Church Mouse Journal

More morsels from St Vincent's Redfern

Monday, 30 January 2006


Remarkable coincidence

Readers might be interested in this conversation:

From: Torrential Rains []
Sent: Tuesday, 10 January 2006 12:34 PM
Subject: info about neocats?


Just seen your site about the Neocatechumenal Way....
Do you have a contact number?
I'd like to remain anonymous


From: "Church Mouse"
To: "'Torrential Rains'"
Subject: RE: info about neocats?
Date: Sat, 14 Jan 2006 10:43:31 +1100

Hi anonymous -

Can you tell me something about what it is that you want to discuss?

C.M. ;

From: Torrential Rains []
Sent: Friday, 20 January 2006 1:32 PM
Subject: info about neocats?

Basically I'd like you to remove some of the information you have up. I'd like it to be without any fuss.

From: "Church Mouse"
To: "'Torrential Rains'"
Subject: RE: info about neocats?
Date: Fri, 20 Jan 2006 20:34:58 +1100

You'll need to be a lot more specific than that, anonymous.

Incidentally, the Church Mouse prefers to use email for this sort of thing, as it helps keeps the record straight and the fuss to a minimum.


From: Torrential Rains []
Sent: Saturday, 21 January 2006 2:19 PM
Subject: info about neocats?

However the information you have up there is not correct. Its from a few selected disgruntled old individuals (some of whom I know) who are so stuck in their ways they wouldn't even take the time to listen to what people - ESPECIALLY the young - have to have information about me up on there and you have never contacted me personally or took the time to ask what was really the case...and then you critise my work - illegally. All I can ask is that you look at what you've done and think about it...think about people's lives that you are affecting with the stuff you have up on there....which I'm sure most of it you have no understanding about.

I'm willing to work this out diplomatically, however I will admit I don't trust you already. Howver I think I would like to at least try. The only thing I can ask you to do is that you let me contact you by phone. The number will remain silent and I only want to ask that you remove 2 items from your site. That way i can be assured you will not put up on the site what i send to you. If you choose not to then that's cool...I'll have to accept it. My reputation is young, I want it to stay clean.


From: "Church Mouse"
To: "'Torrential Rains'"
Subject: RE: info about neocats?
Date: Tuesday, 24 January 2006 6:49 PM

If you want to establish some sort of trusting dialog, why don't you send your phone number - wherever you may be doesn't matter - but rest assured that no secret deals will be done.


Sunday, 29 January 2006


Replacement for Sudla

This weekend's church bulletin carried the following item:

Welcome Fr Clesio

We welcome back Fr Clesio who is replacing Fr Dennis. Fr Dennis will be reassigned elsewhere when he returns from the Philippines.

Clesio Mendes accompanied Prindiville as deacon when the Neocats were first imposed upon the St Vincent's parish. He was replaced by Dennis Sudla when he left to be ordained in Perth, Western Australia.

The community keenly awaits for a display of the leopard's new spots.

Thursday, 26 January 2006


Sudla's whereabouts - yet another postscript

It seems that the Church Mouse's good authority on this subject was not so well informed after all.

Here is Sudla (taking time out from his missionary work) officiating at a wedding (see the Hello World posting, on the couple's weblog) on 22 December 2005 in the humble parish of Saint James the Great, Ayala Alabang Village, Muntinlupa, Philippines.

More photos: image1, image2, image3.

Thanks to the St Vincent's supersleuth for locating this information.

Image removed at the request of Leah (see comments).
If you have any enquiries about the missing images, contact the Church Mouse on

Friday, 13 January 2006


The spiritual journey of an incisive mind

Maureen Flood, Nun, 1935-2005

Sydney Morning Herald, January 13, 2006

ONE of Maureen Flood's most vivid memories - and a defining experience in her life - came at St Vincent's Church, Redfern, when a frail Aboriginal woman arrived, as if from a long journey.

She looked ill, tattered, torn, weak and hungry. She asked a nun: "Sis, do you reckon I could have a bath?"

"We ran a lot of hot water, carefully undressed Mary and lowered her thin, black body into the bath," Flood wrote later. "She was smiling as if all her dreams had come true. While we sponged her she kept reaching her arms out in the water as if to embrace it.

"Then she would cup her hands, fill them with water, slowly lift them over her head and let the sparkling shower fall all over her. All the time she was repeating a kind of chant, 'Beautiful water, lovely water, lovely warm water'.

"As we continued to bathe this beautiful woman's body I was overwhelmed by a sense that this was indeed the body of Christ in our hands. That moment taught me more than I could have learnt in many years of contemplation.

"Daily contact, conversation, laughter, many tears and great sorrows shared with Aboriginal people in and around the St Vincent's community have coloured and dictated my life, my thinking and my theology ever since."

A second epiphany came through Harold, a homeless Aborigine who asked Flood if there was a blessing in her prayer book for him. She read him a blessing. After a long silence, Harold asked: "Don't you want me to read a blessing for you?"

She wrote: "My world turned upside down; in that instant many of my assumptions and presumptions were totally shattered. Harold read a blessing for me and I have never received a greater one."

Maureen Flood died a pauper on Boxing Day, four days after her 70th birthday and 40 minutes after Kerry Packer. She had suffered from dementia but was prepared for death. In her last essay, published last year, she wrote: "My life is coming to an end. The path ahead is not so long. I walk in darkness yet the darkness is luminous." At her birthday party she had led celebrants in singing Paddy McGinty's Goat.

Maureen Patricia Brigid was born in Gunnedah to Ted and Cora Flood. She was one of five children; the youngest, Lesley, was run over and died at four years.

Ted's brother, Francis (Frank), was one of 10 Irish patriots, including Kevin Barry, hanged by the British in Dublin's Mountjoy jail during the Irish war of independence. When Sister Monica, a Bon Secours nun, told Frank on his last night on Earth in 1921 that she would pray for him until 9am the next day, he said: "I will be in Heaven shortly after eight and I will pray for you."

The men's bodies were exhumed in 2001 and reburied with state honours. Maureen's nephew, Sean Flood, a Sydney barrister, was a pallbearer.

A peace treaty probably saved Ted from the hangman. He came to Australia, where he and Cora ran country pubs.

From Gunnedah, the family went to Inverell, then Tamworth. They returned to Ireland on holiday for a year after World War II but Ted died at 47 soon after their return, when Maureen was 16.

Dyslexia hampered her at school but she became a nurse at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney before joining the Blessed Sacrament Sisters in Melbourne, a very strict, enclosed, contemplative order who adored the Eucharist for an hour every day and night.

If the young, kneeling women felt themselves dozing off during adoration, they would stand. The nuns made all the altar breads for Victoria, requiring hard, manual work. And the order's leaders taught that dancing was a mortal sin.

"It was organised in such a way that you got a full night's sleep once a week," Flood said. "I thought that if you were going to give your life to God, you had to do the hardest thing."

She became the order's regional superior in Australia before travelling to Rome in 1981, as deputy superior general of the Blessed Sacrament Order. She had overcome her dyslexia and was to prepare programs for Vatican Radio, including a series on human sexuality, and for the ABC, write several books and earn a Sydney University master's degree for a thesis on spirituality in Judith Wright's poetry.

Rome opened her eyes; she began to lose her faith in the church and take a keen interest in feminism. Recognising the limitations of her order, she was to describe herself as "the best possible nun of the worst possible kind". The order is left now with only 10 members in Australia and about 330 around the world.

Back in Australia in 1987, she gravitated to Father Ted Kennedy's community in Redfern. "I knew that the Eucharist is broken bread for broken people but in my whole life I'd had very little, if any, direct contact with poor, broken, dispossessed and unjustly outcast people," she said.

"I knew I needed to go somewhere beyond the walls that insulated our lives and limited our vision and understanding."

She found the celebration of the Eucharist at Redfern to be prayerful, joyful and open to the unexpected. She said: "The air we breathe, the land on which we stand, is laden with the suffering of generations of the dispossessed original peoples of Australia. The overwhelming spirit of the community is of longing for justice and reconciliation … Surprising as it may seem, running beneath and through every layer of this situation is a constant overflowing river of laughter."

Sister Vianney Hatton said at Flood's funeral: "The Redfern years challenged and exhilarated her and she found her true spiritual home among the oppressed and needy, especially the Aboriginal people … She was never other than a daughter of the church, but she came to eschew mediocrity and the institutional structures that bound rather than freed people. She was equally intolerant of hypocrisy and patriarchal oppression."

Hatton said that, in the last years of her life, Flood let go of rigid belief systems and discovered "the original depth hidden within our own Catholic tradition". She could blend a free spirit, a decisive nature, a deep respect for life, a love for adventure and an uncompromising sense of integrity.

She was saintly, but perfection was not her goal. She had her shadow side. Particularly in later years, her friend said, Flood "battled her demons and faced her terrors and fears with great courage and honesty. We all know how difficult we found it to see the deterioration of her incisive and mystical mind."

She had also found spirituality in poetry. Her thesis on Wright, finished in 1997, ends with a personal reflection in which she wrote: "The death of God came as a great shock to me." She was talking of a transcendent God. Hatton believes her sense of the presence of a personal God had died. Her certainty had been stripped away; her faith had become a belief without knowing.

Flood wrote in her last essay: "I believe that Jesus was an amazing prophet, a messenger from God." She thought his life and teaching "simple and profound".

She had long lost her youthful piousity but found inner peace. She wanted "quiet time, to talk to the angels, look at the sky, look at the trees. And getting rid of stuff. I adore getting rid of stuff."

Women such as Maureen Flood entered convents in a different era. Years later, many found themselves in unpaid community work, which they embraced with enthusiasm and grace. Their spirit of self-sacrifice is not always common today.

Yet a sense of fun sprinkled her spirituality and self-sacrifice. "I'm a little deranged," she would say in later years. And, at a St Vincent's storytelling session after her death, a friend told how Flood had said: "If I believed in reincarnation, I'd like to come back and have lots of sex."

Tony Stephens

Sunday, 8 January 2006


How others see us?

Saturday, 7 January 2006


Riches greater than a baron's estimation

Sydney Morning Herald, January 7, 2006

MAUREEN FLOOD died 40 minutes after Kerry Packer. The timing of their deaths was the only thing they had in common, apart from their dyslexia and the fact that people they left behind are still talking about them, and will do so for a long time.

Packer died with an estimated fortune of $7 billion. A Christian friend in this secular Australia raised with me Jesus's words, reported by St Matthew: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

William Randolph Hearst, another astonishingly wealthy man who made his fortune from media, was once asked what he thought about the biblical passage. Hearst said something like: "I've always loved a challenge." Packer loved a challenge, but never believed he would face the needle dilemma. He said he had been to "the other side" after his heart stopped in 1990, adding: "Let me tell you, son, there's nothing there."

Maureen Flood was a nun who died a pauper. She was convinced something was there. And she might have argued, in regard to the eye of the needle, that Christ had also said: "With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Her funeral service was held at St Vincent's, Redfern, on Tuesday and friends and relatives were still gathering to talk about her yesterday. She had suffered with dementia but, on her 70th birthday four days before her death, had led celebrants in singing Paddy McGinty's Goat.

She had overcome dyslexia to write several books, prepare programs for Vatican Radio and the ABC, and earn a Sydney University master's degree for a thesis on spirituality in Judith Wright's poetry.

She was a sister of the Blessed Sacrament, a contemplative order now left with only 10 members in Australia and about 330 around the world. Many will not be surprised by the order's decline. Her great friend and colleague, Sister Vianney Hatton, said the nuns had been required to do "pretty silly and inhumane things", such as leaving the sick or getting out of bed every eight hours to adore the sacrament. Their leaders taught that dancing was a mortal sin.

Sister Maureen ultimately let go of rigid belief systems to pursue her faith through poetry and, especially, the poor of Sydney.

In her last essay, published last year, she wrote: "My life is coming to an end. The path ahead is not so long. I walk in darkness yet the darkness is luminous."

Tony Stephens

Tuesday, 3 January 2006


Sr Maureen Flood

Some years ago Sr Maureen Flood, SSS, reflected on the St Vincent's community in SACRED SITE:
One of the reasons why I love this community so much is that the telling of stories is given considerable space. Be they sublime, terrible, funny, shocking, sad or too long, every story is received and honoured. The liturgy enfolds the stories of the day - the personal and the communal. This can be demanding. At St Vincent's the liturgy is not always consoling or comfortable. The Mass is not ended until announcements have been made by anyone who wants to let us know something: how a sick member is managing, when one or another protest march will be on, when the next meeting of the women's Christian/Muslim group will be, or the next meeting of parents of Gay or Lesbian people, or some urgent message from Pax Christi or from members of our congregation who visit refugee detention centres. The needs of the poor and oppressed are woven into the fabric of every celebration of the Eucharist at St Vincent's, Redfern, just as they are woven into every aspect of the life and teaching of Jesus.
Yesterday afternoon a crowd of her friends gathered at St Vincent's to share stories of her remarkable life. Maureen died suddenly but peacefully on Monday 26 December 2005. Her funeral will be held at St Vincent's this morning at 10:30am.

Thank you dear God for the seed of prayer that you

Have planted in the heart of each of us.

Prayers, like people come in different shapes and sizes.

Some are long and tall

And some are short and small.

Some are round and layered

And others are as small as a tear drop.

Some are cried out loud

And others are wordless.

Whatever it's size or shape

You hear us all.

We thank you for the seed of prayer you

Have planted in the heart of every being in creation.


Maureen Flood, 19/09/2004

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Remarkable coincidence

Replacement for Sudla

Sudla's whereabouts - yet another postscript

The spiritual journey of an incisive mind

How others see us?

Riches greater than a baron's estimation

Sr Maureen Flood

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