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Blessed Mary MacKillop at Norwood


Sr Callista 

(This article originally appeared in 'Christian Traveller' our parish magazine)


The Jesuit Fathers took charge of a large part of rural eastern Adelaide under the name of the Norwood Mission in 1869. The Superior and Parish Priest, Father Hinteroecker, together with Father Tappeiner, proved strong and steady support for the twenty nine year old Mary MacKillop on her excommunication at Franklin Street on 22 September 1871. Mary together with most of the Sisters were required to leave the premises in secular dress by 6 p.m. that evening. Mary spent that night in the house of J D Woods, but to save him from censure by Bishop Sheil, came to Norwood the next day.

It seems likely that the two Jesuits alone among the clergy, which included the Bishop, knew that excommunication required due process of law. It certainly was the height of injustice to rise from breakfast and proceed to excommunicate Mary MacKillop on the word of two young priests without requiring proof of the claims.

In her need, Mary MacKillop accepted the kindness of Emmanuel Solomon in providing a house in which the Sisters could live, while she and one companion came to Norwood.

Father Hinteroecker knew his Norwood. Mary lived in a cottage in Queen Street adjoining the corner shop diagonally opposite St Ignatius. Father Hinteroecker said firmly that the excommunication was invalid but that she could not provoke further scandal by coming to Mass openly, so he provided for her to receive the Eucharist, pray and to write in the little room above the Sacristy which opened on to the pulpit. Here either he or Father Tappeiner brought the Lord to her daily for nineteen weeks and gave her strong and kindly support.

Father Tappeiner tried to show the Bishop how wrong he was but was unsuccessful. However, Father Peter Hughes of Morphettvale, physically removed the evil advisers and gained his point.

Then the Sisters were brought to Norwood to make a Retreat in the vestry of St Ignatius. There Father Hinteroecker arranged for them to resume their Habits and at a public Mass renew their vows on St Joseph’s Day in 1872. His claim was that not only justice was to be done but it must be seen publicly to be done. So he stopped the whispering campaign on the spot.

Mother Laurence O’Brien, later twice Congregational Leader of the Josephites, was at that time, like the rest of the Josephites, a ‘wanderer’. She spoke as an old Sister before her death of the strength of God’s love that she learned from Fathers Hinteroecker and Tappeiner.

Thus began Mary MacKillop’s and the Josephite’s story in Norwood. In August 1872 they took possession of the property on Portrush Road paid for by Robert and Joanna Barr-Smith.

Less than two months later Father Hinteroecker died giving Retreats in Tasmania. A great man! Father Tappeiner was a kindly and prudent Director until his death.

Meanwhile the story of the Josephite works in the parish grew. The love of the Lord was shown in the love for His people. At first, a school was opened on the convent premises - probably in the coach house, and later at Bridge Street a parish school was opened. Beside St Ignatius, on the College side, a refuge was opened and an orphanage at Knightsbridge and yet another school within the parish at Beulah Road.

If you wish to walk in the literal steps of Mary MacKillop, walk the streets of Norwood as she did until 1883, and as the Jesuits did. Poor people, priests and all - WALKED!.

Where there were sick and dying or people in want both spiritually or physically, there Mary and her Sisters visited. They shopped where your predecessors did and shop where you now shop.  They lived simply, frugally, and with love - ordinary women among ordinary people.


Sr. Callista, the author of this article, died in 1999.  RIP