Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Wednesday 04 August |
Saint of the Day: St. John Vianney
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Could this young woman be Australia’s next saint?


Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney | Facebook | Fair Use

Philip Kosloski - published on 07/12/19

Eileen O'Connor spent her short life working for the sick and poor of Australia.

For Eileen O’Connor, a paralyzing break in her spine at the age of 3 did not cripple her zeal for helping other people. Even though she would be a wheelchair user for the rest of her life, O’Connor did not let the situation restrict her in being an active missionary of the Gospel.

Eileen Rosaline O’Connor was born in Richmond, Australia, on February 19, 1892. By the time she was 10 her family would move near Sydney and she would be as active as she could in her school and local parish.

Despite being in constant pain, O’Connor was known for her joyful disposition. Later on she related a possible vision of the Virgin Mary who encouraged her to offer her pain for the salvation of others.

She eventually was introduced to a young Missionaries of the Sacred Heart priest, Father Edward McGrath. O’Connor and McGrath shared a similar spiritual love of the Virgin Mary and became close friends.

O’Connor would relate to McGrath her private revelations from the Virgin Mary and McGrath explained to her his desire to establish a religious order of sisters who would help the poor and sick.

While O’Connor could do little to help McGrath establish the order, she quickly assumed responsibilities when he founded Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, affectionately known as the “Brown Nurses” for their brown habit honoring St. Joseph.

According to the Catholic Weekly, O’Connor’s role in the early formation of the religious order was pivotal.

Every morning, the nurses would go out into the streets and people’s homes to help while Eileen, paralyzed in all but her left arm at this stage, would organize where they had to go with her telephone while sitting up in bed.Fr McGrath later described her role as: “Almost from the first day in the home, Eileen at my special request, in spite of her infirmities, assumed responsibilities. She was to be, and really was their loving Little Mother.”Over the following years, seven young women entered Our Lady’s Home where each evening Eileen made a point of gathering them in her room for a time of talking and singing.

However, her condition only worsened over time, and she died on January 10, 1921, shortly before her 29th birthday.

Many believed she was a saint, and in 1936 her body was found to be incorrupt. Her cause for canonization was eventually opened by the Archdiocese of Sydney, and on March 21, 2018, a postulator was appointed to help further her cause in Rome.


Read more:
How Australia was placed under the care of St. Mary, Help of Christians

Read more:
Australian “Mother Teresa” takes another step toward sainthood

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Saint Mary of the Angels
Bret Thoman, OFS
All your sins will be forgiven if you go to a Franciscan church o...
Ignacio María Doñoro
Francisco Veneto
The military chaplain who pretended to be a criminal to rescue a ...
Violeta Tejera
Carlo Acutis’ first stained glass window in jeans and sneak...
Theresa Civantos Barber
The one thing we all should do before this summer ends
Philip Kosloski
Most priests can’t absolve these sins
Ary Waldir Ramos Diaz
1st Feast of Our Lady of Silence is August 1
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.