St Mary’s Cooperative Settlement was founded by Father Wilfred Pooley in 1949, 62 km south-east of Melbourne and 11 km north-east of Pakenham. It was planned as a Catholic ‘City of God’ in the bush and was designed to allow city families to experience a rural lifestyle. The chosen site was 540 acres at North Tynong, originally owned by Mr Reg Sykes. It was renamed Maryknoll in 1955.
The cooperative settlement was supported by the prominent church leader, Archbishop Mannix, and accorded with the aims of the National Catholic Rural Movement.
A building team was needed to establish Maryknoll, and the team was used to construct other buildings in the surrounding areas. One building used as the church and school was opened in 1950. The children were taught by a Sister from the Pakenham Presentation Order. Other local pursuits included dairy farming and agriculture. In 1953, a poultry industry was established. The Convent of Our Lady of the Hills was opened in 1955.
In 1961 the official population was 156. By 1982 78 families lived at Maryknoll, with a population of almost 300. Approximately one third of the population at that time was not Catholic.
Maryknoll is still a rural residential settlement and includes a church, general store, post office, the Father Pooley hall, a recreation reserve, and a progress association.
Maryknoll’s census populations have been:
At the 2011 census 41% of residents were recorded as having a Catholic affiliation; 21.1% professed no religion.
G. White et al, Maryknoll: haven in the bush: 2002 perspective, Maryknoll, 2002