Arrival

On gaining Archbishop Mannix’s approval for the Blessed Sacrament Congregation to take over St Francis’ Church, Cardinal Cerretti and Archbishop Cattaneo moved to convince the Congregation’s leadership in Rome to accept the offer. In February 1929 the proposal was accepted in principle by the Congregation’s general council.

The Chicago superior Fr Auguste Pelletier and Fr Alfred Pauzé of New York were designated to travel to Melbourne to examine the situation more closely. On the eve of their departure, Fr Pauzé suddenly became sick and died.

There was talk of abandoning the whole project. Some members of the Congregation wondered whether Pauzé’s untimely death meant God was trying to tell them something. But Cattaneo and Cerretti had done their job well.

A young New Yorker, Fr John Graham, was asked to replace Pauzé and accompany Auguste Pelletier to Melbourne in April 1929. On their return to the United States in mid July, both men reported favourably on the possibilities of a Melbourne foundation.

From the Congregation’s American and Canadian communities, eight men were initially chosen to form the pioneer group in Melbourne. Their leader was Fr Henri Lachance, a mature 44-year-old French-Canadian with experience in several American and Canadian communities.

The other French-Canadians in the group were 50-year-old Fr Joseph Thibault, 37-year-old Fr Joseph Chalifoux, 48-year-old Br Ely Gingras and 51-year-old Br Marie-Joseph Laurent. Fr Daniel Sullivan and Fr Alfred Vey were New Yorkers, both aged in their mid thirties. Br Michael Foghino was a 41-year-old Italian-American.

On the eve of their departure from Chicago in early October 1929, it was announced that Br Marie-Joseph would not be leaving due to illness. The eight were now seven.

The men said goodbye to their friends and families, not knowing if they would ever see them again. They saw themselves as missionaries, engaged on a great undertaking to spread the work of their founder to the ends of the earth.

After a three-day train trip to San Francisco and several weeks at sea, the seven men reached Sydney Harbour on 31 October 1929. Their luggage was missing when they arrived late at Sydney’s Central Station to catch the night train to Melbourne. All they had was the precious monstrance they had carried with them from Chicago.

As the train was gathering speed, they leapt in the carriage doors. A friend ran alongside the train, passing their monstrance in through an open window.

And so, carrying only a monstrance, the Blessed Sacrament Congregation’s pioneers arrived at St Francis’ Church as originally forecast, on All Saints’ Day (1 November) 1929.

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