My great-great-grandmother, Mary Higgins, came to Australia from Ireland to be house keeper to the priest at the Kincumber Church. There she met John Woodward and in January of 1859 they were married.
Mary and John Woodward lived on the opposite side of the river from the presbytery, across the Broadwater at Yow Yow (later renamed Woy Woy). This was two miles in a row boat down the main channel.
John had chosen the sea as a career, carrying cedar up and down the Brisbane Water to Sydney run. In 1875 he was caught in a storm and died at the age of 37, leaving his widow with 10 children.
In anticipation of the coming of the railway, the priest in charge of the parish in 1887 changed residence from Kincumber to Gosford. Cardinal Moran gave the Kincumber presbytery to the Sisters of St. Joseph, the congregation founded by Mary MacKillop, to become a Home for Boys.
Mary of the Cross was a frequent traveller to Kincumber. She would be met at the rail head at Woy Woy and then rowed across the Brisbane Waters to the Boys Home.
Mary Woodward would always go across to Kincumber to see Mother Mary of the Cross when she came to visit the Boys Home. On one of these visits my great-great-grandmother was unable to leave the house, so Mother Mary of the Cross rowed the two miles down the river to visit her.
My great-grandfather Joseph Woodward remembered Mother Mary of the Cross' visit and this story was passed on through the generations.
A source of strength...
Several years ago, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was privileged to be given a relic of Mother Mary of the Cross. During that journey my prayer was through a Mary MacKillop “holding cross”. When I had no energy to pray with words I held the Cross and knew the Lord and I were communicating.
Preparing for her canonisation...
I am excited to be the family representative at the canonisation of Mother Mary of the Cross, to honour the deep influence she has had on my family.
Over the past few months I've written an Icon of Mother Mary of the Cross. The top left image on this blog is of me working on the icon and the top right image is the finished product. In it I have tried to include some of her many Australian characteristics - that she was a horsewoman and a mighty woman of prayer.
Mary of the Cross wrote many letters with wonderful words of wisdom and courage for her sisters and companions. As we pilgrim to the date of her canonisation,"Let no obstacle deter us from proceeding with courage" while we remember that "There where you are you will find God".