The Feast of Mary MacKillop

The Feast of Mary MacKillop

The year 2009 is significant for Australia’s first saint, Mary MacKillop, as it is 100 years since her death. Many hoped that the canonisation of Blessed Mary MacKillop would be announced in her centenary year. This will not happen, however, because several phases of the very complex and painstaking process involved are still to be completed.

Mary MacKillop was born in Melbourne in 1842 and died in Sydney on 8 August 1909. She took the religious name Mary of the Cross. Responding to the isolation of colonial families, she pioneered a new form of religious life to provide education for their children. She and her sisters shared the life of the poor and the itinerant, offering special care to destitute women and children. She is remembered for her eagerness to discover God's will in all things, for her charity in the face of calumny, and for her abiding trust in God's providence.

The feast of Mary MacKillop is celebrated on 8th August, the anniversary of her death. This year, however, in the Archdiocese of Brisbane, the feast will be celebrated on the nearest Sunday to mark the declaration received from the Holy See of Blessed Mary MacKillop as patron of the diocese. The year 2009 is important in the life of the Archdiocese because it marks the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the diocese.

So in Brisbane the feast of Mary MacKillop will be celebrated this year on Sunday 9th August in place of the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Masses held on Saturday 8th August will use the texts and readings of Weekday, Ordinary Time 18 instead of those of the Feast.

I have had calls from several liturgy co-ordinators asking how parishes can celebrate the Feast of Mary MacKillop, National Vocations Awareness Week, the Caritas ‘Be More’ Weekend and International Day of the World’s Indigenous People all on the one day.

It needs to be kept in mind that these “special” days are not on the same level as days in the liturgical calendar and do not determine the character of the celebration as official feasts and seasons do. They have been designated by Church agencies, by national or international secular bodies or by traditional practice.

These other special intentions can be prayed for in some of the petitions of the Prayer of the Faithful and information can be included in bulletin notices, handouts, displays, etc. It is the readings and prayers for the feast of Australia’s first saint that are the focus of the liturgy:

“Holy God, source of all goodness, you show us in Mary MacKillop a woman of faith who lived by the power of the cross. Teach us to embrace what she pioneered: new ways of living the gospel that respect and defend the human dignity of all in our land.” (Opening Prayer Feast of Mary MacKillop)

“Through the example of Mary MacKillop, may you learn to recognise God's will for you and trust in God's providence. May her life of service awaken in you a deep respect for the poor and a passion for justice. May you share in her courage, see with her vision, and love with her heart.” (Solemn Blessing Feast of Mary MacKillop)


Elizabeth Harrington