Mary MacKillop sculpture by Judith Rolevink located at Mary MacKillop Penola Centre, South Australia.

In a world where relationships so often fail, Mary MacKillop’s understanding that her consecration in Religious Life bound her to Christ as closely as marriage does can inspire. She used to call herself ‘Christ’s spouse’, and so wrote that, as such, she should “be equally interested in all that is dear to his Heart”. [1]

This relationship helped her cope with daily friction. When she was in Brisbane away from support and actually being put down by the clergy there, it gave her consolation and comfort. She wrote to Father Julian Tenison Woods in 1870:

God’s goodness to us all and to me in particular, is too marked. It does cause me sorrow to see and hear some things, but a sweet voice ever whispers to bring it all with love to the Sacred Heart and to wait – that that Heart will yet vindicate Its rights over Its people’s minds…

To Jesus she could turn when there was no-one else to talk to. When Bishop Sheil excommunicated her, she did not want her Sisters to be gossiping about him or to take part in furthering the evil he and his priest-advisers had done. So she wrote to one of the Sisters: “Oh Sister, say not a word against him (Bishop Sheil) but pray that he may have light. As for the other gentlemen who are against us, do not, my Sister, judge them. If we cannot speak well of their acts, let us be silent, communing only with the Sacred Heart about them.”

Her relationship with Jesus was one of deep friendship. “When storms rage and persecutions threaten, I quietly creep into (the Sacred Heart’s) deep abyss”, she wrote, “and securely sheltered there, my soul is in peace, though my body is tossed on the stormy waves of a cold and selfish world”. [2]Again, His presence is before me almost in everything, and I love to come to Him in prayer as to my dearest and only Friend.” [3]

The symbol of the Sacred Heart expressed for her the reality of God who feels with and for us (compassion): “I am gentle, compassionate and generous.”[4]

It was that understanding that provided the focus for her response to God’s mission: “I live for all that in hope that some day His love will really reign Supreme, and that He will never permit me to lose heart in His sacred cause.” God’s love, made visible in the heart of Jesus, could now burn in her. Like the beloved disciple, Mary was attuned to Christ’s heartbeat, bringing all creation into the union of Love itself.

Mary Cresp rsj


[1] Letter to Monsignor Kirby, March 1874, Archives, Sisters of St Joseph, North Sydney.
[2] Letter to Sisters, 21 May, 1907. Archives, Sisters of St Joseph, North Sydney.
[3] Letter to Monsignor Kirby, March 1873, Archives, Sisters of St Joseph, North Sydney.
[4] ‘An Appeal of the Sacred Heart to a Weary Disappointed Soul’, Letter to Sisters, 21 May 1907.