Regarding Parish Matters and Proposal for Community Meeting.
Fr. Gerry Prindiville,
Parish Priest of St. Vincent de Paul’s, Redfern.
Dear Fr. Gerry,
We, the long-term Community of St. Vincent’s, Redfern, would like to ask you, as Parish Priest of St. Vincent’s, to note the following four main points:
Firstly, we would like to thank you for announcing the appointment of assistant priest, Fr. Dennis Sudla, yesterday (Sunday, March 14), after the 10 a.m. Mass. We learnt that he was appointed on Feb. 1 for an "indefinite period" to perform "the usual parish duties”. When asked after Mass to elaborate on this information, you added that, because "no local people come to weekly Mass", you were (both?) door-knocking in the area, and ready to do "whatever work comes up." Respectfully, we express quite some surprise at the appointment of now two  Neo-Catechumenate priests to St. Vincent’s, at a time when two priests in any parish is a rarity, especially since we are not a Neo-Catechumenate community and have never invited the Neo-Catechumenates into our parish. We would also remind you that your Neo-Catechumenate group has yet to be formally introduced to the Community.
Secondly, given that at least six weeks elapsed before any formal announcement about this appointment was openly made at St. Vincent’s, we, the Community, would ask for your assurance that in future information of relevance to us all be announced with due promptness. In this instance, Fr. Dennis has been saying Mass at St. Vincent’s continuously since December (when you were on leave) and, by his manner, has been giving strong cause for questions. For the purpose of maintaining good, open communication at St. Vincent’s, we ask you to accept the trust of your people here that you will definitely and openly pass on relevant information as soon as it is known to you. This would have a good outcome for all – in helping to prevent conjectures, suspicions and tensions from arising, and a spirit of dialogue to prevail.
Thirdly, in relation to this last point above, we would like you to be assured that the Community did not withhold any details for last Sunday’s liturgical celebration (& farewell to Sr. Pat Ormesher) when you were notified as usual on Friday. Those preparing had not known that Uncle Max Eulo hoped to perform a Smoking Ceremony at the beginning of proceedings. During the course of setting-up in the Church just before Mass, it emerged that Uncle Max wanted to thank Sr. Pat for her goodness to him. Because he felt himself a man of few words, Max thought the best way to express himself was by way of the ceremony, so he brought all the paraphernalia for it with him. Our Community readily welcomed his gesture of deep affection, genteelness, and sharing-of-culture. This ceremony is normally performed on special occasions (as when Uncle Max himself performed the smoking of His Holiness, the Pope, on his last visit here to Sydney). In relation to our liturgical preparation, we have always been prompt to include such items, at the last minute or even during a Service, viewing them as a "movement of the Spirit" and the much-valued, God-given charisma of the individual.
Lastly, two matters have arisen in very recent days about which we feel grave concern because we deeply value Aboriginal people and their spirituality, we are reconciliation-minded, and have a tradition here of standing with, and learning from, the poor, the marginalized and the dispossessed. These two matters are:
(i) The dismay of the daughters of Aboriginal Elder, Betty Roberts, at the unsympathetic response they received to enquiries about having their mother’s funeral at St. Vincent’s, whence so many Aboriginal people have been buried over the years. Feeling unwelcome and rejected in their time of bereavement, they opted to have the ceremony performed at St Mary’s, Erskineville. We cannot understand this behaviour from a pastor. It reflects values diametrically opposed to the Christian values upheld and lived by this Community.
(ii) Once again, unfortunately, the questioning and "difficulty," at the altar itself, of a young Aboriginal girl receiving Holy Communion. With respect, you have been here in Redfern for more than eight months, in which time you could have easily made enquiries at a far more appropriate time. Not only is she a granddaughter of a highly respected, much loved Aboriginal elder (a regular, long-term Community member, whose piety, devotion, and honesty one could never have reason to question), this child is a very regular and enthusiastic participant, who, as you were informed, actua1ly had made her First Communion and has a deep desire to receive the Eucharist. That this child (like some others who regularly attend) was so apprehensive about approaching the altar that she grabbed the hand of an adult member of the Community so to "take the risk" (of rejection by the priest, as she, and we, have recently seen happen here to other Aboriginal children) to go forward, leads us to suggest the urgent need for guided steps in an enculturation process for all and any of those persons newly arrived from overseas countries who minister at our parish church in this proclaimed era of Reconciliation.
We would like to propose a full Community meeting with both you and Fr. Dennis to address these issues at a mutually suitable time, say, at 11:30 – 1:00pm on a near-future Sunday, to be negotiated at the end of the 10am Mass next Sunday, March 21.
Thank you for your kind attention to these matters.
Signed by the following Members of the Community of St. Vincent de Paul’s, Redfern:
Rhonda Ansiewicz, Joëlle Battestini, Kaye Bellear, Hillary Bone, Eileen Burke, Elizabeth Burke,Jack Callaghan, Mary Cawood , Marianne Dacy, Stephen Darmody, Catherine De Lorenzo, Len De Lorenzo, Maureen Flood, Dom Furlong, Maggie Galley, Kate Gavan, Janice Gentle, Michael Gravener, Peter Griffin, Tom Hammerton, Bernadette Hawthorne, John Hill, Alan Hockey, Marnie Kennedy, Dick Laffan, Jenny Laffan , Clare Maguire, Peter Manning, Leonie Martin, Mary McGowan, Jan McNamara, Gabrielle Nolan, Helen Regan, Lucy-Anne Riley, Cecelia Scarf, Pierre Thibaudeau, Frank Vavasour, Deborah Wall, Anne Webb.
cc. Cardinal Pell being in Rome, Bishop David Cremin Archbishop Francis Carroll,
President Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Bishop Brian Heenan,
Secretary of the Bishops’ Committee for Aboriginal & TSI Issues
The Dean of St Mary’s Cathedral, Monsignor Tony Doherty
The Episcopal Vicar for Clergy, Monsignor Vince Reddon
The Parish Priests of the Sydney Archdiocese
Sr. Kristen Johnston, Exec. Director of the Australian Catholic Leaders of Religious Institutes [ACLRI]
Ms. Bernice Moore, Coordinator, Women and the Australian Church [WATAC]