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Call to exhume remains of "Little Nellie"

28 August 2015

Revered: a portrait of Ellen Organ aged around 4, based on a photograph taken by her father, William

Revered: a portrait of Ellen Organ aged around 4, based on a photograph taken by her father, William

THE remains of a five-year-old girl who died in 1908 and who was renowned for her spirituality may be exhumed for a second time, after the intervention of the RC Bishop of Cork, Dr John Buckley.

The grave of the girl, Ellen Organ, known locally as “Little Nellie”, is located in the grounds of the now derelict Good Shepherd Convent at Sunday’s Well, in Cork City, and had been an unofficial site of pilgrimage until the premises were bought by developers in 2005, and subsequently acquired by Ulster Bank and KPMG five years later.

The child, who died of tuberculosis, was originally interred in a local cemetery, but a year after her death was exhumed at the request of the nuns at the convent, and reinterred at the present location.

Tradition has it that, at the exhumation, her remains were found to be intact — possible evidence for canonisation in the Roman Catholic Church — and that she had been given holy communion before her death, despite her early age, prompting the then pope, Pius X, to reduce the lower age of communion from 12 years to seven.

Dr Buckley said that it was difficult for people now to pray at her graveside, as the site was privately owned. He would like the remains to be moved to an accessible grave site, so that people could pray there.

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