By Paul Dobbyn
THE live streaming of Bishop Michael Putney’s vigil and funeral for those unable to attend is an indication of the love the city has for the bishop, Mundingburra MP David Crisafulli has told State Parliament.
“Often in death people are lionised as superhuman, but there is no need to embellish Michael Putney,” he said in an emotional speech given in the Legislative Assembly on April 1.
“His life and how he lived it is testament enough.”
The Minister for Local Government, Community Recovery and Resilience said Bishop Putney was “one of North Queensland’s greatest leaders”.
“Very soon after his arrival, we knew we not only had among us a true man of God but a leader without peer,” Mr Crisafulli said.
“He had a close affinity with the north and all of its people — whatever their race or religion.
“His ability to adapt to any situation was remarkable.
“The bishop’s demeanour and conversation was very different when speaking to a group of clergymen than it was when speaking with the likes of some of the north’s colourful characters.”
Mr Crisafulli said “there was no challenge that overwhelmed him, including accepting his own mortality”.
“I went to see him when I knew he had terminal cancer,” he said.
“He spent about two minutes entertaining me with his diagnosis before he asked if it was okay if we did not talk about what he saw as the secondary issue behind the list of things he wanted to achieve for the community before he went.”
Bishop Putney’s contribution to Catholic education, reconciliation and ecumenism were also noted.
“His passion was education, and the expansion of Catholic education in particular,” Mr Crisafulli said.
“The irony was not lost on me that, on the day his death was announced on the front page of the Townsville Bulletin, the page 5 lead discussed the fall in state school enrolments in the north over recent years while Catholic schools have flourished.
“This was not by happy circumstance but a result driven by a man who empowered people like Cathy Day and Ross Homer to open schools where populations increased and close them when numbers stagnated, which contrasts with a generation of a lack of proper planning and vision from the state system in our region.”
Mr Crisafulli said “Bishop Putney had a special affinity with the first Australians and was a powerful force for reconciliation”.
“But it is his efforts building bridges across the faith divide that set him apart,” he said.
“As chairman of the National Council of Churches, he travelled the globe promoting peace.
“His friendship with two other great northern leaders, Anglican Bishop Bill Ray and Uniting Church Minister Bruce Cornish, was something very special.
“I know both of them join other members of Townsville’s combined churches in thanking God for the gift that he was to all of us.”
Mr Crisafulli said he had “great memories of discussing the state of the state shared over a red” with the bishop.
“Bishop Putney was a man of great faith who believed kindness was the most effective way to relieve every man’s suffering,” Mr Crisafulli.
“His journey here on earth was infused with Christ’s message to ‘love one another as I have loved you’.
“Vale, Bishop Michael Putney.
“Your loss leaves one of the nation’s greatest regional cities in mourning.
“The effect your life has had on Townsville will be felt long after our sadness eases.”