In 1873-1874 Mary travelled from Rome and then to London where the McDougalls invited her to stay at their house in Clapham Park and make herself at home during their absence. Mary then travelled to Paris and to her ancestral home the Braes of Lochaber in Scotland.

Cille Choirille Church and Graveyard – the Braes of Lochaber, Scotland [1]
The servants had been well instructed, and Mary was overwhelmed. At first she was inclined to feel concerned at the luxury, but then she simply had a good laugh at the incongruity of finding herself in ‘a grand, high bed’ in such a place.  She stayed on a week after the McDougalls returned.  Although they were so kind, she was not really at ease in such surroundings, especially as she was some distance from the church. When Mr McDougall had to go to Australia, she was relieved to be able to return without offence to the cheap and convenient lodgings in South Street.”

From there she returned to Fort William, where illness delayed her again for a few days before she could start for Fort Augustus. She was overjoyed to meet on the canal steamer the priest who had consoled her in her loneliness at Versailles. He paid her expenses and handed her over to her relative, Dean MacDonald of Fort Augustus, with whom she then stayed for three days. The story was the same everywhere – helpful priests and kindly welcomes in convents. … Fr Bissett gave her soul ‘the help and encouragement it sometimes so sadly needed.’

Extract from ‘Mary MacKillop: An Extraordinary Australian’ by Paul Gardiner sj (1993) pp. 140-141. E J Dwyer Pty Ltd Australia.

Saint Mary MacKillop commemorative coin [2]
This story of Mary’s journey, while not easy has brought the comfort of assistance, companionship and welcome. The pattern of Mary’s days is akin to our home journey during these past months as we have longed to gather with family and friends and move around outside our locality.

Let us ponder on Mary’s life during the long wait to hear from Rome about the future of the congregation.

  • Imagine Mary’s delight and relief on meeting her relatives and visiting her ancestral home.
  • What are your thoughts about Mary’s choice to move from comfort to cheap and convenient lodgings?
  • How does Mary’s humour, devotion and resilience speak to you in this vingnette?

Mary MacKillop Saint for Australia and the world, pray for us.

Michele Shipperley rsj


Image sources:
[1] Cille Choirille Church and Graveyard by Dave Fergusson obtained from Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 2.0.
[2] Saint Mary MacKillop commemorative coin obtained from The Perth Mint Australia website.