At the heart of Mary MacKillop Place located in North Sydney, New South Wales, is the Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel. The Chapel was built in 1913 in memory of Mary MacKillop and shortly after, it was dedicated by the Archbishop Michael Kelly in 1914. Mary’s body was exhumed from the Gore Hill Cemetery and reinterred in the Chapel.
However, the story of Mary MacKillop Place begins before this. In 1883, Mary MacKillop was banished from Adelaide and travelled to Sydney where Sisters we already ministering. For a time, Mary resided at the Providence in Cumberland Street, The Rocks.
The Reverend Dean Kenny, a dear friend of Mary’s father Alexander, was living in a home on Alma Lane, North Sydney. Hearing of Mary’s banishment, he offered to vacate his home, now known as Alma Cottage, and gave it to Mary and the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Mary wrote, “A dear benefactor, a good old priest, is giving us his home to serve as a future Novitiate. It is beautifully situated, so retired and quiet, and is to be our own property. He was a dear old friend of my poor father’s.” (17.12.1883)
Not only were women being formed in Religious Life, but they were also being trained as teachers. At this time, the pupil-teacher method of teacher training was commonly practiced. Seeing the need for trainees to practice their skills, Mary had a ‘Practice School’ built at North Sydney. Children from nearby areas were encouraged to attend this school and so began the more formal stage of the teacher training system. As time went on, other Religious and lay women came to be trained as teachers. By 1991, the Catholic College of Sydney (as it was then known), became a founding member of the Australian Catholic University.
This site was to become the Mother House of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. In the 1990s the site was redeveloped, and in consultation with Aboriginal Elders was renamed Mary MacKillop Place.
Education remains a focus for Mary MacKillop Place. We share the story and legacy of St Mary MacKillop, Fr Julian Tenison Woods (founders of the Sisters of Saint Joseph) and the Sisters of Saint Joseph in a variety of ways, providing opportunities for personal transformation for the sake of our world.
As a place of pilgrimage, people come from all parts of Australia to pray at the tomb of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop. Part of the Chapel Ministry is to offer a ‘listening ear and heart’ to pilgrims who might wish to share their stories of pain, gratitude and joy.
Mary MacKillop Place also offers accommodation and conference facilities, a museum, café and gift shop. For full details of Mary MacKillop Place’s offerings can be viewed here.
Remembering Mary’s description of this site as quiet, beautiful, and retired, Mary MacKillop Place is described as “an oasis in the heart of the busy business district of North Sydney’. And indeed, once you step through the gates, you experience the peace and quiet of the site.
Mary MacKillop Place looks forward to welcoming you.
If you’d like to find out more about Mary MacKillop Place, you can visit www.marymackillopplace.org.au