January 3, 2018

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Educator and Foundress

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Optional Memorial - January 4th 

If you ever had an opportunity to attend Catholic school in the United States, you have Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton to thank for it. After her husband’s death, she founded the first American religious community for women the Sisters of Charity, the first American parish school, and the first American Catholic orphanage, all while raising her five children. A daughter of the American Revolution, she was born in August of 1774, two years before the Declaration of Independence. Her mother, a staunch Episcopalian, taught her the value of prayer and Scripture.

At the age of 19, Elizabeth married the love of her life, a handsome wealthy businessman named William Seton. Following the birth of their fifth child, he lost his business, filed for bankruptcy and became deathly ill with tuberculosis. In a final attempt to save her husband's health, the Setons sailed for Italy where William had business friends who could help care for him. During her husband's final months, Elizabeth became interested in the Catholic faith. Her new Italian friends catechized her. It was her desire for the Eucharist that compelled her to become Catholic. William would die, but God's Providence was being fulfilled.

With the little money she had, Elizabeth made her way back to America bought, an empty building in Baltimore, and with the help of two friends, opened their first school. Though it was a secular institution, it was run along the lines of a Catholic religious community. As other young women began to join Elizabeth, the archbishop John Carroll asked her to establish a free Catholic girls’ school in Baltimore, and the parochial school system in America was inaugurated. In 1809, Elizabeth pronounced her vows of poverty chastity and obedience and founded the Sisters of Charity to run the schools. From this point on, she was known as Mother Seton. Archbishop Carroll officially approved the Order in 1812. Both her Order and the parochial school system grew; the later across the United States.

The Sisters of Charity observed a strict rule based upon that which Saint Vincent de Paul had written for his Daughters of Charity. In addition to another school, the sisters opened orphanages in Philadelphia and New York City. Today, six religious orders for women trace their origins to Mother Seton's Order. Mother Seton died in Emmitsburg, Maryland on January 4, 1821, at the age of 46. She was beatified by Saint John XXIII in 1963. Pope Paul VI canonized her in 1975, making her the first native-born United States citizen to be canonized a saint.

Almighty ever-living God, who crowned with the gift of true faith Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton's burning zeal to find you, grant by her intercession and example that we may always seek you with diligent love and find you in our daily service with sincere faith. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your only Son, who lives and reigns together with you, and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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