15 January 1842 - 8 August 1909.
Co-founder of the Order of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart in Australia. Founded
the first Catholic schools in Australia and worked amongst the poor and needy.
When St. Mary's in Ipswich was established as a school,
Mary MacKillop was just twenty-one years of age. Her vision of an education for
the poor was truly Australian in character. She was not hide-bound by the
conventions of Europe where people with power exercised their authority, be they
Bishops, Priests or Politicians. Her vision was as sweeping as the Australian
Misunderstood and condemned by the Church she loved was
for her a pain filled experience, yet she continued in her work bringing schools
and education to the rural poor; "a no-frills education" as she referred to it.
In all her letters there is no hint of rancour for those who condemned her or
took away her good name. She became victim of the pettiness of myopic Bishops
and the selfishness of middle-class Catholics.
Whenever I think of Mary I have a vision of a slight woman
on horseback crossing mountain ranges and dusty plains against a background of
gum trees, those hardy trees that grow and thrive against all odds: drought and
fire, wind and flood. They are so symbolic of her. Wherever she stopped and saw
a need, she established a school, like the little one at Uralla in New South
Wales, a stop on the road in what was then a poor rural community. I don't know
what the feminine for larrikin is but Mary MacKillop was a larrikin for God:
truly Woman, truly Australian, truly Saint.
In every age, good people have come forward to answer the
needs of the Church, each with their own charism; and today we are a Church in
In Mary we find love and forgiveness and you cannot have
one without the other, they are synonymous. She is an example for us of courage
in the way she overcame opposition. We can turn to her, as the first Australian
saint, to help us overcome obstacles.