July 19, 2010
21 August 1867 – Adelaide
My dear Mamma,
If I have pained you by my long silence I am truly sorry for it and can only beg that in your love you will forgive what I could hardly help. I might have answered your ever dear letter sooner but the last ten days have been busy and anxious ones as I shall explain.
When I parted with you, I little imagined that I could so soon have the happiness of being allowed to make my Profession, which I did on my favourite festival, the Assumption. I think I told you that, though I was coming to join the Institute, there was little likelihood of my being more than a Sister in name as long as my debts were unpaid. Yet after all, thanks to the goodness of God and Father Woods’ kindness, I have been permitted to take the holy vows. Father Woods will see those dreadful debts paid, not yet for he cannot, but sooner than I could by remaining in the world and earning money for that purpose alone. Our Blessed Lord, for Whose sake he has undertaken this, will, I trust, (give) him the means he requires, and will also touch the hearts of those to whom we are indebted as to make them patient with us.
And now, my own dear Mamma, do not be uneasy about me and never think that I can forget your love and care. ‘Tis true I only seek to serve God in the care of the little ones of His flock, and that for this I have forsaken all that bound me to earth, but still there is one time and one place where I always have you and other loved ones with me, or rather I bring you there – to the feet of our Devine Lord – and I beg that he will guard and comfort you all, that He will bring joy yet out of all your sorrows, and that, whatever we may have to suffer here, that we may one and all do His holy Will and meet in a far happier world. If we could only remember that we are placed here to suffer and that God may be glorified under the smallest as well as the greatest trials, much that would otherwise be difficult would become easy.
Much as I longed for a Religious Life, I could not have left you had not our Blessed Lord assisted me by His grace, and now that you have a child, unworthy as I am to be so favoured, devoted to His service, I am sure you will try to be happy, and you will pray, too, dear Mamma, for me that I may not by my unworthiness injure rather than assist our holy cause. You cannot imagine the work that is to be done here, nor how the religious Habit is appreciated. Our dear Patron, St Joseph, is watching over the work committed to his care. Human agency has not done what has been done during the past few months, and we hope for oh so much more. May God’s Holy Name be praised in all!
There are four Sisters in the Habit and one postulant. The Sisters are everywhere treated with kindness and respect, and more applications are made for admittance than we expected. One poor woman who has a very interesting and only daughter came the other day to give her sanction to her child’s choice of a religious life. She has had many trials and losses of children, losses, too, of property and means, and has besides an unfortunate husband; still, she came with tears of joy to give her only daughter, a pretty and indulged child, to the service of her God. When I saw that poor mother and heard her tale, I thought of you, and all I hope is that you may be as happy as she seems to be.
I will enclose a few lines for poor Papa. Though I do feel for his lonely state, I hope that much good may be derived from it. In his sad and lonely moments he must think more of the future, and all we can do, dear Mamma, is to pray and hope that our Heavenly Father is reserving him for happiness in the next world. I had written to John before your letter came, a long letter which I hope he has received ere this, but it was sent to the old address. If it please God to spare him to you, he will ever try to be a comfort to you. I am so sorry that he wishes to remain in New Zealand – it is such a cause of anxiety to you, but think how little encouragement his own relatives gave him to remain in Victoria. I am sorry they did not understand him better, but, dear Mamma, God’s Will be done. John’s intentions are so good that though he may be too positive in remaining so far away from you, I still hope you will have him with you yet.
Father Hinteroecker has been up to the College and says Donald is a very good boy. I hope he will continue so both for the comfort it will give you and for his own good, and also as a return for the kindness of those to whom we are indebted for having him there. If ever John’s position will enable him to return Father Woods some of what he is paying for us, I know neither you nor he will forget it. My services in the Institute are not worth it, indeed I cannot do anything without God’s help, and now that there is so much at stake and I know so little, I beg you, my own dear Mamma, to pray very earnestly for me. I have over and over again begged our Divine Lord to give me a wish to serve Him alone, to do His Will alone, and now I am vowed to His service, help me to do what alone can make me happy.
Let me ever hope that you look for strength to Him Who alone can give it, and when you are in any sore trial or feel more than ever lonely, remember that a day does not pass that you are not – you, your wants and sorrows – remembered by me at the feet of our Blessed Lord. I then ask and beg of His mercy to comfort you, to give you grace to suffer in the world, to be happy with Him in Heaven. I do not care what my loved relations in the world suffer, so long as they resign themselves to God’s loving care, so long as His Will is done by them, for then I know that, when the trials and cares of this miserable world are ended, there will be joy and sweet holy peace in the next.
Dearest Mamma, you ever taught me to look up to and depend on Divine Providence in every trouble and when you saw me dull or unhappy you always had the same sweet reminder for me. Ah, do not now forget what you were the first to teach me. I bore past trouble very badly and am truly grieved to think that I lost so many opportunities of pleasing our loving Lord. In the future that is before us in this world, I hope to do better, but as this cannot be done without the Divine aid, help me, my own dear Mamma, by your patience and prayers to gain this aid.
My name in religion is Mary of the Cross. No name could be dearer to me, so I must endeavour, not to deserve it – for I cannot – but at least I must try not to disgrace it. Poor Portland is in a sad state. Please God there will some day be Sisters of Saint Joseph there, at least I hope so. Would it not be a comfort and happiness if you could manage to go sometimes with Mrs Finn to instruct the poor neglected children? Do not laugh at me, but I think you could find such happiness in that way. The Sisters are to have the care of the Orphanage, etc, but as yet there are not enough trained for the difficult schools.
How, I wonder, is poor Lexie? If she were with us, how much happier she would be than she can be where she is. Do not, I beg, try to put her against leading a religious life. There is so much we might do for God, and yet it is so easy to overlook these things and to neglect our only true Good for the sake of following or being led by the practice of, at the least, a very sinful and silly world.
I hope Maggie will be happy – that is, happy in pleasing God. Annie is trying to serve God and will be a comfort to you yet. She has a true and devoted heart and only wants to be treated with confidence to be all that you require. Do not try to get her away from Penola. Unless you really could not do without her, don’t you think that, for the sake of Uncle’s children as well as for the glory of God, she should remain where she can do so much good to herself and others?
Father Woods is not vexed with you and I am sure he never was, He was very sorry about Lexie for her own sake, but I never heard him blame you – indeed I saw a letter of his to Uncle where he was excusing you. No matter what some friends may say, he is a true friend to you and your children and I hope you will ever look on him as such.
It is time for me to bring this to a conclusion. Remember that all my anxieties and fears for your welfare have long since been laid at the feet of our Blessed Lord, and now that I am consecrated to Him by holy vows, I can only pray that His blessing may always attend your actions, that every trial you may have to endure may also bring its comforts in the end, and that you will look on me as belonging to God alone. I have nothing. My will is not my own, at least what I have I wish and am trying hard to give up. I am far happier than one who bears the name of the Cross should be, but then every trouble seems to cease to be one when I think of that name. Don’t expect long letters again. I have written this at different times, but cannot always do so, but I can, my own loved mother, as long as it is any comfort to you, you shall hear from me.
May our dear Lord and His loving Mother comfort and watch over you.
Pray for me and believe me always.
Your loving child
Mary of the Cross, Sister of St Joseph
Mrs Finn was received into the Church on St Patrick’s Day 1863 . Ask her if she remembers how she waited until Mr F. would be gone to the cricket match. Please do give her my love. God has, I hope, a bright happy home for her in Heaven.
The letter provided is the fifth letter from a collection edited by Sr Sheila McCreanor of letters between Mary and her Mother Flora.
This book can be purchased at:
Mary MacKillop Place Museum Shop
7 Mount Street
North Sydney NSW 2060 Australia
PO Box 1081
North Sydney NSW 2059 Australia
Tel: +(61 2) 8912 4894
Fax: +(61 2) 8912 4835