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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mary McKillop

The story of cancer survivor Kathleen Evans 66, is an interesting one. Kathleen was a smoker since the age of 16 but gave up in 1990, three years before she got the news that at age 49, she had lung cancer. The tumour in her right lung was very aggressive and spread to her glands and within a few months, a primary cancer was found in her brain. She was told that chemo-therapy or x-ray treatment would be pointless and was given a few months to live.

A friend in the Hunter Valley gave her a picture of Mary McKillop and a piece of her clothing, so Kathleen, her family and her parish began praying. "I'm not one to be on my knees all the time or think I'll go to hell if I don't go to church" she said but she is a regular churchgoer.

Her condition began to improve and after four months, her doctor called for more tests because he couldn't believe she was still alive. Ten months after her original diagnosis, she was told there was no sign of any cancer, just some scarring where the tumours had been.

In December 2009, her recovery was formally recognised as McKillop's second miracle, clearing the way for her canonisation which is expected to occur in Rome this year. In 1995 her first miracle, the cure in 1961 of a woman with terminal leukemia was accepted by the Vatican and she was beatified.

Born in Melbourne in 1842, Mary came from a poor background. her father had to struggle to find labouring or farming jobs and sometimes had to rely on family members to survive. In 1861 she went to work in Penola, a small town in South Australia. It was here that Mary met Father Julian Woods. She thought she had a religious calling but hadn't found an order she wanted to join so she and Father Woods started their own, the Sisters of St Joseph, dedicated to the education of poor children. The sisters followed farmers, miners, railway workers to isolated areas of outback Australia.

Mary had a strong will. She took a vow of poverty which meant she had to beg for money and the church thought it undignified but Mary refused to change. She had an argument with Bishop
Shiel and he excommunicated her for insubordination in 1871. But just before he died, the Bishop admitted he'd done the wrong thing and lifted the ban. Mary died in Sydney in 1909.

In 1973, Mary McKillop was the first Australian to be formally proposed to Rome as a candidate for canonization and she was beatified by Pope John Paul II at St Francis Church on 27 November 1994. Although beatified, she is still not a saint. To become a saint the Vatican must see evidence of a second miracle. Now, thanks to Kathleen Evans, it looks like it's going to happen.