By Mary Bellan Eidt
The Archives Committee of Saint Mary Basilica hosted a special group of visitors on Saturday afternoon, April 1. Three sisters and 18 associates of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus (SHCJ) were on a pilgrimage to the sites where Mother Cornelia Connelly, foundress of the SHCJ, lived in her early years.
Cornelia Connelly and her husband Pierce lived at White Cottage (now Twin Oaks) when he was rector of Trinity Episcopal Church. In 1835 Pierce resigned his position after he became interested in the Catholic Church. Subsequently, the couple went abroad, and became members of the Catholic Church. They returned to the United States after he was offered a position at the Jesuit institution, St. Charles College, at Grand Coteau, Louisiana. Here Pierce taught English, and Cornelia taught music at the Academy of the Sacred Heart, the girls’ school at Grand Coteau.
The group toured Grand Coteau where they were housed at St. Charles, now a retreat center. They traveled to Natchez where they viewed Twin Oaks, toured Trinity Episcopal Church, and made a final stop at St. Mary. Greeted by Father David O’Connor and members of the Archives Committee who had displayed all the material on Mother Connelly in the dining room of the rectory, the group perused all the archival materials and took many photographs.
James Guercio, chairman of SMBA committee, led the group on a tour of St. Mary Basilica. They were especially interested to see the stained glass windows depicting St. John Berchmans and St. Madeline Sophie Barat, who figure prominently in the history of Grand Coteau.
After several hours in Natchez, the group boarded the motor coach to return to Grand Coteau for an overnight stay and Mass on Sunday before traveling to their homes throughout the United States.
Although there are approximately 350 SHCJ sisters in Europe, Africa, North America, and South America today, the number of associates number about 300. Having been taught by the SHCJ sisters, the associates are dedicated to Mother Connelly, who founded the order in 1846 in England. The associates strive to live in the spirit of joy, simplicity, and humility of Mother Connelly, who overcame many tribulations throughout her life.
In 1992 the title Venerable was bestowed on Mother Connelly. This is the first step in the process of canonization to sainthood in the Catholic Church.
A sample of the Cornelia Connelly Collection on display in the rectory of St. Mary Basilica for the SHCJ tour group.
The Pylon : Cornelia Connelly Special Issue, Volume XXIX, Number 3, 1968. This was the last issue of The Pylon published by the SHCJ.
Cornelia Connelly, an American-born wife and mother and a zealous convert became the foundress of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus in England in 1846.