Material from the Gary Foley Collection

Priest who brought hope into Redfern

Sun, Matt The Daily Telegraph
25th May 2005

THEY came from all walks of life wearing jackets, ties, footy jumpers, hats, berets, headbands, boots and thongs, to celebrate the life of a man who in death will continue to bring hope to Redfern.

Father Edward Kennedy, known affectionately as Father Ted, died on May 17, age 74, in Concord hospital.

He was the Redfern parish priest and so much more for over 30 years, giving advice, feeding the hungry, providing shelter or even just lending a compassionate ear.

Almost 1000 mourners -- black and white, Catholic, Muslim and Buddhist gathered together at The Block inRedfern yesterday without fear or favour to celebrate Father Ted's life.

It was standing room only -- all 45 rows of 24 chairs were taken and those without a seat huddled under the marquee to shelter themselves from the rain.

Local Aborigines led a procession of Catholic priests through the congregation -- but so many attended that there were not enough seats.

"The priests I'm sorry will have to stand, Ted would have thought that was very appropriate," speaker Danny Gilbert joked.

The service was attended by former governor-general Sir William Deane, Australian Democrats Senator Aden Ridgeway, heritage campaigner Jack Mundy and Keysar Trad, who was representing Muslim leader Sheik Taj el-Dene Elhilaly.

"The mufti could not be with us this morning, he is in the Middle East trying to help in securing the release of an Australian hostage, Mr Douglas Wood," Mr Trad told the congregation.

"I had the honour and privilege of meeting Father Ted just a little over three years ago, along with a few members of the Muslim community, including the Mufti.

"Father Ted touched our hearts as a man whose generous heart and spirit were seen in that beautiful smile that he always wore on his face."

Friend Chris Geraghty said Father Ted was "a living treasure, compassionate, a pebble in the comfortable boot of establishment, a man who spilled his guts for others."

Mr Geraghty also joked those who would most notice Father Ted's passing were the telephone companies -- Father Ted was constantly calling everyone for a natter.

Afterwards, to the sound of clapping sticks and a didgeridoo, mourners walked his coffin through the streets ofRedfern.

At Mum Shirl's -- Father Ted's long-time ally -- funeral in 1998, he said she had taught him about the need to fight for justice.

Born in 1931, Father Ted entered the seminary at 18 and was ordained in 1953.

He moved to the Redfern church in 1971 and established a network of priests to support the suburb's local Aboriginal community.

Aboriginal community leader Sol Bellear said Father Ted knew his life's purpose when he arrived in Redfern.

"When he saw all the poverty and all the issues that were happening here he knew that he had to do something," Mr Bellear said.

"From that day onwards the doors of the Catholic Church were never locked," he said.

"Ted's vision was that the Aboriginal people suffered less than what they were [suffering]."