Artist: Sister Therese Quinn RSJ
Constructed by David Glyn Davies
Two major themes are represented throughout the stain glassed windows of the Chapel of Saint Mary of the Cross.
Firstly, there is God’s covenant represented by the rainbow and explained in Genesis 9:16 where God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.’ When we see a rainbow we are reminded of our link with God and with every living creature on the earth.
By using this image we acknowledge our inextricable relationship and connection to God and one another, and all living creatures.
The second theme running through the windows is that of the tree of life. The tree of life is a mystical and spiritual concept that runs throughout many cultures, dating back to ancient times. Different cultures call it by different names and surround it with different mythology, however, they all have similar meanings as the source of life in their respective cultures.
The tree of life symbolises the nurturing aspects of God and of life. In its branches it symbolises reaching out to accept the nourishment of the sun. In its leaves it captures that nourishment and cherishes it through transformation into life giving food.
In its roots it digs deep into the soul of the Earth. It embraces the Earth with its roots and recognises the soil as its mother. In the roots and branches it acknowledges Mother Earth and Father Sun. It is a full recognition of the life that supports it and its spiritual origins.
Window 1: The Kulin People
The ‘Tree of Life’ is immediately identifiable in this window. The tree represented is a ‘canoe’ tree used by the Wathaurong and Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation who are the first peoples to this area. Bunjil, the creator, flies across the sky. The leaves of the tree spill out to acknowledge the land, which we now know as the Werribee Gorge and Werribee River.
Perched in the tree is the ‘leadbeater possum’, once native to Werribee and now critically endangered, despite being on the Victorian emblem. This possum was once vital to the survival of those living in the area. The Aboriginal woman depicted wears the possum skin coat and carries her baby on her back, indicating that this area has been cared for successfully by generation after generation of people.
Window 2: Our Contemporary World
The second window represents our contemporary world and present generations. Once again the ‘Tree of Life’ is explicit and all life springs from its branches. In the very roots of the tree we find an image of the first prefabricated building, now known as ‘Penola’ in which the college first began. From this seed all that MacKillop has become has grown.
As we move up the branches we see an image of Sister Giovanni Farquer, founding Principal of MacKillop College, resplendent in her traditional white. The figures on the left represent the teachers, past and present of MacKillop who, through the gift of their relationships, have nurtured and grown so many students. The images on the right represent the students and their many talents. We see a student playing the violin, someone playing football and another student presenting at a microphone. The group at the top of the window represent our past students who are looking back and reflecting on their journey through MacKillop College.
At the base of the tree is blue water representing the river of life and the Werribee River. This water feeds the seed of one generation to the next and imbues it with its life and energy.
Window 3: Joy and Freedom
In Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 6: 25-34) Jesus tells us to consider the freedom of the birds of the air and the flowers of the field and know their joy, rather than be concerned with the worries and concerns of everyday life. Jesus reminds us to trust in God and find joy wherever we are able.
This window reminds us of the above, with a bird soaring through the rainbow representing the freedom and joy found in God’s love. A single flower is also included as a reminder to take note of the small and simple joys of life.
‘Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.’ (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin) As such, we are challenged to find joy even in our deepest sorrows. In John 16: 22 we are told, ‘So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.’
Window 4: Father Woods
In this window we once again see the tree of life, this time represented as the ‘Father Woods Tree’ from outside Penola in South Australia. It is believed that Father Woods sat beneath this tree to prepare his sermons. The tree is now labelled with a sign indicating this significant site.
Father Julian Tenison Woods was acknowledged by Mary MacKillop as the co-founder of the Sisters of Saint Joseph and as such, plays an important part in the development of the Josephite charism. He is represented here holding a book as he was a famous scholar and formally acknowledged scientist, geologist and artist. Some of his drawings of fossils and plants are present in the window.
Above Father Woods is the image of the first school he and Mary MacKillop established in Penola. It was a simple barn converted into a classroom with the assistance of Mary’s brother John. At Father Woods’ side is a contemporary MacKillop student studying science and continuing the journey of learning and discovering new knowledge which was so important to Father Woods. The LE@RN image, from the floor in the Anderledy building, has been included to symbolise the continuing and growing nature of learning. Placing this beside Father Woods links us to our past but also connects us to our yet to be discovered future.
Window 5: John the Baptist
The setting sun, as seen in our college emblem, greets us in this window. Emanating from the sun is the light of the world which nurtures, sustains and generates energy and warmth. The yellow sun is the source of life, Christ’s light, the Divine consciousness and faithfulness. The sun’s rays focus and concentrate on the energy of Christ’s light. Truth, purity and strength are represented by white. The sun setting in the west firmly links us to our place in the Western suburbs of Melbourne.
Beneath this are two figures, the first being John the Baptist. John the Baptist was a significant inspiration to Mary MacKillop. John’s role in the gospels was to ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’ (John 1:23) and as such we see John setting out on a path, ready for a long journey carrying his water bag. The second image is that of a contemporary MacKillop student setting out on their own life’s journey and replicating John’s work of bringing about God’s love. The student is represented carrying a backpack and hiking along the river.
Our sense of place is also captured in the bottom of the window with another image of the Werribee River. Surrounding it are the market gardens which are so important in this area.
Window 6: Mary, Mother of Jesus
John’s Gospel (John 1:14) says, ‘And the Word became flesh and lived among us’ and so in this window we see a representation of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary is seen handing Jesus over to Earth as gift to all humanity. Australia is clearly visible on the image of Earth and is prominently placed to anchor the chapel and image in the Southern hemisphere. So too is the representation of the Southern Cross at the very top of the window and inclusion of native fauna at the base.
Mary is represented as expressed in the book of Revelations 12, ‘a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations…’
Window 7: Sacred Heart of Jesus
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a significant aspect of Saint Mary MacKillop’s spirituality and is represented in this window. The cross on which Jesus has been placed has been formed in a curved flowing manner to swing out and capture the joy that was given through the crucifixion. We are reminded that life is given through the cross – not taken.
The Gospels tell us that after Jesus died on the cross a soldier pierced his side, out of which blood and water flowed. At this point Jesus hands over the Spirit (John 19:30) and the cross becomes the tree of life. The water might also be interpreted as the waters and blood of child birth – necessary so that new life can happen.
Jesus, one with the cosmos as water flows out to nurture and cultivate Earth allowing life, in all its forms, to bring life to the planet. A series of Australian animals are represented including birds, mammals and reptiles.
Window 8: Mary MacKillop
This window captures an image of Saint Mary MacKillop and a contemporary MacKillop student contemplating a simple flower. They are engaged in the very act which Jesus reminded us to do, that being to ‘consider the lilies of the field’ (Matthew 6:21). Mary MacKillop is sharing her wisdom with the young girl. This is also an acknowledgement of the importance of relationships between the young and old, between students and teachers.
Behind Mary and her student is the tree of life which has the ‘joyful’ cross integrated into it. Behind it the blazing Australian sun shines forth. Again a birds soars free to the heavens and in and around the tree are various Australian flora and fauna, including the King Parrot, Pink Heath, Yellow Wattle and some of the other species of birds for which the Werribee area is famous for.
Window 9: Saint Joseph
At the top of this window we have another glimpse of the rainbow that links us eternally to the love of God. The focus of this window is Saint Joseph, for whom the Sisters of Saint Joseph were named and as such, is an integral part of the charism of Mary MacKillop.
Once again we see a ‘joyful’ cross, this time integrated with a palm tree. This palm tree is in reference to a piece of scripture from Psalms, ‘The just will flourish like the palm tree’ (Psalms 92:12) as the actions of Saint Joseph indicate he was truly just. Joseph is also represented with a contemporary MacKillop student. In Joseph’s hand we see a scroll containing Jewish Torah, the historic basis of our bible. In the young man’s hands we see a book containing the Second Testament, sometimes known as the New Testament. Again, both figures are in relationship and sharing wisdom.
Beneath the figures we see an image of the pyramids to remind us that Joseph and his family were once refugees and needed to make flight to Egypt at a time of great upheaval. Below this is an image created by some current MacKillop students. The image is of a group of MacKillop students coming towards us. These young people are on a collective journey to freedom, safety, peace and joy and in the spirit of Mary MacKillop, will never see a need without doing something about it.