Australia's 1st Saint to Be Canonized Sunday

Mary MacKillop Served God’s Poor

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

By Traci Osuna

ROME, OCT. 15, 2010 ( In 1909, after blessing Sr. Mary MacKillop on her deathbed, Australia’s Cardinal Patrick Moran left her side, stating, «I consider I have this day assisted at the deathbed of a saint.» Just over a century later, his words have come to fruition, as Blessed Mary MacKillop will be named Australia’s first saint.

On Sunday, Benedict XVI will canonize Blessed Mary MacKillop, along with five others, in a solemn liturgy that will take place at St. Peter’s. While a reported 8,000 Australians will be present in Rome for the actual canonization, as well as the archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, the Archdiocese of Sydney is, of course, planning its own festivities in honor of their beloved daughter, Mary MacKillop.

The celebration in Australia will begin at noon with the annual Festival of Faith, hosted by the Knights of the Southern Cross, commemorating both the religious and cultural heritage of Australia’s Catholic community.

The festival will be followed by the Mary’s Feast Day Mass, presided over by Auxiliary Bishop Julian Porteous of Sydney. The Mass will be streamed live over the Internet and televised nationally, allowing all of Australia to witness the celebration.  

The Mass will conclude in time for locals to view the live Web cast from Rome, where the Pope will preside over the canonization ceremony from St. Peter’s Basilica. The ceremony consists of three parts and is scheduled to last approximately three hours. The first part involves reading short biographies of each blessed; the second, presenting the writings or prayers of each blessed and finally, the Rite of Canonization Mass.

Even as a young woman, Mary longed to devote her life to serving God, as well as the less fortunate. The oldest of eight children, Mary, instead, worked to support her own family when they fell upon hard times. She dutifully helped raised her younger siblings. Eventually she left to work as a governess for her younger cousins. It was at her uncle’s house that she met her future mentor and co-founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, Father Julian Woods.

Together, the pair would create the first Catholic schools in Australia and bring educational opportunities to all social classes, never distinguishing between the haves and have-nots.

Rapid growth

Within four years, Mary had established 40 schools and the order consisted of over 120 sisters. Revered by people of all faiths, Mary and her sisters served the poor by walking among them in the streets and reaching out to those that had no one else to turn to. While Catholic Church’s hierarchy did not approve of their methods, the sisters’ faith and devotion to their mission never waivered.

The order grew, serving all of southern Australia. The demands put on Mary grew as well. And while she rose to every occasion, it was her spiritual advisor, Father Woods, who would succumb to the immense pressures of their work. A rift eventually grew between them and they parted ways.

Mary again faced another obstacle when the bishop at the time, Bishop Sheil, excommunicated her for what he deemed was insubordination when Mary wrote, in a letter to the bishop, that «I wish to please you, but above all, to please God.» The bishop had ordered changes to be made within the order and Mary, feeling they were not best for the order, decided to step down as mother superior. The excommunication was lifted after just a few months when the bishop, on his deathbed, retracted his decision.

Sr. Mary and the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart experienced both highs and lows, but continued to stay focused on their original goals. Bishops would make changes to the order and Mary would be relegated to second in command, serving other sisters that shared the bishop’s view over those that the order was founded upon. In addition to the pressures she experienced within the Church, she also weathered physical pain and rumors of alcoholism. Through it all, she persevered and continued to carry on God’s work.

On Sunday, Oct. 17, the whole world will come to know and honor the woman that Australians have loved for over a century. This humble, yet strong, faithful and devoted woman who never wanted for anything but to serve the poor and the God she loved.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation