Consolidation

Such was the early success of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament at Haymarket that Fr Len McKenna had begun planning a newer and larger church within three or four years of the Congregation’s commencement in Sydney.

Demand for masses and confessions at Haymarket often outstripped supply, forcing the Congregation to regularly obtain the assistance of outside priests from the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and other religious orders.

In 1957 the Australian province had twenty-four student priests in training at Lower Plenty and eighteen novices at the Bowral novitiate. More time was needed before the province could reap the harvest of all these vocations.

When a request arrived from Bishop William Brennan of Toowoomba in Queensland to establish a shrine of perpetual adoration in his diocese, McKenna’s initial reaction was that the province had neither the men nor the money. But he knew from Eymard’s experience that the call of a bishop was to be interpreted as a probable sign of the will of God.

McKenna’s provincial council realised that by transferring the entire novitiate from Bowral to Toowoomba, a significant presence could be immediately established in Toowoomba without a loss of personnel elsewhere. An old hotel was bought in the main street of Toowoomba and converted into a monastery and chapel.

In March 1958 the novitiate shifted to Toowoomba, where the former hotel was now called ‘The Shrine’. The Bowral complex (‘Mount Eymard’) continued as a Juniorate and College for Late Vocations (or Minor Seminary) before being converted to a retreat house in the early 1960s.

Twenty-four priests were ordained in the province between 1955 and 1961, when the final stage of the Seminary of Christ the King (the West Wing) was completed.

In the early 1960s, Fr Len McKenna tried to strengthen and consolidate the Congregation’s presence in some of the places it had recently opened in Australia.

Around the time that the seminary at Lower Plenty was finished, a four-storey addition to the monastery in Toowoomba was nearing completion and work was beginning on a new church and monastery at Haymarket in Sydney.

Adding to the Congregation’s joy, St Peter Julian Eymard was canonised in Rome on 9 December 1962, at the end of the first session of the Second Vatican Council called by Pope John XXIII.

The first church in the world to be named after the new saint was the Australian province’s new church at Haymarket –– St Peter Julian’s Church –– which was opened by Cardinal Norman Gilroy on 17 March 1964.

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