Australia Will Have Its First Saint!
By Brenda Steele
Pope Benedict XVI announced at a meeting of cardinals on Friday that Sister Mary MacKillop will be canonized on the 17th of October. Australians are ecstatic; Sister Mary will be their first ever saint. Celebrations have already begun in Sydney, as visitors to her memorial chapel, and there is always a steady stream, come to petition to Sister Mary and pray at her tomb.
Mary MacKillop, beatified in l995, is credited with two miracles. In l961 it was declared by the Church that she cured a woman suffering from terminal leukemia who had been praying to her. In l993 Sister Mary was again credited by the Vatican with the healing of a 66 year old grandmother with incurable lung cancer. This woman wore a relic belonging to Sr. Mary and prayed to her constantly.
The process to determine whether a cure can, indeed, be attributed to an individual is long and arduous. Medical documents and testimonies must be examined thoroughly, scientific experts must examine them as well as Church officials before reaching a conclusion; it often takes many years.
Mary MacKillop founded the Sisters of St. Joseph order in 1867 in Adelaide, Australia along with Father Julian Tenison Woods. The order they co-founded was dedicated to the education of the poor in South Australia. Sr. Mary and her Josephites, who had taken vows of extreme poverty, followed their mission into the Outback or wherever they were led, and lived in just as much hardship as their flocks.
In 1871, following a disagreement with then Bishop Sheil over educational practices, Mary was wrongly excommunicated. Not long after, in 1872, the bishop, realizing his mistake, had the censure lifted and she was completely exonerated. Sister Mary, a stalwart defender of her order’s rules and teaching practices, has sometimes been referred to as the “rebel nun.”
Sister Mary MacKillop spent her life ministering to the poor, young and old, and ensuring that the poorest of the poor in the countrysides of Australia, were schooled. Before her death in l909, Mary and the Josephites had created more than 40 schools near Adelaide alone, with many others in Queensland and New South Wales. Her order expanded to New Zealand and a school was established there as well.
Loved and revered by the Aussies, one recent visitor to her tomb commented, “It’s not just for Catholics; it’s for the whole Australian public. We are all quite excited.”
Catholic Advocate’s president, Deal Hudson, will be making his first trip to Australia in a few days. While there he will be visiting with Cardinal Pell in Sydney, and, no doubt, Deal will find his way to the tomb of Sister Mary MacKillop in North Sydney to pay his own respects and offer a prayer.