The primary school and church in Waterloo which played an influential role in the childhood of the woman expected to become Australia’s next saint now has a permanent memorial to honour her memory.
The parish priest of the Catholic community of Sydney City South, Fr Paul Smithers commissioned local artist, Danny Mulyono to paint a striking mural on the grounds of Our Lady of Mount Carmel primary school to honour Eileen O’Connor who attended the school in the early 1900s.
Alongside missionary priest, Fr Edward McGrath, Eileen co-founded Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor in 1913, a religious order committed to nursing the sick and poor in their homes.
The order continues today with ongoing ministries in Coogee, Newcastle and Minto, with Eileen’s legacy also honoured in the work of the Brown Nurses, an independent organisation which provides in-home care and support to the most disadvantaged and marginalised in inner-Sydney.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP officially launched Eileen O’Connor’s cause for canonisation in February 2020.
The new Waterloo mural has been unveiled to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Eileen’s death at the young age of 28. It features images of Eileen at different stages of her life as well as her personal signature, taken from her writings on the needs of the poor in Sydney.
Fr Smithers said many of his parishioners have a strong devotion to Eileen and he hoped the new mural helped to embody her story more within the life of the broader community.
“Waterloo was a ghetto for the poor and disadvantaged in Sydney at that time and I have no doubt that her experiences would have inspired her outreach to the needy which still continues today.
“Eileen lived with a crippling condition called transverse myelitis which left her confined to a wheelchair for most of her life. We know that this impacted upon her school attendance here in Waterloo and yet her family would often carry her up a steep hill to Mass and for prayer in the church here.”
Michael Kenny is Editor in Chief of The Catholic Weekly