Sunday, October 17, 2010


POPE Benedict XVI says he hopes Saint Mary MacKillop, the nation's first saint, will continue to inspire Australians.
Saint Mary of the Cross, as she is officially known, was canonised in Rome tonight.
Up to 8000 Australian pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square to watch the rite of canonisation and mass led by the Pope.
The Pope said that for years, countless young Australians had been blessed with teachers inspired by Saint Mary.
"She attended to the needs of each young person entrusted to her... providing both formation and spiritual formation," he told a huge crowd at the Vatican.
"May her followers today continue to serve God and the church with faith and humility."
Saint Mary founded the order of Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, with Father Julian Tenison Woods, to help educate and care for poor children in rural areas.
Her path to sainthood has taken 85 years, church recognition of two healing miracles, the personal attention of popes, years of research, countless prayers and patience.
'Mary Mary Mary, Oi Oi Oi'
Australians were out in force in Vatican City today to see Mary recognised as a saint.
In between angelic singing and the ringing of church bells, there was another sound echoing around St Peter's Square: "Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi."
Aussies were estimated to make up between 6000 and 8000 of the 50,000-strong crowd for the canonisation ceremony.
But what they lacked in overall numbers they made up for by being colourful and loud.
Australian and Aboriginal flags were dotted throughout the crowd, some pilgrims adorned themselves in fake tattoos representing the Aussie flag, and the Sisters of St Joseph in their bright blue scarves waved Mary MacKillop balloons.
Sister Jeanette from Sydney and Sister Mary from Adelaide said they were thrilled to hear the cries of "Aussie Aussie Aussie" and "Mary Mary Mary".
"Isn't that fun? Join in!," said Sister Jeanette.
"It's a real sense of unity, that's what happening. It's bigger than us."
After a sprinkling of rain early on, the skies cleared and the sun broke through by the time the crowds were let into St Peter's Square at 8am Rome time (5pm AEDT).
Sister Jeanette said they had prayed everything would go smoothly for Saint Mary's big day.
"We prayed to St Joseph, that's what you do, and he fixed it up," she said.
Among the pilgrims from Italy, Canada, Poland, Spain and other nations, there was bemusement at the enthusiasm of the Aussies, mutterings of "Australiana" and smiles.
Teacher Brendan Kiely from Lismore said it was an emotional, joyful and celebratory mood among his friends.
"It's a spiritual awakening for us all," he said.
"We are very proud."
Josephite nun Carmel Hanson from Newcastle said the canonisation ceremony was the culmination of days, weeks, months and years of work and anticipation.
"I'm out of my skin with excitement. It's electric," she said, waving her Mary MacKillop balloon.
"It's so easy to forget there are other people being canonised other than Mary MacKillop.
"It's been a long time coming. I think it's wonderful for the older sisters here. They keep saying, 'We didn't think in our lifetime we'd see this', and of course they have."
Sister Carmel said she thought Saint Mary would be a little overwhelmed by all the fuss being made of her.
"I think she'd die of embarrassment," she laughed.
A humble childhood
Saint Mary was born in Melbourne on January 15, 1842, the first child of Scottish immigrants Flora and Alexander.
Baptised Maria Ellen MacKillop, her second name is a form of Helen, the name of the saint credited by the early church with finding the cross of Jesus.
Her childhood was humble and she grew up knowing what it was like to be poor.
In 1866 she founded the order of Sisters of St Joseph with Father Julian Woods to help educate and care for poor children in rural areas.
However, her journey was not easy.
She was accused of alcoholism and in 1871 she was excommunicated for five months from the church by her Archbishop.
Later in life she suffered from ill health and was confined to a wheelchair.
Saint Mary died in 1909.
Writings from each of the Blesseds, including Saint Mary, were read out in an introduction prior to today's ceremony.
Saint Mary's letters to her mother described her devotion to God and to caring for and educating the young, the poor and the disadvantaged.
She also described the meaning for her of the name she now bears.
"My name in religion is Mary of the Cross," she wrote in 1867.
"No name could be dearer to me, so I must endeavour, not to deserve it — for I cannot — but at least I must try not to disgrace it."Read more:

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