Australian Catholics are honouring the life and work of Fr Paul Gardiner SJ, who died on Saturday aged 93, reports the Australian Jesuits.
Fr Gardiner is best remembered for his pioneering work in support of the canonisation of Australia’s first saint, Mary MacKillop.
Born in Melbourne in 1924, Fr Gardiner entered the Jesuits in 1940, and was ordained in 1955. After that he spent two years at the Gregorian University in Rome, and underwent a year of tertianship in Ireland, as well as spending six weeks as chaplain to an American naval base in south-west Germany.
From 1959, he taught philosophy and natural theology, psychology and ethics in seminaries in Melbourne, before moving to St Ignatius’ College Riverview in Sydney in 1976. When he was made Regional Secretary for the Jesuits’ East Asia Assistancy in 1978, he moved to the General Curia and spent four years in Rome before returning to St Ignatius’ College for a year.
He went back to Rome in 1983, after being appointed as Postulator for the cause of Mary MacKillop’s canonisation. He spent six years researching and compiling the documents about her life, before putting together the case for her canonisation. The case was later published as an authorised biography, Mary MacKillop: An extraordinary Australian.
The case, or positio, was approved by the Vatican in 1993, and led to the Beatification of Mary in Sydney in 1995. Following that, Fr Gardiner worked with Sr Maria Casey on the positio for MacKillop’s second miracle. This led finally to her canonisation in Rome in 2009.
Port Pirie Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ paid tribute to Fr Gardiner.
"A most erudite and scholarly man, who studied the daily scriptures for Mass in Greek and Latin, he never lost the sparkle of his humour, and was in possession of his faculties until the very end," Bishop O'Kelly said.
"His great contribution to the Australian Church is the fact that it was his painstaking research and his defence of the case of Mother Mary before Vatican committees that helped bring about the very popular canonisation of the one who became known as the saint for all Australians.
"His admiration of the example of Mary MacKillop was unbounded. Mary will be having a great party now with him in heaven."
Vale Fr Paul Gardiner SJ (Australian Jesuits)