Holy Child Schools | Society of the Holy Child Jesus

The following are some of the terms you will come across in researching the historical and cultural history of Cornelia’s life and the Society’s mission.


Action Not Words:  motto Cornelia Connelly gave to her Society and her schools

Active religious congregation:  (also known as apostolic religious congregation) a religious community engaged in active ministries such as teaching, parish ministry, health care, social work, care for the elderly, work with young people, and service to the poor. They integrate prayer, ministry and community in their lives. Often called contemplatives in action.

American Province:  in the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, the geographical area which contains North, South America.

Anti-Papist:  any person or ideology antagonistic toward the head of the Roman Catholic Church

Apostolic:  In the context of consecrated religious life, apostolic religious communities are engaged for the most part in active ministries. While prayer and community life are important to them, their members serve in a variety of ways: teaching, parish ministry, health care, social work, care for the elderly, work with young people, service to the poor, and many others.

Benefactor:  one that makes a gift or bequest. (The Duchess of Leeds was a major benefactor of the Society of the Holy Child.)

Bishop:  serves as head of a diocese, whose principle functions are to teach and maintain doctrine, to govern and to tend to the needs of his diocese

Cachet:  a former tradition in the Holy Child schools, which involved a formal presentation of a report card by the Reverend Mother

Candidate:  the initial stages of an individual seeking membership in a religious community

Canon Law:  law of the Roman Catholic Church governing faith and practices

Canonization process:  the process by which a deceased person is declared a saint in the Roman Catholic Church (see Making Saints by Kenneth L. Woodward)

Cardinal:  leaders of the Roman Catholic Church who together make up the college of Cardinals that elect the Pope. A Cardinal has usually been a Bishop of the diocese

Chapter: a meeting of the members of a religious community to discuss and decide on policy, leadership, and the direction of the community. Chapter meetings can occur at several levels, from the local to the international.

Charism: a religious community’s particular spirit, way of life, and focus, which grows out of its history, traditions, and the founder’s vision. It is a grace given by God to a person and community for the work of the Church. (The Charism of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus is based on Cornelia’s incarnational spirituality and the works of mercy.)

Chastity:  one of the vows taken by members of a religious community to free them for a greater love of Christ and service to others, a commitment to completely devote one’s life to God by choosing not to get married, have children or engage in sexual activity. Cornelia Connelly was required by the Church to make a vow of chastity in order for Pierce to become a priest. She later took vows of poverty and obedience as a member of the SHCJ that she founded.

(The)Church: refers specifically to the Roman Catholic Church headed by the Pope in Rome

Cloistered:  Contemplative religious communities are often cloistered or partially cloistered—that is, they live separated from the rest of the world to be more focused on prayer, including prayer for the needs of the world.  As cloistered religious they rarely leave their monasteries, and all or most of their work is done within the monastery itself, depending on the degree to which they are cloistered.

Consecrated Life:  Those men and women who consecrated their lived to God and the Church through vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and lives of prayer and service to others.

Constitutions:  the basic principles, laws and mission of a religious society, approved by the Vatican, establishing the legal existence of a community, previously referred to as “The Rule” (Cornelia Connelly “The Rule” of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, written by Cornelia Connelly was promulgated in 1887 after her death and revised in 1983. (see “The Rule”) referred to no as the Constitutions.

Contemplative:  Members of contemplative religious communities focus on prayer, especially the Mass, praying daily together the Liturgy of the Hours, and individual prayer such as lectio divina, the prayerful reading of scripture. They tend to live in greater solitude than apostolic communities so that they can better direct their prayer and work toward contemplation, though some communities that consider themselves contemplative are also engaged in some active apostolic ministries.

Convent:  The building or buildings in which a community of religious women live

Convert:  One who, with God’s grace, undergoes a significant spiritual change; often refers to a change from one religion to another. Cornelia Connelly was a convert to Roman Catholicism.

Discernment: Reflecting on and praying about how to respond to God’s call to follow Jesus Christ as his disciple in a particular way of life.

Doctrine:  Simply means teaching and in the Catholic Church it is a proposition or set of propositions taught by the magisterium of the Church.

Dogma: a divinely revealed truth, proclaimed as such by the infallible teaching authority of the Church and hence binding on all the faithful members

Feast Day:  a day marking a commemorative festival, a periodic religious festival to remember and celebrate a significant person in the Catholic Church or an important event in the life of Jesus (Special feast days in the Society include Epiphany on January 6, when SHCJ renew their vows, the anniversaries of Cornelia Connelly’s birth on January 15 and death on April 18) October 13 (the founding of the Society in England 1846), October 15 the day the first Mass was celebrated in the Holy Child Convent, Derby, England 1846.

First assistant:  assistant to the Reverend Mother, a designated individual who is next in line in responsibility for governance of a religious community

Formation:  The process of education and spiritual development that takes place during the early months or years of joining a religious community. Those entering the diocesan priesthood are involved in formation while they study at a seminary.

Founder/Foundress:  a person who establishes a new religious order or congregation (Cornelia Connelly is the foundress of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus.)

Generalate:  administrative and spiritual headquarters of a religious community previously called the “motherhouse” (the generalate of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus is in Rome.)

Habit:  distinctive clothing worn by members of men and women’s religious communities. In response to Vatican II (1960’s) many religious communities, including the SHCJ decided to wear clothing appropriate to the cultural context of the day but maintaining a distinctive medal, ring, etc.

Holy Child Network:  the affiliation of American Holy Child schools guided by a common mission, goals and governance under the direction of Holy Child Network office

Incarnation:  Based on words meaning “in flesh,” the mystery and Church dogma that the Son of God assumed human nature and “became flesh” in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, born of Mary. The incarnation means that Jesus, the Son of God and second person of the Trinity, is both fully God and fully human. This is the foundational theology and spirituality of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus.

Ministry:  the service done by members of the Church. Historically, the SHCJ primarily ministered in works of education and specifically in schools. Since 1970 the ministries of the Society have expanded to include healthcare, pastoral, legal and spiritual works.

Missionary:  Missionary communities focus their lives on spreading the gospel to other countries or areas of their own country in need of evangelization. These communities serve in many different places in a variety of ministries, like preaching, teaching, service, and other forms of witness among the people with whom they live.

Mission Effectiveness:  a process put in place by the Society of the Holy Child Jesus to assure that the schools are remaining consistent with the Holy Child philosophy, mission, and adhering to the Goals and Criteria of the Holy Child Network of Schools.

Monastic:  Monastic communities fall somewhere between apostolic and cloistered. Monastic men and women place a high vale on prayer and living in community life, but many are also engaged in active ministries. Monasticism centers on community life, work, and common and individual prayer.

Mother (or Father) General:  refers to the head (leader) of a religious congregation in recent times the SHCJ changed the name from Rev. Mother General to Society Leader.

Motherhouse:  The principal home for a women’s religious community. The leader of the community lives there, and usually the community’s administrative offices are located in or near the same building,

Novice:  a person preparing to profess vows in a religious community through a period of formal theological study, understanding of the religious congregations spirit and personal spiritual growth

Nun: a woman belonging to a religious order under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, strictly speaking nuns are distinguished from sisters within the Church  as Nuns take Solemn Vows and Sisters take Simple Vows, but the terms have become interchangeable in modern times.

Oxford Movement:  a movement within the Church of England begun at Oxford in 1833. The movement, the members of which were often associated with the University of Oxford, argued for the reinstatement of lost Catholic traditions of faith and their inclusion into Anglican liturgy and theology. Eventually many of these people converted to Roman Catholicism. It is with this context that Pierce and Cornelia began their separate lives as priest and religious sister.

Pontifical religious congregation:  women and men’s religious congregations that relate directly to the Vatican through the Vatican office; Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Pope:  head of the Roman Catholic Church who resides in Vatican City, Rome, Italy

Postulant:  A person taking the first step in religious life before entering the novitiate and receiving the distinctive mark. The purpose of the postulancy is to provide for the individual an experience of the religious life.

Priests:  men who are specially ordained to consecrate and offer the body and blood of Christ in the Mass

Professed:  those persons in a religious community who have been admitted to the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience

Profession:  The religious rite in which a person formally enters a religious community by taking vows. Profession follows a formation program of discernment, education, and spiritual development.

Reverend Mother Provincial:  the leader of a specific province (geographic area) of a congregation after Vatican II the name was changed to Province Leader

Province:  a geographic division of an international order (The Society of the Holy Child Jesus has three provinces, African, American and European)

(The) Rule:  refers to the Constitutions of a religious society (The original rule for the Society of the Holy Child Jesus was approved in 1887 after much controversy. See Constitutions)

SHCJ:  Society of the Holy Child Jesus or Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus

Sister:  in common language, the term sister and nun are used interchangeably although in actuality sisters are those who take simple vows of poverty, chastity and obedience

Spiritual Direction:  A process of periodic meetings with a spiritual director who offers advice and encouragement for deepening and strengthening ones relationship with God and discerning where God may be leading him or her. Cornelia had several spiritual directors that guided her in finding God’s will.

Spiritual exercises:  a period of silence and prayerful reflection or more often in a retreat, particularly the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola which was formative in developing Cornelia’s spiritual life.

Spiritual Works of Mercy:  The traditional seven forms of Christian charity performed for the good of another especially their spiritual lives, converting the sinner, instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, comforting the sorrowful, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving injuries, and praying for the living and the dead.

Venerable:  the first steps in the Canonization process. A title given to people after the state of their heroic virtue or martyrdom has been proved, and a solemn decree to that effect has been signed by the Pope. Cornelia was designated Venerable Cornelia Connelly
 in 1992.

Vocation:  a specifically divine call to the religious life often referring to an entry into the priesthood or a religious order or more generally God’s call to everyone to fulfill their purpose in life, that is, what makes a person’s life meaningful and of service to people.

Vows:  As members of religious communities, priest, sisters, and brothers take vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience. Many communities add a fourth or fifth vow related to their charism.

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