Back in the
early 80s, I traveled with Ted and an Aboriginal parishioner
down to Burrawang in the southern highlands. On the
way we stopped for a break and, apropos of nothing,
Ted said to both of us, “There's a free phone over there”.
I looked across the street at the public phone box and
decided to test it by calling home in Adelaide.
One of our youngest children eventually answered. I
asked, “What are you doing?” “I'm playing in the street”,
she replied. “Where's your mum?” “She had to go out.”
“You come inside at once and wait for her to come home.”
After this bit of long distance parenting, courtesy
of Ted, we resumed our journey. And it is courtesy -
always making welcome his parishioners, the poorest
in the country, and visitors like myself, from time
to time, a free phone, a good bottle of red, space to
speak after the 10 am Mass at Redfern - a space which
Mum Shirl filled for years - remains in my mind.
extends to the sharing of ideas and concerns. “Have
you read Jotham’s Fable?” “Well, no, but now that you
mention it, I will.” Found in the Book of Judges, it
is the story of the trees who wanted to have a king
so that they could be like others. First they approached
the olive tree, the fig tree and the vine, all of which
declined the honour due to the importance of their products.
And so they get to the thorn tree which accepts with
one proviso - come under my shade or else! The thorn
tree gives no shade in the desert. The parable is a
metaphor for Redfern. I made 5 relief sculptures on
the fable as a result of that conversation.
doesn’t mean an incapacity to be tough and single-minded.
On the contrary! It is, however, a pre-condition for
civilised discourse. When Ted’s book, Who
is worthy?, was eventually launched
in Melbourne, courtesy of the parish priest of South
Melbourne, Bob Macguire, I happened to be in Melbourne
and so went along. Beforehand I had been into the Catholic
bookshop attached to St Francis’ church in the city
and asked to see a copy of the book. The attendant apologised
and said that they weren’t allowed to display the book
but that there were some copies out the back and he
went to fetch one. I was amazed that, after all these
years, a tattered remnant of the old defensive Catholic
culture of my youth was still in place and that courtesy
by Bill Clements