The content, however, was sadly still the same old rubbish, with the message of the gospel reading of the Sermon on the Mount somehow warping into a diatribe on obedience, a favourite theme.
He thanked his fellow travellers on the Way for their support, as well as the small crowd of Islanders imported specially for the occasion, for whom, he announced, there would be a monthly Mass in Tongan. Nice to see that the Neocats are open to a little cultural diversity, isn’t it?
Amidst liberal sprinklings of self-congratulation, the long term St Vincent’s community got a mention as well: the devil, Mendes assured the congregation, had been attacking him in Redfern, but he had turned the tide and was bringing St Vincent’s back to the “true Catholic Church”.
It sends shudders down the spine.
Jack regularly goes out of his way to welcome newcomers to St Vincent’s. Immediately after mass he approached the aforementioned group of Islanders who were occupying pews near the church entrance. His attempts to introduce himself were interrupted by Mendes, who, on his way out of the church, stopped to warn the group to have nothing to do with Jack because, amongst other things, Jack did not respect the parish priest.
No doubt out of respect for Mendes, a burly member of the group elbowed Jack, an octogenarian, out of the way. This cowardly act was witnessed by smiling priests and at least two members of the community. When questioned later the man said “Lucky I didn’t hit him” and “You haven’t seen anything yet”.
Jack and many other members of the long term community, have been regular targets of verbal and physical abuse, and just plain nastiness, from members of the Neocatechumenal Way or their agents.
And what of the new parish priest? The community, no doubt, will be the last to know, but the grapevine suggests that Mendes’ replacement will commence in October, with Zavarese as acting pp in the interim.
We pray that the new man will come to our parish with an open mind, unpoisoned by the prejudices of his predecessors, and take the opportunity to rebuild peace and unity based on mutual respect in this terribly divided parish.
We’ll try and do the same, and extend a hand of welcome.
Please remember the people of Hampton East in your prayers.