“SCANDAL … … AND VIOLENT REACTIONS”
In the meantime, Team Ministry continued to flex its confrontationist muscle, as displayed in one mean-spirited incident only a few days after the fire. On 8 February 1989, on behalf of the Team, Father B abolished the weekly Perpetual Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Succor.
With Monsignor O’Reilly’s permission the Novena had been introduced in 1975 by Father Brian O’Connell, a very popular curate renowned for his devotion to the Blessed Virgin. The Monsignor fondly recalled the homily, given by Father Gerry Goss (C.Ss.R.), and the procession around the church and school grounds during the inaugural Novena Mass and described the Novena as “a source of comfort and consolation to people who looked forward to it every week.” In fact, since its inception it had been held uninterrupted with 50-60 regularly attending.
A Parishioner related the events of that Ash Wednesday evening in a letter to the Bishop:
7.10 p.m. was Rosary time. I approached Fr. B to see if the picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help from the church was at hand so we could have something else to look at besides a table with a candle and crucifix on it and all the other distractions of having a Mass in the garden [due to the fire]. Fr. B said he really didn’t know where the picture was. This was a fair reason given. However, upon spotting a picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on a mantelpiece I said that this would suffice but Fr. B did not want it to be used. So much for that!
Following the Rosary, Mass started. A man dressed in shabby clothes walked past with a bag full of beer cans and some stubbies. To our amazement, as he waved to Fr. B, it was Fr. D. A good example to my children of Fast and Abstinence on Ash Wednesday.
At Communion time Fr. B obtained two extraordinary ministers for distribution of Holy Communion while Fathers M and W were inside watching or listening to some noisy program.
Following Mass, Fr. B said for those wanting to stay behind for the Novena he would be willing to oblige. However as time passed it became evident that this was the abolition of the Perpetual Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Up to- sixty parishioners remained for the Novena but it turned out to be a debate because the Mass was going to be separate from any devotions and Fr. B said he was not going to keep our particular Novena going with his help. Approximately forty faithful parishioners remained and were very hurt at hearing all this. Some left crying and others showed anger.
The parishioner did not receive a reply from the Bishop.
A mother of nine and a member of the parish for 28 years, gave her recollection of events that evening in light of the Team’s behaviour up to that point:
They arrived on 22 January and the fire was on 6 February. The first oddity I noticed, apart from the queer way they spoke, was in the Sunday bulletin when they advertised a paraliturgy for school-children on Ash Wednesday (8 February), instead of Mass. The teacher’s also distributed the ashes in the classroom. I thought that was all very strange.
On Wednesday, when Mass was finished Father B said:
“There won’t be any more Novena. We’re not going to have it.” He also said: “There are lots of ways to pray to Our Lady. We don’t have to have the same thing. This is narrow and repetitive. All you do is talk, talk, talk to God. You don’t listen.”