A new chapter is about to begin for the Maronite Catholic Church in Australia as they prepare to open their first seminary in this country.
St Maroun’s Maronite Catholic Seminary in Redfern, adjoining St Maroun’s Cathedral, will accommodate up to 12 seminarians and is expected to be operational by 2020.
“This is a new beginning in the life of the Maronite Church,” Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay told The Catholic Weekly.
“For us, as the Australian Maronite Church, we need to have our own seminary so we can look after our seminarians.”
Bishop Tarabay blessed the newly refurbished seminary building on the feast of St Maroun—9 February.
With more than 200,000 Maronite Catholics in Australia, having their own seminary will mean the Church can better serve the Maronite faithful in Australia, Bishop Tarabay said, and will increase the sense of belonging to this country.
“It is for us to belong to Australia and to keep our Maronite tradition, keeping our link, our unity, with the Maronite Church in Lebanon and our Patriarch.”
Students at the seminary will be formed in Maronite liturgy and history as well as Middle-Eastern languages such as Syriac, Aramaic and Arabic.
Depending on numbers, the new seminary may also take in seminarians from other Eastern churches in Australia, such as the Chaldean and Syriac Catholics, Bishop Tarabay said.
Currently there are 12 men ready to take up residence at the new seminary—three from overseas and nine born and bred in Australia. Four are deacons and six are sub-deacons.
The building, which contains individual rooms for the seminarians as well as common and lounge rooms, cost around $500,000 to refurbish.
With the building completed, all that remains is for the teaching staff to be appointed and prepared for their new roles.
“The most important aspect of the seminary is the formators,” Bishop Tarabay said. “This process will take a bit of time.”
The seminary is likely to produce more vocations and to offer greater hope and encouragement to Maronites in Australia, he said.
“Having the seminary here is very encouraging for our people, especially at this time in the life of the Church in Australia, where we feel there is a lot of aggression towards the Church.”
“We need the seminarians to be in the calm of the seminary, to be able to listen to the voice of the Lord, calling them and telling them ‘come and follow me’.”