In late 1993 WN Bull Funerals’ John Harris was approached to arrange the re-interment of the Venerable Mary MacKillop. In anticipation of her upcoming beatification after the decree was issued on July 6, the Sisters of St Joseph made the decision to transfer Mary MacKillop from her tomb on the northern side of the chapel to a new memorial located in the chapel’s original vestry.
Not only was this invitation a significant honour for WN Bull, but also a testament to the quality of service provided by John and his colleagues to the Sisters of St Joseph in their arrangement of the order’s funerals.
The December 1993 re-interment was in fact the second time that Mary MacKillop’s remains had been relocated. Originally buried at Gore Hill Cemetery, in 1914 her remains were moved from her original resting place to a vault in front of Our Lady’s altar in the new chapel in North Sydney that had been built in her memory.
“Very early one morning in December 1993, I and several WN Bull staff members, together with two stonemasons, respectfully opened the tomb in which she had been placed in 1914. Once opened, the crypt revealed that the coffin had deteriorated considerably over the extended period of time during which she had lain there,” said John Harris.
“But the uninspiring sight of the coffin was soon forgotten. An air of wonderment filled the chapel as our thoughts turned towards what was hidden from view. Everyone was fully aware that we were standing beside the remains of one of Australia’s greatest citizens.”
The fragments of the old cedar coffin were carefully separated, and Mary MacKillop’s remains, encased within the coffin’s lining, were transferred to a new solid bronze casket to provide improved safety and security and ensure their preservation.
“Her body then rested in front of the altar, in the new casket, and members of the public were able to visit and pray over her. A ceremony was held in the afternoon, and a chapel packed with people witnessed the re-interment of Mary in the new memorial which had been constructed in preparation for her beatification,” said John Harris.
“It was really a great honour for us to have played that role, and a wonderful reflection of the long association between WN Bull and the Sisters of St Joseph.”
John Harris from WN Bull Funerals placing a time capsule in the crypt of Mary MacKillop.