The Oblates arrived in Western Australia in 1894, taking charge of Fremantle Parish and a reform school.
For many years, the crippling distance in Australia prevented the
Oblates from expanding their mission. From 1894 to 1900, the
Australian Oblate mission was a part of the British Province.
The Oblates moved from the west coast to the east coast in 1926, to
Sorrento. The new Oblate parish comprised the south-western end of
the Mornington Peninsula from the small settlement of Rye.
Missions and Retreats...
Thanks to an increased recruitment in the home Province in the
1920s, a new chapter in the Australian Oblate history was allowed to
officially begin- the preaching of missions and retreats. From the
beginning the Oblates in Australia had thought of themselves as
missionaries in this sense. Despite minimal personnel, the Oblates
had often preached retreats and a few missions from Fremantle.
Finally, this facet of Oblate ministry could become a reality.
In 1935, the Oblates preached 40 missions and retreats in
Australia; and by 1948 this number had increased to 37 missions and 58
retreats. Mighty distances had to be tackled and there were long
absences on the mission trail.
Sorrento became a launching pad for a virtual explosion of
missionary activity. Through parish missions and retreats the Oblates
became known throughout Australia, and even established a presence in
Affected by the war...
The immediate post-war years saw the Oblates still very localised in
WA and Victoria. The depression of the 1930s and the 1939-1945 war
reduced the Oblates' contact with the home province in Ireland.
In the years prior to the end of World War II, the Oblates did not
have a fixed base in any of the great centres of population. The war
severley restricted the Oblate presence in Australia, like so many
aspects of Australian life.
In 1945 the Oblate presence in Australia was confined to Fremantle
and the two communities in Victoria (Sorrento and Geelong). These
belonged to the Anglo-Irish (earlier called British) Province.
In 1948, the Oblates established a parish in Sefton, NSW.
Shortly after the acceptance of the Sefton parish, the Oblates
undertook the care of Moe in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria. Like
Sefton, it proved an admirable Oblate ministry. Moe had been a very
insignificant part of the Gippsland area in early days when the few
settlers had been given pastoral care by priests travelling down from
the southern regions of New South Wales. Moe, during these years,
formed part of the Warragul parish, yet also developed something of its
own importance. A small wooden church dedicated to St Kevin, was
opened on December 16th 1900.
At the beginning of 1950 the pace of development accelerated. A
residence was purchased on Burke Road, Camberwell, in Melbourne. This
was to be a `mission house' where the preaching staff would reside,
instead of Sorrento. The residence at Camberwell has continued to
serve as the residence of the Provincial, the Director of the
Missionary Association and several Oblates engaged in special duties.
Providing for newcomers...
In 1950, new life was breathed into the novitiate building in
Geelong when it became a `Juniorate' for aspirants to the Oblates. The
students attended classes at St Joseph's (Christian Brothers') College
in Geelong. By its fifth year of operation 12 of its graduates had
gone to the Oblate novitiate, now in Sorrento. By 1958, 11 former
juniors were Oblate seminarians and the number of juniors had increased
St. Joseph's continued to serve as the Juniorate until December
1965, though by then with falling numbers. It was replaced by St.
Paul's Juniorate (1966-67) housed in the former community residence at
Iona College, Lindum.
The Novitiate was transfered back to Geelong for three years
(1966-1969) after which the building was used for school camps and
other special groups. Due to the poor viability of this usage, in 1993
the building was sold.
Sorrento & co.
Meanwhile in these years the parish commitment at Sorrento continued
to expand. The Oblates were given pastoral care of the Rosebud area on
September 8th, 1952, and the church was built in 1955. There was an
Oblate resident there from 1975 and the parish was made a separate
parish under Oblate care in April 1979.
Ministering to migrants, the poor and the imprisoned...
After 1948, the Oblates in Fremantle had to provide pastoral care
for the increasing flow of migrants. In Western Australia in
particular, the Oblates gave much attention to the pastoral care of
Australia's growing Italian community.
St. Patrick's parish in Fremantle, with its beautiful basilica,
became a great Catholic centre and a popular place for weddings. It
also has the Care Centre, which was established in 1971 by Brother
Ignatius Hannick. The Centre now provides meals for 60-70 people per
day, as well as social security and psychological services. For the
greater part of the past 100 years the Oblates have also been chaplains
to the Fremantle Gaol.
Staying true to the Oblate missionary vocation...
Throughout all of these changes, the Oblates never lost sight of the
ministry of preaching as their prime objective, a focus which was
enshrined both in the practice of the Anglo-Irish Province and also in
the Oblate Constitutions and Rules.
During the later 1950s and early 1960s the Oblates preached missions
in every parish (save one) in the Archdiocese of Perth, as well as
fulfilling numerous other commitments, some as far away as the
In 1952, the Oblates took possession of a mission house in
Arncliffe, NSW, which relocated to Penshurst the following year. In
Penshurst a new initiative was started known as the Oblate Education
Centre. This sought to adapt the ministry of preaching to changing
demands. In 1974 the Education Centre was sold to the Daughters of
The fourth Oblate mission house opened in the 1950-1953 period at
Eagle Junction, in Brisbane. This proved a popular location for Mass
for many people in the immediate area and beyond, as well as special
courses and retreats. By 1967, the near-by parish, St. Anne's,
Kalinga, had been entrusted to the Oblates. Eventually the area
around Eagle Junction was made part of the Kalinga parish and
Kalinga-Eagle Junction simply became an Oblate parish. It was
relinquished at Easter 1986 and the Eagle Junction house sold in
The Oblates undertook the care of a newly developing area to the
north of Brisbane, the parish of Burpengary. A new school was
constructed and the Church at Deception Bay was extended by 1993.
In 1971 the mission band moved yet again, this time a short distance
away to Woniora Road, Hurstville. This continued to be the setting for
a variety of works: missions and retreats were still conducted, though
in decreasing number. The Hurstville mission was sold in 1987.
In 1975, the Oblates built a church in Lesmurdie, in the hills of
Perth, Western Australia. In 1988 the Oblates also undertook care of
the neighbouring parish of Kalamunda, an older settlement and formerly
a popular holiday resort.
The Oblates were keen to establish a presence in Adelaide. The
parish of Hillcrest was undertaken in 1957 and the first Oblates
celebrated Mass in a prefabricated church hall for about 250 people.
A new church dedicated to Pius X and the presbytery were built in
Dernancourt in 1976. The parish had two out-stations, Tea Tree Gully
and Hope Valley. The latter was closed when the Church was built at
Tea Tree Gully. In 1969 the Oblates began to reside there and the
church, dedicated to St. David, was built in the same year. The
original Oblate parish of Hillcrest was closed in 1973 and three
separate parishes formed: Dernancourt and Tea Tree Gully (served by
Oblates) and Modbury.
Committed to providing education...
The Oblates originally came to Australia to fulfil an educational
role. In the 1950s, education was emerging as a pressing need. By
the 1950s the pressures on the Australian Catholic education system
appeared almost overwhelming. Far from begging for openings, Oblates
were now invited to dioceses, often for the specific purpose of
education. Most of these requests came in the 1950s.
Iona in Queensland was duly opened in 1958 with 58 boys, and four
Oblates in the community. In 1964 there was only 1 lay teacher at Iona
and 8 Oblates. The maximum of 12 Oblates was reached in 1966, still
with one lay teacher.
St Mary's Seminary in Mulgrave, Victoria, was officially opened in
August 1963. St. Mary's continues to provide a training ground for
the development of Oblate community life and prayer, personal human
growth and practical preparation for the apostolate.
With St Mary's Seminary at last established, the Oblates decided to
undertake parochial care of a nearby region and also to open a school
for boys. This proposal resulted eventually in the parish of St John
Vianney's, Springvale North and Mazenod College, Mulgrave being
accepted. The parish was officially entrusted to the Oblates on April
3rd 1964. In 1981 the parish priest, Fr John Hannah launched a plan
to provide a home for the frail aged. He felt that while parishes
did much for children and youth, the aged were the `forgotten poor . .
. (and ) the most helpless.'
From its humble beginnings with 72 pupils in temporary accommodation
in 1967, Mazenod College, Victoria had rapid growth. By 1977 there
were 625 pupils with 5 Oblates and 25 lay members of staff. By 1987
enrolments stood at 1116 with 5 Oblates and 81 lay staff. In 1994
there are 987 students and 3 Oblates and 92 lay staff members.
In February 1966, Mazenod College, WA was established in
Lesmurdie. Compared with the other two Oblate Colleges, Mazenod WA
has remained comparatively small. Over the years the performance of
the College in academic, sporting and cultural fields has attracted
greater numbers. By 1992 with increased facilities for boarders,
there were 505 students of whom 74 were boarders, and 3 Oblates and 42
Across the seas...
In early 1967, the Australian Oblate Province took over the parish
of Massey, in Auckland, NZ. Massey has always proved a warm-hearted
parish and many Oblates have greatly cherished the time they have
ministered there. After having temporary care of the parish for a
year, the Oblates agreed to accept it for a five year period. The
pastoral care of the parish was returned to the diocese on August 22nd
A growing mission awareness was evident in the Australian province
from the late 1960s. In late 1971, the Oblates established a
missionary presence in Java. Despite the natural graciousness of the
people, many, especially in poorer villages, suffered considerably
from poverty and ill-health. An important aspect of the Oblate
missionary thrust in Indonesia has been with projects to lift the
quality of human living. Furthermore, from an early date, the
missionaries sought to attract local vocations. At first progress was
slow enough, though by 1973 one young Indonesian was received into the
Oblate community. By 1981 the number of seminarians had risen to
eight. In 1987 the Australian Oblate mission in Java was given a
measure of independence by being declared a `Delegation'.
Establishing a supportive network...
One of the most significant missionary ventures of the Australian
Oblate province has been the growth of the Missionary Association of
Mary Immaculate (MAMI). This is a group of Oblate friends whose
prayers and financial assistance provide a network of support without
which there would be no mission. The Association was introduced into
Australia in 1952. The acceptance of the mission in Indonesia in 1971
accelerated the need for a wide measure of support for the
undertaking. By 1983 the membership stood at 13,000 individuals or
family groups. The contributions of the members have largely supported
both St. Mary's Seminary in Australia and the Oblate mission in Java.
This widely based support has been of immense encouragement to the
Oblates. It has also provided many Catholics with an opportunity to
be vitally involved in the mission of the Church.
Responding to current needs...
In 1978 the Oblates undertook the care of the parish of North
Melbourne for a limited period of two years. This was, in fact,
renewed several times. This move was an effort to assist the
archdiocese in a needy area and in that sense had a missionary edge to
it. North Melbourne was a place to meet the poor with their many
faces. The Oblates relinquished the pastoral care of the area in
Another Australian parish- that of Mary Immaculate, Eagle Vale, was formally established on August 15th 1991.
Ministry to youth and those marginalised in society...
A vital aspect of the Oblate mission has been a concern for youth.
Rosies, founded in Victoria in 1975, by Fr Tom Shortall, OMI, is a
not-for-profit organisation that provides outreach services, friendship
and hope to marginalised, homeless, houseless and abandoned people.
The Rosies outreach was established in Rosebud on the Mornington
Peninsula and began as a drop-in centre for young people holidaying
with their families. It was a place of refuge which helped keep these
teenagers off the streets and out of trouble. Now Rosies operates in
both Victoria and Queensland.
An Oblate youth ministry in Australia, known as Oblate Youth
Australia, has also been flourishing since 2000. It continues to
provide a spirit of welcome and friendship to over 100 young people
throughout Australia, through its annual National Oblate Youth
Encounters and parish youth groups.
In 1990, the Oblates took charge of a mission in Hong Kong. The
Oblate mission there has always had a wider interest in China itself as
well as the two schools and parish work in the present colony.
In a variety of ministries the Oblates of Australia have kept alive
their tradition of bringing the gospel to those who, in one way or
another, are impoverished and in need.
The Oblates of Mary Immaculate in the Australian Province follow the Mission Statement below:
Followers of Jesus Christ in the footsteps of Saint Eugene de Mazenod,
we are a community of missionaries.
We proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, who is alive and active in the world,
by living as apostolic men of prayer and holiness.
Leaving nothing undared to establish the Kingdom of God, we work in collaboration
with the people we serve, giving preference to the poor.