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St Elizabeth Ann Seton

Today, we honor the first native born saint of the United States of America, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, with a liturgical memorial. She arrived arrived in Baltimore on June 16, 1808 taking up residence on Paca Street. Saint Elizabeth Ann would also profess her first vows as a woman religious in the presence of Bishop John Carroll. Seton would go on to be one of the greatest saints of America and religious educators.

“Let your chief study be to acquaint yourself with God because there is nothing greater than God, and because it is the only knowledge which can fill the Heart with a Peace and joy, which nothing can disturb.” (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton)

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

St Elizabeth Ann Seton Paca StreetOur first native born saint is the great Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774 – 1821). A New York native, wife and mother, Seton was a convert to Catholicism who after the death of her husband, she founded a religious community in 1808-9 and a school for poor children at Emmitsburg, near Baltimore, Maryland. Seton is credited with founding the Catholic school system in the USA. Mother Seton died in 1821. The Sisters of Charity continue Seton’s charism to this day.

One saint expands upon the life and work of another:

“You pray, you deny yourself, you work in a thousand apostolic activities, but you don’t study. You are useless then unless you change. Study, professional training of whatever type it be, is a grave obligation for us.” (St. Josemaria Escriva, “The Way,” no. 334)

One of the great works of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and her congregation of sisters is teaching, of critical study for the building up of the Kingdom and for life.

Saint Elizabeth, pray for us!

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

St Elizabeth Ann SetonElizabeth 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.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

EA Seton

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

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This is the generation which seeks the face of the God of Jacob.

O 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 daily service with sincere faith.

Saint Elizabeth Ann was responsible for the Catholic school system in the USA, and many of the Catholic hospitals. She was the first US saint. How good it would be if a revival of vocations to the Sisters of Charity. Right now, the Sisters of Charity are on the verge of vanishing.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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