St. Mary of the Cross MacKillop, was born January 15, 1842, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia and died August 8, 1909, North Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; canonized October 17, 2010; feast day August 8), a religious figure, educator, and social reformer who was the first Australian Saint.
Mary MacKillop began working when she was 14 years old. In 1860 she moved to the small rural town of Penola to serve as governess for the children of her aunt and uncle. There she provided her cousins with a basic education and soon extended this to the poor children of the town. A young priest, Father Julian Tenison Woods, encouraged her to continue this work, assuring her that educating the poor would be an ideal way to serve God.
In 1866 Mary MacKillop and Fr Tenison Woods founded Australia’s first order of nuns, the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, and also established St. Joseph’s School in a converted stable in Penola, providing a free education to children from the area. In 1867 MacKillop took vows and became the first mother superior of the sisters.
In June 1995, Mary MacKillop was beatified by Pope John Paul II. In February 2010, after evaluating the testimony of an Australian woman who claimed that her terminal cancer had disappeared after she called upon MacKillop in prayer, Pope Benedict XVI recognized MacKillop as a saint. She was canonized in October 2010.