Mary MacKillop Hall

Mary MacKillop Hall and St. Josephs ConventEarly records do not survive relating to the establishment of the church but what has been pieced together is that materials were on site by May 1857 and it was expected the construction would be completed shortly thereafter.

It is known that the church was standing in September 1860 as it was reported that Father Birch had to hold mass in private homes due to the church being damaged by strong winds. A call for tenders in November was made and an announcement made in the local newspaper that the flooring and repairs would be complete and for worship in a few days. However disaster struck the building again being destroyed by fire on 14 September 1877 but was rebuilt by the early 1880s.

The church’s most significant association is with Saint Mary MacKillop. The connection between Mary MacKillop and the church lies with her mother, Flora.

On 30 May 1886, New South Wale’s second greatest maritime disaster occurred south of Eden at Green Cape. Close to the lighthouse, the passenger steamer Ly-ee-Moon ran aground with the loss of 71 passengers and crew. Fifteen people survived. Mary MacKillop’s mother was on board the ship heading for Sydney to assist Mary with a fundraising bazaar in aid of destitute women and children. Flora’s body was recovered three days later by a government pilot steamer, Captain Cook.

Her naked body was wrapped in a sail to spare embarrassment and conveyed to Eden where she was identified by the captain of the stricken vessel. Her coffin covered with flowers then proceeded to Sydney where Mary awaited. Correspondence from Mary to her siblings conveys her distraught at the loss of her mother and the way in which her death occurred.

Grateful for the care shown to her mother’s body, Mary established the Sisters of St Joseph Convent with the first Sisters arriving in 1891. A school was established using both ends of the little church until 1912 when a separate school was constructed. Mary MacKillop visited the school twice in 1899 and 1901 both teaching and testing the pupils.

The small building continued to be used as the church until 13 December 1992 when a separate building was completed on the south-eastern side of the site.

With the support from the NSW Heritage Office and Bega Valley Shire Council heritage fund, significant restoration work on Mary MacKillop Hall began on 28 June 2001 and was completed three years later.