Mary MacKillop may have dedicated her life to the Catholic Church, but she still received the ultimate punishment. Yes, in 1871 Bishop Laurence Bonaventure Sheil – who helmed the church’s Adelaide operations – made the decision to excommunicate the nun, effectively severing her ties to the religious institution that had been her bedrock for more than two decades. And for years, no one knew what MacKillop did to elicit such a shocking response from Sheil.
Such a dismissal seemed astonishing, too – especially considering how much MacKillop had done for the church and the community. After becoming a nun at 24, she had opened a school in South Australia in order to teach underprivileged children. And from there, she and the other nuns in her order made service to the poor their mission, with the group traveling the country to make that duty a reality.