Transition

By 1971, the Congregation had drafted the first version of a new Rule of Life which emphasised the celebration of the eucharistic mystery and demanded a greater involvement of the Congregation’s communities with the Church and the world.

The modernisation of the Congregation had already begun in the late 1960s. In line with trends elsewhere, religious dress and behaviour standards were now more relaxed. The rigours of the monastic cloister, silence, and other forms of traditional discipline had given way to simper and more contemporary models of community life.

Adoration was still an integral part of the Congregation’s way of life, but not perpetual adoration. The Congregation’s communities were now also being challenged to overcome social injustice, inequality and division – to ‘live the whole eucharist’. This was the mark of the Second Vatican Council.

As the new Rule entered a lengthy testing phase before its final adoption, the Australian province found itself grappling with a serious decline in vocations. Most religious orders were also facing a similar situation.

Reduced numbers of novices and students forced the province to combine its novitiate and scholasticate at Lower Plenty in mid 1969. Enrolments continued to fall. In early 1970 the student priests were sent to a new House of Studies at Roseville, New South Wales under Fr Kevin Ouvrier. The novices were sent to St Francis’.

In August 1970 the novitiate moved to a block of housing units in North Melbourne, where novice-master Fr Don Cave initiated a radical experiment in the creation of a self-supporting religious community whose members lived and worked in the world.

After Cave took extended leave from the Congregation in late 1973, a single house of formation called Christ the King College was established at Chatswood, New South Wales under Fr Tony McSweeney.

A difficult decision was made to close the former novitiate and retreat house at Bowral in 1975. At Lower Plenty, the former Seminary of Christ the King lived on for a few years as a retreat house. In 1980 the property was sold to the James McGrath Foundation for use as a drug rehabilitation facility (Odyssey House).

More promising fronts for the province were now in Asia, and in Western Australia where a small community led by Fr Joe Geran had opened the Chapel of the Holy Eucharist in the regional town of Bunbury in 1975. Although personnel pressures prompted an early withdrawal from Bunbury in 1981, the experience was important in leading the province to open in the major Western Australian city of Perth.

In 1976, a four-person community led by Fr Jim Dekker took over All Saints’ Chapel in the centre of Perth. The Congregation also accepted control of Holy Cross parish in the suburb of Kensington, where Kalgoorlie-born Fr Kevin Kelly was appointed parish priest.

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