On the evening of Wednesday 17 July, the JPII House of Communion, Formation and Mission in Carlton was blessed and officially opened by Archbishop Peter A Comensoli, beginning an exciting new chapter in the Discipleship on Campus program at the University of Melbourne and RMIT University.
Joining the Archbishop for this special celebration were some of the students who are looking forward to making the house their ‘home base’ and gathering place on campus, as well as many of those within the Archdiocese who have helped to make this initiative possible.
Before the opening of the house—named in honour of St John Paul II, who integrated prayer, learning and love throughout his life and ministry—there were only limited facilities on campus for people of faith to gather, study and pray. Looking for a solution to this problem, the Discipleship on Campus team recruited the help of their colleagues in Property and Infrastructure to find the house on Grattan Street and lease it for a period of 12 months.
Since then, the terrace house has been a hive of activity as walls have been painted, furniture purchased and rooms fitted out to provide welcoming and attractive spaces for study, small-group meetings, eating, socialising and prayer. On the top floor of the house, a beautiful chapel has been created, dedicated to Mary, Mother of the Church.
Before the blessing of the house, Fr Nicholas Pearce, Senior Chaplain for Youth, Young Adults and Campus Ministry in the Archdiocese, paid tribute to all those who had worked so hard to ‘turn an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan’ and said how lovely it had been over the previous three days ‘to see students walk in and use the space so quickly and so comfortably, and to feel at home.’
He told the story of a young man who had turned up on their first day, when the house had only been open for an hour. A newly arrived student from Vietnam, he had been in Australia for just four hours when he noticed the sign outside the house encouraging him to ‘come on in’—which is what he did. ‘And that was his welcome to Melbourne,’ said Fr Pearce.
Archbishop Comensoli asked for God’s blessing on the house, praying that those entrusted with its oversight might ‘teach others how to join the discoveries of human wisdom with the truth of the gospel so that they will be able to keep the true faith and live up to it in their lives’ and that the students who gather at the house ‘may return to their campuses and communities and bearing his light be renewed in faith, hope and charity’.
He also reflected on the image of light in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew: ‘the light that comes to us through our pursuit of knowledge, through our pursuit of what is true, good, beautiful, and the light that nourishes our soul, the light that God gives to us, the light which became flesh in Jesus Christ’. He noted that it is in this context—of having already been given ‘he who himself is light’—that we are called by Jesus to be ‘a light unto the world’. How we answer that call ‘is going to be different for each one of us,’ he said, encouraging those gathered to seek to ‘live in that light which Christ has given to us of himself’ and praying that those who use JPII house might ‘be such a light’:
‘This light is given to you generously by God. In that generosity, give that light to others.’
Klara, who is studying for a Masters of Primary School Teaching, was one of those celebrating this new initiative. She said she is looking forward to using the house as a ‘home base to return to for some peace and quiet in the chapel’ and to ‘meet other fellow Catholic students and to connect with them’. ‘I feel we are made for communion with each other and with God,’ she said, and was excited that the house would provide place where this can happen.
Mia, who is studying psychology and philosophy in her Bachelor of Arts degree, was pleased that JPII House provides ‘a place to belong and to grow in our faith in a really organic and integrated way’.
‘It’s not just a formation class or a Mass, but it’s all of those things together, and you get to share that experience with a community of like-minded peers. It’s so exciting to be with these people who are looking forward to growing together.’
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC)09 June 2023