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Ted Kennedy: Priest of Redfern

David Lovell Publishing Melbourne, 2009
RRP $24.95

Reviewed by James Huges.

Father Ted Kennedy, the Catholic priest in Redfern, is a personal hero of mine so I was glad to be able to review a book about his life and ministry.
This passionate advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people died on 17 May 2005 (the same day as the ‘other’ Kennedy, Graham) after a ministry of more than 30 years in the parish of Redfern and other places.
Edmund Campion is a well-known commentator on the Catholic Church and was aware of many of the political and religious currents which swirled around Ted Kennedy during his time as a priest.
Influences on Mr Kennedy, such as his family, Vatican II, poetry and art, anti-clericalism, the French Worker-Priest movement as well as Indigenous issues of health, homelessness, law and land inform the reader of his formation.
Mr Campion writes confidently and sympathetically about this man who became a stubborn figure of defiance against the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and a committed activist for the poor in the inner suburbs of Sydney during the later years of the twentieth century.
He identifies Shirley Smith (MumShirl) as one of the most important people in Mr Kennedy’s ministry in Redfern as well as some of the many personalities from religious orders who aided in his endeavours.
In the final chapter Mr Campion gives an account of Mr Kennedy’s three-hour funeral where famous name after name come to pay their respects including “that Sydney Protestant hero, (Rev) Bill Crews”.
He includes quotes from the funeral service: “We have lost a fierce friend to encourage us, a powerful God botherer, an untidy, grimy prophet, a Jesus figure in our midst”.
This book filled in many blanks for me, about a man who recognised Christ in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people amongst whom he ministered.
I would recommend it to any would-be social activist Christian out there.