Miracles of Australia's very own Saint.

Mary Helen Mackillop was born 15th of January 1842 and died 8th of August 1909. She is Australia’s only Saint. 

Mary with Father Julian Woods founded the Sisters of Joseph of the Sacred Heart plus a number of schools and welfare institutions throughout Australasia focusing on education for the poor especially in rural areas.

Mary was the daughter of Scottish immigrants her father Alexander MacKillop educated at The Scots College in Rome and at Blairs College in Kincardineshire, for the Catholic priesthood but at the age of 29 left just before he was due to be ordained. He migrated to Australia and arrived in Sydney in 1838. MacKillop's mother, Flora MacDonald, born in Fort William, had left Scotland and arrived in Melbourne in 1840. Her father and mother married in Melbourne on 14 July 1840. Mary was the eldest of eight children.

Mary began working at the age of 14 as a clerk and later a teacher. To help provide for her family as her fathers farming venture was unsuccessful. Mary became a governess In 1860 at her aunts property. She educated other farm children as well as her aunts which brought her into contact with Father Woods.

MacKillop and Woods were very concerned about the lack of education to the poor and people in country areas. And as a result opened a School in South Australia in 1866.

Mary and her sisters with Woods as director of education began teaching in a stable later renovated by her brother the MacKillops started teaching more than 50 children. At this time MacKillop made a declaration of her dedication to God and began wearing black. By 1869 Mary and over 70 Josephite Nuns were teaching children at 21 across Adelaide and the country.

In 1867, MacKillop became the first sister and mother superior of the newly formed order of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, and moved to the new convent in Grote Street, Adelaide. In the same year, at age 25, she adopted the religious name Sister Mary of the Cross.

Due to infighting within the Clergy and allegations by MacKillop and her fellow Nuns of sexual abuse of children by Father Keating of Kapunda. The Josephites informed Father Woods, who in turn informed the vicar general Father John Smyth, who ultimately sent Keating back to Ireland. Father Charles Horan Father Keating’s former colleague was angered by Keating’s removal. And there is evidence to suggest he sought vengeance against Woods by attacking the Josephites. 

Horan became acting vicar general after the death of Smyth in June 1870, and from this position sought to influence Bishop Sheil. Horan met with Sheil on 21 September 1871 and convinced him that the Josephites' constitution should be changed; the following day, when MacKillop apparently did not accede to the request, Sheil excommunicated her, citing insubordination as the reason. MacKillop lived with a Jewish family and was also sheltered by Jesuit priests. 

On his deathbed, Sheil instructed Father Hughes to lift the excommunication on MacKillop. On 21 February 1872, he met her on his way to Willunga and absolved her in the Morphett Vale church. Later, an Episcopal Commission completely exonerated her.

Mary later went to Rome for funding and approval for her order, institutions and schools in Australia she returned in 1875.



Mary died on the 8th of August 1909 in the Josephite convent in North Sydney. The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Moran, stated that: "I consider this day to have assisted at the deathbed of a Saint.”

Mary was buried at the Gore Hill cemetery further north of Sydney. After her burial people began visiting her grave and removing earth for use as holy relics. As a result her body was moved to a vault before the altar of the Virgin Mary at the newly built memorial chapel in Mount Street, Sydney.

On 17 July 2008, Pope Benedict XVI prayed at her tomb during his visit to Sydney for World Youth Day 2008


The campaign for MacKillop's canonisation began in 1926, 17 years after her death.

Mary has two miracles attributed to her which lead to her sainthood.

*Veronica Hopson was diagnosed with terminal leukemia was cured by praying for MacKillop’s intercession in 1961. This first miracle was finally recognised by Pope John Paul II and Mary was beatified in 1995.

*Kathleen Evan was diagnosed with inoperable lung and secondary brain cancer in the 1990’s. 

A friend of Kathleen’s in the Hunter Valley gave her a picture of Mary MacKillop and a piece of her clothing.

Ms Evans, her family and her parish all began praying.

Ten months after her original diagnosis, she was told there was no sign of any cancer - just some scarring where the tumors had been.

Mary MacKillop’s canonisation was announced on 19th of February 2010 she became Australia’s first Saint on the 17th October 2010. 

More miracles?

Several other high-profile victims of illness or accident have attributed their recovery at least in part to MacKillop's help. 

The Catholic family of burns victim Sophie Delezio credits her medical progress to MacKillop.

When Irishman David Keohane woke from an eight-month coma following an assault in Sydney, his family attributed his recovery to months of prayers to MacKillop.