Joseph Abela was born in Zabbar, Malta and emigrated to Australia in 1952 with his family where he began the Society of Christian Doctrine and remained as Delegate of the Superior General for seventeen years. In 1960, he was ordained a priest at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne after studying at Corpus Christi Seminary in Werribee, Victoria.
After leaving the priesthood he proceeded to Louvain, Belgium where he obtained his Ph.D. from Louvain University.
Dr Abela was a pioneer in the promotion of Maltese language and culture in Australia. He was the prime mover in ensuring that Maltese was accepted by the Victorian Institute of Secondary Education and included as a Higher School Certificate subject.
While Delegate of the Superior General he worked tirelessly to see the Society grow. One of his projects was the dairy farm at Dixon’s Creek, Victoria near Yarra Glen which was opened in 1966. The farm consisted of 169 acres was staffed by Internal Members of the Society. Eventually the vision was for the Society to establish dwellings that would provide conference and retreat facilities. The community at Dixon’s Creek established contact with the Cistercian monks at Tarrawarra who helped considerably in the day-to-day running of the farm.
The farm created much interest and during the time it was established, from 1966 – 1975, eight Members joined the community.