Photo: Bishop Stephen Lowe (Photo courtesy of Barker Photography)
In a moving and joyful celebration of the Mass, Bishop Stephen Lowe was consecrated and formally installed as the third Roman Catholic Bishop of Hamilton, on Friday.
The liturgy which took place in the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, steeped in Catholic tradition with rich symbolism, it involved people from throughout Hamilton Diocese and from Bishop Stephen’s home Diocese of Christchurch, and was a rare opportunity for many to see a priest become a bishop.
In a very poignant and moving moment, signifying the point in which Bishop Stephen is seated as the Bishop of Hamilton, Emeritus Bishop of Hamilton Denis Browne leads him to the cathedra (bishop’s chair) and formally installs him, passing on the care and responsibility to Bishop Stephen.
During the liturgy he is given the symbols firstly of the bishop’s ring, which signifies his fidelity to his ministry, then the mitre then finally the crosier – a sign of the pastoral office of a bishop called to keep watch over his flock.
He is then lead around the Cathedral by Bishop Denis Browne, Emeritus Bishop of Hamilton, Bishop Stephen then blesses everyone gathered in the Cathedral.
Bishop Stephen’s shield focuses on the spiritual life. Central to the shield is a sheaf of wheat which reflects how we share in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the life of the Trinity. Surrounding the sheaf of wheat are stars of the Southern Cross to remind all the people of our land are invited to share in this life of Christ. The cross chosen is the abbatial cross of Blessed Columba Marmion, a relation of Bishop Steve and from whom he was given his middle name.
Bishop Stephen has chosen the motto “The Lord is my shepherd” a reminder that we are invited to be guided by Jesus who is our shepherd as he calls us by name to the fullness of eternal life.
Previuosly Bishop Barry Jones said of the appointment of Bishop Lowe to Hamilton Diocese: “Bishop Stephen Lowe is a son of our diocese, born and raised in Hokitika. Since his priestly ordination in 1996 he has served in parishes in Westland (Greymouth), South and Mid Canterbury (Timaru & Ashburton) and Christchurch (Mairehau). More recently he has spent the last six years serving at Holy Cross Seminary in Auckland as Director of Formation before returning at the start of November to reside in Burnside parish.
We are delighted that Bishop-elect Lowe has been appointed to serve in the Hamilton Diocese. However we also know that Hamilton’s gain is a significant loss of one of our priests here in Christchurch. It is not easy to lose him from the priestly fraternity of Christchurch.
I invite you to join with me in congratulating Bishop-elect Lowe on this significant appointment in his priestly life, and I ask that you join with me in prayer for him, that God will continue to form Bishop Steve in the image of Christ, the Good Shepherd.”
Bishop-Elect Stephen Lowe is the third Bishop of Hamilton and succeeds Bishop Denis Browne whose resignation has been accepted by the Holy Father. This is the first appointment by Pope Francis of a New Zealand Bishop.
As news of his appointment was announced Bishop-Elect Stephen Lowe said “It has been a humbling and overwhelming experience to have been called to be the third Bishop of Hamilton. I look forward now to meeting the people, religious, deacons and priests of Hamilton Diocese and to work with and serve them as their Bishop. As I do so I am conscious of Bishop Denis Browne’s faithful service as bishop and I look forward to learning from him and the Diocesan family as I take up my new ministry.”
Stephen Lowe was born in Hokitika in 1962, the youngest child of Milly and Frank Lowe, with two older sisters Margaret and Dorothy.
He was educated at Hokitika Primary School, then St Mary’s Primary School and because there was no Catholic College in Hokitika he completed his secondary schooling at Westland High School.
Following school he worked for the NZ Forest Service in Hokitika and Christchurch and the NZ Timberlands in Timaru. During this time he became involved in his local parish in Timaru North where he was involved in a young adults group and with youth in the parish. In 1989 he discerned the call to priesthood and entered Holy Cross College seminary in Mosgiel in 1990. He completed his final year of seminary study at St Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia during 1994-1995. Bishop-Elect Stephen Lowe was ordained as a priest for the Diocese of Christchurch in his home town at Hokitika in 1996.
He served as the assistant priest in Mairehau, Ashburton and Greymouth parishes before being appointed parish priest of Timaru North. From 2005-2007 he completed a Licence in Spiritual Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He was appointed to Holy Cross Seminary in 2008 where he served as Formation Director until last month. While based at the Seminary in Auckland, he served, for a time, as Parish Priest of Ponsonby.