St. Mary MacKillop – “Who Do You Think You Are?”
Recently, we celebrated our fourth annual pilgrimage to Eden, albeit on-line, to pray in intercession to St Mary MacKillop. We chose Eden because it had a special place in the heart of our Saint. Her mother, Flora, drowned off the coast of Eden in 1886.
Saints have received so much from their parents. At her death, the Confessor of Mary MacKillop, Fr Francis Clune, said “She was wrapped up in God!” What a wonderful description! Mary herself said that “the will of God is a dear book which I am never tired of reading, which has always some charm for me.”
Such humble and deep faith is clearly a gift from God. No doubt. But we are not individualists. God’s gifts are transmitted from others too, especially our parents.
What about Mary MacKillops’s parents, especially her mother, Flora?
Imagine if the Australian Saint, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, just happened to be interviewed on the popular TV show “Who do you think you are?” What would she answer to some of the questions? (My answers are indebted to Sr Bernadette O’Sullivan rsj)
St Mary MacKillop, tell us about your parents, especially your mother?
My mother, Flora MacDonald (1816-1886) arrived in Melbourne from Scotland in 1840. In July 1840 she married Alexander MacKillop. I was the eldest of their eight children.
We had some promising starts. Yet my father was often absent. Over a period of time our fortunes declined. My mother, particularly, showed patience and forbearance. She had a deep faith and trust in God.
By today’s standards, I suppose you could call us homeless. We travelled around frequently to relatives and others and sought accommodation.
Despite this poverty, my mother called herself “a truly blessed mother”. She had “raised all her children for the glory of God.”
Did your mother, Flora MacKillop drown?
Yes. It was a tragic event. She was travelling up on a steamer from Melbourne to Sydney to visit me and assist in our bazaar.
The boat, the Ly-ee-Moon sunk during a fierce storm off Green Cape, just near Eden, now sighted in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, on 29th May 1886. Mother drowned with very many others.
When I heard the news I was shocked. I simply went to the chapel and prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I was immediately concerned for my immediate family and friends. I prayed that my mother’s body would be found.
What happened then?
Well, when we heard that her body was found by the pilot of the steamer Captain Cook, the family sent my cousin, John McDonald, down to Eden to bring the body back to Sydney.
In what state did the people of Eden find Flora’s body?
I thought it was miraculous what happened! Unlike other bodies, Flora’s body was not savaged by sharks or sharp rocks, despite the wild seas. Indeed, she was floating peacefully. The scapular she had loved all her life remained on her neck. John said she looked as if she was asleep and at peace.
Any further details?
A Catholic woman from Eden, Mrs Power, seeing the scapulars on the body, asked to be given care of the body. She and her kind friends, with typically womanly Catholic instincts, placed my mother in Mrs Power’s home and surrounded the body with the choicest flowers found in Eden and also some lights. They continued this until my cousin, John, came down from Sydney to identify the body.
So you were grateful to the people of Eden?
Most certainly! Indeed I visited Eden a few times after this to thank the people personally. I promised to send my Sisters there. They are still there till this day.
For all our parents and what they have given us, we thank you Lord. St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, pray for us.