IN a first for the Church in Australia, diocesan priests in Brisbane archdiocese will have the opportunity to live their vocations in a more structured community.
This follows Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s permission and support for the formation of the Congregation of the Oratory of St Philip Neri in the archdiocese. This could occur as early as 2015.
Archbishop Coleridge said the Oratory, while offering a structured community, would also provide priests with more flexibility than a religious order.
“Above all, it is a community of charity in the spirit of St Philip Neri, the ‘joyful saint’,” he said.
The Brisbane community in formation will comprise four experienced diocesan priests in good standing from different Australian dioceses as well as two seminarians, Archbishop Coleridge said.
“These young men will begin their studies for the priesthood in an overseas Oratorian seminary in September this year,” he said.
“A Congregation of the Oratory begins its life as an Oratory ‘community in formation’.
“This formation phase lasts for at least three years.
“During this time, the maturing community is supported and guided by an Oratorian delegate appointed by the procurator general of the Oratory in Rome.
“Other established Oratories may also provide support and assistance as requested.
“The formation process also takes place under the supervision of the local Ordinary who has invited the community into his diocese.
“After at least three years, and with the approval of the local bishop and the procurator general, the community may petition the Holy See to be canonically established as a fully fledged Congregation of the Oratory.”
The Congregation of the Oratory was founded by St Philip Neri (1515-1595) in Rome.
Today it has spread around the world, with more than 70 oratories and more than 500 priests.
The Oratorians are made up of members who commit themselves to membership in a particular, independent, self-governing local community without actually taking vows.
An oratory is usually named for the place in which it is located, such as, Birmingham Oratory, Oxford Oratory and Brooklyn Oratory.
Blessed John Henry Newman was a famous Oratorian who founded the Birmingham Oratory in England in 1849.
Oratorians are not bound by a rule to pray in common, though this is something that Oratorians consider important. They commit themselves to praying together at least twice each day, and having one communal meal which is usually dinner.
They normally have a set time each day for praying together in silent meditation, ending typically with the recitation of a litany.
Archbishop Coleridge said he was yet to decide the location of the Brisbane Oratory in formation and the ministries undertaken by the community.
“Further updates about the progress of this project will be provided in due course to keep everyone informed of developments,” he said.