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Mary MacKillop – the Kapunda connection

By now it is fairly common knowledge that Mary MacKillop, the Founder of the Josephite Sisters, is to be canonised in Rome on October 17th when she will be officially recognised as a saint. Thousands of Australians will be making the journey to Rome to participate in the celebration. And a new Commemorative Stamp is to be issued in Australia the following day.

What is perhaps less well known is the impact Mary and her Sisters had on Kapunda and surrounding district. One of Mary’s early aims was to provide an education for the poor, especially in outlying areas. She established over 80 schools throughout South Australia, seven of them were in Kapunda and nearby district:- St. John’s, Bagot’s Gap (Fords), Greenock, Freeling, Tarlee, Marrabel, Baker’s Flat (Kapunda mine area) Bagot’s Head (Koonunga). There were another 11 schools between Gawler and Sevenhill.

Of particular note in the Kapunda area was the establishment in 1897 of a Girls Reformatory  in what was formerly the presbytery and old church at St John’s, adjacent to the present St John’s cemetery. This was where the original Catholic Church was built in 1850 - there were several Catholic families living in the area at that time. It seems that some girls were particularly difficult to handle, but there are many reports of the loving care extended by the Sisters.

Another little known fact is that Mary MacKillop owned a house in Kapunda, which still stands and is occupied.
A new book by Peter Swann, whose ancestors lived in the St John’s area, is to be launched at St Rose’s Church at 12 noon on Sunday October 3rd. The book outlines details of Mary’s involvement in the local area, especially at St John’s where she spent some time in 1897.
The book will be launched by Peter’s brother, Mgr John Swann, and will be on sale that day priced at $9.95.

Further information:  Peter Swann  08 8566 2323]