Inspired by the eucharistic spirituality of St Peter Julian Eymard (1811–1868), the Blessed Sacrament Congregation’s pioneers in Australia believed that they were led by God at a particular moment in history.
A foundation group of five priests and two brothers came to Australia from Canada and the United States, at the invitation of Archbishop Daniel Mannix (1864-1963) who entrusted the Congregation with the pastoral care of St Francis’ Church in the middle of the city of Melbourne. They arrived on All Saints’ Day in 1929.
Under the guidance of these men and their successors, St Francis’ Church was transformed into an extraordinary eucharistic shrine.
Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and perpetual adoration brought people into the church during the day and evenings. The number of masses increased and demand for confessions was sometimes overwhelming. Thousands of people wanted to participate in the culture of eucharistic devotion that the Congregation transplanted.
More American and French-Canadian priests and brothers were recruited from overseas, and when growing numbers of Australian men became interested in joining the Congregation, a novitiate and a scholasticate (seminary) were established at St Francis’ Church. The first Australian priests were ordained in the early 1940s.
In 1947 the Congregation opened a novitiate (‘Mt Eymard’) at Bowral, New South Wales, which formed the bridgehead for a later foundation established in central Sydney in 1953. Their church at Haymarket, originally the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, is now St Peter Julian’s Church.
A major seminary dedicated to Christ the King was opened for the training of priests at Lower Plenty, Victoria, in 1955. During that year, Australia became an independent province of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation – the ‘Province of the Holy Spirit’.
The young Australian province sent priests and brothers to open missionary foundations at Colombo, Sri Lanka (1956) and to Mumbai, India in 1964. Sri Lanka and India are now independent provinces of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation.
At Toowoomba in Queensland, the Congregation established a city shrine (1958–95) and a novitiate (1958–89).
In Western Australia, the Congregation opened the Chapel of the Holy Eucharist at Bunbury (1975–81), and assumed the pastoral care of All Saints’ Chapel in central Perth (1976–98) as well as parishes in the Perth suburbs of Kensington (1976–85) and Como (1985–98).
With a new Rule of Life (adopted in the mid 1980s), the mission of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation in Australia continues today at St Francis’ Church in Melbourne and St Peter Julian’s Church in Sydney.
A comprehensive province history written by Damien Cash (The Road to Emmaus: A History of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation in Australia) is available for purchase via this website or from reception at St Francis’ Church and St Peter Julian’s Church.