Postal address c/o. PO Box 278, BUDGEWOI NSW 2262
29th September 2006
George Cardinal Pell
133 Liverpool Street
SYDNEY NSW 2000
Dear Cardinal Pell,
Many thanks for your letter of 30th August 2006, the majority of its contents being a copy of your Press Release of 1st. August 2006.
Before answering, we thought it prudent to pay a visit to Redfern Parish and experience the situation ourselves. Three of our group including the undersigned attended the Eucharistic celebration on Sunday, 17th September 2006. There was joy and sadness – joy at the lovable and friendly Community atmosphere, sadness at the complete isolation and behaviour of the Priests. There were certainly no signs of provocation by those attending the Mass. The attached notes will illustrate to you what we mean. How can you expect to have more Aborigines attending Mass when the Priests are behaving in this fashion?
You say in your letter that you have offered to discuss the situation with those who are discontented. We understand that all attempts by the Community to contact you have been in vain, in fact a letter dated 21st. May and also published in their newsletter “Church-Mouse”, signed by some 120 Parishioners, has not been replied to by you. The Community would like to enter into dialogue with you as their Bishop. Surely, such a discussion would preclude any conditions by you relating to the presence of the Priests of the Neo-Catechumenal Way. In fact, the Priests of this Parish appear to lack basic people skills! We have been told of shouting and ridicule by the Priests independently by various Parishioners.
You mention in your letter Father Ted Kennedy’s immediate successor. We understand that this Priest was not at all well during his time at Redfern!
The missionary family you mention is in total isolation. They do not engage in any contact with the Community and appear to be Neocats. Attempts by the Community have been in vain.
Why is the Saturday evening Mass celebrated in the Presbytery and not in the Church? Why is there a separate Mass in the medical center and no Mass allowed in the Church?
Finally, we draw your attention to the Bishops’ Social Justice Statement where Father Ted Kennedy and his work was mentioned. Surely, every effort must be made to continue the noble heritage of this remarkable Priest. His criticism of the Hierarchy only puts him on equal footing with Blessed Mary McKillop!
Dear Cardinal Pell, we urge you to fulfil the wish of the Parishioners to enter into a meaningful dialogue and restore peace.
On behalf of Small Church Community Toukley
(Maureen Flanagan) (Peter Meury)
Copy to Bishop David Walker, Father Peter d’Souza, Toukley
Redfern Catholic Community
Notes on visit to St. Vincent’s Church Redfern 17th September 2006
Present from Toukley: Maureen and John Flanagan, Peter Meury
When we arrived at 9.50 am for the 10 o’clock Eucharist, the church was empty. Aboriginals were gathered outside and were quite friendly. The mural of contention looks great.
At 10.00 worshippers started arriving, and we were immediately welcomed and introduced. There was a remarkable friendly atmosphere all-round.
10.10 The Mass commences – 3 Priests concelebrating, the main celebrant being the young Assistant-Priest Father Clesio Mendes. The Parish Priest was concelebrating as well as a visiting Priest from Western Australia. After the entrance procession, an aboriginal rushes forward and places a black cross in front of the altar. No welcome by the celebrant, no introduction of the visiting Priest.
The readings were introduced by John (a member of the Community – an excellent introduction of the meaning of the readings).
Prayers of the Faithful were read by the Main celebrant out of a book to which he added two petitions of his own. The Community actively participated in formulating topical and relevant prayers including one relating to the Pope’s visit to Germany. The prayers were cut short by the Priest!
The Priests did not participate in the communal singing, in fact looked bored and at times annoyed. After Mass, the Aboriginal rushed forward and collected the cross, and the Priests walked out into the Sacristy – there were no good wishes for the Community and no contact at all with the people after Mass.
Present during Mass were two large family groups (we were told they were of Italian/Spanish background). They did not mix with the general congregation, or take any active part in the Eucharist. These people were obviously part of the Neocat community.
Afterwards, we remained talking to the people who are those who have not ‘caved in’ to pressure and remain fighting for their beloved community, although small in number, one of the most friendly and remarkable that could be envisaged in any Catholic/Christian gathering. They inspired us with their determination and courage to fight on to retain the ideals of their beloved Father Ted Kennedy (RIP). Father Ted’s sister, a Sacred Heart nun, works with the aboriginal community, and is an active member of the parish. There are a small number of dysfunctional people present among the worshippers. We saw active support and outreach to these people. Other previous members of the Congregation, we hear, have succumbed to pressure, and are worshipping at nearby Newtown Church.
The back of the church has been set up for sharing a meal twice weekly with the marginalised. Numbers fed, about 150 each meal! There is only a small facility for heating food and no running water! The Neocat priests take no interest/active participation in this ministry.
We found a disparity in the fact that large premises used as a presbytery for the Neocats were paid for by the Diocese (between $800.900 per week) whilst requests for running water in the back of the church have met with silence.
We were invited to join Parishioners in the nearby Cana Café, where there was a lively atmosphere of a loving Community. The intellectual standard is quite remarkable.
The general consensus is that the Neocats have outlived their welcome. There is no Saturday evening Mass in the Church, but it is in the Presbytery and visiting Priests are not allowed to celebrate Mass in the Church for Parishioners who do not belong to the Neocat Movement. For a while they celebrated Mass, if any, in the nearby Aboriginal Medical Centre.
There is heavy criticism all-round by Parishioners of the Parish Priest who does not seek contact and does not participate in communal activities. All requests to Cardinal Pell for visiting them and sorting things out have met with silence.
Maureen Flanagan and Peter Meury