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All welcome on Eileen’s Day

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Frs John Knight and Paul Smithers pray before the coffin holding the remains of Servant of God Eileen O’Connor. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Frs John Knight and Paul Smithers pray before the coffin holding the remains of Servant of God Eileen O’Connor. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Sydney’s own “saint in waiting” Servant of God Eileen O’Connor will be honoured at a special Mass on the anniversary of her death on Tuesday 10 January at St Brigid’s church in Coogee in the neighbourhood where she once lived and ministered to the disadvantaged.

Eileen, a laywoman, who died in 1921, is revered for having co-founded Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor in 1913, a religious order committed to nursing the sick and poor in their homes.

The official cause for her canonisation was opened in February 2020 and she is on track to one day be made Australia’s next saint.

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Emeritus Bishop Terence Brady, who has a great personal devotion to Eileen O’Connor will be the principal celebrant at the 11am Mass on 10 January.

The public will then be invited to Our Lady’s Nurses Home at 35 Dudley Street in Coogee to pray at Eileen’s tomb.

Sr Margaret-Mary Birgan from Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor said she has seen growing interest in Eileen O’Connor’s remarkable story since her cause for canonisation was officially opened.

“The 10th of January has always been a day of pilgrimage for us and many people come to our home to pray to Eileen. They come with their sorrows and their intentions and their love for her”, Sr Margaret-Mary said.

Church authorities in Rome are considering the cause for the beatification of Sydney Catholic Eileen O’Connor. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Church authorities in Rome are considering the cause for the beatification of Sydney Catholic Eileen O’Connor. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Eileen O’Connor died at the relatively young age of 28 and endured tremendous suffering in her personal life, spending most of her life confined to a wheelchair due to a debilitating condition known as transverse myelitis.

Sr Margaret-Mary said despite her great suffering, Eileen never lost sight of serving others and offered up all her suffering to Christ.

“I liken Eileen to the Little Flower, St Therese of Lisieux or St Bernadette since her whole life was one of expiation and of suffering which she endured without complaint. There was no help for people in such grave agony and pain in those days”, she explained.

“Eileen is above all, I believe a saint who belongs to the people of God because it was the faithful who enabled us to do the work we did”.

Eileen’s legacy continues today through the work of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor in Sydney, Newcastle and Macquarie Fields as well as through the Brown Nurses based in Glebe.

Sr Margaret-Mary said generations of women have been inspired to join Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, inspired by Eileen’s example.

“23 women have lived and died in our work and it’s been the people of God really who have sustained us for over 100 years”.

Related

Devotion to Eileen goes global

Brown Nurses’ 60th marks Eileen’s enduring influence

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