ARCHDIOCESE OF SYDNEYCatholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese, 
12 Jun 2013
Pope Francis with Sr Maria Casey who presented him with a St Mary MacKillop medal
Sister Maria Casey, rsj presented the Holy Father, Pope Francis with a formal St Mary of the Cross MacKillop medal during her visit to Rome last month.
The limited edition medal is one of those struck to commemorate the canonisation of Australia's first saint in October 2010.
"The first Wednesday after Pentecost on 22 May, I attended the Pope's General Audience in St Peter's Square and after the General Audience I was very privileged to be among those to meet and speak with the Holy Father," she says.
This is when Sr Maria presented the medal to Pope Francis.
"His Holiness was very interested in Mary MacKillop and he sent his blessing to all the Sisters, their family and friends and to all Australians."
The Sydney-based Josephite found Pope Francis to be humble, warm, friendly and someone with "the human touch."
"His ordinariness and ability to be totally present with each person he spoke to was very much in evidence as he made his way along the line of people waiting to meet him," she says, recalling how there were two nuns from the Chinese mainland in the line in which she stood waiting to meet His Holiness.
"He fully engaged the two nuns as he did with everyone else he met that day," she says.
The former Postulator for the Cause of Mary MacKillop, current President of the Canon Law Society of Australia and New Zealand, Sr Maria is also Vicar of Consecrated Life for the Archdiocese of Sydney and in late May, was in Rome for a conference on New Forms of Consecrated Life. This had been the subject of her dissertation some years ago when she studied for her degree in canon law at Saint Paul University, Ottawa. 
Sr Maria Casey presents Pope Francis with a limited edition St Mary MacKillop Medal
The Conference in Rome which was attended by international experts on canon law, religious, priests, church leaders and representatives of 25 different movements and other emerging forms of consecrated life took place over two days.
Once over, Sr Maria who had spent many years in Rome during her time as Postulator for the Cause, had several other appointments. So she stayed on a few more days and was able to attend the General Audience in St Peter's Square after which she was among those with special tickets who met and spoke with the Holy Father.
"Before the Audience, Pope Francis travelled in the popemobile going as near to as many sections of the very large crowd as he could. Later he would walk in front of the barricades and meet and speak with as many people as possible," she says.
For Sr Maria it was both "humbling and impressive" to see his interaction as he made his way along a crowded throng of men, women and children.
"Some threw their arms around him and gave him a big hug, and at one point there was a woman who wanted to give him a friendship bracelet. I watched as he held out his right hand for her to tie on the bracelet. But in her nervousness she was all thumbs and had trouble tying the knot. At no stage did he try to hurry her. Instead he smiled and spoke with her and put her completely at ease."
Sr Maria was struck by how attentive Pope Francis was to each person or child he met. Smiling, he accepted their gifts of flowers, baskets of olives, statues and pictures. She was also impressed by his fluent English which Pope Francis learned during three months of intensive study while staying at the Jesuit Milltown community in Dublin.
Holding the medal presented by Sr Maria Casey the Holy Father inspects the reverse side with its engraved map of Australia
She was also struck by the Holy Father's reflections on the significance of Pentecost in an address he gave that day as part of the General Audience.
"Let us witness to the newness, hope and joy that the Lord brings to life. Let us feel within us 'the delightful comforting joy of evangelising, because evangelising, proclaiming Jesus, gives us joy," he said but warned that only a faithful and intense relationship with God made it possible to get out of our closedness and proclaim the Gospel with clear and fearless speech.
"Without prayer our acts are empty, and our proclamation has no soul. It is not inspired by the Spirit," he said.
Pope Francis is the third Pontiff Sr Maria has been "honoured and privileged to meet."
"Fourth if you count being among the Sisters of St Joseph's guard of honour for Pope Paul VI when was in Sydney in 1970 and came to North Sydney to pray at St Mary MacKillop's tomb," she says with a smile.
In 1995 during the Beatification of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, Sr Maria met Blessed Pope John Paul II and in 2010 she met Pope Benedict at the Canonisation ceremony for Australia's first saint.
For a video or the complete transcript of Pope Francis' Reflections on Pentecost delivered at the General Audience in St Peter's Square on 22 May log on to