Redfern’s Father Ted Kennedy dies

ABC Online PM

Reporter: David Mark

MARK COLVIN: An outspoken Catholic priest who worked with the Aboriginal community in inner Sydney, Father Ted Kennedy, has died after a series of strokes.Father Ted Kennedy worked in the St Vincent’s Parish in the often-troubled suburb of Redfern from the 1970s.David Mark’s report begins with Father Ted’s sister, Marnie.
MARNIE KENNEDY: He had this clear view of… that human beings are made for fullness of life. So he railed against anything that deprived people of their real calling to be fully human.
DAVID MARK: Father Ted Kennedy’s sister, Marnie, herself a nun and educator in inner-Sydney.Father Ted Kennedy died overnight after a series of strokes, but today he’s remembered by the thousands of people he touched in his inner city of Parish of St Vincent’s in Redfern.As a young priest he was inspired by the reforms of Vatican II in the early ’60s.But the failure of the council’s work to be properly carried out fired his passion to help the poor and marginalised as the told the ABC’s Religion Report in 2000.
TED KENNEDY: We seem to have been at that point caught between two worlds – one dead the other waiting to be born – and of course. I think that part of my anger that the promise written into the council documents gave us every opportunity of hope. But I had never realised that there would be so many stalwart reactionaries who would hold back any sort of sign of progress.
DAVID MARK: His search for a parish led him to the Aboriginal people of Redfern.
MARNIE KENNEDY: Without knowing anything about Aboriginal people, that was the extraordinary thing. And as soon as he reached Redfern, of course, he encountered the marginalised situation there. And instead of putting it under the carpet he faced it, and he opened his presbytery in 1971 to the homeless Aboriginal people that were flooding Sydney from – many from Brisbane at that time because they’d just received citizenship, and they used to come to Redfern as a Mecca. He welcomed them, and they lived with him – a hundred or so in the presbytery – for years.
DAVID MARK: And what did he achieve for the Aboriginal community in Redfern?
MARNIE KENNEDY: I think he was very strong on friendship, he wanted to establish a sense of mutuality. And then he facilitated leadership among themselves. So he set up, he opened the back area of the church to the Aboriginal medical service in 1971 or 1972.
DAVID MARK: And was he a loved figure in Redfern?
MARNIE KENNEDY: Oh, deeply loved, he was strong and at times made enemies among people who didn’t understand the call, but… you know, to really live the Gospel, especially the more affluent, and he didn’t mince his words at times, but he mellowed a lot. And he’s… even now I can’t walk down Redfern Street without them coming up to ask me how he is. They just loved him, really loved him.
MARK COLVIN: Marnie Kennedy, the sister of the late Father Ted Kennedy, ending David Mark’s report.
This is a transcript from PM. The program is broadcast around Australia at 5:10pm on Radio National and 6:10pm on ABC Local Radio.
© 2005 Australian Broadcasting Corporation
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