Plans to exhume holy remains of school founder abandoned

Plans to exhume holy remains of school founder abandoned
Mother Cornelia Connelly

Philadelphia born Mother Cornelia Connelly became a nun following the failure of her marriage and moved to England, where she founded Mayfield School in 1872.

She died in 1879 and was buried at the chapel at the school.

After she was declared ‘venerable’ by the Vatican in 1992, the first step towards sainthood, The Society of the Holy Child Jesus, based in Rome, said her remains could be moved back to her birthplace in Philadelphia.

In justifying the move, the Society said: “It is a practice of the Catholic Church that the body of a person being considered for sainthood should be moved, to enable veneration by the faithful.”

But after more than 300 people objected to her being exhumed and removed from the independent Catholic girls’ school, The Society of the Holy Child Jesus confirmed yesterday [Thursday] that the ‘decision has been made to withdraw the application’ for Mother Connelly’s exhumation.

Sue Gaisford of Mayfield School’s Cornelian Association, who led a campaign against the transfer, said there was ‘relief and gratitude’ that the plans had been abandoned.

She told the BBC: “Cornelia restored the chapel in the 1860s and it became the mother house and hub of the teaching order she founded, the Society of the Holy Child Jesus,” she said. “Her philosophy, the Cornelian spirit, still pervades both school and chapel.

“She specifically asked to be buried at Mayfield, and today’s decision will ensure that her body will remain undisturbed and a focus for prayer and pilgrimage for many years to come.”

A spokesperson for the school said: “Our wish was always for Cornelia Connelly to remain undisturbed, but the decision was not ours to make and we have always made clear that we would abide by the final outcome.”

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