SHCJ Associate Reflects on Writing Cornelia Connelly Book

In the spirit of Cornelia Connelly, SHCJ Associate Judith “Judy” Talvacchia graciously answered “yes” to the Society’s request to author a book on its foundress. Approximately 26,000 copies of the English version have been distributed internationally, and a Spanish version will be released this fall.

By Judith Talvacchia, SHCJ Associate

Judy Talvacchia

Cornelia Connelly has always been an inspiration to me. Age and life experience have only increased my appreciation for her. When Sister Carlotta Bartone, SHCJ, asked if I would write a booklet about Cornelia to help promote the cause for her canonization, I was happy to say yes.

I had given thought to writing such a booklet for new SHCJ Associates (Download the booklet here), but working on it with Sr. Carlotta made good sense. The booklet would also benefit the Sisters, the extended SHCJ family, and people who don’t know the Society or Cornelia. In addition, working together allowed us to experience the mutual interaction that the Associate relationship fosters. It was a win-win on every level!

Book cover

The challenges began immediately – how to take Cornelia’s complex and controversial life, present it in a short booklet, convey her spirit and significance, but also make it accessible to the general public. I must admit that after my initial fervor, I did have a moment of hesitation! Outside of the Holy Child family, the average person might not know much about Sisters, religious orders or what it takes to start one. What would draw someone into reading the story of a 19th century woman who founded a religious order?

The first page, “Sometimes life doesn’t turn out the way we imagined…” is what came out of that reflection. I began with situations Cornelia faced that might resonate with a contemporary audience. My hope was that readers would find something that pertained to them and would invite them to read further.

How would I sustain the reader’s interest beyond the first page? For a contemporary audience – sometimes skeptical of religious piety and institutional procedures – the focus would have to be on Cornelia, the person, and how she responded in faith to the circumstances of her life. What made her an exemplary religious, teacher and founder was nurtured as a young woman, a wife and a mother. As a lay woman, her “yes” to God developed in quite dramatic and significant ways.


Cornelia allowed herself to be drawn into an ever deeper relationship of love, with God and God’s creation – even when it led her to uncharted territory. By highlighting her faith life before she founded the Society, I hoped that readers would feel able to imitate her in their own lives.

My desire is that readers will recognize God’s presence and action in Cornelia’s life and believe that God is also present and active in their own lives. Despite the years that separate Cornelia from us, the presence and action of God unites us. I pray that everyone who reads the booklet will find this insight a cause for rejoicing!

To receive a copy of the book, please send an e-mail to

(Article published in Actions – Fall 2015.)