The forthcoming canonisation of Mary MacKillop, who will become Australia’s first saint, has been embraced in Australian popular culture.

As we do with all our heroes, we have made her something of a sporting legend. She is our first spiritual gold medallist. She ranks with Don Bradman.

There’s nothing wrong with that. We treat our military heroes that way as well. It’s the Australian idiom: our way of popularising people who are important to us.

Cardinal George Pell was right to describe Mary as a recognisably Australian saint. She was, after all, born in Melbourne but died in Sydney.

In case you’ve somehow missed it, Mary founded the religious order of Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. She ministered mainly to the poor, she bonded with indigenous people and she was for a time excommunicated by a cantankerous bishop for insubordination.

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