It is time to re-issue the call to come back to St Vincent’s.
Over the last five or six years, we at St Vincent’s have been challenged to reconsider our faith in unexpected ways ever since a gracious Cardinal recommended to an ailing Ted Kennedy that it might be time for him to retire, with an assurance that the fruits of three decades of priestly labour would be respected.
Redfern today remains the site of two dramatically differing theologies at work under one roof. On the one hand we have the St Vincent’s community continuing to live out the Gospels as they were laid bare by Ted; on the other hand we have the Neocatechumenate Way, with its private, joyless view of a sinful world.
The community’s endeavours to find common ground have failed. Invitations to dialogue with the Neocatechumenate priests and the hierarchy have achieved results ranging from barely satisfactory to outright rejection. The lack of open communication from the Neocats and the increasingly evasive nature of their responses to the community has left many wondering about the possibility of any positive outcomes at all.
As is now quite plain, the pastoral debacle at St Vincent’s is a reflection of non-productive tensions being set up around the world by powerful neoconservative forces within the establishment Church.
Whilst anti-intellectual, even theologically retrograde, neoconservative movements have established a real presence in an many dioceses, they are, in many cases content to take a “sleeper” role. At Redfern and Kelmscott in Western Australia, these groups have displayed quite predatory behaviour. Furthermore, in each case the group was imposed by a local hierarchy determined to maintain a pastorally conflicting presence against the wishes of the parish community.
One can only wonder at the pastoral wisdom of these appointments and the logic behind them.
In many ways the community has grown in strength, but it is also weary; many of the regulars have become so disenchanted that they can barely cope with the occasional Sunday mass.
There are many hundreds of you, who have been touched by this sacred place. You are spread far and wide. Please try coming back from time to time, as you once did; not in search of the past, but to help, simply by your presence, to keep alive the vision of having a place of worship where one can respectfully join the Aboriginal Christ at the banquet table (Jim Considine – “Light Years”).