Ted & the spirit of Redfern Catholic Church

I knew of Fr Ted Kennedy from the early 1970’s, but did not become a participant at Redfern until the early 1980’s.

Lindsay and I were part of the loose Christian Community living in shared houses around the Uni of NSW. We were also early members of the St Vincent de Paul Night Patrol and often ventured into Redfern on our fortnightly rounds to talk to those sleeping out, to offer a cuppa and sandwich and conversation, and a bed if desired, and we’d called into de Porres house sometimes. We were moved by the Catholic Worker Movement initiated by Dorothy Day and made our shared house in Reservoir St Surry Hills a bit of an open house for Night Patrollers and passers by if we were home.

We began attending Redfern Church in 1981, and continued to attend even when we moved to Earlwood and later Petersham. Our son Luke was baptised at Redfern Catholic Church by his uncle, a Uniting Church minister, with Ted looking on and registering the event. This was a continuation of our ecumenical marriage consecrated at another church years earlier.

During 1982 and 83 my memories are strong of Ted’s reflections and openness to people and their participation in the Mass, Mum Shirl’s call to action, her grannies proudly helping with alter serving, the sisters on the organ and controlling the hymn choice and pace, Harold gracing us with his brisk stride through the aisles, Joe who didn’t have much English, but who always smiled in welcome, Patty Newman, and others who spoke up strongly or tiptoed in quietly. Networks of friends grew from the congregation: Peter and Maggie, Fay and Chris, Tom and Jan, Bronwyn and Michael Crosby, Tric Darvel, Jeanette George, Sister Dom, Rhonda and Hilary, May and John Wong, Anna and John (the couple visiting from the “States) Elizabeth and Ken and Katherine, and many many more faces and mislaid names. As well there were the extended family of Peter and Madge Kearney, Anne and Chris Donaldson and Claire Parkhill who visited from the Highlands, and occasionally Karin Donaldson or Peter Williams from Wilcannia.

From Redfern we were told of Black Deaths in Custody watch committees, jail visits and conditions, anti-racism action, peace rallies, AWD plans, activities on “The Block, ” police raids and who was unwell in the community, needing support or advocacy. Denis Doherty and Hannah urged us to act against the American bases, and I later joined a protest bus going to Pine Gap with other Redfernites. We provided occasional transport to Shirley in her advocacy. We welcomed Carmel and Mick Skinner from the Wagga House of Welcome when they came to Sydney.

In 1985, Linds and I decided to move out of Sydney. Our destination was finally decided by the knowledge that some Redfern links existed in the Southern Highlands. Soon after moving to Mittagong, Linds and I joined the Donaldsons, Kearneys and Hammertons in regular reflection, ritual and action around Aboriginal and other justice issues and peace activities. Even today, we maintain strong connections with each other and with Redfern and our caring for Ted now he spends more time at Burrawang. Our close links developed through shared reflection, rituals and traditions we built together which shared with others. These rituals were important in our children’s formation into social justice and caring. And all of us link back to Ted and to Redfern as often as we can. It is still our community.

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