The writing on the wall

This is about two curiously intertwined examples of the inability of Pell’s Neocatechumenates to connect with the community upon which they have been imposed.

The interior of St Vincent’s church has for decades been consciously maintained as a stark reminder of its community’s connectedness with the poor and the displaced – bare floorboards, peeling paint, devoid of the customary statues and adornments. Anything on the largely empty walls is there for a reason, with its own story.

There used to be, carefully penned in large copperplate script on the wall behind the altar, part of {rdlc sign of the cross} a poem by Jim Considine, that struck a resonant chord with the community:

crucified on every city sidewalk
the aboriginal Christ should be free
in his own church
among his own people
in Redfern.

When people turned up for Mass on the last Sunday of February, it had been scrubbed off without notice, having been deemed inappropriate by the Neocats. Over Easter the words appeared written in chalk on the outside of the church in Redfern Street.

It was removed again during the week, and reappeared briefly tonight, accompanied by the message "FEED….. FEED….. FOOD…." – prompted by the latest Neocat attack on "Sharing the Meal" and inspired by the coming Sunday’s "feed my lambs" Gospel reading.

(The writing on the wall continues to be removed and replaced, C.M. 12 January 2005)

"Sharing the Meal" is a community initiative where a group of hard-working folk open the church at lunch time, every Tuesday and Friday, to anyone who needs a feed or a listening ear. It has been actively discouraged by the Neocat priests – for example:

  • Access to the church has been made increasingly difficult by regular lock changes.
  • At Fr G’s insistence, a freezer and other items had to be removed on Palm Sunday from the sacristy, which has always been used to store food and equipment for the meals.
  • When the old St Vincent’s urn finally died, there was no support from Fr G or the Archdiocese for a replacement (apparently because of the community’s decision to deny the parish priest conventional financial support). Now that a generous donor has provided a new urn, an extra power outlet has been requested.
  • They have stated on more than one occasion that such community activities are a waste of time, something that "any atheist" might do, and that all the needy require is to "know that Jesus loves them".

Today Fr G declared – "This shouldn’t be happening in the church; it should be in a hall."

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