Cornelia began her travel to Rome in July 1843. She met Pierce in Philadelphia with Adeline and Frank in tow before they all sailed for Europe. They first arrived in England in September of that year. The family visited with the Shrewsburys at Alton Towers and the Berkeleys at Spetchley Park before traveling to Rome. When they arrived in Rome in December Adeline became a boarder at the Trinita dei Monti and Pierce, Cornelia and Frank lived in an apartment at Via di Ripetta 115, near the Palazzo Borghese.
The year 1844 would bring more change. Mercer, who had been attending Oscott in England, moved to Stonyhurst College. Cornelia continued her spiritual journey and became a member of Our Lady’s Sodality at the Trinita and made a laywoman’s retreat there in early March. On 15 March, Pierce submitted the formal petition for separation to Pope Gregory XVI. A day later the pope gave leave for Pierce to receive minor orders. This was 8 years to the day since Pierce made his first petition to the Holy Office.
Eventually, Cornelia realized that she was not right to enter the Sacred Heart Society at the Trinita. Fr. John Grassi, an American Jesuit and Cornelia’s confessor encouraged her to think of other forms of religious life. The cloisterd and semi-monastic would not allow the freedoms to work with society as she had hoped and desired. The religious order Cornelia dreamed of would be a congregation that worked entirely for works of spiritual mercy. This would allow her congregation to “meet the wants of the age” by working directly with people in need. The mystery of the Incarnation was very significant to Cornelia’s own conversion to Roman Catholicism and led to the name of her new religious order, the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. Cornelia developed her rule in these early days before her plans even came to fruition. Her original plans to begin the society in the United State would soon change and she would have to move again to found her new religious society in England. She left Rome with Adeline and Frank in tow, and spent time in Paris and Spetchley Park, England, before settling in Derby, England.
Click here to download a detailed timeline of Cornelia in Rome juxtaposed with then-current events.