Jan Smith from Hervey Bay with the Mary McKillop drawing she purchased years ago.
Jan Smith from Hervey Bay with the Mary McKillop drawing she purchased years ago.

Saint Mary watches over Jan

MARY MacKillop, soon to be Australia's first saint, is watching over a Hervey Bay home.

Jan Smith bought the unique sketch of Mary, commissioned by the Vatican after her beatification in 1995, more than 10 years ago.

It is the only portrait of the soon-to-be saint that has never been airbrushed or had any additions made to the original drawing.

It was drawn by renowned Italian-born Australian artist Charles Billich from one of the few photographs taken of Mary – and it is the only known portrait of Mary without her habit on.

Jan Smith loved the drawing as soon as she saw it and spoke with the artist at his gallery in Sydney.

She thought the drawing was beautiful and felt it would be a worthwhile investment.

Billich had been involved with several collections, including commisions for Olympic Games events and had contributed to collections for the Vatican, so Jan knew that buying his drawing would not be cheap.

There's no doubting her intuition paid off – the problem for her now is she loves the sketch so much, she couldn't bear to part with it. Even though she feels it may be time to share the experience.

“It's just so special,” Jan said.

“She has such a beautiful face.

“It's so simple and yet so complicated.”

Mary MacKillop's original connection to the Fraser Coast was in Maryborough where St Joseph's school and convent was the third she established in Queensland. Mary visited the school in 1875 and again in 1880.

Darwin native Jan Smith had been coming to Hervey Bay for holidays for more than 20 years and felt it would be the perfect place to retire – and when she moved, Mary came too.

Wherever she has hung the portrait she has always felt Mary was with her.

With Mary's canonisation set to take place this Sunday, Jan felt now was the right time to share.

The drawing, which was created with charcoal and crayon, will be displayed at St Joseph's Catholic Church in Hervey Bay on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

After that Jan and her son Matthew are hoping to loan the portrait to a gallery so the public can appreciate it. “I've enjoyed the painting for a decade, but it's her day on Sunday.”



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