From NSW to Vic - the MacKillop Cross Pilgrimage

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
20 Aug 2010

Parishioners and Sisters of St Joseph were on hand to greet the MacKillop Cross in Bacchus Marsh when the Knights of the Southern Cross arrived there to pay tribute to the historic St Bernard's Chapel and convent founded by Australia's saint in waiting.

The Cross which is made from timbers from the original Woods-MacKillop Schoolhouse in Penola, SA is on a two month pilgrimage across NSW, Victoria and South Australia, visiting every diocese as well as schools in the lead up to Mary MacKillop's canonisation in Rome on 17 October.

MaryMacKillop is the patron of the Knights of the Southern Cross and the pilgrimage is their way of paying tribute to her in celebration of her canonisation by following in her footsteps through NSW to Victoria and then on to SA before winding back through NSW to arrive in Sydney to coincide with the events in Rome.

For the Knights, the visit to the historic Sisters of St Joseph Convent in Bacchus Marsh was particularly significant as it was founded by Mary in 1900. The nearby St Bernard's School was also important and was established even earlier to become the first school in the Melbourne Archdiocese to be opened by Mary and the Josephite sisters.

Parish priest, Fr Brian Glasheen says the history he's read of these early days talk of a nun frequently visiting the new school.

"She loved to call in on the schools founded by the Josephite sisters and enjoyed talking to the children as she moved from classroom to classroom, always carrying a large tin of boiled lollies," he says.
From the start, the school was an instant success and according to records was also the first school in the area to offer children a secondary education.

In Bacchus Marsh the MacKillop Cross was carried into St Bernard's Chapel by the Knights where a special Mass was celebrated before the pilgrimage continued, visiting  many other parishes and schools within the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

Damaged. The Penola schoolhouse
where Mary MacKillop set up her school.

Earlier this week the Knights of the Southern Cross and the Cross entered the centre of Melbourne to visit the Australian Catholic University as well as St Patrick's Cathedral and Mary's birthplace in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.

Today, Friday 20 August, the MacKillop Cross heads for Mitchum and Frankston and will continue to travel throughout Victoria until Wednesday 25 August when it will cross the border into South Australia and visit the famous schoolhouse and Mary MacKillop Museum in Penola, SA.

The fact that the Cross is made from the original floorboard timbers from the little school house established by Mary and Fr Tenison Woods will mark a high point in the eight week pilgrimage which began in Sydney on the 101st anniversary of Mary's death on  8 August 1909.

A thanksgiving Mass has been planned at St Joseph's Church to mark the arrival of the MacKillop Cross and comes at a time when Penola has much to be thankful for. Despite a freak tornado on 31 July which caused havoc in the town, causing serious damage in the town to about 40 homes, farm and community buildings and facilities and shops. The tornado destroyed much of the roof and part of the chimney of the original schoolhouse, smashing sky lights and swamping the floor of the Mary MacKillop museum with water, no one in the town was injured.

The state government has provided $250,000 to help with the damage bill plus $100,000 to help repair the MacKillop schoolhouse building.

Repair work is now underway and the museum is once again open for business but as the schoolhouse is a heritage building repairs could take longer and may not be completed in time for the celebrations planned for 17 October when Mary is canonized in Rome to become St Mary of the Cross.