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More than a miraculous journey: An interpretivist study of the Sisters of the Congregation of St Joseph and their experiences of visitor impacts following the Beatification of Blessed Mary Mackillop

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posted on 2022-12-14, 06:33 authored by Emma KillionEmma Killion

Locations associated with prominent individuals may become destinations with sufficient drawing power to become the principal motivation for visiting. Events following the deaths of such individuals may further enhance the numbers of people visiting such sites. The Beatification of Mother Mary MacKillop as Australia's first Saint in 1995 was the catalyst for growing public interest in the Foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph. Increasing numbers of 'guests' (as the Sisters describe pilgrims and other visitors) now visit Mount Street, North Sydney, the location of the Memorial Chapel containing the tomb of Mary MacKillop.

My principal purpose was to understand the Sisters' experiences of visitor impacts through a qualitative investigation. The research commenced in 1999 and was on-going until 2002 as field materials were analysed and this public text written. In adding to the knowledge of tourism social impacts, the investigation is distinguished by the ontology, epistemology, and methodology of constructivism (in both constructivist and constructionist forms). Through the construction and interpretation of their stories, gathered during informal, minimally structured topical life history interviews with Sisters who voluntarily shared their experiences, a richly textured bricolage was created. How visitors and their impacts are experienced by a host community comprising members of a religious Order, has not been widely researched, especially at emerging, rather than long-established, pilgrimage destinations. No comparable research has focused on the Sisters of St Joseph following the Beatification of Blessed Mary MacKillop.

The study postulates a theory of 'touristic ministry', a term offered by one Sister, and with which the views of others coalesced, to describe the Congregation's activities in seeking innovative ways to extend traditional Josephite ministries. The Sisters have experienced relocation; the effects of commercialization; the redefinition of formerly private places into public-ised spaces; and the ambiguity of traditional spatial and social boundaries. Touristic ministry is founded on using the impacts of increasing visitor numbers in positive ways to achieve higher purposes with which the community concurs, and in ways that fundamentally transcend the mere catering to visitors. The Sisters' supportive attitudes towards visitors, and their tolerance of visitor impacts, reflect five Cs: Concurrency with wider social, and especially religious, changes; Congruence with prevailing social norms characteristic of the Congregational community; Compliance with the decisions of Congregational Leaders; Confluence with intrinsic factors such as age and proximity to the development; and Consensus regarding the higher altruistic purposes of the development of Mary MacKillop Place. This notion has wider implications in understanding community attitudes toward visitors and their social impacts. Despite disruptions and potentially negative impacts, visitors may be perceived more positively when host community members see them as a means to a greater end.


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Central Queensland University

Place of Publication

Rockhampton, Queensland

Open Access

  • Yes

Cultural Warning

This research output may contain the names and images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now deceased. We apologize for any distress that may occur.

Era Eligible

  • No


Dr Steve Mullins ; Associate Professor Gayle Jennings

Thesis Type

  • Doctoral Thesis

Thesis Format

  • By publication