Progressive Brisbane Priest Clashes With The Church In New Play


Queensland Theatre Company’s new play “St Mary’s In Exile” tells the remarkable true story of progressive Brisbane priest and LGBTI ally Father Peter Kennedy.

In 2009, Brisbane’s Catholic community was rocked when the Catholic Church stepped in to oust the beloved priest from his post at St Mary’s Parish in South Brisbane where he had preached for more than two decades.

Father Peter led more than 700 devoted parishioners, but the Church took issue with his unorthodox practices – he had a statue of Buddha in the foyer, he blessed same-sex couples, and let women into the pulpit.

Now in the new play, Father Kennedy (played by Peter Marshall, pictured in rehearsal below, second from right) refuses to resign or to fall in line, and is packing up to go into exile when he’s visited by a young homeless visitor.

The young man wants to know what drove the unconventional holy man to defy the authority of the Catholic Church.

St Marys In Exile Rehearsal Shot- Queensland Theatre Company

“I sat for many hours with the real Terry and Peter, their congregation, the current Archbishop of the Brisbane diocese, and others,” playwright David Burton said.

“From one angle it’s a very David and Goliath story. It’s a contemporary tale of rebellion and standing up for what you believe in.

“There’s also deep questions about the value of religion in the 21st century, and the importance of tradition in secular humanist lives.”

St Marys In Exile Rehearsal Shot 2- Queensland Theatre Company

QTC Artistic Director Sam Strong said Father Kennedy was a remarkable person.

“The conflict between Father Peter Kennedy and the institution of the Catholic Church is as epic and complex as any historical religious upheaval, and it happened here, making it the perfect choice for QTC’s contribution to Brisbane Festival,” QTC Artistic Director Sam Strong said.

“It is by no means a factual blow-by-blow of the true events, but I believe David, Director Jason Klarwein and the cast have remained equally faithful to the spirit of the events and the demands of a memorable night in the theatre.”

St Mary’s In Exile is playing at the Queensland Theatre Company’s Bille Brown Studio in South Brisbane until 25 September. For tickets visit QTC’s website.

(Top photo by David Kelly)