Diocese of Fort Worth Past Bishops: Kevin William Vann (2005-2012)

By Nicki Prevou


Bishop Kevin Vann’s formal portrait. (By Donna Ryckaert / NTC)

Bishop Kevin William Vann was born May 10, 1951 in Springfield, Illinois, the oldest of six children born to William M. Vann, Jr., and Theresa Jones Vann. A graduate of Springfield’s St. Agnes Catholic School and of Griffin Catholic High School, he attended Springfield College and earned a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology from Millikan University in Decatur, Illinois.

After working as a laboratory technician at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, he became a seminarian in 1976, studying for one year at the Immaculate Conception Diocesan Seminary in Springfield and for four years at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis.

After his ordination May 30, 1981, Father Vann was assigned to graduate studies in canon law at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) in Rome, with residence at the graduate house of the Pontifical North American College in Rome. There he earned his JCD, or doctorate in canon law, in May 1985.

Upon returning to the Diocese of Springfield, the young priest became involved in the work of the diocesan Tribunal, serving as judge, defender of the bond, and procurator from 1985 to 1994. From 1994-2005, Father Vann also served as judicial vicar for the Interdiocesan Tribunal of Second Instance for the Province of Chicago.

Father Vann taught canon law at his alma mater, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, and, through the years, served as parochial administrator for several parishes, and as pastor of three others, including St. Benedict Church in Auburn from 1990-1992, and of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Decatur from 1992-2001. His last assignment in the Springfield Diocese was at Blessed Sacrament Church, where he served as pastor from 2001 to 2005.

Beloved by his fellow priests and by parishioners across the diocese, the dedicated young priest was known for his gift for pastoral care and for his deep commitment to the needs of those within the Hispanic community. Father Vann went on to study Spanish and was named the official contact for Hispanic Ministry within the Diocese of Springfield in 1999.

In addition to his many pastoral duties, Father Vann was also named Vicar for Clergy for the diocese. He was raised to the rank of Honorary Chaplain to His Holiness, with the title of Monsignor, on February 19, 2002.

On May 17, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Msgr.Vann coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth. His predecessor, Bishop Joseph Patrick Delaney, died unexpectedly on July 12, 2005, and Msgr. Vann received his episcopal consecration on the following day, July 13, at the Daniel-Meyer Coliseum at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, and was installed as the third bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth.

During his seven and a half years in Texas, the dynamic pastoral leader became popular across the 28 counties of the diocese for his unique ability to remember the names and personal stories of literally thousands of Catholic parishioners with whom he came into contact.

Friendly and approachable, the down-to-earth Midwesterner was also termed a “visionary” by his enthusiastic supporters. Bishop Vann is credited with the explosive growth of Catholic parishes and ministries in both rural and urban areas, as the diocese became one of the fastest growing and most diverse Catholic dioceses in the United States.

Pope Benedict XVI greets Bishop Vann during a March 16, 2012, during the ad limina visit to the Vatican. (CNS photo / L’Osservatore Romano)

Under his direction, the visibility and scope of vocation ministries dramatically increased, as growing numbers of young men entered seminaries. Twenty-one priests (including six for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter) were ordained between 2005 and 2012, and, at Bishop Vann’s invitation, several congregations of women religious came into the diocese to serve within a variety of areas, including education and healthcare.

Early in his service as bishop, he also became known for his commitment to protecting the rights of the unborn, the elderly, and other vulnerable members of society.

A regular presence at the National March for Life each January in Washington, D.C., the bishop encouraged, promoted, and established a wide variety of pro-life ministries and events across the diocese. He also participated as an enthusiastic partner with Catholic Charities of Fort Worth (CCFW). Heather Reynolds, the organization’s CEO, noted Bishop Vann’s tireless support of Catholic Charities’ role as the social justice arm of the Catholic Church in North Texas, a commitment that led to tremendous growth in services offered to those in need.

“His leadership in the diocese has allowed Catholic Charities to grow and thrive in our Gospel call to serve the poor and vulnerable in our diocese,” Reynolds said. “People have been given hope, refugees and immigrants have been given a second chance, and children have been given a safe place to live because of what the bishop has allowed us to do.”

Lauded for his consistent support of Catholic education, Bishop Vann was recognized for his restructuring of the diocesan school system in order to ensure its financial stability. At the Jan. 26, 2013 Celebration of Catholic Schools, an annual event, Bishop Vann returned from California to receive the schools’ annual Diocesan Leadership Award.

The bishop collaborated closely with other bishops through the Texas Catholic Conference and through Region X, an area that encompasses the dioceses of Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. A tireless advocate of compassionate immigration reform, he served as the Texas Bishops’ Liaison to the Texas Mission Council and on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration.

Bishop Vann’s coat of arms.

His expertise in Catholic healthcare was invaluable as he worked with the Catholic Bishops of Texas in expressing opposition to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that all medical insurance and care plans pay for preventive services including contraceptives and abortifacients, with only a narrow and insufficient conscience protection and exemption clause for religious organizations.

In a lawsuit filed in May 2012 at Bishop Vann’s request, the Diocese of Fort Worth sued the federal government, protesting the mandate’s attack upon religious liberties.

An experienced mediator, the bishop’s leadership at the national level included service on an ad hoc committee which assisted the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to guide the incorporation of Anglican groups into the Catholic Church of the United States.

On Nov. 15, 2011, Bishop Vann was appointed by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to serve as the new Ecclesiastical Delegate of the Holy See for the pastoral provision, a process that allows former Anglican priests, including those who are married, to become diocesan priests in the U.S. Catholic Church.

As the delegate for the U.S., Bishop Vann works with former Anglican clergy who have entered the Catholic Church and wish to pursue a call to the priesthood.

Pope Benedict XVI announced Sept. 21, 2012, that the bishop would become the new bishop of Orange, California, replacing the former Bishop Tod D. Brown, who had reached retirement age. Bishop Vann was installed as fourth bishop of the Diocese of Orange during a Mass celebrated Dec. 10 at the University of California-Irvine Bren Events Center in Irvine, California. Among the approximately 4,000 in attendance at the Mass were hundreds of priests and lay people from the Diocese of Fort Worth who traveled to California to thank their former bishop and to wish him well in his new life.

See Also

St.-Patrick-Cathedral-BUTTON.jpgA brief history of the Diocese of Fort Worth

In 1890 the Catholic population of the area of the Brazos and Trinity rivers had grown large enough that Pope Leo XIII established the Diocese of Dallas. As early as 1870 Claude Marie Dubuis, the second bishop of Galveston (the diocese that encompassed all of Texas at the time), had begun sending Father Vincent Perrier twice a year to visit Fort Worth. At that time several Catholic families were meeting in the Carrico home. Fort Worth’s first parish church was a frame structure built at 1212 Throckmorton Street and called St. Stanislaus Church. It stood until 1907. The cornerstone of St. Patrick Church, which eventually became St. Patrick Cathedral, was laid in 1888; the church was built just north of St. Stanislaus and dedicated in 1892. When Dallas was made a diocese the region that eventually became the Diocese of Fort Worth had seven parishes: in Fort Worth, Cleburne, Gainesville, Henrietta, Hillsboro, Muenster, and Weatherford.

Bp-Cassata-in-Choir-Cassock-BUTTON.jpgDiocese of Fort Worth Past Bishops: John Joseph Cassata (1969-1980)

John Joseph Cassata, the first bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth, was born in Galveston, on Nov. 8, 1908, the son of Vincent and Anna (Pizzitola) Cassata, both natives of Sicily, Italy. When he died in Houston on Sept. 8, 1989, from complications of  heart surgery at the age of 80, he was eulogized as a “wonderful” priest and bishop, as a loyal, generous friend, and as a devoted brother to his six siblings.

Bp-Delaney-in-Choir-Cassock-BUTTON.jpgDiocese of Fort Worth Past Bishops: Joseph Patrick Delaney (1981-2005)

The second bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Bishop Joseph Patrick Delaney, was born in Fall River, Massachusetts on Aug. 29, 1934. The eldest of five children born to Joseph and Jane Delaney, he was part of a devout, close-knit, and loving Irish family.

Bp-Vann-in-Choir-Cassock-BUTTON.jpgBishop Kevin William Vann was born May 10, 1951 in Springfield, Illinois, the oldest of six children born to William M. Vann, Jr., and Theresa Jones Vann. A graduate of Springfield’s St. Agnes Catholic School and of Griffin Catholic High School, he attended Springfield College and earned a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology from Millikan University in Decatur, Illinois.