By Emilie Ng
AUSTRALIA’S six Oratory priests have only lived together for one week but moderator Fr Paul Chandler believes the brotherhood has been established since birth.
Fr Chandler, fellow Brisbane priest Fr Adrian Sharp, English-born and Sales-based priest Fr Andrew Wise, former Wagga Wagga diocesan priest Fr Scot Armstrong and Brothers Shawn Murphy and Francis King, are the first men to heed the call to the Brisbane Oratory.
The Brisbane Oratory in Formation Project is also the first congregation of its kind established in Australia.
The congregation gives priests more independence than a religious order, while also offering a structured communal lifestyle not typically experienced by diocesan priests.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge formally established the community on May 26, the feast day of the congregation’s founder St Philip Neri, at a special inauguration Mass.
St Philip, an Italian, founded the internationally renowned congregation in the 16th century.
Catholic convert and Oxford scholar Cardinal John Henry Newman was a member of the congregation.
Fr Chandler said St Philip Neri’s patronage and prayers were the reason all six Oratorians were together.
“St Philip is the one who calls people to the Oratory,” he said.
“One may not know much about an Oratory or about St Philip, but they are drawn to his personality and heavy intercession.”
Fr Chandler can testify being specifically called to join the Oratory, having rejected the idea when fellow Oratorian Fr Wise first mentioned forming a community in Australia in 2011.
Almost four years later, the Oratory has been established, and all six members are praying St Philip Neri can guide them as they begin communal life together.
The six members made their first public appearance together at the second annual fundraising Valicella Dinner on May 23, with more than 200 supporters from around Australia attending.
“It was great to hear the applause as each member of the community stood before our supporters,” Fr Chandler said.
He said supporters had raised well over the $30,000 raised at last year’s dinner.
The money will go towards formation training for the Oratory’s two seminarians, who require at least three years’ training in the community in Toronto, Canada, before returning to Australia.
Fr Chandler said the Brisbane Oratory could not survive without the support of benefactors and donors from the community.
“There is no structure in place to support us financially,” he said.
Fr Chandler said donations would also go to supporting the priests in the Oratory house based in the Annerley parish, now administered by Fr Wise, and fund their various ministries.
“We’ve begun to establish a pattern of life, and there’s a good feeling amongst the community,” Fr Chandler said.
“While establishing our internal Oratory life, we can also begin to think about our specific ministries.
“St Philip Neri was often called the Apostle of Confession, and we are hoping we can be a centre for the Sacrament of Penance in Brisbane.”
Fr Sharp will continue his work in Brisbane archdiocese’s Regional Tribunal office, Fr Armstrong will lecture in both Wagga Wagga and Melbourne, and Fr Chandler will continue being chaplain to young men in Frassati Australia.
The Catholic Leader is the exclusive media sponsor for the Brisbane Oratory in Formation Project. Leader staff were at the Valicella Dinner to witness this milestone for the Australian Catholic Church.
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