Fort Worth bishop has governor’s ear

Bishop Michael Olson
Bishop Michael Olson Star-Telegram

Those who stayed until the close of Tuesday’s inaugural festivities in Austin enjoyed a short respite from politic rhetoric as Fort Worth’s own Bishop Michael Olson delivered a gracious and reverent benediction in both English and Spanish.

“Bless us as one people with the courage to seek the common good for all members of our towns and cities, our counties and state, of our nation and our world,” he prayed before the thousands gathered.

For Olson, who will celebrate the first anniversary of his ordination next week, the invitation from longtime friend Gov. Greg Abbott, was an honor. “I was very humbled that the governor would ask me to do this,” he told the Star-Telegram’s Anna Tinsley after the ceremony.

The friendship began in Houston more than 25 years ago, when Olson was engaged in theological studies and Abbott was a young lawyer and judge.

But the inaugural crowds weren’t the bishop’s largest audience, and for a man of his age, potential and relationship with the newly minted governor, they are not likely to be his most important audience either.

Since taking the helm of Fort Worth’s burgeoning Roman Catholic diocese last January, Olson has found his perspective and guidance — on issues ranging from birth control and abortion to the border crisis and immigration — is frequently sought.

He was a thoughtful but unencumbered spokesman for the Catholic Church, calling for compassion and prudence, when thousands of women and unaccompanied minors flocked to the Rio Grande Valley last summer.

Olson’s particular expertise on healthcare ethics and his leadership role in the Roman Catholic Bishops of Texas is also likely to make him a strong voice on end-of-life issues that come before the Legislature this session.

While his friendship with Abbott most certainly prompted the invitation to speak at the inauguration, Olson also was recently appointed to the Governor’s Ministers Council, suggesting that his insights are desired in a more official capacity as well.

And for Bishop Olson, Texas Catholics and Fort Worth, having the ear of the governor can only be a good thing.