An Australian Saint for All

Mary died in Sydney on 8 August 1909, aged sixty-seven. Her life of exceptional holiness was formally recognised on 19 January 1995 when Pope John Paul II beatified her in Sydney. On 17 October 2010 she was canonised by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.

Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop is Australia’s first saint and throughout the universal Catholic church is now to be ‘honoured devoutly among all the saints’.[1]

‘Do not be afraid. Love one another, bear with one another,
and let charity guide you in all your life.’ [2]

Mary was a forthright, courageous leader who re-defined the role of women in colonial Australia by overcoming the restrictive religious and social conventions of the time. She

  • co-founded a very special Australian Institute of Sisters; shaped its development to meet diverse and changing needs; and firmly guided it into the twentieth century
  • revolutionised a colonial Australian system of education such that it compared more than favourably with contemporary practice in Europe and Great Britain
  • left to the people of Australia and New Zealand at the time of her death a legacy of 750 Sisters; 117 schools catering for 12,409 pupils; and 106 Houses, including 12 social welfare institutions[3]
  • became an inspiration to the thousands of Sisters of Saint Joseph who, since 1866, have devoted their lives to God through service to others both here and overseas.

Mary’s exemplary life and her acceptance of all people irrespective of their religious, racial, or cultural differences, make her ‘a saint for all Australians’[4] and for those beyond our shores.

Penola – Where it all Began exhibition text: Margaret Muller, Mary MacKillop Penola Centre, 2011



1. From the official formula of canonisation, pronounced by Pope Benedict XVI, 17.10.2010
2. MacKillop to Sisters, 12.1.1909
3. Father O’Dowling sj, The Southern Cross, 10.9.1909, for 1909 figures
4. Max Harris, ‘A saint for all Australians’, The Advertiser, 6.4.1985