History in the Making: Mary MacKillop Place

Alma Cottage current photo.

An 1880’s map of St Leonards by Higginbotham and Robinson identifies the future site for the first novitiate in Sydney (the original was in Adelaide, South Australia) for the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Alma Lane, North Sydney.

Holtemann photograph dated between 1870-1875

St Leonards, later known as North Sydney, has a complex and rich history in the founding of the early Catholic community, which underpins the story of the arrival of the Sisters of Saint Joseph to Mount Street in 1884.

The Sisters of Mercy, Loreto Sisters and the Marist Brothers, Jesuits and The Grail all served the community’s educational and social needs at the time of the arrival of the Sisters of Saint Joseph.

On 19 March 1884 the formal opening of the novitiate for the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Sydney was celebrated.

The establishment of the new novitiate in the unassuming two storey stone cottage, originally built in 1855, was due to the generosity of Dean John Kenny a seminary companion of Alexander MacKillop, Mary MacKillop’s father. The two men met during their stay in Rome.

Dean John Kenny’s parish work (1867-78) included St Leonards where he was responsible for the building of the first stone Catholic church, St Mary’s Church, Ridge Street, North Sydney, which was opened in 1868.

The history of Mary MacKillop Place begins with the purchase of this cottage (now known as Alma Cottage) by Dean Kenny from John Whitton, a Chief Civil Engineer, in August 1867. John Whitton oversaw the massive expansion of the railways across the state from 1856 to 1890. Records indicate that Dean Kenny resided in this cottage from the mid-1870s onwards.

Final Resting Place, Mary MacKillop

It was during this time that the Marist Brothers opened in 1888 St Mary’s School (next to St Mary’s Church), which would be later staffed by the Sisters of Saint Joseph in the early 1900s. The Sisters produced a network of practice schools for young novices including the Ridge Street School which became known as the ‘Practice and Demonstration’ School.

After Dean Kenny’s death his legacy of bequeathed property to the Sisters of Saint Joseph secured the Mount Street location as a significant site for pilgrims to this day.

The Land and Property Management Authority produced an informative booklet in 2010, the year of Mary MacKillop’s Canonisation, entitled ‘Mary MacKillop (1842-1909) Records of a Saint.’ This booklet details the ‘Old System deeds’ and shows how the Order gradually acquired land over time, including the purchase of land from the trustees of Reverend John Kenny who in 1887 sold Number 2 Alma Terrace for 1,000 pounds.

In April 1890 the Congregation purchased Number 1 Alma Terrace. The original deeds include those personally signed by Mary MacKillop and were held in trust for a ‘Convent or Residence for the Sisters of the Religious Community of Women known as the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart at Mount Street North Sydney.’

Continue reading the article below:

History in the Making – Mary MacKillop Place (PDF)

Edwina Huntley
Museum Curator
Mary MacKillop Place

Reflection on Mary MacKillop

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.” [1]

A certain sense of God’s wonderful love strengthens me. Mary MacKillop 1873

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.

Courage, courage trust in God who helps you in all things. Mary MacKillop 1874
  • 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.

There where you are you will find God. Mary MacKillop 1871

Michele Shipperley rsj

[1] 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.

Opening of Mary MacKillop Museum in Adelaide

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:

Mary MacKillop is a woman for all Australians who, through her example, remains relevant to us today as a woman of foresight and faith.Governor Hieu Van Le, Governor of South Australia

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: info.mmprecinct@sosj.org.au or (08) 8130 5910
Website: www.marymackillopadelaide.org.au/museum
Group bookings: infosa@sosj.org.au or 08 8130 5900

View photos from the opening in the gallery below:

Mary MacKillop Precinct, Adelaide SA


Photos: Sarah-Jane and Eric van Staden: Inhouse Imaging  www.inhouseimaging.com.au. Used with permission.

Thank You Sr Mary Ryan

Thank you!

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:

‘Inspiration from Mary’ articles


God is in the Middle of Us

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’.

There where you are, you will find God.Mary MacKillop 1871

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.

God gave me such a sense of His watchful presence.Mary MacKillop 1871

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.

And they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, ‘God is with us’.Matthew 1:23

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

Available online and from some Mary MacKillop Centres.

Download the print version of this reflection (PDF)

Photo: Advent candles by Sr Mary Ryan rsj. Used with permission.

ABC’s Fierce Girls features Mary MacKillop

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:

‘Mary MacKillop — the girl who became a saint’ Podcast

Fierce Girls: Mary MacKillop Poster (PDF)

Fierce Girls: Mary MacKillop Colouring Page (PDF)

In the Footsteps of Mary MacKillop Pilgrimage

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:

What a great opportunity for personal and spiritual renewal through hearing about and experiencing the efforts and achievements of Mary MacKillop and Julian T. Woods, despite their setbacks and challenges. Wish I had heard about it sooner!Kevin
To walk in Mary and Julian’s footsteps has been a privilege. To feel the pain, the excitement, the joy and also peace has been such a journey, never to be forgotten.Terri
Reflecting now on the Pilgrimage journey, it is no longer simply the journey of St Mary MacKillop and Fr Julian Woods, but I learned more about my own journey of life, how I had to leave my own country of birth behind and trust God that there was a new life ahead of me. God was with my family then and is still present to us now. Thank you for showing me the faith journey of Mary and Julian.Nick
This pilgrimage of Mary MacKillop has given me the opportunity to listen to the stories of Mary and Julian Tenison Woods as the layers have been peeled back on their lives, dreams, hope and achievements.
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.Cathy

You might like to follow the pilgrimage in more detail by accessing the Mary MacKillop Place Facebook page below:

Mary MacKillop Place Facebook Page

View some photos from the pilgrimage in the gallery below:

Sign outside the site of the Night School and Providence in Melbourne, Victoria
Peter MacKillop's (Mary's uncle) home in Lara, Victoria
Alexander MacKillop's (Mary's father) grave in Hamilton, Victoria
Stable Park in Penola, South Australia
Franklin Street Chapel and Convent in Adelaide, South Australia

A Hill Too Far?

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.

There must be gentleness towards the erring of others… Mary MacKillop 1871

“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.

…Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you give will be the measure you get back.Luke 6:38

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

Available online and from some Mary MacKillop Centres.

Download the print version of this reflection (PDF)

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