The Sisters of St Joseph who went on pilgrimage to Rome to witness the canonisation of their co-founder, St Mary MacKillop, have returned home filled with fresh determination to roll up their sleeves and respond in Christ’s love to the needs around them.
They are also looking forward to catching up with their Sisters who took part in the canonisation at home and joining them in the many thanksgiving celebrations being planned around Australia and the world.
Sr Sian Owen rsj, who blogged about her pilgrimage experience on the Mary MacKillop website, said one of the great blessings of the canonisation period has been the chance for Josephite Sisters to spend special time together, whether in Rome or at home. “We leave excited about seeing the sisters on home pilgrimage and aware that we have been privileged to be part of this sacred time,” she wrote.
“Part of this sacredness is that we have been sisters together. We have prayed, eaten, laughed, and hung out with our sisters across the age range and the congregation. That has been a real gift as well as the great experience of being present at the Canonisation of Mary of the Cross MacKillop.”
Before setting off home though, the Sisters spent a day in Assisi, praying and reflecting on the common themes running through the stories of St Mary MacKillop and Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi, especially the struggle they had to be allowed to live a life of radical poverty.
They also gathered one last time in St Peter’s Square, this time for the General Audience with Pope Benedict XVI. “The Piazza was full, the languages surrounding us many. Flags from around the world flew, cheers went up and we soaked it in,” Sr Sian wrote.
“Australia and NZ are isolated in many ways from the rest of the Church. As the greetings and Pope's words were read in numerous languages this was a reminder that we are part of something much larger than our diocese or countries we are part of the Church universal.
“Finally the Pope came in. His gentle fatherly wave greeted us and the crowd roared. Some sisters had seats close to the popemobile path and there were numerous flashes and clicks of cameras, others were up on the stage close to His Holiness and a few of these were later introduced to Benedict XVI.
“As part of the ceremonies the names of those groups present were read out. In the English section those present included "the Sisters of St Joseph and pilgrims here for the canonisation of Mary of the Cross MacKillop". Up we jumped and waved the blue scarves with lots of noise as accompaniment. Then the Holy Father acknowledged our presence personally and gave a gentle wave of greeting in the direction of the cheers.
“It was really special to be amongst the nations of the world and hear the words ‘St Mary of the Cross’. Mary did have to deal with many crosses in her life but today she would be excited to be part of the crowd, not because her name would be called out but because she would be in the presence of both her sisters and others praising and giving thanks to God.”
As the Sisters prepared to return home there was some final cleaning up to do, including packing up pilgrim packs and other assorted jobs at the pilgrim headquarters at the Caravita Church.
“In the shadow of St Ignatius Church where Mary of the Cross MacKillop spent much time praying for her sisters and the new institute, Josephites gathered,” Sr Sian wrote. “To do what was needed, with much laughter and good will. Except for a few bewildered tourists who didn't know if they should take a photo of such a strange sight nobody saw the action and it will not make the media at home.
“In some ways it was the beginning of re-entry. From the graced time of being together praying, celebrating and exploring, Mary's sisters were doing together what they do well. Doing what has to be done.”