Pope at Audience: St. Mary MacKillop brought Christ's love to rural Australia

At the Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis reflects on the apostolic zeal of St. Mary MacKillop, praising her desire to bring Christ and good education to the aboriginal peoples of rural Australia.

By Devin Watkins

Pope Francis returned to his catechesis series on apostolic zeal on Wednesday, as he held his final General Audience before a month-long summer break.

The Pope focused on the life and example of St. Mary MacKillop (1842-1909), who founded the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart.

Born near Melbourne to Scottish immigrants to Australia, Mary felt called from a young age to serve God in a special way.

Zeal for poor and marginalized

Pope Francis said Mary MacKillop believed she was sent “to spread the Good News and invite others to encounter the living Christ.”

She read the signs of her times, he said, and felt drawn to found several schools to spread the Gospel through Catholic education.

“One essential characteristic of her zeal for the Gospel,” he said, “was her desire to care for the poor and marginalized. This pushed her to go where others refused or were unable to go.”

On the Feast of St. Joseph, on 19 March 1866, Mary opened her first school in southern Australia, which was followed by others in rural communities in other parts of the country and in New Zealand.

Importance of Catholic education

The Pope highlighted her belief that education should promote “the integral development of the person both as an individual and as a member of the community, which requires wisdom, patience, and charity on the part of every teacher.”

“Education consists not in filling heads with ideas,” he said, “but is about accompanying and encouraging students along their path of human and spiritual growth, showing them how friendship with the Risen Jesus opens their hearts and makes their lives more human.”

Pope Francis praised this insight as relevant to our own times, as shown in his own calls for a Global Compact on Education to unite families, schools, and societies.

Trust in Providence

The apostolic zeal of Mary MacKillop also led her to open various houses of charity, starting with the “House of Providence” in Adelaide to welcome both young and elderly people who had been abandoned.

St. Mary nurtured a special trust in God’s Providence amid the myriad financial and organizational problems she had to confront each day.

“Despite the many problems,” said Pope Francis, “she kept her calm and carried her cross patiently as an essential part of her mission.”

Love for the Cross

In conclusion, Pope Francis noted that St. Mary MacKillop learned to love the Cross of Christ and found her own way to respond to the needs of her times.

“May her efforts to form young people inspire us today,” he prayed, “and may her intercession sustain the daily work of parents, teachers, catechists, and all educators, carried out for the good of young people and a future that is more humane and full of hope.”

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28 June 2023, 09:22

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