A Saint from the Land of Down Under

Australia has her first saint!  Sister Mary Mackillop, co-founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, will be canonized on October 17.

I will be making my first trip to Australia — Sydney and Melbourne — in early March, so I’m sure to encounter some of the excitement among Catholic Aussies at this announcement.  

Brenda Steele writes at Catholic Advocate about this extraordinary woman. How many instances are there of someone being excommunicated and then being canonized?

“In 1871, following a disagreement with then Bishop Sheil over educational practices, Mary was wrongly excommunicated. Not long after, in 1872, the bishop, realizing his mistake, had the censure lifted and she was completely exonerated. Sister Mary, a stalwart defender of her order’s rules and teaching practices, has sometimes been referred to as the ‘rebel nun.'”

I am curious to find out just what kind of disagreement over “educational practices” led to such a drastic action by her bishop.  Was she too progressive in his eyes?  Or, the opposite? (Maybe she taught the “new math” before its time!)

As Brenda writes, her apostolate was educating the poor:

Sister Mary MacKillop spent her life ministering to the poor, young and old, and ensuring that the poorest of the poor in the countrysides of Australia were schooled. Before her death in l909, Mary and the Josephites had created more than 40 schools near Adelaide alone, with many others in Queensland and New South Wales. Her order expanded to New Zealand and a school was established there as well.

Perhaps I will meet some of those sisters of St. Joseph while I am there, I hope so.



Deal W. Hudson is ​publisher and editor of The Christian Review and the host of "Church and Culture," a weekly two-hour radio show on the Ave Maria Radio Network.​ He is the former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.

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