Put Your Faith into Action!

Posts tagged ‘education’

Does serving your community matter?

Mayfield Senior School, Society of the Holy Child, Volunteering

Michelle Mohr (left) with her best friend on the day of their graduation from Mayfield Senior School.

By Michelle Mohr

Editor’s Note: In 2011, Ms. Mohr graduated from Mayfield Senior School of the Holy Child Jesus, which was founded by the Sisters of the Holy Child, in Pasadena, CA. Today, Ms. Mohr is a sophomore at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., where she is pursuing a double major in American Studies and Economics. She took the initiative to contact the Washington Middle School for Girls, which the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus co-founded in 1998, to see how she might be able to help.

To be honest, I was not sure originally that Mayfield Senior School of the Holy Child Jesus was “the place for me.” I was worried about the all-girl atmosphere and doubted whether I would enjoy being in such a small environment. In fact, even after being admitted to Mayfield, I nearly accepted an admission offer from another school, thinking that it would be a better fit. However, at the very last second, I changed my mind and committed myself to four years of plaid skirts, and, now four years later, I know that I made one of the best decisions of my life.

At Mayfield, I loved my classes, participated in Student Government, and developed friendships that I know will last a lifetime. However, most importantly, I was surrounded both by an atmosphere that was supportive and nurturing and by people who helped me become who I am today.

In particular, my experience at Mayfield impressed on me the notion of ‘Actions Not Words,’ which is the motto of the entire Holy Child Community. Whether it was through school-wide service days in the community, fundraisers for various causes, or even just promoting the idea of caring for one’s neighbor, I came to value the notion that every individual has the power to make a difference in the world, as well as the responsibility to actually do so. While having compassion and empathy is no doubt admirable, it is far better to act upon those sentiments in order to improve the life of another, even if it is just in the smallest of ways.

Now, as a student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., I have an opportunity to give back to the community that has given so much to me. The Washington Middle School for Girls (WMSG), which the Sisters of the Holy Child founded in 1998, is only a metro ride away from campus. I contacted the School’s Director, Sister Mary Bourdon, RJM and I am going to be getting involved in their afterschool programs during this upcoming semester. While there certainly are other service opportunities available in the surrounding areas, I know that I specifically want to work with WMSG. Being the product of a Holy Child education myself, I fully appreciate the importance of “educating the entire child” and look forward to helping further the goals and mission of Cornelia Connelly, the Foundress of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus.

Ms. Mohr exemplifies how the members of the Holy Child community partner together to light the way for others. We will continue to check in with Ms. Mohr as she begins volunteering at WMSG. Are you interested in volunteering in your community and helping to light the way for those in need? Check out some opportunities available through the Society.

Exploring Our Roots

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As the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus (SHCJ) continue to mark the 150th Anniversary of their arrival in the U.S. this year, several Sisters journeyed to Towanda, PA to explore the area where the first Sisters to come to America settled in August 1862 and began two schools. Jeanne Adams, SHCJ (M. John Bosco), who lived in Towanda from 2004-2007, served as the group’s tour guide.

Unique Stories
Sister Jeanne pointed out where C.L. Ward’s house had been and the Riverside Cemetery where he and the members of the Weston family are buried. Mr. Ward was the land agent for the Duchess of Leeds, who provided land to Cornelia Connelly, the Foundress of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, in Towanda. The Weston family’s connection to the Society is quite fascinating.

The SHCJ know that Margaret Christian was a postulant or volunteer teacher (records are unclear) who had trained as a teacher at St. Leonard’s-on-Sea in England, which the SHCJ founded and ran. Ms. Christian came to America with the second group of Holy Child Sisters in the summer of 1863. Dr. Henry Weston came to the Sisters’ school in Towanda to help some of the Sisters build a stage for a play. As Margaret Christian, who was teaching at the school, and Dr. Weston got to know each other they fell in love and eventually, married.

The couple moved to Philadelphia and had six children. By the time the couple’s daughters were entering high school, the Sisters of the Holy Child had opened Holy Child Academy in Sharon Hill, PA, which the Weston’s daughters all attended. Upon graduating from the school, the couple’s youngest daughter, Lucy Ignatia Weston, entered the Society of the Holy Child and became a Holy Child Sister. She took the religious name of Mother Mary Magdalen.

Fascinating Sights
Sister Jeanne also led the group to the site of the first convent, now gone, where the Sisters remembered the icy winters which the first Sisters were unprepared to face. The visiting SHCJ were experiencing a steamy Towanda summer, and they wondered how those Sisters managed with their heavy woolen habits.

Some other sites visited during the Sisters’ journey to Towanda included:

  • Weston Farm, now owed by Doris and Bill Madill, who are related to Mother Mary Magdalen Weston.
  • Dushore where the first American Holy Child Sister, Sister Joseph Thall, SHCJ, lived.
  • Standing Stone Cemetery where the parents of Sister Hilda Lynch, SHCJ, another vocation from Towanda, are buried.
  • Historical Society Museum in Towanda where Henry Farley, present day archivist, showed the Sisters treasures, among them, a doll dressed as a Holy Child Sister.
  • The house where Mother St. Michael Dunn, another vocation from Towanda, was born.

All these sites were of great interest but the best part of the trip was getting to know the generous people who hosted the Sisters:

  • Ronnie and John Moulthrop (Ronnie baked five coffee cakes and three cakes and hosted eight sisters for two tours)
  • Sandy Kasenga, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
  • Jackie and Bob Pyznar
  • Gerry Smith
  • Sheila and Edwin Kraus
  • Dan and Sylvia Martin
  • Bill and Doris Madill
  • Father Edward Michelini, the pastor of Saints Peter and Paul Church, who gave the Sisters the church hall to use as their home base during their visit.
  • School principal Kathy DeWan helped in many hidden ways such as by preparing the Wednesday buffet and helping Sister Jeanne do the shopping.

The Sisters and many of their hosts also enjoyed dinner at the Weigh Station Café, which overlooks the Susquehanna River. It was indeed a trip to savor the past and to appreciate the kindness of the current citizens of Towanda and the surrounding areas of Sayre, Wysox, Ulster, and Burlington.

The visitors thanked God for the first six sisters who came to American. They were also grateful to Sister Jeanne Adams for her knowledge of the area and for the hospitality of her many friends in the Towanda area.

Hopes Comes Alive!

By Kim Cavallero

Last night, I had the privilege of attending the 10th Anniversary celebration of Hope Partnership for Education, an educational center founded by the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus and the Sisters of Mercy in North Philadelphia. Hope is a middle school serving fifth through eighth graders, as well as the families of the students.

I have worked for the Society of the Holy Child (SHCJ) for the past 10 years. When I began with the SHCJ in 2002, Hope was just a dream. Now, it’s a reality. It’s been amazing to watch the transformation—not only in the school becoming a reality (though funding is still greatly needed for the school to have a building of its own), but also in the students who have had the benefit of attending Hope Partnership.

One of those students is Tyrik Harris, a seventh-grader. Last year, I had the privilege of interviewing Tyrik and his grandmother, Elaine Selby, for a video we created for our Annual Holy Child Awards Dinner Event. At the time, Tyrik shared with me that he went to the local public school in his neighborhood until fifth grade. He told me it wasn’t a good school—there were bullies, food fights, and “writings on the wall—mean things.” His grandmother shared that Tyrik’s behavior was worsening in the public school and she feared he would hurt himself or someone else. She learned about Hope and was able to get Tyrik enrolled. Today, the staff at Hope reports that Tyrik is one of the most well-behaved children there.

Tyrik’s story inspired me last year. But I beamed with pride last night at Hope’s event when I saw him, along with several of his classmates, perform an incredible drumming presentation, that had the more than 300 attendees at the event on their feet! (Please excuse the video quality. Seeing the talent of the students, I quickly shot a video with my iPhone camera!)


In addition, Mayor Michael Nutter stopped by the event last evening, offering his congratulations to all who have made Hope Partnership a reality. He shared that education is the most important gift we can give to our young people today, noting that it is the way out of poverty. At the event, Rose Gray was honored with the Igniting Hope Award and Karen Rowley was honored with the Embracing Hope Award. Both women have been integral to Hope’s success and powerful advocates for education and its power.

Hope is changing lives, but they need our support to do it. You can make a donation online through our website and designate that your gift is for Hope.

Kim Cavallero is Director of Communications for the Society of the Holy Child Jesus – American Province.

Fourth Annual Holy Child Awards Dinner: Celebrating Where It All Began!

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Last Thursday, more than 200 people gathered for the Fourth Annual Holy Child Awards Dinner at Bridgewaters in New York, NY. The evening began with an inspiring video that highlighted some of those who embody Holy Child spirit in their lives.

Sister Mary Ann Buckley, Leader of the Society’s American Province, thanked the many members of the laity who have partnered with the Sisters of the Holy Child, while touching on the 150th Anniversary of the SHCJ in America, stating, “It is significant that we recognize our 2012 Award recipients in New York, as the City holds a special place in the history of the Society of the Holy Child. One hundred fifty years ago, six pioneering Sisters landed in the Port of New York. Their arrival began a new chapter in our history as an international congregation. These young women left their familiar lives in England behind to lead the Holy Child mission in the Americas. They demonstrated a fire, spirit, and commitment that was essential to the Society’s growth. These characteristics live on in the Society and are embraced and embodied by individuals like Kathleen and John, who confront the human condition with a strong faith and a passion for serving God.”

Next, Sarah Coraizaca ’14 and Chelsey Giraldo ’12, students at the Cornelia Connelly Center for Education in New York, NY, gave the evening’s invocation. Special tribute was paid to Connie Bush, who passed away earlier this year and had served as Head of the Cornelia Connelly Center for many years.

Faith in Action Honoree
Sister Mary Ann then invited Sister Terri MacKenzie, SHCJ and Sister Roey McSorley, SHCJ to the stage to introduce Faith in Action Honoree Kathleen DiChiara. Mrs. DiChiara began the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in 1982. Today, the organization feeds close to a million people annually. Mrs. DiChiara’s children both attended the Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child, where she was a member of the Mothers’ Auxiliary.

Holy Child Spirit Honree
After dinner Sister Jean Marie O’Meara, introduced Holy Child Spirit Honoree John D. Feerick. Mr. Feerick was Dean of the Fordham University School of Law for 20 years, as well as being the Founder and Director of the Feerick Center for Social Justice at Fordham University, which the University established in 2006.The Holy Child community was thrilled to honor Mrs. DiChiara and Mr. Feerick, who embody the Holy Child mission in their lives and work. To see photos from the event taken by the talented Michael Leslie, click here. You can also watch a recorded version of the live video stream from the evening. In 2013, the Fifth Annual Holy Child Awards Dinner will be held in Pennsylvania. Stay tuned for all the details.

Lessons Learned in the DR

By Kim Cavallero
With my flight back to the United States tomorrow, my week here in the Dominican Republic is winding to a close. It’s been quite an adventure and I am thankful to Holy Child Sisters Kathleen King, Mary Alice Minogue, and Ann-Joyce Peters, for warmly welcoming me into their community, along with the three Holy Child Volunteers, Brooke, Kristen, and Elle, who are living here for a year and teaching in the school at the Society’s mission site. I’m come a long way since arriving last week—and I’ve learned a few lessons along the way. Here’s a quick rundown of a few—some more humorous than others.

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Lesson #1 – Mosquito netting is important.
Make sure your mosquito netting is tucked in fully all around your bed and/or that you don’t trap any mosquitoes inside the net with you. Fail to do it right and you will wake up with at least 7-10 mosquito bites. Pack some hydrocortisone. (I could have used it.)

Lesson #2 – Hot water and water pressure are overrated. Compassion and humor are not.
When I first arrived last Saturday, Sister Ann-Joyce was showing me the “shower,” which essentially is a single stream of cold water running from a faucet. I’m sure she could see the horrified look on my face, but quite calmly and humorously, she just looked at me and said, “Well, it’s not going to win a prize or anything, but you know….”

A few days later, she showed me how to heat up some water so you could have some warm water with which to take a shower. She then showed me different pitchers you can use to pour the warm water over your head and said, “Everyone establishes her own system.” I took her word for it. After heating the water, I hopped in the shower. A few moments later, she yelled in, “How are you doing in there, Kim? You think you might stay a few more days?” I still wonder what she would have done if I had said, “No!” The point is I adapted and got used to it thanks to Sister Ann-Joyce’s humor and compassion! (I will say that hand sanitizer, cleansing face wipes, and dry shampoo are helpful to have here.)

Lesson #3 – Bring earplugs or a desire to dance the night (and day) away.
Roosters don’t just crow in the early morning hours. They like to crow at all times of the day and night. In addition, the people here love to play music—all the time. There is a constant, steady stream of noise: roosters, chickens, dogs, music, and people yelling. Silence is not important here. If it is to you, bring some earplugs!

Lesson #4 – Living without electricity isn’t so bad.
Where I am staying, the electricity is usually on from about 6:00-7:00 p.m. in the evening until 9:00 a.m. the next morning. In the U.S., when the electricity goes out—even for a few hours—it is a huge inconvenience for many of us. Here, it is a way of life and people just go about their day. They’re flexible and they adapt. Nonetheless, be sure to use a surge protector or risk blowing out electronic items such as your computer’s AC power source. (I’ll be buying a new one next week.)

Lesson #5 – Don’t jump to the worst conclusion. There are good people everywhere.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a very organized person (some might say in a neurotic way!), but this trip has thrown me for a loop and my organizational skills have disappeared into thin air! For example, yesterday, after doing some sight seeing in the city, we arrived home and I soon realized that my wallet was missing. I tore apart suitcases and bags—anywhere I thought it might be, but it didn’t turn up.

Within a few hours, I had canceled my credit and bank cards, assuming I had been pick-pocketed. The last place I remembered having it was in a shop where I had made a purchase. I had the receipt and asked Sister Ann-Joyce if she would be willing to call the store and ask them in Spanish if I had left my wallet there. It was a long shot, but it was my only shot.

Sister Ann-Joyce called the store this morning and sure enough they had it and were holding it for me. They explained that they didn’t have any way to contact me, which is why they hadn’t called. There are good people all over the world who do the right thing.

Homeward Bound
This week has been an adventure. It has challenged and stretched me to grow in ways I never imagined. I have seen people living in extreme poverty in Batey Lecheria and yet, they are full of gratitude for the simple gift of your presence. I arrived in fear last week, but am departing in peace tomorrow—and full of gratitude. Read Kim’s first and second blog posts.

Kim Cavallero is the Director of Communications for the Society of the Holy Child Jesus – American Province.

Between Heaven and Hell

By Kim Cavallero

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There is a stark contrast here in the Dominican Republic’s Batey Lecheria, where the Sisters of the Holy Child began a mission site in 1995. I heard one person describe it as “being between heaven and hell.” You look up and see a brilliant blue sky, lush green palm trees, and fluffy white clouds. You look down and see dirt roads, barely habitable shacks, and half-clothed children, many who have been abused and/or abandoned. They run through the streets and cling to anyone who they think will give them attention. Today, I was almost knocked over as four children, whom I had never met, grabbed onto me at the same time and wouldn’t let go.

But this week, the children of Batey Lecheria have been getting some extra attention, as have many of the residents here. Twelve parishioners from St. Luke’s in Charlotte, NC arrived on Monday morning to give a week of their time and energy to this community. This is the seventh year St. Luke’s has embarked on a mission trip here. The parishioners each paid $400 to come, with the remaining cost of the trip ($450 per person) raised through fund-raisers held throughout the year at St. Luke’s. Click here to hear from parishioner Jamar McKoy, who is making his first trip to Batey Lecheria this week.

Inspiring Experiences

Here in Batey Lecheria, the parishioners have undertaken a hodgepodge of activities this week: painting the shacks; playing baseball with the children; teaching the children how to paint and tie-dye t-shirts; and organizing and leading classes for the women in how to make sock dolls, jewelry, and other items that are then sold in the U.S. for a fair profit, which is returned to the women.

“You get a whole new sense of poverty here,” says parishioner Amber Ockerbloom. “There is a constant need. You can’t come once and not come again. You have to be open to what you are going to do because there’s always a place to do something here.” Along with Ockerbloom, parishioners Debby and Jim Lawrence share that you get as much as you give in Batey Lecheria, noting that the love they receive from the residents is so much more than they give to them.

A “Self-Sustaining” Trip

In addition to giving their time, the St. Luke’s parishioners bring suitcases full of donated medical supplies for the medical clinic the Sisters of the Holy Child began and run at the mission site, as well as all the supplies for the different projects they undertake such as painting the houses and making sock dolls. At the end of the trip, they leave the clothes they wore during the week for the residents of Batey Lecheria, who later sell them and make a small profit. “We clean out our closets or we go to Good Will before we leave the U.S. and buy the clothes we will need for the trip,” explains parishioner Cindy Platko. The parishioners also buy the suitcases that they bring the medical supplies in at Good Will and then leave the suitcases behind.

Platko, who is a school nurse, and her husband, Greg, lived with the Sisters of the Holy Child for a year, while serving the residents of Batey Lecheria. The couple had done mission trips to Batey Lecheria and felt they could do so much more by serving for a longer period of time alongside the Sisters of the Holy Child. They now return to Batey Lecheria twice a year. “Coming here is like coming home and seeing family for me,” shares Platko. During return trips, Platko spends her afternoons making house calls to residents. For example, she brings aspirin to a woman whose hip was broken and never repaired four years ago.

Platko and her husband are akin to celebrities in Batey Lecheria, though they certainly are too humble and focused on the work at hand to consider their “celebrity status.” Since the moment they arrived, shouts for “Cindy” and “Gregorio” (as the residents call Greg) never end. The residents are thrilled to see them and they bring joy wherever they go in Batey Lecheria, just as all the St. Luke’s parishioners who are here this week have. “We’re a parish of action,” says Ockerbloom. How exciting it is for the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus to see so many people committed to the motto of their congregation: “Actions Not Words.” Read Kim’s first and last blog post from her journey.

Kim Cavallero is the Director of Communications for the Society of the Holy Child Jesus – American Province.

The Legacy of Response-Ability is Celebrated

Sister Joanne Sullivan, SHCJ and Christina D'Emma share a moment during the May 15 Celebration. Christina was both a Volunteer Teacher with Response-Ability, as well as later serving on the program's staff. Sister Joanne assisted with the program for many years.

By Mike Mannix, RA Volunteer

Response-Ability (RA), the volunteer teaching program sponsored by the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, hosted a celebration in Rosemont on May 15 to honor many of those who have made the program possible for more than 20 years. Sadly, the Response-Ability program is closing its doors in the US at the end of this school year due to the economic downturn and increases in living costs. However, the program will continue at the Society’s mission site in the Dominican Republic.

Current and past volunteers, sponsors, classroom coaches, Sisters of the Holy Child, family members, and even a museum curator were all present at the numerous events of the day. The event, known affectionately as the “CelebRAtion,” began at Mass with reverence and ended on the dance floor in revelry. In between, Liz Eager, the program’s Executive Director, honored many with awards and RA keepsakes.

Also during the celebration, the Archives of the SHCJ American Province opened an exhibition dedicated exclusively to the program. Because the Archives are within walking distance of where the celebration was held, many were able to see it and meet people they had heard stories of, but never met.

The day was a fitting recognition of the legacy of Response-Ability, a program which has served cities such as Philadelphia and Washington, DC for more than 20 years and inspired hundreds of teachers.

A Conversation with Author Maeve Binchy

 

Irish Author Maeve Binchy attended the Holy Child School in Killiney, Ireland and recently shared more about her time as a Holy Child student

By Ellin Cavaliere Hlebik, Rosemont College Alumna

Editor’s Note: Author Maeve Binchy attended the Holy Child School in Killiney, Ireland. Rosemont College Graduate Ellin Cavaliere Hlebik had a chance to interview her.

 

Talking with the best selling Irish author, Maeve Binchy (pictured right), is a lot like reading one of her 16 novels. The word “entertaining” immediately comes to mind. In suburban Dublin, Ireland, we met in her skylight lit, garret-like home office she shares with her husband, Gordon Snell, journalist and children’s book author. My visit resulted from my completing The Copper Beech, one of her novels, on a flight returning from London two years ago after visiting and interviewing a variety of Sisters of the Holy Child (SHCJ) in England. (That article appeared in Rosemont College’s magazine in June 2009.) This trip, like that one, was meant to be.

As I finished the book en route over the Atlantic, I read on the back cover that Maeve Binchy had been educated at the Holy Child School in Killiney, south of Dublin, on Killiney Bay. Although this was all I knew about Maeve Binchy, I was soon to learn much more. A former classmate of hers and a SHCJ arranged the interview seven months later.

Maeve attended the Holy Child School from age 10 until 17. Often on school retreats, she read about Cornelia Connelly, the Foundress of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. She remembered that each student could choose one of Cornelia’s sayings and meditate on it during the day. Maeve had chosen, “Do what you do and do it well.” Maeve also told me that the motto of Killiney School, and perhaps Cornelia’s most famous saying, “Actions Not Words,” also appealed to her a great deal.

A Great Inspiration
Our conversation then quickly turned to memories of her formative school years with the Holy Child Sisters in the 1950s and the influences of one Sister in particular, Mother St. Dominick. During these years, Mother St. Dominick, a tall, charismatic figure and a convert, taught geography. She inspired Maeve because Mother had read all of St. Ignatius’ works and writings during an extended hospital stay when she contracted malaria.

After Maeve’s mother died, Maeve accepted a summer teaching position at St. Leonard’s on Sea on the southern English coast, another SHCJ school location and site of significant events in Cornelia Connelly’s life. At the school, she was once again mentored by Mother St. Dominick. Lots of outdoor lessons on the beach ensued that summer and moved Maeve closer toward a teaching career. She subsequently taught high school until 1968 when she returned home near Dublin to care for her ill father. She found herself at a personal crossroads and she began to write and submit articles to the Irish Times, which developed into a regular job. She worked there for five years and then moved to London, where her journalism and writing career blossomed.

Maeve kept in touch with Mother St. Dominick over the years. Maeve shared that when Mother laughed, she couldn’t stop and often grew red faced. This endeared her to the girls who always found her so human and accessible, full of life. Maeve told me that years later, Mother was swarmed by former students at a wedding reception Maeve had also attended. She spent her final years at the Holy Child community with other retired Sisters in Harrogate, Yorkshire and lived well into her 90s.

Cornelia’s Legacy
Maeve believes Cornelia’s great legacy is the self-esteem and self worth her educational philosophy fostered so strongly in Holy Child educated girls. Mother influenced her both as an individual and academically.  Fortunately, she lived long enough to see Maeve succeed as an author and read some of her novels.

In a prior interview years ago, Maeve said: “I suppose the best thing I did as a teacher was to try and instill confidence in the children. I once had a teacher — she’s still alive at 90 and still a nun — who always found something to admire in each child. Everybody loved her and, more importantly, we learned in her class. So, I tried to do that as well. And in the end, you get more out of children when you praise them. My large and imposing stature was also quite helpful in gaining respect!”

Mother was always highly prepared for each lesson, even a simple geography one. So Maeve also prepared to teach nature walks, not one of her natural strengths. However, Mother even had to discipline her when required. When a day student herself, a young teenaged Maeve broke the rules by attempting to smuggle out a classmate’s letter to the girl’s boyfriend and was caught red-handed in front of many students. She lost her “Child of Mary” medal. This consequence was announced in an assembly to the whole school. Nevertheless, Maeve assured me that Mother had been quite right, the standards of conduct and character had to be maintained even with a favorite pupil.

Several SHCJ I met in Dublin related that children loved Mother St. Dominick, who had a very unique persona. Smiling, Sr. Maureen Farrell, SHCJ said, “All the children trailed after Mother St. Dominick like the pied piper.” While Teresa Mee, SHCJ, was in the Killiney School for six months, she witnessed a young girl who was furiously running down the corridor. As she turned the corner, she plowed into Mother St. Dominick. This was a serious infraction of the rules so the student waited in horror for harsh words of reproach and punishment. But Mother St. Dominick surprised her by declaring with a wide grin, ”Do it again!” She saw this as an opportunity to show this child compassion. Like Cornelia had been, Mother St. Dominick was concerned with the whole individual’s education and development. Cornelia loved children, and so did Mother St. Dominick, and many other SHCJ I have met.

Sr. Teresa also offered this remembrance from the theologian, Donal Doerr, a priest who said of the Holy Child Sisters, “You can tell them anywhere, they’re self-confident, self starters, with self assurance, a SHCJ is her own person.” Whether one is a world famous author, Maeve Binchy, or a young child rushing down a corridor, or Mary Dempsey, SHCJ who is almost 90 and still baking homemade scones in the kitchen in Dublin for her fellow sisters, each is her own unique person. Cornelia’s message of spiritual simplicity: be yourself, love the children, and humbly serve, endures today more than 130 years after her death. Simple and simply amazing.

Binchy was honored last November with a lifetime achievement accolade at the Irish Book Awards for her contribution to Irish literature. To read more about the award, click here.

Ellin Cavaliere Hlebik is a graduate of Rosemont College.

A Lot To Be Thankful For

Recently, Mary Alice Minogue, SHCJ (M. Grace Mary) shared an update with us about some of those served at our mission site in the Dominican Republic. As we prepare for Thanksgiving, these heartwarming stories reminded us of just how much we have to be thankful for. God is most certainly at work!

“This year I can report that our school is thriving. And, like the old woman in the shoe, we have so many children we don’t know what to do! Attendance has skyrocketed. We now require the older children to have good attendance at their regular school before they participate in our program. In the past, we had about 30% who maintained attendance; now it is up to 90%. We are so proud of them, but more students are a burden on our budget.

We have 85 four- and five-year-old children in one large room. Some of the children have learning disabilities and emotional problems, and most have had no discipline at home. Sometimes we think that the only solution is to send an unruly child home, in hopes that they will be better able to handle school next year. But, that is not always an option. Diana is a good example of why we keep some of these children.

Diana’s Story
A beautiful little four-year-old, Diana seems to have a motor inside. She is always on the go. She escapes her circle, and runs to the front of the building to see the trees and flowers. We finally decided that she needed another six months at home, after which she could try our school again. However, the next day she showed up with a huge egg on her head—she had obviously been badly beaten. “Who did that?” we asked her. “My poppy,” she answered. Diane’s mother has left the family, so Diana would be in the streets while her father is at work. We decided to keep Diana with us, where at least we know she is safe.

  

Osiris’s Story
And then there is Osiris, age five. All the teachers agreed that I should tell you about him. He arrived last year with a smile and a swagger. There is nothing like a four-year-old with swagger! When he was involved in the Montessori lessons, he would become completely absorbed. But the rest of the time, he was impossible. He would hit other children—or kiss them! He was particularly fond of tormenting one little boy with Down’s syndrome. Due to the great patience of the teachers, we kept Osiris. This year, he made such progress, and is a model student (almost). He remembers all we teach him, and yearns to learn more. He asks the teachers, “What do I do next, Profe?” He gives us hope.

  

Antony’s Story
Antony is four, and his smile is like a sunrise that lights up his whole face. He seems very intelligent. He can concentrate and figure things out. However, along the way, we discovered that his ears are severely infected and that he is profoundly deaf. He doesn’t talk because he has never heard. When he doesn’t like something, he screams. Now, many other children have taken to screaming too! We have to get this child some help for the good of all! It has been a challenge getting him medical care. We went to the government’s free hospital for children, but it is months before we can get in. So, we are off to a private clinic to see what hope there is to cure his ear infections and see if some hearing can be restored. We will need lots of financial help to get this smart little boy the treatment he needs.

  

The Best Day of the Year
Last spring, the teachers made a suggestion: take the older children on a field trip to the beach. It is hard to imagine that most of these children have never been to the beaches for which their island home is famous. I decided it was worth the cost to let the six- to ten-year-old children have a field trip to the beach. The two-hour bus ride from our batey was expensive—but it was well worth it. The children were delirious with joy. They made bathing suits out of whatever they had. The teachers gave swimming lessons, frolicked with them in the water, buried them in the sand, taught them to build sandcastles and play volleyball. Everyone agreed that it was the best day of the year. The pleas have already begun for a repeat trip this year.”

 

Holy Child School Wish List
During this holiday season, please keep the Holy Child School in mind. Your donations will go toward fulfilling the following school and student needs:

  • Wage Increases for our dedicated teachers. 
  • Desks where our many children with learning disabilities or emotional problems can work alone. Most of them of them currently do their work on the floor. 
  • Children’s Story Books in Spanish for our kindergarten and first-grade students.  
  • Children’s Vitamins, enough for about 100 children per day, 5 days a week.  
  • Medical Care for Antony’s ear infections and possibly hearing aids or other treatment.  
  • LCD Projector so all the children can see. There are just too many to huddle around a TV.  
  • CD Player that will accept a memory stick.  
  • PA System (with battery option?) that we can use for parent meetings, regularly attended by more than 90 people.   
  • Photo Printer and Paper so we can record and post photos of the kids learning and enjoying school.  
  • School and Art Supplies from pencils and sharpeners, to tape of all descriptions, to folders, to bulletin board decorations, to math games, to colored sand, to construction paper, to . . . 
  • Personal and Food Supplies including tooth brushes and paste, powdered milk, hand soap, place mats and small trays.

If you would like more information about the Society’s mission site, click here or feel free to contact Sr. Mary Alice at mminogue@shcj.org.

Casa Cornelia Law Center Hosts La Mancha Awards Event

Clients of Casa Cornelia Law Center with Sr. Mel Loomis and Sr. Peg Doyle at the La Mancha Awards

On October 21, more than 250 friends and clients of the Casa Cornelia Law Center in San Diego, CA gathered at the Joan Kroc Peace and Justice Center at the University of San Diego for the Third Annual La Mancha Awards. The event began with a reception on the plaza and was followed by the program in the Center’s theater. The Humanitarian Award was presented to Rebecca Cammissa for her Oscar- nominated documentary, “Which Way Home.” Suamhirs, a 20-year-old client who had ridden the trains from Honduras through Mexico, accepted the award in Rebecca’s absence.

Laura Coats was honored for Outstanding Mission Support. A former faculty member and parent at Mayfield Senior School, Laura has been a generous donor to Casa Cornelia Law Center since its earliest days.  Andrea Caruso Townsend received the distinguished pro bono Attorney of the Year Award for the asylum case she saw to successful resolution after 10 years! Latham & Watkins, was recognized as the Law Firm of the Year for contributing 6,000 hours of pro bono time to Casa Cornelia. In addition, attorneys who gave 300 hours representing clients and law school clinical students were honored.

The evening ended with a tribute to Sr. Betty Drew, SHCJ who died in April. Sr. Betty was the face of Casa Cornelia’s Domestic Violence Program for hundreds of women and children over many years. To see photos from the event, click here.

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