Sold out. The premiere of the musical about the life of religious Mary MacKillop at the "Seymour Centre" in Sydney in early October was a resounding success. The whole of Australia is thrilled that this Sunday the founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph will be the first Australian to join the ranks of the saints.
The historic moment is celebrated with church services and receptions, devotions and parties, special stamps and commemorative coins. A good drop of wine should not be missing: To toast the canonization by Pope Benedict XVI. has the Coonawarra wine region from MacKillop's native South Australia 1.200 bottles of wine sent to Rome.
Pranksters may accuse winemakers of snooty marketing. The canonization is a million-dollar business in more ways than one. Tour operators are profiting; they have already sold several thousand Australians tickets to the live event in Rome. South Australians make no secret of the fact that they hope for a tourism miracle from the MacKillop pilgrims.
The order of the Sisters of St. Joseph also benefits from the bustle. Both atheist Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, the opposition's top Catholic candidate, had used MacKillop as a "campaigner" during the election campaign and apparently rewarded that with financial pledges for the order. Part of the subsidies will be used to organize celebrations in Sydney, where MacKillop is buried. But there is also a lot left over for the order's projects.
Subsidies with a certain irony
For example, for the extensive commitment of the "Mary MacKillop East Timor Mission". The constellation is not without a certain irony – after all, the Sisters of St. Joseph have been at odds with the government for years on the subject of East Timor. One bone of contention is the exploitation of rich oil deposits in the East Timor Sea. Of this, Australia initially claimed the lion's share. Not least thanks to the energetic lobbying of the East Timor Mission, an agreement was reached a few years ago that guarantees the bitterly poor country a considerable share of the oil and gas billions.
Now the question is where to build the oil processing infrastructure, where to create jobs. Sister Susan Connelly, spokesperson for the East Timor Mission, condemns Australia's big oil companies. They exerted great prere so that Australia would be the sole beneficiary of these investments. "This is so sad. We could, we should do more for these people."
The Sisters of St. Joseph also oppose the prime minister's intention to build a high-security camp on East Timor for boat people seeking political asylum in Australia. East Timor is one of the poorest nations in the world and is still struggling to build its own infrastructure, says Sister Connelly. Australia's intention to dump its political problems there is "more than questionable".
Messing with the powers that be
Messing with the powerful is part of the Sisters of St. Joseph tradition. They made themselves unpopular as early as 1870 when they denounced a Catholic priest in South Australia for child sexual abuse. Sister Marie Foale told Australian TV and radio station ABC: "Mary and the sisters posed a great threat to the bishops – they were independent spirits." Bishops wouldn't have known quite how to deal with them. Depending on one's point of view, intrigues of the clergy or "a chain of circumstances" even led to MacKillop's temporary excommunication.
But now she will become the first Australian saint. However, as the namesake of "Gateaux Saint Mary MacKillop," a South Australian pastry maker, she has to settle for second place in the world of heavenly confections. The first Australian dessert dedicated to a person is the "Pavlova," a meringue cake created in a Perth hotel in the 1920s in honor of Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova.