Jane Woolford, CEO of Mary MacKillop Today.

CEO of Mary MacKillop Today, Jane Woolford, shares her personal reflections in this Lenten season.

There is no doubt that hardship is all around us. Right here in Australia, people are enduring devastating damage from the floods. We are still feeling the difficult impacts of the pandemic, and overseas we are seeing a horrendous war play out with children and families caught in the crossfire.

During Lent, we reflect on the themes of sacrifice, justice and almsgiving.

In Lent, we talk about what we might give up during this period. I can’t help but think about the early sisters. Their choice to follow Mary MacKillop and carry out God’s work came at a huge cost. They travelled long distances to remote areas in the unbearable heat. They lived each day very simply without any extravagance at all.

Undoubtedly, Mary was an incredibly inspirational woman to attract that kind of commitment!

Mary and the sisters were responding to a very important need — the right of all children to access education. They saw the injustice of children missing out on opportunities to escape poverty. Mary and the sisters went to great lengths to bring education to disadvantaged families, and were determined to set up schools where they were needed most and teach children, no matter their background.

It was not easy work, but it was a life choice that was motivated by helping others.

Sadly, Mary dealt with personal suffering. She faced significant barriers — powerful people who didn’t agree with her mission. Mary was excommunicated. When she lost the support of many people around her, it appeared her work could not go on. I sometimes reflect on the brokenness she must have felt — to have this extraordinary purpose come up against such adversity. It must have left such a vacuum for her, but she persevered.

I’ve been inspired by the message of the Holy Father Pope Francis for Lent 2022:

Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all.(Gal 6:9-10)

It is tempting to give up at the local and global level when we feel dispirited or overwhelmed. Pope Francis invites us to a change in mindset to persevere if we, ourselves, have the opportunity and the means to help others. It is hard to embrace that in the midst of suffering — but I encourage each of us to look to the story of the Cross. The sisters knew sacrifice and suffering but they also believed in the joy of giving and the hope of new life through Easter.

At Mary MacKillop Today, we strive to continue Mary MacKillop’s legacy and the work of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. With the help of generous supporters, our education programs can grow to bring opportunities to the marginalised — here in Australia and overseas.

If you’d like to find out more about the work of Mary MacKillop Today, you can visit www.marymackilloptoday.org.au

Jane Woolford
CEO, Mary MacKillop Today