Corpus Christi, Glen Waverley

ccc glenwaverley01Ambitious plans

In November 1954, Archbishop Mannix and his brothers on the Episcopal Board of Trustees purchased a 70-acre property in the new and fast growing suburb of Glen Waverley for the purposes of a new theologate. The elevated site, situated on the junction of Waverley and View-Mount Roads, afforded a magnificent panorama of the city, Port Phillip Bay, the Mornington Peninsula and the Dandenongs.

The plans for the theologate were amibitious. Dominating the design was the chapel, situated at the centre of the centre of the building and designed to accommodate 500. The 200m ceiling and 480m length evoked God’s majesty, while the marble reredos and baldachino focussed attention on the main altar and tabernacle. Fourteen side altars were fitted into the cloister behind the main sanctuary, and another thirteen side altars in the nave catered for priestly guests and retreatants in the days before concelebration of the Holy Mass became common. Cloisters connected the chapel to the residential wings of the building.

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Immediately in front of the chapel was the five-storey administration block and faculty residence, surmounted by a 490m tower. North and south wings, each four storeys, would flank the central building.

The lower floors of the South Wing housed the dining room, kitchen, and common rooms, while the upper floors accommodated 100 students. Connecting the South Wing and Administration block were music and meeting rooms. On the extreme south a convent for the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny was planned, but never built. A completely self-contained single-storey home for the twelve nuns who constituted the domestic staff, the plans included an oratory, dining rooom, parlours and common rooms.

The North Wing would furnish classrooms, lecture theatres, and an assembly hall on its lower floors, and accommodate another 100 students on its upper floors. The College library would connect the North Wing and Administration block. Like the convent, the North Wing was never built.

Student life

The seventy-three seminarians who arrived at Glen Waverley on 1 March 1960 were pleased to learn that on four nights a week, they were permitted to stay up until 10:30, while their Werribee brothers continued to retire at 9:45. The hour for rising, however, was unchanged: 5:55.

Having moved from a rural estate, the new ‘suburbanites’ were keen to keep up with the Joneses next door, and organised their committees accordingly. In eighteen months, the Grounds & Building Commmittee transformed 3300 square metres of brick-strewn clay into newly seeded lawn, planted two hundred and fifty trees, and levelled enough ground to start work on a basketball court and two tennis courts.

The Sports Committee, meanwhile, committed to the construction of a nine-hole golf course, was hindered by the prolific growth of blackberry bushes which smote the property. The Committee found greater cause for encouragement on the footy field. The ‘Wave’ theologians were the victors at the inaugural inter-College Footy Clash, hosted by the philosophers back in Werribee. However, the theologians were resoundly thumped at rematches throughout the rest of the 60s.

Having settled into the new College, the seminarians felt the first effects of the Council occurring in distant Rome. Dialogue Masses were more frequently used and a special course in liturgical music was provided “to keep pace with the trend for lay participation.” Following the advice of the Council Fathers, outside pastoral experience was incorporated into the formation programme. In Scriptural and Theological Studies, too, one student recalls “the fresh winds of change blowing through the lecture halls.”

Closure and Sale

Sadly, a decline in priestly vocations accompanied the breeze, and it was decided to reunite the two faculties of a shrinking Corpus Christi College. In July 1972, the State Government of Victoria bought the Glen Waverley property for $1.9 million. It suited the needs precisely of a new police academy. The Glen Waverley property was soon remembered by its former residents as “Copper Christi.”

The year following, as the staff and recruits of the Victorian Police Force took over the buildings of Corpus Christi Glen Waverley, the province’s seminarians were moving into their new college in Clayton.