For the poor & the poor only

For more than 100 years, Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor – fondly known as the Brown Nurses – has performed a unique ministry of healthcare, advocacy and friendship for the sick poor and disadvantaged.


Servant of God

Australia’s ‘saint in waiting’, Eileen O’Connor, has been recognised as Servant of God by the Holy See.


8 August 1913. Ellen (Nell) Fitzgerald, one the foundation nurses, enters the community at Our Lady’s Home. Kind, patient and blessed with a humble spirit, she was often assigned to pray with the dying on the district. 

15 April 1973. Co-founder Rev. Father Edward McGrath msc and three of the foundation nurses celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor.


28 October 1914. Mrs Ada Holman, wife of the NSW Premier, opens a four-day ‘garden fete on a large and brilliant scale’ at Our Lady’s Home, Coogee, in aid of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor.

2 May 1906. Rev. Father Edward Gell is appointed priest-in-charge for the Ryde district in Sydney’s north-west. Father Gell and his sister, Miss Frances Gell, become generous benefactors of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor and lifelong friends Eileen O’Connor and Rev.

June 1926. Co-founder of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, Rev. Father Edward (Ted) McGrath msc, returns to the Benalla district in northern Victoria to see his family.

13 April 2013. More than 850 people fill St Mary’s Cathedral to celebrate a Centenary Mass of Thanksgiving for Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor.

October 1915. Co-founder of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, Eileen O’Connor, has an audience with His Holiness, Pope Benedict XV.

Many of the photographs from the early years of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor were taken by the community’s co-founder, Eileen O’Connor. 


July 1911. The O’Connor family moves from Redfern to ‘St Elmo’ in Neptune St, Coogee. Eileen is transported in a horse-drawn ambulance but the rough roads jar her injured back, causing immense pain.

8 December 1913. Benefactors, Rev. Father Edward Gell and Miss Frances Gell, present two cheques to Eileen O’Connor and Father Rev. Edward McGrath msc to purchase 35 Dudley St, Coogee.

12 June 1915. Co-founder of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, Rev. Father Edward (Ted) McGrath msc, is reinstated by his Order but is prevented from returning to Australia. He joins the British Army as a military chaplain and later serves in Mesopotamia, India and France.

9 November 1914. Rev. Father Edward (Ted) McGrath msc boards the Moamoa for a three-week cruise of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga in the company of Eileen O'Connor, Emma Duffy and Katie Lynch from Our Lady’s Home. The trip outrages his superiors and sets tongues wagging.

16 June 1921. The Catholic Press reports that co-founder of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, Rev. Father Edward McGrath msc, has been appointed parish priest at St. Alban’s in London.

15 April 2013. His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, gives an Apostolic Blessing to the congregation of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, their associates and friends on the centenary of the foundation of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor.

7 July 1932. The Archbishop of Sydney grants permission for a chapel to be constructed at Our Lady’s Home, Coogee. 

In 1904, the O'Connor family moves from Melbourne to Sydney, where Charles finds work as a bookkeeper with Anthony Hordern & Sons.

27 June 1914. The arrival of MSC Visitor General, Rev. Father Hubert Linckens, in Sydney and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand the following day proved to be a turning point in the lives of Rev.

28 September 1902. Eileen O’Connor is confirmed at St Ignatius Church, Richmond, Victoria. She chooses the confirmation name of Maria, a precursor to her lifelong devotion to Our Lady.

9 May 1939. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the annual card party to raise funds for Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor was held the previous day at the Trocadero in George St, Sydney.

27 March 1952. Sisters Lucy Mackay, May McGahey and Peggy Shead selecting clothes for needy families in the 1950s. Our Lady's Nurses for the Poor have always relied on the generosity of the community to assist them in their mission to serve the sick poor in their own homes.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has selected Eileen O'Connor as the official spiritual companion for the Archdiocese of Sydney’s young people in the Year of Youth, which is being held around the country by the nation’s bishops.

10 January 2018. Year after year, the faithful have quietly come to Our Lady’s Home each year to pray at her tomb on the anniversary of her death or to place their petitions in our intercessory box – and this year was no different.

“See all Our Lord suffered in the garden. Think of how He loved, and loves us; think of the pain, of all He faced, undertook for us, of our ingratitude, coldness, of how all this was before Him. Hear Him speak to His Father. See Him left alone.”

“Blessed are those who love, who find joy in loving. The most joy is found in giving, give only the best. Try to be worthy of giving and loving.”

“Love God, fix your thoughts on Him in all that you do, think of what you are doing, be sure that it will help, or gain help for others.”

“As you pass fill all hearts with love of Him."

“You can trust God with your whole self, your whole will. His love will gain all for you. Seek only to please Him, to give Him joy.”

“The cause of poverty is nothing to do with you; you don’t ask questions you help the poor.”

“Happy the heart that finds joy in loving, rather than in being loved. Find Our Lord and love Him, receive His love, that you may love Him more.

“Think not of the sorrow or the pain, but of all you can do by them: Do not be afraid, love and trust, working through the cross.”

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