St Mary of the Cross MacKillop – Co-founder of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart

Mary’s story is one of enduring love and service to God, the Church and humanity – of self-sacrifice and extreme poverty, while meeting challenges associated with a harsh climate and land, all of which had a profound effect on the attitudes and decisions of the laity and a clerical body geographically removed from the Church in Rome, and in dioceses that were being established in fledgling colonies. The faith journey of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop began in the nineteenth century in the Australian colony of Victoria which apparently was previously a part of New South Wales until 1851; then a colony until it became a state in 1901 following Federation.

Mary was born in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy (formerly Newtown) Melbourne, on 15 January 1842 (Margaret Paton, 2010:8) to Alexander and Flora MacKillop, who were Scottish immigrants. Marie Therese Foale (1989:13) informs us that Mary was “baptised in St Francis Church, Melbourne by Father Patrick Geoghegan”, who in later years was appointed as the second Bishop in Adelaide, and who “set the scene for the foundation of the [Josephite] Institute of St Joseph by his insistence that Catholics have nothing to do with government schools and establish their own instead” (ibid.). Mary was the first born in the MacKillop family, which later comprised eight children with one youngster dying before reaching his first birthday.