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Brisbane mum Betty Howell ‘very proud’ of her bishop son

Betty Howell

Loving son: Betty Howell with a photo of her son Bishop Ken Howell. Photo: Emilie Ng

BISHOP Kenneth Michael Howell was a teenager when he felt the call to the priesthood.

The person who probably prayed for him the most is his mother Betty Howell, one of the few people who will be excused from addressing her son as “Bishop”.

“When I call him ‘Father’, he always says, ‘Yes, Mother’,” Mrs Howell said.

“It’s going to be funny seeing him with his bishop hat on.

“I’m glad he wasn’t sent up to Townsville.”

Bishop Howell was visiting his mother at Holy Spirit Home, Carseldine, when he received a call from the apostolic nuncio to Australia saying Pope Francis had appointed him an auxiliary bishop for Brisbane.

Originally from Longreach, Mrs Howell moved to Brisbane in the 1950s to find work.

Her parents soon followed her and bought a house on Shafston Avenue, East Brisbane, the suburb where Bishop Howell now calls home.

Mrs Howell worked in the same building as a man named Jack Howell, who would become her husband for nearly 60 years.

“Ken’s very much like him,” she said, glancing at a picture of her late-husband hanging in her unit.

The Howells married at St Joseph’s, Kangaroo Point, and had four children – Kenneth, Janet, Rodney and Gavin.

All five were to be reunited at Bishop Howell’s ordination on June 14, and no doubt they thought of Jack, who died in 2014.

Two weeks before the ordination, Mrs Howell said she wished her husband were still alive to see their son become a bishop.

“It would be very lovely,” she said.

“I’m very proud of him.

“My husband would have been very proud of him.”

Mrs Howell said she never thought there would be a priest in the family, but recalled a young Bishop Howell who “liked to go to church and say his prayers”.

At home, Mrs Howell did “nothing special” to bring up her children in the faith.

She’s just proud to see his priestly calling unravel the way it has.

“He’s just very dedicated to it,” Mrs Howell said.

“He speaks very clearly and knows what he’s talking about.

“We’re all very proud of him.”

Bishop Ken Howell

New role: Auxiliary Bishop Ken Howell outside St Stephen’s Cathedral. Photo: Emilie Ng.

Bishop Howell joins Archbishop Mark Coleridge as a faith leader of Brisbane archdiocese, following the retirements of Bishop Brian Finnigan and Bishop Joseph Oudeman.

Bishop Finnigan’s retirement was confirmed in 2015, then Pope Francis accepted Bishop Oudeman’s resignation in March.

As well as caring for Brisbane, Bishop Howell has also been appointed Titular Bishop of Thamugadi, an ancient city in Algeria.

He will also be the parish priest of Kangaroo Point.

Following Bishop Howell’s announcement as the seventh auxiliary bishop of Brisbane, Archbishop Coleridge said his archdiocese “gives thanks to God for the appointment”.

“We are grateful that Pope Francis has chosen a gifted man of wide experience to serve as bishop at this complex time,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

“He is well equipped to give fine service not only to the archdiocese, but also to the Queensland bishops and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

“Our prayers are with him as he looks to ordination and beyond.”

Read more reactions to Bishop Ken Howell’s appointment as auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane in the June 18 edition of The Catholic Leader, available in parishes throughout Australia.  Full coverage and photos of Bishop Ken Howell’s ordination on June 14 will appear in the June 25 edition of The Catholic Leader. Photos from the event will be available for purchase at

Can’t find a copy in your local parish? Why not get a subscription today.  Click here to subscribe to The Catholic Leader and receive news straight to your door or inbox every week.


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