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Postulator pays tribute 10 years on from St Mary MacKillop’s canonisation

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Sister Maria Casey rsj still pinches herself when she thinks of the privilege she received as a postulator of the Cause for canonisation of Mary MacKillop. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

A Josephite sister inspired to join the order due to the tireless work of its founder Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop, still finds it difficult to believe she was responsible for overseeing the final stages of Mary’s canonisation as Australia’s first recognised Saint.

Sr Maria Casey rsj, the final postulator for the Cause, said during this weekend’s 10th anniversary of her canonisation that it was the “greatest privilege” to see Saint Mary MacKillop receive the official recognition by the Church.

Pope Benedict XVI greets Sister Maria Casey at the Vatican in October 2010. Photo: CNS

Launched in 1925, five postulators and 85 years later, Sr Maria was in Rome with more than 8000 Australians to witness Pope Benedict XVI declare Mary a saint on 17 October, 2010 at Saint Peter’s Basilica.

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The former president of the Canon Law Society of Australia and New Zealand said it was Saint Mary’s tireless dedication and devotion to those in need that had inspired her to follow in her footsteps for over 60 years.

“I could never, ever have believed that I would be responsible for seeing the completion of the Cause for the woman who was my inspiration,” she said.

“I remember when I was in primary school in Ireland, two sisters came and spoke to us about the work of Mary MacKillop and I instantly had this extraordinary feeling that this is where I belonged.

Mary was a woman for all seasons and for all people

“Despite knowing very little about Australia, at the age of 16 I boarded a ship which took 5-and-a-half weeks to reach Sydney and joined the Order.

Photo of Saint Mary MacKillop of the Cross from her lifetime in the 19th Century

“Mary was a woman for all seasons and for all people, she never discriminated against the rich or the poor, Catholic or non-Catholic or migrants or Aboriginal people.
“Never, ever, ever did I think it would be my greatest privilege to see the canonisation process to its completion but of course I didn’t achieve it on my own, we had an army of people working on it.

“Even though her death occurred more than a century ago, she is still very busy obtaining favours for people and we still get word of miracles and cures thanks to her.”
Born in Fitzroy, Melbourne, in 1842, Mary MacKillop dedicated her life to helping the poor and needy.

A tapestry showing St Mary MacKillop, Australia’s first saint, is seen as Pope Benedict XVI celebrates a Mass of canonisation in St Peter’s Square on 17 October, 2010. Photo: CNS/Tony Gentile, Reuters

In 1866, she founded the Sisters of Saint Joseph having previously opened a school in a disused stable in Penola, South Australia and today primary and secondary schools operate in every State and Territory of the country.

She maintained her faith and dedication to helping people throughout her life, despite a backlash from church leaders and suffering ill health for many years, up until her death in 1909 aged 67.Four years later in 1913, the Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel was built and now houses her tomb.

Kathleen Evans carries a relic of St. Mary MacKillop as Sr Niesha Allport and Ronald Campbell carry a candle and flowers during the canonisation of six new saints led by Pope Benedict XVI in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 17 October, 2010. Photo: CNS/Paul Haring

She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Sydney on January 19, 1995 after the Vatican, in 1961, accepted her intercession which was responsible for the cure of a woman with terminal leukaemia. A second miracle, the curing of NSW woman Kathleen Evans, who in 1993 developed inoperable lung cancer, was also recognised by the Vatican.

Today, the co-founder of the Josephites – the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart – continues to inspire men, women and children around the world due to her remarkable life, her sense of social justice and her enormous contribution to education.

Students of Mary MacKillop Catholic College, a girls’ secondary school. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli
Students of Mary MacKillop Catholic College, a girls’ secondary school. Saint Mary MacKillop of the Cross was a pioneer of education for women in Australia PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Sister Monica Cavanagh, Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, said the 10th anniversary is a chance for us to reflect on Mary’s legacy and the valuable lessons her life experiences have taught us.

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