Church Mouse Journal

More morsels from St Vincent's Redfern

Saturday, 28 May 2005


Miscellaneous tributes


Fr Ted, a ‘most extraordinary’ man with passion for the poor

Fr Ted Kennedy’s strongest message was “his understanding of the primacy of the poor in Jesus’ teachings”, says his sister, Sr Marnie Kennedy.

Fr Ted, parish priest of St Vincent’s, Redfern, for more than 30 years and dear friend of the country’s indigenous people, has died after a long illness. He was 74.

Tributes and letters have poured in to honour a champion of the poor and marginalised and defender of the indigenous people; a man who read and thought deeply and lived what he preached.

The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, said that Fr Ted was a “good and courageous priest who inspired many people”.

“He was a man of strong convictions who worked hard to help those on the margins,” he said. “He will be sadly missed by his friends and former parishioners.”

Sr Marnie, a Sister of the Sacred Heart and a member of the Redfern parish community since the 70s, says her brother was a passionate advocate for justice and had a great gift for preaching.

“He offered a Christ who was so attractive and yet so strong,” she said.

“He offered a wonderful theology of the primacy of the poor, which was for everyone, not just a few. He believed that was the essence of the Gospel.”

Fr Edmund Campion told The Catholic Weekly that Fr Ted “is one of the glories of the Sydney priesthood whose name will shine in our story for many years to come”.

“He was someone who took the Gospel seriously and lived it thoroughly,” he said.

Fr Ted wrote in a letter to the Archbishop of Sydney in 1975 (Cardinal James Freeman) explaining his vision for his community at Redfern.

“Poverty of spirit is the prerequisite of all Christian life,” he wrote. “And there is no poverty of spirit without a sharing of the spirit of poor people.

“It involves feeling and touching the pulse of their lives, and sharing the weight of their anguish and putting our shoulder alongside theirs, and fighting with them for their rights.”

Ted Kennedy was raised in Sydney. He went to Christian Brothers High School at Lewisham before entering the Manly seminary. He was for some years a chaplain at Sydney University.

Sr Marnie says he was inspired by the reforms of Vatican II.

“He had a vision of a team ministry fanning out into areas like factories and other places, in an attempt to offer a yeast for a new society,” she says.

Cardinal Freeman offered him Redfern parish in which to establish his team ministry, and he moved into the presbytery in 1971 with two other priests, Frs John Butcher and Fergus Breslan.

So began Fr Ted’s friendship with the many indigenous people who lived in, or passed through, his parish.

“The first night or so he opened the doors of the presbytery and he took in about 100 to sleep there,” says Sr Marnie. “Ted slept in the back of the sacristy on a mattress for many years.”

Then came Shirley Smith (‘Mum Shirl’), who teamed up with Fr Ted to tend to the community, to visit jails and help conduct hundreds of funerals.

They were instrumental in the establishment of the Aboriginal Medical Service, Aboriginal Hostels and the Aboriginal Legal Service.

The term ‘stolen generation’ has been in currency for about 10 years. Fr Ted learnt of it much earlier when, in the 1970s, indigenous people with their newly acquired citizenship left the missions and came to Sydney to find their families.

He helped them. “He travelled the country trying to find connections,” says Sr Marnie. “He could say to people ‘I’ve met your uncle, I’ve met your cousin’ in some place in the far west.”

Fr Ted became renowned as an advocate for and friend of indigenous people, as well as a critic of those he saw as keeping their distance from the poor.

“He sometimes fired off a lot of Irish passion about justice, but he did not have a big ego,” says Sr Marnie.

Fr Ted’s vision of reconciliation was not a political, or even a religious one, but was simply a vision of friendship. And he led by example.

He was always wary of encouraging a sense of paternalism but, rather, strived to encourage self-determination, says Sr Marnie.

Some of the young people he befriended and encouraged to study went on to become leaders in society, including Australia’s only indigenous judge, the late Bob Bellear.

“Their love for him was just extraordinary,” says Sr Marnie. “They were given the sense that he had them as their first priority.”

Redfern parishioner Peter Griffin says that Fr Ted was a “most extraordinary” man.

“He was terribly orthodox, with liturgies for example, but very unconventional, too,” he said. “He had a penetrating intelligence. He was a very strong man and a tremendous friend in times of need.”

Fr Ted was suffering the effects of a stroke in 2000 when his book Who is Worthy? was published.

In 2001 he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the Aboriginal community.

Fr Ted retired as parish priest in 2002.

He celebrated his golden jubilee as a priest in 2003.

Thursday, 26 May 2005


Intellectual rigour, Neocat style

From time to time the Church Mouse receives fan mail, offering finely honed theological arguments in support of the Way.
Here are some examples, reproduced in full:

-----Original Message----- From: francis mcdowell [] Sent: Wednesday, 25 May 2005 10:22 PM To: Subject: slander & distress

You did your best to wreck something that came from the heart of the church. Fortunately you didn't succeed and the way still brings hope to many people who do not share your sorry views which are based on an inadeqaute understanding of the catholic faith.
put this on your website & smoke it.

Francis McDowell Tel: (03) 9886 6214 Mob: 0417 145964 email:
-----Original Message----- From: mark rehua [] Sent: Monday, 2 May 2005 9:07 PM To: Subject: lies

this site is slandering priests and libels them. be carefull you will be sued.

-----Original Message----- From: mark rehua [] Sent: Monday, 18 April 2005 1:14 AM To: Subject: CHURCH MOUSE


Wednesday, 25 May 2005


Obedience and Justice

Dedicated to Ted Kennedy who was buried yesterday

Charles Curran, the first recipient of the John Courtney Murray Award of the Catholic Theological Society for distinguished achievement in Catholic theology, recently reflected on his disappointment at the election of Benedict XVI. This was not so much an expression of concern for the state of the church or its future, but it recalled the decision of Ratzinger who concluded a seven-year investigation of Curran’s theological writings in 1986 with the judgment, approved by John Paul II, that “one who dissents from the magisterium as you do is not suitable nor eligible to teach Catholic theology.”

Curran reflects on his experience of being wounded not because he was stopped from teaching as a Catholic theologian; nor because he was found wanting as a theologian; nor because he was humiliated by the Vatican machine; but because his efforts to substantiate his claims fell on deaf ears – the great machine had decided and spoken, and there was no more need for correspondence. His arguments and calls for clarifications failed to gain a response.

Now here is the problem with obedience in the Church or the world in its current state. Serious work being done by dedicated people is dismissed with slogans or silence because they have not caved in to bullying pressure to change their professional opinion. This seems to have more to do with a threat to the absolute power of religious or political authorities because these dedicated theologians makes sense to the people who hunger for a message of hope. It is this that most threatens Vatican power. Prophets like Charles Curran, Edward Schillebeeckx, Leonardo Boff, Yves Congar; Tissa Balaysuriya; Hans Kung; Paul Collins and the many others censored by the Vatican have fought for intelligent discussion and professional competence on important issues not because they claim that their positions are “infallible” but because they see the hunger of the people. Their authority comes from a struggle for truth and they are listened to because they speak with authority not like that of the scribes and Pharisees. They speak with an honesty born of the personal integrity. This is the primary obedience required of Christians as Vatican II noted in the Declaration on Religious Freedom: this Vatican Council urges everyone, especially those who are charged with the task of educating others, to do their utmost to form people who, on the one hand, will respect the moral order and be obedient to lawful authority, and on the other hand, will be lovers of true freedom - people, in other words, who will come to decisions on their own judgment and in the light of truth, govern their activities with a sense of responsibility, and strive after what is true and right, willing always to join with others in cooperative effort. (No 8)

Charles Curran’s story is about more than obedience - it is also about justice. Curran was judged by the Vatican as dissenting from the magisterium – he argues that there is a world of difference between dissent from infallible and noninfallible teachings. He quotes the American bishops in their response to the church’s teaching on artificial means of contraception. We could just as easily quote the Australian bishops who followed similar lines – that in noninfalible matters, legitimacy for dissent must be for serious reasons, the teaching authority of the church must not be impugned, and scandal must not be given.

Curran argues further that this kind of dissent is not only the preserve of the liberals and progressives. He says: “Dissent from noncentral teachings spans the conservative/liberal divide in the church today. Too often dissent is seen as a problem only for liberals in the church. But many conservatives dissent from papal teaching on capital punishment, on opposition to the wars in Iraq, and on some criticisms of free-market capitalism.”

Obedience requires us to engage in a critical analysis of the present situation in which we find ourselves and a deeply theological and spiritual application of gospel principles and church teaching. Insulting terms like “cafeteria Catholics” used as political slogans and clever rhetoric fail to honour the deeply held struggle of Catholics searching for the truth in complex situations. It is not a matter of picking and choosing as one feels at the time, as is often the quip of smart doctrinaire types. It is a matter of personal integrity to stay with the heart where God resides in the most sacred of all duties of the Christian – to discern God’s will for me now even in the darker moments and when the choices seem so limited or complex that the narrow way of parroting black and white answers would seriously weaken the sanctuary of the human heart where the person is ultimately answerable to God alone.

So how are we to find our way in the struggle for justice in the complexities of our world? The answer lies in the gospel ethic of taking a stand in favour of the poor, imprisoned, naked, sick and hungry. It is in being fearless and fiercely defending the rights of the marginalised, forgotten, lost and alone. Former priest of Redfern parish, Ted Kennedy, who we buried just yesterday, is famous for his clarity of insight on this point. He went to Redfern with little experience of Indigenous people and their human struggle but quickly came to throw in his lot with theirs by the gospel imperative that the hungry and dispossessed were the human face of Christ in our midst – “when done to one of the least it is done to me”. He would say the only way to see God in this world is to place yourself in a direct line of sight with the poor so that acting as a lens, they will enable you to see God. To “come alongside”, the literal meaning of the word Paraclete, is the only way to act in true obedience to the gospel.

Only from this position can we be truly respectful and obedient to the teaching authority of the church and to the gospel. Chris Geraghty noted on the Religion Report this morning that Ted acted fearlessly to engage with the world in the justice struggle. This stands in contrast to many church leaders who act fearfully believing the very survival of the church depends on them holding on to the reigns of this runaway horse as the church sometimes seems to them. They seem to have no faith in the gospel ethic: Whoever clings to this life will lose it, and whoever loses this life will save it” (Lk 17/33)

Fearlessness is not the same as picking and choosing at will, or worse, to make it easy by completely disregarding church teaching. It is about giving full weight to this gospel imperative while taking very seriously the magisterium. It is about making the poor the lens through which we read the way to God. As Ted said: he believed the liberation of the Aboriginal people was intimately tied to his own liberation. This is a deeply biblical position which is filled with spirituality – that quality that must be present in applying church teaching to the constantly changing landscape of our personal lives and the social world.

Quoting Ted Kennedy (I believe from the BBC documentary) but recounted on the Religion Report the day after Ted died: I want to make the confession that within the Catholic community in Australia, there has been a deep, dark hole for a long time now, which amounts to a lack of genuine spirituality. Religion can become the possession of an elitist group whose power reinforces the power of all the other institutional forces in society. It’s language then becomes spiritually hollow, incapable of criticising or challenging any of those forces. In so becoming, religion moves inevitably away from where people, especially the poor, live and move and have their being. I want to confess that the Australian Catholic church has built up a momentum which is heading away from the poor and to the extent that it has done so, it has become unfaithful to the Gospel.

I personally owe a great deal to Ted Kennedy. As with many others he challenged and formed me in the ways of gospel loving and resistance strategies. As a deeply middle class Christian, I am challenged by Ted to abandon self interest and position and bravely enter the unknown world of the poor, not only for their freedom but for everyone’s freedom. While Indigenous Australians; refugee men women and children; single parents; people with a disability; women; gays and all the forcibly silenced are oppressed and unheard; we are all unfree. The gospel imperative is to come alongside the marginalised in action and reflection; learning through doing; a spirituality of the imagination and a clear sense of being in connection with the cosmic reality. At this level we are both insignificant and all powerful – everything is interconnected which makes every fearless act of love productive.

Australia today is mesmerised by a culture of fear of loss. For me obedience and justice are fused in standing up to this fear and naming the true danger – the loss of our humanity. The gospel is our homing beacon pushing us to stand in the way of making the poor scapegoats. As John Dalzel of the Salvation Army said on Sunday’s Meet the Press – in a culture constructed on fear of loss, the poor are seen as the problem because they are trying to cheat the system; yet they are in fact the victims of the system. The system is the problem because it props up the property rights of the rich and gives scant regard for the way it dispossesses the poor through social, cultural, economic and religious mainstreaming – one size fits all. If you are on the edge of our society, a slave of the system, you are further sidelined - indeed blamed.

We must confront this rhetoric head on with all the creativity, ingenuity, imagination; intellect, spirituality and dance. The gospel and the magisterium calls us to be obedient to this project and thus advance the true liberation of the human spirit in the incarnate glorified Christ.

Peter Maher Spirituality in the Pub: Fivedock, May 25



I visited your website today in an endeavour to get some feed back on the funeral yesterday of our friend. If ever there were a testament needed to the results of our friend's work the content of your website and the courageous way that you are confronting the attempted further exclusion from the life of the church of Aboriginal people then this community website stands tribute.
Alas your fight is reflected in many parishes around the country and the exclusion that many of us feel as catholics who believe in a gospel of inclusion, justice, charity and hope - the gospel as preached by our friend all his priestly life.
In solidarity Paul Lane Broome WA 6725 Web:

Redfern community farewells activist priest

More than 1,000 mourners have turned out to farewell a former Sydney priest renowned for his social justice work for the Aboriginal community in Redfern since the 1970s.

Father Ted Kennedy presided over Saint Vincent's Parish for more than 20 years, retiring in 2002 due to ill health.

His funeral combined Catholic ritual with a traditional Indigenous smoking ceremony and Catholic hymns with didgeridoo music.

Richard Green, who gave the Indigenous welcome at the funeral, said Father Kennedy was much loved for his open style of preaching.

"He got down with everybody, he spoke to everyone, he ministered to everybody he met," he said.

"He didn't judge, you know, it's so important to have someone like that in your community.

"He's a blessing and his passing's a pretty tragic thing. We're going to miss him and the community's going to miss him but he's left a legacy."

Next Aussie Saint?

As Father Ted Kennedy was laid to rest today in a service in the Block, Redfern, in the presence of many Australian dignitaries, some were asking whether Fr Ted might become Saint Edward of Redfern.

Saint Ted Kennedy of Redfern, people's priest, prophet and poet, today (24 May) was loudly and spontaneously proclaimed as a saint by thousands of people gathered in Sydney beneath a vast blue and white marquee hoisted on a patch of ground restored to Aboriginal people by Gough Whitlam.

They don't need the Vatican to tell them he's a saint.

Their proclamation, with cheers, applause and whistles, of Father Ted as a saint, with another Edward, former archbishop Cardinal Clancy as their witness and the greatest concentration of priests for a funeral Mass in recent memory, rolled out across the indigenous dancing ground, through the sacred gumleaf smoke towards the broken houses of poor people whose hearts he had touched to the core.

It was, as principal concelebrant Bishop David Cremin put it, one of the greatest expressions of faith and love he had ever witnessed in his long ecclesiastical career.

Seventy priests in white robes representing the Resurrection were so numerous they could not find a place to sit down. "The last time we had so many people here in white with crosses it was the Ku Klux Klan," joked Aboriginal community leader Sol Bellear.

From early morning people began arriving in Redfern. Former Governor-General Sir William Deane, former Chief Justice Sir Gerard Brennan. And Aussie legend Tom Uren in his famous gardening hat. They sat in the body of the people. This was no time for standing on station or reputation - this egalitarian spirit continued through the Requiem Mass, culminating in a mutual declaration, a spontaneous roar that Father Edward Kennedy is regarded as a saint by his people, now and forever.

They had come, as Danny Gilbert said, to honour a 'splendid and holy man'.

Speaker after speaker came forward to give details of how Ted Kennedy had changed their lives. Some played the guitar, clicked the clap sticks or sang their hearts out.

This was the priest who said, "The Jesus I know is no cold, hard Iron-Christ; nor does Jesus deserve to be reduced to smug, glib and uncompassionate irrelevances when the real meaning of His love is what people need so desperately."

Proclamation of a saint by the people themselves has a long tradition in the Catholic Church.

Here at the funeral Mass we were seeing people in wheelchairs, old, young, fit or sick, black or white, not asking that Ted be 'made' a saint, but declaring their personal witness to his sainthood. Nor did I see any glimmer of demur from the rows of clergy, some of whom must have smarted at times from Ted's straight-from-the-shoulder forthrightness.

A newspaper reporter asked me why Cardinal George Pell was not present. I said that perhaps he felt this was a time for 'people power', one not to be distracted by an eminential presence. If so, he would have been right. It was Saint Ted's day. Plenty of time for ecclesial ruminations over the acclamation of Saint Edward of Redfern by the people who loved him.

This day was for celebration of a great life. In the words of the great man himself, "Life is made up of warm flesh-and-blood human beings, not rules made in an age long gone, or ill-fitting principles that were never made-to-measure anyhow."

And it was these warm people who came that day to love, remember and honor their hero, 'Saint' Edward of Redfern b. 27 January 1931, d. 17 May 2005.

His miracles have already occurred.
by Cliff Baxter for Online Catholics Source:

Activist priest farewelled

ABORIGINAL activist and Catholic priest Ted Kennedy has been farewelled by about 700 mourners at a funeral service in the Sydney suburb of Redfern.

Fr Ted, who spent more than 30 years supporting Redfern's Aboriginal community, died at Concord Hospital on May 17 aged 74.

Long-time friend Chris Geraghty told the gathering at The Block that Fr Ted had lived to serve the people he loved.

"Our Fr Ted comes before you with a life poured out for all with empty pockets and dirty hands," he said.

"He was a living treasure, compassionate, a pebble in the comfortable boot of establishment, a man who spilled his guts for others.

"He learnt to love what moved to rhythms other than his own."

Fr Ted entered the seminary at 18 and was ordained in 1953. He moved to the Redfern church in 1971 and established a network of priests to support the local Aboriginal community.

Former governor-general Sir William Deane, Democrats Senator Aden Ridgeway and heritage campaigner Jack Mundy attended the service, along with about 40 priests.

An Aboriginal mass was held at St Vincent's Catholic Church in Redfern before the main funeral service.


Remembering Ted Kennedy

Fr Ted Kennedy, former parish priest of St Vincent’s Catholic Church in Redfern who died last week, will be remembered as one of the most fearless advocates for Aboriginal rights in Australian church history. This week we remember Fr Ted.

Program Transcript

David Rutledge: Tomorrow, 26th May, marks the beginning of National Reconciliation Week, and so it’s entirely appropriate that yesterday was the funeral of former Redfern Catholic parish priest, Father Ted Kennedy.

A troublesome priest for some, Father Ted lived a life of poverty and devoted himself to working alongside indigenous Australians. He preached reconciliation against exclusion and marginalisation of all kinds, whether because of race, income or sexual orientation.

Ted Kennedy was also a scathing critic of perceived privilege and insularity among the Catholic priesthood – but still some sixty clergy turned out to send him off yesterday.

Father Ted’s funeral was quite an event: a procession through the main street, and then on to the Block at Redfern, which brought together a thousand people to recall his part in their lives, and to pray for his soul. His passing was honoured by Australians, indigenous and otherwise, from around the country.


David Rutledge: Memorials from yesterday’s funeral of Father Ted Kennedy.

But Ted Kennedy’s influence wasn’t confined to the parish of Redfern. His uncompromising support for indigenous Australians has inspired many others. Just two of them are Chris Geraghty, now a judge of the District Court of New South Wales, and Tom Stephens, the Western Australia State Member for Central Kimberley-Pilbara. Both of them in earlier life spent time in theological studies at the Sydney seminaries of Springwood and Manly, but first met Ted through their families.

Chris Geraghty and Tom Stephens spoke yesterday with producer Noel Debien, who began by asking Chris Geraghty about Father Ted’s unconditional policy of welcome.

Chris Geraghty: I mean honestly, a hundred people any one night living in his presbytery at Redfern, and they weren’t all well-behaved. And Ted’s great pride, I think, at the end of his life, was that he was there for thirty years, and he never called the police once, and yet stirred – particularly people with money, or with education or with power, whether it’s political or ecclesiastical – stirred, he could be as hard as nails, and as tough as Ezekiel.

Noel Debien: For those who’ve not been there, what was Redfern parish under Ted Kennedy?

Chris Geraghty: It was a ministry that Ted conducted for the underprivileged, the deprived, the poor, the drunks, the druggies, the people that loved him and whom he loved, and it was a ministry that he conducted not just on his own, but with Mum Shirl and with a number of young clergy for a while. He was a great leader of young clergy. The collections were small, and he used to take them outside after mass and distribute them among the Aboriginals. It was a drop-in for any Aboriginal from anywhere in Australia, I mean they just thought it was home, and it was for them. So it was an unconventional parish where they didn’t have incense and Gregorian chant.

Noel Debien: Well Tom, his influence wasn’t limited to Redfern alone; how did you come into contact with Ted Kennedy?

Tom Stephens: Young seminarians like myself were being exposed to Ted’s work, Ted’s ministry, the work of Redfern, and introduced to the life of Mum Shirl and the Aboriginal people; introduced to Aboriginal Australia through that Redfern experience. And for me, Aboriginal people suddenly moved from absolutely peripheral to the view of what it was to be an Australian, to core and central, and stayed that way. I stayed that way for the rest of my life.

Ted was able to introduce us to a theology of the poor, that put right at the centre of the gospel, the call of looking after the anawim Yahweh, responding to the challenge being with “the poor of the Lord”, and that was a new insight that had not been available from the seminaries of Springwood and Manly. Even for those who chose not to go on to Redfern, I think it became a counterpoint to whatever else you did at the seminary. There were those that were being exposed to Ted Kennedy, the wide ministry that he was part of, and those that were learning about it by juxtaposition with the rest of us. It was an extraordinary point in the lives of so many people, and I’m lucky enough to have been significantly impacted by that. I parted ways from the seminary, I was not going to be able to continue my studies for the priesthood – in part, I suppose, because of my linkage to Ted.

Noel Debien: Ted actually had quite a direct influence on your career, and where you are now in Western Australia. Can you tell me a bit about that?

Tom Stephens: Yes, it was while I was suddenly no longer heading towards the priesthood, because of the decisions that had been taken by the church authorities at the time – the church hierarchy at the time said things to me like ‘you know Dick Buckwell’ – another priest of the day; he was the priest that took me down to Redfern from Springwood – ‘you know Terry Fox, and you know Ted Kennedy, you know all of them. You couldn’t possibly be suited for the diocese of Wollongong’.

Ted’s linkages to Patrick Dodson, to Peter Willis, a Palatine priest working in the Kimberley, saw me suddenly leaving Sydney and going up into the Kimberley to work, employed by the Aboriginal community on the edge of Kunnanurra, a town in the far north of Western Australia, and that led me straight into politics, and I ended up there working almost immediately with the struggles of Aboriginal people for their right to vote – an Aboriginal bloke running for parliament, Ernie Bridge, who went on to become the first Minister in an Australian government in this country – and as well in the land struggles, the land rights pursuits, the issues of protecting sites.

Nukambar was on the horizon as I arrived, and the Kimberley Land Council became something that linked me to a political struggle that soon saw me go from that work with the Aboriginal people, outside parliamentary politics, straight into the parliament in double-quick time – but directly as a result of the introduction that Ted Kennedy had been to the call of the gospel, immersion in Redfern, that experience of Ted Kennedy and the experience of the church where he put at centre point, a call of the poor of the Lord.

Noel Debien: Where does somebody like Ted Kennedy fit in the Australian church?

Chris Geraghty: I think he sits at the very centre of it. I think that he’s a prophet, I think that he’s got a firm grasp on Christian understanding of God. He was not a dogmatic person, and he didn’t live his life by dogmatic formula, but he was the kind of person who would take a formula out of its envelope, read it, and re-interpret it and try to conduct a discourse with the world about this particular insight that Christianity provides.

Noel Debien: But he was “orthodox” in the best sense of that word too, wasn’t he, as a Catholic priest?

Chris Geraghty: He was faithful. He was enriched by the church’s traditions. He was not confined in any way by the church, because if one reads the conditions and history of the church, you’ll know that it’s up and down, and round about and a huge amount of development and redevelopment and change and refinement, and he was aware of all that. And I must say the people who persecuted him and criticised him, were people, in my estimation, who are completely unaware of the traditions of the church that go back beyond the first Vatican Council in 1870.

Noel Debien: He was a man, though, who fought strongly on primacy of conscience; this is one of the abiding themes of his work. How for you, as a politician, does the message of primacy of conscience and being a Catholic, sit together in your public work, Tom?

Tom Stephens: Well for me, Ted introduced me to the solid basis upon which you could confidently go into an appreciation of yourself, and your response to the call of the gospel. And the reason he was able to introduce us to that so solidly is because of the confidence that he had from his own appreciation of the history of the church. I’m sure Cardinal Newman had impacted dramatically on Ted’s understanding of himself, and the church and the people of the church. And for us, and for me, it gave us a lot of confidence, as you moved into a church where that primacy was being questioned by others, and led to pretty solid dialogue at the time when I was a seminarian.

For me as I went into politics, it left me always with the confidence of knowing what was central to me. I knew why I was in politics – I knew, from my exposure to Aboriginal people and their needs, that that had led me into politics – and I was confident always, about what I was doing over the twenty-two years, twenty-three years that I’ve been doing it; that sense that colleagues might have a view of the way you should do things, but their view was not as important as your own response to the call of the gospel. That’s something that I have to say ‘thank you Ted’, for the confidence that he exuded in his own life and was able to see reflected perhaps not as strongly in the lives of others, but nonetheless it flickers in the lives of people like myself.

I found it of more use in the call of the social gospel rather than the bioethical debates, but I also found it important to me in the bioethical responses that have kept me seeing the context of looking after the needs of the weak and the vulnerable. I was in the West Australian parliament when we were able to abolish the death penalty in the early 80s. That was something that made me respond to that call at the time, vigorously, because of my experience with the prisons of Western Australia and to have known through my Redfern experience, people who had been charged and convicted of murder, and yet to know in Western Australia that they still were subject to the death penalty. And they’re things that were created in my consciousness, my appreciation of the role of conscience through that Redfern experience, in a very vibrant way.

Noel Debien: We’ve seen a swing to the right politically across the world, we’ve seen a swing to the right even within church governments. Is there a sense, though, in which Ted is of a period in the church – the 60s, the 70s, the 80s – is he something that’s passed?

Tom Stephens: I think to the contrary. I think what we’ve got here is a church, an extraordinary tree, upon which dead branches emerge from time to time, and the church leadership takes you down a dead-end from time to time – but the core message, the central message of the more solid branches, the trunk of that tree, Ted Kennedy represents. Ted Kennedy’s message was really much more rooted in the solid traditions of the church than some of the distractions that aspects of the hierarchy may be expressing today with some pomp and volume, but not with the authentic ring of the gospel that Ted was able to beat out.

Chris Geraghty: I’d like to say, in addition to that, that Ted was fearless. And I think that the hierarchy who are drawing back, I think destroying the message of the Second Vatican Council, are really fearful people. And I think the Roman church, and I think other churches too, are quite fearful now about the influences of the world, and they’re drawing back and refusing to dialogue with the world. Ted would never have anything to do with that, he wanted to talk to the world and wanted the world to talk back to him.

Noel Debien: What is his legacy? How is it going to continue?

Chris Geraghty: What legacy can anybody leave, in the end? I mean, we’re just human beings, aren’t we? We live and die, we go into the earth and most of us are forgotten very quickly. I don’t think Ted will be forgotten readily. It’s going to continue in the love and respect that he’s given to the Aboriginal people, that was outpoured at his funeral. It’ll continue in the strength that people have to confront people that they disagree with, and who they understand are not preaching the gospel. It’ll continue in Redfern, it’ll continue in the clergy.

Noel Debien: Is this about ideas, is that what it’s about?

Tom Stephens: It’s in part about ideas, but also very significantly about a way of living. And Ted had a way of living that was a real selflessness that he modelled, and through that modelling had others inspired to try and replicate it in their various ways of living. And at the funeral today, from all parts of the Australian compass, we had people from Melbourne and Victoria and large numbers from South Australia and from Queensland; there were people from Far North Queensland – in my case I saw in the congregation, a number of people from Western Australia – rippling out around this country, trying in their own lives to take up some of the ideas, but also take up a way of being with other people in this country to see the primacy of the Aboriginal people in this country, to accept the Aboriginal community as being central to what it is to be Australian, to recognise their first call upon us, and then from that to be inclusive of others, particularly those in need, particularly those that have been alienated. That was Ted’s – not just his idea, not just his theology, but it became central to his being.

David Rutledge: Tom Stephens, the Western Australian State Member for Central Kimberley-Pilbara, and you also heard NSW District Court judge Chris Geraghty, talking there with Noel Debien.
Guests on this program:
Chris Geraghty NSW District Court judge
Tom Stephens Labor Member for Central Kimberley-Pilbara, WA
Who is Worthy? The role of conscience in restoring hope to the church Author: Ted Kennedy Publisher: Pluto Press ISBN 1 86403 087 9
Further information:
Fr Ted Kennedy (Obituary) by Fr Edmund Campion
The Hon. Tom Stephens
Article: Priest denies Redfern church is "for the Aboriginals"
Article: Paper highlights destruction of parish that was called 'beacon of hope'
Neo-Catechumenal Way (Australia)
ABC Encounter "Poor Church" (on St Vincent's Redfern)
Interview with Ted Kennedy
Website run by supporters of Fr Ted's Aboriginal Ministry in Redfern
Presenter: David Rutledge Producer: Noel Debien
Source: The Religion Report, Radio National, ABC Radio

The saint who spilt his guts for others

There was no need to canonise Ted Kennedy, Sol Bellear said at the old priest's funeral service, the Aboriginal people had already acclaimed him a saint.

Others among the congregation of more than 1500, such as Tom Hammerton, who had lived with the priest and his Aboriginal parishioners in the Redfern presbytery, saw Ted as a mate.

Danny Gilbert, the lawyer, quoted Patrick Pearse, a leader of the 1916 Easter Uprising in Ireland: "Splendid and holy causes are served by splendid and holy men." Father Kennedy's life cause, the liberation of the human spirit, was splendid and holy. So was his heroic faith, "untrammelled by dogma" and his authority, bestowed not from clerical office but from what he had to say.

Love flowed through the tributes at Redfern yesterday. And grief. And politics.

"We have lost a fierce friend to encourage us, a powerful God botherer, an untidy, grimy prophet, a Jesus figure in our midst," said theologian and District Court judge Chris Geraghty, leading the prayers of the faithful.

Catholic prayers of the faithful can rarely have been like these. Sydney has never seen a funeral quite like this. Father Kennedy, who served at St Vincent's, Redfern, for more than 30 years, died last week, aged 74.

Some community members had wanted a requiem Mass at St Mary's Cathedral. After all, the eye surgeon and atheist Fred Hollows had been buried from there with a eulogy from Frank Hardy, an old communist.

But Ted Kennedy had long fallen out with church leaders. His book, Who is Worthy?, was a response to a position taken by Cardinal George Pell. Anyhow, Ted's sister Marnie said, her brother had wanted to be buried from Redfern, among the people he loved. So the service began with a Aboriginal smoking ceremony at little, time-worn St Vincent's, where Father John Ford spoke of Ted as "another great Australian saint".

The Aboriginal people wanted to carry the simple casket, topped with gum leaves and kangaroo paws, to The Block for the main service under a huge tent but funeral directors urged that they use a hearse.

Someone said that so many suits had never been seen before in Redfern. The great and the good were joined by the tired and the troubled, who Father Kennedy had seen as good anyhow.

Sirs Gerard Brennan and William Deane, former High Court judges and governor-general, tried to sit up the back but were ushered forward.

Aboriginal elder Max Eulo encouraged smoke from gum leaves. Old sculptor Tom Bass sat near old politician Tom Uren. Gabi Hollows, Jack Mundey, Bob Gould, Bill Crews, Martin Sharpe, Senator Aden Ridgeway, rugby coach Dick Laffan and Keysar Trad, representing the Australian mufti, Sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly, reflected the ecumenical nature of the gathering.

Cardinal Pell, on duty elsewhere, had said that Father Kennedy "was a good and courageous priest who inspired many people" and "a man of strong convictions who worked hard to help those on the margins".

Organisers ran out of seats for the nearly 70 priests who concelebrated the mass. Bishop David Cremin said people of many faiths and little faith had found Jesus in Ted.

Father Pat Kenna said the room in which he had died had a small crucifix on one wall and a wooden cross in red, black and ochre, the Aboriginal colours, on another.

Judge Geraghty led the prayers for this "pebble in the comfortable boot of establishment, a man who spilt his guts for others". Ted had reminded "those of us with earthly or heavenly power of their ridiculous weaknesses, their cruel blindness and petty pomp". He had shown "the true worth of corporate salaries and the stupidity of the BRW rich list. Our Father Ted comes before you with a life poured out for all, with empty pockets and dirty hands".

Redfern was Ted's territory, Judge Geraghty prayed - "the focus of pain, of anger, echoing with the cries of suffering, a place of protest, of empty needles, of crushed cardboard wine casks".

The people prayed for "another true shepherd", another "courageous leader to renew the face of the earth".

Ted Kennedy left for Waverley cemetery at 2pm, 5½ hours after the the first service had begun.

The presence of his absence was everywhere.

By Tony Stephens for the Sydney Morning Herald Source: SMH

Fr. Ted Kennedy's Memorial Service, Brisbane

About 50 people gathered at St Mary's Church South Brisbane last night to grieve the death of Ted Kennedy and to celebrate his life and ministry.

As well as spoken tributes and recollections we had the music of Dermot Dorgan who has written songs from his days with Ted in Redfern. We used some of the texts from the Funeral Service including the Gospel: Luke 6:17-23 and the music of Peter Kearney. I composed the opening prayer of the service using some of Ted's own words from his book, "Who Is Worthy?"

Opening Prayer
God of Ancient Days, We grieve the loss of our brother Ted whom you have called from this life We celebrate his passion for justice.

We honour his unfashionable love for the poor of our land.

We delight in his impatience with the disease of clericalism in the Church, We share his shame of the wrenching distress and grieving, starvation and dying of Aboriginal people.

We remember his certainty of the holiness of the heart’s affection and the truth of the imagination.

We celebrate his love of the Word, made flesh in Jesus.

May our brother Ted who shared in the Eucharist with your people of the streets, come to the banquet of life Christ has prepared for us.

We make our prayer in communion with Jesus our brother and the “Holy Ghost who over this bent world broods with warm breast and ah! Bright wings.”

Prayers of the Faithful

Loving God, hear the petitions of your people united in grief and inspired by the faithful witness of our brother Ted.

We pray for those who mourn Ted’s passing: his sister Marnie his extended family of Margie, John, Virginia, John, Carolyn, Mark, Megan and Peter, and their children Elizabeth, Sarah, Jonathan, Seamus, Brendan, Martha (in heaven), Greta, Declan, Marcus, Nicholas, Olivia and Sian; Gwen Kennedy and family. May they be comforted in their sorrow. With confidence and hope we turn to God in Prayer: Creator God Hear our Prayer We pray for the people of Redfern who have lost an advocate and friend. May we continue Ted’s ministry of humble communion with the Indigenous peoples of our streets city and nation. With confidence and hope we turn to God in Prayer: Creator God Hear our Prayer We pray for our Church, for those who exercise authority, for those who who stand with the lonely and the unsatisfied, for those who are nerve wracked and enslaved by convention. May we go among them as a great wave of cool water. May we bear a contempt of oppressors. May we speak out against unconscious oppression, speak out against the tyranny of the unimaginative. May we speak out against bonds. With confidence and hope we turn to God in Prayer: Creator God Hear our Prayer We pray for reconcilation and healing in this week when we remember the Stolen Generation and celebrate Mabo Day. May we come to know that our liberation is bound up with the liberation of the Indigenous peoples of this land. With confidence and hope we turn to God in Prayer: Creator God Hear our Prayer We pray for our world. As we experience the depths of winter, half of the planet is living in the heat of summer. May we remember with wonder the balancing of the earth’s resources and our interconnection with each other. With confidence and hope we turn to God in Prayer: Creator God Hear our Prayer
The Blessing

We are sent in the name of God, the Sustainer of the people of the Exodus in the name of Jesus, our reminder of Real food and Drink from Heaven; in the name of the Holy Spirit, Giver of our sustenance today; To extend Jesus' task of giving what we have To destroy the difference between rich and poor Amen

Ted Kennedy 1931-2005

Possibly the most honest and forthright, if not bluntly enraged, voice of progressive Catholicism in Australia passed into silence on May 17 with the death of Ted Kennedy, long the priest of St Vincent’s church in the Sydney inner-city suburb of Redfern.

Kennedy came to St Vincent’s in 1971 committed to a radical vision of Christianity that was centred on the struggles of the poor. When he arrived with a small band of other progressive priests, the outgoing priest left a comfortable rectory complete with leather furniture and shagpile carpets. Kennedy sold the expensive furnishings and installed beds for the homeless, who came in their hundreds.

Rapacious landlords were driving Redfern Aborigines from their homes at the time and Kennedy identified with the Aborigines' struggle. His example inspired others: South Sydney Uniting Church donated property to the Black Theatre and the Sisters of Mercy gave property in which the Aboriginal Medical Service was established.

Progressive Catholics from all over Sydney travelled to Redfern weekly to hear Kennedy’s sermons. His sermons, peppered with poetry, were of the highest theological level and often angry if dealing with racism or the Redfern Police. One of his sermons was published in an early edition of Green Left Weekly.

However, the Catholic hierarchy hated what Kennedy was doing.

In later years, Kennedy was forced into retirement by a series of strokes and right-winger George Pell, now a cardinal and heading Sydney diocese, got his revenge — he installed members of the peculiar Catholic secret society Neocatechumenate Way in the parish. The “Neo-Cat” priests, as they are known, after saying the mass each week literally flee so as to avoid contact with Aboriginal people who may be on the street outside.

St Vincent’s now has two conflicting congregations within it. Progressive parishioners maintain the Church Mouse website, to uphold the legacy of Kennedy's mission.

Barry Healy, Green Left Weekly Source:

Thank you Ted Kennedy

Thank you for the many times at Mass at St Vincent's Redfern when your honesty and courage touched me deeply. You gave me a hunger for authenticity in our Church. Your spirit continues to disturb me from my comfort.
Narelle Mullins, St Mary's Community South Brisbane

Tuesday, 24 May 2005


Homily at Requiem for Ted Kennedy


When the telephone alongside my bed at Quirindi Presbytery woke me out of a fitful sleep at 6:30 last Tuesday morning, I sensed, even before she spoke, that it might be Marnie, with the news that Ted had died.

To you, so loving an elder sister, Marnie; to those many nieces and nephews of "a wonderful uncle"; and to the aboriginal people of Redfern and elsewhere, I express a word of heartfelt sympathy.

These days, whenever I enter St. Mary's Cathedral from the south doors, and gaze along the main aisle, I seem to hear still the sound of the didjeridoo and violin that led us in procession for Mum Shirl's Requiem. That was early in May 1998: seven years ago. Who could forget the bucketing rain afterwards in College Street?

In a similar way, it may be that, from now on, whenever we listen to the Beatitudes from St. Luke's Gospel the experience of today's Requiem here under the Marquee, on the Block, at Redfern, will be revived.

For All Saints day, for weddings, funerals, retreats, confirmation: the passage known as "The Beatitudes" must be the most proclaimed liturgically of any Gospel. In the Beatitudes we are plunged into the disturbing presence of the One who, aligning Himself with those outside the Law, would be hounded to death on a cross. Our hearing these Beatitudes at Ted's Requiem is to commune with him and his Lord. And as we take and eat the Broken Bread of the Eucharist we are again in communion with the same Lord, crucified and risen, and with Ted, now ill eternity.

Only a matter of weeks before he arrived at St. Columba's, Springwood in February 1947, Ted had celebrated his 16th birthday. At the tender age of 15, he'd completed High School at Lewisham Christian Brothers', gaining the Leaving Certificate, a necessary passport into first year Philosophy at the College. Even in that first year at Springwood I noticed how sensitively this new boy, Ted Kennedy, listened. He listened with interest, remembering details, years later.

That beautifully worded death notice in the Herald speaks of him as "an unconditional fellow traveller with the many whose lives he touched".

Only a week before this I'd read similar wording in the final pages of Tony Hendra's memoir, "Father Joe - The Priest Who Saved My Soul". The Father Joe he writes about was a Benedictine Monk of Quarr Abbey, on the isle of Wight.

Let me share a couple of paragraphs ...

I read these astounding words: "He touched the lives of so many people, in England and abroad, in his own Church and not ... it is hard to give full weight to the extent of his pastoral influence” Father Joe? My Father Joe? I was never so arrogant and self-centred as to imagine I was his only friend and penitent. I knew he had other people who came to him for help and some "old friends”, as he called them, especially as he got older. But - "touched the lives of so many people", which if you put two and two together, must mean hundreds?

I'd always believed - simply on the evidence of his deep love and abiding concern - that what was the defining friendship of my life was also a prominent fixture of his. It was immensely disarming and engaging to be treated as if you were the only one in his life; but then, for the time you were with him, you were. He loved the one he was with: spiritually promiscuous, utterly discreet. One of his fellow monks, when I expressed surprise that I was Not The Only One, said: "Ah yes - everyone thought they were Joe's best friend."

And all of us were right. We all were.

I discovered as I read more tributes and asked more questions that he was best known for saving vocations, especially of priests battered by the storms of experimentation and controversy in the post Vatican II Church. But most of those who came to him were laymen like me, ordinary people in all walks of life, struggling, through the world. Many had known him even longer than I had, some for fifty years, some as long as sixty.

A sizable portion of his ministry was gay, people who'd lost lovers to AIDS or were grappling with it themselves, as well as those tortured by the Church's relentless intolerance of different sexual orientation.
It seems that Tony Hendra's Father Joe and our Father Ted had much in common. It's ironic that, for all his closeness to hundreds of people, Ted himself remained the most private of individuals. Of his own present or past he disclosed almost nothing. Maybe a teaspoonful every ten years or so, if you were lucky. For example, I'd always assumed that his second initial, 'P', stood for Patrick, only to read in his death notice 'Edward Philip'. Why, I'm left wondering, Philip'? The Edward (which became Teddy or Ted) was, I gathered, for his mother's brother, Edward Joseph McMahon, a priest of Sydney Archdiocese who died in 1937. But even of this I've never been absolutely certain.

One area, however, about which Ted was not reticent, was his intense love for certain poets: Judith Wright, James McAuley, AD Hope, Hopkins, lames K Baxter. At the top of the list was John Shaw Neilson. Once you knew the story behind this remarkable, miraculous Australian, you could understand why Ted found such inspiration in him. For on the one hand Shaw Neilson's life was, at every turn, deprived, impoverished; his minimal education, his wretchedly poor eyesight, his labouring with pick and shovel along the roads in the harsh Mallee country of Victoria; his sheltering in a tent, unmarried. Yet Shaw Neilson's poems survive and bubble like a spring of clear water in a stoney desert. A favourite for Ted was "The Poor, Poor Country" concluding --­
"The New Year came with heat and dust and the little lakes were low, The blue cranes were my nearest friends and 1 mourned to see them go. I watched their wings so long until I only saw the sky. Down in that poor country no pauper was I."
On the occasional visit to Sydney during the past year or so, I'd make my way to Burwood, walking from the Station along to number 79 Cheltenham Road, Croydon -- The Bishop Ezechiel Moreno Nursing Home. It would be on my return journey, from the Nursing Home to Burwood Station that I'd become consciously aware of the blessing of being able to walk - freely and unassisted.

When I reached room number 7 on my last visit but one, I found the door closed. As I cautiously pushed it open a little, what I saw was a kind of epiphany: the Deposition from the cross. There was Ted suspended between floor and ceiling, held in an apparatus enabling the nurses to transfer him from bed to couch.

That ever-informed, ever-journeying, ever-telephoning Ted had become utterly dependent, unable to converse, to read, to do anything but lie there, day after day, cared for by efficient nurses, visited by friends and family -- yet 'imprisoned'

"….you will stretch out your hands and somebody else will put a belt on you and take you where you would rather not" (John 21 : 18)

As I sat there, those words of The Risen Jesus to Peter came to mind, as well as a verse from Oscar Wilde's "Ballad of Reading Gaol"
"I know not if the laws be right Or if the laws be wrong. All that we know who lie in gaol Is that the walls are strong. And everyday is like a year, A year whose days are long".
Attached to the wall behind his bed was a small crucifix. One did not need great powers of imagination to make the connection. On the wall at the other side of his room was a long, thin wooden cross, painted in red, black and ochre, a reminder, if one needed it, that here, stretched out helplessly was a "Beloved friend to the Aboriginal People".

On the wall not far from the foot of his bed hung a large framed photograph of his dear parents. It was taken, I believe, at the grotto, Springwood, during a visit to the College in 1947 when Ted was in his first seminary year and Jack and Peg were evidently in their prime.

On Tuesday last, May 17, just after midnight, Ted breathed his last. He had been a week or so at Concord Hospital, the very suburb where, in December 1953, dressed in clerical black and roman collar, with his latin breviary on hand, Ted, aged 22, had commenced his ministry as a priest of the Sydney Archdiocese.

The news of his passing travelled quickly around Sydney and New South Wales and beyond. On the Friday' when Mass came around and we heard the First Reading from Sirach Chapter 6, we could not but think of this "unconditional fellow traveller" of ours.
"A faithful friend is a sure shelter. Whoever finds one has found a rare treasure. A faithful friend is something beyond price; there is no measuring his worth. A faithful friend is the elixir of life" (Sirach 6:] 6-17)
Fr Pat Kenna
Redfern 24 May 2005

Ted's Funeral

There are too many things to say about this man called Ted Kennedy. Somehow my brain has already wiped the pain of the last few years away. Glimpses of the 40 plus years of knowing Ted keep swirling past my eyes at all times of the day and night.

Ted the 31 year-old when I first met him. A young priest, inspired by the worker priest movement in France, inspired by Dorothy Day’s soup kitchens for the poor in New York, inspired by the priests and bishops living with and for the poor in Central and South America. Inspired by the theologies of Cardijn, Schillebeekx and Hans Kung. Inspired by the life of John Henry Newman, the English Catholic Cardinal who wrote so powerfully of the primacy of conscience in the life of the Church. Ted was like that Eveready battery advertisement on TV: a bolt of lightning powering up all around him. In second year university, I found myself reading the most difficult of theological texts.

Yet another glimpse was Ted at home on his parents’ property in Araluen on the south coast. We’d all drive down in our beaten up VW-ubs and Holdens and crash at his small family farmhouse in the Deua valley. There Ted was not 31, he was 16. Playing the ghost, with a sheet over him running around in the moonlight; or appearing at the window of candlelit dinner parties with a pumpkin head; or laughing as we thought something moved in the darkness of his wooden house. He loved the fact the hallway was so narrow his old aunt had to turn sideways to get through it. He loved his Irish background. He loved the Kennedy name. He loved the fact he had found the exact plot of land near Thurles where his family had come from in Tipperary.

He loved his Irish poets – Yeats especially – and the true Celtic spirituality, not the one imposed from England or Rome. I think he saw a real connection between what the Irish people had been through – the dispossession of their land by the English – and what the Aboriginal people had been through. At our university camps, Ted and all of us would roar to revolutionary Irish songs.

But there was never a triumphalist bone in Ted’s body. He was never out to “win” over anyone. Never to lecture, to preach, to judge. Simply to read the Gospels, to reflect on ourselves, to love one another and to not stand aside from the world but to live it fully. At university, Ted wanted us to be great Christian historians, philosophers and scientists. Later, he wanted us to be great Christian lawyers, journalists, doctors and artists – not in the sense of following rules and saying Rosaries but in loving one another and engaging with the world we were in.

That was all theory. When we all left university – Ted to suburban parishes, the rest of us to jobs and families – the world changed. Ted hated the boredom of most of his appointments to parishes. He hated the outdated clerical structures of it. And he hated the smugness of many of the parishioners who thought being a good Catholic was turning up once a week for an hour.

And then he found Redfern. And I think most of us whites lost a part of him forever. He fell in love. He fell in love with the Aboriginal people. He took on board their suffering. He would come to our place for dinner just bursting with literally in-credible stories of pain, dispossession and racism. I think he looked for solace among his white friends and, in large part, couldn’t find it. He was on a journey of his own. And he would never flinch in going forward on that journey. He told me many times he thought white people were racist and had to seek Aboriginal help to cure them of their illness. The whites should seek forgiveness from the Aboriginal people.

That’s why Ted was so moved by Paul Keating’s extraordinary speech in Redfern Park in 1992. It was quoted in full earlier in this service so I won’t do it again except to say that there was a crucial line at the end of that quote that Keating said and it was this:
“As a consequence, we failed to see that what we were doing degraded all of us.”
I know Ted would love to know those words were resounding here in Redfern again. Wish that we had such a Prime Minister today!

Ted gave his body, his soul, his heart and every ounce of his resilience, endurance and strength to the Aboriginal people. He was so grateful to have learned so much from them. Like a good Irishman, he knew their family networks inside out. He could simply not have given more.

In doing so, he was the perfect priest. A man who, more than anyone I know or could imagine, lived his beliefs to their fullest. A man with an extraordinary capacity to love. He used to say to me, often: “Peter, I love you very much”. What a man!

He lives on in the thousands of lives he has touched. His radical Christian message – that the Church must side with the poor, and every Christian live that reality in their daily lives – will have its day again. If anyone is worthy of sainthood, however it happens, it is Ted. His time will come!

Speech given by Peter Manning at Ted's funeral

Griffo's tribute to Fr Ted

Many years ago, Redfern was a bad place to go into.

Many Kooris had to fight tooth and nail to claim a bit of land that is ours from the start.

Eora, Redfern, home of the Kooris, we were losing the battle and our dignity. When all of a sudden two powerful minds came together to be as one : Mumma-Shirley Smith and Fr Ted Kennedy.

Mumma-Shirley already knew the trouble we were in. But Fr Ted was shocked in the way Kooris were treated. Just going home from the pub was hard. Many police from all local stations come half hour before closing time.

It didn’t matter if you wasn’t drunk - if you was black - into the paddy wagon you would go.

But two minds kept on persisting for a change for the better for Kooris.

They must have talked about the things we didn’t have:
• like proper housing for families with children, • a Medical Centre of our own, • a recreation and playground for children, • proper education for Kooris in schools.
This was the battle to be won, and fight they did, with help from the St Vincent’s Community. Things began to happen.

Jobs for Kooris came from all over the place, the building of the block began, the building of our own Medical Centre and a lot of dignity building back.

On behalf of Eora, Redfern, we want to thank you Mumma-Shirl and Fr Ted for giving back our dignity and culture to where it strongly belongs. HERE.

Thank you.

Papist's objection

The following message arrived yesterday. The item that so offended the papist may be found at .

From: Accounts [] Sent: Tuesday, 24 May 2005 3:42 PM Subject: Guillible Others

Dear Church Mouse,

I would like to register my objection to labelling John Paul II as “gullible”. Maybe a better name for your site would be “Church Rat”.

May God forgive you for the harm that you are doing.

Hugh Girod Western Australia

Niece's tribute

My name is Margie Kennedy-Gould – I am Ted’s niece, eldest child of his late brother John and Kath Kennedy. I would like to speak on behalf of Marnie and the family and firstly wish to thank all of you who have gathered here today in this most spiritual place to celebrate his extraordinary life.

First I would like to tell you a little of his background: Ted was of bog Irish stock on both sides of his family: one of his forebears, Cornelius Wholohan of Tipperary, was a convict, sentenced in 1831 to transportation for life. One of his great grandfathers, Thomas Kennedy, came freely from Ireland with two of his brothers in the 1850s during the gold rush and settled in Araluen. (The family has had connections with that beautiful place ever since.)

His mother’s mother, Mary O’Brien, we know as Wowie, came from Ireland with two of her sisters in 1875. Wowie, a Gaelic speaker, was a woman of great faith who Marnie says expressed a strong Celtic spirituality rather than any blind religiosity and that this was readily absorbed by Ted as a young boy.

His Irish heritage remained a powerful force throughout his life. He identified strongly with the Irish “travellers”, the “tinkers”, and often talked of the parallels between them and the aboriginal people.

His parents of course were a very strong influence and it was at the family home in Marrickville where he first encountered the reality of people in need who came to his father’s medical practice. Here poor people were given warm personal welcome and were not asked to pay for their medical care.

His mother, Peg, our Nonnie, lived into her nineties. She was also a woman of deep faith, intolerant of injustice, with a strong sense of what was right. She was one to fearlessly speak her mind. She cherished Ted.

He was also much loved by the late Maisie Rohan, another strong Irish influence, who nurtured him for most of her life.

His sister Marnie, who needs no introduction in this company, shared with her brother a very deep friendship. She describes him as having educated her to a new vision of the church and the gospels which allowed her to re-direct her focus and energies to the street retreats and to her ongoing engagement with the poor and the marginalised.

From my own perspective I knew and loved Ted, of course for his vision and his tireless work on this earth, but also as a somewhat unconventional uncle who surprised us and who understood us. When my three brothers and I were little children he arrived one day to surprise us with the gift of a puppy– of course without first consulting our parents; he would take us on long adventures through the countryside and he would often arrive unexpectedly at all hours of the day and night. He never travelled with any luggage; he was spontaneous and unpredictable and always made the time to be with us for family celebrations, even if he was on the way to somewhere else. He taught us what our faith is really about; he was always there for us at times of great sorrow in the family, as well as at times of great joy.

Ted was a complicated man, a man of many passions: he loved poetry and music, theatre, good food and wine and conversation, and he also had an obsession about second hand shops where he would scavenge for old books and old things of beauty and old things that “would come in handy one day.” This interest apparently was inherited from one of his grandfathers (and at times I worry that I feel the stirrings of it in myself.) It became a slight madness and anyone who has visited Burrawang in recent years will understand the extent of this, however he was delighted that the family in recent times has been able to use some of the many beautiful leadlight windows and old doors and old handles and taps and God knows what…he had collected over many years in the building of a little house at his beloved Araluen.

Ted was always able to respond to people with humanity and understanding. At the time of my wedding my father was gravely ill in hospital. I was upset that he would likely be unable to attend the wedding but Ted told me not to worry – he would marry John and I at my father’s bedside. Weddings at that time however were meant to be held only in a church and not anywhere else, but Ted’s paperwork looked fine – the entry in the church register states that we were married at “St Vincent’s” – he just left off the word “Hospital”.

He was not one to be constrained by convention or by regulations that had no relevance or compassion and he battled fiercely against intolerance, prejudice, racism and hypocrisy. His church was boundless and was nurturing of the human spirit, not strangled by empty or meaningless rituals for their own sake.

When he was in hospital a few years ago after one of his major strokes, a young occupational therapist told me that she was concerned that after having his shower Ted did not dry between his toes. She was worried that this indicated some bodily neglect caused by the stroke. I told her gently that Ted had probably never in his life dried between his toes and was most unlikely to start now because his mind was always concentrating on the bigger picture, on things that were important, on things that mattered.

The past few years have been a very difficult time for Ted and for all who have watched his gradual decline. The loss of his independence and particularly his mobility must have been deeply frustrating for him, though in the early times he managed to maintain his close contact with people, not by his usual personal visits, but by telephone, in our experience making more than forty phone calls in each day- just to keep in touch with people- just to make sure they were OK.

Finally, on behalf of the family I would like to extend our gratitude to all the friends, too numerous for me to mention by name, who have supported Ted so magnificently for many years; to the staff of St Ezekiel’s for taking care of him so very well (he ate more vegetables there than ever before in his life), and particularly for their care through the very difficult times of great challenge for Ted, and for them; and also to the staff of Concord Hospital who so gently eased him through his final days.

We love you, Uncle Edward, and we’ll very much miss your presence in our lives, however we will be forever grateful for your legacy.

May the wind be always at your back as you, the ultimate Irish traveller, continue on your journey.


Ted's funeral - Prayers of the Faithful

Invitation Our world is frail and we all stand in need every day of grace and strength. Ultimately, we must look to God our prodigal father for our bread and his welcome. I invite you all to soften your minds in his presence here, to turn to Him in prayer for our needs and the needs of those we admire and love. When you hear the simple words “Lord, hear us”, please answer with faith and enthusiasm – “Lord, hear our prayer”.

Dearest Father, we regarded Ted our brother as a holy man in our midst, and now as a saint – but like all men and women, pope or peasant, prostitute or prelate, he comes before you naked – without a penny for the ferryman, without a loin cloth to cover his nakedness.

Welcome him into your smiling presence; cover him over with your warm embrace; may the saints shower him with friendly kisses, and your angels publish his glorious deeds throughout the heavens. There is none of us worthy, Lord. All of us must needs have a childlike confidence in your fatherly and prodigal compassion.

Lord, hear us All: Lord, hear our prayer

We all here turn our sad faces to you, Lord, and remember the man who for us was powerful, like your Son – upright, uncompromising, a living treasure, hard, earthy, compassionate, welcoming sinners, a pebble in the comfortable boot of establishment, a man who spilt his guts for others –

Welcome Father Ted to your fatherly, hugging embrace. Show him your sweet mercy; reward him for the generosity of his life, for the evangelical message he lived and proclaimed to us, for constantly reminding those of us with earthly or heavenly power of their ridiculous weaknesses, their cruel blindness and petty pomp; for showing us the true worth of corporate salaries and the stupidity of the BRW rich list. Our Father Ted comes before you, Lord, with a life poured out for all, with empty pockets and dirty hands. Hug him hard for us.

Lord, hear us All: Lord, hear our prayer

We remember the oppressed, the gaoled, the poor and deprived, the alienated and ostracised, the twisted and the lonely – all precious to Father Ted in his lifetime and to you, Lord, in the hidden recesses of your creation- they all cry out for justice and a fair go, and whimper in the crevices of society. The stranger, the misunderstood, the rejects, the druggies and methos.

Raise up an army of Kennedys in our midst, to bandage the wounded, to bury the dead, to share the fruits of your earth, to protect the weak and welcome the stranger. Soften hearts; strengthen backs; let blood flow again in veins so that your oppressed poor may inherit the earth and have a share in its wealth.

Lord, hear us All: Lord, hear our prayer

We pray for the people of Redfern – the black and the white, all men and women, sexual beings of all persuasions, those of religious beliefs and none – We have lost a fierce friend to encourage us, a powerful God botherer, an untidy, grimy prophet, a Jesus figure in our midst.

We are without comfort and support – Our little community is bereft.

We suffer the barbs of hostility, the cold shoulder of aloof indifference.

Lord, we long for another true shepherd to gather us in - one who will include all of us, who will not leave the lame, the flyblown in desert, who has an immense sheep pen, broad enough for all. We seek a courageous leader who will be your agent in the world to change our lives, to renew the face of the earth.

May Redfern forever be a home for our indigenous brothers and sisters. May it be a place where they can gather, where they can feel accepted, comfortable and at home, - free of criticism, untroubled by prejudice, safe from persecution. This was Ted’s wish, his urgent prayer. It is a prayer we make to you Lord in fervent hope of resurrection.

Lord, hear us All: Lord, hear our prayer

We recall the beautiful homilies preached by Father Ted in his little Redfern church; the distribution of bread and the sharing of his modest collections; the untidy presbytery accommodation shared with all comers; Our Father Ted, like St Francis, like your Son Jesus, learnt to love what moved to other rhythms than his own.

We remember that this domain where we stand today was Ted’s territory, his parish. It has been the focus of pain, of anger, echoing with the cries of suffering, a place of protest, of empty needles, of crushed cardboard wine casks. Redfern has had a history of division and violence. It is seen by many as a symbol of failure, of imperial colonial intransigence – but it was also the stage on which a generous Prime Minister, in October 1992, addressed the indigenous people of the land in simple words of transparent honesty without spin, when he brought tears to their eyes and a flutter of hope to their hearts.

Lord, bring Redfern to life, to peaceful, happy co-existence. May Ted’s old parish and this domain be a symbol to the nation of hope, of humble reconciliation and forgiveness. Drain the poison from the waterholes, and the prejudice from our hearts.

Lord, hear us All: Lord, hear our prayer

Who would Father Ted have us remember before the Lord?
  • His devoted, gentle sister Marnie.
  • All the lovely girls, too numerous to name, who ministered to him, who attended him in his hour of need, through Pat Durnan must be recognised by name.
  • The Aboriginal brothers and sisters who made his life so meaningful and put muscle into his spirituality.
  • His many friends and companions who weep at his loss.
  • The owners of telephone companies who will certainly notice his passing.
  • The medicos and nurses who treated him tenderly, the sisters and staff of St Ezechiel Moreno who cared for him in his months of agony, in his hours of darkness, before whom we kneel in humble gratitude.
May their praises be sung in heaven before you, O Lord.

Lord, hear us All: Lord, hear our prayer

Finally we also remember the other members of the Kennedy family who have lived their lives and journeyed on to join the saints – Peg and Jack Kennedy, Celie, Dr John, Kath and Martha.

We recall Mum Shirl, and the smiling face of Ted’s friend Bob Bellear.

We remember with special affection the spirits of the many aboriginals, young and old, who were Ted’s brothers and sisters and whom he buried up and down the country.

May they all be granted a soft landing. May perpetual light shine on them. May they rest in peace.


Final Prayer

These are our wishes, Lord, and our prayers. We bring them before you and leave them down in your joyful presence in the hope that you will hear and answer them. We refer these wishes to you in the name of Jesus.


Chris Geraghty

Tribute for Ted

Thirty-three years ago Ted opened the presbytery door to Aunty Helen and so began his extraordinary journey here at Redfern and for many of us our journey was entwined with his. His early days with that rag tag group of lay and religious people who threw their lot in with him and the poor, were tumultuous and life changing.

None of us here today would want him to have suffered one more day but our grief and loss is raw. We have lost someone we all loved deeply. I loved you Ted and feel I have lost my soul mate.

Ted lived his beliefs through a lens that was crystal clear and authentic to the true values of the gospels. He lived his life committed to justice for the poor the marginalised and those who are rejected by society and the church. A special place in his heart was with the Aboriginal people of Redfern and beyond. They recognised a true friend as did the mentally ill, the refugee, homosexual people and those who are seen as other in our world.

He taught us the deadly secret that you have to go to that dark and alienating place to find the rejected and the outcast and there in that brokenness you will find Jesus. The Beatitudes we sing today reflect so much of Ted’s life in action. He was the Good shepherd who tenderly cared for his flock while courageously defending their rights.

Ted was loved so much by the littlest of our brothers and sisters and this is a testament to the integrity and beauty of this holy man.

He never wanted to be the power broker but rather listened to the voice of those who suffered racism, prejudice and suffering. These people became his teachers. He understood that gospel passage’ you will always have the poor among you’ because he knew we had broken our covenant with God. He shared the pain and suffering of so many and his journey was not without suffering. But he also had the gift to celebrate our joys and happiness too.

Ted had the extraordinary gift of embracing us all as part of his family. He connected us to each other forging friendships with him and about him. Ted sought and found the good in us all and lived with our faults and imperfections because that is what Ted did the best. He loved our brokenness while accepting with humility his own limitations. And how he loved, with passion and loyalty. We have all been touched by his presence in our lives.

Ted was gracious and hospitable. He loved good wine, fine food, no greens please. He had a voracious appetite for literature and poetry. He had a wicked sense of humour. Some time back in his inimitable way he ordered me to kneel at his feet and promise to maintain and continue the fight for justice. There was no kneeling at his feet! But I promised that what he had taught me by his example and through the gospel would be the blueprint for my life. He had one of the finest intellects in our contemporary world yet he was so humble. He had an extraordinary gentleness that many of us have been privy to and on the receiving end of.

Ted felt deep pain and sadness at what has happened to the Aboriginal people of his beloved St Vincent’s since his retirement. At times he displayed a white-hot anger at the treatment of Aboriginal people and the community. It was an anger steeped in his uncompromising stance against racism and injustice. Probably the greatest gift Ted shared with us was his uncompromising stance on these issues.

He urged all who came into his life not to live vicariously through him but to seek and find through relationship with the poor the authentic truth. He urged us to go to that place in our life and take with us the struggle wherever we might be.

Ted loved us. And how he loved. His life and his example have sown a seed in us to continue his legacy. On behalf of many Ted, we know you are listening, we will carry your love and your dream in our hearts. Today we celebrate your life and grieve deeply our loss.

I know that when you arrived into eternity you were met by all your loved ones, especially the black angels Patti, Dicko, Mum Shirl, Normie, and hundreds and hundreds of Aboriginals who now have their beloved TK, Fr. Ted, Fr hEdward Kennedy (as only Mum Shirl could say it) and Teddles with them.

There is much celebration in eternity today with the chant and dance of a great corroboree, and together all the angels are singing their song and singing you home.

Look after us Ted…we love you.
Rhonda Ansiewicz

Ted's Funeral - introductory speech

Ted Kennedy had a great love of Ireland and empathy with the struggles of the Irish. He was very familiar with what Patrick Pearse had to say at the grave side of O’Donovan Rossa. What Pearse had to say was this:
“Splendid and holy causes are served by splendid and holy men.”
The cause to which Ted Kennedy selflessly devoted his life was the liberation of the human spirit. Ted found the expression of that liberation in poetry, in art, in theatre, in friendship and in the sheer joy of life. Of course for Ted, the most potent expression of the liberation of the human spirit was to be found in the teachings of Jesus Christ and in the exploration of those teachings by people such as Cardinal Newman, Karl Rahner, Dorothy Day, the liberation theologians of South America, Thomas Merton and of course Shirley Smith.

The liberation of the human spirit is surely a splendid and holy cause and Ted, was a splendid and holy man. He was splendid and holy in the fierceness of his love for Aboriginal people; in his heroic faith, a faith untrammelled by dogma. He was splendid and holy in his disobedience to the forces of gravity that defeat so many of us. He was splendid and holy in his authority, an authority bestowed not from clerical office but from the very significance of what he had to say. Ted was splendid and holy in his action, in his refusal to act, in his gentleness and in his anger. He was splendid and holy in conscience and in the imaginative possibilities of what it means to be fully human. Finally, and of course most magnificently, he was splendid and holy in his friendship and love, of which so many of us are the rich beneficiaries.

Ted Kennedy was a great friend and I loved him.

On behalf of Ted’s family, his friends and the community of St Vincent’s Redfern, I welcome you all to Ted’s Requiem which will be celebrated by his friend Bishop David Cremin.

Before we commence the Mass, let me thank the Aboriginal people of Redfern for their invitation to farewell Ted on this their sacred land, and introduce Richard Green, who will Welcome us to Country. Following the Welcome to Country, the Mass will commence.

Danny Gilbert

Monday, 23 May 2005


CROI AN tSAOI (Heart of the wiseman )

Oh you were a mindreader I tell you.

Oh you were a heartscorcher I tell you.

Oh you were a soulsearcher when you looked at me.

For you loved a black Christ And helped us see.

In loving memory of the marvellous Ted Kennedy
from Sean O Connor, Drogheda, Ireland 22/5/2005.

Sunday, 22 May 2005


Our Father

Dear Ted our Father, who believed that each of us carries a piece of heaven, precious is your name for those who loved you because you showed us a living kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.

You understood how critical it is to have a piece of bread at the end of each day, especially for those of us who know hunger and unemployment.

How clearly you insisted that we must reconcile with those on whom this nation trespassed with blood, before we can learn to forgive those who trespass against us.

In life you steered us away from the ever present temptation of believing that white is the colour of purity, that institutions are the seat of ultimate power, that things, big and small, will eventually take care of themselves without our intervention, since it is so easy to feel insignificant in this universe and its unfolding.

May you now protect us more than ever, from the evil of indifference, from the numbing of our conscience, as conscience remained the sacred place where you kept your individual spirit ALIVE!


Elio Gatti May 2005

Saturday, 21 May 2005


Griffo's grief

Griffo had been in Kempsey for about a month.

On Tuesday last, by his own account, he had "a feeling"- of loneliness and sense of loss. Griffo did not know that Ted had died, but he suspected that "something" was wrong - a member of his family perhaps.....

When he got into Central yesterday afternoon (Friday), he was "bustin' for a cuppa" and headed for "The Gathering Place" in Caroline St. When he got there he saw a notice in the window - not an unusual thing - very often a notice would be placed in the window advising that there was something (a pair of shoes or some clothing) out the front free for the taking.

When he looked more closely, Griffo saw that it contained notification of Ted's passing and details of the funeral. As he read, Griffo's heart sank and he says he felt a sense of "terrible loneliness".

Griffo lost his father at the age of 7. Many years ago he approached Ted and asked him to be his father. They had been through "a lot" together. Ted said "yes".

One can only guess how many Kooris could say a similar thing.

Published with Griffo's permission

Friday, 20 May 2005


From the Kearneys

Hello Church Mouse,

We have been living in Ireland for the past couple of years. We heard the news of Ted's passing from Marnie Kennedy within a few hours of his death. Sad news because Ted has always been a great affirmer for us and like a member of our family - as of so many families. It's difficult to be so far away as preparations are made for his funeral.... but good to be browsing through the 'Church Mouse' website today and to feel closer to the memory of a great hearted man.


Peter and Madge Kearney Carlow, Ireland Peter's website

Thursday, 19 May 2005


Personal Reflections on Ted Kennedy

What made Ted Kennedy so special? What made him value his role as a priest while at the same time never ever espousing clericalism? Ted had a heart that was filled with the compassion of Christ. Although totally ecumenical in his way of life and belief he did not have to search for new age solutions to find compassion. His way of seeing the world was formed by his religious tradition and his own family.

Ted once said that the saddest thing in the world was that people lived unpoetically. Poems for Ted were not just printed words dancing on the page. They were his way of perceiving himself and his world. He saw that the language of love so easily and often used by those in power, whether political or religious, was at times inadequate. It was the language of justice that was used by those who suffered from the abuse of power that had to be heard. He lived the experience that the language of love was not enough because such a language did not protect us from our failures to love; only the language of justice did that.

Ted made compassion deeply universal. It did not belong to any one compartment. It encompassed the whole of life. I believe this was where his truly ecumenical spirit came from. No religion was exclusive of another. In working with the heart he had created a framework of beauty from his own Christian tradition. The projection of truth and beauty came through the way that he treasured language and particularly poetry. Life for him was coming to terms with ambiguity. Institutions fail in this regard because they must needs work within categories. Ted never did this but he was able in a prophetic way to balance the role of institution and the deeper search for meaning. It was his charism of affirming others that allowed others to believe that there was a light at the end of tunnel.

Ted was unaffected by what he saw as unimportant. What he perceived as genuine he worked at with his whole heart. His real strength shone through when he was with the Aboriginal community, the dispossessed in our society and the ones who were always marginalised. He gave to them a sense of belonging. He saw that what makes a man or a woman is not a culture or a practical intelligence but an attitude in the face of what is ultimate. He had a sense of what was ultimate in his own life.

The language of God can often become a barrier. The god created by man can succumb to the god of ideology, of false belief, of escapism, of despair and of unfulfilled promises. Yet Ted never took the mystery out of God. He never allowed it become a barrier for love. God language was no problem for him. The kingdom of God was initiated from an ordinary scene in human life where God did not apparently feature at all. Ted walked the streets of Redfern, and listened to those who came to him with broken hearts, and those who were disenfranchised or homeless.

Ted was a profoundly sacramental man. His celebration of faith was not restricted to liturgical celebrations. His experience of a loving God took place in the world, in contact with people especially his Koori community. He demonstrated a creativity in the way he worked with liturgy. To attend his Eucharist was an act of grace. He brought a sense of inclusivity making all aware they were part of a community breaking bread and drinking the Cup.

Ted’s life was based on hope. He worked and lived in the oppressive situation of modern-day Redfern. He had defined his terms of reference. Holding to this meant there was little room for compromise. It was based on a belief that he lived out in his life as to what was real – the presence of the downtrodden, the oppressed, the marginalised and those cheated by systems of authority whether secular of ecclesiastical.

What did Ted see in the Redfern he was part of for 30 years? He saw racism, poverty, segregation and verbal and physical hostility toward those who were less fortunate. He saw the aimless young people with no opportunities for advancement. He was angry with the corruption that was so visible. He was always seeking a point of negotiation between two cultures.

Ted did not die in a hurry. In the months leading up to his death he faced the suffering of his own mortality. The priest, the poet, the thinker, the friend of the oppressed had become helpless himself. He had passed through the terrible night of the senses. Death had become a friend. Ted’s final lesson as his memory lives on is that everything can end well and with great promise. He has left us with a wonderful legacy.
Thank you, Ted.

John Hill


A father to the poor and dispossessed

Edward Phillip Kennedy, Catholic priest, 1931-2005

Father Edward (Ted) Kennedy, who has died at 74 after a long illness, was parish priest of Redfern for more than 30 years. In that time he became a national authority on the plight of Aborigines, an authority that came not from libraries but from sharing their hazardous lives.

Ted Kennedy came to Redfern almost by chance. In the heady years after Vatican II (1962-65) he belonged to a movement of priests eager to try out new styles of ministry. In particular, they wanted to displace the feudal structure of parishes, whereby pastors (known in Australia as parish priests) made all the decisions while other priests (curates) were merely hired hands. The new breed wanted team ministries, in which everyone shared authority equally. This might include lay parishioners.

The ageing archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Gilroy, resisted such ideas, satisfied with the traditional authority structures of the church. His successor, James Freeman, was more amenable. Thus, in November 1971, three priests, John Butcher, Fergus Breslan and Ted Kennedy, began a communal ministry in the Redfern presbytery, not knowing what to expect.

Their first caller was an Aboriginal woman seeking food. From then on, the doors were always open to Aborigines, for food, lodging or a sympathetic ear. On wet winter nights up to 100 would crowd into the presbytery to sleep wherever there was space. Friction with the police was constant and Aborigines found champions at the presbytery. At times the atmosphere in the house could become sticky or even dangerous but the priests never, ever called the police. So began what Kennedy would call his love affair with Aboriginal people.

Then along came a powerful Aboriginal woman, Shirley Smith, known to all as Mum Shirl. She became Kennedy's backstop, someone he could call on in emergencies, as often as five times in one night. More significantly, she became an important influence on the way he saw the world. From her he learnt the pain and pride of being Aboriginal, which often led to suicide. He noticed that Aborigines never left suicide notes, as white people do - their own already knew the pain that had driven them this far. Kennedy sat with them and grieved; he travelled with the coffins, to bury them in their home lands; he became, alas, a very experienced funeral celebrant.

Shirley Smith did more than this for Ted Kennedy: she opened him to the purest form of Christianity. At her funeral in 1998 he said that she had welcomed the Gospel like a child, taking it in whole without spitting out the uncomfortable bits. Mum Shirl taught him to be a fellow sufferer, to find Christ in the rejected and accept him there unconditionally. She taught him about just anger too, and the need to fight for justice. "The greatest theologian I have ever known," he said of her at the funeral.

Of course, there were other influences in his life, principally his parents. Their door was always open to anyone in need, so early on he saw that doing justice was a necessary part of the Christian religion. His father, Jack, was a Marrickville doctor who counted many priests among his patients. A strong Catholic, Jack Kennedy was nevertheless not a copybook parishioner: neither a member of the Holy Name Society nor a man who sent his children to parish sodalities, he did not attend the weekly novena service. He was, as Kennedy said in a letter to Gilroy, "a most prayerful man but he never said the family rosary". Kennedy's heart was not in these things either, as he told a perhaps astonished Gilroy.

Peg Kennedy also had a decisive influence. A cold-eyed observer of the antics of self-important clergy, she inoculated Ted against the virus of clericalism. When recruiters tried to lure him into the seminary at an early age, she said: "No, the boy must finish his schooling." Thus began his critique of clericalism, which became a dominant theme of his intellectual life, as shown in his foreword and epilogue to Judge Christopher Geraghty's memoir of the Manly seminary, The Priest Factory.

The Manly seminary scarred many of its students but Kennedy seemed proof against its toxicity. One reason may be that at Manly he began to read discriminately, developing a strong interior life as well as a muscular prose style. A favourite author was Cardinal Newman. Over years he gained a comfortable companionship with poetry, so that every speech or sermon was brightened by quotations from Australian poets, or from Hopkins or Yeats. Dying, he would become alert to correct someone who misquoted a cherished poem.

In his first parish he met a poet who was then finding his feet in the Catholic Church he had recently joined. This was James McAuley, who showed the young priest some of his latest verse. Kennedy took the text to another parishioner, Richard Connolly, asking him to set it to music. Thus was born the most successful hymn-writing duo in Australian Catholic history. The McAuley-Connolly hymns got Australians ready for the liturgical reforms of Vatican II. Kennedy respected artists and intellectuals and won their respect in return.

His years as chaplain at the University of Sydney, where he made lasting friends, accentuated this side of his personality. He learned to listen to other people, especially those on strange paths to or from God. He was sought out by young men, here and interstate, stuck in a seminary system, as he said, "designed to keep us in short pants forever". Later, many would claim that the infantilism of the seminaries had contributed to clerical pedophilia.

So when Kennedy came to Redfern he was a seasoned priest. In time, the other two priests went elsewhere and he was left on his own as parish priest. For rest and recreation, and to maintain his reading and prepare sermons, he kept a bolthole at Burrawang in the Southern Highlands. At Redfern, however, he was in the front line, under fire, with nerves stretched. People joined him there, contributing their talents to parish life. For example, his sister, Marnie, a Religious of the Sacred Heart, initiated street retreats with two friends: instead of being withdrawn from the world, to contemplate a lonely God, participants were plunged into the smelly life of the streets, to find God there.

Increasingly, Kennedy came to emphasise a stream of thought that had always been part of his teaching, the importance of the poor. In 1970 he had fashioned a retreat for Queensland seminarians around the notion that the disadvantaged and the down-and-outs are our brothers. At Redfern he developed this into a theology of poverty, saying that the poor had special insights into the meaning of Christianity and their voices should be heard in the councils of the church.

Kennedy's commitment to the marginalised led him to homosexuals, one of the most marginalised groups in the church. As a confessor, he had encountered their "transparent gentleness and a finely tuned nobility born of pain"; nor could he discern violence or hatred or anger or bitterness or rancour or power or force - surely this must be a sign of grace. They were good people, so why were they deprived of Holy Communion?

Reflections such as this led Kennedy to write his only book, Who is Worthy?, in 2000, a response to a position taken by George Pell in 1988 and persisted in afterwards. Writing as a private theologian, Pell had seemed to deny Vatican II's teaching on the primacy of conscience in religious matters. Kennedy's generation had worked hard to establish the doctrine of conscience in Catholic orthodoxy, and he responded to Pell with trenchant argumentation based on classic texts from Newman.

Kennedy was the friendly face of the church for thousands of Aborigines as he spoke the truths of their loss to the conquerors' world. He is survived by Marnie and the Aborigines who took this white priest into their hearts and made him part of their own story.

Obituary by Edmund Campion for The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday May 19, 2005

Wednesday, 18 May 2005


Death of Redfern's Fr Ted Kennedy

Priest, activist and friend of Sydney's largely Aboriginal Redfern Catholic community, Fr Ted Kennedy, died in Concord Hospital early yesterday.
74 year old Fr Kennedy had been severely debilitated by a stroke in the late 1990s, and retired in 2002.

Although he chose to discontinue Fr Kennedy's style of ministry in Redfern's St Vincent's Parish, Cardinal George Pell yesterday paid tribute to one of his best known priests.

"Fr Ted Kennedy was a good and courageous priest who inspired many people," he said. "He was a man of strong convictions who worked hard to help those on the margins. He will be sadly missed by his friends and former parishioners."

Prominent national Aboriginal leader and former priest Pat Dodson told Online Catholics: "It's a sad, sad, sad loss."

"He managed to incorporate the best of Catholicism into his personal life, which was evident in the way he related to the poor, the outcast and the downtrodden," said Mr Dodson. "He was always prepared to share his own belongings with anyone in need."

Fr Kennedy entered the seminary aged 18 and was ordained in 1953. He moved to Redfern's St Vincent's Church in 1971 and established a network of priests to support the local Aboriginal community for more than two decades.

Although his health had deteriorated markedly, he maintained a close link with the community and was sensitive to their suffering, his sister, Sister Marnie Kennedy said.

His sister Sr Marnie Kennedy - of the Religious of the Sacred Heart - told the ABC's PM how Fr Kennedy faced the challenge when he was appointed to Redfern in 1971.

"Without knowing anything about Aboriginal people, that was the extraordinary thing," she said. "And as soon as he reached Redfern, of course, he encountered the marginalised situation there. And instead of putting it under the carpet he faced it, and he opened his presbytery in 1971 to the homeless Aboriginal people that were flooding Sydney from – many from Brisbane at that time because they'd just received citizenship, and they used to come to Redfern as a Mecca. He welcomed them, and they lived with him – a hundred or so in the presbytery – for years."

Sr Kennedy said the secret to her brother's success was maintaining friendships with members of the community, and facilitating leadership among members of the community.

His funeral is expected to be held on Tuesday.

SOURCE Activist priest Ted Kennedy dies, 74 (Daily Telegraph 18/5/05) Comment from Cardinal Pell re Fr Ted Kennedy (Archdiocese of Sydney 17/5/05) Redfern's Father Ted Kennedy dies (ABC Radio PM 17/5/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources) Archdiocese of Sydney | Redfern Church Mouse

ARCHIVE Paper highlights destruction of parish that was called 'beacon of hope' (CathNews 10/11/04) Priest denies Redfern church is "for the Aboriginals" (CathNews 29/7/04) Pell acts to resolve Redfern priest crisis (CathNews 21/7/03)

MORE STORIES Peter Maher: The Challenge of Redfern (Church Mouse) Kennedy enters the Dreamtime (Online Catholics 18/5/05)


Kennedy enters the Dreamtime

If the Church is to be a sign of the kingdom, it must give the respect due to princes to the outcasts of the world. Never again must we allow a rhetoric of idealism, a policy of compromise, but the end result being `business as usual'. - Fr Ted Kennedy, who died yesterday, from a 1975 letter to the Archbishop of Sydney.

Legendary priest and friend to Aboriginal people, Fr Ted Kennedy, has died in Sydney's Concord Hospital, aged 74.

To former Catholic priest Patrick Dodson, Fr Kennedy is 'great saint material'. "Ted has been a real sign of what the truth and love of Catholic teaching is all about. He managed to incorporate the best of Catholicism into his personal life, which was evident in the way he related to the poor, the outcast and the downtrodden. Ted was always respectful of authority, but not afraid of it. He was always prepared to share his own belongings with anyone in need. It's a sad, sad, sad loss," Mr Dodson told Online Catholics yesterday.

Ted Kennedy was born in Sydney on 27 January 1931. He attended the Christian Brothers, Lewisham and entered the seminary at about 18 years of age, remembers his sister, Sr Marnie Kennedy. "He was always a gospel-focussed person, and never let inessentials dim that vision," she says now. "He was willing to risk anything. He had a vision for what was possible."

He was ordained by Cardinal Gilroy in 1953 and spent some time as chaplain at the University of Sydney. This was an adventurous time at the University. Fr Edmund Campion has described it as the 'decade before the event, we had tried out, at the University of Sydney, the major themes and meanings which historians would come to call the Vatican II reforms. It was history in the making."

After Vatican II Fr Ted developed a paradigm of a team based ministry, such as had emerged in France at that time. "He believed that the old model of individual priests visiting people in their homes would no longer work," Sr Marnie said. "He wanted a model which saw three or four priests living in community and 'fanning out' to serve the different interests and needs of all the people."

It was this model that Fr Ted established when he was sent to Redfern by Cardinal Freeman in 1971. He began his team ministry with two other priests from the Archdiocese and in time invited religious including MSCs, Poor Clares, Charities, Sacre Coeurs, de la Salles and Marists to join them. Fr Ted also asked the lay people to join with him in ministering to the community.

Lawyer and parishioner Danny Gilbert was one of them. "Ted was a man of extraordinary faith and love," Mr Gilbert told Online Catholics. "He believed passionately that the freedom of the human spirit, in all of its imaginative manifestations of love and affection, to be the ultimate expression of God's love for us. He would often quote an early father of the Church, St Iraneus: "The glory of God is man fully alive."

"In over 20 years, I never once heard him ask anyone for money nor tell anyone how they should live their life. He believed in the full integrity of the human conscience," Mr Gilbert said.

Out of his vision for a participatory ministry grew Fr Ted's special understanding of the gifts of Aboriginal people. "He saw into their hearts and recognized the goodness of Aboriginal people," says Phil Glendenning, executive director of the Edmund Rice Centre. "And he knew it was the way out for all of us."

What Kennedy saw was the freedom from fear that, paradoxically, can arise from terrible oppression. His advocacy for Aboriginal people often brought him into conflict with authorities. "He experienced the fate of many other prophets in being marginalized himself as he sought to minister to those on the edge," said Bishop Pat Power, of Canberra Goulburn, yesterday. However his spiritual stature was always recognized at the highest levels. "The Church and the world should give thanks for the grace-filled life of Fr Ted Kennedy. He was a true priest showing the face of Jesus especially to God's 'little ones'," said Bp Power. Phil Glendenning agrees. "Fr Ted was a true champion for what the Church should be about. He was a tireless defender of aboriginal people's rights and dignity. He represnted the conscience of the Catholic Church in this part of the world."

In the 70s and 80s, St Vincents' Redfern became something of a sacred site for Aboriginal people who came to the city to find lost and stolen families. "I can still remember the arrivals from all over Australia, people coming in on the morning trains," says Sr Marnie Kennedy. "They had nothing and nowhere to go. At one time there were a hundred people living at the presbytery," she says. "People lived and died there." Fr Ted set out to return to Aboriginal people something to aid their self-determination, establishing with Mum Shirl the Aboriginal Medical Service and the Aboriginal Housing Cooperative and hostels.

Fr Ted's health began to deteriorate in the late 90s when he suffered a small stroke. He retired from active ministry in 2002. However Fr Ted's connection to Aboriginal people remained and indeed his sensitivity to their suffering almost enters the realm of the mysterious. "I was reading to him in hospital last year, from an article by Tony Stephen who is a friend," Sr Marnie recalled, "when he suddenly had a seizure. It was the major health crisis and the beginning of the end. Later I learned that the Redfern Riots had just begun," she said.

It is perhaps a special grace that Fr Ted Kennedy died this week, in between Pentecost and the upcoming Sorry Week. His funeral is likely to be next Tuesday, and will be celebrated by Bishop David Cremin. Late yesterday, Cardinal Pell said through a spokeswoman, "Fr Ted Kennedy was a good and courageous priest who inspired many people. He was a man of strong convictions who worked hard to help those on the margins. He will be sadly missed by his friends and former parishioners."

Commentator Paul Collins yesterday supported Pat Dodson's view of Kennedy as 'great saint material':

"Ted Kennedy was a saint, as genuine and as real as Blessed Mary McKillop. His whole life was one of generosity and ministry. In thousands of ways he served others, most of the time hardly known to anyone except those who were recipients of his goodness.

"His prophetic commitment to Aboriginal people stirred the guilty conscience of white Australia profoundly. His book on freedom of conscience, Who is Worthy? showed how profoundly Catholic he was. His last years of physical suffering were sadly compounded by the fatuity of those who tried to wreck his work.

"But his ministry and priesthood stand as a shining light. He was a true prophet and a saint", Dr Collins said.


Weep not for me for Death is but the vehicle that unites my soul with the Creative Essence, God. My spiritual Being, my love is still with you, where ever you are until forever. You will find me in the quiet moments in the trees, amidst the rocks, the cloud and beams of sunshine indeed, everywhere for I, too, am a part of the total essence of creation that radiates everywhere about you, eternally. Life, after all, is just a passing phase.

Kevin Gilbert Wiradgeri poet

Issue 52, 18 May 2005

ABC Religion Report

Part of the transcript of this weeks ABC Radio Religion Report:

David Rutledge: Finally, on The Religion Report this week, we mark the passing of one of the best-loved and most courageous figures in the Australian Catholic church.

Ted Kennedy: I want to make the confession that within the Catholic community in Australia, there has been a deep, dark hole for a long time now, which amounts to a lack of genuine spirituality. Religion can become the possession of an elitist group whose power reinforces the power of all the other institutional forces in society. It’s language then becomes spiritually hollow, incapable of criticising or challenging any of those forces. In so becoming, religion moves inevitably away from where people, especially the poor, live and move and have their being. I want to confess that the Australian Catholic church has built up a momentum which is heading away from the poor and to the extent that it has done so, it has become unfaithful to the Gospel.

David Rutledge: The voice of Father Ted Kennedy, who died yesterday morning at the age of 74, after a long illness.

For 30 years, Ted Kennedy was parish priest at the St Vincent de Paul Catholic church in Redfern, and during that time he carried out a ministry to Redfern’s Aboriginal community that would have to have been one of the most uncompromising and radical outworkings of the Gospel ever seen in Australia.

Father Ted’s prophetic commitment to the poor and marginalised often put him at odds with the Catholic hierarchy. In 2000, he published a book entitled ‘Who is Worthy’, which is a searing attack on conservatism and clericalism in the church. He was described by Aboriginal leader Pat Dodson yesterday as ‘great saint material’.

Well Father Ted Kennedy’s funeral will take place in Redfern next week, and we’ll be covering that on Wednesday’s Religion Report, so don’t forget to join us then.


Tuesday, 17 May 2005


Vale, Ted Kennedy

Word has come that a great man has gone to God.

Father Ted Kennedy is at last at rest. He died in the small hours of today in a cold, white Concord Hospital bed far from the Aboriginal people of Redfern he served so well. But Ted will always be in their thoughts. They have lost their sweetest singer, their great champion, a Jesus-figure who stood beside them in all their joys and sorrows, deaths in custody, police raids, drug problems, lousy health and poverty of a kind known only to our indigenous people.

All my troubles, Lord, soon be over…

I can still see in my mind’s eye Ted standing before the people of Redfern, looking slightly rumpled in his clerical gear, telling them how the Paracelete reminded him of a mother bird calling to her young. What a lovely thought.

You see, Ted, though a very well-read man, was never a snob.

Top-down ways were not his ways. Rather I’d say he was a down-up priest: those who held ecclesial power and had closed minds learned to fear his utterances.

If you were a boring fool, Ted’d let you know, no matter how high up the hierarchy you stood.

He was the opposite of your average priest. Instead of worrying about building a new presbytery or office Ted cared about people. His Redfern church always looked so drak that I itched to reach for a scraper or a paint brush.

Quite a few people died in that church. To understand it, you have to go back to the early days of our Church, to the catacombs. Ted’s church was not a place for feel-good Sundays. It was not for the faint-hearted either. People went off their rockers with grief, or died there.

The places of death and birth are holy to Aboriginal people, so Ted did not cover the spot with carpet. In any case, he was more concerned about renovation of people than buildings.

Perhaps that’s why some people who hold power did not understand him. What they took seriously he never did. What he took seriously was human dignity, justice and the overcoming of oppression, the compassion of the poor for the poor.

In some countries I think they would have taken Father Kennedy out and shot him. Here, the rich and the pious tried to ignore him and his power-to-the-people kind of theology and pastorality. It didn’t work.

Today Redfern stands hushed and thankful for a great man.
Cliff Baxter

Redfern's Father Ted Kennedy dies

ABC Online PM
Reporter: David Mark
MARK COLVIN: An outspoken Catholic priest who worked with the Aboriginal community in inner Sydney, Father Ted Kennedy, has died after a series of strokes.Father Ted Kennedy worked in the St Vincent's Parish in the often-troubled suburb of Redfern from the 1970s.David Mark's report begins with Father Ted's sister, Marnie.
MARNIE KENNEDY: He had this clear view of… that human beings are made for fullness of life. So he railed against anything that deprived people of their real calling to be fully human.
DAVID MARK: Father Ted Kennedy's sister, Marnie, herself a nun and educator in inner-Sydney.Father Ted Kennedy died overnight after a series of strokes, but today he's remembered by the thousands of people he touched in his inner city of Parish of St Vincent's in Redfern.As a young priest he was inspired by the reforms of Vatican II in the early '60s.But the failure of the council's work to be properly carried out fired his passion to help the poor and marginalised as the told the ABC's Religion Report in 2000.
TED KENNEDY: We seem to have been at that point caught between two worlds – one dead the other waiting to be born – and of course. I think that part of my anger that the promise written into the council documents gave us every opportunity of hope. But I had never realised that there would be so many stalwart reactionaries who would hold back any sort of sign of progress.
DAVID MARK: His search for a parish led him to the Aboriginal people of Redfern.
MARNIE KENNEDY: Without knowing anything about Aboriginal people, that was the extraordinary thing. And as soon as he reached Redfern, of course, he encountered the marginalised situation there. And instead of putting it under the carpet he faced it, and he opened his presbytery in 1971 to the homeless Aboriginal people that were flooding Sydney from – many from Brisbane at that time because they'd just received citizenship, and they used to come to Redfern as a Mecca. He welcomed them, and they lived with him – a hundred or so in the presbytery – for years.
DAVID MARK: And what did he achieve for the Aboriginal community in Redfern?
MARNIE KENNEDY: I think he was very strong on friendship, he wanted to establish a sense of mutuality. And then he facilitated leadership among themselves. So he set up, he opened the back area of the church to the Aboriginal medical service in 1971 or 1972.
DAVID MARK: And was he a loved figure in Redfern?
MARNIE KENNEDY: Oh, deeply loved, he was strong and at times made enemies among people who didn't understand the call, but… you know, to really live the Gospel, especially the more affluent, and he didn't mince his words at times, but he mellowed a lot. And he's… even now I can't walk down Redfern Street without them coming up to ask me how he is. They just loved him, really loved him.
MARK COLVIN: Marnie Kennedy, the sister of the late Father Ted Kennedy, ending David Mark's report.
This is a transcript from PM. The program is broadcast around Australia at 5:10pm on Radio National and 6:10pm on ABC Local Radio.
© 2005 Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Comment from Cardinal Pell, Archdiocese of Sydney

"Fr Ted Kennedy was a good and courageous priest who inspired many people. He was a man of strong convictions who worked hard to help those on the margins. He will be sadly missed by his friends and former parishioners"

Activist priest Ted Kennedy dies, 74

ABORIGINAL activist and Catholic priest Father Ted Kennedy has died in Sydney aged 74, a friend said today.

A resident of inner-city Sydney for all his life, Fr Kennedy made his mark as Catholic parish priest to the Aboriginal community in Redfern. He died at Concord Hospital yesterday, former Catholic priest and longtime friend Patrick Dodson said.

"It's a sad, sad, sad loss," Mr Dodson told the website Online Catholics. "He managed to incorporate the best of Catholicism into his personal life, which was evident in the way he related to the poor, the outcast and the downtrodden. "He was always prepared to share his own belongings with anyone in need."

Born in 1931, Fr Kennedy entered the seminary aged 18 and was ordained in 1953. He moved to Redfern's St Vincent's Church in 1971 and established a network of priests to support the local Aboriginal community for more than two decades.

Fr Kennedy's health deteriorated after a stroke in the late 1990s which led to his eventual retirement from active ministry in 2002. But he still maintained a close link with the community and was sensitive to their suffering, his sister, Sister Marnie Kennedy said. "I was reading to him in hospital last year ... when he suddenly had a seizure," Sr Kennedy told the website. "It was the major health crisis and the beginning of the end. "

Later I learned that the Redfern riots had just begun."

His funeral is expected to be held on Tuesday.

AAP / The Daily Telegraph

Sunday, 15 May 2005


Neocat violation - open letter to Prindiville

"I have sent this letter to Fr Gerry Prindville and I am placing a copy on Church Mouse as the abusive behaviour of the Neocatechuminate priests and their community is vicious, destructive and out of control. It violates the sanctity of our church."
9 May 2005

Dear Gerry,

Last Sunday I arrived late into Sydney and decided to attend the evening parish mass.

I did nothing at the mass to incite or provoke the unwarranted, aggressive and abusive behaviour towards me by you and the Neocat clergy present.

I am of the understanding that it is a tradition in the Catholic Church to light a candle for the dead. I am at a loss to know why my action to light the candle for my friends Sr Celey Furlong and Nana Judy Gundy, both recently deceased, caused such hostility and abuse.

Four times in the church and in front of the altar I was abused by your Neocat people. I was told “fuck you”, (I lost count after hearing this outburst four times) “how dare you do this (light the candle)”, “get out of this church” and “you are fucking disgusting”. You no doubt heard the abuse as you were present during most of the tirade yet you did nothing. By your silence you condoned this behaviour. I was told by one of your seminarians from Dacyville that you would not allow the lighting of the candle.

Gerry, you claim that the evening mass is an experiment to get the local Redfern people to come to mass. My observations on Sunday were that there were six Neocats and four St Vincent’s regulars. You claim that we are keeping the local community away. I would suggest that you need to look at your behaviour and that of your Neocat priests-in-training because Sunday evening’s events are an example of what keeps people away.

In all the time you have been at St Vincent’s you have preached a religion of sin, damnation and death. There is no sense of the loving, caring God that is reflected constantly in the gospels. My God, Gerry, is a loving compassionate God who brings comfort to us all, especially the poor and oppressed. He gives hope to a world in need of hope. Your god is a god of revenge, fear and judgment who would have us all live in perpetual fear of hell.

I have experienced from both you and Dennis Sudla a sense that the community at St Vincent’s is evil, beyond redemption and to be condemned to hell. This I believe is the nub of why people are not attracted to your Neocat theology. It is dead and lifeless - where there should be joy, love celebration together with liberation and struggle with our broken world, there is only death.

To support this feeling I remind you that when I spoke to you after mass outside the church about the abuse that had just occurred, your response was “are you a sinner?” Gerry, there are many facets of the human spirit. Yes, we are all sinners, but we are also unique and special people. We are God’s people. Yet your only response was to attack. It is easy to denigrate and lay blame onto others as an excuse for your own behaviour. The behaviour in the church on Sunday was an abuse of power and an abuse of the sanctity of the Church.

As time goes by I am coming to the horrifying conclusion that there is an element in the theology preached at St Vincent’s that people with any sort of disability are seen as evidence of God’s punishment. Take, for example, Sudla’s recent attack on a member of the community, singling out his damaged hand. How else would you explain the mindset that informs such behaviour? I would say that Sudla, by his actions, is not a fit or proper person to be a priest. Where is your protest to this outrageous behaviour Gerry? A deafening silence.

This is not what Jesus taught us. The gospels are full of examples of Jesus outreaching with love and acceptance to all; he reserved his condemnation towards church and government authorities that abused their power.

Gerry, you claim authority simply because you are the parish priest. My understanding in life is that I have to earn respect by my actions and in the quality of my relationships. In my profession I deal with people in crisis every day. For me to be respected I need to carefully listen, be empathic, respect cultural differences, and appreciate and respect the world view of others. Then and only then, if I have conveyed an appreciation of where the other is coming from can respect enter into the relationship.

What happened on Sunday was a violation of the church and of me. St Vincent’s has a rich and reflective theology where we have been challenged to share the brokenness of our world with the God who gave himself - “this is my body broken for you”. The community is resolute in its journey and will continue to embrace the Aboriginal people and all those who are on the fringes of our world who find their way to our Church. This is what the gospel asks us to do. Gerry, I urge you, Dennis Sudla and the Neocat fraternity to treat all those who enter our Church with respect and dignity.

In the struggle for justice.

Rhonda A


Withholding financial contributions

The withholding of financial contributions to the Church is an effective means for the faithful to register disapproval with the hierarchy. A consistently empty Sunday collection plate makes a statement that is hard to ignore.
In the USA, some reform groups have been urging Catholics to withhold contributions until the Church gets tough with sexual abusers in the priesthood and opens up its files for a full accounting of four decades of clerical abuse. The phenomenon has become quite ecumenical, with Episcopal Church officials recently announcing a $3 million shortfall in the church's 2004 budget, caused chiefly by parishes and dioceses withholding funds to protest the ordination of a homosexual bishop.

At St Vincent’s the decision to let the plate pass by was taken when the Neocats were first imposed upon the community. In recognition of the importance of finding alternatives to contributing to the Cardinal's coffers every Sunday, St Vincent’s parishioners apply their tithes to immediate needs, by, for example, supporting the Sharing of the Meal and providing financial assistance to members of its extended community in crisis situations.

A representative sample of the weekly takings as reported in the Saving Word Church bulletin is shown in the graph below. The peaks correspond to St Vincent de Paul’s feast day ($157.00) and Christmas day ($188.70) – both distinguished by a significant number of non-regular church-goers in the congregation.

collections.gif Weekly collections at St Vincent's

The Church Mouse has overheard parish priest Prindiville on several occasions state that nothing will be spent on essential church improvements until the community starts putting money on the plate again. A long outstanding case in point is the provision of a hand rail at the main entrance to help older members of the community to negotiate the steps in safety. The Archdiocese might find it cheaper to invest in a little prevention than to cope with the inevitable consequences of poor stewardship.

Monday, 2 May 2005


Talk to Neocats

Talk to Neocats; try to interest them in your customs, theology, etc. Approach individuals who look as though they might be prepared to listen. This usually excludes priests, but seminarians can be worth a try, as evidenced by the following story.

Paco, a young Spanish Neocat seminarian at St Vincent's over a year ago, was befriended by several members of the community. They took the time to explain what we were about and why we were so opposed to the Neocatechumenate, and gave him books, like Albert Nolan's Jesus Before Christianity, to read. Imagine our joy when Paco's letter, reproduced below, arrived early in March.


Dear Sr Dom

How are you? It has been a long time without having news from me. Time flies, and does it very quickly so that I have already been in Spain for a whole year.

I hope you may accept my apologies for not having written you sooner. However, it comes as a consequence of my return. Many people diverged from my decision of staying in Spain. Many other people wanted to know the reasons for me to change seminary. Thus, I opted to keep silence, disappear and, leave time to run its course. In the end, my decision has turn to be very good. I begin to see a new beautiful horizon. On the other hand, I do not think that I have wasted my time in Australia, totally the contrary. It was a time in which I met the Lord, and it made my vocation to mature.

So, my training as a diocesan priest continues and for this reason I send you an invitation for my initiation as an acolyte. Could you come? Please pray for me. Please accept my apologies again and please, give my regards to the Redfern community.

Yours in Christ


Sunday, 1 May 2005


Vibrant youth Mass

Well folks, you will all be relieved that the innovative Neocat parish youth mass is a raging success. Watch out, Hillsong, here we come!

For my sins I attended the 6pm mass at St Vincent’s this evening. I counted a total of 14 people in the church, including the two incumbent Neocat “pastors” (No. 2 came in late, but was not publicly castigated for his sin as various members of the community have been), 3 seminarians (one of whom played the guitar and sort of sang), a Neocat couple from Leichhardt, one regular with her little daughter, a couple of locals (Mary and Tonina), another woman I did not recognize, my daughter and myself.

No. 1 officiated, delivering in his inimitable style a homily that was an embellishment of the 10am version. My daughter commented on the eclectic delivery, expressing the opinion that such a stumbling sermon could only have been delivered off the cuff without any preparation. Mary rose to the occasion and left at this point, returning during the consecration. I felt duty bound to stay and observe.

There was even a moment of comic relief when the congregation burst into a sorrowful rendition of “Come as you are, feel quite at home”. Had my heart not been so heavy from the morning’s ordeal, I might have been able to enjoy the humour in this surreal spectacle.

As I made my way out of the church at the end of mass I wondered in awe at the Neocat magnetism that has the capacity to attract such crowds.


10 Steps to Quell Dissent and Maintain the Truth

Written by Brian Munro for Online Catholics
  1. At all times remember that truth is not a disembodied entity. It is a function of power exercised through authority.
  2. Fear is a prime tool in the use of power, and authority figures must be fearless in its use to keep inferiors in their place. Better to be feared than loved.
  3. But let not fear alone be the sole tool to crush dissent. 'Duchess' potential troublemakers by offering them minor promotions and some of the trappings of your power.
  4. Force subordinates to come to you as the authority figure. Do not meet them on their territory but on grounds of your choosing.
  5. Control the means of communication, employing skilled spin-doctors where needed, and distancing yourself from any that appear to waver from the line of truth you have established.
  6. Let secrecy be a watchword in all things. Total ignorance rarely breeds controversy or conflict, and the fewer who know the facts the easier it is to manage the issue.
  7. Demand obedience from those who have vowed obedience to you, and issue your instructions to them in writing to avoid any future misunderstanding.
  8. Always appeal to a higher authority, God or the Pope, as justification for your demands as if they come not from you but from incontrovertible Authority. Under no circumstances should the words 'Second Vatican Council' ever be spoken in public.
  9. Make a display of your power on all occasions, using ceremony, clothing, body language, and even the size of your 'phylacteries' to impress.
  10. Finally remember the importance of hastening slowly for best results. The frog will jump from the water if it is at first too hot, but will gladly allow itself to be boiled to death if the temperature is raised gradually.

Neocat assault

Weekend evening masses at St Vincent’s are usually attended by one or two dozen people. While parish priest Prindiville remains adamant that they are parish masses, the Neocat presence is oppressive and out of all proportion to the size of the congregation. In attendance there are typically two priests and a number of seminarians, who actively discourage any attempts by non-Neocats to contribute to the masses, by, for instance, talking over anyone who dares to offer a Prayer of the Faithful, and denying community members – even qualified Eucharistic Ministers – the right to distribute communion.

All this despite the fact that for at least three decades under Ted Kennedy Redfern was a most inclusive parish where the all were unconditionally welcome to play a very active role. Surely the vitality of any parish is dependent upon the meaningful engagement and participation of its members.

A meeting - attended by St Vincent’s community members, Prindiville, assistant Sudla, and sundry followers of the way - was held after today’s 10am mass to discuss community concerns over the alien (and alienating) liturgy being imposed by the Neocat clerics.

It was hardly surprising that the meeting quickly turned into a passionate display of the intense feeling between the two groups when Prindiville condescendingly told the community that whilst HE “gave us the freedom” to do what we wanted in the morning mass, he “controlled” the evening ones . He also stated that it was because of the community's behaviour that people were dropping away from St Vincent’s.

He again confirmed that these were parish, not Neocat, masses and there was to be no input from the community. The community was also advised that they were no longer permitted to acknowledge that they were on Aboriginal land before these masses.

In response to the community’s outburst, Prindiville retreated from the lectern to where community member Len was standing, making a photographic record of the meeting. He proceeded to try to seize Len’s camera, demanding that no pictures be taken in the church. There was a brief struggle, with Len warning that he would “sue the collar off” Prindiville if he damaged the camera, and demanding that the “miserable wretch” stop the assault. Immediately several Neocats surrounded Len, including GianPietro and Sudla who, apropos of God knows what, chimed in with “you needn’t talk – look at your hand”. (Len’s right hand was damaged in a school accident over 40 years ago.) Sudla has on many occasions demonstrated a capacity for base and cowardly behaviour especially towards women of the community – it appears now anyone with a bit of a disability is fair game as well. THIS IS A PRIEST???

The confrontation was defused by the approach of several non-Neocat males, whereupon Sudla commandeered the lectern, and shouting into the microphone berated the community that its prayers of the faithful were not prayers but statements, and political ones at that, and that the motives behind the prayers were not Christian. One member of the congregation switched off the public address system, and Prindiville promptly and angrily turned it back on again. Mary Lou, chairing the meeting, several times tried to ask Sudla to let someone else have a say, but he maintained his blanket accusations to the refrain of “that's true! that's true!” from Prindiville. Mayhem broke out and another member of the congregation, frustrated with his insulting accusations, went up and swung the microphone away from Sudla.

The Neocat contingent stormed out of the church amidst angry, frustrated cries of derision and disbelief. As Prindiville and Sudla passed Len, who was still reeling from the verbal and physical abuse administered by the pair, cried out “Get out of my church, Satan!” and Prindiville spat back “What do you think YOU are!?”

The discussion that ensued in their absence tried in vain to make sense out of what had happened. No one was left in doubt at that point of the futility of any further attempts at exchange. It would seem that dialogue with these people is impossible on any terms other than “I am the priest - shut up and do as I say”.

Some time later Prindiville and one of the seminarians returned, presumably to lock up. Realising as they approached that most of the community was still in the church, they beat a hasty retreat to cries of “Shame! Shame!” from a group of Aboriginal members of the community gathered outside.

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Redfern community farewells activist priest

Next Aussie Saint?

Activist priest farewelled

Remembering Ted Kennedy

The saint who spilt his guts for others

Fr. Ted Kennedy's Memorial Service, Brisbane

Ted Kennedy 1931-2005

Thank you Ted Kennedy

Homily at Requiem for Ted Kennedy

Ted's Funeral

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Ted's funeral - Prayers of the Faithful

Tribute for Ted

Ted's Funeral - introductory speech

CROI AN tSAOI (Heart of the wiseman )

Our Father

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From the Kearneys

Personal Reflections on Ted Kennedy

A father to the poor and dispossessed

Death of Redfern's Fr Ted Kennedy

Kennedy enters the Dreamtime

ABC Religion Report

Vale, Ted Kennedy

Redfern's Father Ted Kennedy dies

Comment from Cardinal Pell, Archdiocese of Sydney

Activist priest Ted Kennedy dies, 74

Neocat violation - open letter to Prindiville

Withholding financial contributions

Talk to Neocats

Vibrant youth Mass

10 Steps to Quell Dissent and Maintain the Truth

Neocat assault

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