Ted McGrath's life found its focus when he met Eileen O'Connor. He was an active thirty-year-old priest and she was nineteen. Enthusiasm gripped him as he discovered that this crippled girl, a mystic, then unable to walk, shared the same hope he had: of helping the sick poor in their own homes. Both believed that they had been directly inspired by Our Lady, through Eileen, to found Our Lady's Nurses for the Poor, the Brown Nurses. They agreed the only test needed to receive help was that the person was unable to pay.
The intensity of Father Ted's determination for this cause reflected the deprivation his family experienced in a small country village in north-eastern Victoria in the late 1800s. His father's alcoholism caused his own death when Ted was three. Resulting impoverishment led to the deaths of two baby sisters the following year. His mother was killed in an accident over which the police charged a man with murder when Ted was seven. Surviving these incidents and limited education opportunities, Ted became a Missionary of the Sacred Heart (MSC), an excellent public speaker, with energetic self-confidence, who was hard-working and greatly liked.
Our Lady's Nurses survived unexpected opposition, much of it focused on McGrath himself. It is revealed in this book as an intriguing clash of cultures caused by the Dutch, naturalised German Visitor, Hubert Linckens, in Australia as the agent of the MSC General Council. A man with an overbearing desire to control, Linckens took a set on McGrath, especially because of his commitment to the Brown Nurses. He expelled Father Ted from the order, and suspended him from the priesthood.
McGrath and Eileen achieved Ted's reinstatement in Rome and, although exiled from his homeland for many years, his life as a priest, and his deep commitment to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, were undiminished. He worked as a highly regarded preacher of missions in parishes in England, Ireland, the United States and in Hungary with an order of Sisters not unlike Our Lady's Nurses. Notably he was a military chaplain during the Great War in France on the Western Front, decorated with the Military Cross and recommended for the VC for outstanding bravery.
Ted returned to Australia in 1941 and continued in active ministry well into older age.