Mary Helen MacKillop, daughter of Alexander MacKillop and Flora MacDonald, was born in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, on the 15th of January 1842. Ever since she was a child she had a strong love for God and desired to help those that were in need.
At the age of eighteen, Mary moved to Penola in South Australia to become a governess to her Aunt Margaret and Uncle Alexander Cameron’s children. There she would guaranteed an income in which she would send to her mother who was still caring for the four youngest children of her family back in Melbourne. While she stayed with the Cameron’s she also taught those in poverty, and it was the Aboriginal Children who she gave her most attention to. It was in this stage of her life where she came into contact with Fr Julian Woods, who was in his fourth year as a priest-in-charge of the Penola Mission.
In early 1866, Mary, who now was twenty-four years old, felt free to leave her family and take charge of the Catholic school that Fr Julian Woods had set up. By this time, Mary was able to become the first Sister of St Joseph. In 1867, Mary was invited to go to Adelaide with Fr Julian Woods to help train his teachers.
For Mary, the family responsibility still weighed heavily on her mind however, her deep desire to serve God in the poor was now able to surface and the fulfilment of her dream of devoting her life to God was now a reality.
In March 1842, Mary MacKillop and the Sisters of Saint Joseph had started up St. Mary’s Primary School, originating in a timber chapel. Mary MacKillop was known for her work with setting up the school and St Mary’s Parish in which had a strong connection to the works that the Sisters of Saint Joseph did within the school.
Once the current school grounds was being built to be able to teach more children, St Mary’s Parish was now the name of the building of the timber chapel that was originally the school where the Sisters of Saint Joseph had taught their students. As St Mary and the Sisters of Saint Joseph taught the children at the school, they had a strong connection to the church as the Catholic school proclaimed the Catholic faith. Without Mary MacKillop originally teaching the catholic school in the Williamstown area, the St Mary’s Parish that is seen today would not have been created in the first place without her influence.
In the present day, St Mary’s Parish support the St Mary’s Primary School through the Catholic faith and the works of St Mary of the Cross. This can be seen through the connection they have when celebrating Catholic events and celebrations in relation to St Mary and the Catholic faith.
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