Mary MacKillop was born of Scottish parents in Fitzroy, Melbourne on the 15th January, 1842. Together with Father Tenison Woods, she founded an Australian Religious Congregation, the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. This group of religious women committed themselves to the education of the poor, especially in isolated areas of Australia.

Mary MacKillop established an education system that was recognised for its excellence throughout Australia and New Zealand. She and her Sisters of St Joseph saw education as a means of changing the circumstances of people's lives. They worked tirelessly to provide an education that was accessible to people in often difficult circumstances. Above all, they were concerned to equip people with skills and knowledge so they could take their place in society with confidence and dignity.

Her vision for Australian youth resulted in a flourishing education system that gave hope and realised aspirations in the midst of a tough, depressed, materialistic and secular environment.

Steps to Sainthood

On 13th June 1992, Mary was given the title of Venerable. This followed a study of Mary's life and goodness (virtues) which was written by a Jesuit priest, Fr Paul Gardiner. His report, called the 'positio', was presented to the cardinals in Rome.

On 6th July 1993, Pope John Paul II signed a second decree in Rome. This recognised that Mary had performed a documented miracle. In January 1995, Mary was officially recognised as Blessed.

On the 17th October 2010, Mary will be Canonised in Rome.

Paul Keating, Prime Minister at the time of Mary's Beatification, and educated by the Sisters of Saint Joseph, said:

'The beatification of Mary MacKillop rings with significance for all Australians. The qualities she embodied - openess and tolerance, courage, persistence, faith and care for others are qualities for individuals, communities and nations to live by. We will serve Australia well if we allow the values which inspired and guided Mary MacKillop's work to inspire and guide our own.' [Parliamentary Hansard, February 2nd, 1995, 357, in Inserra, Rosa (1995), Mary MacKillop: Holy Mother to the poor, Cardigan Street Publishers, Carlton.]