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 CNS Story:

SAINTS-PILGRIMS Oct-17-2010 (870 words) With photos to come. xxxi

Pilgrims flock to Vatican for new saints, bringing stories, prayers


Australian seminarian Daniel McCaughan waves his nation's flag prior to the canonization of six new saints in St. Peter's Square. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Each of the thousands of pilgrims who flocked to St. Peter's Square Oct. 17 had a special reason for being there.

Ricky Peterson, a 50-year-old man from Kansas City, Kan., credits the intercession of Australia's first saint, Mother Mary MacKillop, with healing him of Parkinson's disease 27 months ago.

Before traveling to Australia in 2008, he said he had read about Blessed MacKillop and prayed that she would be "a travel guide for the World Youth Day pilgrims" he and his wife brought to Sydney.

Visiting her grave in Sydney July 18, 2008, "I prayed, 'Lord, I've asked Mary to pray with me. I'd love nothing more than to leave this disease and the tremors buried in the soil with Mary, if it is your will.'"

"We had a 10-minute walk back to the train and it was on the train that I realized the tremor was gone," he told Catholic News Service Oct. 17 in St. Peter's Square.

Peterson said his doctor now thinks the Parkinson's diagnosis was wrong, "but I know I've been healed."

Peterson has been in contact with the Sisters of St. Joseph, the order founded by St. MacKillop, but an earlier healing of an Australian woman was the miracle used in St. MacKillop's canonization cause.

Canadian St. Andre Bessette, the Holy Cross brother also canonized Oct. 17, had a reputation as a healer.

Diane Guillemette from Montreal said that when her mother was 16 years old "she had a problem with her ear and she went to Brother Andre and he healed her."

Guillemette, a member of the Pilgrims of St. Michael, a lay missionary movement, said that for her, "Brother Andre is an example of patience, humility and love of work."

Sylvia Nazon, a New Yorker now living in Paris, also came to Rome to celebrate St. Bessette.

"He was so humble, a wonderful servant of the Lord and even more devoted to St. Joseph than I am," she said. "I love St. Joseph and I took him as a stepfather for my children when their father died."

Nazon said she ran across Brother Andre while searching the Internet for information about devotions to St. Joseph. "We just got to know each other in April and I just decided to come to Rome for the canonization."

Those devoted to Brother Andre gathered Oct. 16 in Rome's Basilica of St. Andrew for a prayer vigil, and among the pilgrims who packed the church to overflowing was Pierre Homere Belizaire, a young man from Plaisance, Haiti. "I like Brother Andre for his simplicity," he said, before finding a place to pray.

Holy Cross Father David L. Guffey, director of film, television and video for Family Theater Productions, was with 150 members of the U.S. Holy Cross Family Ministries' pilgrimage. He now lives in Santa Monica, Calif., but was the director of Andre House, a soup kitchen in Phoenix, Ariz., in 1990-96.

Father Guffey said St. Bessette is a constant reminder "that the simplest act of welcome and hospitality means so much to people."

In addition to prayer vigils around Rome Oct. 16 in honor of the six men and women who were about to be declared saints, the Vatican Museums and the Australian Embassy to the Holy See organized an evening of aboriginal art, music and dance at the museums Oct. 15.

The event included the opening of an exhibit, "Rituals of Life," featuring objects used in aboriginal cultural rites, as well as performances by dancers and musicians from New South Wales and the Torres Strait and a concert by William Barton, one of Australia's best-known didgeridoo players. The didgeridoo is a long, wooden wind instrument.

The Australian government also parked a consulate camper near St. Peter's Square to assist pilgrims during the days surrounding the canonization.

Kevin Rudd, Australia's foreign minister, visited the camper and met with Australian pilgrims Oct. 16. He told them, "This is all about a singular woman's life."

"This is an unconstrained celebration of something that is purely good," he said. "It's not just a line. When you read this woman's life you see she did more good than all of us together. She is a woman of guts, courage and determination."

The Australian pilgrims who gathered by the camper consistently pointed to St. MacKillop's determination to minister to Catholics in Australia's remote outback, even when some bishops tried to impose a more traditional way of life on her community.

"She came to Rome to fight for a rule that was very unusual for her time," said St. Joseph Sister Anne Derwin, the congregational leader. "Our aim is to be very ordinary women out among the people," just as St. MacKillop was, she said.

Peter Haynes, 26, is an Australian living in England who came to Rome for the canonization.

He said he studied St. MacKillop in primary school and is impressed by the fact that "she started from nothing and made something out of it. And her legacy continues today. That's something."

His mother, Helen Haynes, came from Australia for the event. She said she's impressed at how "she stood up for what she believed in, even as a woman in front of bishops."

END


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