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By Catholic Online

10/18/2010 (5 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Fearless nun who fought sexual sin within the church canonized

A feisty 19th century nun who worked miracles and was briefly excommunicated when she spoke out against sexual sin by a clergyman has become Australia's first Catholic saint. Mary MacKillop co-founded the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart in 1867, and gained a reputation as the first Australian nun to leave the cities to administer to the the nation's isolated, rural poor.

Mary MacKillop co-founded the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart in 1867, and gained a reputation as the first Australian nun to leave the cities to administer to the the nation's isolated, rural poor.

Mary MacKillop co-founded the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart in 1867, and gained a reputation as the first Australian nun to leave the cities to administer to the the nation's isolated, rural poor.


By Catholic Online

Catholic Online (

10/18/2010 (5 years ago)

Published in Christian Saints & Heroes

Keywords: St. Mary of the Cross, Canonization, sex abuse, sainthood, holiness, canonization, australia, womensaints

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - MacKillop became embroiled in controversy after nuns in her order got evidence that a priest was engaged in "scandalous behavior." According to the Rev. Paul Gardiner, who has researched MacKillop's life extensively, the nuns first reported it to the Rev. Julian Woods, MacKillop's first spiritual mentor who co-founded the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Woods reported the abuse to church authorities, and the Rev. Ambrose Patrick Keating was sent back to Ireland from Kapunda, Australia. Keating's friends "were really upset with Father Woods and thought they could best get at him by getting at Mary," Claire Larkin, the chair of the Mary MacKillop Center in Pe nola, Australia says.

"They told a lot of lies to the bishop," who excommunicated MacKillop and the entire order in 1871. Bishop James Quinn revoked the excommunication shortly afterwards on his deathbed.

MacKillop had to spend years fighting local Catholic leaders for control of the order she founded. "She was a charismatic entrepreneur," the Rev. Thomas Reese, author of "Inside the Vatican,"  says. "She was a feminist before her time. She struggled in a male-dominated institution and got things done."

In addition, her familiarity with church politics may have played a role in advancing the vote to women in Australia.

"It is the duty on us all to vote ... Get advice from some leading man in whom you have confidence or from the priest, but keep your voting secret," she wrote in 1903.

The order grew to include 300 nuns in Australia and New Zealand by 1891, its Web site says, and now has about 1,200 members.

MacKillop died in 1909 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995.

The church credits her with miraculously helping to cure a woman named Kathleen Evans of cancer.

Pope Benedict XVI recognized the cure as a miracle in December 2009, and announced two months later that MacKillop would be canonized.

He praised her "courageous and saintly example of zeal, perseverance and prayer" in canonizing her as St. Mary of the Cross MacKillop.


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