Helen MacKillop was born in Fitzroy VIC on 15 January 1842,
the eldest of eight children. She was the daughter of Alexander
and Flora MacKillop nee Macdonald.
Mary left home to work and help support her family when
she was fourteen years of age. She went to work in Penola
in 1861 as a governess to her uncle’s children. Together
with Father Julian Tenison Woods, she opened Australia's
first free Catholic school in 1866.
Mary was a good and popular teacher, but she felt the need
to fulfill a religious calling. She was not able find an
order that suited her and so with the support of Father
Woods started The Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred
Heart. commonly known as Josephites.
In 1867, Mary moved to Adelaide and opened another school.
Before long there were 17 schools under her care, but her
independence annoyed Bishop Sheil of Adelaide who subsequently
excommunicated her in 1871. The next year, close to death,
the Bishop changed his mind and Mary was restored. The Order
moved into Queensland in 1869 and by 1871 had grown to 130
sisters operating 40 schools in South Australia and Queensland.
In 1883 the Order’s Mother House was relocated to
In 1873 Mary traveled to Rome to gain Papal approval for
the Order which was finally granted in 1888.
Mary's followers grew, and by the time she died there were
St Joseph's Schools all over Australia.
Mary MacKillop died on 8 August 1909 North Sydney
The Josephites have been campaigning since 1925 for Mary
to become a Saint. The Pope visited Australia in 1995 for
the formal beatification on 19 January.