Cardinal Edward Clancy, Archbishop of Sydney, established the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in the Sydney suburb of Homebush, in 1996. It serves men who are in formation for diocesan priesthood for the Archdiocese of Sydney and a number of dioceses from the province of New South Wales and beyond.
This seminary continues the tradition of formation of priests begun at St Patrick’s College, Manly from 1889, though the first efforts at training priests in Sydney can be traced back to the 1830s under Archbishop Polding. The seminary opened in 1889 with twelve students. Manly College has produced one hundred ordination classes. In the commemorative booklet St Patrick’s College, One Hundred Years, (compiled by Rev Bill Wright) Cardinal Moran is quoted as saying in his address at the opening of St Patrick’s:
“No nation can be said to have attained the full perfection of its growth in the religious life, unless its own children shall be found aspiring to the sanctuary. ”
The original seminary programme, conducted on the eastern headland overlooking the coastline to the north of Sydney, was six years long with the lectures given, according to the practice of the day, in the Latin language. Indeed, the use of ecclesiastical Latin continued until the 1960s.
In 1910 St Columba’s College, Springwood, opened as a Junior Seminary. In 1942 the Marist Brothers, at the invitation of Cardinal Gilroy, offered secondary classes through to the Leaving Certificate. The Marist Brothers continued to teach until 1957. St Columba’s College continued to operate as the Minor Seminary.
In March 1954 the Major Seminary of St Patrick’s received permission from Rome to award what are known today as Pontifical Degrees. The Faculty was able to grant Roman Doctorates. To foster post-graduate studies in 1961 the Graduate House was opened in the grounds of the Archbishop’s House at Manly.
With the declining numbers of seminarians during the 1970s St Columba’s College, Springwood, closed its doors in 1977 and all seminarians were trained at Manly. From 1991 consideration was being given to finding a new location for the seminary and the theological faculty. The prevailing wisdom proposed that the overall seminary formation and the academic formation should be separated. At the beginning of the academic year 1996 the Seminary of the Good Shepherd opened at Abbotsford Road, Homebush, and on a separate location on Albert Road, Strathfield, the Catholic Institute of Sydney came into being.
The Seminary of the Good Shepherd at Homebush, though a new establishment, stands in a longer tradition of priestly formation in Australia, and continues this important work for the good of the Church in Australia and beyond.