Warrane’s prehistory can be traced to the 1950s, when the Catholic archbishop of Sydney, Norman Cardinal Gilroy, first came into contact with members of Opus Dei and a sample of their educational initiatives in Europe. The most senior figure of the Catholic Church in Australia, Cardinal Gilroy attended the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), when he is likely to have met Saint Josemaría Escrivá. Thomas Muldoon, auxiliary bishop of Sydney, recalls that after an audience with the Founder of Opus Dei, Pope Pius XII famously said to Gilroy that Escrivá “is a true saint, a man sent by God for our times”.
The cardinal was then entertaining the idea of setting up a residential college at a university campus in Sydney and the University of New South Wales—then the New South Wales University of Technology—was very short of places for student accommodation. Opus Dei must have loomed large in the mind of the Australian cardinal, not only because of the words of Pius XII about its saintly Founder, but also because Gilroy had taken note of the experience of its members in the administration of university halls in Spain, Italy, Ireland and the United States.
Some years later, with the encouragement of Cardinal Gilroy, several members of Opus Dei set out to establish Warrane College. The ethos of the College was to be closely associated with the principles and values of Catholic doctrine.
Warrane was officially opened on Sunday 13 June 1971, by Sir Roden Cutler, Governor of New South Wales.
The journal Studia et Documenta, published by the St. Josemaria Escriva Historical Institute (Rome), has published an article about the early days of Warrane College, titled "Like a bridge over troubled water in Sydney: Warrane College and the student protests of the 1970s".