Paul Bernard Gardiner (1924-2017).
On the top of my reading list is the two-volume biography The Life of Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop 1842-1909, published as "The official biography written by the Postulator of the Cause for her Canonisation, Paul Gardiner SJ, and presented to the Holy See by the Relator". Few historians could put their name to such a work, so critical to the cause for St Mary's canonisation. But few historians can claim such a varied life as Paul Gardiner, Jesuit, priest, scholar, postulator, and chaplain.
Paul Gardiner was born in Melbourne, and educated there, including his honours arts degree from Melbourne University. He entered the Jesuits in 1940, and was ordained in 1955. Fr Paul spent much of the next thirty years teaching a diverse range of subjects in the humanities and the classics at secondary and tertiary levels in Australia and New Zealand. His scholarship flowed into his daily prayer: each day he would read the scriptures in Greek and Latin. From 1978 to 1982, he worked in the Jesuit General Curia in Rome.
Then in 1983, he began work on the cause of canonisation for Mother Mary of the Cross MacKillop. This work took him to Rome, and in 1985 he became postulator of Mary's cause. The case, or positio, was approved by the Vatican in 1993, leading to Mary's beatification in 1995. In 2008, Fr Paul handed on the baton as postulator to Josephite Sr Maria Casey. Sr Maria took the cause through to completion with St Mary's canonisation in Rome in 2010.
Fr Paul's work was not simply a labour of scholarship. As he came to know Mary MacKillop, he became more certain that she was a holy person.
His work became his passion and his life. In 1999 Fr Paul moved to Penola and became chaplain to the Mary MacKillop Centre there. Gradually ill-health forced him to accommodation at the Pinchunga Hostel in Penola, but as long as he could he would ride his gopher in his pilgrimage with St Mary. The people of that small town took him to their hearts, and cared for him. Fr Paul wanted to be buried in Penola, and his friends gathered around his grave there.
For his work on Mary MacKillop, Fr Paul was honoured with the Order of Australia Medal. His friend Margaret Muller in 2016 published his own biography: Father Paul Bernard Gardiner SJ: A Long Journey 'ad maioram Dei gloriam', by Margaret Muller, is available via the Mary MacKillop Penola Centre, PO Box 231, Penola South Australia, 5277. To order a copy phone (08) 8737 2092, or email email@example.com. net. A booknote on it appears in this issue. Because this biography is readily available to members of the Australian Catholic Historical Society, I will conclude not with formal history but with a personal anecdote.
A few years ago, I asked Fr Paul if he would lead me in a retreat on the spirituality of St Mary MacKillop and her co-founder Fr Julian Tenison Woods. He replied cheerfully that he didn't do "those Jesuit retreats" but that if I liked to come to Penola he would talk to me each day. So each day I would go to his house, and make coffee. Then Fr Paul would cheerfully talk for about an hour and a half. Because of his great knowledge and passion, he rarely looked for a reference or sought a note. Fr Paul could talk easily (at his funeral a local friend told me that he sometimes crossed the street to avoid Fr Paul if he didn't have half an hour). Fr Paul insisted that my retreat should finish with a good dinner and Coonawarra wine at the Royal Oak Hotel, where Mary MacKillop had first come to Penola as governess for the children of her Aunt Margaret and Uncle Alexander (Sandy) Cameron. Of course, Fr Paul knew everyone at the hotel. My only task was to sit at his feet, and occasionally call him back from some interesting digression. I think that this was the best retreat that I have had. It was like having a personal guide to those early days in Penola, a guide with gentle enthusiasm and a joyful heart, a historian with an unparalleled opportunity, lovingly fulfilled. Now all I need to do is find time to read Fr Paul's two-volume work, his gift to the Catholic community in Australia.
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|Publication:||Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2017|
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