Canonisation celebrations at Mary MacKillop Place, 2010.

For the canonisation of Mary MacKillop, all roads led to Rome on 17 October 2010. For those of us in Australia, all roads led to Mary MacKillop Place in North Sydney.

At the time, I was blessed to be working at Mary MacKillop Place as a member of our Pastoral Care Team. I spent six and a half wonderful years as part of that great team. It was such a busy time for us, answering phone calls and emails from all over Australia and other parts of the world. The people were requesting prayers and Novenas to Mary MacKillop for their loved ones who were seeking Mary’s intercession for healing and to answer their many intentions.

It was imminent that Mary would be canonised and we were just waiting on a date. What a privilege it was for me to be working at Mary MacKillop Place at that particular time! It was so humbling in the way that the people I encountered on the phone and in person trusted and confided in me. They were men and women I had never met before.

I experienced many highlights during my time at Mary MacKillop Place. To be there on the day of Mary’s Canonisation was something I will never forget. I will treasure those memories for the rest of my life.

The day was glorious, and the scene was set, all the preparations were completed for a day like no other – a day the Church in Australia and the Sisters of Saint Joseph had never experienced before, but had waited so long for this day to arrive.

Early on the morning of 10 October 2010, people started to arrive – they came from near and far. They arrived by train, in buses, cars and on foot. There was great excitement and anticipation in the air as the pilgrims arrived on the grounds.

I believe around 17,000 pilgrims came through the gate that day as there was a constant stream of people coming and going all day long.

There was a buzz of delight wherever you went. The people were so overjoyed to be part of such a wonderful occasion in the life of the Sisters of Saint Joseph and the Catholic Church in Australia. It was this day that Pope Benedict XVI was to canonise our first Australian Saint – Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop.

Mary was the co-founder of the Sisters of Saint Joseph along with Fr Julian Tenison Woods. We may not have been in Rome, but we were standing on the very ground that Mary had walked, prayed, lived, taught, died and is buried on. We could not have been in a more sacred space.

Masses were held outdoors as the chapel was too small to hold the huge crowds. There were three outdoor Masses during the day and each Mass was crowded. There were 1,000 chairs set in place and all were occupied with people standing wherever they could find a spot. The beautiful happy spirit of the pilgrims was unreal. The love and devotion they had towards Mary MacKillop was so obvious. It was easy to see why she is called the “Peoples Saint”.

After each Mass, the pilgrims were invited to visit Mary’s tomb to pray and pay homage. Sisters were waiting in the Chapel to escort the pilgrims into the chapel and were also waiting to receive and direct the pilgrims at Mary’s tomb.

Later that evening, the Canonisation Mass was livestreamed from Rome on a huge screen. It was erected outside on the grounds where the Masses had been offered earlier in the day. Other TVs were set up in a number of conference rooms onsite.

To attend the Canonisation Mass, the Pilgrims had to acquire a ticket (cost free) as the viewing areas were limited. The Sisters and the pilgrims gathered for a prayer service at each venue in preparation for the Canonisation Mass to begin in Rome. We were united in spirit with all our Josephite Sisters who were attending the Canonisation Mass in Rome.

It was a wonderful day and a privilege to be present and witness such deep faith in those hundreds of pilgrims who came from near and far to participate in the Canonisation Mass in which Mary MacKillop was formally recognised as a Saint of the Universal Church.

Saint Mary of the Cross, pray with us and with all of Australians.

Carmel Clear rsj
NSW Region