Celebrating St Mary MacKillop in the Year of Joseph09/08/2021
The Feast Day of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, Australia’s first saint, is celebrated on 8 August and we have received a message of hope and healing from Sr Monica Cavanagh, Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart.
Greetings on this feast of St Mary MacKillop as parts of Australia and our world are in lockdown which means that celebrations for this feast need to be held in homes.
Mary’s mother Flora and her siblings had to enter a period of quarantine when they arrived in Australia in 1839. I imagine that Flora shared this experience with her young family, both the gifts and challenges. One gift was that it was while in quarantine that she met her future husband Alexander who was assisting the newly arrived immigrants from Scotland. So let us ask Mary MacKillop to show us the gifts that have come through the experience of lockdown while sharing with her the struggles that we face.
On this feast let us recall Mary MacKillop’s deep love for Saint Joseph as we celebrate the Year of Joseph. You can feel this love when Mary recalls her experience on 19 March 1866, the founding day of the Institute. She writes: “On that day our Glorious Patron St Joseph was first honoured as Patron of little children, and our work committed to his care”. Mary MacKillop never lost sight of his protection and guidance in matters related to the Institute.
On 19th March each year, Mary wrote to the Sisters sharing with them her love for Joseph while encouraging the Sisters to imitate his virtues. Mary constantly wrote of Joseph’s humility, his courage and his obedience to God’s will. She speaks of Joseph’s tender heart as he embraced Mary and the Child in his circle of love inviting us to be warm and affectionate as Joseph was.
She speaks of St Joseph’s unbounded confidence in our good God encouraging us to do likewise and to confide in him when life throws challenges at us. On 9 March 1906 she reminded the Sisters: “In every difficulty apply to Joseph with confidence, and you will never be disappointed”.
Mary MacKillop embraced the spirit of Saint Joseph in her approach to living the Gospel. Life engaged her in many challenges and like Joseph she responded with courage and charity as she weaved her way through difficulties both within and beyond the church.
She was willing to use her God given gifts to bring hope and build the capacity of those at the fringes of the society of her time. She never lost sight of the reality that it was God’s work that she was undertaking and that she was being called to be an instrument of God’s love. She did this by acting justly, deciding courageously, loving compassionately and walking humbly with her good God in the midst of daily life.
On this her feast day she invites each one to do the same – to use our gifts in making the world a safer and fairer place for all, to spread the gift of kindness and neighbourliness, to support and join with movements that address issues of justice and above all to do this in a spirit of walking humbly knowing that I am enough and I am worthy of love because I am the beloved of God.
May you spend time this feast in gratitude for the gift of Mary MacKillop to our church and our world. Open your heart to receive the gift she has waiting for you as you ponder what she means to you. Ask her to pray with us for healing and hope for our COVID impacted world.
Happy Feast Day as you breathe life and hope like Mary MacKillop into the reality of your daily life.
Sr Monica Cavanagh, Congregational Leader