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Mackillop, Mary Helen, Bl.


Known in religion as Mary of the Cross, born Maria Ellen MacKillop, educator, foundress of the Josephite Sisters; b. Jan. 15, 1842, Fitzroy (near Melbourne), Australia; d. Aug. 8, 1909, Sydney, New South Wales.

The daughter of Highland Scottish immigrants, she was working as a governess when in 1861 she met Father Julian Tenison Woods, a missionary from England and one of the chief architects of Australia's Catholic education system. He inspired her to dedicate her life to teaching the children of the bush. In 1865, Mary and two younger sisters began teaching in an abandoned stable at Penola, South Australia.

Moving to Adelaide, Mary MacKillop and Father Woods founded the Institute of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Together with her companions Mary pronounced the vows of religion Aug. 15, 1866, and took the name of Mother Mary of the Cross. Her efforts to adapt the new community to a colonial environment encountered a decade of lay and clerical misunderstanding and opposition. In 1871, the bishop of Adelaide excommunicated her and disbanded the sisterhood. A Jewish person gave the homeless nuns a house rent free, until their restoration in 1872.

In 1874, Mother Mary traveled to Rome and submitted her rule to Pope Pius IX. Rome's eventual decision was a compromise but the foundress won her principal point of central government for the sisters throughout the Australian colonies. She established 160 Josephite houses and 117 schools attended by more than 12,000 children. When she died after a long illness, her congregation numbered about 1,000.

Her tomb is in a vault donated by a Presbyterian woman in front of Our Lady's Altar in the Mount Street Josephite Chapel, North Sydney. At her beatification by John Paul II Jan. 19, 1995, at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney, she became the first Australian beata. Patron of Australia.

Feast: Aug. 7.

Bibliography: m. mackillop, Julian Tension Woods, A Life (Blackburn, Vic., 1997). Australian Catholic Truth Society, Mother Mary of the Cross: Her Personality, Her Spirit (Melbourne 1973). c. dunne, Mary MacKillop: No Plaster Saint (Sydney 1994). p. gardiner, Mary MacKillop: An Extraordinary Australian (Newtown, N.S.W. 1993). a. henderson, Mary MacKillop's Sisters: A Life Unveiled (Sydney 1997). d. lyne, Mary MacKillop, Spirituality and Charisma (Sydney 1983). w. modystack, Mary MacKillop: A Woman Before Her Time (New York 1982). f. o'brien, Called to Love (Homebush, NSW 1993). l. o'brien, Mary MacKillop Unveiled (N. Blackburn, Vic. 1994). l. staub-staude, The Anatomy of A Saint (Naracoorte, S. Aust. 1993). o. thorpe, Mary MacKillop, (3d ed. Sydney 1994).

[j. g. murtagh/eds.]

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