Sainthood changes church to St Mary's

Mary MacKillop
Mary MacKillop
Balclutha's Catholic parishioners are gearing up to celebrate the legacy of soon-to-be-saint Mary MacKillop, helper of disadvantaged families in rural communities more than 100 years ago.

Mother Mary, who will be known as St Mary of The Cross, founded the Order of Josephite Sisters in Australia to help provide education of children in remote areas and offer support to their mothers.

She travelled to New Zealand several times to set up schools and further the work of her order, and Father Michael Hishon of Balclutha's Blessed Mary MacKillop church said it was thought Sister Mary had passed through the South Otago area three or four times.

Events including a combined school Mass, a variety concert and an unveiling led by former Dunedin bishop Len Boyle have been organised in conjunction with her October 17 canonisation in Rome.

The festivities start on October 14 when primary school pupils from Sisters of St Joseph's-founded schools in Balclutha and Port Chalmers meet in Port Chalmers for activities and a shared Mass.

On the following evening, a variety concert will be held in the Blessed Mary MacKillop church, featuring instrumentalists, dance items and local singing groups, such as The Phoenix Singers.

The next day, an expo exploring the legacy of Mary Mackillop and the continuation of her work by groups such as the nuns of the school and Saint Joseph's Young Vinnies will be held at the church from 10am to 3pm.

Concepts for a competition to design a commissioned artwork in celebration of her sainthood will also be on display in the church, along with floral artworks.

The expo will be followed by a session of reflective prayer from 7pm that evening.

Father Hishon said the Blessed Mary MacKillop church is one of only two by the same name in Australasia, and will change its name to St Mary Mackillop.

The new signage will be unveiled on the day of the canonisation, at a 10.30am Sunday Mass led by the former bishop Boyle.

Arrowtown will also be celebrating her sainthood from November 6 with a historical walk, a 1890s school session at the museum, and a pipe-band preceded Mass conducted by Dunedin Bishop Colin Campbell.

Mother Mary worked in Arrowtown from 1897, and lived in a miner's cottage converted to a convent, before she took the sisterhood to Port Chalmers.