Scottish pilgrims to attend canonisation of Mary MacKillop

Blessed Mary MacKillop

Blessed Mary MacKillop

Around 140 people from Lochaber and various other places in Scotland will travel to Rome for the canonisation on 17 October by Pope Benedict XVI of Blessed Mary MacKillop, Australia’s first saint.

Although born in Melbourne in 1842, Mary MacKillop’s family background is closely connected to the Highlands. Her father, Alexander, born in Perthshire, spent part of his early childhood in the Roy Bridge area, was a student for the priesthood in Blairs College, Aberdeen and the Pontifical Scots College, Rome, and then emigrated to Australia in 1838. Her mother, Flora MacDonald, was born in Fort William in 1816, and lived there until she left for Australia with her parents and siblings in 1840.

Mary was the first child of Alexander and Flora, born in Melbourne in 1842, and she, as Sister Mary of the Cross, visited Scotland from October 1873 until early 1874, during which time she was able to reconnect with relatives and friends of her extended family.

Sr Therese McConway from New Zealand and Sr Audrey Thomson from Australia, members of Blessed Mary’s Congregation of the Religious Sisters of the Sacred Heart, are resident in Scotland, and will accompany the Scots’ pilgrims to Rome. Members of the Congregation first came to Scotland in 2005 in response to the invitation of the Bishop of Argyll and the Isles (now retired) Bishop Ian Murray.

Among those travelling to Rome will be Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Bishop Ian Murray, and Bishop Joseph Toal, the present Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, along with several people who have family connections to Mary. Bishop Toal is one with such a link – through Mary’s grand-uncle, John MacKillop.

Bishop Toal said: “A sizable party is going from the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles, with others from across Scotland, to the canonisation in Rome on 17 October, and we all feel very proud of the fact that Mary MacKillop, whose parents were from Lochaber, is to be proclaimed as a saint of the Church, indeed the first Australian to be recognised in this way.”

He added: “It is a testimony to the faith passed on to Mary by her parents as they sought a new life in Australia – it is the Catholic faith held on to so tenaciously by pockets of believers across the Highland glens and Hebridean Isles. Many of those who make up the Catholic communities of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles today are members of the same families who carried the treasure of their faith to a new life in Australia, Canada, and territories of the New World. As with those remained, so for those in new circumstances faith remained central to their lives, and the churches and schools they built are a testimony to its importance. St Mary MacKillop of the Cross will be for all of us a great example of Christian witness, and a powerful intercessor before the Lord for all in need of consolation and hope.”

Source: SCMO

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