THERE must be something in the Gold Coast waters with the city’s second priest – Burleigh Heads parish priest Fr Ken Howell – being named a bishop for Queensland.
Fr Howell was named the seventh auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane yesterday (March 28), and will serve alongside Archbishop Mark Coleridge from his episcopal ordination on June 14.
The 59-year-old, who has looked after Australia’s largest parish for four years, is now the second priest from the Gold Coast to be appointed a bishop for Queensland, following the announcement of Surfers Paradise parish priest Fr Tim Harris as Bishop of Townsville in February.
His announcement as auxiliary bishop also comes 18 days after the dedication and blessing of the Burleigh Heads parish’s newest church, Mary, Mother of Mercy Church.
“I didn’t get much time to spend in the new church,” Bishop-elect Howell said.
He was visiting his mother when he received a phone call from apostolic nuncio Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana to say he had been called to serve as an auxiliary bishop in Brisbane.
“The nuncio said this was a call into another form of service within the ordained ministry and asked that I accept that call into this new form of service,” Bishop-elect Howell said.
He has already served Brisbane archdiocese as a priest for 34 years.
Born in Brisbane on February 20, 1958, Bishop-elect Howell is the first of four children to Catholic mother Betty and Methodist father Jack, who died in 2014.
He felt a call to the priesthood at an early age while living in the Brisbane archdiocese.
On February 6, 1977, Fr Howell entered the seminary and was ordained in 1983.
As a priest, Fr Howell has served in three parishes, was secretary to Archbishop John Bathersby for 13 years, served as dean of St Stephen’s Cathedral and was vice-rector of Holy Spirit Seminary Queensland.
Between 1994 and 1997 he studied for his Licentiate in Sacred Liturgy at the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy, where he grew a deep respect for the liturgical life of the bishops.
“There the role of bishop in the liturgy is such an important one,” he said.
“So I learnt to appreciate even more the role of the episcopal ministry through my studies in the liturgy.”
His most challenging appointment to date was an “extraordinary time in the long run” taking charge of the “rebirth” at St Mary’s, South Brisbane.
“It has been the great blessing of my life to have served this Church as a priest for the past thirty-four years,” Bishop-elect Howell said.
But the call to be a bishop for Brisbane has been the most surprising in his 34 years as a priest.
He said he never expected to serve in the episcopal ministry.
“I always think that you just get on with your job,” Bishop-elect Howell said.
“You don’t sit around thinking what’s going to be my future.
“We always like to think what our future will be, and that’s hopefully heaven, but we just get in and do what you’re called to do.
“If you’re doing your normal ministry, if you’re serving God’s people and getting involved in the life of the Church, then I suppose these callings can follow.”
The bishop-elect said the only preparation he had was being faithful to his baptismal call.
“If you’re true to your baptismal calling, that’s your preparation,” he said.
“All of us as baptised people are called to live the faith and ultimately which way you are called to be of service is being true to your baptismal calling.
“And I see this as another deepening of the call of my baptism, and of course my call to ordained ministry.”
Bishop-elect Howell will take his baptismal calling quite literally when he takes on the role as parish priest at Kangaroo Point East Brisbane.
Bishop-elect Howell will become parish priest but the administration of the parish will remain with the cathedral dean.
“The other thing about that parish that’s a special connection is St Joseph’s, Kangaroo Point, is where I was baptised,” he said.
“My parents were married there too; it was my mother’s home parish.”
Bishop-elect Howell’s episcopal ordination will take place at St Stephen’s Cathedral on June 14, just 10 days before his 34th anniversary to the priesthood.
“Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit and with the love and prayers of the people of God who have supported my ministry, I can look to the future with confidence,” he said.
“I ask you to pray for me as I accept the invitation of our Holy Father to serve the Church as a member of the College of Bishops.”
Full story appearing in The Catholic Leader April 2 edition.