Polish WYD pilgrims visited the Penola birthplace of the Sisters of St Joseph this week as the community prepared for the feast of founder Mary MacKillop.
Led by Polish born Canberra priest, Fr Mietek Markowicz, the pilgrims visited wineries as well as the Mary MacKillop Centre in the South Australian town.
"(The pilgrims) said they had travelled so far and wanted to see more, but knew a few weeks was not enough to see all the famous places of Australia," Fr Markowicz said, adding that the pilgrims also visited the Blue Mountains and other sites in south east Australia.
The group of Poles, many of whom speak English, planned to visit Echuca and cruise the Murray River before returning to Sydney on Sunday to fly home.
Mary MacKillop Centre committee chairperson Claire Larkin said visitation to the Penola attraction was up 40 percent on last July due to the influx of visitors, with more than 500 people seeing what the facility had to offer.
"That included about seven groups connected with World Youth Day," she said.
"July is traditionally a quiet month, but they gave us a bit more to do."Meanwhile in Sydney, celebrations for the Feast Day of Blessed Mary MacKillop will begin with an early morning Mass today.
Sr Anne Derwin, Congregational Leader of the Sisters of St Joseph, noted that this year’s Feast Day is taking place just weeks after Pope Benedict visited the Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel. During his visit, the Pope prayed through Mary's intercession for the people of Australia and the world.
"Pope Benedict is the third Pope to visit the shrine of Mary MacKillop," said Sr Derwin.
Pope John Paul II visited in 1995 when he came to beatify her and Pope Paul VI chose the Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel as the venue for his address on Christian Education in 1970.
"There may not be another shrine in the world that can claim the visit of three Popes," she said.
Polish pilgrims visit Penola (Border Watch, 6/8/08)
Mary MacKillop Anniversary (Sisters of St Joseph)