Following a visit to Mary MacKillop Place in North Sydney, the late Bishop Ian Murray from the diocese of Argyll and the Isles in Scotland, invited the Sisters of Saint Joseph to come to his diocese and bring the story of Mary MacKillop to the people of Scotland, especially the Highlands.

In 2005 two Sisters were missioned by the Congregation and took up residence in Caol, Fort William in Lochaber region of Scotland.  It was in this region that Mary’s parents, Alexander MacKillop and Flora MacDonald, were born.  Alexander migrated to Australia in 1838 and Flora’s family came to settle in Melbourne in 1840.

Why are We Here?

  • To promote the life and spirituality of Mary MacKillop so that she is seen as a role model for living the gospel in daily life.
  • To establish the Josephite Associate Movement through which Mary’s charism will be fostered and lived among the laity and continue when Sisters are no longer available to come to Scotland
  • To provide pilgrimage opportunities to places in the area that are significant in Mary’s story
  • To be a house of hospitality of Sisters and others visiting the pilgrimage sites
  • To respond to the needs of the Bishop and priests with regard to on-going formation of the laity.

What Do We Do

Since 2005 the ministry of the Sisters has taken them to many places within the diocese of Argyll and the Isles, including the Western Isles (Hebrides) and other dioceses in Scotland.  Knowledge of and devotion to Mary has spread through conversations with individuals and by working with groups, both Catholic and non-Catholic.  The Sisters have facilitated prayer/reflection days and have participated in parish and diocesan celebrations and activities.  They have conducted workshops and assemblies with students in the local parish school and when the necessity arose, helped the Ministers’ Fraternal with ecumenical school assemblies in various places. The ministry is still evolving with more emphasis on parish involvement and adult faith formation.

Their home has been the venue for informal social hospitality gatherings for parishioners on the occasions of significant feasts or other celebrations.  Each year the Sisters offer hospitality to those who travel across the world to visit the places significant in the MacKillop/MacDonald story and those parts of Scotland visit by Mary when she visited Scotland in 1873-74.


Within the Lochaber region there are many places in and around Fort William and Roy Bridge which can be visited by those who wish to make a pilgrimage “In the Footsteps of Mary MacKillop”.  Some of these can be done by a walking pilgrimage but most cannot.  Nor is public transport available.  As part of their ministry where possible the resident Sisters make themselves available to take people to the significant places.  Visitors can travel to Fort William by bus, a 3hr journey, or train, a 4 hr journey from Glasgow.  If they wish to do so, visitors can hire a car in Glasgow and drive to Fort William following the A82 highway from Glasgow airport or points in the city.

As the journey from Australia or New Zealand is long the direct flight to Glasgow by Emirates Airlines is recommended. Short term accommodation is sometimes available at our convent.  If preferred, there are many hotels and B&B’s in town where accommodation can be arranged.

Two very useful resources in preparation for a pilgrimage are:

Mary MacKillop: the Scottish Connection
by Patricia Keane rsj


Mary MacKillop’s Scotland
a self guided pilgrimage to places significant to Mary
by Monica Barlow rsj
Both publications are available from Mary MacKillop Place, North Sydney.


Contact Information

Sisters of Saint Joseph
1 Mossfield Drive
Fort William




Page last updated: April 2016