Eileen, pray for us!

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    Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, centre, with concelebrants and others at the 17 October Mass marking the end of celebrations on the centenary of the death of Servant of God, Eileen O’Connor. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

    Archbishop Fisher urges prayers for intercession of sainthood candidate in NSW euthanasia crisis

    Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has called on Catholics to pray through the intercession of Sydney’s saint-in-waiting, Servant of God Eileen O’Connor, for the defeat of a euthanasia bill introduced into NSW parliament, saying the proposed laws are the very antithesis of everything Eileen stood for.

    Archbishop Fisher was speaking at a Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral, marking the end of celebrations on the centenary of the death of Servant of God, Eileen O’Connor whose cause for canonisation was officially launched in February last year.

    The Little Mother, as Eileen was affectionately known, co-founded Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor in 1913, with Missionaries of the Sacred Heart priest, Fr Edward McGrath. The religious congregation is committed to caring for the sick poor in their own homes and its legacy lives on today.

    “She devoted herself to the service of the poor, sick, debilitated, distressed, dying.” – Archbishop Fisher OP

    Archbishop Fisher said one of the most remarkable personal traits in Eileen was her unfailing service to others when she faced great personal hardship and disability herself.

    “She devoted herself to the service of the poor, sick, debilitated, distressed, dying. Compassion means suffering with and she had this in spades: a grave spinal injury in childhood, a heart condition and eventually tuberculosis of the bone, left her dwarfed, often immobile, always in pain”, he said.

    Confined to a wheelchair for most of her life and dying at the young age of 28, Archbishop Fisher said many would have given up all hope in life in Eileen’s circumstances. Yet he said the young Eileen made a conscious decision to join Christ in healing through her suffering.

    “At age 19, Eileen received an apparition of Our Lady offering her three options: to die quickly and go straight to heaven; to be miraculously healed and live comfortably on earth; or to offer all her torments and energies to Our Lady’s work of building up God’s kingdom. This pint-sized dynamo of prayer and compassion chose the last.’’

    Gail Story, principal of Eileen O’ Connor Catholic College for students with disabilities in Lewisham, has welcomed the launch of the Friends of Eileen O’Connor Association. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

    In a climate where the sanctity of life is under concerted attack, especially over recent years through abortion and euthanasia laws, Archbishop Fisher said Eileen’s message of hope in the face of severe illness and disability was more critical than ever.

    “New South Wales is on a precipice. This week a bill was introduced to Parliament to allow the killing of the likes of Eileen or assist their suicide. Camouflaged ‘voluntary assisted dying’, it’s the very antithesis of Eileen’s caring for people to the end. It cuts the care short, by cutting short the patient’s life”.

    “It’s the most radical piece of legislation ever proposed in NSW. It will create two classes of people: those whose lives are sacred, and those judged better off dead: those whose right to life is inalienable and those who’ve lost it or can give it up; those shielded by our homicide laws, and those subject to state-sanctioned killing; those discouraged from suicide, and those assisted with it”, Archbishop Fisher added.

    Under the proposed laws, introduced by Independent MP Alex Greenwich, faith-based aged care facilities that object to euthanasia would still need to allow doctors and nurses onto their premises for every stage of the euthanasia process, including allowing them to enter and kill a patient on site.

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    “No relative or friend can protect them, not even a church hospital or nursing home”, explained Archbishop Fisher. “There will be few real safeguards for the vulnerable or for the consciences of others. People will be free to incite someone’s early death and provide the means. No treatment for their depression, no palliation of their pain, just a lethal jab like an execution”, he added.

    “If ever we needed the spirit of Eileen O’Connor to rise up and inspire our people, it’s right now. If ever we needed her to teach us the meaning of service-health service, public service, divine service, it is today. Pray for us Little Mother!”

    Friends of Eileen O’Connor Association launched

    At the conclusion of the Mass, Archbishop Fisher launched the new Friends of Eileen O’Connor Association, aimed at raising greater awareness of her life, her cause for canonisation and her spirituality.

    Devotion to Eileen is by no means confined to Australia and the new association has already attracted interest from overseas, including from The Philippines. Sr Margaret Mary Birgan from Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor hopes the revitalised association will spread the story of Eileen O’Connor throughout Australia and the world.

    “The story of Eileen and Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor should resonate with many Australian Catholics, particularly those in Sydney, Brisbane and Newcastle, where we have worked for decades”, Sr Margaret Mary explained.

    Servant of God Eileen O’Connor in the wheelchair to which she was confined from the age of three onwards. Photo: supplied

    “Eileen also has a small but growing global following as well. Fr McGrath, who co-founded the order with Eileen, served as a parish priest in New Zealand, England and the USA for more than 20 years, where he spread the story of Eileen O’Connor and pockets of devotion remain in those countries. Likewise, Eileen’s parents and Fr McGrath’s father were all born in Ireland where the story is also known and there is ongoing devotion”.

    One of the readers at the Mass, Principal Gail Story from the school named in Eileen’s honour: Eileen O’ Connor Catholic College for students with disabilities in Lewisham, said her school will be actively supporting the new association. She said Eileen’s inspiring story was an integral part of the school curriculum. “Even though Eileen had a disability, she was able to give so much to others and so we look to her life as a model for our students and staff”, Mrs Story explained.

    Anyone wishing to join the Friends of Eileen O’Connor Association can do so online at eileenoconnor.com.au/friends-of-eileen-oconnor-association

    New members will receive a prayer card and special commemorative gift in the post to mark the Centenary celebrations in 2021.

    Archbishop Fisher is encouraging Catholics to write to their local NSW MPs, urging them to vote against the proposed euthanasia legislation. Pro-life organisations are supporting an online petition which you can sign at: www.noeuthanasia.org.au