Stirrings of the Spirit

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RIP Bishop Michael

At the end of March, the equivalent of my boss passed away. However, I work for the Catholic Church, so it doesn’t work the way a normal corporation would.

At the end of March, my bishop passed away. That would be a loss in itself. but working for him adds this whole other element of loss to it.

Its hard to describe how this loss feels. I don’t know what sort of relationship other people have with their boss or their bishop. But I know that my relationship with him was special, like it was with all of us in the office that worked for him.

My friend’s daughter said that she felt like her grandfather had died when she learned the news of his passing. I tried to find a relationship that can describe what it feels like I lost and I struggle. I lost a friend. I lost a mentor. I lost a role model. I lost a source of wisdom and knowledge.

Bishop Michael Putney was diagnosed with cancer at the end of 2012. We were told he had months to live and we prayed for a miracle. It was another 15 months before died. It was a year longer than expected. And, as described by him, the happiest year of his life.

He confronted his own mortality with such grace. He took each day, one at a time. And with each day he inspired and loved us just that little bit more. He showed no fear to us because he knew at the end of it all, he would be enveloped in the love of God.

With stomach cancer, he found it difficult to eat. The last time I saw him was at the Annual Bishop’s dinner. All he could eat was a couple of spoonfuls of soup. Usually Bishop Michael loved a good meal and a few glasses of wine, and it was always so sad that he couldn’t enjoy these simple things anymore. When he passed away, I was sad, but also joyful. I imagined him being welcomed into heaven and a beautiful feast of food that he could finally eat, a good bottle of wine, some old friends and family. I imagine they’d have a great time. But then I’d feel even happier, because I know heaven is even better than that. Heaven is better than my human mind can even comprehend, and he was finally there.

I have moments where my eyes become spontaneously wet, despite my claims that I’m joyful. I will have some memory of him, of some moment we shared, but then I realise there are no more memories to be made with him. That makes me sad.

I remember going on pilgrimage with him in 2005 to WYD in Germany. We travelled through Turkey and Greece. I remember sitting on the floor of our cruise ship waiting for it to dock, and Bishop Michael telling us about the Greek Orthodox Church. It might not sound fascinating, but it was. I remember thinking that this was a man I could listen to for the rest of my life and I have tried to take every opportunity since then to do just that.

I remember one night after Mass, a young man telling us that he’d never seen the Sound of Music, and Bishop and I did a medley of the songs for him, leaving him with no more idea of the plot but us all laughing. I remember a couple of weeks before he died, and we were in the office kitchen. I had done something rather silly, and another colleague started singing “Its a jolly holiday with Mary” from Mary Poppins, and the bishop dancing along to her song.

I remember the times we laughed together. We laughed a lot.

I remember embarrassing him on those various time we encountered celebrities. He would usually ignore them, and I would turn into a bumbling idiot. He would joke he’d never let me back into the Qantas lounge.

I have too many memories to ever remember them all to share at one time.

I know that I was blessed to know him and even more blessed to work for him.



RIP Bishop Michael. We will always love you.



April 23, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment