This statue is of Mary Mackillop, Australia’s first and, to date, only saint.
Mary MacKillop, of Scottish extraction, was born in Melbourne in 1842 and devoted her life to the education of the poor.
With Father Julian Tenison-Woods, parish priest of Penola in South Australia, Mackillop was instrumental in the creation of ‘The Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart’ where members, including its first member, Mary, lived in poverty and dedicated themselves to educating poor children. In this endeavour Mackillop established schools, convents and charitable institutions across Australasia.
Internal feuding saw Mackillop excommunicated from the Catholic church for a short period, the Sisterhood almost disbanded and a permanent falling out between Mackillop and Tenison-Woods.
Undeterred by this humbug, Mackillop continued her good works, from her base in Adelaide, and in 1875 was elected Superior-General of the Sisterhood. Mary moved (or was rather evicted from Adelaide by the then bishop, acting beyond his powers) to Sydney in 1883 where, in any event, the Sisterhood was headquartered. Mary Mackillop died in Sydney on 8 August 1909.
Mary was beatified (the first major step to sainthood within the Catholic Church) on 19 January, 1995 in a Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II at Randwick Racecourse, Sydney. She was canonised at a Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican on 17 October 2010.
In being canonised Mary, who throughout her adult life had assumed the title Mother Mary of the Cross, became Saint Mary of the Cross.
This statue, next to the Cathedral Church of St Francis Xavier (see separate review) in the ‘Mary MacKillop Plaza’ depicts Mary as a young woman – holding hands with two scraggly children – at the beginning of her pioneering work in education. It was sculpted by Judith Rolevink and dedicated in 2009, a year before Mary was canonised, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Mary’s death. The brass plaque has obviously been updated since that date to record her canonisation.
Address: Mary MacKillop Plaza
Directions: Next to the Cathedral Church of St Francis Xavier, off Victoria Square