This blog has been rather quiet this past year since my return to Brisbane after having completed my licentiate in canon law in Ottawa. The posts have mainly been my weekly homilies. 2013 passed swiftly, as I spent my time working in the tribunal, attending to certain tasks in the parish where I was resident, and fulfilling various ministerial/apostolic tasks that came my way.
Around the time of my birthday in October, I received a call indicating that the Archbishop wanted to make me administrator of a parish. In the resulting conversations that ensued, it was decided that I would become the Parish Priest of Annerley Ekibin Parish on Brisbane’s southside. It’s a “home-coming” in a way for me, because I was baptised in Mary Immaculate Church, Annerley (as was my brother; and my Mum was confirmed here too, some years before). Annerley is where my faith journey began, and Annerley is also now where my priestly journey is taking a new turn.
My appointment to Annerley also led to a slight change to another appointment that had already been made. Fr Paul Chandler’s appointment to Clayfield as priest-in-residence had already been announced. The Archbishop changed the parish of his residence to Annerley Ekibin.
This turn of events has meant that two members of the Brisbane Oratory in Formation project have now begun to live in common. When the history of the Brisbane Oratory is written, there will be a line or two about how, in 2014, some of the priests who were working to form the Brisbane Oratory came to live in common in a house in Ferndale Street, Annerley. It is exciting to be creating this history right now.
In canon law, an Oratory is a Society of Apostolic Life (SAL). These societies are not religious institutes, but they are governed by many of the same canonical norms as religious institutes. It is interesting that the formation of religious institutes and SALs is not laid out in canon law. It is done differently than you might expect. The group of individuals who are attempting to form an institute or a SAL have to attempt to live what they are setting out to create. After this sort of “experiment,” official Church recognition and approval can follow. But there has to be something for the Church to recognize and approve.
One feature of Oratorian life is that it is quite democratic. Things that affect everyone in the community are decided by everyone in the community. Oratories are meant to be marked by a “familial” spirit. The members are not bound by vows, but rather by the bond of mutual love and support. Fr Paul and myself have begun “evening oratory,” which is 30 minutes of silent prayer in common before the Blessed Sacrament, which we observe on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Evening oratory is concluded (for us) with either the Litany of Our Lady, or the Litany of Saint Philip. Evening oratory is then followed by a more formal dinner, which includes reading (we are currently reading from the Traditions of the Oratory). We take the evening meal in common on other nights too, but these are less formal as we have evening Masses in the parish on four nights of the week. Oratories also include time of communal recreation. For us, since there are only two of us in the house currently, our recreation time includes meal preparation together, or a cuppa here or there when we are both at home.
Father Paul and myself are very conscious of the other members of our community: the two other priests who are not yet here with us, and also our seminarian, Shawn Murphy, who is presently at the Toronto Oratory. Casa San Girolamo, which is the name we have given to our home, is their home too, and we very much look forward to when they will be here with us also. We have several enquirers who are very seriously considering joining us, so it won’t be too long before we are growing in numbers. San Girolamo is the Italian of Saint Jerome, and it is the name of the church where Saint Philip Neri came to live with other priests in the lead-up to the founding of the very first Oratory. Jerome is also the name that Blessed Pier Giorgio – one of our patrons – took when he became a Dominican tertiary.
We are humbled and excited by the interest in the Brisbane Oratory in Formation that is expressed by so many people. We have a growing list of generous benefactors, as well as prayerful supporters. A Mass is offered by each of the priests of our community every month for our benefactors. Many too are curious, or even slightly confused, about what it all means. But we hope that we can share this journey with you as we create something wonderful, not just for the Church in Brisbane, but for our country. It is something that we hope will be a blessing too for the presbyterate: a particular way that secular priests can live in common, growing in the zeal and passion that Saint Philip had for the formation and evangelization of the faithful.
Saint Philip Neri, pray for us!