Catholic Youth Parramatta

Bishop Anthony Fisher’s Rome blog: 13 Oct


Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP
The Bishop of Parramatta, Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP
The Bishop of Parramatta, Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, blogs live from Rome.

Rome, 13 October 2010

I’ve just arrived in Rome in advance of the canonisation ceremony of Mary MacKillop. This will be a first for me and already excitement is building for all the other Aussie pilgrims. I could feel and hear it in the plane and in the Australian accents at the airports and in the streets.

Of course, the Romans can be rather blaze about canonisations: they’ve seen so many before. Six more this Sunday may hardly feature on the radar of the average local – although the two Italians might be some interest.

One of those locals is Battista Verano, a rich girl who astonished everyone by joining the poorest of poor orders, the sisters of St Clare – or ‘poor Clares’ for short.

The Canadian brother, Andre Bessette, was a sort of Canadian Martin de Porres, who spent his life as a door-keeper bringing healing to all comers.

The Polish priest, Stanislaus Soltys from Krakow, also devoted himself to the care of the sick and the poor.

So the soon-to-be-Saints Batty, Andre and Stan shared with Mary MacKillop a life-long devotion to the poor. And that says things not just to the universal Church but to us in Australia:

Who are the financially or emotionally poor in Australia today?

Who fall between the various social security and charity safety nets?

Who must Christians serve if the needy are to come first, as MacKillop insisted.

As Mary put it in 1874: “Never be ashamed of work done for God and God’s poor.”

The other Italian to be canonised, who is more likely to rate a mention amongst the locals than our Mary, is Giulia Sulzano. She founded a religious congregation to teach religious education.

Candida Barriola, the Spanish Basque member of the six, was also an educator. So the soon-to-be-saints Julie and Candy shared Mary MacKillop’s passion for education of the young and for religious education in particular.

A third point of common interest between our saints is St Joseph. Mary MacKillop and Andrew Bessette were contemporaries and at their time in the Church there was a growing devotion to St Joseph.

Andrew built a famous shrine to him in Montreal; Mary built a famous religious order, the Josephites, in his honour. Joseph, ‘the just man’ as the Scriptures describe him, the lay man who taught Jesus and protected Mary, is an example to us in this present ‘era of the laity’ in the Church.

A fourth common point amongst this Sunday’s saints is that most of them were members of religious congregations. That says something very important to contemporary Australia: that if we want saints, we have to encourage some people to give their all to God by religious consecration.

Of course you don’t have to be a nun or a brother to be a saint. But holy nuns and brothers are a huge encouragement to the rest of us. They build up the prayerfulness and missionary zeal of the Church, our contemplative and active sides, and inspire us all.

It’s estimated that there are 8,000 Aussies in town here in Rome for the canonisation. Many of those on my plane were coming for it. That included a government minister and his wife and staffer, a country school teacher and her husband, a business woman all ‘wrapt’ at being able to attend the canonisation of the first Aussie.

I guess we’ll be swamped by young and old from Italy, Spain and Poland. But ours might be the loudest cheer when the pope announces her name on Sunday!


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