Spirituality for Today – January 2015 – Volume 19, Issue 6

Saint of the Month
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

January 4

A painting of Saint Elizabeth Ann SetonSaint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American saint, was born in New York City as Elizabeth Ann Bayley in 1774. Brought up as an Episcopalian, she married William M. Seton, heir to a wealthy family, at age 19. With her sister-in-law Rebecca, she went on missions of mercy to help poor widows and children of New York, earning them the nickname, the "Protestant Sisters of Charity." When her husband contracted tuberculosis in 1803, the couple sailed for Italy so he could recuperate. Months later in Pisa, her husband died. Even then, she continued to believe that the tragedies set before her would one day lead to some good. While in Italy, Elizabeth was taken in by her husband's friends, and introduced to Catholicism. Upon returning to New York, she joined the Catholic Church.

Looking toward a new future, Elizabeth and her five children moved to Maryland, where she opened a school for girls and formed a community based on the rules of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul of France. The rule was officially adopted – and the Sisters of Charity became America's first congregation of women religious. Elizabeth was named Superior, and she worked to establish St. Joseph Academy, a school for indigent children in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

For the remaining years of her life, Mother Seton, as she was called, and the Sisters worked tirelessly to teach children and establish orphanages, including one in New York. Through their love of Christ, they brought education to the poor and set the groundwork for the parochial school system in the U.S.

Lord God,
You blessed Elizabeth Ann Sseton
With gifts of grace as wife and mother,
educator and foundress,
So that she might spend her life
in service to Your people.
Through her example and prayers
may we learn to express our love
for You in love for one another.
We ask this through our Lord,
Jesus Christ, Your son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God forever and ever.


From Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives