Ted Kennedy December 2002

Ted Kennedy’s presence in my life since I first met him at Mass in Redfern in 1979 has been one of great joy and fun with the odd anxious moment caused by his stubborn refusal to surrender to the dictates of modern healthy living….lettuce, greens (Wappo food) and the odd bit of exercise

But it is Teds spiritual `exercise” that has given me the greatest joy and indeed hope and courage in an otherwise alien and misogynistic institutional Catholic Church. Teds presence in Redfern has been a great gift of love, a symbol of God presence among the world’s poor, impoverished, marginalised and struggling peoples. And his presence and spirituality has been a model of faith in God’s universal love.

Mass at Redfern Church was always a lesson in Gods love and acceptance. Not only were Indigenous Australians Mum Shirl, and Griffo and many others honoured and loved; Redfern Church was their place but it was also opened to a world well beyond inner Sydney to the peoples of Palatine, South Africa, Burma, the Philippines among many.

Ted welcomed peoples of other faiths in humble acts of inter-faith love which were spiritual but actively political in the revolutionary tradition of Jesus Christ. Olfat Mohamed my dear friend, a Palestinian refugee born into the miserable squalid camps in Lebanon and trapped, with millions of Palestinians in similar conditions, for over fifty fours years as the world betrayed their rights as a people, spoke eloquently and passionately of the Palestinian liberation struggle at Redfern on three separate occasions over these past twenty three years. South African Father Smangaliso Makhawasha former political prisoner, activist, liberation theologist, and now the first black Mayor of the South African capital of Pretoria, was similarly welcomed. And there were many more. There have been numerous moments of inter-faith dialogue with more recently the besieged Australian Muslim community being welcomed in acts of solidarity and love.

These threads of faith and activism have reached well beyond the doors of the Catholic Church at Redfern with those of us now living in rural and regional Australia stretching these threads in a living and embracing spirituality well beyond the rigid confines of an ossified institutional Church.

Teds gift to us has been this leadership of faith; a faith of love, of presence, of witness but above all of activism with the poor and oppressed of Australia* and the wider world. It is a great gift… a beautiful spiritual legacy.

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