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 April 1914. Catherine (Katie) Lynch, one of the foundation nurses, enters Our Lady’s Home.

21 August 1974. Carlton Football Club presents this football to lifelong club supporter, REv. Father Edward (Ted) McGrath msc. 

19 February 1892. This gift was given to Eileen O'Connor following her baptism at St Ignatius Church, Richmond, Victoria, where her parents were married three years earlier.

The community at Our Lady’s Home, Coogee, is presented with its first car, thanks to the tireless fundraising efforts of benefactors. Sister Agnes (May) McGahey becomes one of the first sisters to obtain a driver’s licence.

24 April 1911. Eileen O’Connor’s father, Charles, dies from pneumonia following treatment for carcinoma of the liver. For Eileen, then aged 19, it proves to be a paralysing blow, both physically and emotionally.

1 November 1911. On the eve of All Saints Day, 19-year-old Eileen O’Connor lies unconscious at ‘Restwell’ in Beach St, Coogee. Close to death, she receives another apparition from Our Lady, who offers her three propositions.

“Let every word be as a lovely rose, falling gently on lovely loving hearts, falling as full of wonders, and peace as the flowers from our Lord’s hands."

4 October 1981. Founder of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa, writes to the community at Our Lady’s Home, thanking them for their hospitality during her recent visit to Sydney.

31 January 1953. The Society of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor is formally recognised as a religious congregation.

23 April 1953. Eight members of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, dubbed ‘Australia’s newest religious congregation’, had the honour of leading a group of 430 sisters a huge procession of nearly 25,000 people to mark the end of the Australian National Eucharistic Congress.

1 July 1956. Our Lady’s Home, Brisbane, opens after more than a decade of talks with Most Rev. James Duhig, Archbishop of Brisbane. It proves to be a fruitful mission, with the sisters soon making more than 3000 visits to the sick poor each year.

“You have my heart in such a hidden way—do even the Angels know? Love is the only teacher. Believe because love teaches. Believe because there is something in yourself that is bigger than yourself, and that makes you believe, that you can believe.”

This ‘broom handle’ telephone once sat on the left-hand side of the bed of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor co-founder, Eileen Connor. At the time, telephone connections were made via a switchboard operator, allowing Eileen to use the telephone with just one hand.

19 March 1939. Most Rev. Norman Gilroy, Archbishop Coadjutor of Sydney, lays the foundation stone for a new building at Our Lady’s Home, Coogee.

This stone dove, taken from the headstone of Eileen O’Connor’s maternal grandmother, was given to Eileen when she visited the Kilgallin family home in County Sligo, Ireland, in 1915.

1 January 1968. Rev. Mother Agnes (May) McGahey is nominated to become a Member of the Order of the British Empire for outstanding service to the sick and poor. 

Please contact Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor if you would like copies of prayer cards for the beatification of Eileen O’Connor.

“Make a resolution to love Our Lord, giving Him all yourself, to be used in saving or helping to save souls, by giving all the help in your power. Act through love; prove your love by ever keeping Our Lord before you.”

26 May 1913. Theresa (Cissie) McLaughlin enters Our Lady’s Home and becomes Eileen O’Connor’s first volunteer nurse. Cissie becomes Eileen’s loyal deputy and in time, the congregation’s first Mother Superior and then Mother General.

25 September 1914. Eileen O’Connor regains the use of her legs after being confined to her bed or wheelchair for three years.

13 June 2018. It is with deep sadness that Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor has advised of the death of its former Congregation Leader, Sister Patricia Murphy, in the 60th year of her religious profession. 

2 December 1970. His Eminence Norman Cardinal Gilroy presents Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor co-founder, Rev. Father Edward McGrath msc, to His Holiness Pope Paul VI, during the papal visit to Australia. 

31 May 1913. Mary Drohan enters Our Lady’s Home, just five days after Cissie McLaughlin. With two volunteer nurses, the mission of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor can begin.

28 May 1914. Catherine (Kit) McGrath, one of the foundation nurses, enters Our Lady’s Home. As a country girl, Kit is given the added responsibility for milking a cow that is kept on the expansive grounds at Coogee.

17 May 1977. Co-founder of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, Rev. Father Edward (Ted) McGrath msc, dies at Our Lady’s Home, aged 96 years.

22 March 2018. The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Most Rev. Anthony Fisher OP, begins the formal process for the beatification of Eileen O’Connor.

30 November 1909. Co-founder of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, Edward (Ted) McGrath is ordained a priest of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart at St Mary’s Cathedral by His Eminence Patrick Cardinal Moran. 

28 December 1915. Julia Cooney enters Our Lady’s Home, taking the total number of volunteer nurses to seven. Julia went on to have one of the longest vocations of all the nurses.

1 April 1962. Mother Superior Cissie McLaughlin with Sisters Patricia Davoren, Marie Purcell and Greta Gabb at the opening of Our Lady’s Home, Newcastle.

29 October 1901. 20-year-old Ted McGrath arrives at the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart seminary at Kensington, NSW. He has spent the past four years working as a porter and clerk with Victorian Railways.

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