Welcome to our website!
Vianney College came to birth in the same year, 1992, that Pope John Paul published his post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, “Pastores dabo vobis”. This document has always been our guiding light, both in our vision of the priesthood and in the path we follow towards priestly formation. That document looks back to the past and recognises well tried and successful methods in seminary formation. However, it also recognises the underlying principles that flow from the very nature of Christ’s priesthood and points the way to a fresh application of these principles in the changing times in which the Catholic Church finds itself.
Bishop Brennan founded Vianney College in 1992 to form priests for the diocese of Wagga Wagga. It was a bold move at the time and not without controversy. However, time has proved that the decision was a wise one and God has blessed the diocese of Wagga Wagga with a healthy flow of vocations to the priesthood, leaving it with the best ratio of priests to Catholic population in the country and the youngest average age of its priests.
Bishop Gerard Hanna succeeded Bishop Brennan as bishop of Wagga Wagga in 2002 and within a short time made it clear that he wished to continue, if possible, the formation of priests for the diocese at Vianney College. He has enriched it with the fruits of his own experience as a rural pastor, developing its programme of pastoral formation to balance its academic, spiritual and human formation programmes.
There have been notable changes in the life of Vianney College in recent years. As in other Australian seminaries, a large proportion of our seminarians were born overseas. Besides reflecting the changing composition of Australian society and of the Catholic Church in Australia, it is also a visible reminder of the meaning of the word “Catholic”. As long as young men come forward from our own communities in insufficient numbers to train as priests then we must look beyond our shores and benefit from the “riches” of other Catholic communities.
Another development can be seen in the number of bishops who turn to Vianney College to seek priestly formation for their candidates. While Vianney remains a diocesan seminary under the bishop of Wagga Wagga, we are happy to welcome seminarians from other dioceses, particularly from those that share a rural character with our own. In 2012 two other rural or semi-rural NSW dioceses are represented among the seminarians here.
This must surely add to the richness of seminary life.
Elsewhere on this site you will find a pictorial record of the recent celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of Vianney College. It was an occasion to thank God for the graces bestowed on the Wagga seminary and on all who have passed through its doors over that time. The Apostolic Nuncio, Most Rev. Giuseppe Lazzarotto, joined us for the occasion, as did our first ex-student bishop, Most Rev Michael Kennedy of Armidale, together with many of the 36 priests who have done all or part of their priestly formation at Vianney. It was a time to remember, but also to look forward to a future that, we pray, will continue to be blessed by God. A new statue of St John Vianney now stands at the front of the College as a reminder of the occasion.
As I write, two Vianney seminarians have just been ordained deacons for the Wagga diocese and another is due to be ordained deacon for Lismore in June. Altogether 20 men are in formation and some enquires have already come in for next year.
We have a dedicated team of lecturers, mostly priests from Wagga parishes who gladly share their time and experience for the sake of future priests. They work with an equally dedicated group of formation staff and lay helpers, including many benefactors, who together keep the seminary running smoothly.
This website provides an overview of the people, programmes and places that go to make up Vianney College; you can meet the students and staff and see a record of those who have reached the goal of priesthood, a list which now includes our first bishop. Among the places our chapel has pride of place for it is there that we meet the Eucharistic Lord, the reason for our existence as a seminary. We are also proud of our library, which is available for public use. The programmes outlined here give some idea of the life at Vianney College and how it contributes to the goal that unites us all, the ministerial priesthood of Jesus Christ.
Father Peter Thompson, C.M.