Mary MacKillop is set to become Australia’s first saint after Pope Benedict XVI approved her second miracle on Saturday.
It is expected that a White Consistory will be held in March, during which the formal decision to canonise Mother Mary and the announcement of the date of the canonisation ceremony will be made.
Mother Mary was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995. For a person to be canonised, the Vatican must recognise that they performed two miracles.
Mother Mary’s second miracle was curing a woman of inoperable lung cancer during the 1990s. The first was in 1971, when she was believed to have cured a woman of leukaemia in the 1950s.
Archbishop John Dew of Wellington says this latest development is as exciting for New Zealand as Australia.
“The New Zealand Church looks forward to the canonisation of Mary MacKillop. She spent time in New Zealand and her influence is evident in the work of her sisters here today,” he says.
In 1883 Mary MacKillop sent three sisters from Adelaide to Temuka to establish a school. She visited New Zealand four times between 1894 and 1902, travelling throughout the country to visit the sisters and encourage them in their work.
Sister Colleen Keeble, the Provincial Leader of New Zealand, says Mary MacKillop wanted all children, particularly those disadvantaged by poverty or isolation, to have the opportunity for education.
“She spent her life educating and caring for people from all walks of life. She was a woman who had great vision, who never saw a need without trying to do something about it. She knew what it was like to struggle with poor health, difficult financial circumstances and at times opposition from church authorities.”
Sister Keeble says the confirmation of her second miracle is important for New Zealand because Mary herself said that she loved the country.
“She was very much at home here. She loved the climate and the people,” she says.
The Sisters of St Joseph will be having quiet celebrations throughout the country.
Sister Keeble says, “We are all delighted and now eagerly await the announcement of the canonisation when we will celebrate with the whole country. Mary no longer belongs to just the sisters, but to all people and her canonisation will acknowledge that she is a saint for the world”.