Mary MacKillop and our church
By Fr Paul Cleary S.J.,
(This article originally appeared in 'Christian Traveller' our parish magazine)
The Norwood parish became a focus for Mary MacKillop for two reasons. Firstly she purchased a property on Portrush Road in August 1872 and she and the sisters living there became members of the parish, although she, Mary, had lived in Queen Street from September 1871. Secondly, two Jesuits working in Norwood, Fr Joseph Tappeiner and later Fr Joseph Polk, were appointed the Sisters’ Director to the Sisters of St Joseph. Interesting how both priests were Joseph and the Sisters Josephites! During Mary’s time in Rome in 1873 she again found willing support among the Jesuits, namely Fr George Lambert and Fr Anton Anderledy (later General of the Society of Jesus)
For most of her time of excommunication, September 1871 to February 1872, Mary MacKillop lived diagonally opposite St Ignatius Church and had access to the church and support from the Jesuits. She used an upstairs or mezzanine room in the sacristy of the church for prayer and study. This room seems to have been built to give access to a pulpit attached to the wall of the church but with no external stairs. The room existed up to 1953.
1872 was a year of the beginning of a strong involvement of the Sisters in the Norwood parish. First was the setting up of the house in Portrush Road and the beginning of a school on the property and second was the moving of the Refuge or House of Protection for Homeless and Penitent Women in the house on Queen Street next to the church, a building which still stands and is the staff room and instrumental rooms for St Ignatius College Junior School. It is of note that this building and the school building erected in 1901 were used again by the Josephites as St Joseph’s Girls Higher Primary from 1944 to 1950.
On the Feast of St Joseph in 1872, Mary MacKillop and ten of the Sisters were readmitted to the habit of the Institute in St Ignatius church. This public restoration of the Sisters of St Joseph was celebrated by the two Jesuits, Frs Joseph Tappeiner and John Hinteroecker.
(Fr. Paul Cleary died in 1996. RIP)