Mary’s Spirit: Alive and Well Here

 The staff and children of Holy Child School, Dallas (in Melbourne’s northern suburbs) are proud that their school, was the first in Australia to start a children’s Mary MacKillop group!

Their special connection to Mary MacKillop has come about because there have always been Josephite Sisters working and teaching at Holy Child. The Mary MacKillop group is well supported by the staff of Holy Child School. The two staff leaders, Jo-Anne Murphy and Veronica Madigan rsj, have reported that: ‘The ongoing support of our Principals has been particularly invaluable in ensuring its success. They have placed a high personal value on the group, and this has been demonstrated by the structures that have been put in place, including allocating some school resources to support us financially and making the task of co-ordinating the group a part of the role description of the Religious Education Co-ordinator. This gives a high profile and continues to be part of school life, regardless of changes in personnel.’
Holy Child’s Mary MacKillop group has three main areas of focus:

  • Spiritual: coming together in the spirit of Mary MacKillop, in friendship, prayer and service
  • Educational: learning about Mary MacKillop, her life and work
  • Service: seeking to assist in our school and in the wider community

The school community works hard at following Mary’s motto “Never see a need without trying to do something about it.” This includes being aware of the immediate needs of people both within and beyond the school community, supporting people through prayer, friendship and acts of kindness and generosity. Beyond the school, they try to support:

  • the work of the Josephite Sisters, both locally and overseas
  • their ‘twin’ parish in East Timor
  • the work of their former parish priest (Fr Joe Ruys) in Peru

The group has its own banner, which is displayed in the office foyer and is used at special Masses and outings. Membership of the group is open to students in Years 4-6. There is a Senior Group – Years 5&6 – led by the REC, Mrs Jo-Anne Murphy and a Junior Group – Years 3&4 – led by Sr Veronica Madigan rsj. The groups meet either weekly or fortnightly during lunchtime. As the number of involved students has continued to grow, a ‘Mary MacKillop Student Leadership Group’ (president, two vice-presidents and a secretary) has been established. This meets fortnightly to plan with the REC. The leaders, who are elected by their peers, have the responsibility of leading prayer and promoting Mary MacKillop in their own classrooms, e.g. in their ‘Circle Time’.

Mary MacKillop’s feast day is August 8th. Veronica and Jo-Anne have told us that: ‘Over the years, we have celebrated this day by having a special Prayer Service or Mass, during which the children who are presently members of the Mary MacKillop Group re-confirm their commitment to the group and new members will make their first commitment, receiving their Mary MacKillop badge.’ Each year, a saying of Mary MacKillop’s is chosen as the school’s motto for the coming twelve months, and this becomes the theme of the feast day Mass or Prayer Service. It is then displayed in prominent places around the school: the entrance foyer and every classroom, and it is featured on the weekly parents’ newsletter. This coming year’s motto will be: ‘Trust in the goodness of God’ (MMK1873).

Feast day activities over the years have also included Mary MacKillop classroom activities, and fund-raising events, such as casual clothes days and a mini fete. All the funds raised are donated on a rotating basis to the local and overseas projects named above. This year, the Mary MacKillop Foundation will benefit from the children’s efforts.

Over the years, the children have participated in a range of activities. This year’s special project is assisting once a week with the school’s ‘Healthy Breakfast Programme’.

Jo-Anne and Veronica are grateful that the School has ‘always received invaluable support from Mary MacKillop Heritage Centre and other Sisters of Saint Joseph who have worked closely with the group to give the students an understanding of how the work and charism of Mary MacKillop continue today.’