When Alexander and Flora MacKillop welcomed their first baby, Mary Helen, into the world in the bedroom of their little house in Melbourne they must have thought she was very special.They could not have guessed in a million years how many people would agree – all over the country and around the whole world! We know her today as St Mary of the Cross MacKillop.

Mary MacKillop was born in 1842. She was a fine teacher, the founder of schools and a religious order. She devoted her whole life to following Jesus and helping others, especially poor children.

Many people who knew her could tell she was extraordinary. Mother Mary radiated God’s love and energy to everyone she met.

She once wrote that

“God’s love is too deep for words to express”

Mary and her companion Fr Julian Tenison Woods dreamed of a new kind of school, open to anyone whether their family was rich or poor. Children from poorer families would be provided with clothing and school supplies for very little cost or for free. They could learn enough reading, writing and maths so they could get out of poverty and have a better life.

A typical lesson might include how to write a grocery list, add up prices in your head and work out the change. They also learnt how to sew and make things out of wood, and of course all about Jesus and the Catholic faith.

When Mary wrote the lessons and timetable for her schools, she made sure there was time for prayers and hymns, which in those days were not written in English, but Latin. But she made sure these weren’t too long so that the children wouldn’t find prayer time too difficult or too boring. Her pupils must have been grateful for that!

Her life wasn’t always easy and she had lots of problems sometimes, but she was happy because she firmly believed in God and that her true home was not here on earth but with God in heaven. She was very cheerful and didn’t want her sisters going around with frowns on  their faces.


She once said

“Look upon your crosses as stepping-stones to an eternity of happiness.


This article is reprinted from the for children 2015 faith Workbook published by LivingWell Media.