Oak Knoll Celebrates Founder’s Day

Throughout the world, schools and organizations under the umbrella of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus celebrate Founder’s Day in mid-October. On October 13, 1846, at the request of Pope Gregory XVI, Cornelia Connelly began what would become an international congregation of women in the Catholic Church in Derby, England. 

Two days later, on October 15, Cornelia and three postulants assisted at their first Mass as a religious community. Thus, October 15, 1846 is formally recognized as the date of the founding of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. For 175 years, the Society’s members have lived out Cornelia’s vision to “meet the wants of the age.” Today, the Society’s ministry spans four continents and the Sisters’ work collaboratively with others in educational, spiritual, pastoral, social justice, and health care ministries.

On Friday morning, October 13, an all-school prayer service brought the Oak Knoll School community together to celebrate this milestone. From the beginning, the sisters were concerned for women and girls. Wherever they went, the sisters opened schools, worked in parishes, taught factory girls in night schools, and educated women to be teachers. Their work and presence has blossomed and moved beyond England to include North America, South America, Europe, and Africa. 

Following a service that included prayers for peace in the Middle East, scripture readings, a grade 1-led song, and a dance performance by Upper School students, Head of School Jennifer Landis closed with remarks. “As I was sitting here thinking about Cornelia Connelly’s vision and all the things that she loved, a lot of them were on display today. She loved her faith in God. We had scripture readings and reflections. She loved education. We learned a little bit about our history. She loved the arts, and we had both music and dancing today. I just feel very proud as a community that we were reflecting a lot of what she cared about today in the way that we were celebrating Founders Day,” said Landis.

As students, staff, and faculty exited the Mother Mary Campion Center for the Performing Arts, each individual received a packet of wildflower seeds with the charge, “The spreading of these seeds is a metaphor for how Jesus calls each one of us to go out into the world and spread his love, which takes root in those people and places we visit. Like the sisters of the Holy Child Jesus, you are rooted in purpose, especially here at Oak Knoll, and encouraged to bloom where you are planted.”