The Southern Cross : July 2011
Page 14 July 2011 www.thesoutherncross.org.au The Southern Cross | features PROUD PARENTS: Louis and Margaret McCreanor, of Barmera, with their daughters Sheila and Rosie Steele. Barmera-born Josephite Sister Sheila McCreanor returned to South Australia last month to launch her fourth book on the letters of Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop. Her biggest fans at the launch were here parents Louis and Margaret, who, despite being 89 and 84 respectively, had no qualms about making the trip from the Riverland. Mary MacKillop and a Nest of Crosses covers the events surrounding Mary MacKillop's excommunication by Bishop Lawrence Sheil in September 1871. Sr Sheila told The Southern Cross that while each of the books had a unique quality, this one was particularly special because of what Mary had to deal with at such a young age. "To think she was only 27 or 28, it's just amazing what she could do and the strength that she could muster," said Sr Sheila, who is Secretary General for the Sisters of St Joseph based in Sydney. "She is a real model for us." The collection of letters between Mary and Father Julian Tenison Woods begins by examining the early years of the Sisters of St Joseph, immediately following Mary's move from Penola to Adelaide and including her journey to Brisbane in 1870. It also looks at the relationship between Mary and Fr Woods (her trusted confidante and friend) as they sought to establish the congregation and navigate through the many challenges facing them. Sr Sheila said the letters provided an eloquent insight into Mary's determination and passion in pioneering and nurturing the congregation in those early years -- despite the threat of, and subsequent, excommunication. "Her courage in remaining true to her cause and the exemplary behaviour she displayed at a time of such uncertainty are clearly reflected in her writing. "There is no doubt the challenges she faced during this period were overcome by her impenetrable faith. The events not only made her stronger as a woman, but also as a leader and ultimately a Saint." Drawing on her background as a sociologist, Sr Sheila has put the letters into context using her own interpretation as well as archival material such as witness statements at the time of her excommunication. She said she chose Adelaide for the launch because of the book's strong focus on Mary's presence in South Australia. The book is available from the Mary MacKillop Centre at Kensington and Pauline Books. Given the anti-Catholic attitudes in the communities where he had worked previously, Bishop Murphy must have been delighted to hear in the welcome from the Adelaide Catholics that: As to your desire of our living in peace with our separated brethren, we are happy to inform your lordship that a friendly feeling exists between the Catholics and the other religious denominations of the colony. This, we are sure, will afford much consolation to you who have ever studied to promote and cherish the same. Within a few days of his arrival on November 6, 1844, Bishop Murphy bought for £70 an acre of land on which he proposed to build a church. The Pirie Street warehouse that was his chapel was not only too small but "a most miserable concern". He had seen splendid churches in England and Sydney and reserved the term 'church' for something of particular beauty. He called his Adelaide buildings 'chapels'. From the outset the Bishop did all he could to enable his flock to appreciate the importance of beauty in worship. He came to the colony with the basic requirements for Mass -- missal, vestments, bread iron, tabernacle and thurible. In addition, he brought paintings and a seraphine (the precursor of the harmonium). He arranged for Edmund Webbe, his first organist, to arrive in January in 1845. Fr Murphy was able to report in 1845 that he had established "an excellent choir, which proves a great attraction to Protestants". The Bishop wasted no time in attending to the needs of his flock. The first Confirmation was on November 24, 1844. On December 12 he celebrated Mass at Morphett Vale. On January 5, 1845, his assistant, Fr Michael Ryan, celebrated Mass at Mount Barker and a week later he received 322 adults as members of the Temperance Society which he later notes as being formally established in December of that year. The non-Catholics were particularly interested in his 1845 publication Vindication of the Doctrines of the Catholic Church. This dealt with untrue perceptions about Catholic practice. When making Catholic teaching known amongst the people, Murphy used the technique he had employed so well in Bradford. He simply stated the Church's teaching, then supported it with scripture, the teachings of the Fathers of the Church and reason. After his 1846-47 visit to Rome and England there was a Mass of Thanksgiving for the Bishop's safe return. This drew the attention of the press to the musical achievements of the Catholics. The Bishop had been the first choirmaster but, during his absence Fr Maurice Lencioni, a Passionist, had stepped into the role. Adelaide, not yet the City of Churches, was a town oversupplied with public houses. On February 29, 1848, Bishop Murphy established the South Australian Catholic Total Abstinence Society of which he was patron and Rev F Coyle was president. In March 1848 he gave this list of churches (actually using the term 'church' this time): St Mary's, Morphett Vale; St Michael's, Hutt River; St Joseph's, Willunga; St Augustin[e], Dry Creek; St Francis de Sales, Mount Barker; St Francis Xavier, Adelaide, West Terrace; St Peter and Paul, Gawler Town. He used to refer to St Patrick's at West Terrace as St Francis Xavier's. In July 1848 Rev Denis McGuin became the first priest ordained in the colony and Rev John Fallon was ordained Deacon on that day. The Archbishop of Munich and Freiburg, aware of the imminent migration of Germans to South Australia, arranged for Jesuits from the Austrian province to come and minister to these people. This was of great assistance to Bishop Murphy and the Jesuits took care of the diocesan seminary. As early as 1848, Bishop Murphy's health was not good. Archbishop Polding reported that he was not ill but confined to bed because of boils and sores. The "Medical Man" attributed this to the mineral qualities of the Adelaide water supply. By 1852 things were more serious. Dr Polding visited Bishop Murphy and found both the Bishop and the financial state of the mission in poor health. The Burra mines in which the Bishop had invested had failed to bring the desired yields. There are no journal entries for January 1856 but a note on February 1 says "sickness in January". He was first able to walk to the Cathedral on July 22, 1856, having missed the laying of the foundation stone in March. On January 4 1857 he ordained the Rev. Julian Edmund Woods. The last journal entry records a visit to the Bay in February 1858. He died a few months later on April 26. Next month: Tributes to Bishop Murphy. Warm welcome for first bishop In our continuing series on Bishop Francis Murphy, Helen Harrison focuses on some of the actions and events which marked his 14 years in Adelaide. Revealing letters launched SCENE OF THE CRIME: Sr Sheila McCreanor in the chapel where Mary MacKillop was excommunicated by Bishop Sheil (now part of St Mary's College in Franklin Street in Adelaide).