The canonisation of Blessed Mary MacKillop

18 October

Today after the great events of yesterday we paused to give thanks. In the wonderful St Pauls outside the wall pilgrims gathered to give thanks and praise for the canonisation of a great Australian battler. As the entrance hymn began the Sisters of St Joseph present processed in followed by the bishops present including New Zealand's Archbishop John Dew, Bishops Denis Browne and Colin Campbell. A vibrant and enriching liturgy followed. Cardinal Pell gave the homily rich in gratitude and challenge. With a reading of a prayer of the faithful in te reo and iwi in the presentation of the gifts there was a great kiwi connection.

A spirit of togetherness and wanting to be like Mary of the Cross MacKillop prevaded. Joy, strength and wonder wove together to give gratitude for Mary of the Cross, for her canonisation, for the privilage of being gathered together.

After Mass there was a lively informal gathering in the courtyard outside- it must have driven the tourists trying to see a work of art mad. Many NZers greeted one another and others. Another wonderful celebration.

Sian Owen RSJ

17 October

As dawn broke over the City of Rome we headed to St Peters where crowds had already begun to gather. After such anticipation the great day had arrived we were to be present at the Canonisation of Blessed Mary MacKillop. The sisters were treated as stars when every they passed one of the many groups of Australians the cheers went up.

Six new names were added to the canon during the ceremony which began with sharing something of thier lives and sayings. As each of these stories concluded a song was song regarding thier spirit we joined in the singing of 'If I Could Tell the Love of God" with great pride.

A hush descended over all as we waited for the start of Mass. With the gathering song beginning the Pope processed in and the rite of canonisation began. As Mary and the other blessed looked on we listened closely to the prayers and statements for the special words " Mary MacKillop". With hearts bursting with pride and humility the Gloria was sung praising God and marking the end of the ritual of canonisation. We then gave thanks, in the ultimate prayer of thanksgiving the Eucharist for the lives of these great people, thier legacy and the hope they give us all.

With great excitement and joy all as Mass concluded the ACU and Josephite choir sang to ask St Mary MacKillop to pray for us. For the first time. Then there was a great mingling of pilgrims from all over the world who had gathered because one of the six new Saints had touched thier lives in some way. The piazza was a buzz and the energy high as we constantly said to one another "it is good to be here", " aren't we lucky to be present" and other such phrases of delight.

Alleluia! Saint Mary of the Cross Pray for Us

Sian Owen RSJ

16 October

As Mary walked up the stairs under the facade of St Peters, she was on a mission. To ask through prayer and formal permissions that the dream she shared with Julian to have a congregation that would serve the needs of the Australian poor would be enabled by a suitable rule.

Little would she have thought that just over 100 years after her death, her tapestry would be hanging on St Peters for her Canonisation Day.

Getting off the bus we headed up to St Peters and all of the suddent thier were gasps, shouts and tears as we saw the beautiful picture of Mary. Our sister, our hero, our role-model, our Mother. Shivers went up the spine, she is ours but she is now in a particular way the universal Church's. And tomorrow that reality will be enscribed in the canon of saints.

On a clear, starry night the courtyard of the Vatican museum was filled by the sounds of traditonal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island music. As the 'blue scafers' joined others the land that is hosting us Italy was paid tribute. The magnificiant dome of St Peters was clothed in lights and stood over us. We listened to the sounds of chant and music that have been heard across the great land of the South for thousands of years. As well as the concert we were informed about the stories and meanings of both instruments and songs.

Mary loved concerts. If she were to visit a school one of the events was a concert to show case the talents of the children. She would have loved this one. It was a magic night honouring this woman who honoured all cultures. A night when wairua tapu, the Spirit of God moved over the crowds through the words and music of ancient times. A night of celebration.

Sian Owen RSJ

15 October

Today was an historic moment. In a small Methodist Church in Rome, Sisters of St Joseph gathered. It was historic because of the occassion of Mary MacKillop's canonisation, historic because of its ecumenical background, historic because both central and federation Josephites were for this time, in this place one.

Prayer was prepared by the previous three congregational leaders, whose lives and leadership ministry were shaped by the journey towards Canonisation, in particular since the time of Beatification. It was a sacred occassion. Woven with song, Scriptures and the words of Mary of the Cross we gave thanks. For all that has been, for all that is at this moment and for all that is to be.

Following prayer the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See Tim Fisher hosted the sisters to morning tea wiht the Australia parlimentary deligation. With lemingtons made by himself, we were welcomed to the days of celebration. Speakers talked about how the event of Mary's Canonisation spoke to all Australians no matter there religious identity.

Then Rome experienced something unique, the walk by on the Sisters of St Joseph on masse blue scarves flying. Through to the Vatican gardens we went and to the 100th fountain which was opened this year and dedicated to St Joseph. Sun shining we also got to see St Peter's from an unique angle. Fun and laughter abounded.

Now it was time for lunch we involved another walk through parts of the Vatican visitors do not often get to see to the local cafe where story, food and Josephite spirit were shared.

All the prayer, the morning tea, the walk, the fountain and the lunch were particular and treasured experiences of being a Sister of St Joseph sharing in the story and rejoicing in the canonisation. As Sisters of St Joseph because of this special day we will never be the same.

Sian Owen RSJ

14 October

Today started with waiting. Standing around as things got organised on our behalf. A gentle reminder that I am not always in control and need to let things go. I am kind of used to being in control. Also a reminder that good things happen even as frustrating things occur. If there hadn't been some kind of muck up that meant we couldn't move into the Vatican museum according to plan, there wouldn't have been the opportunity to catch up with so many Joesphites hanging around, nor the chance to talk to those that sit behind or in front of me on the bus. If I hadn't headed to help with pilgrim packs, a task not required I wouldn't have shared time with a new friend, nor prayed as Mary did at St Ignatius, or explored the Patheon or meandered around the Piazza Novena. Being open to going with the flow is also being open to the Spirit of possibilities. It is in fact a gift of of pilgrimage.

People have been coming to Rome on pilgrimage since the earlist days of Christianity. A metro station in Paris is called Roma because leaving from there it was a straight line to Rome. (Although rather a long line). As I trod the cobbles and avoided the traffic I was aware today that many other pilgrims have trod these same streets, marvelled at these same sights, prayed at these same Churches. My parents, invitors to faith, my sisters - religious and family, sharers of faith; Saints inspirations of faith and Mary of the Cross MacKillop invitor, sharer and inspirer. All those who have pilgrimed to Rome have left their mark and left changed in some way. May all pilgrims, home and Rome based be open to the flow of the spirit so that we too may leave our mark and be open to change.

Sian Owen RSJ

13 Oct 2010

It took almost 48 hours from the time I left home until we got off the bus at the hotel in Rome. Thirty or so fellow pilgrims got off the bus with me, another dozen or so met us at the doorway. Tomorrow as well as a visit to the Vatican, I will explore the city and catch up with a friend of mine.

How very different it was for Mary when she arrived in Rome. She was a lot younger than I am. At her age I had not yet entered the Josephites, and had already travelled overseas both with companions and on my own. Mary's youth was only one difference. It took her nearly six weeks to arrive by boat, she travelled alone, and knew no one when she arrived. She found friends but each was a new aquaintance, she had to go out and meet them. I am here to celebrate and know basically what is going to happen. Mary arrived with uncertainty and had little idea of the process or outcome.

But also much is the same. We both came to Rome to be at that special place which Catholics can call home, for official Church gatheings. We both have marvelled at the granduer of these ancient buildings and great works of art. We both name ourselves Sister of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart and spend our lives working out through the daily pattern of life what that means for us in this time and place. We both know that God is with us, as we pray in the quiet, marvel at the beauty, make new friends and say again and again, thankyou. Thank you God.

Sian Owen RSJ 

12 Oct 2010

At the airport...

We New Zealand pilgrims are at the airport having been through boarder control. It is wonderful to be pilgrims together. Mary MacKillop would love to be part of the energy of her sisters being in each others company. I wonder if Bishop Moran when he declared he had helped at the death bed of a Saint realised that some 100 years later her sisters and many others would be heading out to Rome. To rejoice that a local woman, who had travelled through Aotearoa New Zealand was to be declared a woman of heroic virtue. A woman whose life tells us that no matter who we are, what we do or what we own, God loves us. That we do not have to be famous or special, just ordinary people doing ordinary things that God's Reign may come.

Sian Owen RSJ

11 Oct 2010         

One more sleep...

Just one more sleep before we start heading to Rome physically. Naturally there is a list which seems to get longer rather than shorter. There is also a growing sense of excitement when people ask 'when are you leaving?' the answer is...tomorrow.

Meanwhile home preparation abounds. Parishes were notified of the Alan Jones documentary last night and many people watched to learn more about Mary, there's a notice a week in the newsletters, and the religious magazines roll in with images of Mary on the cover.

It all makes me wonder what would Mary think of it all? She certainly wouldn't personalise it all. She may well have written that she aspired to be a Saint but would have had no sense of what it would mean if she was canonised.

When sportspeople and actors receive awards they often talk about 'accepting it on behalf of the team'. Mary is being recognised for a life of heroic virtue. If she were here I am sure she would be accepting it 'on behalf of the team'. On behalf of those who seek to give their lives and talents to meeting the needs of the poor, on behalf of those who struggle with unjust institutional structures, on behalf of the early sisters who battled with her and stayed loyal, on behalf of those who mocked her and persecuted her, on behalf of the people of God who through her example of heroic virtue gain hope and confidence to ' to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with God' (Micah 6:8).         

Sian Owen RSJ