it was an October sanctification for this canoness



Throwback Saturday . . .

Holy, holy, ‘praise be’ another religious artifact for my eclectic sensibility! A few years ago I came across this time-worn piece of solid concrete, a nun.  A sister. She’s a heavy piece of brocante, handmade & roughly moulded with great patina. She stands about 62cm/24″ tall.

There’s no information on the statue as to its origin or identity of its creator.  Nevertheless, this robust & spiritual lady of God, now graces our home. Not sure how much grace she gives us though 😉


Could have been privately owned I guess. Could be from a convent (the nuns’ residence), a convent school, a local church or chapel, a seminary, a monastery, an abbey . . .  can’t tell.


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So who is this Sister I asked myself?

On closer inspection I realised it’s Australia’s first saint, Australian born Mother Mary MacKillop [1842-1909], the foundress of the Order or Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in South Australia, the Mother Superior, the reverend mother in fact, the canoness.






Mary Mackillop1


Many of us in Australia were educated by these nuns, the Sisters of St. Joseph (of the Sacred Heart), the St. Joseph nuns, the ‘Josephites’ or ‘Brown joeys’ as they were affectionately known.

I attended the St. Joseph’s Convent at Sevenhill, then Clare, in rural South Australia.


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Mary Mackillop started the Sisters of St. Joseph for the education & welfare of the poor & underprivileged, especially in rural regions, the bush.

My scant research indicates her desire to dedicate her life in the religious may have been somewhat influenced by the Franciscan ideal of evangelical poverty.





Mary was canonized Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop on 17 October 2010. Her Feast Day is 8 August.

The process to have MacKillop declared a saint began in the 1920s, and she was beatified in January 1995 by Pope John Paul II.  Pope Benedict XVI prayed at her tomb during his visit to Sydney for World Youth Day 2008 and in December 2009 approved the Catholic Church’s recognition of a second miracle attributed to her intercession. She was canonised on 17 October 2010, during a public ceremony in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.  She is the first Australian to be recognised by the Catholic Church as a saint.

Biography of Mary Mackillop




Mother Mary in 1890


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What about the blue emblem, the monogram, of the Sisters of Saint Joseph?

The emblem worn by the present Sisters is based on the original blue braided Monogram worn from the founding era in SA from 1866. This original Monogram reflected a core emphasis on the Holy Family in the spirituality of the co-founders, Mary MacKillop [1842-1909] and Father Julian Edmund Tenison Woods [1832-1889].

“The professed Sisters shall wear upon their hearts a large blue monogram of the Blessed Virgin between three letters J in honour of Jesus, Joseph and John the Baptist thus typifying the Holy Family. This monogram shall be made of plain blue woollen braid.”








Over the years I’ve collected various religious, ecclesial & spiritual art, artifacts & paraphernalia, generally of Catholic origin. I first touched on this topic when talking about this shabby chic vintage angel.

It’s nothing to do with some sort of religious re-awakening or spiritual renewal where grace, piety & prayer make me want these kinds of things. I was born into the world of Catholic tradition. Indeed, I was the good little Aussie Catholic girl, schooled in the official language of the Catholic church, prattling away in Latin tongue. Much of the time I never really understood what the words meant (in English) but I knew them by heart. One of the very first things we learned was “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.” Remember? I knew what it meant as we said it so often & used our hands to make the ‘Signum Crucis’ or the Sign of the Cross. As I say, good little Catholic girl. 😇

I simply enjoy the artistic, the symbolic &/or historical qualities of these devotional items.

It could be pictures, images, clothing, bibles, prayers books, history books, rosaries, crucifixes, relics, or other accoutrements of Catholicism. It could be statuary & figurines whether made of chalk, plaster, wood, metal or concrete.

I enjoy their aesthetic beauty.

Sometimes it’s a serene or mystic quality.

A piece might have such intricate beauty & exuberance I want to know who created it.  Who was the original craftsman, the artist?

I can view pieces in their historical context, as religious works, depicting Catholic teachings to be respected for what they represented in theology, not in themselves.

I can view pieces as they are, in themselves. As creative works of art without any religious connotation or spiritual meaning. Purely secular. Some have a mystic quality anyway.  But I don’t expect any intercession or miracles! 😇


For some, there is a serenity in reviving religious or spiritual items & re-purposing them for everyday use or display.


It is not unusual nowadays to find antique & vintage religious items used in home decor. An old wood framed image of Mary on a wall or an antique crucifix can do the trick.


And, while I personally prefer vintage items, including salvaged, it is not hard to find reproductions of Madonna, angel statues, crucifixes & other religious themed items. They are reproduced in myriad ways for home use. Garden centres sell them as do gift, novelty & home decor shops.


Etsy is full of religious statues & devotional items many made to look rustic, antiquated & worn.  Jeanne d’ Arc Living (& it’s stockists worldwide) carries various Madonna figurines. One only has to flip through its flagship magazine for a glimpse of the gorgeous Madonna statuary available.


I have come across Madonna & angel statues in various gardens & outdoor spaces even in the Barossa. I have a concrete Mary in one part of our rather large garden area & Therese of Lisieux in another.


Finally, & most interestingly, the people who are passionate about religious collecting are often not Catholic & not religious.  What does that say?





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