A large congregation was present at St Patrick’s Cathedral Bunbury on May 18th to farewell Bishop Myles McKeon, who died on 2 May 2016 at the age of 97.
Bishop Myles was born in Drummin, a small village in County Mayo, Ireland on May 3rd 1919.
He attended All Hallows College in Dublin, a seminary that prepared students for Missions in English speaking countries of the world. From there, he was sent to the Archdiocese of Perth where he worked in a variety of roles for many years before he was consecrated as Auxiliary Bishop in 1962.
During this time, Bishop Myles was privileged to attend what he refers to as the “highlight of my years as a Bishop”, the Second Vatican Council in Rome.
Bishop Myles was appointed the Second Bishop of Bunbury in 1969. He reflected on his appointment in an interview in 2009 saying “I was delighted with my appointment to Bunbury because, having been reared in the country in the West of Ireland; I was comfortable with country people. In my years as Bishop of Bunbury I can honestly say I was totally happy; the people were just great, just wonderful people”.
In his 13 years as Bishop of Bunbury Diocese, Bishop Myles was responsible for establishing a number of initiatives that brought great life to the diocese. Following a visit to the United States soon after his appointment, Bishop Myles was able to secure a sizeable grant that was used in part to establish the House of Carmel in Gelorup, the Chapel of the Holy Eucharist in Bunbury, and the Catholic Youth Camp in Busselton.
On a working visit to Bangkok for the Apostolate of the Sea, Bishop casually asked Carmelite Mother Anne if there were any sisters who would like to come to Bunbury, as we needed someone to pray for us. She did not hesitate to say yes, and the first group of sisters arrived in 1974. They originally stayed at the House of Prayer in Dardanup, until funds were raised to build the convent in Gelorup.
As a result of his travels around the diocese for pastoral visits, Bishop Myles became aware of the great need for a body such as Centrecare to provide support for our rural families. Sr Glenys Yeoman from Perth came to Bunbury to set up and run the Bunbury Centrecare, and over the years it became highly successful, and eventually merged with the Anglican Church as a more ecumenical body.
The Permanent Diaconate was established in Bunbury Diocese soon after married deacons were given approval from Rome. Bishop Myles saw the Diaconate as something that would be a great help to the priests of the Diocese, and set up the training program after receiving advice and programs from a Bishop in Sacramento. Both the Permanent Diaconate Training Program and the men who have undertaken it have been an ongoing blessing to the Diocese.
It was also during Bishop Myles time as Bishop of Bunbury that the Diocesan Development Fund was established at the suggestion of then chancellor Paul Gee, to guarantee the future financial security of the Diocese.
In 1982 Bishop Myles’ request to retire due to health reasons was granted by the Pope, and he left the Diocese in the capable hands of Bishop Peter Quinn. Bishop Myles did however continue to work in the Diocese for many years, agreeing to take on the work of the “Propagation of the Faith” when asked by Bishop Quinn.
The final years of Bishop Myles’ life were spent in the loving care of the Sisters of St John of God in Subiaco.
Bishop Myles McKeon was remembered fondly by family members here in Australia, and in messages from those in the US and Ireland who were not able to attend the funeral. In his eulogy, Deacon Paul Gee remembered Bishop Myles as a caring, pastoral man, and his family wrote of him being a man whose priorities were; making time for, and spending time with, ordinary people, and promoting the missions for those in need. One of his favourite sayings was “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”.