Palm Sunday at St Vincent’s

New carpet The first thing to strike worshippers as they entered St Vincent’s for Mass yesterday was the tawdry "Persian" carpet freshly installed under the altar and up the podium. Designed and crafted by Tom Bass, the altar was presented to Ted Kennedy by the artist decades ago – one of many expressions of love and appreciation for Ted by artists over the years. Gerry might have been aware of this if only he engaged with the community sometimes: someone would have been able to explain the significance of the altar, the bare floorboards on which it stands, and the inappropriateness of this attempt to beautify the church.

The real Eucharist As the Mass progressed, young Charitha spontaneously moved about the congregation with a bag, from which he took biscuits and pressed them into hands, regardless of whether their owners were black or white, young or old, Neocat or mere mortal. The poignancy of this child’s innocent gesture was in stark contrast to what has been served up for months by the Neocatechumenate priests at St Vincent’s – a discriminating ritual that regularly excludes Aboriginal members of the community, and anyone else deemed unworthy. It was a spark of hope in a numbingly awful Palm Sunday mass.

Pruney returns Following her exchange with Dennis on Saturday evening, Pruney returned to tackle Gerry about the cleaning. Clearly distressed, she confronted him just before the final blessing, and announced that she was going to hose out the church. Gerry’s distrust of the community – regularly changing padlocks and withholding keys – has restricted her access to the point where she has been unable to clean the place for several weeks.

As the priests left the altar, Pruney opened the side door, dragged a hose in from the Aboriginal Medical Service building site, and proceeded to hose down the church floor as the congregation moved out. Several people headed for the sacristy in an attempt to reconcile the warring parties. Minor scuffles broke out between Pruney and the Neocat priests, as others strove to maintain order, and called for dialogue and rational discussion. "Some issues can’t be resolved!" stated Fr Dennis as he stormed off. Further down the aisle he exchanged unpleasantries with John, who was jostled and manhandled by the young priest and the Neocat seminarian who had assisted at Mass. When Len recognized him as the seminarian who had assaulted Jack last September, he responded "but I was forgiven".

Three members of the community subsequently followed Gerry to his residence to try and explain Pruney’s need to be trusted. They left feeling that they may have facilitated a little understanding.

Sharing of the meal As the stunned congregation left the sodden church, they had to be careful to avoid Michael and Alan removing a freezer and other items from the sacristy, which has always been used to store the makings for the regular "Sharing of the Meal" on Tuesdays and Fridays. Gerry had insisted that it go. The logistics of feeding the crowd that usually turns up have been made increasingly difficult by his restrictions on the use of and access to the church. How long before he tries to put a complete stop to it?

Eileen not well The stress of this situation is getting to the entire community. Eileen, who is almost 92, witnessed the Palm Sunday debacle. Her heart played up for days afterwards.
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