Margaret’s sister act

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Arrowtown volunteer Margaret Hyland will play a leading role in more ways than one at a special Catholic celebration this weekend. 

The organiser of festivities to mark the canonisation of the Blessed Mary MacKillop will don a nun’s habit and briefly assume the identity of Australasia’s first saint in front of 300 worshippers on Saturday. 

It’s the final time Hyland, 77, will play the role of MacKillop – now Saint Mary of the Cross – at MacKillop’s historic stone cottage in Arrowtown. Hyland used to greet people at the cottage – which she helped restore in the early 1990s – for Lakes District Museum’s old town history tours. 

“I haven’t done it for several years but I thought it would be nice to do it again for this,” she says. 

“I’ll just be providing a bit of a potted history of Mary to people.” 

MacKillop, born in Melbourne in 1842, came to Arrowtown in 1897 after establishing Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart in parts of Australia. She went on to set up her order around New Zealand, including taking over an existing lay-person’s school in Arrowtown. 

Beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995, MacKillop formally became a saint when she was canonised by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome on October 17. Locals Simon and Ngaire Hayes, and Louise Kiely, were there for the ceremony. 

St Joseph’s principal Trisch Inder says: “The fact that Mary MacKillop is the first Australasian saint who worked in our community makes it something special for us to celebrate.”