came to 5t Vincent's Church in Redfern about 17 years
ago, from the comfort zone, offered to us by the North
Shore Catholic Church. We were wandering around looking
for a challenge, when our friends, Marnie and Pat, moved
We often visited them there and were happy to accept
their invitation to come to Redfern and “try it out”.
Ted reinforced the welcome and we were hooked. We certainly
found a challenge - we've felt challenged and unsettled
first surprise was the distance people were prepared
to travel for Mass on Sunday. No one was there because
of obligation. We must have passed ten churches to reach
Redfern from home and there were others in the community
who travelled far greater distances. There were two
attractions - Father Ted Kennedy and a community committed
to justice for Aboriginal people and human rights for
all. It is a community of great diversity - a haven
for marginalised and oppressed people, for scholars,
sculptors, poets and others craving the truth.
is rare to find someone who can be involved in “the
big picture” yet devoted to “the small picture” as well.
Ted's consuming passion for rights for the Aboriginal
community and marginalised people does not separate
him from our more everyday needs. He was there at David's
hospital bedside before
to give him Communion, a memory David treasures. He
was there for Belinda, who with her partner was making
a documentary about Aboriginal Spirituality - generous
with his time and long experience. He was there to marry
Victoria and Damian. He was there to welcome Gabrielle's
elderly mother and make her feel the most important
person in the church, when she visited Redfern. We have
been enriched by his knowledge and love of poetry. David
is ever grateful for the introduction to John Shaw Neilson.
Ted has been there to share our joys and sorrows as
he has shared his own with us.
joining the Redfern community, a new world and way of
“church” was opened up to us. All the unnecessary trappings
of ritual and rules had been stripped away. People mattered
most We were bowled over by Ted's knowledge and care
for each one of the Aboriginal community. He knows everyone
by name, they are his family and their genealogy, their
“country” are as important to him as his own beloved
Araluen and Ireland.
It's not just because he has a fantastic memory, he
has that, he genuinely loves each and every one. With
the struggle have come joy and great suffering for Ted.
He has watched so many die, he has buried so many friends.
greatest loss of all was Mum Shirl's death in 1998.
We see her still outside the church, wielding her black
handbag - the greatest theologian of all. One of our
proudest moments was when she cradled our first grandchild,
Atticus, in her experienced arms and gave him her approval.
He needed no further imprimatur. Ted's love is bountiful.
Each one of our community is treasured by him. He has
always endowed us with such trust, sharing any plans,
asking for advice, never seeing himself as having power
over but empowering us all to share decisions and to
be guided by truth. Ted has broken open the Gospel for
us. For the first time we heard that the Woman at the
Well had not sinned but had been sinned against. It
makes so much sense. The Widow's Mite spoke not about
her generosity in the face of poverty, but about the
extortion of the poor by the hierarchy. Faith isn't
as strong as steel but as weak and fragile as a mustard
seed. Ted's “flip-side” of each Gospel story “has brought
down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the humble”.
In the middle of a minutely researched and erudite homily,
we have seen Ted welcome one of the Aboriginal community
to take the microphone and bring his or her perspective
to the subject - or not. We have seen him carry on in
the midst of “Redfern chaos” with children and dogs
whooping to and fro and nary a missed beat. He has thanked
each one of us most graciously for our contributions
to the liturgy - whether it be doing the readings on
ordinary Sundays (if such a Sunday ever existed at Redfern)
- or preparing the Easter Ceremonies with solemnity
or all the bells and whistles! We cannot ever remember
Ted's asking to see the planned programme beforehand
- he has always trusted us. As Ted takes his leave of
us we know we will be ever in each others’ hearts. He
has left us with the finest legacy of respect for truth
and with the conviction that it is the poor who are
with the God of Jesus.
day is part of a miracle
and I have found that to be
the truth all my life. “
is our miracle. May he always know our love and gratitude
for all he is to us.