An Open Letter by John Hill

An Open Letter by John Hill in Online Catholics Issue 25, 1 Nov 2004

I am writing as a parishioner of St. Vincent’s Church, Redfern, NSW. I write with a deep sense of sadness and a feeling of depression. I am seeing the disintegration or even worse, the destruction of a parish that for over 30 years has been a beacon of hope for social justice, the authentic Gospel teachings, the spirit of the Second Vatican Council and the rights of indigenous Australians.

The legacy of an ailing Fr Ted Kennedy has been decimated. The assurance that the Archbishop of Sydney made to Fr Kennedy on his retirement that his work would be respected and continued, has been broken. It has been torn asunder.

When at a Sunday mass you see a Neo Catecumenate acolyte who has subsequently been ordained, head-locking an elderly gentleman for not putting the host into his mouth immediately or when you see another senior gentleman pushed roughly aside by a young priest, it means that the Eucharist has lost its significance.

When you see a Neo Catecumenate priest telling off an elderly nun, once in charge of the formation of religious nuns and priests for many years, that she should look at herself in the mirror, it demonstrates not only the lack of respect for another but the sheer disregard for basic Christian values.

From the pulpit this same priest admonished a female parishioner telling her that she was in need of immediate psychological help. He then turned to her husband and told him how he pitied him for being married to her. She is in fact of sound mind, courteous and respectful of the priests. She has been a backbone of what is left of the parish.

The Sharing of the Meal for the poor operated by parishioners and friends every Tuesday and Friday has had its funds cut off by the archdiocese on the premise that this work was not necessary and that it could be done as well by other organisations. The fact is that this sharing of the meal caters to over a hundred people each Tuesday and Friday. The parishioners themselves now fund this project. The Redfern clergy have discouraged this work saying that Protestants and Atheists can do it better. At the same time they have alienated the Aboriginal community by breaking down the trust that has been 30 years in the making.

The litany of insults relentlessly perpetrated by this priest on many parishioners continues unabated with the implicit condonation by the Church authorities as nothing has been done to redress the situation in Redfern. Letters and petitions to Cardinal Pell sent by parishioners and concerned clergy about the deteriorating condition and the pain inflicted on the community at St. Vincent’s have not been given due consideration to ease the concerns of the parishioners.

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