Kevin W. Vann, left, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Forth Worth,… (Bret Hartman / For The Times )
A Texas bishop was appointed Friday to lead the fastest-growing Catholic parish in the nation, Pope Benedict XVI announced.
Kevin W. Vann, 61, will succeed Tod Brown as the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange at a formal ceremony in December. Brown, who has been leader of the Orange County diocese since 1998, reached the Vatican's mandatory retirement age of 75 last November.
"Bishop Vann enjoys an enviable record of success and I am exceedingly pleased by his appointment," Brown said at a news conference in Orange.
The diocese, he said, has accomplished much in the 14 years since he has been bishop, but "much work remains to be done."
Brown, a soft-spoken leader, has overseen major milestones for the diocese, including the doubling of the Catholic population in Orange County to 1.2 million and, more recently, the church's acquisition of the famed Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove.
But Brown also presided over the diocese at the height of the priest sex abuse scandal.
In 2005, he became the first bishop to settle all of the abuse cases in the diocese with a landmark $100-million payout to 87 claimants, an average of $1.1 million per plaintiff. The decision made him a leader in the settlement movement.
Vann, 61, became the bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth, with more than 700,000 Catholics, in 2005. Over half of those Catholics are Latino. Vann oversaw capital improvements totaling more than $135 million in the growing diocese.
What will prove useful, he said, is his experience with multiple cultures, including Spanish and Vietnamese.
"I'm looking forward to being part of those cultures in a bigger way here," Vann said.
The native of Springfield, Ill., is an accomplished pianist. He speaks Spanish and Italian and is working on his Vietnamese.