The remains of a Catholic nun marked down for sainthood will remain in a British boarding school after the order she founded withdrew its application to exhume her for return to the US.
A submission to Catholic Historic Churches (CHH) shows the Society of the Holy Child Jesus (SHCJ) applied to make an opening below ground level in a side wall of the Mayfield School chapel in East Sussex to remove the coffin of Mother Cornelia Connelly.
She was born in Philadelphia in 1809 and was married with five children before her conversion from Presbyterian to Catholic, after which she founded the SHCJ in 1835, Holy Child schools in 1846, and Mayfield in 1872.
The order intended to relocate her remains to the Philadelphia Catholic Cathedral, which had posted a statement on its website with the planned location of the tomb within the building.
A petition organised by Mayfield alumni Cesca Sims to “STOP the Exhumation” received 1,444 signatures prior to CHH revealing the order withdrew their application on Friday.
Ms Sims said: “This is the Chapel she restored, in the school she created and the place she CHOSE to be buried.
“I simply cannot see what is to be gained by this treating of a venerable woman like a commodity. In an age when so many are struggling simply to survive, Cornelia herself, perhaps would feel that the colossal amount of money and effort needed would be best spent elsewhere.”
Graduates of Mayfield also include French actress Anouk Aimee, writer Olivia Hetreed and world champion rower Emily Craig.
Mother Connelly was buried at the school at her request following her death in 1879. The Vatican proclaimed her in 1992 as venerable, with beatification and sainthood expected in the future.