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Bishop Oudeman’s advice to successor: ‘Be yourself and stay close to Jesus’

Bishop Oudeman and Bishop Howell

Praying: Retired Brisbane auxiliary Bishop Joseph Oudeman congratulates Bishop Ken Howell at his episcopal ordination last week. Photo: Emilie Ng.

RETIRED Bishop Joseph Oudeman has told his successor in Brisbane to stay true to himself and maintain a strong spiritual life as he embarks on his new ministry in the Church.

Bishop Oudeman served as auxiliary bishop in Brisbane for 15 years and last week passed the baton to his successor Bishop Ken Howell.

“My advice to him is ‘Ken, be yourself – you were a wonderful parish priest and a very pastoral person’,” Bishop Oudeman said. “Be yourself and stay close to Jesus; he’s got to do that, because the position can take you elsewhere and you have to really take care of your spiritual life.”

On February 11, 2003, Bishop Oudeman, a Capuchin friar, became Australia’s first Dutch-born bishop.

He was ordained a bishop at 60 and had previously been the multicultural dean for Brisbane archdiocese.

Bishop Oudeman served as auxiliary bishop alongside Archbishop John Bathersby and Archbishop Mark Coleridge until he resigned on March 2, his 75th birthday, as required by canon law.

Pope Francis accepted the request on March 28 and, on the same day, announced Bishop Ken Howell as the successor.

Bishop Oudeman was among the concelebrating bishops at Bishop Howell’s episcopal ordination on June 14.

He said that sitting up on the sanctuary with the Queensland bishops was “an emotional moment for me”.

“Would you believe it, I sort of broke down a bit,” Bishop Oudeman said.

“It brought me back to my own ordination fifteen years ago, and it’s a special, special moment and I was thinking of (Bishop Howell) and praying for him.

“He’s twenty years younger so it’s time that I stepped down.”

Bishop Oudeman has returned to his Capuchin community in Dutton Park and continues to preside at numerous Confirmations throughout the archdiocese.

“The archdiocese is still looking after me,” he said.

Touching on his lengthy service to the archdiocese, Bishop Oudeman said he cherished the pastoral aspects of episcopal ministry.

“I’m not much of an administrator, but I love being with people and connecting with people and doing parish visits, doing Confirmations, and meeting people all over the archdiocese, who even now, remember something that I’ve said in homilies,” he said. “They really love their bishops.

“It’s very humbling; really, it’s very humbling.”

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