is a radio program that may be heard on Sundays at 7.10am
(repeated Wednesday at 7.10pm) on the Australian Broadcasting
This highly acclaimed series, co-ordinated by Florence Spurling,
explores the connections between religion and life.
With an emphasis on a high standard of creative production,
Encounter invites the listener to make connections intellectually,
emotionally and intuitively across a broad spectrum of topics.
The program regularly reflects on the religious experience
of multicultural Australia. This includes small, lesser-known
groups and gives access to voices and experiences that are
not often heard in the mainstream media.
Encounter has won local and international awards.
On Sunday 25 July 2004 Encounter's David Rutledge
presented a program on St Vincent's Redfern, entitled
St Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Sydney's Redfern
has been a wellspring of social justice ministry for
the past 35 years - but now that looks to be under
New priests have been installed in the parish, and
neither the priests, the congregation nor the local
Aboriginal community are happy.
A transcript of the program may be found here
on the ABC website or here
on this site.
from the National Council of Priests in Australia
Community member Fr John Ford wrote the NCP a note expressing
thanks for their motion of
support during their meeting in Queensland last week. Here
is their reply:
Date: Fri, 8 Oct 2004 13:46:26 +1000
The NCP Executive
met yesterday and your email was tabled. The committee has
asked me to pass on our appreciation of your words of thanks.
We are conscious of the implications of what's happening
at Redfern for all parishes, and for Indigenous people throughout
Your message will
be posted on our web site and appear in the Members' Bulletin,
which is due to be sent out soon.
on continuing Sharing the Meal. It is a most important and
effective outreach of the community. It's sad that it doesn't
have the support of the Archdiocese, let alone the resident
Be assured of our
ongoing support. If there is any way the NCP can help please
let us know.
21 Twentieth Ave
Hoxton Park 2171
Thanks Dr Mick Asher!
Father Gerry Prindiville's opposition to the community holding
its twice-weekly Sharing of the Meal inside the church has
been aired elsewhere on this web site. It seems that the the
Cathedral has a similar view, for, as revealed on the Encounter
program, the Sydney Archdiocese Charitable Works Fund has
withdrawn its meagre funding.
Dr Mick Asher, however, is adamant that the Sharing of The
Meal must continue. Upon hearing the program he came to St
Vincent's and gave a $1000 cheque to the organisers after
the 10:00am Sunday mass. Mick Asher is well known for his
work in the area, and was Mum Shirl's doctor. He is not a
Record numbers of visitors
Hundreds of people have visited the Church Mouse in the 36
hours since the program was first broadcast. Here are some
excerpts from what a couple of them had to say.
Having listened to
the Encounter programme on Radio National this morning at
7am, I am most interested in the fate of the bi-weekly luncheons
since the withdrawal of finacial support. Is there a plan
for raising the necessary funds to support the lunch and if
so, how does one contribute?
I have just listened
to poor church on the ABC.
It has saddened me
deeply to hear of what is happening to your community. I was
fortunate to experience the St Vincents community when I lived
in Sydney in 1987 and attended Mass with Father Ted and Mum
Shirl and felt the true inclusion of my 3 yr old son in the
proceedings – not the usual experience for mothers of lively
toddlers at Mass.
I learned volumes
from Fr Ted as a role model and from the community about reconciliation.
And I do remember the bare boards and everyone on the same
level!! I also remember one week when ?Fabian from the Sisters
of Perpetual Indulgence talked to the congregation about his
experiences of growing up gay and Catholic. This church is
really about all people I felt. I had never felt that before.
I want to offer my
support to your community at this really trying time - what
is the best way for me to contribute to fundraising to sustain
the twice weekly lunches?
Sharing the Meal regarding donations
people of St Vincent's, Redfern,
Pax Christi. I empathasise with you after listening to the
programme. I have taken the trouble to quickly read something
about the Neocatechumenat Community which can only be called
a sect, and as dangerous to the 21st century Church as some
of the mediaeval and reformation movements were.
Unfortunately, the Catholic Church in Australia is heading
post haste for a bottomless pit. We are a population in which
one third is nominally Catholic.
... yet the church
is dead. Who to blame? None other than the hierarchy and a
traditional priesthood that has been ruined by the generosity
of Catholics. The Irish in particular have always spoilt their
priests who have been regarded as one step below God.
So your parish is one that has suffered not only from neglect
after the retirement of Father Kennedy but essentially from
the autocratic and domineering attitude of Cardinal Pell who
should never have been appointed to the position he holds.
That such a sect of priests has been appointed to anywhere
in Australia is anathema.
I hope that you do not have to bear your cross for too much
This is just to give you some support. I can't help myself
when it comes to expressing my views on a Church that I find
I cannot see as being Christlike in many of its activities.
Perhaps the creator will deal with Pell and his cohorts in
his own way!
Best wishes, Philip H., Adelaide
Sometime in the early
eighties (I think), I attended a concert at the Opera House
which featured catholic music writers and their songs and
one of the performers was Peter Kearney. Peter came on to
the stage like a breath of fresh air and proceeded to talk
about a song he was to sing and how, at his church at Redfern,
whenever he and the congregation sang the song, an aboriginal
man (whose name I cannot remember) would call out at the end
of the song "Play it again, Sam!" - the song was
'Where is your song, My Lord' and I vowed at that moment I
would go to that church in Redfern as it sounded like something
I may enjoy being at.
My husband accompanied me that first time and I stood at the
back asking him "are you sure this is the catholic church?"
- it was certainly different to any others I had attended!.
I came back the next week, and as I reached the Church, I
noticed a man sitting in the gutter with two aboriginal men,
one on either side of him, arms around each other and chatting.
Again I stood down the back and as communion time came around
I saw that same man enter the church just in time to receive
the eucharist. Now, I had been brought up in a strict Catholic
household with a religion based on shame and fear, so can
you imagine my thoughts as I witnessed this! I remember thinking
how I had been taught the need to be in attendance for ALL
of the Mass in order to receive the Eucharist! but that thought
was dismissed in favour of a much stronger one - "THIS
IS A CHURCH THAT PRACTISES WHAT CHRISTIANITY IS ALL ABOUT!"
I returned many, many times after that and I learned and changed
and grew from those experiences. You were, and will always
be, an inspiration to me, Ted, through your patience, tolerance
and humility. Thank you for assisting me to believe that Christ
can be alive and well within the Catholic Church!!
May God bless you ..... Mary B.
- I write to offer encouragement in your struggle. I was baptised
by Fr Ted Kennedy in St. Vincent's 29 years ago and although
I have not been able to return as often as I would have liked,
your parish holds a special place in my heart. I have been
very concerned to hear about your problems with imposed priests
who do not respect your wonderful community and the sacred
space that is the church in Redfern. I urge you to keep up
the struggle for the Gospel and know that my prayers are with
Peace and blessings, Justin W.
Works Fund Appeal
I cannot understand the hostile reaction every
time I make an appeal for the Charitable Works Fund. Everyone
is free to give or not give according to his or her own
conscience and resources. If you have made your decision
not to give to this appeal in good conscience, what is the
problem, why the hostile reaction? It does not matter to
me if you give or do not give. This is a matter between
you and God.
Fr Gerry (The Saving Word, 15 August
uncharitable toward Aboriginal People
The withdrawing of $200 a week from St Vincent's
Church, Redfern by the Charitable
Works Fund will diminish the 'honourable contribution'
of the Catholic Church in Redfern, according to Professor
Stephen Leeder, professor of Public Health and Community
Medicine at Sydney University.
The Charitable Works Fund targeted specific
funds for withdrawal from St Vincent's. The $200 paid for
a twice weekly supper for some 300 indigenous people in
the area, some of whom are itinerant, and are therefore
unable to access other services. The service was begun by
the now ailing Fr Ted Kennedy and the community at St Vincent's
Catholic Church some years ago.
Professor Leeder told Online Catholics that
it was apparent that the moneys had been withdrawn as a
consequence of a change in theological position, from that
of Fr Kennedy's to that of the current parish priest, Fr
Gerry Prindiville, who is a member of the ultra conservative
"It seems to me necessary, for all of
us as Christians, to determine what actions should occur
arising from Gospel values, such as those described in the
parable of the Good Samaritan," Professor Leeder said.
"For me, I am happy to have just spent
18 months at a New York City Church (St Paul's and St Andrew's
Uniting Methodist) which operated the largest outreach service
in the city.
"My New York church fed the poor, extended
mercy to those in need and spent its resources accordingly.
It met the basic needs of a severely underprivileged community
of homeless and poor people. For myself, this service did
not diminish, but rather enriched both the spiritual life
and the sense of community connection of my church."
Professor Leeder said that the theological
position of the Catholic Church was a matter for it to judge.
But he also said that the long history of service at St
Vincent's "was among the more honourable responses
of our society to the complex needs of our often destitute
The Charitable Works Fund is chaired by Mgr
Kerry Bayada who told Online Catholics that the decision
to cut the St Vincent's contribution was due to the fact
that there are other services accessible to indigenous people
in Redfern. But Kate Gavan of the St Vincent's community
responded that many indigenous people are itinerant, which
prevents access to many services. She continued: "In
any event, the St Vincent's suppers are not just about supplying
food, but about giving and receiving friendship and care."
Professor Leeder, who is also Director of
the Australian Health Policy Institute, said that those
in authority and in positions of responsibility should act
with care. "The priest who walked by the injured man
got short shrift in the Samaritan story - but the despised
foreigner who became involved with him and sought to meet
his needs received the endorsement of Jesus."
© Copyright ONLINE CATHOLICS Ltd (ABN
63 107 718 703) Issue 10, 28 July 2004
positive spin from Pell on wicked Redfern
Perhaps the most telling aspect of this week's
Redfern Catholic community Encounter documentary on ABC
Radio National was the decision of Cardinal George Pell
and parish priest Fr Gerry Prindiville not to participate.
The program featured the voices of Aboriginal
and non-Aboriginal parishioners who feel disenfranchised
by the new style of ministry introduced by Fr Prindiville
and other members of The Neocatechumenal Way. The current
model represents a radical departure from that which was
built under the leadership of Fr Ted Kennedy over 35 years.
The absence of Cardinal Pell and Fr Prindiville
from the list of speakers symbolises the detachment of the
parish administration from the life of the parish community.
It was part of a rich tapestry of symbols depicted in the
"The carpet, which none of us likes,
is here; we've always had bare boards," said parishioner
Mary McMahon. "They've also put a dais there, which
we also find inappropriate, as we don't believe the priest
should stand up above the rest of us."
We can surmise that that Cardinal Pell and
Fr Prindiville didn't want to have anything to do with the
program because they felt they wouldn't be given a fair
go by what they imagined was the predictable and hostile
"left-wing agenda" of the ABC.
In fact that fear was shown to be unfounded
by the program's presentation of the experience of Broome's
Bishop Chris Saunders, whose contribution amounted to a
heartening endorsement of priests of The Neocatechumenal
Way whom he's had working in his diocese. Bishop Saunders
related the positive experience that overcame his skepticism
towards The Way prior to their coming to Broome.
He told producer David Rutledge: "Everything
I see about it - the way they love one another, the way
they support one another, as a way of helping people to
walk more deeply, in a more committed fashion towards Christ."
The placement of these comments of Bishop
Saunders could even be construed as suggesting that the
communitarian dimension of The Way has the potential to
provide an antidote to Fr Kennedy's "awful loneliness"
that was alluded to earlier in the program. At the very
least, it challenges the contention of some of the other
speakers that there's evil at work in the placement of the
Neocatechumenal community at Redfern.
Indeed the program's failure to quiz Bishop
Saunders about the role of The Way in the disempowering
of the poor at Redfern suggests Rutledge is giving them
more than a fair go. Saunders is after all also chairman
of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, which
has a lobbying brief to bring the poor into the mainstream
If Cardinal Pell and Fr Prindiville had participated,
they could have explained why the parish administration
is attempting to put a stop to the twice-weekly sharing
of a meal at the church. It's possible there is a good reason,
but we do not know, because they have not made themselves
available. As it stands, the program mentions that the Archdiocesan
Charitable Works Fund is withdrawing funding for the meal,
presumably on direction from Cardinal Pell. On the face
of it, this is a travesty, and the faithful from parishes
and schools around Sydney should be asking themselves why
they should continue to give money to the Fund.
Without Pell and Prindiville, it was left
to commentator and former priest Paul Collins to give the
ecclesiological analysis. He relates the reluctance of the
Neocatechumenate administrators to involve the Redfern parishioners
in decisionmaking to a form of Catholic fundamentalism,
and the fostering of what he calls "border-protection"
- "a closed-shop mentality, indeed a sectarian mentality".
Bishop Saunders had put a strong positive
gloss on what Paul Collins sees as the "bunker"
style of The Neocatechumenal Way. It's possible that this
isolation from the people is in fact the best way for the
Redfern administrators to proceed. But we don't know, because
we haven't heard the argument. From what we can glean from
the available speakers, the Redfern problem is about fear,
and not positive pastoral strategy.
Paul Collins' grim prediction is that the
refusal of the administrators to engage in dialogue will
destroy the community. That, he says, would be "a very
wicked thing". In the absence of other views, this
stands as the most plausible explanation.
© Copyright ONLINE CATHOLICS Ltd (ABN 63 107 718 703)
Issue 10, 28 July 2004