St Mary of the Cross MacKillop

It is very appropriate that an Australian Catholic college should be named after Australia’s first and only saint who was herself involved in the education of young Australians.

St Mary of the Cross MacKillop
St Mary of the Cross MacKillop

Mary MacKillop’s parents, Flora and Alexander, came to Australia from Scotland in the early 1800’s. Alexander came from Lochaber, Scotland. They had eight children, Mary being the eldest. Alexander was an educated man but he had no business sense. The family faced severe financial hardship, moving house many times, saved only by the charity of relatives. Mary was impelled to work to support them and she soon became the main breadwinner with her entire family leaning on her for support.

In 1860 Mary met a fervent and dynamic young priest, Father Julian Tenison Woods, who had a challenging vision to share – that of the education of underprivileged Catholic children. No stranger to deprivation and hardship herself, the ever practical Mary felt inspired to take up this challenge. In the early days she was supported by Bishop Kirby and, eventually, she was to establish schools in Australia, New Zealand and South America. Her first school was Penola in South Australia.

The new school at Mornington in Tasmania follows in this tradition, echoing some significant aspects of the life of Mary MacKillop in the names of College houses: Kirby, Lochaber, Penola and Tenison.

It was with pride that the College community shared in the joy and celebrations for the beatification of Mary MacKillop in 1995 and her canonisation in 2010. A Communion bowl from the Papal Beatification Mass is in a place of honour in the entrance foyer.