Elizabeth Ann Seton was a woman of great and persevering generosity and service – as a wife, a mother, a widow, and as a religious. She was canonized on September 14, 1975 by Pope Paul VI. At that time he told the Church in America, “Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton is a Saint! She is the first daughter of the United States of America to be glorified with this incomparable attribute!”
Mother Seton came to Baltimore and then to Emmitsburg to educate the young and the poor, a healing of body, mind and spirit. Her discipleship with the Lord as Master was informed by her femininity, her spousal relationship with her husband, her motherhood, her conversion to the Church of Rome and most importantly, her spousal relationship with Jesus Christ. As a consequence of Seton’s intense faith in Christ and the sacrament of the Church Seton was able to follow the invitation of the Sulpician who invited her to serve the Church in a new way. The founding of the Daughters of Charity was just one concrete way of living of the spiritual and corporal works. As we know, love knows no limitations; where man’s mercy may have limitations, God’s mercy does not and that was Seton’s message.
When death was imminent and it came on January 2, 1821, Mother Seton said as her final words: “Be children of the Church!” Hers was the message she learned from experience and from Ignatian spirituality, “sentire cum ecclesiae.” Her words were an exhortation to be a close and intimate friend of Jesus, a mature offspring of the Divine Master.
For Mother Seton, and therefore for us who are close to her, our vocation is to bear witness to that mercy in ministries of the mission, education and healing formed by charity. The gospel knows no other way.