Listen Bishop Tony Randazzo in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty
Australian Catholics are excited at the prospect of a second Australian Saint with the official start of the case for the Beatification of Eileen O’Connor. The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Most Rev. Anthony Fisher OP, has announced the formal process for the beatification of Eileen O’Connor has begun.
Archbishop Fisher has appointed the Rome-based priest, Father Anthony Robbie, as the person overseeing the case for beatification.
Father Robbie’s role is to be the “postulator”, a title which means he guides the cause for beatification through the Catholic Church’s rigorous processes for recognising a person as a saint.
“I am very pleased to announce this next step in the cause of Eileen O’Connor,” said Archbishop Fisher.
Multiplied and shared the love of God
“Eileen was a young woman who received the love of God, multiplied it in her heart, and passed it on to others. It is my hope that the heroic and saintly example of Eileen O’Connor will inspire everyone to live faithful lives as disciples of Jesus Christ.”
Born in Richmond, Victoria on 19 February 1892, Eileen Rosaline O’Connor was the eldest of the four children of Irish-born Charles and Annie O’Connor.
She fell from her pram and suffered a crippling break in her spine at age three.
Her short life was lived in constant nerve pain.
She was eventually diagnosed with tuberculous osteomyelitis.
The O’Connor family moved to Sydney and settled in Waterloo when Eileen was aged 10.
They relocated because her father Charles found higher-paying work to support the family and fund Eileen’s medical care.
Caring for the sick and dying poor
Despite her poor health and immense suffering, O’Connor was very aware of the social conditions of the time and especially the needs of sick and dying poor people.
She co-founded the religious order of Our Lady’s Nurses of the Poor with local priest Father Edward McGrath MSC in April 1913.
The order was dedicated to caring for the sick and dying poor in their homes.
At a time there was no publicly-funded health care.
After her father’s early death, Eileen’s own family struggled financially so she knew the importance of the work done by the order.
More commonly known as the Brown Nurses because of their distinctive brown cloaks and bonnets, the order’s work continues to this day.
Unable to undertake the work herself, Eileen supported the nurses with prayers and counsel, and at one point used the only part of her body not paralysed with disease and pain – her left arm – to make phone calls arranging the order’s works.
At just 115cm tall, the nurses lovingly referred to Eileen as “Little Mother.”
Paralysed by disease and pain
Eileen died on 10 January 1921 – a month short of her 29th birthday.
The 11 religious sisters currently serving as Our Lady’s Nurses of the Poor have said they are “delighted” by the news.
Former congregational leader and Eileen O’Connor Centenary Project Leader, Sister Margaret Mary Birgan oln said that the congregation had been praying for the news ever since Eileen’s death in 1921, and remarked that many already considered her to be a ‘saint-in-waiting.’
“We welcome this joyful news with great gratitude to God,” she said.
There are two major steps in the process of being declared a saint, namely, beatification and canonisation.
Australia has one canonised saint, Mary MacKillop, known officially as Saint Mary of the Cross.
Mary MacKillop was Canonised by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome on 17 October 2010.
Bishop Tony Randazzo has been involved in cause of sainthood for Eileen O’Connor. He told Stephen O’Doherty that she was remarkable for what she achieved so young and while in so much pain.