Today is the day! Mary MacKillop is to be cannonised today. Searching through the 4Real forum I found a summary I shared five years ago. (I’ve altered slightly) Do read the conversation as some great links are shared.
I realise many outside of Australia may not have heard of Mary MacKillop, but it is a special day for us here. She will be the first canonised saint of Australia. I have a particular love of her as I was taught by the ‘brown Joey’s’ (the order of nuns she started).
Mary MacKillop was born in Melbourne. Her family fell on tough times financially so they were moved around amongst relatives. There were eight children in the MacKillop family, Mary was the oldest. When she was a teenager she went governessing becoming the main bread winner of her family. Fortunately she liked teaching.
A few years later an aunt asked for her to travel down to Penola in South Australia to teach down there. It was in Penola that she met Father Woods, this meeting was the beginning of God’s plan. Mary was most concerned for the poor children in the rural areas and the outback as they did not receive a Catholic education and therefore many would be lost from the Faith. Father Woods also saw this as a great need.
With the encouragement of Father Woods, Mary started a Catholic school with the help of two of her sisters. One day she dressed in a plain black dress, signifying her vocation. After the Bishop approved of her undertaking she was addressed as Sister Mary. In those days nuns did not live amongst the people but in convents, so the idea was rather different and many did not approve.
Many women were attracted to the life and Rule. As well as teaching the children, especially the poor the sisters looked after the elderly women and orphans. The sisters came under the patronage of Saint Joseph and were known as the Josephite sisters. They were in great demand and convents were set up in many remote areas and the larger cities.
Mary had taken the name Mary of the Cross, and her cross indeed became heavy. Father Woods who had been her dear friend became overworked, and harassed financially. He caused problems for the sisters. Three of the sisters were claiming to have attacks from the devil and causing upheaval in the convent, whilst Mother Mary was away. She came back to many problems.
Also her Bishop who had previously approved of their Rule now rescinded. He wanted the sisters to have two types of nuns, those who taught and those who did the domestic work. This worked in the big convents but was not of the Way the nuns had chosen. Practically it wouldn’t work in the outback convents where there were only a few nuns. Also Bishop Sheil wanted the nuns to answer to him not to a Superior General. As the Sisters were looking at all of Australia and not just individual diocese this wasn’t what they envisaged.
Mother Mary wrote him a letter explaining that although she wished to be obedient she could not except changes to the Rule and remain in the Order of Saint Joseph. Bishop Sheil was at this time ill and old. Previously he had been good to the sisters.He ordered Mother Mary to leave to visit another convent. She replied that she wished to she him before leaving as she needed to discuss a few things first. He felt that she was being disobedient, early the next morning he arrived at the convent and summoned all the Sisters together and excommunicated her!!!
He then asked all the nuns to change their Rule of Life to what he wanted. Every single nun, politely declined. The convent was closed, the nuns were out!! All schools closed etc. Can you imagine the scandal!!! Wow!
Several months later on his death bed the Bishop lifted the excommunication. Through all these trials Mother Mary bore it all with humility and charity. When all the sisters came together again it was decided that they must go to Rome and have their rule officially approved, which it was.
The Order spread throughout Australia. Many an Australian Catholic owes their Faith to the ‘brown Joey’s’ and Mother Mary.