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Saint Mary MacKillop first Australian saint

21/10/2010: General House

The recent canonization of St Mary MacKillop (1842-1909), the first Australian saint, has been a cause of great joy for the Church of Australia and for the Marist Brothers. It is interesting to note some connections between the holy foundress and our Institute. Fr. Julian T. Woods, who collaborated with her in the foundation of her Sisters of St. Joseph, had known the Sisters of St. Joseph, founded in Le Puy, France, in 1640. Fr. Julian was impressed by the simplicity of these deeply spiritual women, close to the people and working in the country areas. Mary MacKillop adopted this style of life and later transmitted it to her congregation, born in 1866. Louise Champagnat, Marcellin’s paternal aunt, belonged to the congregation of St. Joseph. Expelled from her convent by the Revolution, she took refuge in the Champagnat home and contributed to the education of the little Marcellin. It is logical to assume that, as he was growing up, Marcellin assimilated some aspects of his aunt’s spirituality and made them his own.Consciously or unconsciously, when Fr. Champagnat founded the Marist Brothers, he incorporated some of the ideals of the Sisters of St. Joseph, their way of life, apostolate, and spirituality.Marcellin concentrated his attention on the little boys of the country areas who had no access to education. He inculcated in his brothers a style and spirituality of simplicity, of work, under the motherly inspiration of Mary. He borrowed some prayers and profession formulas from the nuns of Le Puy.The Australian Sisters of St Joseph, inspired by St Mary MacKillop, followed a line in close parallel with these ideals. Speaking about them, someone wrote: “They are a community of religious women prepared to go anywhere where there is need for Catholic education, even if these are isolated places without a resident priest; they are women of the people, living economically, without great material requirements.” The significant difference in the primitive ideal between them and the Marist Brothers is that the person of Mary has been replaced by the masculine figure of St Joseph. Whatever the case, we can say that Aunt Louise would recognize in her Australian counterparts, as well as in the Marist Brothers, a kinship in spirituality and practices with the Sisters of Le Puy, and rejoice in the canonisation of Mary MacKillop._______________(inspired by an article of Br. Chris Wade published in the “Review of the Sydney Province, vol 9, nº 3, pages 38-40)

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