Happy Monday Saints! To start our week off right, our Campus Minister, Father James Dalton, will share a story of a Saint, along with a reflection to help us consider how we can learn from their example.
Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton (1774 –1821) was the first person born in what would become the United States to be canonized a saint by the Catholic Church. Elizabeth was the second child of a socially prominent couple, a surgeon, Dr. Richard Bayley and Catherine Charlton. The Bayley and Charlton families were among the earliest European settlers in the New York area. Elizabeth’s mother died in 1777 when Elizabeth was three years old
In her journals, Elizabeth showed her love for nature, poetry, and music, especially the piano. Other entries expressed her religious aspirations. At age 19, Elizabeth married William Magee Seton, aged 25, a wealthy businessman in the import trade. Shortly after they married, they moved into a fashionable residence on Wall Street. Socially prominent in New York society, the Setons belonged to Trinity Episcopal Church.
When her father-in-law died, the Seton family fortunes waned during the volatile economic climate preceding the War of 1812. The couple took in her husband’s six younger siblings, ages seven to seventeen, in addition to their own five children.
Through most of their married life, Elizabeth’s husband suffered from tuberculosis. His doctors sent him to Italy for the warmer climate. He was accompanied by Elizabeth and one of their children. Elizabeth’s husband died in 1803. While living in Italy, Elizabeth was introduced to Catholicism. When she returned to New York, Elizabeth was received into the Catholic Church in 1805.
In order to support herself and her children, Seton started an academy for young ladies, (as was common for widows of social standing in that period.) However, after news of her conversion to Catholicism spread, most parents withdrew their daughters from her tutelage.
In 1809 Elizabeth accepted an invitation of the Sulpician priests and moved to Emmitsburg, Maryland. A year later, she established the Saint Joseph’s Academy and Free School, a school dedicated to the education of Catholic girls. Elizabeth established a religious community in Emmitsburg dedicated to the care of the children of the poor. This was the first congregation of religious sisters to be founded in the US, and its school was the first no-cost Catholic school in America.
By 1830, the Sisters were running orphanages and schools as far west as Cincinnati and New Orleans. They had also established the first hospital west of the Mississippi in St. Louis. Elizabeth died of tuberculosis in 1821 at the age of 46.
You can learn more about St. Elizabeth Ann Seton here: loom.ly/p4szI-c
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us.