BY LAURA BRADLEY & CHRIS LEE
During Lent and for the “Year of Youth” we would like to introduce you to a spiritual companion. A holy woman of Sydney, Australia who passed away when she was just 28 years of age, her name is – Eileen O’Connor.
Eileen’s life is one filled with physical suffering and immense pain stemming from her disabilities which confined her to being in a wheelchair and bed ridden for most of her life.
Deeply religious Eileen claimed to have received a visitation from Our Lady who encouraged her to offer her suffering for the good of others. This is why despite the physical boundaries that were in front of her, Eileen pushed forward and co-founded Our Lady’s Nurses for the poor.
Eileen lived in a time where healthcare wasn’t readily available for the poorest people in Australian society. In her diaries, she wrote a beautiful a reflection about the mission to serve the sick and dying poor saying “and here begins the work of heaven”.
Eileen believed that her earthly work was being done for the greater glory of God. She trusted deeply in Christ’s promise and worked with the most marginalised people in Australian society to restore their dignity and deepen their faith.
Eileen passed away at the age of 28 from chronic tuberculosis of the spine and exhaustion. She was buried in Randwick cemetery but in 1937 her body was exhumed and reinterred beneath the chapel at Our Lady’s home; when the coffin was opened Eileen’s body was found to be in a state of perfect preservation.
Her cause for canonisation is currently underway. Our hope is that during Lent and also during this Year of Youth we can introduce Eileen to a new generation of people.
Through knowing Eileen, we can all learn to love our God more deeply and intimately than ever before.
HERE ARE TEN FACTS ABOUT EILEEN O’CONNOR:
1. She was born in 1892 and lived near Coogee Beach (a popular Sydney beach)
2. In 1937 her body was exhumed and reinterred beneath the chapel at Our Lady’s home; Eileen’s body was found to be in a state of perfect preservation
3. She was completely dedicated to the poor a famous quote of hers is:
“The cause of a person’s poverty is not yours to question.
The fact the person is poor is the reason you help.” The motto of the Brown Nurses today is “For the poor and the poor only.”
4. When Eileen was three years old she fell from a pram in an accident that damaged her spine and left her in constant pain.
5. At 10 years old Eileen after multiple surgeries was given a picture of ‘Ecce Homo “Jesus Crowned with Thorns” Eileen said “This will be my consolation” she was incredibly spiritual from a young age and offered her sufferings and pain as a prayer for others.
6. She did much work from her bed including fundraising and developing a community of nurses who could care for the sick and the poor.
7. Miss Kilgallin, Eileen’s cousin would carry her to her appointments within the Vatican where they talked about their work in Sydney as Eileen was too sick to walk.
8. When Fr Edward Mc Grath a priest who co-founded Our Lady’s Nurses for the poor first met Eileen he was impressed with her spirituality and her deep concern for the poor. He knew that together they would achieve great things for the glory of God.
9. Fr Mc Grath said of Eileen I was face to face with an exceptionally saintly soul in cased within a pure and precious body racked with pain from that moment I realised better that there were big things to be done for God and for souls and that I had found my helper in that frail looking but deeply spiritual child of Christ and Mary.
10. People were intensely attracted to her. “There radiated from her a happiness and welcome impossible to resist or describe.”
For 100 years, Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor –known as the Brown Nurses – has performed a unique ministry of healthcare, advocacy and friendship for the poor and disadvantaged. The Brown Nurses and are now made up of a group of men and women volunteers
PRAYER FOR EILEEN O’CONNOR
Great and Merciful God
through the maternal love
of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
you inspired your servant
to care for the sick and dying
poor and to serve your Church
and corporal works of mercy.
Listen graciously to our prayers,
and grant that Eileeen
may be raised to the glory
of your altar.
We ask this through
Christ our Lord. Amen