Alexander and Flora MacKillop were very happy at the birth of their first daughter Mary. Mary’s dad wanted her called only Mary, but her grandmother wanted her to have her name so she was baptised MARY ELLEN MACKILLOP in St Francis’ Church, Melbourne.
In the MacKillop Family there were four girls and four boys. Mary the eldest was followed by Margaret, John, Alex, who died as a baby, Annie, Lexie, Donald and Peter.
On the 15 th January, 1857, Mary celebrated her 15 th birthday and began working as a governess to the L’Strange Family. Mary sent her wages home to her mother to help the family. She next accepted a better paying job with Sands and Kenny as a shop-assistant. She didn’t like this job very much. Her next job was as a teacher in the school at Portland. She was very happy.
In January, 1866 Father Julian Woods invited Mary to set up a school in Penola. Mary was helped by her two sisters, Annie and Lexie, who taught the children in a room in the house and Mary took the bigger children to the Church. The parents were very happy that their children could go to school. After Easter they were able to move into their first school, a stable that their brother John had renovated.
Mary longed to give her life totally to God and with the help of Father Julian Woods the dream was now coming true. Mary became the first Sister of St Joseph. Many young women joined her.
Mary and her Sisters opened schools in small towns. It was important to give children the chance to be educated. The Sisters went where ever they were needed following the Road and railway builders and miners in isolated and poor areas. When the work was finished, the Sisters would move with the people to a new place and begin again.
Mary had made a promise to God to help children. Beside educating them, she opened homes for children who were abandoned or had no one to care for them. These children were very special to her.
One day Mary received a message that one of her boys, Philip O’Brien, was dying and was asking to see her. Mary caught the train to Woy Woy. A terrible storm broke out and the waters became dangerous to cross. One of the local men rowed her safely across the rough water and when she went into Philip’s room he said to her, “I knew you would come, Mother Mary, I am not frightened any more.” Mary stayed with him until he died.
Mary’s Sisters, the Sisters of St Joseph, carry on her work throughout Australia and New Zealand and in Peru, East Timor, Ireland and Scotland and Bolivia. They work with the poor to make their lives better, to give education to poor children so they will be able to get a job and have a better life. They are always looking for helpers. We should pray that many will join them to continue Mary’s dream……….. “Never see a need without doing something about it.”