On the afternoon of the 27th April 1941 the sun warmed the faces of the faithful as a new day was dawning for the Church in Queensland. The opening ceremony of the first Provincial Seminary in Brisbane was a powerful witness to the faith and hope of the People of God in Australia. Over 10,000 devoted Catholics had gathered on the site, inspired by the fresh hope that the new Pius XII Provincial Seminary would provide in the formation and training of their future shepherds.
The chosen home of the new Seminary was, appropriately, ‘Beehive Hill’. Once a source of honey for the aboriginal people who collected sustenance from colonies of native bees within the densely timbered surrounds, the new training ground for Priests was to prove a source of spiritual nourishment for the Church in Queensland and beyond. Archbishop Duhig passionately addressed the crowds and lauded the newly elected Pope Pius XII, whose name was engraved over the arch of the portico of the majestic Seminary structure. The support of His Holiness was gratefully acknowledged by Archbishop Duhig, as were the efforts of Archbishop Panico, the Papal Nuncio, who was instrumental in bringing about the establishment of the new Seminary.
The number of students at the Seminary reached a high point of 134 in 1967, but – in keeping with a trend seen throughout the western world – numbers gradually declined. Less than ten years later, in 1975, there were 58 students with the decline of students continuing in the following years. In the closing years of the 1970s, the Bishops of the Province and the Seminary staff met to discuss the future of Priestly formation as well as the viability of maintaining a large, institution-type building at a time when smaller educational communities were being more positively endorsed.
Eventually the larger complex was closed and the Seminary was moved for a short period to a former convent within the Parish of St Paschal’s in Wavell Heights. However in 2007, following an upsurge in Priestly vocations and a concomitant need for a larger and more appropriate facility, the Seminary was re-founded on its original site. The new name – Holy Spirit Seminary – reflects and acknowledges the presence of the Paraclete in these developments within the Province of Queensland.
Designed by Conrad Gargett Architecture, the newly constructed Holy Spirit Seminary – once again on Beehive Hill – was opened in May 2008 by Cardinal Levada. The motto of the Seminary – convestitum Spiritu Sancto – serves not only as a reminder of the essentiality of the work of the Holy Spirit within the life of the Church, but also as an impetus for those undergoing priestly formation to open themselves more fully to the Grace of God. ‘The Spirit of the LORD is upon me’ (Lk 4:18) – just as the Paraclete continues to work within and through the Universal Church, the Seminarians on Beehive Hill too strive daily to ‘clothe’ themselves in the Holy Spirit.