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BCE pilgrims witness Australia’s first saint being canonised

BCE pilgrims share a meal before attending the canonisation of Mary MacKillop
by Pope Benedict in St Peter’s Square

TEN lucky pilgrims from Brisbane Catholic Education (BCE) walked in the footsteps of Mary MacKillop through Rome - a journey that led them to her canonisation as Australia's first saint.

In what was an unforgettable spiritual experience, the group, led by Executive Director David Hutton and Jill Gowdie from BCEO’s Evangelisation and Spiritual Formation team, joined 8000 Australians in St Peter’s Square to witness Pope Benedict declare the co-founder of the Sisters of St Joseph, Australia’s first official saint: St Mary of the Cross MacKillop.

The BCE pilgrims: Marty Savage, (Our Lady of Fatima School, Acacia Ridge); Gary Conwell, (Clairvaux MacKillop College, Upper Mt Gravatt); Ann Cullen, (St Paul’s School, Woodridge; BCEO area supervisor Michael Kearney; Katie Cochrane, (Mary Immaculate School, Annerley); Antonella Muscat, (Our Lady of the Rosary School, Kenmore); Laurel Ball, (Assisi Catholic College, Upper Coomera) and Simon Mahaffy (All Saints School, Albany Creek) listened in awe as Pope Benedict described Mary as someone who had inspired and helped countless Australians through her “zeal, perseverance and prayer".

“She attended to the needs of each young person entrusted to her, without regard for station or wealth, providing both intellectual and spiritual formation,” the Pope said in his homily.

“Through her intercession, may her followers today continue to serve God and the Church with faith and humility,” he said.

Mr Hutton said as Catholic educators it was a special celebration sharing the joy of the Sisters of St Joseph in the formal recognition of Australia’s first saint.

However, he said it was also a time to remember, “we are celebrating the grace of God working through a remarkable yet ordinary person”.

“Mary MacKillop was an Australian, a woman, a leader, a visionary and perhaps most relevant for us, a Catholic educator.

“She chose to be called Sr Mary of the Cross.

“Perhaps this was because she knew that doing great things for God usually means confronting difficulty and opposition,” he said.

He said he hoped St Mary of the Cross MacKillop continued to inspire Catholic educators to live the dream of Jesus and pray for us in our work as Catholic educators.

Before they reached Rome the pilgrims had visited Venice and Assisi, celebrating Mass each day with Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane, five chaplains, four busloads of Brisbane pilgrims, and not forgetting their mascot, Wally the Wombat.

Mr Hutton said the group ran into many other BCE staff who had travelled to Rome “under their own steam” to be part of the wonderful event.

He said this demonstrated the tremendous commitment BCE staff had to their own faith and to the mission of the Church.

The BCE pilgrims also attended a concert focusing on Mary’s life and the work of the Sisters of St Joseph written by Catholic Education Council member Dr Tracey Sanders from ACU and featuring Nathan Kneen from St Eugene College, Burpengary and Marlon Riley from BCEO’s Ngutana-Lui cultural centre.

Jill Gowdie said watching the dramatic interpretation of Mary’s life was a wonderful prelude to the celebrations that followed.

She said when the leader of the official Australian delegation, Kevin Rudd, took to the stage following the concert he began his speech to great applause with the words ‘What a great and wonderfully unruly Australian gathering’.

“And the spirit was truly authentically and magnificently Australian,” she said.

Congregational leader of the Sisters of St Joseph Ann Derwin was also presented with a pilgrim t-shirt stamped a photo of Mary MacKillop with the words: the only Sister Act I want to follow written underneath.

The BCE pilgrims are looking forward to sharing their stories with students, staff and parents and friends in schools and the wider community across Brisbane Archdiocese when they return.

Brisbane Catholic Education Office

243 Gladstone Road, Dutton Park Q 4102

GPO Box 1201 Brisbane 4001 Australia

Phone: (07) 3033 7000

Fax: (07) 3844 5101