Reflection on Mary MacKillop

Sister Margaret Mary Sexton reflects on the humility and graciousness of Mother Mary MacKillop from Grey Lynn Aotearoa New Zealand in 1925.

“Mother Mary had sufficiently staffed the school at Port Charmers so she returned to Arrowtown as ‘Little Sister’ and as both sisters were engaged in the school, the ‘Little Sister’ willingly and cheerfully undertook the cooking and general housework.  It was her delight to have a comfortable lunch ready when they came in from school.  But in order to have the meals up to her standard she sometimes had to ask the lady next door for advice and assistance – especially when the flounder she was cooking fell to pieces.  Her distress was so great that the lady came in and gave her a lesson in ‘frying flounder’ with the result that it was beautifully cooked.  Mother was as proud of her success as if she were cooking for the Queen instead of for two humble little professed novices.

The world we live in is changing daily as we see COVID-19 spreading its destruction across all nations.  This new climate calls for social distancing and vigilance regarding cleanliness.  Mary MacKillop was a neighbourly person; she demonstrated her willingness to learn and to be humble.  This cameo gives a down to earth image of a woman yearning to please and to set up a loving home.

Extract from Memories of Mary by those who knew her, p 81.


As this insidious virus causes us to hibernate, each of us can still be a neighbour, a caring presence, a person who thinks of others and ensures that others can also enjoy a peaceful existence.  Mary Mackillop is an example of connecting and reaching out.

  • What impressed you about Mary’s attitude and actions in this scenario?
  • During this time of hardship, is there a neighbour who needs a hand, a meal, some shopping done?
  • As we keep our distance from the social world, what creative energy can we use to assist family and friends to remain connected and relieved in times of loneliness and depression?
  • What resources can each of us call upon as a source of good for ourselves and others?
  • Let us pray for a neighbourly spirit and a desire to cultivate a generous and humble service of each other as we recall the example of the flounder cooking lesson for the “Little Sister”.

Michele Shipperley rsj