The Holy See has declared that Blessed Mary MacKillop is now patron of Brisbane archdiocese, causing great jubilation.
The declaration, received on May 6, follows a request from Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane who petitioned the Congregation for Divine Worship for Mary to be made diocesan patron.
Archbishop Bathersby said the Australian woman’s “deep faith, energy, courage, vision and contribution to Catholic education made her a most appropriate patron for the archdiocese”.
Provincial of the Josephites in Queensland Sr Moya Campbell said the order “was delighted” at their founder’s selection for a number of reasons, including her involvement in opening four schools for Brisbane and Maryborough’s poorer children in 1870.
Dean of St Stephen’s Cathedral Ken Howell, making the announcement in the May 10 cathedral bulletin, said he had “witnessed first hand the devotion and faith of the people expressed visibly each and every day at the archdiocesan shrine in honour of Mother Mary of the Cross”.
The shrine was established in 1999 after an announcement by Archbishop Bathersby that the first church building of Brisbane – the chapel beside the cathedral – would be restored and become a centre of devotion to Mary MacKillop.
Archbishop Bathersby said Blessed Mary MacKillop “is inspirational whether she is ‘Blessed’ or a ‘saint’ of the Church which, please God, she will be in the not too distant future”.
He said that if Blessed Mary MacKillop was canonised, as all people expected her to be, she would become not merely an inspiration for all people, but in particular for young people.
“These young people are seeking heroes and heroines and are looking for appropriate role-models for the common good of our nation, as well as for the deepening of the faith in the Australian Church,” the archbishop said.
“As a woman of faith, courage and determination, Blessed Mary MacKillop displays the best of our combined Australian and New Zealand character, and will undoubtedly attract many people, whether Catholic or not, to the joy and peace of the Christian faith.
“Following the success of World Youth Day her patronage of the archdiocese of Brisbane can only through her prayerful support make our archdiocese a more significant place of prayer and action.”
Archbishop Bathersby said he had developed a special devotion to Blessed Mary ever since celebrating a Mass in her honour in the small convent hut where she acted as housekeeper for her sisters in the later years of her life, beside Arrowtown church in New Zealand.
Sr Campbell told The Catholic Leader that the Josephites were “especially delighted” to see their founder made patron in the year of the archdiocese’s 150th anniversary and the 100th anniversary of their founder’s death.
Speaking from St Stephen’s Chapel where a wooden statue of their founder is located, Sr Campbell said the honour “is truly a recognition of the greatness of this woman and her enduring contribution to the early life of Australia”.
“She’s an inspirational woman … Among her many qualities was her ability to inspire hope in those she met,” she said.
“Such hope is a very important quality to seek out in today’s world.”
Sr Campbell said the statue, carved from a camphor laurel tree, powerfully captured their founder’s spirit.
“Her sleeves are rolled up ready for work and the whole statue has the strength of her … and the tree … about it.
“It’s as though she’s coming up out of the ground as the home-grown Australian she is.”
It was most appropriate that Blessed Mary should be selected as the patron of Brisbane archdiocese, Sr Campbell said.
“In December, 1869, Mary MacKillop and five of the Sisters of St Joseph came to Brisbane and rented a house in South Brisbane.
“Mary was the eldest at 28.
“During 1870, they opened three schools for the poorer children in Brisbane and one in Maryborough.
“Mary and her companions attended Mass at St Stephen’s Church in Elizabeth Street and often prayed there before the Blessed Sacrament.”
Mary MacKillop was beatified by Pope John Paul II on January 19, 1995.
Blessed Mary MacKillop’s cause for canonisation has been given a boost with doctors from the Medical Board of the Vatican concluding that there was no scientific explanation for the cure that had been presented to them as part of Mary’s journey to sainthood.
Congregational leader for the Sisters of St Joseph Sr Anne Derwin said this was a very encouraging step in the process towards their founder’s recognition as a saint.
“However, there is still a way to go before we can get too excited about a final outcome, and we cannot pre-empt any decision of the Church,” Sr Derwin said.
There are still a number of formal stages required before the canonisation of Mary MacKillop can occur.
“The next step is to present evidence of what’s known as ‘intercession through prayer’ to the theologians, and have their acknowledgement that the cure was indeed a miracle performed by Mary MacKillop,” she said.
“Following the theologians’ acceptance, the cause will still have to be presented to the bishops and cardinals before ultimately being presented to the pope for approval.”
Released by The Catholic Leader
May 17, 2009