Pope John Paul II to Australia for the Beatification of Mary MacKillop during Mass at Randwick, 19/1/1995. [1]
The Beatification of Mary MacKillop took place on 19 January 1995. To commemorate the anniversary of Mary MacKillop’s Beatification, Sr Eleanor Capper shares her experience of that memorable day.

My first impression goes back to the morning prayer held in St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney before the beatification, when Pope John Paul II came to officiate at this event. The presence of the pontiff at such a gathering was awe inspiring, with some of our Sisters able to meet him personally.

Sisters had gathered from all parts of the Congregation including New Zealand, where Mary MacKillop had visited four times during her lifetime. She found the country welcoming and beneficial for her health, as the climate was moderate. We, New Zealanders, stood outside the Cathedral for morning prayer and were showered with rain, so that we entered the venue the worse for wear, but elated, nonetheless. The excitement was palpable.

“Beatification” painting by Therese Quinn rsj and Dorothy Woodward rsj.

Randwick Racecourse was the venue for the beatification, with the following day being sunny and warm. However, when the sight of the enormous banners depicting Mary of the Cross MacKillop, painted by the artists Sr Therese Quinn and Sr Dorothy Woodward, were unfurled for the Sisters and guests, they drew gasps of admiration for all present. It is hard to remember the readings and Liturgy of the Eucharist because the crowd was impressive, and we were standing in a restricted space throughout. Communion was another exercise in crowd control, but well-rehearsed and actioned on the day.

Liturgy and pageantry combined to make this event such a memorable one in the eyes of all the Sisters in the Congregation. I can remember the leaders turning to face the people from the stage, beaming with delight that the co-founder of the Congregation had, at last been recognised for who she was, a saint in the making, and the first person to be so recognised for Australia. The atmosphere throughout was one of prayerful participation with many moved to tears that such an event had taken place in Sydney.

Looking back, it is hard to remember all the details, but I for one, was thrilled to be part of it all, as we had travelled from afar. One of the highlights was to meet members of the group we had trained with after so many years, a little older and hopefully wiser, as we had engaged in ministry in our various provinces for twenty-nine years. United in spirit, we welcomed the beatification of our foundress, and delighted in the fact that she might be canonised in our lifetime, as indeed, she was.

Sr Eleanor Capper


[1] L’Osservatore Romano Citta’ Del Vaticano, Servizio Fotografico, (Fotocronista A Mari)