Mary Helen MacKillop

A portrait of Blessed Mary MacKillop hangs in a museum dedicated to her at Mary MacKillop Place in Sydney, Australia. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec) (Oct. 4, 2007)

1842 – 1909

Mother MacKillop is Australia’s first native-born saint and its patron. The oldest of eight children of Scottish immigrants, Mary began working with children as a governess. With encouragement from a priest-adviser, Mary founded the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, the continent’s first religious order, to open schools and orphanages for poor children in rural areas and to serve the aged and friendless by setting up women’s shelters. She took the name Mary of the Cross, and survived episcopal opposition, disrespect and even excommunication. The order received papal approval in 1888, and her 2010 canonization in Rome drew thousands of pilgrims from Australia, where she is considered a national heroine and the first Australian saint. She was celebrated for her dedication to children and the poor, Mother Mary’s progressive ways of teaching had earned her an excommunication order from one stern bishop who found the nun’s practical ways unsettling.

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