The first Victorian foundation was in 1889 at Numurkah, a rural centre. Father Michael O’Connor first met Mary MacKillop in Penola, as Father Woods’ successor. Parish Priest of Numurkah, in Sandhurst Diocese, he requested Sisters for a school. In late 1889 four sisters arrived by Cobb & Co. coach. In January 1890 Mary in Numurkah, opened the first Victorian Josephite school. She wrote of a ‘humble beginning of a great work’.
Bacchus Marsh and Surrey Hills followed in 1890. East Melbourne, Footscray, Yarraville, Williamstown and Newport were established by 1902.
At Archbishop Carr’s request, the Josephites acquired the St Vincent De Paul Society Children’s Home, with its debt. From 1891 till 1980 Sisters cared for poor and need children for at the home in Surrey Hills.
The Melbourne Providence provided for destitute women. It opened in 1891 at 43-45 Latrobe Street, convent, refuge for women and children’s night school. Soup, food and clothes were distributed with volunteer help.
Mary bought land in Albert Street, East Melbourne in 1901 for the erection of a new Providence, providing a home for women and children. This doubled as a Province Centre until 1910. An adjoining two storey residence, purchased and opened in 1920, later became a hostel for country girls. Today the Mary MacKillop Heritage Centre occupies the Providence site.
In 1897 the Sisters opened school in a cottage in Cumberland Place, behind the original Providence, for children from the nearby slums. It was known as St Joseph’s Poor School.
Since the first Victorian foundation in 1889, Josephites have served those with few resources. Their needs were met through schools, orphanages, soup kitchens and foundling homes amidst difficulties of finance, staffing, poverty and changing conditions. In 1901 the Broadmeadows Foundling Home opened to care for single mothers and babies. The Carlton Receiving Home cared for young women.