retirement of Ted Kennedy, George Pell has made two highly contentious
appointments of parish priests to St Vincent's: Peter Carroll, MSC,
July 2002 - May 2003; Gerry Prindiville, Neocatechumenate, July
2003 - ?
Church without a
priest, but no loss of spirit - 23/06/2003
The Catholic community of Redfern, with
the largest indigenous congregation in Australia, prays
without a resident parish priest. But this could not
stop yesterday's celebration.
The state MP Linda Burney told the congregation of
the historical significance of their church, St Vincent's:
"We celebrate the truth of Australia here, warts and
all. This is the history we share. This is an honest
Ms Burney, the first indigenous member of the NSW Parliament,
said the church was a bridge between the Aboriginal
community and the church, and a welcoming place open
to all people.
"The leadership within the church has to understand
the history and the significance and fundamental principles
of reconciliation," she said.
St Vincent's has been without a priest for a month,
since the departure of Father Peter Carroll. The congregation
had written to the Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell,
and the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Order, claiming
that Father Carroll was alienated from the largely indigenous
He had been at St Vincent's for eight months, following
the retirement of Father Ted Kennedy, who had often
criticised Catholic leaders and spoken out for indigenous
Australians during his 30-year tenure.
The congregation said the dispute with Father Carroll
began when he demanded the removal of Aborigines on
the footpath outside the church before Sunday Mass.
Catholic leaders have said another priest will be appointed.
Yesterday's mass was conducted by Father Isaac Koi.
Rhonda Ansiewicz, a member of the congregation, said
the celebration was held because the congregation "felt
battered over recent events".
"We needed to reclaim and celebrate the values and
traditions that are central to Redfern."
Ms Burney said many Aborigines found safety and comfort
in the church. Many Aboriginal funerals had been conducted
"Aboriginal people have a sense of ownership here.
It's an important place."
She said that Father Kennedy was one of the most loved
individuals in this part of Sydney. It did not matter
to him whether a person was black or white.
Ms Burney told of her own journey. Born in the Riverina,
she remembers being told that Aborigines were the closest
example to Stone Age man. She did not meet her natural
father until 19 years ago.
She was brought up with decent principles but expected
to leave school after year 9.
The history-maker told of the importance of "a strong
spirit and good heart". Then the congregation went off
to a celebratory barbecue.