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Born in 1842 to two Scottish immigrants Mary Helen MacKillop was brought up in a very religious financially unstable household in Fitzroy Melbourne She resolved at a young age to lead a religious life This goal was realized in 1866 after MacKillop had worked as a shop assistant teacher and governess In 1866 MacKillop met an English priest Julian Tenison-Woods who was based in South Australia Tenison-Woods shared her quasi-mystic almost zealous brand of Catholicism Together they founded the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart which was dedicated to looking after poor Catholic children and providing them with a quality Catholic education The establishment of the order was not without its drama In 1871 MacKillop was excommunicated from the Catholic Church for insubordination reports had been made of strange visions self-inflicted versions of Christs wounds and other unorthodox practices among the sisters of the order Although the orders numbers decreased MacKillop was determined that this would not be her undoing Bishop Shiel had excommunicated MacKillop However in 1872 while on his deathbed he withdrew his accusations MacKillop traveled to Rome Here she gained approval for the Josephites Rule and what became her own order This was opposed to the vision she had shared with Tenison-Woods and in seeking approval from Rome she effectively severed their relationship By 1875 the order had grown to include over 200 nuns and more than 40 schools It was organized according to the original principle of providing the poor with quality Catholic education as a means of escaping their financial hardship The Josephites continue to be characterized by living their own lives in poverty and maintaining a fiercely egalitarian ethos among themselves and in their teaching MacKillop was elected to the superior-generals position within the sisterhood in 1875 and she was popular amongst followers of her order Nevertheless in 1883 MacKillop was plagued by criticisms of
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