This digital art print of Saint Mary MacKillop is the perfect addition to your home decor or a great gift for birthdays, Confirmation, or your friend with a cold!
St. Mary MacKillop, also called St. Mary of the Cross, was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1842. She was educated at home, along with her seven siblings, by their father. The family struggled financially and their farm was never very successful. The family worked together to earn money to keep them going.
When she was 14, Mary began working as a clerk in Melbourne and then took a job as a governess for her aunt and uncle in Penola, South Australia in 1860. Her work consisted of taking care of the children and teaching them--and because Mary had a place in her heart for the poor, she also included other farm children in her lessons and in her care.
Mary went on to teach in Portland, Victoria, in 1862, and eventually opened her own boarding school called Bay View House Seminary for Young Ladies--known now as Bayview College.
With the help of a priest friend, Fr. Woods, Mary and her sisters opened a Catholic school in Penola, and they began teaching more than 50 children. Mary decided it was time to formally declare her dedication to God, and she began wearing black.
By 1866, Mary and her sisters were joined by several other women. The group of women began calling themselves the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart and they moved to a house in Adelaide. There, they formed yet another school at the request of the bishop. This school catered to the children of the poor and became the first religious institute founded by an Australian.
The group continued to grow and called themselves informally the “Josephites.” They began wearing plain brown habits and the community began lovingly calling them “the Brown Joeys.”
The group continued to open schools and worked within an orphanage, with neglected children, with girls in danger, with the aged poor, in a prison, and with the incurably ill. By 1871, the order was formally established and boasted more than 130 sisters working in more than 40 schools and charitable institutions across South Australia and Queensland.
The bishop who encouraged Mary and her sisters to begin a Catholic school eventually was influenced by a Fr. Horan who was not fond of the Josephites. Horan convinced the bishop to change the order of the Josephites which would essentially leave the women homeless. Mary refused to comply with the changes, and as a result, was excommunicated for insubordination. The order remained intact, but Mary was forced to flee. She lived for a time with a Jewish family and was sheltered by Jesuit priests. On his deathbed, the bishop instructed Fr. Horan to lift the excommunication of Mary, and he absolved her and exonerated her. Mary’s first act was to travel to Rome to have the Josephites’ “Rule of Life” officially approved by the Pope.
Mary was eventually elected as Mother Superior-General, though she gave the position to another nun in order to continue the expansion of the sisterhood. She eventually took on the position again, which she held until her death in 1909.
St. Mary MacKillop is the first Australian saint, and is the patron saint of Australia, Brisbane, and the Knights of the Southern Cross.
- Feast Day: August 08