Ellen Organ, better known as "Little Nellie" lived such a life
dedicated to God and the Eucharist that her story would inspire Pope Pius X to lower the age of Holy Communion from twelve to seven years old. Born in Waterford City, Ireland in 1903, she was the youngest of four children to William Organ and Mary Ahern. Officially baptized as Ellen, from birth her nickname had always been Nellie. Shortly after her birth, and at the age of two, the family moved to Spike Island (her father had joined the army prior to her birth and was transferred there).
At Spike Island, her mother would frequently take Nellie to the shore to build sandcastles. Along the way to the seaside, and always on the way to mass, Nellie constantly referred to God as "Holy God" with the family never knowing where she got the title. At some point early in her life, a woman babysitting the children had accidentally dropped Nellie and kept the fall in secret. This fall would leave to Nellie's hip and back being twisted and out of joint, causing immense life long pain. In January 1907, life would take a cruel turn as her mother died of tuberculosis. Without her mother, Nellie cried for hours at a time, believing her to be in Heaven with Holy God, but lonely here on Earth without her mother.
Without his wife, William Organ found it increasingly impossible to raise the children alone. Eventually, he placed Nellie and her sister in the care of the Good Shepard Sisters at Saint Finbarr's Industrial School. There, she found particular delight in calling the sisters "Mothers". She would visit the chapel at every opportunity (She called it the House of Holy God) and was incredibly fascinated by the Blessed Sacament. Despite an occasional temper, the sisters found that Nellie had a deep, deep love for all of those around them.
When she arrived, the shoes she had were too tight and heavy, and so the next day the sisters purchased new slipper shoes. The day of her picture, a sister remarked "She looked like a little angel". While sitting still was always incredible difficult for her on account of the pain, one refusal to sit still was so intense a sister needed to take corrective action. Sister Mary Immaculata said to her:
"Come Nellie, if you are not a good little girl I will take off those pretty shoes and give you back your old ones"
The sister then moved to take her shoes off, but was stunned at Nellie's behavior. Not only did she take no action to stop her shoes being removed, but actually assisted in removing them with a small smile through tearful eyes. She then took the sisters habit and whispered
"Mother, I am so sorry".
Sister Immaculata immediately pulled her up into her arms.
On another occasion, Nellie came across a statue of the Child Jesus saying:
"Jesus if you give me Your ball, I will give You my little shoes!"
Though the nuns corrected her saying she couldn't, she replied knowing the power and strength of Christ:
"He can give it to me if He likes"
Nellie continued to have visions, often seeing the infant Christ and mother Virgin Mary. When Nurse Hall was Ill, Nellie had the statue of the infant of Prague brought to her bedside. When she asked it to dance, the nurses told her it couldn't. She took her trumpet out and announced to the room with joy:
"Look, look, see how he dances!" with cheeks aglow.
One of the sisters prayed saying "Dear Lord if you did really dance for Nellie, please give us money for the bake house we're in need of". A few days later an envelope arrived - 300 from a lady with "For a Bake house" in the memo.
Without any prompting or alerting, Nellie constantly knew when the Blessed Sacrament was exposed at the convent. The first time she witnessed the Blessed Sacrament she whispered "There He is! There is Holy God now!". Contacting the local bishop, the sisters asked for her to be confirmed and was granted it on October 8, 1907. Almost immediately Nellie began asking to receive Holy Communion, despite the nuns telling her she was too young. Father Bury came to talk to her to see if she was actually ready and knowledgeable enough to receive her first communion. "Tell me Nellie, what is Holy Communion" he asked her.
"It is Holy God. It is He who makes Nuns and everybody else so happy".
Father Bury took the matter to the Bishop of Cork who gave his permission. She received her first Holy Communion on December 6th, 1907 . The sisters described the event:
“Nellie had just received Holy Communion, when her faced changed completely. A beautiful expression of love and peace played on her face. Her head fell back on her pillow, and she grew pale as death. She was completely still, and I thought for a moment that she had died.
“But the reason why Nellie did not move, is because she was so overcome with love and thankfulness for Holy God, that she stopped thinking about earthly things. She knew so well what the Blessed Sacrament is and what God is, Whom she had just received into her heart.”
Nellie was diagnosed with the same disease that claimed her mother, Tuberculosis. Starting in December her health began to quickly decline and became to also suffer from caries. The pain from her injuries, the cough from tuberculosis and the immense mouth pain from caries left her in constant physical agony. Normally, in pain she would clutch the Cross and quietly whisper "Holy God, Holy God". When the pain became too much, he said out loud
"Holy God suffered far more on the Cross for me".
Once after Communion, a sister came to visit and wrote:
“When I visited Nellie, at about 4:45 in the evening, she was lying quite still in her little white cot turned towards the window. I heard of her strange condition during the day and was very curious to see her.”
“I bent over her, and as I did so, Nellie suddenly turned around and said, ‘Oh Mother, I’m so happy. I’ve been talking to Holy God.’ Her voice trembled with delight and her face glowed. Her little eyes shone so brightly that one could not help thinking, those eyes have seen God. Her smile cannot be described because it was of Heaven, and around the bed there was the beautiful smell of incense.”
On January 30th, 1908 she asked the nurse:
"Do you feel you are nearing Holy God? I do".
Witnesses on February 2nd, 1908 stated that she appeared to see something at the foot of her bed that caused her face to light up with a beautiful smile and heavy tears. As she followed the seemingly invisible object to the feeling, Little Nellie of Holy God passed away on Candlemas.
Her story rapidly spread through Ireland, eventually reaching Rome and Pope Pius X. As he was already in consideration for lowering the age of Communion, the Pope exclaimed "This is the sign I have been waiting for!" when he heard of her story. The decree is named Quam singulari and officially lowers the age to 7 years.
Father Patrick McCarthy, the priest of the Church of Saints Peter & Paul in Cork said in 2017:
"Few years back , lots of people were ringing into the Bishop's office about Little Nellie, so the bishop asked me to set up a study group. Our mandate was not promotion but to gauge levels of devotion. And there is a growing devotion to Little Nellie, from Cork to Canada. What's remarkable is that the child died aged just four and a half in obscurity, but 109 years later she is widely venerated".
As of August 8th, 2020, the bishop of the Diocese of Cork and Ross was preparing to study the report and determine if it should be sent to Rome.