Eileen O’Connor in her bedroom at Our Lady’s Home.
A SAINT IN WAITING?
Eileen O’Connor died on 10 January 1921, aged 28 years, entrusting the future of the organisation to her first volunteer, Theresa (Cissie) McLaughlin. Every morning for almost 16 years, the community at Our Lady’s Home walked to nearby Randwick cemetery to recite the rosary at Eileen’s graveside.
In 1936, the community gained permission to re-inter Eileen’s casket in her former bedroom, which had been converted into a Chapel. Mr W. J. Dixon of Darlinghurst Funeral Directors later made this statement about the events of that day:
After the exhumation at the cemetery, the unopened casket was taken to our Funeral Chapel at 347 Anzac Parade, Kingsford, where a large number of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor awaited us. The Nurses asked me to open the sealed lead casket and remove the inner pine lid.
This was done, and I was startled to see Eileen O’Connor lying there as though asleep in her simple blue gown, her hair lying naturally down each side of her face, and her hands joined on her breast. The skin appeared slightly dark and the eyes seemed a little sunken, but, not having the good fortune to know her in life, I could not know if this was natural.
Our Lady’s Nurses then gathered around the open casket and appeared not in the least surprised at seeing the “Little Mother” as they last saw her 16 years earlier. The Nurses rested rosary beads on the Little Mother’s hands for a few seconds.
A prayer for Eileen O’Connor’s beatification received approbation by His Eminence Cardinal Norman Gilroy in 1962:
O God, Who raised up Your servant Eileen to enrich Your Church with a New Congregation devoted to the spiritual and corporal assistance of the sick and dying poor, grant that through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, she may be honoured with the privilege of Beatification by Our Holy Mother the Church. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
In 1974, congregational leader Sister May McGahey wrote to His Eminence Cardinal James Freeman asking for approval to instigate proceedings for beatification. His Eminence Cardinal Edward Clancy gave permission for the preliminaries to proceed to a diocesan process in 1990.