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Place of pilgrimage

The article ‘Promise for Funding for saint’s precinct’ (The Southern Cross, May 2019) was an excellent reminder of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop’s role in the life of the South Australian Church.

Recently I celebrated the Sunday Mass at Penola where there was born St Mary’s vision that would influence dramatically not only Catholic education but the very life of the Australian Catholic Church.

Penola, a small rural village in the 1850s, has become a place of pilgrimage akin to the much grander Assisi, Fatima and Lourdes and many other places. The co-chairs of the Mary MacKillop Centre, Sisters Loreto O’Connor and Sue McGuinness RSJ, said that in April of this year 842 people had visited the centre.

Last year, by chance, I arrived at Penola on a weekend when a group of eight pilgrims under the banner of ‘the Aussie Camino’ were present. Several times a year these pilgrimages from Portland, Victoria, to Penola are held. Portland was Mary MacKillop’s starting point for her original journey to Penola as a governess.

The pilgrims had walked for nine days. Their overnight accommodation was booked ahead. The SA section was via Port MacDonnell, Mount Gambier and Kalangadoo.

This band of pilgrims, like that of Chaucer’s Canterbury
, was quite diverse. It included a Methodist man from Philadelphia USA, who had learnt of it through the internet, a Religious Sister from NSW who wore the habit of her Order and others from a variety of backgrounds. One man told me that through his conversations with Sister enroute he had decided to attend Mass the next morning for the first time in 53 years! He kept his word.

Under the guidance of their parish priest, Fr Michael Romeo, Penola parishioners have a good understanding of the legacy that St Mary has bequeathed to their community.

I wonder whether the South Australian Tourism Bureau realises the significance of Penola on the national scene.

Mgr Rob Egar, Seacombe Gdns

Mental health

Much needs to be done to address the crisis of mental health in this country. With almost half of all Australians affected by mental illness during their lives, the ripple effect is felt by loved ones, families and the broader community.

The symptoms of mental illness are not always visible and many people suffer in isolation. Thankfully, there are thousands of worthy Australians striving to make a difference in this field, from advocacy, education and awareness through to prevention, treatment and searching for much needed cures.

The Australian Mental Health Prize acknowledges those who are doing innovative work in this area. Acknowledging those who work or volunteer in the industry is an important part of the process to destigmatise mental illness.

The Prize was established in 2016 by UNSW Sydney through its School of Psychiatry, Australia’s pre-eminent psychiatric research department. It recognises Australians who have made outstanding contributions to either the promotion of mental health, or the prevention or treatment of mental illness.

Nominations are now open and we are eager for nominees from across the country. Please consider those in your local community who deserve to be recognised.

More information and nomination forms can be obtained from

Entries close on August 30 2019.

For those who are living with the burden of mental illness every day, thank you for your support.

Ita Buttrose AO OBE
Chair, Australian Mental Health Prize Advisory Group


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