Charity registration No. SC002876  
Sunday August 4th. 2013
Flora MacKillop   A TRULY BLESSED MOTHER A recent book by Sister Bernadette O’Sullivan on the life of Flora (MacDonald) MacKillop (1816- 1886), mother of St. Mary MacKillop, gives the most moving account of  a wonderful woman whose holiness and trust in God’s Will  was the school where Mary learned by her mother’s example to become a saint. The book is based on the many letters that Flora wrote to her children and were fortunately preserved and found after her tragic death. It is these, and other sources of information, that Sister Bernadette has used to portray a woman  and mother of incredible holiness. From the promising beginnings, family life and fortunes declined rapidly demanding of Flora heroic courage,  patience and forebearance. Her deep faith in  God sustained her through poverty, hardship and times of homelessness  and deep distress when she and her family depended on relatives for a home and a living. Her love for her husband, Alexander, never diminished despite his irregular behaviour which suggested that he may possibly have been bi-polar. A brilliant and holy man, formerly a student for the priesthood, trained his eight children to be intelligent and outstanding, yet, because of his erratic temperament and his failed enterprises, the family was often homeless and living in real poverty. At a critical moment in Flora and her children's life, he returned to Britain for supposedly three months, and was away for seventeen months. leaving them to fend for themselves and at the mercy of relatives and friends.  Throughout all this, Flora never lost her affection for him, and in the trials and hardship she had to undergo, she placed her complete trust in Almighty God and in his divine Will.  She was blessed with another child when he returned. She was a woman of outstanding holiness, three of her children entered religious life and five of them were to die early in life, and latterly she was also to lose her husband, yet this valiant woman never complained and placed her life and its outcomes entirely in the hands of Almighty God.  While St. Mary MacKillop acknowledged her mother’s example and influence in her life, Flora was able to call herself a truly blessed mother, as she said herself,  she had raised all her children to the glory of God. Flora’s tragic death She was an industrious woman, always making handcraft items  and seeking work to help the family income. She accepted an invitation to come to Sydney to help with a bazaar, and boarded  the ship, Ly-ee Moon,  at the port in Melbourne on Saturday, 29th May, 1886. The early part of the journey was calm and uneventful, but disaster struck at Green Cape, off the port of Eden on the new South Wales, and the ship was wrecked. Flora was among those who lost their lives that day, 30th May, 1866. Her family and friends were shocked at the news, and Mary spent a long time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. The recovery of Flora’s, body, which was a miracle in itself, brought the family some consolation. It was picked up by the pilot steamer Captain Cook.  Eye witnesses who saw Flora’s  body spoke touchingly of the smile and deep peacefulness which rested upon the poor, cold face, and a complete absence of  the indication of any death agony. The body rested in the house of a friend, Mrs Power, who took the scapulars from her remains and treasured them. Flora’s was the only body that was found anywhere without being injured by either rocks or sharks; the scapular she had loved so much was still round her neck. How little of earthly possessions Flora had to leave to her remaining children - no great fortune, no stately properties, nothing but a small writing desk and a box with a few letters. But how precious those letters were to her daughters Annie and Mary, and how precious they are to us today. From those precious letters and those of her children the riches of a life lived for God shine forth as an inspiration to those who care to read and study them.  The earthly life of Flora had ended, but what a spiritual legacy she had to leave! What an example she has set for the mothers of today. She could truly be called the patron saint of mothers. Could any mother's life be harder? Poverty, hard work, homelessness, separation from her husband and children, the struggle to pay off debts, the early deaths of five of her children and her husband, dependence on relations for a home and money in those days before welfare, all balanced with the gift of three of her children given to God in the religious life, and the humble acceptance of the  innocent lives and happy deaths of her five other children. . Through all the vicissitudes of her life, Flora was sustained by her faith, her acceptance of the will of God, and her reliance on Divine Providence. By word and example she had encouraged her children in their prayer and faith life, having set herself the task of  being the instrument in God's hands of rearing all her children, and that under great difficulties, for God's glory, so that she could say in the evening of her life, “I consider myself one of the truly blessed mothers.” And when death came she could answer her 'saintly daughter's' question, 'Do you try now in real earnest to be a saint?' with a resounding “YES.” Bernadette O'Sullivan RSJ is a member of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. She holds a B.A. and a B.Ec. from the University of New England and a M.Stud.Ed, from the University of Wollongong. She served in education for many years and has held administrative positions in her Congregation. She is currently a pastoral worker in the small town of Nimmitabel NSW.