Provincial's Reflection

St Mary of the Cross MacKillop - An inspiration for women leaders of our Church

On 17 October we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the canonisation of Australia's first saint, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop. Fr Brian McCoy SJ says Mary MacKillop's life and example can help enlighten us as we consider how we can better support female leaders in the Church today.

On 17 October we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the canonisation of Australia’s first saint, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop. In the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network this month, we are asked to pray that the laity, especially women, may participate more in areas of responsibility in the Church. Mary MacKillop’s life and example can help enlighten us as we consider how we can better support female leaders in the Church today. Full transcript below.

On October the 17th this year, we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the canonisation of Mary MacKillop.

Mary, who took the religious name of Mary of the Cross MacKillop, was born in 1842, in the suburb of Fitzroy in Melbourne, the eldest of eight children.

And as she grew in faith and life, and took religious vows at the age of 25, she gathered women around her with a particular attention to the needs of the poor and the education of the children of the poor. And since that time of the beginning of the Sisters of St. Joseph, more than 150 years ago, many women have followed the example of Mary of the Cross MacKillop, serving in education in remote and other parts of Australia, those who had little access to education.

And now, 10 years after her canonisation, we give thanks for the first canonised Australian saint, and the example, and responsibilities and leadership and guidance, she has left us and our nation.

It is timely that this month of October, we remember the role of women in our Church, and the leadership and inspiration they give us. In the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, the intention for this month of October is that, ‘We pray that by the virtue of baptism, the laity, especially women, may participate more in areas of responsibility in the Church’. We pray that by the virtue of baptism, the laity, especially women, may participate more in areas of responsibility in the Church

It is somewhat also timely, that this month of October –  the 4th to the 10th – was to be the meeting of the Plenary Council. And as we know, in the preparation for the Plenary Council, many Australian people within the Catholic Church, have considered what they wish to be in the Church, and how they wish the Church to be more fully the Church that Jesus calls her to be in Australia at this time.

So as we give thanks for St Mary MacKillop, Mary of the Cross MacKillop, and for the Josephite sisters who followed her example, and other religious women in Australia, and the many women who continue to participate generously in our Church at this time, we might ask ourselves this question:

What does it mean for us, in the Australian Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit at this time, that we may find ways where women and lay people can exercise more responsibility in the Church at this time?

What does it mean to have show and exercise more responsibility in areas of leadership, governance, service, and ministry?

These are the questions that we might ask ourselves in this month of October, listening to the theme that the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network has offered us, but also as we unite and give thanks for St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, and those that followed her.

Fr Brian F McCoy SJ, Provincial

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