back to top
Wednesday, May 29, 2024
14.5 C
Sydney

David’s Place remember their special relationship with Cardinal Pell

Most read

Thousands of people packed St Mary’s Cathedral and overflowed to the forecourt for the Solemn Pontifical Mass of Christian Burial for Cardinal George Pell on 2 February. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Thousands of people packed St Mary’s Cathedral and overflowed to the forecourt for the Solemn Pontifical Mass of Christian Burial for Cardinal George Pell on 2 February. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

The congregation at Cardinal George Pell’s funeral numbered up to 4000. It was comprised of dignitaries, politicians, priests, bishops, and every type of person, ordinary and notable, who wished to pay their respects to His Eminence.

Seated among those people were a small group who remained inconspicuous and quiet throughout the Requiem Mass—that is, at least, until Cardinal Pell was likened to St George.

At that moment a football cry rose up, to be promptly silenced by the facilitator of the group, Sue Buckingham.

- Advertisement -

They were from David’s Place, a group with a special, long-standing relationship with Cardinal Pell.

David’s Place is a loosely knit group of people from the very margins of society who have been brought together by a need for contact with others, a sense of community and the love of Jesus.

Sue Buckingham describes David’s Place as, “a place for prayer and spirituality for marginalised people and for those who want to share community with them.”

“Cardinal Pell first became aquainted with David’s Place when one of their members, George, who, as Sue said, ‘was going through a manic phase,’ invited the Cardinal to lunch.”

In many ways, they had a closer and more touching rapport with Cardinal Pell than other worshippers at Mass that day.

They saw a side of him the public never would have believed, and the media never bothered to discover.

Cardinal Pell first became aquainted with David’s Place when one of their members, George, who, as Sue said, “was going through a manic phase,” invited the Cardinal to lunch.

George said that he had written to the Cardinal a few times, telling him that the church needed a lot of work and that he had to talk to him “about the poor”.

He invited him to lunch at David’s Place, an invitation which the Cardinal promptly accepted, much to the initial consternation of Sue, who said that she “never expected him to come” and was a bit concerned about the mechanics of organising his visit.

She was not used to dealing with church protocol and David’s Place is not a group who rely upon ceremony, so Sue decided to keep the meeting exactly as their meetings have always been conducted, forgoing any additions, pomp or ceremony.

Cardinal Pell presents a certificate of Confirmation to Brianna Wallace, a member of David’s Place after her confirmation. Photo: Sue Buckingham

So Cardinal Pell celebrated Mass there and later shared the customary meal at David’s Place. Sue recalled:

“On that first visit he was a lot more comfortable than we expected—I have a photo of him sitting on a milk crate, eating a sausage sandwich and talking with a very marginalised woman.”

The sausage sandwich, by the way, was served on “white bread with no butter.” The Cardinal would celebrate his birthday with the same sausage sandwich for the next 16 years.

George, however, on that first visit, didn’t talk to the Cardinal much, admitting, “I was a bit nervous.”

However, the nerves passed and the Cardinal and George celebrated their birthdays together for those 16 years. George said, “he talked to everybody. He had a good time.”

When asked what His Eminence ate each time to celebrate his birthday, George tells us that “He ate a sausage sandwich.” Sue added, “On white bread, with no butter, seated on a milk crate.”

“George said that the Cardinal, ‘helped me with my problems and he had no trouble taking me in and doing something practical.’”

George, who has been coming for 23 years, initially contacted David’s Place because he “needed food”.

It was there that he met Sue and it was through this meeting and the community at David’s Place that he found the prayer life which he said is “very important” to him.

For George, it is the Mass that is of central importance in his life. “It gives me the strength to go on,” he said.

George said that the Cardinal, “helped me with my problems and he had no trouble taking me in and doing something practical.”

Another member, Lachlan, has been attending David’s Place for 20 years, initially drawn to it by desperation as he was homeless, saying, “I didn’t really have a place to live and I was on the street.”

He was given support over this period and he talked to the Cardinal “a bit” remembering him “at a lot of parties.”

Scenes from daily life: Sue Buckingham, (left to right, below) listens to Joe, a David’s Place regular, during a Friday night prayer gathering reflecting on the Gospel for Trinity Sunday. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Scenes from daily life: Sue Buckingham, (left to right, below) listens to Joe, a David’s Place regular, during a Friday night prayer gathering reflecting on the Gospel for Trinity Sunday. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

His Eminence also confirmed a few people, including an eleven year old girl whose mother had been an addict and had converted, and a woman who could not recall whether or not she had been confirmed because she had been brought up in an orphanage.

“Cardinal Pell maintained his connection with us when he was in Rome, making sure that when we had to move to new premises the archdiocese was looking after us,” Sue said.

“He also continued his correspondence with a mentally ill lady who wrote to him often about her problems. Our people really missed him when he went to Rome.”

The contact the Cardinal had with the group was a personal one. Sue said that, at their meetings, he “was not interested in suburban people. He would sit and talk to the marginalised ones.”

“I have a fairly vivid memory of the Cardinal chatting with a person who was very obviously trans – and when I say very obviously—this guy looked like a merchant seaman, wearing a dress and make-up.”

The personal interaction continued when the Cardinal was in Rome.

“Cardinal Pell maintained his connection with us when he was in Rome, making sure that when we had to move to new premises the archdiocese was looking after us.”

“One lady wrote to him In Rome because she was very worried about a friend of hers. His secretary rang and asked, ‘Is this person OK? Is there anybody looking after them? Is there anything we can do?’”

One of the members was a convert. He was elderly, devoted to the faith and lived in poverty.

Sue wrote to the Cardinal in Rome and he obtained a Papal blessing for the man’s 80th Birthday. This became the man’s most precious possession.

“When a visitor to his annual Mass once objected to the presence of a dog in church he said to leave it as he didn’t mind,” sue said.

“I always found Cardinal Pell open and friendly. A distant relative of his whom I knew through a church group said once that he used to comment at family gatherings about how much he looked forward to seeing everyone at our place again.”

Related Articles:

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -