Father Ted Kennedy
St Vincent's Redfern 1971 - 2002
A compilation of reflections by Community members presented to Ted Kennedy on his retirement as parish priest of the St Vincent's Catholic Church in the inner Sydney suburb of Redfern.
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Fr Ted Kennedy

Reflections 1
Reflections 2
Reflections 3
Reflections 4
Reflections 5
Who is Worthy?
Letters from Ted

Mum Shirl

Her story

Recent Parish Priests

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The Neocats
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Points of view

Visitors since 12 April 2004
  Church Mouse

Harold's funeral was my last visit to Redfern. That ceremony, simple yet splendid in its aboriginal rituals, chants and symbolism was an acknowledgment of the dignity and rights of our indigenous people far different from my earliest memories of St Vincent's.

On a home visit from our community in Melbourne, in the early 70s, Jo Dirks took me up to St Vincent's where I met John Butcher, known to our family from my brother's days at Waverley, Fergus, who had officiated at this same brother's wedding, and, of course, Ted.

A vastly different world from our monastic enclosure!

Later, in 1977 or so, Maureen (Flood) and I came up to stay at the Presbytery for a week or more, to be part of the life and ministry at St Vincent's. In 1979 I brought our then Congregational Leader, who was visiting Australia, to meet Ted, and, finally I came to our community, established at Forbes Street in 1979, and lived there from 1983-1991.

Sunday and daily liturgies at St Vincent's were dominated, firstly, by Ted's homilies and the reflection and discussion they provoked, and, secondly, the people whom I gradually came to know and admire. Clearly, this congregation is an intentional community of people passionate about issues of justice and the rights of our aboriginal brothers and sisters. A special delight for me was watching the children growing up, Matthew Cleary and James and Sarah Gilbert and the Bourke twins’ babies and others.

But what happened at the church was only a smidgen of what happened in our little community at Forbes Street!

Certainly, I was out of my depth here ... the door always open, the space filled daily with our Aboriginal friends seeking hospitality. My memories embrace Harold and Leo, Patty Newman and Dicko and Denis and...

Harold, coming back to the house at 9.30 pin on Christmas Eve to walk me to the Midnight Mass because I was alone;

Dicko at the door at 7.30 am on Boxing Day to introduce to me his “new de facto';

Patty, with her new little baby, tenderly cradled as we walked to the "early opener"; And Mum Shirl.

Perhaps my most precious memory is of Mum Shirl. It was the Sunday in July after we had buried my mother. My heart was crying out for public recognition of the wonder and richness of her life, but no one knew of her death. But Mum Shirl recognised my need. She came to me in the church and embraced me, and then she returned with us to Forbes Street and, in an unobtrusive and wholly acceptable way, stayed around simply to be with us/me. I will never forget that.

Redfern means for me an opportunity to know aboriginal men and women as friends. It means the chance to come to know and admire people like Mick Asher and Danny and Rhonda. It is also, for me, a learning about my own limitations. I am no Mother Teresa. The community at St Vincent's represents an alternative way of being church, the Body of Christ. Ted is prophet, priest and servant, animator of prophets, priests and servants whose gifts are laid out for our nourishment and for the challenging and nurturing of the Church of Sydney.

by Vianney Hatton Kirrawee


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