Father Woods arrived in Penola after visiting the families in his parish. He was worried about the boys and girls he met who couldnt go to school because there were no schools or because their parents were too poor to pay a teacher. I wonder what I could do?, he said to himself as he cantered along on his horse, Prince. Then he thought of Mary MacKillop. I will write to her and see if she can help me. He reached the gate, jumped off Prince and led him into the stable. That night he wrote to Mary and asked if she could come to Penola and begin a school for the boys and girls in his parish.
Mary MacKillop received Father Woods letter a week later. She was teaching in Portland in Victoria and she wrote to Father Woods to tell him she could come after Christmas. Mary and her two sisters, Annie and Lexie opened the school in Penola in the new year and many parents sent their children to school for the first time. They taught the children in a room in the house they lived in and Mary took the older children to the church. After Easter their brother John visited them and he turned an old stable into a beautiful classroom for them. They had 33 eager students. Mary gave away her pretty clothes and chose to wear a black dress. When the Bishop came to visit he was very pleased with how the children were learning and he called her, Sister Mary.
Mary chose to become a Religious Sister. Father Woods wrote a Rule of Life for Mary to follow and many young women asked to come and live and work with her. They were called Sisters of St Joseph and soon more schools were being opened in many towns and villages in South Australia. Parents were very happy that their children were getting the chance to be educated.
Mary and her Sisters visited the sick, elderly people, especially those who had no one to care for them. When mothers were sick a Sister would go and help the family until the mother was better. Father Woods had said to Mary, Never see a need without trying to do something about it, so the Sisters, as well as teaching boys and girls, also taught adults to read and write so they could get better jobs.
Mary was very concerned about children whose parents might have died and there was no one to look after them. There was very little medicine and many people and children caught sicknesses and died. Mary and her Sisters opened Homes for these children where they were cared for, given an education and Mary and her Sisters would find them a job when they were old enough to leave. These Homes were called Orphanages.
Many girls came to ask to join Mary in her work. To become a Sister there were three stages. First the invitation to come and see. You lived with the Sisters, saw what their life was like and then if this was what you want to do you spent two years training to be a Sister and at the end of this time you chose to made the three promises that made you a Religious Sister. The three dolls are dressed as a postulant, stage 1, novice, stage 2 and a Professed Sister, stage 3.
Marys Sisters travelled to many places to set up schools and Homes for children and elderly people. They were now working in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia and had travelled over the ocean to New Zealand. They worked in places where there was no priest and would gather the people on Sunday to pray.
Some of her Sisters trained to become Nurses and worked in St Margarets Hospital for mothers and babies. A Childrens hospital was set up for sick children. Elderly men and women also found a home with the Sisters. Today the Sisters work with Refugees and help them to settle into Australian life.
Today Marys Sisters work in other countries with the poor and sick. You will find them in countries like Peru, where they work and help very poor people to clothe and feed their children. They work in Ireland with the sick and elderly. In East Timor they support the teachers, providing reading books, pencils and paper for the students. There is much work to do for the poor and needy. Ask God to send more girls to do the work of Mary MacKillop in our country and throughout the world.
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