JOY continues to surge throughout the Josephite and wider Australian community in the wake of Pope Benedict’s decree confirming Blessed Mary MacKillop’s second miracle.
Pope Benedict’s decree, issued in the early hours of last Sunday, December 20, has cleared the way for the canonisation of the co-foundress of the Sisters of St Joseph which is expected to be held in Rome next year.
The Pope confirmed that the cure of an Australian Catholic grandmother from inoperable lung cancer through Blessed Mary MacKillop’s intercession was a true miracle.
Queensland congregational leader of the Sisters of St Joseph Sr Moya Campbell said the order’s motto for 2009 was “With Grateful Hearts” and that “it is indeed with gratitude and joy that the Josephites welcome this news about the latest step in the canonisation process of Mary MacKillop”.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Philip Wilson said “Mary MacKillop is to become a saint not only of the Australian people but for the Australian people and indeed for the world”.
“Her motto: ‘Never see a need without doing something about it’ continues to draw us to action,” Archbishop Wilson said.
Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane said Mary MacKillop’s “impending canonisation will only further enhance our admiration for this remarkable Australian who encouraged Australians and Australia itself to become a better nation in a better world”. He also spoke of how honoured he felt to meet “a remarkable old Sister, Mary Berchmans, who had once met Sister Mary MacKillop in Sydney”.
Queensland Josephite leadership team member Sr Monica Cavanagh, who organised talks and events linked to Mary MacKillop at World Youth Day and recently a pilgrimage in north-west Queensland, said the news had filled her with “a deep joy” adding that “so many people over many years had waited for this day”.
The announcement marked the completion of a process which began 16 years after Mary MacKillop’s death in 1909. Among key events in the process was her beatification in 1995 after the Vatican recognised that she was instrumental in the miraculous cure of a woman suffering from leukaemia.
The second miracle just approved concerned the recovery of a devout Catholic grandmother whose identity is known only to a few Josephites.
The mother-of-five’s recovery from inoperable lung cancer and secondary cancer of the brain 15 years ago has been attributed to the intercession of Mary MacKillop.
Reports continue to flood in of unofficial examples of such intercession.
The family of Sophie Delezio, the Sydney girl who suffered horrific injuries in 2003 and 2006 after being hit by cars in two separate incidents, attribute their daughter’s recovery to Blessed Mary’s intercession.
Sr Campbell said “the Josephites joined in celebration with so many other Australians who, over the years, have believed in the goodness of this woman and sought her intercession”.
“Her trust in God, her respect for the dignity of each person, her practical approach to life, her determination to bring a dream to reality and provide education for rural children and her response to the Cross in her life have all contributed to the person she became and made her a person that all can relate to,” she said.
“As we move into the Christmas season, may we find in Mary MacKillop the inspiration to dare to live life fully and with hope as we respond compassionately to others.
“As Mary MacKillop said in 1874: ‘Let us be joyful and thank God’.”
Archbishop Bathersby said two significant experiences had made him a “convinced supporter” of Mary MacKillop.
“In 1986 I went to Cairns as bishop and met there a remarkable old Sister, Mary Berchmans, who was 100 years old and died at the age of 104.
“She had arrived in Australia from Ireland with a group of seven Sisters of Mercy in 1908.
“They landed first of all in Sydney. There in North Sydney they met the Superior of the Josephites Mother Mary MacKillop who welcomed them from her sick bed and gave them a spiritual talk at the end of which she predicted: ‘You will all persevere’.”
In another incident, the archbishop while visiting New Zealand in 1995, was allowed by Bishop (Leonard) Boyle to celebrate Mass in a small stone hut beside the church at Arrowtown, South Island. The hut was originally the Josephite convent where Mary MacKillop in her later years looked after her sisters teaching in the Arrowtown school.
“Following these two experiences, I was delighted as Archbishop of Brisbane to be given permission from Rome this year to make Mary MacKillop patron of the Archdiocese of Brisbane,” he said.
Sr Cavanagh said she had been “deeply moved” at Mass at St Stephen’s Cathedral in Brisbane the day after the Pope’s announcement to hear Dean Ken Howell’s “welcome of the good news”.
“Fr Howell said: ‘We are proud of Mary MacKillop. She was a parishioner here. She prayed and worshipped in this cathedral and in the smaller in the smaller St Stephen’s chapel where the sculpture of Mary MacKillop invites you to prayer’.”
Sr Cavanagh said included in the opening ritual was an incensing of the new painting of the Mary MacKillop honouring the life of the patroness of the diocese.
“In the Chapel of St Stephen, I lit a candle for all those whose lives had been touched by the story of this remarkable woman,” she said.
“The sisters and the people of Australia look forward with great joy to the announcement of the date of her canonisation.”