St Mary MacKillop – Feast Day – August 8 2023

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St Mary Helen MacKillop, also called Saint Mary of the Cross, was an Australian religious nun.

She was born on January 15 1842 in Newtown, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

She died on August 8 1909 at the age of 67 in North Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

We celebrate her feast day on August 8 every year in the Catholic Church.

St Mary MacKillop Biography
St Mary MacKillop - Feast Day - August 8
St Mary MacKillop – Feast Day – August 8 2023
Date of Birth January 15 1842
Place of Birth Newtown, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Profession Roman Catholic Religious Nun
Place of Work Australia
Date of Death August 8 1909
Place of Death North Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Feast Day August 8
Beatification January 19 1995, Sydney, New South Wales by Pope John Paul II
Canonization October 17 2010, Vatican City by Pope Benedict XVI
Patron Saint of Australia, Brisbane, Knights of the Southern Cross

St Mary MacKillop’s Life History

St Mary MacKillop was an Australian nun born on January 15 1842 in Newtown, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. She was the firstborn in a family of eight children. Her father was Alexander MacKillop and her mother was Flora MacDonald, both of Scottish descent.

MacKillop was educated in private schools and also by her father at home. She received her First Holy Communion on August 15 1850 at the age of nine.

MacKillop’s family faced many financial hardships as her father was neither successful as a farmer nor as a gold prospector.

St Mary MacKillop was 14, she began working in Melbourne as a clerk to eke a living for her struggling family.

In 1860, she was offered a job by her her aunt and uncle, Alexander and Margaret Cameron to work as governess of their estate at Penola, South Australia.

She took care of their children while still teaching them at home. Meanwhile, MacKillop felt the need to also help the poor, including the other children on the Cameron farm.

It is through helping the needy and poor children that she came into contact with the parish priest named Father Woods. After working for the Camerons for two years, MacKillop accepted a teaching job for the children of Portland, Victoria in 1862.

Two years later, MacKillop opened her own boarding school called, Bay View House Seminary for Young Ladies, now known as Bayview College, and was joined by the rest of her family.

Father Woods invited MacKillop and her sisters to open a Catholic school in Penola after getting concerned about the lack of Catholic education in South Australia. They successfully opened the school and they both became the founders of the school.

After renovations of the school buildings were completed the MacKillops started teaching more than 50 children. At this time, St Mary MacKillop formally declared her dedication to God and began wearing black.

In November 1866, St Mary MacKillop took on the religious name “Sister Mary of the Cross.” Several other women joined the family and they all started calling themselves the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart (The Josephites). They later moved to a new house in Adelaide.

In Adelaide, the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, at the request of the bishop, Laurence Bonaventure Sheil, founded a new school.

This school became the first religious institute to be founded by an Australian and was dedicated to the education of the children of the poor and the needy.

St Mary MacKillop and Father Woods developed the rules that would govern the community. They called it the “Rule of Life”. Their rules were approved and emphasized poverty, faith, dependence on divine providence, no personal wealth, and willingness to move from one place to another where needed.

Their name, Josephites, and wearing their plain brown habits made them nicknamed the “Brown Joeys”. In 1867, the Josephites opened another school in South Australia in an attempt to bring education to all the poor, and by 1869, there were 21 different schools around Australia where more than 70 of the Josephites were educating poor children.

St Mary MacKillop and felow nuns also worked with the aged poor; girls in danger; orphanages; neglected children; prisons; and the incurably ill.

From December 1869, MacKillop established their order in Brisbane, Queensland, and Port Augusta, South Australia. They expanded rapidly and by 1871, they had 130 sisters working in more than 40 schools and charitable institutions across South Australia and Queensland.

The Josephites had their fair share of problems in the course of their work. When Father Woods was appointed as the director general of Catholic education by Bishop Sheil, he clashed with some priests over educational matters and consequently, these clergy began to sabotage his work and those of the Josephites.

St Mary MacKillop and other Josephites heard that one of their saboteurs, a priest called Father Keating, of Kapunda parish, was criminally misbehaving. They informed Father Woods who told Fr. John Smyth, the vicar general, of this situation. The vicar general sent Fr Keating back to Ireland.

Father Charles Horan, a friend of Father Keating, also a saboteur, was very infuriated by the removal of Father Keating from Australia. He sought revenge against Fr Woods through attacks on the Josephites.

When the Vicar General, Fr Smyth, died Fr Horan took over that position in an acting capacity. In his position, he began to influence Bishop Sheil that the Constitution of the Josephites should be changed. If this change could be effected, it would leave the Josephites homeless.

After the changes were made, MacKillop declined to comply with them and Bishop Sheil excommunicated her with insubordination as the reason.

The Josephites were not disbanded but most of their schools were closed. St Mary MacKillop was forbidden from interacting with anyone in the Church and as a result, she left the diocese and was sheltered by Jesuit priests. Those nuns who remained came under the control of the diocese and were nicknamed the “Black Joeys.”

When Bishop Sheil was on his deathbed, he instructed Father Horan to lift the excommunication on MacKillop. In February 1872 Fr. Horan absolved her and later an Episcopal Commission completely exonerated her.

MacKillop went to Rome to have the “Rule of Life” of the Sisters of St Joseph officially approved. It was declared that the Superior General and her council were the authorities in charge of the order.

Pope Leo XIII gave his approval to the Josephites, making them an official congregation in 1885, with its headquarters in Sydney.

St Mary MacKillop was unanimously elected Superior General of the Order in March 1875, but still, some pockets of opposition emerged from a few priests and bishops.

The Josephites lived in a community rather than in convents and as per their constitution, they were administered by a Superior General rather than the diocesan bishop.

They still faced frequent friction with the government for refusing to accept government funding, teach instrumental music, and refusal to teach girls from wealthy families. They were eventually forced out of Bathurst and Queensland.

In 1883, Patrick Francis Moran became the new archbishop of Sydney. He removed MacKillop as superior general and replaced her with Sister Bernard Walsh.

Even after Pope Leo XIII gave his approval to the Josephites, making them an official congregation, MacKillop full-heartedly supported and assisted Mother Bernard with the management of the Josephites. She would write letters just to keep in touch and give support, or advice.

MacKillop was re-elected as Mother Superior-General after the death of Mother Bernard, in 1899. She held this position until her own death.

She began having severe health complications especially rheumatism towards the end of her life. In 1902, she suffered a stroke which paralyzed her right side while in Auckland, New Zealand.

Despite being in a wheelchair from her stroke in 1902, she was re-elected as superior general in 1905. She learned to write with her left hand and continued writing and talking very well.

St Mary MacKillop died on August 8 1909 in the Josephite convent in North Sydney. She was laid to rest at the Gore Hill Cemetery, a few kilometres up the Pacific Highway from North Sydney.

Her remains were exhumed on January 27 1914 and transferred to a vault before the altar of the Virgin Mary in the memorial chapel in Mount Street, Sydney.

The process to have Mary MacKillop declared a saint started in 1925. MacKillop’s “heroic virtue” was declared in 1992.

She was beatified on January 19 1995 by Pope John Paul II and canonized on October 17 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI, making her the first Australian saint.

St Mary MacKillop is the patron saint of

  • Australia
  • Archdiocese of Brisbane
  • The Knights of the Southern Cross

Her feast day is celebrated on August 8 every year in the Catholic Church.

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About Laban Thua Gachie 10726 Articles
The founder of Catholicreadings.org is Laban Thua Gachie. I am a Commissioned Lector, a commissioned Liturgy Minister, and a Commissioned member of the Catholic Men Association. We at Catholic Daily Readings, operate the catholicreadings.org, a Catholic Church-related website and we pride ourself in providing you, on a daily basis the following; 1. Catholic Daily Mass Readings 2. Reflections on those Daily Readings 3. Daily prayers 4. Bible Verse of the Day 5. Saint of the Day