At the Prayers of the Faithful, Clare opened her heart about her grief at the recent passing of her uncle.
A priest of the Canberra/Goulburn Diocese ordained some 60 years ago, he served the people of God in a quiet, unassuming manner. She spoke about the horrific memories of the hardships her father and uncle endured in Ireland, and how they had to live, colonised by another country. Clare was visibly upset as she spoke, and, in the words of Sr Sheila “I had the sense that this was a very sacred moment, even if it did not fit the normal ‘criteria of a Prayer of Faithful’. I felt privileged to hear what Clare was saying.”
Then “Father” Clesio Mendes interrupted and told Clare to finish. She tried to continue and again Mendes broke in abruptly. Greatly distressed, she left the church in tears.
The congregation was shocked. Mendes had just preached about Jesus’ invitation to come to him when laden and burdened, but he demonstrated no ability or inclination to sense the pain with which Clare was struggling, or to respond to it.
The parish priest had treated her so coldly and impassionately that Sheila offered a prayer of the faithful that he learn how to be compassionate as Jesus was. She also spoke after mass, profoundly sad rather than angry, saying that a priest’s priority must surely be the pastoral care of his parishioners, regardless of his feelings about a particular individual. It is his duty to offer solace and comfort to the suffering, not to heap further abuse upon them. She also commented on the need to re-evaluate the training of priests in this vital area of pastoral care.
As the priests started to leave the church, John stood in front of the assistant PP Joe Pelle and asked him to discuss what had happened and where his sense of pastoral care lay. “He became agitated and attempted to brush me aside.” recounts John. “I stood there and he was totally beside himself and said he was going to have me up for assault. In fact I had not touched him. At that point Mendes came on the scene and led Pelle out of the church.”
John went on to say:
Yet the irony of yesterday was that I experienced the real breaking of bread when we were at the Gathering Place. I feel that the building in Redfern Street has little significance while these two creatures and their minows are there. While Pell rules nothing will change.
I am sure that not even Ted would fight the juggernaut who has the bully boys from the Vatican on his side. So I do not think it is a form of cowardice to walk away.”