A Tangible Connection to Oak Knoll Heritage

Oak Knoll’s tenth-grade class traveled to Center City Philadelphia on Wednesday, October 19, 2022, for a visit to the new shrine to Venerable Cornelia Connelly — founder of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus — located in the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

Oak Knoll is one of 9 schools across the United States and 13 overseas as part of the Holy Child Network of Schools. Six Holy Child sisters first traveled from England to America in 1862 — just 16 years after the founding of SHCJ (1846) — and set roots in Towanda, Pennsylvania. More than 60 years later — in 1924 — the Society expanded into New Jersey, and Summit’s Larned Estate was transformed into what we now know as Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child.

Though Cornelia Connelly spent most of her adult life in England, she was born in Philadelphia in 1809, and the Cathedral established a memorial for her in honor of the Society’s 175th anniversary in 2021.

“I thought it was a really special experience since we are the first Holy Child School to visit the shrine. It meant a lot to me, and I learned more about the history of our School and the founder, Cornelia Connelly,” said Melissa Dardanello ’25. “Just going around the Basilica and seeing the beautiful architecture and learning how much Cornelia meant to the city of Philadelphia was a great experience,” added Mina McNulty ’25. 

Sr. Roseanne, of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, and Emily Wells, archivist from Rosemont College (also founded by the SHCJ order), met the students at the Cathedral to give them additional background on the Holy Child Heritage and Cornelia Connelly. Students toured the Basilica while in Philadelphia and also visited Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

“It is important that we continue to educate our students about our Holy Child heritage and keep our global society a part of everyday discussion,” said Suzanne Kimm Lewis, Oak Knoll’s Director of Holy Child Mission and Philosophy. “This field trip is just one of many activities, like Founders Day, to celebrate that heritage.”

“I thought our trip to the Basilica was a really educational and fun experience, and I really had a fun time learning about Cornelia Connelly’s life and all the hardships that she overcame. Plus, it was good bonding time for us as a class,” said Anna Wojie ’25.

The field trip is a prime example of the Oak Knoll mission in action, which strives to create a learning climate that is based on trust and reverence for the dignity and uniqueness of each person while providing an intellectually challenging and creative program of study that fosters excellence in every aspect of school life.