The ministry of Servant of God Eileen O’Connor – foundress of the Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor 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.
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.
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 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.
Sr Margaret Mary 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.”
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 women 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.
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.”
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.”
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.