A Mellow Heart

This month’s foray into the Little Brown Book Too draws us into an incident which shows how Mary’s warm heart and generous spirit helped her to have an impact on another person.

Forgive me everything I have done to pain or disappoint any of you. Mary MacKillop 1881

Sister Irene told of a time when Mary sent for her:

“Do you want me, Mother?” she asked.

“Yes,” was the answer. “I want to beg your pardon for the impatient way I spoke to you when you came to me this morning. I fear I have given you pain and I am sorry for having done so.”

She may have felt irritable and thought she had betrayed it in her words or manner, but I had no sense of this and told her so, for she had been most gentle and kind to me.

This little connection came from Mary’s readiness to trust in the goodness of another. It brings to mind Ronald Rolheiser’s wisdom that:‘Sanctity is about having a mellow heart and spirit.’ 

Most would agree that it was because Mary’s heart was mellow that: ‘she did not lose touch with the people’ (Paul Gardiner sj)

When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them. Matthew 9:36

The above is an extract from The Little Brown Book Too (pages 36-37)

© 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: © Veronika Dimac – InJoy International: Used with permission of the artist.

Mary MacKillop in Austria

Since 2007, the Apostolic Sisters of the Family of Mary have been organising a four day Youth Meeting and this year, they chose St Mary MacKillop as their Patron.

This event coincided with Mary MacKillop’s Feast Day being held from 8 – 11 August in Kundl, Austria. Thirteen years ago, young Catholics from the Austrian state of Tyrol, had the desire to gather together young faithful people at a youth festival. This was the start of an extraordinary journey with incredible graces, which the Lord poured into the hearts of so many of those who attended these meetings.  Throughout the years, the fruits have been visible. Some youth have joined the priesthood or religious life, while others found their future spouse and eventually were married. It’s truly amazing how young people continually open their hearts to God and find strength in a new or renewed friendship with Him and also amongst each other.

The theme of this year’s meeting was taken from the verse Jn: 12,28, “Father, Glorify Your Name.” Approximately 200 young people from Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Slovakia accepted our invitation and traveled to the beautiful little town Kundl, which is surrounded by mountains, to celebrate their faith. Amongst other things, Holy Mass, Adoration, conferences, testimonies, workshops, confession, sports, and the rosary, worked together to create a very special and holy atmosphere. God also blessed us with beautiful summer weather and much joy during this time.

Father Maximilian Maria Schwarzbauer, priest and missionary of the Community “Work of Jesus the High Priest,” spoke in his conferences about the fatherly love of God. His joy was truly contagious. It was no surprise that the resounding round of applause at the end of the meeting seemed to have no end.

Religious sisters of the missionary community “Family of Mary”, helped throughout the meeting with music, workshops and personal talks with the youth. They used their talents and gifts to spread the Good News and helped the young people to deepen their personal relationship with God.

One thing was very obvious at our meeting – we love the saints! During the last of couple years, Sr. Elisa Foidl, wrote seven beautiful musicals, each depicting the life of a different saint, including, Saint Gabriele Possenti, Blessed Charles of Foucauld, and Saint Don Bosco. These musicals were performed by the youth and were attended by adults, other youth, family members and the faithful from local parishes, thus allowing hundreds of people to witness God’s great work in the lives of the saints. The musicals have continued to be a great success.

At the beginning of each New Year, the team organizing the event, randomly draws a patron saint whom they ask to be their patron and intercessor for their summer meeting. This year, as we came together and asked the Lord for our patron saint, we were truly amazed, when we picked Saint Mary MacKillop, as we discovered that her memorial coincided with the first day of our meeting, 8 August. We know this is no coincidence and are so very grateful to God for this sign of His grace and love.

With Saint Mary MacKillop’s homeland being Australia, which is more than 20 hours by plane from our homeland of Austria, it is amazing how this saint has found a place in our hearts. Our two countries not only share similar names, Australia/Austria, but above all, a love and veneration of this truly amazing saint.

We send a big hello to all of you in Australia and unite ourselves with you in prayer, through the intercession of Saint Mary MacKillop.

Barbara Thielen
Member of the organisational team “Liebesiegt”


Photos provided by Sr. Elisa Maria and Sr. Mary Nichole, Apostolic Sisters of the Family of Mary. Used with permission.

Australian National Pilgrimage

Each year since 1994, the Sisters of Saint Joseph have offered the people of Australia the opportunity to go on pilgrimage, “Walking in the Footsteps of Mary MacKillop”.

Portland a place of decision

Several weeks ago I received a phone call from a person who was interested in participating in the national pilgrimage entitled “In the Footsteps of Mary MacKillop”. One of the questions asked was about the itinerary and what a typical day during the time of pilgrimage would consist of.

As the conversation unfolded, it became clear that in the enquirer’s mind the words pilgrimage and tour were synonymous. This however, is not the case. There is significant difference between the two words. To a degree the day-to-day routine does look as though people are tourists enjoying a trip. There is the getting on and off the coach; meeting new people; journeying with an interesting combination of personalities; receiving information about significant sites; opportunities to purchase mementoes of places visited. This is however, where the similarities end.

So what then is a pilgrimage? It is a journey to a sacred place which takes the pilgrim out of her or his usual day-to-day routine into a sacred time and space. Some would say that the time of pilgrimage is a liminal time, “an in between time”, a graced time allowing for the possibility of transformation in a pilgrim’s life.

As Macrina Wiederkehr writes in her book Behold Your Life:

Pilgrimage is a ritual journey with a hallowed purpose. Every step along the way has meaning. A pilgrimage is a transformational journey during which significant change takes place. New insights are given. Deeper understanding is attained. New and old places in the heart are visited. Blessings are received and healing takes place.
Penola a place of Ministry

Each year the Sisters of Saint Joseph offer people the opportunity to journey in the footstep of St Mary MacKillop, by visiting places of significance in her journey of listening and responding to her God. This journey is an invitation to see, listen and reflect on Mary’s relationship with God and her ability to trust implicitly in God to provide in all things. The journey will be filled with challenges, joys, disappointments, frustrations, unexpected delights…. God is there gently calling the pilgrim by name to enter more deeply into relationship with

Mary as guide and inspiration.  Pilgrims are invited to reflect on where they see God in their journey; to what is God calling her or him and how they respond in trust to God as did Mary.

Returning from the time of pilgrimage the pilgrim is changed. She or he is open to responding more deeply to the word of which each is a part; more aware of the presence of God with and in them and in all creation.

Franklin Street Chapel, Adelaide

Our pilgrimage for 2019 commences in Melbourne on 22 October and concludes in Sydney on 2 November. If you would like to join us please email us for further information and/or to request an Application Form.

Information is also available on the Mary MacKillop Place website.

Annie Bond rsj

I Have No Hands Now But Yours

In this month’s reflection from the Little Brown Book Too, authors Sue and Leo Kane invite us to reflect on Saint Mary MacKillop’s deep love for those who lived in poverty.

Mary saw herself as blessed by the poor!  Just as the Sisters named in this reflection were inspired by Mary’s love in action, we too are  invited – and challenged – to live in Mary’s spirit today.

‘Seek first the poorest and most neglected of God’s vineyard…’   Mary MacKillop 1900

Mary certainly did this in her own life.  ‘Our dear Foundress had an unparalleled love for God’s poor. I don’t think I’ve met any person with such great love for the poor,’ recalled Sister Cataldus*.

Sister Denis** fills out the picture: ‘One day. I happened to be her companion in Kent Street, Sydney. It seemed to me as if a great many poor people came to us in different parts of the street as we passed along.  Many of them said, “God bless you.” 

Mother said to me:  “I love to get the blessing of these poor people.”

Mary understood that, deep down, we all have to face our own poverty.  She had a real affinity with the poor, so much so that she saw herself as receiving from them.  And, like Jesus, she set out to show them their own worth, while also assisting in practical ways.

In the tough environment of colonial Australia, Mary and her Sisters brought help to many in great need.  Some even lived in tents on the goldfields among the miners.  They valued and loved the poor.

We reflect today about what that means for us, especially in the affluent culture in which we now live.

*Sr Cataldus: Julia Breen 1881-1940       ** Sr Denis: Catherine Malone 1881-1956

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon ME, because he has appointed ME to bring good news to the poor…” (Luke 4:18)

The above reflection is an extract from The Little Brown Book Too,  pages 34-35

© Sue and Leo Kane 2011

Used with the kind permission of the publishers, St Paul’s Publications

Available on line and from Mary MacKillop Centres —

Click here for locations and contact details 

Download the print version of this reflection (PDF)

Art: © Hongbin Zhao

The artist has written:

Mary MacKillop’s commitment to the service of those in need knew no boundaries.  She was willing to go anywhere she could be of help.  She and her Sisters also happily endured the living conditions of the people they helped and the children they taught. I have depicted Mary in the goldfileds with a group of children, bringing them hope and support in a difficult situation. 

From:  Mary MacKillop: A Tribute: © Honeysett Press,  NSW 1995, page 79






Saint Mary MacKillop Feast Day 2019

Greetings on the feast of Saint Mary MacKillop.

As we celebrate Mary MacKillop’s feast day, let us celebrate how she was a woman who raised the powers of love in her time and continues to inspire us to do the same in our day.  Love was at the heart of all that Mary did. She recognised that the source of her love had its origin in God. She knew deeply within her that:

God is love and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
1 John 4:16

From this spiritual source she drew the energy to be a heartbeat of God’s love in the world especially for those most disadvantaged in our society.

Mary loved all with an undivided heart. As Pope John Paul II said during his 1995 visit to Australia for her beatification:

Mother Mary’s life speaks eloquently because it was firmly anchored in something for which every human heart longs: inner peace, that peace that comes from knowing that one is loved by God and from the desire to respond to God’s love. [1]Pope John Paul II – 20.1.1995

Hers was a spirituality of the heart, holding in balance a contemplative stance with a concern for justice. Mary entered the mystery of God’s love and allowed herself to be transformed by it in order to assist the voiceless to find their voice. Mary was indeed a woman who remained grounded in the reality of life, and through all her experiences learnt to ‘act justly, love tenderly and to walk humbly with God’ (Micah 6:8). She rolled up her sleeves, got her hands dirty and responded to the cries of those who struggled in life.

An example of how Mary MacKillop raised the power of love occurred when Mary and Sister Helena McCarthy were on their way to the city. Sister Helena shared this story. “We were waiting at the corner of the Street near Mount Street Post Office for a tram. A young woman came staggering along and at last reached and rested by the stone wall on the side of the footpath. 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 she could get to the chemist’s nearby, 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”. [2]

On this feast day let us, like Mary MacKillop, be women and men who raise the powers of love. Recently I was having a cup of coffee with one of our sisters and I asked her what she had been doing. She replied that she had just come from a meeting of ‘Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children’. Their work is based around the safety and protection for innocent children living in the experience of detention centres. On another day, I visited the office of the Sisters of Saint Joseph Congregational Administration Centre to find the staff knitting over lunch. They told me that they were joining others around our country who belong to the organisation ‘Wrap with Love’. Joining in movements such as these is one way of continuing to give expression to Mary MacKillop’s vision for living the Gospel.

On this feast day may you be inspired like Saint Mary MacKillop to make a difference in someone’s life by raising the powers of love through an act of everyday kindness.

May your day be filled with the joy and love that filled the heart of Saint Mary MacKillop.

Sr Monica Cavanagh rsj
Congregational Leader

[1] Pope John Paul II, 20 January 1995 at Beatification ceremony Randwick
[2] Sister Helena McCarthy – Memories of Mary by those who knew her p 71, 2010

Excursion to Mary MacKillop Place

Boundless, a young adults group from the Northern Suburbs of Sydney, recently visited Mary MacKillop Place, North Sydney to learn more about Saint Mary MacKillop.

With Saint Mary MacKillop’s Feast Day approaching on 8 August, I thought it was a great opportunity to organise and invite members of my young adults group ‘Boundless’ to an excursion to Mary MacKillop Place.

On Sunday 4 August, we made our way to Mary MacKillop Place where we started our day attending 10am Mass at the Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel.

Following Mass, we made our way to the Mary MacKillop Place Museum where I was to lead the museum tour. The museum tour consisted of learning about the story of Mary MacKillop, Father Julian Tenison Woods and the Sisters of Saint Joseph. I enjoyed leading the tour and sharing with the group my knowledge of the story, which I have acquired working for the Sisters of Saint Joseph.

After the museum tour, we went back to the Chapel to pray and reflect on the qualities of Mary MacKillop. We gathered in the reflection room where we all participated in a nine-part Mary MacKillop Novena, with each person reading one section. We reflected on the woman Mary MacKillop was – a woman of faith, conviction, courage, action, compassion, prayer, forgiveness, vision and the poor. Reflecting on these qualities and listening to the quotes of Mary MacKillop, in addition to hearing the words from Scripture, enabled us to to reflect on how we ourselves can act on these qualities and teachings in our lives.

To conclude our time at Mary MacKillop Place, we all gathered around Mary MacKillop’s tomb for personal prayer.

Following prayer, we walked down to Wendy’s Secret Garden located in Lavender Bay to have lunch. We thoroughly enjoyed having lunch in nature with a fantastic view of Sydney harbour.

Boundless had a great, memorable and spiritual experience at Mary MacKillop Place! We had left having learnt more about Mary MacKillop, her connections and impact, and being inspired by Mary MacKillop to make a difference in our world.

Mary Baynie
Communications Officer
Sisters of Saint Joseph

Sainthood Comes in Moments

This month of August, during which we celebrate the 110th anniversary of Saint Mary MacKillop’s death, is a timely reminder that all of us are called to be saints – here and now!  Mary understood this – and her entire life reflected this understanding.

In 1870, as an earnest 28 year-old, Mary shared her insights about living saints with her ‘own dear Mamma’:

…Do you try now in real earnest to be a saint?  You may smile at my question, but our dear good God wants you to be one! I used to think it the height of presumption to desire such a thing, but have been taught that such diffidence is not humility…Mary MacKillop to her mother Flora – 10 September 1870

Little could the youthful Mary have every imagined that she would become Australia’s first canonised saint so many years later!

In this month’s reflection from the Little Brown Book Too, the authors, Sue and Leo Kane, provide us with another reminder that Earth is meant to be full of living saints, and that our ‘Sainthood comes in moments’.

Love one another and bear with one another and let love guide you in all your life.Mary MacKillop 1909

Sister Ethelberga, Mary’s nurse, said of her: ‘I never knew her to speak an unkind word to anybody. Neither would she permit any Sister to do so in her hearing.’

As we go about our days, we teach, not so much by preaching lessons, as by the way we are in this world. Our way of seeing things and people will come through in our responses. Mary knew this instinctively:

We must teach more by example than by word.Mary MacKillop 1867

A very young Sister Laurence (who later became the third Superior General of the Sisters) once said to Mary: “Mother,  I think you are especially kind to people who give you trouble and worry.” “Ah, you little rogue!” was the lovely reply of a compassionate and human Mary.

Sainthood comes in moments: of gentleness, of humour, of kindness, of times when we choose to do the loving thing.  And for our ‘companions on the journey’, such moments help to keep their hope alive.

If we love one another, God lives in us…1 John 4:12

The above is an extract from The Little Brown Book Too (pages 32-33)

© Sue and Leo Kane 2011. Introduction Mary Ryan rsj.

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: ‘Sainthood comes in moments’ by Mary Ryan rsj. Used with permission.

Living from the Heart

This month, as we continue mining the gold from Sue and Leo Kane’s Little Brown Book Too,  we are invited to ponder a simple story about Mary MacKillop which provides yet another example of how she lived from the heart.

There were no limits to her love… how do I measure up?

Mary had managed only a very early cup of tea for breakfast before she arrived at the convent in the afternoon. The Sisters had prepared a meal for her. Sister Borgia Healy tells the story:

Just as she was about to sit to the table, a knock came to the door.  I went to see who was there and a poor, half-starved, baby clothed old man stood before me. “Would you give me something to eat, miss?”  he said.  “I can get no work in  this town, not anything to eat. I’m very weak.”

Mother Mary followed me to the door, and when she saw the man, she said:

Sister dear, give to the poor creature what you have prepared for me. It will do me more good to give him a dinner, poor old man—perhaps some father that the world has been hard with. Mary MacKillop

For Mary, that hungry old man was Jesus coming to her door. She often told her Sisters:

Never see a need without doing something about it. Mary MacKillop

Her compassion sprang from her spirit of love and self-forgetfulness.

It knew no boundaries!

I was hungry and you gave me food…               Jesus: in Matthew 25:35

The above is an extract from The Little Brown Book Too (pages 32-33)

© 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 of Mary, Sister and poor family: Artist unknown