QUEENSLAND Josephite Sister Annette Arnold had several reasons for experiencing “awe” at a press conference when a NSW woman revealed she had been the recipient of the second miracle which cleared the way for Blessed Mary MacKillop to be made a saint.
“First of all there was Kathleen Evans’ immense humility as she described her miraculous cure,” Sr Arnold said.
“Then there was the complete reverence and respect shown by the secular media gathered in the Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel in North Sydney as Kathleen told her story.
“There was not one devil’s advocate amongst the media.
“Also there was an incredible sense of Mary’s presence at the conference.”
Sr Arnold, formerly a member of the Josephites’ Queensland provincial leadership team and now part of national leadership, attended the press conference on Monday with congregational leader Sr Anne Derwin and Sr Sheila McCreanor.
Also present were Mrs Evans’ husband Barry and other family members.
Sr Arnold agreed Mrs Evans was an absolutely perfect recipient for the miracle because her story would resonate with many ordinary Australians.
“Mary MacKillop would have a huge smile on her face at the humility of this woman as she told her story,” she said.
“Kathleen began by saying ‘I’m very, very ordinary’.
“She reflected Mary’s spirit throughout the press conference.”
At the conference Mrs Evans, 66, from Windale, Lake Macquarie, in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese, spoke publicly for the first time about her miracle cure from inoperable cancer of the right lung and brain.
Prior to this her identity had been a closely guarded secret.
However, Sr Arnold said Mrs Evans had always wanted to tell her story.
“She was free to do so once Pope Benedict XVI confirmed her recovery as Blessed Mary’s second miracle, paving the way for (Mary’s) canonisation to become Australia’s first saint,” she said.
Mrs Evans, now mother of five and grandmother to 20, told those gathered at the press conference how she had smoked since the age of 16 but had given up in 1990 three years before she got the devastating news that at age 49 she had cancer.
She was told that the cancer of the right lung was inoperable.
Soon after she received further shocking news that a secondary cancer had been found in her brain and that chemotherapy and radiotherapy were considered pointless.
“All I had left was prayer,” she said.
After returning to her Windale home, she prayed constantly for Mary MacKillop’s intercession and also wore a relic containing a piece of the Josephite co-founder’s clothing.
Far from getting worse, her condition improved and after four months her doctor called for more tests.
Ten months after her original diagnosis, she was told there was no sign of any cancer – just some scarring where the tumours had been.
She said her first reaction when the doctors first told her the cancer was gone was “wow!”
She also told the press conference that she felt privileged to be part of Mary MacKillop’s canonisation, expected later this year, and that it made her “very humble”.
Mrs Evans was keen to get the announcement out of the way to get on with what she sees as her primary goal – to spread the good news of her miracle to fellow Australians, Sr Arnold said.
“Kathleen is particularly keen to reach young people and will probably be visiting schools,” she said.
“She has also many wonderful gifts to support cancer sufferers and others, having been a cancer support worker.
“The morning after her press conference Kathleen was in the Mary MacKillop chapel and many people approached her now her identity was out in the open.
“Many were congratulating her; others were coming for support.
“Kathleen’s story has the ability to move many people.
“It also serves to remind us that our faith journey is also our life journey.”
Kathleen Evans’ personal recounting of her experiences can be read at the Josephites’ website http://www.sosj.org.au/