House debates

Monday, 22 February 2010

Ministerial Statements

Canonisation of Mary MacKillop

2:01 pm

Photo of Kevin RuddKevin Rudd (Griffith, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | Hansard source

I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition and all members of this place will join the government in expressing its delight at the decision by the Vatican last Friday night and the formal announcement of the canonisation of Blessed Mary MacKillop, which will go ahead later this year. This is a significant announcement for the five million Australians of the Catholic faith and for all Australians, whether of Catholic faith or not.

Mary MacKillop is our first Australian to be canonised, and she will enter our history books as Australia’s first saint. Mary MacKillop is an extraordinary figure in Australian history. She was a pioneering woman who dedicated her life to advancing the cause of social justice in Australia. Mary MacKillop was 24 years old when she became the first member of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, an order dedicated to teaching poor people in the parish of Penola in South Australia. Her first school was a disused stable, and it was open to all, even those who could not afford to pay school fees. Within five years the Josephites were running 35 schools. They took education to wherever it was needed, travelling in twos and threes, living in shacks, refusing government aid and begging for their living. As the Catholic priest and teacher Edmund Campion has put it, the sight of religious women lugging a carpet bag from door to door, begging, was too much for some Catholics at the time, who were used to the more sedate, large, competent nuns of Europe. One man said, ‘If my daughter were to do that sort of thing, I’d have her run in under the Vagrancy Act.’ But it was because the sisters lived in poverty that Catholic schools were able to survive and expand. It is said of Mary MacKillop that her own clothes were so worn that her mantle fell apart one day when a young sister gave it a tug. While her clothes were frayed and worn, Mary MacKillop never lost her indomitable spirit and fire within.

This is a good day for the Australian Catholic Church, and I believe that all members of this place would extend their heartfelt congratulations to the Australian Catholic Church, to all Australian Catholics, at this great honour which has been bestowed on this leading Australian Catholic woman.


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