~ holy, holy, it’s a saintly piece of brocante ~


Holy, holy another religious artifact for my eclectic sensibility!

A few weeks ago I came across this very heavy old piece of brocante, a time-worn piece of solid concrete with great patina, a handmade & moulded statue standing about 62cm/24″.

There is no information on the religious statue as to its origin or identity of its creator.  Could have been privately owned, from a St. Joseph’s Convent (the nuns’ residence), a St. Josephs Convent school or a local church or chapel I guess.

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Nevertheless, this robust & spiritual lady of God now graces our home. Excuse the pun!

So who is this Sister?

As far as I can tell, it is Australia’s first saint, Australian born Mother Mary MacKillop [1842-1909].

She was the foundress of the Order or congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph, in South Australia (along with Father Julian Edmund Tenison Woods [1832-1889]).


Mary Mackillop1

Many of us in Australia were educated by these nuns, the Sisters of St. Joseph (of the Sacred Heart), the St. Joseph nuns, the ‘Josephites’ or ‘Brown joeys’ as they were affectionately known.  I attended the St. Joseph’s Convent at Sevenhill, then Clare, in rural South Australia.

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Mary Mackillop started the Sisters of St. Joseph for the education & welfare of the poor & underprivileged, especially in rural regions, the bush.  My scant research indicates her desire to dedicate her life in the religious may have been somewhat influenced by the Franciscan ideal of evangelical poverty.


Mary was canonized Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop on 17 October 2010.

The process to have MacKillop declared a saint began in the 1920s, and she was beatified in January 1995 by Pope John Paul II.  Pope Benedict XVI prayed at her tomb during his visit to Sydney for World Youth Day 2008 and in December 2009 approved the Catholic Church’s recognition of a second miracle attributed to her intercession. She was canonised on 17 October 2010, during a public ceremony in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.  She is the first Australian to be recognised by the Catholic Church as a saint.

Biography of Mary Mackillop


Mother Mary in 1890

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What about the blue emblem, the monogram, of the Sisters of Saint Joseph?

The emblem worn by the present Sisters is based on the original blue braided Monogram worn from the founding era in SA from 1866. This original Monogram reflected a core emphasis on the Holy Family in the spirituality of the co-founders, Mary MacKillop [1842-1909] and Father Julian Edmund Tenison Woods [1832-1889].

“The professed Sisters shall wear upon their hearts a large blue monogram of the Blessed Virgin between three letters J in honour of Jesus, Joseph and John the Baptist thus typifying the Holy Family. This monogram shall be made of plain blue woollen braid.”




Er, no, I’m not going through some sort of religious re-awakening, or spiritual renewal.  To that end, here are some excerpts from my earlier post:

In the last few years I’ve acquired a small collection of vintage religious & ecclesial brocante, art, artifacts & paraphernalia.  No, I’m not going through some sort of religious fervour or spiritual renewal!  I simply enjoy the artistic and/or historical qualities of items collectible.  Things like pictures, images, clothing, bibles, prayers books, rosaries (prayer beads), crucifixes & all the accoutrements as well as statuary whether chalk ware, plaster, wood or concrete.

I enjoy their aesthetic beauty. Sometimes it’s a serene or mystic quality. A piece might have such intricate beauty & exuberance I want to know who created it.  Who was the original craftsman, the artist?

You can view the pieces in their historical context as religious works depicting Catholic teachings to be respected for what they represented in theology not in themselves.

You can view them as they are.  As creative works of art without any religious connotation or spiritual meaning.  Purely secular. Some have a mystic quality anyway.  But don’t expect any intercession 🙂 !

There is a serenity for some people in reviving such items for everyday use.

It is not unusual nowadays to find antique & vintage religious items used in home decor such as an old wood framed image of Mary on a wall or an antique French crucifix.

While I personally prefer vintage items, it is not hard these days to find Madonna & angel statues, crucifixes & other religious themed items as they are reproduced in myriad ways for home use.

Garden centres sell them as do gift, novelty & home decor shops. Etsy is full of religious statues many made to look rustic, antiquated & worn.  Jeanne d’ Arc Living (& it’s stockists worldwide) carries various Madonna figurines. One only has to flip through its flagship magazine for a glimpse of the gorgeous Madonna statuary available.

I have come across Madonna & angel statues in various gardens & outdoor spaces in the Barossa.  I have a concrete Mary in one part of our rather large garden area & Therese of Lisieux in another.

Finally, & most interestingly, the people who are passionate about religious collecting are often not Catholic & not religious.


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