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Celebrating St Mary MacKillop

09 August 2023

“Never see a need without doing something about it”

St Mary of the Cross MacKillop.

This week we celebrate the Solemnity of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, celebrated on the anniversary of her death. Growing up in Melbourne, Mary MacKillop and her family like so many families, struggled financially, and that experience encouraged her to help all underprivileged children, to get an education. She dedicated her life to God and took on the name “Mary of the Cross”, and with the help of Fr Julian Tenison-Woods, she started a Catholic school in Penola, South Australia and Australia’s first religious order – The Sisters of St Joseph, dedicated to educating and supporting the poor.

In 1891, amid an economic depression that was devastating many families in Melbourne, Archbishop Thomas Carr, invited, Mary MacKillop to support the needy in any way. The Sisters acquired the St Vincent de Paul Children’s Home in Surrey Hills and then in 1901 they bought land in Albert Street, East Melbourne to build a new permanent Providence, providing a home for women and children. This still stands today as the Mary MacKillop Heritage Centre. 

Mary faced fierce opposition throughout her life, which at one point culminated in her being excommunicated. In the face of trial, Mary was a model of forgiveness, insisting nothing bad be spoken of those who wronged her, while also remaining resolute in her convictions.

St Mary of the Cross MacKillop was a remarkable, strong female leader in 19th century Australia. Education in this country is what it is today thanks to her dedication and determination.

Mary MacKillop saw a need, answered the call from God to care for the poor in spirit and bring justice to them and that is what we celebrate today.

Using St Mary MacKillop to inspire us to live our college value of justice, we continue to work hard this term to bring dignity to all people, to help everyone to recognise their inherent value and worth, and inspire others to treat all people, regardless of age, wealth, gender, religion, culture and opinion, that they are all made in the image and likeness of God and are all loved.

Alexandra Higham

Director of Faith and Mission