Archive for the ‘Saint Mary of the Cross ~ Mary MacKillop’ Category


Saint Mary of the Cross: Sabian Symbols

October 18, 2010

Natural....a thicket cross for a paradigm shift

Image Credit: Courier Mail, Brisbane

It is finished – Mary MacKillop’s is now a Saint and Brand MacKillop is alive and flourishing with the marketing and donation campaigns. No doubt about it, sainthood is a healthy cash cow for the stakeholders.  However, if the coffers have received a good influx of moola that is going to be directed towards helping those on the margins of society – the fringedwellers – that kindled young Mary’s sense of social justice and equality; then all is well in this opal-hearted land of sweeping floods and flashing plains….

A few days ago, I checked out Mary’s natal birth chart, in particular, the Sabian Symbols – and the hairs fairly rose on the back of my neck, and surges of energy twinkled through my body – she has the most amazing, beautiful Sabian Symbols.  Mary incarnated with everything she needed to fulfill her Sacred Contract. 

I am not going to offer my interpretation of what they mean. I will just present them and allow the words and the imagery to wash over you, and if, like me, you get a surge of warm fuzzies, know you are connecting to the energy of Saint Mary of the Cross.  This is how the Sabian Symbols work – they are ‘jumper leads’, if you like, from one human energetic battery to another………that might be a little flat…

Twelfth House

Poseidon 18 Leo – A teacher of chemistry

Chiron 30 Cancer – A daughter of the American Revolution

Eleventh House

Appollon 12 Cancer – A Chinese woman nursing a baby with a message

Ninth House

Zeus 27 Taurus – A squaw selling beads

Eigth House

Waldemath Dark Moon 10 Taurus – A Red Cross nurse

Vesta 26 Aries – A man possessed or more gifts that he can hold

Cupido 24 Aries & Vulkanus 24 Aries – An open window and a net curtain blowing into a cornucopia

Pluto 19 Aries & Ceres 19 Aries – The magic carpet

Seventh House

Uranus 22 Pisces – A man bringing down the new law from Mount Sinai

Pallas Athene 16 Pisces – The flow of inspiration

Mars 7 Pisces & Kronos & Pisces – A cross lying on the rocks

Moon 6 Pisces – Officers of dress parade

Sixth House

Osc. Lilith 24 Aquarius – A man turning his back on his passions and teaching from experience

Lilith asteroid 21 Aquarius – A woman disappointed and disillusioned

Ademetos 18 Aquarius – A man unmasked

Mean Lilith 16 Aquarius & Neptune 16 Aquarius – A big businessmen at his desk

True Node 30 Capricorn – A secret business conference

Fifth House

Sun 25 Capricorn – An oriental-rug dealer

Mercury 24 Capricorn – A woman entering a convent

Venus 14 Capricorn – An ancient bas-relief carved in granite

Hades 6 Capricorn – A dark archway with ten logs at the bottom

Saturn 8 Capricorn – Birds in the house singing happily

Jupiter 7 Capricorn – A veiled prophet of power

Third House

Juno 30 Scorpio – A Halloween jester


Saint Mary MacKillop…..and the rest of us….truly human.

October 17, 2010
Autumn in the Fitzroy Gardens, 1894 by John Mather

And this, they say, is Melbourne in its prime:

the air crispened as though for taste,

sunlight playing among the burning sugars,

a green defiance flagging limbs,

the files of trees like dreams commanded outright.

Elm and linden, pine and maidenhair,

so many sentinels of life,

they rise up from their own shadows, proclaiming

an earthed vitality, a sky

they cannot see, and the sun’s cascading fire.

Mather is gone, of course, and the vine of years

fastens the tighter for its offered fruit:

but still the woman pauses on the path,

her child engrossed by the lit palings

and half immortal like the watching statue.

It comes to me that this is the life of the mind –

a passage made on another’s way,

silent attendants holding out their powers

even as Fall asserts its own,

a readiness to wait if pause is given.

‘More than you remember’, the poet said,

‘stays green all winter.’ Nature’s art

persists in mind and eye as well, the two

staying the puzzled heart with rumours

of buried gold and a road come round again.

 ~ Peter Steele, Jesuit Priest and Poet

Welcome to Fitzroy Gardens on the Web



On the occasion of the canonisation of Mary MacKillop 17 October 2010


Fr. Paul Mullins, S.J.  Parish Priest

Contrary to what is being put out in various publications, Mary MacKillop is not Australia’s first saint. She is, however, Australia’s first canonised saint.

During his pontificate Pope John Paul II canonised some 500 saints and beatified 1340 people. There were those both within the church and beyond who thought he was far too zealous in this matter of canonisations; a slower, more wary approach should have been the practice. Pope Benedict XVI has been less zealous than his predecessor in this matter. However, it is my suggestion that we should not be surprised by the number; rather we should expect more. Consider the image of heaven which is described by John in the seventh chapter of the Book of Revelation: “I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands.” John suggests that the number of saints, those who spend eternity with God is countless.

That is why I say Mary MacKillop is not Australia’s first Saint, but she is the first Australian officially recognised by the Church and raised to her altars.

There has too been much discussion about Mary’s progress to sainthood. In the modern world people are wary of the proclamation of miracles, and so they should be. The whole procedure is for many, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, mediaeval.  It is viewed with scepticism and bewilderment in an age where much of what is witnessed has a logical and rational explanation. Pope John Paul II simplified the process to sainthood, but it still requires two miracles before the Church formally declares a person a saint and is thus to be revered by the universal church.   The verification of a miracle is an exhaustive process and the miracle itself can only be attributed to God. The person who is being considered for canonisation is recognised as the intermediary. However, whatever or not of miracles the person being examined for sainthood must fit the criteria which God has laid down and which is evident in the scriptures. Sainthood is open to all of us, but to qualify we must fulfil certain criteria.

Consider what the prophet Micah told us: “what is good has been explained to you, man; this is what God asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.” (6: 8). Move to the New Testament and we have abundant criteria by which to measure the sanctity of others and our own.  Consider the beatitudes in the fifth chapter of Saint Matthew’s gospel.  Finally, in the twenty-fifth chapter of the same gospel, reflect on the depiction of the Last Judgement. Aside from whatever miracles have been attributed to the intercession of Mary MacKillop, it is abundantly clear that Mary’s life, measured against the demands of the scriptures, indicates her essential humanity and her sanctity.  It is my contention that only the churlish could not rejoice in Mary’s recognition by an international organization – this, I suggest, is true for believer and non-believer alike.

Mary MacKillop reaches across the great divide of Australian society, both the one which existed in the 19th and 20th centuries and which exists today. Her life speaks to all decent people.

The product of a dysfunctional family, Mary MacKillop knew hardship, misunderstanding, illness and rejection. She recognised the value of education for all in an age when women in particular did not have the opportunities for education that their male counter-parts did, and which many thought unnecessary. She was able to withstand the rejection of her own faith community. She travelled extensively in an age when it was difficult to travel, all in the name of helping others. She had friends both within her Catholic community and in the wider Christian community when the divisions between the Christian denominations were accented; bigotry on both sides was common. Mary MacKillop inspired friendship and loyalty because she was both loyal and a friend. She was supported by a Jewish benefactor.

St Matthew depicts the Last Judgement when we will be called to give account of ourselves: “I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me” ( 25:35-36), Judging by this standard, God’s standard, Mary MacKillop must be among those who have inherited the Kingdom prepared since the foundation of the world.

 Her commitment to the poor, the outcast, the despised, those who had no voice or power in society is undoubted. Her commitment to her God is also undoubted. Mary MacKillop had, as may be judged humanly every reason to be bitter; she had every reason to doubt God. She experienced personal tragedy- the drowning of her mother; she was questioned and condemned by her own church community.  She was treated with suspicion; she was intelligent, courageous and faithful, a visionary who did not allow the less courageous, the frightened and the small- minded to lessen her enthusiasm or destroy her faith.

 Mary MacKillop is recognised in the Catholic World as Australia’s first canonised saint, but she belongs to a long line of faithful people, both Australian and others. They are the millions of people who have enlivened human history with their courage, fidelity and their quiet witness. Among them are people whose lives are unheralded and whose names are known only to their families and friends; those whom they touched in the most gentle of ways.  God knows these people, these saints.  

As a primary student at a Josephite convent school in the late 1950s I, like my class mates, was taught the Penny Catechism – although it cost 3d in my day.

“Why did God make you”? was one question. The response was: “God made me to know him, love him and serve him here on earth and to be happy with him forever in heaven”. All very neat  and I believe it.

 But to know, to love, and to serve all require a learning process, learning experiences. Mary MacKillop learnt from her life experience. She was stronger for the cross which she carried every day. Thus to know , to love and to serve God was her way.

A woman of vision, generosity, and courage, all that she did was underpinned by her faith in and her love of God, nurtured by her devotion to the Eucharist. Mary MacKillop is a great Australian but, more than that, she is an embodiment of what it is to be truly human.

 Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.    

~ Mark Twain

Sermon and quote swiped from St Ignatius Parish, Norwood, South Australia


A Calvinist and a Catholic walked into a bar…….

October 17, 2010

Sister Maria Casey, from the Sisters of St Joseph, was in Rome when the announcement came from the Vatican and says Australians need a holy icon in the face of today’s hardships.

“We have the economic downturn, we have high unemployment, we have racial problems, we have the whole problem of reconciliation,” she said.

“I think Australians need an icon or a model of goodness and holiness at this time.”

~ Extract ABC News, December 2009

Old Church, Wooroolin, Australia

As Blessed Mary MacKillop is being given her gong as Saint in Rome, I would like to bring out of the footnotes of the MacKillop biographies, the fortysomething year friendship she enjoyed with Joanna Barr Smith (nee Elder): a Presbyterian and prominent hostess in Adelaide’s social circles who, bless her cotton socks, was never swayed to covert to Catholicism – despite Mary’s gentle proselytizing and private prayers that she could shepherdess Joanna back into the folds of the True Flock.

A true daughter of the Church, Mary was possessed with that ego-evangelical flaw of Catholic certainty that only Catholics get to go to Heaven.  (As a true daughter of irreverent Australia, I wonder how long it took Mary to look over the brick wall…………..)

Joanna did her bit to safeguard Mary’s work than anyone would give her credit for. If Mary had been successful in converting Joanna, it would have been an Ego victory, a Shadow jewel in her crown, and also quite a coup to have ‘snagged’ the wife of such a wealthy and prominent man: a bustled silken bum warming the front row pew!  I applaud Joanna’s resilience and certainty in her own role in Mary’s life: that of unconditional acceptance,  friendship and support.

I do believe that Mary and Joanna were true anam cara to each other: two sides of the same coin. They had a beautiful Sacred Contract with each other and with the developing social and cultural landscape of Australia. Mary had the faith, the vision, the determination and one heck of a lot of clout from the cosmos (more about that later); and Joanna was perfectly positioned as the daughter of a wealthy man, the wife of a wealthy man, to provide the wealth, the networks –  and as a member of early Australian merchant aristocracy – to pull some strings to get Mary and her Order the needful things for their work. Including a convent.

SLSA: B 59767

Joanna Barr Smith, 1908

Born Joanna Lang Elder on 11 October 1835 in Fife, Scotland (where my great-great grandmother was born), Joanna was the seventh child and youngest daughter of George Elder and Joanna Haddow Lang.  The Elder Family, on arrival in Australia, would become wealthy pastoralists and public benefactors. Read more 

Joanna would marry the son of another Scot-emigrant wealthy pastoralist in South Yarra, Melbourne on 15 April 1856, Robert Barr Smith, and her story would be buried under the achievements and career of her husband. However, if you know anything of the strength of 19th Century women and how influential the wife of wealthy man is, you will not dismiss Joanna as a ‘trophy wife’.  Joanna would give birth to 13 children, six of whom died in infancy.

Joanna and Robert first met Mary in the 1860’s, when Sister Mary (as she was then called) first arrived in Adelaide. The Barr Smiths would be among Mary’s most liberal and consistent supporters of her work; her friendship with Joanna lasting until Mary’s passing in 1909.

Indeed, it was Joanna, at the age of 78 herself and a widow, who paid for Mary’s resting place when her remains were transferred from the Gore Hill Cemetary on 29 January 1914, to the Chapel of the Mount Street Convent, to be reinterred in front of the altar of the Blessed Virgin.

In a letter she wrote to Sister Mary when Mary was in Rome in 1873, Joanna says:

If this is your first visit to Rome, dear Sister Mary, what a rare enjoyment it will be to you. There you have so many means of enjoying it that other people have not. Your habit will be an open sesame to you where my flounces and furbelows would be a bar to my entrance – for I have not abandoned yet the world, the flesh, and the devil – and still prefer a dress of silk to a gown of cotton”.

Don’t you just love a friend like that!!

Joanna passed to her well-earned rest on 23 October 1919, in Adelaide, twelve days after celebrating her 84th birthday. Let us light a candle for Joanna on the 23rd of October – I know Mary would like her dearest and dauntless daughter of desires to be remembered, because no Saint is an island.

The Devil Wears Prada


An Object of Wonder: 1993

October 15, 2010

The second miracle occurred in 1993. Kathleen Evans, from Windale near Newcastle in NSW, was a 49-year-old mother of five (the youngest 13) when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Tests showed that the cancer had metastasised, spreading into her glandular system and the base of her brain.

Surgery was impossible, it was too late for chemotherapy, and radiation, doctors explained, would give her, at best, only a few extra weeks. “Radiation meant I’d have to go to hospital for 10 consecutive days,” she recalled at a press conference at the Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel in North Sydney in January this year (the only time Kathleen has spoken publicly”. “But I was too sick for that. Besides, the odds weren’t worth it.” She decided to go home, where Barry, her husband of 31 years, and her family took care of her. She was too ill, by this time, to dress, bathe or use the toilet on her own.

Image Credit: Telling The Stories That Matter:

Then, just as in the case of X, a friend gave her a picture of Mary MacKillop with a small piece of Mary’s clothing attached. “My husband and I were devout churchgoers, but I wouldn’t say I spent my life on my knees,” Evans admitted. “I’m just an ordinary person. If I miss a Mass, I don’t think I’m going to go to hell or anything.”

She wore the relic on her nightie and underclothes. “It’s never left me,” she told the press conference. “It’s on my bra!” The friend also gave her prayer cards, and once again, a novena was said, asking Mary to pray to God on Evans’ behalf. She went on a retreat run by the Sisters of St Joseph in Lochinvar, NSW, and a priest prayed over her to Mary. And despite being in “a bad way”, she felt surprisingly peaceful. She got home, and found that “I was very happy. There was a sense of peace in the house, and people just came to see this woman that was dying and happy.”

The Wealth in my Purse

Image Credit: CoinNews

Ten months after her initial diagnosis – already having lived far longer than doctors expected, and having had no medical treatment at all – Evans returned to hospital for tests. The results were extraordinary: though there was scar tissue on her lungs and brain where the cancer had been, the disease itself had completely vanised.

Her doctor was beside himself, said Evans. “When he was so excited, the first question I asked him was, had it shrunk? And he said, “No. It’s gone’. My response was, ‘Oh wow. Wow.”

Unable to believe the results, the doctors asked to repeat the tests. They all showed the same thing: the cancer was gone. Pathologists who treated Evans subsequently presented her history at an international conference as an example of a case with no known medical precedent or explanation. And today, 17 years after diagnosis, Kathleen Evans is alive and well and enjoying life with Barry, her five children, 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Everybody, Everywhere, Everything, Every Time is connected

Image Credit: Mary MacKillop Mosaic, AJASS

Progressiva, completa e duratura; nonspiegabile in base alle nostre conoscenze scientifiche.

Reference: The Miracles of Mary by Amanda Hooton, first published Good Weekend, October 9, 2010.


An Object of Wonder: 1961

October 14, 2010

What exactly  is a miracle? The word itself comes from the Latin: “miraculum” mean, rather beautifully, “an object of wonder”. For all of us, a miracle is indeed an object of wonder: an astonishing, inexplicable event.

Mary MacKillop Rose

Image Credit: Suey_i, Flickr

For the Catholic Church, a miracle is also a gift from God: a symbol of His power, a sign of His presence, a proof of His love. Christian theology is “studded with miraculous happenings”, says Professor Tony Kelly from the Australian Catholic University, one of the 30-member International Theological Commission, which advices the Vatican on questions of theology.

“They don’t even have to prove anything, really: they can be just to show the saving power of God at work. But in the case of canonisations, the church is saying, ‘If we’re serious about it, and God’s serious about it, miracles will occur.'”

Of course, you have to be serious, too. Religious miracles are, by definition, issues of faith. And with faith, all things are possible. Which is why Rome – the centre of Catholicism for more than 15 centuries – possesses the only office on earth where miracles are plucked out of the ether and nailed down: organised; investigated; even given index cards. The door in the Vatican corridor is, quite literally, the door to the miracles department.

Mary MacKillop was serious; God is serious – miracles occurred.


Mary MacKillop’s first miracle occured almost 50 years ago, in 1961, when a 23-year-old newly married Sydney woman began to lose weight and feel inexplicably exhausted. As her testimony recorded, “My health started to decline from April or May [of 1961]. I got very tired. Bad cramps in hands; they were cold and numb.” By the time she was admitted to hospital, she was feverish and suffering from spells of faintness and menstrual haemorrhaging. She was quickly diagnosed with acute myeloblastic leukaemia.

The news was broken to her family – including her new husband – that her condition was terminal: she might have as little as a month to live. Unable to walk, she was sent home in a wheelchair. She then developed painful abscesses in her left arm and right thigh. On her return to hospital, one of her doctors recalled, “She was even more acutely ill than before. I think [we] had a gloomier outlook on that second occasion…..[She] presented a pitiful picture”.

Image Credit: Mary MacKillop Place

Desperate, the young woman’s mother telephone Mary MacKillop’s order, the Sisters of St Joseph. Together, the sisters and the woman’s family began a novena – a nine-day cycle of prayer – to plead for her recovery. “Sister gave me a relic of Mother Mary to pin on me,” the young woman explained. “The relic had a litle photo of Mother Mary and a tiny piece of white cloth.”

As prayers progressed, the young woman – who has maintained her public silence, and her anonymity, for almost 50 years, and is known in documents only as “X” – began to feel stronger. Less than 12 months later, she was pregnant. As Father Paul Gardiner later explained, “pregnancy is not a good thing for a leukaemia sufferer”. But not only was X pregnant, tests revealed that her cancer had completely disappeared.

Her child – a healthy baby boy – was born on August 8, which is, as fate (or God) would have it, the anniversary of Mary MacKillop’s death.

Image Credit: Miracles are Your Responsibility, Period.

People simply could not believe her recovery – least of all her original doctors. “Though we know that remissions can occur, such a remission as hers is without precedent in my experience,” said one of her treating haematologists. “In light of all the circumstances, and in particular the fact that she has successfully had a baby, such an outcome is absolutely unexpected. If it could be proven that is was a permanet cure, I would regard it as a miracle.”

The woman, Madame X, went on to have five more healthy children, and is now 73 years old and a grandmother.

The cure filled all requirements for consideration for canonisation. The Vatican’s verdict:

Progressiva, completa e duratura; nonspiegabile in base alle nostre conoscenze scientifiche.

Extrapolated from The Miracles of Mary by Amanda Hooton, first published Good Weekend, October 9, 2010

MacKillop: The Musical

Read More about the musical here.


A Nun in Rome: City of Echoes, City of Illusions

October 14, 2010

 Because of the openness of her nature, Mary found it difficult to tolerate injustice, dishonesty, disobedience, and stupidity in other people. Yet, when it was necessary for her to point out these faults, she always did so with love and kindness as well as firmness. It took much courage. ~ from Blessed Mary MacKillop:A Woman Before Her Time by Father William Modystack, 1982.

Apollo and Daphne, Galleria Borghese

 Image Credit: 36 Hours in Rome

The following extrapolated from ‘The Miracles of Mary’ by Amanda Hooton, published Good Weekend, October 9 2010:

Mary MacKillop herself was in Rome between 1873 and 1874, seeking papal approval for her new and revolutionary order of Australian nuns. She’d co-founded the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart (Josephites) in 1866, and in the next seven years she endured significant opposition – even wrongful excommunication – from some clergy, and increasing crticism from her cofounder.

On a personal level, she faced a chronic illness – perhaps some form of endometriosis – that gave her great pain and was accompanied by terrible migraines.  It was this illness, for which she was prescribed brandy to help with pain, that later led to charges of drunkenness.

She had no money, and had to beg her passage to Italy, which was caught in the violently anti-religious aftermath of the wars of unification. She arrived in Rome under the pseudonym of Mrs MacDonald, dressed as a widow, with no passport, no money, no Italian, and, according to some sources, not even a hotel booking. She was 31 years old.

As it turned out, Rome was a turning point – as well as almost the midpoint – in her life.

Though I loved Rome, Rome did not love me”, Sister Mary wrote, “for after the first month I was scarcely a day well in it”. The heat shattered her: day after day she was too sick to get up or eat or go to Mass. For a woman with so much determination about everything in life – and particularly about getting to Mass – this is really saying something.

I, needless to say, do not have anything like Mary MacKillop’s grit, so I stagger into the shade at the base of a colonnade and breathe deeply. There is an entry in the shadows ahead, which is the beginning of a typical Vatican journey: up a winding staircase, past various guards, round various corners, and down a long, anonymous passage. “Take a wrong turn around here and no one will find you for 400 years”, says Tim Fischer, the Australian ambassador to the Holy See.

Eventually you come to a door. Not a terribly glamorous door, if the truth be known, nor a terribly glamorous passage, painted industrial cream and floored with the Vatican version of everyday marble. At this door, and beyond it, the heat of Rome is brown.

Unremarkable brown, with flickering dust motes in it: the colour of archives and folders, of filing cabinets and card catralogues; of the habits once worn by Mary MacKillop’s Josephite nuns.

And also, as it turns out, the colour of miracles.

 Image Credit: Rhett A. Butler

…..And More Trials

News which gladdens some may well bring sorrow to others. This was the case with the news Mary brought from Rome. The Sisters rejoiced that now they had the approval of Rome, that they had held their first General Chapter, and that Mother Mary had been elected their first Mother-General, but Father Julian Woods was far from being content.

He was undoubtedly a zealous and holy priest, and to the end of her life Mother Mary was conscious of the great debt she and all her Sisters owed to him as Father Founder. Now, however, he found it difficult to accept the fact that Rome had set aside the Rule he had drawn up for the Sisters as enjoining too extreme a poverty and requiring too much by way of penitential and devotional practices for Sisters in active work. He blamed Mother Mary for these changes, and for the first time a cloud rose over the friendship between them, a cloud which would darken with the years and bring her much sorrows.

Extract: Dauntless Daughter of Desires: The Story of Mary McKillop and Her Work 1866-1966, by Sister M. Peter, published by Sisters of St. Joseph and the Sacred Heart, 1965

 After prayerful reflection Mother Mary wrote to Julian, “Long ago you used to wish me to tell you anything I saw in you that was not as pleasing to God as it might be. Today I asked St John the Baptist in Holy Communion grace to be as unreserved with you in these things now as I once was, and this for God’s sake only, no matter at what cost. God does not lead anyone as He leads you, nor are there many to whom He has given such a wonderful supply of graces, nor from whose words and actions towards others he expects so much winning attraction to Himself, and so much prevention of what might grieve Him. If you would only consider the feelings of others a little more, and not act quite so hastily in some things, I am so sure that much good you really wish to do, would thus be so easily done. Make allowance for those who do not see as you do – I mean make it in time, not when, through some want of thought or haste on your part, someone has been grieved or perhaps provoked to irritation. It is better to prevent the smallest evil if we can, and this from love of Him who is grieved by such, rather than to be sorry after we see the evil done. Sometimes, without meaning it, you slight others, and cause them much bitterness and pain . . . All are not as patient under an imaginary slight, as through the grace of God, you are. All cannot bear what you can – and human nature is very weak. I cannot express myself clearly but if it pleases God, He will make clear to you what I mean about this. As long as I live, Father, I will feel anything I see like this, in one I love. I have some other thoughts which I can speak now, if only I get time and we are not interrupted, and that you can dwell a little upon each subject if only to satisfy my mind and spare it future troubles. May God’s holy will be welcome – I do from my heart think Him for my sorrows of this day – and even for the weakness I have, in spite of myself, shown tonight. I struggled against it all day – I could not go with my sad face amongst the poor Sisters, they know that I felt ill, so will not wonder, and you dear Father must not grieve or mind me.” 

Mary’s heart was filled with remorse. The last thing in the world she wanted to do was to offend Julian, yet in this instance, she saw it was necessary to try to make him think and hoped that her words would have the desired effect. ~ from Blessed Mary MacKillop: A Woman Before Her Time by Fr William Modystack

Image Credit: How to Fire Your Lawyer by Erik J. Heels


Sister Mary: Rumblings

October 13, 2010

Image Credit

A remarkable wooden statue of Sister Mary MacKillop located right in the centre of Brisbane at St. Stephen’s Chapel. It is carved from one huge tree and stands approximately 3-4 metres in height. One of the hands of the statue is missing because some yobbo knocked it off. (Translation for Non-Aussies: an individual of low intelligence swiped it.)

Sister Mary, later to become Mother Mary, was briefly tossed out of the Catholic Church in 1871, when she was 29, and her order shut down, officially for insubordination after she refused to allow the Catholic hierarchy to take over her self-governing order of Josephites. But there may also have been a more sinister reason behind the move.

The excommunication came soon after members of her order of nuns reported a pedophile priest. The order discovered that children were being sexually abused by Father Patrick Keating in Kapunda Parish, northeast of Adelaide in South Australia. After being reported, Keating was sent back to Ireland, where he continued to serve. 

A friend of Keating’s, Father Charles Horan, swore revenge on Sister Mary. She was excommunicated after Horan became assistant to Adelaide’s Bishop Laurence Shiel.  Father Paul Gardiner, the man in charge of the MacKillop canonisation process for 25 years, says Bishop Shiel was “a puppet being manipulated by malicious priests”.

“This sounds terrible, but it’s true”, Father Gardiner says.

Marie Foale, Sister Mary’s biographer and a leader of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart – the order formed by MacKillop – says the independent Josephites were “a great threat” to the bishops. “They were Australian, they were independent thinkers, they went out among the people. They worked among the poor; they didn’t care about the rich. So they (the priests and bishops) just didn’t know how to handle them”.

After the excommunication, Sister Mary and many of her nuns were thrown on to the streets. Help came from an unlikely admirer – a wealthy Jew named Emanuel Solomon, who let MacKillop and the sisters stay in several of his houses.

Bishop Shiel, on his deathbed, five months later, absolved the punishment and restored Sister Mary to the sisterhood. “It was just an absolute disaster from every point of view”, says the present Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson. “It was a disaster for Mary and the sisters. It was a disaster for the church. It was a disaster for the bishop and everyone else involved because it was such a bad reflection on the church of the time”.

Extrapolated from “Fight to the Finish for battlers’ saint” by Faithworks writer,Bryan Patterson; article published Sunday Herald Sun, October 10, 2010.


Image Credit: Shannon Rogers

Location: St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, Adelaide.  Mary MacKillop Plaza.  This life sized statue, so beautifully sculpted by Judith Rolevink, depicts Mary MacKillop in full stride with a child in each hand; an Aboriginal boy on one side and a young girl on the other.

Trial and Triumph

from the 1965 book Dauntless Daughter of Desires

by Sister M. Peter

It was St. Teresa, whom Crawshaw so aptly termed “undaunted daughter of desires,” who remarked wryly that it was small wonder the Lord had so few friends, seeing how He treated them!  It is, indeed, well-known that the path of holiness is a rough and thorny one – and that of Founders and Foundresses has always proved particularly so.

Sister Mary had more than her fair share of bitter opposition. Some of this came from the dislike of the more conservative of the clergy for this new, untraditional religious congregation. More came because of Father Woods’ inability to handle financial affairs and his reputation for involving himself and others in impractical schemes. At one stage the Bishop of Adelaide, Dr. Sheil, was so influenced by reports circulated about the Sisters that he actually excommunicated Sister Mary and disbanded the Adelaide Sisters. This tragic mistake was rectified within a few months, however, and once again the Sisters continued their work. (Read more: Broken Rites Australia)

 Image Credit

Whatever the growing opposition, this work had certainly been blessed by God, for within a few years there were almost a hundred Sisters teaching 2,460 children in 45 schools, and carrying on many other charitable and apostolic works as well. In view of this growth Sister Mary was advised to go to Rome to ask for approval for her Congregation and to submit the Rule for expert examination.

With characteristic courage she set out for Rome. She was alone, practically penniless, and had neither influential friends nor a knowledge of foreign languages. However, her gentleness, sincerity and warmth soon won her friends in Rome. When she found that she would have to wait almost a year whilst matters were under consideration, she spent much of the time visiting schools in Europe and Great Britain, and in interesting people in the work.

By the end of 1875 Rome had given approval – indeed warm praise – to the new Sisterhood, but had greatly changed the Rule to make it more in keeping with the special work of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Rome or Bust

Image Credit: Courageous MacKillop 

Following article from The Southern Cross 1 April 2009

Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson has made a public apology over the wrongful excommunication of Mary MacKillop in 1871. The Southern Cross newspaper reports that the apology occurred at the blessing and dedication of the Blessed Mary MacKillop statue and plaza in Victoria Square on 22 March 2009.

 Archbishop Wilson stressed the apology was a follow up to the regret expressed by the dying Bishop Sheil when he revoked his excommunication of Mary in 1872.

 He said he was ‘profoundly ashamed of the Church’s actions in driving the Sisters out into the streets’. ‘This statue will stand as a sign of our affection and as an act of reparation for what happened so long ago’, he said.

 The Jesuits have their own place in the Mary MacKillop story. When the excommunication took place, the Jesuits at Norwood realised the act was invalid and gave MacKillop shelter, allowing her to receive the Eucharist even though she could not publicly attend church.

 Adelaide Jesuit Bishop Greg O’Kelly said the Jesuits in South Australia were great supporters of Mary MacKillop during all the troubles, both before and after the excommunication. ‘All those early Jesuits knew Mary Mackillop quite well, and wrote highly about her work and the work of all her sisters.’

 Sister Marion Gambin, Leader of the South Australian Province of the Sisters of St Joseph, said the apology was unexpected and humbling.

 ‘I was touched by the fact that Mary walked around here, between the Cathedral and the west end of the city…holiness is something that was around not just in the 18th century in another hemisphere’,
Archbishop Wilson said. ‘Mary showed that holiness is possible along our own streets; she was a living example of holiness and sainthood through her love of human life intersecting our lives in this city.’