17 Oct 2010

Much owed by NZ to Mary MacKillop - church

4:40 pm on 17 October 2010

The Catholic Church in Auckland says New Zealand owes much to Australia's first Catholic saint, Mother Mary MacKillop.

The 19th century nun will be declared Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop in Rome on Sunday.

Mary MacKillop co-founded a religious order of nuns, the Sisters of St Joseph, devoted to teaching the poor, in 1867.

By 1891, the order had 300 sisters working in nine dioceses in Australia and New Zealand.

The Church says the Sisters of St Joseph have worked in New Zealand since 1883 and Mary MacKillop visited on four occasions.

A shrine has been built at Saint Michael's church in Remuera, where one of her convents was established.

A statue of Mary MacKillop is being unveiled at Saint Michael's on Sunday.

She will be canonised by Pope Benedict XVI at a ceremony at St Peter's Basilica in Rome on Sunday along with five other men and women from Canada, Poland, Spain and Italy.

Some 8000 pilgrims from Australia are expected to attend the service.

85 year campaign

The ABC reports it is the culmination of 85 years of work by the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. They have been campaigning for this since 1925.

Mary MacKillop was born in Melbourne in 1842 and set up her first Catholic school in Penola, South Australia, in 1866.

She was elected as the first superior general of the Sisters of St Joseph in 1875 and was re-elected in 1881.

She died on August 8, 1909, at Mount Street in North Sydney and is buried at Gore Hill Cemetery.