Founding of the college
At the time of his arrival in 1913, Melbourne Archbishop Daniel Mannix envisioned the establishment of an Australian National Seminary. The Australian Hierarchy was sympathetic, but on 25 October 1922, the Holy See advised the bishops not to nationalise St Patrick’s Manly, Sydney, but follow the model of provincial and diocesan seminaries.
Consequently, in December 1922, Werribee Park was purchased by Archbishop Mannix. A largely home, with extensive grounds, it was adapted to the needs of a seminary. It was to be named Corpus Christi College and to be a joint initiative of the Bishops of Sandhurst, Ballarat and Sale. The Archbishop of Hobart became a member of the Trustees of the College some years later. The Jesuits, who had previously run St. Patrick’s Seminary, East Melbourne were engaged to staff the College.
On 3 March 1923 His Excellency Archbishop Cattaneo, Apostolic Delegate, opened the new seminary before some ten thousand guests. He conveyed the personal blessing and congratulations of Pope Pius XI and asked the protection of Our Lady Help of Christians for the College.
The first students arrived at Corpus Christi in Werribee on the 19th March 1923 - St Joseph's Feast Day. As student numbers increased, St. Joseph’s wing was added in 1925.
In 1950 a small community of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny were invited by the Episcopal Trustees to care for the domestic arrangements of the College at Werribee. They also served at Corpus Christi, Glen Waverly and Clayton, when these were later established.
Alongside the round of academic studies and spiritual formation, seminarians managed a timetable of social activities, including concerts, debates and sporting clashes. The surrounding farmland provided a fruitful diversion from study, and fostered seminarians’ skills in horticulture, bee-keeping, and carpentry.