Eileen O’Connor (1892-1921)
“Let your kindness be so deep and true that it will not only mean help for others, but joy for all near you.”
At three years old, Eileen fell from her pram and damaged her spine. Despite operations, it couldn’t be mended, and she spent most of her life in a wheelchair and with severe pain. In 1902, her family moved from Melbourne to Sydney, and for a time lived close to the office of Caritas Australia in Mascot. She was introduced to the parish priest of Coogee, Fr McGrath. McGrath was inspired by her strength despite her circumstances. She was less than five feet tall but her stature was mighty in other ways.
Eileen wished to start a congregation of nurses to serve the poor and was supported by McGrath to do this. In 1913, she moved into the new convent in Coogee, known as Our Lady’s Home. A number of women, known as Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, began working from the convent and would visit the sick and poor in their boarding houses and tenements. Eileen supervised the convent and led their work. The sisters always called her ‘little mother.’
Eileen O’Conner died of Tuberculosis in 1921 and is now buried beneath the chapel at Our Lady’s Home in Coogee, which now has three additional houses and continues this work.
You can read more about Eileen O’Connor at the Australian Dictionary of Biography