Our Significant People 2024-05-09T15:58:58+00:00

St Mary of the Cross MacKillop

Mary MacKillop was born in Victoria to Scottish immigrants on the 15th of January 1842. She was the eldest of eight children and spent her early years working to support her family. At 24, she dedicated her life to God and took on the name “Mary of the Cross”.


Along with Fr Julian Tenison-Woods, Mary opened a school in a disused stable in Penola, South Australia. Her vision was to provide education for underprivileged children. Many other women came to join her there, and Mary and Julian founded Australia’s first religious order: the Sisters of St Joseph (“the Brown Joes”).

Mary and the Sisters were committed to serving the poor – to going to where the need was and living amongst those in need. This took Mary all over Australia to many rural areas.

The Sisters of Saint Joseph first came to Aotearoa New Zealand in 1880 to Whanganui.   In 1883 Mary MacKillop sent three sisters from Adelaide to Temuka to establish a school.  By 1894, the year of Mary MacKillop’s first visit to New Zealand, there were four communities in the North Island, (Remuera and Grey Lynn in Auckland; Meeanee near Napier; Matata in the Bay of Plenty) and four in the South Island (Temuka, Kerrytown and Waimate in South Canterbury and Rangiora in North Canterbury). By this time New Zealand women had joined the sisterhood. Mary MacKillop visited New Zealand four times between 1894 and 1902, travelling throughout the country visiting the sisters and encouraging them in their work.


Mary faced fierce opposition throughout her life, which at one point culminated in her being excommunicated. In the face of trial, Mary was a model of forgiveness, insisting no ill be spoken of those who wronged her, while remaining resolute in her convictions.


MacKillop died on 8 August 1909 at the Josephite convent in North Sydney.  She was buried at Gore Hill Cemetery, exhumed in 1914 and laid to rest in a newly built memorial chapel in North Sydney.

MacKillop took a significant step towards sainthood in 1995 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II on October 17.  Mary was made a Saint and named St Mary of the Cross MacKillop on 17th October 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI.


Mary was an ordinary woman who lived an extraordinary life. We need role models who inspire us to be compassionate, loving people. Mary’s life of heroic goodness demonstrates a way to live with a generous and forgiving heart.

Our pupils are very familiar with the sayings of Mary MacKillop

“Never see a need without doing something about it,”
“Do your bit”
“Listen to God’s call”
“Have an attitude of gratitude”
Make room for all”

St Francis Xavier

St. Francis Xavier, born April 7, 1506, Xavier Castle, near Sangüesa, Navarre, Spain—died December 3, 1552 China. Canonized March 12, 1622,  feast day December 3. He was the greatest Roman Catholic missionary of modern times who established Christianity in India, the Malay Archipelago, and Japan. In Paris in 1534 he pronounced vows as one of the first seven members of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits, under the leadership of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Early life and education

Francis was born in Navarre at the family castle of Xavier, where Basque was the native language. He was the third son of the president of the council of the king of Navarre, most of whose kingdom was soon to fall to the crown of Castile (1512). Francis grew up at Xavier and received his early education there. As was often the case with younger sons of the nobility, he was destined for an ecclesiastical career, and in 1525 he journeyed to the University of Paris, the theological centre of Europe, to begin his studies.

In 1529 Ignatius of Loyola, another Basque student, was assigned to room with Francis. A former soldier 15 years Francis’ senior, he had undergone a profound religious conversion and was then gathering about himself a group of men who shared his ideals. Gradually, Ignatius won over the initially recalcitrant Francis and was among the band of seven who, in a chapel on Montmartre in Paris, on August 15, 1534, vowed lives of poverty in imitation of Christ and solemnly promised to undertake a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and subsequently to devote themselves to the salvation of believers and unbelievers alike. Francis then performed the Spiritual Exercises, a series of meditations lasting about 30 days and devised by Ignatius in light of his own conversion experience to guide the individual toward greater generosity in the service of God and humankind. They implanted in Francis the motivation that carried him for the rest of his life and prepared the way for his recurrent mystical experiences.


He is justly credited for his idea that the missionary must adapt to the customs and language of the people he evangelises, and for his advocation of an educated native clergy—initiatives not always followed by his successors.

Research has shown that he always provided for the continuing pastoral care of the communities he founded and did not abandon them after baptism. The areas he evangelised in India have remained Catholic to the present day. Vigorous and prolonged persecution in the 17th century did destroy the missions he founded in the Moluccas and Japan but only after thousands had died as martyrs. Even before his death, Francis Xavier was considered a saint and has been formally venerated by the Catholic church since 1622. In 1927 he was named patron of all missions.