Australia will have its first Roman Catholic saint after Pope Benedict approved a decree recognising a second miracle attributed to the intercession of Mother Mary MacKillop.
The approval means Blessed Mary is likely to be formally declared a saint at a canonisation ceremony next year.
Blessed Mary (1842-1909), who founded the Sisters of Saint Joseph, is revered by Catholics for her work, especially with needy children, former female prisoners and prostitutes.
She was beatified by pope John Paul II in 1995.
The miracle approved on Saturday involved the healing of a person who had cancer and was cured after praying to Blessed Mary.
Sister Anne Derwin from the Sisters of Saint Joseph says many have been inspired by Blessed Mary’s work in education and with the poor.
“It’s not only the sisters, but many other people, men and women, who love the way Mary MacKillop lived her life,” she said.
“They try and live in that spirit too, and do great things for people.”
Sister Derwin says the Pope’s decision is a significant event for the church in Australia.
“Mary herself wouldn’t have expected this sort of limelight, but it makes us feel excited that the gift she was given for the church, for the world, is being recognised as valuable,” Sister Derwin said.
“And that was a gift to focus on those most in need in our society.”
Mary MacKillop was born in Melbourne, worked throughout South Australia and died in North Sydney.
She co-founded the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart in 1866 but was excommunicated from the Church at one stage for allegedly disobeying authorities.
However she continued to spend her life caring for those less fortunate.