Saint Spotlight Mary of the Cross MacKillop

Feast Day 8 August

Mary MacKillop founded Australia’s first order of nuns, the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, and also established St. Joseph’s School in a converted stable in Penola, providing a free education to children from the area. In 1867 she took vows and became the first mother superior of the sisters. The following year the sisters opened schools in other Australian cities, as well as an orphanage and a refuge for women released from prison.

Homegrown Holiness

Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop (1842-1909)

“Set your hearts on God’s kingdom first, and on God’s saving Justice, and all these other things will be given to you as well.” · Matthew 6:33

In January 1995, Pope John Paul II went to Sydney for the beatification of Mary MacKillop. Till then the Saints and Blessed honoured by Australians were all from other lands.

The beatification Mass brought home to Australians and New Zealanders that holiness is not reserved for other people, for now we have one of their own to honour. A plaque in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy reads: “On this site Mary MacKillop, Foundress of the Sisters of St Joseph, was born on 15th January 1842.” As a young girl she grew used to moving from place to place with her farming family, something she would continue throughout her life. At the age of twenty-four Mary began the Josephite Congregation to teach needy children. This work took her to many parts of Australia and New Zealand. Wherever she went, Mary managed to live a life of holiness by her love for God and her charity to each person she met along the way.

Pope John Paul spoke of her courage in spreading the good news of Christ in cities and towns and in the remote Australian outback. “In the vastness of the Australian continent, Blessed Mary MacKillop was not daunted by the great desert, the immense expanses of the outback, nor by the spiritual ‘wilderness’ which affected so many of her fellow citizens. Rather she boldly prepared the way of the Lord in the most trying situations. With gentleness, courage and compassion, she was the herald of the good news among the isolated ‘battlers’ and the urban disadvantaged.”

Mary had also to deal with many personal issues and obstacles. But she displayed exceptional persistence to overcome these due to her strong faith. 

Wherever she went, Mary MacKillop lived with trust in the providence of God. She also showed great compassion for the needy and a generous spirit of forgiveness towards those who criticised her unjustly. Her life can encourage us all. We are all called to be holy – with trust in God and care for those around us.

Watch our Sensational Saints Video on Mary MacKillop


Mary MacKillop Sayings:

Whatever troubles may be before you, accept them bravely, remembering Whom you are trying to follow. Do not be afraid. Love one another, bear with one another, and let charity guide you all your life. God will reward you as only He can.

Find happiness in making others happy.

Never see a need without doing something about it.

May God bless and strengthen you. Confide all to God. See how God carries us through the storms.

When I could not see my way God kept my heart full of trust to make all come

I cannot forget that there is a dear good God watching over us.

God loves courageous souls.

Adapted from the Living Word Saints and Feasts