The Centre for Christian Spirituality was founded in 1978 by Frs David Walker and John Ryan, and Sister Rosa Courney RSJ. Mr Mark Cotter and Bill Fewster made significant contribution to the foundation.
The Centre for Christian Spirituality was founded in 1978 by Frs David Walker and John Ryan, and Sister Rosa Courtney RSJ. Mr Mark Cotter and Bill Fewster made significant contributions to the foundation.
It grew out of a milieu of programs in the spiritual classics and scriptures, which began in 1972, initiated by Fr Walker after the initial year assisted by Sr Rosa Courtney RSJ. At a time when not a lot was being offered, hundreds of people attended these courses, and were inspired to deepen their faith life. Those who attended were priest, religious, and laity.
The programs offered opened up an area of interest that today is more available. A constant question that arose was, “Where do we find leaders in this area to assist us?” It was this question that moved Fr Walker and Sister Rosa to consider the formation of such leaders. Believing the need for another person to be part of this initiative, Fr John Ryan from the Diocese of Sandhurst was invited to join. The result of an overseas journey to visit the major centres of spirituality was a program, “Spirituality for Leadership”, offered for the first time in 1978.
At that time the Centre had no venue to offer the program. Eventually the Congregation of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart offered the Centre their disused hospital at Randwick. The Centre than had a home. To renovate the building the Centre needed to raise money. A number of Religious Congregations were very generous in giving interest free loans. In those early years, the Centre was plagued with money worries, however, with the generosity of many people, the Centre has come through to a very sound financial position today.
“Spirituality for Leadership” continued for nine years with over three hundred participants. As the years went by Sr Rosa and Fr Ryan left, Fr Ryan going on to establish a three month residential program for priests. Their places were taken by others, with Fr Walker as the memory of what had gone before. From the beginning, many sessional lecturers took part, always responding generously.
Alongside the leadership program, the Centre had been reaching out to teachers in Catholic schools. A program “Ministry for Teachers”, began in those early days, and has continued to be offered to the present day. When the leadership program was discontinued the Centre began to focus on the teachers in our schools. At first there was no accreditation for the work done, which caused the teachers to ask the Centre to look for accreditation. At first the Centre turned to the Melbourne College of Divinity (now the University of Theology). They offered a degree, the Bachelor of Divinity, which was an examined degree, but it was not a taught degree. The Centre took up preparing teachers for that degree by correspondence, which the Centre was accustomed to do through the Catholic Correspondence Course that it administered. At a later stage, the Centre turned to the Sydney College of Divinity, and began to teach to its degrees. Due to the work of key staff, the Centre became an Associate Member, then a Full Member of the College. In passing through these stages the Centre was helped by other institutions, especially the Catholic Institute of Sydney.
After many years, the Centre recognised that the degree program was getting beyond them. When Fr Walker was made Bishop of the Diocese of Broken Bay, it gifted to the Diocese the academic side of the Centre which became The Broken Bay Institute. The Broken Bay Institute has gone on to become a major centre of theological education, and has now moved from the Sydney College of Divinity to the University of Newcastle.