A Response to the Parish Priest
21 June 2004
I am writing in response to your open letter in the bulletin. I
felt the need to respond both, as a member of the Community of St
Vincent’s Church, Redfern and, also as a Religious sister who has
worked for the church for many years as a teacher and in Social
Justice. I have been involved in different ministries – Teaching,
A Shelter for Homeless Men, Women’s refugee, Forbes St House in
Redfern, lived with the people of Wilcannia and more.
I feel that in some of your comments you do not really understand
the stance to be with the “made poor” wherever that may be. You
talk of the ‘desirability of an austere church’. This is not our
desire. This misses the point altogether. I asked many of the parishioners
at mass on Sunday did they find the church depressing. No one did.
We love the church. Who are the ones who find the church depressing?
The church at Redfern tells the story of what being a Christian
is all about. After all Jesus was born in a stable.
Putting carpets and having a ‘dignified’ environment is ostentatious
when there are people living in poverty around you. I look at the
space where the meal is provided two days a week and see how thoughtfully
that wonderful group of people have prepared the tables and surrounds.
Frederick Ozanam commented simply: "One thing is lacking -
works of charity. LET US GO TO THE POOR. " I remember hearing
the words of a saint who said that before we preach the gospel we
need to practice the spirit of the word by feeding the hungry, visiting
the sick, welcoming the stranger etc.
The “made” poor, disposed and disempowered are not after a ‘dignified’
environment. They have their own dignity. They look for presence,
listening, respect, sharing, belonging and friendship.
Of course, the church looked in better condition 20yrs ago. You
and I probably looked in better condition 20yrs ago too. There was
simple straw matting on the floor.
You speak of being appointed Parish Priest. I thought that the
neo-catechumens had to be invited by the parish. There are parishes
which have not welcomed this movement and have been able to say
so. We, unfortunately have not that right given to us. I am wondering
who the local people are who you serve as the Congregation seems
to consist of the community of people who have called St Vincent’s
their place of worship for many years and the other neo- catechumens
who have come to Redfern since your arrival.
Last week the readings spoke beautifully about the people of God
and yet your statement “if you wish to continue to be part of St
Vincent’s Parish you must co-operate with me and Fr. Dennis and
others of the parish” seems very dogmatic and almost threatening.
I take offence at the wording “so-called Community” in your letter.
We are all people of good –will and strong faith. We have continued
standing with the Aboriginal people of Redfern and all the people
who have come to worship at this Church -this sacred place. You
and your group have been here such a short time and you make fun
of this “so called Community” In Justice I hope that this letter
will be printed in the Bulletin as your letter was.
Sr. Sheila Quonoey