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Pope to be presented with a lock of Blessed Mary MacKillop’s hair

Pope Benedict XVI will receive a locket with strands of Mary MacKillop’s hair during her canonisation Mass, to be celebrated at the Vatican in October.

Blessed Mary MacKillop, the daughter of Scottish emigrants from Roy Bridge to Australia, will become the southern hemisphere country’s first saint later this year and the hair will be presented to the Holy Father as part of the ceremony at St Peter’s Square.
Sr Campion Roche, RSJ—the congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph, which was founded by Mary MacKillop—kept a collection of Blessed Mary’s belongings under her bed and in her cupboards for safekeeping, and the hair will now be presented as official relics at the canonisation Mass.
It will be contained in a specially designed and uniquely Australian reliquary—a cross made from Australian red gum from Penola, where Mary was a governess and established her first school house.
Sr Anne Derwin RSJ, congregational leader of the Sisters of St Joseph, said it is the practice that a relic of the person to be canonised is presented to the Pope during the ceremony.
The relic is usually carried forward by the Postulator of the Cause, meaning that Sr Maria Casey RSJ will have that honour in the case of Mary MacKillop.
“We thought it would be nice to have something uniquely Australian for the reliquary and we had the thought that the red gum from Penola would be nice,” Sr Anne said.
Sr Anne said it is not known who originally took the strands of hair and kept them in the locket, but they have been in the order’s archive since the 1960s.
“One of the sisters said her family was given it by a sister (Sr Campion Roche) who guarded Mary MacKillop’s things—her letters and mementos which were kept after she died,” Sr Anne said.
“She kept a lot of it under her bed and was instrumental in getting Mary’s letters transcribed and pushing for the cause (for Sainthood).”

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