MOUNT Isa parish priest Fr Mick Lowcock is a Queensland Great.
But most people already knew that.
For some it was because of his ministry achievements like accompanying young people to World Youth Day, for others it was his social work supporting employment opportunities in Indigenous communities, and for everyone else it was just how far he travelled to bring them closer to Jesus.
Fr Lowcock was named a Queensland Great by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk as part of Queensland Day celebrations on June 6.
“It’s all a bit embarrassing really, when I think of all the other priests and religious who pioneered the mid-west and western Queensland, they didn’t have the luxuries we have today,” Fr Lowcock said.
“I remember a story from Fr Tom O’dwyer who said during winter they had no hot water and he used to shower around 3pm in the afternoon because the pipes had had a bit of sun and the water was warm.”
Townsville Bishop Tim Harris said the news that Fr Lowcock was named a Queensland Great “affirms the extraordinary work and vision of a man who has never thought about himself but rather who has devoted his priestly life to those in society who deserve our special care and consideration”.
“Fr Mick, as I have said on previous occasions, gives the Catholic Church a good name.
“His outreach to our indigenous brothers and sisters is renowned and he holds their trust and respect.
“His advocacy on their behalf is legendary and they have no greater friend.”
The big issue that called to Fr Lowcock was the “extent of poverty and how difficult it is to get out of the cycle of poverty”.
The Queensland Day honour focused on his local community work like North West Queensland Indigenous Catholic Social Services Limited, an organisation he established to serve those in need.
Fr Lowcock said NWQICSS employed more than 70 Indigenous people and they worked with clients who often went through similar circumstances.
Poverty was all around him.
“Here (poverty is) on your radar, people are living in the church yard,” he said.
“You can’t go anywhere without seeing poverty in a way.
“So to me that’s been a gift I always say, they’ve been a gift to us to enable things to happen.
“You can’t have people in your own backyard struggling and not do anything about it.”
Fr Lowcock’s words were a reminder of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop’s maxim, “Never see a need without doing something about it”, a quote he lived by.
He said St Mary MacKillop was a “real inspiration for me out here”.
“I think because we’re living in Cloncurry, which is part of the area, which was the last foundation of Mary MacKillop… you sort of live in a whole Mary MacKillop history in that sense,” he said.
“Certainly being the first Australian saint, she’s made an impact on me.”
Working with people in need had grown his faith, too.
“It makes you trust in God a lot more because you don’t know what God’s got up His sleeve next,” Fr Lowcock said.
“You’ve just got to trust God that whatever happens is going to happen.
“What God wants, (and) how can we allow that to happen – sometimes we’re on the mark and sometimes we’re not.”
He said being named a Queensland Great was good for priests and religious in Queensland too.
“It’s a recognition after all we’ve been through, with all the negative publicity, it’s good to occasionally to get some positive publicity,” he said.
“Not for myself but for the whole institution of church – it’s good for the church to be recognised as doing something very positive.”
Since the Queensland Greats Awards began in 2001, 102 individuals, 16 institutions, six posthumous and one honorary recipient have been recognised as Queensland Greats.
Each Queensland Great was honoured with a commemorative plaque displayed at Roma Street Parkland, Brisbane.
Others Queensland Greats named this year included Bruce and Denise Morcombe OAM, Associate Professor James Morton AM, Betty Taylor, Nancy Bates OAM, Angus Lane OAM, PCYC Queensland and Richard McCarthy OAM.