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One of inner Sydney’s low profile heroes

16 Nov

I heard at South Sydney Uniting Church this morning that Father Brian Stoney died on 12 November. I was privileged to have met him on several occasions: here, here, here and most recently here. The funeral is at St Canice’s Elizabeth Bay at 10 am Tuesday.

Brian touched the lives of many people with his unconditional love, dedication and reverence of the sanctity of each person, of who they were or what they believed in.

On the links above you will find out more about him, but let me add two: Cana Community stories: ABC Encounter 13 April 2008 and Reflections from a street poet (15 September 2008). From the former:

Kerry Stewart: Welcome to Encounter on ABC Radio National. I’m Kerry Stewart, and as you can hear I’m on the streets of inner city Sydney. I’m about to spend the night at Teresa House; it’s an emergency shelter for people living on the streets. Recently, Kevin Rudd sent his ministers onto the streets so they could glimpse what life might be like for homeless people. Well what happens if you go one step further and build relationships with the most rejected and powerless members of our society, those who are mentally ill, or addicted, or are recently out of prison, who end up on the streets.

In today’s program, we’re going to find out how one community, called Cana, is doing just that. So let’s spend a night and a day together with the community of Cana…

Brian Stoney: My name’s Brian Stoney, I’m a Catholic priest who lives at Cana communities in partnership with Sister Anne Jordan.

Kerry Stewart: How did you become involved with the Cana communities and how long ago was that?

Brian Stoney: I was working on the streets in Adelaide and then Melbourne then I ran a place at Greenvale in Melbourne for 85 homeless alcoholic men that actually Mother Teresa started and then handed over to us. I was a Jesuit at that stage. Then in ’89 I came up here, and one of the first people I met was Anne Jordan, who just had a house, De Porres as it was then, burnt down, the first, top floor burnt to bits by two guys who were actually wanted to kill me because she’d refused them entry a couple of days before. And Anne and I got talking. First of all I was just consoling her really over her loss of everything. Then we started to dream together and we dreamed up this Cana situation. We started off from three houses together called De Porres and then I spent a year sitting on Central Station every night for hours on end, just trying to see where God was pushing me and pushing for community at the street level…

Kerry Stewart: So why is the community called Cana? What’s the relevance of the biblical story of Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding feast?

Brian: Wine is intimately linked with celebration, I don’t know if that’s a Biblical fact, it’s certainly true for me. And when you have no wine, you can’t celebrate, and Mary said to Jesus they have no wine, in other words, they couldn’t live humanly, in the fullness of what they could be. And Jesus took the water that was there in the pitchers and that became the wine of life, wine of celebration for this couple. And our idea is that when we meet people on the streets, it’s first of all about celebration, so birthdays become absolutely essential, and real birthday parties, with a decent present and a cake and a card, and everybody gets an individual birthday party. And I’ve been there, I’ve been there for a year. I was there for a whole year in 1964, I had no wine, I was so depressed, no life, couldn’t move and at various other times since then I’ve had no wine and I need others, I need community to lift me out of that…

Kerry Stewart: Father Brian Stoney has worked with Mother Teresa, so I wonder have her works and beliefs influenced him and Cana?

Brian Stoney: I suppose I was privy to her deep spiritual thoughts. I spent a long time both here and in India just talking, chatting about what’s essential and what’s not, and when these Indian sisters, Mother Teresa’s sisters came to Melbourne, I just immediately knew that they were an answer to a dream, that they deliberately chose to stay with the people, deliberately chose the relationships. They wouldn’t put it in that sort of language, but they would have more said to love the people, street people, and in loving them, love Jesus in his most hidden disguise, to use Mother Teresa’s words…

Find out much more by following the links on the Encounter page. And my post title? Speaking to a friend, Blair, earlier that’s what we both noted about Brian Stoney: he really was low profile. But now you know.

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Posted by on November 16, 2008 in Australia, Australia and Australian, Christianity, events, inspiration, interfaith, local, religion

 

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