St Mary of the Cross Mackillop

08 Aug 2023 2019

Mother MacKillop is Australia’s first native-born saint and its patron.

The oldest of eight children of Scottish immigrants, Mary began working with children as a governess.

With encouragement from a priest-adviser, Mary founded the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, the continent’s first religious order, to open schools and orphanages for poor children in rural areas and to serve the aged and friendless by setting up women’s shelters.

She took the name Mary of the Cross, and survived episcopal opposition, disrespect and even excommunication.

The order received papal approval in 1888, and her 2010 canonization in Rome drew thousands of pilgrims from Australia, where she is considered a national heroine.

Born to Scottish parents in Australia, Mary went to South Australia as a governess in 1860.

There she met Father Julian Tenison Woods, her spiritual director and co-founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, or Josephites.

The congregation, which ran schools and orphanages, became her life’s work.

Mary guided it through years of clashes with bishops over property and poverty issues.

One bishop even excommunicated this foundress, who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Sydney in 1995.

Text: Catholic News Service. Image: State Library of South Australia/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0