From St Martha’s Home Leichhardt NSW, on 19 November 1925, Sister Mary Patricia Campbell reflects on Mary MacKillop’s care and love of her Sisters.

“A Sister was dying at Port Augusta. She was putting out a crude kerosene lamp in the church after evening devotions. The lamp burst and, in a moment, the poor Sister was in flames. She lingered for three or four days in great agony and each day kept asking for Mother Mary. The boat from Adelaide only went once a week, and at that time the nearest station to Port Augusta was Mount Remarkable. Mother Mary’s kind heart yearned to be with her dying child and in her distress, she said, ‘I shall go to Mount Remarkable and surely some kind people will drive me the rest of the journey.’ On arrival at the terminus she made fruitless efforts to get driven on; several farmers were in with their wheat, but all shook their sage heads at the prospect of driving to Port Augusta. They adjourned to the hotel and were having refreshments when Mother Mary walked in and said: ‘Gentlemen, my sister who is dying at Port Augusta, is constantly asking for me. If one of you will lend me a horse, I will ride there. Chivalry was not quite dead in those Celtic hearts. Two or three jumped up, got a pair of spanking horses and a buggy and drove her on that afternoon where she was in time to console the last moments of the dying Sister….” [1]

In today’s complicated world we are called to step up and show our true selves in utter honesty. There is criticism of those who place before us what is really happening in our world. We can take the daring of Greta Thunberg who openly shames the political world with her truths about our care of the earth; we admire the courage of the women of the Me-Too Movement as they fight sexual abuse and harassment.

Alternatively, we endure the half-truths, denials and inaction from politicians and leaders through inertia, fear or disinterest. Mary MacKillop demonstrated her commitment to those in her care through courage, fearlessness and reliance on providence.

  • What impression do you envisage the farmers gained from this encounter with Mary Mackillop?
  • Ponder the inspiration that the early sisters imbibed from Mary’s selfless and loving care of them.
  • What new insights have you gained into Mary’s life and faith from this cameo of the journey to Port Augusta?

Let us pray in the stillness for courage and strength to stand in our own truth, embolden by the example of Mary MacKillop and enlivened by the call of Jesus.

Let us thank God for all our blessings.

Michele Shipperley rsj


[1] Sr Patricia sailed from Galway, Ireland on the SS Osyth with Mary MacKillop a little before Christmas in 1874. Extract taken from Memories of Mary by those who knew her, Sisters of St Joseph 1925 – 1926