In the township of Penola, South Australia, the historical story of Mary MacKillop and Father Julian Woods is told through stunning photography, artifacts, memoirs and installations within the walls of the original buildings.
MacKillop came to Penola in 1860 as governess to her wealthy cousins. Although she frequented horse races and fancy balls, it was a meeting with a dashing 28-year-old priest, Father Julian Woods, that changed her life.
Woods was an engaging man: a scientist, a botanist, a highly regarded conversationalist and an expert horseman whose parish extended 22,000 square miles.
MacKillop was only 19 when they met, but her future was determined. Within a few years she swapped her civilian clothes for a simple black dress and together with Woods founded the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart and wrote the Josephite Rule.
In 1866 MacKillop established a school for poor children in some empty stables. Her ambition and influence spread far and wide and within five years she had recruited 127 young women to provide education and support for the underprivileged in 45 centres.
A Catholic Bishop excommunicated MacKillop but she showed great courage in her fight for reinstatement, following which she undertook a trip to Rome. She successfully gained Papal approval, although mandatory changes were made to the original Rule.
Upon her return, Woods disagreed with the changes and the two became estranged. While MacKillop focused on the flourishing expansion of the Institution, Woods traveled extensively, focusing on his scientific work, until his health failed. They were finally reunited in 1889 when MacKillop visited her friend, aged 56, bedside before his death.
MacKillop wrote a book as a tribute to the priest (1903) and she died in 1909. MacKillop was beatified by Pope Paul II in Sydney in 1995 and her canonisation is impending.
2009 commemorates 100 years since MacKillop’s death and an upgrade of the original schoolhouse that stands relatively unchanged surrounded by the historical cottages and picket fences of the famous Petticoat Lane.
Explore the new website mackilloppenola.org.au for history, photography and bookings.