Kenrick-Glennon alum promoted to Diocese of Orange, Calif.
Since submitting his resignation in November 2011, in keeping with the canon law requiring bishops to submit their resignation upon reaching age 75, Bishop Tod D. Brown of Orange said "speculation has been rampant in our diocese" about his successor. It was the subject of "clergy cocktail gossip" and the cause of "furrowed brows among the (chancery) staff," he said at a news conference Sept. 21.
"Today," he added, "the speculation ends."
Earlier that day, Pope Benedict XVI named Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Fort Worth, Texas, 61, to be the fourth bishop of Orange, and accepted Bishop Brown's resignation. The changes were announced in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Introducing his successor to chancery staff, media and guests invited to the news conference, Bishop Brown highlighted Bishop Vann's accomplishments and experiences that make him well-suited for his new assignment.
Like the Diocese of Orange, Fort Worth has a significant Hispanic community -- about half the population. Orange County is home to the biggest Vietnamese population outside Vietnam, while under Bishop Vann, the Diocese of Fort Worth built the largest Vietnamese Catholic church in the United States. (Bishop Vann speaks Spanish and is learning Vietnamese.)
Fort Worth is also home to Tongan and Korean communities, as is the Diocese of Orange. Bishop Vann has been a member of the U.S. bishops' ad hoc committee charged with assisting the Vatican congregation in implementing the apostolic constitution for creating personal ordinariates for Anglicans who want to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.
In February, the Vatican formally inaugurated the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, based in Houston. In July, Bishop Vann received members of the Blessed John Henry Newman Society into the church -- and ordained a former Anglican priest as a Catholic priest.
Bishop Vann's seven years in Fort Worth have been a "dynamic period of growth," Bishop Brown noted, pointing out that the demands for comprehensive pastoral services in that diocese were "not unlike those we have experienced in our own Diocese of Orange."
The Diocese of Fort Worth recently completed its capital campaign, raising $55 million -- a feat in these challenging economic times, Bishop Vann pointed out in an interview with the Orange County Catholic, the diocesan newspaper.
The Diocese of Orange is poised to launch its first capital campaign, which will support local Catholic schools, retired priests, and the renovation of the former Crystal Cathedral, which will become the diocese's Christ Cathedral.
"We are all blessed by his selection," concluded Bishop Brown, turning to his successor. "I will do all I can to make sure your transition is both enjoyable and productive." Bishop Vann noted that he and Bishop Brown have known each other for 31 years, and that Orange Auxiliary Bishop Dominic M. Luong coincidentally visited the Texas diocese last December for the dedication of the Vietnamese Martyrs Church.
Leaving behind his Fort Worth "family" will be challenging, he admitted, but he looks forward to getting to know his new "family" in Southern California.
"With God's help, I will love you and do my best to serve you," he declared. "I promise you."
Bishop Vann repeated his speech in Spanish, getting big smiles and applause from Spanish-speakers in the audience.
Msgr. Michael Heher, Orange vicar general, followed up with a presentation of gifts to welcome Bishop Vann to the diocese; among them were Oakley sunglasses -- which Bishop Vann promptly donned -- an Angels baseball cap, a "Proud to be Catholic" cap from the Orange Catholic Foundation, sunblock, a basket of oranges -- and a bottle of window cleaner for the new cathedral's 10,000 panes of glass.
Bishop Vann, who is a canon law scholar and an accomplished pianist, said his appointment to Orange has a very different feel.
In 2005, after he was named coadjutor for Fort Worth he was thrust into his new role as head of the diocese earlier than anticipated. As coadjutor, he would automatically succeed Bishop Joseph P. Delaney upon his retirement or death.
Bishop Delaney, who had been suffering from ill health, died one day before Bishop-designate Vann was ordained a bishop. The ceremony went forward as scheduled, with Bishop Vann installed as Fort Worth's shepherd July 13, 2005.
Encompassing all of Orange County -- less than 800 square miles -- the Orange Diocese is not as big as the 25,000-square-mile, 28-county Fort Worth Diocese, "but it has a similar dynamic," Bishop Vann said.
He agreed with Bishop Brown that his experience makes him a good fit for this new assignment.
"God prepares you from one stage of your life to the next," he said.
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