Feast of Mary Help of Christians

The Feast Day of Our Lady Mary, Help of Christians has been celebrated in Australia since 1844. The history to this day dates back to the start of the 1800′s, at a time when Napoleon Bonaparte had gaoled Pius VI (who also died in gaol). Later, when Pope Pius VII was elected, he too was gaoled by Bonaparte. The Holy Father vowed to God that if he were restored to the Roman See, he would institute a special feast in honour of Mary. The military eventually forced Bonaparte to release the Pope and on 24 May, 1814 Pius VII returned in triumph to Rome. Twelve months later the Pope decreed that the Feast of Our Lady Mary Help of Christians be kept on 24 May. The infant church in Australia had a special reason for turning to Mary. No priests were sent to the colony in its early days, and Mass was not allowed (except for one brief year) until 1820. It was largely the Rosary in those early days that kept the faith alive. The Australian Catholic community remained faithful to Mary and Australia was the first nation to choose her under the title, ‘Mary Help of Christians’ as principle Patroness. Australia also became the first country to have a cathedral dedicated in Our Lady Mary’s name. St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney was dedicated in her honour by the Irish pioneer priest, Fr John Therry who arrived in Sydney in 1820.

On Tuesday 24 May, the Salesian College community celebrated the Feast of Mary, Help of Christians, the Patroness of Australia and of the Salesian Family.

Mary was chosen by God to be the Mother of Jesus, God’s Son.

At the foot of the Cross, Jesus asked his Mother to be the Mother of all people, represented by the beloved disciple, John. In the life of Jesus, and in the life of the Church, Mary has been a great HELP, in many difficult situations, like the time when at the wedding reception in Cana the wine had run out, and Mary asked Jesus to help out…

Mary was a woman of great faith, who trusted God, and his promises.

She cooperated with God in bringing about the plan of salvation.

Mary was John Bosco’s guide and teacher given to him in a dream-vision as a young boy. In his old age, Don Bosco declared that everything he managed to do in his life, was done with Mary’s help.

In Australia, at the beginning of the European settlement, the first Irish Catholics prayed to Mary for help. And in 1844, the Bishops of Australia proclaimed Mary as the Patroness of our country.

At Tuesday’s special mass, we were also privileged in celebrating some significant anniversaries within our community. Fr John Gandini celebrated 50 years of Religious Profession and 40 years of priestly ordination, Brother Joe Ellul celebrated 65 years of Religious Profession, Fr Oreste Cantamessa celebrated 50 years of Priestly Ordination and our Rector, Fr Frank Bertagnolli celebrated 60 years of Religious Profession and 50 years of Priestly Ordination.