Sunday 2 August 2009
Then Ann, driven by her recent visit to Central Australia, tried to offer a prayer and Mendes spat the dummy. The letters/emails tell the rest of the story.
This is not the first time that Sunday Mass has been denied to parishioners at Redfern for "being political" and thereby "having no respect for the liturgy". The community lives with the constant threat of having Masses terminated, with notices prominently displayed in the church foyer and in the church bulletin every week – see Update.
There have now been five or six occasions when the Neocat celebrant has prematurely terminated a Sabbath Mass. Most have been documented on this web site – here are links to the relevant articles:
Sunday, 16 December 2007
Sunday, 07 December 2008
Sunday, 14 December 2008
In addition there have been countless instances of individuals being denied Communion by the Neocat clergy. One of the worst of these abuses of the Eucharist happened at the Easter Vigil on Sunday, 08 April 2007 – see Stephanie’s open letter to Prindiville.
Mendes’ performance moved several concerned members of the congregation to pen the following letter to John Usher, ubiquitous chancellor of the Sydney archdiocese –
2nd August 2009
Fr John Usher
133 Liverpool St
Dear Fr Usher,
I am writing this letter on behalf of those concerned parishioners who attended the 10.00 am Mass today.
The Parish priest, Fr Clesio Mendes, walked off the altar during the Prayers of the Faithfull and refused to complete the Celebration of the Eucharist thus denying us the complete Mass and the reception of the Eucharist.
One of the parishioners was in the middle of her Prayer of the Faithful when Fr Mendes tried to prevent her from finishing as he was of the opinion that it was not a real prayer. She said that it was her prayer and that she was praying for Aboriginal people whom she met on a recent trip to the Northern Territory. Fr Mendes then said that we had no respect for the Liturgy and that he would stop the Mass which he did.
We were all devastated and felt absolutely powerless to change his mind. He refused to listen and left the Church.
As he was clearing away the Offertory after the departure of Fr Mendes, one of the Neo-Catechumenate followers made an extremely derogatory remark to the woman who had been sharing her Prayer of the Faithful.
We are at a loss as to how to deal with this abuse of power especially when it happens during our Celebration of the Eucharist.
On behalf of my fellow parishioners, who feel very hurt by this experience, I would value your input both for Fr Mendes and us.
Judy J** and others.
Ann sent this set of questions to Usher and Porteous, auxiliary bishop of Sydney –
Date: Sun, Aug 2, 2009 at 7:50 PM
Subject: At St Vincent’s Redfern on 2nd August 2009
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Cc: Douglas Mawhinney firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Bishop Julian Porteous and Father John Usher,
My name is Ann M**. I am a parishioner at St Vincent’s in Redfern. I joined the church in 2006. I have not had the pleasure of knowing Father Ted Kennedy nor Mum Shirl.
I work full time and am pursuing my degree in Aboriginal Studies, part-time.
I have just returned from spending a couple of weeks visiting and observing Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. What I saw has strengthen my resolve to work with Aboriginal communities on completion of my degree. I likened my recent journey to my pilgrimage to Bethlehem last year.
Today I returned to my church. Fresh from my experience, during the prayer of the faithful, I started my prayer. I informed all I had just returned from observing the work of two members from our community in the Northern Territory.
Father Clesio, the parish priest [PP], immediately interrupted, by saying there should be no political statements.
I informed him that this is my heartfelt prayer for the Aborigines and the community.
His reply was that I have no respect for the liturgy.
I was baffled and reinstated that my prayer is for my Aboriginal brothers and sisters and this is their church.
Then he said I have no respect for him.
I refused to be silenced for I knew my prayer to be worthy and the Aboriginal brothers and sisters who were present in church, watching this, are worthy.
The PP subsequently apologised to a few new faces whom I had not seen before and stopped the Mass.
A Neocat member, a young man, while clearing the altar looked directly at me with a finger to his temple saying something which I could not hear. I requested he repeat what he was attempting to convey to me. He did not. Instead a lady who was within hearing distance immediately wrote down what he had said, which is:-
"You’ve got mental problems to be saying a prayer like that….."
What prayer? For I was silenced.
I watched while one of the Sisters in the parish was trying to comfort a lady who had had a very difficult week and needed the Eucharistic celebration.
I subsequently spent the afternoon in hospital visiting a young pregnant Aboriginal woman, the grand daughter of a late Aboriginal elder who had welcomed me when I first arrived in the church and a long term member of our community, an Aboriginal man whose health is failing. I sat by his bed, gently stroked his hand and listened to his laboured breathing.
I have some questions regarding Cardinal Pell’s Pastoral Plan which is to follow the Pope’s directive in establishing new pastoral initiatives which are to be adapted to the circumstances of each community. They are:-
– How has the Parish Priest in this instance shown genuine pastoral care in denying community prayer and the Eucharistic celebration?
– Where is there pastoral care, when the circumstance of this community being an Aboriginal community is not acknowledged? There was no apology to the Aborigines present for stopping the Mass.
– Where is there pastoral care when a young member under the wings/tutelage of the Parish Priest thinks it is permissible to defame a member of the community?
I am seeking answers to my questions for I do not see the gospel being practised by the clergy of this parish and I have serious fears on what is being taught to young Neocats.
It is obvious the clergy at St Vincent’s are not shepherding the community in a loving and caring manner.
Thank you for your time and patience.
So far there has been one solitary response from the hierarchy – these thoughtful words from a caring pastor –
Date: Tue, Aug 4, 2009 at 5:11 PM
Subject: RE: At St Vincent’s Redfern on 2nd August 2009
Thank you for your email. I am aware of many difficulties in the parish.
I do ask that people seek to build relationships based in Christian love and forgiveness. Things can only be resolved through a process of genuine reconciliation. Like that with the Aboriginal people it is a difficult and painful journey, but for the sake of unity this is the only possible path.
On this feast of St John Vianney I ask you to pray for your priests.
Bishop Julian Porteous DD VG
44 Abbotsford Road
Homebush NSW 2140
T. +61 (2) 9764 6499
F.+ 61 (2) 8756 5837
Please note my new email address above