Grafton priest heading to Rome
GRAFTON’S St Mary’s parish priest, Father Rex Hackett, will join thousands of other Australian pilgrims in Vatican City, Rome, on Sunday to witness the historic canonisation of Australia’s first Catholic saint, Mary MacKillop, at St Peter’s Basilica.
Born in Melbourne in 1842, MacKillop founded the congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, which established schools, orphanages and houses for the homeless and poor across Australia and New Zealand.
Before her death in 1909, MacKillop had earned a reputation for unconditional kindness and charity to those less fortunate. In recognition of her work, MacKillop was beatified (a step in the canonisation process) by John Paul II in 1995 and will be formally canonised on Sunday by Pope Benedict XVI, to become Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop – the first Australian ever granted the status.
Fr Hackett said he was honoured to be going to the Vatican for the occasion and said 8000 other Australians were also expected to attend.
“As soon as I heard she was going to be canonised I decided to be there for it,” Fr Hackett said.
“To me it’s historic; it’s history being made for Australia and the Catholic Church.”
Fr Hackett said he became interested in Mary MacKillop in 1995 when she was originally beatified.
“I read about her and I fell in love with her. I saw her as a great example of a woman who was an Aussie and lived her life as a saint,” he said.
“She is to me a great example of caring for the poor, the marginalised and, indeed, all people.”
Fr Hackett said MacKillop’s canonisation would be an important milestone in Australian history.
“This is significant for all Australians because she was an ordinary Australian woman who lived an extraordinary life,” he said.
“She’s a great role model, not only for Catholics, but for all Australians.”
Fr Hackett said he hoped Mary MacKillop would be the first of many Australian saints to come in the future and said he had already been following the story of Australian woman, Irene McCormack, a sister from the same order founded by MacKillop, who was murdered in Peru in 1991 while providing aid work to the poor.
Catholic officials in Peru were requesting Sister McCormack be canonised on the grounds of being a martyr, which could eventually make her Australia’s second saint.