It was my privilege to enjoy the love and friendship of Mother Mary of the Cross.
From the first day I met her as Superioress of Mount Street Convent [North Sydney], where I put in my Novitiate, until the day of her death, a period of about twenty years, during which I had many opportunities of knowing her worth.
Mother Mary was a noble woman, blessed with rare vision and holiness. Where the glory to God and duty to others were concerned she was full of moral courage, fearing no human opinion, always acting according to the dictates of conscience.
My first experience of Mother Mary’s charity was one day when going with her as companion to the city. We were waiting at the corner of the street near Mount St Post Office for a tram. A young woman came staggering along and at last reached and rested by the stone on the side of the footpath. Being young and inexperienced I naturally thought the woman was intoxicated but Mother’s quick eye detected something more serious. She said to me ‘Come along dear and see what is wrong with this poor woman.’ On getting up to her we found the woman was very ill. Mother asked if she could do anything for her. The woman said if he could get to the chemist’s nearby as she knew what would relieve her. The three of us then went to the chemist’s where the patient was attended to and we waited until she felt better. This act of Charity on Mother’s part made a lasting impression on the rest of my life.” 
Over the past months we have experienced global turmoil and disasters. In Australia the plight of the nation and the planet have raised out awareness to the absolute need of being connected. We have witnessed amazing heroism, generosity and deep sharing in unbelievably big and small ways.
Mary MacKillop was a person who spent her life reaching out, giving and connecting. God’s presence was a dominant feature of her life. The witness we have experience in a nation’s response is Mary’s call to us in every-day life. God is with us in it all, good or challenging.
- Let us ask ourselves whether Mary MacKillop’s inspirational response of reaching out, giving and connecting can become a natural call to all of us?
- What aspects of Sr Helena’s story enabled you to experience the generous spirit of Mary MacKillop?
- What gift can you express more fully?
Let us light a candle which reminds us that Christ is the light of the world.
Take time to reflect and recount the blessings of the past days.
Pray in gratitude.
Michele Shipperley rsj
 Sister M Helena McCarthy, Tokaanu, NZ. 1 December 1925 p. 71. Excerpts taken from Memories of Mary by those who knew her, Sisters of St Joseph 1925-1926.
Honouring Saint Mary and Her Legacy: Adelaide’s Newest Museum
Grey skies and wild winds could not dampen the excitement and delight that were so evident amongst the 320 guests who gathered at Mary MacKillop College in Kensington on 1 December to witness the reopening of the adjoining Mary MacKillop Museum, which had been closed for redevelopment since late 2015. Originally commissioned as a Josephite Sesquicentenary project, the redevelopment and extension of the Museum took longer than was first anticipated. The delays and disappointments, however, paled into insignificance as the Sisters and all present at this memorable event celebrated the transformation that had taken place in recent months and which has produced a contemporary, inviting space that is interactive, reflective and inspirational.
During the opening ritual, the unveiling of the Commemorative Plaque was shared by Sister Monica Cavanagh, Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Saint Joseph and His Excellency, Governor Hieu Van Le, Governor of South Australia.
Sister Monica reminded guests that the Museum is situated “on the sacred ground where Mary MacKillop lived, walked, worked, prayed, laughed and anguished from 1872 to 1883.” She expressed her hope that this will, once again, be a place of education and pilgrimage, where visitors will engage in, and be inspired by, the story that shaped Mary MacKillop into the courageous, ground-breaking woman Australians have come to know and love.
Governor Hieu Van Le, an ardent admirer of Mary MacKillop, spoke of her from his own perspective, naming why she inspires him, especially her resilience, and why she is so significant for Australians of all background:
Adelaide’s Apostolic Administrator, Bishop Greg O’Kelly, who blessed the Commemorative Plaque, linked a line from Psalm 127: ‘If our God does not build the house, then in vain do the builders labour…’ with a letter written by Mary 25 years after the Josephites’ humble beginnings in Penola. Then, she wrote to her Sisters: ‘Little did either of us then dream of what was to spring from so small a beginning…’ a theme which is threaded through the redeveloped Museum. In Bishop O’Kelly’s estimation, the new Mary MacKillop Museum ‘moves the heart and lifts the soul.’
In her vote of thanks, the Regional Leader for CentreWest, Sister Margaret Cleary, acknowledged and thanked the many people who had contributed in any way to the Museum’s redevelopment, which was steered by Sister Mary Ryan, and the multi-skilled members of the Task Force who had invested so much of their time, talents, passion and personal resources in this project over the last four years. The hard work and initiative of the Fund-raising Committee, headed by Sister Brigette Sipa, were also recognised, along with the researchers, writers and editors, the architects, designers and skilled people who had combined forces to create a beautiful, welcoming, educational and spiritual ambience for visitors.
This new Museum goes beyond telling a little of Mary’s story. We also encounter a band of her courageous early companions who enabled the Josephite story to develop in ways and places that Mary and Julian could never have imagined. We can follow their inspiring stories via the digital display kiosks dotted round the Museum’s galleries. Using SoundPens, we are also able to hear the voices of Mary, Julian, pioneering Sisters, and also people – Sisters and others with Josephite hearts – representing the countless others who have kept the Penola dream alive as they have worked, in myriad ways, to make their small part of the world a better, more just place.
Other highlights of the new Museum include display boards, historic photos and letters, relics, art works, artefacts and memorabilia from various aspects of the 153 year-old Josephite story. All are now evoking visitors’ memories and/curiosity!
The Sisters of Saint Joseph invite you to visit Mary MacKillop Museum Adelaide. On arrival, you will be welcomed as you embark on a journey of discovery and inspiration. This is no ordinary museum! There is something to touch the hearts of visitors of all ages, cultures and faith backgrounds!
Mary MacKillop Museum Adelaide, which includes a Gift Shop and a soon-to-be-opened Café, is open 6 days a week. It is closed on Mondays, and between Christmas and New Year, reopening on 2 January 2020.
Address: 19 Phillips Street, Kensington SA
Opening Hours: 10.00am. to 4.00pm. Closed Christmas (25 December 2019) to New Year (1 January 2020).
Enquiries: email@example.com or (08) 8130 5910
Group bookings: firstname.lastname@example.org or 08 8130 5900
View photos from the opening in the gallery below:
Photos: Sarah-Jane and Eric van Staden: Inhouse Imaging www.inhouseimaging.com.au. Used with permission.
The word thank you seems inadequate to show our deep appreciation to Mary Ryan rsj (South Australia) for her monthly reflections on Mary MacKillop for the ‘Inspiration from our Founders’ section in the Mary MacKillop eNews over the past ten years.
Sr Mary, your contributions have enabled many readers to enter more fully into an understanding of St Mary of the Cross and her strong faith in the power of God’s unbounding love for each of us.
Kath Hitchcock rsj
Congregational Communications Team
You’re invited to view all of Sr Mary’s reflections below:
We often hear the question asked: “Where is God?”
Mary MacKillop had no doubt that God was with her, even in her darkest times. In this time leading up to Christmas, we will hear the Scriptural phrase ‘Emmanuel, God-with-us’ many times. We are invited to slow down, ‘smell the flowers’, ponder Mary’s words, and discover our God in the ‘bits and pieces of every day’.
Sometimes, like Mulga Bill on his bicycle, we find ourselves hurtling into the future, or rushing to our next activity. We struggle to be fully present to this moment—the one we are living now.
- Have we paused lately to notice the small signs of changes in the seasons?
- Do we sometimes stop to savour the smell of freshly mown grass? …or to enjoy what is right in front of our noses?
These little reflective breaks can help to keep us in the now. They put us in touch with our ‘good God’.
All the great spiritual writers invite us to try to live in the present. This moment, NOW, is the most important one we have. In fact, it is all we have. When Patrick Kavanagh tells us that “God is in the bits and pieces of every day”, we glimpse the nearness of our God in this precious moment, and in everyday happenings.
Mary MacKillop’s ‘good God’ is a faithful, gentle God who is at home with us. We don’t have to spend our lives seeking God elsewhere.
We light a candle to honour this present moment and to remind ourselves that the ground we are on is holy ground. Called, or uncalled, God is present. We sit in silence. Later on, we might take a long, slow, reflective walk.
The above is an extract from The Little Brown Book Too (pages 136-137)
© Sue and Leo Kane 2011
Used with the kind permission of the publishers, St Paul’s Publications
Photo: Advent candles by Sr Mary Ryan rsj. Used with permission.
Mary MacKillop — the girl who became a saint
The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) has recently featured Mary MacKillop on their new podcast series called Fierce Girls.
The ABC states that “Fierce Girls is a show aimed at kids 7-11 years old (and their parents) and tells the inspiring stories of some of Australia’s most extraordinary women. Each amazing story is narrated by equally fierce and fabulous women like singer Amy Shark, the first female Governor- General Dame Quentin Bryce and Orange is the New Black actor, Yael Stone.
One week’s episode, narrated by star of Little Lunch and Home and Away actor Olivia Deeble featured Saint Mary MacKillop. The episode features the story-telling of the great work of Mary MacKillop.
You’re invited to access the podcast and resources provided by the ABC below:
On Tuesday 22 October, 21 people arrived in Melbourne to participate in the National Pilgrimage – In the Footsteps of Mary MacKillop.
During the time of pilgrimage, pilgrims had the opportunity to hear of the struggles, joys, hopes and dreams of Mary, her family and Father Julian Tenison Woods and the needs of the early white settlers in this country.
While in places of significance in this story, pilgrims were invited to be conscious of the importance of ‘place’ and how this could impact on them if they allowed themselves to be present to it. At these places they took time to pray, in thanksgiving, praise, petition.
One of the significant places we visited was the home of Peter MacKillop’s, Mary’s uncle, at Lara near Geelong in Victoria. Peter owned this place and offered hospitality to Mary’s mother, Flora MacKillop, and Maggie and Peter, Mary’s brother and sister. Here pilgrims were invited to remember the hospitality they have received from others; the hospitality they have offered others and the ways in which they have experienced the incredible hospitality of God.
Pilgrimage calls us to reflect on our own life and the revelation of God within it and the lives of others. Much time was given for pilgrims to intentionally enter into this reflection. As they heard the beginnings of Mary’s story and the influence of her parents in her life, the pilgrims were encouraged to look at their own beginnings and family life and how they have been shaped into the person each is today.
As this pilgrimage within the pilgrimage came to an end, a few pilgrims were invited to share what this experience meant for them:
Through the collection of prayers, reflections and hymns of the past days, I have been provided with the opportunities to reflect on my life and drew on the patience Mary MacKillop that she practised through the trials, tribulations and challenges of her journey.
I pray that I may develop a stillness to become more aware of the love and compassion of Jesus in my daily life.
You might like to follow the pilgrimage in more detail by accessing the Mary MacKillop Place Facebook page below:
View some photos from the pilgrimage in the gallery below:
At a time when the treatment of animals used in sport is under the spotlight, and in this month when countless Australians are captivated by the ‘Race that stops the nation’, it seems appropriate to stop, ponder and allow ourselves to be inspired by Mary MacKillop’s kindness and concern for both people and animals.
“Another Sister and I were travelling with Mother Mary in Cobb and Co’s coach, which had its full complement of passengers,” one Sister recounted. “When we came to a very steep hill, Mother thought it was too much for the horses. She got out of the coach, and we did also, much against our will, as the hill was very long as well as steep, and, to make matters worse, Mother asked us to join her in saying some prayers for the driver of the coach. He was a most disagreeable man who was swearing at his horses most of the time. Mother walked to the top of the hill in the best of spirits and provided the driver with some refreshments, as the days was very hot.”
On an ordinary, hot, Australian day, a grumpy man who swore at his horses must have been surprised to be the recipient of such a random act of kindness! “Amazing”, he probably thought, as he chewed on those unexpected refreshments. It raises the question: ‘Who deserves a good deed?’
In our imperfect lives, we all need someone to come along every so often to remind us of the love that underpins everything. Kindness sets up many ripples, and that’s why it is the greatest wisdom.
The above is an extract from The Little Brown Book Too (pages 48-49)
© Sue and Leo Kane 2011
Used with the kind permission of the publishers, St Paul’s Publications
Image: Jiawei Shen, who has written:
I have used a pure realist style to portray a scene of Mary MacKillop travelling around Australia by Cobb and Co coach in the 1880s. I based my work on comments by Mary’s biographers about how she never stayed in the one place long, travelling vast distances between Josephite establishments over rough roads in uncomfortable coaches.
Obtained from: Mary MacKillop: A Tribute © Honeysett Press, NSW 1995, page 70
For the Extraordinary Missionary Month of October, the Catholic Diocese of Versailles, France prepared an online St Mary MacKillop reflection and biography about the life of Mary MacKillop.
Provided below is the Mary MacKillop biography that was prepared…
First canonised Australian saint, co-founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart for the Catholic education of poor children.
Born in Melbourne, the eldest of eight children from a poor family, Mary had to work to support them quite early (16 years old). At 18, she left for Penola in the South East district of the Australian state of South Australia to be a governess. In her free time, she cared for poor or disadvantaged children from the local area, especially those from Aboriginal families.
There she met local parish priest, Father Julian Woods whose Bishop had instructed his priests to open Catholic schools in their parishes. He was unable to hire Catholic teachers. Therefore, he decided to found a new Religious Congregation to do this work and he invited Mary to become its first member. The project far exceeded their expectations.
In 1866, she became the first Sister of St. Joseph as Father Woods’ new Congregation was called. In 1867 she moved to Adelaide, the principal city in South Australia, to take charge of a large school there. Many young women joined her and by December 1869, when she made her final vows, there were already 82 sisters managing 23 schools, an orphanage, a shelter for former prisoners, and a House of Providence for vulnerable or homeless women of all ages.
Between 1871 and 1889, the new institute continued to grow even though conflict over its mode of governance led to the excommunication of Mary for five months. Then, after the bishop had lifted his excommunication, she travelled to Rome to ask the pope to approve the statutes of this new Australian Religious Congregation. Even though Rome had accepted it with some modifications, the mode of governance, new for the time, continued to provoke turmoil and division among some bishops.
In 1888, Rome gave formal approval to the Congregation and bishops who wished to retain the older form of governance for their sisters were permitted to do so provided they changed these sisters’ mode of dress and the names of their Congregations.
In 1891, 25 years after the establishment of the Congregation, there were 300 sisters in 80 foundations in nine Australian and New Zealand dioceses.
Until the end of her life and as far as she was able, Mary devoted all her energy to visiting the institutions, accompanying Sisters to new foundations, and instructing them on the most subtle points of their rule and on her methods of education.
She died in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, on 8 August 1909 and became Australia’s first canonised saint on 17 October 2010.
Head of the Evangelization Department, Catholic diocese of Versailles, France