In August of 1862, 16 years after Cornelia Connelly founded the Society of the Holy Child Jesus in England, she missioned six Sisters to America. After an arduous boat trip, the Sisters arrived in America and spent their first night in a convent without mosquito netting. They described the night as one “of warfare with mosquitoes which left their marks of victory on the faces of the newly arrived.”
Just a week later, the six sisters arrived in Towanda, Pennsylvania, eager to open a convent and school in a “small mansion” they had been promised. Upon arriving, however, they found only a rundown house infested with rats and spiders. Nonetheless, the women persevered. They cleaned and organized the mansion as best they could, and opened their school within just a week.
Against the Odds of What Lay Ahead
These early struggles and challenges proved to be indicative of what lay ahead. It was with their determination, however, that the sisters pushed forward. Many of the laity found their spirit to be infectious—so infectious in fact, that American women began joining the order. By 1879, 55 women had entered.
After opening schools on the East Coast, the sisters traveled west to Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Wyoming, and California, where they continued to open schools and live out their mission of helping individuals to identify and develop their God-given gifts.
In 1930, several Holy Child Sisters traveled to Africa, where their service was also much needed. Holy Child Sisters have continued to serve in Africa since they first arrived in 1930. Today, close to 90 African women are sisters in the Society. In 1967, the sisters also began serving in Chile, and in 1995, they began a mission in the Dominican Republic.
The American Province Today
Today, Holy Child Sisters serve on four continents and in 13 states. Education has always been at the heart of the Society’s work. However, today, many Sisters also serve as spiritual directors, health care workers, social workers, lawyers, and more. Whatever form their ministries take, each Sister serves with a common mission and purpose: “to help others to believe that God lives and acts in them and in our world.”