St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Elizabeth Bayley Seton was the first native born American to be canonized by the Catholic Church.  Born two years before the American Revolution, Elizabeth grew up immersed in New York society. In spite of her high society background, Elizabeth’s early life was quiet, simple, and often lonely. As she grew a little older, the Bible was to become her continual instruction, support and comfort; she would continue to love the Scriptures for the rest of her life.

In 1794, Elizabeth married the wealthy young William Seton, with whom she was deeply in love. The first years of their marriage were happy and prosperous. Within four years, Will’s father died, leaving the young couple in charge of Will’s seven half brothers and sisters, as well as the family’s importing business. Unfortunately, Will’s business and his health failed. In an attempt to save his life, the Setons sailed for Italy, hoping that the air would be better for his tuberculosis. Unfortunately, he died there.

In Italy, Elizabeth captivated everyone by her own kindness, patience, good sense, wit and courtesy. During this time Elizabeth became interested in the Catholic Faith, and over a period of months, her Italian friends guided her in Catholic instructions.  Elizabeth’s desire for the Bread of Life in the Eucharist was to be the strongest force leading her to reunion with the Catholic Church.  A strong devotee to the Blessed Mother, Elizabeth joined the Church in 1805.

When Elizabeth returned to the United States, she started a school in Baltimore, MD, and began plans for a Sisterhood. She and her original sisters established the first free Catholic school in America. When the young community adopted their rule, they made provisions for Elizabeth to continue raising her children.  On March 25, 1809, Elizabeth Seton pronounced her vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. From that time she was called Mother Seton.

Although Mother Seton was afflicted with tuberculosis, she continued to guide her children. The Rule of the Sisterhood was formally ratified in 1812 and was based upon the Rule St. Vincent de Paul had written for his Daughters of Charity in France. By 1818, the sisters had established two orphanages and another school.

For the last three years of her life, Elizabeth felt that God was getting ready to call her, and this gave her joy. Mother Seton died in 1821 at the age of 46, only sixteen years after becoming a Catholic. She was canonized on September 14, 1975.

Because of the longstanding presence of the Daughters of Charity at St. Stephen, we are blessed to have a relic of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton at the back of our church.