Primary contact326 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Melbourne, Victoria 3000
The Blessed Sacrament Congregation is an international Catholic religious congregation of priests and brothers, founded in 1856 by the French saint Peter Julian Eymard (1811–1868).
In 1929, the Congregation assumed the pastoral care of historic St Francis' Church, the first Catholic Church in Melbourne (established 1839) and the original cathedral church of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.
Transformed by the Congregation into a eucharistic shrine, St Francis’ Church became the busiest church in Australia. A novitiate and a scholasticate (seminary) were established at St Francis' in the 1930s, and the Congregation’s first Australian-born priests were ordained in the early 1940s.
In 1947, the Congregation opened a novitiate at Bowral, New South Wales (‘Mt Eymard’) which formed the bridgehead for a later foundation at Haymarket in central Sydney in 1953 (the Church of the Blessed Sacrament; rebuilt in 1964 as St Peter Julian's Church).
A major seminary dedicated to Christ the King was opened at Templestowe (Lower Plenty), Victoria, in 1955. During that year, Australia became an independent province of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation – the ‘Province of the Holy Spirit'.
The young Australian province sent priests and brothers to open missionary foundations at Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1956 and to Bombay (now Mumbai), India in 1964. Both countries are now independent provinces of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation.
At Toowoomba, Queensland, the Australian province established a city shrine (1958–1995) and a novitiate (1958–1969; 1987-1989).
Other houses of formation and studies were opened in Sydney at Roseville (1970-1974) and Chatswood (1974-1987); and in Melbourne at North Melbourne (1970-1974), Wattle Park (1985-1988), Box Hill (1988-2002), and St Francis’ Church (current).
The province also operated a juniorate and college for late vocations (or minor seminary) at Bowral, New South Wales between 1959 and 1962, which later became a retreat house (1963-1975). The former major seminary at Lower Plenty, Victoria served as a retreat house in the 1970s before its sale in 1980 to the James McGrath Foundation (Odyssey House).
In Western Australia, the province opened the Chapel of the Holy Eucharist at Bunbury (1975–1981) and assumed the pastoral care of All Saints Chapel in central Perth (1976–1998) as well as suburban parishes at Kensington (1976–1998) and Como (1985–1998).
A provincial administration religious community was briefly located in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne at Box Hill from 1992 to 1999 and later at Kew East (1999-2007).
The mission of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation in Australia continues today at St Francis' Church in Melbourne and St Peter Julian's Church in Sydney.
An Australian province archive was established in 1984. Further information is available in the commissioned history: Damien Cash, The Road to Emmaus: A History of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation in Australia (2007).
The Blessed Sacrament Congregation and St Francis’ Church Heritage Centre collects and preserves archival records and artefacts relating to the history of St Francis’ Church and the activities of the Australian Province of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation.
The major focus of the Heritage Centre collection is to document the administration of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation in Australia and the history of St Francis’ Church from the time of the Congregation’s arrival in 1929.
Although the collection includes significant records dated before 1929, most of the pre-1929 records relating to St Francis’ Church are held by the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne at the Melbourne Diocesan Historical Commission (MDHC).
Records of baptisms and marriages at St Francis’ Church prior to 1929 are not held in the Heritage Centre. These records are held at St Patrick's Cathedral, East Melbourne and the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
Over 200 metres of records are held in the Heritage Centre collection.
Important groups of records include the minutes of province chapters; minutes of provincial council and community leaders’ meetings; administrative, personnel and financial correspondence files; photographs, postcards, holy cards and slides; audiovisual records; architectural drawings; publications and religious ephemera; house and personal diaries; private collections of individual priests and brothers; ecclesiastical artefacts; sacred vestments; liturgical plate; and a rare collection of antique religious books.
The Heritage Centre is the central repository for all records of permanent historical value relating to religious houses or communities, devotional organisations and churches, novitiates, seminaries and other facilities or bodies associated with the Blessed Sacrament Congregation in Australia. Early records relating to missionary foundations established by the Australian province in Sri Lanka (1956-2005) and India (1964-2005) are also held in the collection.
The Blessed Sacrament Congregation and St Francis' Church Heritage Centre is located at 326 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne (on the north-east corner of Lonsdale and Elizabeth Streets). This location is a short walk from Melbourne Central Station (trains) and is accessible by public transport in Lonsdale Street (buses) and Elizabeth Street (trams).
Casual commercial parking is available alongside the church at St Francis' Car Park (312 Lonsdale Street).
The Heritage Centre repository is located in a private and secure area that is not open to the general public. Visitors with appointments should initially report to reception on the ground floor of the St Francis' Pastoral Centre building, adjacent to the Lonsdale Street entrance to St Francis' Church.
For people with disabilities, accessible street parking is available in Elizabeth Street (on the western side of St Francis Church) and in the multi-storey St Francis' Car Park (enter from Lonsdale Street on the eastern side of St Francis' Church). The repository is accessible to people using wheelchairs.