Area priests are excited to serve with their colleague as their new shepherd

By Kathy Cribari Hamer



Bishop Olson celebrates noon Mass at St. Patrick Cathedral with many of his fellow priests concelebrating, following the Nov. 19, 2013, news conference announcing him as the fourth bishop of Fort Worth. This was the first public liturgy he celebrated after the announcement. (NTC Photo / Donna Ryckaert)

Enthusiastic priestly brothers have handed in a ringing, energized endorsement of their colleague, Bishop Michael Olson, appointed by the Holy See to be the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth.

Some acknowledged not only welcoming the local priest, but mentally choosing him. “I was hoping they would select someone from within the diocese, and he was one of the people I was hoping for,” said Father David Bristow, pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish on Fort Worth’s near South Side.

“If anyone comes in from the outside they have a rather large learning curve. This isn’t Kansas or California; it is Texas — North Texas in fact — and it has its own personality. Bishop Olson knows where he is, and he knows the people, and that is all for the good.

“He is very intelligent and also smart, which is needed in a bishop,” Fr. Bristow said. “And, he has a sense of humor. Being humorless in the work world would not work very well for a bishop.”

Father Jack McKone, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Wichita Falls said he is impressed by Bishop Olson’s intelligence and wit. “He is very bright. Don’t engage him in a duel of wits unless your sword is really sharp!

“His remarks seem to be synchronized with our Holy Father on care for the poor and outreach. Of course, being on the mission board, I was glad to hear that.

“I haven’t had any direct connection with him yet as far as outreach is concerned,” Fr. McKone said, “but when Hurricane Rita came through, I was the sacristan at Assumption Seminary, when he was on the faculty at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, and they had to evacuate seminarians to San Antonio.

“We were setting up for Mass, and it was an optional martyr’s feast day, so we had the choice of using optional red vestments. The St. Mary’s sacristan and I asked Fr. Olson what color he wanted, and he replied, ‘Do we have bread and wine? That’s all we need.’

“But he knows what is to be taken seriously,” Fr. McKone said. “It’s a blessing he was vicar general and knows our diocese’s strengths and weaknesses, and he still wasn’t afraid to say, ‘Yes,’ to the Holy Father.”

Father Alfredo Barba, associate pastor of St. Matthew Parish in Arlington remembered how he would bring seminarians from Holy Trinity Seminary to visit the parish.

“We have a big Spanish community at St. Matthew [and] he used to bring the seminarians … to experience the Hispanic culture.

“We are all very happy,” Fr. Barba added. “We had no pope and we had no bishop and now we have both!”


Bishop-elect Olson is escorted into the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena by Father Karl Schilken (left) of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Fort Worth, and Father Isaac Orozco (right) of Holy Angels Parish in Clifton and Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Morgan. (Photo by Donna Ryckaert)

“I have heard he is visiting the parishes and priests to see how they are,” Fr. Alfredo said. “A very close bishop helps us a lot.”

Father Khoi Tran, associate pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Denton, recalled that on the day Bishop Olson was appointed, he sent a letter to all of the priests.

“He told us, ‘I hope I will serve you well as a brother in Christ.’ This is a great thing.

“He is a very good administrator,” he added. “He brought the Holy Trinity Seminary ‘back to life.’ The seminary was very well known, but he revamped it, an administrative challenge, making it into a place where dioceses can send their seminarians for formation. He is known around the country as someone who is a capable man, and now every seminary room is filled. There is a lot of trust in him.”

Our Mother of Mercy Pastor, Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD, said, “I will always think of Msgr. Olson as, ‘One of the guys,’ very likeable.

“This year — before he was appointed to be our bishop, he had contacted our school principal Erin Vader and promised to visit and speak with the students. True to his promise, although he had made the promise before his appointment, he did visit. It was impressive. I was there to meet him and Monsignor Steve Berg, our diocesan administrator. It was a great thing for the school to have them here.

“From everything I have seen, Msgr. Olson is the kind of man you would want to be bishop. Grassroots people all say the same thing. ‘He will be like Pope Francis and go to the grass roots, not stay behind papers and a desk.’”

Father John Pacheco, pastoral administrator of Wichita Falls’ Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, commended Bishop Olson as a “priest’s priest. He understands what the priesthood is about, and he is very humble. In my mind it will be an exciting time.

“All this time when we would pray the Eucharistic prayer and have no one’s name as bishop, there was a hole there. It didn’t seem right. I look forward to the first time we can say, ‘Our Bishop Michael Olson.’ Then it will be complete.

Father Stephen Jasso, TOR, pastor of All Saints Parish in North Fort Worth, noted that “the Holy Spirit made a choice. And when he makes a choice it is always a good thing. I trust so greatly in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and I know there will be a lot of surprises when Michael is Bishop.

“First of all it was ‘Michael,’ for me, and he is still the same,” Fr. Jasso added. “Michael is going to be ‘Michael’ all his life. The Holy Spirit will do a lot with that Michael.

“He has intelligence and training, but most important are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They will even purify what Michael needs to be purified to make sure he has what it takes to be of benefit to the Church. I think these things because I have faith in the Catholic Church.


Then-Fort Worth Bishop Kevin Vann laughs with Monsignor Olson immediately after investing him as a Chaplain of His Holiness on Sept. 5, 2010. (Photo by Juan Guajardo / NTC Archives)

“This will be a real challenge, because this is a great diocese,” Fr. Jasso said, “and it will continue to grow, and we will need a great bishop for everything.”

Monsignor Juan Rivero, pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Granbury, said, “I knew him since he was ordained, and we worked together when he was vicar general and I was vicar of priests with Bishop Vann.

“He is extremely well-prepared. He has ability with challenges and a very good sense of humor. He has a great ability to relate to people.

“His knowledge of Spanish is very ample,” Msgr. Rivero said, “and he knows the challenges and growth we have. He comes with a positive kind of knowledge. He already knows who we are. He is a very prayerful man; a man of quality. He will relate well to the Hispanic population. He is very analytical, perceptive, and profound — this will help him a lot.

Father Kyle Walterscheid, pastor of Bl. John Paul II University Parish in Denton, said the qualities of a good bishop are more than that of simply being a CEO. “It is so much more profound than that. You have to be intelligent but also to have a passionate side. I think his time in the seminary was very beneficial.

“[Bishop Olson’s] work in a vocation capacity in formation will serve him well. This is delicate, hard work, being with individual men and walking and joining with them every day when they are ‘ready to throw in the towel’; consistently traveling to the priesthood, or the profound formation to be enriched men of Christ, and husbands and fathers.”

Fr. Walterscheid remembered seeing Bishop Olson on Dallas TV Sunday mornings sharing the stage with various Protestant and Jewish clergymen. In his own way, Fr. Walterscheid said, the bishop showed how the Catholic Church shines brightly in today’s world.

“He has the ability to articulate the Catholic faith in a profound way. In today’s world, where people talk about my right to do this and my right to do that, he will be able to reach out to groups that haven’t been reached. He is the type of person we look to, to be a good shepherd.

“Like Pope Francis said,” Fr. Walterscheid

concluded, “if you want to be a good shepherd you have to smell like the sheep.”

See Also

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Bp-Olson-as-HTS-rector-Button.jpgFinding Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving used to be a chore. But now thanks to a new sign on Vince Hagan Drive visible from the feeder road for Highway 114, visitors no longer get lost. That sign built in October 2013 is an example not only of the physical changes, but of the welcoming nature of the seminary that are part of the legacy being left by Bishop Michael Olson. Olson served as rector at Holy Trinity from 2008 until his recent appointment as the fourth bishop of Fort Worth.

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Bp-Olson-escorted-by-Frs.-Karl-_-Isaac-BUTTON.jpgEnthusiastic priestly brothers have handed in a ringing, energized endorsement of their colleague, Bishop Michael Olson, appointed by the Holy See to be the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth.