How did you learn about Mary MacKillop?

Maybe it was a book read, a movie, or a visit to a museum. However, thousands of people every year, do none of these things, but do go GEOCACHING! Geocaching is the world’s largest treasure hunt and it can lead you to a journey through the story of Mary MacKillop.

In 2000, when GPS became widely available, a man named Dave Ulmer hid a container, called a cache, in the woods. He noted the co-ordinates of his hide and spread the news to his friends. The first person to find it using a GPS could keep what was hidden in the cache. He also put inside the cache a piece of paper, so that friends could leave their names as finders, even though they didn’t get the prize.

A found cache with logbook

This was the beginning of a worldwide game called “Geocaching.” Friends of Dave went and did their own hides for other friends to find, and consequently many more joined in the fun. In fact, there are now 7 million people looking for more than 3 million caches hidden across the world. And over 150 of those hides are placed at significant sites of the Mary MacKillop story.

Each ‘hide’ in Geocaching has a page on the website with a story about the hide, clues (e.g. size of the container and other hints like, “in a tree”) and a map to find it. When someone finds the hide, they leave their name on the paper inside the cache and type a message on the website.

The first hide for the Mary MacKillop cache series was hidden at Mount Street, North Sydney near the site of her burial place. The hides have now extended to be in all states and territories, as well as New Zealand, Ireland and Scotland. Caches are now near Museums for Mary MacKillop, schools, Statues,  Plaques, streets and parks all connected to Mary MacKillop’s story

Front garden, St Joseph’s Convent, Kensington, South Australia, with the chapel built by Mary MacKillop in the background

People from all over the world are discovering these hides and learning about Mary MacKillop. In many cases, they had not previously heard of her story. Unlike books, geocaching allows for a physical adventure to places of significance in Mary’s life. Posts on the website by finder’s attribute to this…

MacKillop sure got around didn’t she? Amazing in that day and age, its a long haul even today with a car! And I love the work she did. Thanks for bringing us here and the hide. Another Mary MacKillop ticked off the list.
I have travelled this road to work for many years. Never knew Mary started this school in my town.

So, if you would like to know more about Mary MacKillop you could read a book, surf the web or visit one of the museums. Alternatively, download the Geocaching App on your iPhone (or visit the website), hit the ‘find a geocache’ button and follow the directions.

A great way to do a pilgrimage… no bookings required!

Happy Geocaching!

Watch a video explaining geocaching here

Julianne Murphy rsj

Reflection on Mary MacKillop

St Mary MacKillop’s Example.

This year (2020), Australia will celebrate the tenth anniversay of the canonisation of St Mary MacKillop. Let us reflect on Mary MacKillop’s characteristics and the features of her courageous life that gave her sainthood.

… Mary’s life had many valleys: she had to make decisions as to which path and which direction she would take.  Sometimes, she had no choice of direction, and then chose how she would react to the given circumstances.  There is evidence that she fought long and hard, both inside and out.  I think it important to equate her struggles and handling of them with our own lowly lives. Mary MacKillop has been declared a Saint, but who knows, had she not made a conscious decision to trust in her God-given journey and to the love the obstacles (crosses) with the same fervour as she loved the straight roads, we may not even be hearing about her now. Ita Buttrose, Absolute Faith, Reproduced in Mary MacKillop: A Tribute, 1996, p 21.

“Holiness, the heart of canonisation, consists in doing the will of God.  That is why in those last years of paralysis in her wheelchair Mary was far from being a ‘retired saint’.  She was a saint at her very best, because she was doing the will of God in most trying circumstances.  It is not achievement that makes saints, it is holiness.”  Paul Gardiner SJ 2010.


  • Mary endured many trials during her life.  Take time to name for yourself what you believe enabled her to rise above these obstacles;
  • What do you see as Mary’s saintly qualities that gave recognition to her as a saintly woman whom we recognize as a great example throughout the nation and indeed the world?
  • How does Mary MacKillop’s example help us to endure the obstacles in our daily life?

Spend some time in quietness and prayer thanking God for your own  and for God’s incredible care.

Michele Shipperley rsj


Candle image: Hands Open Candle by Myriams-Fotos obtained from Pixabay. Used with permission.

Saint Mary MacKillop Feast Day 2020

Greetings on the feast of Saint Mary MacKillop.

Courage, courage trust in God who helps you in all things.Mary MacKillop 1874
Early photo of Mary MacKillop in her religious habit

Celebrating the feast of Mary MacKillop in 2020 will be different for many of us. During these past months people  across the world have been dealing with the reality and impact of the coronavirus. For many places where devotion to Saint Mary MacKillop has grown, this year’s celebration of her life will be different. With limited attendance in churches, the celebration of Eucharist for many will be through live stream. With pilgrimage sites not accessible for people, we need once again to draw upon our creativity and find different ways to mark this special day in the life of the church. What encouragement might Mary MacKillop offer us at this time in the life of the world. In 1907 she wrote to the Sisters:

We must let no obstacles deter us from proceeding with courage in the path marked out for us.  It may sometimes be dark and full of windings, but a beautiful bright light shines at the end of this path and a few more windings will bring us to it. Mary MacKillop 1907

Mary MacKillop is with us. Her own experience of life leads us to be in deep communion with her as we celebrate.  We remember that Mary herself suffered from ill-health. She is close to all those whose health has been impacted by the COVID-19. She was close to death on a few occasions and found comfort in those who shared these times with her. She writes:

I was for many weeks dangerously ill, so ill that I nearly died … I was weary of the world and its crosses … The mental conflict had been too much for me … [1]
Flora MacDonald

Mary MacKillop also knew the pain of loss and grief in her life. Mary felt deeply the loss of each member of her family. Perhaps her greatest loss was that of her mother Flora who was drowned in a shipwreck off the coast of Eden in New South Wales. At this time, she writes to her brother Donald:

It was sad, very sad, that she should go as she did, but we must hope that her reward is great in proportion. [2]

For those who are losing their jobs and finding themselves unemployed, Mary MacKillop also knows what this experience is like. Her father was not able to hold down a permanent job leaving the family constantly on the move and placing extra stress on family life. It was this that caused Mary to find work at Sands and Kenny to support the family.

The opening prayer of the Liturgy for her feast says: “Holy God, source of all goodness, you show us in Mary MacKillop a woman of faith who lived by the power of the cross.” On this feast day let us be mindful that Mary MacKillop stands at the cross with us encouraging us to keep alive the flame of hope, bringing solace to those who have lost loved ones or employment, and comforting those whose lives have been changed for ever through the COVID-19 pandemic.  For Mary MacKillop the Cross became the Tree of Life.  Walking in and through the Cross she drew strength from the God who loved her. Mary MacKillop embraced the suffering in her life and shows us how to persevere in the face of adversity. We take to heart her message:

God is good and has brought light and help when all was very dark. Mary MacKillop 1899

On this feast, ‘may we share in her courage, see with her vision, and love with her heart.’

May Mary MacKillop’s deep love for you be your gift this day.

Sr Monica Cavanagh
Congregational Leader

You’re invited to view a video titled ‘Celebrating the feast of Saint Mary MacKillop’ below:

Mass will be live streamed from the Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel, North Sydney at 10:00am AEST on her feast day (Saturday 8 August 2020). Please find the link provided below:

Feast Day Mass live streamed from Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel



[1] Lesley O’Brien, Mary MacKillop Unveiled, p. 145
[2] Mary MacKillop 17 June 1886

Media Release: National Vocations Awareness Week

Drawing on the wisdom of Saint Mary MacKillop through National Vocations Awareness Week (2-9 August 2020).

Each year the Church celebrates National Vocations Awareness Week. This week is dedicated to promoting the various expressions of Christian vocation with a focus on promoting priesthood and consecrated life.

This year, a group of Josephite Sisters and Affiliates have been asked to contribute video content about their Ministries and how they participate in God’s mission today.

“The response has been extremely pleasing, and we are thrilled to showcase the great works of these individuals,” said Kathleen Norman, Communications Manager, Sisters of Saint Joseph. “The first of the content series will be launched on Sunday 2 August in time for the start of National Vocations Awareness Week, and then continue throughout the remainder of this year.”

Drawing from reflection on Saint Mary MacKillop’s experience, Sister Monica added: “My advice to young Australians of faith is – be the voice of the gospel and the face of God in the world today. Be courageous; use your passion and energy to address the critical issues facing the world and church today.”

During these unusual times throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, research shows us there is a new openness to the sharing of faith in 2020. Australians have turned to prayer during the coronavirus with many wanting to spend more time growing their faith once restrictions are lifted.

The Sisters of Saint Joseph believe that Saint Mary MacKillop would offer encouragement during these difficult times. In 1907 she wrote to the Sisters:

We must let no obstacles deter us from proceeding with courage in the path marked out for us. It may sometimes be dark and full of windings, but a beautiful bright light shines at the end of this path and a few more windings will bring us to it. Mary MacKillop 1907

Sr Monica Cavanagh, Congregational Leader, believes strongly that Mary MacKillop is with us:

Her own experience of life leads us to be in deep communion with her. We remember that Mary herself suffered from ill-health and will be close to all those whose health has been impacted by the COVID-19. She was close to death on a few occasions and found comfort in those who shared these times with her. Sr Monica Cavanagh

Saint Mary MacKillop herself wrote about her testing experience of being dangerously unwell:

I was for many weeks dangerously ill, so ill that I nearly died… I was weary of the world and its crosses… The mental conflict had been too much for me.Lesley O’Brien, Mary MacKillop Unveiled, p. 145

Please continue reading the Media Release here (PDF)

For more information, please contact:

Kathleen Norman
Communications Manager
Sisters of Saint Joseph
+61 2 8912 2722   +61 438 006 566

Celebrate Mary’s Feast Day with Mary MacKillop Today

Provided below is a message from Mary MacKillop Today to schools about the feast of Mary MacKillop on 8 August 2020.

Mary MacKillop’s Feast Day is coming up in August.

This year is particularly special because it is the 10 year anniversary since Mary was canonised as Australia’s first Saint. Education was close to Mary’s heart and she knew its power to lift communities out of poverty. This is why Mary MacKillop Today is asking schools across Australia to celebrate Mary’s Feast Day with us and raise funds to help give children in Fiji access to early education!

Throughout August, we’re inviting schools to hold their own fundraising activities and set a target of $1,500 (or more!). That’s enough to give a vulnerable community in Fiji the resources they need to build a safe and effective learning environment for eager children.

Once your school is registered, Mary MacKillop Today will provide resources to help your school promote and run a successful fundraiser.

Click the link below to register for your school’s resources today and celebrate Mary MacKillop’s legacy by helping transform lives with the gift of education:

Mary MacKillop Feast Day fundraising activities

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Madeleine Gough, Mary MacKillop Today’s Community Partnerships Coordinator, directly via email or telephone on (02) 8912 2708

Nine Days With Mary MacKillop Novena

These nine days will offer an opportunity to pray and reflect on scripture, Mary MacKillop and your own lives, all within your own time.

Friday 31 July marks the beginning of our Novena – a time when we can reflect on how the Scriptures, Mary MacKillop’s life and our life intertwine to encourage us in all that we do.

As this Novena is online – you might like to form a group or two to share in this retreat together.

Thank you for praying together as we look forward to celebrating the feast day of Saint Mary MacKillop (Saturday 8 August).

Day One, 31 July: Opening To Our Potter God

Day Two, 1 August: Becoming Good Soil

Day Three, 2 August: Becoming Light for the World

Day Four, 3 August: Becoming Salt for the Earth

Day Five, 4 August: Encountering God  

Day Six, 5 August: Loving Tenderly

Day Seven, 6 August: Acting Justly

Day Eight, 7 August: Walking Humbly

Day Nine, 8 August: Feast Day


So Small a Beginning: Part 4

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.

You’re invited to watch the fourth part of Sr Marie’s conference speech, ‘So Small a Beginning’ below…

Part 4


Click here to view Part 1

Click here to view Part 2

Click here to view Part 3

Reflection on Mary MacKillop

Mary MacKillop Continues to Make a Difference.

The Story of Mary MacKillop – Holy Family Primary Granville [1]
As December 1882 drew near, once more Mother Mary had a death in her family. Her 32-year-old sister Lexie, who was a Good Shepherd nun in Melbourne, died.  Lexie had helped Mother Mary in our first school at Penola. I cried in my heart for Mother Mary.

By the end of 1882 we had a foundation in the south coast of New South Wales, Albion Park. Archbishop Vaughan asked us to take over St. John’s School in Kent Street, Sydney. The people were very poor around Kent St, which was ‘a scene of much human misery’. Every day one of the Sisters cooked a substantial meal for the children and a hot drink was ready for them when they arrived at school. Even on Sundays the sisters cooked breakfast for the children and their parents. Our sisters truly were servants for the poor.

Extract from ‘The Letter under the Pillow‘ by Clare Aherne (2016) Chapter 11, pp. 59-60. Carrowmore Publishing Ltd, Ireland.

Mary MacKillop 1882

Mary MacKillop was a woman who championed the rights and needs of the poor in the community. Mary and the early sisters worked exceedingly hard to make a difference to the lives of the deprived. It seems remarkable that the sisters were able to provide such sustenance and assistance when they too relied on Providence. No doubt they sought out donations and went begging for food to enable this marvellous ministry to the poor.

Mary and the Sisters also knew suffering and death.

Let us reflect

  • What feelings well up in you when you think of Mary’s generosity in these early days?
  • The present COVID-19 crisis paints a grim picture of hardship, sickness and death in the community.
    What has affected your life during this time?
    Have you been able to help others cope with endure their plight?
  • Are we able to extend kindness to our neighbours of all cultures?

Let us pray.

Michele Shipperley rsj


[1] The Story of Mary MacKillop a short film by Holy Family Primary, Granville. Obtained from Cath Family.