It was built in the 1870s by Thomas Chirnside, a Scotsman who sold up in the mid 1800s to come to Australia and build a pastoral empire. The family motto was “Do or Die”. He did and then he died. Achieved his dream and then took his own life.
In the 1920s the estate was purchased by the Catholic church and turned into a seminary—Corpus Christi. Over the next 50 years 753 priests passed through its doors.
Each student spent eight years under Jesuit supervision training in Philosophy, Theology, Scripture, Church History and Humanities. They rose early for prayer and then studies. They ate their meals in silence and worked on the farm in the afternoons. Evenings were given over to private study in silence.
They lived a monastic existence.
At its peak the college housed 186 seminarians. When the Werribee Mansion could no longer cope with the demand, a new college was built at Glen Waverley on 70 acres to accommodate 200 students. It was opened in 1954.
In the early 1970s both the Werribee and Glen Waverley sites were sold due to collapsing student numbers. Today Corpus Christi has 36 seminarians undertaking the seven years of training required for the priesthood. They are doing a lot better than the Irish Catholic Church but still, the decline continues.
I wonder why?