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

Pell's appointments
The Neocats
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Interesting reading

Points of view

Visitors since 12 April 2004
  Church Mouse

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.

Courtesy 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.

Courtesy 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 had died.

by Bill Clements


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