Young Annie MacKillop.

A Josephite Companions Webinar held on 2 September 2023 saw Annie MacKillop, Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop’s sister and constant companion, recognised as the ‘first’ or ‘original’ Josephite Companion. Guest Speaker, Sr Judith Mary Geddes, detailed the life and times of Annie who supported and walked the journey with Mary and the Sisters of Saint Joseph.

Formerly a teacher, Sr Judith undertook research in the Sisters of Saint Joseph Archives uncovering diaries and little-known correspondence between MacKillop family members, and in doing so wrote her book A Faith-Filled Family – Mary MacKillop’s Sisters and Brothers. It is a story of an ordinary close-knit family whose religion helped them through some difficult times. Alexander and Flora had come from Scotland to settle in Australia with Mary being the eldest of eight children who were well educated by their father and filled with the love of God learned from their mother.

Born in September 1848, Annie was the fifth MacKillop child and together with Lexie, born 1850, they joined Mary teaching at the first St Joseph’s School which Mary and Father Julian Tenison Woods opened in Penola, South Australia. A few years later, Lexie joined the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Melbourne. Annie became Mary’s life-long support and shared in the Josephite mission, even though she never became a vowed Sister of Saint Joseph. Annie accompanied Mary on her extensive travels, visiting sisters and communities in remote areas. She taught music and as she often lived with the Sisters, she was able to help with living costs because of this income.

Annie with her siblings Mary and Donald MacKillop.

Sr Judith shared photos of Annie caring for Mary in later life while she was in a wheelchair and of groups of Sisters in which Annie is included. Annie was a friend and helper to the Sisters, sharing in the Josephite charism. In today’s world, we would consider that she was a Josephite Companion. The Webinar Break Out Rooms’ discussion and feedback centered on how Annie’s attributes are in line with our Companions Mission of Friendship, Prayer and Service.

As Josephite Companions, we are fortunate to share life and be fed and nourished by those with whom we share friendship and a connectedness. We have the opportunity through prayer and reflection to explore and deepen in our own hearts God’s boundless love. We are challenged to be of service to our families, our parish and our community – to be present in the ordinariness of life and “never see a need without doing something about it”.

Invited by the Sisters to share their Charism some 40 years ago, Josephite Companions draw on the strength and courage of Mary, of Annie, of the Sisters of their day and of the present-day Sisters who are certainly women of action and advocates for justice for people on the edge of society.

Annie is depicted as a talented, fashionable, cheerful, confident woman who complemented the Sisters of Saint Joseph way of life. She was kind and a caring nurse to Mary when she became ill.  Annie is a role model for us as Companions, giving us inspiration along our Josephite path.

Robyn Phelan


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