Their stamp on big day
MARYBOROUGH’S most famous visiting nun was accused of being an alcoholic, creating a national scandal and obstinately refusing to stop educating church outcasts and Aborigines, but tomorrow she will become Australia’s first saint.
“They even ex-communicated her,” Hervey Bay Catholic priest Father Joe Hien Van Vo said yesterday.
“But on his deathbed Bishop Shiel of Adelaide asked for her forgiveness,” he said.
“Mary MacKillop was marvellous, a strong Australian woman who above all respected her fellow humanity just as Jesus did.
“She looked after prostitutes, prisoners and the frail-aged as well as children.
“Her sainthood is to remind all of us, within the Catholic Church and outside of it, that it doesn’t matter who or what we are, we are valuable human beings.”
Mary visited Maryborough to inspect her order of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, meet her sisters at the convent and get to know the children they were teaching at the Adelaide Street school where Woolworths now stands.
“She visited in 1875, 1878 and 1879, coming from Brisbane by steamer,” Maryborough’s parish priest Father Paul Kelly said.
“We have a really strong connection here with Mary. Her personal mentor, Father Julian Tenison Woods, preached the sermon at the blessing of our St Mary’s Catholic Church in 1872.”
Fr Kelly described the first child of Scottish Catholic immigrants Alexander MacKillop and Flora MacDonald as “the perfect earthly example of how we must never give up on anyone”.
“She is the perfect conduit for renewal and re-focus for the church. Mary lived by the gospel of Jesus and she constantly reminded her sisters that we must never give up on anyone.
“Her mission was to the most needy, the most left-out and abandoned. I believe that Mary thought that if people had options or choices then it was time for her order to move on to where people had no choices and were most in need.
“Mary says to us that Jesus’ messages send us out of our comfort zones to the most needy.
“Here is a woman, a saint, who is all about Struggle Street and those among us who need and deserve compassion, love and kindness.”
Both priests said that when Mary reported a priest who was molesting children to the church and was ex-communicated, she refused to criticise her superiors, or go to the media, even asking her family not to do so.
“We need to teach more by our actions than our words and she went out and did exactly that,” said Father Kelly.
“A lot of lies were told about Mary and she always responded graciously in the face of nastiness.”
Tomorrow, said the priests, would be a great day for Australia, for the Catholic Church and for all Christians when Mary MacKillop became Saint Mary of the Cross.