Melbourne (Agenzia Fides) - The Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart in Victoria Province have opened a museum in honour of their foundress Blessed Mother Mary MacKillop in Fitzroy, near Melbourne, where Mary was born. The initiative was also promoted in view of World Youth Day to be held in Sydney in 2008. Pope Benedict XVI made Blessed Mary MacKillop one of the patron saints of this important universal Catholic event, together with lay catchist Peter To Rot, martyred in Papua New Guinea, as well as Italian youth Pier Giorgio Frassati, Polish Saint Faustina Kowalska, St Pietro Chanel, St Therese di Lisieux, Saint Maria Goretti, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Present for the inauguration leading civil and religious authorities of Melbourne. The museum exhibits, arranged by Sr Helen Smith, an expert on Mother MacKillop, include an illustrated biography, the history of the Congregation and some of the holy woman's personal belonging.
Mother Mary MacKillop the first Australian to be beatified, is on the way to sainthood. Mary was born to Scottish parents on 15 January 1842 at Fitzroy, Victoria. At the age of 16 to help her family she went to work as a governess in Penola. She met Fr Julian Tenison Woods who needed someone to teach religion to the parish children. After much spiritual struggling in 1866 inspired by the Holy Spirit and encouraged by Fr Woods, Mary opened the first St Joseph’s School in an abandoned shed in Penola, and this was the beginning of her mission to provide schooling for poor children. She was joined by several young women and the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph was born. In 1867, the Bishop of Adelaide asked Mary to open her schools in that city. Later her schools were opened all over Australia, then in New Zealand, Peru, Brazil, Thailand and Uganda.
Mother Mary died on 8 August 1909 at Mount Street Convent in north Sydney, where she is buried. She was beatified on 19 January 1995, in Sydney by Pope John Paul II. Today there are over 1,200 of her Sisters teaching in schools for orphans, street children, children of Aboriginal communities and other children in need. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 12/11/2007 righe 27 parole 275)