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London guide impressed with Australia’s first Oratory community

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London visitor: Fr Uwe Michael Lang (centre) with Brisbane Oratory members Fr Adrian Sharp, Br Shawn Murphy, Fr Scot Armstrong, Br Tyson King and Fr Andrew Wise. Photo: Emilie Ng

LONDON Oratory priest and delegate for Australia’s first Oratorian congregation Fr Uwe Michael Lang has made his first visit to support the Brisbane community.

Fr Lang arrived in Brisbane on August 26 and stayed with the community until September 4 before making a trip to the Great Barrier Reef.

The Oratory priest of 19 years spoke positively of his first experience in the Brisbane house to meet with three founding members and two seminarians visiting on holidays.

“It’s been a very good experience and I’ve very much enjoyed my time here with the community,” Fr Lang said.

“It’s good to see they are thriving, really.”

This was Fr Lang’s first visit to the community of the Brisbane Oratory in Formation since being named delegate for the Procurator-General of the Congregation of the Oratory in 2013.

He has been part of the community’s journey in formation since meeting Fr Andrew Wise, who had the initial idea to start Australia’s first Oratory, in Rome eight years ago.

The pair met again in 2013 at a retreat for priests interested in an Australian Oratory project.

Among those interested were three of the founding members of the community Fr Adrian Sharp, who was named the Brisbane moderator in May, Fr Scot Armstrong and Fr Paul Chandler.

The community officially began on May 26, 2015, the feast of Oratory founder St Philip Neri, with support from Archbishop Mark Coleridge.

Fr Lang said he was surprised the idea of establishing an Oratory in Australia had not arisen sooner.

“In a sense I would have expected it really in Australia because of the English influence,” Fr Lang said.

“The Oratory really got a new impulse in the 19th century through Blessed John Henry Newman, Fr Faber and the English Oratorians … and that’s how the Oratory community was introduced in the English-speaking world. 

“So in a sense I would have expected something already so maybe it’s about time that the Oratory comes to Australia.”

Fr Lang said most Oratories were established in a major city, and the choice for Brisbane had a “curious, personal connection” with the London community.

“I don’t want to drop names, but we have a Fr Jordan Bowen who is a descendant of the first Governor of Queensland,” Fr Lang said.

“So Bowen Hills, that’s actually the family of one of our priests.

“I’ve had an opportunity to see a bit of (Brisbane).

“It’s a great city and a very beautiful part of the country … and Oratories are usually founded in cities so it seems to me a very suitable location.”

Fr Sharp said Fr Lang’s visit was encouraging for a community still in the early days.

“It’s very encouraging because at times when you’re creating something new you’re not sure if you’re on the right track, but to have him say that you are it’s very encouraging,” he said.

Fr Sharp said the increase in vocations to be priests in the Oratory community and longer confession queues during weekday Masses were “positive signs” of the community’s “remarkable” first year.

There is also an inquirer living with the Brisbane Oratory.

But the greatest sign of confirmation is the recent need to expand the Oratory community house to cater for its eight members.

“One practical consideration is we’re already at capacity in this building so our next thing is really looking at how to properly accommodate the members we have already because that’s already a lack,” Fr Sharp said. 

Oratory seminarians Br Shawn Murphy and Br Tyson King will finish their initial studies at the Toronto Oratory in six months and will return to Brisbane in May.

There are about 600 Oratory members worldwide and a further dozen in formation including the Brisbane community.

By Emilie Ng

Catholic Church Insurance

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