Home' The Southern Cross : April 2016 Contents Page 4 April 2016
Southern Cross | news
What was once the ‘nursery’ of the
Catholic Church in South Australia came
to a sad end last month when the former
St Francis Xavier Seminary buildings were
Only the chapel remains after the sprawling
property in the foothills at Rostrevor
was cleared to make way for a housing
The main building which housed the junior
seminary would have been 75 years old
this July. When its foundation stone was
laid by Adelaide Archbishop Matthew
Beovich and Port Pirie Bishop Thomas
McCabe on July 27 1941, the event was
described as “the most important event
in Catholic life since the foundation of the
Church in this State”.
It came at a time when Europe was reeling
from the horrors of World War II and was
a welcome moment of joy for Pope Pius
XII who sent his apostolic blessing and
expressed his “paternal gratitude to the
Hierarchy, clergy and faithful”.
The Southern Cross reported the occasion
in great depth and referred to the “blessed
stone” being laid in position by the
Archbishop and Bishop: “enclosed in the
foundations were documents and medals
commemorative of the event”.
Seven and a half decades later, two former
seminarians Peter (Pedro) Bartolo and
Bob Rabbitt decided to take a final look
at the seminary, which was sold by the
Archdiocese about 20 years ago, and
made inquiries to the demolition company
about having the foundation stone
removed and preserved.
To their dismay, they discovered the
inscription on the stone had been ground
off. “We were so disappointed,” said Bob,
who spent two years at the seminary in his
“While we were expressing our
disappointment, we saw there was a small
hole in the top of the foundation stone and
we thought it was a piece of mortar stuck
“The site manager put his fingers inside
and pulled out two pieces of paper and
two religious medals which had been
placed inside the top of the stone.”
One piece of paper was a double sided
sheet of The Southern Cross newspaper
dated August 1 1941 and the second was
a beautifully hand-written letter describing
details of the event and crediting the
architects and builders.
Excited by their “find”, Peter and
Bob notified some of their fellow ex-
seminarians. While shocked to see photos
of the demolition, they were heartened to
hear of the historic mementos which Bob
and Peter hope to present to Archbishop
Wilson for inclusion in the Archdiocesan
Peter said he was 12 when he joined the
junior seminary and spent four and a half
years there before leaving in 1960. He said
he had “such fond memories” of his time in
the junior seminary and the friendships he
made had continued all his life.
In the early years, it was common for
students to enter the seminary as young
as 12 or 13 and they had to complete their
secondary education up to ‘leaving’ (year
11) before commencing seven years of
philosophy and theology studies. They
lived and studied in the main building,
often referred to as the Junior House.
Those who had completed their secondary
schooling or came as "late vocations" went
straight into studying first year philosophy
and were called seniors.
“Seminary life was very routine and strict
disciplines were applied,” said Bob.
“Most boys accepted them because that
was what life was like in those times. Of
course many didn't like it and so they left.
“We all came to the seminary thinking that
our vocation in life was to be a priest, but
for many, that was not to be, for a whole
variety of reasons.”
Bob said if you accepted the routine and
discipline there were so many aspects of
seminary life to enjoy. While a lot of time
was allocated to religious devotions and
studies, there was sport every afternoon
and the huge grounds included an oval,
tennis courts, a basketball court, and
“even a swimming pool of sorts if you were
brave enough to swim down by the very
old Stradbroke House”.
“Every Thursday the Sisters of St Joseph
would pack us sandwiches and fruit and
we would all walk together somewhere up
into the Adelaide hills,” he recalled.
“They were the happiest days of my
youth...I am very grateful for what I learned
and the friendships I made.”
Peter and Bob were talking of retiring at
about the same time in the late 1990s and
decided that they would meet for lunch on
a regular basis to catch up and reminisce.
They began inviting other ex-students and
the number quickly grew with as many as
30 coming to lunches now and 90 people
on the mailing list.
Among the group is Archbishop Leonard
Faulkner, who was in the first intake to the
seminary in 1942, and other priests as well
as those who didn’t pursue their vocation.
One of their members, Frank Huppatz,
invited the men to give him photos or
stories about their seminary days and
compiled them in a book called Student
Life, Photos and Reminiscenses which now
has more than 200 pages.
The group meets on the first Monday in
February and August each year and all
former seminarians are welcome.
The Catholic Church Endowment Society
purchased a large area of land in the
foothills at Stradbroke Park in 1940 for
development as the first Catholic seminary
in South Australia.
In 1943 the Church also acquired
Stradbroke House to the north which was
eventually demolished due to escalating
expenses in maintaining the house.
Extensions were made to the seminary in
1958 to accommodate theology students
and the chapel was completed by May
1959 while further additions including
refectory, kitchens and students’ rooms
were completed in the 1960s.
The entire complex, including buildings and
land, was sold to a developer in the mid to
late 1990s with some of the land converted
to housing and the main buildings used to
house international students.
In July 2015 the Campbelltown City
Council approved a proposal by Eastern
Building Group Pty Ltd to demolish the
buildings, which were on the local heritage
list. The chapel is being retained as a
History of the site
Sad end triggers happy memories
By Jenny Brinkworth
Peter Bartolo and Bob Rabbitt with the foundation stone at the items found inside it
during the excavation of the seminary site.
The main building, commonly known as the Junior House, prior to its demolition
last month and, below, the excavation of that area.
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