The Archdiocese of Sydney celebrated a special Mass on Sunday, 10 January at St Brigid’s church in Coogee, to mark the centenary of the death of a woman on the path to becoming Australia’s second saint, Eileen O’Connor.
Eileen O’Connor, a laywoman, is revered for having co-founded Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, a religious order committed to nursing the sick and poor in their homes.
Mass celebrant Auxiliary Bishop Terence Brady acknowledged that Eileen O’Connor 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.
Despite her own hardships, Bishop Brady said Eileen turned her suffering into a life of service to others, especially the poor.
“Eileen’s family were left in dire financial circumstances after the death of her father and the experience left Eileen with a deep empathy for the sick poor at a time in the 1920s when there was no government healthcare scheme as there is in Australia today,” Bishop Brady explained.
“Eileen’s great courage and unfailing service to others, despite enduring great personal suffering herself, makes her an outstanding role model for all Australians.
“One of Eileen’s greatest strengths was that she never judged another’s situation and emphasised that we should never question the cause of a person’s poverty and the fact that someone is poor is the very reason you help them,” he added.
“I believe Eileen will one day be made a saint of our time.”
Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor Sister Margaret Mary Birgan said tomorrow’s Mass will be a landmark moment for the religious order in Australia.
“Eileen left us with a tremendous legacy which we still see today through the work of the Sisters in Sydney, Newcastle and Macquarie Fields as well as through the Brown Nurses based in Glebe,” she cited.
“Sadly because of COVID-19 restrictions, we will not be able to come together to celebrate this special occasion with a luncheon on Sunday. But we are planning a number of other celebrations throughout 2021 which will also involve Sydney Catholic Schools.”
The next special event will be a Mass to mark Eileen O’Connor’s birthday on 19 February, to be held at St Thomas’ Catholic church in Lewisham and which will involve students from the nearby Eileen O’Connor Catholic College for students with disabilities.
The Archdiocese of Sydney had launched a website and social media platforms aimed at promoting the pathway to sainthood for Eileen O’Connor in November 2020.
Eileen has already taken a critical step towards becoming only Australia’s second saint after her cause for canonisation was officially opened in February 2020 with a Sydney Archdiocesan investigation underway into evidence of her reputation for holiness and a life of heroic virtue.
The website contains detailed biographical information on Eileen O’Connor’s life, prayers through her intercession as well as information on the ongoing legacy left by Eileen covering not only Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, but also the Brown Nurses and Eileen O’Connor College for students with disabilities.