Mary MacKillop Moments

As the day of Mary MacKillop's Canonisation on 17 October 2010 drew ever nearer, people from around the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta shared in the moment with us. 

Sharing the moment...

Friday 12 November

St Mary of the Cross MacKillop - my intercessor

Ever since her Beatification 15 years ago, I have knelt by Mary MacKillop's tomb in North Sydney as often as I can. I pray that there be no conflict in my familys' life and that I be a good mother to my three daughters. I tell her of my plans and my wishes for my family. My daughters have all grown to be good people, finishing university, having families and practicing their Catholicism. 

That I was able to witness Mary's Canonisation was a miracle for me, as I didn't initially plan to be in Rome for the occasion. We had booked a trip to the Holy Land at the time, which by chance required a stopover in Rome. We were able to change our travel arrangements slightly, allowing us to do the stopover on 17 October - and allowing me to attend the Canonisation.

I was able to explore Rome and was able to visit Our Lady of Fatima, Portugal with my husband before the Canonisation which was one of my dreams.

I felt proud, grateful and overwhelmed to witness the solemn and sacred event at St Peter's Basilica for the Canonisation of our very own Saint and the other five Saints from other countries.

Thank you St Mary of the Cross, for your intercession. May you continue to intercede for me, so I can continue my mission to my family and the community - and to be a Saint like you.

Josephine Calangi
Our Lady of the Rosary Kellyville Parishioner

Monday 1 November


Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop

Saint Mary of the Cross

From your throne of grace

Tenderly cast your gaze

Upon the human race


Saint Mary of the Cross

Please hear us when we pray

And guide us through the challenges

That we meet today.


Saint Mary of the Cross

You persevered when trouble came

Teach us who struggle on this earth

to do the very same.


Keep the people of this land

safe within your care

Help us to use our talents

and with each other share.


Saint Mary help and guide us

so that in heaven we may meet

and all the saints and angels

Joyfully we’ll greet.

Mary Ann Matulis
St John Vianney Doonside Parishioner

Monday 18 October

A surge of pride, an overwhelming sense of gratitude

18th October - The day after the night before. The excitement and jubilation which I, along with the other Sisters of St Joseph experienced last night was beyond belief. We had gathered either at our Province Centre (or at North Sydney) to celebrate and join with our Sisters present in Rome for the ceremony which would officially proclaim our Foundress, Mary of the Cross MacKillop, a saint of the Universal Church.

Many of us had been able to assemble in the Memorial Chapel on Saturday night to pray together at Mass as we prepared for this significant ‘moment’ in our history. The exuberance of the gathering was only a shadow of what was to be the ‘mood’ of the gathering on Sunday night. The moment that the Holy Father pronounced Mary’s name for the first time, a surge of pride, an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the recognition of Mary’s holiness, swept through the Croydon Chapel.

And what does this mean to me? My prayer, with many in the wider Church, is that this momentous moment will be the beginning of a tangible renewal of practical Faith for the people of this great South Land of the Holy Spirit, the land that Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop called 'home'. "This is an Australian who writes …" (1873)

Sr Susan Ward RSJ,
Pastoral Associate, St Patrick's Cathedral

An unshakeable trust in Divine Providence

We have waited for many years for the canonisation of St Mary of the Cross and it has finally happened. What a wonderful day Sunday was for Australia and for the world. It might be just my imagination, but I thought that I detected affection in the Holy Father's voice when he spoke of the work of Mary MacKillop during the Mass. Perhaps he was remembering his pilgrimage to her shrine at North Sydney.

It was wonderful to see so many Australians go to Rome for the canonisation. Mary herself walked the streets of Rome and was received by the Pope. She would never have realised that she would one day be canonised there.

Mary is one of us, but we are now formally sharing her with the world. I hope that people across the world take her to their hearts and read her biography.

It is appropriate that she was canonised on the same day as Brother Andre of Montreal Canada, because they both had a great devotion to St Joseph and an unshakeable trust in Divine Providence.

St Mary of the Cross has captured the attention of Australians everywhere and in every walk of life. I hope that all the attention to Mary MacKillop's canonisation will bring people to examine the Catholic Church and its teachings, and help bring people into the church. 

St Mary of the Cross set up a teaching order which sent sisters to the bush - to the country towns to set up convents. Usually they went in twos or threes. Typically two of the sisters would teach school and the other sister would do the housekeeping at the convent and teach the piano.

The sisters taught the Catholic religion and intellectual subjects as well.

In the country areas, they set up schools wherever there was no government school. Their schools taught all the children in these areas, not just the Catholic children. They spread culture as well as giving religious and intellectual instruction.

Mary and her sisters also looked after the poor, the orphans and the disadvantaged.

Australians owe a great deal to St Mary of the Cross and the Sisters of St Joseph.

Mary Ann Matulis
St John Vianney Doonside Parishioner

Sunday 17 October

A true role model for all Australians

I am so honoured to be in the world today to witness Australia's first saint, Mary of the Cross Mackillop. Today is a day of much celebration and happiness for all Australians, in particular Australian Catholics.

While I'm pleased that Australia is getting it's first saint, I am most delighted at the fact it's Mary MacKillop, an ordinary woman who showed that with faith, belief and courage in Christ, you can achieve many wonderful and extraordinary things.

Mary Mackillop is a true role model for all Australians and someone who for some years I have seen as a great example of how we should live our lives in the world today and more importantly how Christ would want us to live our lives.

Through Mary of the Cross we see the simple ways in which we can help out all and we can make a difference. It is truly a blessing that there will be generations to come now that will always have that in their hearts, thanks to her sainthood.

I really hope that all the joy and word surrounding Mary Mackillop over the last few months translates into action in the many years ahead. I hope that her message to never see a need without doing something about it and to always act rather than just speak, is a message that we as a country spend more time thinking about and more importantly, putting into action.

Australia is a great country, but one which at times is driven more by money and power than by humility and mercy for all. I pray that through the soon to be Saint Mary of the Cross, we have someone who will watch over our great country and ensure we are always there for our fellow man/woman/child and are always doing the best we can for others. May we never stop living her legacy, one that has made this country great and will make it greater for many a day to come.

Trevor Tye
Blessed John XXIII Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens Parishioner

An unprecedented gift to Australia and the world

Quentin Bryce, our Governor General, recently shared a reflection about Mary MacKillop. I'd like to highlight one particular paragraph:

"In our searching and striving for egalitarianism, we are well known to embrace those who are willing enough, honest and gutsy enough, even defiant enough to stand up and walk its uneven path: our suffragettes, our soldiers, our sports heroes, and now our first saint."                                                   

In this passage Governor General Bryce reflected on what makes our country what it is. Mary MacKillop was a 'nation builder' well ahead of her time.

Today, 17 October, 2010, our country Australia, will receive a gift unprecedented in our young history, and the whole world shares in that gift.

The official recognition of Mary's holiness, given to us today through the proclamation of her sanctity provides us with a tangible human model - Mary was an Australian; Mary walked this very land; Mary I believe, would have visited this part of our land. Some of the earliest schools commenced by Mary MacKillop are right here in our Parramatta Diocese: Penrith and St Mary's (Western Line) started in 1880 and Rooty Hill in 1907.

On March 25, 1873, Mary MacKillop wrote to the Sisters: "I am going to Rome, to the feet of the Holy Father, there to implore his sanction for our Holy Rule, …"

Today, in that same city, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, will address the gathered members of the Church, those physically present  and those of us present through the electronic media and thereby proclaim Mary's holiness. It was through her willingness to face the everyday challenges of her life, to see the compassion and the providence of God's love in all that she encountered and to continually trust in God that she fulfilled the challenge of all the Baptised to live a life of Holiness.

I hope that tonight you too will be able to be a part of this historic celebration and that your faith  will be nourished and strengthened in the loving and provident God as Mary MacKillop was in her lifetime.

Sr Susan Ward RSJ,
Pastoral Associate, St Patrick's Cathedral

Saturday 16 October

Seeking in earnest

"Remember too the Heavenly Mother you have got - your Mother - and the mother of your Divine Spouse Jesus. What grace is there that she will not obtain for you if you only remember to seek it in earnest."

 Sister Mary of the Cross to the Sisters in 1886

Do you think that Mary MacKillop could say exactly the same to us today in 2010? We are the children of this same Heavenly Mother - who is 'the mother' of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

As her children, we like (Saint) Mary of the Cross may ask her to intercede for us. What mother would turn away from the pressing needs of her children?

Today, Saturday 16 October, turn your attention to asking our Heavenly Mother to obtain for you the graces that will enable you to grow in holiness and closeness to her Son, Jesus. Pray that you may "seek it in earnest" and come to know and love God ever more deeply.

And tomorrow night, when through the marvel of technology we listen and watch the proclamation by Pope Benedict XVI of the sanctity of Mary Helen MacKillop, Saint Mary of the Cross, may we remember that the first Australian to be added to the Canon of the Church prayed to our Heavenly Mother in the same way.

Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us.

Sr Susan Ward RSJ,
Pastoral Associate, St Patrick's Cathedral

Friday 15 October

Mary’s Love of the Sacred Heart

Mary wrote to Fr Julian Tenison Woods, 19th July 1870 that “A sense of the presence of God and His Adorable will seems before me nearly always now, ...”  From her earliest years, Mary learnt to pray – her parents, Alexander and Flora, immersed her in the traditions of our Faith. Mary learnt at an early age of the love God had for her and as we know she grew in understanding that Love throughout her life. Her particularly deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was often reflected in her letters: ”that Heart seems so full of tender love and desire that it seems something terrible to grieve It,…” (19.7.1870)

In the Chapel of Reparation in our Cathedral we have an image of the Sacred Heart. I was privileged to spend time with a group of young students who were looking at this painting. The response of one nine year old who had briefly prayed in the Chapel of Reparation was: “this painting shows me how much God loves us”.

Mary who like us lived and worked and loved in this land of the Southern Cross is a model we Australians can imitate in our prayer. Let us strive to develop “a sense of the presence of God and His Adorable will” and like the young Chapel visitor come to know “how much God loves us”.

Sr Susan Ward RSJ,
Pastoral Associate, St Patrick's Cathedral

Thursday 14 October

The gift of St Mary of the Cross, MacKillop

Something deep within me calls me to a place I've not been before.

I am at a loss to express the deepest happiness that the naming of this Australian woman, the one whom I've called "Mother Mary" for most of my religious life, gives me on a personal level and as a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart.

I've been thinking and pondering all day - wondering what word would encapsulate and express the knowledge that within three days our very own "Mother" whose mortal remains are buried in the Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel at Mount Street, North Sydney, be officially recognised as "Saint Mary of the Cross". 

I think of her when she would have been at work in the schools; I think of her when she was helping other women to learn how to live the Religious Life; I think of her when she was reaching out to help the homeless and neglected people of the cities where she lived; I think of her when she shared the little that she had, even when she insisted on giving to a caller the meal that had been set before her; I think of her and the other young sisters in the struggling times when they  were exiled unjustly from places where they'd been helping others; I think of her in her prayer times; I think of her in the many letters she wrote to the sisters, encouraging them, guiding them and in so many ways leading them to a deeper love of God.

How then, can a word draw this together? My only response is: that she lived a life totally committed to the Will of God with a deep sense of the ever-abiding presence of the Almighty.

My word(s) then is simply this - Praise and Glory to God for the gift of Mary of the Cross, MacKillop.

Sr Susan Ward RSJ,
Pastoral Associate, St Patrick's Cathedral

Wednesday 13 October

Fulfilment of a prophetic statement

I'm not quite ready to start counting down the hours, but the immediacy of Canonisation Day, after so many years (for me well over four decades) is a rather daunting thought. This woman, our Foundress, a Josephite and fellow Australian, a woman of inestimable  holiness, will be known as Saint Mary of the Cross.

Many have written in the past years, and especially in the past few months about the place of the Cross in Mary's life. Stories and real-life experiences have been shared. In the midst of this, for those who choose to know and accept is the true essence of her own holiness.

In this democratic society the cynics and atheists who are touting their ideologies are of course allowed to do so, but if we turn back the clock of history and re-read the comments posed in the Freeman's Journal, 19 August 1909 we see that the 'every-day-ness' of our own Australian Saint, was recognised even in the weeks after her death. The Journal recognised what Mary had done for the glory of God in the service of the people of this land and wrote that her life "would stand for years to come as the noblest record of an Australian woman."

So, 101 years later, on next Sunday 17 October, we will see the fulfilment of this prophetic statement. Let us thank God that we are alive at this time of recognition of a mighty Australian woman.

Sr Susan Ward RSJ,
Pastoral Associate, St Patrick's Cathedral

Tuesday 12 October

Teaching sanctity to the world

All the saints are wonderful, but Blessed Mary MacKillop is different from any other saint. She experienced the conditions that we do as Australians. Mary was a woman who understood what it is like to be in Australia, to be in our cities and in the outback. Mary experienced the heat, the floods, the bushfires and the droughts that we Australians are so familiar with. It is amazing to go to places that are not far from where I live, and to realize that Blessed Mary MacKillop looked after the poor and set up schools there. The saints have always been from other countries, now it is Australia’s turn to teach sanctity to the world.

None of us can complain about our problems after reading Blessed Mary MacKillop’s life story. It is full of contradictions and complications. She often suffered that horrible affiliation of having people misrepresent her actions. Mary demonstrated to us that even in the very worse of circumstances (excommunication) that she remained charitable to the bishop who had passed the sentence upon her. To me Blessed Mary MacKillop is the most real and the most practical of all the saints. Like many others, I have waited years to see her canonised and the happy day is just around the corner. I feel very close to her. She has interceded for me in my needs and in the needs of my family and friends.

Blessed Mary MacKillop has done so much for the people of this country by setting up her order to educate poor children, but especially to teach them the Catholic Faith. I was taught by the Sisters of Saint Joseph at Saint Martha’s boarding school at Leichhardt for a brief time when my mother was in hospital. I will always remember their motherly care during my stay there. I am so proud of Blessed Mary MacKillop my fellow Australian, who I consider to be my friend and look forward to my next pilgrimage to her shrine at North Sydney.

Mary Ann Matulis
St John Vianney Doonside Parishioner

God will take care of you

In 1873, Mary wrote: "My life as a child was one of sorrow, my home when I had it a most unhappy one…

"When I was a little more than 16 years of age, the principal care of a large family fell upon me, and … I felt its burden yearly more and more."

These quotes from a letter written by Mary give us a glimpse of the 'real' person that Mary was throughout her life.

We may be inclined to think that because the Church will in four days time publicly acclaim her holiness, her earthly life was free of hassles. In reality, it was the opposite. The greater part of the twenty-four years of Mary's life, prior to her move to Penola, had been devoted to helping her mother look after her brothers and sisters. Her mother was often ill and her father often away from home. Financial problems were a common reality and even securing a place in which to live was often difficult.

Mary's story would be familiar with many today.

So, next when you are feeling the strain of an empty purse and little food to share with the family, in fact even where you will be able to live in the next period, take heart!

I wonder if this may have been how Mary MacKillop came to understand the passage from St Matthew's Gospel (Chapter 6: verse 26): ' look at the birds of the air …';

I think that Mary MacKillop's advice to us today would be to always trust in God who will help us in all things and always take care of us.

Sr Susan Ward RSJ,
Pastoral Associate, St Patrick's Cathedral

Sunday 10 October


Yesterday I was walking through the business area of North Sydney. Above me, flapping in the wind were wonderful full-sized banners portraying the image of Mary MacKillop. The movement in the wind gave Mary's facial image and impression that she may have been laughing! (I wonder whether she is laughing at the changes a century has made to her former residential area?)

Was I really surprised? I'd have to answer "no" but delighted, "yes". Here in the public arena for Christian and non-Christian alike, were the images of a woman who had lived and worked in this busy areas over 100 years ago. Her presence still very real, especially in the Memorial Chapel.

In the reception area of Mary MacKillop Place hangs a large portray. The inscription on the bottom told me that this painting had been presented to the Sisters of St Joseph in 1925. It was given by H. Credgington of the Catholic Art Gallery of Melbourne. (Incidentally, this is the year when the Sisters first began to formally promote the cause for Mary's holiness to be recognised for the sake of the people of her much loved Australia).

This same portray was previously hung in the large reception room of what was (to me when I was a fledgling sister) our Mother House. As young sisters we would often remark to each other that Mary's eyes followed us wherever we moved in that room.

I came away from my experiences of yesterday, (Saturday 9 October) with a sense of reassurance that no matter where I am the radiance of God's love in others can be reflected by their goodness. Mary MacKillop certainly portrays that in the many images available to us today.

My challenge is real:  do I, in my every day ministry (and life), portray God's love by my countenance?

Sr Susan Ward RSJ,
Pastoral Associate, St Patrick's Cathedral

Friday 8 October

The certain sense of God's watchful love 

I was recently enriched by a quote from a letter Mary MacKillop wrote to the Sisters before she left on her epic journey to Rome in 1873. Mary reflected on the ‘many things which might discourage were it not for a certain sense of God’s watchful love which wonderfully strengthens me and which will also, I trust, give you all great courage.’ (Mary MacKillop, 25.03.1873) 

Mary had so recently experienced the circumstances surrounding excommunication from her beloved Church; she was now facing a long journey (by boat) to the other side of the world to seek affirmation for ‘our Holy Rule’, that rule under which the Sisters of St Joseph would live their consecrated lives.

Why is this important to me now? I see in this courageous action of Mary, the trust and confidence in God that each of us, in this twenty-first century, need to live as committed Catholics. We need to willing recognise that the certain sense of God’s watchful love will also be present with us,  irrespective of the difficulties we may face in continuing to live faithfully the call to holiness.

Sr Susan Ward RSJ,
Pastoral Associate, St Patrick's Cathedral

Thursday 7 October

Mary as a model of daily living out her call to holiness given at baptism

28 February 1842 - Why is this date significant? On this day, Alexander and Flora MacKillop presented their daughter Mary Helen, at St Francis’ Church Melbourne, for the Sacrament of Baptism. Thus began her journey to holiness – and ultimately, the reason we will celebrate her Canonisation in just over a week.

And why is this significant to me and you? As Baptised people, (whether Catholic or belonging to another Christian Church) we are continually challenged each day to live out what began at our Baptism - our personal journey to holiness.

Mary MacKillop lived with all the ups and downs, the joys and sufferings, the many blessings and struggles of life and always strove to do the best that she could. She did this living according to the same call to holiness as was given to me (and you) on the day of Baptism. Mary’s life presents me with a ‘huge’ challenge to do as she did – to accept my daily experiences and to work at carrying them out in the best possible way I can.

Sr Susan Ward RSJ,
Pastoral Associate, St Patrick's Cathedral

Wednesday 6 October

'Model of holiness'

How does one express the inner joyful feeling of such an event?

We've all waited patiently and wondered if it would ever happen. We've prayed that one day it may come to pass. Now, in just 11 days time this momentous event will happen.

God has given us a model of holiness in Mary Helen MacKillop. In her lifetime, Mother Mary of the Cross, knew what it meant to be tried and tested, but she continually witnesses to the Power of God through her perseverance and acceptance of what God asked of her.  This rouses in me a totally overwhelming sense of the Power and Goodness of God.

Let us all, as we wait excitedly for the 17th October to dawn, pray that we may learn from her example to trust in the Power and Goodness of God in our own lives.  Let us rejoice too, that Mary of the Cross MacKillop, an Australian, will be added to the Canon of Saints and be recognised for her holiness throughout the world.

Sr Susan Ward RSJ,
Pastoral Associate, St Patrick's Cathedral

Her faith, trust and confidence in God

As I reflect on Mary MacKillop, the image of a spiritual warrior comes to mind...someone who engages in the battle with the self, who is prepared to look within, face her own demons, and delve down to the foundations of life itself. Only in so doing could she hope to meet the deepest needs of her own nature and tap into her most profound resources: her faith, trust and confidence in God, her patience and compassion.

Mary MacKillop had a big vision. A realist, she probably expected to hit a few speed bumps along the way in rolling it out. Opportunities to expand her ministry and service threatened to outrun her experience and resources. I suspect she didn’t see ‘excommunication’ looming on her radar!

Mary attempted something large enough that failure was guaranteed...and that’s where God stepped in.

The hallmark of a spiritual warrior like Mary MacKillop? The ‘will to God’ - present in each step, each task, each moment...yet unattached to outcomes.

Then God could truly work through her. Mary MacKillop: an awesome model for anyone serious about the spiritual journey.

Claire Lanigan
Parramatta Cathedral Parishioner

Living by her faith in the cross

As Mary Mackillop’s Canonisation comes closer, all Australians are getting ready to have their first Saint. Mary had a Scottish background and worked very hard, her life-long dream was to teach the children who could not afford to go to school.

She also cared for the less fortunate and sick. She lived in the Gold Rush era when women had little or no power or rights.

If you ask any Catholic Australian how they felt about Mary, they would say she was a hard working lady, with much faith in God and stood up for what was right, even if it cost her (dearly). Mary lived by her faith in the cross and passed that faith onto others.

Now there is a musical called MACKILLOP about her life and sufferings and it is truly inspiring to see, as I have seen it the opening night.

It brings out a beautiful view of her life and hardships and showed how Mary’s faith in God changed lives and with the Sisters of St Joseph she made history in the Church and spread the word through out Australasia.

By Harrison Castles (11)
Parramatta Cathedral Parishioner