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Markings 115 - Mary MacKillop in Gawler

Throughout Mary MacKillop’s life, she embraced people of all cultures and faiths. The Josephite schools and other early charitable works of the Sisters were open to all. Mary befriended people of other Christian denominations and faith traditions at a time when much bigotry existed in Australia. In turn, they offered her great friendship and support, and valued her respect and loving concern. One outstanding example was Emanuel Solomon, an emancipated convict who became a politician, a prominent businessman with wide-ranging interests in South Australia, and one of the founders of, the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation. A philanthropist, he never forgot his own origins, and generously supported anyone who was seen to be assisting the poor and disadvantaged.

In 1871, after Mary had been wrongfully excommunicated, Emanuel Solomon provided rent-free accommodation for the 47 Sisters who had been evicted from their convent. On many other occasions, Mary and the Sisters were grateful for both his generosity, and that of his community. Mary once wrote: “The kindness of the Jewish community has been remarkable."

Mary Mackillop was excommunicated on 22nd September 1871 and reinstated on 23rd February 1872. After her and the 47 sisters were accommodated with the help of Solomon there is no documentary evidence of how she spent the intervening 6 months. There are apocryphal stories, brief notes, asides and certainly a strong oral tradition in Gawler that Mary Mackillop was given refuge at the Josephite convent in this mid northern country town for some time and perhaps at regular intervals. She stayed firstly it is rumored in some church cottages in Finniss Street (pictured above) and then the original convent in Porter Street (Pictured below).

Nothing in My Hand I Bring

Mary Mackillop is given refuge at the Josephite convent in

Gawler, South Australia after her excommunication in 1871.

I am no longer

Sister Mary of the Cross.

Small rain.

An inconvenient and irritating


Late from the train

and out of habit

I am soaked with a lesser shame.

Early darkness

conceals me

as the convent in Porter Street

for three weeks

will keep my cover.

Under heavy sentence

I have surrendered

my missal


and rosary.

Now cast-out in desperate decree

I am refused


the sacraments.

Little Sister Francis

of the Five Wounds

has made a thin broth

with unleavened biscuit.

Father Reynolds

will call

at midnight with a kind blessing

tell me I was correct

and to hold fast to my courage.

I believe in the whisperings

to my soul.

I am not afraid nor am I unhappy.

Lift up my heart and do not shrink

from any death or danger

as He did not seek to turn

from His own Calvary.

This late cross

is my last proof

of love.

Jeff Guess

©Jeff Guess 2018

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