A crowded house of around 200 faithful Catholics – a significant cultus – gathered for the 99th Anniversary Mass of Eileen’s passing in the hopes of her eventual canonisation PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli
The ministry of Servant of God Eileen O’Connor- foundress of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, commonly known as ‘the Brown Nurses’ was commemorated by her Order and a crowd of 200 faithful Catholics on the 99th Anniversary of her passing on 10 January at Our Lady’s Home, Coogee.
A photo of Eileen in her bed, which is still preserved as a relic of her life at Our Lady’s Home in Coogee PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli
The resting place of Eileen, present within the chapel precinct, was open for devotees to pray for her intercession. Indeed, for many devoted to her cause, Eileen is hoped to become Australia’s next saint.
Mother and daughter Claire and Jessica Dowd praying at the tomb of Eileen O’Connor for her intercession. Devotion for Eileen is still strong in Sydney | PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli
After suffering a debilitating spinal injury as an infant, Eileen was confined to a wheel-chair bound life of much physical pain. Nevertheless, the Brown Nurses, founded by Eileen in 1913, was a ministry at the forefront of serving the poor, sick and disabled of Sydney’s working class with love and tenderness.
Despite a century since her passing, the positive impact of Eileen’s life and mission are still being felt throughout Australia.
Eileen, in her own lifetime suffered from much pain due to her spinal injury and gave special care and attention to the disabled – a charism still present today in the Brown Nurses and their community PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli
Sr Margaret-Mary Birgin OLN spoke to The Catholic Weekly on the significance of the Brown Nurses.
“We are nursing history in Australia. Church history in Australia. Welfare history in Australia. But I don’t want us to be history,” she said.
“What Eileen started 100 years ago we have to lay down the foundations for the next 100 years.”
The first members of the Nurses founded by Eileen O’Connor and Sydney priest Fr Edward McGrath MSC.
The Our Lady’s Nurses Sisters in 2020 with Fr Dan Donovan PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli
Fr Dan Donovan, spoke in the homily of his own experiences with the Brown Nurses and their work among Sydney’s poor before the extensive welfare services available today.
“I firmly believe Eileen was a woman before her time.”
“Her vision of looking after people in their homes and the wonderful group of women that gathered around her were ready to go into the most difficult circumstances to care for the marginalised,” he said.
“I firmly believe Eileen was a woman before her time.” said Fr Dan Donovan at the homily with a portrait of Eileen in the background PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli
Amanda White, from Greenacre, spoke fondly of the care the Brown Nurses gave her as a child in the 80s. “Staying on Eileen’s bed gave me much comfort.”
Claire and her daughter Jessica Dowd praying at the bed of Eileen O’Connor PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli
Meanwhile, Randwick couple and recent converts Micaela Chutrau and her fiancé Navid Behzad spoke of their inspiration from the ‘Little Mother’ Eileen and the strength of her spiritual endurance as a beacon of spirituality for young Catholics today.
“Eileen suffered so much,” said Miss Chutrau. “Yet she was focused on charity and prayer. If everyone can do that it can change the world.”
Young Catholic couple Navid Behzad and Micaela Chutrau “[Eileen] was focused on charity and prayer. If everyone can do that it can change the world.” PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli
A Mass for the formal launching of Eileen’s cause for canonization will be held on 20 February at St Mary’s Cathedral with Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP as celebrant. All are invited to attend.
Sr Margaret Mary OLN with artist Mauricé Salame who commissioned a painting of Eileen for the 99th Anniversary of her passing in the presence of her remains interred below on the right in the chapel PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli
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