Eileen O’Connor dedicated her life to nursing the poor and is on the path to becoming Australia’s second saint a hundred years after her death.
A debilitating spinal condition meant Eileen O’Connor spent most of her life in a wheelchair, and she developed deep empathy for the poor when the death of her father left her family struggling at a time when little support was available.
She co-founded Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, a religious order committed to nursing vulnerable people in their homes.
Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney Terry Brady told a celebration marking the centenary of Ms O’Connor’s death that she turned a life of suffering into one of service.
“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,” he said.
“Eileen’s great courage and unfailing service to others, despite enduring great personal suffering herself, makes her an outstanding role model for all Australians.”
Love, not judging others
Bishop Brady said Ms O’Connor’s great strength was never judging why someone had fallen on hard times when offering help.
“I believe Eileen will one day be made a saint of our time,” he said.
Sister Margaret Mary Birgan, from Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, said Ms O’Connor left a tremendous legacy still seen today through the work of the sisters in Sydney, Newcastle and Macquarie Fields as well as through the Brown Nurses based in Glebe.
The official cause for her canonisation was opened at a ceremony last year and anyone with information is invited to come forward to assist church authorities in Rome to consider her cause.
The celebration of her life was held at St Brigid’s church in Coogee on Sunday.
Co-founder of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart, St Mary MacKillop is Australia’s first and only saint.