Pope Francis appoints new Bishop of Toowoomba, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference names new general secretary

Bishop Ken Howell has been appointed as the seventh Bishop of Toowoomba, he succeeds Bishop Robert McGuckin, who has led the Diocese of Toowoomba since 2012.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has also named a new general secretary. Fr Chris de Souza will take on the new role in August.

Read more about the news below.

Bishop Ken Howell appointed seventh Bishop of Toowoomba

Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Ken Howell, who has served as Auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane since 2017, the seventh Bishop of Toowoomba.

Bishop Howell will succeed Bishop Robert McGuckin, who has led the Diocese of Toowoomba since 2012, whose resignation Pope Francis has accepted.

“I am deeply humbled to be called by Pope Francis to shepherd this local Church and I thank him sincerely,” Bishop Howell said.

“I realise that I have been given a great responsibility to care for the faithful and to engage in the life of the broader community across the Diocese.”

After serving as a priest of the Archdiocese of Brisbane for 40 years, and the last six as auxiliary bishop, Bishop Howell conceded there was a “touch of sadness” in leaving.

“However, I do not come to Toowoomba as a stranger,” he said.

“The close links between Brisbane and Toowoomba have been longstanding and I know many of the priests of the Diocese.

“I come with a desire to listen to God’s people and to understand and grow in love for the mission of this local Church. It is my firm hope that I may accompany the community of the Church of Toowoomba, as together we seek to live and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in the world.”

Bishop Howell’s installation as Bishop of Toowoomba is scheduled for July 11 at St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Fr Chris de Souza named general secretary of Bishops Conference

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has appointed Fr Chris de Souza, currently serving as one of two vicars general in the Diocese of Parramatta, as its new general secretary.

Born in Sri Lanka, Fr de Souza moved to Sydney at a young age. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1983 for the Archdiocese of Sydney, and has ministered in the Diocese of Parramatta since it was erected in 1986.

In addition to many parish appointments over the past four decades, Fr de Souza has also served as episcopal vicar for formation, episcopal vicar for education, director of prison chaplains, director of deacons and students, and vice rector of the diocesan seminary.

He has served as vicar general since 2012.

Bishop Conference president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB said the bishops were fortunate to have several strong candidates for general secretary.

“We know that it is not easy for a bishop to offer one of his senior priests for a role outside the diocese, but many bishops recognised the pivotal role the Conference’s general secretary plays in the life of the Church in Australia,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

“Fr Chris has served with distinction in the Diocese of Parramatta across a number of roles, meaning he knows well the working of dioceses, parishes and other Church ministries.”

“We very much look forward to welcoming Fr Chris to his new role at the general secretariat in Canberra, supporting the bishops in the various aspects of the Conference’s life and work.”

Fr de Souza, who will start with the Bishops Conference in early August, said he was “honoured” to take up this new ministry.

“This role is somewhat daunting, but I am invigorated by the culture and legacy that Fr Stephen Hackett and all the staff of the Bishops Conference have created,” he said.

“I am looking forward to this new challenge and would like to thank Bishop Vincent Long for his support and pastoral care as I take this next step, and all previous bishops of the Diocese of Parramatta.

“I will miss working with all my colleagues, clergy and friends in the Diocese of Parramatta, but look forward to my visits back home.”

The search for a new general secretary followed the election of Fr Hackett as the provincial superior of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in April. He has served as general secretary since 2016.

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