community, how does one encapsulate a lifetime of experiences
that captured my heart, my imagination my beliefs and
my commitment to justice, in a few words? When I came
to Redfern I was looking for a church where I could
worship. I found instead a life-changing scene where
every fibre of my being was challenged daily and still
is by the unique people and events that have been part
of my journey.
was first greeted at Redfern by Sylvia Williams. I was
looking for “Father Ted Kennedy’. Sylvia invited me
into the yard at the back of the presbytery to wait
for Ted. There I was confronted by a scene that is still
etched in my mind and heart, a group of Koorie men and
women sitting around a fire. They were drinking and
singing sad country western songs, most of them were
sick and depressed. You could feel their pain. It was
dark and I could just see their faces and it was through
their eyes peering at me that I saw a deep well of suffering
that imprinted on my soul. I was devastated.
were sharing the flagon around and offered it to me.
To this day I will never know why I took a drink from
the bottle but there was a powerful force within me,
an understanding that I had been invited in some way
into their lives. I believe now I was offered the Eucharistic
cup to drink.
group of Koories, Sylvia, Waynie West, Daphne Pitt,
Ronnie Davies, Dicko, Peter Pan, Billy Beau Daniels,
Clorine, Aunty Glad, Judy Gundy, Ronnie Gundy, Normie
West, Roy Frail and Jutebox became my conduit into the
depths of pain, joy, suffering and death of so many
Aboriginal people. Except for Ronnie, Aunty Glad and
Judy all of those friends are now gone, long before
their time. But daily I feel their presence. Their lives
have given meaning to how I make sense of my world and
how I respond to life events.
days after this encounter I met Mum Shirl where in her
incisive way she challenged me and asked why I had come.
I told her I wanted to help! Boy did I get a response.
“You want to help, your people have been doing that
for two hundred years and look at the mess you have
us in. If you want to help sit down and look and listen
and you may be able learn something”. What began with
me putting a toe in the water ended up tumbling me into
a raging sea.
life took on a new dimension and for over thirty years
I have loved and been part of the Redfern community.
Shirl took me to places where I feared to go, teaching
me much about myself. Maureen Watson engaged me in discourse
on black politics and racism. Roy, Jutebox and others
taught me the deadly secret that loving is painful.
celebrated a Living Eucharist,” this is my body broken
for you”. The word broken still resonates for me today.
I see us at St
as a struggling community of diverse people who strive
to be who we want to be, authentic to the gospel values.
A community who are not afraid to take up the fight
against injustices, who use their considerable talents
and expertise to work towards social change, and who
share the breaking of bread at mass and at Café Cana.
A community that reaches out the hand of friendship
to a diverse world and in particular the Aboriginal
people who still suffer grave injustice. It is a community
that I own as my extended family.
has been pivotal to all of this. He understood that
the church had broken its covenant with the poor and
he challenged us to stand for justice and resist church
and state where ever injustice occurred. He brought
alive the reality that the Eucharist was central to
our understanding of the suffering Christ This example
has given me the understanding that when we resist political
oppression we do so in the belief that we are called
to walk in the shoes of Christ often stumbling but with
travellers at Redfern there is always support.
extraordinary self has been gift to all of us. His love
of poetry; his love of the “littlest ones’; his love
of us in no small measure gave us the gift to BE. He
loves us for who we are. He is truly someone special
among us. His integrity for Aboriginal people is absolute
and his love of the church is constant.
are many images I can recall of Redfern but two that
I sense today. Ted and Dicko celebrating mass. Dicko
and his beloved TK. His big hug for this man whom he
knew loved him like a son. Two men who loved each other.
second image is of Ted overwhelmed with grief and unable
to complete the service for Normie West, and of Shirl
stepping forward tears streaming down her face, as she
stated “I love Father Edward Kennedy and he loves my
a kaleidoscope of memories that merges into today sharing
the Journey with friends a journey of life, hope, faith,
dreams and reflections.
by Rhonda Ansiewicz