Excited Australians are Ready to Celebrate Their First Saint

by Trilok Kapur on  February 20, 2010 at 10:55 AM Lifestyle News
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Mary MacKillop, a rebel nun who was once excommunicated from the church, is to become the country's first saint and Australia is to celebrate on Friday the expected announcement.
 Excited Australians are Ready to Celebrate Their First Saint
Excited Australians are Ready to Celebrate Their First Saint

As devotees prayed at MacKillop's tomb in North Sydney, the Sisters of St. Joseph order she founded said they were confident Pope Benedict XVI would formally declare a date for her canonisation.

"I don't know what's been decided, but I am quietly confident," Sister Mary Casey, who has long argued for MacKillop's sainthood, told the ABC.

"Mary MacKillop was always confident that whatever happens, happens for the best. I'm sure I would have heard by now if there was a problem."

Australians have a high regard for MacKillop, who died in 1909, because of her pioneering work in setting up schools to the remote Outback, educating women and helping the poor and destitute.

Her tussles with the church, which earned her a brief excommunication, and her egalitarian approach have seen her dubbed the "people's saint".

MacKillop's path to sainthood was cleared in December when the Vatican credited her with her second miracle -- the healing of a woman suffering from incurable lung cancer in 1993.

The woman, since named as 66-year-old grandmother Kathleen Evans, said she wore a relic containing a piece of MacKillop's clothing and prayed constantly to her after learning she had just months to live.

MacKillop's first miracle, declared in 1961, involved the curing of a woman with terminal leukaemia who also prayed to the late nun.

Excitement for MacKillop's canonisation was building at her memorial chapel in North Sydney on Friday, with many Catholics coming to the small, peaceful church to pray to the nun who was beatified in 1995.

"It's not just for Catholics, it's for the whole Australian public," said Philippa Manton, who was visiting the chapel with a friend.

"We are all quite excited because we heard that today may be the day of the announcement," she said.

The chapel sees a steady stream of visitors, including the old and sick, who already revere MacKillop -- writing petitions to her, praying at her tomb and kneeling beneath a photograph of her in her brown habit.

"I have faith in her," Sydney mother Marie D'Cruz said. "She's pretty special."

Some 101 years after her death, MacKillop has a Facebook page and even has a member of her order, Sister Annette Arnold, posting Twitter messages on her behalf.

"Pray that God's holy will be done, whether it be in accordance with our wishes or not," her most recent Tweet reads.

MacKillop, the eldest of eight children, was born to Scottish parents in Melbourne in 1842 and from the age of 16 helped support her family by working as a governess, clerk and teacher.

By 1866, with the support of a local priest, she opened the first St. Joseph's School in a disused stable in the Outback town of Penola in South Australia and later went on to find her Sisters of St. Joseph order.

Her congregation broke with tradition by drawing its members from the working classes, by its sisters moving about openly in the streets and other public places and by refusing to allow local priests to manage their affairs.

By the time of her death, MacKillop led 750 nuns who ran 117 schools, as well as homes and refuges for the needy. The order's work now extends to Uganda, Peru, Brazil and Thailand.

Sister Ann Harrison, a Brigidine nun visiting the soon-to-be-saint's chapel Friday, said MacKillop would not have wanted to be canonised but added the long-awaited development would be a tribute to the church's work in Australia.

"I think it's a recognition of what everyone has done for the church in Australia," she told AFP.

"The sacrifices of good Catholic families -- people came from far and wide to spread the faith. It's recognition for every Catholic who has put their hand up, educated their children, prayed with their family.

"People have waited so long for it. I think it's just confirmation and then let the celebrations begin!"

The Vatican is expected to name MacKillop among a list of canonisations at around 9:00 pm local time (1000 GMT).

Source: AFP

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