Much of the friars’ involvement in educational facilities is not as obvious as it may be with other religious Orders in Australia. The friars’ contribution has nevertheless been vital: their presence and support has ensured that fledgling parish endeavours were able to grow into substantial schools which continue to thrive today.
At the primary school level, the friars have been a devoted presence to the children at parish primary schools where they are pastors, in Waverley (NSW), Paddington (NSW) and Kedron (QLD). The friars were also instrumental at the secondary school level, encouraging the Christian Brothers to establish Waverley College in 1903, and supporting the college with various friars as chaplains in the early days. The friars were, and remain, involved with of St Clare’s College, Waverley, under the auspices of the Poor Clares since 1884. Friar Bernie Thomas is currently Chaplain to both of these colleges.
In Brisbane, Friar Damian Nolan was installed in 1956 as the first Rector of Padua College which was opened by the friars in response to the growing need for secondary-level Catholic education in the district. Friars Alban Mitchell, Angelo O’Hagan and Odoric Fathers started teaching in the following year.
Since then, friars have maintained a presence within Padua College. Although a lay Rector (Principal) has been appointed since 2001, Friar John Boyd-Boland, a former rector and teacher, was until 2021 a teacher and chaplain at Padua College. Fr Joe McKay is now the chaplain to the college. Fr Robert Stewart teaches at Aquinas College, Perth.
In 1973, Yarra Theological Union was established on the grounds of St Paschal Friary in Box Hill, Victoria. Over the years, it has developed into a key theological centre of learning in Melbourne – not only for the formation of candidates from Religious Orders and Institutes, but also for many lay people to study theology and spirituality with a view to obtaining degrees in theology, ministry and pastoral studies. In 2019 the friars left St Paschal’s Friary and the whole site is now used for Tertiary Education through the Melbourne College of Divinity. The Friars’ extensive library is still managed on this site and the friars still maintain a keen interest in the development of the land, with Friar Matthew Beckmann lecturing at the university and caring for the premises.