Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mary McKillop - Saint in Waiting

Co-Founder of the Order of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart

Mary McKillop was born in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy of Scots parentage. Mary worked as a shop-girl, governess and teacher to support her family. Mary yearned for penitential form of religious life and so placed herself under the direction of Father Julian Tennison-Woods, parish priest of Penola, South Australia.

Mary founded the Order of the Sisters of St Joseph (19/3/1866) at Penola, South Australia, with the encouragement and guidance of Father Tenison-Woods. The Order was dedicated to the education of poor children. Mary was the first member and the first Superior of the Order. The Josephites spread to Adelaide and other parts of South Australia, and membership grew rapidly.

However, Tenison-Woods came into conflict with the clergy over educational matters and as a result Mary was excommunicated by Bishop Shiel of Adelaide (22/9/1871) for alleged insubordination. The excommunication placed on her was lifted 6 months later. In Rome (1873), Mary obtained papal approval for the Sisterhood. She traveled widely throughout Europe, observing teaching methods.

Back in Adelaide, Mary was elected Superior-General of the Sisterhood. Mary worked tirelessly for the education of the children of the poor, especially in the bush. She founded numerous schools, convents and charitable institutions throughout Australia to that end up till her own death in Sydney (1908).

But Mary soon came into conflict with the Roman Catholic Church establishment by insisting on an equalitarian rather than hierarchial organization. Bishop Reynolds told her to leave his diocese (1883) and Mary transferred the Headquarters of the Josephites to Sydney. Mary suffered a stroke (1901) an though she maintained her mental faculties, she was an invalid till he death (1909).

Mother Mary became the first Australian to be formally proposed to Rome as a candidate for canonization (1973), she was beautified (1990s) by Pope John Paul II. The Order of the Josephites works throughout Australia, New Zealand and Peru.

See also my post: Mother Mary McKillop

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