Marie Valenzuela, Claire Larkin, Father Paul Gardiner


> Marie Valenzuela, Claire Larkin and Father Paul Gardiner

Father Paul Gardiner


> Claire Larkin and Father Paul Gardiner


“It would be rash to deny that there have been many holy people in Australia, but our culture does not readily allow us to imagine that there has been a saint in the land. Yet people everywhere were convinced that Mother Mary’s holiness was of an exceptional order.

It was noticed that prelates and other clergy were unusually reverent as they visited her in her dying days. At her funeral Cardinal Moran, a man not given to flights of imagination, let it be known that he considered her worthy of the honours of the altar, that is, that she could ultimately be canonised. Five years later her body was transferred to the chapel of her convent in North Sydney, and her tomb there has been a centre of devotion ever since. Three popes have knelt in prayer before it.”

- Fr Paul Gardiner, August 2009

On Sunday October the 17th, Mary MacKillop will officially become Australia's first Saint. For Australian Jesuit Father Paul Gardiner - the man who has led the charge for sainthood - it will be an historic occasion. Currently the chaplain of the Mary MacKillop Centre in Penola, South Australia, Fr Paul was asked to go to Rome in 1983 to prepare the Position of the case. As the Vatican’s official Postulator for the cause of her sainthood, his job was to meticulously research a mountain of documentary evidence before writing a unified account of Mary MacKillop containing her full history and all that happened in her life. The absorbing, demanding task took six years and resulted in three volumes of work which were presented to the authorities at Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican who approved the cause of Mary MacKillop for canonisation. Divine endorsement was then sought in the form of two miracles; one before beatification, the other before canonisation.

“The problem with working in this area is that we are working with the spirit of God, something that is beyond the world’s grasp ... it is the divine area we are working in. There are difficulties in dealing with God’s business...We can’t call it a miracle unless the Church says it is.” 

- Fr Paul Gardiner to the Catholic Weekly

The first miracle involved a 24 year old Sydney woman who made a medically inexplicable recovery from leukaemia. All the information regarding this recovery was sent to Rome and examined by a panel of medical specialists, then theologians and cardinals, in order to establish whether the cure could be attributed to the intercession of Mary MacKillop. This outcome was positive and decreed on July 6, 1993.

Mary MacKillop’s Beatification took place at Randwick, Sydney, on January 19, 1995, with Pope John Paul II presiding at the Mass. Mary now had the title “Blessed” and could be honoured in the liturgy for Australia as its first saint.

Father Paul Gardiner continued to work on the cause searching for a second miracle that was required for canonisation. Upon his retirement in 2008, the Vice-Postulator, Josephite Sister Maria Casey RSJ, was appointed Postulator and continued the case, preparing the Positio that paved the way to canonisation. On December 19 2009, Pope Benedict XVI approved that the remarkable cure of a second woman with inoperable cancer had been attributed to the intercession of Blessed Mary MacKillop. This was the final step to fulfil the requirements for canonisation. On February 19, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI announced that Mary MacKillop would become Australia's first saint with her canonisation to take place in Rome on Sunday 17 October, 2010.

Father Paul Gardiner was planning to be there to celebrate in St Peter's Square, where Mary MacKillop walked during her time in Rome, and has been awaiting the event with anticipation. 

“There we will be at her canonisation, with her picture blazoned up on the side of St Peter's, and the Pope telling the whole world to heed her person, her faith, her perseverance, her embracing of the cross, her kindness, all the things about her that we're being asked to imitate,” he said.

The document Fr Paul Gardiner put together outlining Mary MacKillop’s case for sainthood has been turned into a biography, Mary MacKillop - an extraordinary Australian.

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