Bishop Myles McKeon, Australia's last Vatican II bishop

Bishop Myles McKeon/The Record

The second Bishop of Bunbury and an Auxiliary Bishop of Perth, Bishop Myles McKeon, passed away at the age of 97, leaving behind a pastoral legacy that won't soon be forgotten, writes Rachel Curry.

Bishop McKeon will be remembered as a warm and sociable man who was kind to all he met, perhaps excepting those who dared to crack an Irish joke in front of him.

He was a collaborator in the founding of the Catholic Education Commission and Catholic Institute of Western Australia, both of which were unique in the world at that time.

Myles McKeon was born on April 3, 1919 in the small town of Drummin in County Mayo in the west of Ireland, to John and Bridget McKeon.

Upon his graduation from high school, he successfully applied to All Hallows Seminary in Dublin, which prepared students for foreign mission in English-speaking countries.

While in his fourth year at All Hallows, he accepted an invitation to go to the Archdiocese of Perth, despite not being able to place Perth on a map.

He sailed to Australia in 1947 in a group of 22 priests coming from Ireland, describing the journey as "a great adventure."

After arriving in Perth, he spent "four happy years" as the parish priest in Maylands before being transferred to St Mary's Cathedral as an assistant priest, where he was kept busy "day and night" for two years as the chaplain to Royal Perth Hospital.

The next eight years saw him travel all over the Archdiocese which, at that time, included the Diocese of Bunbury, after he was appointed to work promoting the Missions in the Third World.

He was also in charge of Welfare and Catholic Migration in the Archdiocese and said the plight of the child migrants who came to Australia in the years following World War II particularly affected him.

"Those poor youngsters came out from all those institutions with a chip on their shoulder and they would, you know, take their hurt out by stealing and wrecking property," he said.

"If they got into trouble, I went to court with them. I remember one year for six months I never missed a session in the Children's Court. I had clients there all the time."

Bishop McKeon was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Perth in 1962 when he was just 43-years-old and it was not long after that he boarded a plane to Rome to attend Vatican II.

He said it was the highlight of his time as a bishop and he was particularly impressed by the energy and vivacity of Pope John XXIII.

"It was in itself a tremendous experience just to be part of that and see Christ represented through an elderly man speaking to the whole Church throughout the world," he said.

Bishop McKeon explained that, when he arrived at the first session of Vatican II, he had no idea that, four years later, he would be standing in front of 175 priests in Perth and telling them that they would be saying Mass in English within a month.

He said it was "a frightening experience" but the priests accepted the proposition graciously.


OBITUARY: Bishop Myles McKeon 'a warm and sociable man who was kind to all he met' (The Record)

Bishop Myles McKeon (Catholic Hierarchy)

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