A woman of courage: Students celebrate Cornelia Connelly's birthday

During a school-wide Mass to celebrate the birthday of our founder, Cornelia Connelly, students honored the courage of a woman ahead of her time, a woman who compassionately and joyfully dedicated her life to education.
“May we have the courage to stand up and commit to faith, community, curiosity, justice, respect, growth and tradition,” said Halle Villalobos ’20, citing the goals of our Holy Child education.

Mayfield’s philosophy and heritage is rooted in Cornelia’s vision to honor and respect the dignity and uniqueness of all God’s people. One of the few American women to establish a religious order, she founded the Society of the Holy Child Jesus in 1846. She and her Sisters promoted the serious education of girls and young women at a time when such views were considered boldly progressive.

Our Mayfield students celebrated Cornelia’s legacy, which is alive and relevant 210 years after she was born. Vienna Copado '20 and Kat Raptis '20, of the Campus Ministry Council, coordinated the liturgy with the goal of engaging students with the readings and Cornelia's legacy of courage. The  Call to Prayer at the beginning of Mass, introduced the theme with a powerful quote from Cornelia:

"Remember that is is not sufficient to have begun well; you must also persevere with courage and finish with resolution." 

The Mass, celebrated by Fr. Chris Cartwright, S.J., included a personal reflection by Amanda Schaller ’19. Amanda linked the Gospel reading, in which Jesus tells his disciples they must be be more like children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, to Cornelia’s vision.
Children, Amanda said, are not afraid to ask questions, to give, to challenge.

“It is this action of giving in faith, and a childlike trust in God that I believe inspired Cornelia Connelly throughout her life and ministry, especially in the formation of Holy Child Schools,” Amanda said.

In her own life, Amanda said she has begun to understand the meaning of courage. As a young volunteer with a greyhound rescue organization, she has been able to both serve and find a way to express her love for animals. However, as a middle school volunteer it was sometimes difficult to earn the trust of adults and she began to doubt herself. Yet she persevered, “expecting no praise in return.” Over time Amanda witnessed the greyhounds under her care recover and thrive.

“I witnessed a transformation in myself; I became more empathetic, loving and gentle...I noticed a positive change in the way the volunteers perceived me,” she said. Now a senior in high school, Amanda said the experience has taught her “to trust in God’s plan.”

She said Cornelia’s trust in God’s plan, even in times of doubt, inspires her own sense of courage. In a parting message to her classmates, Amanda posed this question to her classmates, one that is relevant to all of us.

Inspired by the life of Cornelia Connelly and perhaps your own definition of courage as it relates to faith, I challenge you to go forth with the following question in mind: In what ways can we revive a joyful, curious, and unassuming childlike trust and perspective, and apply these to our life and service?
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Established in 1931, Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12. Noted for its rigorous academic program, which includes 21 Advanced Placement and Honors courses, Mayfield’s curriculum is underscored by a philosophy of educating the “whole child,” which also encourages commitment to and excellence in the arts, athletics, community service and spiritual growth. The nurturing environment at Mayfield Senior School allows each student to flourish in an atmosphere of personal attention.