuesday, Bishop-elect Olson said he was delighted with his new post. He said he will serve “the priests, deacons, religious, and all the faithful.”

He said a bishop is given to a diocese, not the other way around, and he singled out support for priests as his “most proximate concern.”

“I love being a priest,” Olson said.

While he said it is too early to outline all his goals for the diocese, he recognized its evangelical role and its ministry to immigrants and the poor, “those people who would otherwise fall to the margins of society.”

Vann will be a tough act to follow. He oversaw tremendous growth in the diocese after taking over upon the death of Bishop Joseph Delaney in 2005.

When the diocese marked its 40th anniversary in 2009, its Catholic population was pegged at 562,000. In the short time since, that number has grown more than 26 percent.

But Vann also saw the diocese through some of its darkest times, revelations of sexual abuse by some of its priests. That included the 2006 release of files showing that Delaney and other church leaders sometimes intentionally misled the public, their congregations and the priests’ accusers.

Olson, humble and obviously flattered after Tuesday’s announcement, struck a lighthearted and bright tone. He’s clearly serious about fulfilling the role of the church and supporting its members.

Maybe he’ll be able to do that with a smile on his face.

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