Bishop-Elect Olson says at press conference he is ‘humbled’ by trust of Holy Father

By Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

Correspondent

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Bishop-Elect Michael Olson waves to reporters and diocesan staff at a press conference Nov. 19 introducing him as the new bishop of Fort Worth.

Local Catholics who know Bishop-Elect Michael F. Olson share a common observation about the man who will become the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth.

He loves his role as servant priest.

“I am consoled by the fact being a bishop means experiencing the fullness of the priesthood,” Bishop-Elect Olson said during a Nov. 19 press conference that introduced him to the Fort Worth media. “It means I can use this ministry for the good of all.”

Appointed to his new ministry by Pope Francis, he is the first priest ordained to serve in the Diocese of Fort Worth to become a bishop. At the age of 47, the Chicago area native is also the second youngest man to currently lead a Catholic diocese in the U.S., the youngest being his seminary classmate, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

He succeeds Bishop Kevin Vann who left Fort Worth to become Bishop of the Diocese of Orange, California in December 2012. Bishop-Elect Olson said he had received a congratulatory call from his predecessor.

“Bishop Vann said he was very happy for me and very proud,” the bishop-elect said, describing the conversation. “I learned a lot from Bishop Vann by working at his side during his ministry here. I hope to continue moving forward from where he left off.”

For the past five and a half years, Bishop-Elect Olson has directed the formation of young men studying for the priesthood as rector at Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving. Prior to receiving that assignment in July 2008, he served as vicar general in the diocese and pastor at St. Peter the Apostle Church in White Settlement.

The experienced administrator told the gathering of reporters and staff at the diocesan Catholic Center that Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., contacted him Nov. 12 with news that the Holy Father wanted him to be the next bishop of Fort Worth. “Relying on help from Almighty God and his Blessed Mother,” the monsignor accepted his new position.

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Bishop-Elect Olson (center) celebrates his first public Mass after being announced as the new bishop of Fort Worth at St. Patrick Cathedral. He is joined by priests of the diocese, including diocesan chancellor, the Very Rev. Dan Kelley (to his right), and Diocesan Administrator Monsignor Stephen Berg (to his left).

He spent the next week in prayer and discernment.

“I’m humbled by Pope Francis’ trust in me,” the bishop-elect said. “I feel gratitude to the Holy Father for this mission, to my parents for the gift of life and faith, and for the gift of my 20 years in the priesthood.”

Before taking questions from reporters, Bishop-Elect Olson mentioned another message he received from the pontiff.

“The Apostolic Nuncio told me the Holy Father holds our diocese in great esteem as part of the New Evangelization,” he continued. “It’s part of a vital area of growth in the Church.”

During his remarks at the news conference, Bishop-Elect Olson invited the gathering to join him in prayer at St. Patrick Cathedral where he was scheduled to celebrate the noon Mass. The Olson family and more than 400 Catholics from across the diocese attended the liturgy. Many lingered to offer congratulations afterwards.

Whitney Womack wore her red hat to the cathedral in honor of the occasion. The pro-life advocate met Bishop-Elect Olson when he would pray outside the local Planned Parenthood abortion facility with other pro-life supporters. “I’m so happy. The monsignor is so personable and down to earth,” she said. “He knows everybody.”

Pat Pelletier, who along with her husband Chuck Pelletier is a long-time close friend of Bishop-Elect Olson, said the naming of Msgr. Olson as bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth was “a very specific answer to a very specific prayer. I think it will be wonderful for the entire diocese.”

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BpElect-Olson-Press-Conference-BUTTON.jpgFather Christopher Stainbrook still remembers the trepidation his parishioners felt when St. Timothy, an Anglican congregation, decided to join the Catholic Church as part of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. “People were unsure and feared leaving the familiar for the unknown,” the pastor explains. Monsignor Michael F. Olson, who instructed parish members on the Sacrament of Confirmation, eased their anxiety. “He made a whole room full of people feel relaxed and welcomed,” Fr. Stainbrook recalls. “My parishioners are going to be very happy that he’s their new bishop. He’s a teacher — a real people person.”

BpDes-Olson-Waving-BUTTON.jpgLocal Catholics who know Bishop-Elect Michael F. Olson share a common observation about the man who will become the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth — he loves his role as servant priest. “I am consoled by the fact being a bishop means experiencing the fullness of the priesthood,” Bishop-Elect Olson said during a Nov. 19 press conference that introduced him to the Fort Worth media. “It means I can use this ministry for the good of all.”

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