The Catholic bishop of Wichita said he "just got rid of a very heavy coat as I got off the plane" when he arrived Thursday at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
He said he was anxious to get to work after he is installed Saturday as the fourth bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.
"I come as a servant of Christ, and I come as a servant of reconciliation and hope," Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted said. "I would hope that that is how they see me here — someone who wants to serve in Jesus’ name."
Olmsted, 56, was appointed by Pope John Paul II on Nov. 25 to fill the bishop’s post made vacant by the June resignation of Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien, 68, a day after O’Brien was charged with leaving the scene of a fatal hit-and-run in Phoenix. He served as bishop of the Phoenix diocese for 21 years.
The tragedy came amid controversy over how O’Brien handled sexual misconduct allegations against priests going back more than two decades.
Olmsted said he intended to fully follow the policies adopted in June 2002 by the national bishops association to curb such misconduct. "We all have to prove ourselves trustworthy," he said.
Olmsted said his mother, two of his sisters, a brother and other relatives will attend the 10 a.m. installation ceremonies at Saints Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix, which will be televised live on KTVK-TV (Channel 3) and Mas Arizona (cable Channel 55 in Spanish). "I’m sad my father won’t be able to come" because of a recent illness, he said.
Two boys who attend Scottsdale’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School worked their way through a snarl of media to greet the bishop. "That’s the parish where my cousin goes to," Olmsted said in meeting Jack and Jhett Steimel, ages 10 and 8. The two boys had come to the airport with their mother, Jerri Steimel, to pick up their grandmother from Pratt, Kan., who was on the same flight.
"Thanks for coming out to meet me — that is wonderful," he told the boys still wearing school uniforms.
"Does everybody have to wear those shirts?" the bishop asked.
"Everyone except those in kindergarten," Jack Steimel explained.
"I will look forward to coming to visit your school," the bishop said.