Australians may finally be about to get their first saint.

During a visit to a chapel devoted to Mary MacKillop, who is celebrated for her work caring for children in rural towns across the country during the last century, nuns said Pope Benedict XVI indicated a final judgment on the humanitarian's canonization was close.

MacKillop was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995 after the Vatican determined she miraculously cured a woman suffering from leukemia. But the Vatican needs confirmation of a second miracle in order to make her a saint.

Monica Cavanagh of the Sisters of St. Joseph told The Associated Press on Friday that after a nun presented Benedict with a bronze bust of MacKillop on Thursday, the pope said MacKillop would be canonized after a second suspected miracle has "been through the process."

The Vatican is looking at evidence that MacKillop was involved in curing a woman who had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. The evaluation, which began in April, can take up to two years, said Cavanagh, the Mary MacKillop consultant to World Youth Day.

MacKillop founded the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart in South Australia in the 1860s. Benedict called her "one of the most outstanding figures in this country's history."

Cavanagh said promoting MacKillop to sainthood is very important for Australians.

"It seems to touch into this kind of hero image," she said. "Finally, we've kind of made it in the world. Finally, we've got a spiritual hero."