Gracing the stage: magic moment awaits Parramatta family at MACKILLOP


Rosie McClelland
Rosie McClelland (far right) at MACKILLOP rehearsals

By Peter Gresser

When the curtain goes up on the international debut of the musical MACKILLOP next month, it will mark a special moment in time for one Parramatta family both on and off the stage.

Ten-year-old Rosie McClelland, a Year 5 student at St Patrick’s Primary School in Parramatta, is appearing in the children’s cast of the show, while mother Sharon and grandmother Deborah Rogers will be among the opening night crowd at the Seymour Centre in Chippendale on Friday 1 October.

Rosie is among the select cast of 70 chosen from the 250 who auditioned for MACKILLOP, the new Australian musical which powerfully portrays the story of the life, work and struggles of Australia’s first Saint.

“Our little Rosie is absolutely loving it – it’s such a positive and talented cast. The voices are amazing,” Sharon McClelland said.

“Rosie could sing before she could talk, but she was so nervous at her audition. I did say a few prayers for her…and next thing we know, she was in the show. It means so much to our family, especially my mother Deborah, who has such a strong history with the Josephite Sisters.”

The fifth generation Parramatta family also shares a long-standing connection with St Patrick’s Parish: they attend Mass at the Cathedral and both Sharon and Deborah are past students of St Patrick’s Primary. In addition, Sharon thinks it likely that at the end of her primary school days, Rosie will follow in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother in attending Our Lady of Mercy College in Parramatta.

But for now, the family’s focus is on the upcoming show, with Sharon and Deborah taking it in turns to take Rosie to rehearsals twice a week.

For Deborah Rogers, Rosie’s appearance in MACKILLOP is of extraordinary signficance. Having lost her father early in life, Deborah also lost her mother while still at school age in Parramatta. The Sisters of St Joseph arranged for Deborah to attend boarding school at St Joseph’s in Glen Innes.

“It means so much to me that Rosie is in this show, because I’ve always loved Mary MacKillop and the Sisters of St Joseph have played such an important part in my life,” Deborah said. The Sisters were so good to me. I had no parents, but the Sisters built me up and I’ve always felt they gave me the strength to go on in life.

“Rosie has such a beautiful voice and I’m so proud of her. I’ve told her there’s no better musical to be in than this one, so close to Mary’s Canonisation. Everyone in the show is just so wonderful. It’s a very special cast and they’re doing such an important thing.”

Sharing Mary’s story

Rosie with grandmother Deborah
Rosie with grandmother Deborah Rogers.

Deborah’s lifelong connection with Mary MacKillop continued after her school years at St Joseph’s in Glen Innes.

After leaving the boarding school in the early 1960s, Deborah initially settled in Edward Street North Sydney – around the corner from The Mary MacKillop Memorial Chapel in Mount Street.

Although she later headed west to the Parramatta area, Deborah has returned to Mount Street at every opportunity, especially since the opening of the Mary MacKillop Place Museum in 1995.

“I’ve become a regular face at the museum almost since its first day – but I generally bring a different person along with me each time I visit,” Deborah said. “I never push my love of Mary on anyone…but when people come into contact with Mary’s story (through me), they always want to know more, and generally find themselves with me at Mount Street, asking questions about Mary - and asking Mary for her support in their lives.”

MACKILLOP runs from 1 to 9 October at Sydney’s Seymour Centre, and 23 to 24 October in Melbourne. One hundred per cent of the profits from MACKILLOP will go to the Mary MacKillop Canonisation Appeal, ensuring the production will have an enduring impact with those on the margins of society. For show details and bookings, visit



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