ORANGE, Calif. — The Roman Catholic bishop from Fort Worth, Texas, introduced himself to his new Southern California flock on Friday by showing off a hand-stitched cowboy boot embroidered with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Bishop Kevin Vann, 61, will be installed in early December as the new leader of the 1.2-million person Diocese of Orange, the nation's 10th largest — and fastest-growing — Roman Catholic diocese. Vann will replace Bishop Tod D. Brown, who has served for 14 years and has reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.
"I have so much to be grateful to God for the people of the Diocese of Fort Worth and north Texas and beyond. I will miss them very much," Vann said, before removing his right cowboy boot to cheers and applause. "But I promise that as we grow together in this exciting and dynamic time of the Diocese of Orange, I will love you and do my best to serve you with the Lord's help."
Vann has led the 710,000-person Diocese of Fort Worth since July 2005 and oversaw $135 million in capital improvements, including the construction in Arlington, Texas, of a church to house one of the largest Vietnamese-American parishes in the country. He also oversaw several payouts to settle allegations of clergy abuse, including more than a dozen against the late priest Rev. James Reilly, who predated Vann's tenure there.
The Diocese of Orange presented Vann with flip flops to replace his cowboy boots and also gave him with sunglasses, an Angels baseball hat and a basket of oranges.
During his time in the diocese, Brown agreed to a $100 million settlement with victims of sex abuse — the largest ever when it was inked in 2005 — ordained the nation's first Vietnamese-American bishop and one of the nation's first Hispanic bishops.
He also oversaw the purchase of the famous Crystal Cathedral, which will be the site of the diocese's new Christ Cathedral.
The suburban diocese transformed demographically during Brown's tenure and added a large number of Hispanic, Vietnamese and Korean parishioners.