On a visit to Mary MacKillop's tomb yesterday, Pope Benedict said she will be canonised but one more confirmed miracle is still needed.
The Age reports the St Sisters of Joseph took new hope from a meeting with the Pope today that Australia will soon have its first saint.
The founder of the order of Australian nuns, Mary MacKillop, must be documented as performing one more miracle before she is confirmed as a saint.
So when Pope Benedict prayed at MacKillop's shrine in Sydney, the leader of the Sisters of St Joseph, Sr Anne Derwin, seized the chance to press the order's case.
She told him: "Our Church and the people of Australia are looking forward to the day when she is canonised."
"He smiled and said 'She will be canonised. We are waiting for the miracle'," Sister Anne recalled later.
It was a commitment repeated when Sister Anne presented the Pope with a bronze bust of a smiling MacKillop, by Perth sculptor Gerard Darwin.
She said the pontiff was "excited" about the gift and had stroked the head of the figure.
"He said `She is smiling and now I will have her with me. One day she will be canonised, depending on that miracle'."
The Pope in turn presented the order with a statue of St Joseph, while also praying at the altar and tomb during his brief visit to the Mary MacKillop memorial chapel in North Sydney.
Sr Monica Cavanagh later summed up the feelings of the order, which has been waiting decades for the church hierarchy to approve MacKillop's sainthood.
"We hope canonisation will come in the not too distant future," Sr Monica told AAP.
"Certainly we're probably closer to seeing something go through than probably we were before."
The Pope's staff also presented the sisters with a box of prayer cards and rosary beads, which the nuns eagerly opened together at the front of the chapel.
Sr Josephine, whose mother grew up in the Bavarian village of Toning, close to Pope Benedict's home village, said she greeted the pontiff in his native German.
"He said, 'you're speaking German'," Sister Josephine said.
"Just by coming here, his visit says a lot to the sisters, but also to all the Church and all of Australia."
MacKillop 'still one miracle' from sainthood (The Age, 17/7/08)