The first Australian saint, Mary MacKillop was canonised in Rome on October 17, 2010, in the presence of thousands of Australian pilgrims. She dedicated her life to helping others and educating needy children.
Mary MacKillop was born in a Catholic family in Melbourne in 1842, as the first of 8 children. She helped her parents raise her siblings. She started to work from the age of 14, as a stationery clerk, and added her small income to that of the family.
When she was 18, she went to Penola, a small South Australian town to work as a governess to the children of her aunt.
Mary understood that educating young minds is her mission. She encouraged other needy children to come and attend her classes and established a Catholic school in Penola. Her school was one where poor and wealthy children were able to study without discrimination.
In 1867 Mary MacKillop devoted her life to God and co-founded the order of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, the first religious order of nuns in Australia. She took the name of Sister Mary of the Cross.
The sisters that joined her order dedicated their time to help colonist families living away from the city, in regional Australia, in tough conditions.
As some of the rules she established for the Order were disliked by the Church leaders, she was excommunicated in 1871. The decision was cancelled after 5 months.
In 1873 she travelled to Rome to seek approval for her Order and met Pope Pius IX.
Throughout her life she was compassionate and dreamed of a better world where everyone has the right to attend education.
She helped people around her and touched their lives and hearts. This is why she was regarded as a saint. Mary MacKillop's life was declared holy and she was beatified in Sydney in 1995, by Pope John Paul II.
Her path to becoming the first Australian saint included the investigation by the Church of two miracles.
Sydney celebrated the event with images of Mary of the Cross and her work projected on the pylons of the Harbour Bridge.
The image of Saint Mary of the Cross on the Bridge pylon