“She was an ordinary woman, who was extraordinary”

I don’t often shout from the roof tops about my Catholicism and I particularly think Religion is a personal journey.  However, since living in North Carolina (and being thrown amongst the Bible Belt)  I’ve learned a lot about prejudice against Catholics and a lot about religious prejudice, or expectation just in general.   I just have one or two things to say about that before I go on about Saint Mary MacKillop…. It’s unfeasible to even think, (as a human being) that you could hate an entire population of people just because of the faith they profess.  Often times, people don’t even choose their faith practices, they are taught and molded into that faith by parents, or mentors.  (So to not let your child play with a Catholic child (or any child of a differing religious faith) at any age, but especially an age as young as five, is just ludicrous…this happened to me when I was five, so I feel like it should be mentioned).

Rather than feel like I’m preaching on this one, I wrote a plinky (just a website I love that gives you daily prompts) about my beliefs on religion (peace, love and respect) and if you want to know more about me, my beliefs, or how I feel about respecting ALL RELIGIONS (which I feel pretty passionate about) then go to this link: http://www.plinky.com/answers/105873

Saint Mary MacKillop

In the Catholic faith, people believe in Saints.  There’s a wide assortment of Saints, from all different cultural and geographical backgrounds and many days on the Catholic calender are filled with differing Saints that each have their own Saintly theme (i.e Patron Saint of hunting, Patron Saint of school teachers).  I’m probably not doing so good with this description, but this is the second grade explanation that makes me understand.  I like to think of them as quite similar to the Roman Gods and Goddesses except Catholics don’t worship them, leave them sacrifices, don’t participate in gladiator feuds with them, or believe in them as a God or Goddess.  They do each have their own category though, so in that way they’re similar.  (As a side note, Catholic Saints don’t come back down to earth..usually..and sleep with humans, mess with humans, create battles amongst humans etc.  (We are all living in a chaotic and tragic world yes, but most of us don’t believe that Zeus is going to strike us down with his lightening bolt at any point throughout our normal days).

Catholics do pray to Saints though.  Some Saints have their own specific prayers that they wrote during their lifetimes.  For instance, the patron saint of my home church is St. Francis of Assisi and he has a ton of specific prayers.  He is also the patron saint of animals and the environment (yea, he recycled and talked with wolves.  What a guy.  Plus, every year at my church, families and children are allowed to bring their pets in to be blessed by the priests, it’s a really adorable day).

But, what I really want to talk about is Saint Mary MacKillop who was the first Australian Saint to be canonized and it happened TODAY! Very exciting.  Most of the people in Australia are Catholics (with the census showing the next biggest religion being Jedi….nothing to say to that) and so this canonization is a huge deal.  It’s been all over the news (which would never happen in America because of our need to keep quiet anything controversial like religion, sexual acts, or sexual deviancy, or even sexual orientation, but it is happening here).  Over 8,000 Australian’s have flocked to Rome to see the Pope canonize Saint Mary MacKillop and Australia to finally have a Saint under their belt (I’m pretty positive, most Saints come from Europe, but don’t quote me on that).

I think my favorite strange fact about Saint Mary MacKillop is that she was once excommunicated because her order exposed a pedophile priest.  With all the recent scandal breaking out against the Catholic Church, and hiding things, and the possibilities of pedophile priests, I think it’s such a breath of fresh air to point out that Catholics don’t accept that pedophilia is okay and all of us Catholics don’t believe all our priests are pedophiles.  Clearly this group of nuns has stood up against a priest, who is in a higher position than them AND were willing to take the consequence of excommunication just to prove a point that this is NOT something that Catholics condone or tolerate.  So, if the news could stop saying that we all believe it’s fine for our priests to touch small children or be inappropriate in any way, that would be great…probably won’t happen.

Also, during this canonization was an art show of Aboriginal Art.  Over 300 pieces that haven’t been displayed since 1925 are now on display for Mary MacKillop at the Vatican’s museum.

A few Australians and artists were quoted throughout Australian newspapers saying a bit about Saint Mary MacKillop:

  • FEMALE WARMUN ARTIST: If she didn’t do that we wouldn’t have the lovely Sisters of St Joseph. We wouldn’t know how to have peace in our heart.
  • EMMA ALBERICI: Mary MacKillop’s Sisters of St Joseph are a thoroughly modern order of nuns. The only thing that sets them apart in the crowd is their bright blue scarves.
  • KEVIN RUDD: This is a place of enormous history. This is a place of great beauty. This is a place of great spirituality.I think what is particularly wonderful here is that we are also celebrating the spirituality of the Indigenous Australians.
  • EMMA ALBERICI: Mary MacKillop touched the lives of many in Australia. One hundred and one years after her death she’s developing an entire new group of followers in Rome.

“Among the visitors was a contingent of Josephite nuns, many of whom have spent their lives in remote communities working with indigenous children.… There is much about Mary MacKillop – from her compassion, courage, determination, enterprise and her faith – which is still capable of lighting a flame of inspiration in the cynical age in which we now live.”  – Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.

I guess it’s time for me to tell you about her life.

She was born January 15, 1842 in Fitzroy, Australia (I feel like I’m writing a 7th grade essay paper).  Her baptism name was Maria Ellen.  Her father was educated in Rome to become a part of the priesthood, but at 29 left just before his ordination.  After that, he married (like most non-priestly men do) and had eight children, Mary being the eldest (it’s always those older children who have to show off because they’re the least favorite…just saying BROTHER).  Her brother, Donald would later become a Jesuit priest and work among the aborigines in the Northern Territory, and her sister, Lexie would become a nun (so, is it just me…or are they an overachieving Catholic family…did God just want the WHOLE clan to be called to the Church or what)?

Skip her teenage years (Jesus did it in the Bible).

She was brought into contact with Father Julian Tenison Woods, through being a governess.

Woods had been very concerned about the lack of education and particularly Catholic education in South Australia. When he started his school he was soon appointed director of education and became the founder, with Mary, of the Sisters of St Joseph who would teach in his schools (wiki).

At the age of 25, still teaching, she adopted the name Sister Mary of the Cross.  In 1867, MacKillop became the first sister and mother superior of the newly formed order of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart and moved to the new convent in Grote Street, Adelaide.  It was the first religious order to be started by an Australian.  She had HUGE success with the Josephites in Australia and with building new schools as well as girls homes, homes for the incurably ill etc (more can be read about this on her wikipedia page).  Regardless of her success, she still had to contend with the opposition of priests and several bishops. This did not change after her unanimous election as Superior General in March 1875.

She was exiled and removed twice from this position by two Arch Bishops for their lack of control over her (I just want to throw in a “get it girl!”)  However, she was also put back into the position over four times, and died in the position of Mother Superior General.

I think one of the most ironic parts of me going to McDonald’s for dinner and seeing The Vatican broadcasted on Mcdonald’s televisions celebrating canonizations was not the fact I saw this at McDonalds on National News, but instead the fact that I learned this woman was paralyzed by a stroke on her right side, just like my grandmother.

She passed away in a convent in 1909.  After her burial, people continuously took earth from her grave so they had to move her inside a church where she could remain at peace.  She was placed in a vault in the Memorial Chapel of Mount Street. Her vault was a gift from a life long friend, Joanna Barr Smith, a Presbyterian (just proving we can all get along).

Mary’s miracles:

1.  A woman dying of Leukemia in 1961 was thought to be cured by her prayers to Mary MacKillop.

2. The complete and permanent cure of an unidentified Australian woman of lung and secondary brain cancer in the 1990’s believed to have happened from the intercession of prayers to Mary MacKillop.

So, that’s Mary MacKillop in a spark-noted version.  There’s tons more from wikipedia and Catholic websites about today and biographical information on her.  Also google news is a good way to find out more about her.  She will be known as Saint Mary of the Cross from today onward.

St. Mary MacKillop

A memorial site for Mary MacKillop




One thought on ““She was an ordinary woman, who was extraordinary”

  1. bea mannes says:

    Thanks for giving us a little bit of church on this Sunday, especially since I worked and didn’t get to attend. She certainly sounds like a strong willed, and good woman. Congratulations to the Australian people and also to St.Mary of the Cross for being so inspirational.


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