Today

After many years of debate and testing, the original inspiration of St Peter Julian Eymard was rediscovered in a modern form when the Blessed Sacrament Congregation’s new Rule of Life was approved by the Holy See in late 1984.

The rule identified the Congregation’s purpose: ‘to respond to the hungers of the human family with the riches of God’s love manifested in the eucharist’. All members were required to spend at least one hour each day in prayer before the eucharist, although perpetual adoration was not necessary.

There was a spirit of great optimism when the rule was promulgated in Australia on 6 January 1985, the feast of the Epiphany, which was also the anniversary of Eymard’s first public exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in Paris in 1857.

At the same time, the Australian province was facing numerous challenges. In particular, the ability of the province to maintain and extend its mission in Australia was being increasingly constrained by a lack of personnel.

In Western Australia, a shortage of priests in the Perth archdiocese led to the Congregation taking over Holy Family parish at Como (which was merged with the Holy Cross parish at Kensington that the Congregation had managed since 1976).

Vocations were strong in the Asian parts of the province, enabling additional communities to be established at Bombay and Colombo in the late 1980s. But the lack of vocations in Australia created difficulties for local houses of formation with small numbers of men.

In 1985 the province scholasticate moved to a new house of studies called Eymard College, which was established near the Yarra Theological Union in the Melbourne suburb of Box Hill. The novitiate community was integrated into Eymard College in 1990, after a short-lived return to Toowoomba.

An ongoing shortage of personnel eventually forced the Congregation to withdraw from ‘The Shrine’ at Toowoomba in 1995 and from Western Australia in 1998. These were difficult decisions for the province, but there is consolation that facilities associated with the Congregation’s work are still maintained in diocesan hands.

Asian communities, pioneered by Australian priests and brothers in the 1950s and 1960s, continue to grow. Sri Lanka and India are now independent provinces of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation.

Today, the Australian province is consolidating its mission at St Francis’ Church in Melbourne, where a new Pastoral Centre was opened in 1993, and at St Peter Julian’s Church in Sydney which underwent a major redevelopment in 2009.

The work of the seven men who arrived at St Francis’ in 1929 goes on. Their call for others to join them, to follow in their path, remains.