Mary Carson, the owner of a large sheep ranch, becomes enamored of parish priest Ralph de Bricassart Â- even as he takes notice of Mary's niece Meggie Cleary. When Ralph does not return her ardor, Mary plots to influence his destiny even from the grave.
Although drawn to Meggie, Rev. de Bricassart leaves the parish to begin his climb in the Church hierarchy. The Clearys (Jean Simmons and Richard Kiley) agree to run Drogheda, a decision that leads to catastrophe and death.
Ordained an archbishop in Rome, Ralph is still tormented by his love for Meggie, who marries Luke (Bryan Brown) in a desperate bid to forget him. Ralph returns to Australia to share his sensuous idyll with Meggie, although they both know their happiness cannot last.
Years after Ralph and Meggie consummate their love, Dane (Philip Anglim), the child of that union, enters the priesthood. Meggie is embittered that both the men she loves chose the church over her. But tragedy forces Meggie to make peace with Ralph, her family and herself.