By Seth Gonzales
The Texas Catholic
FORT WORTH—Pope Francis has appointed Msgr. Michael Olson, a priest of the Fort Worth Diocese and rector of Holy Trinity Seminary in the Diocese of Dallas, to head the Diocese of Fort Worth.
The appointment was announced Nov. 19 in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Bishop-designate Olson, 47, succeeds Bishop Kevin W. Vann, who was named bishop of the Diocese of Orange, Calif., in September 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI.
Bishop-elect Olson has served in parishes, in diocesan administration and in seminarian formation.
“I am very humbled and deeply moved by Pope Francis’ appointment of me to serve as the Bishop of Fort Worth,” Bishop-elect Olson said.
“I know over the last 14 months we’ve all been praying for a new bishop and last Tuesday morning I received a phone call from the apostolic nuncio, who very graciously informed me that our Holy Father Pope Francis had asked me to be the next Bishop of Fort Worth,” he said. “I responded to him at the time, as I respond today, that relying on the help of Almighty God and with the help of the Blessed Mother, ‘I accept.’
“The last week has really been a week of discernment and prayer, prayer for all of you as well as prayer for me, prayers especially for our deacons, priests and religious and our staff here at the Catholic Center,” Bishop-elect Olson said. “I’m very humbled by Pope Francis’ trust in me in what the nuncio articulated to me, the Holy Father holds our diocese in esteem, as part of the New Evangelization and as part of a vital area of growth in the church.
“In a very special way, I am delighted to return home to the Diocese of Fort Worth to serve the priests, deacons, religious, and all of the faithful as their bishop.”
Bishop-elect Olson will be ordained bishop and installed as Bishop of Fort Worth on Jan. 29 at a 2 p.m. Mass in the Fort Worth Convention Center. He will become the second youngest bishop in the United States to lead a diocese. Bishop-elect Olson will be ordained by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio. Archbishop Viganò, representing Pope Francis, will participate in the ordination.
Bishop-elect Olson is the first priest of the Diocese of Fort Worth to be named a bishop. He will lead a fast-growing diocese of an estimated 710,000 Catholics in 90 parishes in the 28-county North Texas region.
Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas offered his congratulations to Bishop-elect Olson, saying he has enjoyed working with him for several years and looks forward to a collaborative relationship. He also asked those in the Diocese of Dallas to pray for him.
“After being without a bishop for more than a year, I am very happy for the people of the Diocese of Fort Worth because they are being rewarded for their patience with the appointment of a proven, exceptionally capable and pastoral leader,” he said.
“Bishop-elect Olson’s experience and diverse background make him an outstanding choice to lead the growing Diocese of Fort Worth.
“Since July 1, 2008, Bishop-elect Olson has served as the rector of Holy Trinity Seminary in the Diocese of Dallas. He has done an excellent job in that position and a tremendous service to the church in the formation of future priests for the dioceses that have seminarians studying there,” Bishop Farrell said. “In his five years as rector, Bishop-elect Olson has overseen extensive remodeling and staff expansion at Holy Trinity Seminary and under his leadership the number of seminarians has grown to near capacity.”
Bishop-elect Olson was born in Park Ridge, Ill., on June 29, 1966, and was raised in Des Plaines, Ill., where he attended St. Mary’s Parochial School. He graduated from Quigley Preparatory Seminary North in 1984 and began collegiate seminary studies for the Archdiocese of Chicago in August of that same year.
In 1985, his family moved to Fort Worth and, in 1988, he officially transferred as a seminarian to the Diocese of Fort Worth. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Fort Worth on June 3, 1994. He served as parochial vicar of St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Bedford from July 1994 through June 1997.
Bishop-elect Olson earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philosophy in 1988 and 1989, respectively, from the Catholic University of America. He also has degrees (M.Div. and M.A.) in theological studies from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. He was a charter recipient of the Catholic Relief Service Global Fellowship in 1993 through which he traveled to Egypt and Burkina Faso to learn about global development in social justice. He is also a past recipient of the Presidential Fellowship of Saint Louis University where he studied at the Center for Health Care Ethics in the Catholic Tradition between 1997 and 2001.
On May 6, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI granted him the Papal Honor of Chaplain to His Holiness with the title of “monsignor.” In March 2011 he successfully earned his doctorate in moral theology at the Academia Alfonsiana in Rome.
He has served as a community representative on the Ethics Committee for Research Involving Human Subjects at the University of Texas Medical Center in Houston. He was a member of the formation faculty at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston and lectured at the University of St. Thomas School of Theology between 2001 and 2006. From July 2006 through June 2008 he served in the Diocese of Fort Worth as vicar general and as pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church. Since July 1, 2008, he has been serving as the rector of Holy Trinity Seminary. He also is a regular panelist on the syndicated and ecumenical television show American Religious Town Hall Meeting broadcast nationally on select television stations.