"I'm very much into seeing that parish is sustained as a parish," Fr Howell, who picked up the keys to the church on Monday, told the Courier-Mail.
"There's been a great number of people who have worshipped there in recent times and I have no reason to believe that's not going to be the case into the future. I think the numbers will be surprising in a positive way, not just a handful of people."
Fr Howell acknowledged his new role would be challenging but urged the community not to abandon St Mary's.
"Usually when you move to a new parish, there's a fair amount of certainty of who will be there. But this situation because of what has happened, it's a little bit unusual, that's for sure," he said.
He will hold his first Mass on Saturday at 6.30pm, followed by Sunday morning and afternoon masses.
Fr Howell said he wished former administrator Fr Peter Kennedy well.
"We're not into contests between ourselves and the TLC building ... I've always had good relations with Father Kennedy," he said. "We could start discussing what's happened and how it's happened, and would it have been better if this had happened, but that's life. We deal with the reality as it is and move forward."
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