In mid 1964, the Province of the Holy Spirit comprised forty-three priests (forty of them Australians), thirty-six Australian brothers, twenty-nine seminarians, and fourteen novices, making a total of one hundred and twenty-two men.

The province had barely begun to consolidate its resources when an invitation arrived from Cardinal Valerian Gracias to open a shrine of adoration in India at Bombay (now Mumbai), along the lines of what had been successfully established at Colombo.

Arrangements were made to take over St Francis’ Xavier’s Chapel at Middle Colaba, a residential area about a kilometre or two from the Bombay Cathedral and the centre of the city. Fr Joe Geran led a pioneer group of two Australian priests and two brothers who arrived in Bombay on 29 July 1964.

During 1964, the Australian province began to experience the impact of the Second Vatican Council. Reforms involving the celebration of masses in English by priests facing the people were progressively introduced in Australia between 1964 and 1969.

In 1965, Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on the Doctrine and Worship of the Holy Eucharist explained that the ‘real presence’ of Christ in the sacrament of the eucharist surpassed all, but Christ was also present in the church as she prayed and preached his Word, or performed acts of mercy, or governed, and in the sacrifice of the mass.

After the council, the church moved to ensure that the eucharistic presence of Christ was logically seen and understood as the fruit of the consecration during mass. It was no longer appropriate for a previously consecrated host to be present in a monstrance while mass was being celebrated.

This change of emphasis did not diminish the importance of adoration of the real presence in the Blessed Sacrament at other times, but the reform appeared to strike at the heart of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation’s traditions because it meant that ‘perpetual’ adoration was no longer possible in the Congregation’s churches.

When the change became obligatory in late 1967, there was immediate division among the Congregation’s members throughout the world. As traditionalists attempted to uphold their role as ‘perpetual adorers’, the Congregation painfully moved towards acceptance of the wider view of the eucharistic mystery that the church had encouraged, in which adoration was one part of a much greater whole.

The council’s Decree on the Appropriate Renewal of Religious Life, issued in October 1964, obliged all religious congregations to renew themselves, to return to their original inspiration, and to re-examine and revise their rules and way of life in order to uphold the spirit of their founders in the modern world.

Two decades would elapse before the Blessed Sacrament Congregation’s journey of rediscovery was over.

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