Mary MacKillop: The City's First Josephite School

Mary MacKillop arrived in Adelaide in June 1867. She and the Sisters of St Joseph assumed responsibility for the city’s first Josephite school on Wakefield Street. Over the next ten years, three further Josephite schools were established in the city on Franklin Street, Pirie Street and Russell Street.

The Wakefield Street school was located in a hall that once stood next to St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral. The Cathedral was built in stages beginning with the southern end of the nave in the 1850s under the direction of Adelaide's first bishop, Francis Murphy. Construction was initially slow due to labour shortages brought on by the Victorian Gold Rush. Further extensions were added in 1887 and 1926, with the final work on the Cathedral's tower completed in 1996. At the time of its construction in the 1850s, the Mercury and Sporting Chronicle newspaper observed that, "The elegant structure now in course of erection in Victoria Square will certainly far eclipse all other Ecclesiastical edifices here, none of which compare in point of beauty."
 
The establishment of the St Joseph's schools was an important milestone for the colony. At the time, South Australian children who had access to an education were mainly from wealthier families that could afford to pay for a tutor, governess or private school fees. Children from poorer families rarely attended school in the colony, many instead having to work from an early age. The St Joseph’s schools were a progressive idea as they provided all children with an equal opportunity to an education.

At the Josephite schools, students were taught basic skills that Father Woods and Mary believed would improve their lives. As one local newspaper observed at the time,

The great end sought is to enable children of the poorer classes to read an ordinary newspaper paragraph, write a sensible letter with but very few mistakes in it, and understand thoroughly the four simple and compound rules of arithmetic. 

They were also given religious instruction as part of the school lessons.

Mary initially taught at the Wakefield Street school and regularly visited the teachers and students at the Pirie Street school.

Images

A young Mary MacKillop

A young Mary MacKillop

Mary's own family struggled financially throughout her childhood. Despite this, her father Alexander ensured his children were well-educated. When the family could no longer afford to send the children to private schools, Alexander taught them himself. | Source: Image courtesy Mary MacKillop Centre Adelaide View File Details Page

Father Woods

Father Woods

Julian Tenison Woods, an Englishman, arrived in Australia in 1855. Following his ordination as a priest in 1857 in St Patrick's Church in Grote Street, Father Woods was sent to the South East of South Australia to serve as the community's priest. In 1867, he was transferred to Adelaide to take up the position of Director of Catholic Education. A popular priest, Father Woods also had a keen interest in natural history, geology, writing and the arts. He left Adelaide in 1871, and travelled extensively across Australia and other parts of the world. He died in Sydney on 7 October 1889. | Source: Image courtesy Mary MacKillop Centre Adelaide View File Details Page

Mary MacKillop

Mary MacKillop

A photograph of Mary taken in a King William Street studio in 1869, two years after her arrival in the city. | Source: Image courtesy Mary MacKillop Centre, Adelaide View File Details Page

The first St Joseph's School

The first St Joseph's School

Father Woods and Mary opened their first school in Penola in 1866. Initially in a cottage, the school was relocated to an empty stable. Mary’s brother John, a carpenter, assisted in converting the stable into a schoolroom that could accommodate up to 40 students. | Source: Image courtesy the State Library of South Australia, B-23828 View File Details Page

Two Josephite teachers with students at one of the St Joseph's schools.

Two Josephite teachers with students at one of the St Joseph's schools.

Source: Image courtesy Mary MacKillop Centre Adelaide View File Details Page

St Francis Xavier's Cathedral Hall

St Francis Xavier's Cathedral Hall

Following the close of the Wakefield Street school in 1871, the hall was used for church and community events. It was eventually demolished in the 1970s following a fire. | Source: Image courtesy Mary MacKillop Centre Adelaide View File Details Page

St Francis Xavier's Cathedral and Hall, c1874

St Francis Xavier's Cathedral and Hall, c1874

The Cathedral was modelled architecturally upon Baylard Abbey Church in Yorkshire England. | Source: Image courtesy Mary MacKillop Centre Adelaide View File Details Page

St Francis Xavier's Cathedral

St Francis Xavier's Cathedral

The Cathedral as it appears today. | Creator: Photograph by Jessica Cronin, National Trust of South Australia, Image ID: ADL.DIG.2014.11672 View File Details Page

Video

Tour of St Francis Xavier's Cathedral- Part 1 of 3

Media personality Amanda Blair tours St Francis Xavier's Cathedral. | Source: Archdiocese of Adelaide View File Details Page

Tour of St Francis Xavier's Cathedral- Part 2 of 3

Media personality Amanda Blair tours St Francis Xavier's Cathedral. | Source: Archdiocese of Adelaide View File Details Page

Tour of St Francis Xavier's Cathedral- Part 3 of 3

Media personality Amanda Blair tours St Francis Xavier's Cathedral. | Source: Archdiocese of Adelaide View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

The Adelaide City Explorer Team and Mary MacKillop Centre Adelaide, “Mary MacKillop: The City's First Josephite School,” Adelaide City Explorer, accessed April 25, 2017, http://adelaidecityexplorer.com.au/items/show/134.
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