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The Blessed Mary McKillop


Convicts didn't seem particularly impressed with the champions of Christianity. When Governor King ordered that they attend Church on Sundays, they responded by burning the Church to the ground. Similarly, many Convicts had tattooed onto their backs images of crucifixes or angels holding cups of blood. This gave the impression that when they were being flogged, Christ himself was being flogged.

The Convicts were obviously good judges of character as the champions of Christianity had acted in a manner that ran contrary to Christianity's message. However not all Christian missionaries were bad people. One shining light was Mary McKillop. Like Jesus himself, Mary was a troublemaker. She worked tirelessly for the poor, was excommunicated from the Church, and later ordered to leave her diocese for promoting controversial views. However if a god exists, it seems he/she was pleased with Mary as in 1994, Mary became Australia's first saint.

Mary McKillop was born in Melbourne in 1842. Her father had spent the family fortune, so the McKillops were poor. Mary left home to work when she was fourteen and gave all the money she earned to her family. In 1861 she went to work in Penola, a small town in South Australia. Here Mary met Father Julian Woods. Mary felt a religious calling, but hadn't been able to find an order that suited her. So in 1866, she and Father Woods started their own; 'The Sisters of St. Joseph'. The Order was dedicated to the education of poor children. The order spread to Adelaide and other parts of South Australia, and membership grew rapidly.

Mary was a woman who stood up for what she believed which brought her into conflict with religious leaders. She took a vow of poverty, which meant she had to beg for money. Catholic church leaders didn't like begging, but Mary refused to change her ways. The tension escalated into conflict over educational matters and as a result Mary was excommunicated by Bishop Shiel for insubordination in 1871. The excommunication placed on her was lifted 6 months later.

In 1883, Mary came into conflict with the Roman Catholic Church establishment by insisting on an equalitarian rather than hierarchical organization. Bishop Reynolds told her to leave his diocese and Mary transferred the headquarters of the Josephites in Sydney and died in Sydney on 8 August, 1909.

Mary never became bitter against the Church leaders that had opposed her. This forgiving attitude was complemented by the outstanding work of the congregation. Protestants, as well as Catholics, loudly praised her charity to the poor, her personal poverty, and her abstinence from proselytising.

In 1973, Mother Mary became the first Australian to be formally proposed to Rome as a candidate for canonization and she was beautified by Pope John Paul II at St Francis' Church on 27th November, 1994 and is now known as the Blessed Mary MacKillop. Her feast day is August 8, the anniversary of her death.