Mary MacKillop (St Mary of the Cross) (1842-1909)
“Be a gift of love and compassion for one another.”
Saint Mary MacKillop was born in 1842 in Melbourne, Australia. She was the first Australian to be beatified and recognised as a Saint by the Roman Catholic Church. Her commitment to justice started at the age of five when she held her baby brother as he died because help was not available. By the age of 14, she was working to help support her siblings.
When she was 18, Mary MacKillop moved to Penola, a rural town in South Australia, to work for her aunt and uncle. She began providing basic education to their children, which soon extended to poor children in the town. Together with a young priest, Father Woods, Mary MacKillop opened a school in a converted stable and provided free education for children in the area.
In 1866, MacKillop and Woods founded Australia’s first order of nuns, Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart. The order opened schools in other Australian cities, as well as a women’s refuge and orphanage. The schools offered secular, as well as religious education, and were open to all children regardless of background. Mary Mackillop suffered debilitating health issues yet travelled extensively. There were few women who lived in every state of what would become Australia, as well as New Zealand. Her great sense of hope was not even diminished when she was excommunicated in 1871.
Mary MacKillop ensured that the order was devoted to teaching and justice. She served at the order until her death in 1909. MacKillop was beatified in 1995 and recognised as a saint in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI.
You can read more about St. Mary MacKillop at Britannica