Mary Helen MacKillop was born in Melbourne on 15 January 1842. The eldest of eight children of Scottish migrants, Mary worked from an early age to help support her family. At the age of 18, Mary moved to Penola, South Australia to become a governess. Here she met Father Julian Tenison Woods. Father Woods and Mary shared a passion for assisting the poor. Together they founded a new Religious Order, the Sisters of St Joseph (also known as Josephites), to bring Catholic education to the children of working-class and rural families of Australia.
In 1867, Father Woods was appointed the Director-General of Catholic Education in Adelaide. In June of that year, Mary and her companion Rose Cunningham left Penola and came to Adelaide to assist him. They were the first Religious women (nuns) in South Australia.
Mary lived in the heart of the city for five years, establishing schools and charitable institutions on well-known Adelaide streets. Some of the most rewarding and challenging moments of her life were during her time in the city, including her brief excommunication from the Catholic Church.
The Sisters worked tirelessly to establish schools across suburban and rural South Australia. As the Order grew, the work of the Sisters of St Joseph also expanded to include caring for aged, homeless women; orphans; former female prisoners and prostitutes in the city.
By the time of Mary’s death in 1909, the Sisters of St Joseph were working across Australia and New Zealand to assist those most in need.
This trail traces just some of the places that were part of Mary MacKillop’s time here in the city, and the remarkable work and life of Australia’s first Saint.