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Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop

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Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop holds a place of special religious and historical importance in the Catholic diocese of Bathurst, the city itself and in several other locations, the most significant being the village of Perthville.

Mary MacKillop was born in Melbourne in 1842. She was educated at home by her Catholic Scottish parents. As a young woman she worked as a governess in Penola, South Australia where she met Father Julian Tenison Woods. Seeing the need for education and religious instruction among children they joined forces in founding the Sisters of St Joseph - a religious congregation of women who would give their lives to God providing an education for the children of poor and isolated families.

As Superior General of the Sisters of St Joseph, Mother Mary led a busy life attending to the administration of the congregation. Seeking to enable people to live with dignity and to be treated with justice, she established schools, orphanages and houses for women in need. During those years she suffered greatly through misunderstanding, ill health, family troubles and grave injustice which included wrongful excommunication at the hands of the Catholic Church in Australia. Yet she remained uncomplaining, even-tempered, approachable, uncritical, kind and forgiving. At the heart of her goodness was her union with God.

The Sisters of St Joseph spread rapidly throughout Australia and New Zealand. In 1872 they made a foundation at Perthville - a village ten kilometres from Bathurst. During May and August 1875 Mary visited her sisters there and stayed at the convent. When she returned in January 1876 she did not visit the Perthville convent but following the directive of Bishop Quinn stayed with the Sisters of Mercy in Bathurst. At that time, she met with the sisters from Perthville and from Wattle Flat, German Hill (Lidster) Trunkey and Borenore where foundations had also been established.

Since 1872 the Sisters of St Joseph have spread throughout the Catholic Diocese of Bathurst conducting primary and secondary schools, teaching music and generally assisting wherever they see a need. Thus the spirit of Saint Mary MacKillop lives on in this area through the religious congregation founded in partnership with Father Tenison Woods.

Mary died in Sydney on 8 August 1909. On 17 October 2010 the Catholic Church officially acknowledged the outstanding holiness of this great Australian woman when Pope Benedict XVI declared her Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop.

Places of interest 

PERTHVILLE: Mary visited The Vale (as Perthville was then named) twice in 1875 and stayed in the original convent which forms part of the present St Joseph's Convent. The Founders' Room where she talked with the sisters and wrote letters is located in the convent and is open to visitors. Also in the convent is the chapel with a special shrine dedicated to Saint Mary of the Cross where visitors can spend time reflecting on the life and work of this great Australian woman.  The major points of interest in the convent grounds are signposted and brochures are available for visitors to take a walking tour. 

23-30 January 1876 visit

WATTLE FLAT: Mary stayed here with the sisters for at least one night. A memorial listing the names of the sisters who conducted the primary school and taught music at Wattle Flat from 1873 to 1958 is located on the site of the convent that was opened in 1874. The present church opened in 1999 is dedicated to Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop.

TRUNKEY: Mary's visit here was very short. The small convent where the sisters lived and conducted the primary school from 1874 to 1876 and where Mary stayed is now part of a private home.

BATHURST: Mary travelled from Sydney to Kelso by train and completed her journey to Bathurst by coach. There she stayed with the Sisters of Mercy in their convent and met with Bishop Quinn in the Bishop's House. Both buildings were demolished some years ago. In the present cathedral where Mary prayed and assisted at mass a shrine has been erected in her honour.

The Sisters of St Joseph continue to serve the community at Perthville.