ON March 27, 2001, vicar general Fr Mick Lowcock greeted Fr Michael Putney as Townsville diocese’s new bishop in a formal rite of reception.
Fr Lowcock did so at the bishop’s installation on a sweltering night in Holy Trinity Church, Mundingburra.
Now the Mount Isa-based priest, once again the diocese’s vicar-general, is standing in for Townsville’s bishop since he died in the early hours of Friday, March 28.
Fr Lowcock was elected diocesan administrator at a meeting of consultors held on March 31.
His connection with Bishop Putney goes back some 40 years to Banyo’s Pius XII Seminary.
Michael Putney was in his fifth year at the seminary and Mick Lowcock was in his first year of studies.
Fr Lowcock had come to work closely with Bishop Putney over the last couple of years on vocations and on Christian meditation.
He said the bishop’s influence had been “steady and strong” in his 13 years as spiritual leader of Townsville diocese.
“Bishop Michael was very much at home being a bishop, being a leader,” he said.
“This leadership role was very much in keeping with who he was.
“He was very clear in his theology and clear in his expectations of priests and the laity.
“He sharpened our focus on what it meant to be Catholics – I believe his increased awareness came through his ecumenical dialogue.
“Bishop Michael had a vision for priests and for the diocese.
“He was keen for us to try new things … to be innovative and for our faith to be lived, expressed and attractive.”
Among Fr Lowcock’s cherished memories was of visits from Bishop Putney to the Mount Isa region.
“He had a lot of energy…you could take him out on a fairly heavy day,” he said.
“It was an energy for all sorts of places as far afield as Cloncurry and Julia Creek.
“He had a concern for isolated priests and others living in remote areas.”
Fr Lowcock believes Bishop Putney’s legacy will live on in the strong links built up between various faiths in the diocese and a strong ongoing commitment to Catholic education and the New Evangelisation movement.