Saint be praised – the blessings of Mary MacKillop


Parramatta Josephite Associate David Mannall
Contrite heart...Parramatta Josephite Associate David Mannall.

By Peter Gresser

For Parramatta Josephite Associate David Mannall, the moment Blessed Mary became Saint Mary on Sunday night brought just a few tears to the eye - but a flood of emotion inside.

“I felt elation, reverence, humility, compassion, warmth and love,” David said.

“The Sisters of Saint Joseph have worked so hard for this. It’s a miracle. It’s been a long fight. Thousands of documents, so many prayers.

“The Canonisation was a day and a moment for me to share with the Sisters – and a time to say ‘thank you’ to Him with contrite heart. But it was also a day for all Australians.”

For the last 14 years of Mary MacKillop’s 168-year journey to Sainthood, she has also travelled the road with David in his work as a volunteer advisor on immigration matters referred to the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta and St Patrick’s Cathedral Parramatta Parish.

'Mary, we have a problem'

He first came into contact with Mary MacKillop in 1996, when working on a particularly difficult immigration case for a client seeking permanent residency. With some irony – or perhaps more likely with providence – David was introduced to her by the very family he would ultimately help with his prayers for Mary’s intercession in their case.

“The wife of the client I was trying to help worked at Mary MacKillop Place,” David explained. “She said to me, ‘If you have any problems, why don’t you pray to Mary MacKillop?’”

David initially didn’t take up the invitation. Over time, however, the immigration matter at hand became increasingly difficult to resolve.

“I was sitting at home one day going through the (client’s) file and I thought ‘Why don’t I just take the file up to Mary MacKillop Place? What have I got to lose?’

“So I went up and knelt by Mary’s tomb and I said: ‘Mary, you and I have got a big problem here. I’m running out of time…I’d be very glad if you could intercede. I know I’ve got no right to ask this…I’ve never been here before. But I’d be grateful if that would happen.’”

Praying to Mary twice each day, his client’s file started to finally fall into place over the next four years - although there were still many battles and heartache over red tape to come. During 2000, David and his clients dedicated six months to preparing the final avenue available to secure residency – a Ministerial Appeal to the then Minister for Immigration, The Hon Philip Ruddock MP.

A great number of Ministerial Appeals are submitted each year, and, in David’s extensive experience, the Immigration Minister’s officers only recommend a small number for the Minister’s consideration.

After two further years of hardship for David’s client – including a two-week stay in Villawood Detention Centre under threat of deportation – David's client received a four-line letter from Mr Ruddock, intervening in his case.

“When my client asked me what the letter meant, I said: ‘It means you’ve won. It means that by the power of almighty God and the intercession of Mary MacKillop, you’ve got your residency.

“Ever since then, whenever I’ve had a difficult case with immigration, the first place I turn to is Mary MacKillop,” David said. “I simply say ‘this is the problem Mary - what are we going to do about it?’”

The six-year, six-minute conversion

St Mary of the Cross MacKillop
St Mary of the Cross MacKillop.
David believes Mary MacKillop has also interceded in the life of his stepmother.

“Many years ago, I got a call from my sister. My mother had cancer,” David recalls. “I said ‘I’ll pray to Mary MacKillop’.”

David did pray. Twice a day for five years. Then came another call from his sister.

“‘David,’ my sister said, ‘Mum’s just been to the hospital and they can’t find the cancer: it’s not there. Mum wasn't in sister said the cancer simply was no longer there. Mum had another 12 years of life after that.

“These days, I tend to keep my prayers to Mary MacKillop for intercessions focused on immigration. That’s where she goes: that’s her ‘specialty’.”

David himself is an immigrant. Born in East London, he moved to Australia in 1973, where he worked professionally in Human Resources over many years, doing a great deal of work with the Immigration Department. He has also had his own immigration business. David settled in Parramatta in 1987, and, even before his retirement in 2006, began volunteering his expertise to the Church. David has helped hundreds upon hundreds of people through the Church over the last 12 years in Parramatta.

As well as with the help he receives from Mary MacKillop, David attributes his skill in immigration matters to his request of God on the day of his conversion to Catholicism in Westminster Abbey in London in 1961.

“It took me six years to convert…but when the moment of truth finally came, I was a Catholic inside six minutes,” David said. “I prostrated myself in front of the High Altar and said ‘If You ever want me for any purpose, I don’t want power, I don’t want money. I want wisdom: the same gift You gave Your servant Solomon. Give me this, Father, and I will serve You all the days of my life’.

“I’ve prayed for wisdom twice a day ever since. I’ve prayed to Mary MacKillop twice a day since 1996.”

Putting everything into prayer

While it takes the lion’s share of his time, immigration consulting is not the sole service David performs for the Church. At St Patrick’s Cathedral Parramatta, he serves on the Parish finance committee, as an acolyte, Cathedral tour guide, a Special Religious Education Teacher, Proclaimer of the Word, Collections Officer, and, as of last Monday week, a member of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults Team. He is also a member of the St Vincent De Paul Society (Parramatta Conference), a regular Extraordinary Minister of Communion at a North Parramatta nursing home and is a member of the Catenians Association Parramatta Circle.

David agrees wholeheartedly that God will never put more on your plate than you can handle. But at the suggestion that at the very least he’d have to concede God had bestowed upon him a pretty big plate, David allows himself a momentary smile and slight nod of the head.

Only momentarily and slight mind you. Then he’s back to business – and quite insistent that he’s ‘no hero’.

“I’m not Superman. It’s easy for me. I put everything into prayer and He sorts it all out for me. He makes the time available and I just ‘do’,” David said.

“There’s so many people who help me, too. I’m a very fortunate man. There are very beautiful people in the Church who I am privileged to know.

“It appears to those around me that I solve these problems. God gave me knowledge and experience…but some things are beyond us and require divine intervention. And that’s what St Mary’s done. She is very real in my life. She’s in my heart.”


Declared and defined: St Mary of the Cross MacKillop

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