Wichita bishop sees challenge in new diocese appointment


Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Wichita has mixed emotions as he prepares to take over the much larger and troubled Diocese of Phoenix, reported the Associated Press Nov. 28.           

"My mind and soul have no doubt it's God's will, but my heart is zigzagging all over the place," he told the AP.

His new appointment to Pheonix, announced by the Vatican Nov. 25, came as quite a surprise to the bishop, who has served in Wichita for almost five years. For the last two years, he served as the sole bishop.

Olmsted said he never dreamed of being appointed to a diocese, based in the nation's sixth-largest city. His new diocese, with an estimated 450,000 members, is nearly four times the size of Wichita.

"I went to a one-room country grade school," he told the AP. "It's not what I ever thought about. I thought about being a parish priest."

Olmsted will be installed Dec. 20. He will be taking over in a diocese that has been marred by past accusations of sexual abuse by priests and where the former bishop, Thomas O'Brien, will appear in court in January on a charge of leaving the scene after a fatal hit-and-run accident.

Before he leaves Wichita, Olmsted plans to meet with all his priests, whom he called his "closest collaborators." The bishop is disappointed to be leaving now that the plans for the Third Synod – a process in which he was very personally involved – were just starting to be implemented. "I will miss not being a part of it," he said.

One of the offshoots of the synod was the creation of pastoral plans for Mexican and Vietnamese Catholics, experience that will serve him well in the multicultural Diocese of Pheonix.

Olmsted said his first priorities in Pheonix will be learn the history of the region and to meet the people, including the significant Hispanic, Vietnamese, Filipino and American Indian populations there.

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