The Order was co-founded by an English priest, Father Julian Edmund Tenison Woods and Saint Mary MacKillop who saw the need for a new order of Sisters who would go out to the back country areas and work among the poorer people; those who had no means of educating their children in the Catholic religion. As the gold miners moved from one settlement to the next, the Sisters moved also.
This is still the spirit of the Order today – being ready to move on to where God’s Work is waiting to be done.
In 1880, the Sisters were invited to live and work in Whanganui, by Archbishop Redwood S.M. The Parish Priest of Wanganui, Father Kirk S.M. made great preparations to welcome the first group of Sisters. There was to be a grand procession of townsfolk to the wharf, with the band playing and all kinds of celebrations. However, the “Stormbird”, the old coastal boat that they arrived in, berthed at 6.00am before anyone was out of bed!
The first person to find out about the arrival rang the church bell loud and long. The startled congregation bounced out of bed and hurried down the street to greet the four young Sisters. This was 24 April, 1880. The Sisters began their work of Christian Education, visiting the poor and sick in their homes and visiting people in hospitals and prisons.
The sisters also worked in Levin, where there was no convent school until 1920. Until then, the Sisters travelled by buggy with the priest every Sunday to teach catechism. Large classes of children were prepared for First Holy Communion.
Today the sisters are committed to helping to those most in need within society. They do this through participation in a variety of ministries including ;
New Zealand: Explore the history and work of the sisters today.
Across New Zealand, Australia and other parts of the world Mary MacKillop and Julian Tennison Woods sisters still live and minister.