3 April 1916. The morale of the fledgling community at Our Lady’s Home is at its lowest ebb. Co-founder, Eileen O’Connor, her nurse companions and their benefactors are under intense scrutiny from church authorities and the subject of unwarranted gossip. Co-founder, Rev. Edward (Ted) McGrath msc, has been reinstated with the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart but remains in exile in England. The MSC priests at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church, Randwick, and St Brigid’s Church, Coogee, are forbidden to visit Our Lady’s Home and are even restricted in taking Holy Communion to the sick poor. Eileen tells her companions they are sharing the Way of the Cross.
After a particularly difficult day, several of the nurses are sitting with Eileen in her bedroom by the flickering light of a candle. Eileen remarks how beautiful the statue of Our Lady looks. As the nurses turn to contemplate the statue, it opens its eyes and becomes life-size. Eileen says, “She is coming, she is coming!” The candle expires, plunging the room into darkness. A light appears on the altar above the statue of Our Lady and the form of Our Lady appears. Writing to her mother three days later, nurse Lalie McNamara describes the amazing scene: “It grew more distinct with each moment and we could plainly see the crown on her head, but the beautiful light behind the crown and head prevented us from seeing her face.”
Eileen gets up and leaves the room. Our Lady turns towards the door and extends her arms towards Eileen. The nurses fall to their knees and plead for Our Lady to turn and let them see her more clearly. She does so. “We did not see Our Lady like I have seen you, only very faint yet clear and beautiful,” Lalie writes. “She seemed to have a cloak which fell from the back and seemed to be gathered up in front near the waist, showing a bright light around her shoulders and the bottom of her skirt. Wonderful is not the word for so marvellous and beautiful an event.”
The other two nurses return from night duty, crestfallen to learn they have missed the miraculous event. Lalie and her sister, Bess, go out on night duty soon afterwards. The remaining nurses, including the two who had missed the earlier apparition, stay in Eileen’s bedroom. The group witnesses a second vision when the hands and eyes of the two other statues in the room – the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St Joseph with the baby Jesus – move. Recalling the apparition many years later, Sister Julia Cooney said the nurses never worried about public humiliation again.