St Mary of the Cross Mackillop


For the first time, on August 8, 2011, the universal Church will honour Australia’s first saint, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop. It has always been her feast day, but from this year the liturgical observance of this feast will be raised to a ‘solemnity’.

What is a solemnity?

A solemnity is the highest rank in the liturgical church calendar. There are 14 universal solemnities which include the Epiphany, Corpus Christi the Annunciation and many more. From 2011, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop will be added to the solemnities of the Australian Church.

Why do we have saints?

“Mary MacKillop in her sainthood continues to do what she did in her lifetime – lead people to God…The call of God is for us all to be saints – to live with extraordinary faith and to live lives of heroic virtue.”
Sr Anne Derwin, congregational leader for the Sisters of St Joseph. Many people considered her a saint in her own day. When she died in Sydney in 1909 the then Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Patrick Moran, said that he “just assisted at the deathbed of a saint”.

There are millions of saints in the Church, that is, people who have died and gone to heaven. However only a few thousand have been officially recognised by canonisation.

Although St Mary of the Cross was deeply loved during her lifetime, many more people love her now that she has been elevated to sainthood. And that is part of the reason for a canonisation. It is to formally recognise a person’s saintliness but also to hold up to the generations living a model of a loveable, heroic Catholic who intercedes for us and to whom we can go for inspiration, support and guidance.

There’s no ‘resting in peace’ for the saints in heaven! Even after death they are working for God’s glory, calling people to God.

The Will of God

In her lifetime, she was known throughout the land for her outstanding record of good works in establishing schools, orphanages and refuges. However, saints are not canonised because of the their good works. They are canonised because of their holiness and devotion to God.

“She has been canonised because she did the will of God at every point, and for a lot of her life the will of God was that she should be doing those very things through education, homes for the poor, orphanages and refuges.”
Fr Paul Gardener, SJ  former postulator for the cause of St Mary of the Cross’ sainthood.

For St Mary of the Cross the most important thing in life was to do God’s will. “The will of God for me is a dear book I never tire of reading,” she wrote to Monsignor Kirby in Rome.

The Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart

In 1867, the order has attracted women from Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Peru, East Timor, Scotland and Brazil. Josephites work in a variety of ministries but always seek to live by their founder’s motto to, “Never see a need without doing something about it”.


As featured in the August 2011 edition of the CathFamily E-Magazine.

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Marilyn Rodrigues

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