Pope John Paul II appointed Thomas James Olmsted of Wichita, Kansas as the new bishop of Phoenix. Bishop Olmsted will head one of the fastest growing cities in the US, with a catholic population of 500,000.

He replaces Michael J. Sheehan, who was appointed Apostolic Administrator  of Santa Fe after a legal scandal caused the resignation of  bishop Thomas J. O'Brien.

Thomas James Olmsted was born on January 21, 1947 in Oketo, Kansas and finished his theological studies at Saint Thomas Seminary in Denver, Colorado. He was sent to Rome in 1969 and graduated in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, from where he also received a degree in Cannon Law in 1981.

Bishop Olmstead was ordained a priest for the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, on July 2, 1973 at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

His first appointment was as vicar of Christ the King Cathedral (1973-1976); then he was moved to Rome as the Vatican’s Secretary of State and Spiritual Director at the North American College (1979-1988).

He was appointed honorary Chaplain of His Holiness in 1984 and Prelate of Honor in 1988.

He was then pastor of St. Vincent in Seward and member of the diocese’s tribunal (1989-1993). 

In 1993, he accepted the position of Dean of the Pontifical College “Josephinum” in Columbus (Ohio) and, in April 1996, he was appointed its president and rector. He was elected coadjutor of the diocese ofWichita in February 18, 1999 and Bishop of Wichita in October 2001.