TOWNSVILLE Bishop Michael Putney is entering 2014 with unabated enthusiasm and an ambitious ongoing program of reform in the diocese despite his diagnosis of terminal cancer.
The 67-year-old bishop was told at the end of 2012 that he had only months to live after medical tests revealed inoperable cancer which had spread from his stomach to his liver.
Since then, he has had what he called “one of his most fruitful years in ministry yet”.
“Things have been firing up in a very exciting way,” Bishop Putney said.
“Our vocation work and care for priests were two examples.
“A major focus this year will be to carry forward the diocese’s movement into the area of New Evangelisation.
“I had been talking about this for some years, but last year we started to plan and act and discuss ways to actually do something about it across the board in the diocese.”
Bishop Putney said it was essential to implement programs relating to New Evangelisation because “if we keep doing business as usual we’ll keep diminishing”.
He also paid tribute to the support of the diocese’s priests, laity and Townsville community in general.
“I think the response of the diocese’s priests was a highlight of last year,” he said. “Perhaps because they saw me potentially failing, they stepped up to the mark.
“They took a lot of initiatives to achieve some of the goals we’d been trying to achieve over the years.”
Charters Towers priest Fr Michael Taylor remembers Bishop Putney’s comment soon after his diagnosis that he wanted “to give cancer a bloodied nose”.
“Actually, it was much bigger than this,” Fr Taylor, a long-time friend, said. “He wanted to give death itself a bloodied nose by living life to the full for what time he had left.
“Michael has done this through living the Gospel.
“This past year he has been very passionate about his faith, Church, Jesus and God in a new way.
“We, the diocese’s priests, have been very much behind him as he sets out to achieve many things.”
Fr Taylor, trained in the 1980s as a seminarian by Bishop Putney who was then vice-rector at Banyo’s Pius XII Seminary, said his friend and mentor had been an inspiration to many people “beyond Catholic borders”.
Regarding New Evangelisation, Bishop Putney said a gathering of 80 people in 2013 had passed resolutions “to bed programs down at a parish level”.
“The plan is to have a number of parishes adopt a program and actually start trying to do it so they become ‘lighthouses’ for other parishes,” he said.
“In everything we do, we have to ask: How can this become an event or experience that will help people either grow deeper in relationship with Christ or draw closer to Church?”
Bishop Putney said the ongoing focus on these challenges would ensure 2014, “God willing”, was another busy and fruitful year in his ministry.
“If I’ve only got a short time left, so be it,” he said.
“I’m doing this for God. God’s not dependent on me – I’m dependent on God. So whatever will be, let it be.”