Waterford County Museum, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, Ireland. Charity Reg: 17397
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Organ, Nellie (1903-1908)

Little Nellie of Holy God

William Organ a native of Dungarvan was a soldier in the Royal Artillery stationed in Waterford. He married a Portlaw girl, Mary Aherne. On the 24 August 1903 Mary gave birth to their fourth child, a girl called Nellie who was born in the Artillery Barracks in Waterford. The infant was baptised in the Old Ballybricken Church. When Nellie was two years old her father was transferred to Spike Island with the Royal Artillery. When they moved, Nellies mother's health deteriorated and she died of T.B. on 11 May 1907. Her father's duties in the army would not give him the time to be with his family so they were sent to an orphanage. Nellie and her sister were sent to the Industrial school at Sunday's Well in Cork run by the Good Shepherd Sisters. Soon it was discovered that little Nellie was also suffering from T.B. It was evident that she did not have long to live, her frail body wasted away. An astonishing change took place in her mental and spiritual development. When she entered the orphanage she was only three and half, her understanding of the nature of God and her sense of a divine presence surpassed that of most adults. As she lay on her sickbed she spent long hours talking, as she insisted, to Holy God, and with a child's cheerful innocence she told the nuns all about the conversations she had with him, and he with her. The attitude of the sisters changed from irritation and scorn to curiosity and then awe. All who visited her left with the impression that they had been in the presence of unusual sanctity. Nellie's reputation began to spread beyond the convent walls. Nellie longed for communion, but at that time even children far older than Nellie were discouraged from receiving, and it was unheard of for a child as young as her to be given the host. However, because she was dying the nuns applied for permission to the Bishop of Cork which was granted. She was then 4½ when she received her first communion.

Nellie died on the 2 February 1908 and was buried in the cemetery of St. Joseph were her grave became a shrine. About year and a half later her body was transferred to the convent cemetery. When disinterred it was found to be intact, her fingers were flexible and her clothes perfectly preserved. Pope Pius X (now St. Pius) had a special devotion to the Eucharist and Nellie's story moved him to such an extent that he campaigned for children to make their communion earlier. In 1984 on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception a Memorial to her was unveiled in Ballybricken Church by Bishop Michael Russell. Little Nellie of Holy God had secured a place in the history of the church despite the fact that her life span measured 4 years 6 months and 8 days.

Author: William Fraher

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