Mary MacKillop Cottage signs in Arrowtown

How do Mary MacKillop’s virtues and values inspire the happenings of everyday life?

Sr Margaret Mary Sexton wrote:

When the time came for Mother Mary MacKillop to begin her visitation of the other houses, she feared her little Arrow community would be very lonely so far away from all the other convents.Sr Margaret Mary Sexton, Memories of Mary by those who knew her – Sisters of St. Joseph 1925-1926

A snapshot of the Sisters’ beginnings and ministry at Arrowtown, Aotearoa New Zealand

Mary MacKillop Cottage, Arrowtown

After a voyage of four or five days on the SS Wakatipu and putting in at the Bluff, Mary MacKillop was met by the Rev Father M Keenan who insisted that the Bishop promised him a community for Arrowtown (near Queenstown) and that all was in readiness to welcome the Sisters. While Mary stated that the three Sisters from South Australia were for Port Chalmers, she was however persuaded by Fr. Keenan’s pleading and also by the fact that he knew the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Queensland, and so the Sisters set off on the long journey to the Cold Lake District of Central Otago, South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Given Mary’s love and desire to reach out to isolated children and many deprived of education, it was not surprising that she yielded to his request and the Sisters commenced in the school. However, Sr Margaret Mary notes that as the Parish Priest of Port Chalmers protested about not receiving the promised Sisters, Mary with one of the three Sisters at Arrowtown, opened a school at Port Chalmers.

When the next group of Sisters arrived in the Diocese of Dunedin, one of the Sisters replaced Mary at Port Chalmers and Mary returned to be with the two Sisters at Arrowtown.  Here she supported the Sisters by preparing meals, housework, gardening and anything that needed to be done.  Such was her availability and having been part of the Arrowtown community, is it any wonder when Mary began visiting the Sisters in the various houses in New Zealand, she felt keenly for the young Sisters ministering in the lonely mountains so far away from the other Sisters.

Mary’s vision and values embraced all whom she met. Her keen awareness of isolation and possible triggering of loneliness because of little communication and connection with other Sisters in New Zealand, was of great concern to her.

Mary’s virtues and values in today’s world

Virtues and Values

  • Compassion, kindness, gratitude, hospitality.
  • Responding to needs of isolation, loneliness.
  • Open to possibilities.
  • Adaptability.
  • Availability and flexibility for whatever was needed.
  • Never see a need without doing something about it.

Mary’s inspirational virtues and values live on today in all who live with a Josephite heart. The pastoral care and support offered is that which nourishes, heals, sustains and nurtures each person as their journey unfolds and transitions.

Mary’s reputation for goodness and wisdom spread far and near and to Sisters in need of hope and healing, Mary wrote in 1878:

My first duty is to look after you. Such was her care of the Sisters.
Mary MacKillop 1878

Mary’s virtues and values are also well articulated by Noel Davis, in his poem Heart of Life.

It is our desire to be one with God.
In being one with each other
One with the truth and wonder of ourselves.
In the immensity and intimacy of unfolding creation.
Framed photo displayed in the Arrowtown Church

What is said of Arrowtown in this framed photo, could be said of the blessings received and given wherever we have been in the past, where we are today and living with a Josephite heart as we embrace all that will be in the future.

While Mary was ever mindful of her Sisters and the people of Arrowtown, Arrowtown remains mindful of Mary, her mission and legacy. May her spirit always remain in this place and her name be revered for the blessings she brought to Arrowtown!

Margaret Cleary rsj