St Vincent’s in the late 1970/80s

I walked from one end of Redfern St to the other. I was a visitor from the Bush. I decided to settle down in Stirling Street, Redfern with my two sons Lenny (31/2) and Keith (12 months).

I was lonely.

My partner worked in a chocolate factory across the road. He had gone to work on a particular day so I decided to take the boys for a nice stroll up and down George Street Redfern. I was looking around everywhere saying hello to this person and that person and thought to myself these walks are good for us. So we started out each morning for our walks up and down George and Redfern Streets.

One Sunday morning I packed the boys into the pram and, much to my surprise, I stopped outside a church. It had no name written on it but there where lots of people entering. We kept walking down towards Redfern Park and stayed for not longer than 20 minutes. We came back and walked on the other side of this church with No Name.

I couldn’t wait for the next Sunday to arrive so that I could make some new friends at that church. The Sunday had come very quickly, so I asked my partner if could go to Redfern to make some friends with these Koorie People. I walked into the yard and there were lots of Koories. I was very nervous, frightened and shaking. I didn’t know the first group my eyes were set on. Then I heard this loud voice saying, “Go out to the car, and bring in the food, and bring it into the kitchen please.” The three men were Wayne West, Norman West, and John Dixon. They had gone to get food from the car. These young men had walked past me with all the vegies. My eyes couldn’t take in all this meat they were carrying. It was practically the whole butcher shop, boxes of bread, milk and other basic food. I just stood there, still in shock. These Koories were going about their business, cleaning, washing, and cooking. Anyhow I decided to walk back out the gate when I heard this voice saying, “Pruney, what are you doing here? Come up the stairs.” This voice was my brother Stanley. He was very pleased to see me; he was a lovely brother.

After a while the loud voice called out, “Ted where are you?” Ted answered to the call, “I am here in the lounge room.” I then asked my brother, “Who is this white man?” Stanley said, “His name is Father Ted Kennedy.” I said again to my brother Stanley, What’s he doing here?” Stanley said that God had given Mum Shirl and Father Ted Kennedy a job to do. I said, “What do they do?” He said, “They come and get us out of jail bring us home here. They give us food, a roof over our head, pray for us, and give us lots of respect.” And I said to Stanley, “How do you people repay these two wonderful people back for what they’re giving?” His reply was, “Just don’t go away and get lost, because Father Ted and Mum Shirl have to come and pick us up.” Stanley said the only way that they could get in contact with Father Ted and Mum Shirl was to send for the Police or the Police would ring Father Ted and tell them what location and suburb where they are.

After that I did ask my dear Brother what is the name of the Church. He said it was the Presbytery and not St Vincent‘s Catholic Church. I wondered from that day to this day was I meant to meet Father Ted Kennedy and his wonderful community of followers of St Vincent‘s Church.

Father Ted Kennedy has been available at all times for the Koorie people. He is a good man when it comes to visiting Koories in hospitals and jails or in their homes, if they are sick or want to make a confession. Father Ted would listen to anyone’s problems and try to do or say something that may ease their burden. Father Ted has a heart as soft as a green pea for a priest who knew all those Koorie people who, lived next door in the presbytery, whilst he lived in the back of the church.

No one will ever know how Father Ted feels and thinks after the death of members of his Koorie family from their home, the Presbytery. Father Ted was heartbroken each time he received news that one of his Koorie friends had died. I myself felt his pain, as I look at the teardrops dripping down his face.

Father Ted has done all of his Koorie friends and family’s funeral services and stayed at their grave site in disbelief at his loss of another one of his friends. When Father Ted was called into any hospital when he heard news one of his Black Theatre crew or one of those who lived at the presbytery were very sick, Father Ted would stay at the hospital bed when they were near to death, praying for them and holding their hand.

My Brother Stanley knew that Father Ted was there. Stanley went peacefully home to Jesus. Him and Mum are sitting on the right hand of our Lord Jesus Christ

Thank you Father Ted – for being yourself.

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