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The Brisbane Oratory

Brisbane Oratory in Formation

About the Brisbane Oratory in Formation

An overview

In mid 2011 an inspiration to work towards establishing the first Australian Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri was conceived. This desire nurtured in prayer has begun to bear fruit. There remains much development and maturation to take place, but by the grace and providence of God, we have made a solid beginning.

We are a community of priests and brothers, from all over Australia who have come together to form our community in Brisbane. Our emerging community has been called together by the Lord under the patronage of Our Lady, Saint Philip Neri, Blessed John Henry Newman and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. More about each member of our community is found elsewhere on this website. The Lord’s providence has led us to the Archdiocese of Brisbane as our home or ‘Domus’. A permanent ‘home’ with all that it implies is integral to an Oratorian vocation, apostolate and rule of life. The home of an Oratory is important for this is where the Fathers and Brothers of the Brisbane Oratory will work and live together in perpetuity. We are very grateful to Archbishop Mark Coleridge for warmly welcoming and encouraging us. We thank him for his support, confidence and vision in giving this project for priestly community life a chance to succeed. For the moment, the Archbishop has given us care of the Annerley Ekibin Parish where we currently reside.

As an Oratory in Formation, we are in the process of becoming an established Oratory. During this period of formation, our seminarians study overseas at other Oratories.  The Brisbane Oratory in Formation is also under the guidance of Fr. Uwe Michael Lang, an Oratorian from England appointed by the Procurator General of the Confederation of the Oratory to assist us during our formation time. As our project approaches full establishment we look forward to developing many of those apostolates common to Oratorian life, namely faith and prayer formation for the laity.

We invite you to please prayerfully support this new initiative for the Church in Brisbane and Australia. We will provide periodic updates on our progress through this website. If you can assist with a donation this would be very much appreciated. Finally, we would like to express our gratitude to the many lay faithful who have already been extraordinarily generous in supporting us through fervent prayer and financial support. From the Fathers and Brothers of the Brisbane Oratory – Thank you.

What is an Oratory?

A “society of Apostolic life”

The Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri is a “society of Apostolic life” founded under the guidance of the Confederation of the Oratory (based in Rome) and with the permission of the local Ordinary. The definitive foundation of an Oratorian Congregation is actually done by the Roman Pontiff directly, which makes a Congregation what is called a “Pontifical Right” foundation. An Oratory provides an opportunity for priests to live their vocation in a more structured community than what is typically experienced by diocesan priests, but 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”.

We are not our own,
any more than what we possess is our own.
We did not make ourselves;
we cannot be supreme over ourselves.
We cannot be our own masters.
We are God’s property by creation, by redemption, by regeneration…
Is not our happiness thus to view the matter?

Blessed Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. 5: 83, 84

How it works

The Oratorian resides in an Oratory community of his choosing and is permanently stable, i.e., he is not subject to transfer to other Oratories or communities. Nor does he take the vows of poverty, chastity or obedience, though the Oratorian seeks these perfections through voluntary observance.

The Oratorian vocation allows greater flexibility in pastoral work than a religious order and allows the priest to live in the same community without being periodically transferred by the local bishop. It is possible for an Oratorian to take up additional apostolates, or change his apostolate, at his own initiative and the discretion of the Oratory community, always guided by the local Ordinary. Oratorians are involved in ministries as diverse as schools, hospitals, prisons, university chaplaincies, seminary teaching, and work in curial offices in Rome. They also serve in traditional parish ministries.

The First Oratory

The first Oratory was founded by St. Philip Neri in the 16th Century as an institute where the bond between members is one of voluntary charity rather than a formal canonical vow. The ideal of the Oratory is community life and priestly service lived in a spirit of prayer, and in which obedience is offered out of fraternal love and not through the compulsion of formally vowed obedience.

Therefore, Oratorians are not members of a religious order at all, but rather secular priests living in a community under the simple rule of fraternal love and charity. Those entering priesthood as Oratorians do so with the intent of fulfilling their lifetime’s work in the same place.

The community life

The community life of an Oratory is very important. The Oratory community lives out its mission in fraternal charity in its place of residence, known as the “pious house”. At this house, operating like a family, they mutually support each other in service to the Church. Like in any family, the unique customs of an individual Oratory are very important. Because no vows are taken by Oratorians, this mutual support in fraternal charity is what binds them together. As a general rule, Oratorians will pray together daily. This consists of a half an hour of mental prayer, concluding with a litany and prayers for the intentions of the community and for other prayer requests, concluding with the seasonal antiphon to Our Lady. They also take meals together and have recreation together. This structure allows Oratorians to grow in fraternal charity, while also engaging in their apostolates for the building up of the Church.

The two cardinal principles

The two cardinal principles of the Oratory are:

1. Attachment to an Oratorian Congregation through the bond of love and common purpose but not by vow, oath or promise. Therefore, should he wish, the Oratorian is free to leave his Congregation to join a religious order or become a diocesan priest should he so decide.

2. Each “house” of the Oratory is self-governing and independent of the others. If an Oratory has a parish or diocesan ministry entrusted to it – and not all do — it is subject to the local bishop regarding parochial matters. However, in respect to its internal affairs, each Oratory it is directly subject to the Holy See by virtue of its establishment by the Roman Pontiff.

Since 1994, there has been a loose Confederation of Oratories, based in Rome, with two purposes: 1) To provide a central point of contact with the Holy See in Rome; and 2) to oversee new “houses” seeking to become independent Oratorian Congregations.

Finally, the structure of an Oratorian Congregation provides an appreciation and value of community life for pastoral and apostolic work. The Oratorian priest enjoys more opportunity for prayer, reading, and writing along with the opportunity to remain in one place to fulfill his ministry.