Mr PASIN (Barker) (10:46): I rise today to honour the life of a remarkable Australian, Father Paul Gardiner SJ, OAM, the postulator for the cause of Mary MacKillop. Father Paul Gardiner was born in Melbourne in 1924. Father Gardiner began his Jesuit formation as a novitiate in 1940 and was ordained in 1955. He taught philosophy and lectured on scripture, Latin and Greek. A classical scholar, Father Gardiner was a man with a herculean intellect, a forensic understanding of the history of Western civilisation and a healthy sense of humour. In 1983 Father Gardiner moved to Rome to begin the work he is most known for.
In his own words, Father Paul arrived in Rome at the very end of 1983 to a mountain of documents. Ever the humble servant, Father Gardiner noted, ‘During the many months it took to digest the material I could not but wonder at the patient labour of so many people over such a long period of time. My work would have been impossible without theirs.’ For 25 years Father Gardiner worked on the cause. The initial years were spent writing the positio. The positio was the document required to present Mary’s case to the Holy See, a comprehensive history of the life, activities, attitudes, challenges and reactions of the proposed saint, Sister Mary MacKillop. The positio was ultimately presented by Father Gardiner in 1992 to the authorities at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican, who approved Mary MacKillop for canonisation.
Acknowledged miracles were now required, and Father Gardiner moved his focus in that direction. Father Gardiner considered it appropriate to live in Penola, where Mary MacKillop commenced her work in 1866. And so in January 1999—coincidentally, the month of his 75th birthday—Father Gardiner arrived in Penola. There he lived and worked as chaplain to the Mary MacKillop centre, while remaining committed to her cause. In Penola, Father Gardiner’s pastoral duties saw him celebrate mass daily and on weekends aid in the wider parish community. He often spoke to the many pilgrims and visitors who came to the MacKillop centre with an enthusiasm that was reminiscent of his religious, spiritual and historical appreciation of Mary MacKillop, whom he rightly considered to be an extraordinary Australian. Mary MacKillop was, of course, canonised in 2010.
Father Gardner died on Saturday, 18 March of this year, aged 93. Father Gardiner would often note that it was always about Mary, but, I wonder, if Father Gardiner’s life had not intersected with Mary’s story, would Australia still be waiting for our first saint? His legacy is one of deep faith in God, the certainty of God’s love for us all and our need to understand, in Mary’s words, that we are but travellers here. May he rest in peace. Vale Father Paul Gardiner SJ, OAM.