‘He’s a real person, very loyal, and just an overall good guy’: Family reacts to Bishop Olson’s appt

By Joan Kurkowski-Gillen



Michael Olson at age 6 in October 1972. (Photo courtesy of Bishop Michael Olson)

Thanksgiving 2013 was a little more special for Ronald and Janice Olson. A week before friends and family gathered to celebrate the holiday, their son, Michael, was chosen by Pope Francis to become the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth.

“Relatives came from Chicago and Santa Fe, and we had a big family Thanksgiving,” recalls Mitzi Rogers, one of the Olsons’ four children. “We celebrated this opportunity for Michael. Everyone is on cloud nine for him.”

Youngest sister Liz Schweizer traveled from Maryland for the family dinner.

“We have so much to be thankful for every day, but this year was so much more special,” she added. “My brother is happy but humble about the whole thing. You could see it in his face.”

Bishop Michael F. Olson grew up on a quiet cul-de-sac in Des Plaines, Illinois, with his parents and three younger sisters. An older sister, Kimberly Ann, passed away at the age of three-and-a-half when Michael was one. The family lived across the street from the public swimming pool, playground, and softball fields of Rand Park. His father could walk to work at the GTE building.

“It was a perfect place to grow up,” says Rogers, who remembers how her brother’s love of learning rivaled an interest in athletics. “He was always so smart and determined to read all the encyclopedias.”

The Olson children attended the nearby St. Mary Catholic School, but after eighth grade graduation, Michael asked to attend Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary in downtown Chicago. Many high school classmates are still friends with the bishop.

“It’s nice to see he’s still so close to those guys,” his sister observes. “I think that says something about him. He’s a real people person, very loyal, and just an overall good guy.”

Many of those boyhood friends are attending the ordination and installation of Bishop Michael Olson at the Fort Worth Convention Center Jan. 29. A cadre of Chicago area relatives is travelling to Fort Worth for the ceremony. The Olson family moved to Fort Worth after GTE relocated its corporate office to North Texas.

Michael Olson began his seminary studies in the Archdiocese of Chicago but later transferred to the Diocese of Fort Worth to live closer to his parents. He was ordained a priest on June 3, 1994 by the late Bishop Joseph P. Delaney, the second bishop of the diocese.

Since then he has served the diocese as an assistant pastor, pastor, vicar general, and, most recently, as rector of Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving.


In this undated photo, Father Olson holds a new puppy with his niece, Katie, and nephew, Matthew. (Photo courtesy of Bishop Olson)

As soon as Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, made the Nov. 19 announcement naming Monsignor Olson the next bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth, congratulatory letters and phone calls began to pour into the Olson home.

“It’s been a wonderful reception from everyone,” Rogers continues. “My parents have heard from old friends who worked with them at GTE and others in the diocese. People were bringing them copies of the newspaper.”

The bishop also shared some of the congratulatory notes he’s received with his parents.

“We’re all sharing this moment with him,” Rogers adds. “It’s overwhelming, but we’re so proud. I want people to know he’s exactly as he seems. My brother is a genuinely good person and holy man who is close to God and his family.”

Schweizer still becomes emotional when she thinks about “Mikey” becoming the bishop of Fort Worth.

“He was the only boy, and putting up with three younger sisters wasn’t always easy for him,” admits Schweizer who is seven years his junior. “He was the big brother who was very godly and rooted in his faith. There was never a question. Everyone knew Michael would be a priest.”

Schweizer expected her sibling to “move forward” in the Church.

“But I didn’t think it would happen so soon,” she admits.

When Michael Olson, 47, is ordained, he becomes the second youngest bishop in the United States. The youngest is his St. Mary Seminary classmate, Bishop Oscar Cantú of the Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

“I’m just so proud of him and he’s so deserving,” Schweizer says joyfully. “Michael will be a good bishop. I know he’s going to do amazing things for the Fort Worth Diocese.”

The weeks following the Nov. 19 announcement have been busy for the Olson family as they prepare to welcome out-of-town guests and plan for other festivities surrounding the ordination. Eldest sister, Patty Tucker who lives in Fort Worth with husband, Tom, says her children, Katie and Matthew, look forward to seeing their uncle ordained.


Bishop Olson approaches his mother Janice Fetzer Olson to minister the Eucharist to her at his first Mass as bishop-elect of the Diocese of Fort Worth. (Photo Donna Ryckaert / NTC Archives)

“They were surprised — especially Katie — to learn how many of their teachers and friends’ families actually knew Michael either from time as a seminarian or service at various parishes,”  Tucker says.

Growing up with an uncle who is a priest made faith and the Church an important part of their daily lives. Both wanted to attend a Catholic school — a decision influenced by their uncle’s example. Katie is a Nolan Catholic High School freshman and Matthew is a sixth-grader at Holy Trinity School in Grapevine.

“The kids were so excited when they heard the news (of his appointment),” she adds. “It made Tom and I so proud to see their sincere joy for their uncle.”

All three sisters say their older brother has many worthy attributes that will make him a successful bishop, but there is one flaw. Members of the Olson family are all ardent supporters of the Chicago Cubs baseball team.

“He’s a White Sox fan. It’s a lapse of judgment that has stayed with him for life,” Schweizer discloses with a laugh. “That’s the only negative thing I could say about him.”

See Also

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In preparing for his ordination and installation as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth at 2 p.m. Jan. 29 in the Fort Worth Convention Center, Bishop Michael F. Olson wanted the people of the local Church to understand this simple fact about his life: He loves being a priest. “I love the Lord very much and I’m grateful for my vocation,” the 47-year-old Bishop said during an interview with the North Texas Catholic. “I pray for the people in the diocese, and I need their prayers for me. I have a great desire to serve and help them know the Lord more.”

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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.

Bishop Olson leaves a legacy at Holy Trinity Seminary

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-Symbols-of-Office-BUTTON.jpgSymbols of the office of Bishop: Unique invitations to pray for our shepherd

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Bp-Olson-as-boy-BUTTON.jpgThanksgiving 2013 was a little more special for Ronald and Janice Olson. A week before friends and family gathered to celebrate the holiday, their son, Michael, was chosen by Pope Francis to become the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth. “Relatives came from Chicago and Santa Fe, and we had a big family Thanksgiving,” recalls Mitzi Rogers, one of the Olsons’ four children. “We celebrated this opportunity for Michael. Everyone is on cloud nine for him.”