A century of serving the sick and poor

“The cause of a person’s poverty is not yours to question. 
The fact a person is poor is the reason you help.”

Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor co-founder, Eileen O’Connor

Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor was founded in Sydney by a young Australian woman, Eileen O’Connor, considered by many to be a saint-in-waiting, and Father Edward (Ted) McGrath of the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.

Both shared a deep devotion to Our Lady and the desire to establish a ministry of compassionate service to the sick poor in her honour. At the time, there was no Government-funded healthcare or welfare; illness or injury could place a terrible burden on those with limited or no income.

In 1913, a small community of Catholic women gathered by Eileen O’Connor and Father McGrath began their mission from rented premises in Dudley Street, Coogee. By the end of that year, the house was purchased with the generous financial assistance of Father Edward Gell and his sister, Miss Frances Gell.

Over the following months and years, seven young women entered Our Lady’s Home. These foundation nurses – and those who followed – became affectionately known as the “Brown Nurses” because of the distinctive brown cloaks and bonnets they wore.

In 1953, Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor was officially recognised as a diocesan congregation. Ministries were established at Brisbane in 1956 and Newcastle in 1962. At one stage, the congregation numbered almost forty religious Sisters and novices ministering throughout Sydney, Brisbane, Newcastle and Wollongong.

Today, the mission of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor remains as important as ever. Assisted by the ongoing generosity of benefactors and volunteers, the Sisters continue to assist the sick poor in Sydney, Newcastle and Macquarie Fields.

The Brown Nurses, as an independent ministry of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, employs registered nurses who continue this mission to serve the sick poor and disadvantaged in the spirit of the Founders and the Sisters.


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