Redfern parish priest appeals for cooperation

Fr Gerry Prindiville, the embattled parish priest at St Vincent's Church in Sydney's Redfern, has made a public appeal to parishioners for cooperation, insisting that Mass "is not the place for criticism of the Church, the Bishops or clergy."

His appeal follows the latest upheaval in the parish in which an unauthorised team of black and white painters painted a huge new mural with Indigenous motifs and a quote from John Paul II on the east wall of St Vincent's Church.

Fr Prindiville's open letter to parishioners, which was read out to the congregation before the Sunday Mass, was this week published on the parish community's Church Mouse journal.

"I accepted this mission with joy and am still happy to be here to serve," said Fr Prindiville, who was appointed by Cardinal Pell three years ago.

Recognising that the parish "has particular characteristics, with its indigenous population and the significant heritage of Fr Ted Kennedy's work", Fr Prindiville says that he and his Neo Catechumenate colleague "did not come with any preconceived idea or plan."

"We have great love and respect for our indigenous brothers and sisters, and for all to whom the Lord invites us to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ."

Fr Prindiville also acknowledged the parish's "history of involvement in social and justice issues for which there is a time and a place."

"We acknowledge the importance of this aspect of Church life: we have both lived and worked among the poor and oppressed - Clesio in Brazil and I among displaced Haitians in the Turks and Caicos Islands," he wrote.

"We can have different ideas or opinions on many aspects of the life of the Church and of society, but the Liturgy is where we can experience communion, accepting also that there are different roles in the Body of Christ.

"The celebration of the Mass is not the place for making political statements or points, but rather the place where the Lord passes among us. This requires that all accept the norms and traditions of the Church in relation to the Liturgy."

"We ask that all respect our wishes, in order that together we may journey towards the heavenly banquet which will be the fulfilment of all our desires", Fr Prindiville concluded.

The Church Mouse journal claims that the Sunday Mass was "stacked with many more Neocats than usual, including a significant proportion of first-timers" for Fr Prindiville's reading of the letter.

It also claims that "the community's commentary on the readings and Prayers of the Faithful were apparently recorded by the Neocats, no doubt to be carefully scrutinised for heresies that might provide fuel for a little burning at the stake."

The parish in Redfern is a unique community, under the three-decade guidance of Indigenous advocate Fr Ted Kennedy, it established a strong Indigenous and social presence and was associated with the medical centre, housing initiatives and other welfare works.

Sydney Cardinal George Pell sent the Neo-catechumenal Way missionaries to the parish in 2003 after the retirement of the beloved Fr Kennedy a year earlier.

The Neocat backlash (Church Mouse, 14/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Church Mouse - St Vincent's Redfern community website | Church Mouse Journal
St Vincent's Parish, Redfern (Sydney Archdiocese)
Mum Shirl (Church Mouse website)
Fr Ted Kennedy (wikipedia.org)

Indigenous mural shock at Redfern parish (CathNews, 31/7/06
Threat to memory of Redfern's Mum Shirl (CathNews, 2/5/06)
Death of Redfern's Fr Ted Kennedy (CathNews, 18/5/05)
Priest denies Redfern church is "for the Aboriginals" (CathNews, 29/7/04)

18 Aug 2006