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Seminary turns 75: Former seminarians return to their alma mater for anniversary celebrations

Fr Anthony Mellor as a seminarian

Stepping back: Holy Spirit Provincial Seminary Queensland academic dean Fr Anthony Mellor. Photo: Mark Bowling

ON November 3, the bishops and priests of Queensland went to Banyo to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Holy Spirit Provincial Seminary.

Many priests, spanning several generations, some now retired, recalled fond memories of their years of formation at the seminary.

Mass was celebrated in the former seminary chapel at the Australian Catholic University campus now called Holy Spirit Chapel.

The distinguished guests included Brisbane Archbishop Emeritus John Bathersby, the first and only priest to study at the seminary and to go on to become Archbishop of Brisbane, and Brisbane Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus John Gerry. 

Viewing a wall of photos of the hundreds of past seminarians, Fr Ken Howell, currently parish priest at Burleigh Heads, was easily able to pick himself out amongst the class of 1983.

“Lost a bit of hair, put on a bit of weight – but here I am,” Fr Howell said.

“It’s just a lot of memories here. When you see guys you’ve been with in the seminary, guys who got ordained, some who moved on from the priesthood later, but it’s great to see us all looking young again.”

Fr Nev Yun, a member of the class of 2012, now the administrator of Holy Family Church, Indooroopilly, and chaplain to the Emmanuel Community, said the seminary trained him to be independent and to have an understanding of community.

“It was great coming through here – probably the most modern, forward-thinking seminary in the country. It’s lovely to be part of what’s happening,” Fr Yun said.

“It’s life-changing – challenging, in a good way, positive for myself and for the community as well,” seminarian Emene Kelemete said.

“In the formation we learn as much from each other, like a family. It’s an ongoing process.”


From Pius XII to Holy Spirit 


Priestly generations: Seminarian classes from the 1950s.

It was on March 2, 1939, that the apostolic delegate to Australia and New Zealand Dr Giovanni Panico summoned the Queensland bishops to a meeting where it was decided to establish a regional seminary for Queensland.

On that same day, in Vatican City, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli was elected to the papacy, taking the name Pope Pius XII and so it was decided that the seminary would be named after the newly elected pope.

Built on 52ha of elevated land at the current Beehive Hill site offered by Brisbane Archbishop James Duhig, and with donations and hard work, a new building took shape.

On March 22, 1941, the first intake of students arrived – 56 men from across Queensland. 

The seminary was officially opened a month later, in front of a crowd estimated at 10,000 people.

The 1970s saw a decline in enrolments. 

In 1983 the ecumenical Brisbane College of Theology was founded. 

In the late 1990s, the Queensland bishops relocated seminarians into a former convent at Wavell Heights parish. 

It was named Lanigan House after Fr Michael Lanigan, of Rockhampton, senior student of the first Banyo ordination class of 1949. 

The St Paul’s Theological College was also founded on the Banyo site during this period.

The Queensland bishops then unveiled plans for a major redevelopment of the Banyo site. 

It involved moving the Australian Catholic University’s McAuley campus from Mitchelton to Banyo, with a $34 million extension and refurbishment of the former seminary complex, which took place in 2003.

Following an increase in the number of seminarians, the Queensland bishops committed to return the seminary to its spiritual home in Banyo. 

On March 19, 2007, Archbishop Bathersby blessed the site and laid the foundation stone of the Holy Spirit Provincial Seminary, which would open with accommodation for 16 seminarians, the rector and the spiritual director.

Further expansions were made to the seminary in 2010 and 2014 to accommodate growing student numbers.

By Mark Bowling

Catholic Church Insurance

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