Bishop Olson Addresses Young Catholic Professionals
FORT WORTH — The iconic large statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, resting high above the altar of St. Patrick Cathedral, looked over a different crowd August 29 as Bishop Michael Olson celebrated Mass for roughly 40 young adults, members of the Fort Worth chapter of Young Catholic Professionals.
At the conclusion of Mass the attendees filed out and entered the parish hall next door for a keynote by Bishop Olson, who was this month’s guest at the group’s monthly Executive Speaker Series event.
Bishop Olson addressed the sex abuse scandals facing the Church in the U.S., as well as the improvements the Diocese of Fort Worth made to its Safe Environment Program.
“Complacency is the enemy of a safe environment,” he said, touching on the fact that Safe Environment training has moved from online to in-person in order to better serve the children and vulnerable adults it seeks to protect.
Bishop Olson spoke on the importance of the training being in-person, saying, “This is something so important it needs to inconvenience us.”
The light-hearted atmosphere of the event faded as he addressed heavier issues such as this with the attendees. He spoke with hope for the Church as he sought to illuminate the Church’s, and specifically the diocese’s, views on important matters including the scandals and movements made toward change.
“Our faith is not passive. It’s not entertainment. It’s not a spectator sport,” the bishop said. “No, it’s a response to God’s call. They [people] think, ‘Well, it must be really hard to be a bishop.’ Well, that means I’m doing my job. When has it been easy? We’re following someone who was crucified. We forget that. It’s a sacrifice made of love. It’s been 2,000 years. Christ is not going to abandon us.”
The Fort Worth Diocese is home to monthly YCP events tailored for Catholic professionals in their twenties and thirties. The Executive Speaker Series provides an opportunity for young Catholics to listen to faith journeys, inspiring them to “Work in Witness for Christ,” and to socialize and network with other young adults over complimentary drinks and appetizers.
St. Patrick parishioner Theresa Borromeo explained, “I keep coming because I have found some amazing speakers. You hear things that are good for your soul without realizing it. So when you’re here and you hear these things, it’s not about reaffirming something, it’s about opening up another way to look at your faith and to practice your faith.”
Borromeo continued, “We have such a variety of speakers, it’s a fabulous way to learn how one person lives their faith is completely different from another, and yet they both live their faith. I think it’s absolutely beautiful and an inspiration to create my own way of evangelizing and witnessing through my daily life. I love it. I really do.”
After the talk, the young adults were invited to ask questions regarding the scandal and forward movement for the bishop to answer for the congregation, feeling the weight of the bigger issues the Church as a whole faced.
When asked about the encouragement of brothers and sisters considering Catholicism whose faith may have been shaken by recent unfortunate events, Bishop Olson replied, “God hasn’t changed. So why would you not want to be Catholic? Because it’s a response to God’s call.”
Another member asked what she could tell her curious Catholic and non-Catholic friends when they questioned her about the actions the Church is taking regarding the scandals.
“There’s no silver bullet to this problem,” Bishop Olson said. “It takes a strategy like a Safe Environment plan that is adhered to, more transparency, clarity of boundaries, and expectations… We have a strong response from leaders calling for accountability which we did not have in 2002… We have to be intentional about this… The priority is the safety of the victims. [Awareness] breaks down denial.”
After half an hour of questions and answers, members returned to socializing as they slowly departed from the building. A few people sought out Bishop Olson for personal questions.
“I really love this group very much,” he said about the YCP Conferences. “They’re intentional Catholics. They’re serious. They help me to understand what they’re going through and how to better serve them as a bishop. I find a great deal of joy and hope in this position towards Christ and towards His Church.”