There was no program for the formation of spiritual directors in Australia when Siloam began in 1979.  For the first few years, it was a part-time program, one day a week for the academic year.  Initially in Sydney, then moving to Melbourne, interest and demand for places was strong.

When I look back, I recognise how tentative we were in 1979.  Betty Kennedy rsm and Paul Ryanto msc joined me on team: I had not long returned from my own formation as a spiritual director, Betty and Paul had good experience but no formal formation as spiritual directors.  We supervisors were obviously feeling our way, fortunate that our eight keen students knew no better than us!  In the one day, we squeezed in individual and group supervision, group work and a seminar.  From the beginning, our work in supervision used verbatim accounts of ministry and our seminar work focused on topics that are still included in the Siloam program – religious experience, discernment, some psychology, etc.

I moved to Melbourne in 1980, continuing the program with a different supervisor, Dorothea Pini csb.  Many good applications confirmed my judgement around the need for such formation in this country.  A highly experienced group in that first year in Melbourne challenged us to keep on our toes. The program benefited from that, but I recognised that we needed time to rethink and restructure – 1981 became a fallow year.

Sue Richardson pbvm & Brian Gallagher msc - In the Early Days

Sue Richardson pbvm & Brian Gallagher msc  (Image: Supplied)


From 1982 and then the beginnings of our full-time program in 1985, Siloam went from strength to strength.   Sue Richardson pbvm joined me as a supervisor – Sue had returned from her formation in Denver a few years earlier and was ministering in religious formation with her own sisters.  Sue is a Presentation sister from Lismore (NSW).  We had met as early as 1979, ‘introduced’ by Walter Downs, an American MSC friend from my days in Boston.   Walter and Sue had met at some workshop they had both attended.

When Sue was free to join me full-time at Heart of Life, the full-time Siloam program became possible.  Sue and I worked together for close on 30 years, broken only by the years when both of had been elected leaders of our religious congregations (though even in those years, we continued to support one another from a distance.)  After my initial ten years as director of Heart of Life and Siloam, Sue had two stints as director, establishing Siloam’s firm foundations and international repute.  Her contribution to Heart of Life and to my own ministry and development as a spiritual director and supervisor is enormous.  We not only worked together, we dreamed together, we supported one another, we challenged one another, and we educated one another.  I finished at Heart of Life at the end of 2014, Sue a year later.      

Siloam continues, as others join the now lengthy tradition.  The program has adapted and developed over the years, still responding to real need at home and in numerous overseas countries.