Reflection on Mary MacKillop

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.

So Small a Beginning: Part 3

Sr Marie Foale speaks about the beginnings of the Institute of St Joseph for the Catholic education of poor children.

She believes that as a young Josephite growing up, she had a sense that one day Mary MacKillop and Julian Tenison Woods had made a spontaneous decision to found an order.

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Keeping kids healthy during COVID-19

How you can keep kids healthy in Timor-Leste during COVID-19.

Many teachers and community leaders in Timor-Leste are currently not equipped to educate children and their families on basic health and hygiene practices that can prevent diseases like COVID-19.

Will you help keep kids healthy and fight COVID-19 in Timor-Leste with a gift towards our Health Literacy Program?

Your support will help stop the spread of Coronavirus, as well as other common preventable diseases in Timor-Leste, such as tuberculosis, malaria, dengue fever and diarrhea.

You can provide schoolteachers with lifesaving training and health education resource kits containing health promotion posters, lesson plans and activities, books on various health issues, and a CD with songs about health including handwashing. These are all in the local language, Tetun.

Mary MacKillop Today helped me engage my children in school, especially with basic health and hand washing practices. I was so happy to get training and also materials like health books, posters and health guidance books to use for teaching in the classroom.Asatu, a Grade 2 teacher in Timor-Leste who recently participated in our Health Literacy Program

Your support makes it possible for teachers like Asatu, in rural and remote schools, to provide vital health and hygiene information to young students in a fun and interactive way.

You can donate now if you would like to assist children and their families in the poorest communities to stay healthy – during and beyond this current health crisis. Thank you!

Elizabeth Phegan,
Supporter Relations Group Leader,
Mary MacKillop Today

Life is Like the Seasons

Adapting After Lockdown.

With schools resuming regular teaching across Australia after weeks of lockdown, some children will look forward to seeing their friends but for many others, returning to the classroom after an extended period will be challenging, especially for children and young people who are currently managing other life challenges that impact their capacity to adapt to change.

The urgent nature of the global response to COVID-19 has brought with it fast and unprecedented change to family, school and work life. The largely invisible but highly pervasive threat of the virus has been a testing time for everyone – with high levels of stress and anxiety further amplified by the realities of restrictions and uncertainty about whether and when life will be ‘normal’ again. Read more of this article from the Centre for Children and Young People. Download the resource.

Now, following weeks (months for some), without social interaction with friends, peers, extended family and other trusted adults – children and young people may be experiencing a range of emotions and behaviours. The array of change and unpredictability can leave us feeling overwhelmed and anxious. These feelings are normal and expected during times of transition and change. As professionals in education and support roles, we play a critical role in helping the transition of students back to school. There are familiar and core concepts in the literature about how to best support children and young people during difficult times. Please have a look at this new resource researched and written by CYRA and Seasons for Growth program author Prof Anne Graham AO, Director of the Centre for Children and Young People, SCU.  LINK to new resource.

Children and young people rely on trusted adults to help manage transitions and so we have prepared an easy-to-read factsheet to support parents, carers and professionals – Self-Care & Wellbeing: During Times of Uncertainty.


To support professionals who are keen to train in the Seasons for Growth program, we have transitioned to a virtual training model and have received wonderful feedback! Professionals who have recently completed training have recognised the need for the program in our current climate and are already making plans to support the children and young people in their care as soon as they are able.

We would also like to say thank you to all of you in the community and particularly the young people within the school communities who organised a fundraiser to donate funds to help those impacted by the bushfires. Your fundraiser will enable the ‘Stormbirds’ program to help bush-fire affected communities, like Glen Innes.

Your donation gives children access to the program, books and helps to train a Companion.

Fiona McCallum and all the Good Grief Team

How you can help young Aboriginal Australians

Help young people overcome social and emotional challenges.

Disengagement from education is a significant concern amongst community members in the Kimberley region of Western Australia and local service providers are struggling to meet the needs of young Aboriginal people through programs that are culturally relevant and safe.

Thanks to the generosity of people like you, Mary MacKillop Today can continue to work alongside Aboriginal communities helping young people engage with education.

Will you help young people to overcome the social and emotional challenges that make it incredibly difficult to engage in learning?

Please give today to support the Equine Assisted Learning program in the Kimberley, named Yawardani Jan-ga which means “horses doing healing.”

Delivered in partnership with the Telethon Kids Institute, the Yawardani Jan-ga program is owned and facilitated by experienced and qualified Aboriginal community members like Abby-Rose.

As a schoolteacher, I see a real need to support mental health and wellbeing amongst the Indigenous youth in my community. I’ve been amazed at how taking the learning out of the classroom and into a different environment—with horses amongst the quiet of nature—is a game changer for engaging with kids. Abby-Rose, part of the Yawardani Jan-ga program
Supporters like you make it possible for Abby-Rose to work with horses and help young Aboriginal Australians who have disengaged after experiencing trauma or significant pressure.
You can donate now if you would like to support this great cause.
Elizabeth Phegan
Supporter Relations Group Leader
Mary MacKillop Today

Josephite Charism

Never See a Need…. During a Pandemic.

Sisters, and those inspired by the charism of Mary MacKillop, have ministered in a Josephite spirit since 1866. They have been inspired by the words of their Founder Rev Julian Tenison Woods: ‘Never see a need without doing something about it’ and their ministries have been in many settings.

They have ministered with people in country, outback and city places in Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, Peru, Brazil and Fiji. They have worked in educational settings, in healthcare, in parishes and prisons. Those, women, children and families, who are poor have been the main focus and concern of the sisters. These include Indigenous persons, asylum-seekers and refugees. In order to minister, the sisters have often been found visiting homes, hospitals, “camps” in the Kimberleys, jails or detention centres. As they have aged or situations have changed, sisters over the years, have become involved in other ministries such as Spiritual Direction, being a Director of a Board or pastorally caring for the aged or mentally ill.

They were ready therefore to respond to the changes in mid-March 2020, when the Coronavirus was declared a Pandemic and people were told to “stay at home”. Indeed, the need now was to keep oneself safe so as not to be a burden on medical staff, hospitals, religious communities or society and not to spread the virus. Many found themselves praying, gardening, cooking, reading or following a creative pursuit. At first, meetings and appointments were crossed out of diaries. Then new meetings on ZOOM or telephone, started to be pencilled in. New ways were found to communicate, meditate communally, attend Liturgies, do courses and support others.

Some sisters worked from home in Leadership, as School Pastoral Workers, Spiritual Directors, Supervisors, and attending or giving Inservices. Contact was made with parents who were home-schooling children, asylum-seekers, or those finding it difficult socially or financially. Many candles were lit, and contemplative prayer and Novenas were offered, especially for those in countries where the virus was claiming many lives and causing enormous pain. There was concern too, for our own Josephite Sisters and Associates in various places, including Peru and Ireland, and indeed, for people all over the world.

Mystic, Julian of Norwich, lived most of her life (1342-c.1415) with the terrifying ‘Black Death’ which raged for most of her life and killed 25 million people in Europe. In her homeland of England, it is estimated that one–third of the population died. Yet Julian trusted in and taught about God’s unfailing love and wrote “All will be well; every manner of things will be well.” Centuries later, Saint Mary MacKillop wrote: “We must often feel weary and tired and yet God brings us through all these things” (5 June 1874). Our sisters and ancestors experienced the Spanish Flu a hundred years ago.

Josephites, inspired by those who have gone before us, continue to minister in new and unexpected ways, wherever each of us finds ourselves in this age and time in history.

Denise Brosnan rsj


Julian Tenison Woods: A Life – Chapters 9th to 11th

Chapters 9th, 10th and 11th

After the death of the Bishop [Murphy], the diocese was administered by the Vicar General, Father Ryan… [He] was well acquainted with the staunch old Catholics most of them Scotch – in the Penola district. [1]

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Celebrating Communion and Oneness

Trinity Sunday 2020.

The God of “tenderness and compassion” (Exodus 34:6) is a God that we Christians have experienced as the Holy Trinity – three persons in one God.  Through our initiation into the family of believers we are intimately related to the Father/Mother God through Jesus with whom God is one, and to the Spirit who proceeds from both, a love bond, a perfect communion.


God, the ultimate ground of all that exists, is a community and where there is a community there is communion or oneness.  Everywhere we look in our world, among humans and among the other-than-human creatures, we find communion, a communion that leads to a oneness. Eating food is a communion event that brings about oneness between the one eating and the food being consumed.  Remembering is a communion event that can bring about a oneness between the present reality and the past.  Worshipping God is a communion event that can deepen the oneness that exists between God, us and all creation.

Our scientists refer to the Universe as a single energy event, as a cosmic communion in which everything in the Universe is present to everything else in the Universe. We humans are “made in the image of God”, yet all of creation images God and carries the divine presence and purpose. Every being in our Universe has its own voice that speaks of the Ultimate Mystery out of which it came and within which it exists.

No matter where we look – up into the universe, out into this world or inside our own hearts, we can sense the presence of the three in one God.  In every dimension of our existence God reveals Godself to us, sharing with us God’s life and drawing us into God’s love communion.

To exist is to exist in communion and in oneness.  In honouring the Trinity, we are called to value, nurture and celebrate this communion and oneness. In this way we grow in wonder and in our love relationship with our tender and compassionate God (the Creator, Saviour and Sustainer), and we come to experience a cosmic communion.

Scarborough Sunrise

I don’t think we will be questioned at the pearly gates about what we know about the Mystery of the Trinity! What is important is that through the ups and downs of our daily life, we open ourselves to encounter the God who loves, the God who saves, the God who inspires, the God who invites us and all creation into a living, benevolent relationship.

In the words of Saint Paul’s Trinitarian Blessing: “May the grace of Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with [us] all” (2 Corinthians 13:13).

Therese McGarry rsj