Faith, deep in the heart of Texas
Fort Worth chaplain Bishop Kevin Vann explains his love of Legatus and its mission . . .
Bishop Kevin Vann
Fort Worth Chapter
As a priest of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, Bishop Kevin W. Vann had pastored parishes ranging in size from 35 to 1,300 families. Then in 2005, he was asked to leave the Land of Lincoln to shepherd a multi-parish congregation in a state where little is done that isn’t giant — some 700,000 Catholics stretching over the 25,000 square miles that comprise the Fort Worth diocese. He was one of the first bishops appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, and Legatus was one of the first ambassadors to knock at the new bishop’s door.
Tell us about your call to the priesthood.
I grew up the oldest of six in a really good, hard-working Catholic family. I began thinking about becoming a priest when I was in grade school. But the idea went to the back of my mind through high school, a secular college and three years as a medical technologist. As a med tech I was around suffering and dying a lot, and that made me begin thinking again about becoming a priest. So in the spring of ’76 I went to the seminary, and on May 30 last year I celebrated my 30th anniversary of ordination.
How did you become acquainted with Legatus?
I knew about it when I was pastor in Illinois, but I didn’t know anybody in it. When you get the call to be bishop, however, a lot of people want to talk with you right away. Brian Von Gruben [Legatus’ Central Region director] was one of them. He came to see me about starting a chapter here. I liked the role Legatus could play in our diocese, so I decided that I not only wanted a chapter here, I wanted to be chaplain, too.
What I liked about Legatus was that it could serve — and now does serve — as a focal point for the faith formation of Catholic business leaders and their spouses. Deepening their spiritual and religious lives also helps them more clearly bring their faith into the workplace.
What impact has Legatus had on your diocese?
Newcomers are happily surprised that a Catholic business organization like this exists. And for the folks who’ve joined, it’s helping them heed the call to holiness and impact the culture around them.
I’d like to see progress in the number of members — we have about 35 now — as well as in the chapter’s visibility within the diocese. The challenge is getting the word out. Already we’ve been using the diocesan paper, sending invitations to prospective members and I’ve been hosting receptions at the cathedral.
You have a vocation, of course. Any avocations?
I read in the evening, and books by the Holy Father are at the top of my reading list. Right now I’m re-reading his second book on Jesus, his book Church Fathers and Teachers, and a compilation of his talks given on Bavarian radio. All are available from Ignatius Press.
I also studied piano for 10 years when I was young and enjoy playing at parties. Although I learned classical, I really enjoy music from the ’20s through the ’40s — especially ragtime and Broadway.
Any lessons you’ve learned as a priest that are especially apt for business leaders?
We live in a culture of instant expectations, but faith is not like that. We’re not going to start our faith journey one day and complete it tomorrow. I like the imagery in the story of the road to Emmaus. Our life of faith is a journey we walk in constant conversation with the Lord. The answers are rarely as instantaneous as e-mail.